Yesterday morning, I made my yearly pilgrimage to the South Park Mall for the 8k Turkey Trot race. My hopes were to come away with one their unique Turkey shaped Trophy awards.
During the week, Steve and I exchanged some emails and there was at least one accusation of sand bagging. I will not mention any names to protect both the guilty and the innocent.
Thursday morning, Steve Spada, Billy Shue, and Michael Heafner headed out for a nice pre race warm up. Along the way we picked up Bert Rodriguez who would later go on to win the 8k race.
Just before 9 am, myself and 6000+ others gathered at the starting line. On my first stride to finish my warm up, I spotted Rocky. Ugh, Rocky had just turned 40 a few months ago and if you don't know him, Rocky is fast. He lots faster than I am. Oh, well, I guess the Turkey award is out the window again this year.
We all gathered at the starting line and then the rain started falling.
First, the baby joggers headed out and then came the firing of the gun.
I wasn't sure how the race would play out. Who really does know? I knew how I hoped it would play out.
Within the first few hundred yards, I was already scanning the crowd for Steve. It didn't take long before I found him and I quickly moved up behind him.
We started to overtake the baby joggers and Steve was weaving through them like a Nascar driver going 30 mph faster than his competition. My only problem was keeping up. A few times, I got squeezed off when the opening I was trying to pass through closed up once Steve passed through.
By the mile in 5:34, we had past most of the baby joggers and I was trying to settle down and get comfortable. Steve was setting the pace with Michael H. right there. I was right at my max so I really didn't have a reason to make things go any faster.
Mile 2 passed in 5:27, we caught a couple of runners and could see Billy Shue and Alejandro Arreola a short distance ahead of us. Mentally, I wanted to get up there with them. Physically, I knew I couldn't do it.
Just past 2 mile is where the major climbing on Runnymead Lane starts. Michael, Steve, and I were still running together and practically running as one.
For me, this was the toughest section. My legs were still dragging from OBX and not helped by my little speed session at Santa Scramble. I kept fighting to stay up beside Steve. On the uphill, I would slide back. Then, I would try to recover on the downhill.
Finally, I could see the red light where we turn right on Sharon Rd. I knew from past years that this was just about the 3 mile point. And, if I had anything in the tank this is where I needed to use it.
Less than 20 yards past the 3 mile point which we ran in 5:41, Michael H. puts in this monster surge on both Steve and me. I mean he goes around both of us and opens a 15 meter gap. In no way was I expecting this scenario. Michael later told me that he was feeling really good and wanted to make a big push here.
I felt like I was already at my rev limiter and was not really sure what I wanted to do. At first I waited to see if Steve was going to react and try to chase Michael down.
When this didn't look to be happening, I decided this had to be my moment. If I can get to Michael, I could set on him and use him to pull me away from Steve.
It took me nearly ¾ of mile to bridge over to Michael. This was ¾ of mile of real pain and suffering. And, let me tell, Michael wasn't giving anything back.
Michael and I passed 4 miles together in 5:42. I wasn't sure how far Steve was back but at the moment I was more concerned with keeping up with Michael.
About ¾ of the final mile is down hill, but the last stretch to the finish is an uphill grind. Two turns before the final grind Michael puts in another big surge and opens a gap on me that I cannot cover. I know it is going to be a fight all the way to the end and I was trying to keep the gap from opening any more than possible.
The legs were starting to grow very heavy as time really started to slow down and I could see the finish line. I glance at my Garmin 26:42 but the finish line seem like an entity away. The crowds are cheering on both sides of the road. The distance between Michael doesn't seem to be expanding but neither does it seem to be shrinking.
The finish banner is growing size and I am nearly there. Finally I will get some relief for these tightening legs.
Then, somewhere out of the crowd I hear the following "Go Spada! Go!" or something similar. The key word this sentence was "Spada". This was like being jolted awake. I had completely forgotten about Steve and that he might be closing on me. If there were any systems that were not on red alert in my body, they went to red alert now.
I did a quick peek over my right shoulder and I saw Steve closing and fast. At this point, things got a little blurry. I think I heard another "Spada" call from the crowd and I followed each with a surge that I didn't know that I had. Ducking across the line, Steve was right on my shoulder about 1 second back.
I guess someone must have been looking out for me because if I hadn't heard the calls from the crowd, Steve would have passed me and I wouldn't have had a chance to respond. And, just too double confirm my luck if Steve had tried to pass me on my left instead of my right, I would have been looking one way while he was passing on the other.
We covered this last mile in 5:33. I guess the old saying about it being better to be luckier than good is true. At least this is true in my case.
Steve and I hadn't raced each other since last year. During those 9 Grand Prix races our times were never separated by more than 10 seconds total across all of those races. We renewed our battle on this day and finished a second apart. Steve is a true competitor and I haven't enjoyed racing someone this much since Keith Hurley and I had our battles during the mid 90s.
After the race Steve and I grabbed a couple of more miles where we talked about the race. We saw Rocky and he told us that he finished 3rd overall.
My hope of a Turkey award rose a little. With Rocky finishing 3rd overall, there was still an unclaimed master's award. But Turkey Trot races are the hard to gauge because more out of town people race in these events.
When the results were posted, John Moss from Los Angeles age 41 took home the award. He ran 28:05 and had been just ahead of both Steve and me the entire race. My congratulations go to John.
That's the breaks. I did my best and there is always next year.
Before ending my post, I want to give a shout out to Steve's son Max. Max, a promising Lacrosse player, scored a 3rd place finish in the mile fun run. I guess the running genes run deep in the Spada family. Congratulations Max.
Happy Holidays to everyone.
Thoughts from the Cool Down Runner