This is my fourth year doing the Ray Tanner Home Run, which is one of my favorite races of the year. Its held in the middle of October, which is usually ideal running weather, the course is cool and nearly everybody who does road races in the area does this one. It helps that Ken Lowden and a whole army of volunteers from the running community put on the race, because these guys actually know what they’re doing. Nice crowd support and an awesome downhill finish into Carolina Stadium make this a great event.
The Home Run is actually two huge races in one, a 5k and a 12k. A nice change this year was to space out the 5k thirty minutes after the 12k, so that the first wave of 12kers arent dodging the 5k walkers – my only complaint about the race in years past. The race sold out this year so fast that there were no spots left in any of the races, even the kids runs.
This race has tended to be a good one for me. I started off in 2009 with a 55:55 (7:30 pace) which was smoking fast for me at the time. My 2010 race featured a mid race bonk but with enough recovery to almost break my goal of 50 minutes. I finished painfully close that year with a 50:09 (6:43) . Redemption was in store in 2011 where I threw down a complete headless chicken sprint in the stadium to take down the 50 minute barrier in 49:56 (6:41). One thing I had hoped for this year, in addition to breaking my course record, was to capture an age group placement. Like I mentioned above, everybody and their mom, sometimes literally, does this race – so the competition is steep. I finished 4th last year, so I hoped this might be my time. Yes, I realize my doing the 12k breaks one of the primary trophy hunting rules: go with the undercard. But its marathon training time, and I figured I could get more speedwork in with the longer race.
The 12k is a really cool course. You do a mile loop at the beginning near the stadium, where they have cheerleaders and all the 5k’ers screaming for you, basically assuring you that you’re going to run it way too freaking fast. After that flat mile is a lung busting climb over a railroad bridge and into the Greek Village at USC. The course then does a hilly loop right in front of the Colonial Center (USC’s basketball arena) , and takes you back over the bridge to where you started at about the 3 mile mark. Mile 4 is over the flat Blossom St bridge, up into Cayce and brings you to the bottom of the brutal Avenue B hill. It is nice they put a big cheering station (“Inspiration Station”) at the bottom of this thing, because it is a beast. Not particularly steep, just very long, most of mile 5. As soon as you reach the top, you do a one block lap, pass the 5 mile mark and head right back down. This is kind of nice, because while you are flying down this thing, you get see everybody behind you. Mile 6 is across the Gervais St bridge and up one last nasty incline to Huger St. Once you reach the apex of the hill on Huger, its one long downhill into the stadium for the last three quarters of a mile or so. Finish in the stadium at home plate.
I got to the stadium about an hour early, did a warmup with the Code, Billy, Trophy, Rick, and Larry. I could attempt to name everyone that I saw at the race, but it would be easier to name who I didnt see from the Columbia running community. I have a highly developed sixth sense for seeing 35-39 people, so I could tell it was going to be tough going age group wise. Angel wasnt there…so that was one “way too fast , no way in hell you’re going to beat that guy” out of the way. But..Newly 35 year old Drew Williams and Steven Johnson, along with the Code, basically c-blocked me out of a trophy before I stepped to the start line. The Yerger was also there, but had done 11 miles already, and swore a tempo pace for the race. Which is still pretty fast. And since this race is so big, there were sure to be randoms out there to take away my precious trinkets as well. Damn them.
Despite there being a start mat I basically lined up in front, because my delusions of running grandeur are out of control. Plus, it fulfills my insatiable need to see my melon headed self in pictures. I might of yielded some space to the A Standard at the last second, and with the start we all took off way too freaking fast. It took over a half mile for things to settle down as we did the initial mile loop. J-Lybrand must of took off like a banshee because I finally caught up to her 800 meters in. I kept listening for Trophy’s clomping Kinvaras but I didnt hear them this time. I had no idea what pace I was doing. I could sense someone latched on to my side though, and it was Howie, who would probably be a good pacer for me anyway. Also at the half mile mark, a tall pale blondish-brown haired dude with blue shoes passed me. For a second I thought i must have had an out of body experience, but then I realized his head was way too normal sized. We looped back around and again went way too fast as the crowd started cheering. I got a chance to pose for more pictures, so of course I was happy. Mile 1 in 6:33. Yikes, a bit speedy. I dont know if was the hills that followed or the fast pace of the first mile, but miles 2 and 3 on the USC campus sucked big time. Felt like I was working way too hard. Howie left me for dead, but I made sure to keep him in striking distance. The long flat road from the Colonial center helped me recover some, and by the time I reached the railroad bridge again I felt I had fought off the bonkasaurus for the time being. As I crest the bridge, I hear clomping behind me, and I’m sure its Trophy, but instead its Greg Howell, who has been on injured reserve of a long time. He’s crushing it though, and actually starts to gap me a little. This makes me speed up and stay with him. We hit the 5k mark in about 21 minutes – I hadnt looked at Garmin splits for the last 2 miles, fearing the worst. I then see Howie has caught up with the Yerger just ahead, so I make an effort to catch them. Greg then falls off as we hit a nasty hill in Cayce. By the right turn across the bridge, I’ve caught up with Yerger and Howie and run with them for awhile. With the Avenue B beast just ahead, I decide to power up the go go gadget quads and make it or break it on this hill. I start blasting away at the hill, though its a little demotivational to see Bishop, some teenager , Plex and Anton already flying down the thing. Then I see him…its normal head Blue Shoes! Oh he”s definitely going down. I finally catch him at the very top, and he mentions “good pace on that hill”. Does he have eyes on the back of his normal sized head? Probably just heard the elephant stampede of the sasquatch feet. We pass mile 5 and I decide its on like Donkey Kong. Dropped my twin and started flying down the backside of the beast. Got some great crowd support from friends on the way down, which fueled the downhill kick. Near the bottom I saw Eric Allers in a lead pack of the 5k as our courses merged. After being completely alone for half a mile, I’m suddenly in a very fast mini pack of 5kers. I’m starting to hurt a little, but I make a point of staying with these guys. I paced for much of the next mile across the bridge with a tall lanky kid (turns out to be Kenneth Vowles, son of Colleen and Ken). I’m not sure what pace we’re doing, but it feels pretty freaking fast, way faster than the early miles (turns out the last 2 whole miles were high 6:20s). I finally drop the 5k group on the climb up to Huger, thanks to freak quads. At the top of Huger I basically went all in and went into full bore blue shoe kick. But its still more than half a mile, so I enter a whole new world of pain and suffering. I havent looked at my Garmin since the 5k , so I have no idea what my time is. I blast into the stadium and make out 48’s on the clock, which amps me up into 4 minute territory as my lungs and legs want to give in. Of course, this is exactly where all the finish pics are being taken, so the race face is in full effect. I see the clock turn over to 49 and finish in 49:12, chip time of 49:09. A 47 second PR!
I’m thrilled at the time, and figure this must of earned me some age group glory right? Nope. 8th. 23rd overall in a 600+ person race and its completely stacked with 35-39ers. Drew Williams took 1st, but I actually have never heard of 2nd and 3rd, and theyre from Columbia. Well played , Michael Beets and Robin Shooh. Justin took 1st overall, with the kid (Jamie Sires) 2nd and Plex 3rd. 49 year old Jim Coombes crushed 4th place with Van on the Run teammate Andy McNiece in 5th. Bodourov Method in 6th, Eddie Vergara in 7th, Drew finished 8th and Hedgecock in 9th.
Claudia Nunez-Lopez won the women’s race by about 2 minutes behind Caroline Peyton and Birgit Spann, neither of whom I’ve seen before either. Janice Addison took female masters with Jim Coombes of course taking male masters. Larry “A team” Jourdain and Lorikay Keinzle took grandmasters. Age groupers I recognize include Bryn Schiele, Frank Morris, J-Lybrand, Drew Soltau, Amanda Pierstorff, Sarah Blackwell, Jeff Burgess, Greg Howell, Sharon Cole, Billy Tisdale, Howie Phan, Geary, Jack Kuenzie, Carol Wallace, Sue Porter, Daniel Brown, Nonie Hudnall, John and Nancy Sneed, Henry Holt and Jesse Smarr.
5k was won by Dimery in a return to his previous form, with Eric finishing 2nd. I must have been racing with Will Brumbach but actually didnt recognize him in my delirium – he took first in 30-34. Womens race was won by Katie Wood of Virginia, with Erin Howie and Tigs finishing 2nd and 3rd. Age groupers include Kenneth Vowles, Katie Hines, Ms. Diesel, Ken and Colleen Vowles, Jeff Curran, Sandy Smith, Pete Poore, Margaret Holt and Rocky Soderberg.
Thanks to Erika Shaw , Jennifer and Brooke Ward and Milly Hough for some of these pics: