The Run for our Troops is a 5k in its 4th year, and is always held in the evening on September 11th, regardless of the day of the week. Based at the West Columbia Riverwalk, the event has become pretty big, with attendance in the 150-300 range over the years. Proceeds go to fund Hidden Wounds (a veteran’s advocacy group for PTSD, TBI and other post-combat conditions) , Team RWB and the host group, Cayce-West Columbia Jaycees.
I actually missed the first couple of RFOT’s, with the odd time and day, but the one last year was really cool and moving, so I wanted to come back. They have a nice ceremony preceding the race honoring veterans and those affected by the Sept. 11 attacks. The course is pretty unique with a finish on the Riverwalk itself.
This year, however, there was a construction issue on the certified course, so they opted for a one-time non-certified route in West Columbia. I noticed this a few weeks ago but didn’t bother to look that closely at it. Yeah…we will get to that.
You’d think I’d have learned from my rough weekend over Labor Day about race prep, but apparently that went right out the window. I have a few half marathons (Palmetto Foundation, Lexington, Kiawah) on the fall schedule, so I have been ramping up the long runs. I missed several weeks over the summer, but started out at 10 last month and got up to 12 last week. I ended up doing 14 on Saturday since there wasn’t a local race, but I couldn’t turn down an offer for tennis that morning either. Between the 14 miler and two hours of tennis in the heat, I was completely wrecked the rest of the day. Somehow my 17 year old brain hasn’t come to terms with the 41 year old body to which it’s attached. At least I took it easy on the beer and avoided getting tortured by a Hrechko-led body pump session. It was not looking good for a Sunday race. Code was planning to run RFOT but wussed out after the Saturday long run. Typical Code.
I woke up on Sunday and thought I’d be mr. tin man again, but I think all the tennis actually acted as a prolonged stretch/cool down. A little sore but not too bad. I was all good until I left the house for the race that afternoon. Holy crap it was hot. Last weekend was a total tease that fall was here, and summer decided to come back with a vengeance. Like 95 degrees with a nice wet blanket of humidity. Fantastic.
I got there with a little less than an hour until race time, forgetting about the half-hour ceremony beforehand. The place was pretty packed. I met up with Tracy for a warm up and got my first look at the course. O.M.G. We started going uphill, then some more hill, oh, and lets add some steeper hill. Sun was beating me down. Eventually we stopped and tried to make sure we were still on course. I could barely see my phone through the blinding inferno in the sky and my oversized head wringing out sweat on my screen, but it turns out we stopped right at the turnaround. OF THE FIRST HILL. Dear God. Three quarters of a mile straight up. What’s next? Run back down and do the B avenue Ray Tanner climb just for funsies. At least the rest of the course was mercifully back down to the finish. We only did the one hill up and down, but by the time I made it back to my car it felt like I had been on a caravan in the sahara. I took down every remaining drop of liquid in my car – the rest of my zoe’s kitchen tumbler of tea and half a cooler of nice warm leftover water from yesterday’s tennis match . Mmmm, tasty.
I ended up missing the opening ceremony with my impromptu drinking binge, instead seeking refuge in the shade near the start with CRC veterans Pete Poore, John Gasque, Rocky Soderberg, Henry Holt, Leeds Barroll and Brigitte and Garrett Smith. I’m sure our lifetime races would add up to several thousand. Liz Locke was also taking a rare break from the timing at SR to do a race. Later OJ and Shawanna showed up to dash , yet again, any remote hopes of a trophy hunt. The Yerg was there anyway, so he was probably ruining those chances too. Ever since he got his payback and winning the beer bet at Stomp the Swamp, he’s trying to bet a beer on every race. He may never pay for brew ever again at this rate. RWB brought out almost their whole crew including Omar Armstrong, Michael Beaudet, Jack Brklich, Teresa Shelton, Matt Havens, Joe Greene and Maria Huff. Scott Brewer, the unwitting photobomber of the legendary Code-Blue Shoes Jailbreak finish, was on hand.
Carrie Miller, Melinda, Bob and Reese Petruzzi, Hou-Yin Chang, Ken and Patti Lowden, and Kat Vorhauer were some other familiar faces. Gretchen Lambert and Sammye Locklair are some frequent racers newly popping up on the Blue Shoes age group radar recently.
The start is sudden and off I go at 5k race pace straight up a hill in the 90+ degree heat. Fun times. Surprisingly, it feels marginally better than my warm up slog, probably because you get at least a little breeze running faster. Striggles and Shawanna immediately shoot to the front followed by some ripped young guy and a mini pack with me, Liz Locke, Scott Brewer, a random shirtless guy and the Yerg. Legs actually feel decent, though I could do without the suffocating wet blanket of Columbia’s famous heat and humidity. Yerg starts to gap us a bit near 9th street as the hill decides to kick it up a notch. The Yerg may be kicking my ass and taking my beer of late, but I have to at least make him earn it. Plus, you never know when he might pull a Code-esque epic bonk, a la his 2015 Stomp the Swamp or my own 2015 Bayler’s Bash. We reach the top, navigate a short block and then start plummeting back down. Shawanna and OJ are still visible but they are giving the rest of the field their typical beatdown. I feel surprisingly good and I start being all impressed with myself until the Garmin spits back its first split. 6:54. WTF?? Nice half marathon pace mile in a 5k, hero. I try to step it up on the ensuing decline, but I am notoriously bad at going downhill. You’d think a 190 pound boulder would have some serious kinetic energy, though mine seems to get wasted in head flopping, unnecessary braking and assorted Elaine Benes dance moves. It’s not pretty.
We (and by this time I should say “I” since I’m getting left for dead by this point) hit the turnaround with the water station. I would have grabbed a cup but I wasn’t sure if the day-old tennis water and chugged sweet tea wanted the company. I then turn onto B avenue – the site where many a Ray Tanner 12k dream has been crushed. And damn it starts to suck real quick. Halfway up there’s a big patch of sun, a shadeless inferno of pain. Just my brief time in this oven sucks any remaining will to live, sun shining off my oversized noggin like a giant solar panel. But at least I’ve made some ground on shirtless guy and the Yerg, who are now both feeling the pain. I hit mile 2 in 6:39. Wow, I’ve almost made it to 10k pace now.
I know the last 1.1 must be almost all downhill, but I’m having a hard time generating any will to push it. Yerg is still 39 and outside my AG for another 3 months, and surely this random guy is not 40, right? Yeah… again, we’ll get to that. More flopping and albino incoordination follow on the long downhill back to State Street. I keep wishing I could really haul some ass on this part but the B avenue climb has sucker punched me and I’m still trying to catch my breath. Striggles and White are barely even visible at this point and are way out of the picture by the time I hit State. I forget State has a little roll to it and the last mini incline saps any thought I had of catching shirtless guy. I turn the last corner near New Brookland tavern and I’m very surprised to see low 19’s. I must have really crushed that last mile. But wait, I never felt the 3rd mile buzz on my watch. I hit the finish in 19:46, hit my watch and then see why. 2.98 miles. My new 4.8k PR. But hey, I’ll take it since I knew it was uncertified and this brutal course needs a handicap anyway. Hopefully we’ll get the old course back next year.
In the overall, OJ cruised to a first place finish, repeating as champion from his 2014 win. Devante Kinlaw was 2nd with the Yerg taking home third. Shawanna took the ladies win, just a few steps back from Striggles. Liz won second and Jasmine Harris third. Awesome eagle trophies for the overall winners.
Age group honor roll: Reese Petruzzi placed second in the 2-14. Omar and Matt Havens placed 1-2 in the 35-39. Turns out the guy in front of me was 44 year old Andrew Ortaglia, so I got all of second in age group (3rd if you consider OJ) for being 6th overall. Damn these old dudes are fast. Gretchen Lambert won the 40-44 women. Tracy won the 45-49 women, while Scott Brewer and Jack Brklich were champs of the 45-49 men. Sammye Locklair and Carrie Miller won the 50-54 women. Tour de Columbia director John Gasque won 2nd in the 55-59 men. Mike Compton was the 60-64 champion. Henry Holt scored an impressive 65-98 win, with Ken Lowden 3rd. Patti Lowden and Brigitte Smith went 1-2 among the women.