Safe in the City is now in its third year, having previously been held in the middle of Columbia’s most miserable month – July. I heard earlier this year the race may not be happening, which was surprising since it seemed like such a success in 2011 and 12. I later heard it was going to be postponed, which I interpreted as done. Luckily it turned out the race was rescheduled after all – on a night in late October.
This was awesome news, because outside of the soul crushing heat and humidity, the SITC was perfect. Unbelievable course. About as pancake flat as you can get in Columbia, with a great straightaway finish in front of the Museum of Art. And now the weather would be cool.
Once the date was set, I ended up signing up several weeks ago. I had the hope that maybe, just maybe, I could actually RUN a decent 5k. I say this because the comeback is still in its formative stages – a few miles here and there, with 4 races under my belt that I was using as speedwork.
Coach Justin of Team Utopia South picked this race for the team as a good measure of training given the course and probable ideal conditions. i’ve managed one TUS practice in three months – and was so sore I had to take the rest of the week off. Somehow, this turned into a back and forth on facebook where our fastest girl not named Amy, aka Sydney Frontz, was going to take me down at this race. Having no restraint on my grandiosity or care for my personal well-being, I said it was on like Donkey Kong. Smart move, cool guy. At the time of the challenge, I was pulling 15 mile weeks and my last 5k time was 26:06. I did manage a very short Race for LIfe (2.76 mi) at about 7:10 pace that about killed me at the start of October, but I had no business talking trash. But I can’t help myself. The melon headed ego sometimes bypasses higher thinking centers and goes straight to the mouth.
Syd is no casual jogger either. I think her “adult” 5k PR is 21:30 and she used to run cross for Chapin high. Oh, and shes 22 years old and weighs about 100 pounds less. And was marathon training. Yep, I was going to get destroyed. At best. Probably publicly humiliated.
But hey, the jagged talon that passes for my left toe sesamoid bone started cooperating a little more, and I was actually able to run 20-25 miles per week in the last half of October. A lot of this was at about 10 minute pace, but after Kauai I will accept any forward motion and love it. Also, I would like to welcome my left leg back to the rest of my body. After acting like a lifeless cinder block since July, I have actually been able to push off the gimp leg and approximate the hideous form that I’ve relied on for the last 5 years. Granted the lungs act like I’ve been chain smoking Newports, but what do you expect with all the couch surfing and candy crushing.
I drove to the race with the Code. Apparently we were so amped about this race we showed up an hour and 15 minutes early, like kids on Christmas morning. Do not underestimate our running nerdiness. It was pretty cold for racing singlets, so I wore a black long sleeve shirt under the TUS uniform. Please see previous sentence. Syd and the Trophy showed up a little later, and were so cold we hung out in Mast general store. Columbia racing legend Jeremy Becraft was working that night and gave us discount cards. Swag score! Syd was already pulling a Code, complaining about being sick and nervous. Trophy was actually in good spirits, since the temp was below 60 degrees. Lady McGaha wilts like the Wicked Witch of the West in the heat. He was hoping to pull a sub 20 performance with all his marathon training and “watching his figure”. Code was crying about Justin expecting him to run like 18:30 pace or something. So much bitching and moaning, I almost felt obliged to pull the cliff diving/almost dying card. But I restrained myself.
Pretty good crowd by the time we got around to warming up. Diesels were all in attendance, though both parents were hiding behind the kids. Tigs and Eric represented Team Allers. 70’s beasts Rocky, Henry and Arnold Floyd all showed up. Fellow obsessive racers Alex Ponamarev, Jennifer Lybrand, Shannon Iriel , Valerie Selby , Billy Tisdale, Howie Phan and John Gasque showed up. Drew Williams was on hand to crush my age group chances, along with Tracy Tisdale. Local elites Tim Jeffreys, Coach Bishop, Jason Dimery, and Kathryn Cavanaugh were there to make sure no trophies would be hunted that night. Meme Spurgeon showed up to solidify her CRC rookie of the year status. Fellow TUSers Mike Compton, Ashley Horton , Travis Moran and Sheila Subbarao were representing and making sure the Syd-Blue Shoes battle did not go unwitnessed. Team Manning was there to claim some age group glory. Scott Hodukovich and Tenacious J were there representing the ultra and tri world. Andrew Touzel, Emily Richbourg and Rob Yerger were spectating.
I lined up third row right behind Syd and all of a sudden we were off. First mile is pool table flat – straight down Main St, then a run around the left side of the State House on Gervais/Sumter/Pendleton and back on Main on the other side. After all the John Bingham style runs Ive been doing , 5k race pace felt blazing fast. On the upside, thanks to left leg deciding to join the party, I was able to generate some decent speed. Its amazing what having two legs will do for your pace. Still, we were way below 7 pace and that was severely taxing the new, not-improved fat ass blue shoes. But I’ve always been good at substituting actual athletic talent for sheer stubborn determination. I know the pain cave all to well. What was probably a really big pain to Syd was having the sensation of a grizzly bear in heat breathing/stomping down her neck. I pulled even with her right at the mile mark and she said something to me. I tried to yell out something encouraging but apparently you need air to talk. I didnt look at the mile 1 split (right near the Hunter Gatherer pub) or the Garmin at all the rest of the way. It was already completely dark anyway. With mile 1 down, Syd turns on the jets. In my paranoid state of mind, I instantly think Justin has told her to crush my spirit early so I wont be able to outkick her. Mind you, no one is rooting for me. The least anyone wants is for my head to get any bigger. I’m already hating life, but I still follow her. Luckily for me, some little hills pop up in mile 2 in the USC campus. No one likes hills but strangely I seem to do better than most climbing them in races. This makes no sense given I weigh 50 pounds more than most of my competitors. Syd gets reeled in a little on each incline. I keep seeing Jennifer Lybrand ahead and I’m really can’t figure this out. She usually pulls 22-23 minute 5ks and it feels a lot faster than that. I also see Tigs and her hand lights not too far ahead, which would suggest sub 21 speed. I’m completely confused. One thing I’m not confused about is how epically chicked I’m going to get.
The mile 2 mark is at the turnaround point of the USC loop and I’m still right with Syd. I told someone that if I was anywhere near her at this point I would definitely win. I remember getting passed by a guy at last years Crooked creek race in the final mile, but that’s the last time I remember. It probably just means I dont push it enough in the early stages of a race. I’m a wuss like that. Well I was already toast at this point, but I knew it was just one mile and we were now headed back home. Unfortunately Syd starts ramping it up some too. We finally pass Jennifer at about 2.5 miles. Finally we approach the last left turn before about a quarter mile of straightaway to the finish. Justin (having crushed a sub 16) sees us coming and starts seabiscuiting Syd to the finish, screaming at her I’m right behind her, “no joke”. I’m sure she was already aware, since I sounded like a wounded elephant gasping its last breath. With the finish line now in sight I am completely redlining it, and I’m making exactly zero progress against Ms. Frontz. My first view of the clock actually shows the 19’s and I can’t believe it. Finished in 20:38, absolutely gassed.
So yeah, I got beat. Fair and square, me giving 150 percent, and I got smoked on my specialty: the finishing kick. Hats off to Syd, who beat her PR by over a minute (20:31). Pretty incredible. I took a great deal of solace in my own time, which is 5 and a half minutes faster than the beginning of my long trip back to health. The time gives me hope I may eventually get back to pre-cliff shape. That seems a lot closer than when I was hobbling around in a boot in August.
Lots of fast times at this race – conditions were just about perfect. Tim Jeffreys took the win over Justin 15:33 to 15:56 – not too shabby. Heather Hunt blazed a 17:38 at age 39, good enough for an 86 percent age grade and the women’s win. Awesome. Dimery finsihed third male. Kathryn Cavanaugh and Anna Battiata battled it out for second, with Anne edging it out for 2nd 18:21 to 18:30. Some blazing fast times in the top 10 also included Eric Allers’ 18:05, Travis Moran’s 18:12 and Drew Williams 18:18. Howie Phan crushed a 19:08 just 2 weeks removed from his 3:05 marathon. The Code ran a 19:20 and was inconsolable for running so “slow”. Shannon Iriel crushed a big PR with a 19:24, followed close behind by Billy Tisdale and Geary McAlister. Trophy had an agonizing 20 flat, though his exact time was 19:59.95. I’d take it. Tigs ran a 20:28 and just avoided getting McGimped. Jennifer nearly chicked me en route to a 20:54 huge PR. Michael Ferlauto PR’d as well in 22:03, but will have to live with his Race to Read win as his sole blue shoes victory.
Age group glory included Brady Ward winning the 2-10 by thirty seconds, with sister Brooke Ward taking 2nd in the 11-13. Sheila Subbarao took 3rd in the 30-34. Jennifer “Tenacious J” Hill won 2nd in the 35-39 with a PR, while Meme Spurgeon won 2nd in the 40-44. Tracy Tisdale took 3rd in the same group. Scott Hodukovich ran a sub 22 and took 2nd in the 45-49. Lorand Battern finished 2nd in the 55-59 ahead of Jim Manning. Valerie Selby and Sandra Manning went 1-2 in the 55-59 women. Mike Compton and Ponamarev took the top 2 in the 60-64. John Hancock won the 65-69 while the 70+ was a sweep by Arnold Floyd, Rocky and Henry Holt.