The Harborside 5k is a nighttime race held in Lake Carolina that features a course through the Christmas lights of the neighborhood. This is apparently its 10th year, though I’ve only been aware of it for the last two. It’s a part of the YMCA of Columbia series organized by Erin Roof so I knew it would be well organized, in addition to possibly adding to my YMCA pint glass collection. The race is associated with the Harborside Christmas festival. I waited around last year to see if the Santa line thinned out, but it never did. I was so hoping for a pic with a sweaty pale sasquatch in racing shorts crushing poor St. Nick’s lap. Oh well.
One thing nice about the dark and all the Christmas lights and cheer is that it distracts you from how brutal this course is. Just thinking of last year’s race started me breathing heavily, since I about exploded my lungs in 2012. I remember trying to chase down the Yerger and Brandenburg, almost getting chicked by Claudia Cannon, who is literally like half my size. I ran the last quarter like a maniac and just missed catching JB and narrowly avoided getting beat by a middle school girl. Nice.
The course kind of sets you up to fail if you’re unfamiliar with it. You get all worked up crushing a largely flat then long downhill in the first mile, only to turn around and hike back up that hill, bringing you close to the finish line. You then head back out by plunging down another steep downhill and then climb for what seems like forever. You turn into another subdivision but the pain keeps coming. Finally you loop back around and fly down the mountain you just climbed, only to face that same steep quad blasting hill before the turn to the finish. Flat and fast, right?
Night races are fun, but this one has the added challenge of being out in Lake Carolina, near rush hour, in the middle of the holiday shopping season. Read: you’d better leave early. With my native northeast Cola knowledge though, I was able to back road it and get there pretty quickly. Find Bookman road. That’s all I’m saying.
I got there about an hour early and luckily found some parking, which is always dicey in the LC. Not a whole lot of familiar faces, but a few of the CRC regulars were there. John Gasque was on hand to bring his race total over 50 for the year. Meme Spurgeon and Brian Talkington have both caught a bad case of race addiction and were there to trophy hunt. I did a mile or so with Meme to show her the monster hill in mile 2, lest she go all out like I did last year. Tenacious J and Jeff were there with daughter Sophie and Ted Hewitt made an appearance after being MIA for a while. Eric and Angel showed up but the traffic held them up too late to register.
Mile 1: Between the crowd and the flat around town square I managed to throw out my planned restraint in about 30 seconds. I paced with Eric for awhile and we both went way too fast down the ensuing long downhill into the Harborside subdivision. I think there were pretty lights around, but my maniacal competitiveness was focused on not letting McMichael kick my ass. I finally separated from him at the bottom and caught up with two guys in red shirts, one tall (taller than me even, though less Sasquatchesque) and one short. I swear both are wearing the race t-shirt, which among the middle school like clique of frequent road racers, makes you a total noob. These guys were hardly out for a jog though, because we hit the mile mark in 6:15.
Mile 2: Pure misery. Long climb out of the Harborside subdivivion – the same mountainside you just flew down way too fast. Had to dodge a couple of people who were parking for the festival and seemed surprised to see a bunch of people out for a very brisk jog in the dark. Not too brisk though, because it felt like we were barely moving. Our little mini pack finally reaches Lake Carolina Drive, which is right near the finish and the top of the Harborside hill. We make a sharp turn and go careening down a steep hill that I know we will have to climb back up right at the finish. After bottoming out over a bridge, there’s a solid half mile of climb. If I thought Mt Harborside was bad, this was much worse. I try to remember my trophy hunt overall win for 2013 took place on this course and this hill, but that was in January and obviously pre Kauai. Short guy starts dying and falls back, but the two biggest dudes in the field are now running in tandem. Mile 2 in like 7:05, almost all of it uphill.
Mile 3: Finally we make the turn in another subdivision and crest the hill and start flying back down. Flying is probably an overstatement because it takes a few hundred meters before I can start breathing again from my mountain trek. My beastly twin and I actually exchange a few words because we are running like a few inches apart. Just before the turn back onto Lake Carolina drive I switch into kick mode, or whatever you’d call it in this Gimp era. I’m trying to crush it down the hill, but its hard not to be tentative with my Hawaiian knee and toe. Rapid downhill acceleration brings back some bad, bad memories. I start to hear footsteps and I know tall guy must be tracking down. as he draws by my side I turn towards him and its freaking Ted Hewitt. WTF?? Ted is a fast dude but usually clocks about 22 minutes in a 5k. I figured maybe I slowed down hardcore on that hill, since I didnt check my Garmin at the 2 mile mark. And then he passes me. My oxygen starved brain is begging me to let him go and have his glory, because im about toast. But the dark passenger inside was not having it. Somewhere , somehow, I took a few more steps in the pain cave and totally redlined it up the finishing hill. I caught Ted but he was getting it too. I cranked my heart rate to about 300 and was pushing so hard up the hill it was more like leaping than running. Finally it flattened out and I saw a 20:15 just as I turned the corner and sprinted it out in total headless chicken mode. Finished in 20:28, just 5 seconds ahead of Ted, who PR’d by like a minute. Pretty happy with the time – this is a brutal course and I did a 19:36 last year, so I think this is the first time in the comeback that I’ve been within a minute of my 2012 times. The course was 3.09 by my garmin this year, having been altered slightly, so maybe not completely legit, but I’ll take it. Fun to see Ted crush it like that and help me blue shoe it at the end.
Results from the CRC newsletter:
Among a lead pack of three, Velocity Distance Project’s James Palmer kicked it in to take the win in 17:38, with Matthew Egbert and Justin Jones also going sub 18 for 2nd and 3rd. The women’s race was won by ultra-specialist Pam Rodriguez, who went on to run and win age group glory in the Columbia Half Marathon and Rudolph’s Rampage half. Jenna Dent and Kathryn Ryan completed the overall female winners.
Erin’s son Parker Roof continues to get faster, cruising to a 19:52 for fourth now that cross country is over. Brian Talkington is a new race addict and finished 5th despite cramping late in the race. Ted Hewitt had an incredible race, crushing his old PR by about a minute and very nearly blue shoed the Blue Shoes. He passed me about a quarter mile from the finish but between the final hill and my best ugly race face finish, I was just able to edge him out. Ted won his age group as well in a smokin’ 20:33.
In the age groups, Jennifer Hill and Jeff Curran paced daughter Sophie Curran to a big PR and 2nd in age group. Congrats Sophie! Meme Spurgeon has been unstoppable this year and PR’s once again in 23:14, winning the 40-44 age group. John Gasque easily took the 50-54 in 25:29, while Henry Holt passed 450 TDC points with another age group win in 28:33