Four In One

Hi gang! Remember me? Allen here bringing you a very special post on Allen’s Road to Boston. Today, for one day only, we’ll be giving you four, yes four, race recaps for the price of one. But hurry up and read, this deal won’t last forever (only as long as the internet and wordpress survive). Let’s get right to it – this one’s gonna be quick because I’ve got to get down to the very serious business of fantasy football.

Race Recap #1: The Isabella Santos 10K

isabella start

I stole this from, er I mean this photo courtesy of, the Isabella Santos 5K website. I ran the 10K but our start looked very similar to this 5K one, albeit with a slightly smaller crowd and with one very conspicuous JITFO singlet on the front row.

This would be my first race back after Blue Ridge and I really didn’t expect much success. Which is fortunate because I basically met those expectations.

Laura and I drove separately for the 8:00 AM race so she could rush straight to the dubs’ soccer game at 9:00. I rolled in, jumped out of the car, and started to rush to register when who should I run into but one Michael Kahn, freshly arrived back in town after a couple-year stint in the Big Apple. KAAAHHHHN! We exchanged some “Great to see you!” pleasantries and while I can’t speak for Mike, mine was sincere – I’m genuinely happy to have him back in town and running local races again.

Laura pulled up and joined me in the rush to registration (surprise, we were lateish – I know you’re shocked by this), and as we split up to go to our respective lines – I was running the 10K while Laura, aka “Broke Toe Mountain”, was doing the 5K – we ran into another Charlotte expatriot, Scott Helms. It was like a runners’ reunion down in Ballantyne!

Long story short, the 5K was the featured event so there weren’t a lot of 10Kers. Judging by the size, and look, of the crowd, I might’ve been tempted to think I had a shot at an overall win if it weren’t for one thing: Anna. Anna always beats me – it’s maddening. So I knew better than to dream of a win. But other than Anna, I didn’t see any other obvious split-short-singlet-racing-flat kinda speedsters. So I did dare dream of a possible second place.

And then suddenly we were racing. Five or six folks shot out and I tried to figure out who was for real and who was a firework (think about it). Apparently, I was one of the fireworks as I looked down at my watch and saw a 5:30 in the pace field. “But I feel so good! It feels so easy!” I thought, but backed off after having self destructed so many times in my past.

Once I got down to a manageable pace, Anna pulled up alongside me and we chatted for a sec. “Who’s for real up there?” I asked, pointing at the half dozen runners in front of us. “I really don’t know”, she answered. The leader looked legit – he had considerably gapped us a half mile in and his form looked solid. I wondered how I’d missed him in my initial starting corral assessment.

But after him, there were two guys wearing the race tee, a couple of folks that looked to be struggling to maintain their current pace, and one fit girl. Anna passed me while we rapidly gained ground on the leaders. Nearing the first mile, there was the leader, the second place guy – a dude wearing the race tee and long, dare I say basketball-esque, shorts – I assumed he’d come back to me soon – then Anna, then me.

The story of my race can be summed up in four words: Just stay with Anna. Which I failed to do. She messaged me the night before the race and asked, “What pace are you shooting for?” and I answered with, “Not sure how fast. I’m guessing 6:45 – 6:50 pace?” I was pretty successful in guessing my pace – Garmin shows it as 6:44.

I just tried to hang with Anna and she just kept pulling away. She would gap me going uphill and I would make some of it back up on the down, but overall, net, she kept pulling away.

The most frustrating part of this race was that early on we intersected with what I assume was towards the tail end of the 5Kers and we were forced to weave our way through them. I tried to keep a close eye on Anna whose pink singlet usually stood out among the sea of purple. But occasionally I’d get distracted, see some shiny object (“Monkey like shiny thing!”) or a cute, furry little animal (“Squirrel!”), and lose sight of her. Then I’d spend a lot of energy weaving in and out of folks until I spotted her again. And every time this happened, the gap between her and me got farther.

Around mile 5 or so, I made a concerted effort to close the gap. And I did to a certain extent, until we hit some ridiculous, Blue-Ridgey, hill where Anna started dropping me. Again. Then some guy, gray-haired and heavier, zipped past. This annoyed me to no end so I went with him. Or rather I tried to.

With less than a mile to go, I was in fifth place overall and the fourth male. I had given up on Anna who had put an insurmountable distance on me, but I was fiercely determined to get on the podium, i.e. finish in the top three guys. I latched onto who I assumed to be a fellow masters and did my damnedest to hang on.

But I couldn’t. Soon his lead was feeling insurmountable too and I was borderline despondent. But while I was playing the ol’ “woe is me”, First World problems card, a funny thing happened. I looked up and fellow masters had pulled me right up to race tee/basketball shorts guy – remember him? The guy I thought would come back to me early? Well he’d come back alright, but it certainly wasn’t early.

And while my fellow masters flew right past roundball shorts, it was nowhere near given that I’d do the same. We had barely over a quarter of a mile to go and I hadn’t passed him yet.

We were maddeningly dodging 5kers when bball shorts guy made a crucial error. He struggled along, looking down, while I looked up ahead – the Red Sea, or rather the Purple Wave, parted for a split second, meaning a couple of 5Kers left an opening for a blink of an eye, and I darted through. This Purple Gate shut as quickly as it opened and hoop-dreams was stuck on the wrong side – think Indiana Jones if he was a second slower and the wall shut him in the tomb forever.

Now just to clarify, I’m not exactly proud that I got an assist from the Purple Wave to land on the men’s podium. But landing on the podium may have been what kept this spoiled American from tailspinning into depression on this particular day. As it was, I got to tell myself, “Hey, third place guy. Not bad.”

Race Recap #2: The Southend Shuffle 5k

Laura and I scored a couple of free entries to this one – the problem was that it took place one day before the LungStrong 15K where I wanted to go for my personal course record. But how could I say no to a free t-shirt and free beer, to a race who gave proceeds to the rail trail, a cause I cared about? Answer: I couldn’t. So we went.

But the plan was to just jog, not race. The race started at 8:00 so we planned it out – we would jog about 30 minutes or so, grab our free beer, then shoot over to the dubs’ soccer game at 9:00. Best laid plans.

We arrived at Common Market Southend (the race start was one street over, in front of Phat Burrito) with plenty of time to spare (I know, miracle!) and set off on a little warm-up.

Phat Burrito - site of the start. I wish they were giving out some of this cuisine!

Phat Burrito – site of the start. I wish they were giving out some of this cuisine!

We jumped on the rail trail path and discussed our morning’s strategy.

Laura asked, “Are you racing?” To which I answered something like, “No, hell no! LungStrong is tomorrow!” So then she inquired, “What kind of pace do you want to run?” And I said, “I don’t care, just slow, but with negative splits.””7:30s?” “No!” “Then what pace?” “Try nines.”

We lollygagged for a mile or so and as we approached the start, we saw that everybody was already lined up and the announcer said something like, “Okay, 30 seconds.” Shit! We almost missed the start! But no harm no foul as we lined up a row or two back from the line.

“Go!” Now Laura and I may have differing versions of this race, but since this is my blog, I get to tell mine. Ol’ Broke Toe Mountain took off, like at sub-7:00 pace. And while I couldn’t stand it, I [mostly] let her go. I settled in around 7:30 (oops) pace and kept her in sight/striking distance. Just in case.

7:30s seemed comfortable, not egregiously fast, and something I could run without totally derailing my next day’s racing plans. So I settled in. But it wasn’t easy to stay at this pace. “Why not?” I hear you asking. Well let me answer that fine question.

Eric (one of our Triple C Beer Run regulars) passed me. Then Brenny did the same. Then Tom. And it started gnawing at me. But I reminded myself that I wasn’t racing today. Tomorrow was the race. Calm down, JITFO it, and get your free beer after.

But then about two miles in, a big guy – think fullback, not lineman, like a guy that had more than a passing familiarity with a weight room – passed me. More of “I couldn’t stand it”. “You don’t see me coming into your weight room and bench pressing more than you!” I thought to myself. I surged just a little bit and passed him back.

Then he passed me again. “Damn it! Alright, you want to do this? Let’s do this.” I thought as a big hill approached. I cranked up the hill and dropped him. Okay, with the fullback in the rear view mirror I could settle back down.

But then Gurmit passed me. Now Gurmit seems like a really nice fellow. But I can’t have him beating me. So I passed him back. And there was Tom just ahead so I thought I might as well pass him, too.

And then suddenly I was right on Laura’s heels. I thought, “I could just tuck in right here and sneak past her at the line”, but that might not go over particularly well, so I just went ahead and passed her. But it didn’t go over particularly well here, either. “Damn you!” she spouted as I shot by. “I’m just going to get Brenny!” I fired back as I reeled in Brenny who was maybe 30-40 meters ahead.

I zipped past Brenny and said, “Brenny” as I snuck by, to which he yelled, “Go!” Okay, maybe I will.

Now we had maybe 200 meters to the finish line and I thought, “Ah, what the hell, let’s kick a little bit”, as I flew past runner after runner. Most of them were fading and let me go without much of a fight.

But with maybe 50 meters to go, some young guy would have none of it, and the two of us took off into an all-out sprint. I was laughing at the ridiculousness of it all, “Kick and you might break 22:15!” but I did it anyway. And to his credit, the guy got me at the line. I wanted to ask, “Hey, why don’t you come out to LungStrong tomorrow for a rematch?” but even I’m not that big of a dick. We shook hands and said “Good race!” (If you go fast forward to about the 9-minute mark of the video below, you can see evidence of our sprint to the finish. Keep watching after we’re done and you’ll see shirtless Brenny come through, very closely followed by Laura in the gray Triple C Beer Runners singlet and visor.)

After the finish, we briefly chatted with Eric and Sarah before rushing over to Common Market to get our free beer. The bartender began pouring my beer into a pint glass, but with only minutes to spare before the boys’ soccer game, I asked her if she could pour it into a plastic to-go cup. Speaking to me as if I had just asked her if it was okay to forcibly inject heroin into babies, she responded, “Absolutely not!” So Laura and I quickly drank our free beer and rushed out of there. The End.

PS – We found out that we both had somehow managed to win age group awards. And Laura had set her broken-toe 5K PR.

Race Recap #3: The 2014 LungStrong 15K

I’ve run this race every year since 2008, the year it marked my official comeback to running after years of inactivity. And for that reason, it holds a special place in my heart and I race it every year. 2014 was no exception. It remains my only 15K to date, but as it’s a bit hilly and it typically falls a couple of weeks after the Blue Ridge Relay, my legs are often shot when I race it. Long story short, my 15K PR is soft and every year I hope to remedy that.

The good news: I was fit. The bad news: I had a heavy-mileage week (60 is heavy for me) and I had run a bit faster than I wanted the day before. But I planned to swing for the fences anyway – anything short of a PR I’d consider a failure.

Let me not bore you with a lot of pre-race junk. I will say that I ran into Adam just before go time and my JITFO teammate and I showed off our sweet singlets as we jogged down Jetton Rd. in Cornelius minutes before the race began.

Moments later, we were lining up in the starting corral when I saw that rarest of sights – Ben Hovis was in the field. “Whhhaaaattt?” I cried out to him. Seeing Ben in a race these days is like spotting Bigfoot or a giant UFO landing on your front lawn.

Then suddenly we were racing. I tried to relax, but you guys know me – I was cranking pretty good out of the gate. The volunteers were having a hard time directing the runners “15K to your right, 5K to your left!” as Chas corrected them, “15K is on the left, 5K is on the right!” He also mentioned to me, “A little fast, Allen” as he passed. Really Chas, were you surprised?

Yeah, I was a good bit under 7:00 pace as we entered Jetton Park. I wanted to run a 7:15 or 7:30 first mile and then try to ratchet things down as we went. Best laid plans. My legs felt like lead – you know the feeling, that running-in-quicksand, dream running, kind of feeling – as I struggled to maintain pace. Aerobically, I felt great, but the heavy mileage week and the faster-than-you-should-have-run-you-idiot 5K the day before were taking their toll right from the start.

Sean passed me as we entered Jetton Park and inquired, “Allen, are you sandbagging?” to which I replied (read lied) and answered, “Yeah man, I’m taking it pretty easy – I hope to see you later in the race!” as he dropped me. So Sean, when you were pushing it late in the race, fearing that I would show up any second? You’re welcome for the faster time.

Tommy and Matt, a couple of DART guys, pulled alongside me moments later and we chatted for a bit before Matt pulled ahead. Tommy and I ran stride for stride as we exited the park and ran up Jetton Road, our first, and easiest, of many climbs that day.

I yelled to the 5Kers as they came back towards us, “Go Dave!” (Munger, who would eventually win), “Go Beigay!” (Mike, who would come in second), and then to my sweetheart, who was grinning, “GOOO LAURA!” (she would eventually finish second overall among the ladies in the 5K).

Back on Jetton Road, one Gucci Freshness pulled up on his bike and shot some video while we talked. My legs were continuing to fail me – I knew it was going to be a long day. I started daydreaming about post-race pizza and beer as Tommy pulled ahead.

Gucci rode off to film others as I desperately tried to lock in at something faster than 7:00 pace. It was a futile effort.

Cruising up Jetton, I felt something hit my leg and then heard a clack behind me – I looked back to see my car key in the road. I stopped, ran against the oncoming runners like a salmon swimming downstream, and retrieved my key. Apparently there was a hole in my pocket. I dropped it again and had to go back again, the two runners who had just dodged me laughing as I came back again. This time I felt the tiny hole in my pocket and tried to secure the key in a spot where it wouldn’t escape again. Luckily, that worked, but I lost valuable time with my two stops.

I spent the rest of the race chasing Tommy. On the way back, as we ran in front of all those incredible waterfront mansions (aside – how can so many people have so much money?!?), I made a concerted effort to catch Tommy. And I did make up a ton of ground. I was right on his heels at about the 6.5 mile mark as we turned left onto the dreaded Mountainview Drive. Runners, always be wary of the road that has the word ‘mountain’ in its name.

On Mountainview Drive, you run straight down and then loop around and come straight back up. I hate this section that was recently (I think last year) added to the course. That climb up comes late in the race and I always feel destroyed by this point. Either Tommy surged or I faded because when we exited Mountainview, he had significantly gapped me. I valiantly tried to hang on, but it was useless.

As seems to be the case every year, even though I vow “it’ll be different this year”, I switch over to “just hang on and get this damned thing over with” mode on the rolling stretch of Jetton that takes us back to the finish. Some young lady zipped past me and for a split second I entertained the notion of going with her but abandoned that idea pretty quickly.

I was in total survival mode when we turned off Jetton and Bobby snapped this pic:

Complete survival mode, aka "The Loneliness of the Long Distance Runner".

Complete survival mode, aka “The Loneliness of the Long Distance Runner”.

As I struggled, slogged really, through the little neighborhood behind the shopping center where we’d finish, Gucci popped up again and shot some more video. I was grateful to see him because he helped give me a little motivational shove to pick things up a bit. Here’s his video  (I think you may need to be a member of Facebook to watch) – you’ll notice lots of JITFO folks donning our sweet JITFO singlets, including our Blue Ridge Relay ringer Chase Eckard (see him at 12 seconds of the video, effortlessly running sub-5:30 pace) who finished a close second on this day behind Bert Rodriguez.) At 4:09 of the video, I’m nearing the end of my race. Live on race day, I felt like I was really pushing it. In this video, I look like I’m crawling. Sigh.

At least Laura was able to snap a few cool pics that almost make me look like a real runner:

This guy looks like a real runner. What'd he run, 48? 49?

This guy looks like a real runner. What’d he run, 48? 49?

As always, the post-race was fun. They had food from Toast, Mich Ultra (next year, I really hope they bring some Charlotte-brewed micro-beers like say, for example, Triple C), and we mingled and chatted with hordes of our running pals, including PJ and Keith, a couple of Triple C Beer Runners who set huge PRs. Despite my crappy race, all in all, it was a good day.

Race Recap #4: CIC Diversity Day 5K

Finally, we come to the last race recap of this much too long post. This is a little race that my boss puts on at our place of work as part of her volunteer work for the Diversity Council and to help raise awareness for Safe Alliance, a local organization that helps victims of domestic violence.  As reigning champ, I had to run to defend my title.

I had a dual role of racing and helping. I had procured the Charlotte Running Club’s racing clock and charged it the night before. I showed up early, helped my fellow volunteers Bill and Todd get timing set up, then I took off up the trail to warm up.

When it was time to race, I surveyed the crowd and didn’t spot any of CIC’s (Customer Information Center, our sprawling work complex) fastest – Derrick, Wen, Baki. I looked for unknown folks that might be quick – there was a thin, fit-looking girl in running attire that might be a potential adversary, but she also had a giant knee brace on. There was one guy in running shorts and a singlet who I pegged as the top contender.

Todd, as acting race announcer, lined us up at the start. “If you think you can run a 5K between 15 and 17 minutes, or faster, come line up at the front.” Nobody stepped forward. “Between 17 and 19?” Still nobody. “Between 19 and 21?” I stepped up, alone. “Between 21 and 23?” Nada. Todd put his hand over the mike, leaned to me, and said, “I think you’ve got this.” “23 and 25?” A not particularly fit-looking gentleman walked up and I wondered to myself if he could actually break 25.

Todd explained the course and then told everyone, and reiterated multiple times, “The trail is narrow. Please remember to stay to the right and don’t go more than 2-wide, especially you walkers.” There was a large contingency of folks who were there merely to walk the course. “It’s the phrase of the day, repeat after me, ‘Stay to the right!'” He said it over and over.

Then we lined up, Todd counted down from five, and at zero, he signaled Bill who fired off an air horn to start the race. I shot out to the front and 25-minute guy went with me. I hit the trail and 25-minute guy was tight on my heels.

But by a quarter mile in, I could no longer hear footsteps. I ran up the toughest part of the course, a couple hundred meters that climbed up the slate gravel trail, and my breathing was labored. I couldn’t hear anybody but I still didn’t want to take any chances.

When I rounded the tiny loop at the end of the trail and headed back, it was a minute or two before I encountered anybody. And second place (not 25-minute guy – he’d been passed) looked to be struggling a bit. Barring an epic disaster, the race was mine.

But as I headed back, I quickly learned that an epic disaster was quite possible. Despite Todd’s repeated emphasis on staying to the right and not going more than 2-wide, slews of folks were on the left and walking three and four wide. I yelled at people. “To your right! Runners approaching! Get over!” I had to make some pretty deft Barry-Sanders-esque moves (Am I showing my age here? LeSean-McCoy-esque moves?) to dodge on-comers for the duration of the trail.

Various participants cheered me on, including Wells Fargo Charlotte Running Club (not to be confused with the straight up Charlotte Running Club) president Morgan who high-fived me as I ran by.

But once I exited the trailhead and hit the sidewalks, where we’d be for the remainder of the course, it was smooth sailing as far as dodging went – now all I should have to worry about would be office workers out for a stroll and/or a cigarette. Two laps around the complex and bring it home.

I kept glancing behind me but no one was within sight. For some crazy reason, I kept pushing things, paranoid that someone would get some incredible surge of energy and start reeling me in. And I felt pretty shitty – it was rather warm and my legs were still shot from all the recent racing (see above recaps).

After a lap, I started lapping folks, which was no big deal until I had to hop off the sidewalk into oncoming traffic. Luckily, that didn’t happen much. I lapped one dude who cried out, “Don’t tell me this is your second lap? Do you think anyone will notice if I just come in with you?”

I completed my second lap and made my way up the short but steep hill by the pavilion to the finish line. I took one last glance behind me and saw no one so I didn’t kill myself up the hill.

I finished in an embarrassingly slow time (slow enough that I’m not going to post it – you’ll have to do some legwork to find it. And as the race is so tiny and obscure, it may take hiring a private investigator to get it. Good luck.) But times are relative – this time that I’m too embarrassed to tell to all my fast buddies, on this day, at this locale, was fast enough to win by over five minutes. As I stood by the finish line and chatted with my buddies Bill and Todd, now timekeepers, the clock ticked away. One minute since I finished. Two. Three. Four. I exclaimed, “Wow, I haven’t had a win like this since high school!”

More than five minutes later, the girl with the knee brace finished in second place.

But hey, a win is a win! I will relish it as these things don’t come my way very often.

There were volunteers that snapped pictures all over the place, but I’ve yet to see any of these action photos. The best I can offer is this post-race photo of some of my fellow competitors and me:

From left to right: Randa McCall, yours truly, Debra Dandro, Elma Pace, gentleman whose name I don't know. There in the background is Erin Cohen, who finished second overall.

From left to right: Randa McCall, yours truly, Debra Dandro, Elma Pace, gentleman whose name I don’t know, and, walking by in the background, Erin Cohen, who finished second overall.

 

And that’s it, four race recaps. You are now all caught up on Allen’s Road to Boston. Stay tuned for the Run with Theoden 5K where we’ll see if either of my predicted times, me in 20:18.9 or Theoden in 20:19.0, come true. Can I run like Farrah and predict like Nostradamus? We’ll see.

 

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