I looked at this week a couple months ago and I was really bummed that two races I like were opting for the same date. Race for the Place (RFTP) is a super competitive, flat and fast rectangle in Shandon. Its always a challenge to even place in my age group there, but I love the ceramic tile awards. I”ve run it every year since it began in 2011. The March for Meals (MFM) used to be run at Riverbanks Zoo, and was the site of my very first age group trophy in 2009 – a gateway drug into a full blown racing addiction.
I had been slack in signing up, but I went ahead and registered for RFTP on Thursday afternoon. I figured this would be my best opportunity for a sub 19 – the course was super flat and I’d have some competition to help me pace. Once committed to RFTP, I was curious about the course at MFM since they were scrapping the old venue for a new course on the Timmerman trail in Cayce. Just as I was about to log off I noticed the 9 am start. Wait a second…
Sure enough, RFTP started at 8 am. Some quick google mapping and mental arithmetic yielded this – I needed 19 minutes for RFTP and 15 minutes for travel. If everything went right, this would be a very doable double dip. I was in.
Of course, the one hour double dip is not for the newbie nor the faint of heart. First, you better hope the second race has early packet pick up. If it’s going to be tight you don’t want to be standing in line sweating it out to get your bib. Luckily, MFM had this at Strictly Running on Friday. Second – car parking is key. You need to make sure you have an easy getaway. Nothing’s worse than mistakenly parking on the race course and being unable to move your car. Third – mental preparation. The whole point is gunning for as many Tour de Columbia points as possible, so taking it easy in one or both races isn’t going to work. You have to be willing to jump in the pain cave, come out, and get pushed right back in…probably further the next time.
But, having learned under the tutelage of legendary double dippers William Schmitz, John Gasque and Pete Poore, I had my strategy down pat. I was going to have to do this more often this year anyway, since Brandenburg has been scared to death of a Sasquatchian attack on his TDC Masters championship. I turn 40 on March 3. He has to train for the Kona Ironman later this year. One problem – he double dipped last week and had 6 races under his belt already. He had 50 something points to my zero heading into this weekend.
Race #1 Race for the Place
I got there an hour early, and had a perfect spot on Devine St, even pointing towards the next race. I laid out my second shirt and bib in the car while I went to get the RFTP bib. Awesome shirt this year, by the way – one I’ll actually wear instead of contributing to the ginormous pile in the corner of my bedroom. One mile to warm up in the brutal cold, then I run into Joyce and Code. Joyce is racing but the Code is still on injured reserve. We end up basically running the whole course before I realize a 4 mile warm up is probably not the brightest idea before a sub 19 attempt or a double dip. Also not a good idea – indulging in my mom’s chili and multiple beers at a family get together the night before. Yeah, don’t do that.
As expected, this place is crawling with racing studs. Bishop, OJ, Shawanna, MC, Luke Godwin, Justin Jones, Kenneth “Son of Beast” Vowles, Sarah and Eric Allers, – this was going to be brutal. Familiar faces and names included: Pete O’Boyle, Coke Mann, Arnold Floyd, Rafael Marquez, Angel, David Russell, Norm Ferris, Kris Litman-Koon, Brittany Robbins, Renee McCormick, Lois Leaburn, Teresa Harrington, Mickie Ishizue, Alsena Edwards, Tom Beattie, Gasque, Alex Ponamarev, Kate Ferlauto, Ron Hagell, Shirley Smith, Ken and Patti Lowden, Kat Hudgins, Sharon Sherbourne, Samuel Striggles, and Susannah Cole.
Oh, and lest I forget, Jeff Brandenburg. Like Fight Club, I guess the first rule about double dipping is “don’t talk about double dipping”. Not only was he here, but doing MFM as well. We are not helping the whole “psycho psychiatrist” stereotype.
The start is insane. So many beasts in this thing, its hard not to get caught in the stampede, especially with a downhill stretch to start. I’m hoping for a sub 6 first mile so I try to keep up. I’m used to the crowd thinning out pretty quick at this pace but a half mile in I’ve still got lots of company. Brandenburg, Shawanna and MC are just ahead of me and Luke Godwin is attached at my hip. Kris Litman Koon is also up in the mix, so I assume he’s been hitting the training pretty hard. A few soft rolling inclines and I am just not feeling it. Lots of wind suckage and fatigue, and I start cursing myself thinking how bad MFM is going to suck after this. But hey, maybe I’m rocking like a 5:50 or something. Uh, nope. 6:08 at Mile 1. This would be fine – a 6:07 will get you a 18:59. What’s not fine is me wanting to quit right there. Sure enough, I mentally and physically fade out for a bit and then realize Luke is dropping me and MC/Jeff/Shawanna are starting to gap me a bit too. Must. Keep. Up. It feels like forever but we finally hit the other side of the rectangle on Queen Street, and I’m hurting pretty bad. Angel has just been out for a training run and tells me to catch Brandenburg. I’m going to try my best. Mile 2 in 6:15. Not too bad, given my general feeling of death. I try to ramp it up, knowing I’ll need a sub 6 effort to get me in the 18’s. Lungs are definitely protesting the brain’s decision, unfortunately. Just cant get enough wind in me. What’s worse is that they are letting cars go behind me, so I feel like I’m dead last. We do a little squiggle from Wheat to Blossom, and I know its just a flat half mile to go. Adrenaline takes over and I start drawing nearer to the pack. I see Luke break from the front but JB, Shawanna and MC in are in a tight pack. For a moment I think I’m going to blast through the three of them in a headless chicken kick, but it was not to be. They all kicked in too, and they remained just out of reach. The last couple of blocks or so I see the clock and its already in the 18:50’s. Damn. No chance. I flop across the line in 19:17. I feel like remaining on the ground in the fetal position but then I realize I have to get the hell out of here. I take a few pics and try to tell Colleen to pick up my AG award, though I’m still panting like a banshee and my heart is beating like an Avett Brothers kick drum. Plus, I’ve gotten beat by so many people I dont even know if I placed.
Luckily OJ won the race, taking him out of the AG and giving me the consolation 3rd place. Man this AG sucks. 15th overall. Behind OJ was Justin Bishop, finishing 2nd in 16:20. Justin Jones finished 3rd, just a step ahead of Kenneth Vowles. In the women’s race, Caroline Peyton crushed the field in 18:09 followed by Shawanna and MC a few seconds over 19. Team Allers cleaned up the masters division with wins by Eric (17:58) and Sarah (20:33). Age group honor roll: Samuel Striggles placed 2nd in the 2-14. Kenneth crushed a 17:26 but just had to show up to claim his 15-19 age group of one. Brittany Robbins eked out a 20 minute win in the girls 15-19. Team Utopia’s David Russell ran 6 flat pace and claimed first in the 25-29. Kris Litman-Koon hung on for a strong 20:06 and 2nd in the 30-34, with Rafael Marquez 3rd in 21:39. Luke Godwin got his sub 19 with an 18:58 and 2nd in the 35-39 AG, Kate Ferlauto placed 3rd on the women’s side. Coke Mann rocked his 621 ninja custom shoes and claimed first in the 40-44. Some psycho psychiatrist took 1st in the 45-49, we wont mention his name. In the 45-49 women, Joyce rocked a new PR 22:12, followed by Sandra Ricciuto and race director Missy Caughman (great job Missy!). Tom Beattie placed 3rd in the 50-54 in a definitely-faster-than-Wes-Spratt time of 24:01. Renee McCormick took first in the women’s 50-54, ahead of Melanie Davega and tri addict Marlena Crovatt-Bagwell. Alsena Edwards, Lois Leaburn and Shirley Smith swept the 55-59, with Pete O’Boyle and John Gasque claiming 1st and 3rd on the men’s side. Sharon Sherbourne was the champion of the 60-64. Norm Ferris, Alex Ponamarev and Ron Hagell swept a brutal 65-69 category, with Patti Lowden and Brigitte Smith going 1-2 among the women. Arnold Floyd crushed the 70+ division as always.
Race #2 March for Meals “Wild” Run 5k
OK, so Google Maps had a 14 minute drive from St Joseph’s church (site of RFTP) and the Timmerman Trail. I must have thought I was still racing because I made it there in ten. In keeping with the theme of the day, I arrived just seconds after Brandenburg. We did a half mile or so of warmup, but when you’ve just finished a hard 5k fifteen minutes ago, it didnt take long.
March for Meals was decidedly less competitive, as expected, though they had a good crowd. Heavy on the race shirt wearing variety. Plexico seems to win this race every year, and sure enough he came out to defend his title. I swear he’s won it every time I’ve run. Will Brumbach and Micah Simonsen were there, proving I can’t catch a break in my age group. Other familiar faces were Brie McGrievy (with daughter Sabine), Jennifer Reeves, Dina Mauldin, Pam Inman, Lucia Velicu, Jeff Smith, Steve Rudnicki, Cheryl and Tommy Outlaw + Gizmo, Sue Porter, Barbara Brandenburg , Rocky Soderberg and Paul Bates. The Chick Fil A cow was there, so I made sure I got my mascot fetish pic in. It was cool to see Dawn Staley, USC women’s basketball coach (26-1, #2 in the country) there to start the race.
The start felt like crap, as my legs and lungs were wondering why the hell I was abusing them twice in one morning. First quarter mile is on a dirt road before entering the trail, which is a winding concrete route through the forest. Plex doesnt take long to leave us all in the dust, but JB and a handful of kids surge to the front of the non-Lightning pack. Brumbach jumps in front of me along with Micah, so here I am in the top 8 or so and already running 3rd in age group. We hit the concrete trail and I ride Micah like an overgrown gorilla before he eventually relents and lets me pass. My legs are trashed but one saving grace is that this race is flat as a pancake. Literally no hills. It’s still not a super fast route, because I’m having to engage some of my new found Make-My-Day trail agility to round all these twists and turns. JB and Brumbach have left me for dead but I make sure to keep at least a visual on them up ahead. I dont even worry about Garmin splits since I figure they’re probably useless out here in the forest with a million turns. I’d probably be too depressed to see my pace too, because its a hell of a lot slower.
About a mile and a half in, we jump out of the woods onto the dirt Old State Rd, which oddly enough I’ve run before on leg 2 of the Palmetto 200. This little part sucks because it’s a short out and back, with the turnaround as a cone in the middle of the narrow road. Bringing my tractor trailer -like physique into a hairpin turn around this cone brings me to a complete stop, and it about kills me to get back up to 5k pace. No more stealth with JB and Brumbach since they obviously see me on the turnaround. I see Micah right on my tail too.
We head back towards the finish road and I get all excited because I’m more than ready to get this thing over with. I’ve managed to pass a couple more people and its just me, a random kid, JB and Will. I finally break my Garmin blindness and see my watch not even on 2.5 miles, and sure enough they’re directing us away from the finish. Looks like I’ll be riding this out on fumes, because I’ve got about nothing left. One more loop through the forest and we come back out on the finish road. I figure this time its for real. I try to kick it in but JB and the kid are too far ahead. Brumbach has burned us all and takes second place. As we hit the final paved stretch, the kid pulls a page from the Blue Shoe book and blasts by JB on his right. JB notices at the last second and they both sprint to a photo finish. I see the clock around 19:30 and I about give up a lung to break 20, finishing in 19:49. 2nd in AG (behind Will) and 5th overall. Happy to get two sub 20’s in less than an hour, though since my goal for this year is a sub 40 10k, I better be able to do this. Between missing the sub 19 at RFTP, getting viciously double Brandenburged, and scoring all of 10 TDC points, its hard to call this morning a big success. Cool races though.
As predicted, Plex cruised to the easy win in 17:37. Will got second in 19:24 with the kid (Mike Schrum, actually age 25) edging JB out by a microsecond for third. Poor Jeff. This race is perennially a women’s trophy hunt for some reason. Gina Campbell took the win in 23:02, followed by Barb Brandenburg and Mikayla Morales.
AG honors: Sabine McGrievy, age 6, rocked a 35:23 and third in the 2-10 age group. Ryan Sacko won the 30-34 men. Micah placed third in our brutal 35-39 and 7th overall. JB took the 45-49 with Steve Hunter 3rd. Barb won the 45-49 women followed by Palmetto Runners’ Pam Inman and Jennifer Reeves. Jeff Smith finished 2nd in the 50-54. Sue Porter and Cheryl Outlaw placed 1st and 3rd in the 55-59, while Steve Rudnicki and Tommy Outlaw topped the men’s division. Jan Hardwick claimed the 65-69 men, while Rocky Soderberg took 2nd in the 70+.