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.