Healthy Capital 5k – Columbia, SC – 3/23/13

Healthy Capital 2013 001

The Healthy Capital is a 5k held at Columbia High School (mascot is the Capitals) that is put on to benefit the school. Its been a favorite of mine, as I set a PR there back in 2010 and the race is always well done. They typically have the high school band out there, lots of enthusiastic volunteers, and a hot dog cookout after the race. Ive missed the race the last two years though due to conflicts with the Palmetto 200 and the Rosewood Eagles 5k.

As it turns out every start up 5k in the city decided to hold their event on March 23, which didnt help registration for this race (or any of the others for that matter). There were literally five 5ks in the Columbia area yesterday. A couple of them I wasnt even aware of until after the fact. I’m someone constantly scanning the internet, my gym, running stores, etc. for races, so if I havent heard of your race in my hometown, clearly the advertising is less then optimal.

Of course, the dark side of the Blue Shoes sees this scenario as a perfect storm for trophy hunting. Healthy Cap was the only Tour de Columbia race, and a known quality event, so I had already signed up a couple of weeks ago. Shenequa Coles is the race director and an active runner in the community, so that always assures someone actually knows what they’re doing. Plus, at 15 bucks for early registration, this is the cheapest race on tour.

Given that this is an established race, on the TDC and offering prize money, it was definitely not the trophy hunt pick of the day. I saw that Trophy was racing somewhere, but he knows better than to let me in as to where.

When I got to the race site, it was absolutely miserable. Temp was 40 degrees and just a total downpour. Couldn’t believe it was late March and the weather was still sucking this bad. The only worse race for weather was the Make my Day 12k. At least this race was on roads and not the trails.

Turnout looked pretty light with all the other races going on and virtually zero race day registration. I don’t think too many people woke up and thought it would be a great day to race. I had a minimal warmup, basically doing a few laps around the parking lot and a couple of strides. Scouting the competition, I didn’t see any known male elites. There was one fast looking dude I’d never seen before, but no one else. This is a high school race , so I thought there was always the chance at some random cross country dude coming out. Among the women, Kenzie Riddle was there with Erin Miller, so at least the female side had some competition. I figured Kenzie would probably win this thing. Of course, that also meant that maybe, just maybe I could get some overall glory for myself.  Kenzie would usually kick my ass, but we virtually tied at Cold Winters Day, and I beat her At Race for the Place when she had an off day. Unfortunately I’ve been a wreck most of last week. Followed up the Get to the Green with 15 more miles on Sunday, and my back didnt like it one bit. Had to recover the rest of the week, though I did get in 7 miles on Thursday without any problems.

With the weather, only the diehards turned out for this one. J-Reeves was coming back from a month off due to illness and moving. There’s about a 99 percent chance  of Ponamarev, Gasque , Pete Poore and Rocky showing up, and sure enough all were there to score some easy age group points. Valerie Selby  and James Hicks were also on board. Sheila was also on the comeback trail after being in a boot most of the last few months. Andy Mikula and Paul Drohomirecky were some other familiar faces. I had a chance to meet new CRC member Dana Burgess and Pam Inman as well.

The start of this race is always nuts, but it was made more comical by all of us running from the high school out to the start because of the downpour. You start at the top of a hill and every time a pack of high schoolers fly down at sprint speed before basically stopping at the bottom. After all the high schoolers cashed out,  fast dude  and Kenzie were ahead about 20 meters and I was all alone.  I tried to keep the two leaders in sight. I was going back and forth a bit. I started reeling them in at one point but then either I faded or they kicked it up a notch. First mile was in 5:57, which is inflated on the speedy side because of the freefall for the first quarter mile.  The second mile is mostly flat but I was getting lost. I used to know the course like the back of my hand, but we were taking a turn away from what I remember.  I was worried at this point because I was afraid it was going to make the course way short. I was also finding it really, really hard to give a damn at this point. Shoes were getting waterlogged, the rain was beating down, I wasn’t making much headway on the top two.  Running completely by yourself also doesnt help either. I was losing my sense of pace and motivation was super low. I had a decent lead on number 4 judging by the volunteer cheers,  so phoning it in seemed like a pretty good idea.  I hit mile two at 6:30, which is about my 10k pace, though  I actually never checked my Garmin because my long sleeves had completely plastered themselves to my arms.   We finally took a turn that I recognized and I realized we had gone around the original course for some reason. The whole last mile just sucked. Legs felt ok but had zero motivation to ramp it up. Plus I knew the end was a long slog up the hill we ran down to start. Finally I turned right to start the mountain climb, and I hear my Garmin beep at mile 3 WAY too far from the finish. Ruh roh. I can still see Kenzie and fast guy, who had been running like they were joined at the hip the whole race. I think fast guy was tucked in behind her some, letting her set the pace, which he then used to unleash a wicked kick to pass her at the end. I saw this happen pretty far away, because I was locked into a debbie downer mindset trying to scale Mt. Capital going pretty slow and wishing for death.  I looked up at the clock and saw what I thought was 18:30 so I thought I was still going to race a decent time. WRONG. I turn into the parking lot and realize I’m already over 20 minutes. WTF?? Finished in 20:16, 3rd overall, 1st in AG.  I was stunned by the time initially until I checked the Garmin and realized a 3.2 mile course and I had just run two 10k pace miles to finish. Nice.

After taking some pics, I went back and checked the course. It turns out they had to divert part of the race because the regular course was a total lake. Completely flooded. I would have had to swim across this thing, and anyone who knows my swimming knows thats not a good thing.

Fast guy turned out to be pretty nice, for a trophy thief. He (Renato Cortez) lives in Whittier, California and was just running on a whim. Damn him for being fast and taking my hundred bucks. Kenzie of course won the female race in 19:25 and 2nd place overall.  Erin finished abut  30 seconds behind me and took 2nd female, followed by Andy Mikula and Paul Drohomirecky. James Hicks also scored himself an open point by finishing 10th , first in 30-34.  Sheila won second in the female 30-34.  Dana Burgess and Shenequa Coles went 1-2 in the 40-44.  Shannon Mosely finished first in the 45-49, and Gasque won the 50-54. Valerie crushed her rival in the 55-59 by 12 minutes, while Alex Ponamarev and Pete Poore filled out the 60-64. Rocky Soderberg won the 70+ by showing up. When its 40 degrees and raining, and 4 other races are going on, sometimes thats all you have to do.

But wait…to make things worse, I get a text with this:Healthy Capital 2013

Trophy’s trophy. Yep, he ran his previous trophy race, the Special Olympics 5k in Swansea, and won it again. By like 5 minutes. A two time champion. Well played, Trophy, well played.

Get to the Green 5k/10k – Columbia, SC – 3/16/13


The Get to the Green 5k is a yearly tradition in Columbia and officially opens the St Patty’s Day festival in Five Points. Its usually been a good benchmark 5k for me, and my times have slowly gotten better since first running it in 2009. For those interested, the 2009 Get to the Green is also the last time Trophy beat me in a 5k. Just thought he would want you to be aware of that.

This is a cool race. I mean, I’m mostly Irish, it’s on St Patty’s weekend, its a 5k , and there’s beer at the end. What’s not to love? The only downside is that the thing is thousands of people. This of course is an affront to my raison d’etre  , the trophy hunt. You can’t hunt for trophies in gigantic races where everyone and their mom comes out for a huge event. Somewhere there has to be those impossibly fit soccer dads that come out of hiding, never racing except to unexpectedly spoil your chance at post race bling. Damn them. My only “trophy” in this race was because they gave out awards down to 5th place. And who got the token fifth place tubular cooler award last year? THIS GUY.

But this year they added a 10k, presumably doubling my age group glory chances. Having two races automatically creates the tried and true trophy strategy, “the undercard”.  Ah, the undercard. All the studs in their singlets out competing their hardest in the 10k, while I duke it out with the stroller moms and noobs in the 5k.  But hey, thats just because everyone thinks its harder, and thus more prestigious, to race a longer distance. I swear I’ve overheard 6 hour marathoners poo pooing  races being “just a 5k”. Makes me want to grab their hand and take them out on a nice 6 minute pace stroll.

So I signed up for the 5k months ago.  Yes, I’m trying to break 40 in the 10k, but old habits die hard I guess.

The 10k started 30 minutes before the 5k, so I showed up about 15 minutes before the “main event” to take some pics.  There seemed to be a fairly small crowd , and I immediately feared I might have chosen the wrong race. Ashton was there to collect his check, but I didnt immediately see a lot of other elite types. Kenzie appeared to be likely to place among the women, Tigs was also there to compete for the overall and masters. But Eric Allers, Winston Holliday and, dare I say ,  THE CODE were probably the next fastest I knew.    So much for the undercard.

After the 10k took off I tried desperately to get ready for the 5k. Desperately,  in that I had tweaked my lower back the day before and I was trying every maneuver possible to try and make it less tight.  I think people thought I was practicing some new, awkwardly stiff form of yoga. No luck – I was forced to run like a chicken. The smart thing would have been to bag the race and try again next week. I’m not that smart though.

The 5k didnt have Ashton but Justin Bishop and Tim Jeffreys were there to battle it out for the win. Drew Williams ran like 10 miles before the race but was probably going to kick my ass anyway and take the age group.  Lots of 35-39 looking dudes out there.  I saw Ken Cobb at the last minute and knew it would probably be 3rd at best for me. Team Clyburn, Trophy, John Gasque, Ponamarev, James Hicks and Travis Moran were also on hand.  Both of Team Vowles, minus Kenneth, were there, thankfully sparing me getting beat by a middle schooler.  The Outlaws, Griffins and Henry Holt were there as well.  I saw Jennifer Heath and her son John at the start…no word on Jeff?

I tried to haul ass with the start to avoid getting trampled, except my new stiffback running form wasnt exactly making me fast. A quarter mile in the crowd thinned somewhat and I was left running with Travis for the third time in a month. Also Steve Brooks, the guy I chased at part two of the triple dip, was just ahead of me.  It was nice to have some breathing room, because my back wasnt loving any lateral movement. That quickly came to a halt about ahalf mile in, when we climbed a hill and turned on to King Street. This street shared part of the 10k  course, and all of a sudden I’m dodging the 9-10 minute pace pack of the longer race. I was having to pick a seam and use Travis as my blocker. I nearly took out an older lady as I darted between her and a car mirror. You do not want to be in the way of the sasquatch at 5k pace, believe me.  I hit the first mile at 6:22 , about 20 seconds slower than normal, so this confirms what I already know: this race is going to suck.  I thought for a while the back may be loosening up some in mile 2, but apparently I was mistaken.  We turned again on to Ravenel St and by lumbosacral joint decided to goose me. Ouch.  Mile 2 was mercifully flatter but just couldnt get any speed going. I was at least keeping Travis close ahead though, and I think I passed Steve near the end of the mile. Identical 6:22 split. OK, so I’m already close to 45 seconds off my last real 5k (excluding the triple dip) , so I focus on two things: making damn sure I dont go over 20 minutes, and for the love of all that is holy…don’t get Trophied. So I try a little harder. I’m not getting much faster though, because my chicken footed steps arent helping at all. I finally turn on to Devine, and you can see the finish, though its agonizingly far away.  And I’m just toast. Travis kicks it in, and I have to let him go. At some point Code comes up and tries to Seabiscuit me to the finish, but I’m running on fumes by this point. My Garmin spits out a 6:12 split for mile 3, but WTF? the finish is still so far away. Meanwhile I make out the clock and its already at 19:30 or so. Son of a bitch. I then throw everything out the window in a mad dash for the line, breathing like a rabbit on coke, and flop across in 19:57.  Just ridiculous to be this spent running a 5k over a minute slower than the PR.  Turns out I did get 5th in age group though, scoring me a coffee mug and a water bottle. Nice. If it cant be a trophy, at least give me something useful. Oh, and thankfully Trophy decided not have a career day, finishing around 21 minutes. Uh oh, blackjack is back.  But wait a second…checking my Garmin, it shows a 6:16 pace and a 3.19 mile course,  so definitely a bit long. My secret sources inform me they probably set up the finish at the wrong marker. 3.11 miles gives me a 19:27 or so, which is more what the race felt like. Oh well, still got the sub 20 and didnt get Trophied, so I’ll take it.

Results are looking a little messed up right now, but it seems Tim Jeffreys won the 5k, with the  “A Standard” finishing third. Both had times considerably slower than usual.  Amanda Charlton won 2nd overall female.  Eddie , Jason Dimery and Drew all finished top 10. Ken Cobb and Phil Midden both displaced me further in the AG and wildcard Kevin Robinson also took me down. Times across the board are slow, so I’m thinking the long course is real. Laura Howell apparently set a course record for her (and placed 4th in AG), so she would have really torn it up on a legit 3.11. Age groupers also included Emma Charlton, Travis (19:51),  Jen Clyburn, Brian Clyburn,  Colleen Vowles,  Marshall Ramsey, Mike Griffin, Mickie Ishizue, Kim La, Pete O’Boyle, Talley Lattimore, Bill Iskrzak,  Alex Ponamarev, Catherine Lempesis, Margaret Holt and Rocky Soderberg.

Ashton won the 10k in a complete rout. I think Kenzie took second overall female. Winston crushed a sub 40 10k, finally getting his goal, and taking masters. Whitney Keen also PR’d in 42:15. Code finished a shade over 40 in a strong race. Brady Ward won his age group. Shaggy Hodukovich scored an age group placement, though I’m assuming he changed into the green hash dress AFTER the race. Ken Sekley, Lorikay Keinzle, Coleen Strasburger, Larry Bates, Tommy Outlaw, Mike Wainscott, Carol Wallace, Cheryl Outlaw, Pete Poor , Lynn Grimes, Patti Lowden, Ken Lowden, Del Soule, and Henry Holt also age grouped.

Triple Dip – March for Meals 5k, Colorectal Cancer Awareness 5k, Race Judicata 5k – 3/2/13

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One of the most difficult aspects of trophy hunting is choosing the right race. I mean, nothing is more frustrating than carefully calculating the factors of rurality, small attendance, the undercard event,  and poor publicity only to have Joe McSpeedy home from college come out in his singlet and blow it all to hell. Of course, what if you didn’t have to choose? What if the stars aligned for three races to be perfectly geographically and temporally spaced to allow for the rarest of rare among the obsessively race addicted – the triple dip?

John Gasque, who runs our Tour de Columbia, first pointed this out to me a few months back. Sure enough, on March 2, my birthday weekend no less,  a possible triple dip had shaped up. The March for Meals 5k at Riverbanks Zoo was at 7:30, a new race called the Colorectal Cancer Awareness 5k was at 8:30 at Maxcy Gregg park, and Race Judicata was at 10 at Hand Middle School.  It was going to be tight, but physically possible, to get all three in. The main logistical factor was the March for Meals -Colorectal transition. March for Meals has a brutal course that will either produce a slow time or physically destroy you…possibly both.  There’s about 10 minutes minimum between the Zoo and Maxcy Gregg. So even blasting out the MFM 5k, hauling ass into downtown, finding a parking spot and picking up the race packet was going to take at least 45 minutes. Notice I failed to mention physically recovering from a grueling 5k effort. Ain’t nobody got time for that.

With the triple dip in place, I sent out the opportunity in the Columbia Running Club newsletter in attempt to get some takers. Sure enough there were a few others that were also psychotic enough to give it a try.  Gasque, James Hicks, and Cheryl and Tommy Outlaw were on board. Valerie Selby, Henry Holt and Carol Caulk were also interested but were going to double dip instead. I offered five bonus Tour de Columbia points to anyone finishing all three.

And lets not forget Trophy. He gets wind of my triple attempt and sees a prime opportunity to end his 4 year losing streak in 5ks, and signs up for Judicata, the 3rd race. Well, I figure if he’s going that route, by all means people should know about it. The week prior I made sure the showdown was prominently featured in the newsletter and on the CRC facebook page. Pretty soon Trophy realized he had gotten himself into a lose-lose situation  – win and its because I was weakened by three 5ks, lose and its an even greater shame.

Besides beating Trophy, my main goal was to break 20 minutes in March for Meals, the last Columbia race I had yet to accomplish this. I also hoped to at least pick up some age group placements in the other 2 races.

I arrrived at March for Meals about an hour early, and the place is already packed…excpet no one’s in the zoo. Everyone is in the outside parking lot that I was goign to use for my quick getaway. It takes me a few minutes but then I realize the problem – a very long train is just sitting there on the tracks blocking the entrance. No one can get in. I run a mile warmup and come back, and there’s no movement of the train. I stroll up to the entrance road, and Annie the RD is trying everything humanly possible to get this train moving. The bad part is that she knows it will delay the start, probably to 8:00. I’m already panicking, because there’s no way to make it to Colorectal in time with a late start. Luckily a few minutes later she tells us she can probably get things going at 7:45. Man this is going to be close. This race has already had some bad luck – it had to be postponed last year because of a tornado watch.

Finally the train starts moving and we all get into the zoo at 7:30,  right when the race was supposed to start. I grab my bib and painfully watch minutes tick away at the start.  At 7:46 we get the go ahead to start, which is amazingly quick considering the amount of people registered. With the start I take off like a maniac, as every second is going to count in getting downtown in time for race #2.  Plexico and two kids blast out from the front , along with a crossfit guy behind them. I lag behind mr crossfit and try to tightrope that fine line between optimal speed and complete bonkapalooza. You have to blaze the flat part of this course. Why? Because a good part of mile 2 is a tightly winding 12 percent grade through a mountain on the other side of the river from the zoo. You’re doing well to do 8 minute pace up the worst part of it. I mean, there are freaking steps on this thing.  My first year doing this race I didnt know about the mountain and about puked up a lung trying to climb it. Luckily crossfit guy wasnt quite prepared either, and I pass him on one of the staircases. By the time I reach the top I am sucking some serious wind. They then make you dip a little and run up another incline. Awesome. Following this torture is a complete freefall on a paved road down the other side. There is no elegant way to go down this thing, especially since the mountain climbing has just obliterated you. I basically flop myself down the hill, feels like I’m beating my quads with a sledgehammer. Back over the bridge and you have to wind through the back alleys of a number of animal exhibits. One of these is the elephant area. I assure you when you’re breathing at maximum capacity, elephant poop is 100 times more unpleasant. I can see the two kids ahead of me, but I can tell I probably wont be able to catch them. I have no idea what my pace is, because my new Garmin went into power save mode waiting at the start. As I approach the final stretch in the parking lot, I can make out low 19’s, so I blast it hard and finish in 19:45, a course record by 30 seconds (though dates back to 2011). Goal number one reached. I had no idea at the time, but also managed 4th overall and 1st in AG. I am half delirious, but as soon as I stumble past the finish, I turn around, grab my camera from Trophy (who came to watch) and a water, and start walk/jogging to my car. And I am just toast. I jump in the car still gasping for breath and take off..departure time 8:09 from the zoo.

After flying down the highway ,  Huger, and Blossom St, I pull into Maxcy Gregg right at 8:20. I had to make myself a parking spot on the grass, and run another quarter mile to the packet pick-up. Of course everyone’s done with that so I’m able to get my bib immediately, and  just in time at 8:25. Whew. So I made it, barely. Did I mention I was still wrecked from March for Meals?  I was. Like ready-to-jog-the-Colorectal wrecked. I lined up still sweating from MFM and all the stress in getting downtown. Somehow Gasque and James made it there in time, having even less time to work with. Gasque was smart as he had done early packet pick up and didnt have to deal with that aspect. He’s an experienced double dipper. At the start I realize there’s no elite people at all. A trophy hunter’s dream. Except this trophy hunter is at 40 percent tops, so all I’m thinking about is finishing.

Until the race starts of course. Lead guy , who looks pretty fit, jumps out and starts gapping the field very early. OK, so an unknown ringer, I thought.  His friend, a shorter guy is back quite a bit in second, and a girl/guy tandem is running together right in front of me. I take off probably close to 7 minute pace, just figuring I need to tempo this run and save some for the Trophy showdown. Problem is that a mile into the race, lead guy has slowed down and I can easily see the pace car. And even in my weakened state, I start getting manaiacally competitive again. I pass the couple and start ramping up the pace . OK, just hang out here and you’ll be good. But damned if the other guys start falling back a bit. After a 7 minute first mile, I hit mile 2 at like 6:30. Lead runner is still in range and number 2 is looking back . Probably can hear the sasquatch footfalls. I start closing in on number two but he actually kicks it in some in the last half mile. After ramping it up into near actual 5k pace, I back off because I know I have third in the bag (letting cars in behind me) and my legs are jello anyway.  I cross in 20:23 3rd overall, 1st in AG.

There was actually plenty of time between Colorectal and Judicata, especially since the two races are so close together. I made sure to rehydrate and actually eat a little. Still pretty obliterated from March for Meals but the Colorectal tempo-ish run seemed to flush out some of the lactic acid.  Instead of speeding down the road in a half delirious state, I was able to leisurely make my way to Shandon.

Trophy was already there, preparing for his big moment. The Diesels have showed up to document the showdown. Pretty meager crowd for this one.  The Color Run had a couple thousand people and presumably some people who do actual road races, and between this and the two other races, Judicata was left the scraps. This race is always a crapshoot. On one hand the course is awesomely flat and they usually have nice gift certificates for awards. On the other hand, the race is put on by a group of law students, that changes each year,  most of whom have no idea what they are doing. Last year they did 20 year age groups. In 2010 they had a volunteer leading everybody the wrong way.

At the start Plex is there for his double dip, and to assure that the Trophy-Blue Shoes challenge doesnt end up being a fight for the win.  Gasque, James Hicks, and the Outlaws are there to complete their triple dipping as well. Henry Holt, Valerie Selby and Carol Caulk are the also there for their second race of the morning.  Geary, Travis Moran and Amanda Charlton are on board to make sure we keep up the pace.  CRC members Ashley Horton and Bryn Schiele are there, along with The State’s Otis Taylor, who has been gearing up for his first half marathon (Columbia Marathon half) the next week.

With the starting gun, Trophy blasts off like its a 400 meter race. Knowing my only goal is to beat him, and not knowing how my endurance is going to hold up,  I tuck in behind him and let him set the pace.  After a half mile I pull even with him , engaging in a little Billy Tisdale psychological warfare.  In the distance I can see Jen and Diesel,  so I pass Trophy and start throwing down. This is not what I wanted to do, and possibly a recipe for disaster, but my tendency towards being an attention whore apparently overrides any sense of race strategy.  My new Garmin is still giving me trouble, so apparently I let it power down again and its not on.  The mile marker has a guy reading times and he yells out a 6:04. ?? Pretty sure the mile mark or the time is wrong.  In either case, Trophy is behind me.  Our absolute sprint/kick is pretty similar,  and he’s definitely going to win that battle after my 3 5ks, so I feel like I have to have a nice lead near the end.  Plexico is already in another zip code, but Travis is running not too far ahead in 2nd. I use him as a pacer and try to reel him in as much as I can. Surprisingly, once the initial pain of ramping back up to race pace is done, I feel relatively OK. Relative to wanting to die, at least.  I’m able to hold the same pace through the second mile.  About 2.25 miles in, I see Plex pop out of a side street ahead and I realize something isnt right. I know there’s a turn off to the right at some point but I don’t see anything marked and Travis is going straight, following Ryan. Damned if I’m turning right on one of these streets just to have Trophy beat me on a misdirect, so I just follow the two ahead of me.  We turn left at the end of the next block and realize were back on the right course. Another right and its just a straightaway to the finish. Nothing helps me more than a glimmer of red clock digits, so I blast into a world of pain as usual. Travis’ kick apparently is pretty strong because he’s able to hold back the rabid bear behind him. In the last block I do take one cautionary look back just to make sure Trophy isnt going to stealth blue shoe me.  Luckily, nobody is there.  The clock tells me the course is ridiculously short, low 17’s, so I coast on in. Finished in 17:37, 3rd overall, 1st in AG. Informal garmin survey had the distance in the 2.9’s, so probably a decent time for me anyway, but I guess I’ll never know.

Trophy did finish about a minute later (18:32, 5th overall) .  In addition to this being a no-win situation for him,  I should note he had been sick in the week leading up to the race and less than 100% on race day too.  Victory is still sweet though.

Gasque, James, and the Outlaws all completed their triples, along with Henry Holt, Carol Caulk, Valerie Selby and the Plex doubling up.  The Lightning brought home two easy wins. They did correct the age groups down to 10 year increments…until age 50, where apparently they just gave up  and lumped everyone from 50-98 in the same group.  WTF?  Something tells me were going to have to have a meeting with these guys next year if they want to be on the Tour de Columbia.   I did win a 20 dollar gift certificate to the Tropical Grill downtown, which I doubt I’ll make it to – so let me know if you want it!