Stomp the Swamp 5k – Lexington, SC – 8/25/14

Mr and Mrs. Beast

Mr and Mrs. Beast

 

The Stomp the Swamp 5k is a first year event put on by the River Bluff High School cross country team to benefit their program. Derek Gomez, their coach and fellow 35-39 age grouper, race directed, using Jesse Harmon’s Run Hard group for timing.
I admit – this race had me scared.
Derek had freely admitted that the course would be “challenging”, and with a race date in late August in South Carolina, it was pretty much a given to be oppressively hot.
Plus, there was the Corley Mill Rd factor, the road on which River Bluff sits. I don’t go on that road much anymore, but in high school it was notorious for being a roller coaster through the woods – one of the hilliest roads in the area. There was no way this was going to be “flat and fast”.
But I hadn’t done a 5k in a long while and I’m already chomping at the bit for the fall racing season, so I decided to give it a shot. Derek tried to bill it as a trophy hunt, but when he invited the entirety of the Dutch Fork cross country team to come run, I was pretty sure my old Sasquatch ass wasn’t going to beat all these high school kids.
I showed up about an hour early to the race site and checked out the high school campus, where the whole race would be run. Um, to say this school is “nice” would be an injustice. Try gleaming modern windowscapes and high end construction everywhere. The football stadium was one a small private college would be proud of. These Lexington taxpayers must want their kids to be in the lap of luxury.
But I digress. First thing out of the car and it feels like a wet wool blanket got stuffed over my face. Just smothering humidity. I came across Colleen Vowles and the Pale Beast and we did a couple of miles at north of 9 minute pace. This “grueling” workout left me completely soaked and chugging whatever water I had lying around the Honda Pilot. Yeah this was going to suck.
I couldn’t figure out the whole course but it seemed vaguely nightmarish from what I could tell. There was an out and back stretch that took you straight up a quarter mile hill only to bring you right back down. Gomez must have a sadistic streak.
The course started and ended on the football field of the stadium, so that was pretty cool. Pretty nice crowd gathered, especially for a first year race. All the Dutch Fork kids were up front, ready to trample any grandiose adults trying to fend off middle age. Not that I know any of those.
The start is a total stampede across the football field. The Pale Beast, aka Ken Vowles, blasts out of the gate at a full sprint and acts like he’s going to give Avery Dominick a run for his money. He’s still up near the front as we exit the stadium, in full-on delusional mode. The first quarter mile was pretty flat, but I had held back at the start, so I was left dodging quite a bit and trying to jockey for position. Pretty much right off the bat is a quick climb and then that dreaded out and back sadistic mountain I mentioned earlier. This is where Vowles suddenly realized he’s not a 120 pound high school freshman and starts hurting. I trudge up this monster as best as I can and finally catch the Beast at the top, before plunging down with an extra surge. I hit mile 1 in like 6:30ish, which isn’t too bad considering the climb. Mile 2 is more stealthily sucky. After a flat parking lot stretch you head up into a paved trail area through a patch of forest. Basically it forces you to slow down some and there’s a nasty climb going on throughout. I’ve separated out into what must be the most bizarre looking pack – its me and 3 Dutch Fork girls. I recognize Bri Hartley right off the bat, and then I see Anna Johnson, who usually runs way under 19 and is inexplicably slumming it back in Blue Shoes territory. I don’t know who the third girl is but later identified her as Anna Jenkins, the 12 year old that so wickedly chicked me at the end of the Run Red Bank. The three of them are all like a foot shorter than me and are probably my weight all combined. That’s not to say they aren’t brutal racers. Elbows flying and cutting me off, these ladies mean business. I’m just hoping I don’t pull a Mary Decker and flatten one of them with my fall.
Jesse had said the course was pretty rough through the first 1.5 miles or so, so I was definitely cursing his name when things were still sucking at almost 2 miles. Finally we exited the trail area and hit another parking lot stretch. Mile 2 comes back in 6:56 or so, which definitely explains why I’m not hurting too bad. With a mile to go it seems like the course cant do too much more climbing, since I can see the stadium area. Time to go all in and kick it up a notch. I’d like to say I left some middle schoolers in the dust but damned if these girls weren’t riding in the Sasquatch wake and making me feel like a runaway grizzly bear being hunted by a pack of kids. 2.5 mile mark and the four of us are picking up some roadkill as we descend towards the stadium. I’m starting to dip below six minute pace and the wind suckage has commenced with a vengeance. To worsen things, all three of the girls are now slightly ahead of me. The shame is palpable. On a high note, the three girls surprise the hell out of a thirtiesh looking dude as they pass, act as an effective smokescreen for me to blow by this potential 35-39 trophy crasher as well.
Just when I think I’m home free, I realize there’s another little hill and we are going to circle the stadium before going in. By this time I’m feeling like death and praying for it to end. I’m redlining it pretty hard but these freaking 8th graders (maybe 7th graders?) are giving me an epic beatdown. Finally we hit the football field again and were all sprinting. I don’t even see the time since I’m so focused on getting brutally middle schooled. But I’m not catching Jenkins or Bri. I did pass Johnson right near the line but I think she was pacing the other two.
I don’t even see the time until I hit my Garmin at 20:09 right past the finish. Normally I would be pretty bummed with a time over 20 but given this course and those first two splits, I’ll take it. Mile 3 was in 6:00 flat and a 5:09 kick for the last 0.14 by the watch. That explains the taste of death and lung in my mouth. Ended up 1st in AG, though 16th overall with all the high school kids. 3rd place among those that can legally drink a beer though. The Beast came rumbling in at 20:34, and I think also took down the thirtiesh guy because 3rd in our AG was at 20:48 (more formally known as Jonathan Calore). Since the event was hand timed, I think they switched Anna Johnson’s and my time, probably just to amplify the fact I got chicked so badly.
Avery Dominick took the overall win in 16:18, dusting the field by 2 minutes. Teammates James Bowen (who I think won the Xterra 5k) and Alex Chalgren took 2nd and 3rd. My pack of Anna Jenkins, Bri Hartley and Anna Johnson swept the women’s overall.  In the age groups, Kenneth Vowles finished fifth but in an impressive 18:50.  Tour de Blue Shoes subscriber Eric Bopp took 2nd in the 40-44 in 21:35.  Darryl and Jay Hammond took the top two in the 50-54. Harry Strick, Alex Ponamarev, Pete Poore and Leeds Barroll were top 4 in the brutal “over 60” group. Colleen said she wasnt even racing but still captured second in the 40-44 in 23 minutes and change. Nina Brook finished 2nd in the 50-54.

http://connect.garmin.com/activity/571792048

https://www.runhard.org/files/swampOverall.pdf

https://www.runhard.org/files/swampAge.pdf

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Little Mountain 5k/10k – Little Mountain, SC – 8/2/2014

IMG_4446

Somehow my summer vacation always seems to get in the way of running Hot Summer’s Night – My family’s annual trip to Folly had kept me from the race in 2011 and 2012. Last year I decided to mix things up and go to Hawaii, and we all know how that turned out. This year my wife’s family did the Folly trip, and sure enough, picked the first week in August again.  As much as I enjoy racing with the fastest people in Columbia on a broiling hot evening, it was not to be.

But that left a Saturday morning open, and with everybody doing HSN, that could only mean one thing…TROPHY HUNT. I scanned Strictly’s web site and came up with three options – the two Little Mountian reunion races (5k and 10k) and a race in Sesqui so minimally advertised that a road race freak living just a half mile from the race site had no idea it was happening. Naturally  the Sesqui race seemed like the obvious choice, but I was wondering if anybody would show. I mean, I love me some trophies, but winning a 10 person race would be a bit of a hollow victory. Not that I wouldn’t blab about it all over social media if I did. That’s what attention whores do.

Jen Lybrand said she was doing the Little Mountain 10k so I figured I’d go up there and try a change of scenery. I debated for quite some time about which of the two LM races to do, but finally and uncharacteristically opted for the 10k. I hardly ever do that distance and I figured maybe I could throw down a good time with all the recent Team Utopia speedwork. I had no idea what the course was, but it couldn’t be that bad, right? We’ll get back to that.

I woke up at o’ dark thirty and made the 45 minute trek up to Little Mountain. I get there on the late side and damned if my stealth trophy hunt hasn’t already gotten crashed. I’m not there more than 5 minutes and I see Plexico and a bunch of lean cross country kids.  Jen Lybrand is there with Jordan, and Jeff and Erika Burgess have made an unexpected appearance. Oh , and the freaking Code. WTH? Guy doesn’t race for weeks, I don’t tell him I’m racing, and he shows up to blow up my age group. That’s what I get for blabbing on facebook, apparently. And they’re all doing the 10k. Damn pre-registration, or I would have bailed to the five. Oh well, maybe the course is flat. We’ll get back to that.

We stroll up to the line and Jordan has decided to jump in last second. Great – am I even going to get top 10 in this thing? The gun fires and we are off on a beautiful downhill. Nice and easy decline, making the pace feel easy. This is going to be great.  Jen blasts off like Kara Goucher in the first mile and leaves me and Burgess for dead. Code runs with us for awhile , then gets bored and goes to track down Jen. I’m feeling pretty good doing about 6:30ish pace when all of a sudden the course turns. BAM. Hello there half-mile-of-quad-burning-hill-from-hell. I try to power up this thing but I’m doing a crawl by the time I reach the summit. Thankfully there’s another stretch of decline right after. Pace went all to hell on the hill and Garmin gives me a 6:50ish split for mile 1. The next 2 miles I spend slowly trying to reel Jen back in. Burgess followed for awhile but I hear him start to fade. The hills just keep rolling. I catch two guys running together at about mile 2.5 and they look at me with terror in their eyes. First they get chicked by Jen then get Clydesdaled by the Albino Sasquatch. Oh, the shame.

I hit the 5k mark just under 22, so not too bad considering the hills. Surely the worst of the course must be over. Oh, no. I finally pass Jen at this point and try to muster a surge up a nasty incline. The only problem is that this incline has a twin brother I couldn’t see from below, and then I’ll be damned if it isn’t a whole freaking family of false-front hills all in a row that never seem to end. I catch up with a teenager from Atlanta and we try to keep each other company through the misery. Turns out the guy is related to the original race director, who died in a freak accident just a couple of months ago. Sad story.

We could talk, however, because no one can put forth much effort on the mountain. I don’t think it ended until about mile 5, and by then my legs were total jello. Then the kid tells me we have to do that Jacob Shealy rd hill again. Which hill was that? Just as I ask the question, quad burner comes into view again. Son of a bitch. Really?

I reach the top of the monster at a near walk and my teen friend stops for an extended water break. I can see Code way up ahead but no way can I muster a chase. Pace has been hemorrhaging into the sevens for the last couple of miles and the humidity is making my shirt feel like a wet blanket. One more little incline and we are finally back on Main st near the start. I start to make the turn towards the finish when a volunteer yells and I realize there is yet another quarter mile loop of fun left. Good times. At least its flat, though – probably the only level part of the course. I finally see the finish and try to kick it in for Erika’s camera but you can stick a fork in me. Crossed in 44:20, 5th place and 2nd in age group.

Ok, so this is almost  4 minutes off my 10k PR, but I’m not too unhappy given the sheer brutality of the course. They don’t call it Little Mountain for nothing. Trophy hunt is a complete bust since they only did 1st in AG and of course my archnemesis the Code took that. The award presentation is a bitter pill though, because they were giving cash to the overall winners. 5k winner ran a 20:48 and got a hundred bucks. DOH! Oh well. At least Plexico and Jen each got a Benjamin for taking the 10k titles. Jordan placed second and got 50 bucks I believe. I think the Lybrands should consider going pro at this rate. Burgess finished 9th , so all the Columbia Running Club peeps placed in the top 10. Nice race and interesting course, but definitely don’t be thinking PR on this one.

http://www.strictlyrunning.com/RESULTS/14LITTLEMOUNTAIN.TXT