The Dam Run to Irmo is a 10k that has been around forever, 26 years to be exact. I grew up in Irmo so I remember the race as a kid, long before I ever thought about running. I dont know the whole history of the race, but I believe the course has changed a few times, maybe even the distance? Its been stable the last few years though, as a 10k that starts on the Lexington side of the Lake Murray Dam and ends in Saluda Shoals.
The race is significant to me as my first 10k in 2009. Then I was actually scared of the length of the race, so I ran it conservatively to start, and ended up with a pretty strong finish to set a PR (45:05) that would stand for several months. The next year I had major delusions of grandeur and went out trying to chase down Amy McDonaugh and Meg Weis. I ran a 6:18 first mile and then died a slow, agonizing death over the next 5 miles. Its pretty close to the worst I’ve ever felt in a race, coming just short of my severe case of walksies at the Richmond Marathon in 2010. Did I mention I’m running that race again this year? Yeah, already regretting that decision.
Anyway, the 10k is an evil distance for me. I do well in 5ks and half marathons, but I just cant figure out 6.2 miles. I run 5ks in a ball of fury and pain, and I can settle into a strong tempo pace for a half, but 10ks require a fine balance between the two that creates either epic bonks or slow times. The McMillan calculator, based on my 5k times, suggests I could flirt with a sub 40. I havent even gotten to second base with a sub 41. My PR sits at 41:23, and thats the only time I’ve gone below 42. People I can and have beaten at 5ks just kick my ass in the 10, and I end up looking like this at the finish:
This was at the Dam Run 2010, my own personal trail of tears.
This year, I got to the race about 45 minutes early after about an hour of sorely regretting my decision to order mixed drinks the night before. I may be a nearly 200 pound Irish dude, but apparently I have the tolerance of a freshman sorority girl. Serious rehydration protocol was in effect.
Met up with someone I think I remember racing with at some point in the distant past, name of Trophy McGaha. Diesel was supposed to be there too, but apparently there was an early bird sale at some outlet store because he and the missus were seriously late. Diesel was having to man up and actually race, because he was there without a 7 year old to “pace”.
There is prize money for the top 3 overall in this one, so there was plenty of competition. The Ashtons were there, in addition to the “A” Standard, Mr. Bishop. Tigs was there sans Eric, who apparently hates 10ks and opted out of this one. A kindred spirit. Burgess came out of his racing sabbatical and made a rare appearance. Amy McDonaugh showed up, which I made sure to tell myself not to follow again. Anton was there to help pace her and run a “tempo”. I hate getting my ass kicked my someone doing a tempo, but what are you going to do. Dimery came out of semi-retirement to race as well. Sarah Blackwell, Cheryl Outlaw (minus an injured Gizmo), Drews Soltau and Williams, Billy Tisdale, Sekley, Kenzie, Brad Steele, the Griffins, Lynn Grimes, Frank Eichstaedt, Scott Hicks, J-Reeves, Ponamarev and I’m sure others I’m leaving out all showed up.
Temps were 70’s-ish but pretty humid – far from ideal. The course, as mentioned, starts on the Lexington side of the Dam. On the the Irmo side, the course winds on and off Bush River Rd, throwing in a couple of nasty inclines in an otherwise net downhill point-to-point ending in Saluda Shoals Park.
With the start, I made sure I wasnt going to pull a 2010 bonk, so I held back from my tendency to blast out of the gate. Of course this means having to deal with all the Usain Bolt wannabees crushing sub 5 pace like its a kids fun run. Since the Dam Run is fairly competitive, I was running in a pretty big crowd, plus Trophy was on my back like white on rice. Who knew Saucony Kinvaras sound like an Elephant stampede at Trophy race pace? I was having a hard time figuring out my pace. I had hoped to go 6:30 something but I saw Billy Tisdale ( my 5k doppelganger) WAY ahead of me, so I figured I was going considerably slower. Plus, the high mileage and no speedwork of the previous 2 weeks was making race pace seem pretty rough. The first mile is completely flat and ends a little over halfway over the dam. Sure enough, hit mile 1 in 6:47.
Just maintaining the same pace in the first part of mile 2 finally broke me free from the pack. The downside was now I was completely alone. Completely alone, that is, aside from the dude with the 50 pound kinvaras breathing down my neck. Finally crossed the dam, passing mile 2 in almost an identical split, 6 forty something. Got to the mini loop in a neighborhood just as the leaders were coming back out. Ashton was crushing the pace with the A Standard about 20 meters behind. A kid in a singlet was a close third. You hit the only real hills on this course in the mini loop through a neighborhood in the third mile. News flash: they suck. THey had some decent crowd support out there – people were actually out in chairs in their driveway. I managed to catch up to one more guy on the last hill coming out of the neighborhood, who gave me a “good job” – spoken like he meant another two word phrase starting with F. Trophy was still riding me like Seabiscuit.
The exit back onto Bush River road was a relief because we finally got some downhills. And by we, I mean myself and the lead footed Lady McGaha. I could see Sekley pretty far ahead but we were making some headway. Mile 3 another carbon copy split of 6:45. I tried to put the pedal down a little here, which caused the stampede to grow a little more distant. Still, given the good amount of volunteers and crowd support, I knew there was still someone pretty close behind. Despite trying to speed up, hit mile 4 in another 6:45. Holy metronome Batman. Then came another turn into a neighborhood, which was the site of the wheels coming completely off in 2010. There’s about a half mile stretch in this area that turns directly into the sun, both blinding you and making you feel about 10 degrees hotter.
I’m about halfway through this miserable stretch when I hear what sounds like a yak in heat. Its Trophy. He had some gag thing going on last year and apparently its struck again. I turn around and see Trophy still moving but sounding like my cat hacking up a hairball. Whats worse, Tigs and Burgess are passing him and Tigs screams out DONT LOOK BACK! I’m not sure if this means “dont look back, focus on doing your best to the finish” or “dont look back Im coming to %^$& get you”. Probably a mix of the two, knowing Tigs. Either way, I’m overcome with the fear of getting Tiggered or Burgessed. Burgess would love to pay me back for those Dr Pain 400 meter intervals I’ve put him through, I’m sure. I’d like to say I threw down some ferocious kick here, but it really wasnt happening. Although my effort was getting harder, my legs were giving me diminishing returns. Reached mile 5 just as I began to exit the neighborhood. 6:45 again. Jeez.
The last mile is mostly flat to downhill, so I would have liked to have finished strong, but I was starting to hurt pretty bad at this point. As I enter Saluda Shoals, I hear footsteps. Oh no…for the love of God please dont let me be Trophied. Pretty soon the footsteps are right next to me and I look over. Thank the Lord – some random teenager. I do sneak a little look over my shoulder at one of the turns to decide if going to have to redline it, but there’s no one there. Whew. I attempt a weak kick in the last quarter and finally see the clock in the high 41s. I throw down a half-hearted burst to break my course record by 3 seconds and finish in 42:08. 19th overall, 2nd in age group. Mile 6 was 6:40, last .22 about 6:05 pace.
Not overly thrilled with this result, especially given the downhill course. My PR is 45 seconds faster at the Lexington Race Against Hunger, which is a hillapalooza. Still trying to figure the 10k out.
Ashton crushed the race in 32:07 for first. The unknown kid was actually Chas Culberson, a name I’ve seen in the upstate races a lot, and he managed to catch Justin late. A-Standard was about 10 seconds behind him. Two out of towners (Jameli Sang, Heather Hunt) took the womens race, though Kathryn Ashton placed 3rd. Tigs and Burgess finished only about 20 seconds behind me, a PR for Jeff and AG win for Sarah. Trophy managed to stay on track despite the hairball incident, and scored a PR as well in 42:56. Drew Williams took my age group with 38:32, having just turned 35 in the past month. J-Reeves achieved her first no-walksies 10k, and Cheryl Outlaw got a PR in an epic duel with Pam Griffin at the finish. Other winners included Amy, Anton, Kenzie, Jim Coombes, Amber Todd, Billy, Jeff Allums, and Rocky (even though he was mostly walking with his foot injury).
Turns out they had awesome age group awards but awarded only 1st in each group and had no masters. This is pretty lame for a race of almost 350 people. They continue to have finishers medals for this race – which I guess is nice for those just starting out, but I wonder if it would be better for them to ask at registration if you want one. Of course, did I turn mine down? Not with my ridiculous medal trinket obsession. On the plus side, the tech shirts are way nicer than the cotton ones they used to have