The Race to Read is a 5 mile race in its 11th year, going to benefit early literacy efforts in Kershaw County. It’s put on by Betsy Long, librarian at Doby’s Mill Elementary, who is also a runner herself. It’s always been a good event and a regular stop on the Blue Shoes racing calendar.
Of course if you know me at all, it will take about 5 seconds before I inform you I have won this race. Not the age group. The whole enchilada. The holy grail of the trophy hunter.
This was back in 2010, before it was on the Tour de Columbia or Palmetto Prix. When it was a little known rural race that just screamed come and take my trophy. And so I did. It took an all-out effort, locked in an epic age grouper duel with Greg Howell, complete with a blue shoe kick and dry heave on the final turn. It was not pretty, but man was it sweet.
But as usual, whenever some pasty Sasquatch wins a race, all the real trophy contenders take note. I havent even seen the winner finish since the glory of ’10. I got Vowlesed badly last year. The Pale Beast laid down a couple of low 6 miles at the finish to completely crush me. The shame was even worse in 2013. Coming off my cliff dive, R2R was my second race back and got me Trophied and Ferlautoed. Oh, the humanity.
But maybe I could redeeem myself this year. Pale Beast is still run-injured, and takes his sadistic impulses out on our Sunday bike ride instead. Who knew the guy was a covert Brandenburg-esque stud on the bike? Ferlauto was MIA but I did hear the Trophy was going to make an appearance. With his double double deuce showing (albeit the 35-39 “champion”) at the Dam Run last week, I wasn’t too worried, but it would be really awful to lose to him this week, which would mark his masters debut. Happy 40th, Trophy.
I show up to Doby’s Mill on race day and wondered where the fall went. Around 70 degrees, and like 90 percent humidity. Sweating right out of the car. Awesome. At least I had avoided the frequent Friday night Blue Shoe perils of concerts, late nights and beer. I felt pretty beat down, though. The last couple of weeks of training have been mostly without any aches or pains, which is pretty much license for me to overtrain and get hurt. I usually take Friday off but I ended up running anyway, which led to 6.2 miles instead of the easy 4 I had planned. Nice job, hero.
The first person I see is, lo and behold, the Code. With TUS singlet on, ready to race. The dude has been out for the better part of 6 months, and been my assistant…or as I like to call him – “photo bitch”. Someone has to help me carpet bomb facebook news feeds with running pics, so he was the chosen one. Luckily for me, he says he’s just going to tempo it and see how the leg feels. I’ve heard this crap before, though, so I make a point to keep my eye on him in the race. He is now 40, and back in my age group.
I did a couple of warm-up miles with Trophy, Code and J-Lybrand, whose trophy hunting is even more voracious than mine. She’s doing the FATS 50k next week. And you thought I was racing obsessed. Back at the school I briefly get a twinge of the holy grail being up for grabs, seeing no elites right away. Then Eddie Lopez shows up, so there goes my dream of the overall glory. There’s still masters, though, and it looks like its only me, Code, Trophy and Whitney Keen. I thought this gave me a good chance, provided the Code didn’t get too frisky. Whitney did beat me at Springdale a month earlier, but I figured that was just me coming back from injury. On the women’s side there was Heather Costello, who would probably trounce the ladies as bad as Eddie would beat down the men. Garrick Douglas, who so brutally blue shoed me at Springdale, was also there. Mario Alvarez, Kara Clyburn, Peter Mugglestone, Rocky Soderberg, Brigitte Smith, Andrew Lipps, Natalia Rozchkova, Henry Holt, Jennifer Reeves, Tim Pearson, Alex Robertson and the rest of the Keen clan (Robert, Julia and Caroline) were some of the familiar faces.
I wasn’t sure what my strategy should be for this one. I figured around 6:40 pace with the hot tub humidity and the hills. The course is mostly a rectangle beginning and ending at Doby’s Mill. You have a short hill coming out of the school, but then 3/4 of a mile of flatness on Kennedy Road. You turn on Kirkland at mile 1 and run mostly downhill on gravel. The turn onto Porter Cross is near the mile 2 mark. Porter Cross is initially downhill but changes to a mountain range at the end. Mile 3 is on top of the worst hill. Mile 4 is mostly downhill on Fort Jackson Rd, Mile 5 is pretty rough with a nasty hill to start and a twisting short “nature trail” on the school grounds before the finish back near the start behind the school.
Not a big crowd for this one, so the start thinned out the field very quickly. Eddie left us all for dead before we got out of the school grounds. I tailed on to Whitney and Heather at first, but then fell back as we turned on to Kennedy rd. I was already sweating like a pig in mile 1, and didn’t feel great. I started having nightmares about getting Coded and Trophied. Spent most of mile 1 trying to get the lead out from my ill-advised 6 miler the day before and making sure Costello and Keen were in striking distance. Mile 1 was surpisingly fast at 6:31. What the hell did Whitney have for breakfast, cocaine? I expected Heather to soundly beat our tails, since she’s probably literally half my weight. Whitney, on the other hand, has a 5k PR just under 20 and hit mile 1 in what had to be around 6:15. Is he a new Jen Lybrand disciple? I settle in to the long slog down the gravel road all by myself, alone with my thoughts. Why is Whitney kicking my ass? Oh God, is that Trophy I hear behind me??? I have a severe case of race-induced paranoia. The gravel road is only a mile but seems to last forever. I can barely make out Eddie making the turn way up ahead, and then I lose sight of him. Heather and Whitney are also starting to gap me even more. That’s OK, Whitney is going out way too fast, I’ll catch him!…Right? Mile 2 in 6:45, so pretty close to goal. There’s a nice drop initially on Porter Cross to get your wind back a little, opening up to a beautiful country scene with a field of cows. You might enjoy taking in the scenery if you didn’t look up ahead and see a mountain arising out of nowhere. All of a sudden, I’m huffing and puffing and dying a thousand deaths, climbing up this beast of hill. What’s worse, I am making zero ground on the two ahead of me. This was supposed to be where I could make my move. Yeah… not happening. Mile 3 is at the top of this monster and the split is like 6:50 something. Holy slowdown, batman. I try to duck behind some trees as we approach the turn onto Fort Jackson Rd, employing the patented Blue Shoes stealth technique. This would work well if I was within at least 100 meters of the Costello-Keen combo, which I’m decidedly not. Whitney doesn’t look back anyway. I try to push the pace on the ensuing downhill, but I’m getting nowhere. Whitney is holding steady, right on Heather’s back and not fading one bit. What is fading way is my hopes of getting my precious masters win. Damn that Keen, crushing Sasquatch dreams. Mile 4 in 6:40 . Once my spirit was crushed I needed to make sure my shame wasn’t amplified by losing my age group to the two jokers behind me. The slog up the last hill on Fort Jackson rd about kills me and it feels like I’m barely moving hitting the nature trail. People either love or hate the nature trail, but you will know where you stand once you get there. It loops back around so you can clearly see who is behind you. Whitney and Heather are nearly done by the time I come to an area where I can see them, so I know my masters hopes are dead on arrival. Thankfully I can only see Garrick as I loop around myself towards the finish. I blast out onto the bus loop and see Whitney and Heather cross the line in what looks like a photo finish. I mount a half-hearted kick with no one to chase and cross over a minute later in 33:40.
Not thrilled with this one – my 2010 time was a minute faster. To be fair, I’m still on the comeback trail and the 2010 race was when it was held in late October, with race temps in the 30’s. Must get faster..again. But hey, I got this email yesterday about a little race in Massachusetts, so better get to it.
In the overall, Eddie Lopez killed it with a 27:34 for the win. It turns out Heather outleaned Whitney at the line to capture 2nd overall and the women’s win. Whitney got the male masters win, with Nikki Campbell taking female masters.
Only one deep in the age groups, but awesome bricks painted as children’s books instead of medals. I experienced a ridiculous amount of anxiety over someone choosing “Go Dog, Go” before me, since this is the book I’ve read a million times to all three of my minions. Luckily it survived until the 40-44 age group. It was a good day for team Keen, as son Robert and daughter Julia each claimed their age group. J-Lybrand ran a strong, and fairly even-paced 35:49. Garrick Douglas won the 30-34. Mario Alvarez captured the 50-54. Tim Pearson said his goal was not to finish last – not only did he achieve that goal but also took home an age group as well, taking the 55-59. Alex Ponomarev (65-69) , Brigitte Smith (65- 69) and Peter Mugglestone (70+) all took home age group glory as well.