Labor Day 5 miler -Columbia, SC – 9/4/16



The Labor Day 5 miler is now the standalone race on the holiday, in its 4th year.It’s hosted by Strictly Running and it has now come to rival its other classic races (i.e. Hot Summer’s Night, Born in the USA and Cold Winter’s Day) in popularity. It’s been helped in recent years with some other races going under, like the Blythewood 5k/10k and the Labor Day Fitness Fest 15k. The Chapin Crooked Creek 5k is still on the same weekend, so I usually do a long double dip with these two.

The first year of this race was a big event with some pro Kenyans and a winning time in 24:08. I was still hobbling from my Hawaii cliff adventure at the time, so I had to skip that one with picture duty only. In 2014 the course got changed a bit with Strictly’s new store, but retained a similar elevation profile. I did the relay that year with my oldest son (11 at the time). Unfortunately that year was brutally hot – I nearly died on my slow 2.5 miler and then my son cursed my name a thousand times on his half (he hadn’t trained at all). I did spot him a lead on most of the field but I think we got passed by virtually everyone.


I finally got my chance to race the whole thing myself in 2015. I couldn’t remember the specifics other than I kind of sucked, but it turns out that my Labor Day activities were not well suited to race preparation. See here: Hopefully I could remedy that this year. Right.

So lets summarize my “race prep” this year. Thursday: Wings and beer and late night watching my Gamecocks struggle to beat Vandy. Friday: Learning the Crooked Creek 5k was postponed, getting stir crazy, then running 5 miles in the middle of Tropical Storm Hermine. Saturday: 12 miles with the Code, Randy, Colleen, Rick Gibbons and Flicker. Two hours of tennis. Opening Saturday night college football games at our  friends’ house. More beer. Sunday: I swear I was going to rest up. But even though I was a lazy teen, I’m like an ADHD middle aged dude. Had to get out, so I went to the gym. Was almost done with my workout when Randy showed up to teach his Body Pump class. Declined, then got sucked in. 60 minutes of building up lactic acid in every muscle of my body. But hey, I actually felt pretty loose. Quaker Steak and Lube with the fam for dinner. More beer. Monday morning: Waking up like the tin man who got in a bar fight. This was going to be ugly.

But hey, I was already registered, so apparently I’d rather be tortured than simply waste 25 bucks. I got there an hour ahead of time, in the pitch dark (race time was 7:30), and “running hard” was far down the list of preferred activities for that time, headed by sleep and taking ibuprofen. A few minutes later my nemesis/friend Code showed up along with the TortureMaster himself, Randy. Luckily we were all not super thrilled about racing so I got a chance to meet Wilson Lybrand before we warmed up. He’s like the calmest baby ever and will probably be whipping my butt in 5ks in about 14 years. Once we did get around to the warmup, things weren’t getting much better. Felt like David Ortiz had taken some batting practice against my quads. Because learning to do lunges is a great thing to do 18 hours before race time.

This being a Strictly race there were plenty of beasts this year, though not the pros they had in years past. Eric Ashton was on board with wife Sara. Eric was wearing his plain white “I just threw this on but I can pretty much kick your ass anyway” singlet. I figured he had the win in hand without Striggles or Bishop to give him a challenge. Hunter McGahee and TUS beasts Michael Nance and David Russell , along with some other fit younger guys would be battling it out well ahead of me. In my radar, the Yerg would probably give me another sizable beatdown, but the Code, Wilson Harvey, Whitney Keen, Randy and Jen Kryzanowski would surely be near. Chandler Barrett, the 17 year old kid from the Press Box 5k was there, but I haven’t figured out his pace yet. Other familiar faces were Naomi Rabon making a rare road racing appearance.  TUS’ Tracy Tisdale-Williams, Greta Dobe, Mario Alvarez, Kana Rahman, Colleen Vowles, Sheila Bolin, Michael Jensen, Mike Compton, Mike Hudgins  were representing at one of coach Bishop’s benchmark races.  Jim and Sherry Fadel, Linn Hall, MC Cox, Larry Jourdain, Alex Wilcox, Micah Simonsen, Geary McAlister, Pete Poore, Jennifer Glass, Kimberly Hardin, Omar Armstrong, Coleen Strasburger, Caroline and Julia Keen, Pamela Knapp, Kim La, Kelly Ghent, John Zemp, Brigitte Smith, Charlene Fink, Lorand Batten, Alsena Edwards, Arnold Floyd, Lynn Grimes, Melinda Kurhan, Alex Ponomarev, Henry Holt, Carrie Miller, Peter Mugglestone, Reese and Melinda Petruzzi, Hou-Yin Chang, Jessica Weaver, Jennifer Reeves, Debbie McCauley and Kerry Stubbs were some familiar faces at the start and later on course picture duty. Speaking of picture duty, Roy Shelley was on board with Tracy’s awesome camera as official Columbia Running Club photog for this event.

Before trashing my body this weekend, I had two conflicting race strategies that I was mulling over. One was to jump on Code’s back like an oversized monkey and hang on for dear life, the other was to run my own race and hope to catch him at the end (he goes out ridiculously fast). I didn’t see any other of the usual age group suspects, so I figured it was a just a duel of the white and nerdy for the coveted 40-44 crown and first masters not named Eric.

The course is essentially 3 loops – one in Old Shandon behind Strictly, one looping around MLK park and through 5 Points, and one rectangle in Shandon with a finish in front of the Strictly store. The major hill is the Blossom-King incline coming out of 5 points, shared by the Get to the Green 5k in March. There’s also a kind of nasty incline right off the bat in the first half mile, and the usual Shandon slight roll. Overall not too bad, provided you don’t die on Blossom-King.

The start, predictably, feels like death. Cardio is fine but I still haven’t exorcised the bar-fighting tin man from my body. The David Ortiz hammies are begging for mercy. Code has apparently been listening to Bishop and was told to take a chill on this first incline, hanging back with me and Randy. As soon as we hit the turn on Cypress though, he starts taking off. I start to make chase but the thighs vetoed that decision real quick. I let him go but try to keep him in range. He joins a pack with Whitney and Jen K  up ahead and seems to stick with them. I’ve got Wilson hanging with me when I realize he may be trying to return the epic blue shoeing he got on Devine St last year. Randy is still hanging when we go through the first mile in 6:29. This is surprisingly fast, since it feels like I’ve been fighting my lower body the whole way. It’s about perfect for what I should be able to do for 5 miles, so I try and focus on matching that pace. Just after the mile mark is a freefall into MLK park. I attempt to let go a bit on the hill and let gravity pound out some of this soreness. As we round MLK and head out onto Harden, it seems like Randy has fallen back a couple of steps and Wilson is a few paces ahead. It feels good to be on level ground but I know that’s about to change soon. Five Points was built on a swamp so you pretty much have to climb any way you leave the area, whether you’re racing in 2016 or stumbling home in 1995. Or so I’ve heard.


Mile 2 in 6:34, right as you turn onto Blossom. Predictably, the Blossom street hill exacts a heavy toll and I pass a bunch of people who don’t obsessively train on hills. Code is also known for his mountain climbing and I can see him and the Yerg both crushing it. Justin’s Henderson st repeats must be paying dividends. Got to make it to TUS practice more. The half way mark and relay exchange is on King street right before Wheat. I see Linn Hall and Larry Jourdain are actually part of the relay. This makes me feel a little better because Linn was WAY ahead of me and I thought she was taking the start crazy fast. Also, Larry missed the start, ran back a good block to the official line, and still passed me only a half mile in. I run through in 16:34 , which is almost identical to my relay  split in 2014 and 30+ seconds faster than last year, so not too bad (though way off my 5 miler PR) . It’s such a relief to hit Hand Middle School because I know most of the hill work is done. I’m cruising along basically in Wilson’s wake. This drafting would probably work better if I wasn’t like twice his mass, but I’ll take whatever windbreak I can get. We make the turn onto Heyward for a long straight stretch. Drew Williams suddenly appears but he’s not racing , saving a Sasquatch showdown for another day. Code and Yerg are still within sight the whole long stretch, and seemingly getting closer. Whitney has fallen off the back of the pack and seems within striking distance. Mile 3 in 6:43, an expected slowdown with the hill.

By the time we hit the turnaround of the final loop on Ott, I’m certainly sucking some wind, but I’m energized by pulling in some of the field and making some passes. Wilson is killing it and is not letting up, so I use him as a pacer. Mile 4 in 6:38, which I’m not thrilled about. With a mile to go, I start ramping it up because I’m going to have to make a move to catch Whitney or Code. I finally catch Whitney , and surprisingly, Chandler, just before we turn onto Devine.  I figured Whitney was done but I was sorely mistaken. He is not taking kindly to getting Sasquatched, so he latches on to my side and even surges a step ahead. Oh hellz no. I start 1983 Sister Christian MOTORING it on Devine street, thinking this kick is going to leave him in the dust. Nope. He’s matching me stride for stride. By this time we can see the finish line in the distance. Having raced the same stretch last year and many times at Get to the Green, I know it looks closer than it really is. A half mile from the finish, I turn it up another notch, thinking surely this will be the decisive move. Again I get nothing – Whitney is throwing down like there is no tomorrow. By the time we reach about 3 blocks away we are both flailing away at 10000% percent effort side by side. And finally, finally I get a little separation. Those three blocks seem to take forever as my lungs struggle to break free from my chest and my whole body is begging for mercy. Code is just ahead but there’s not enough room to catch him. What’s worse, Wilson has been oblivious to this whole epic cage match because he has blown us both away. I’m scared to death of Whitney blue shoeing me at the line, but I manage to flop across at Mach 5 at about 32:39 a few steps ahead of him. Last split 6:11.

Ended up 2nd in the 40-44 behind the Code. I’m OK with the time given the way I felt at the start, though still a good 30 seconds off my best 5 mile time. There were donuts and beer at the finish, which is way better than most post race spreads. Age group awards were watermelons like Born in the USA, also pretty cool.

In the overall, Eric Ashton crushed the field by a minute at 5:28 pace at age 48. Pretty sure he is not human. Billy Grimes took second with Hunter McGahee 3rd. On the women’s side, Sara Ashton was an easy winner in 29:38 with Tammy Putt and Jennifer Kryzanowski also claiming the podium.

No masters in this race though Code and Colleen would have taken the crowns. Age group honors: Reese Petruzzi was 3rd in the 11-14.  Lindsay Fadel and Julia Keen took the top two 15-19 girls with Chandler Barrett winning on the guys’ side. Wilson Harvey won the 25-29 and must have done about 6 flat in his last mile – very impressive. Jennifer Lybrand is on the comeback from childbirth and is already placing in age groups again, taking second in the women’s 25-29.  TUS’ David Russell and RWB’s Kimberly Hardin were champs of the 30-34. Michael Nance and Rob Yerger took first and third in the 35-39 men. Naomi Rabon won the 35-39 with Pamela Knapp 3rd. Colleen Vowles, Sherri Mims and Caroline Keen took the 40-44 women. Whitney Keen and Randy Hrechko took the top two in the 45-49 men. Tracy Tisdale-Williams placed 3rd in the 45-49 women in a close battle with Heather Hawn. Mario Alvarez won the 50-54 men. Charlene Fink and Colleen Reed went 1-2 in the 50-54 women. John Bradley, Geary McAlister and Hal Ray swept the 55-59 men, while Colleen Strasburger and Alsena Edwards took the top two among the women. Mike Compton and Lynn Grimes both took 2nd in the 60-64. Alex Ponomarev and Brigitte Smith were champs of the 65-69. Arnold Floyd and Peter Mugglestone went 1-2 in the 70-74, while Henry Holt and Jesse Smarr won the 75+.

In the relay, Erin Miller and Larry Jourdain teamed up for a 30:14 finish and first place overall. MC Cox and Linn Hall took the women’s win. Of course, in one of the few years I don’t do a relay in a Strictly race, there are NO MEN’S TEAMS. I could have run it with little Alex again and won. A trophy hunt missed.

And lets not forget the costumes. Melinda Kurhan pulled off a close victory over Hulk Hogan and Macho Man Savage.





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