The Dam Run to Irmo 10k is one of the oldest races in the Columbia area, now in its 29th year. It holds the distinction as being the only true point-to-point race in the area and it has a net downhill, making it a pretty fast race. It also offers sweet prize money to the winners, so it typically brings out all the beasts. Not exactly a trophy hunt.
But Irmo is my childhood home (Irmo High class of ’93 – Go yellow jackets!) so I do feel some sort of allegiance to doing this race. You can’t beat the scenic views on the dam or the net downhill either.
My original plan was to have some sort of impulse control and “just” do this race this weekend. Unfortunately I fell off the wagon again and ended up racing Tunnel to Towers the night before. Doubling up is tough enough, but doing a 10k as the second race is pretty much a recipe for disaster, especially one with a brutally competitive field. But my eternal optimism (aka supreme egomania) said I could do it and still compete for awards. Hey, it was better race prep than late night concerts in Charlotte and/or beerapaloozas.
Or maybe not. Race morning had me waking up with a headful of doubt, cursing my computer indiscretions on Strictly Running’s website. Legs were cinder block-esque after last night’s all-out summit of Mt. Gervais St. At least the Hawaii toe has been feeling better. I’ve been wearing size 11.5 shoes for the last couple of years, but I got size 12’s when I saw a random cheap pair of my old blues on ebay. Sadly, I think I’ve been a size 12 all this time. It feels amazing to be able to move my toes around again. Common sense has never been my forte.
I showed up late for the race because a 7:30 start and 30 minutes away don’t work out well with the delicate ballet of coffee-making, cereal-pouring, ibuprofen-popping and bathroom destroying involved in my race morning routine. Did a couple of miles with TUS teammate Julia Early, Trophy and Tommy Kahaly. Trophy suggested I go slumming with him and do his pace. I thought about it but realized there’s no way I could resist giving Trophy a beatdown. Plus, who knew where Trophy was on the fitness scale. Dude fluctuates from 20-22 minutes in the 5k depending on who he’s dating or his weekly buffalo wing consumption. I had been calling him “Blackjack” (21 minutes) again to motivate him to get faster , but now he’s about to earn “Double Deuce” (22).
Stepping up to the start and its flush with SC running celebrities. TUS coach Justin Bishop, Eric Ashton, Ryan Plexico and OJ “Rashad” Striggles are representing Columbia’s finest, along with Matt Shock from Greenville. On the women’s side, Shawanna White is the favorite, along with Erin Miller and the return of Sara Powell. I recognize Caitlin Batten, fresh off her national Beer Mile championship, along with new husband Irv , both running beasts from Charleston. MC Cox and Jennifer Lybrand are also representing from team Strictly Running. A ton of the usual Columbia scene is on hand for this one: Greta Dobe, Randy “the H is silent” Hrechko, Pete O’ Boyle, Howie Phan, Matt Pollard, Kenny Culbertson, Francisco Mora, Marian Nanney (also doubling up from T2T) , Ramesh Tippabhatla, Lorikay Keinzle (TUS), David Russell (TUS), Larry Bates, Michael Jensen, Jim Williams (TUS), Barb Brandenburg (SR), Art Lambert, Jennifer Glass, Wade Bauer (TUS), Sheila Bolin (TUS) , Mackenzie Wilson (TUS), Tom Tanner, Mario Tudor, and Rocky Soderberg.
Not a whole lot of planning on this one – I thought run one mile at what felt like 10k effort and see what the Garmin gave me. The first mile and a half is completely pancake flat over the dam (after an initial little downhill) so it would be a good place to see how the legs and lungs are functioning. I knew mile 2 to be the roughest with some nasty hills in a neighborhood loop. Mile 3 and 4 would be rolling, and the last 2 miles mostly flat. Despite the net downhill, this race has never produced great times for me, probably because of it being right after summer. I ran a 45:05 for my first 10k ever, and then a 42:11 and a 42:08 the other two times. The 10k has always been my worst distance.
The start, as predicted with the beast factor, is super fast. My legs still feel like crap despite the 2 mile warmup. Turns out 10 minute pace without any strides does not prepare you for race pace. Go figure. I am getting my butt passed left and right as I mentally struggle not to get sucked in by all these guys treating it like a 400 meter sprint. About a half mile in, the dam gets real quiet as the pack starts to thin out. Being an expert level race results stalker, I spot Francisco Mora, Jennifer Lybrand, Pete O’Boyle and Randy Hrechko all in front of me. Quick nerd calculations suggest a 42ish minute pace. When I’m in good shape I should be just ahead of these guys, but who knows with my current conditioning and last night’s abuse.
I hit mile 1 in 6:49 and felt OK, so I tried to hold it. No need to be a hero this early. Off the dam is a nice downhill which helps you catch your breath. At some point I passed J-Lybrand and Francisco and now targeted Pete and Randy. Pete appeared to be picking it up some and passed Randy. Mile 2 in 6:47. After the first water stop is the Nasty Neighborhood Loop. I’m sure the people are nice there – in fact quite a few were spectating and cheering. It’s just their hills suck. It’s a pretty short loop and as I enter, Ashton, Shock, Striggles and Justin are already coming out. Ashton is crushing it. Right away we get treated to a sharp uphill, which hurts but always gains me against the field. Thus is the Sasquatchian Paradox: I’ve got 30-50 pounds on my peers but climb hills better. On the flipside, I suck on the downhills, with gravity seemingly on my side. One of the great questions of mankind.
Speaking of downhills, we get a plunge down one only to set us up for climb number 2, which is even longer and steeper. I again use my quads of steel to shame a kid on the way up. Coming out of the nasty neighborhood loop is a long stretch on Bush River Rd. Slowly but surely I gain on Randy and pull even with him. He claims to be done when I pass him but I know better. Mile 3 in 6:45. I am actually starting to feel better at this point. I think I’ve washed out the soreness and I’m moving more fluidly. The field is now way spread out and its only me and O’Boyle up ahead in our little section. Must win the battle of Irish paleness! I hit mile 4 (6:44) just before the second neighborhood loop, which I know is much flatter. I’ve got some gas in the tank so I decide to kick it up a notch. I pull up alongside Pete and pass him, but he latches on my back and starts breathing down my neck. It seems no one likes to be Sasquatched. We drop down a hill and we hit a nice flat and straight stretch. I start striding out and O’Boyle fades a bit behind. There’s a long stretch where the sun hits you right in the face every year, but of course this is the one race in ages where I’ve forgotten my sunglasses. I run out into the sun pretty much blind and start to ramp it up for the finish, picking off another couple of guys that are unknown to me. Mile 5 comes back in 6:31, and I’m definitely starting to feel the extra effort. One last little incline after the 5 mile water stop and then down the hill to Saluda Shoals park. It’s almost a mile in the park, so I try not to get too caught up in the moment. I died a thousand deaths in the park in 2011 and ended up getting “white shoed” by Tigs and feeling like I could barely finish (this was the year I thought 6:18 was a good pace to start) . I’m starting to feel the pain this year too, with the toll of a couple of 5kish miles in the bank since passing Randy. But there’s a girl up ahead and I slowly start reeling her in. Matt Pollard is ahead of her, but I don’t see another Ray Tanner blue shoe possible with his lead. Suddenly Justin appears, presumably having finished and gone to get breakfast by now. He shouts I have about a quarter mile to go and 90 seconds to break 42 minutes. Damn, that’s 6 minute flat pace. And I’m on fumes. But give me a carrot on a string and I will do just about anything. I start sprinting, or perhaps lumbering like a rabid grizzly, down the entrance road of the park. The girl is pretty far ahead and the finish line always feels like it’s right around the corner. You can hear it from way far out. Finally I catch a glimpse of the red numbers, around 41:40ish, and rip into the hardest kick I can manage. The time is ticking away and its going to be really close. Girl gets passed with about 50 meters to go and she’s probably still wondering what that white blur was. In full sprint I hit the line and slap the Garmin, and do an ugly flop onto the grass. After having an extended make out session with the finish line grass, I see my Garmin at 42 flat. Damn! But wait…lets check the results. BOOM. 41:59. Awesome.
OK, so still way short of the 40:38 PR, and even that is my slowest personal best in relation to distance. But its a step towards the springtime Blue Shoes, so I will take it. I also got 6.31 miles on my distance, so I probably ran the certified course pretty poorly. Either way, I got smoked in the age group. 5th. 21st overall. To rub salt in my wounds, Trophy came in almost 3 minutes behind me and got…FIRST in age group. WTF? He’s 6 months younger and wins the 35-39 since Striggles claimed 3rd overall. Oh well, Trophy turns 40 tomorrow so he’ll have to man up soon enough.
Winning the overall was Eric Ashton, 7 years my senior and still crushing a 33 flat. Wow. Matt Shock claimed second in a strong 33:30. Striggles was third in 34:22. The women’s race was apparently an epic showdown between Shawanna White and Sara Powell. They ran most of the race together before Shana threw down a vicious kick to take the win in 37:11, 2 seconds ahead of Sara. I would liked to have seen that, but I was barely in the park by then. Erin Miller got a PR 37:34 for third.
Age group honor roll: David Russell and Matt Pollard went 1-2 in the 25-29. Jennifer Lybrand won the women’s 25-29 with Rachel Carter 3rd. The 30-34 was insanely fast with regular overall winners Justin Bishop and Ryan Plexico taking the top 2 spots. Caitlin Batten took 4th overall and 1st in the women’s 30-34 with a 38:22. Tammy Putt was the unfortunate Blue Shoe victim, taking home 2nd in the 30-34 AG. The ladies 35-39 was also brutal with MC Cox breaking 40 minutes for the win (39:51) and Marian Nanney 2nd after winning T2T last night. Tracy McKinnon claimed 1st in my age group with Toby Selix coming back with a 39:41 for third after taking the summer off from racing. Randy Hrechko mounted a strong kick to overtake Pete in the park and finished 1st in the 45-49. Barb Brandenburg and Julia Early went 2-3 in the 45-49. I don’t know Laura Stepp, but her 1st place with a 44:54 was impressive. In the 50-54, Howie Phan crushed a sub 40 in 39:49 and took 1st by 5 minutes, Francisco Mora and Phil Togneri were 2nd and 3rd. Larry Bates won the tightly contested 55-59, with Tommy Kahaly 3rd, all within 44 minutes. The women’s 55-59 was also brutal, with Lorikay Keinzle, Carol Wallace and Alsena Edwards sweeping the category. Pete took the 60-64 by a landslide, running 43:09 for the win by 7 minutes. John Houser claimed 2nd in the 65-69 just a few weeks after his half marathon in the Blue Ridge. Brigitte Smith won 3rd among the women. The eternally positive Rocky Soderberg took 2nd in the 70+.