This is my 5th year doing Bayler’s Bash since it started in 2010. The race honors the memory of Bayler Teal, a 7 year old boy with neuroblastoma, who was a huge fan of Carolina baseball. He became adopted by the team during their championship run in 2010, though sadly Bayler passed away just before the Gamecocks won their first national championship. The New York Times even wrote an article about Bayler and the effect he had on the team that season: http://www.nytimes.com/2011/06/12/sports/bayler-teal-was-south-carolinas-talisman.html?_r=0 The Teal family developed this race to remember Bayler and to support Bayler’s Prayers Endowment, which goes towards the fight against pediatric cancer. It’s always amazing to see the Teals and the Bishopville and Pee Dee community rally around this cause every year on Christmas Eve, Bayler’s birthday.
This is also a great race for runners. The course is a total pancake, like seriously, no hills at all. It’s certified, though a touch on the long side (3.14-3.17 by Garmin). The race holds a special place in the Blue Shoe annals of history thanks to a 3rd place awesome trophy I scored back in its first year. It is also the site of my first sub 19, an all out 18:46 in 2012 that is probably in my top 5 performances of all time.
But let’s be honest…this was not going to happen again this year. I’ve been dealing with a jacked up piriformis muscle for the better part of 6-8 weeks, so I’ve only just started to work in some speed this week in my recovery effort. For those that don’t know, having a ratchet piriformis is both literally and figuratively a pain in the ass. It’s amazing how annoying a little muscle triangle deep in your pelvis can be. I did ok doing some mile repeats this week for team utopia south, so surely that little bit of speedwork would override weeks of sub par mileage and holiday cookie consumption. Absolutely.
Oh, and lets not forget the weather. I took one step outside this morning and I could have sworn it was June. Seventy degrees and 100 percent humidity. I usually freeze my tail off at this race. Not a problem this year. But hey, this is a non-tour de columbia race, with nothing to lose, right? I was going to attack it. It worked in 2012, right? We’ll get back to that in a second.
I got to the race a little later than my customary hour before the start, as Bishopville is a good 35-40 minutes on I-20 from my house. Lots of beasts are already there. Paul Reardon, Lee Moore, Eddie Lopez, Angel Manuel, Curtis Boyd, Gene Grimsley, Mario Alvarez, the OG Robbie McClendon – this was going to be a fast race. A far cry from my trophy hunt 5 years ago. Not a whole lot of Columbia representation – between it being a Christmas sauna and the Tour de Columbia already done for 2015, people weren’t in race mode. Maria Huff (w/ Elijiah) and Kerry Stubbs from Team RWB were on hand. Hou Yin Chang showed up only a few weeks removed from Kiawah.
After a prayer and a few words from Bayler’s dad, we were off. There were a bunch of kids from the local high school championship football team (Robert E. Lee Academy) , who were all going out in 5 minute pace before fading a quarter mile in. Eddie Lopez was way ahead of the field only 100 meters and was killing it. Curtis told me he was shooting for around 20 minutes, but damned if he wasn’t doing sub 6 pace in the first little loop off of Main street. In this same loop is when I determined that today was absolutely, positively, going to suck. I felt like complete death and it was not even a half mile into the race. Legs were cinder blocks, probably not helped by speedwork on Monday and some tempo-ish miles on Tuesday. I was already sucking wind, except it was like sucking air from a Brazilian rain forest filtered through a warm blanket. I maintained a delusion that things would get better for awhile, and I motored through the mile mark in about 6:15. That would be fine if I was in good shape with cool weather, but yeah, neither of those things were in play. Mile 2 was getting worse, but I had passed Curtis and Angel still was behind me, so maybe I was doing ok. My ancient Garmin (my newest one has a broken strap) decided to die on me after being charged all night. Awesome. A turn out near a cotton field brought a wicked, hot headwind to add to the fun. I kept waiting for this to get better, but I was really, really suffering. I managed to hit the mile 2 mark still holding my position, but then it happened. Between the side cramping, heavy legs and wind suckage, I just stopped. Perhaps in a vicious karmic payback for making fun of Jennifer Reeves’ walksies for years, here I was strolling down Heyward St like a soccer mom at the local mall. Hundreds of 5ks in, this was my first walk of shame. Oh, it sucked. People are trying to encourage you, but all you want to do is crawl in the fetal position and cry for mommy. It took a good 30 seconds and getting passed by what felt like 10 people before I started jogging again. OK, lets get this done. I was already less than a mile from the finish, so I just worked on trying to catch up with the age groupery looking dude that road killed me last. Luckily, everybody else was dying in the Christmas summer too, so I managed to catch the potential age grouper, though I was starting to die another death. There was a huge gap after this, and the guy in front of me actually started walking too. He took one look back and saw the half dead Saquatch lumbering towards him, and apparently this scared him enough to get going again. Finally I turned the corner onto Main Street and redlined it the best I could to the finish. I flopped over the line in just over 21 minutes, just completely spent.
OK, so not a proud moment. Basically the perfect storm of terrible weather, being out of cardio shape and probably fatter too, and trying to recover from injury. Trophy, who I’ve ruthlessly mocked with the “Blackjack” nickname for years (for fading into the 21’s when he doesn’t train) is going to have a field day with this. Same too for Jennifer Reeves (walksie teasing) and Jennifer Lybrand (going out too fast). Karma just gave me a wicked payback. Better get back on the horse, though -a little race in Massachusetts in April awaits.
Results aren’t up yet, so here’s what I recall. Taking the overall was Eddie Lopez, and I think Lee Moore took 2nd or third. Curtis, Mario, Robbie, Gene, Angel and Paul all won age group glory. Somehow I scored a 3rd in the weird 31-40 year age group. A 15 year old girl won the women’s race in like 23 minutes and change, so all the Columbia ladies missed a big trophy hunt. Hope to see some more Columbia peeps next year!