Bayler’s Bash 5k – Bishopville, SC – 12/24/12

Baylers Bash 2012 start

pic courtesy of James Boyd photography

This is the third year of Bayler’s Bash and also my third time doing the race.  Its been held since 2010 to honor Bayler Teal, a 7 year old with neuroblastoma who was a big fan of USC baseball and was a rallying point for the team during their run to the national championship that year. Sadly, Bayler lost his battle to cancer that summer, but his parents and the town of Bishopville have continued to honor him by putting on this race to benefit Palmetto Children’s cancer center. Its held on his birthday, which also happens to be Christmas Eve.  Bayler’s parents and family are always on hand and give out the awards, so a really cool event all around.

In addition to important reasons for running this race, this event also offers a hidden gem to its runners – the course. Total pancake. Not a single hill of any significance. Probably the flattest course in the whole midlands, with only the Colonial Cup 5k coming close.

I’ve been throwing down some pretty good times in the past few months, but my recent 5ks have all been either hilly, long, or both. I’ve been dying to get a race to really throw down and make a run at the 5k PR.  Strangely, my last 5k in Lexington, where I ran a 19:57, gave me confidence I could go very low 19.  This is because that 5k was some sadistically designed mountain range meant to torture its victims. But I still broke 20…in the Himalayas, on a 3.17 mile course.  I must be getting faster?

And of course there is the 5k PR question. I think my PR on an actual full length, certified course is probably 19:17 at the 2011 Runway Run. I ran a 19:06 on a short JA twilight run in 2011 and an 18:44 on a very short Judicata 5k course this year, but I don’t really count those.  It has been my primary goal to break 19 in a 5k for a very long time.

In an effort to get me faster, Angel had showed me some videos on Kenyan marathoner Moses Mosop’s running form the day before the race.  I figured I would really try and focus on form this time, especially increasing my strides per minute (cadence) and the mid-foot strike. I had nothing to lose in this race since it was not Tour de Columbia and I didnt think I’d be able to overtake the 300 point gap between me and Justin Bishop in the Palmetto Grand Prix. I know, crazy.

The Mosop video:

I carpooled up to Bishopville with Angel and his wife and got there about 45 minutes early. A nice crowd was already there. Although World trampoline wrestling federation champion Jay Nester and Kevin Kelley were not in attendance, the other Hartsville elite showed up with Robbie “OG” McLendon (with Nicole) and Paul Reardon.  Jen Lybrand, Kimi and “Trackstar Eddie”  Vergara came up from Columbia.  I gotta be more stealth with my trophy hunting, since I had encouraged Eddie and Angel to come, basically relegating me to 3rd at best. With Paul on hand, that was now 4th.  It being a Grand Prix race, ” Club 80 percent age grade” also showed up with John Sneed (and wife Nancee) , Arnold Floyd, Birgit Spann and Lynn Grimes. There was also a large contingent from Florence’s Fitness World Run club, which seems like a really cool and supportive group.

We all gathered on main street in Bishopville, and after a short prayer, we were off. Vergara took off like, well, a track star, and Angel followed him. I got caught up a little in the sprinting and settled down a little after the first quarter to catch my breath.  A teenage girl was running stride for stride with me, and a tall kid was up ahead about 20 meters after the first half, with Eddie, Angel and Paul ahead of us.  What is it with me always racing kids his year? I was aiming for a fast start, hopefully about six minutes flat.  By the mile mark I had dropped the girl and hit the marker at 6:02…almost perfect.

I usually lose it in the second mile of a 5k.  I start to get winded and it still feels far from the finish. So I focused on my new friend Moses Mosop. Midfoot..quick stride… It felt a little awkward but it seemed to maintain pace without as much effort.  Although I was hurting at the start of the mile, I actually began to feel better. Tall kid ahead of me was just near enough to me to provide some motivation to catch him.  I noticed his stride breaking down some and he actually looked back.  Bad idea..nothing fires me up more than the chance for some roadkill!  We turned a corner and I really started bearing down on the kid.  And then my Garmin spit out the mile 2 split…6:05. Holy crap.  I was on sub 19 pace.

Now, I’ve been trying to get under 19 for most of the past 2 years, and I had never been close after 2 miles. The only low 19 efforts had been through ridiculous blue shoe kicks in the last mile.  I was hurting already, but then again suffering is what I do best. So I just threw down right there.  Not a surge, but an honest “pain is temporary, pride is forever” Prefontaine style blast.  Passed the kid immediately and then had to head down a long straight stretch that sucks because youre actually going past the finish line the next block over and heading out again.  Incredibly I can see Eddie and Angel way out in front, but I feel like I’m slowly gaining on them and Paul.  A lot of wind sucking is going on but once I hit the turnaround block I can already hear the finish line crowd. Finally we head down Main street again. Paul is a lot closer but there’s not enough distance to overtake him.  The clock is half hidden, but I suddenly feel a jolt of pure adrenaline when I see 18:27 just 100 meters or so from the finish line. Moses Mosop turns into pure headless chicken albino sasquatch as I sprint to the finish. 18 freaking 46.

I’m in complete shock after the finish. I double and triple check the distance on the Garmin, but sure enough  its 3.15. A little long even. Last mile: 5:53, with a 5:35 pace on the last bit.  Essentially  about a 30 second PR, on a 5k.  And I don’t even know what to do. I think there was some fist pumping or something, but I was half delirious from the effort. I’m sure it probably looked ridiculous for a 37 year old man to be as giddy as a  schoolgirl over a road race, but man was it sweet.  Christmas came a day early. Placed 4th overall, 1st in AG.

Eddie took the win with a blazing sub 18 effort – 17:54. Angel ran a very strong race and nearly got his sub 18, finishing in 18:14, his best 5k time of the year I believe. Paul finished 3rd with an 18:21. Among the women, the 16 year old pacing with me early ended up winning in 20 minutes flat. Birgit Spann and Sharon Cole finished 2nd and 3rd, Birgit in 20:25 /83% age grade. Incredible. Getting age group glory were Jennifer Lybrand, who fended off a strong kick by John Sneed, to take 1st in AG and sub 23. John finished 1st in the 65-69, and Arnold topped the 70+ in the mid 23’s.  Lynn went sub 8 pace and took first in age group over Nancee Sneed, while 2010 Baylers Bash champion Robbie still finished 2nd on a tough day for him.

My pics:

Race face pic by James Boyd: YES!! lol

Baylers Bash 2012 race face

Jingle Bell Run 5k – Lexington,SC – 12/15/12

Lexington 5k Rudolphs Rampage 2012 005

The Jingle Bell Run 5k  is a brand new race held in Lexington to benefit the Arthritis Foundation. I think this one of a series of races across the country  as a fundraiser for the foundation.

What drew me to this race was a) a little bit of trophy hunting and b) a totally new race and certified course. I had originally wanted to make this a crazy double dip, by doing this race at 9 am and the Rudolph’s Rampage 10k or half in Harbison at 10 am. Between Rudolph’s jacking up the late fee 10 bucks and perhaps a small bit of rational, non-obsessional thought, I decided the night before just to do this one.

Angel and I carpooled to the race and got there an hour early. The race director said they had over a 100 signed up, so some part of me was glad there would be a decent crowd.  Sometimes my dual role as president of the Columbia Running Club and insatiable trophy hunter creates a conflict of interest. Still I’m not going to promote a race for weeks and hope for it to fail just to possibly win a shiny golden running man.  Plus, I was transporting a faster age grouper to the race, so definitely not the best trophy hunt move there either.

As a warm up Angel and I decided to run the out and back part of the course. From the map it was basically just a run out of the Moore Orthopedic parking lot, straight on Ginny Lane, a brief loop to the right, back on Ginny Lane, turn around at a cone and head straight back. Lexington is definitely known for its hills (see the Lexington Race Against Hunger in February) but the area around Moore Ortho seemed pretty flat. Or so it seemed…

One turn onto Ginny Lane and it turns out Ginny is an evil, vindictive woman.  The first half mile is plunging down a cliff before the right hand turn at the bottom. Once you do the loop (which we didnt do on the warmup) , its mountain climbing time. Soul crushing hill. Then another just when you get your wind back. They put the turnaround just over the crest of the second hill, bringing you to a stop and making you try to regain momentum on an incline back.  Then do those 2 hills again in reverse and climb back up the cliff to the finish. Good times. At the end of the warmup, I wasnt sure if it was good to know what I was facing or bad knowing what misery awaits. I figured this course might be a full minute slower than my usual times.

By race time, there was a small crowd of mostly unfamiliar faces. The Columbia Running Club people were mostly the diehard 20+ races a year types: Gasque, Henry, Pete Poore, Rocky, Ponamarev.  I didn’t recognize any of the women. There were a fair amount of teens and a few in-shape looking younger guys. No clear elites and I figured Angel would probably win this thing unless one of the high schoolers was some cross country stud. I liked my chances to get in the top 10 and score some open points.

With the start I charged out hard and led the race for 20 feet or so before Angel , a teenager and 4 twenty somethings blew past me. We quickly separated out and Angel and the kid were the lead duo. We all went flying down the hill, which is strangely one of my weaknesses.  Guiding 190 pounds down a cliff is like controlling the freefall of a boulder.  As I’m blasting down the cliff I’m already dreading a) the mountain right ahead and b) how unbelievably bad this thing is going to suck going back up at the end. But at least we get a little respite with this unknown loop in the valley, right? Um, not so much. Turning right, we descend a little further until we basically march right back up a hill that parallels the cliff. Lungs and legs are protesting the abuse already. The hill does take out one of the dudes ahead of me and I power past him. One of the benefits of being obese by distance running standards is developing superhuman quads to carry all this weight around, which comes in handy on hills.

Angel and the kid are still running in tandem, and I wonder if the teenager is just biding his time before he takes the win. He’s basically drafting off him. The other 2 guys are spacing out but they’re both pretty far ahead.  There’s a cone turnaround at the top of this miserable hill, signifying the end of this side loop from hell. Plunge back down. I catch an evil glare from the guy I passed on the hill. Being passed by an albino sasquatch must be pretty shameful. Mile one 6:07

Turn back on to Ginny lane and we finally face the mountain we saw from the start. Soul crushing, but apparently its really kicking the ass of blue shirt guy ahead of me. I draw closer on the mountain. Mile 2 in 6:30ish thanks to the three hills. The turnaround is miserable since you have to put on the brakes from the start of a downhill and then get going again on an incline. I’m pretty beat but I finally catch up and pass blue shirt guy to take over fourth place. Angel is up ahead doing a good job holding off the kid.

We then have a long downhill before climbing the cliff back to the start/finish area. #3 guy is way ahead, so I figure no shot at catching him. I start figuring age group and open points at this point as I start slogging up the cliff…until..hold the phone,  I’m starting to make some headway into the giant gap between me and 3. Still, doesnt seem likely I’m going to catch him, he looks too young to be in my age group, and it would only be one point in the open division. Then he looks back… blood in the water. Its a quarter mile to the finish, and he’s at least 20 meters ahead, but F it..I’m going for it. I start throwing down as hard as I can. If thre’s anything I’m good at its the willingness to endure a great deal of pain for ridiculously small rewards.  #3  looks back again and sees what must be a scary sight..some frenzied pasty clydesdale bearing down on him like a runaway freight train. He’s still ten feet ahead as we make the last turn into the parking lot, and I’m at an absolute sprint.  Its going to be close ..real close. Then suddenly ..he coughs, and then pukes as I blast by just past the 3 mile mark. EPIC BLUE SHOE!  I assume normal people might feel bad for the guy, but normalcy is not my strong point. I’d be lying to say I didnt love it. I round the corner in the parking lot, see the clock,  and push it just hard enough to also score a sub 20.  19:57 officially, 3rd overall. 3.16 miles by Garmin.

I’m very happy with the result despite the slow time. I figure this course will take away at least 45 seconds to a minute off your usual road times. And of course there’s nothing I like better than a good blue shoe. This one has to be in the top 5, though I’ll take the Tigs takedown at the Turkey Trot or the 2010 Race to Read win over Greg as my favorites. The two guys I passed were very nice and thanked me for a good race, which was cool. Angel was awesome in blasting down the home stretch and holding off the kid for the win.  John Gasque won his age group then had to run to his car to pull off the double dip I decided against – he actually wore two shirts with the next race bib pinned to the shirt underneath.  He then finished a brutal 10k in Harbison. Awesome! Pete Poore, Rocky, Henry and Ponamarev all placed in their age group. The 70+ category had a real beast, David Jeffrey,  who ran just over 22 minutes at 70 years old. Impressive.

Main Street Crit – Columbia,SC – 12/8/12

Main Street Crit 2012 005

Main Street Crit is a new race that touts itself as one of the few running criterium races in the country. For those of you not named Jeff Brandenburg, a criterium is typically a short course (usually cycling) race with multiple laps.  The race is held at night in downtown Columbia, around two city blocks on Main street. In addition to a race for the mere mortals, Main Street Crit held an “elite” race with real pros for some serious cash (1500 for the winner). I just missed the cutoff time for that race by a mere 4 minutes in the 5k. So close.

Despite my hatred for multiple lap courses, I was pretty excited about this race, since it was so unique.  621 Ninjas Stephen Johnson and Amos Disasa were on the organizing committee for this race,  and Strictly was timing it, so I figured it would be well done. I have no idea what drove them to create this race, but its always cool to see someone doing something outside of the white cotton shirt loop course 5k.  Not that there’s anything wrong with that – I’ve done about 20 of them this year though. Course was eight 1k laps, almost completely flat. Basically a large outdoor street track.

This was the second part of my weekend double dip, having started with the Harborside Lights 5k the night before. Apparently in my zeal to catch up with the Brandenburg/Yerger combo, coupled with a  paralyzing fear of getting chicked by a thirteen year old girl, I had thoroughly kicked my own ass. Just sore all over.  I got there an hour early and was pretty tight from Friday night’s abuse.  My spirits were slightly boosted by the fact I stole a parking space from someone trying to the  “back in” parking thing in the garage. Awesome.

Not a huge crowd gathered, but a lot of pretty fast people.  The Code actually made an appearance, along with Angel and Will Brumbach, so I’d be hard pressed to get any age group glory. Barrett Boozer was also there and I incorrectly thought he was in my group too.  Schmitz was on hand, as well as Brandenburg again. JB is definitely whoring himself out for points late in the year. Who would do something like that?  Not me. Ted Hewitt, Jeanna Moffett, Hedgecock, Eddie Vergara, 621 red ninja Erin Miller, 2011 Palmetto 200 teammate Garris Haynes, Soon -to-be 2012 PGP champ Jennifer Lybrand, 621 master ninja Shufy Rowe, CRC’s Lindsey Byers , Jennifer Glass,  Michael Jensen, TdC director John Gasque,  Henry Holt, Rocky , Hou Yin Chang, Cheryl Vaught,  and Leighton Lord were some of the familiar names and faces. With 128 total runners, a pretty competitive pack.   Eric Ashton and John Charlton were on hand to compete in the masters division of the elite race.  I think Bishop could have qualified for the elite, but with former Olympians and 13 minute 5kers in the mix, the open elite division was a whole other level.

I had tried to rally my troops to sign up for the CRC team, though I was only sure that Code and Ted had joined. Schmitz and JB missed the multiple  newsletters , emails and facebook pleas.  My friends the Ferlautos had their own team along with CRC traitor Lorien Owens  in the team competition. Choosing family over the running club. Jeez.

I lined up first row at the start due to my photo and attention whore status and general grandiose tendencies. I led the race for a good 10 feet at the start before Vergara and about 20 people flew past me. Apparently lack of restraint is not only my problem. First lap feels great because its so nice and flat – no Lake Carolina mountains here.  Brumbach has already latched on my side and Boozer is right there too. JB is a few meters ahead. As we come up on the first lap, I see the clock just over 3 minutes. I don’t claim to be a math genius, but even my slightly addled race brain is confused. The race is billed as an 8k, and there’s 8 laps.  Granted, I went out a little speedy, but 24-25 minutes for an 8k is sub 5 minute pace. So already I know this thing is going to be crazy short.

Somehow with all the math I’ve slowed down and let Brumbach and Boozer put a gap on me. My legs are slightly cashed from all the Lake Carolina fun from last night, but I make an effort to at least keep these guys in striking distance. This becomes harder on the second, and especially the third lap, as we start catching the tail end of the race. Its nice to have some company, but some of these guys are running 2-3 abreast. I’m jumping on sidewalks and doing jukes and cutbacks to avoid some poor soul getting run over by a pale blue bus. With the traffic and darkness, its getting tougher to see where my competition is too. I knew I hit the first mile in 6:14, which is right on target…for a 5k. I decided to abandon the Garmin after this.

Four laps in and I’m basically by myself. More metaphorically by myself, because there are plenty of people around.  Will is really the only person I can see though thats actually racing the same lap as me.  I definitely faded a bit in pace in the middle..a little bit of post Harborside fatigue with a touch of boredom from so many laps and defeatism from getting dropped by the law firm of Brandenburg, Boozer and Brumbach.  Towards the end of lap 5 I started ramping up the pace to get this thing done.  Suddenly I see someone familiar ahead. It’s the Code! He’s looking rough, like someone shot him in the foot or something.  Sure enough, I catch him and he’s had a flare up of the arch pain he’s been dealing with. Normal people would stop, but not sick, sick bastards like us. Plus, he’s signed up for the Columbia Run Club team – personal pain be damned, take it for the team dude.  I pass him on lap 6 and start to really hammer it in lap 7. I barely miss getting lapped by Eddie, who wins the race a step behind me. By the start of the last lap Brumbach is suddenly in sight. Normal people try hard to beat people in their age group…I apparently will endure intolerable suffering for even the slimmest chance of pulling off my favorite maneuver: the Blue Shoe.  I start seeing some head bobbing or fatigue ahead of me and its like blood in the water. Mid lap 7 and I throw down hard. Will is still pushing some good pace but I’m catching up. Finally , on the second to last turn, I pass him,  sucking wind like its going out of style. Unfortunately theres a mob scene of runners just ahead. Luckily I suddenly develop the field vision of Marcus Lattimore and hit a seam, narrowly missing Ferlauto and some ladies doing 12 minute pace. The last straightaway is pure unadulterated sprint and all of a sudden Barrett comes into view. I blast it out but finish just a step behind him in 27:59. Tenth overall, 2nd in AG.

So yeah, just a touch short. Actually 4.37 miles by the Garmin, which I’m sure isnt completely accurate with all the tall buildings. One thing I’m more sure of is that its not the 4.96 miles of an 8k.  Actually another lap would have put it pretty close, though still a little short.  My pace was 6:24,   so would have been a nice PR. Oh well.

As mentioned, Eddie crushed the win even though he went out in an absolute sprint. Mike Hedgecock took an impressive third, behind Alejandro Arreola – a guy from Charlotte that comes down and does a fair amount of Columbia races. Meg Chieffe won the womens race. Angel finished 6th and Brandenburg 8th – only 10 seconds in front of me. Never saw him though. Barret finished a second ahead of me. Apparently I also blue shoed another guy who finished 3 seconds behind me (Matthew Smith), but I never saw him either. Will finished 12th, and the Code 13th, and then ran an extra lap (on an injured foot) because he lost count. I thought you were an engineer, Code – aren’t you guys good at math? 621 red ninja Erin Miller finished just behind the code to take 2nd overall female.

Brandenburg won 1st masters, with Schmitz winning 3rd, and Jeanna Moffett winning 1st female masters. Age groupers include Barrett winning the 30-34, Lorien Owens winning 3rd in the female 30-34,  Angel, myself and Will in the 35-39, Ted Hewitt 3rd in the 40-44. My Palmetto 200 temmate Garris Haynes took 2nd in the 45-49, with Cheryl Vaught finishing 2nd in the female division. Gasque took 3rd in the 50-54, and Shufy Rowe and Jack Kuenzie went 1-2 in the 55-59. WIS TV definitely wins fastest news team with Kuenzie and Dawndy. Rocky and Henry took the 70+ category.

The elite race was a blast to see. Ive never seen 4:30 pace up close and I assure you its impressive. The mens field included a couple of guys from the Olympic trials (Bobby Mack  – 10000m, Jeff See – 1500m) and 2 time Olympic steeplechaser (’04, ’08) Anthony Famiglietti. Winning the women’s race was 15:50ish 5ker Stephanie Pezzullo, who collapsed at the end, Blue Shoe style!  Eric Ashton and John Charlton represented Columbia well in the masters division, and Robert Razick and Tim Jeffreys in the open.



Harborside Lights 5k – Lake Carolina – Columbia,SC – 12/7/12


This is my first time doing this 5k, which  I think is at least in its 2nd year. The race is tied to the Harborside Lights Festival – a Christmas themed evening event at the Lake Carolina town center.

I admit I was a little wary of this race.  One, some “festival” races are like some afterthought someone on the event planning committee brought up. These are the ones where the course is uncertified and barely marked,  starts late,  lame awards, etc, etc. Luckily this was NOT one of those.

Two, Lake Carolina.  Its pretty much a mountain range. With lots of traffic. There’s no way to shut down the roads in the neighborhood because, well, people have to get home. So any race here is necessarily going to have open streets. Plus, texting soccer moms in SUVs will mow you down in a heartbeat. This race did a great job with the traffic from what I could see – which is amazing considering it was on a  Friday night, just after rush hour, in prime Christmas shopping season.

This is part I of my scheduled double dip for this weekend, with Main Street Crit tomorrow.  I came straight from work and showed up about an hour early. Ran the first loop of the course with Geary and Ted. This course is one I had never run before – it plunges downhill from the Town Center, all the way to the lake in Harborside. At the bottom of the hill, you go right back up the long incline, take a right and get a nice downhill again. This is only a brief respite, as you then have to scale a 3/4 mile mountain for the second loop. Finish is coming back down, but then you have that little downhill break in reverse right before the finish. I think the course is certified, but its certainly a bit long by Garmin (3.17 is even included in the course map)

Hard to get a read on the size of the race in the dark, but seemed like a decent crowd for a small race. Over 100 for sure. Brandenburg and Yerger showed up, giving me limited trophy chances. Ted, Henry Holt, Rocky, Colleen Vowles, J-Reeves, Valerie Selby, Ponamarev, Geary, Barb Brandenburg and Michael Jensen were some of the CRC peeps to show up. The Howells and Diesels were in attendance as spectators – weak!  No clear winner from what I could tell at the start, though there were quite a few high school kids that were wildcards.

Start was fast. I had lined up first row but was getting mobbed in the first 100 meters. Some guy even more Clydesdalish than myself comes barreling past me like its a 400 meter race.  So inevitably a half mile in there’s lots of roadkill to be had. Rob and JB are running together just ahead, so I surge a bit to put myself about 20 meters back.  First mile is mostly downhill to the lake, so I try my best not to flop all over the place like I usually do. Still feeling pretty good but dreading what I know is coming. First mile was in 5:59, smoking for me but mostly due to the downhill. We run a block by the lake then right back up the hill. Wind sucking commences. Ive freed myself from the main pack and had passed a bunch of high schoolers, but there’s still this tiny girl in front of me who is just crushing it. Turns out it may be easier to lift 90 pounds up a hill than 190.  Go figure.

I finally finish the harborside loop and im a little afraid to blast on to Lake Carolina drive. They have the intersection well blocked off, but there’s cars everywhere. Next is that brief freefall, which at least lets me breathe a little easier. Still about the same gap with Rob and JB.  Tiny girl still has a few steps on me too. The mountain sucked. Not terribly steep,  just long.  We turn into a subdivision for the end of the loop, which I think will be a break but its an extra BONUS hill. Awesome. By the top my heartrate’s like 2000 but at least the quads of steel are holding up. Mile 2 is like 6:30. I round the turn like I’m in Olympic stadium and start crushing the downhill. Halfway down I’m side by side with Tiny Girl but she is not giving up easily. We are right next to a long line of cars , and despite my natural tendency to want to pull a stiff arm and blast out in front, I figure that’s poor form with a middle school girl. I’m such a gentleman. After the bottleneck of cars I finally do get a chance to break free and chase the Yerger/JB tandem. Yerger is sensing the finish and has started to put the beatdown on the Brandenburg. Some volunteer guy suddenly starts running beside me and Seabiscuiting me to the finish.  I dont think I know him, but its dark and my brain is more focused on remaining conscious with such limited oxygen. Last hill is a killer but I’m starting to close on JB.  Last turn and I make out the clock at about 19:10 or so.  Time for some blue shoes. Ramped up some sub 5 pace and crossed in 19:35, five seconds behind JB and eleven behind the Yergs.  Good for 4th overall, 2nd in AG behind Rob. 3.17 miles on the Garmin. I’ll take it, especially with the hillfest and the long course.

Turns out we were all left in the dust by a high school guy Michael Egbert, who was so far ahead I never saw him past the first half mile. Second was Rob, Third JB. Fifth was the Tiny Girl, Claudia Cannon, who is all of 13. Yes, I nearly got chicked by a seventh grader. Nice work, Claudia. Geary finished 6th in a shade over 20. Ted and Michael Jensen went 1-2 in the 40-44 AG. Colleen Vowles, locked into an epic battle for the TdC 35-39 with Sarah Blackwell, scored a PR of 22:49 on this tough course and finished 2nd in  AG. Maybe a battle royale at Rudolph’s Rampage? The missus Brandenburg barely won her AG by five minutes in 23:23.  Valerie, Ponamarev, Henry and Rocky also all placed in AG.

hl2 hl3 hs4 hs5 hs6 hs7 hs8 hs9 hs10 hs11 hs12 hs13 hs14 hs15 hs16 hs17 hs18 hs19 hs20 hs21 hs22 hs23 hs24 hs25 hs26 hs27 hs28 hs29 hs30 hs31

Fitness Zone Jingle Bell 5k – Lugoff, SC – 12/1/12

Fitness Zone Jingle Bell 5k 2012 006

The Fitness Zone Jingle Bell 5k has been a Blue Shoes staple since 2009.  I first heard about it in my desperate attempt to break 20 minutes in the 5k  – it is known as one of the flattest courses in the Midlands. On top of the flat course,  it has that small town feel and relatively small crowd that I like…certainly for the trophy hunt aspect but also for other, non-maniacally competitive reasons.  The owner is always there and fully involved, the volunteers are super nice,  they have a timely award ceremony, and …hot chocolate. Best recovery drink on a cold day ever.

In reality the course is certified, but on the long side of the margin of error. I’ve consistently gotten 3.17ish on the Garmin, so probably not a perfect PR course.  Still, the gradual downhill in the whole last mile will definitely give you a fast finish if you’ve got anything left in the tank.  I ran one of my fastest races here last year, with a 5:54 final mile, though the 19:28 time doesn’t show it.

I got there this morning my customary hour early. There was a fair crowd already, so the race appears to be growing. We have it on the Tour de Columbia again this year after the Diesel’s successfully lobbied it to get on in 2011. Its also on Strictly’s Palmetto Grand Prix, so its drawn a pretty competitive top end in the past couple of years. This year, with a lot of the PGP regulars having already met their 21 race maximum, there was no clear pre-race favorite. Eric Allers was my early bet to win.  The Brandenburgs finally came back to race. All the grandmasters elites like Billy Tisdale, Geary, John Sneed, Arnold Floyd, Albert Anderson and Thomas Tapp were on hand.  Mr and Mrs Diesel were there to support the hometown event, though it should be noted that Jen was the only one with balls enough to race. Diesel himself was there to hide behind..I mean “coach” Brady.  Trophy actually showed up for the second week in a row.  I’m about to post a milk carton ad for Code though…he always does this race and was MIA. J-Reeves  was there to run what was her first 5k a couple years back. Kimi was there to take pics and hopefully capture some race face.  Brie McGrievy represented the CRC and was hoping to pick up some TdC points.  Tigs , Shannon Iriel and Sharon Cole appeared to be among the women’s favorites, and Jen Lybrand continued her relentless push to be PGP open female champion.

I had decided to try and run this hard from the start. I usually go out on the slow side, and pick it up gradually over the rest of the race, with the requisite headless chicken finish. I had planned to ride the Code, but in his absence I thought Billy would be a good substitute given his fast starts.

So with the start I tried to go a little out of my comfort zone and push it early.  Eric blasted out of the gate and left me for dead immediately, but  I settled in quickly with Billy, a few paces behind Brandenburg. Billy surged about a half mile in, and instead of letting him go, I latched on like a monkey on his back.  He settled down again and we were just a few paces behind JB at the mile mark. I didnt look at the Garmin, but thought we were doing very low 6 pace (though in reality 6:17 – there is a slow gradual incline on the way out).  Rocky , who was doing a spectating/racing double dip, blew our cover to JB at just over a mile in. JB had a kid on his tail the whole way, but he faded suddenly as we made a turn at 1.25.  We all passed him and then Billy decides to try and drop me again. I let him go just a little to try and go stealth. The one hill on the course is at a mile and a half, so in charging up the incline I caught up with Tisdale again.

There’s then a little patch on a more heavily traveled road, which you have to cross. Road is not closed so when I saw an opening I hit it, even though it was not a perfect tangent. I was too afraid of getting to the intersection and having to stop. By mile 2 JB had gapped us a bit and Billy had a couple steps on me. I heard someone on my tail, and by the industrial machine breathing I knew it had to be Geary.  I started ramping up the pace but just wasnt feeling as good as I had last week.  I threw a few surges at Billy but he was not going to let me have this easy. With all the jockeying for position we were actually gaining quite a bit on Brandenburg, who had now almost caught the guy in front of him (3rd place).  I made one last surge just before the 3 mile mark, but when Billy held me off I think my spirit was broken. I blasted to the finish as hard as I could go,  finishing in 19:34 – a half  step behind Billy and three seconds behind JB.

With Angel and Code sitting this one out (Angel did Jingle All the Way downtown, finishing 2nd) I won my age group. I finished 6th by my count but the results somehow have me over Billy with the same time.  Sounds like it was a slight difference in the read on the chip, but he definitely beat me.  Jaz Greene, the kid that won Springdale a year ago, won the overall, with Eric finishing second. A teenager took 3rd, just 7 seconds ahead of me – so close to a trophy! JB 4th.  Shannon Iriel took 1st overall female in a narrow win over Tigs (20:21 to 20:31).  Trophy won 2nd in our age group with a 21 flat. Blackjack!  Brigit Spann won 3rd overall female in 20:43 at age 57 – 88% age grade. Wow.  Albert Anderson finished just behind her at age 63. Hope I can be like them when I grow up. Speaking of more ageless performances, John Sneed and Arnold Floyd finished in  just over 23 minutes at age 69 and 70.  Jen Lybrand finished 7th overall female to add to her PGP lead. Barb Brandenburg finished 2nd in AG behind Sharon Cole. Brie McGrievy scored TdC points with a 3rd in age group. Billy and Geary each easily won their groups, with Thomas Tapp finishing a strong second behind Mr. Tisdale.  The Sneeds both won their age groups, and Arnold Floyd won the 70+ by about 25 minutes. Jen Ward (24:44) won the Diesel trophy over Brady’s strong 25:36, each winning 2nd in AG. J-Reeves ran her 2nd fastest 5k in 30:23, and blue shoed it to the finish. I was so proud.

Sleigh Bell Trot 5k – Saluda Shoals Park – Irmo,SC – 11/20/12

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The Sleigh Bell Trot is a 5k held in conjunction with the Saluda Shoals Park Christmas Lights exhibit, which is held the Tuesday night before Thanksgiving.

The race has always been a bit of a mixed bag for me.  The good – Christmas Lights, holiday cheer, etc. etc. The bad – the can’t see s$%t factor, the hairpin twists and turns factor, the running through mobs of people factor…all of which adds to the fear of busting my ass factor.

To be fair, that last thing has never actually happened. At least not in this race. I give credit to the race organizers because they have slowly improved on what was initially a bit of a cluster. Just ask Code – dude wont even mention this race without shuddering.  The first couple of Sleigh Bells were plagued by very late starts, inadequate bathrooms and just not enough space for so many people. There has also been some really bad weather, but they really cant control that.

The race grew so big, so fast, that the organizers very smartly chose to hold the walk and run on different nights in 2011. Previously the walk was free and bringing in so many people, strollers, pets, etc. that it was pretty ridiculous. This apparently helped things out a lot, so after staying home last year I decided to give this one another shot.

This was a good year for the race. About 800 runners, so this was still going to make it tight. There’s only so much space to run 3.1 miles in a relatively small paved area in the park. Thankfully they have altered the course to minimize the amount of back and forth traffic. In 2010 I came with my whole family and about took them out trying to blast through a horde of walkers in mile 3.  Weather was pretty nice too – cool but not too bad – low 50’s at the start.

A  huge crowd was there with quite a few familiar faces. Crazy Legs, Plexico, Teo, James Hicks, Geary, Rocky, Alex P, Sarah B, Burgess, Winston Holliday, Gasque, the Diesels, Gomez and his wife Jamie, Pete Poore and the Holts were all there.  Gomez assured me he was just running it “easy”, but since the dude can now do sub 18, I was probably looking at 2nd in AG at best.

I lined up first row at a start that was packed like sardines and just a narrow strip of road ahead of us.  Looking back, I couldnt see the end of the mob. There were a ton of high school and middle school kids there, who arent known for their restraint. Sure enough, the start was like the bulls in Pamplona. Total madhouse. I hauled ass to avoid being trampled by the stampede behind me.  Teo and Geary take off like Usain Bolt and leave me behind despite my 5 minute pace burst in the beginning.

As always, it is freaking dark. Forunately theyve lit up the speed bumps in the road this time, because they were always about to trip me up in years past. It takes a full half mile in to make the crowd a little more sparse. Its still crowded at times – Teo passed me back ona  downhill  and then I exchanged the favor at the next flat section. I was doing way too much dodging with what looked like an 8th grade girl in front of me. Damned if she wasnt throwing elbows and making it impossible to pass. Somehow I’m always getting into pissing matches with middle schoolers these days. Finally I find a seam and pull a Barry Sanders out into some freedom.  Hit the first mile in 6:20ish. I figure thats pretty decent pace – my PR on this tight and winding course is actually only 20:28 (2010).  Second mile is mostly by myself. I feel grateful for putting some distance on the field, because I can see some of the crazy crowds on the switchbacks. Despite being my third race in 4 days, I feel surprisingly good. Hard to figure out pace though with the dark and no one else near me. It also makes distance almost impossible to gauge. I hit the 2nd mile in an identical 6:20. About this time I see Winston up ahead. Winston was on my Blue Ridge team and was also my target in the Get in the Pink 10k . I start pushing the pace and start making slow gains on him.  A little over a half mile in I see Plex heading back my way to the finish for the win. Unfortunately I have no idea how long of a loop he’s just run so I dont quite kick it in yet.  I finally reach the apex of the last loop and start kicking. Its a shorter loop than I thought and although I’m closing fast on Winston, I’m running out of real estate too.  We hit the lighted 3 mile mark (6:09 split) and he starts sprinting it out. I ‘m so close but he holds me off and I finish 2 seconds behind, 19:46 , 12th overall, 2nd in AG behind Gomez’ walk in the park (19:10).

Definitely happy with the result. My Garmin had 3.17 miles and this was a full 44 seconds faster than 2 years ago.  Plex won the overall by 27 seconds, and Gomez, Winston and myself were the next 3 in the field who can drink a legal beer. Lots of high schoolers in this one. The little kids were super fast in this race too – the 2-14 AG was all under 21 for the boys and the slowest 2-14 girl was 22:09. Wow. Sarah B took second in AG, Winston 1st.  Burgess bitched and moaned about his injured ankle before the race and then ran a 20:16. Cry me a river JB!  Teo crushed his age group and Gasque managed a 3rd in a huge field. Geary won his age group by like seven minutes (20:03). They screwed the 60+ runners with a 60-98 group, but Rocky and Henry Holt still placed 2nd and 3rd. Pete missed out on the awards but was able to get them to change it next year.

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