The Governors Cup races are the oldest and most competitive in Columbia, this being the 39th year of the event. It usually brings out some of the biggest crowds of the year and basically all of the competitive runners in the area. This year had some competition from the Savannah Rock and Roll Half and Full marathon, but there was no shortage of blazing fast people out this morning.
Personally, this was my first half marathon in 2009, where I endured a world of suffering as I hadn’t trained over 9 miles prior to the race. Trophy left me for dead in that race as I was reduced to a death march from mile 10 onwards. I vindicated myself in the Palmetto Half the next April, PRing by 13+ minutes when I had actually committed to training for the distance. That race had been such a perfect combination of peaking in training, race strategy and conditions, that I hadnt gotten close to the 1:31:55 since. I missed the 2010 Gov Cup with my Richmond Marathon debacle, and my second Palmetto half in 2011 was a bust, where I was a full 5 minutes slower. However, I had pretty high expectations for this race, since I’m in the middle of training for the Jacksonville Marathon and have been running some of my best times in the 5k- 12k this fall. Goal was to make an attempt at the PR, pacing as if I was going to sub 1:30 (6:53/mile)
This was a pretty grandiose goal, as anyone who knows the Gov Cup knows that this is a pretty brutal course. You can read the Gov Cup preview post (August 2011) for a full description. Basically a big loop, rolling hills throughout, but 3 main hill segments: Millwood hill (gradual but long), Kilbourne (long and spirit crushing) and Blossom (infamous and noted for inducing puke and/or walking).
I got to the race over an hour early, mostly because I somehow had gotten in my head the start time was 7 am (actually 8). I was about to leave at 5:30 when I found out this critical bit of info. Nice job, champ. When I got there it was dark, 40 degrees with a nasty wind, not exactly a motivating situation. Picked up my packet (long sleeve tech shirt and hat were very nice) and did a slow warmup mile with Trophy and the Code. It should be noted that the Code opted to race the old ladies and kids in the 8k. He just told me he was “pulling a blue shoes”.
Lined up a couple of rows back and went blasting out of the gate with the start (’84 Olympic marathon champ Joan Benoit Samuelson was the guest starter). Greg, who I thought would be good to pace off, instantly dropped me. Trophy and I were running together at what seemed like a crazy fast pace for the first mile. I felt pretty good until I looked down at my mile 1 split: 6:51 – basically what I would have to do for the next hour and 23 minutes. I could think of more fun things to do. Millwood hill is pretty much right after that, and Trophy got dropped as I took down some roadkill. Pace definitely suffered some though and I fell off to a 7:03. Greg was already out of sight. Got to the first water stop and the volunteer kids had no water out. Apparently they thought we would come strolling up and get our own. Next couple of miles were fairly flat through Shandon, basically on pace with a 6:53 and 6:58 splits. Finally got some water when we hit the church on Kilbourne and decided to take my Espresso Love GU. I was having trouble figuring out my pace as I had been by myself for quite awhile. Two women and three guys then roadkilled me,so I figured I was getting slower. To add to my dismay, I looked back at a turn and saw Trophy tracking me down. Pace splits showed I was pretty steady though – 6:50, 6:59, 6:57. This was all in the Lake Katherine neighborhood, rolling hills but a gradual net decline. I knew I was very close to 1:30 pace at mile 8, but then I turned the corner and met the 4 tiered Mt. Kilbourne – a full half mile of pain in mile 9. Started sucking some major wind, plus the course really doesnt entirely level out until almost mile 10. Mile 9 effectively trashed my 1:30 hopes with a 7:24, and set into motion a world of hurt. Mile 10 was faster with a return to the flat Shandon area, but couldnt get back to that 6:50ish pace – 7:02. At least I wasnt bonking like 2009 though. Halfway down Devine Street I started to pass a guy, but he then latched on to me and ran literally inches from my side for the next half mile. I actually ran into the guy at one point. Having him and a kid nearby helped me push the pace a little, though the fatigue was really setting in, 6:56 mile 12. There was a mile 12 clock, saw it turn over to 1:24. Turned onto Blossom and started a blue shoe kick, blasting out low six pace, dropping my shadow but entering a new world of pain and suffering. The fuel tank was officially empty as the hill began, though painfully I could now see Greg up ahead. Unfortunately there would not be a Howell last second takedown today, as the last bit of Blossom hit me like a truckload of bricks. Code met me for the near the top of Blossom hill and tried to Seabiscuit me to a strong finish, but I would have rather crawled into the fetal position and cried. As it was, two guys near me were reduced to walks of shame, one appeared to have just puked, and just a quarter mile from the finish. I thought I was barely moving, though Garmin showed 7:41 at the worst. Finally got to the top of the hill with the turn on Sumter st and made out low 1:31’s on the finish clock. Somehow found another gear and was able to manage a sub 6 kick on the last 0.17, crossed the line at 1:31:42 and a new PR! A little disappointed not getting the sub 1:30 but very happy to set a new PR on this very tough course. Nowhere near an age group place, got 6th in 35-39.
Notable performances: Ashton crushed the field with a 1:11. Anton posted a crazy fast 1:21 and took male masters. Amy continues to get faster and faster, taking the women’s race and an impressive 8th overall with a 1:23. Brandenburg came back strong with a 1:27 after only managing a blue shoes 5k time last weekend. Trophy and Brian “El Capitan” Clyburn both got PR’s with 1:34’s Longcreek training group’s Nathan Ward got a big PR with a 1:41, Buckleup and Freight Train also crushed 1:49 personal bests. Diesel had a bad case of the walksies in mile 3 after Ty tried to Seabiscuit him to a sub 8 pace. In the 8k, Tigs had an epic showdown with Joan Benoit Samuelson , where she white shoed a finishing kick to take the female overall win. Hedgecock , Mr Allers and Code took 3-4-5 overall in the mens race.