The Blythewood Labor Day run is a 5k/10k put on by Blythewood Middle School to benefit their PTO and the local Fallen Heroes memorial. Its the third year of the race, and the second year where they’ve featured almost completely separate 5k and 10k courses.
Last year was my first try at this race, and it was, admittedly, a completely shameless trophy hunt. I had scoped out the race the year before, saw the field of kids and old ladies in the 5k, and went straight for it. This was a classic example of the “undercard maneuver” in trophy hunting strategy. Let all the fast guys battle in the marquee race. I’ll take my chances against the couch-to-5kers.
Last year my strategy nearly hit the jackpot. I was standing on the start line, looking around, seeing no one but myself to beat. Unfortunately for me, Eric Allers showed up last second with Tigs, and promptly smoked me. All was not lost, however, as my second place earned me thirty bucks.
When someone as slow as me starts winning overall placements with cash awards, this usually brings out the sharks the next year. I signed up again for the 5k merely because I have the Blue Ridge Relay coming up on Friday and, well, the 10k course is unadulterated torture. Seriously, I train on that loop all the time. Carowinds could make a ride out of those hills. Masochistic.
But I had no delusions that I would place again this year. However, this is before a game of dueling Labor Day races broke out between this race and Strictly Running’s Labor Day 5 miler. I seemed to be getting emails left and right about these races right up til this weekend.
These marketing tools, while carefully targeted towards most runners, are useless to me. Just tell me which one has all the fast guys, and I’ll take the other one. Ultimately, the trophy hunt and proximity to my house led me to Blythewood again.
I got there about 45 min early and did a solo 2 mile warmup, which soaked me in sweat at 9 min pace. Total steam bath, and almost 80 degrees. Apparently the Columbia summer heard me reveling in the fall like temps of the Run Wild 5k and decided to come back really pissed off. I rehearsed the course in my head: Flat until the one mile mark at the second turn. Downhill on Adams Rd followed by nasty quarter mile uphill starting at a crossroad called “Gurganious rd”. After the hill its pretty much flat to downhill all the way back home. Pretty fast course, though the hill slows you down considerably. Plus, although certified, I remember the Garmin showing it was a touch longer than some other local courses.
As far as the turnout, Anton was back from a long racing hiatus. Rob Yerger was also back for a rare racing appearance after training like a beast with Larry’s A-team. Team Schmitz, Team Allers, the McGrievys, J-Reeves and her daughter Rachel, Bri and Dan Hartley, Rocky, Geary, the Diesels, the Ferlautos, Ken Calcutt, Aaron West, Gasque and Ramsey were all familiar faces. I met a guy named Javier who said it was his first 5k and had read the blog – cool.
My first hint of a successful trophy hunt came when I was taking some pics of the 10k start, which happened 10 minutes before the 5k. While the crowd appeared to be slightly larger, apparently the Strictly race had siphoned off all the elites. Awesome. Unless some rogue kid came out of nowhere, this race was Anton’s and Rob’s. I could only hope there was a similar “Strictly effect” on the 5k.
I knew Eric would be there already, so I harbored no hopes of trophy hunting’s holy grail, the overall win. But sure enough, there were not any other recognizable potential winners in the group. There were a few fit young guys, so some wildcards. But no singlets.
With the start, Eric surged ahead immediately, and a random guy stuck to his hip like glue. Two or three other guys followed just behind, and the whole group took off with a blast. By the first quarter this group had gapped the rest of the field, I guess headed by me, by about 20 meters. I made sure not to panic and just hold a steady pace. Sure enough, one guy fell off the back and I passed him before the second turn. I didnt look at the mile 1 split, but the Garmin shows a surprisingly slow 6:26, because I thought it was faster. The heat and humidity was making it tough for sure. After I crossed the mile mark we plunged downhill and went straight back up. I was able to make up some ground on the second straggler inthe front pack on the hill. I saw Eric finally gap his newfound friend by the top as well. The hill certainly left me sucking wind, but I closed fast and passed the second guy right before the turn on to Langford Rd. We hit the two mile somewhere on Langford right before the turn home onto Trading Post rd. Eric nearly missed the turn and had to be redirected by the volunteers. I yelled at him to keep going straight. No, not really. As I made the turn Eric and his buddy were not too far ahead. I knew it was unlikely I could catch Mr. Allers, but no.2 was hurting by his body language. As I got closer I could hear him making ungodly sounds like he was hacking up a hairball. Oh no, not the second puke in a row. Luckily he wasnt yakking but definitely slowing down. But … hold the phone, ARE THOSE FREAKING FOOTSTEPS?? By this time, I’m hurting pretty bad, but I’ve ramped up the pace to about 6 flat with a half mile to go. But who is catching me? No one blue shoes the Blue Shoes. It sounds like someone really light, most likely a girl. Oh dear God, please tell me its not Bri Hartley. I mean, its only a matter of time before she blue shoes me, but at age 11?
But its not Bri, its that same 14 year old girl that I couldnt catch at Silver Fox. What is it with me and middle schoolers these days? I’m in “Oh hells no” mode, but she is really burning it. We blast past hairball guy and I amp it up into a whole new world of pain and suffering. But its not enough. Girl has decided she’s going to kick some old man ass and there’s not much I can do about it, because the light is on and the tank is on E. We round the turn into the finish area in the school parking lot, and I can’t believe I’m getting smoked by someone born in 1998. But the shame is unavoidable and I cruise into the finish a couple of painful steps behind her in 19:47.
I thank her for a good race and she probably thinks I’m a crazy stalker since I know her name (Hope). But when you are obsessed with race results like I am, sometimes the freak comes out. I later learn that Dan had gotten a bunch of the Dutch Fork runners permission to race unregistered for their workout this morning. So the results just show me finishing 2nd. Awesome , my shame erased for posterity.
I’m all excited about getting my thirty bucks again, when I realize they have cut out cash for all but the overall and masters winners. And, they have even backed down to paper certificates for awards. Seriously, guys? They dont call it paper certificate hunting, now, do they? Oh well, I guess its for a good cause.
Eric of course won the 5k, with Steve Fink finishing third. Bri did actually win overall female, but couldn’t take the check if she wanted to keep her amateur status. Tigs was so gracious to take the check for her, though I guess she won masters anyway. Rachel and Jennifer each won some age group glory, with J-Reeves pulling a “no walker”. Awesome! Rocky, Gasque, Ferlauto, Jennifer and Brady Ward all took home age group glory. Geary won masters. Javier rocked a 27:04, besting my first 5k by a second and winning 3rd in age group. Congrats, man!
In the 10k, some rogue teen “wins” the race then pulls the most obvious bandit move ever by stepping to the side 1 foot before the finish chute. Anton won the legit race but didnt know it until I told him. Anton apparently is a lot happier when he wins. Yerger crushed a sub 40 and finished 2nd, really impressive for that course. Third place was like 6 minutes later, so apparently I could have trophy hunted in the 10k too. Kristin karate chopped her way to the female overall win. Ken, Ramsey, Crazy Legs, Brie McGrievy, and Carol Wallace all collected age group glory as well.
Coming up: Blue Ridge Relay!!