The Earth Fair 8k has actually been around for several years but this is one of the last races in Columbia I’ve never done. Its always conflicted with another race in the past, but this year it is the only TDC event this weekend. I had considered trophy hunting in Camden since the Clinic Classic is usually small and has little competition, but apparently Trophy himself had the same idea and beat me to it. Alas, Ryan Plexico showed up and stole his golden opportunity for an overall win. And for that, we thank you Ryan. The last thing I want to hear is Trophy blabbing about his second win. To add insult to injury, they only went one deep in the overall (there were only 20 some odd people in the 10k) and gave him an age group award instead…to Tyler MCGOHO. Be sure to remind him of that next time you see him. The Moe’s burrito dash probably took some people away from Earth Fair, so it was still a small race this year. People kept telling me to go run Moe’s given my ability to wolf down food even faster than my 5k running, but when you offer 7000 total dollars in prize money to the overall winners, youll probably get more than soccer moms as competition.
The Earth Fair is held at Saluda Shoals Park, home of the Silver Fox trot, Sleigh Bell Trot and the Dam Run 10k finish. As I was told, the 8k shares basically the entire silver fox 5k course and then adds an extra 3k. Rick Gibbons, who had done the race before, guided myself, Code, and Geary on a tour of the last mile, which later proved to be critical. The course is one of the coolest trail races I’ve seen – a total mix of hills, flats, bridges, paved areas, and ditches. Course was very well marked and even had all the roots painted in neon orange. Very nice. Of note, the course has the silver fox hill just after mile 1 – a muddy mountain that is difficult not to walk at times. Just brutal. The rest of the course is rolling, never gets too bad, but has lots of twists and turns.
Humid but still fairly cool at race time. Crowd is pretty small, with only a few familiar faces. Rocky, Rick, Barefoot John, Geary, Code, Ken Sekley, Team Outlaw + Gizmo, and David He are the only ones I know. I honestly never gave a thought about placing in the overall, but there’s a slim possibility with this group. I’d give myself a chance with a road race, but I generally suck pretty bad on trails. Like really bad. Usually the best trail runners are these small, rail thin people that can dart back and forth on tight switchbacks. Gorillas like myself require some momentum to get going.
With the gun start, no one jumps out ahead so I find myself leading in the first quarter mile. Finally David He catches up and passes me, and I fully expect him to take this race. After the 5:25 mile the night before, the 640ish pace seems pretty nice. Code catches up at about a half mile in a clearing and I run with him for a little bit. We are both wondering when the muddy mountain is coming. Code then complains about going so slow and breaks ahead. Soon another guy comes up and passes me and is really laying on the gas. Sekley also pulls up just ahead of me. Mile 1 in 6:47. Finally I see it. The mountain – mercifully short but its got to be close to 10 percent grade. Mr. Surge is slowed to a near walk. I power up the hill and it takes me most of the next quarter to stop gasping. David has gapped the field by about 10-20 meters and Code, Sekley and I are running in single file. Suddenly David just blows right through a turn and keeps going down a hill. I scream at him to turn around and Code yells at him too, but he’s got earbuds in and cant hear a thing. As the three of us pull into the forest again, David is WAY off in the distance off course. Here Code realizes he’s now in first and starts pushing the pace. I have no confidence in my trail endurance, so I let him go a little, but Sekley follows him. The next mile I fall off the back of their two person pack, and I start to worry about Geary lurking behind me, but I dont look back. Geary breathes like an industrial machine, so I figure I’ll hear him coming. Sekley is probably having the same thought about me, except you can replace the machine with a rabid grizzly. I’m not exactly stealth with me blasting through every turn like a slalom course. At about the 4k point I’ve reeled Sekley back in and he’s now just a few paces ahead. I can see Code but only in the clearings and some of the longer straightaways. A few times I consider passing Ken but he’s holding a pretty good pace. I decide to lurk just behind him. He’s probably going to have nightmares about being chased through the woods tonight, because the next 2.5 miles I’m right behind him. Code starts fading a bit in the last 2 miles but we’ve let him gap us too much. Finally Sekley and I reach the course that’s familiar to me from Rick’s warmup. I’m sucking a lot of wind by now, but Ken has backed off a little on the pace. I suddenly recognize the last woods segment before the open field to the finish, and I kick it in hard. I pass Ken and can feel him just behind me. I then enter a whole new world of pain as I blast it way past the redline. Form starts going into headless chicken mode, but apparently I’m willing to risk cardiac arrest not to get passed back. I hit the line at just over 34 minutes. 2nd overall. I hand over my bib strip and basically sprawl out on the ground like a 200 pound baby. Apparently restraint is not one of my personal strengths. I’m happy with the time and placement, and I always love a good battle with a blue shoe kick.
I dont know when or where the results will be – this race is old school with snail mail entry, no chips and using the old Columbia Running Club clock. All of the regulars scored age group wins. Code scored his second overall win. David even came back and beat most of the field, even if he did practically run a 10k. Although I am biased given my performance, this was one of my favorite trail races. Course was really cool and well marked, despite David’s zone out. Nice volunteers and timely awards, despite the old bib tag and ring method.