The Jingle Bell 5k is in its sixth year and is put on by a small local gym called the Fitness Zone out in Lugoff, SC. I’ve done this race every year since 2009, so I guess I’ve done it every year except its first. It started out for me as a trophy hunt and a rumor that it had a flat course, but since that time I’ve come back just because I love small-town races. However, between us putting this race on the Tour de Columbia and Strictly putting it on their Palmetto Grand Prix, its become one of the fastest small races in the state.
There were actually 4 other races on this weekend, so had I been the sub 19, pre-Kauai Blue Shoes I might have been tempted to go looking for an overall win. My bet was on the under-the-radar Spring Valley “Vikings for Educaion” race, but the Friends of Sesqui trail race also beckoned for a trophy hunt. Sadly though, my current McGimp fitness requires a minor miracle for a top 3 finish, so I just settled on the race I knew I liked. The two other races were the Jingle All the Way5k and Warm a Heart Patty Packs 5k/10k. JATW was at 9:45, allowing for a potential double, but I just wasnt up to driving a half hour just to face that Turkey Day hill once again. Brian Talkington, who has turned into a Blue Shoe style racing freak, did say he was going to try it though.
As I mentioned this course is known for its flatness, which is mostly true. There is a slight incline most of the first mile, like half a percent on the treadmill, and just one nasty bump just past 1.5 miles. The last mile is slightly downhill and has produced some of my fastest mile splits in a 5k, a couple of sub 6 ers the last two years. The only bummer to this course is that it has been consistently long by Garmin – in the 3.15-3.17 range. Say what you will about the accuracy of a certified course (it is certified) versus a GPS but the times here are always a touch slow, and its not due to hills.
I got to the race my customary hour in advance and there’s one glaring difference between this year and last. It’s warm. And humid. Like high 60’s. This is the same race I’ve raced in long sleeves and had to stay warm in the gym in previous years, so at least 30 degrees warmer than 2012. Trophy didnt bother to show up, but I can only imagine the complaining from him that would have ensued.
Since this race is also Grand Prix, there’s some masters all stars in attendance. Billy Tisdale, Geary McAlister, Birgit Spann, John and Nancee Sneed, Arnold Floyd, Henry Holt and Rocky Soderberg are all people who inspire me for my next 30 years. Newly minted master Shannon Iriel is there, though 2008 inaugural champ Coach B is taking the day off. Justin “A Standard” Bishop is there to apparently easily take the win, because I dont see Plex or any other people that might challenge him. The kid Jaz Greene, who has won this race twice, didn’t show up. The Code, who I think may have run this race every year, was on board. J-Reeves was getting back in the saddle after an extended time away. Joyce was there to try and take down her 5k PR, though I warned her about the extra distance. This is Diesel country so the Diesel, Brady, and Jen were there with Brooke pulling water station duty. Other Lugoff-Elgin locals like Mitch Prosser, Chad Teal, Chad and Betsy Long and Sharon Cole were in attendance as well. Tri beasts Wes Spratt and Lorand Batten were back for another running only event. As mentioned, Brian Talkington was ready for his double dip, with car strategically parked for the quick getaway.
After a two mile warmup which felt like jogging with a warm wet blanket on my head, we were ready to start. First 50 meters had a bunch of puddles from last nights rain and of course I managed to find most of them. Because thats what my out of shape ass needs – some extra weight in my shoes. We turn out of the shopping center and begin a long straight on hwy 378 that makes up the whole first mile. And it sucks. The cold breeze im used to in this race has been replaced with oppressive humidity. Feels like I’m breathing with a surgical mask on. And I’m getting passed already. People I dont know. One guy behind me is literally shouting out random groans and various mild expletives. He scared the crap out of me when he goes “DAMN IT” right next to me. I feel your pain, dude. I’m not one for primal screams but my internal dialogue is decidedly less family friendly. I feel like total death at mile 1 and the garmin spits back like 6:30ish. Not too bad, because I remember mile 1 to be on the slow side because of the slight incline. Way up ahead I see Billy and it kills me how bad he, Geary, Shannon and Code are kicking my ass. Like chasing the ghost of your former self. We make the turn at 1.25 and “DAMN IT” surges ahead of me and Chad Long. Oh hell no. I keep up with him regardless of how bad I feel, which is pretty damn bad. The turnaround segment is about a half mile and has the one nasty bump of a hill, short and steep. I drop mr primal scream and immediately cross the street to the left side as we begin the trip back home. Someone yells at me (probably screamer..go figure) to go on the right side of the road, presumably so I can get run over from behind by the very 5k savvy Lugoff traffic. As I approach the 2 mile mark Birgit passes me. I cant tell whether I’m dying or she’s surging, or both. Just after the 2 mile there’s a slight rise and then begins the descent all the way home. But wait..who’s that loping along with the Team Utopia singlet? It’s the CODE. Now, I know the Code is either injured or having a very bad day, but nothing inspires a blue shoe kick like a weakened Code. See:
Granted our head-to-head is like 5-75, but Code doesn’t have a blog to publicly shame me. Code must be doing like 7:30 pace because we catch up pretty quickly. I briefly think I’m leading my age group but then I realize Talkington is in another zip code up ahead. He’s exacting major vengeance on the 2012 runway blue shoe. I’ve passed a few people in the last mile, including Lorand, so I know the pace has piicked up some. That plus my breathing and form now mimic a wounded elephant. Less than a half mile to go and I finally retake Birgit, who has had the most unpleasant experience of that elephant breathing down her neck for the past 5 minutes. I round the turn and see David “Buckleup” directing us towards the finish line. One more unknown guy in front that I can take down if I really try hard. Nobody can accuse me of not trying hard, especially in the home stretch of a 5k, so I empty the tank and go after him. We make the last turn and I manage to pass him, but since I’m on fumes I’m deathly afraid of him returning the favor. I can make out low 20 on the clock and flop across the finish in 20:52. Garmin had 3.19 miles. Man, it keeps getting longer. Ended up 8th overall, 2nd in AG. I’ll take it. Garmin had 6:32 pace so probably sub 20:30 through 3.11.
As expected Justin won easily, though he was quite disappointed with the 16:52. I hate when I almost slip into the 17’s. The horror! Heather Costello was the women’s winner in 19:30. Shannon and Birgit took 2nd and 3rd. The 2nd male was a guy I havent seen race before, John Adams, who pulled an 18:41. And he’s 34, so I guess I’ll have to face him in the AG next year. Talkington actually took 3rd male, though they only went one deep with the snowglobe trophies.
In the age groups, Nancee Sneed took first in the 70+ , so she must have had a birthday recently. John is coming off an injury so he ran the race with her instead of giving Arnold Floyd a run for his money. Arnold took 1st in the 70+ men ahead of Rocky and Henry in 24:04. Brigitte Smith won the 60-64. The 55-59 men were a bunch of beasts with Geary taking the win over Lorand and Spratt. Birgit took the 50-54 women by only 11 minutes (21:14) . Slacker. Billy won the 50-54 men with Donald Prosser (Mitch’s dad) finishing 2nd and the victim of the blue shoes flop to the finish. Sharon Cole took the 45-49 just 2 seconds behind Birgit. Shannon finished agonizingly close to a sub 20 (20:01) but still got first in the 40-44 over Joyce (23:18). Chad Long has aged up to the 40-44 and won 2nd in 21:59. Jen Ward crushed a sub 24 and won the 35-39 women. Brian, myself and the Code in the 35-39 guys. Brady Ward, guided by the Diesel, ran a 24:39 and almost tracked down mom. Better watch your back, Jen.
Scanning the trophy hunt scene, I see Drew Williams won the overall at Jingle All the Way by over a minute in what may be one of his last SC races for a while. New wife Tracy took home a first in AG as well. Way to end on a high note! Talkington completed his double dip with a 2nd place. The Golbus twins, who double chicked me at the Turkey Day, finished 1st and 2nd female, with CRC rookie of the year Meme Spurgeon winning third. Eric McMichael, Gasque, Ponamarev and Pete all won some AG glory. A ten year old named Garrison Budic won third overall make in 22 minutes. Impressive.
In the Patty Packs, Derek Gomez showed his River Bluff team who’s boss with a 39:33 win in the 10k on an ungodly brutal course. Kenzie Riddle took the female win, with Winston Holliday and Hunter Janus in the top 10. The 5k looks to have been a misdirected disaster, though Dutch Fork beast Anna Johnson took the win in one of two people who apparently ran the right course. Ted Hewitt did take an age group in like 30 minutes. Nice 7k, Ted!
Friends of Sesqui winner Robert Rogers won in 22:12. Difficult to say whether this was a missed trophy chance since it was done on trails. Garris Haynes (7th) and Marie Queen are the only names I recognize. And then there’s Viking 5k for Education. Winning time of 20:35 by Trevor Drummond. Would have been an easy win for old Blue Shoes, close battle for the McGimp. Oh well. Hopefully back to trophy hunting shape soon!
Next races are Harborside Lights on 12/13, Bayler’s Bash on 12/24 and Cold Winters Day 12/28.