Back on the Road

After a surreal week where I incessantly followed the Boston marathon bombing saga, a week in which I fired off this angry diatribe, one of the alleged perpetrators is now dead and the other is in custody. While I will forever be affected by this tragedy, justice is rapidly occurring, enough so that I feel like I can get back on the road to Boston, a road that is apparently going to be quite crowded this year.  Let’s get back to our regularly scheduled programming.

My life has been pretty busy of late – work is crazy, I’m buying a house (West Side – less than a mile away from you Wilmore peeps – the average 5K time of Wilmore-area runners is about to get much slower), I’m adopting a dog (aka a poor man’s security system), and ironically, I feel like I’m too busy running to write much about running.  So quick, while I’ve got a minute, let me give you a  synopsis of what’s gone down in the last few weeks:

March 30, 2013 The Lake Norman Rotary 10K:

Searching online for a cherry picker race, I stumbled upon a little race in Huntersville, the Lake Norman Rotary 10K, that I thought I might have an out-outside shot of winning if none of the fast kids showed up.  But as soon as Laura and I arrived, as soon as we pulled into the parking lot, I saw Bill Shires, the president of the Charlotte Running club,  warming up and any dreams, be they pipe or not, of a win quickly evaporated.

As we lined up at the start, some svelte “real runner” looking guy asked me if I was running the 5K or the 10K, apparently sizing me up as his competition for a win, and I responded, “I’m running the 10K, but you don’t have to worry about me.  There’s the guy to worry about.”  And I pointed at Shires.

There was a guy wearing a specialized ski mask out of some high-tech material whose name escapes me at the moment.  But it was 50 degrees out and all I could think was, “Please don’t lose to the guy in the ski mask.  Please don’t lose to the guy in the ski mask”.  Which I did, of course.

I came in 5th overall and yet only 3rd in my age group.  How does that happen?  Shires, of course, won.  Laura, even with an injured calf, won the women’s race.  But the course was short (my Garmin registered just under 6 miles), and the organizers did not adhere to normal race prizing conventions.  There was no mention of overall awards as Laura received only an age-group certificate.

But I felt solid during the race, the best I’ve felt since Myrtle Beach, so I was okay with it.

March 30, 2013 The Easter Egg Scramble 5K:

That afternoon, Laura and I rounded up her boys, jumped in the SUV, and headed over to McAlpine park for the Charlotte Running Club’s Easter Egg Scramble 5K.

This was not a USATF event.  It included egg (real, raw eggs) tossing and Easter egg (plastic, containing prizes, be they candy or gift certificates or time reductions) gathering .  As Rob explained we needed to partner up, being the crazy competitive guy I am, I grabbed John Compton, one of Charlotte’s fastest, just in case.  But this partnership meant only that we’d be tossing eggs to each other and Compton confessed to me “I’m terrible at throwing and catching”.

But he proved adept as we completed our “throw, catch an egg without breaking or start over, back up, repeat, then start running after 3 successful catches” routine as John took off to the front while I jogged towards the back of the pack, my legs still feeling the affects of trying to chase Shires that morning.  I caught up with Laura and we took a leisurely stroll around McAlpine, gathering plastic eggs along the way.

As we neared the final stretch to the finish line, Laura, laughing, bolted past me so I, of course, as is my way, accelerated.  I had to sprint to beat her, but sprint I did.  Maybe not particularly chivalrous, but one spot ahead in the meaningless standings.  Photographic evidence:

Laura and I, hands full of Easter eggs, sprint to the finish line.

Laura and I, hands full of Easter eggs, laugh and sprint our way to the finish line.

April 6, 2013 The American 2-Mile:

With this race sponsored by Reckless Running and Runalot, I knew they would have a good race tee.  With prize money ten deep in both men and women, there was an out-outside shot that I could win some money.  I thought Laura was a lock to win cash so we registered and signed up.

On race morning, we rolled into Jetton Park and I saw nothing but fit, fast-looking folks running around.  So much for a cash prize for me.

We hopped out and started jogging towards packet pick-up when we ran into the Crockfords.  Typically, I encounter them when I am trying to cherry pick a small race for a win and Chad is doing the same, so Danielle said, “Don’t worry, you wouldn’t have won this one anyway.  Nothing but elites around here.”  And we all chuckled.

Quick race recap: I thought maybe I could break 12:00, but I was wrong.  I chased Danielle through the first mile marker where I came through in about 6:02.  Then Bobby passed me.  Then I crashed hard.

I had slowed mightily (6:35 second mile) and was ready to crawl across the finish line when Bryan Massingale blazed past me.  Damn it, now it’s a show of pride.  So I reached deep down and found a sprint and just barely out kicked Bryan to the line (in Bryan’s defense, he ran the 1500M moments before our race, most likely depleting his kick a bit).

It’s a good thing I didn’t let Bryan go as I think he’s roughly my age and our sprint finish apparently determined our age group winner.  I think it’s worth mentioning that the age groups were something weird, like 39-47, which basically robbed Cliff Weston, normally in my age group, of the age group victory.  He crushed me, but lost to Bobby, who won the older, equally strange, age group of something like 48-56.  So my apologies to Cliff.

Laura won $50 by finishing in the top 10 women.

Pics from the American 2 Mile:

I accept my prize from Todd Mayes, owner of RunAlot Sports.  This is the photoshopped version by Matt Williams, resident DART comedian.

I accept my prize from Todd Mayes, owner of RunAlot Sports. This is the photoshopped version by Matt Williams, resident DART comedian.

Laura's prize, 25 two-dollar bills, or as Jesse Pinkman would call it, "Crazy high stack of Jeffersons up in here, yo!"

Laura’s prize, 25 two-dollar bills, or as Jesse Pinkman would call it, “Crazy high stack of Jeffersons up in here, yo!”

April 12, 2013 Freemorewest 5K:

I planned to run this one because it was in the soon-to-be-my neighborhood (I’ll be in the west part of Free/More/West), several friends were running it, and one of the sponsors was our buddies from the Triple C Brewing Company.  This is the race recap: ran balls to the wall for 20 minutes and change, my fastest 5K of 2013 and yet slow enough to keep me miffed that I can’t break 20 when 2 years ago I ran a sub-19.  Won my age group.  Drank yummy Triple C beer after and chatted with friends.  Picked up Max, Chad and Danielle’s Boston terrier, to dog sit while they were in Boston.  Consoled Laura whose recent pain in her heel hurt so badly she could barely walk, much less run.  The End.

April 15 – April 20:

Monday, April 15 – I took the day off so I could watch the Boston marathon and track many of my friends that were running it.  Shortly after the online broadcast concluded, I went about my business when I got the following text from a friend, “Dude?  WTF??!!” and I responded with “What?” fearing that I had posted something online that may have offended someone.  He responded with “Explosion at finish line of Boston!!!!”  Surreal, moments ago I was astounded by the accomplishments of my friends – I was experiencing much of what is right with humanity.  Minutes later, I got to see mankind’s evil side, and I was shocked.

Earlier throughout the day, Laura texted me during the race with questions like, “Are you emotional yet?  Are you crying yet?” And I kept answering “No.”  If she had asked this question one more time, shortly after the bombing, the answer would have been “Yes.”  I kept asking myself, “Is nothing sacred?  Can humanity have one beautiful thing that is off limits, that assholes won’t try to destroy?” Unfortunately, the answer is “No.”

I spent the week absorbed with the investigation.  My obsession with the Boston marathon had me tracking this story more closely than most.  I’ll admit it – I was worthless at work as I followed the story online.

By Friday morning, police had shot and killed one of the alleged suspects, and were in close pursuit of the second.  I continued to closely monitor the situation all day.

April 19-20, 2013 The Tarheel 10-Miler:

I’ve been wanting to run this race for some time now, but haven’t been able to yet because it’s the same week as the Boston marathon.  When I didn’t get into Boston this year, I decided to run the Tarheel 10-Miler instead.

Laura and I spent the night at Ruthie’s, a friend in Raleigh.  I was dog sitting Emmit which turned the weekend into quite an adventure.  I couldn’t leave him alone at my place and we couldn’t leave him at Laura’s place for fear Emmit and Lucy would kill each other (which really means we were afraid big boxer Lucy would kill tiny Boston terrier Emmit, even though everybody knows that Emmit would start it).  So we brought him with us.

We were scrambling to get to Raleigh before too crazy late, but we still weren’t able to get there before 11:00 PM or so Friday night.  But at least we got to follow the Boston story on NPR during the drive up, and we got to see live footage of Bostonions cheering at the arrest of “suspect 2” (I’m too lazy to go try and find his full crazy consonant-laden Chechen name).

In Raleigh, I spent 20 minutes or so walking Emmit and trying to get him to, um, take care of his business so we could all sleep in peace.  Then we got in bed and Emmit burrowed around and scratched and licked and basically made all manner of noise all night so I got minimal sleep.

Saturday morning, we rushed to Chapel Hill, but a navigational mishap and a late-comers traffic jam put us in a line to enter the Dean dome parking lot at about 7:25 AM for a race that started at 7:30.  Laura, now in a boot for a stress fracture that she learned of on Thursday, jumped into the driver’s seat for me and I started my race about a mile early as I sped towards Kenan Stadium.

As I entered the stadium, the race had already begun – thank god for chip time.  I found an opening in the barricade to the field and jumped into the race some 8 or 9 minutes after the race officially started.

The first 4 miles were a nightmare as I bobbed and weaved, stopped and started and dodged the thousands of people toward the back of the pack.  But oddly, I was okay as this wasn’t an “A” race for me.  I was just there to enjoy a race through the old stomping grounds, a nostalgic trip down memory lane, aka Franklin Street, a place I hadn’t run in some 25 years.  I didn’t flip out or panic or curse or try to punch anybody, even though lots of folks back here drifted, stopped, changed lanes, or otherwise unknowingly stepped right in my way.  I stepped outside the cones and passed literally thousands of people as I looked around town and thought things like “Where did that complex across the street from Granville Towers come from?  What the hell is that?”  And the like.

I passed many a Boston shirt, although many more “Red Sox” than “Qualifier” back where I was.  And I passed 2 amputees, running on prosthetic blades, who also reminded me of that holy spot, now seemingly holier, at the finish of the Boston marathon, a place where I plan to triumphantly cross a year from now.  I had difficulty focusing on the race as my mind wandered to the victims and their families.  I drifted back and forth between Boston and Chapel Hill.

I cranked, as much as I could, on the downhill and flat sections.  I dreaded Laurel Hill, that monstrous incline that many years ago had wrenched puke and tears out of me.  I wasn’t sure where on the course it was, but I knew it was coming.  This race had a nice little race-within-a-race where they measured your time up Laurel Hill and awarded the fastest time there with prizes.

Finally, somewhere after mile 8, we came upon Laurel Hill.  It was apropos that in my morning haste, I had forgotten my heartrate monitor – so I went analog, old school, up the hill like I had done so many times back in my college days.  Some guy inaccurately yelled “It’s all downhill from here!” at one, but not the final, apex on the hill.  I knew from a) memory and b) the fact that we hadn’t crossed under a second set of chip sensors that we had more climbing to go.  And we did.  I didn’t relax some until we crossed the second set of sensors and the race within the race was finally over.  We were past mile 9 at this point.

I tried to accelerate for the final part of the race, but the earlier miles, not to mention the highly stressful week, had taken their toll so I faded a bit toward the end.  Nobody passed me, but my rate of passing folks finally decreased.  But mere moments later, I entered Kenan Stadium and heard Laura cheer as I tried to kick down the final stretch.

I got my medal and found Laura (and Emmit, as crazed as usual in the midst of a crowd) at our designated post-race meeting spot and we made our way back to the car, and subsequently home.

And that’s it.  If you’ve made it this far, you now know more about what I’ve been up to than my family does.  After this crazy week, I am more determined than ever to run the Boston marathon.  The new interest probably means that my 10 second cushion beyond my Boston qualifier will not be enough to get me in, so I’m either going to have to run a faster time before registration opens, or go charity.  But I will run it next year.  Stay tuned to see how.

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