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.