The Ray Tanner “Home Run” 12k and 5k started as a small event but has now grown to one of the biggest races in Columbia. Unlike other races that are attached to a festival or some other event, Ray Tanner is a standalone race that feels like a celebration of the running community in this city. No color clouds, no mud, no zombies, just a really cool race. Our own “Bart Yasso”, Ken Lowden, race directs and recruits a good many of his Wednesday evening/Saturday morning regulars to volunteer, and they do an awesome job. Its held at a perfect time of year when the weather is usually cool and has a great course that starts and ends at Carolina Stadium. Even with my trophy hunting tendencies, I’ve never turned down going to RT in favor of searching out some rural podunk 5k.
Being a race by runners, for runners, everybody and their mom comes out for this one. It remains the only race in Columbia that I’ve never age grouped in. Last year I was all beaming with pride with my shiny new 49:09 45 second PR in this race, and I figured I had finally gotten some age group glory. Nope. Freaking eighth. Not even close. Between my increasing suckage at everything over the 5k distance and all the random surprisingly superfit soccer dads that race this event, I just dont seem to have a chance. There’s always the much less competitive 5k, but I’ve made it my mission to place in the 12. I thought I had a decent chance when I lowered my 12k PR by a minute at the Rose Festival in June, but then came the cliff dive, and well, control-alt-delete.
This is my third week back to actually doing some running, though I keep having delusions of grandeur I can still do what I used to, so I end up overdoing it and having to take some days off. If I never see a stairclimber or elliptical again, I wont be sad.
I got to the race about an hour early, doing some probably illegal maneuvers around the already coned off course. I was vaguely aware it would probably be poor form for the Columbia Running Club president to get arrested for reckless driving on a race course. Code and I carpooled. I seem to have a habit of destroying my age group chances by personally driving them to the race. See also Angel and Bayler’s Bash. Code had his Justin Bishop prescribed 2 miler for warmup, probably at a pace I cant even race at right now. Knowing my current speed, I didnt even want to bring shame to the Team Utopia singlet. I did about a mile of a slow jog with Trophy and Charley instead. Most of the Columbia running community either showed up racing or volunteering. Even Tenacious J made a rare appearance at an event where she couldnt shame me in cycling, swimming or transitioning. The 621 ninjas, harbison crew and tri guys seemed to have taken this one off . Wes and Rhea Spratt did show up though.
My main goal in this race was finishing in one piece. My “long run” for the second half of 2013 has been 5 miles. Beyond finishing, I had already trash talked about gimping the Diesel, and hopefully hit about 7:30 pace , as this was similar to my first and slowest Ray Tanner in 2010 (55:55). One major factor this year was the temperature – freaking warm. Ive done this race in long sleeves before, but this year I was sweating like a pig just warming up.
After a few words from Mrs. Tanner (Ray, now the athletics director, was at the Arkansas game in Fayetteville) and an invocation by Jim Manning, we were off. As I’ve mentioned before, the first mile is one big loop back to the start, where there are hundreds of 5kers , cheerleaders and music to make you go way too damn fast. It felt terrible. Humidity was close to 100 percent, and everything just felt heavy. Plus, I always suffer from a bit of post cliff depression at the beginning of races these days, where my former racing peers leave me in the dust. I was hating life already at the mile mark, which sits just before the big overpass over the railroad tracks on Blossom St. I read my split as 7:53, which got me even more down since I couldnt believe how rough it felt. Last night I uploaded the Garmin data, and realized it was not 7:53 but 7:13, and this was minus the mad sprint at the beginning (i let my watch go into power save mode waiting for the start, so i had to restart it 100 meters in). I can see Diesel up ahead and he’s kicking my ass. A tough slog up the overpass and I swear I’m ready to quit already. Really laboring. After the overpass, you take a nice flat tour through the Greek village and then head towards the Colonial center on Lincoln St. Despite working myself into a Debbie Downer funk, I can see I’m gaining on the Diesel quickly. At the time I thought maybe he’d gone out a touch fast, like low seven. After seeing my correct mile 1 split, he probably went out in a virtually suicidal sub 7. I tried to get him to maintain my 8 min pace, but he looked like he was toast already. We did a loop around the parking garage and I’m really slowing down, getting passed by quite a few people. Mile 2 in 8:05. The toe is starting to feel a little less stiff, but I’m seriously considering bailing at mile 3 when we pass the start again. Sarah Blackwell passes me just past the 2 mile mark and accuses me of sandbagging. Oh how I wish. On my way back on the overpass, I start getting really tired of hearing footsteps and getting passed, so I throw in a surge just to make me feel better. The 12k course passes Carolina stadium again almost right at 3 miles, and I know the 5k starts 30 minutes after the 12k. I check my watch as I near the intersection – oh good, its only 24 minutes and change, and then I hear the airhorn for the start of the 5k. Damn it, Mrs. Tanner must have an itchy trigger finger. Pretty soon I’m crossing the bridge and already the fastest 5kers are blazing past me like I’m standing still. First some young singlet wearing dudes, then Travis Moran, Eric Allers and Brian Clyburn. All of a sudden my ass is getting slapped and sure enough Tigs blows by me, much like my double Schmitz humiliation at Richmond. I made sure to throw in 10 feet of 6:20 pace to return the favor before she left me in the dust again. The mighty whiteys certainly prevailed over the blue shoes on this day. After a painful stretch of getting smoked by the lead 5kers I finally equilibrate in pace with the midpack of the shorter race. The 12k and 5k routes diverge on the corner of State Street and B avenue in Cayce, home of the Leona Lavallee Inspiration Station. A whole bunch of Ken’s running crew dress in grass skirts and coconut bikinis ( including the men) with a steel drum band. The station is named after Leona Lavallee, a big part of the Columbia running community who tragically died in a car accident right after the Labor day race in 2009. The station provides awesome crowd support at a tough point in the race. I was feeling pretty rough at the time, but all I remember is Jeff Burgess and his sagging coconut boobs and Tommy Outlaw laid out in a stretcher just post knee surgery. With the injured Tommy and all the island imagery I thought I was having flashbacks to Kauai.
It was a nice little boost, because right after the station is the grueling B avenue climb – about a half mile of low grade relentless hill. Not crazy steep but over 4 miles in it is a most unwelcome sight. At the top the hill is a one block loop before heading right back down. It gives you a good idea of where you stand in the race since you can see everyone ahead of you on the way up and behind you on the way down. In my case, seems like just about everybody is kicking my ass. Ive slowed down to over 8 minute pace as I slog up the mountain. The only good thing is my toe feels better on the uphill. Jim Lichty catches me about halfway and helps distract me from how ridiculously out of breath I’m getting. I did manage to re-pass Blackwell just before the top, but after we hit the turnaround, she blows right by me again. Lichty has had enough of my slow ass and leaves me for dead too. As I complete the one block loop, Ashley Horton is right there, and I start to imagine how much Team Utopia south grief I will get if she chicks me. Usually I fly down the backside of B avenue at low 6 pace, but I spend most of the downhill just recatching my breath. Sarah is gapping me pretty bad but I try to keep her reeled in. I usually like to stealth follow, but in case Sarah was wondering Sheila Subbarao decides to scream at Blackwell that I’m tracking her down. No love for her TUS teammate? i’m starting to think this whole race is some huge karmic payback for my ridiculous unfounded narcissism. Once I make it back down to the Inspiration station its time to weave into the back of the pack 5kers. This gets pretty tough, since its mainly walkers by the time I get there, and Im really having to juke and jive to get through the pack. People walking three, four across. Um..isnt this supposed to be a race? I turn wide and try the sideline approach but I about got sideswiped by an SUV on the bridge, so I go back to the weaving. Its not like I’m breaking any land speed records anyway. By this point my pace has slowed to a couple of 8:20 miles, so I set a late race goal of making sure I break an hour. Oh, and tracking down that Blackwell chick. Once I cross the bridge at the six mile mark is usually where I seriously throw down, so I try to pick up the pace some. Im in a world of hurt. Its good that its not toe or knee hurt, but more of the wow I cant believe how much fitness ive lost kind of hurt. Sweating like a pig and sucking wind like a boss. Finally I crest the hill on Huger street and see Sarah up ahead, whom I had lost for awhile in the sea of 5k walkers. Time to really lay the hammer down, or in my case, throw down some wicked pre cliff half marathon pace in a 12k. As the stadium gets nearer, Sarah still has a decent lead on me but I’m slowly getting closer. I can start to hear the announcer (Shirley Smith?) as I make the last turn into the stadium. Blackwell is right there but there’s a ton of walkers in the way. Shamelessly, I pull a Marcus Lattimore cut to the outside, find a seam on the sideline, and headless chicken it to the finish, passing Sarah with about 20 yards to go. Yes, apparently I am an insufferable jackass. Finished in 59:22, good for 120th place and 24th in age group.
Yes, its tough to be eleven minutes slower in a distance you raced just 5 months ago, but I’ve been told I need to be thankful for being alive and stuff. It felt like a marathon but I’m glad I stuck it out and finished. Something tells me I’ll have a lot more pride to swallow in the months to come. That may not be a bad thing.
12k -Eric Ashton crushed this race in 38:18 for the win. At age 45. 93% age grade, which is world class. Not sure he’s human. Tim Jeffreys finished second and Jonathan Eggert finished third. I ran into Eggert at the Ryan Rawl run. He used to play soccer at USC, and has the build of a soccer player, but apparently he discovered later he had a freakish ability to crush the city’s best distance runners. Wish I had that problem. Justin “A Standard” Bishop finished in 4th, Plexico 6th. I see an epic showdown happening at Gov Cup between these guys. The top 20 is full of Columbia road racing beasts – Frank “Dr Chicago” Clark, Jason Dimery, Phil Midden, Larry Jourdain (at 51 – top male masters!), Yerger, Flicker, Brad Marlow and yes, even the Code. Looks like the women’s race was awesome, with the top 3 all finishing within a few seconds of each other. Ashley Sears took the win in 50:15, with CRC’s Devon Shirley in 2nd and Rian Landers-Ramos in third. Birgit Spann won female masters at age 52 – incredible. Paul Laymon won male grandmasters in a blazing 49:11 while Carol Wallace won female grandmasters.
Age groupers – Jennifer Lybrand took first in the 25-29, Bishop, Plex and Frank won the most brutal 30-34 age group ever. Phil Midden, Rob Yerger and Flicker took the 35-39. Erin Swanson won first in the 30-34 females. Kenny Culbertson won 2nd in the 40-44 while Brad won the 45-49. Sharon Cole took the women’s 45-49. Larry Bates and Sue Porter won the 55-59. Newly 60 Mike Compton placed second in the 60-64, while Bill Iskrzak was 3rd. Jan Hardwick and Peter Mugglestone went 1-2 in the 65-69. 70 year old John Sneed whupped my tail and won the 70-74, while Henry Holt and Jesse Smarr took 1st and 3rd in the 75+.
In the 5k Michael Rusnaczyk won in 16:06 followed by Greg Lowing and Daniel Noval. Kathryn Cavanaugh finished an impressive fourth overall to win the womens race in 18:31 Heather Costello finished second followed by Ms. mighty whiteys herself Sarah Allers. Tigs rocked an 86 percent age grade – highest in the field. Travis Moran, Eric Allers and Evan Mikula were also in the top 10, Eric winning male masters. I was very excited for the “capitan” of my Palmetto 200 team, Brian Clyburn, who broke 20 minutes for the first time on Saturday. Awesome! Speaking of awesome, Tracy Tisdale captured her first overall trophy by winning female masters.
Age groupers – Brady Ward won 3rd in the 2-10 rocking a 24:51. Jennifer “Tenacious J” Hill won 1st in the 35-39 with Brie McGrievy just a few seconds behind her for third. Sadly I could not beat J across the line. Husband Jeff Curran finished 3rd in a tough 40-44. Caroline Keen finished 2nd in the 40-44 on a good day for Team Keen – Whitney ran a sub 51 in the 12k. Cheryl Vaught won 3rd in the 45-49 while Jonathan King took 2nd in the 50-54. Dolly Rodgers finished third in the 55-59 while Pete Poore took home third in the 60-64. Nancy Sneed won the 65-69, with Rocky Soderberg claiming the 70+.