Race for Life 5k – Columbia, SC – 10/5/2013


The Race for Life is my third race back from the lava rocks of Kauai. Its actually part of a giant event called the Walk for Life, which brings thousands of people to downtown Columbia to raise money and awareness for breast cancer research. I’ve done this event each of the last three years to support a friend, Dana,  and my aunt Sue, both breast cancer survivors.  My wife and kids do the walk as part of “Team Dana”, and normally I do the race and run back to walk more than half the course with them.

I wasnt so sure about the race this time, as each week is a complete crap shoot as to how the gimp leg/foot is going to feel. Things have slowly been getting better. The week before the race I managed a total of 15 miles, which brought the grand total to 25 since July 15.  So basically Ive put in about a half week of my usual weekly mileage in 2.5 months. But hey, I’m running again, so no complaints here. I could still be playing Candy Crush on the couch.

I was able to run sub 8 pace at the Race to Read 5 miler and just over 8 pace at the wednesday night riverfront group run, so I thought I might actually put some effort into this 5k. I figured anything sub 7:30 would be great. The course certainly would help – its an essentially flat out and back with only one major hill about halfway in. There is a net drop in elevation, as you pass the original start line about 2.9 miles in and plummet down a mountain into the road on the other side of Finley Park for the finish. They used to finish in the park itself, but I found out they changed it last year when I sprinted into an open field and found..no one there.  Luckily I was able to get back to the course and maintain my finishing position last year, about 20 seconds later than originally planned.

I showed up about 45 minutes early with the family and let them go down to the meeting area for the walk at the bottom of the hill. Did about a half mile warm up and felt pretty good. Just wanted to loosen up the toe some. The 10k started 15 minutes before the five and I was able to see Eddie Vergara, Angel Manuel and Steven Johnson leading the pack. Lois Leaburn, Teresa Harrington,  Joe and Luke Naylor, Kate Ferlauto, Ted Hewitt, Kana Rahman, Missy Caughman, Dina Mauldin and George Summers were some of the familiar faces.  AFter the dust cleared from the 10k, I tried to scout out if I had any age group competition. This race has been a pure trophy hunt in years past, and Ive usually finished in the top 5 despite my decidedly less than elite status. This year would require a real stroke of luck, as I figured at best I’d finish in 22:xx. I didnt immediately recognize any age groupers. Code was down in Aiken at the Whiskey Road 10k, Angel was doing the 10k of this event, and Trophy was doing a long run with my marathon training group, so it looked fairly wide open.  PLexico showed up with no one else in his league to challenge him. The 621 ninjas did send a pretty fast contingent with Hedgecock, Erin Miller, Randy Finn and Coke Mann (as well as Steven in the 10k). Coke hardly races so I had forgotten he had already aged up, but it turned out Randy had taken his place in my brutal 35-39.  Veteran racers Pete Poore, John Gasque, Rocky Soderberg and Alex Ponamarev were all at the 5k start, smartly choosing the shorter race (the 10k is a compelte sufferfest).  CRCers Andrew Touzel, Emily Richbourg and TUS teammate Sydney Frontz were also on hand. Sydney was out to pace a friend at her marathon pace, so I hoped to stay ahead of her.

The start was a complete mob scene. There were hundreds of people in the race, and quite a few were starting out like it was a 400 meter track event. Even Rocky blasted by me, probably accessing some of that 1966 SEC mile champion speed. I settled into a comfortably hard pace. I wouldnt say the left leg felt normal, but it at least felt more like a part of the rest of my body , instead of like dragging a stiff wooden peg.  The first mile is awesome in this race – straight through the heart of downtown with a slight downgrade. I kept trading places with a blonde haired girl who was running in weird bursts of speed and then slowing down. There was also a pack of teenagers who were doing the same thing, except completely walking in between intervals of sprinting.  Im pretty sure this is not Jeff Galloway method. Im feelign pretty good about the first mile until I see everybody turning left in front of me. WTF? I know the course turns right, having run it the last two years. Instantly the race feels like a complete disaster, but I try to keep up some hope the course changed this year without me knowing. Nope. I see us making the turnaround already and mixing in with the back of the pack 10kers. We ended up cutting off a few blocks and that nasty hill, so I knew this was going to be really short. This took the wind out of my sails, but I tried to keep up my pace nonetheless. First mile ended up being 7:15, so better than I thought. Mile 2 was tough. Fortunately the gimp leg was cooperating but the lungs were complaining that this was even more difficult than level 75 of candy crush. Just sucking a ridiculous amount of wind. Turns out couch surfing, TJ Hooker marathons and Flying Saucer excursions do not do wonders for one’s cardiovascular fitness. Go figure. This is about the time when I realized that youre actually going up a slight incline all the way back home.  After mile 2 (7:18) it starts getting a little congested because of all the 10kers, so I lose track of who I’m actually racing against. Despite feeling like death, I cant help but try and throw down a blue shoe kick since I know this is to going to be way short. I pass Sara Hutchins, someone who I’ve never met but remember from my obsessive race result tracking of 2009-2010.  Just when I’m feeling good about the kick I’m laying down, a black woman about my age (enigmatically listed as S SUMP on the results) just chicks the hell out of me from nowhere. I go after her like a rabid sasquatch and overtake her on the last small hill of the course beofer plummeting down towards the finish line. Gimp leg , understandably, is not fond of rapid downward acceleration, though I’m still going six something pace. I start to turn the last corner when damned if I dont get SUMPED as she passes me at  Allyson Felix speed, and theres no way I can respond, especially with a sharp left turn on the bum leg. Truth is, she would have kicked my ass even at 100 percent I suspect. I cross the line in 19:38, 2.76 miles by my Garmin and 7:08 pace. 6:46 pace on the last 0.75.  Very pleased with the result despite the course misdirect and epic Sumpage. I was on pace for a possible sub 22, so I’ve made up the equivalent of 2 years in 2 weeks at the 5k distance.  Nicer to be at 2009 pace than 2007. The leg is getting stronger so I’m hopeful this will continue. I had to run back to my family and Team Dana, but I ended up placing 3rd in age group, 17th overall. 

In the 5k, Plexico had an easy win. I suspect he mailed it in after the misdirect, because he wasn’t too far off his full course 5k times. Hedgecock finished 2nd in 16:34.  Heather Costello tok the women’s win, barely beating out Erin Miller, who Im sure would have had a PR on a full course. Randy finished 7th and Coke 11th, In the age groups, Sydney coasted to first in the kids , i mean 20-24,  division in 19:49. Andrew Touzel won the 30-34 while Sara Hutchins took the 30-34 women. Since they only went 1 deep overall, Erin ended up first in age group, while the SUMP finished 2nd. Gasque captured the 50-54 while Alex and Pete went first and third in the 60-64.  Jan Hardwick won the 65-69 with an amazing 21:59. Margaret Holt took the 65-69 women while Rocky easily won the 70+

In the 10k, Eddie Vergara won the overall easily, with Luke Gleissner taking second. Angel and Steven Johnson finished 3rd and 4th despite being directed way off course in he second half of the race. I think most of the 10kers ran a full length, correct course.  Ive never heard of the female winners, but they were Nicole Heilman, Michele Wyatt and Sara Wagner. Ted Hewitt ran a strong 45:15 to finish 15th overall and 3rd in the tough 40-44 age group. Sadly, I could not capture on film the same face of pain from last year, though Ted was definitely blue shoeing it at the finish. Familiar names in the 10k include Tim Rollason-Reese and Jessica Chiu winning the 30-34 and Meme Spurgeon placing second in the 40-44.  Teresa placed 2nd in the 50-54,  John Hancock placed second in the 65-69 while Henry Holt took the 70+.

One comment on “Race for Life 5k – Columbia, SC – 10/5/2013

  1. Amy Lauren says:

    Great job Alex. I know it’s not the finish time or mileage you are used to, but you are slowly getting back to where you were. Just as your body didn’t recover too quickly, it’ll take some time for your running to recover too. But- the body heals (you’re a doc, you know this!). Plus it’s a good cause and good excuse to do a race with the family!

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