Hot Summer’s Night is one of the oldest races in Columbia, run continuously since my senior year in high school (1993), and is usually the most competitive race of the summer. It’s a companion race to the younger Cold Winter’s Day and put on by Strictly Running, so it’s always high quality.
But…I first ran this race in 2009, and I think I swore I’d never do it again. Not anything against the race organization, it’s just that this race is very, very aptly named. Early August is usually in the deepest depths of the Dante’s inferno we call Columbia in the summertime. This race starts at 7 pm, which usually means it hasn’t cooled down past 90. I was oblivious to these obvious facts in my first attempt, and even brought my whole family out to watch me. My then 4 and 6 year old did the kids run around the Hand Middle School cinder track and loved it. Me, not so much. I went out like a bat out of hell, not having any idea what heat can do to your race times. I was pretty much delirious at the finish – I was walking around moaning and tossing off my shoes, pouring water over myself. Like most of my race performances, it wasn’t pretty. I did manage a 21:36, which was a decent time for me then, but I about donated lunch and my consciousness in the process. I didn’t know hardly anyone at the time, but I see from the results all the beasts were there back then too. And of course Micah beat me by a second. https://results.active.com/events/hot-summer-night-5k–3/5k Garmin (with post-race delirium included) : https://connect.garmin.com/modern/activity/40235793
Of course, the suffering fades with time, and inevitably I did the next couple of HSN’s. Although I was getting much faster at other, non-nuclear-hot races, my HSN course record clocked in at just a shade under 20 minutes (19:56 in 2011). The years since have been interrupted by my family’s yearly week at Folly Beach, so either I wasn’t there or had just returned that day from a week of working out with 12 ounce bottles. The only year we didn’t do Folly was in 2013, where I decided to become an orthopedic trauma case instead.
I thought I might use vacation as an excuse this year, but sadly checkout was 10 am at our rental condo. I was back in Columbia by 1 and even got a nice nap in too. Time to man up. I’ve spent this whole summer ( including at Folly) torturing myself in the oven of late summer afternoons, so hopefully this would bode better than 2009. Last week’s Race for the Case (19:33) was decent, though it did involve getting a beatdown by Drew , wresting the holy grail overall win from my clutches. Damn you, Mr. Williams. Folly training included a Sunday run with the Tiny Terror and the OnShore recreation group – they have a great scenic route and even have beer at the finish. Highly recommend.
I carpooled with the Code in my beat up 2005 honda pilot, mostly to save his sports car/sex machine from what would assuredly be a tidal wave of sweat on the ride home. Beasts from near and far were at this one. I’m not there more than a few minutes before Brandenburg comes rolling up, presumably coming out of his tri season to kick my ass. Luckily, he was just there to work the race, along with most of the other Strictly team peeps (Erin Suttman, Jen K, Jason Dimery, Mike Hedgecock, Jonathan Kinsey, Barb, Linn, Erin Miller and RD Mark Bedenbaugh). Shawanna and OJ were there on their second race of the day, having suffered the misery (and both winning) of the Little Mountain 5k in the morning. Angel showed up for yet another age group showdown. Randy was back at it after a rough couple of weeks. I was parked next to the Yerg, who has a Blue Shoes voodoo doll ever since my surprise Stomp the Swamp victory last year. TUS was well represented with Kana Rahman, Colleen Vowles with son Danny, Justin “Gary Johnson 2016” Bishop, Roy Shelley, Sara Bonner, Greta Dobe, Tracy Tisdale-Williams, Stephanie “Stevie D” Dukes, Michael Nance, Sheila Bolin, Bruce Edmonds, and Mike Compton. Joyce wasn’t racing but brought her Team Utopia Youth group, a bunch of pre-teens that can flirt with a sub 20 (Connor Forche, Tyler Miles, Camden Forche, Wyatt Wilson, Trapp Bryan, Danny Vowles, Wesley Bumgarne, Ethan Kurtz). Eddie Trackstar, ex Dutch Fork/current Clemson runner Roland Hakes, Greenville stud Brett Morley and ageless beast Eric Ashton ramped up the elite factor. The OG Robbie McLendon was on hand for race number 2 of the day as well. RU Running brought out Albert Anderson and Gregory Jones, Sr. I finally saw Howie Phan again after he blew by me at mile 10 in Boston. Good to see Billy Tisdale making a long awaited return after racing mostly in Sumter the past year. Shirley Smith, Ron Hagell, Melinda and Reese Petruzzi, Beau Long, Larry Bates, Ken Bolin, all the McGrievys (Brie, Matt, Sabine and Quentin), Arnold Floyd, Rocky Soderberg, Henry Holt, Lynn Grimes, Brigitte Smith, the Weavers (Jessica, Rich and Susan), Kerry Stubbs, Johnathan Kirkwood and Hou Yin Chang were some other familiar faces. Sarah and Eric Allers were on hand to spectate.
After a mile or so warmup, there was no mistaking – this was going to be rough. Totally sweat soaked in 10 minutes. Garmin read it as 91 degrees, 63 percent humidity and a heat index of 105. Yikes. I knew this course pretty well – just a loop of rectangles in the mostly flat Shandon area. Last week’s Race for the Case was basically a preview, using an almost identical route. I figure definitely masters and probably age grouping are not in the cards, so I would try to run my own race.
Liz Locke started us and the pace was insanely fast at the start with all the competition. I’m full of fear with this level of heat but I also don’t want to start too slow like last weekend. Something about 6:20 was my goal. Joyce’s kids are out in front of me in the early going, so my ego is getting bruised right away. I manage to pull ahead of them after the first loop near Hand and focus on pacing behind Angel. Legs feel surprisingly fresh, coming after a rest day on Friday but also some serious stairclimbing packing up from the condo in Folly. We hit mile 1 right at 6:22 though it felt faster. I keep wondering “where the hell is the Code?”, but in my mind he’s lurking right behind me like a pale, hairy ghost. Mile 2 is always tough for me on this course. You’re still going away from the start and there’s a nasty little incline before the turnaround at Prospect St. At some point Angel falls back suddenly along with Johnathan Kirkwood. The heat is starting to take its toll. I’m definitely sucking wind but I get a major adrenaline jolt seeing the field start to reel back towards me. Mile 2 comes back in 6:29, which kills me since I thought I was speeding up. I have a vague memory of them giving out mardi gras beads at this point, which I decide against at the last minute. I thought I might have to flash my manboobs or something.With a mile to go I have that rare sense that I have a fair amount left in the tank. Time to push in all the chips if I want to have a glimmer of hope for bling in this one. Ramping up the pace, I pass a bunch of people on the backstretch on Wilmot. Somehow I’m closing in on Mike Nance, which absolutely means something is not right with him (his PR is right around 18 flat). I see Yerg up ahead too, though he seems to be moving at his usual pace. I pass Nance on the last little mini loop before the final stretch on Duncan and run like hell. My early kick is definitely catching up to me by the time I hit Duncan, the taste of death and lungs are at the back of my throat. BUT I MUST HAVE MY TROPHY. Barreling down Duncan I can see the finish line in the distance, with the red numbers providing a cocaine-like jolt through my system. But wait a second, some joker is not taking too kindly to being Sasquatched. I can hear his footsteps and breathing like a rabid grizzly bear tracking me down. Hells to the no. I had just passed a couple of aging superfit dad types in the last bit, so one of these suburban gladiators was probably trying to rob me of my glory. I fall into one of my finishing teeth-gritting, fist-pumping, head-flopping maniac kicks. Women and children go scattering as they avert their eyes from one of the ugliest scenes in Shandon that night. Up ahead the red numbers flip over to 19 and I blast to the line at 1000 percent effort, flopping like a dead fish on the pavement. 19:16.
I make it to my feet after about 30 seconds and then have to sit on the curb for a second to fight the urge to puke or die. But hey, its my best time in months under absolutely horrible conditions, so I will take it. I’m thrilled to look at the results and see that, inexplicably, I took 1st in age group (though 40 yo Striggles took 1st masters and was obviously ahead of me). Sure enough, 40 year old Collin Webster finished a step behind me in 2nd at 19:18. I guess I can thank him for the many ugly finish photos on facebook this morning.
In the overall, Brett Morley took the win over Roland Hakes 15:35 – 16:05, with OJ Striggles third. Shawanna White was the ladies’ champion in 18:39 to complete her double dip. Emily Letts and Janay Chisholm finished 2nd and 3rd. In masters, Colleen Vowles took the women’s win, with OJ winning among the men. Grandmasters had Alsena Edwards and Gregory Jones, Sr. as champions.
Age group honor roll: Sabine McGrievy took 3rd in the girls 2-10. Connor Forsche won the boy’s 2-10 with Tyler Miles 3rd. Mike’s son Myles Hedgecock won 2nd in the 11-14. Kenneth Vowles placed third in the 15-17. Eddie placed 2nd in the 20-24 men with new TUS member Bruce Edmonds taking 3rd. Jessica Weaver won 3rd in the women’s 20-24. Sean Foerster placed 3rd in the 30-34. Justin and the Yerg took the top 2 in the 35-39 men, while Sara Bonner won among the women. Kana Rahman won the 40-44 women. Tracy Tisdale-Williams was champion of the 45-49 women. Eric Ashton, Randy Hrechko and Johnathan Kirkwood took the 45-49 men. Howie Phan, Mario Alvarez and Ken Bolin swept a highly competitive 50-54. Greta Dobe was 3rd among the women. Melinda Petruzzi won the women’s 55-59, while Billy Tisdale and Larry Bates went 1-2 among the men. Robbie OG McClendon and Mike Compton took the top 2 in the 60-64 men, while Lynn Gries was the women’s champion. Greenvilee’s David Spark ran an amazing 21:21 at age 67 to take the 65-69, with Albert Anderson and Rich Weaver taking 2nd and 3rd. Catherine Lempesis and Brigitte Smith were the 65-69 women’s winners. Arnold Floyd, Ron Hagell and Rocky Soderberg swept the 70-74 men, while Henry Holt continues to churn out sub 30’s at age 80 for the 75+ win.