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: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mTMgIViinuQ
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.
Race face pic by James Boyd: YES!! lol