Red Nose Run 5k/10k – Columbia,SC – 1/28/12

The Red Nose Run is a 5k/10k sponsored by Ringling Brothers Circus that I’ve done every year since I started racing. I’m not sure whether they offer prize money, but for whatever reason the race always draws a big crowd.  For another unknown reason, I usually suck in January, and this race had been brutal for me in the past. The course doesnt help. Basically starts at the colonial center , makes you climb a monster hill  up to the USC campus,  then takes you all the way to five points and back. They used to run the 10k across the bridges with a scenic route into cayce and back in the vista, but someone had a great idea two years ago: why dont we just have them climb that mountain twice .  Two loops of the 5k course. And lets stagger the start to have the faster 10kers  catch up with the back end of the 5k.

But I digress. Below is photographic proof of my “run fat boy run” phase from the 2009 RNR.  The effect is a bit exaggerated by the fact that its 15 degrees (coldest morning in Cola since 1986) and I’m wearing like 3 layers. Nonetheless, this is me trying a pre-blue shoes kick to blast a 25:39 in the 5k.

In 2010 I did the 10k, which I think was my second ever. It was a little warmer, but windy and raining at 34 degrees. Probably the worst conditions I’ve ever raced in. Note everyone smiling at the start….or maybe not. Also see Naomi’s big bird jacket and Crazy Legs trying on his superhero cape:

2011 actually brought good weather and I switched back to the 5k with the course change.  Had a tough race, 20 something, but when you race the undercard, age group awards come easier. Apparently nothing makes me happier than little metal trinkets and circus passes:

I opted for the 10k this year. I dont know why. Perhaps I like pain and suffering. Cyber stalking on the Strictly Running site confirmed my suspicion that every 35-39 stud in the city was doing the 10k. Looked like I’d be lucky to make it top 10 in my age group. I got there an hour early and did a couple miles warmup.  I went overboard on the miles this week, with about 50 in the past 7 days, so the legs were feeling pretty flat. On the other hand, my Longcreek group (also with Karen, Laura, Greg, Mrs Diesel) decided to do like 8 miles at Riverfront before the race.  Nuts.

As noted, the course is two loops. Essentially mountain, rolling hills to 5 points, long steady climb back to the Russell House, then screaming downhill back to the colonial center. Temps were cold (high 30’s-low40’s) but no freaking rain or wind this year.  Start was 8:15,  and I tried not to get caught up with the opening stampede, as I know what lay behind the next turn. Some kid in a purple singlet started crushing it out of the gate and even was gapping Plexico by the first quarter mile. Ty started harassing me in the first half mile as well, I guess because I had the audacity to run so “slow”.  Ran at a comfortably hard pace up the mountain and felt OK at the top, first mile in 6:47. About what I wanted. I had no real pace goals but to run by feel. I hoped maybe to take a run at my very soft 10k PR, 42:11 – about 2 minutes slower than what I should do based on my 5k. Geary and Billy had already left me in the dust, but I wasnt feeling it, especially in the first loop.  Second mile was a lot of rolling hills through USC. A guy in a black shirt and I kept trading places. He told  me something to the effect of “these hills suck”.  I told him they were all the more enjoyable the second time around. He dropped me  near the turnaround but I kept him within about 10 meters or so. Mile 2 at 6:41. The slog from five points up green st sucked. Just one long incline. You’d think all my early am weekend training in the mid 90’s on that stretch of road would help. Turns out doing 6:40 pace while sober is tougher than staggering back to the dorm.  Finally flattened out at the Russell House  and i hit mile 3 at about 6:50, whcih worried me I might be starting to crash. Luckily a freefall down the mountain helps reset things a bit.  Made out 21 something at the 5k point, which was a little slower than I hoped. On the other hand, I was breathing fairly steady. Legs were still a bit heavy though.

Next came another fun climb right back up that same mountain. If anything though, it was a psychological lift to know this was the last loop. I tried to pick up the pace some and caught up with black shirt guy, who seemed to be realizing my comment to him. Left him behind on the hill and now was pretty much by myself, with 3rd place female about 20 meters ahead.  Mile 4 in 6:34. Did I say I was by myself? That wouldnt last long. Just as soon as I reached the summit of Mount USC,  I turned on Sumter st and saw a police car.  The SAG wagon for the 5k, which started about 12 minutes  after us.  In front of the car was a sea of walkers, strollers,  and dogs. I could already see 3rd place girldoing some dodging, and sure enough I started having to make some Marcus Lattimore cuts to avoid people. eventually I settled on running around the outside of the mob. Unfortunately sub 7 pace next to walkers feels like youre out for a sprint, so I thought I was just killing it on the next stretch. Garmin confirmed I somehow actually slowed down instead, 6:46. Probably all the dog and stroller dodging. Finally reached the turnaround and headed up Greene St. I felt pretty good, but it was hard to gauge my pace.  Started to really push it after the hill flattened but 3rd place girl was kicking it in too. 6:42 mile 6, but was pretty far from the finish, around Longstreet theater.  Realizing I might of run a long course, I knew I had to make up some time. So I started kicking it in, first a little hard, then angry-at-the-world, fist-pumping,  arm-flailing hard.  The freefall down the mountain was insane, and I was a little afraid I might trip and end up in the hospital.  I simultaneously saw the clock at 41:40 something and Tommy and Ken cheering me on, so I blasted it into absolute hyperdrive. Passed 3rd place girl in the last 50 meters, but saw the clock just flip over to 42’s as I passed under. 42:05 officially. Garmin had 6.34, so I must have done some crappy tangent running, not to mention walker dodging. Last .34 at 5:08 pace, with a finishing blast at 3:48. Probably shouldn’t have left that much in the tank. Still, a new PR on a tough course, so  I’ll take it. Nowhere near an age group – actually finished out of TDC points at 6th. 23rd overall out of 248.

Purple singlet kid won the 10k overall, so that was impressive. PLexico just missed out on 2nd to a guy I havent seen before. Jedi master Bodourov  crushed a 37:46 after a 100 mile week, with Dimery just behind him.  Amy easily won first female in 39:42. Derek also crushed a sub 40.  Billy and Geary also took home age group hardware in 40 and 41 minutes respectively. J-Reeves crushed her 10k PR by a measly 9 minutes. Maybe Naomi is the new jedi master?

JB took home 3rd overall in the 5k, with a “tempo” 19:10.  Code finished in 19:24, making me wonder if I could have taken down the Brown. Spencer  rocked another post high school Pr with a 19:47. Trophy played blackjack again with a 21 something.  Karen finished sub 28 – a PR? Sweet T getting showed up by his girl.

Snowman 8k – Caughman Road Park – Columbia, SC – 1/21/12

The Snowman 8k is one of the oldest road races in Columbia, celebrating its 31st running this year. Its held out at Caughman Road park, which is kind of out of the way, but it always draws a pretty big and very competitive field. A lot of this has to do with the prize money, with 200 bucks to first overall (men and women) and cash prizes for Clydesdale/Athena, Military and Stroller categories. They also have the standard age groups plus 5 deep for the men’s age groups from 30-34 through 45-49.

This course is pretty tough. Maybe not Hammer the Hills tough, but definitely not “flat and fast” (or maybe it is by Selwyn’s standards).  I did this race for the first time in 2011, and had absolutely no idea what I was getting into.  An astute observer would note that the course map has a road called “Cliffside Drive” and enters the “Dominion Hills” neighborhood, but apparently I was not that astute last year. I went out like a crazed banshee, careening down the entirely downhill first mile in just under 6:20, and was then dead man (virtually) walking up the monster hill that follows.  It took me about 3 miles of over 7 minute pace to clear out the lactic acid, and Schmitz was breathing down my neck like a rabid bear. Luckily the last mile is all flat, and I managed a 6:36  to avoid a Richmond flashback.

Last year was cold, with some snow still on the ground. It was 60 degrees and rainy when I got to the start today. Had to register because Snowman   still holds on to mail-in entries, and it takes an act of congress for me to do that whole stamps and envelope thing. Did 3 miles warmup with the Diesels, Howells and Jedi Master Bodourov.

Start was at 1:30, which is a tough race time to figure out for food and water intake. I usually want to take a nap at that time, being just after lunch. For my midday meal I had the elegant combo of half a PB+J sandwich and an Espresso Love GU. Yummy.

Start line showed the race was stacked again, with some super lean singlet dudes and Eric Ashton lining up first row. Women’s field didnt have that crazy fast chica that’s won this race in a sub 30 time the last couple years, but did have Meg and Amanda. I lined up 2nd row and tried not to get run over at the start, which is up a slight incline for about a quarter. Blasted up the hill faster than I wanted because I was already getting gapped by Howell , Billy, Meg and Amanda.  However, I tried to remember to stick to my tried and true,  negative split strategy. I let off the pedal on ensuing freefall for the rest of mile one, and let 195 pounds and gravity do their thing. Hit mile 1 at 6:25,  which was pretty much right where I wanted to be. Where I didnt want to be, however, was getting my ass handed to me by Greg, who was already 30 meters ahead. Luckily this course works to my favor, because the next 3 miles are mostly rolling hills. Hills suck, but since I train nowhere flat, they seem to help me immensely versus the rest of the field. Didnt hit the wall on the mountain this year, and just tried to maintain an even pace on both the flats and hills. Slowly started reeling in some of the field, even though the pace faded into the high 6:30’s. I didnt look at my Garmin, but they had people calling out splits at every mile. Nice change from my contentious relationship with Robo Timer from last week.  Hit 2 miles right at 13 minutes, 3 miles in 19:50.  I ran by myself for most of these two miles, couldnt hear anyone behind me. Finally caught up with Amanda just before mile 4, heading into the scarily named “Dominion Hills”.  This left basically Greg and I to battle it out. I had whittled the gap away to about 10-15 meters, but he kept throwing in surges (or perhaps I was throwing in arm flails and head bobs) and held me at bay. I couldnt tell if he knew I was there – he never looks back.  Four miles in 26 something. Finally the hills stopped just after the 4 mile mark, exiting us onto a short dirt road and back onto the relatively flat Trotter Rd. On the dirt section I saw Billy pass the Code, and I wondered if we might have one of Code Brown’s chernobyl -esque meltdowns he seems to have once in a blue moon. I was finally able to draw even with Greg on the first bit of Trotter, and he made a hand motion for me to pass, but I was sucking so much wind at the time I was deathly afraid he might catch me. The finish is visible as soon as you get to Trotter Rd, but its got to be over a half mile from that last turn. I finally seemed to put a little distance on Greg, and I was gaining on the Code pretty hardcore. Unfortunately, the Code doesnt have Greg’s pillar of salt fear, and he took a glance back in the last 100 meters. My cover was blown then, and the Code made sure he wasnt getting Blue Shoed. I was pretty much toast then anyway. Redlined it the rest of the way out and finished in 32:44 (6:22 last mile – garmin had 5.02) . I was happy with the time – pretty close to the 32:34 8k PR and on a tough course to boot.  About 1:40 better than last year.

Did a cooldown with the Code and Billy, which was a nice 9 min pace at first, then became an insane sub 6 pace sprint as a tidal wave of thunderstorms descended on us. Almost got struck my lightning and was soaked to the bone.  Post race ceremony was awesome with free BBQ and fried chicken lunch, and mini-painting awards by the Chicken Man.  Mens winner, Stuart Moran, ran a 24:50 something (sub 5 pace) which is just ridiculous. Ashton took one of the overall awards as well. Meg Weis and Amanda Charlton went 1-2 on the women’s side. Flicker took the Clydesdale in 33 something. Diesel and Freight Train both did Clydesdale, so I think they got shut out of awards. Diesel is having some IT band problems and narrowly avoided getting outkicked by the missus, who took an AG award. I managed 2nd in AG behind the Code. Billy won grandmaster.  Anton, Greg, Teo, Laura, Tom all took home AG awards as well. JB got a PR and AG win even in his advanced age. Results are still pending, so I’ll have to doublecheck the above when they come out.

Charleston Half Marathon – Charleston, SC – 1/14/12

This is the third year of this half, which now has a full marathon (2nd year) and a 5k (replacing the 10ks the first two years). The course is point -to-point, with the start in Downtown Charleston and the finish 13 miles away in North Charleston. I lived in Charleston for 2 years, and it was cool to return to the town whcih spawned the running obsession. Turns out the traffic is so bad in Charleston in the morning, that I would get up at 5 am and head to the gym instead of sitting in gridlock for an hour. Ten minutes on the treadmill at 5.5 turned into a 27:05 5k three months later, and I was hooked.

I dont usually do out of area races, except for the two marathons, but I got suckered into this race by Trophy and Greg. Both were doing the half and Greg was hoping to go sub 130 on the almost completely flat course.  I signed up on New Years Day on a whim and got the rest of the fam to come down, promising we’d make a weekend out of it down in Charleston.

Karen and Trophy met me at the hotel at 6:45 and we headed to the finish line to catch the bus to the start. What were spring-like temps last weekend had turned to a Siberian blast. Low thirties and windy. I showed up in hat, gloves, CRC jacket and long pants , still freezing my butt off waiting for the buses. Had a major core workout on the way to the start as I was the last one on my bus and had to stand, getting thrown around the whole time. We got there about a half hour before the start. Didnt really have time to do any warmup – had to balance dying from hypothermia with having enough time to get to the start after dropping my winter stuff at the drop bag site. Porta potties had ridiculous lines, so I had to risk an indecent exposure charge near a dumpster.

There were a few thousand runners in a pretty narrow road for the start, so I fought my way almost to the very front, about 2 rows back. Marathon and half were starting together. I was surprised to see a 1:30 pace group, as this wasnt advertised on the web site. There I was able to find Greg and his jedi master Anton, as well as Thunder Dan Bliesner from the Palmetto 200 team. Greg was shooting for a sub 130 not only to PR but for an automatic spot in the NYC marathon. I could do the same, provided I could swing a 1:19. Um… yeah. I did want a sub 130 though. I was on pace for one at Gov Cup before Kilbourne and Blossom made me their bitch, and ended up with a 1:31:40 PR.

The 1:29:59 meant 6:53 pace. Not exactly a stroll. Greg had said some crazy talk about 6:40 pace starting out, and holding it as long as possible. I decided I would just try and hang on to our neon shirted pace guys. Poor Sweet T had the sniffles this week and bailed to run with Karen.

As mentioned the course is a point to point, and virtually pancake flat. It has a nice route through the historic district starting out, but then has a very long stretch up to North Charleston. Spruill Avenue.  Familiar to Charlestonians everywhere as the land of strip clubs and drive bys. Way to feature the beauty of our historic city guys. Well, at least it wasnt one of those dreaded 2 loop courses.

The gun went off and this literally was a stampede. Some dude bit it right behind me immediately, but I didnt dare turn around. Sprinted for my life for the first quarter than settled in with the pace group. I wasnt sure about these guys. They looked maybe college age and were crushing the pace while talking like they were out for a jog. I felt pretty good considering zero warmup, though my left foot was a little numb from the cold and having to balance in the bus. Sure enough the Speedy brothers had us in at mile  1 at 6:40. There was where I got to meet Robo-Timer. Instead of a smiling volunteer calling out times, or perhaps a clock, an androgynous computer voice on lend from a navigation system called out the time.  “Six minutes..forty-one…forty two…forty three..six minutes..forty four.” Greg was already gapping me and the pacers. Instead of running my own race, I tried to be a hero and crush the same pace as the neon duo. Second mile: 6:44, third: 6:36. Apparently this was the Race Suicide pace group. First 5k was in the books at around Sweet T pace, 20:30. I felt OK despite banking almost a minute against the 1:30 already.  A couple more 6:40ish miles and I could feel things starting to turn south. We left the historic area and headed into the lovely slums of north peninsular charleston.  The pace group that was helping me with the drafting gapped me, leaving my less than aerodynamic self into the teeth of a nasty 10 mph bitterly cold headwind. Pace started to suffer some, and seeing nothing but wide open dreary road ahead didnt help. Some of the locals offered “encouragement”, also known as heckling. Hit the 10k point at about 42 minutes, almost right at my PR for the distance. Nice pacing, stud. I had planned to take a GU at 5 miles, but between the crazy pace and wind I completely forgot. Managed to choke down some Espresso Love after about 2 minutes of frisking myself trying to pull the packet out of my rear facing belt.  Mile 7 was just brutal.  Greg and Thunder Dan had left me for dead, the wind had picked up, and  certain unmentionable areas seemed to be getting painfully cold. I started getting passed by some of the marathoners. I was about half convinced to bail on the race and jog the rest in, when I remembered the 75 dollar registration. That would make this one hell of an expensive training run. So I kept going. It did seem to get a little warmer. Logged two miles way over 7 minutes. Robotimer taunted me with her (his?) calm voice, letting me know how things were falling apart. ” Fifty  minutes…twenty three..twenty four…you’re starting to suck Alex..twenty five” . The course finally started to take some turns as we neared North Charleston. For a hundred yards or so, the course turned away from the wind and it was incredible how much easier it would be without getting blasted in the face for the past hour. By mile 10, Robo told me about 1:09:30, so I knew it would take another mid 20:xx 5k to give me a chance at 1:29:59. So I gathered whatever energy and/or motivation I had and bit the bullet. Suddenly the parade passing me stopped and reversed. Unfortunately this mostly meant people were starting to bonk. Mile 11 was still hemorraging precious seconds at 6:58. Finally I caught a bit of a second wind, but as soon as I did, the course really started winding through the Park Circle and Noisette areas. There were a few off road areas, and (gasp) maybe even an incline. Finally hit mile 12 at 1:23 something. I then threw down the hardest mile I could muster, which wasnt that impressive since I was sucking wind like no tomorrow and begging for the mercy of my own death. I started sprinting almost a quarter mile out. Evil Robo called out a 1:29:40ish at 13 miles, and even though I was pulling sub 6 pace at this point, I knew the sub 130 wasnt going to happen. Saw the 1:29’s disappear on the clock and hit the line at 1:30:27 (1:30:22 chip).  So close but so far away. Tough to lay it all out for an hour and a half and come up 22 seconds short, but this was still a big PR (by 1:18). Also felt better realizing I was 61st out of over 2000 half runners. I was also glad to have half-bonked and then recovered. The Team Schmitz approved GU every 5 miles worked so well at JAX, so I dont know why I slacked on this plan. Moving 195 pounds quickly through space burns a lot of energy. Go figure.

Greg rocked a 1:29 and punched his ticket to NYC – awesome. Thunder Dan blasted out a 1:28. Karen PR’d after Pring Jacksonville last month, finishing in 2:04 with Sweet T at her side.  Brian Purvis was crazy and ran the full less than 30 days after JAX and finished in 3:32 – an awesome time for the conditions. Drew Walker said he had a good race and finished in 3:52. Oh, and Anton crushed what he termed “a relaxed 1:22”,  18th overall and 2nd master. I think he was hoping for a sub 1:20 but there was no one there to push him, and no one to protect against the wind.

Resolution Run 10k (trail) – Sesqui State Park – Columbia, SC – 1/7/12

The Resolution Run is a trail 10k at Sesqui State Park, one of two trail races  Ginger Belka puts on to support her RNE cross country and track teams.  The Run Wild 5k in August is the other.  I’ve run the race all 3 years in its existence, as I live a mile away from the park and train on the trails there fairly often.

For whatever reason though, my “resolution” at this race has usually been to really, really suck. In 2010, I started out too fast and followed that up with a near epic face plant on one of the declines about a mile and a half in. I somehow didnt actually fall, but the trip essentially knocked the wind out of me and somehow forced my shoe almost off my foot. I had to literally sit down , readjust and retie my shoe, and try to keep going.  Schmitz was right behind me at the time of the disaster, and I tried in vain to track him down,  finishing a few seconds behind the  Crazy Legs in just under 49 minutes. Last year Greg and I had our standard epic battle, except we both went out too damn fast again and died in the middle. Somehow I was able to regain some momentum in that race and speed up again, but I still finished well over 45 minutes.

I did not have the best week leading up to the race. Larry and Frank led our significantly slower Longcreek group on a crazy low 7 pace 10 miler on Monday, and I tacked on another 5 miles to that. Add on another 6.2 the next day and my foot felt a little tight.  The slightest thought of plantar fasciitis sends me into a panic, so I shut it down completely the last 3 days to make sure this didnt recur.  I felt it necessary in those 3 days to make sure the newly opened world of beer did not go out of business.

Got there about an hour early. Code was already there of course, except he  sounded like he smoked a pack of marlboros, some cold he claimed he had. Highly questionable.  Much bigger crowd this year, probably because of the race’s inclusion on the Palmetto Grand Prix and Tour de Columbia.  Freight Train showed up with the same shirt so we were the worlds biggest distance running twins. Did 2 miles with the Code, Meg, Billy, and Spencer. Foot felt good.  It should be noted I left my trademark blue shoes at home, opting for my red trail adizeros. Probably a big mistake, since their last appearance helped me blast my slowest 5k in over a year this summer.

I’m very familiar with this course. Its nice going out for a leisurely easy run but pretty tough to race. A loop that starts and ends at the first parking area at Sesqui.  The 1st and 6th miles are on the wide open firebreak trail but the middle 4 miles are all twisting and turning single track.

At the start I lined up 2nd row and apparently abandoned all strategy immediately with the thought I could hang on with Meg , Billy or Geary. Not happening. First mile is mostly on the firebreak and I kept most of the field in sight up to the point where we entered the forest.  Volunteer was shouting out times near the mile marker and told me a 6:15, which pretty much confirmed the fact that I was a dead man.  If the time didnt tell me then my lungs certainly were relaying the message.  Whats worse is a gap formed with me completely in no mans land. I could see one guy ahead of me and couldnt hear anyone behind me, so I basically felt like I was dead last. My pace started dropping off and there wasnt a whole lot I could do about it. Turns out that muscles need oxygen, go figure. I did manage to avoid wiping out on the decline in the middle of mile 2. The time guy at mile 2 told me 13:50 something, so I was hemorrhaging pace big time – over a minute slower (7:30ish per garmin).  The rest of the forest is honestly pretty much a blur. Did my best not to fall. I did pass the one guy ahead of me, but some other dude returned the favor. I saw Geary once and realized he was probably almost a quarter mile ahead 3 miles in. The trail doubles back quite a bit and I could start to see the rest of the pack ready to catch me. Spencer, from my mud run team in 2010, was definitely tracking me down.  Mile 4 bottomed me out with an 8:04. Um, didn’t I  just run a 7:39 pace marathon 3 weeks ago? WTH?  Finally reached the top of the hill after mile 4 and was able to pick up some pace on mile 5.  I was able to reconnect visually with the dude that passed me, though he kept maintaining the gap. Lots of suffering going on by this point, and I was just trying to distract myself from the death march in progress. Pretty sure Scarlet Johannsen and beer, possibly both at the same time, were involved at one point.

Finally, mercifully, the trail opened back onto the firebreak. I could make out a tall guy in the distance and tried to track him down. Unfortunately some very enthusiastic volunteers gave away my stealth move and I think he pushed it a bit more.  Got pretty close to him at one point, but the final stretch is a virtual beach and every bit of momentum was getting sucked away by the sand.  Checked my watch at just over 44 minutes, and then mustered a weak kick to break 45, crossing the line in 44:52.  JB was there at the finish line, and congratulated me with something along the lines of “why did you suck so bad?”.  Must be those damn red shoes.  The time was actually better than 2011, though I think there was less absolute torture involved in that effort. Turns out, of course, that tall guy (44:38) finished 3rd in my age group.  Fan-freakingtastic.

Omar Sharif (36:26) was a beast in this race and took down OJ, who won the last 2 resolution runs. Aubrey Johnson and Ricky Deshaw  also broke  40, Angel finished 40 on the nose and got 1st in my AG. JB and the Code pulled sub 41s. Megan took 1st female by about 4 minutes. She finished in a pack with Ken Sekley and Billy Tisdale. Geary finished a minute later, just over 42 minutes, about where I thought I’d be. Other age group winners included Freight Train, Mrs Diesel, JC, Laura, Ted, Rocky, Valerie Selby. Essentially everybody but me. The Brandenburgs took both masters titles and 100 bucks for their work.

2011 comparison:


Photos are mine and the Diesel’s.

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Cold Winter’s Day 5k – Columbia,SC – 12/31/11

Cold Winters Day is the year end 5k put on by Strictly Running, a companion race to their Hot Summer Night race in August.  I guess because its a race “for runners by runners” that it brings out some hardcore competetion. The prize money probably helps too. I always think of this race as a benchmark for my racing, since its the last race of the year and was my first 5k in Columbia back in December 2008.  I PR’d in that race with a 23:59 (my 4th race ever and first in over a year after my shin splint nightmare of ’08)  and about died in the process. I saw a turn in the distance and kicked it in hard, thinking it was the finish line. Turns out it was the last turn…about  three quarters of a mile from the finish line though. So handsome:

The second time in 2009 I was out to break 20 minutes, went out fast, and again died, finishing in 20:53. Watch out ladies:

Part three was last year, still in the wake of Richmond and in driving sleet. I was less than happy with the time (19:47) but glad to vindicate the ugly finishes of the last two years. Thug life:

Which brings us to race #4, this year.  My legs are still a bit flat from JAX, but I felt I could at least beat the 19:47 and hopefully go sub 19:30. Temps were crazy warm, low 60’s at 10 am. No need for my thug hat this year. Everybody and their mom decided to run this race – place was packed. Packed and stacked, actually, like a proverbial all-star game for distance running in SC. Beasts in every direction. Some guys in singlets that looked like they might suit up in London this summer.

I should mention this course is billed by Selwyn as “flat and fast”.  This is perhaps the most delusional statement I’ve ever heard, and in my line of work, thats saying something. There is a bridge over a dam that is flat for a few tenths of a mile. The rest is constantly rolling hills. The start has a nasty quarter mile incline which sucks the life out of you, and then the roller coaster begins. There is a nice screaming downhill finish though, which would help you kick, if you happen to have any life in your lower extremities or anything resembling the efficient exchange of oxygen for CO2.

I lined up at least 4-5 rows back in an attempt not to get run over by the sub 17 crowd at the front. There was a start mat, which made this OK.  New bibs with a disposable chip on the back were being used instead of the usual plastic shoe chips. The start was insane. Very herd of cattle-esque. Did some dodging and almost got run over by some overzealous dude who im sure finished like 5 minutes behind me. But hey, lets all sprint from the start like a pack of first graders. The first stretch is uphill on Trenholm Rd and I was trying my best to keep up with Tigs and Greg. Billy Tisdale had already gapped me by probably 15 sec a quarter of a mile in.  Suddenly Tigs slowed and she said she was already feeling bad. The most of the next half mile is downhill, and I tried my best to power down it.  You’d think the potential energy of my 195 pound Sasquatch self would be significant, like an 18 wheeler among a bunch of Corollas, but whatever Im doing on the downgrades isnt quite being transmitted into speed. Its probably all the head flopping and arm flailing. I was able to make up some ground on the ensuing uphill and had the feeling like I was pushing an almost 6 flat mile.  But, when I looked for the mile clock it was already at 6:09, and I didnt cross the marker until 6:26. This pretty much started my usual siege of thoughts of wanting to drop out in the first mile if everything isnt going my way. It didnt help that Greg and Billy were absolutely, positively kicking my ass.  Another downhill in mile 2, and I decided to attack it, incorporating some race whispering that Geary had given me about the declines. He’s had plenty of chance to observe my form since he’s always either right in front or back of me. After a flat stretch over the dam comes the most brutal hill, a long slow quarter mile slog.  Derek Gomez, who is back from tri season, comes blowing past like he’d missed the start. Geary apparently also got tired of observing my headless chicken form and also passed me at the bottom of the hill.  I just latched on Geary and Derek and tried to keep up. I finally figured out that the other guy drafting on me was Will Brumbach, who doesnt race that much but is always right around the same 5k time. Having someone to pace against seemed to settle my earlier negative nancy grumblings and settled my breathing a little. I apparently zoned out because I was startled by the 2 mile clock that was at 12:20ish. Hold the phone.  Garmin spit back a 6:00 split and confirmed the half-delirious math I was trying to do in my head. So my race wasnt completely in the can. With a mile to go I tried to ramp up the pace some, but the lungs and legs were not really having it. I had a little bit of a lift though when I reached my 2008 faux finish and knew it was straight to the end. I had made up some ground on Greg, and basically a pack had formed with him, Geary, Billy, Derek…and wait a second. Is that the freaking Code?? Was this was my chance to outkick the man responsible for taking away my precious TDC agre group title?? Just when I was in striking distance, the “E” light comes on my gas tank.  Engine was starting to fail. Just no kick left this time. Plus the Code seemed to sense the aura of the blue shoes, or could perhaps hear the sound of my footsteps, reminiscent of the zombie apocalypse.  Whatever the case the whole pack finished ahead of me, and some random joker blue shoed me in the final 50 meters. Ouch. A taste of my own medicine. Crossed in 19:25 or something. Not a bad time for me. I knew I would be nowhere in the same zip code of an age group placement. It was a 20 second course record for me.  Greg is learning well from his Jedi master Anton and crushed a 30 second PR. That is just insane. Most of us are just chipping away at seconds by the time you get sub 20. The Bodourov method is strong with this one.

There was a problem with the bib chips, so a lot of us, including myself, didnt initially get times. They do have some results up now – I got a 19:28 officially, though this is probably a gun time.  Tenacious J and J-Reeves had some of the most impressive individual times, both crushing big PR’s. The womens race was crazy close, with Amy, Kathryn Ashton, Sunday Davis and Christina Sliepka all finishing within 3 seconds. The top 56 went sub 20. Absolutely nuts. I finished 18th last year with a 19:47, my faster time this year finished 51st.

Best part of the race – nice tech tee, color…royal blue. Love it.  (Hit the button by mistake after my cooldown)