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.