2013 Thunder Road

With the voting portion of the PowerBar Stronger Together contest over, now we wait. I won’t know if I’ve won until December 3 at the earliest. So with no A races on the horizon, I’m in a kind of running purgatory. With Thunder Road coming up, arguably Charlotte’s premiere running event, I decided I’d jump in and run the half.

But having waited until the last minute to register, I discovered the entry fee was a whopping $105. Man, I was not prepared to drop that kind of cash for what would basically be a supported long run. Luckily, at the very last second, Maola Milk posted on Facebook that they would give free entries to the first 20 people to “like” their post and then email a guy for details. Easy enough.

I sent the email and the Maoloa guy said all I had to do was fill out a registration form and then post the following on my Facebook wall:

I’m excited to be running in the @Charlotte Thunder Road Marathon thanks to @Maola Milk and Ice Cream Company. I’m especially excited for the Maola chocolate milk after the race to help my muscles rebuild and recover! Check out chocolate milk’s recovery benefits at http://gotchocolatemilk.com/science

Selling out for $105. Whatever, free entry. And like Matt says, it’s a relatively innocent product – it’s not like I was posting how great BP is or something. So I sold my soul for chocolate milk and I was in for free. Moo bitches, moo.

Me, before I started drinking chocolate milk, on the left, and after I started drinking chocolate milk on the right. I might have got those backwards, I get confused about the order of things sometimes.

Me, on the left,before I started drinking chocolate milk and me, on the right, after I started drinking chocolate milk. Note: I might have those backwards, I get confused about the order of things sometimes.

Regardless of how, I was in.

Friday, I swung by the expo. I picked up my packet and saw tons of running friends milling about. This is what makes Thunder Road such a cool experience – so many of the local runners, many of my friends, show up for this one. And then several of us got to hear Pezz’s (Stephanie Pezzullo) inspirational speech.

Saturday morning showed up quickly and I found myself a little nervous. After all, I hadn’t been training specifically for a half and, truth be told, my training of late had been, and this is being kind, rather lackluster. I mean I was running but workouts were few and far between. Basically I was just running during the week and throwing in races here and there on the weekends – or as its more commonly known, the Bobby Aswell Plan. But I’m pretty sure I was putting in a lot less miles than Bobby does. Let’s just say I wasn’t exactly brimming with confidence.

But I wasn’t completely out of shape either. I’d run enough to be able to finish a half without dying. The question became “How fast could I run a hilly half marathon?” The days leading up to the race, when people asked me what I planned on running, I was all over the map. “Sub-1:40.” “Probably about 1:37.” “I don’t know – I think I’ll just play it by ear.” When Laura and I pulled into the NASCAR Hall of Fame parking deck about half an hour before go time, we ran into our pal John Fillette who asked me what I planned on running and I responded “1:35”. That became the final goal – it seemed doable based on my current fitness level. And yet it would still take significant effort.

Moments before gun time I ran towards the starting corral. I saw Danielle who joked about all the caps and tights and long-sleeved shirts – the temperature was already 50 and climbing. I was comfortable in shorts and singlet. Somebody sang the national anthem while this rare picture of me being patriotic was snapped.

This is me being all patriotic and shit.

This is me being all patriotic and shit.

Moments later I lined up in the starting corral near the 3:00 pacing group that included Claire, Chas, and Clayton. I turned to Chas and said “6:52, 6:52, 6:52” and then told Clayton, “Watch out for these kids – they’re gonna go out fast.” Nicole Gross said a few words and I started to get emotional – thank god she was brief so I didn’t start sobbing in front of my friends. Seconds later she called out, “On your mark, get set, go!” and we took off through the streets of Charlotte.

Chas and Claire dropped me instantly even though I was running about 6:40 pace so I yelled to Clayton, “See! They’re already out too fast!” and then I tried to back off but all the cheering, etc., caused the adrenaline to course through my veins and it took all the self-control I could muster just to avoid running 6-flat pace. As usual, I tried to relax and settle in around 7:00 or so. But I was amped.

Tim, aka Gucci Freshness, ran up with a GoPro camcorder and asked me something like, “How are you feeling?” and I responded with “My feelings are hurt that I’m out here racing and you’re casually running beside me with a camcorder.”

A theme developed quickly, as it has in Thunder Roads past. Allow me to give you a visual:

This pretty much sums it up.

This pretty much sums it up.

Basically the race can be summarized like this: I felt great and cranked on the downhills. I felt like shit and struggled on the uphills. Lather, rinse, repeat for 13.1 miles.

But every time I was ready to call it a day, every time I thought, “Fuck it, I’m just going to walk here” a friend popped up and cheered for me. Aaron Linz, for example, was all over the course and cheering wildly which is so greatly appreciated – he always pumps me – and so many other runners – up.

I was struggling around mile 10 when I heard someone yell, “JITFO!”and knew it was Adam and Audra before I even saw them. I heard people cheer Allen so many times I wasn’t sure if that many people knew me or were just reading my name off my bib. Regardless, every time I was ready to bail, someone cheered and I pushed through.

Around the time I ran past Adam and Audra, some kid with a shirt that read “Back on track 2013” passed me and the race within the race began, the has-been versus the up-and-comer. I passed him back. He passed me again. And so on. I was so proud when, with about a quarter of a mile to go, I took off and dropped him (I learned his name was Noah as I heard folks repeatedly cheer for him along the course). When he crossed the finish line mere seconds behind me, I said “Nice job, Noah”. Thanks to the lesson that Scott Helms has repeatedly taught me, I looked up Noah in the results and cursed when I found out he beat me on chip time.

I finished in just under 1:35 and I was pleased with that. I think with some solid training I can get back to where I was in my 2011 masters salad days when I broke 1:30.

For now, I’ll continue to try and ramp up the mileage and gradually mix in some workouts. Maybe I’ll get fit and chase some masters PRs between now and Boston.

In the meantime, enjoy these Thunder Road pics:

Speaking of friends popping up at the right moment, Chad Randolph snapped this pic right before the agonizing climb up Morehead.

Speaking of friends popping up at the right moment, Chad Randolph snapped this pic right before the agonizing climb up Morehead.

I saw 1 other guy wearing my same model of Karhu's. I beat him. I'm proclaiming I was the top Karhu Flow finisher.

I saw 1 other guy wearing my same model of Karhu’s. I beat him. I’m proclaiming I was the top Karhu Flow finisher.

al kicks

Trying to sprint the .1. Not sure if the Mt. Michelin Challenge helped or hurt me here.

Laura snapped this awesome pic of friends Ed and Bill dead even down the final stretch. Their time is identical in the results.

Laura snapped this awesome pic of friends Ed and Bill dead even down the final stretch. Their time is identical in the results.

My race made possible by Maolo chocolate milk.

My race made possible by Maola chocolate milk.

Afterward, Laura and I hoofed over to the Charlotte Running Club cheering station just past mile 25. I thought Freddie Mercury had been resurrected until Caleb said, "Allen, it's me, Caleb."

Afterward, Laura and I hoofed over to the Charlotte Running Club cheering station just past mile 25. I thought Freddie Mercury had been resurrected until he said, “Allen, it’s me, Caleb.”

Afterward, Laura and I hoofed over to the Charlotte Running Club cheering station just past mile 25. Here's Butch looking fresh as a daisy.

Here’s Butch looking fresh as a daisy.

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One Response to “2013 Thunder Road”

  1. Melissa Says:

    A friend sent your blog to my son Noah. Imagine his surprise to see his name in your blog after his 1st half marathon! Good luck qualifying for Boston!

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