I wasn’t sure about racing this past weekend (7 days removed from the Savannah half) but it was hard to resist what was on the Tour de Columbia: Two races just a few miles apart, with my house right between them. I literally could have warmed up by running to either one of them from the casa de blue shoes. Unfortunately the pre-race prep of going to see the Frank Turner show in Charlotte Friday night, coupled with several beers, and getting home at oh dark thirty, was decidedly less than ideal. My alarm went off at 6 am and I actually was going to blow both the races off, since I was going to have to rally to go tailgating and attend the USC-UF game later that afternoon (a difficult life, I know). But as soon as I hit snooze I realized I was awake…and my world is apparently destroyed if I can’t toe the line on a Saturday. So I got up , pounded a Gatorade and headed out the door for my five minute drive to the Bizarre 5 and 5..
The Bizarre 5 and 5 race has been around for over 20 years and is put on by Spring Valley Presbyterian Church. It kind of suffers from an image problem. For one, no one really seems to know what to call the race. It’s been called the Bizarre Bazaar 5k for most of its existence, but has also been referred to as the Bizarre 5k and SVPC 5k. It has been associated with a festival/event called the Bizarre Bazaar at the church, but apparently now is separate, and no, I have no idea why it is called that. The race is also held either right before or after Gov Cup, and I hear that some people actually like to take weeks off after racing. Wusses.
The 5 miler was added to the 5k last year, thus creating the key trophy hunting concept of the undercard (i.e. the shorter, less competitive race). Local triathlete Les Boan took full advantage last year (I was at the Richmond Marathon in 2012) and clocked a 22 minute winning time in the 5k. I was so jealous.
So I couldn’t resist signing up for the 5k undercard this year in a shameless trophy hunt maneuver. I have to be even more crafty recently given I’m still maybe 75-80 percent of pre-cliff speed. Directly after signing up I realized I had made a mistake. Everybody was doing the 5k and the 5 miler field was tiny. Jordan Lybrand, Steve Fink, Brian Talkington and some fast looking kid (Wesley Long) were in the shorter distance and the fastest I could find in the 5 miler was Jennifer Lybrand . Regulars John Gasque, Pete Poore, Alex Ponamarev and the Holts were on hand. Tri beast Wes Spratt showed up for a rare running-only event. Meme Spurgeon was out hunting more TDC points. The five mile had Andy Mikula, Barbara Brandenburg and 3 McNeices – Delacie and David plus toddler Parker in a stroller.
The start was weird – two simultaneous starts separated by about 100 meters. Five milers were behind us. Even with a little bit of warmup it takes a little bit of time for the toe to work itself up to race pace. Brian, Wesley , Jordan and Steve are already kicking my ass a quarter mile in. A thin blonde haired girl about half my size keeps pace with me for a while until I finally pass her a half mile in. We head into a horseshoe area of the course , first plunging down a hill then climbing back up. Hit the first mile at 6:30 – not bad post-cliff, though I’m sucking a fair amount of wind. Just after the mile mark I look up the hill and see the leaders turning right, back towards the finish. WTF? I know this isn’t right. I scream at the volunteers to verify that I should be going straight, but they both adamantly motion me to turn right. About a hundred meters after I make the turn I see a bunch of other volunteers sprinting past me but the leaders are still going back towards the finish. I don’t really know what to do, so I basically just mail in the rest of the race and follow the leaders. I’m pretty much alone except I can still see Fink in the distance ahead of me. I cross the line in 13:40 for 2.08 miles per my Garmin. The girl finishes a couple of minutes behind me but then there’s a big wait, so I figured either they corrected the course or everybody is lost on a tour of Northeast Columbia. Wesley Long was first overall followed by Heather Costello, second overall and first female.
Wes Spratt finally comes into view around 24 minutes quickly followed by a pack which includes Meme Spurgeon and Steve’s wife Charlene. Sure enough they have the correct distance. I had to take off to go “take pictures” at Stay the Course, but I later learn they essentially threw out the 2.08 milers and awarded Wes and Meme the 5k winners. I think almost the whole race won age group awards since only 31 finished the correct distance. Most of the 5 milers stayed on course except for Jennifer Lybrand – she was leading and got off track, and ran like an extra half mile. She was not too pleased. Andy Mikula ended up winning his second overall trophy, having hunted well at the 2012 Hammer the Hills 10k. David McNiece finished second with a stroller, while Barbara and Delacie went 1-2 among the women. Jesse Smarr won his age group. To the RD’s credit he did offer us refunds, though I don’t think anyone took him up on the offer, since it would probably further solidify my place in hell to take back from a church. Certainly didn’t expect the misdirects though in a 22 year old race. They did offer free pics, which totally rocks.
I took off for Sesqui right after with the thought I’d take some pics at the Stay the Course 4 miler. Wrong. I was already warmed up and not that tired from my 2 miler, so I decided to go ahead and race. I know…shocker.
Stay the Course is a first year event held on the trails of Sesqui, so I gave about even odds I’d get led astray in this one too. I got there with maybe 15 minutes to spare but they were still taking registration and said the start was delayed 15 minutes. Worked out well for me, but I upped it to about 75 percent risk of disaster on the course. John Gasque was the only other double dipper, but Sarah Blackwell, Larry Bates, Geary McAlister, Arnold Floyd, Diesel and Brady, Harry Strick, Joe and Luke Naylor and Dina Mauldin were representing the CRC well. I had forgotten they actually had a 2 x 2 relay with this race, so I totally would have bribed Trophy or Code to do that had I thought about it.
Ive run Sesqui probably at least once a week for most of the last 4 years so the trails are very familiar. We started on the firebreak trail and our first mile stretched past the lake, through a camping area and back to the firebreak. The start felt great since I was already good and warmed up. I shadowed Larry for a while before kicking up the pace a notch. In the camping area I almost plowed over my kids’ cubmaster. I forgot they had a camping weekend for cub scouts that weekend. My wife and I had to opt out of our kids learning experience since our college friends were coming down to tailgate and party at the USC game. Parents of the year for sure. After dodging the cub scouts and any guilty glances, we got back on the firebreak trail, which absolutely sucks at that point since its extra sandy and one long slog up a hill. I was hurting but doing well against the field. I passed two tweenish kids who actually wished me well. The race is sponsored by a home-school athletics organization (Providence athletic club) so all these kids were super nice. I still blue shoed the little guys like a boss. Sand, hills and more sand for another mile. We turned towards a finish line and thought I had done my second 2 mile misdirect when I realized it was the relay checkpoint. Crossed in 13:52 at the halfway. Another ¾ of a mile of firebreak and then a sudden turn onto the twisty lakeside trail. Speed definitely slowed down as I struggled to harness the substantial inertia of 200 pounds of Sasquatchian physique through all the turns. I had been passed just after the checkpoint by some teen kid doing the relay, so I made it a point to track down this little (probably exquisitely mannered) punk. Poor dude got the Sydney Frontz treatment with me panting like a rabid bear just over his shoulder for a good mile. He probably had nightmares this weekend. Unfortunately I was just about toast by the time we hit a clearing and we could see the finish. The blue shoe kick is just not there yet thanks to talon toe, but I did finish just a few steps behind in 28:08. Im pretty happy with the result – I’ll definitely take 7 minute pace on a course that’s 75 percent sand and 25 percent twisty trail, especially after doing a hard 2 mile warmup. Finished 4th overall, about a minute behind Geary, who is a trail beast. Larry Bates finished 6th in 29 and change. Sarah Blackwell won the women’s race by 7 minutes. Well played trophy hunt Sarah! Brady took 2nd in the 2-14. I totally dominated my age group, especially since I was the only one in it. Joe Naylor had some 40-44 competition but still easily won. Dina Mauldin also crushed her one person age group. Gasque and Harry finished 2nd in their age groups while Arnold Floyd also took home the one-person AG win.