Race for Life 5k – Finlay Park – Columbia, SC – 10/6/12

The Race for Life is a 5k and 10k associated with the Walk for Life, a huge event that goes to benefit breast cancer awareness and research. This was the second year I participated as a part of “Team Dana” which was to support a friend who is now in her second year since her breast cancer diagnosis (now in remission). My aunt is also a breast cancer survivor, so the race actually means more to me than just another trophy hunt, for once.

Speaking of trophy hunts, I didn’t think this would be a likely candidate for the golden glory. With the walk tacked on, there’s usually a few thousand people involved, so definitely not meeting the “small race, rural setting”  blue shoe TH criteria.  I was doing the undercard 5k though, so at least I had that going for me. The true trophy hunt would have been to go to the Habitat for Humanity 5k/10k/15k and go for one of the undercards there, with the competition spread thin over 3 races. I was bummed these races were on the same day, as I’m a big fan of the Habitat race too, but I wasnt able to find a wormhole in the space-time continuum to do both.

My reasoning for doing the 5k over the 10k was also because of the course. 5k is like a pancake, 10k is like a pancake…with a detour into the blue ridge mountains halfway. See Spot run course territory. Not for the faint of heart.

I got there about 45 minutes early, and saw surprisingly few familiar faces. When youve raced almost every weekend since 2009 , you expect to see people you know, and I didnt see many. I ran a couple miles with Ted for a warmup, didnt feel particularly good, but the weather was pretty nice – 60’s ish. Saw Angel and Eric Mc Michael when I was warming up, Kimi was taking pictures, and that was about it beforehand. The 10k started 15 minutes earlier than the 5k, and I saw Angel, a key barrier to my trophy chances, running that one. Eric was also doing the 10k.

A few minutes later I strolled up to the start line, and was beseiged by terror. Not terror of impending doom or imminent death, but the paralyzing fear that I might have to win this race.  None of the usual studs decided to show up, and it looked like a battle of mere mortals was afoot. It was like me, Ted and Ponamarev…and Bri Hartley.  Adding to my anxiety was that , were I to bonk or otherwise do poorly, I would most likely be chicked by an 11 year old girl.  Seriously – she finished only a few seconds back from me at Run Wild, and its only a matter of time. Just as I was working myself into a fluster, Eddie Vergara made a late entry and shot my winning chances out the window. I dont know whether I was disappointed or relieved to be honest. There was still 2nd or 3rd up for grabs though. Charley from my training group also made a last second appearance.

The start was typical 5k, except perhaps a larger number of people seemingly mistaken they were in a sprint event.  I got passed by about 20 people right out of the gate. Either I had stumbled into an alternate universe where these were the olympic trials, or some of these guys were being a bit overambitious. By a half mile I think I had passed all but 6. But still there were six, five of whom were complete mysteries to me.  Eddie had already left us in the dust. The cool weather was awesome, and after sucking some early wind I was able to hit a comfortable rhythm. I was trying not to get complacent and start off slow like I had in a few recent races. 5:36…5:37. What the hell? There was a guy at the mile marker calling out times, and apparently he was late pushing his stopwatch. I did look down and saw 5 50 something – Garmin later read out 6:10, right where I wante to be.  Of course, all of this didnt process at the time, and I was deathly worried I had just set myself up for a massive bonk.  Right after the mile I passed a guy and focused on a mini pack of three guys. Second place was probably 20 meters ahead of that pack.

The course is a simple loop, and at the apex of the loop is the one nasty hill on the whole course, a lump in the pancake. I powered up the quads of steel and by the top of the hill I was riding on the backs of the three guys.  After a quick turn, there’s a very long straightaway that takes you all the way into the third mile.  After recovering from the hill , I decide to really push it to at least go after 3rd place. As I break free from the pack, I realize I have a new friend. Dude was not taking kindly to the passage and was sticking to me like Trophy and his clomping Kinvaras. The guy, later identified as Jesse, was definitely holding his own and keeping pace.  Strangely I dont feel that bad. Its amazing how much faster you can run without the famously hot Columbia summer sitting on your chest. So I start pushing the pace, and  I dont look at the Garmin split. (actually 6:22 – hill was more of a factor than I thought).  With 3/4 of a mile to the finish I decide I need to give this guy a case of the dropsies and blast into early blue shoe mode. He does fall out of earshot but I can tell by the cheers he isnt too far behind. I’m making some serious ground on no. 2, but he’s gapped me too bad to catch him. The last quarter mile of this race is like jumping off a cliff. You crest a hill and just plunge down into Finlay park. I’m floundering down this hill, all elbows and knees..form going all to hell as I try to stop from rolling down this mountain. I slam on the brakes to make the sharp turn into the grassy area of the park, where the finish is…..OR NOT. All of a sudden I’m in the middle of an open field all alone. Sons of bitches, where’s the finish line??! As soon as I hear the yells, I glance over and see the finish line is outside the park and on the street at the bottom of the hill. I turn around and sprint like a crazed banshee, because I know I’ve lost all momentum, taken a detour, and Jesse probably sees the blood in the water.  Luckily I must have put some distance between us in the last quarter, because I dont hear him, but the adrenaline burst carries me around the turn and to the finish in 19:41. Third place overall, 1st in AG. Jesse finishes 4th in 19:56, thanks me for pushing him. I let him know I probably squeezed an extra 10 seconds or so from the fear he or Bri was going to blue shoe me at any moment in that last stretch.

I was happy with the placement, though not the time. I figured 19:20’s for sure, which probably would have been the case if I hadnt gone for my walk in the park. Eddie crushed the field in 17:40 for the win. Second place was Michael Dickson, who I think usually does tris. Bri took first female in 20:24, super fast! Ted had a nice race, finishing sub 22 , with Charley finishing just after him, both finishing 2nd in AG. Fellow CRCer’s  Alex Ponamarev and Donna Hill also place in their age group. Ted Riley and his daughter also had strong races – havent  seen them since the early days of the blue shoes. Angel easily won the 10k, with McMichael and Rick Weiner also taking home some age group glory.  Sadly, no trophies at this race. The search for the golden man continues.



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