Ray Tanner 12k – Carolina Stadium – Columbia, SC – 10/11/14

 

IMG_0167

The Ray Tanner Home Run 5k/12k is only in its 9th year, but has become one of the focal points of the road racing year, perennially drawing just about everyone who runs in Columbia. Its put on by Ken Lowden and his huge group of volunteers, so its always a well done race. Plus the course is one of the best in the Midlands – a two bridge route over the Congaree river and a finish at the home plate of Carolina Stadium.

That’s all well and nice, but the event has been a thorn in the side of my road racing career.  Of all the races I’ve done, it remains the only one that I have no bling to show for it. Not one trophy, medal or shiny trinket. Not even an age group placement. Nada.

The primary reason for this is my determination to get the bling in the 12k. There is a 5k, and my primary trophy hunting rule is to always go with the undercard, but I’ve come so close in the 12 so many times that I keep going for it. And keep losing. I’m the Susan Lucci of the Ray Tanner Home Run.

One main reason – Superfit Soccer Dads. These guys stealth train and never race, remaining completely unknown until they show up and kick my ass at Ray Tanner. And they are always 35-39. Perhaps the most crushing was my course record 49:10/6:36 pace in 2012, which got me all of 23rd overall and eighth in age group. Eighth. One of my best races ever and I wasn’t even close. Damn them.

This year was looking up though. The Code was wussing out and not racing.  The Yerg was chasing Boston at the Steamtown marathon. And I didnt see habitual Blue Shoe beatdowners Angel Manuel and Steven Johnson on the stalker list (the Ray Tanner website had a participation list).  Even the Pale Beast was doing the 5k. The age group was looking good. Maybe, just maybe,  this was the year.

I showed up my typical hour in advance, looking ridiculous again in my black TUS singlet, alabaster guns ablazing. No one ever said I raced pretty.  Shirley and Sandy even ragged me for not combing my hair. Ugly is my trademark. Trophy showed up a little while later and started complaining about the weather, and with good reason. The weather sucked. Perfect if you wanted to hang out for a backyard barbeque. Not so good if you wanted to race 7.4 miles. Just ridiculously warm and humid for October. In the 70’s and 80 percent humidity, easy. My grandiose goal of breaking my course record wasn’t looking good. I did the first mini loop of the 12k course and realized quickly this was probably going to suck. I was soaked like it was late July and it didn’t help the legs were complaining about another 50 mile marathon training week. Was it too late to go switch to the 5k?

Everyone and their mom showed up for this one as usual. I thought Eric Ashton and Tim Jeffreys would have a showdown for the win. Justin was doing a marathon pace run but that would probably still place him pretty high. Plexico was also there to ramp up the  local elite factor. The women’s race was decidedly less stacked – I didnt see any of the elite ladies from Charlotte, but Erin Miller and Linn Hall were there from the SR racing team to make it competitive. Shannon must have been pulling the wuss card with Code and Joyce. There was a rare Larry Jourdain racing appearance. David He was back in training and racing again. No surprise to see Flicker, Howie, Ty, Brad Marlow, Larry Bates and Burgess. Jennifer Lybrand was there a week after her ultra (you might have heard about it on facebook ;) ). Colleen “Mrs. Beast” Vowles  and Birgit Spann were on hand to race Jennifer. Charley Clements, Michael and Kate Ferlauto, Sarah Blackwell, Lisa King, Bill Haselden, the Robertsons, Bill Iskrzak, Pam Inman, James Hicks, Arnold Floyd., Henry Holt,  Scott Marr, Peter Mugglestone, Cait Costello, Tommy Outlaw, Greta Dobe, Joe Robinson, Jennifer Reeves,  Mike and Pam Griffin, Wes Spratt, Mr and Mrs Diesel, Lisa and Jesse Smarr were some familiar faces.  Mike Jensen,  Mike Compton, Ashley Horton, Chris Fawver, Tracy Meyers, Carol Wallace, Sheila Subbarao and Kana Rahman were there to represent the black and gold ( or not (cough) Ashley (cough)). And this was just the 12k.

This pic is already giving me nightmares

This pic is already giving me nightmares

I didnt see most of the 5kers since they start 30 minutes later, but the Beast, Jason Dimery, Meme Spurgeon, Eric McMichael,  Brian and Jennifer Clyburn, Brady Ward, Sarah and Eric Allers, Jeff Smith, Luci Velicu, Debbie McCauley Meg Weis, Daniel Patrick, Jonathan King, Pete Poore, John Gasque,  Rocky Soderberg, Tom and Lisa Hart and Jonathan Burrows were there. Apparently Ted Hewitt was there but he must have gone totally stealth.

After an intro by Ken Lowden and the Tanners, and a prayer from Jim Manning, we were off. First mile is a flat, track like loop taking you around a few blocks and right back to the start line again. I’ve told people time and time again not to go out too fast on this loop – you hit the start area again and there’s like 1000 people screaming, so of course there’s a tendency to speed up. I try to stay in control, but I think the oversized melon is seized with grandiosity and tells the legs to blast through the whole area alongside the stadium. It doesn’t help that Linn Hall has latched on the Blue Shoes express and is shadowing me step for step.

RT14f

mid Rick Flair-esque wooooo!

Can’t let her get in front of my posturing for pictures. Mile 1 is hit right around the corner from the stadium after the loop. I figure aiming for about 6:42 (50 minute pace) would be a good start. I let out the first F bomb of the day as soon as I hear my Garmin beep and give me the split. 6:16. That’s a decent split for me…for a 5k. I thought I was doing OK despite the ridiculous first mile, but directly after the mile marker is the long slog up the Blossom Street railroad bridge into the Greek Village/Colonial Center area. The sun started beating down in my face and I wanted to crawl in the fetal position and cry. Wind suckage commenced. Howie started leaving me for dead and Linn took the lead on me. Luckily the course flattened out in the Greek Village and gave me some time to recover. I scared the hell out of some early rising (or perhaps still awake) sorority girls who had never seen an Albino Sasquatch. Sorry Tri Delts. A long straightaway to the Colonial Center, and Flicker gives me the beatdown just as we turn up the Green St hill for a mini loop before turning back. Linn is starting to gap me but I’m keeping her in sight. Mile 2 comes back in 6:52. Um , yeah, just a touch slower.

Mile 3 is a trip back down the straightaway and back over the railroad bridge. By this time I realize that I have really shot myself in the foot with mile 1, because I feel like death. It hurts me deep inside to think about the hills to come. Somehow I manage a 6:51 for mile 3 but the wheels feel awfully close to falling off. The cruel twist of the 12k is that you go right by the finish line (Carolina stadium) right at the mile 3 marker, and it takes every ounce of willpower not to just step off the course and walk on over. But there’s the Strictly photographer and MC Cox taking pics, so I cant let that shame be documented for posterity. So I soldier on over the Blossom Street bridge into Cayce in what feels like a snail’s pace.  To add to my sense of slowness, the 5k has begun and the leaders start to pass me. Two kids and Eric Allers blow by me like I’m standing still. Oh God, please let me make it to B avenue (the 5k/12k split off) before the Pale Beast catches me. By the time we reach the State street turn I notice I’ve reeled in Linn just a bit. Even though I’ve already accumulated an oxygen debt I cant afford to pay, a little bit of race adrenaline goes a long way with my overblown ego. But as I near the notorious B avenue mountain, my Garmin shows I’ve faded to 7 flat, and I start dropping more internal F bombs. What’s worse, some kid in racing spikes is in the 5k and is chasing me down with the most annoying click clack sound ever. I will not let him break me! Plus, I figure Vowles has got to be right behind him.

RT14h

Somebody shoot me

Finally we reach the Inspiration station with the steel drum band and all of Ken’s friends volunteering. I try to use this energy and ramp it up to avoid getting Vowlesed and to attack the mountain of B avenue. B avenue is not super steep, just endless. It sucks jogging up the thing. Racing up it is pretty soul crushing. A quarter of the way up though I actually catch Linn, who is also dying a thousand deaths. She swears she will never chase me again. I swear I’ll never go out like Jennifer Lybrand on crack again. Surprisingly, my wind sucking has abated somewhat – probably the product of finally recovering from the start and also the heavy mileage volume of marathon training.  I feel a little better because of it, though its all relative since no one feels good climbing this monster. Less than halfway up Eric Ashton, Tim Jeffreys, Ryan Plexico and Justin come flying by on their way back down. But there’s hardly anyone after that, so I know there’s not too many people up ahead. Maybe, just maybe I can age group?

Few things are nicer in your road racing year than finally reaching the top of the B ave. mountain. Mile 5 at the top is 7:08 but its always way slower with the climb. Unfortunately I dont have much drive left in the legs to really crush the downhill like I’ve done in the past. It is nice to see everyone behind you on the way down. Even catching Diesel getting the walksies near the bottom. C’mon dude!

Legs feel like toast after jackhammering down the mountain, and it starting to feel like summer with all the heat. I scare Tenacious J’s daughter Sophie (running the 5k with dad Jeff)  by trying to yell some encouragement. Jeff tells me I’m not trying hard enough if I can yell, which is a good point. Apparently the lungs are enjoying the marathon training more than the legs.

The turn off of State street is kind of a nightmare because the 12k is now fully merged into the back of the pack 5kers, some of whom are walking like 4-5 people across. And we are crossing  the Gervais street bridge, with one lane of active traffic. So now I feel like a mega-douche for screaming at people to get out of the way on the far left, but its either that or I get run over by a truck. Plus there’s one stretch where literally the whole lane was blocked by walkers and a woman pushing a stroller right in front of me. I’m sure she and her child are having nightmares by now of being chased down by loud, panting polar bear, screaming ” ON YOUR LEFT!!!

I can’t see most of the 12kers in front of me now, with the huge crowd of walkers, except for shirtless guy. I think he was one of the dudes that passed me early on, but he’s fading a bit. After the bridge is a nasty climb on Gist and Huger street, and you can stick a fork in me. Still, I can’t tell how old shirtless is, and maybe he’s one of the Superfit Soccer Dads. All of a sudden Rocky Soderberg, who’s doing the 5k, surges right next to me and tells me to take down Shirtless. Rocky runs about 9 min pace 5ks these days (at age 72) but he apparently can still harness some of that 1966 SEC mile champ speed (http://a.espncdn.com/photo/2014/0702/Men’s%20Indoor%20Track%20and%20Field%20Record%20Book.pdf) (See page 6). Oh jeez, I cant let Rocky down. But I’m in  world of pain by now and it would be so nice to just phone it in.  Plus, Shirtless is ramping up the pace as we near the finish.  Once you crest the Huger St hill, its all downhill to the finish. I hit mile 7 in 6:39 and try to muster a kick. I’m starting to give up on catching the guy but my ego will not have it. I start to draw within 10 meters or so as we hit the tunnel of the stadium. I hear Shirley announce my name on the stadium PA system and seeing the finish line sends me into an all out headless chicken. I blow by Shirtless right at third base and flop across the finish at home plate, in what is surely one of the ugliest finishes of all time, preserved by Milly Hough:

RT14iscream

 

 

No one ever said I raced pretty. 50:34, 16th place. And……4th in age group. Trophy was more than glad to inform me of this fact. More painful was seeing that I would have placed in every single age group…except my own. Susan Lucci’d once again. Oh well. At least I was able to tell “Coach Rocky” that I did what I was told. It turns out Shirtless is named Matthew Pollard and is all of 28, so it never mattered anyway. Sorry for my douchery, Matthew.  You can take solace in the fact you look way better in your finish photo than that abomination in the foreground.

In the 12k, Eric Ashton smoked the field in 39:34/5:19 pace, nearly two minutes clear of the field. Incredible, especially at age 46. Tim Jeffreys and Ryan Plexico went 2-3.  Justin Bishop nailed his marathon pace at exactly 6 minutes and still finished 5th in what was essentially a tempo workout. I think I hate him, even if he is coaching me.   Erin Miller crushed the women’s field in just under 48 minutes, with Linn Hall taking second and Kristin Lowe third. No surprise to see Larry Jourdain and Howie Phan take male masters and grandmasters respectively, with Chantal Faure and Birgit Spann winning for the women.

In the 12k age groups, Alex Robertson won the 14-16. David He took the 25-29 over the guy in the background above. See, being eleven years older gets you squat. Jamey Wilson took second in the female 25-29, just ahead of Jen Lybrand taking third on tired legs. Bishop won his age group by 8 minutes in the 30-34. Phil Midden took second in my group in between Daniel Carter and David Taylor, neither of which I’ve ever seen before. Flicker said he was doing a marathon pace run and took first in the 40-44, but unless he’s going sub three he night have been racing a little. Colleen “Don’t call me Mrs. Beast and definitely don’t call me Vowels” Vowles won her age group by four minutes over Dorette Coetsee. Pam Inman won second in the 45-49, while Ty Thomas and Jeff Burgess went 2-3 on the men’s side. Brad Marlow went out for a jog and still won his age group, with Phil Togneri finishing 3rd. Lisa King and Tracy Meyers went 1-2 in the 50-54, while Larry Bates won the 55-59. Alsena Edwards and Carol Wallace went 1-2 on the women’s side. Lynn Grimes captured first in the 60-64 women, while Mike Compton finished second among the men. Bill Iskrzak and Peter Mugglestone finished 1st and 2nd in the 65-69. Brigitte Smith claimed 2nd in the women’s 65-69 while Arnold Floyd blew away the competition in the 70-74. Racing legends Henry Holt and Jesse Smarr claimed the 75+.

In the 5k, Greg Lowing from New Jersey won, ahead of locals Hunter Jarvis and Jason Dimery. Megan Weis claimed 3rd overall female behind Caroline Peyton and Heather Elliott. Team Allers cleaned up on the masters division, with Sarah and Eric both taking the win. Steve and Charlene Fink did the same in the grandmasters division.

Age groupers include: Tus’ Daniel Patrick winning the 25-29. The Pale Beast Ken Vowles took the 35-39 in 19:28, his second best time behind last week’s 19:10. Jen Clyburn won the 35-39, with Lucia Velicu second. Meme Spurgeon claimed 3rd in the 40-44 in a super competitive age group, Jennifer Conrick placed second. Lisa Hart placed second in the 45-49. Jonathan King took 2nd and Jeff Smith third in the 50-54. Rocky Soderberg took the 70+ by a mere 17 minutes.

 

http://connect.garmin.com/modern/activity/611228850

http://www.strictlyrunning.com/results/14raytanner.txt

Richland R.U.N.S. 5k and 10k – Owens Field Airport – Columbia, SC – 10/4/14

017

Richland R.U.N.S. is a new race put on by Richland County in celebration of the county’s 215th anniversary, benefiting the United Way.  With a 5k and a 10k option, a first time race, and a date the week before Ray Tanner, this race set up nicely for a trophy hunt. Now, one of the key Blue Shoes trophy hunting rules is to always do the undercard. The 5k is my best race anyway, and this was going to be a fairly “flat and fast” route that borrowed heavily from the Crawdaddy Dash course.

But then they had a press release about the 10k winner getting a airplane tour of Columbia, and I thought that would be pretty cool. But I was still on the fence until I went Strictly stalking. Although the Strictly Running site doesnt have a “participant list” option, you can check names individually with the “confirm entry” button. Technically this is for people to make sure that they are registered, but it also serves as a beautiful way to stalk your competition. Sorry Angel, Code, Stephen Johnson, Phil Midden, Derek Gomez, OJ Striggles. I am one sick bastard, and you guys keep me from my precious golden trinkets. Unfortunately for me, the Pale Beast has now ended up on the stalk list, and sure enough he was in the 5k. That was fine and dandy when a 200+ pound , 22 minute 5k running Beast existed, but now the Vowles is a lean, mean sub 20 machine. I had gotten a beatdown at Race to Read, and my oversized but fragile ego couldn’t handle a potential repeat of that shame.  The 10k it would be.

Which overlooks one major thing….I suck at 10ks. And double loop courses. (Richland RUNS is a two looper.) Not to mention my 50+ mile week preceding the race, getting the virtual smackdown by the TUS Kiawah training schedule.  Oh well, you never know.

I actually couldnt decide between the races for so long that I missed the online registration and had to sign up at the race table. I couldnt find it at first and ended up signing in just 20 minutes or so before race time. To say it was a little disorganized at the sign up table would be an understatement. The girl took my check and wrote my name and bib number on a scrap piece of paper. That’s a first. I did a couple of miles with the Beast and Meme as warmup and it was basically time to go by the time we got back. There was a slight delay with all the scrap paper entries but we eventually were in place. Definitely a small crowd, though good to see the CRC making a good show. Kimberly Taylor, Marie Demetriades, Pete Poore, John Gasque, Lisa Smarr, Sandra Manning, Meme, Vowles, Sheila Subbarao, and Leeds Barroll were some of the familiar faces.

Other than Lisa, I didnt recognize any of the other 10kers. Our start was first, and my quick trophy hunt assessment of the crowd made things look pretty good. One older guy in a singlet, who looked upper 50’s,  and two reasonably fit guys that were probably under 40.  I jumped on the start and was out in front for about 50 meters before I started to make a wrong turn. Apparently it was two loops with a tiny out and back at the beginning. Gotta study those course maps better. Older guy and young headphones guy jump in front and I linger just behind them as we completed the little loop. Instantly there was a world of suckage because the road (Jim Hamilton Blvd) paralleling owens field is ever so slightly uphill and is a freaking wind tunnel right in my face. Its killing me but I’m already getting dropped like a bad habit by older guy. WTF? This guy has to be pushing 60. My fragile ego is getting shamed anyway as karmic payback for wussing out against Vowles. But hey, maybe he’s going out at a suicidal pace, <cough> Jen Lybrand<cough>, only to fade later.  I try to keep him in my sights. Um, yeah, not so much.  There’s the nasty hill at the beginning of Crawdaddy and it punches me in the stomach, particularly when I have the painful thought I’ll have to do this twice. Getting beatdown by a 60 year old and feeling like death makes me believe I’m doing something north of 7 minute pace, but the Garmin spits out 6:41 for mile 1, which really shocks me. The guy in the singlet may be old enough to be my dad, but he sure as hell isn’t running like it.  I should also mention that one of the other guys is also kicking my ass, but he at least looks younger than me.

And that’s pretty much it. I passed the other fit looking guy about 200 meters in and by Rosewood Drive I was completely by myself, which would stay that way until I caught the back of the 5k pack towards the end. Miles 2 and 3 were about the same as one, pacewise, but then I hit Jim Hamilton Blvd and the Crawdaddy hill and pretty much mentally checked out. Between the wind, inclines, and no one to race, my pace went to crap. Fell from the 6:30’s to 7:01. Once I hit Rosewood again, I noticed that all the marathon mileage may actually be paying off because I didnt feel as wrecked as I usually do on the last couple of 10k miles. The course turns downhill all the way to the finish once you take a right on Ott, so I figure I’ll try to make something of this race, which has turned into a solo hard workout. Back into the 6:30’s for mile 5 and I ramp it up a bit into the last 1.2. I can actually see #2 again with the quickened pace, but I don’t have a shot in hell of catching him. The Beast makes an appearance about a quarter mile from the finish and seabiscuits me in at about 6 minute pace. I hit the finish in 41:44, 3rd overall. Not my best , but not terrible either. I ‘m still chasing the ghost of the sub 40 10k four years after my first sub 20 5k (and almost 2 years after my sub 19’s). Hawaii has something to do with that, but hopefully I can make a legit shot at that goal in the next couple of months.

Speaking of goals, the Pale Beast, who also goes by Ken Vowles, crushed an insane 19:10 in the 5k. Forty two seconds off his old PR. 42. I was just joking about the cocaine last weekend but maybe he is doing lines before his races. Helps to be 20 pounds lighter it seems. Wish I could make that happen. He also placed 3rd overall.

Oh, and singlet guy is 60 year old Dave Geer, whom I actually recognize from looking through old race results. Dude was a legend in the 80’s and 90’s, like Ashton level,  and apparently still has it. He has a pending state 60-64 10k record with his 37:23. 6:01 pace. Smokin’!

Lisa Smarr took advantage of the trophy hunt and nearly took the female overall in the 10k, just getting nudged out by a 23 year old. Meme continues to rack up the overall wins with another in the 5k. Pete , John , Kim, Sheila , Sandra and Leeds all took home some age group bling.

http://connect.garmin.com/activity/608979956

http://www.strictlyrunning.com/RESULTS/14RICHLANDRUNS.TXT

 

 

 

 

Race to Read 5 miler – Lugoff, SC – 9/27/14

IMG_5064

 

Everybody remembers their first time…

Race to Read was mine. In 2010 I ran this race before it was on the Tour de Columbia, before it was on the Palmetto Grand Prix. Just a little rural race with a loop course to benefit Doby’s Mill Elementary school . I thought I was going to end up third in the middle of that race, and I was going to be pretty happy with that. There was a fit looking kid with a Lander college singlet out in front and Greg Howell seemed to be pulling away  for second place.

But the kid bonked at mile 3 and Greg started to fade. A quarter mile from the finish, I passed Greg in full-on headless chicken mode. I somehow suppressed two dry heaves on the last turn and came crashing through the finish in what was assuredly one of the most hideous finishes in SC road race history.

But I won. Not just the age group. The whole damn thing.

If my first age group win the year before was my gateway drug, this was pure cocaine. The overall trophy hunt was my new addiction.

But alas, this was 4 years ago. Betsy Long, the race director, got her race on both the TDC and the Grand Prix, and changed the date a couple of times to avoid other race competition. Although the race was still small, it certainly had no lack of speed. My chances at a repeat victory grew increasingly small – especially when beasts like Justin Bishop and Ryan Plexico started signing up.

But that doesn’t mean I  stop trying.  I even signed up last year, a few weeks removed from walking around in a orthopedic boot and bearing the multiple scars of my ill fated cliff dive in Hawaii. I finished 6 minutes slower than usual, but at least I got to relive the glory of the course.

This year I had been signed up for a couple of weeks but the race got talked up at this week’s Team Utopia South practice, so it became an unofficial side event for the team. Coach Bishop, the Code, Joyce, Julie, the Pale Beast and myself were all on board for the black and gold.  I also recruited my friend/coworker Michael Ferlauto to sign up after plying him with pizza and craft beer the night before.

There was a small but decent crowd on hand when I showed up. Of course, any thoughts of the overall win were squashed with Bishop showing up, but “Trackstar” Eddie Lopez was on hand to pick up the slack should the “A standard” get attacked by a stray country dog. Heather Costello was also there, which made getting chicked a virtual certainty as well. Billy Tisdale was there to provide me a nice pacer. In addition to the TUS crew, Jen Lybrand, Alex Ponamarev, the Robertsons, Rocky, Andy Mikula, Burgess, Shirley Smith and Ron Hagell were some familiar faces. I did a nice 2 mile warm up with the team, during which some Lugoff-Elgin high school guys dared to mock the Utopians. That was ok, because nothing feels better than administering a beatdown to a kid half your age (in a race, of course). Code was in typical “I’m going to suck because I have a (insert leg/foot injury or illness here)” mode. Julie was all spazzed because this was her first time competing in front of the coach, plus her chances of playing DJ Khaled were severely limited by the presence of Ms. Costello. And of course, the Battle of the Paleness was set up once again with myself and the Beast.  Bishop was on a most unpleasant race puke streak that he was hoping to break. Notably absent were the Wards, who live like 5 minutes away, and the Trophy. You’ve been officially called out, guys.

With the start, the first quarter mile is uphill, so the small crowd thinned almost instantly. Also instant, in my mind, was the fact it was a lot hotter than last week and wearing an undershirt to my racing singlet was a terrible idea. There had been some significant time since my last pool/beach visit, so the guns were back to their ghostly pallor, which caused me a moment of ill-fated vanity that morning. I mean, when did I start caring what I looked like in a race?? Racing ugly is my signature. Anyway, the heat was building up from the get go. I settled in behind Billy with Vowles on me like white on rice. Lybrand had done her usual sub 6 sprint off the line but she retreated back to sanity quicker than usual, and we passed her about a half mile in. The rest of mile 1 is flat on a country road into the sun, with the marker just as you turn right onto a gravel road. Split was 6:30ish, so not too bad. I didnt want to go out too fast with the hilly second half.

Mile 2 is almost completely on the gravel road, and mostly a slight downhill (with a slight bump towards the end). The downhill was nice, but Vowles was pretending he was a Garmin training partner. I became acutely aware that we were completely alone and that there was only one sound of feet hitting the ground. Completely in tandem. Damn, he means business today. I could see Billy up ahead, a Lugoff kid, then Code and Costello together. Justin and Eddie had pretty much dusted us by the time we neared the mile 2 mark. It was about this time when some significant suckage commenced. Whether it was the high mileage this week, or too much Ommegang Three Philosophers Quadrupel Ale (oh, you didnt know I was an epically douchey beer snob? Now you know.) the night before, I was laboring way too much. And Vowles was trying to leave me. Never! There’s a nice scenic route through Turtle Creek Farms in the third mile, but you tend to not notice the cows and horses because “the hill” starts kicking your ass. Its no Blossom Street or Quarry, but its long and highly sucky. I’m used to powering up it and dropping some road kill on the way, but Ken is actually dragging me this time.

The mile 3 marker is at the top of this monster (definitely the slowest, almost 6:50) and my legs feel like lead. All the spring from last weekend is just gone. And the Pale Beast must sense the blood in the water, because he just takes off. Not a subtle surge, but he starts barreling ahead like the finish is around the corner. And I’ve got nothing. We finally turn the corner at an ancient gas station that looks like it closed in the Carter administration, and we’re back on the road home. A much welcome downhill all the way to the mile 4 marker. I suck at downhills but I’m trying my best to push the pace, but my spirit is getting crushed every time I look up. Vowles is speeding up and passes Billy. What the hell, did he snort a line of coke at the mile 3 marker??  I’d like to say I used this as the catalyst for an epic kick to the finish, but my legs were having no part of it. Split at mile 4 was actually about the same as the first two, around 6:30, but it felt slower with me getting so brutally Beasted. After the marker is the last nasty hill, over a quarter mile slog up to the Doby’s Mill back entrance, upon which you get treated to the weirdest loop in a road race I’ve ever seen. The “nature trail” – a twisty, winding paved trail on the elementary school grounds. It’s mostly out in the open, so you can see exactly where you stand in the race. At one point the trail loops back on itself,  and I could almost reach out and trip the Beast….not that I would ever think of something like that…never.  I had an outside chance of catching Billy right before the trail, but he can see me now, and he’s still got a killer kick. No way. After the trail you dump out onto the parking lot. I can make out low 32’s on the clock and I throw down as hard as I can in an attempt to get sub 33. And….nope. I hit the last turn, where I had the dry heaves in 2010, and the clock flips over to 33. Finished in 33:08, 8th overall and 3rd in age group.

So, not thrilled with the result, but I’ll chalk some of it up to a 50 mile week and the warmer weather. I have to give credit to the Beast – he crushed the last 2 miles in 6:01 and 6:08. No way I could have hung on to that this week. He crushed a PR and beat my best time on this course with a 32:16. Justin won the race, though Eddie was only 15 seconds behind. Unfortunately, this led to the puke streak remaining intact. Costello easily took the women’s win, finishing third and outkicking the Code, who took 4th., both in high 31’s.  The only L-E kid in the top 10 was Andrew Mills, who finished just ahead of Billy and me. Editors note: TUS placed 5 in the top 10.  Julie missed out on her win but did take second in sub 7 style, recording a 34:44. 62 year old racing machine Rob Kriegshaber also broke 35 just behind her.

Jennifer Lybrand rocked a new 5 mile PR with a 35:27 and 3rd overall. Burgess finished first in AG and looked ravishing in his pink princess backpack.  Andy Mikula also got 1st in his age group for Palmetto Runners. Oh, and I forgot Ferlauto had just turned 40, which got him out of my murderous age group and scored him a 1st place. I even had to deliver him his prize. Oh the shame. He did manage an epic blue shoe of Joyce, which I made sure to extensively photodocument. Gotta lift those legs! She still won masters and got a nice gift basket to console her. Shirley Smith and Ron Hagell also won 1st place AG mugs, along with racing machines Rocky Soderberg and Brigitte Smith.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Splash and Dash – Saluda Shoals Park – Columbia,SC – 9/6/14

IMG_4884

So there were literally no races in a 50 mile radius of Columbia this morning, and I was supposed to run like 2 hrs 15 minutes according to my Kiawah training plan. But mention a relay race and I’m apparently willing to chuck the whole long run plan. Looks like I’ll have to feel the pain tomorrow. Speaking of relays, I decided against the Blue Ridge Relay this year. After following the Strictly Running team on FB the last 24 hours, I need to get back there. It’s just too awesome. Congrats to their team for the overall coed win in 24:11 – that’s blazing on that course.

The Splash and Dash was presented to me by Charley, a member of our long dormant Sunday morning marathon training group. He had done it before, and thought it was cool. I’m always up for a trophy hunt, and apparently he and Trophy himself had managed a 2nd place in 2012 (it was canceled in ’13 do to a high river level). I was in.

OK, so this isn’t a relay race, but its still a team event. You start off with 2 miles of trail running, then jump in a canoe and paddle a mile long course. After the canoeing you jump on a mountain bike and do 5 miles. All of this is in Saluda Shoals. You dont finish until your slowest member crosses the line, and obviously you have to do the canoe all together. Smith Harden, who does the Climb the Clay 8k, race directs.

So the only bike I possess is a woefully undersized road model, so luckily Charlie had an old mountain bike for me to borrow. Trophy had to hit up Mark again, who has like a garage full of bikes and other cycling stuff.

We showed up an hour early to scope out the competition. It was kind of difficult to assess since I dont think there’s a vibrant race canoe paddling community in Columbia. There was a fair amount of fit looking people, a couple of teams from Running under the Influence. The only runner I recognized was Tim Rollason-Reese, who is way faster than all three of us. Not a good sign. We were kind of a last minute team, so the only “team shirt” we had was our glowing neon Jacksonville Marathon shirts from 2011. At least everyone could see us.

I jumped on Charlie’s bike and, because he’s like 6’4″, the bike actually fit. Amazing concept. I hadn’t ridden a bike off road since I was in grade school, so this was going to be a total wing-it job. Not to mention the whole paddling thing. I did go canoeing one time on the Saluda with my parents in 1994, so I’m sure I could bank off that training.

The two man teams went first, with the three man teams starting 20 minutes later because of the limited number of canoes. We went for a brief warm up run and came back to see Rollason-Reese’s team finish the 2 mile together, but fortunately just around 16 minutes.

A few minutes later we were off. I figured the best chance at winning this thing was to absolutely crush the 2 mile. Its a short distance, but with all the hills, grass and trails it would certainly put a hurting on the non-running contingent. I went out like a total maniac. Not more than a half mile in, I was all alone…..except for the dude breathing down my neck like a rabid monkey on my back. At first I was glad that Trophy or Charley was keeping up, but it was a guy in a gray shirt. This dude was not fooling around. The course is crazy twisty, but thankfully well marked with a ton of red signs. Like any trail run it was tough to build up any momentum, and of course navigating my Sasquatchian physique around tight turns was more than a little inefficient. We hit mile 1 at 6:58 but it felt like I had been sprinting the whole way. Fortunately the crazy Kiawah mileage I’ve been doing started to kick in, and I tried to ramp it up even further. The whole last mile was like the Silver Fox 5k – big ditches, roots and sharp turns. Just nuts. I was constantly one false move away from doing a face plant. But damned if I was going to let someone keep me from my meaningless “win”. Finally I lost my shadow in the last half mile and hit the exchange right at 14 minutes. Gray team guy was maybe 10-20 seconds back. But WTF?? Where was my team? I walked around, got some water and put on my life jacket.

I was about to step out for brunch when Trophy and Charley come rumbling in. We all jump in the boat, and start paddling like champs, knowing the gray team was close behind. Did I say all? I meant Charley and I started paddling like champs. Trophy decided to nominate himself for a “supervisory” role on the canoe, i.e. Lady McGaha was pure ballast on this ship. My arms are taking a total lactic acid bath by the time we hit the first buoy, while Trophy is informing us that Team Gray is totally gaining on us. Sure enough, when we make the turn they are crushing it like a Harvard rowing team while we look like a raft of castaways. To make matters worse we hit a patch of river grass and we come to a complete halt, run aground like a beached whale. It takes every bit of leverage we have with the paddles to slowly extricate ourselves, because I’m too fancy to get my precious blue trail shoes wet. We pass by the launch point and head downstream to round buoy number two. Trophy is seabiscuiting me in the canoe though my arms have turned into complete spaghetti trying to paddle this thing. The worst is making the turn where I’m providing the sole paddle leverage to make a tight circle around the buoy. Not more than a few strokes back and Gray team is paddling right with us. I can make out the launch point again and getting caught by the Grays has stirred my dark paddling passenger, launching me into a frenzy. The next few minutes is total chaos, with both of us rowing like complete maniacs, water and paddles flying in an all out canoe kick. We finally hit the launch point again, with the Grays just a nudge ahead of us. I throw all caution to the wind and jump out of the canoe, soaking my shoes to the core instantly. I grab a cup of water and start the bike transition.

My tri transitions are ridiculously slow, but this is a lot simpler since I havent opted for cycling shoes. Just strap on the enormous helmet and take off. As we depart I realize that a) Gray team is really a coed team (so not really competing with us) and b) one of their members looks to be a 12 year old girl. I dont know whether these realizations result in shame or relief, probably a little of both. We all start blasting 100 percent out of the gate, because we thought we were competing against the two man teams as well. Mountain biking is completely different from the roads. There’s all these sudden tight turns that are tough for my Sasquatch self to manage on the run. Add 25 pounds of metal to the equation and its a damn miracle I managed to not end up flying over the handlebars. Thats not to say I didnt come close. Very close. Multiple times. But hey, at least my bike was the same beastly size as my body. Our only moment of shame was facing the clay mountain a couple of miles in. We had agreed to jump off and run the bikes up beforehand, which was a good plan since there was no way in hell I could have stayed upright. The last few miles involved a couple of ditches where I nearly did a face plant and a brief stretch where we caught up to a 2 woman team and I was breathing down their neck like an oversized gorilla. Sorry, ladies. It is not wise to position yourself between me and my trophies. Remarkably, we all stayed together as a team the whole time. When we finally hit the home stretch, you’d think it was a time trial at the freaking Tour de France, barreling through the finish like a herd of elephants at top speed.

Done. Not much later Smith tells us there are actually separate divisions for two and three man teams, so we were pretty much busting our tails for nothing.  But we got first place, so I was eternally happy. The trophy was a super cool custom Splash and Dash picture frame with free team photos you could take at a photo booth at the finish. Very nice. Overall it was a blast. I should be back next year. Hopefully I’ll learn to paddle by then.

 

 

 

 

Run or Walk a Crooked 5k – Chapin, SC – 8/30/2014

 

IMG_4786

The “Run or Walk a Crooked 5k” is a race held on Labor Day weekend in Chapin that has been a staple on the Blue Shoes calendar since my first year of racing in 2009.
It’s a weird race, run completely at Crooked Creek park. You start with a lap around a soccer field, then go through a maze of paved trails, athletic fields and parking lots with the finish on the same soccer field you started on. It’s a touch on the long side and definitely not going to produce a fast time. Its also the only race that I know with no online registration. You can actually do the mail-in route, but this would involve the motivation and ability to simultaneously locate a checkbook, stamp and envelope. So yeah, that never happens.
So why do I love this race? OK, I do love the old school , “mom and pop” feel, but most of my racing boils down to my absurd lust for glory known as the trophy hunt.
And Crooked Creek sets up perfectly for this. Labor Day weekend has typically had a big race on the actual Monday holiday – previously the Labor Day Fitness Challenge 15k, then the dueling Blythewood and Strictly Running races the last few years. All the fast people go after these. Crooked creek is on the Saturday leading up to these races, its out of the way, and of course has the whole 1985 mail in vibe that usually keeps registration fairly low (50-100 range).
That being said, some fast guys always show up to win this thing. A couple of guys home from west point won it one year, Dimery also took home a victory, and Plex has been trouncing the field the last couple of times. I’ve usually placed in the 3rd-6th range. Never ever broken 20 minutes. Like, ever. My course best is 20:09, even when I was doing low 19’s elsewhere.

I showed up my customary hour ahead of time, even with the 40 minute drive to Chapin, because I’m obsessive like that. Not a huge crowd on hand, but the TDC diehards like Pete Poore, Valerie Selby, Cheryl Outlaw, Geary McAlister, Leeds Barroll, John Gasque and Alex Ponamarev were already there. On my way to the sign up table , the Pale Beast makes an appearance. Uh -oh  – dude’s been dropping some serious weight and has been jumping into Kiawah training at TUS practice “just for fun”.  Doing six 6:40ish one mile repeats in the furnace of the SC late summer doesn’t exactly meet my “fun” criteria, but to each his own. Plexico comes rolling in soon after to crush the trophy hunt holy grail opportunity, but competition still seems fairly weak. There are a couple of lean young guys, but being all ripped doesnt necessarily mean fast. And vice versa, so I’ve been told.

Strolling up to the start there looks like about 60-70 people as we line up on the soccer field. Henry Holt and Lisa Smarr have turned up as well. A fair number of unknown teenagers look ready to crush my trophy hopes. I dont see any other of my fellow age groupers except for Vowles, so at least we have that wrapped up.

With the gun, the crowd immediately thins out. What I thought was going to be a slightly cooler morning got hot and oppressively humid in a hurry, especially with the damp grass. Plex immediately jumps to the front but is being matched stride for stride with a skinny teenage kid, who looks like he might be fast. Before we exit the field though, Ryan has already gapped him. Kids these days. I’m in fourth as we complete the field lap, but I’ve got Geary working his industrial machine breathing down my neck and Vowles is riding me like an oversized monkey.  I make sure I block him at the parking lot where someone is taking pictures, eclipsing him with both my melon sized head and ego.

We exit the parking lot and plummet into the twisty, paved trail part of the course. Plex’s shadow and his high school buddy are already feeling the pain of trying to ride the Lightning. They are fading fast and sucking some serious wind. I passed the first kid then pull up alongside Plex’s shadow at the mile mark, hit in high 6:20’s. OK pace for this course. This kid apparently was OK with getting passed by lean singlet wearing dudes like Plexico, but is not taking too kindly to getting the beat down by an aging, Clydesdalish guy in a neon “Blue Shoes” shirt. Too bad dude. Oxygen debt does not discriminate.

We pull out of the forest and into a lap around a couple of baseball fields. I think I’ve gapped Geary and the Beast some, but Vowles starts talking trash behind me about cutting a corner. Its a fenced complex dude, its not like I’m going to jump into right field. Or am I? As I make the lap around the two fields, I had stopped hugging the fence to find some pavement. All of a sudden I realize I’m outside a wooden fence that is separating me from the course. Just when I think I’m going to have to go all parkour and some how scale a three foot barrier at 5k speed, there’s a gap. I have to make a sudden turn and haul ass to get back on the course, where I see the kid trying to take advantage of my little detour. Vowles and Geary have followed me, either because my melon has eclipsed all trail markings or in some gallant show of sportsmanship. I’m going with the former.

Either way, I return the favor by amping up the pace a bit, since I know we are closing in on the two mile mark.  We re-enter the forest where the course folds back on itself and pass some of the midpack. Always good to get some encouragement from the crowd, and someone confirms to me I’m running second behind Plexico. Just before the two mile mark is a long track-like oval encircling a parking lot, and there’s nowhere to hide. I remember this section all to well when I went out too fast (also  in 2nd place)  in 2010, only to get passed by Amy McDonaugh and another guy in this parking lot. As I make the last turn, I see Vowles has moved ahead of Geary and is way too close for comfort. I hear mile 2 beep and its definitely on like Donkey Kong. I don’t even look at the watch. No way is the Beast going to take down my 2nd place. Unfortunately there are some nasty twisty inclines as we enter the forest once again. I keep blasting around corners and scaring the hell of little kids and walkers at the back of the pack. I’m sure there was a sudden spike in Albino Sasquatch night terrors in the Chapin area this weekend.

Eventually I see I’m nearing the soccer fields and the finish. But having done this race 4 times before, I know there’s a killer 1-2 punch. A sharp, short incline up to a parking lot, then about a third of a mile lap out in the sun after you pass the finish area. I hardly ever get Blue Shoed myself, but this is where it happened one time back in ’10 or ’11. I power up the sharp incline, which hits me like a punch to the gut,  and there’s a vocal family there cheering. As I pass them, I listen carefully, and its way too short of a time before I hear the next cheer.  I can’t see him but I’m sure Vowles is out for blood. I hit the soccer field and see Plex finish. The sun is just killer and I’m in a world of hurt by this point. It feels painfully slow on the grass even though I’m absolutely redlining it by this point. I expect the Beast to come up from behind at any time. Finally I make the last turn and can see Vowles – not too far behind but I know now safely out of reach. Still burning it to the finish though, and I make out 1940ish on the clock. I want to get sub 20 so bad, but there just arent enough oxygen molecules in Chapin to carry me fast enough. I flop across the finish in 20:02 and give the grass a whole lot of Sasquatch lovin’. Vowles comes rolling in for 3rd at 20:17, and I believe Geary (4th) also broke 21.

I was certainly disappointed with not breaking 20, but then I realize this is a course record for me. Not a post-cliff record but an all-time best time for this race. All this Kiawah mileage must be paying off. Taking second sure is sweet too – prize money was 30 bucks, earning me back the registration fee. Thanks to Code and Jack Carmody for taking the day off and allowing me to have my day in the sun.

This race takes a long time to get online, so I don’t have the official results. I know most of the regulars scored age group wins – Lisa Smarr, Alex Ponamarev, Valerie Selby, Pete Poore, Cheryl Outlaw , Leeds Barroll and John Gasque. The F3 group also did very well in the age groups, with several wins. Great race!

 

 

 

 

 

Stomp the Swamp 5k – Lexington, SC – 8/25/14

Mr and Mrs. Beast

Mr and Mrs. Beast

 

The Stomp the Swamp 5k is a first year event put on by the River Bluff High School cross country team to benefit their program. Derek Gomez, their coach and fellow 35-39 age grouper, race directed, using Jesse Harmon’s Run Hard group for timing.
I admit – this race had me scared.
Derek had freely admitted that the course would be “challenging”, and with a race date in late August in South Carolina, it was pretty much a given to be oppressively hot.
Plus, there was the Corley Mill Rd factor, the road on which River Bluff sits. I don’t go on that road much anymore, but in high school it was notorious for being a roller coaster through the woods – one of the hilliest roads in the area. There was no way this was going to be “flat and fast”.
But I hadn’t done a 5k in a long while and I’m already chomping at the bit for the fall racing season, so I decided to give it a shot. Derek tried to bill it as a trophy hunt, but when he invited the entirety of the Dutch Fork cross country team to come run, I was pretty sure my old Sasquatch ass wasn’t going to beat all these high school kids.
I showed up about an hour early to the race site and checked out the high school campus, where the whole race would be run. Um, to say this school is “nice” would be an injustice. Try gleaming modern windowscapes and high end construction everywhere. The football stadium was one a small private college would be proud of. These Lexington taxpayers must want their kids to be in the lap of luxury.
But I digress. First thing out of the car and it feels like a wet wool blanket got stuffed over my face. Just smothering humidity. I came across Colleen Vowles and the Pale Beast and we did a couple of miles at north of 9 minute pace. This “grueling” workout left me completely soaked and chugging whatever water I had lying around the Honda Pilot. Yeah this was going to suck.
I couldn’t figure out the whole course but it seemed vaguely nightmarish from what I could tell. There was an out and back stretch that took you straight up a quarter mile hill only to bring you right back down. Gomez must have a sadistic streak.
The course started and ended on the football field of the stadium, so that was pretty cool. Pretty nice crowd gathered, especially for a first year race. All the Dutch Fork kids were up front, ready to trample any grandiose adults trying to fend off middle age. Not that I know any of those.
The start is a total stampede across the football field. The Pale Beast, aka Ken Vowles, blasts out of the gate at a full sprint and acts like he’s going to give Avery Dominick a run for his money. He’s still up near the front as we exit the stadium, in full-on delusional mode. The first quarter mile was pretty flat, but I had held back at the start, so I was left dodging quite a bit and trying to jockey for position. Pretty much right off the bat is a quick climb and then that dreaded out and back sadistic mountain I mentioned earlier. This is where Vowles suddenly realized he’s not a 120 pound high school freshman and starts hurting. I trudge up this monster as best as I can and finally catch the Beast at the top, before plunging down with an extra surge. I hit mile 1 in like 6:30ish, which isn’t too bad considering the climb. Mile 2 is more stealthily sucky. After a flat parking lot stretch you head up into a paved trail area through a patch of forest. Basically it forces you to slow down some and there’s a nasty climb going on throughout. I’ve separated out into what must be the most bizarre looking pack – its me and 3 Dutch Fork girls. I recognize Bri Hartley right off the bat, and then I see Anna Johnson, who usually runs way under 19 and is inexplicably slumming it back in Blue Shoes territory. I don’t know who the third girl is but later identified her as Anna Jenkins, the 12 year old that so wickedly chicked me at the end of the Run Red Bank. The three of them are all like a foot shorter than me and are probably my weight all combined. That’s not to say they aren’t brutal racers. Elbows flying and cutting me off, these ladies mean business. I’m just hoping I don’t pull a Mary Decker and flatten one of them with my fall.
Jesse had said the course was pretty rough through the first 1.5 miles or so, so I was definitely cursing his name when things were still sucking at almost 2 miles. Finally we exited the trail area and hit another parking lot stretch. Mile 2 comes back in 6:56 or so, which definitely explains why I’m not hurting too bad. With a mile to go it seems like the course cant do too much more climbing, since I can see the stadium area. Time to go all in and kick it up a notch. I’d like to say I left some middle schoolers in the dust but damned if these girls weren’t riding in the Sasquatch wake and making me feel like a runaway grizzly bear being hunted by a pack of kids. 2.5 mile mark and the four of us are picking up some roadkill as we descend towards the stadium. I’m starting to dip below six minute pace and the wind suckage has commenced with a vengeance. To worsen things, all three of the girls are now slightly ahead of me. The shame is palpable. On a high note, the three girls surprise the hell out of a thirtiesh looking dude as they pass, act as an effective smokescreen for me to blow by this potential 35-39 trophy crasher as well.
Just when I think I’m home free, I realize there’s another little hill and we are going to circle the stadium before going in. By this time I’m feeling like death and praying for it to end. I’m redlining it pretty hard but these freaking 8th graders (maybe 7th graders?) are giving me an epic beatdown. Finally we hit the football field again and were all sprinting. I don’t even see the time since I’m so focused on getting brutally middle schooled. But I’m not catching Jenkins or Bri. I did pass Johnson right near the line but I think she was pacing the other two.
I don’t even see the time until I hit my Garmin at 20:09 right past the finish. Normally I would be pretty bummed with a time over 20 but given this course and those first two splits, I’ll take it. Mile 3 was in 6:00 flat and a 5:09 kick for the last 0.14 by the watch. That explains the taste of death and lung in my mouth. Ended up 1st in AG, though 16th overall with all the high school kids. 3rd place among those that can legally drink a beer though. The Beast came rumbling in at 20:34, and I think also took down the thirtiesh guy because 3rd in our AG was at 20:48 (more formally known as Jonathan Calore). Since the event was hand timed, I think they switched Anna Johnson’s and my time, probably just to amplify the fact I got chicked so badly.
Avery Dominick took the overall win in 16:18, dusting the field by 2 minutes. Teammates James Bowen (who I think won the Xterra 5k) and Alex Chalgren took 2nd and 3rd. My pack of Anna Jenkins, Bri Hartley and Anna Johnson swept the women’s overall.  In the age groups, Kenneth Vowles finished fifth but in an impressive 18:50.  Tour de Blue Shoes subscriber Eric Bopp took 2nd in the 40-44 in 21:35.  Darryl and Jay Hammond took the top two in the 50-54. Harry Strick, Alex Ponamarev, Pete Poore and Leeds Barroll were top 4 in the brutal “over 60″ group. Colleen said she wasnt even racing but still captured second in the 40-44 in 23 minutes and change. Nina Brook finished 2nd in the 50-54.

http://connect.garmin.com/activity/571792048

https://www.runhard.org/files/swampOverall.pdf

https://www.runhard.org/files/swampAge.pdf

Little Mountain 5k/10k – Little Mountain, SC – 8/2/2014

IMG_4446

Somehow my summer vacation always seems to get in the way of running Hot Summer’s Night – My family’s annual trip to Folly had kept me from the race in 2011 and 2012. Last year I decided to mix things up and go to Hawaii, and we all know how that turned out. This year my wife’s family did the Folly trip, and sure enough, picked the first week in August again.  As much as I enjoy racing with the fastest people in Columbia on a broiling hot evening, it was not to be.

But that left a Saturday morning open, and with everybody doing HSN, that could only mean one thing…TROPHY HUNT. I scanned Strictly’s web site and came up with three options – the two Little Mountian reunion races (5k and 10k) and a race in Sesqui so minimally advertised that a road race freak living just a half mile from the race site had no idea it was happening. Naturally  the Sesqui race seemed like the obvious choice, but I was wondering if anybody would show. I mean, I love me some trophies, but winning a 10 person race would be a bit of a hollow victory. Not that I wouldn’t blab about it all over social media if I did. That’s what attention whores do.

Jen Lybrand said she was doing the Little Mountain 10k so I figured I’d go up there and try a change of scenery. I debated for quite some time about which of the two LM races to do, but finally and uncharacteristically opted for the 10k. I hardly ever do that distance and I figured maybe I could throw down a good time with all the recent Team Utopia speedwork. I had no idea what the course was, but it couldn’t be that bad, right? We’ll get back to that.

I woke up at o’ dark thirty and made the 45 minute trek up to Little Mountain. I get there on the late side and damned if my stealth trophy hunt hasn’t already gotten crashed. I’m not there more than 5 minutes and I see Plexico and a bunch of lean cross country kids.  Jen Lybrand is there with Jordan, and Jeff and Erika Burgess have made an unexpected appearance. Oh , and the freaking Code. WTH? Guy doesn’t race for weeks, I don’t tell him I’m racing, and he shows up to blow up my age group. That’s what I get for blabbing on facebook, apparently. And they’re all doing the 10k. Damn pre-registration, or I would have bailed to the five. Oh well, maybe the course is flat. We’ll get back to that.

We stroll up to the line and Jordan has decided to jump in last second. Great – am I even going to get top 10 in this thing? The gun fires and we are off on a beautiful downhill. Nice and easy decline, making the pace feel easy. This is going to be great.  Jen blasts off like Kara Goucher in the first mile and leaves me and Burgess for dead. Code runs with us for awhile , then gets bored and goes to track down Jen. I’m feeling pretty good doing about 6:30ish pace when all of a sudden the course turns. BAM. Hello there half-mile-of-quad-burning-hill-from-hell. I try to power up this thing but I’m doing a crawl by the time I reach the summit. Thankfully there’s another stretch of decline right after. Pace went all to hell on the hill and Garmin gives me a 6:50ish split for mile 1. The next 2 miles I spend slowly trying to reel Jen back in. Burgess followed for awhile but I hear him start to fade. The hills just keep rolling. I catch two guys running together at about mile 2.5 and they look at me with terror in their eyes. First they get chicked by Jen then get Clydesdaled by the Albino Sasquatch. Oh, the shame.

I hit the 5k mark just under 22, so not too bad considering the hills. Surely the worst of the course must be over. Oh, no. I finally pass Jen at this point and try to muster a surge up a nasty incline. The only problem is that this incline has a twin brother I couldn’t see from below, and then I’ll be damned if it isn’t a whole freaking family of false-front hills all in a row that never seem to end. I catch up with a teenager from Atlanta and we try to keep each other company through the misery. Turns out the guy is related to the original race director, who died in a freak accident just a couple of months ago. Sad story.

We could talk, however, because no one can put forth much effort on the mountain. I don’t think it ended until about mile 5, and by then my legs were total jello. Then the kid tells me we have to do that Jacob Shealy rd hill again. Which hill was that? Just as I ask the question, quad burner comes into view again. Son of a bitch. Really?

I reach the top of the monster at a near walk and my teen friend stops for an extended water break. I can see Code way up ahead but no way can I muster a chase. Pace has been hemorrhaging into the sevens for the last couple of miles and the humidity is making my shirt feel like a wet blanket. One more little incline and we are finally back on Main st near the start. I start to make the turn towards the finish when a volunteer yells and I realize there is yet another quarter mile loop of fun left. Good times. At least its flat, though – probably the only level part of the course. I finally see the finish and try to kick it in for Erika’s camera but you can stick a fork in me. Crossed in 44:20, 5th place and 2nd in age group.

Ok, so this is almost  4 minutes off my 10k PR, but I’m not too unhappy given the sheer brutality of the course. They don’t call it Little Mountain for nothing. Trophy hunt is a complete bust since they only did 1st in AG and of course my archnemesis the Code took that. The award presentation is a bitter pill though, because they were giving cash to the overall winners. 5k winner ran a 20:48 and got a hundred bucks. DOH! Oh well. At least Plexico and Jen each got a Benjamin for taking the 10k titles. Jordan placed second and got 50 bucks I believe. I think the Lybrands should consider going pro at this rate. Burgess finished 9th , so all the Columbia Running Club peeps placed in the top 10. Nice race and interesting course, but definitely don’t be thinking PR on this one.

http://www.strictlyrunning.com/RESULTS/14LITTLEMOUNTAIN.TXT