This is my third year doing the Ray Tanner 12k, one of my favorite races on the Tour de Columbia. The race is held to benefit the Ray Tanner foundation, a charity set up by the USC baseball coach’s wife. Although I think it started relatively small, the race has exploded in popularity over the last few years, and now is one of the biggest races in the state. The new awesome Carolina baseball stadium and Ray Tanner’s back to back national championships certainly had something to do with it. Ken Lowden race directs with the help of a lot of Strictly Running volunteers, so its an event that really caters to the running community here in the city, and this has also helped it grow. The race actually completely sold out a couple of weeks ago, with 1600 total runners – about 1000 5kers and 600 12kers I think. Almost every runner I know in Columbia showed up this morning.
This is the only 12k I’ve ever run and I’ve always had a hard time figuring out how to pace myself. Did a 55:55 in 2009, and just missed my goal last year of going sub 50, with a 50:10. The course is really nice, featuring two crossings of the Congaree River and giving you good views of the city throughout. Both years I got suckered into stupid pace in the first mile: the start is crazy with all the 5kers , cheerleaders and spectators cheering. You do a short loop and then go right back through the same start area gauntlet. People prone to grandiose tendencies will go out way too fast, setting themselves up for a bonk super early in the race. Yeah, that would be me. As soon as you finish the 1 mile loop, you have to climb a nasty incline on a bridge over the railroad, do a 2 mile loop in the greek vilage/colonial center area of USC, then back on the railroad bridge. Miles 3 and 4 crossover the river and go uphill to Avenue B. Avenue B is one very long , though not terribly steep hill. Mile 5 marker is right at the turnaround. Miles 6 and 7 are mostly down hill back across the river with one last little nasty hill on Huger, then a nice drop back down into the stadium with the finish at home plate.
I got to the race about an hour early and did a couple of warmup miles with the Longcreek training group (Trophy, Diesel, Charley, Nathan, Freight Train) as well as Team Schmitz, Code Brown, Burgess, Anton, and a few others. A sad thing was our training group leader, Ken, lost his father this week, so Trophy gave the team all yellow ribbons to wear in his honor. I felt kind of flat this morning – a trip to the fair had given me the beginnings of a cold, and I had been up since before 4 for absolutely no reason. Planned to make another attempt at a sub 50, but really wasnt feeling it before the race.
12k start was first at 8 am, about 60 degrees, clear. As mentioned, the crowd is nuts at the beginning. I lined up in front (remember grandiose tendencies) and had to bust out a sprint to make sure I didnt get trampled from 600 people behind me. I had decided to try and pace with Yerger and Greg again, like last week at the Habitat 10k. The problem with this is that Yerger apparently had delusions of Ryan Hall and immediately gapped me by at least 50 meters. Greg held back a little but was still pretty far in front very early. Just as I tried to settle into a reasonable pace, here come the screaming cheerleaders again on the loop back, and of course I have to show them what a bad ass I am, and another near sprint ensues. I felt OK as I approached the Mile 1 marker, figuring I was about where I should be for pace. Garmin spits out a 6:20 and I spit out my first obscenity of the day. Nice job, hero. I tried to slow down at this point, remembering all to well my 6:18 start at the Dam Run and total breakdown at the end. Yerger was already out of sight over the bridge and Howell was dropping me like a bad habit too. Hit mile 2 in 7:02, so now I had overshot the other way (50 min 12k is 6:42 pace). Wanted to speed up some but I hit the bridge again and any surge attempt got stuffed. Got passed at this point by Mike Ufford, who is always trying to track me down in 5ks. Race crowd had gotten pretty sparse until I crossed the bridge and got blindsided by the huge 5k start. Luckily Ken Lowden was there to keep most of the 5kers in their lanes. Had to do a little maneuvering but managed to get through the crowd and run near the front mid-pack 5kers, Started to recover some from my ridiculous start mile, though was still doing 6:50ish pace. Mile 3 in 6:44, Mile 4 in 6:58. I did pass Mike back again but Greg was way ahead. Mile 5 was mostly Avenue B hill, just one long slog up a gradual incline. Tried to push it since hills tend to be my strength. I made it close to the top before Plexico and Anton passed me going back down, having already done the short loop at the turnaround. I had made up some ground on Greg and another guy ahead of me, but mile 5 was still just a shade under 7 minutes, way off my 49:59 goal.
I was kind of gassed from the hill climb, but there was no way to get my sub 50 continuing this way. Last year I had slacked on the way down the hill and lost too much time, so I really tried to pick it up at this point. Despite being 190 lbs and thus having a lot of gravity to help me on my way down, I just dont run downhills very well. Greg gapped me a little more on the way down, though it was cool to see everybody else coming up and getting some support. Merged into the slower 5kers at the bottom of the hill and onto Gervais, which made it difficult to run the turns efficiently – basically had to swing wide and run right next to the cars on the bridge. Hit mile 6 more on pace at 6:34. Crossed the bridge and really tried to push it up the hill on the other side. Managed to pass the guy in front of me and make up some ground on Greg. At the crest of the hill I knew it was all downhill to the stadium, and it would take a crazy kick to pull a sub 50. Hit mile 7 at 6:37, which gave me a chance. Total redline the rest of the way, even though I was hurting. I could feel my form going all to hell as we turned onto Wheat St in front of the stadium, but the crowd and the stadium was a huge adrenaline boost. Finally managed to pass Greg in almost the same spot as last week, less than quarter mile from home plate. I had to really start dodging 5kers and made a hard cut into the stadium and made out the clock at 49:30. Pulled a couple of Marcus Lattimore moves on the baseball field, sprinting as hard as I could, and crossed the line in 49:55, 5 seconds to spare. 5:32 pace for the last .49. Despite my effort, I still didnt come close to placing in my age group. The Code did get 2nd for his 47:52. Plexico won fairly easily. Anton scored an impressive 3rd overall. Amy McDonaugh crushed the female field, not sure of the time but not even in the same zip code as me. Robbie and Tigs both had good returns to form in the 5k, with a 19:3x and 19:4x respectively. Eric A crushed an 18:20 something in the 5k, and Brian Clyburn (Capt of my Palmetto and Blue Ridge relay teams) PR’d with a 20:11. Results should be up shortly. Look at the pics for my beauty at the finish. Classic race face.
Photos by Jen Ward, Janette Robinson