Ray Tanner 12k – October 2010

Ray Tanner Home Run 5k/12k

This is an increasingly large race that was founded by Ray Tanner, the South Carolina baseball coach, for his foundation for special needs children. The two courses are really cool because they start and end at Carolina stadium, where the Gamecocks play.  Finish is actually at home plate with a local sports guy calling out your name as you come through the outfield and down the third base line. The race sold out this year for the first time, 1300 runners combined. I was considering doing the 5k as both are on the Tour de Columbia race series, and the 12k is by far the more competitive, as it is the state championship for this distance. I had been disappointed in my 12k race last year, where I went out too fast and had to really slow down before making a decent finish. Its a hard race to gauge pace, as the 7.46 miles is not something anyone is really used to. I finished in 55:55 last year, 7:30 pace, though at that time my idea of a “long run” was about 6-7 miles. My strategy was to try to run about 6:40ish even pace this year and try to break 50 minutes (6:42). I was scared about going out too fast in this race because of last years troubles and my most recent 10k, where I blazed a 6:18 in mile 1 and paid for it dearly. I am in the midst of marathon training, having done a 2 22 miler last Sunday, this was a cut back week in prep for the last push to the Richmond Marathon Nov 13. I reluctantly agreed to a 4.5 mile warmup run to make sure that myself and my training group would get to 12 miles for the day. Even with the mileage weve been pulling recently, I was worried about how this long of a warmup would affect my race stamina. Warmup felt awesome – it was mid 40’s and clear, little wind. Finished about 15-20 minutes before race time.
Over 400 were in the 12k. Lined up 2nd row to try and mitigate my usual blast off at the start. The course does a 1 mile loop back to the start in which you get 2 doses of loud cheering of the 5k crowd (they start 15minutes later) and several high school cheerleading squads, so it is easy to get caught up in that energy. I felt good after the first mile, and my split was 6:46, actually slower than I had meant. The second and third miles go over and back a large incline of a bridge, and include several hills. This is where I ran into trouble last year, so I think I was too conservative once again, and ended up with a 7 minute split on mile 2 and somewhere in the 6:50s for mile 3. as I neared the mile 3 marker I ran  into the swarm of 5kers who merge on to the course. Unfortunately I was too slow to miss the first wave and I found myself dodging people with strollers and the 9 minute crowd. They were supposed to stay in one lane and the 12k in the other, but apparently no one paid attention to this. Luckily I was able to find a seam on the far left so I wasnt doing too much lateral movement. Halfway into mile 4 I was able to free myself from the 5k crowd. Our marathon group leader caught up with me and we ran most of the rest of the race together – I’m slightly faster in the shorter races, but he’s definitely the better long distance runner, and has BQ’d with a 3:08.  Hit mile 4 at around 6:50 or so, still slower than I wanted, but I was breathing pretty hard and mile 4-5 is a long steady hill, which luckily you come back down after the mile 5 marker. It was a little disheartening as I neared the top of the hill and there were already a steady stream of the lead pack blazing down while I was struggling a little to keep up the pace. I think the mile 5 split was 7 flat, after which I basically gave up hope of sub 50. As I started the downhill, I could feel myself recovering pretty fast – it was a good 3/4 of a mile of a decline that helped your speed significantly without being so steep as to wear out your quads. I think I really took this mile too easy, as the marathon group leader and another friend of mine started to gap me just a little. Split at mile 6, which was on a flat bridge, was 6:44. Had to start dodging 5kers again, except these were even slower, a lot of walkers. Knowing I had a mile and a half left, and growing increasingly frustrated with my attempt at pacing, I decided to try and step it up a bit. Some more small hills on this mile, but I closed the gap on the group leader and we were both step for step until the 7 mile marker – hit this in 6:28. At this point I absolutely put the hammer down. There was a slight decline and then a flat stretch into the stadium. Felt surprisingly good, and basically did a controlled sprint for the whole last half mile. Once I hit the stadium I did a 100 meters about as fast as my best 5k kick.  I didnt even look up to the last 20 meters, where I saw 50:07 or something. Finished in 50:10, couldnt believe how close I had gotten to my goal given how far off pace I had been at mile 6. Ended up beating our group leader by about 10 seconds. Last split for the last 0.46 was 5:19 pace, with a best pace of 4:00. Yeah, thats leaving too much in the tank. What’s worse, I missed 3rd in my age group by less than a minute, and 1st was only a minute and a half faster. I was a little disappointed, but the 5:45 improvement from last year was huge, and of course a PR for this odd distance. My two oldest boys ran the kids race right after the finish, and that was a lot of fun. I stayed around for the awards and had a chance to talk to Mr Sig (who did the 5k) – who will defnitely need to chime in on his performance yesterday – was a great day for him and his wife.
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