Off the Books Racing

Hey gang,

Since the Blue Ridge Relay debacle, I have no ‘A’ races scheduled.  Or as I like to say, I’m off the books – no official training schedules planned between now and when I start training for Boston.  Time to recover and then try to ramp up the mileage to build a strong base in time for Boston training (assuming I get in [probably via charity], of course).

In the meantime, I am randomly jumping into various races.  Like last week’s Summit Coffee Schoolhouse Rock and Run 10K and this week’s Showmars Pediatric Hearts 5K.  Let’s recap, shall we?

Summit Coffee Schoolhouse Rock and Run 10K

One week after Blue Ridge I still felt beat up.  But since I’m signed up for every race in the Summit Series, I felt obligated to run. I knew I wouldn’t be setting any records but maybe I could at least hang on to my fourth place in the standings.  And besides, they were raising money for E2D which I feel like is a cool charity – I needed to be there to show my support.

Laura, the Dubs (affectionate nickname for her boys Warren and Wilson), and I rolled into Davidson about 30 minutes before start time.   I scrambled to get my bib pinned on and pose for this pic with just enough time left to warm up:

allen and boys at summit a week earlier

The Dubs and Me. Wilson is going to be taller than me any day now at the rate he’s growing. Someone called Warren’s mohawk a faux-hawk and I said, “There’s nothing faux about it – that’s the real deal!”

I ran a little warm-up and felt like shit – foreshadowing.

I asked Todd, Dave, and Chad of Davidson Timing where the starting line was and I was basically standing on it.  Five minutes later we lined up.  I was not feeling it – this could get ugly.

I didn’t recognize anybody – none of the fast guys I knew were there.  For about two seconds I entertained the notion that maybe I could take this thing – okay, maybe one second.  But I knew better.  I did recognize Dexter Cherry, a guy who gave my friend Dean fits in last year’s series.  I thought I could take Dexter on a good day, but I also knew that this was most likely not going to be a good day.

Ubiquitous road racer Brenny (Brenneman Thompson) came jogging up just before go time and we chatted for a sec.  He told me this would be his fourth race of the day – Hit the Brixx 5K, 10K, some race at Frank Liske Park in Concord, and now this one.  Craziness!

Brian Helfrich made announcements through a cop car speaker system and basically sounded like an adult from a Charlie Brown cartoon – I didn’t understand a single word he said until “Go!”  Two steps in and already I felt shitty – this was going to be a long day.  Thank god it was only a 10K.

I tried to find a comfortable pace but this proved to be impossible – there was no comfortable pace for me on this day.  I think 10-minute miles would have felt uncomfortable.  Some guy jetted out to the front and the race was for second.  Dexter passed me early and I briefly thought about trying to go with him, but his stride seemed effortless and mine so very much did not.  So I let him go.

From that point on this race was all about just hanging on.  The best thing I can say about it was that I did reel in a few posers up front – a couple of guys who went out way too fast and paid the price on this very hilly, very tough course (I’m starting to think that Brian and the rest of the Summit Coffee crew are secretly sadists).

We climbed.  A lot.  I struggled to stay under seven-minute-per-mile pace.  And failed.  And I begged with the running gods for this race to be over.  Eventually, what seemed like an eternity later, it was.

After fighting back puke for a while, I finally recovered enough to hit the beer tent where Laura and I chatted with our Triple C buddy Ben while we drank a beer or two.  Eventually, I felt well enough to get some tacos from the food truck, where I spilled my beer all over Blue Ridge teammate Claire.  In my defense, how was I supposed to know that the table next to the food truck was not anything close to level?  I set my beer there and it slid down the table – once I realized it was sliding, it was too late.  I watched in slow motion and cried “NOOOOOO!” while it flew off the end just as Claire walked up.  It hit the pavement and exploded all over Claire.  What are the odds of me spilling beer all over one of the maybe ten people that I knew?

We hung out and waited for the awards ceremony.  I chatted with DARTer Cliff Weston and he and Laura commiserated about running injuries.  The boys ate Ben & Jerry’s ice cream sundaes and subsequently turned into Tasmanian Devils.

I finished eighth overall and yet only third in my age group.  Hopefully, this was good enough to hang on to my spot in the series standings.  I licked my wounds and limped back to the car.

Showmars Pediatric Hearts 5K

This race landed on my radar thanks to my buddy Scott Helms who helped the organizers with some race logistics and asked me to help spread the word.  We announced it on Thursday nights at Triple C and then posted it on the Triple C Beer Runners Facebook page.

Saturday morning, Laura and I tried to arrive early, but by the time we got there, a pretty big crowd had already gathered.  As we pulled in, the crowd was big enough that I was worried about finding a place to park, but luckily there was ample parking and I had no problems securing a spot.  Moments later, I was signed up and ready to roll.

I was a bit concerned as the legs had taken a beating the last month or so – from the Santa Rosa marathon to the Blue Ridge Relay to the 10K the week before.  The Achilles were still complaining.  And I hadn’t done any speed work in quite a while.  Oh well, this should be interesting.

We saw Adam warming up and I convinced him to change into his JITFO singlet.  There was a good chance that JITFO would get their first win.  After all, Adam was undefeated in 5Ks in 2013.

Scott pulled in and he, Laura, and I chatted for a bit.  We walked by the starting line where I saw a few folks in costumes, one of which was wearing a full-body, crash test dummy tight-suit.  I called out to him, “Please don’t be fast.  I don’t think I could take losing to you.”

I ran a little warm-up and much like seven days earlier, felt like crap.  Oh well, don’t expect a PR.  I saw Lee Neitzel running his own warm-up and we exchanged pleasantries.

Then it was time to race.  I surveyed the crowd and looked for the fast kids.  I recognized some guys that I knew were faster than me but I couldn’t find any folks that I thought could beat Adam.  I didn’t see anybody that I thought might be in my wheelhouse other than Lee and Butch Holt.  I knew this was going to be painful and I just wanted to get it over with.  I tried to focus on the positives – If nothing else, at least I’d get a  little speed work in.

We lined up and Laura snapped this pic:

JITFO teammates Adam and Allen line up at the front. One of these guys might win and one of these guys might not die.  Look at obese number 83 to my left.  Lay off the cheeseburgers, bro.

The race director counted down from five and we took off.  Here’s a pic of that exact moment:

Adam looks strong.  Allen doesn't look dead.  Yet.

Adam looks strong. Allen doesn’t look dead.  Yet.

I set what seemed like a modest goal – just try to break 20 minutes.  I knew 6:25 pace would do the trick so I tried to lock in at that pace.

Some guy wearing a Camelbak sprinted out to the front.  Camelbak in a 5K, really?  I just don’t get what people are thinking sometimes.  I can hear this guy telling his buddies, “Yeah man, gonna be stifling hot and humid tomorrow morning.  They’re calling for temps around 69.  Better bring your Camelbaks – don’t wanna get dehydrated!”

Adam was running behind a few folks, including Camelbak, but he looked perfectly relaxed.  I had no doubt he’d be in the lead soon.  Not a half mile in, Camelbak started fading.  I came through the mile in 6:24 and passed Camelbak like he was walking.  Because he was (technically he was running but at a walker’s pace).

Lee passed me right around this time and I locked in behind him.  But when we crested a little hill, I decided to throw in a surge and pass him back.

For the second week in a row, I never got comfortable in a race – I just tried to hang on.  I was pretty proud of myself for not going out too fast, but as I felt like shit, I realized that I probably didn’t go out too fast because I couldn’t – I went out as fast as my legs would go.

The course was fair, moderately challenging, but not overly so.  Thank god, because if it had been tough, I think I may have dropped dead on the spot.  The first mile had been mostly downhill with a couple of gentle rollers and mile two was mostly flat.  I came through in 6:27.  I was doing an okay pacing job but it was a bit of struggle – I needed a 6:21 mile 3 to stay on pace and my legs cried, “Good luck with that.”

Mile 3 contained a significant climb and I was not up for it.  I faded.  Adam however did not seem to have any problem as the photo near the end demonstrates:

Adam looking strong!  Way to represent JITFO!

Adam with this thing in the bag. Way to represent JITFO!

I struggled mightily up this hill and expected Lee, and everyone else for that matter, to pass me at any second.  I heard footsteps and could see shadows rapidly approaching.  My Garmin beeped for mile three and I didn’t even look because I knew it was bad.

Laura (unable to run due to an injury which we found out later that day is a stress fracture) cheered loudly and I tried to wave but didn’t have enough energy to raise my arm.  Some tall guy passed me and I glanced to make a quick age assessment – in my age group?  Go with him.  Younger?  Let him go.  He looked significantly younger which made me think, “Oh thank god – I don’t feel like kicking.”

With maybe 100 meters to go, I could see the clock tantalizingly close to 20 – I knew I’d missed the goal.  Sigh.  According to the Run For Your Life results page, I ran a 20:11, exactly a minute slower than I’d run a 5K on July 4. Granted, that course was pancake flat.

After I finished, I grabbed a water and Laura and I headed back to the hill to cheer on folks.  Moments later Scott charged up the hill and we cheered.  Then seconds after Scott, here came Larry Seavers and we cheered some more.  And all of us beat the crash test dummy, thank god.

I wasn’t particularly proud of my race and I missed my goal, but whatever, it made for a good workout and I got to hang out with friends. It was good to spend a little time with Scott before he moves.  Adam and I had a pleasant little cool-down where we discussed all things JITFO.  I won an imitation Tervis for third-place masters.  And I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention the delicious post-race pancakes.

Laura snapped this photo of the winner and a couple of age-group placers:

A couple of forty-something age groupers hanging with the overall winner

A couple of forty-something age groupers hanging with the overall winner

And those are my latest ‘racing’ (believe me, I use the word very loosely) escapades.  I will most likely run LungStrong next week just to keep the streak alive (5 and counting if my math is correct).  Hope to see a lot of you then!

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