Oh, the Race to Read. Somehow the stars aligned in 2010 for me to achieve the ultimate in trophy hunting – the overall win. Most of the time it pays to be fast, but sometimes it pays to be lucky. I think there were like 4 races going on that day, and RTR was not on the TdC or PGP back then, it was rural, not advertised that much, and basically met all the trophy hunting criteria. Now, I will give myself credit that I ran a PR that day, but my 32 and a half minute winning time was hardly “elite”. This was none more evident the next year, when Plex came out and beat my previous time by like 5 minutes. But hey – a win is a win!
The RTR is now on both the Tour de Columbia and the Palmetto Grand Prix, so that pretty much assured me that I would have no such glory again this year. Before race day, I knew Anton and Justin were doing this race, so unless both simultaneously came down with SARS or got shot in the leg, I would be third at best. Actually, Justin could probably still beat me with a bullet wound.
I got to the race an hour early and was the first one there. I had registered late, so I wanted to be sure I got the custom race socks they were giving out instead of shirts. Seriously, theyre blue – had to get them. After I had procured my precious race socks, all of the Palmetto Grand Prix heavyweights started showing up in droves – Plex, Angel, “A” Standard, Anton, Billy, Geary, John Sneed, Arnold Young. Basically all the beasts of SC running in one place. Oh, and the Code. Code was already bitching and moaning about how he wasnt going to do well, run 35+ minutes, blah diddy blah blah blah, etc. Whatever, dude. Trophy must of been inspired by making my Dam Run a miserable experience, because he showed up again. A consecutive weekend Trophy appearance? Unthinkable. There wasnt a huge turnout of fast women, but Jen Lybrand, Sharon Cole and Colleen Vowles were in attendance. J-Reeves was there to try and set another no-walksies PR. There were 2 other races in downtown Columbia (Bowtie Run and Vista Dash) so attendance was a little sparse. They have a kids run that brings a pretty big crowd, though.
This race has a great course. Basically a squarish loop – 1 mile of mostly flat paved road, then 1.25 miles of steady downhill on a dirt/gravel road, 1.75 miles of rolling hills back on pavement. You then get back for about a mile and a half on fort jackson rd (hwy 12/percival rd in columbia) which has a steep drop followed by a killer incline. The last mile is basically that incline followed by a crazy paved nature trail in front of the elementary school. The nature trail section is interesting, because you cant help but see the people chasing you down as you go through a series of twists and turns. Finish is around the back of the school in the bus loop.
They moved this race from late October to September this year, so it was a lot warmer than the 30-40 degree temps of the last 2 years. Probably low 70’s and a little humid at race time. Betsy Long directs this race, and has done a great job.
Although the race had only 47 in the 5 miler, it was surprisingly crowded in the first quarter mile. About 75 percent of the race would break 10 minute pace, so definitely not too many casual joggers. I focused initially on staying with Code and Billy, but before we were even out of the school parking lot, Trophy latched on my back again. Perhaps he had taken notice of me comparing his stride to an elephant stampede last week, because he was a lot more stealth this time. After a nasty incline right off the bat coming out of the school, the rest of the first mile was almost flat. I was having trouble again with pacing. The 5 mile distance is awkward – a bit 5k balls to the wall with a dash of restraint. As you may know, restraint is hardly my forte. Trophy had no problem with pacing though – follow the GD blue shoes. Rounded the turn onto the gravel road right around the mile marker , 6:36 pace. This is about where I should be, though I was hurting a bit more than I wanted. Perhaps it was the overwhelming psychic pain of the fear of getting Trophied. Trophy tells me it sure sucks when there’s 4 of our age group in the top 10. No doubt.
Code had had enough slumming and quickly dropped both of us, tracking down Tisdale like a rabid bear. He passed Billy and gapped us all pretty bad. Running on the gravel road was a little tricky avoiding the sand and loose rocks, but at least it was downhill. Hit mile 2 just after the turn back onto a paved road, 6:39. I was definitely feeling worse than I should, and Trophy was still latched on like a very large monkey on my back. Finally we hit the first of several ugly hills of the third mile. Although I felt like death, this probably saved me, as the clomping Kinvaras grew a little more distant. Although I could sense that Trophy was fading a bit, I figured Geary or Whitney Keen would gladly take his place on the Blue Shoes hunt, so I knew I had to keep pressing. But the hill was relentless and sucking my will to live. Thankfully I didnt look at the Garmin because I at least had the delusion I was maintaining pace. Nope – 6:52. I had thought the Code had really picked it up, since he had gapped me some more..I guess I hadn’t considered my own suckage in the equation. By the time we reached highway 12 again , and on our way back home, the flat and then downhill felt like heaven. Somehow I had blocked out that nasty climb in mile 3 in my race memory. I watched Tisdale as he made the turn, and damn, he looked back. No stealth blue shoes. Of course I suck at downhills, so I was getting paranoid the whole way down the long decline on the highway. Everything sounded like those damn Kinvaras. Mile 4 in 6:40, though I didnt look. I don’t look at the Garmin splits when I’m already going as fast as I can without dying. Then we hit the mountain. Its actually not that long, but its nasty steep when you’re trying to push to the finish. I made up some ground on Tisdale and Code, but I realized I probably couldn’t catch them. I entered the short nature trail just as the Bodourov comes blasting out in his “tempo” pace. Halfway through the trail I realize that Whitney is way too close for my comfort, so I start kicking early. Oh yeah, it sucked. Trophy wasn’t too far behind him either – yikes. Luckily the last quarter is downhill and flat, and once I see the finish I can pretty much count on adrenaline bringing me home. I still don’t know if Whitney is about to blue shoe me though, so I really push it.
Finished in 32:57, 8th overall and 3rd in age group. Whitney had a major wardrobe malfunction and not only had his shoe come untied, but come completely off his foot. Dude literally finished with just a sock. Now thats dedication. A-Standard took the race in 27 something minutes, which I’m sure he considers embarassingly slow. Plex was second and Eddie Vergara third. Anton “out-tempoed” Angel for 4th and 5th, Code 6th and Tisdale 7th. Whitney and Trophy finished within a minute of me, with Geary just a shade over 34 minutes. Sharon Cole won the women’s race with J-Lybrand just behind in a 5 mile PR for her (36:50). Age groupers included Mark’s son Alex Robertson, Nancy Sneed and Colleen Vowles. Arnold Floyd edged out John Sneed in the battle of 69-year-olds who are in better shape than you.