The Fallen Heroes 5k is in its third year, with proceeds to benefit the Wounded Warriors Project. Somehow I had never done the race before, so I decided to run it, despite that my trophy hunting instincts felt the Resurrection Run might be a better opportunity for glory. Turns out this race had almost 500 runners, which is huge for a relatively new race.
Something unique about this race is the course – starts at the USC ROTC building at the corner of Pickens and Wheat, immediately climbs up the side of Mt. Saluda from the Columbia Marathon, does a loop through some area of Shandon that I’ve never seen before, then heads back down the mountain all the way to the finish. I thought this might be a good course for me since I’m a decent hill climber, and the screaming downhill at the end would only add some punch to the blue shoes kick.
I got there about 45 minutes early and did a mile out and back on the shared beginning and end of the course with the Code. The Code was already in depressive mode, having been dealt the ultimate shame of a blue shoes beatdown the week before. He said the shin splints were still acting up and “I might have to walk the downhills”. Right. Code’s grumblings aside, the first part of this course is brutal with a capital B. Unrelenting hill for three quarters of mile. To make things worse..something was going on with my shorts…
Which I finally figured out after 15+ minutes of some not so polite adjusting. Backwards. Nice. The time I made this discovery was exactly 2 minutes from the start, with nowhere to go to do a quick change. Fantastic. That’s what I get from getting up before the crack of dawn and dressing in the dark.
Start was pretty impressive – tons of people came out for this event – though relatively few regular racers, who were split between here, Resurrection and the Newberry race. Angel, Meg, Team Schmitz, Ted, Spence, J-Reeves, Team Lybrand, Barefoot John, Karen, and Eric M were all in attendance. Meg was trying to find a reason not to race – perhaps the fear of the blue shoes??
The start of 5ks are usually insane with everybody sprinting, but this one was actually more controlled, because the view from the bottom of Mt Saluda is pretty sobering. Trying to power up this hill at 5k pace was as much fun as getting punched in the face. At least everybody else seemed to be feeling the pain too. I managed to pass Meg, but I kept noticing this woman ahead of me that was giving me the beatdown despite being dressed in a very casual outfit, like she might fit in with the 35 minute plus crowd. Either way she was leaving me for dead because I was sucking some serious wind by the time I reached the top. Luckily the Code wasnt too far ahead. I could even see Angel and a college kid in some battle royale right behind the pace car. By the time I reached the mile mark, I didnt even look down at my split, because I knew it would be slow.
The next mile I tried to pick up the pace, though I really didnt do so until a quarter mile in with all the hill recovery. I finally started to make some headway on the field, passing a few guys in the loop in Shandon. I got completely turned around and realized I had absolutely no idea where I was going. At one point I thought I was nearing the finishing hill when I made the painful realization I hadnt even got to the mile 2 mark. I guess I got distracted at this time, because all of a sudden I looked up and we were merging back into the oncoming stream of middle and back of the pack runners. I also realized that there appeared to be no one ahead of me anymore. I had a moment of sheer panic but then turned around and saw others following me. My paranoia was heightened by some woman saying I was going the wrong way, which I think she meant as a joke since she was still heading out on the course, but really freaked me out. I figured either I was on the right track or singlehandedly turning the rest of the race into chaos. To make things crazier, the field was so spread out toward the back that I was doing some Marcus Lattimore maneuvers to avoid strollers and walkers. I eventually just ran almost on the curb. I finally found volunteers directing me at a turn, so I guess I was on the right path after all. I had no idea what happened to the Code and the pack ahead of me, but they were nowhere in sight. Hit mile 2 in 6:20 despite all the slowdowns. I didnt know my mile 1 split, but I figured it was time to kick it hard to make up for that initial mountain climb. I finally hit the beginning of the long Saluda downslope, and tried to really blast it. This usually involves a lot of flopping arms and head in my case, since I apparently have limited control of my body on downhills. As I was flying down the hill I heard it…
Either a rogue tornado was approaching in the middle of a sunny spring morning or there was a train coming. Immediately I flashed back to the Fidler 5k , which uses a similar course, and how that race had been plagued by train stops. I knew I was close to the tracks though…maybe it was another railroad, or maybe I could blue shoe it and make it through. A volunteer was at the last turn before the straightaway to the finish. He saw me in full blue shoes kick blasting away and told me “Uh, you dont need to worry about it, there’s a freight in the way”. As I make the turn I see Angel and a few others standing around like its social hour and big tanker cars going by. After dropping some random obscenity I started to sprint, thinking it might be through by the time I get there, but then I realize the train is actually slowing down. So I stride up to the intersection and figure the race is over. After waiting around what seems like forever, the train is almost at a stop when Angel or somebody jumps up and starts climbing through the train. Suddenly the rest of us are up on the tanker cars and jumping off the other side. As soon as I hit the ground I’m sprinting like a freaking maniac, as though I’m still going to have a good time despite sitting around for 45 seconds. I see the clock change over to 20 minutes, and then we all slow down and basically line up in the order we reached the train. Crossed in 20:15, 7th overall.
Then I realize Code isnt even at the finish. WTF? I look back and it looks like a scene from a disaster movie. Streams of people are coming out of every space in the train, which is now stopped. Some people, ahem… Karen, were even going UNDER the train – taking the phrase PR or ER quite literally. Finally someone starts directing runners around the train in some ditch up the road. Code shows up a few minutes later looking like he’s ready to kill someone. Apparently he and a few others got misdirected and ended up almost at Rosewood before turning around. I comforted him by taking a photo of his 22 minute finish and asking him how he could get blue shoed again.
One guy, a club runner at USC, apparently beat the train and finished in 18:02. The rest of the top 10 got held up but basically maintained our finish positions, minus Code and his expedition party. The woman on the hill, who is from Georgia, would have probably crushed a sub 19 and would be a great ringer for any wagering going on. Meg finished 2nd and Jennifer Lybrand finished 3rd overall in the women. Angel finished 3rd in the men. All the overall winners took home giant trophies, so I was extremely jealous. I may keep Angel’s since he had to leave before the awards ceremony. Spence just missed out on the trophy action, finishing 4th. Crazy Legs won his first Masters age group, with Ted taking 2nd. I ended up in 2nd behind a guy I’ve never seen before. Team Holt also both won their age group.