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!