Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Spinx Run Fest 2012

Spinx, not Sphinx.
I have long been a fan of both corporate gasoline conglomerates and run festing, so this weekend's Spinx Run Fest 2012 was a real no-brainer for me. Spinx is a small southern chain of gas stations that makes a petrol that tastes slightly better than their turkey sandwiches. If you too have been obsessing over my ankle surgery saga, you are no doubt aware that this race weekend followed my brevis repair by exactly 6 months on the Gregorian calendar.
That translates roughly to 8 new moon, "oh craps", on the Mayan calendar. I resumed running 11 weeks ago and was in no way ready for this race. The Big Punkin 5k run/walk was probably a better fit for me, and that only because I was prohibited by blatant ageism from entering the L'il Punkin kid's run.

Speedy Gonzales and friend in skirt.

Guess who got back from the restroom line 2 minutes before
the starting gun? Hint: not pictured here.
Not too long ago, my mother and I established a tradition of running a half-marathon together each year. We had previously run this event together in 2010. If you understand together to mean, drive 350 miles to your parent's house, wake up at 5:30 AM, drive back toward Durham to Greenville, SC and then run entirely separate from one another because you had some vague arbitrary time goal. My rehabbing back toward the mid-packers has allowed me a bit more perspective. I was thrilled to have the opportunity to run step by step with my mother again. Unfortunately, she has not been blessed with the benefit of my new perspective and was in this event to race down everyone and anyone she knew. My mom commonly places in her age group and scrutinizes race results like a hypochondriact analyzes webMD. Her long time running partner Christie G, Christie's husband William, and myself were all fair game. I have not been over 10 miles since Uhwarrie in February. I was hoping to pace my speedy matriarch to a PR pace until mile 11 or so and then limp in myself.

If you squint, you can just see her invisible jet.
I believe my mom is a pretty well rounded runner (she was running 5Ks before the training wheels came off my Schwinn). Her major weakness is her under estimation of her reserves. She usually comes out conservative and finishes strong with a bit left in the tank. This time we were looking to come out a little quicker and to finish just mostly alive. This HM has an ugly profile. It lulls you in with 6.5 miles of downhill and then the second half of the half (I guess that would make it a 1/4?) is all uphill. Interspersed throughout the route, a spongy track like material parallels the paved paths that make up a large part of the course. It feels great, but I think it saps a bit off your pace. Think Buick Regal ride rather than Porche performance. Its also pretty narrow and very crowded. Personally, I chose to run with my healing foot on the squishy material and my good foot on the asphalt. Think drunk pirate. This approach allowed me to equally annoy those on both sides.

If not for those meddling kids!
I felt that Spinx adopted the Paul Ryan austerity approach toward race management for 2012. By slashing the pork out of aid stations and the post race table, we almost balanced the SC deficit with savings realized from the Gatorade and water only stops. The 2010 race offered warm grits (which we originally thought were mashed potatoes) at the finish. Its funny what you crave in a race. It was the thought of that hot hominy that propelled me through the later miles. Had I known it was only dry Folsom State sandwiches we approached, I might have despaired  In the spirit of bipartisanship, I do freely admit that the pre-race coffee policy remained unchanged from 2010 for those over the age of 55. Fortunately for me, I appear to be in my early 70s before 7:30 AM and SC does not yet require ID to caffeinate. 

Before Roy Hobbes arrived.
I wore my kilt again for this race. Mainly for ventilation and to shame my mother. This led to a rather urgent chafing injury that resulted in a mid-race visit to the medical tent. I asked for Vaseline. Here again, budget cuts were evident. The volunteers cracked open a beer cooler emblazoned with a red cross. The ice chest was lacking petroleum jelly, but after some brief fondling they came up with a generic KY in a squeeze tube. Hesitant, but desperate I experimented. It worked, but I left in 50 shades of red. My tortured thighs were moving again. If only it had been Astroglide I am sure we could have dropped another 30 seconds per mile. Although creature comforts were scarce, vital medical care was available. We witnessed a down runner receiving an IV administered by medical personnel and the police did a great job protecting the course.
The races proximity to All Hallows Eve scarred up some costumes. The runners and spectators did a fair job of Halloweening. We shared the pavement briefly with some of the Superfriends from the Justice League, a lederhausen clad German fellow, a couple ballerinas  and a few thousand Clemson fans in a subtle orange.

Southern Belles.
Our pacing was spot on. We started losing a bit off of the pace average around mile 11 as mom tired and I ignored common sense and the objections from my left tendon. Just then, I spotted her friend Christie walking a rather nasty uphill section. She is mom's junior by more years than the legal drinking age and has finished ahead of her in every half they have entered. They both conducted themselves as proper southern ladies, curtsying and politely wishing each other their best with gleaming smiles. But I know better, I watched their eyes. Nefarious intent! Christie found new resolve and took off before we had even offered ice tea. So ginned up on the idea of passing her friend, my mom threw caution to the wind and tried to up the pace. With a Herculean effort, I managed to hold her back. We walked the rest of the hill and saved our reserves for the rare downhill ahead. Christie burned up a lot of her remaining energy on that hill and was unable to catch us after we finally passed her about a quarter mile later. A casualty of the high temperature and humidity (and my brilliant pacing), we crossed the finish 59 seconds ahead of mom's running partner. Christie's husband was rumored to have prepared for this race with a long run approaching 6 miles. He finished further back. I don't know how he found the reserves in those temperatures.

Mama's boy.
My favorite part of the Spinx race, the finish includes a quarter mile dash around the outfield of Fluor Field. The home of the AA  Greenville Drive baseball team. As you enter from right field, your image is projected onto the jumbotron. Slightly more devious than my mother, I entered on the inside loop and was announced over the loud speaker, "Ryan McCarty from Durham NC." My mom may still be vexed that I stole her thunder. She prevailed in the end. Drunk on glory and Gatorade, my mother charged through me like a base-runner trying to beat the throw to home plate, as I tried to snap a finish picture (honest). She finished in 2:27:38. One full second ahead of me. A second that I am sure will quickly morph into minutes then months over each re-telling until we meet again next year. I enjoyed every second we had together, except for the last one which I obviously ran by myself. I may have to Tonya Harding her until she gains my own enlightened Mahatma Ghandi socialistic running perspective.

Best costume made of small children.

Call it a foul tip.

Dad's post run recovery routine. 1st time my 
upper body was sore post race.

Elvis sighting.



  1. Can't wait till next year! What'll be?

  2. Great report! There's no shame in being beaten by your Mom. Well, maybe just a bit of shame. Ok, a LOT of shame. ;-) Sounds like you are in shape for the Uwharrie ramp though. Good times ahead...