Quarry Crusher Run – Columbia, SC – 4/20/13

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The Quarry Crusher is now in its 2nd year and, through word of mouth, has grown significantly from the inaugural event last year. Its  the most unique race in Columbia and probably the state. Imagine running a quarter mile of a typical road 5k….before descending into a mile long pit into the center of the earth. Pretty cool.

This is my second time around for this event, and it should have never happened if you go by what I swore 1000 times during last years race. But alas, the quarry is closed to the public the other 364 days of the year, and somehow my giant melon of a head started to think… it wasnt that bad, was it? 

And so I somehow I signed up for another torture session. In my sick, twisted mind I always want to do my worst races over again as if to somehow prove I don’t really suck that bad. In reality, the suckage was a lot less than I made it out to be. I finished 11th in last years race even with all the f-bombs, power walking and general misery. But there wasnt a huge amount of the publicity in the first year, so I think I might have been trophy hunting a bit. So far as I know, they don’t give trophies for 11th place.

But wait…they do if you complain enough. For calling her out as a fraud (see her promotional video from last year for reference)  and generally slandering her name in public, Merritt McHaffie, the director of the 5 points association and emcee for last years race, gave me one of their left over promotional rocks.  So far the first trophy I’ve received for being an ass. I’m sure not the last.

She also had talked about making another video with racing me her in the quarry, to settle the score. This never came about, probably because she knows my Brandi Chastain impression is way hotter.

http://www.thestate.com/2012/04/18/2239282/get-a-chance-to-run-in-columbias.html

Promo video or not, this race seemed to have a lot more buzz this year, and I heard there were over 300 registered in the week before the event. Otis Taylor from the State also ran a big article in the weekend section of the state where he professed to training specifically for this race. To the collective groans of my friends, the article also quoted this blog in a few paragraphs, further adding to my reputation as an unabashed attention whore.

Fearing the worst in this race, I apparently decided the best way to prepare for this grueling undertaking was of course to do a 5k an hour before hand. Well, Greta Dobe it last year and didnt walk at all, so I could do it too, right? I did. A fruitless trophy hunt at the Cones for a Cure 5k in Forest Acres. The Ashtons , David He and even Hayes Selbee showed up and “stole” my precious win. But that’s for another post.

To my credit, I wasnt the only insane one looking to double up on the day. James Hicks, John Gasque, Valerie Selby and Hou-Yin Chang also took part in the most idiotic double dip in history.

Part of the reason for doubling up was that I didn’t like my chances in the Crusher. I knew the Yerger would be there, and since he has about 50 less pounds to carry out of the quarry, advantage: Rob. Plus, with the size of the race growing so much, the trophy chance became significantly slimmer.

Sure enough, Dimery showed up, as well as Rick Stroud and some of his Harbison trail crew. There were also a ton of pretty fast looking dudes up at the front this year, in stark contrast to 2012. Not a whole lot of familiar faces at this race for me. I think a lot of people showed up for the novelty of the event and the sheer challenge. A lot of crossfitters, some costumes.  Sarah Blackwell, Adam Beam, and Greta were back again. Ken Cobb was there to make sure I didnt have a prayer of placing in my age group.  Jenn Covington was there to cash in her free CRC race.

I lined up a few rows back and decided to take this start a hundred times easier than the sprint I did last year. Like half marathon pace. Just scared to death of the trauma of 2012. As noted above, the first quarter mile is on the roads near Olympia Mills apartments, before you enter the quarry. Once you go through the gates, there’s another quarter mile of some fairly steep, but not too bad, incline. For the uninitiated, this gives you a false sense of security. Then there’s a hard left, and its like oh dear God…  Suddenly you’re in virtual freefall down a corkscrew road into a seemingly bottomless pit. You know its bad when there’s a 10 mph speed limit sign and another one for trucks to check their brakes before the descent. It doesnt help that a pack of vultures can be seen circling the ridge above. They came to the right place.

And out come the leg sledgehammers again. I’m desperately trying to find a happy space between the pain of blasting down the decline at full speed versus the pain of trying to brake yourself against gravity. If you check my pics, you can see there’s a lot of gravity involved. FYI, there is no happy space. Either way the sledgehammers are hitting somewhere. I’m trying to be all tactical, but when Adam, then James,then Sarah,  pass me – my overwhelming grandiosity starts complaining. I latch on to James and Sarah for the rest of the way down, which I see, as forewarned, has gotten longer with the continued digging over the past year.  The leader (Kevin Trumpeter) and Dimery are already heading back up with a tenth of a mile for me to go. I guess hanging on to the lead pack is not going to happen this year.

The turnaround is just psychologically devastating. Its like you’ve reached rock bottom. HAHA. Yeah… it sucks. My goal was not to walk this year, and I swear the evil walksie voices start talking right away. But I keep telling myself to keep going. The first half is just brutal. The back of the pack is flying down at double your speed while you’re crumpled over straining to do 11 minute pace. Keep going….  Baby steps. The voices are screaming, especially when half the dudes ahead of you are already in soccer mom mode. But I’m making slow and steady progress, passing people left and right blazing away at  first time 5ker speed. Halfway up Merritt’s lounging around in her golf cart, taunting me again, saying something about her foot being in a boot from last week’s Palmetto Half.  Excuses, excuses.

I finally catch Adam at about three quarters up and he is saying something about “one more hill”. Dude must be delirious, because I know there’s least three more brutal inclines. But whatever works. On the next hill the lead girl (who had been walking) comes flying by me. Oh hell no. I start picking up the pace, but the walksie voices get louder, and I go back to my “couch to 5k” crawl. Luckily, she starts walking again and I pass her with my power jog.  Finally, I’m near the top and the 10 percent grade becomes like 3 percent, and it feels like heaven. By the time I reach the gate I’m almost up to 7 minute pace and set my sights on a guy that looks suspiciously mid thirtiesh. I try to be all stealth, but when you weigh 190 and are breathing like a rabid banshee, the element of surprise is perhaps not optimal. Nevertheless, I blow by him and actually start reaching near 5k race pace, which feels like a sprint after all the light jogging. I round the corner and see the clock still in the 25’s (I ran 28:04 last year). I blast out the last bit and finish in 26:05 or something. 17th place. The official time has me in 25:43, so I’m not sure if we briefly entered some hole in the space-time continuum, but I’ll take it. Race is supposed to be 3.7 miles, though my Garmin has 3.4 this year with a longer course. I’m thinking the Garmin is probably just in WTF? mode when it sees you going 400 feet underground.

I didnt get to stay around long, but I hear they did give out cool rocks as age group awards this year. The only problem is ..one deep age groups? I was 4th in AG so it didnt matter anyway, but every other race does top three. Do I get another rock for complaining again?

Sarah rocked a 3rd overall female, so awesome for her. Dimery won 2nd in a blazing 22:04. Hats off to the Trumpeter, who crushed the field with a 21:11. The Yerg captured my age group and Rick Stroud won the 40-44. Greta won her age group as well, along with Valerie Selby, who rocked out a brutal finishing kick. Must be all that Team Utopia South training.

Quarry Crusher..better be ready for the Blue Shoes next year.

http://quarrycrusherrun.com/results2013.pdf

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Guest Blogger: Trophy – Palmetto Half Marathon – Columbia,SC – 4/13/13

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Once again the Palmetto 200 and the Palmetto Half were on the same day, so I had to skip my “home field” race. Trophy agreed to submit his report on this race, which is held on the hallowed Blue Shoes training grounds and directed by our fearless marathon training leader, Ken “Captain Marathon” Calcutt.

This is the 4th year of the Palmetto Half Marathon.  Race starts and finishes in Sandhills. This race is one I definitely look forward to.  The race director Ken Calcutt is a good friend and running companion and it’s also a course that we train on quite a bit, so I know it well.  This race usually brings out a lot of familiar faces and fast runners.  This year’s field was missing some notable faces due to the Boston Marathon and the Palmetto 200.  Most notably…the Blue Shoes.

Trophy appears to have a chip on his shoulder…a 6’3″ 195 pound pale white chip.

The weather for this race was perfect. Temps were probably high 40’s when I got there and low 50’s for most of the race.  I arrived early to beat the massive crowd and do some expected socializing.  With the Blue Shoes absent I feel it is my job as his sidekick to mingle as much as possible.  A job I take very seriously. I decided to camp out in front of Academy and survey the talent while talking to fellow running group member Nathan.  After a little while of this we join Larry, Matthew, and Tommy for a quick warm up.  We get back in time and I make my way through the crowd to near the front.  I see Plexico is here and figure he is favorite to win.  Not too many fast faces that I see.  But you never know where they will come from.

Trophy was probably warming up to make absolutely sure he had his 1:34 half pace down.

My goal for this race was to break my 1:34 curse. Up to this point I have run 4 half marathons in 1:34….all of which were within 11 seconds of each other and two were exactly the same time down to the second. Apparently I am extremely consistent in half marathons…even though I have zero consistency in a 5K. Go figure. My training had been pretty decent coming off the Columbia Full. I figured it was about 50/50 that I could break the curse and go sub 1:34.  Unfortunately I didn’t see any good pacers to start off. Where is Burgess when you need him!??!?  (Last year he was kind enough to pace me and do play by play)

Burgess likes to jibber jab during the race and then drops Trophy like a bad habit. Its all those Dr Pain /miles of smiles intervals from last year. My Burgess Project continues to do well. Bwa ha ha ha. My hopes were high for the Trophy at this one. I figured he had a 1:32 easy, maybe 1:31.

We take off and the pace is pretty fast to begin with.  I hit the first mile in sub 7 and know this might not be good. We reach the overpass and I see Plex already turning on to Two Notch and already opening up a good size lead. Shocker.  I’m feeling pretty good at this point and am just keeping steady with around a 7 pace.  The last few miles coming back down Valhalla is rough so I need to get some cushioning. I’m about 3 miles in when I realize….there is no female in front of me?!!?  Odd. Normally some fast ones will show up and whip up on me.  Hold that thought. I look to my right and here she comes. So much for that. Not only does one pass me….but 3.  They were running in a pack of sorts….each separated by about 5 feet. I had a plan to stick with them for as long as I could. Good in theory…bad execution. They dropped me quickly.

What’s worse than getting chicked? Triple chicked by three girls he doesnt even know.

Everything went pretty smoothly until the hills in Wildewood.  They sure can suck the life out of you. I got back onto Mallet hill and headed home and tried to regain my speed I had lost on the hills.  I passed a couple of guys and was feeling decent. After a little ways down Mallet Hill you get to start running against the back of the pack.  I find it actually works well and most of them are quite nice and try to motivate you.  At this point in time the sun is coming up and I’m starting to feel it…so it was definitely needed.  The run down Mallet allows you to get some momentum back…and the few streets before Valhalla aren’t bad either.  But then you get back on Valhalla and the fun begins. The first part is downhill and nice.  But then you get a few rolling hills and this can make or break you.  It’s at a point in the race when you start to wear down.  For me…it seems to be break time. I am struggling to maintain pace as I go through the hills. I’ve run them many times so I know exactly what to expect. The only good thing was that no one was passing me.

Interestingly, Trophy leaves out the nasty quarter mile mountain on Valhalla. I run it a couple times a week. Its a beast and will break you just after mile 10.

After a nice little climb we finally reach Two Notch and turn for home. After a slight rise…you get a little bit of a downhill stretch back to the overpass at Clemson. I ramp up the pace a little bit, but feel at this point it’s pointless. The ever present calculator in my head is telling me that my goal of a sub 1:34 is pretty much unattainable without running a sub 6 final two miles. But…I drudge on.  Hit the overpass and it’s as fun as always.  The finish at this race is awesome though (once you get up the overpass).   I start the descent to Sandhills and try to pick up the pace.  I was passed by a fellow who looked suspiciously like a possible age grouper a little ways back. Must track him down.  I hit the turn into Sandhills and see he is slowing.  Time to unleash the Blue Shoes (metaphorically speaking since I just bought a pair of garnet and black shoes and this was my first race in them). I do not possess many things in life…but a kick I do have. I floored it and gave it everything I had.  Apparently dude has no kick cause it wasn’t close. But fun nonetheless. If you don’t feel like you are going to die when you finish…what fun is that?!!!?  I felt like death.

A finish to make me proud. Nice job Trophy.

I wasn’t sure of my exact time. My watch had delayed a little bit at the start and I didn’t catch the time on the clock as I was racing through.  I knew it was 1:34 something…so I wasn’t too concerned. It wasn’t until I got home and checked the results that I saw it. 1:34:22.  Why is this significant?  First off….1:34.  As Alex might say…son of a bitch. Second…it is the exact same time down to the second as my 2012 Palmetto Half time and 2011 Gov Cup time.  Wow. Is this even possible?!!?  I’m starting my own business….pacing people to 1:34 half marathons!  Email me for details.

Swear? Me? Never

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As expected Plexico won by a couple minutes. 2nd going to James Jackson of Aiken and 3rd to Jonathon Ross of Atlanta. The female winner was indeed the woman who was in the lead when they passed me.  Heather Costello of Lugoff. 2nd going to Emily Schneider and 3rd to Ashlee Sears.  Winning time for Heather was 1:28.  Apparently they decided to pick up the pace a little once they passed me.  First place for male masters went to the leader of the A training group Larry Jourdain with second going to John Bradley.  First female masters was Sharon Cole.   I didn’t talk to everyone after so not sure of PR’s and all times. The Ward family did well.  PR’s by both Heath and Jen in the half and Brady and Brooke in the 5K.  I’ll let Alex hit any other CRC members who may have placed.  I, by the way, finished 4th in age group.  So close. And the guy I passed….indeed in my age group. Good call.

There was also a 5k going on while we suffered through the half. Mike Hedgecock squeaked out a victory over Renato Cortez, Jr.  On the female side Nicole Berzins earned the victory.

Hey that Renato guy stole my 100 bucks at Healthy Capital. Nice job, Hedge.

Trophy signing off.  (Until I run another race Alex doesn’t or I beat him)

Good luck with that. Thanks, Trophy!

Palmetto 200 – Columbia to Charleston,SC – 4/12/13 to 4/13/13

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The Palmetto 200 is a 200 mile relay from Columbia to Charleston (James Island county park) that is now in its 4th year, and also marks my fourth year doing the event.

My first year doing this I had no idea what I was getting into. My longest run was all of 13 miles, and I am definitely someone who needs their sleep, but the idea of traveling to Charleston by foot was too cool to turn down.

Of course, it is not actually one person doing this. Typical conversation I have every year:

Me: I’m doing a 200 mile relay this weekend.

Person: Oh my God, youre running 200 miles?

Old response: long winded description of relays,legs,vans, etc, etc.

New response: Yes. Yes I am.

If you are one of the above people, the relay is 200 miles split up among 12 people. The 200 miles are chopped up into 36 parts, called “legs”, with each person running 3 of the legs. The mileage varies 1.4-9.7, but most are in the 5-7 mile range.

My connection with the P200 goes back to my pre-blue shoes days of posting on the “sub 22 5k ” message boards on Runners World looking for training advice. As it turns out, one of the regulars was a “MrSig” , who I eventually found out was also in Columbia. Mr Sig turned out to be Brian Clyburn, “El Capitan” of our team, who basically recruited me for the first relay as an unknown.

I did the 2010 P200 like a complete idiot.  My longest run was 13 miles at the time, and I had almost 23 scheduled, supposedly as one of our faster runners. I went blasting out of the gate on my first leg (leg 3)  and died a thousand deaths on that first 8.8 miler in the broiling sun. By my third leg at 5 am (leg 27) I was walking and hallucinating, swearing (quite literally)  up and down I’d never do this again.

That was 4 relays ago.

Running the Palmetto has now become an annual tradition, overseen by Brian and his spreadsheet. Most captains will haphazardly get their team together and hope everything turns out on race day. Not the Capitan. We get several pages of color coded excel sheets with our legs, distance, expected pace and arrival departure in each exchange zone. The thing is a work of art. Our blue ridge relay sheet had some quotient of difficulty due to the hills factored in, and this one had projected dew point and temperature.   Michelangelo had the Sistine Chapel, Clyburn has his spreadsheet.

We also have at least two team runs and a team lunch…and about 20 emails counting us down toward our race day.  We are one well oiled machine by the time we toe the starting line.

The team has evolved over the years, but myself, Brian, David McNiece and Joel have been constants. For this we have earned the five stars on our team shirts ( 4 palmettos, 1 blue ridge). This year Brian’s wife Jen rejoined the team, Joel’s wife Amanda came back, Darrell “Code” Brown was in for #3, Brandon was back for his second relay,  and David’s brother Andy was also in for his second. Newbies included Winston, who had been on mine and Code’s ninja team in the blue ridge, Conner – a friend of Brandon’s,  and Julie – an FBI agent who works with Winston.  We had lost our ringer Kori from the last couple of years but had some strong replacements that would probably put us close to last years record pace.

We got to the the start line at 11:15 for our scheduled departure at noon. They stagger the start times based on projected speed, beginning at 6 am for the slowest teams and 1:30 for the fastest. One of the 1:30 teams included Dan Hartley’s Columbia Marathon team, who were cool enough to come see us off at the Columbia speedway. Jennifer Hill, Jeff Curran, Israel Bilbao, Geary McAlister, Rob Yerger, Rick Gibbons were on hand soon after we showed up.  This was nice because technically we “stole” their vans. Apparently Triangle rent a car “reservations” are more like “suggestions”. We reserved the vans probably 6 months ago, but the guys at Triangle made it sound like we were very fortunate to get 2 of their precious 15 passenger vans. Luckily Brian and Joel got there at the crack of dawn and got the last 2, with them telling the guys to hold the other van for the slackers (i.e. Myself and the Code) who were coming at 9:30.  When we got there Dan was about to blow a gasket (rightfully so) because his reserved vans were not available. He got 2 large SUVs instead. Which sucks. Really bad. You want every bit of possible room on these relays. Believe me. I would have been charged with assault on a Triangle employee, so Dan handled himself a lot better than me.

After a rundown of the rules by RD’s  Kirk and Brian, we were off with 3 other teams. Joel was runner 1 and literally the second after the start gun it starts freaking pouring rain. Total downpour. Joel, being an expereinced runner (ex collegiate) held back on the first part of this leg, which is a lap around the old Columbia motor speedway in Cayce.  Although I didnt see it, he apparently then crushed the others over the next 6 miles. David had the second leg, the only one which is mostly dirt road. He told me he wasnt at his best but still did well. He got passed by some total ringer dude in a singlet, but held his own after that. Andy had leg #3 , which completely wrecked me in 2010. 9 miles out in the broiling sun – it was now close to 80 degrees and humid to boot. Everybody got scared seeing Andy, a 17 min 5ker, suffering out there. Jennifer and Brian had strong runs down Charleston highway and took us ahead of pace. Then came the dreaded leg 6 . Leg 6 has an ungodly mountain which produces more cases of walksies than I’ve ever seen. And its long (8 miles) with no shade. Code takes off on leg 6 like its a wintertime 5k, 6:20 ish and no water. Surprisingly he motored up the mountain like a champ. However, the finish was probably 3-4 miles down the road and I think he barely made it. Apparently he caught the walksies shortly after the hill, and by the time he finsihed he was complete toast. I as half worried I might need to take him to an ER, but apprently this rare compound called dihydrogen monoxide was able to revive him. Go figure. Amanda then blazed through her 1.7 mile leg in St Matthws (the shortest in the relay). Winston has been training like a beast of late with the times to prove it (39:09 I think at the bridge run 10k) . He blasted through a 6 miler in the blazing heat like it was nothing, 6:30ish pace I believe. Julie then took the handoff for leg 9. She is one of the very rare runners who is not a slave to a Garmin, so she had no idea what her pace was. She took off in total beast mode, and damned if she didnt rock a 4 miler at 7:15 pace. Conner and Brandon took the next two legs out of Cameron, SC, leaving me to run #12 in the tiny town of Elloree.

My first leg was an 8 miler , my longest of the relay, going from Elloree to Santee State park. The leg didnt look too bad on paper, elevation wise.  By the time I took the handoff from Brandon, it was just after 7 pm, and still freaking hot. I had initially opted for the reflective vest on white hairy chest ensemble, but my fashion police on the van (julie and the Code) gave the “chest thong” a definite thumbs down. One need only to see my leg 12 pic at blue ridge to see what an awful sight that is. Fearing arrest in Elloree, I went with the white tech shirt instead. When I got the relay bracelet, I took off like a complete moron. About a mile in, I seemed to be laboring too much for the 7 minute pace I was trying to hit. Garmin spits back a 6:18. NICE JOB HERO. And that was just the beginning. The next 5 miles were a complete death march. Got overheated and had to slow down big time. Whats worse were about 3 miles on a dirt road in the epicenter of nowhere. I was all alone and was wishing for the sweet release of death about 4 miles in, cursing myself  over and over.  These dirt hills kept coming out of nowhere and sucking my life away. One part was so muddy I had to stop and walk around it for about 20 meters lest I lose my blue racers in the sludge. I finally caught up with Curtis from the Darlington Marathon team who looked like he was hurting just as a  bad. I finally hit the entrance to Santee State Park and was so glad to be done…except apparently the entrance road is over 2 miles. Nice. After thinking the end was around the next turn for 15 minutes, I finally saw Joel at the exchange zone. I was a total wreck after I passed off the bracelet. Basically a nice mix of pukish and pass outish. I think I scared a couple of locals docking their boat at the lake afterward. Its imagine its not often to see a half naked delirious albino saquatch taking an ice bath in Lake Moultrie.

It was dark after my leg and we left van 1 (Joel, Andy, David, Jen, Brian and Amanda) to go to work while van 2 ( myself, code, julie, winston, brandon, conner) got dinner at Lone Star Barbeque near Santee. Its a nationally known place profiled on the food network. So good. I highly recommend it.

We had some downtime before Code’s leg 18, so we went ahead to that exchange zone and finally started to see some more teams. With us starting so late, the first 12 legs were pretty desolate. I made the first use of a relay essential – the sleeping bag. I guess you can sleep in the van, though if youre 6’3″ its not exactly comfortable. Of course, finding the key elements of sleeping bag placement is difficult – you want low noise, no bugs/snakes, somewhere you can be found, and most importantly – somewhere where you will NOT be run over by a white 15 passenger van. I crashed out for a bit on the bag, but didnt really sleep as it was only 10 pm or so. The night sky is amazing in Cross, SC though.

Van 1 put in some good runs on their shift and had gotten us closer to spreadsheet pace by the time Code got the handoff for leg 18.  I was a bit concerned about the Code, since this was 9 miles , and not too far removed from the brutal leg 6 and a full belly of barbeque. Not sure when he went off but I think it was close to midnight. Sure enough, the Code was hurting and cussing up a storm when he finally arrived. In reality I think it was like 7:30 pace but he made it seem like he was out for a stroll with his mom. After Jen took leg 19 we were finally back in regular rotation.  My memory gets a little hazy at this point, mostly because I was driving and trying to avoid all the teams we were now catching up with. Just mobs of teams, some with people on bikes shadowing the female runners. Thats nice of them, but the last thing I want to do is a freaking brick workout in the middle of the relay. Sorry ladies.

We put together a nice string of legs in the middle of the night. It was MUCH cooler and the terrain gets a lot flatter as well as you get closer to the coast. Somewhere Conner said he made contact with one of the other Columbia teams – Girls Gone Run, which had Joyce Welch , Ellen Rodillo-Fowler and Dand Burgess. Joyce apparently completely chicked Conner. Sorry dude, she’s fast. I had leg 24 next, a very short 2.3 mile leg near Moncks Corner. It was now 3:30 in the morning, and had gotten damn cold. Julie had a short leg before mine, but I was freezing my ass off every time I got out of the van, so I waited to the last minute. I see Julie coming close when I get to the exchange when I realize WHERE IS MY BIB??. Answer: in the freaking van 100 meters away. So I haul ass to the van , grab the bib and fly back. Julie has just arrived and is frantically looking for an albino beast but cant find me. After a few tense seconds, I go flying by at mach 5, grab the bracelet and take off. I start off relatively easy, 6:40ish , ramp it up to 6:20 then blast it out the remaining .30 in sub 6 pace, desperately trying to make up at least some of that total fail from leg 1.  Two guys doing 10 minute pace briefly feared for their lives until my freight train self passed by with my new 50 dollar beacon-esque headlamp. I was at a full out sprint when I handed off to the Capitan.  Leg 24 was done in 15 minutes, so I then jumped in the van, jacked up on adrenaline and headed to our last van flip at zone 31 (Jennie Moore Elementary in Mt Pleasant).

We got there at about 4:30ish and its a total ghost town. We’ve apparently gone from behind everybody to completely in front.  There are literally 4 vans in the parking lot and its dead silent. PERFECT! I grab my sleeping bag and pillow and hop on a picnic table, which is like the freaking tempur-pedic bed of relays. No bugs, no getting run over, and with hardly anyone else at the zone, completely free of loud talkers. I jumped that table like a sailor on shore leave and sleep like a champ for a good hour and a half. When I wake up its still completely quiet and getting light. I feel like I’m on drugs because I actually  got some rest, which is like gold for these overnight relays. My only regret is looking over and seeing Travis Cowan in a hammock – now that is the way to go next time. He was shouldering some  ultra distance for his team which included his wife Stephanie and “barefoot” John Richards.

We had about an hour to spare during we went to town on a Chick Fil A in Mount Pleasant. When we got back Amanda with van 1 was en route, and she came blazing into the school to hand off to Julie. Julie , being a newbie to the team, had all the short legs, so she again crushed out another 5kish distance like a minute under spreadsheet pace. She’s definitely getting more work next time. Winston then had a 5 miler and blasted out some more sub 7 pace over the IOP connector. He unfortunately was supposed to do 6:40ish the whole time. The Capitan showed him some tough love! Brandon took leg 33 and laid down another 4.4 over the Ben Sawyer bridge like a boss. Code took the next leg, and he was toast by his own account. Still, he had only 3.1 miles, so I had to hurry down to Patriots Point to get Conner ready for leg 35.  Turns out I missed the parking lot for the exchange zone, and decide to take the next turn to turn around…which ends up being the on-ramp to the freaking Ravenel (Cooper River) Bridge. The bridge is almost 2 miles long, so I’m flying across it, deathly afraid of the Code just sitting there waiting. I take the first exit and then pull an action movie style U-turn that Julie assures me would pass at FBI driving school. I fly back at breakneck speed,  and make it to the exchange zone with less than 5 minutes to spare.  Conner probably got like 30 seconds to stretch before Code comes around the corner. After the handoff, I  took a shortcut to Mason Prep (near Montagu and Lockwood) and prepare for my final, and the team’s final, leg 36. Unfortunately Chick Fil A has decided to make its presence known, so me and the Mason Prep portapotty got to be very good friends. I am forever sorry to my fellow anchor leggers who followed after me. Finally Conner showed up after a run around the peninsula and I was left with my 6.66 mile, mark-of-the-beast anchor leg. I made plenty sure not to go out too fast, because the sun was blazing and it was already in the 70’s again. I knew we were too slow to break last years time, but I had a chance at getting us under 24 hours. Leg 36 is nuts – you have to cross like six heavily trafficked streets and cross 2 bridges. I had to stop quite a few times in the first few miles and wait for cars, trying to weigh a sub 24 versus my life. Luckily, they had quite a few cops out, and one time the guy brought like a hundred cars to a standstill to let me go by. All I could give him was a thumbs up, because I was starting to hurt. I was still pulling 7:15 pace with all the traffic, but the sun and heat were just killing me. This was the hottest weekend of the year so far, and I was definitely not used to it yet. I was so glad to finally get over the second bridge into James Island, but it seemed even more steamy once I got to the endless road to the finish at James Island County Park. Somehow I managed to get to the park, but I was dying. The park itself gave me a big adrenaline boost. I think I saw Girls Gone Run cheer at me on the way in, but it might have been a hallucination. It was killing me how long it was taking to get to the finish even though I was in the park. Finally I saw Julie and a couple of gold VOTR shirts in the distance and I threw down all that I had left – sucking wind and flopping around. I thought I was dead until I saw the clock and it was still in the 29’s (we were six hours off the clock, which meant 23’s for us). As my teammates started surrounding me for the run in, I misread the clock as 29: 59: 50 something and I went into some insane blue shoe kick that would rival my 5k finishes. I balsted across the finish at mach 5 , with the actual finish at 23:56:50 something. Under 24 hours!

The post race spread was awesome with food by sticky fingers and three kinds of beer. I made sure to get my 2 drafts, though I know better than the 2011 relay where I chugged 3 pints and was fighting the pukes for hours afterwards. The Capitan seemed pleased with the team’s performance, and I know I was – we lost a beast of a runner in Kori and still were only a couple of minutes off last years record. Code and I didnt exactly tear it up, but the others, especially Winston and Julie in our van,  more than made up for it.

The best part came a day later. FIRST PLACE. We were the winners of the mixed team category and 4th overall, out of 70+ teams. Incredible! Looks like we’ll have an even tougher standard to beat next year. I’m already scared of that spreadsheet!

http://www.palmetto200.com/palmetto200/2013-results

Bunny Hop 5k – Columbia,SC – 3/30/13

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The Bunny Hop 5k is a new race this year put on by the downtown YMCA that goes to benefit their Partners with Youth program. In addition to being a new race, the event features a completely original course that runs from the corner of Washington and Sumter into the Robert Mills House area and back. Its a little strange, because at the far end of the out-and-back route is a two block double loop that you run like 2 laps on a track before heading back. Oh, and its flat. Not completely pancake, but pretty close.

There were three races on the Tour de Columbia this weekend, so I had to plan my trophy hunt carefully. Newberry was out, because they advertise prize money. This usually attracts people who are actually fast, like your Ashtons, Bishops and Plexicos, which completely ruins my chances.  The Resurrection run seemed appealing, because its usually very small, but I’ve noticed they still get winners below 18 minutes, so again, no chance. Plus, its held on the Cold Winters Day course, which I’ve run a million times, and will again in a couple of weeks at the Cones for a Cure. So Bunny Hop it was.

Although it was a first time race, YMCA’s Erin Roof was directing and Strictly was timing, so little chance of a Judicata flashback.

Did I mention my goal for the race? Well it was to stop the suck. Last two weeks had been a nightmare with my back injury. You would think that your injuries, when you participate in one activity maniacally and obsessively, would be related to that activity. Nope, I think it involved an overzealous snooze button hit a couple of weeks ago. I guess I’m not 18 anymore. One option would be not to race when you’re injured. But that would be a trauma too much for me to bear. Last week featured a long course, 40 degree rain and a 20:16 time. Oh, the horror.

But this week was better. Back was pretty much back to adequately supporting my sasquatchian physique, and the weather was nice for racing – overcast and cool. I showed up a little later than usual and saw a welcome sight – race shirts.

Now it is a very middle schoolish thing, but every regular road racer knows the fashion faux pas of wearing the race shirt to the race. Kind of screams couch to 5ker.  Not only did the Bunny Hop feature a bright blue tech shirt (which of course I approve) but there was a sea of blue in the crowd. Awesome.

One problem with the trophy hunt was the very real prospect of getting chicked again. Kenzie Riddle destroyed me at the Healthy Capital, and Amy McDonaugh was signed up for this one. Amy didnt have a guide for this race but Erin arranged a guy with a neon jacket and a bike to help. She asked me to make sure she stayed on course. I told her I’d be glad to keep her in sight much less direct her. I told Amy she really should slow down to help me out. Not a chance.

Erin also mentioned her son Parker was going to try and break 20 minutes and pointed me out as a pacer for him. Between the blue shoes, melon head and albino gorilla habitus, I stnad out in a crowd. Go figure.  I dont think I had actually met Parker before, though I tried like hell to track him down at the dam tri relay, when he had a three minute head start on the 4 mile run course. Didnt happen..the kid is fast.  I also heard his name a hundred times at the Pumpkin Run last year, when he was on my tail for most of the race and was clearly the hometown favorite.

At the start there were no singlet dudes, so that boded well.  Rick Gibbons, Pete Poore, J-Reeves, Wes and Rhea Spratt, Jeffrey Smith, Ashley Horton, Patti Lowden, Sharon Sherbourne and Henry Holt were some of the familiar faces, but really not a whole lot of people I knew. Gavin Ferguson, the kid that had me scared at the beginning of the Velocity Distance Project 5k, was also there.  A bunch of young dudes who lokoed relatively fit lined up at the front, so a potential wild card.

I blasted out hard from the start, but damned if Amy and 10 guys left me for dead in the first quarter mile, including Gavin and Parker.Are these kids going for sub 18? I was afraid I was starting to suck again, so I manned up and tried to keep all these guys in range. The last thing I wanted to do is get chicked and middle schooled.  First mile is almost all flat. I felt pretty good but was nervous about my placement as the first mile approached. I did pull even with Parker, who stuck to me like glue for a while, but I could tell he was hurting already with that sprint start. We hit the mile mark together …6:01. Didnt know we were going that fast, so I yelled out to Parker the split, hoping maybe he could slow down to keep from bonking.

After the first mile we started doubling back for the two-three block second lap. Amy had a nice lead and 4 other guys were still ahead of me. Looked like a couple kids and two guys that I was deathly afraid might be age groupers.  Things got a little dicey on the second mile, as we started threading into the back of the pack still on their first loop. I basically had to give these guys a wide berth. The last thing I wanted to do was for someone’s first race experience to be getting run over by a blue shoed truck. I did a fair amount of dodging and lost track of where the leaders were in the crowd. I was hurting but the flat course certainly helped me maintain the pace. Mile 2 came back at like 6 flat. Holy crap. Yes, I wanted to die, but it would be nice to PR.  Just past the mile mark we broke free of the pack and headed for home, so I could see everyone ahead of me. Amy’s lead had grown some but 4 guys were getting reeled back in.

And like David Banner when his eyes turned green, seeing potential road kill makes me a maniac. So with a mile to go, I just said F$%^ it and went for it. Arms pumping, lungs burning, pure blue shoe kick. Passed two of the guys  in the next 400 meters or so, leaving Amy and two guys to go. I finally caught the next guy with less than a half mile to go. I was in a world of pain but I could tell dude #4 was hurting worse and looking slightly over his shoulder. Probably wondering what the hell escaped from Riverbanks. As we made the last turn you could see the finish line. Between seeing the finish, being deathly afraid of this teenagers sprint speed, and seeing the 18’s again on the clock, I reached into some dark, scary place and found some other gear.  Amy finished a good bit ahead of me, but I suddenly realized I was in second place, and I threw down some adrenaline fueled 5 minute pace to the finish. 18:59! Garmin actually had my run at 3.18 miles, so 5:58 pace overall by the watch.  I apparently need to have better field vision when selecting my holes in the back of the pack defense. The course is certified.

But wait…this also meant I was first male. Trophy time! OK, so it doesnt really count as a win, but I have no shame when it comes to my precious trophies. And if you’re going to get chicked, at least let it be someone smokin fast. Amy won overall in 18:42.  The “four guys” (Mike Galdieri, AJ Enoch, Kevin Raymond and Josh Horton) finished in 19:04, 19:08, 19:15 and 19:31. Brian Talkington, who I remember racing at Runway, finsihed in 20:01/7th. Parker couldnt quite reach his goal, though 20:15 for a 13 year old (1st in AG) is still impressive. Other age groupers included Marie Demetriades first in the 2-14, Gavin finished 3rd in the guys division.  Ashley won second in the 25-29, just a few seconds from first. The Roof family claimed another winner with Joe taking first in the 45-49. Rick Gibbons barely won his age group by a mere six minutes. Wes Spratt impressed his tri friends Les and Frank by fighting off all the 55-59 competition and “winning” his age group of one. I’ll give him a break since he qualified for the 70.3 (half ironman) championships in San Juan 2 weeks ago. Pete Poore also won his age group by showing up, though he ran a strong time. Patti Lowden, Sharon Sherbourne, and the Holts all easily claimed age group glory as well.

It may hurt my trophy hunt for next year, but I won 100 bucks of Mast General Store gift cards, an hour massage at Hand and Stone and 2 free Columbia historic house tour tickets. Very nice swag!

http://www.strictlyrunning.com/RESULTS/13BUNNYHOP.TXT

http://connect.garmin.com/activity/290789764