Safe in the City 5k – Columbia, SC – 7/20/12

Safe in the City is the 2012 version of what was known as the Capital City Safe 5k in 2011. Its a race put on by the Columbia Police Department in order to support their foundation. Last year was a surprisingly great race, though it was incredibly hot. Surprising, in that first-time events are always a wild card.  I’ve been to a few disasters before, but this one was really nicely done  in ’11.

This year I was thinking I  would sit it out though. I had a rough week after running an all-out 400 meter and 800 meter at Strictly’s track series, plus one of my cute little disease carriers had given me a cold. A crappy night’s sleep on Thursday, and I was going to be glad to take a rest.  I figured I could satisfy my executive duties in the Columbia Running Club by showing up and taking pictures, and that might actually be fun.  But then I came home from work and a little package was by the front door. The blues. Not just in color, but a pair of the actual adidas adizero adios that started the obsession and gave me my first sub 20 5k on the first try. I was heartbroken the last two years, because adidas changes colors and styles constantly, and the last two adios incarnations were a bright RED. I cant go around wearing RED shoes, can I?? Jeez. So I’ve basically worn all kinds of shoes since then, the only common factor being the color. But this week my heart skipped a beat when i saw the 2012 version was blue again. I was as giddy as a schoolgirl, ordering them immediately and even paying the ridiculous 10 bucks to get them 2-day shipped. So when I saw them on my doorstep, I had to at least break them in, right? I would just walk around in them anyway.

Um, yeaaah. I think that thought lasted about halfway on the ride to the race before I stepped out of my car and registered immediately.  Once a race addict, always a race addict.  I don’t like to complain, but there were some seriously snarky volunteers at the registration table.  She told me it would be 30 dollars, and an extra 25 bucks for a shirt (which was included in the preregistration 25 dollar price). I dont think she liked the look of absolute shock on my face. Needless to say I opted for the registration alone.  Plus, I could clothe a small country with the number of race shirts I already own.

I then went to help our membership chair William hand out our new CRC shirts. And by “help” I mean, stand nearby and flap my gums and not hand out a single shirt. There was a nice showing for this race, ended up being close to 300. Off the top of my head,  Coach Bishop, Plex, Team Schmitz, Rick, Shiela, Ann, Carol, Megan, Jennifers Reeves and Lybrand, Alex P, Team Hewitt, The Diesels + Brady, Team Robertson, Billy Tisdale, Kimi, Kat (watching), The Spratts (also watching) , Team Allers,  Team McGrievy, The Harts, Greta, Ken, Pete P, Mark B, Eric M, and Yerger were there, and I’m sure I’m forgetting some.

The most important factor in changing my mind about not racing, other than the blues, was the weather. Twenty degrees cooler than last year easy.  Still about 80 and humid, but about as good as you’re going to get in late July in Columbia.

So by the 7:45 start I had gone from bystander to standing front and center of a 300 person field. I lined up first row because despite the large crowd, there werent a lot of super fast people. Bishop had this thing won from the get go, and Plex wouldnt be too far behind. I figured everybody else would be way back from them. Billy and Meg were right by my side, so I knew I had 2 good people to guide my pace.

The course is a flat one, right down main street to the capitol building, going around the left side, continuing on main on the back side of the capitol, then a USC loop to capstone and back, and then a couple of turns back to the corner of hampton and main at the Columbia Museum of Art for the finish. I felt pretty strong, so I blasted hard out of the gate.  Billy jumps ahead and Meg starts to surge past but then I speed up to draw even with her. I usually have a tendency to go out a little slow, so I wanted to keep up with Billy and Meg instead of letting them get pretty far ahead in the first mile, which usually happens. The three of us are locked into a mini pack after the first quarter dodging the kids that sprinted out of the gate. And it feels a bit speedy. But I feel like Meg is matching my every move, so I keep up this relentless pace. Finally I pass them both just before the mile marker and my Garmin spits out something that makes me do a double take .

5:51??!!  Ruh roh raggy. This is suicidal pace for me under any conditions but particularly when its over 80 degrees. But apparently my head is both gigantic in both the literal and figurative sense, because I don’t slow down…yet. As we make the turn onto Greene and head back on Sumter that nice breeze we had seems to vanish. It gets real hot, real quick. Whats worse is that I feel completely alone at this point. I can see Yerger and Claudia about 50 meters ahead and can hear no one behind me. But I know the Tisdale and Weis combo cant be too far behind. Unfortunately I have no sense of my pace anymore, and no one to push me.  I near the next turnaround, which coincides with the 2 mile mark. I ‘m desperately afraid of Meg paying me back for passing her at this point last year, especially since I trash talked about it on facebook.  I dont look at my Garmin this time, though later I see I dropped it down about 30 sec (6:22)

Starting to hate life about this point. I was breathing hard, but the heat was the worst. Engine definitely in the red zone.  All of a sudden I can hear someone coming up behind me, and I prepare to get Tisdaled, but its some dude on a skateboard.  I can tell my pace is suffering because Yerger is leaving me for dead. Claudia drops off a little but is still way ahead of me.  We finally round the last turn, and there’s a seemingly endless straightwaway to the finish. I can make out the time in the 18’s but it takes forever to get to the line. I try to throw down a meager kick but I am toast. The only thing keeping me going is a paralyzing fear of getting blue shoed by the two behind me. I see Justin cooling down on the side and I try to follow his form pointers, though I can feel my arms wanting to seize up like a chicken and by enormous melon wanting to tilt back and to the side like Im on a roller coaster from hell. Maybe I am. Finished at 19:34, 8th place overall, 2nd in AG behind Yerger (19:05). I was half delirious after the race, sitting down to take my chip off that didnt exist (the chip was in the bib). Heart rate was like 2000 and just sucking wind like crazy.  Giving “110 percent” apparently is not a problem for me. Tisdale finished in 19:54, Meg in 20:15 and 2nd overall female.

Happy with the time and placement – its 13 seconds faster than last year, though the conditions were far worse then. Justin crushed this race in 15:51 for the win, with Plex in second (16:59). Jen Lybrand,  Kristin Schmitz,  Eric McMichael, Colleen Vowles, Eric allers, Ted Hewitt, William Schmitz, Mark Bailey, Ann Bartow, Howie Phan, Rick Gibbons,  Tigs, Lisa Smarr, Valerie Selby, Alex Ponamarev, Pete Poore, Arnold Floyd, Ken Lowden,  MArgaret and Henry Holt and Rock Soderberg were some of the familiar faces in the age group winners. Little Diesel, aka Brady, also won the 2-10 age group with a police escort to the finish. Awesome. The award ceremony was nice with a photo op with police chief Randy Scott.  Great event again this year!

Oh, and this has got to be the most photographed race of the year – Columbia PD published a ton of pics on their facebook site. Really cool.

Xterra Half Marathon – Harbison State Forest – Columbia,SC – 7/8/12

This is the second year of the Xterra half and 5k at Harbison State Forest. I’ve come to the conclusion that Xterra prides itself on super tough courses, because I about died last year en route to  a 23:40 something 5k last year that I think was still top 10. Although I had no problem with the 5k course in 2011, the half became completely derailed with the leaders missing a turn and people literally coming out of the forest everywhere. I had a couple of friends who had to be “rescued” by a truck as they were still wandering the trails 14+ miles in.

Everyone I talked to about the half, even those that correctly ran the course, said it was beyond brutal. So of course I had the grand idea that I had to run it too. I signed up for the race despite doing no specific training for it and knowing I would probably do a race on the 4th as well. My grandiosity and poor decision making apparently know no bounds. I did take one day off,  so there’s your planning.

As karma payback for making fun of my brother’s lateness, I was running out the door this morning way later than I wanted and got to the race site about a half hour before the race time of 7 am. I knew this was going to be rough , because it was already about 80 degrees with suffocating humidity. I got my race bib and headed to the bathroom, where I was met with a most unpleasant sight. There were two huge lines for both men and women, and I realized they still didnt fix the ridiculous bathroom situation from last year. 300+ runners and exactly one toilet for the guys. Nice. After waiting 10 minutes and essentially going nowhere, and noting the start was eight minutes away..lets just say Harbison State Forest got fertilized.  And dont just blame me, because it was a freaking poopapalooza out there.

I actually didnt see a whole lot of familiar faces – the xterra series draws a lot of out-of-area people and the trail running crowd tends to be different from road racers.  Greta, Sarah B, Ted, Geary, Colleen and Ken Vowles, Jim Lichty, Jen and Brian Clyburn were all there, though half of them were wisely doing the 5k.

My strategy was to try and take it very easy early on in order to save some for the middle of the course, which I had heard was pretty miserable. I had done a 1:44 at the Rudolph’s Rampage half at Harbison in December 2010, so I figured I could at least go sub 2 hours, maybe do something similar to the 1:44 since I was slower 2 years ago.

With the start I didnt have much of a choice, because I got clogged behind a freaking sweaty conga line once we hit the single track. I figured it would be OK, since it would save up some energy for later.  First mile was 8:45, a little slow I thought, but acceptable since I hadnt warmed up at all. Mile 2 was already hitting some pretty technical stuff on the trail and the pace backed down to 9 something, so I tried to pick it up some. This is when I got the first inkling that there was going to be some serious suckage later. Felt about 100 degrees and like I was breathing through a wet washcloth. Whats worse I got double chicked in the matter of 30 seconds. The mental weight of 10 miles to go didnt help things.  Finally hit the first aid station and tried to suck down as much water as I could. I had actually brought my own water bottle, but just over 3 miles in and I had already drained it. As I’ve noted previously, restraint is not my forte. I did manage to keep up with my new closest friends “put the hammer down” shirt guy, tall guy, short tan girl,  and fit masters guy. Everybody’s pace was all over the map, so we kept passing and re-passing each other. I managed to keep up a semblance of a steady run for the next two miles, but I could feel the foundation starting to crack. I did manage to choke down an espresso love GU, right after mile 5, which had already dived back into the nines again. Then we hit some serious hills, so I figured this had to be the “Spider Woman” trail that I had heard so much about. People started walking. Ha ha time to pass them, right? WRONG. Suddenly I can feel a wicked walk of shame coming on myself. And then it happens, and I’m reduced to a soccer mom in the mall on a Tuesday morning. Holy crap, am I really walking again in a race? It was hard enough to take doing it at the Quarry Crusher, but that was a mile and a half of 10 percent grade.  At least no one is passing me. I’m actually catching up to some people with my awesome power walking skills. Who knew I had such a hidden talent for being so slow.  I do try and run all the flats and declines though. This is fine when youre feeling good and lifting your feet in a normal fashion, but I am hitting roots constantly.  I literally almost bust my ass about 30 times, but somehow catch myself without pulling a Sarah Blackwell style wipeout.  I am definitely resetting the Harbison State Forest world record for F bombs, with some other random obscenities thrown in for good measure.  Each near trip sending out an uncontrollable Tourettes style blast.

After enduring some hilly torture for some time, I finally hit a nice little stretch, and I see the sign for the start of the Spider Woman. More F bombs. My previous time goals are going way out the window, and now I’m just thinking of surviving or finishing. In that order. Surviving, because I havent had any water in like 4 miles and I am ready to go Bear Grylls  ( here in a second if I dont get any water. Finally I hit the 2nd aid station just short of 8 miles. I start laying waste to this place, double fisting water and gatorade, total Irish handcuffs. Off comes the shirt, which apparently where all the lost water went, because the thing weighs like 5 pounds.  My mile 8 split is a blazing 13:15. I honestly dont recall the next few miles , as I was half delirious. At some point I become aware that the whole Spider woman thing must be over, because the course starts to get a little more level. This is irritating, because now it means I dont have an excuse to walk.  That doesnt mean I dont use every half percent grade to do it though. Finally I hit another root at about the mile 10 marker and get really pissed and decide I need to run to get this thing over with. I figure I can break 2:15 if I can,as Tenacious J would say,  HTFU. I  run, as in not walk,  the 11th mile at 10:03 which feels makes me feel like I’m freaking Scott Jurek.  I actually start passing people again, first tall guy and then short tan girl, both of whom had long left me in their dust, but now had both caught a case of the walksies. Then I start throwing down at mile 11. That usually means sub 6 pace, but today apparently it means blazing away at 9:30. This is fast enough however, to pass a bunch more people. I hit mile 12 and theres a cluster of completely confusing signs. I head off in one direction and have a painful realization I might be headed off on loop number 2 of this sufferfest. Oh hells no. I turned back around, and sure enough I had gone the wrong way and had given up my position to everyone I passed in the last mile. Just awesome. I start hauling it once I make it back on course and re-pass everybody on our little caravan of pain again. I have no idea where the finish is going to be, because my Garmin hits 13.1 and I dont know where I am. But I have a sense its close though, so I start sprinting. I pass Ken and Colleen Vowles at what turns out to be less than a quarter mile from the finish. They later said they thought I must of gone way off course, but in reality I think they were ahead of me the whole time. I finally reach a familiar clearing and see Ted and Rocky cheering me on, so I jump over a log and kick it to the finish, 2:14:25. 50th place out of 236.

Wow. Just totally spent – walked around in a haze for a good 5 minutes. One might think this is a one and done, but I’m sure this suffering will fade and I’ll be trying again next year. Apparently nothing motivates me more than failing abysmally at something. But next year I’ll bring toilet paper.

Johns Island Cross Country 5k – Johns Island, SC – 7/4/12


Exactly how uncool I am, exhibit A


For the last four years, my family has rented a beach house for a week, the last 3 in Folly Beach. For most sane individuals, they would use the chance to relax on the beach and take it easy. All I could think of is plenty of flat roads to run on and a built in T1 and T2  in the driveway of the beach house. FYI,  open water ocean swims suck way worse than Lake Carolina.

Of course one of the great tragedies of beach week was actually missing a race, the Born in the USA 4 miler , no less. I was originally devastated when I looked for a race down in Charleston and couldnt find one. Lucky for me, 2 races popped up on the Charleston Running Club site a couple of weeks ago, so I felt it my executive duty to represent the original CRC in at least one of them. I was going to do both, but sometimes I actually show an ounce of restraint…sometimes at least.  The Xterra half marathon being this Sunday also may have weighed into my deicsion. My brother Ben and his wife Cindy were with us and we all  agreed to do the Johns Island race on the 4th. It was cool to get to race with Ben again, as it was at beach week last year that he took his first steps back toward running.  He was a cross country/track runner for Dutch Fork in the mid 90’s (PR 16:45!) but had been sidelined the last several years due to back injuries. I paced  the Boys and Girls Club 5k on Thanksgiving with him in a shade over 21 minutes. A few runs with him this week though, and I was more afraid of him just outright kicking my ass.

I had no idea what to expect about this race – it was being put on by the Extra Mile and it was billed as completely flat, and on a cross country style course, at a place called “Trophy Lakes”.  And there was beer afterwards. How perfect is that?

I got there about 45 minutes early, and alone, as my brother has a habit of getting an adrenaline boost from running perpetually late. Actually he showed up only 15 minutes later, so I was impressed. I did about a mile warmup with Ben and had a chance to meet fellow blogger Amy, who I had spoken to online but not actually in person. They call her the “Tiny Terror” and, true to her name, I was literally twice her size.

Temps were of course crazy hot, being South Carolina in July. About 90 and wet blanket humid.

My first indication this race was old school was the lack of chip timing, and if that wasnt verification enough, the director drawing a start line in the trail with a stick may have been another subtle hint.  There were about a hundred people , I guess, at the race. Pretty big I thought for a race that’s kind of out of the way.  The director did the start and said made some joke about having the results posted sometime in the future, which didnt go over real well with me, since it takes like no time to do. After a guy had to move his car off the course, we got started.

Trails are like kryptonite to me as far as racing goes. I love to run them but usually do a lot of sucking in actual competition. I present my yearly Resolution run 10k results as convincing evidence. I had trouble with the start – trying to do 5k race pace with the wet blanket wasnt easy, and a complete lack of knowledge of the course and the other runners was disorienting. We did about a mile loop back near the start and headed out past one of the “trophy” lakes.  I’ve become such a triathlon training freak I forgot to switch my Garmin over to running, so all I was getting from the watch was my speed in miles per hour. It didnt feel particularly fast. At least my shoes were tied though. Right after the mile marker an older guy in a black tank passes me. Although it hurts my fragile ego, it actually helps me pace to have someone to keep up with . A pack of young elite looking dudes and 2 girls had left us in the dust , so I was mostly alone until he brought me back to reality. As I was blindly following this guy, I hear footsteps and fear that Ben is ready to take back the family running crown. Instead its a tall guy (later found out his name is Robert) who I’m deathly afraid might be a fellow age grouper. Although I’m relieved its not Ben, I’m still struggling to find my pace.  Now I’m chasing 2 guys. A girl in a black sports bra has now fallen off the front pack but is way ahead of us. After what seems like forever, I hit the 2 mile mark and can actually see where the rest of the course is going to go.

Time to throw down. I start really pushing the pace, and realize that I must of been going way too easy early on. I return the favor to Robert and black tank and then blast into some headless chicken action. My imaginary bike is going way over 10 miles an hour according to my Garmin. Black bra is way ahead but I’m starting to reel her in. The last stretch is a  flat and straight quarter mile through the dirt parking lot, and I can see the finish line from way out. Like Spinal Tap, I crank it up past 11 mph and start sprinting as hard as I can. Black bra , whom I had already given up to, was now coming into striking distance. Then I hear it from her girlfriends screaming “DONT LET HIM BEAT YOU!!! Ruh roh, someone just poured lighter fluid on the Blue Shoe fire.  Kicked it into yet another gear and Blue Shoed the Black Bra at about 14 mph maybe 20 meters before the finish. A most unchivalrous but glorious kick to finish in 19:49.

And its a good thing, because little did I know Ben was tracking me down until a little after mile 2 by his account. He finished in about 20:20 though started walking before the actual line since he thought the start of the chute was the end.  I took some pics after the race and Amy finished not not long after us.  Cindy is on the comeback after her last pregnancy and was trying to break 35 minutes. We found her at the straightaway at a surprising 29 minutes, and I seabiscuited her to a 30:30 or so finish. She Blue Shoed a girl right before the chute and outkicked her when she tried to re-pass. I was so proud!

Awards were surprisingly quick given the non-chip format. I actually had to do sub 7 pace on the last half mile of my cooldown when I heard them start. I took 1st in AG, and Ben and Amy placed as well. No trophies, but we got a nice pair of running socks, which beats medals in my opinion. They had a keg of Bud Light at the finish which was awesome, even at 9:30 am.

Oh, but still no results 4 days out. Almost perfect.