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!