Are you kiddin’ me? I scoffed when Linda said I resembled a plucked chicken in my new racing singlet. There’s nothing quite like being really old and feeling really young (which I am and I do), but when I found out that April 1st was Susan Boyle’s birthday and I’m nine years older than her, for a few minutes at least, reality set in and spring chicken took on a whole new meaning.
As I dreamed a dream of days gone by, with shoelaces untied we headed up to “The 1st Ever Vac & Dash April Fools Day 5k Classic” in Albemarle. Although it’s only about 60 miles from Gastonia, we were probably halfway there before we realized that neither of us had actually ever been to Albemarle. In a mixture of geodyslexia and shriveled brain cells that were partly due to age and partly to being a survivor of the sixties (the resulting concoction smelled a little like mothballs), I had confused Albemarle with Asheboro, and only by the grace of GPS did we end up at the race instead of the zoo.
It was our first direct exposure to Peter Asciutto, the man behind Vac & Dash, “The South’s Most Unique Specialty Store,” an enterprise that sells vacuum cleaners and running shoes. Peter’s apparently a jack-of-all-trades and the Pied Piper of running in Albemarle. In this town of only about 15,000 people, running seems to be a big priority for a lot of folks, and while I don’t have any real data on how much Peter has to do with it, I have a feeling he’s responsible for a huge portion of the enthusiasm for running in this area.
As advertised, the race was a lot of fun. I wasn’t quite sure of what to expect, but it was generally a semi-serious 5k race with some plot twists along the way. On this almost summer-like spring day where the temperature reached about 85 degrees, being pelted by water balloons and water guns of all types as well as running through sprinklers all felt pretty good. At one point we ran up a driveway and through somebody’s back yard where a little boy was waiting to squirt people with a hose, then after crossing through what I think was a carport we ran through the middle of a paintball war with several guns blazing all at once. I’m pretty sure there weren’t any actual paintballs since I wasn’t hit, but I didn’t know as I ran through, and I have to say that probably cut a few seconds off my time as I turned on the afterburners trying to get out of the line of fire. At another point we ran through somebody’s garage then turned around and exited the driveway through a strip of water sprinklers.
Just before the finish line was a 32-foot inflatable castle that you had to go through. They didn’t have those things when I was a kid so it was my first experience. I managed to bounce around and get out fairly quickly, partly scared into action by the bigger and younger guy just behind me who I thought might fall on my head at any second.
When all was said and done I finished in about 22 minutes and change, 8th place overall in the race. I haven’t seen the official results and it really doesn’t matter a whole lot. This wasn’t the kind of race you run to be overly serious about how fast you can finish. As a matter of fact, the faster you were in the race the more likely you were to be out of luck during the awards ceremony. While the overall male and female winners did get a nice prize for winning, after that it was all about the losers, with the slowest age group winners getting the biggest trophies. Matt Barfield won a trophy not only for being slowest in his age group, but also slowest male overall, and his wife won the trophy for slowest female overall. Couple of ringers. Something tells me they might have had some inside information! I lucked out myself by winning the trophy for “2nd Slowest” in my age group and Linda took it to ‘em by winning overall “Slowest” in her age group. Yes, she outdid me but she had a little help from the painful bunion on her left foot. I, of course, was unimpeded by my swift and pristine feet (with the exception of my toenails, which I refuse to talk about).
The awards ceremony was a lot of fun and, unlike many races, it seemed like almost everyone stayed for it. There were plenty of door prizes. Most notably, the first person whose number was called had the option of choosing a Saucony tote bag with something inside (you’d find out after you picked the bag) or what was described as “a large rectangular door prize” or something to that effect. Peter pointed towards a sign on an old folding door that was holding the “large door prize” sign and told the lucky winner she could choose between the two. She picked the bag and it contained a small prize of some sort, then after she went back into the crowd Peter walked over to the door and pulled off the lettered sign, turning it over to reveal a $100 bill taped to the back. He seemed relieved that he didn’t have to part with the hundred bucks.
So there you have it, our first trip to the land where vacuum cleaners and running shoes meld together seamlessly, where all the people run for exercise and have floors clean enough to eat off of.
8 – 1-10 Website (Information, results, registration, photo links, etc.)
9 – 1-10 Awards (Quality of medals, trophies, etc.) (1 to 10)
9 – 1-10 Awards Presentation (PA system, winning times, etc.) (1 to 10)
5 – 1-10 Food for Race Participants (1 to 10)
8 – 1-10 T-Shirts (1 to 10 with 5 being average)
4 – 4/6 Part of Race Series (Grand Prix, etc.) (6=Yes and 4=No)
5 – 0/5 Professional Photography (5=Yes and 0=No) (unsure about this… but there was a guy with a camera)
4 – 4/6 Chip Timing (6=Yes and 4=No)
3 – 3/7 Certified Course (by USA Track & Field) (7=Yes and 3=No)
9 – 1-10 Course (1 to 10 with 5 being average)
8 – 1-10 Parking (1 to 10 with 5 being average)
10 – 1-10 Entertainment (1 to 10 with 5 being average)
10 – 0-10 Age Groups (10 if 5-year groups; 0 if 10-year groups)
0 – 0/5 Indoor Shelter from Elements (0 if none; 5 if provided)
5 – 1-10 Bathroom Facilities
0 – 0-10 Other
TOTAL – 97