So its been a while since my last entry. Have I suddenly decided to show restraint and race less? Have I picked a goal race and decided to actually train for it like a normal person? Have I decided to give up running and devote my life to good beer and Korean food?
Nope. Well, maybe a little of the last one.
On January 9th, I had one of those really nice, blissful easy runs. About 6 miles in the mid-afternoon on a nice clear day. I was thinking, “I’m going to be OK, I’m right on track towards getting back to sub 19 shape. Everything is good!”
Until I got home and decided to throw an armload of laundry in the hamper.
My left achilles area had just a twinge of pain. Ah, its nothing, just a little tweak, right? Nope. Hurt like hell the next morning. Tried to run again 4 days later and felt good, only to hurt again the next day. Took the next 10 days off, did 2 miles on MLK day and still didnt like the way it was feeling. I finally got back to running consistently the last few days of January, and I still had done no more than 5 miles in a day leading up to this race.
In the meantime I had been hitting the gym like a beast, pouring all that energy into the weights and the boring as hell stationary bike. I was so mad, having come so far in the cliff recovery only to get derailed again. I was a wreck the last week, picking up a nasty cold and sleeping like crap, sniffling and stressing about making sure the CRC banquet would go off OK.
So, needless to say, I was less than hopeful about this race. I figured I’d go out easy and see how I felt.
The Race for the Place is a nicely done event in Shandon, held in February, starting and ending at St. Joseph’s church in Shandon. Like most Shandon routes, this course is pretty flat. Just a rectangle orbiting around Hand middle and back. They adjusted and recertified the finish this year, making it a nice straightaway instead of a few tight turns.
This race has historically been ridiculously fast. Not a big race, but heavy on the beast content. I ran 19:00 last year and finished like fifth in age group. I remember Derek Gomez barely got third with an 18:36. Nuts. So I figured zero chance of getting an AG award in 2014. It’s a shame, because I love the hand painted ceramic coasters they give out. I have one for a 3rd place that I think I got in the first year.
I showed up 45 minutes early and did race day registration. I still got a shirt, which was nice. I’m not there more than five minutes and its already crawling with some pretty blazing fast people. Most of the SR entourage is on hand, with Kenzie, Shannon, Erin, Jennifer, Steven, Dimery, Brandenburg and Jordan. There’s also two singlet dudes that look they could run a sub 20 hopping on one foot. Brian Talkington showed up to take pics. Heath brought Brady and Brooke to try and dominate the kids division. Wayne Shuler was volunteering, so I was able to get him the CRC jacket he earned from last years Tour de Columbia. Travis Moran, Andrew Touzel, Chris Fawver, and Tracy Meyers were there to represent TUS. I was too afraid of wearing the TUS singlet for what could be a disaster of a race for me. Tigs and Eric showed up for Reckless Running. Because its a race in Columbia, Pete Poore, Alex Ponamarev and John Gasque were there. Gasque was doing the double dip with Cupid’s Chase at 10 am. I think he was the only one. Parker and Joe Roof, Sharon Sherbourne, Michele Parnell, Travis Cowan + stroller, Shufy Rowe and Matt Buffum were some familiar faces. Missy Caughman was RD this year I believe.
I stroll up to the line for the start…. Ok… lets just ease into this. But of course I toe the line because I am both a) ridiculously grandiose and b) an unabashed attention whore. The starter shouts go and “ease into this” goes out the freaking window. I start blasting away like it s a 400 meter interval. After the first quarter I try and rein it in a bit. Then I see Tigs and J-Lybrand pushing ahead of me, and my melon head of an ego cant take it. MUST. NOT. GET. CHICKED. Of course this is a forgone conclusion, because I can barely see Kenzie, Erin and Shannon absolutely kicking my ass already. And there’s an audience. The CR multisport/Run Hard preview runners are running down Heyward St. the other way, so I can’t let myself be shamed in front of half the Columbia running community. So I push ahead, as if the wreckage of the past 7 months never happened. My one suspicion I’m taking it too fast is that I’m not too far behind Brandenburg , Shannon and Steven Johnson at the first marker. Tigs and Jen are right with me. Mile one in 6:19. Oh jeez. This is going to suck.
And it does. I do manage to pass Lybrand and Tigs, but I can still hear Tigs riding my butt. I could hear her better, except for all the gasping and sucking going on. The legs feel good, its those damn lungs. That’s what a month of maybe 20 nine-minute miles will do for your speed and endurance. I reach a low point at the turn around. The hurt has settled in and I still have another mile and a half to go. Plus, I’m running completely solo – the next guy is maybe 50 meters ahead and I can’t hear anyone behind me. I hit mile 2 in 6:45. Holy slowdown, Batman.
I try and muster something of a kick but the whole needing oxygen thing is getting in the way. I’m feeling like death, but at least the toe, achilles and knee are cooperating. It’s nice not to have to think about my legs giving out, though I could do without the lungs trying to free themselves from my chest. But I’m deathly afraid of getting Tigsed or Lybranded – so spelunking into the pain cave I go . There’s no one around to help motivate me. I can only make out one guy ahead and he’s not catchable. Finally I hit the last straight on Blossom St and I’m begging for the end, miscalculating not one but two stoplights as the finish block. I’m going to have a map of Shandon burned into my skull because of this. When I do make out the clock I’m glad to see it still in the 19’s, though it quickly flips over to 20. I pull a little headless chicken to make sure I break 20:30 and cross in 20:24. 19th overall and, surprise..3rd in age group! I get my precious ceramic tile after all. I’m actually pretty happy with the result. I was wondering if I might have backslid beyond 21 minutes with all the down time, lack of sleep and sickness. This was actually faster than my last 5k before the achilles injury so I’ll take it. It should be noted my last race before my first sub 20 was the first year of RFP back in 2010. My time that year: 20:24. Hope I can break through again!
As I mentioned, this race is always stacked. A little less so for the 35-39ers, but overall there were some seriously impressive performances. I can only imagine the battle for the win was amazing, as Martin Maloney edged Jonathan Kinsey 15:54 to 15:56. I wouldn’t know since these guys exited my view after the first turn. On the women’s side Kimberly Ruck crushed a 17:37 for the win. She’s from Columbia but I’ve never seen her race before. Kenzie smoked an 18:27 for 2nd and Erin Miller rocked a PR 18:44 for third. Pretty blazing fast. Masters winners were no surprise with Shannon nearly PR’ing in 19:34 and Eric Allers killing it with another sub 18. Age groupers included Jordan Lybrand pulling out a 17:39 for first in the 25-29. He was running with me 6 months ago, but I guess marathon training has turned him into an absolute beast. Travis Moran wasnt too far behind for second with an 18:03, another guy that was in the Blue Shoe area code early last year. In the 2-14 Parker Roof broke 20 and won the boys side, with Brady Ward in second. Sister Brooke one upped him by taking first on the girls side. Jennifer Lybrand broke 21 again en route to a first in the 25-29 and nearly PR’d again in 20:50. The 30-34 was led by Jason Dimery in 18:13, with Andrew Touzel taking second in a huge minute plus PR (22:29). Phil Midden and Steven Johnson went 1-2 in my age group, while Michele Parnell won first on the women’s side in 23:36. The 45-49 was one of the most competitive with Jeff Brandenburg winning in 19:07 and Matt Buffum finishing 2nd. Wife Barbara took 2nd among the women. In the 50-54, Gasque took 3rd in the first leg of his double dip. Tigs easily won her age group by 4 minutes. Shufy Rowe and Wes Spratt won the 55-59, while Pete Poore and Alex Ponamarev took the 60-64. Sharon Sherbourne won the female 60-64 by a whopping 9 minutes.