The 2013 HFFA 10K and One Last Shot At Getting Into Boston

I made my way out of the warmth and comfort of the Huntersville Family Fitness and Aquatics center into the frigid temps outside (27 degrees at start, according to Garmin Connect).  I was not looking forward to this.  Then I got a pleasant surprise.

Entering the center came friends and elite runners John Compton and Caitlin Bullock.  We exchanged high fives as I headed out into the cold with a better attitude – the race would be more fun with some of my faster friends in the field.

I was running this race for 2 reasons: 1) I was getting a free entry after last year’s controversy and 2) I needed to run farther (HFFA had a 10K while the other local options, i.e. Runway, were 5Ks).  Earlier in the week, I exchanged emails with the HFFA director to confirm there was a spot for me in the 10K and that this year cash prizes would in fact be awarded to the top 3 men and women as advertised.  She reassured me on both counts.

When I got to the center, I had a “here we go” moment at the registration desk when the volunteer couldn’t find my entry.  But I tracked down Shawna, the race director, and she found me in the 5K list and asked the folks to switch me over to the 10K.

Pre-race Saturday morning, having only run in warm weather for months, I scrounged around the closet in search of warm running clothes. I found them and I did not fool around – I put on tights, a long-sleeved compression shirt under my JITFO singlet, gloves, and a hat – all black.  I might not run very fast but I wasn’t going to freeze to death.  Laura dubbed me the JITFO ninja.

Just before post time of 8:00, we lined up at the starting line.  Caitlin, John and I stood still just long enough for Laura to snap this photo:

2 winners and an old guy.

2 winners and an old guy in tights.

Shawna said a few words and then we were off.  I saw Laura, poised with camera phone, up ahead so I tried to run beside John and Caitlin so it would like I was a co-leader, but I couldn’t keep up for even a few early strides.  I yelled out to the fast kids, “Slow down so we can take a  picture together!”  This was the best I could manage:

Allen can't even keep up for 100 meters.

Allen can’t even keep up for 100 meters.

After we zipped past Laura, I tried to settle down into something akin to my actual 10K pace.  But the first mile was straight downhill and I felt great so I went with it.  Are you surprised?

Through the first mile, I was in fourth place overall, behind Compton, Caitlin, and some kid from Fort Bragg (I assume this as he warmed up in a jacket with Fort Bragg stenciled on the back).  I still felt great and had dollar signs in my eyes.  Through mile two, I slowed down a bit and felt a little less great.  By the time we hit the business park and the hilly portion of the course, I felt pretty shitty and was inwardly yelling at myself, “You big dummy, you’ve done it yet again!  How is it that you never learn this lesson?!”

At this point, we were climbing a tough hill, nearly the exact spot where Emily Drew passed me a year earlier, when some guy blew past me.  Split shorts, singlet, 2XU calf-compression sleeves – this did not look like somebody that would die on the hills.  He dropped me convincingly and my dream of a cash prize disappeared with him over the horizon.

Oh well, maybe I could hang on and win my age group, right?  Wrong.  We crossed the bridge over 77 where two more guys passed me and one of them looked to be in my age range.  Damn it.  I tried to go with them but I couldn’t hang on.

As we headed back to the aquatic center, we ran into the 5Kers who had started a few minutes after us. Running the tangents was out of the question now as I weaved in and out of slow joggers and walkers.  More than once, folks were four abreast, pushing me into the other lane.  I found this a wee bit exasperating as I struggled up Mt. Holly-Huntersville, and then Old Statesville, roads.

I made the right turn onto Verhoeff Drive and sped up a) to try to finish strong and b) to hold off anyone behind that might have me in their sights.  It was during this final less-than-a-half-mile stretch that I heard more than one 5Ker read the back of my singlet outloud and proclaim, “Jog it out! Hahaha!”:

I think some of the HFFA 5K walkers that I passed actually followed the advice on the back of my singlet.

I think some of the HFFA 5K walkers that I passed actually followed the advice on the back of my singlet.

I tried to dig for the last quarter.  Making the last turn with about 100 meters to go, I started to pass a young girl in the 5K who accelerated as I moved even with her,  ostensibly to out kick me, and I thought to myself, “Really?  I spotted you some three miles and now you want to sprint?”  So be it – I kicked and she let me go.

John and Laura cheered me in (maybe Caitlin too but I couldn’t hear her) and that was that.  Not a stellar performance, but not horrible either.  This race was basically about what I would expect after two months of low mileage, few workouts, and a few races.  I’ll take it.

When the 10K results were posted, I noticed my name was missing.  I talked to the timing folks and, to their credit, they straightened things out quickly – apparently, I never got moved from the 5K to the 10K.  I finished second in my age group and eighth overall.

Laura and I hung around for the awards ceremony where I collected a $10 Dicks gift certificate.  We chatted a few minutes with Bill Sandford, president of HCTC, who asked about Laura’s injury to which I joked, “It’s bad for her running, but good for your club as she’s doing a lot of swimming and soon to be doing a lot of biking.”  Then we rushed out to make it to the boys’ soccer game.

And that was the 2013 HFFA Fall Festival 10K.  Much smoother than the 2012 version.  Kudos to the staff for listening to the people and improving their race.

Looking ahead, I am still trying to find a way to get into Boston – now having been rejected to run for a charity group, it looks like my best, last chance resides with this contest.  I will be begging, er campaigning, for your votes soon, November 1 – 10 to be exact.  After all I’ve done for you – bashing myself to try to get a chuckle or two out of you – the least you can do is throw me a few measly votes.  Thanks in advance!


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