This was a race I decided to run purely for fun, as its not on the Tour de Columbia or Palmetto Grand Prix. There was a 5k and a half marathon available, and the race brought out a surprising amount of people for a very hot Sunday morning. Some of this was supplemented by runners who had traveled here from all over the US to continue to gather Xterra series points. I had run 10 miles the day before with my training group, and I was aware from experience how tough some of the Harbison trails were, so I opted for the 5k. Prices had jumped 10 bucks on race day (20/40) to (30/50), but I was already across town at 630, so I signed up anyway. Half started a little late but pretty close to 710 am, 5kers started a few minutes afterwards. Temps were in the high 70’s- low 80’s already and the humidity had to be close to 100 percent.
At the start I knew this was going to be tough. The 10 miles from Saturday were making themselves known right from the start with about a quarter mile of open dirt road that was definitely uphill. There were a bunch of high school kids from Dutch Fork who blasted out of the gates, a few told me they had their sights on breaking 18 minutes. After the first quarter or so, it was mostly single track trail. Very winding, constantly going up and down. Really hard to build up any momentum. As with most technical trails, you’re always looking right in front of you and this makes everything seem longer (not to mention I was going about a minute and a half slower per mile than my 5k race pace). We had a good pack going for much of the first half which helped push me along. I was able to stay within the chain of runners from the front, so this helped navigating the twisty course I was mostly unfamiliar with. The heat was just suffocating. The trees seemed to block all the wind and the humidity felt like a warm wet blanket. I had left my Garmin at home, so I had no idea how fast I was going, but I was trying to push the effort as much as I could. With about a mile to go I recognized the home stretch from the half marathon (Ruldolph’s Rampage) that I did here back in December, so that motivated me to push ever harder. Unfortunately this involved navigating 2 separate long hills that about killed me. I did manage to pass a few people, including someone I thought was an age grouper (cant stop being competitive, apparently). The end brought you back into a field, which I sprinted as hard as I could to finish in 23:48 (7:40 pace). This was more than 3 minutes slower than my road 5k times, but was at least as hard as those efforts. Just completely dead at the finish.
I found out later that they were awarding only the top 3 male and female finishers (I finished 10th), but I stuck around to see some of my friends finish the half. A major problem unfortunately occurred about 45 minutes in, as I saw 3 of the fastest runners in SC come bounding out of the woods completely off course. Somehow a number of people got lost on the 13.1 course, and even some doing the 5k. My race appeared well marked, but then again I was always following someone. There were a lot of upset people and several of the top half runners dropped out. I left early because the half was taking a very long time. I later checked the results and talked to a few who did the half, and all said it was just a brutal course, made especially tough with the heat/humidity. I hope the race comes back next year – im sure they can work out the course snafus. I’d actually like to see what that half course is all about too.