Run Wild 5k – Sesqui State Park – Columbia,SC – 8/25/12

The Run Wild 5k is now in its 11th year, one of the oldest trail races in the area and held at Sesqui State Park. The race goes to benefit Richland Northeast track and cross country, and is directed by coach Ginger Belka. It is unique as the open 5k race is followed by a regular high school cross country meet running the same course.

Although Sesqui is almost in my backyard, and I train there all the time, it is like a curse for me to race. Ginger’s other race in Sesqui, the post new years Resolution 10k, has produced some of my most prodigious suckage. I fell and had the wind knocked out of me one year, and the following two years I just bonked out and slogged out some serious slowness. My only moment of glory in Sesqui was in 2010, where I blue shoed an injured JB in route to a 19:40. This was the old finish line, which I think made the course a tad short though. In 2011 there had been a dry spell, turning the sandhills of Sesqui into a total beach. I was nursing a piriformis injury, but basically just fell apart and recorded one of my slowest 5ks in the past couple of years.

This year I was pretty close to 100 percent, though with marathon training in full gear, my legs start to feel a little dead with the ramped up mileage.  Plus i had the specter of a 20 miler looming the next morning. I got to the race site about45 min ahead of time. Although there was a decent crowd, there were few of the regulars that share my obsessive racing addiction. The Code has gone back into hiding (perhaps after being shamed at the Eagle 5k?) and I new Angel was probably headed back up to York to do the 10k he does there. That would normally mean a wide open age group for yours truly, but Derek Gomez is winding down his tri season and said he was turning out for this one. Gomez used to be in the same ballpark as myself, if slightly faster, though apparently he has turned into a total beast in the past year with all the tri training. Ive seen him go way sub 19 in most of the tri’s, which still eludes me on a certified course. I figured maybe I could keep him in sight in this one.

Other than Gomez,  Team Vowles, Team Holt, James Hicks, J-Reeves, Dina, Alex P, Rocky, the Hartleys and Sarah B were on hand. Met Travis Cowan, who Ive seen at a few races and ran the Resolution preview run ages ago. I think that run was the first time I recall seeing mr rainbow tights himself,  Ramsey Makhuli.

Ran a warm up mile from the finish line backwards on the course, so I could mark where to throw down the blue shoe kick.  I could already feel the Sesqui curse kicking in. Legs felt like lead, despite the unbelievably cool temps (mid 60’s).

The course is well known to me: about 100 meters of open field, bottlenecking into a quarter mile of tight trail, followed by wide open firebreak trail until mile 2. Mile 3 is almost all single track  until you break into a quarter mile finish of open field and trail beside the lake.

The start to this race is pretty close to a sprint. Basically everyone blasting away to try and avoid getting hung up in the bottleneck of the access path to the firebreak trail. I got a little behind, so I spent most of the access path jockeying for position and trying to dodge everyone that decided going into oxygen debt in the first 100 meters was a good race strategy. Apparently a lot of Usain Bolt fans in this race. I finally reached the firebreak, which just absolutely sucks for the first mile. Its not steep, but just relentless climb. Thankfully the sand was slightly less beach like this year, but not packed down like the year of the 19:40. I remember passing Bri Hartley, an 11 year old that is already near elite status at that age.  I looked ahead and could barely see Gomez, who had left me for dead immediately. The crowd cleared out with all the fast guys forming a small group way ahead, and the rest of us mortals in a huge pack behind. Heading up the slow pack was a teenage kid and myself. I hit the first mile at 6:27, which is not too bad for the uphill and soft trail. I was laboring harder than I like, but then again, I was fighting the curse. The next mile rolls a little but flattens out quite a bit. The kid has decided to make this a total pissing match, a generational war.  Challenge accepted.

I can tell the kid is hurting a bit but he has decided that the shame of getting beat by the albino Sasquatch is too much to bear. He surges at times but I stick to him like glue. He keeps looking back and boxing me out at every turn, probably wondering who let this rabid bear out of the zoo. Of course all this boxing out stuff is fueling the dark side of the blue shoes. What does suck though is that Im not exactly on cruise control either. Getting the momentum of every step sucked up by sand isnt exactly motivational. They say anger can be a motivator , but so is fear. Fear comes in many forms, but none is quite so frightening as the prospect of being chicked by an 11 year old. I start to hear some cheers for Bri uncomfortably close behind me. I dont dare look back , but I start getting paranoid that maybe she’s just drafting in my considerable wake, biding her time to shame me.  We near the mile 2 marker, which the volunteer calls out at 13 flat, and then kid does a mini surge to cut me off just as we enter the single track.  By this time I’m hurting pretty bad, but I know the end is coming soon. I attempt to pull a pass a few times, but kid is looking back and matching my every move. The trail is just too tight to try and go rogue into the woods to jump in front. Plus, Im not about to waste energy at this point. We pass the half-mile to the finish point that I had marked from my warm up. I can only imagine the visual of  this teenager with a beast breathing down his neck.  One of the volunteers knows the kid and says to kick it in, “your parents are right up ahead!”.  This apparently spikes some adrenaline and kid blasts ahead into the clearing for the last quarter mile, basically starting to sprint. I’m pretty wiped out,  but I am not about to get blue shoed here. Plus, the ghost of Bri was still haunting me.  So I throw down….hard. Someone shouts we can break 20, so I tell kid to let’s get it. But apparently his objective #1 is to beat this damn old man on his back.  So, I enter a new world of pain as I pull a Spinal Tap and turn it up to 11.  And kid is still hanging on …until he starts suddenly puking his guts out.  He pulls off to the side, and I should be feeling pangs of guilt for the kid embarrassing himself in front of his family and the crowd in the finishing stretch. But the dark side has taken over, and all I can think is VICTORY IS MINE. Apparently I am an evil person.  I still have 50 meters to go, and unfortunately I can see 20 minutes is going to be just out of reach. I manage to burn whatever fumes i have left to cross the line in 20:11, 12th overall, 2nd in AG. Evidently, the kick was absolutely necessary, because as soon as I look up from my gasping, here comes Bri at 20:25, winning first female.  Nothing like the pride of beating two middle schoolers. Way to go , Blue Shoes.

OJ Striggles won in an impressive 16:45, while John Charlton placed third (first masters), followed by Eddie Vergara, George “Amplified Athletics” Simpson and Gomez. Gomez ran an 18:25, so dude could probably break 18 on a road course now.  He and Yerger are now completely out of my league, I guess.  Another small group finished in the 18:40’s, but they are the last people before me, explaining why I couldn’t see anybody ahead in the last mile and a half. Sarah Blackwell had an impressive 2nd place showing. Other age groupers include both of the Vowles, Jennifer Reeves, Travis Cowan,  Cheryl Outlaw, the Holts and Rocky.

Eagle 5k – North, SC – 8/11/12

Photo courtesy of John Sneed


The Eagle 5k is a race put on by fellow runner and age groupers Eric McMichael and Angel Manuel of the Palmetto Runners, now in its third year.  Its held in Eric’s hometown of North, SC, where I had previously never been until last year’s race. They decided to move it to an evening start in 2012, so I had a chance to double dip with the Silver Fox Trot 5k in Irmo in the morning.

Double dipping is always tough, but this one was going to be particularly brutal, given the abuse the Silver Fox inflicts on your legs. Not to mention its August in South Carolina, and I had that nasty 16 miler scheduled on Sunday morning with the Longcreek training group (target: Richmond marathon, part II) . Thankfully, it was downright chilly for Columbia, with the high topping out around 85.

I carpooled the 50 minute or so drive with the Code, who had also done the Silver Fox. Dude runs one race the last four months and then decides to do two in one day. Such is the enigma of the Code. Actually, Geary and “Lightning” Plexico also doubled up – proving I am not alone in being obsessive.

It was drizzling when we got to the race site and my legs felt like complete crap. Did a mile warmup, but not really feeling it. North is a tiny town, not much there outside of a few stores and a railroad stop. But one thing for sure, it is beautifully, gloriously flat. No hills to be found anywhere, which is just what I needed after slogging through the mountain of mud in Saluda Shoals.

The Eagle got on the Palmetto Grand Prix, so although the race turnout was small, it was heavily weighted towards some pretty competitive runners. Unlike my Tour de Columbia, which definitely gives the edge toward quantity over quality, you actually have to be fast to win the PGP.  No age groups, just open, masters and grand masters. I”m 37, so still competing against all the young bucks. My 2nd in AG on the Tour last year earned me all of 81st place on the PGP in 2011.  Stellar.

Anyway, masters/grandmasters all stars like Billy Tisdale , Howie Phan, Geary, Lynn Grimes, John and Nancee Sneed, Arnold Floyd and Lorikay Kienzle were in attendance.  There was a rare Jordan Lybrand appearance, along with Jennifer. OJ Striggles showed up to avoid Plex running away with the win, while Eddie Vergara and Jim Coombes combined to make sure I’d have a hard time cracking the top 10 in this field, despite there only being about 40 people.

After Angel said a prayer we were led to the start, where I was already cursing my decision to race again.  Legs still felt dead.  The start felt quick, and I felt like I was getting left behind immediately. Somehow though, my legs remembered the race pace from the morning and actually felt better than the 10 min pace jog I had been doing beforehand. A quarter mile in and the Code is MIA, kept wondering when he would make an appearance. I did see Billy and Howie up ahead, so I focused in on them, knowing their 5k times to be very similar to mine. Jordan was also running with them just a few steps ahead. I slowly joined up with them at about the mile mark,  which I remember was right past the most vocal race supporter in North, who was out there again in her yard. 6:09 split, which was surprisingly fast given the first quarter was like breaking my legs out of cinder blocks.

Starting to hurt a little, but not too bad. Focused on staying with the mini pack we had going . Jordan started gapping us, but I was afraid to go after him too much, given I had no idea what he’s capable of running or of what I was able to do on the beat up legs. We turned a corner and all of a sudden Howie and Billy faded behind me and it was just me trying to keep up with Jordan, who had put a good 20 meters on us.  With all the tactical running, I realized at mile 2 that the pace had slowed quite a bit to 6:27. And where was Code? I started trying to push it, but it was around this time the legs started to protest in earnest.  Still, the adrenaline was flowing, so I tried my best to pick it up.  I feel like I’m slowly making some headway on Jordan, but then at about 2.5 miles, this car pulls out from a side street and slowly turns literally right into me. I somehow manage to sidestep actually getting hit, and feel obligated to divert some precious oxygen to uttering a few breathless F-bombs in her general direction. Perhaps a middle finger, I was half delirious.  Luckily the jolt of adrenaline of nearly getting run over is roughly equivalent to the energy spent in getting out of the way, so we’ll call it a wash. I made a few more turns and finally found the last straightaway, which felt like forever. I thought I saw 18’s but wasnt sure. I could tell that Jordan wasnt going to get caught, despite the desperate, weak blue shoe kick I was trying to throw down. Finally made out the low 19’s as I neared the last block and finished in 19:35, 7th overall, 1st in 30-39. Last mile ended up being almost identical to the first, around 6:09. Garmin had the course a little over, though it is certified. I’m pretty happy with the result on tired legs. A victory over Code is always sweet as well. He basically bailed into a tempo after he couldnt deal with the overwhelming shame of getting blue shoed, finished in 22 something.  I finally met my brother’s friend James Hicks, who ended up taking third in our AG. He also did Silver Fox, so lots of double dipping going on.

Awesome trophies for first in AG, and eagle dog tags for 2nd and 3rd. Small crowd of 40 for the race (probably not helped by the rain all day), but it meant almost everyone got some age group glory and PGP points.  Nicely organized by Angel and Eric, and hopefully this race will continue to grow.    (accidently hit the start on the walk back to the awards area)


Silver Fox Trot 5k – Saluda Shoals Park – Irmo, SC – 8/11/12

The Silver Fox Trot is a trail 5k held at Saluda Shoals Park in Irmo, with proceeds going to support the cross country team at Dutch Fork High School.  “Lightning” Plexico says this race used to be held elsewhere in Irmo way back in the olden days of his youth, but this is the 4th year of the event at Saluda Shoals.

This is definitely a tough course, and from my experience (I ran the 2009 and 2010 races) you can pretty much tack on 2 extra minutes to your road 5k to get an estimate for this race.  Lots of twists and turns, ditches, mud…and one brief but brutal mountain of pain.  We’ve had a good bit of rain over the last couple of days, so this was going to make the course even more difficult.

Angel and Eric have their Eagle 5k down in North later in the day, so I was double dipping this year, which I figured would also help me prepare for the Blue Ridge Relay coming up in September. But make no mistake, there is no way I could do either race easy or as a tempo. I pin that bib to my shirt, and its on like Donkey Kong.

I got to the race about 45 minutes ahead of time. There were already a ton of people there, most of whom were high school kids. I noticed when I signed up that there were 73 adults and 70 seventeen and under registrants, so I figured there might be a teenage mob scene at the start (there was).  Code was already there – he said the shirt was pretty nice, tech instead of cotton. Unfortunately this race never has extra shirts, so if you sign up late you’re pretty much SOL. Plus, they have shirt nazi that guards these shirts with her life. I asked to get one after the race and I got a look of thousand-sun burning hate.

Did a brief warmup with the Code, Geary, Ted and Lightning. Felt like death due to ramping up the miles recently for marathon training and not doing any speedwork in the last couple of weeks.  Not a whole lot of familiar faces, but J-Reeves, Sarah “Battle Scarred” Blackwell,  Crazy Legs,  Bri and Dan Hartley, Amie  Meyer, Pete Poore, Henry Holt and of course Rocky were all there.

At the start, there was a good portion of Dutch Fork’s student body on hand and it felt like the humidity ratcheted up a notch just to make it particularly unpleasant. Actually, the temp wasnt that bad with the clouds overhead. The start was complete madness.  Somehow I got shunted off to the side so I was jumping over long grass and puddles while trying not to flatten the 100 lb high school girls to the left and right of me. And I got boxed in, just when I saw Code find an opening and blast ahead. Damn that Code. The same 100 pounders who were doing sub 6 pace out of the blocks suddenly slowed to almost 8 minutes. I tried to pass one of them, but damned if these girls werent throwing around some skinny elbows. Finally I pulled a Marcus Lattimore and rumbled like Sasquatch through the woods and into the clear. All this wasted energy might of been useful on the mud mountain that suddenly loomed into view. And since the mountain was freshly watered from last night, a total slogfest ensued. The 12 year old in front of me slowed to about a walk, and it took significant restraint not to push off of his shoulder to power up this beast. The good thing about the mountain is that it thinned out the field considerably. At the top I was finally able to choose where I ran on the grass trail instead of being herded like cattle. And it was plenty wet – had to slow almost to a walk at times to navigate some of these areas. Didnt look at the Garmin but apparently I hit mile 1 in 7:12, about a minute slower than my road 5k splits. This is probably why I was able to pick it up some in the second mile, and slowly start picking off people. Apparently Dutch Fork teaches MMA style elbowing because these kids did not take kindly to being passed. To their credit, I wouldnt want to be taken down by a goofy looking 37 year old with a freakishly large head either. More Pitfall-esque areas ensued. One turn was complete slop, and I was tiptoeing like Sasquatch doing ballet, hoping there wasnt anyone taking pictures of this complete and utter lack of grace.  Hit mile 2 in 6:59. Blazing. Next up on the roadkill list was a suspiciously 35-39 year old guy with a red shirt. He was proving difficult to catch – kept speeding up when he heard the lumbering footsteps behind him I guess.  With about a half mile to go I finally surged and passed him.  By this time though, I was sucking some serious wind. The last part of the course is particularly winding, and you can hear the finish, but have no idea where it is. I kept on having finish mirages and uttering soft f-bombs (had to be discrete around the kids, right?)  when each turn unfolded another finish-less stretch of trail.  Caught up with a kid that looked like he should be doing 17 minute 5ks – I think he was just phoning it in, but my insatiable appetite for roadkill knows no bounds. Blue shoed past him at top speed and finally hit the turn that actually contained a finish line. Sadly the next group I was approaching contained the Code, but I ran out of room and he finished about 10 seconds ahead. My finish was about 21:40, 2nd in age group. A tad slower than 2 years ago, but then there was not nearly as much mud or razor elbowed sophomores.  I’m OK with the time given the conditions.

Code took my precious age group crown, while Schmitz and Ted placed in the 40-44. Rocky, Henry, Amie, Valerie Selby, Bri Hartley, Sarah, Plex and Pete Poore all placed in their age group. Pretty good CRC representation there.  Sadly, some young punk took down the mighty Lightning.  Ka-chow. Results will hopefully be posted soon. Hope shirt nazi isn’t in charge of this.