Shandon Turkey Trot 8k – Columbia,SC – 11/19/11

The Shandon Turkey Trot is a combined 4k/8k that is one of the oldest races in Columbia, celebrating its 30th year this year. It has prize money and usually attracts a pretty competitive crowd.  Looking back in the results, the 4k has usually been a walk with only a handful of people actually racing it, and the 8k has had some super fast winning times – the race actually offers a 100 dollar bonus for anyone beating the course record (held by both Selwyn Blake and Eric Ashton) of 24:15.  Thats  4:50ish pace, so I think their money is safe.

I’ve done this race only once before (in 2009), as last year it conflicted with the Colonial Cup. It was my first 8k then, and it was one of my better races at the time with a 34:05. I had only tried to break seven minute pace, but the course is so PR friendly I had done a lot better than I thought. I do distinctly remember, however, getting outkicked in that race by a guy pushing a stroller and talking in full sentences to his toddler. Running has a way of reminding you that “fast” is a very relative term.

This is definitely a “fast” course – a simple rectangle in the relatively flat Shandon neighborhood that is repeated twice for the 8k. Start and finish is next to Hand Middle School, the same finish line that is shared by about 6 other races. It is a sacred place for the blue shoes, as this is where the first pair made its debut in Feb. 2010 and instantly produced my first sub 20 5k. That being said, this is not my favorite type of course. I just cant stand the “two loops”.  Psychologically this makes me feel like the first loop is just a way of tiring you out before the race really begins, and it definitely sucks to pass a finish line youre not allowed to cross yet. Its one of the main reasons I havent been excited about trying the Kiawah marathon, which is also a two looper.

Race time was 8 am, got there my traditional hour in advance, and did a warmup with Amy, who used to run the same times as  me but now has become a blazing machine of speed. Temps were chilly but had warmed up into the 40’s by race time, no real wind. This is the first race that I’ve done in forever without the Code, which actually left the age group a little more open, though Angel showed up to make sure I had no hope of taking first.  I usually become Angel’s and Code’s biggest supporter during their races, because if they can take an overall 1-2-3 placement than I can get my consolation prize age group win. A critical award factor is that the top 2 age group finishers get a much-coveted turkey trophy, while 3rd place gets you a tiny “running man” one. I still have the running man from my 2009 3rd place. A lot of people showed up this year, but I was surprised to see no super elite guys (i.e. Ashton or Striggles, or even Plexico or Dimery). I figured Angel or Brandenburg actually had the best chances of winning this race when I was at the start.  Women’s side was easily Amy for the win and Megan, Amanda and Tigs fighting it out for the rest.   My goal in this race was to PR and possibly pull a sub 32 (equivalent to a sub 20 5k pace through 8k).

Race starts are always crazy fast, but this one seemed particularly ridiculous. I paced with Greg ,Tigs and Geary, and the Amanda/Megan tandem was already leaving me for dead. There were a lot of strong age groupers in this race, and I felt a lot more back in the pack then my ego liked. At about a half mile in, disaster struck – I felt a loosening of my left shoe and sure enough the  long, thin, hard-t0-tie laces were completely undone. I immediately thought I would have to stop to re-tie, but given the competition in this race, and my goal to PR, I might as well have dropped out, so I kept going. The constant whipping of the laces on both my ankles sucked and made me wish I wasnt so ridiculously, maniacally competitive. Hit the first split at 6:19, which, as Greg would and did say, was “a little loud”. I was thinking of 6:30, negative splitting to 6:20 and hitting 32 on the mark, but as usual all strategy went to hell with the starting gun. I tried to keep up with my pack, but the second mile saw Geary and Greg start to gap me. I dont know if it was the laces or not, or whether that’s a convenient excuse, but just wasnt feeling it like last week.  Second mile was about 6:34, which wasnt too bad. The loop is roughly 2.5 miles, and as I came upon the end of the first loop, I saw the clock turn over to 16 and probably hit the 1st loop split at about 16:20ish, certainly well over the sub 32 goal and a little worse than my PR. Tigs was still at my side, and I thought she was laboring a bit, but as soon as the first turn of the second loop ended, she threw down a burst of speed and abandoned me on the side of the road. It suddenly got very quiet, and I could tell there must of been a huge gap behind me, which made me feel like I was in last place. The sag wagon of the age groupers. Hit mile 3 in 6:30 something, and I was hurting pretty bad, trying to get over the mental hump that this was not a 5k. It was approximately a mile and a quarter left as I circled back toward the finish line, and I could see the whole group ahead of me – Some unknown guy who seemed very late 30ish a few meters ahead, Greg about 20 meters ahead of him, followed in succession by Tigs, Geary, Megamanda, and the same dude (Matt) who latched on to me on Devine St at Gov Cup (also in my age group. By mile 4, 630ish again, I had pretty much given up on my goal, my PR, or really even passing anyone else. Stopping to tie my shoe was reentering my mind as a nice excuse instead of the reality of just getting beat down. After a brief incline, the road shifted and gave way to a distant view of the finish. Somewhere back in my obsessive race memory, I remembered this as the same finish to Race Judicata, where Blue Shoes 1.0 debuted, a 0.37 mile straightaway to glory. So I threw down. Not a surge, not even a kick, but a balls-out, lung blasting, headless chicken blast off. Burned past age grouper dude, and caught Greg just before the last cross street. Anton’s going to ride him even harder this week. Then I saw Tigs just ahead and the clock came into focus at 32:20ish. Pace went into the 4:30’s as I saw a PR and roadkill possibility in the last 20 meters. Went flying past Tigs, who blurted out some English curse or something, with maybe all of 10 feet remaining, and hit the finish mat right at 32:34. PR by 3 seconds. Had to suck wind for at least half a minute to breathe again and not to give up my breakfast, a classic blue shoes finish. Pictures on Strictly running’s photo site preserves the moment for posterity:

Not a pretty finish, but then mine never are. Thanks to Angel winning the whole thing (in an awesome 29:59) , I managed 2nd in age group and got my turkey trophy. Matt took first. Turns out the other guy near me was like 50 and I was just having 35-39 hallucinations.  Aubrey Johnson, a kid who finished behind me in 2009, took 2nd, and Eric Allers took 3rd. JB took 8th and 1st in AG. Amy took the womens race and chicked Brandenburg, finishing 6th. Meg apparently outkicked Amanda and they finished 3 seconds apart. Geary had a very strong race and gapped me just enough to fend off the blue shoeing. I took 14th overall, followed by Tigs and Greg, who took 1st and 2nd in thier age groups, Sarah by over 10 minutes.

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