See Spot Run 5k/Tame the Beast 12k – Earlewood Park -5/21/16

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The See Spot Run 5k is a race put on by the Humane Society, and true to its name, is the most dog friendly of the road races in the midlands. They even give out a prize for first dog and have swimming pools along the way for four-legged water stops. Its only fitting that Tuff Clyburn, fur child of Brian “El Capitan” Clyburn /captain of my Palmetto 200 team, has dominated the canine division of this race in recent years, taking the last two wins. I can only guess he gives Tuff a color coded spreadsheet and pace goals as well.

The race was first held in 2010 in the first week of June, and used to be held at Riverfront park. Apparently people complained of the oppressive heat and running past the less-than-aromatic chicken plant on the old course, so they moved it to Earlewood Park a couple of years later. The inaugural race was the site of one of the earliest overall Blue Shoes trophy hunts, a third place almost 2 minutes behind Jason Dimery and Gregory Jones, Sr.  I think I outweighed the other winners combined, but I was grinning like an idiot after an epic takedown of Ken Sekley on the bridge.

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The new 5k course in Earlewood is pure evil. They lure you into complacency with a blazing fast downhill 1st mile,  only to crush you with a killer climb up to Logan school, then turn around, plunge back down that climb and then run that blazing fast first mile in reverse. Trust me, its not so nice the other way. Plus, they used to have 17 minute 5ker Randy Finn dress up in full dog mascot costume and smoke ¾ of carrying 20 pounds of fur and oversize head.  But hey, isn’t that what I already do every race?

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Someone in 2015 thought, hey, this 5k thing is WAY TOO EASY. Let’s add in 4+ miles, 30 turns and cram in as many hills as we can. Awesome!  The See Spot 12k was thus born. It did have some hiccups in its first year though, with a misdirect and Randy Hrechko setting a world record for F-Bombs in the Columbia area.

In order to fix this and improve the races in general , RD extraordinaire Delisa Edwards held a focus group a couple of months ago at Jake’s in Five Points. With free beer and wings, they really had to twist my arm to come. She was really dedicated to making sure the longer race went off without a hitch in 2016, and she said there would be plenty of volunteers and course markings.  I had heard the course was brutal, so I encouraged her to own up to the pain and perhaps not use the “flat and fast” tagline, so she came up with TAME THE BEAST.

We had a Columbia Running Club sponsored a few weeks later, and damn, she was not kidding. I ran the 12k course and got into a training run pseudo race with the Code and Marian Nanney and I wanted to die. Unrelenting mountain range.  No way was I doing this. No freaking way.

But a few weeks passed, and the traumatic memories faded.  I kept putting off choosing which race I would do until somehow I devised a theory that the 12k would be the better trophy hunt. Besides, hills are my strength, and hey, I was the owner of the FASTEST 12K IN THE STATE FOR 2016. Sorry, I just wanted to say that again. We won’t mention it was the only one, and a trophy hunt of epic proportion.

Speaking of trophy hunts, my 12k theory lasted about 5 minutes from the time I showed up.  Here comes Randy, Angel Manuel and Toby Selix, and I’m already sitting 3rd Masters and AG at best. And that’s if I can take down Hrechko, who torched a 19:40 at last week’s gov cup.  Later Phil Midden and the Yerg showed up, knocking me further down the overall ladder and contributing to the overwhelming display of mid-70’s-born running talent. This was going to suck AND I was going to get crap for Tour de Columbia points. Brilliant theory, Sasquatch.

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I could try to describe the 12k course but this thing literally has 40+ turns. It’s basically the fast 1st mile of the 5k course, an insane roller coaster downhill then an unrelenting iron maiden of pain thereafter. The piece d’ resistance is the climb around 6 miles, where you make up all the elevation loss from the roller coaster. Good times.

The 12k starts about 15 minutes before the 5k and, as my orginal theory had predicted, had far fewer people than the well-attended 5k. Only about 60 runners total, which would be great if it wasn’t for all the middle aged beast men.  Rob Yerger, Micah Simonsen, Lisa Smarr, Matt McGrievy, Jennifer Kryzanowski, Colleen “don’t call me Mrs. Beast” Vowles,  Anita Recchio, Kelly Ghent, Tommy Outlaw, Brigitte Smith and Kerry Stubbs were some of the familiar faces.

The gun sounds and I take off like a tempo. It’s mid 60’s but crazy humid and going out too fast on this course would be the kiss of death. First mile is nice and flat and I form a mini pack with Randy and Micah. As we approach the mile marker on Marlboro St, the road appears to end…until you realize it’s the roller coaster.  Ninety feet of elevation drop in a quarter mile. Yeah, there’s no way to run that gracefully. I flop down to the bottom wrecking my quads in the process. Suckage has commenced, and this is just the downhill. The ensuing little bit of straight on Lucius Rd is the lowest point of the course, and the next mile is spent cruising through the canal place neighborhood, then back  through Earlewood  to meet up with the 5k course on Park st. So far so good. I’ve hit the first two miles in 7 minute pace, and I’ve managed to break free from my pack. Park st drops you again and then makes you climb right back up.  Things start going south on this mountain climb, since I really hadn’t recovered from the range I just crossed. I keep hoping for something, ANYTHING, flat. Wayne St is still a slight incline but at least its straight, so it feels good to breathe a little again. Unfortunately, someone is tracking my ass down  as I go under the I-26 /Elmwood overpass into the area near the Governor’s Mansion. Sure enough Angel passes me like he’s out for a Sunday jog, leaving me and my wounded ego in the dust.  Another climb and a loop by Tricky Nikki’s house and we’re headed for home, sort of. Miles 3 and 4 (7:13, 7:23) have faded badly, so I need to make up some time to make this respectable. Jen K and a guy pacing her (Logan Hawke) are up ahead so I focus on tracking these guys down.  Mile 5 feeds back into the 5k course,  and includes the fun climb up to Logan School. By this time my legs are more warmed up to the repeated abuse so it seems a little easier. Its also nice to see some of the 5kers like the rest  of the McGrievys (Brie, Quentin and Sabine) and Cheryl Outlaw (with Gizmo of course).  Mile 5 back to 7:01 and I start preparing for what I know is going to really, really suck – the climb back up the roller coaster. But first a plunge down into a valley on Park Street just to beat your legs a little more.  Park Street features the brutal climb in the 5k that tests your will to live in that race.  Jen K catches a brief spell of walksies and I manage to pull ahead and make up some ground on Angel. I’m so glad to reach the top at the mile 6 marker, but then I forget – the course then throws away all that climb with one huge downhill and starts you all over again. The ensuing mountain is unspeakable. All the elevation climb of Park Street compressed into half the distance, with a Quarry Crusher- esque little 10 percent lung buster at the end. I’m doubled over like Quasimodo on Xanax, trying to give the appearance of running. I think power walking it might have been faster, except my melon headed ego wont let me. Any grandiose thoughts about catching Angel quickly are replaced with making to the finish without getting Hrechkoed or Kryzanowskied.  After the lung buster, there are two more little inclines before finally, mercifully, flattening out for a bit. It takes me a full half mile to get my breath back, and I start to recover some, but by this time its too close to the finish to give Angel a run for his money. The finish throws you down one more hill, and I cross in 53:07, my second slowest 12k ever.

But hey, I know I’m at least one of the first few finishers, right? Yes… and no. While taking 6th overall, I realize all that effort puts me as 4th in the 40-44 behind Toby, Phil Midden and Angel. If the Yerg was 7 months older I would have been 5th.  Unreal.  Since Toby and Phil were so gracious to take overall places, I was able to get 2nd masters and a nice wine glass at least.  Looking at the results, 6 of the 7 40-44 guys placed in the top 11. But with three deep overall and masters, all 7 of us took home some bling. Sweet.

In the 5k, it was triumph yet again for Tuff Clyburn, who pulled Dan Carter to an overall win. Dan was able to put on the jets at the last second to claim first mammal, however. 17:55 is an insane time for that course, especially  having to stop 4 times for Tuff’s  dips on the pools.  River Bluff Hs runner William Moran took second with William Stutts 3rd.  Lorien Clark was the women’s winner at age 13, followed by Sara Hutchins and Elise Germany.

In masters, Jeff Godby managed first with Johnathan Kirkwood 2nd. Gretchen Lambert and Jennifer Othersen took the top two women’s masters.

In the 5k age groups,  Jessica Weaver took the win in the 15-19. Drew Williams won the 35-39, with Ryan Sacko 3rd. Teresa Shelton was 3rd in the 35-39 with two dogs in tow. Henry Othersen, Todd Derrick and Art Lambert swept the 40-44. Chip Lupo was 2nd in the 45-49, while Missy Caughman took 1st among the women.  Tom Tanner won the 50-54 men with Joe Robinson 3rd.  Susan Weaver was 3rd in the 50-54 women.  Lois Leaburn placed 2nd in the 55-59 women, with Tour director John Gasque winning on the mens side to continue his TDC domination this year. Cheryl Outlaw won the 60-64 with Pete Poore 2nd among the men.  Rich Weaver won the 65-69 in a very good day for the Weaver family.  Racing studs Henry Holt, Peter Mugglestone and Rocky Soderberg swept the 70+.

In the 12k, Toby Selix crushed a 6:22 pace to take the win with Phil Midden 2nd in sub 50. McCray Weeks was 3rd. Jen K , Colleen Vowles and Anita Recchio took the podium for the women.  Lisa Smarr took 3rd female masters while Angel,  Sasquatch and Hrechko (best law firm name ever) swept the old men category.

In the age groups, Logan Hawke tok 1st in the 20-24. Rob and Micah were 1-2 in the 35-39. Matt McGrievy was 2nd in the 40-44. Ravi Chockalingam and  John Richards were the top two 45-49 men. Phil Togneri won the 50-54. Tommy Outlaw placed 3rd in the 55-59. Harry Strick won the 60-64 men  while Brigitte Smith was champion of the 65-69 women.

 

 

 

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Rose Festival 12k and 5k – Orangeburg, SC – 4/30/16

 

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The Rose Festival 5k and 12k have been around for about 10 years, but initially escaped my attention since Orangeburg is about an hour from my house.  At some point I must have realized, though, that this was an event practically made for me. I spend so much time looking for double dip opportunities, but Rose Fest actually builds one into their race, and makes the double an event all to itself (called the “Double Down 17k” as well. It is a Tour de Columbia points bonanza.

My first taste of the Rose Fest in 2013 virtually assured I’d be coming back again. I consider it probably the best running performance of the hundreds of races I’ve done. I PR’d in the 12k by over a minute and a half, running a 48:12 in an epic battle with Billy Tisdale. The 5k, only about 40 minutes later, was absolutely brutal, but featured a 5:59 closing mile to catch Billy again, finishing in 19:49 and securing a double down championship.  I was hooked.

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Rose Fest 12k, 2013

Of course, whenever someone like myself wins races, it basically screams TROPHY HUNT. I don’t win races by talent, I win by luck and lack of competition.  The Rose Fest featured wins by local elites Justin Bishop, Chris Bailey and Michael Banks in subsequent years – people who could go have brunch after their race and still have time to get back to see me finish.

I was injured in 2014, but I came back in 2015 to race the double again. Charleston’s Chris Bailey trounced everybody in both the 12k and 5k, and I had a couple of so-so races (50:02, 20:08 I think). But, since they added a masters division, I took home the masters double down crown much to my surprise.

This year, I was decidedly less optimistic. Boston, while a euphoric experience, left me just wrecked. At least I knew why I was feeling so bad at the race since I was sick as a dog the rest of the week. I had managed to get a few runs in the next weekend, including an ill-advised preview run of the Gov Cup Half on Sunday.  Even though the legs were slowly coming back, I was dead tired and still not 100 percent recovered from the brutal cold I had been fighting.

But, it was Rose Fest, so I figured I’d at least go down to Orangeburg to take pictures. I think I had a beer fueled moment of poor judgment (not the first, mind you) on Thursday night and signed up for the 12k on a whim. I had to catch my 10 year old’s chorus performance at the Sparkleberry Fair at 10:15 so I really couldn’t stay for the double down. I know… the thug life chose me.

Waking up at 5:00 am on Saturday,  it took every ounce of willpower, coupled with the 40 bucks I had already burned, to get me out of bed. OK I was definitely doing this race easy. I figured I could cruise at my Kiawah Marathon 7:15 pace and see if I could stumble into my age group or something.

I got down to Orangeburg with about 40 minutes to spare for the 7:30 start. Not a big crowd – the 12k is usually fairly small but loaded with elites, the 5k much larger. I ran into Cheryl and Thomas Outlaw, John Gasque (doing the double down), Brigitte and Garrett Smith, fellow TUS teammates Makenzie Wilson and birthday girl Greta Dobe. Rocky was already there despite only running the 5k at 9:00. Justin had mentioned he would be there but was MIA. I did less than a mile warmup, and the legs felt it necessary to remind me on every step that it was indeed only 12 days ago that I ran a marathon.  Total cinder blocks.

As we walk up to the start line, I’m taking pictures, talking to Erin and the cops, and generally distracted. As I put my phone away, I’m suddenly struck…WHERE ARE THE ELITES?? There are a few kids, a random fit looking guy about my age and an older dude with a Charleston Running Club singlet up front. No one I really recognize on the front line. OK, so surely one of these guys must be a sub 6 pace kind of dude. Still, a sense of opportunity, and panic, runs through me.

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The course – mostly flat and residential.

 

With the gun, I make sure I go out easy since this was the plan. About a quarter mile in I see a couple of teenagers in matching shirts running a couple of steps ahead and a guy riding my tail, but there’s no one but me and the police car. I take a quick look over my shoulder and start cussing. I’ve got 20 meters on the field already. Sonofabitch, I’ve stumbled into an unbelievable trophy hunt. I was going to have to at least try.

But, yeah, I really, really didn’t want to. A half mile in and the teenagers are gone. Just me and a random shirtless guy . I turn to him and jokingly say “I guess we are the elites today”, but he doesn’t even look at me. Dude is in a zone, probably dead set on kicking this melon headed Clydesdale’s ass. Normally I would use this as motivation to drop him, but I have no idea what my legs can take right now and  I have no idea what this guy is capable of. I focus on about 7 minute pace as I had no intention on running any faster than I had to  to take home the holy grail. Mile one came back in 7:04 and unfortunately Shirtless is riding my back like an oversized monkey. I don’t blame him since I produce a drafting wake like Andre the Giant. I turn a corner and there’s a long straightaway in mile 2 with a slight climb. OK – lets keep the pace steady but surge up the hill a bit to try and create some breathing room. Mile 2 was slightly faster in 6:54. I don’t feel great, having not done anything remotely fast in the past 2 weeks. I hit kind of a low point near mile 3 where I’m not sure if the police car missed a turn or not. I hear some noise behind me and Shirtless is still in striking distance, maybe 10 meters back. Damn it. The police car then turns and I recognize the course again, so figure I’m OK.

By now, I’m thinking that I can probably just maintain pace and Shirtless will fade, but there was at least one other guy not too far back. They’ll take my trophy from me from my dead, cold hands, so I bump up the pace just a little to be safe. I hit the turnaround right at mile 4, so a big psychological hurdle is overcome. Pace 6:45-6:50 for the middle miles. The heat and marathon legs are starting to get to me but the course quickly loops back on itself, and at least now I have some company going the other way. I focus on the other runners, trying not to get too crazy and kick it in too early. Mile 5 is 6:45. I’m definitely feeling pretty bad by now – legs are nice and loose but I’d really rather still be in bed. I’m almost to mile 6 (slight fade to 6:55) by the time I hit the other police car sweeping the back end of the race. Just stay on course and keep up this pace. All of a sudden I see “the hill”. Just a bump really, but I knew it was a half mile almost all downhill to the finish from the top. The hill where I pushed in all the chips against Billy in 2013 and headless chickened it to the finish. Not quite the same this time, but seeing the finish from the top of the hill is a big adrenaline jolt. I’m pretty much toast but I’m scared to death of some random joker blue shoeing me in the final stretch. I’m too afraid to look back. Burning down the hill I see Eric and Sarah Allers, Rob Yerger and Mike Compton. Sure glad they chose the undercard this year. Compton says there’s no one behind me so I do back it off a touch so I an enjoy the win. Crossed the line in 51:15, 6:52 pace. First overall! My fourth holy grail. I even had a post race interview with the Orangeburg Times-Democrat http://thetandd.com/sports/recreation/festival-of-roses-road-race-has-record-setting-turnout/article_898dc68a-613b-5b97-9f33-7b844422031d.html.   http://thetandd.com/uploaded_photos/festival-of-roses-k-road-race/image_1144fd58-b88e-5c0b-a08f-222e28a8c733.html  The melon head continues to grow.

This was my slowest Rose Fest 12k my over a minute, and second slowest ever, but overall victories are so sweet regardless of the time. I will take it.

In the 12k, John Gasque took 9th place and 1st in the 55-59. Tommy Outlaw took 2nd. Joe Robinson won the 50-54.Cheryl Outlaw won the 60-64 while Greta Dobe took 2nd in the 50-54. Hou Yin Chang placed 3rd in the 40-44. Brigitte Smith won the 65-69. In a critical no show, I see Lee Moore was signed up but didn’t make it to the start line. Thanks, Lee!

In the 5k, Eric Allers trounced the field by almost a minute, with Sarah taking the women’s win. An excellent day for Team Allers, newly representing the Fleet Feet racing team. Parker Roof was 3rd. The Yerg was 4th overall and 1st in the 35-39. Daniel Patrick took 5th and 1st in the 25-29. Joe Roof won the 50-54 while Compton took the 60-64. Arnold Floyd won the 70+. Makenzie Wilson was 4th female and won the 25-29. John Gasque was 2nd in the 55-59 for race #2. Alex Ponomarev won the 65-69. Henry Holt took 2nd in the 70+, running 28 flat at age 80. Not too shabby. Peter Mugglestone was 3rd in a super competitive 70+ age group. Tommy Outlaw was 3rd in the 55-59 in race #2, while Cheryl won her age group again, picking up 20 TDC points in one morning

I was not the only one to benefit this trophy hunt – Tour de Columbia director John Gasque was able to take home the double down championship! Marie McLean-Choi won the women’s title, with John McKinley and Jennifer Ballew claiming the masters titles.

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