This race is the third one in Columbia this week, following the Shandon Turkey Trot 8k and the Sleigh Bell Trot 5k in Saluda Shoals. I did the first two last year and decided to sit this race out so this was my first time at this event. Its not on the Tour de Columbia, but is on the Palmetto Grand Prix, so it draws a big, very competitive crowd.
This race was the first chance for my brother Ben and I to run a race together, as he made a goal of doing this race after coming back from years of back trouble preventing his running. He was a pretty good cross country runner for Dutch Fork back in the mid nineties, with a 16:45 PR I think. I’m pretty sure he could beat me then, with my grueling training regimen of quiz team practice and working on the school newspaper. That and eating a lot. He was my unofficial coach when I was starting running, and he’d usually be the first person I’d text with each new PR. So the least I could do is help pace him to a 21 min 5k. He has been training pretty faithfully since he started again when we had our family vacation at Folly Beach back in July, though he has to be careful with the back trouble. I knew he was getting back in form because he raced a trail 5k a few weeks back and managed to run 22 minutes and place 2nd overall.
A 21 minute 5k is 6:46 pace, but this course would be difficult to pace with its big hill taking up a good part of the first mile, and the same crashing downhill 3rd mile. The course is mostly an out and back starting at the Colonial Center, going up the hill into the USC campus on Pendleton St, turning around just before 5 points then heading back on Senate. There’s a little loop that takes you by Longstreet Theater, Hunter Gatherer and the old Nickelodeon before heading back downhill to the Colonial Center again. I knew even pace wouldnt work out with the change in elevation, so I figured a good 21 minute estimate would be halfway between Lady McGaha and Crazy Legs Schmitz. Shoes were triple knotted this time around to avoid last Saturday’s fiasco.
The start was crazy at this race. Ben and I were just standing around when all of a sudden Selwyn says go and the pack takes off. I usually start first or second row, and rarely do races of this size (650 runners) so the first quarter mile felt pretty chaotic. I was dodging kids, strollers and the median and trying not to lose Ben behind me. Luckily the hill started to thin out the pack a little, especially the brutal stretch leading up to Assembly. I knew Ben was laboring a little so I tried to rein in my tendency to blast up hills as quickly as possible to shorten the pain. Schmitz was just ahead and I told Ben that we would try to catch him and hold his pace for a majority of the race. He also is the only person large enough to provide a draft for us two saquatches. As we approached the first mile, I panicked a little, as I saw we were way off the 7 minute split I had hoped for. Had to pick it up just to hit 7:17. Guess Crazy Legs was slacking. The course finally leveled out and I could tell Ben was feeling better, so I tried to gently press the pace a bit. The turnaround had a quick steep hill, where we finally caught William. I had lost track of Trophy. Heading back on Senate was rolling but slightly downhill and Ben was able to keep right on my heels. Thought we were back on pace at mile 2, but saw a disappointing 6:56 split. Told Ben we were going to have to crush it to get 21, to which he surpisingly said OK. I really started to ramp it up on the first part of the loop down sumter st, and Ben faded a bit, but as I turned the corner he was right by my side, and dude started throwing down a brutal kick. He started surging ahead and I really had to lay the hammer down to pace ahead of him. We were picking off roadkill left and right, and by the time we hit the downhill stretch I was basically pulling my 5k race pace. I could see Trophy and he was in danger of getting blue and yellow shoed for awhile, though he did respond with his own kick to prevent this. Near the arena I caught the garmin split at 6:17, which I honestly thought I misread. The finish seemed to be a bit far away though, and as we rounded the last turn, 21:10’s were on the clock. I tried to time an exact simultaneous finish, but it seemed Ben wanted to give me the glory, so we crossed at 21:22 and 21:23. Ben was happy with the time, which was the goal. My Garmin had the certified course at 3.16, and exactly 6:46 pace. The race was a lot of fun for me, and it also felt great not to feel like I was going to pass out or puke at the end.
Ben’s wife Cindy also ran this race, and ran a strong sub 36 just 5 weeks out from giving birth. Crazy. Code was very proud of not getting chicked by Amy for once, though both of their times suggested a slightly long course. Greg didnt care about the long course and rocked his first sub 20, finishing in 19:59 and taking his age group also by a single second. This was after 10 Bodourov style miles yesterday, I believe. Anton took 1st easily in his age group with an 18:10.