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.