Springdale at Sunrise 5k – Camden, SC – 8/19/17

The Springdale at Sunrise is a 5k now in its 9th year, held at the Springdale horsetrack in Camden and going to benefit the United Way of Kershaw. My participation in this race dates back to its inaugural year of 2009, also my rookie year in road racing – the dark pre-blue shoes era. The race originally appealed to me because it was held completely on the dirt and grass horsetrack, promised to be completely flat, and perhaps most importantly, had beer at the end. It was originally known as the “Springdale at Sunset”.
I got there for the first race expecting a potential PR with the nice course. What I was met with was A) 94-degree race time temps with high humidity and B) Ankle high long grass almost the entirety of the course. I still went out fast, likening myself to a local thoroughbred but perhaps more Clydesdalish in my actual physique. I died a thousand deaths in the heat and thought I might catch a case of the walksies only a half mile from the finish. That was when Betsy Long’s husband Chad came along and blue shoed me, and my fragile ego couldn’t take it. Sadly, Strictly Running deleted those 2009 photos long ago, but somewhere there may still exist the frightening 8 photo montage of one of the ugliest and most hilarious blue shoes race faces as I clipped Chad at the line. Something just under 24 minutes and of absolutely no consequence at all. So proud.
I think I was traumatized by that race, and my only other attendance when it was an evening race was in 2011.  I threw a bunch of Yeunglings in the trunk of my old Saturn and spectated, red solo cup in hand. So classy.
Since that time, they have moved the race to the morning and the course to the nearby neighborhood roads. While the event has lost some of its uniqueness, the actual race is considerably more pleasant to run when you’re not high stepping through thick grass and getting punched in the face with the famously hot SC summer evening heat. Sadly, my return to the event 2 years ago featured me vastly overestimating my fitness post-injury and dying a slow death en route to one of my slowest 5k’s in years.
This is primarily due to the course. It lures you in like Daenerys Targaryen in the first half, seducing you with a mile and a half of downhill and flat, like a dragon’s back. The second half is more Cersei Lannister, cruelly torturing you for going out way too fast, making you suffer up an endless hill, and perhaps subjecting you to a walk of shame. Knowing the course from try #1, I did considerably better in 2016 and even won masters. I was hoping to repeat this year.
Those odds were longer this year as soon as I saw Whitney Keen and Mark Bedenbaugh show up. Mark has been dealing with injury a lot recently, but when he’s healthy he can certainly open up a can of whupass on me. Not to mention his history of clocking low 4 minute miles and 15 minute 5ks. Whitney is a running latecomer like myself but has gotten super-fast in a short period of time. I didn’t know what to expect from him. Luckily no Brandenburg sightings to try and steal my glory. I hear he was too afraid.
Ryan Plexico, Jim Williams, Brigitte Smith, Arnold Floyd, Betsy Long, Martie McCallum, Kara Clyburn, Heather Costello, Andrew Lipps, Parker and Joe Roof, and Jennifer Reeves were some of the familiar faces. Pretty nice crowd at the start – over 200 registered.
With the gun, the front end separates pretty quickly. Lightning Plex surges to the front, like Tony Danza, showing a bunch of high school xc kids who’s the boss. As soon as we hit the first turn, the team of Keen and Costello blast ahead and start leaving me in the dust. Coach B and myself are hanging back, and I’m trying not to let Whitney run away with my precious masters oversized horseshoe. As advertised, the first mile is super easy, downhill for about 1200 meters and the last quarter flat.
I have an aversion to warmups unfortunately, and I admit to not adequately doing one this time, so even trying to go slower feels rough. Since I rarely go under 8:30 miles in my routine training (outside of Team Utopia practices), pulling low 6 feels like death. Probably would be good not to warm up by flapping my gums and enjoying the air conditioned portapotty they have. It doesn’t help it feels like we’re running through a Louisiana swamp with a blanket over my face. Mile 1, which I had hoped would be 6:10, comes back in 6:22. I’ve managed to gain some ground on Heather but Whitney is still way ahead. Mark seems to be right behind me.
Mile 2 is pretty nondescript through an unfamiliar neighborhood and I have no idea where we are going. While the beginning is pretty flat, we start hitting some incline on the second half. Somewhere I end up passing Heather, and I finally start making up some ground on Whitney when the incline starts. I usually suck at mile 2 in 5ks since I lose concentration and I’m too afraid to kick it in that far out. Sure enough, mile 2 comes back in 6:24 and I’d better hurry if I’m going to break 20.
Fortunately, even though the lungs would rather I stop and curl in the fetal position, my legs have finally woken up. Mile 3 is pure misery – not super steep but just unrelenting slow climb. This is when I hope my Tyrien Lannisteresque master race strategy will pay off. Sure enough, I catch Whitney about a quarter mile in, but he’s still going pretty hard. Once I’m ahead, I get super paranoid he’s going to pass me back. Oh well, I’ve already pushed my chips all in, so here we go. I manage to track down a high school kid about a half mile from the finish, and I can tell he’s toast. They should put warnings on high school cross country summer training emails – you may get Sasquatched by a huge white chunky old dude if you don’t practice! Shame.
The rest of the race is pretty much a blur. Severe wind suckage , head flopping and wishes of a painless death were involved. Every step I hear the ghost of Whitney Keen or Mark B creeping on me, and I mistake every turn for the finish in the last half mile. MUST PROTECT THE MASTERS HORSESHOE. Finally, I can hear the announcer and see the last cross street before the finish. I tried to headless chicken it but you can pretty much stick a fork in me. Just a feeble kick to the line to hit 19:41 , 6th overall, first male master!  Somehow managed a 6:13 last mile, mostly on pure adrenaline and ego grandiosity. Maybe I should actually warm up next time. Time is slower than last year, but with the weather and slacker start, I will take it. Awesome horseshoe awards were to be had, and there were free waffles at the finish – sweet! (literally)

In the overall, Plexico trounced the kids en route to a 17:27 . I hear Irmo and Francis Marion are lobbying to give home some more years of eligibility. Samuel Messinides and Garrett Lawson placed 2nd and 3rd. The women’s race had a podium of well-known names with Heather Costello taking the win in 21:15, Whitney’s daughter Julia Keen 2nd and Martie McCallum 3rd. Male masters had Whitney and Mark 2nd and 3rd . Women’s masters saw Diana Gillam take the win with Lisa Huggins and Kara Clyburn also on the podium.


Age group honor roll: Kara’s nephew Daniel Clyburn won the male 11-14. Parker Roof avoided the Sasquatch and won the 15-19. SR’s Justin Jones won the 30-34 in 18:35. Martie’s husband Mac won 3rd in a tough 40-44 category. Race to Read RD Betsy Long was champion of the women’s 40-44. Joe Roof took a close 2nd in the 50-54. Team Utopia South’s Jim Williams eked out an 11 minute victory in the 55-59. Brigitte Smith had some surprising competition in the 65-69 and took 2nd.  Arnold Floyd, looking more buff than most 20 year olds, took the 70 and over category again. And although Jennifer Reeves missed out on an age group award, she managed to complete an epic double dip weekend, doing the Homestead 50k (10 x 5k) on Sunday. Congrats, J-Reeves!

Sweet Baby O 5k – Saluda Shoals Park – Columbia, SC – 8/5/17

The Sweet Baby O 5k is a race in its 4th year, going to benefit Hands of Hope, an organization to help support children with life-limiting medical conditions and their families. It is specifically held to honor the life of Lexington’s Owen Walker Caldwell (the “O” in the title).
Hundreds of races in, you’d think I’d have run every event in Columbia, but somehow this one escaped me until now. I usually try to do the Hot Summer’s Night race in the evening, but due to the service for my wife’s father that afternoon, that race was clearly off the schedule. So here I was on a Saturday morning, still brutally jet lagged from the 20+ hours of travel from Brussels on Thursday, with nothing to do (I know, my first world struggle is real). Sounds like a good time to throw yourself into 20 minutes of pain.
Of course my race prep was pretty much nil for this one. I had hardly run in the nine days in Europe, though my legs were either blasting out 25000 steps walking all over the place or cramped up in a train or plane. On top of this, I hadn’t raced since the July 4 two mile relay, which, if you know me, is an absolute eternity.  At least I had made it back for a couple of Team Utopia practices to sharpen the speed.
The course this year was in Saluda Shoals, which is one of my favorite race venues. Not only the site of the CRC annual banquet and my chance to wear my totally money Vegas blazer, it was where I ran my fastest 5k in the past year – a 19:03 at the Sleigh Bell Trot in November. It’s amazing what the fear of losing to a 10 year old (Connor Forche) will do for your speed.
This course was slightly different, an out and back route that I believe is the same as the Trail to the Ale 5k a few weeks back. The only problem with this, I surmised, was the nice downhill start of Sleigh Bell would make for a nasty climb at the finish, a la the Healthy Capital 5k at Columbia High.
Getting there my customary hour early, the Columbia summer decided to remind me it’s still here. I had gotten too used to mid 60’s and breezy in the UK and Belgium, and it was a mid 70’s sauna already. A couple of solo miles for a warmup. I figured most of the competitive crowd would be doing HSN, and I was wishfully thinking of a potential overall trophy hunt with this one. Those hopes came crashing down in the span of like 5 minutes when Plex and Mike Nance both show up. Miles Fowler and a couple of fit looking teens pretty much secure the fact that an aging Sasquatch is not going to bring home any podium glory. Not a huge CRC contingent, but the hardcore gang of Gasque, Rocky, Pete Poore, and  Leeds Barroll (where are you Ponomarev??) were representing. Sue and Rich Weaver, Jessalyn Smith, Steven Johnson and son, Josh Sadler, and Brigitte Smith were also on hand.
With the start, Plex and Miles rocket out to the front while all the rest of us run way too fast down the opening hill. Intermingled in the mob is a whole bunch of little kids, which is always a potential hazard when my 18 wheeler body comes rumbling through a sea of Priuses. Especially when about 90 percent of those Priuses will break down and stop a quarter mile in. Sure enough, I start juking and doing tailback moves as kids start bailing all around. Nance gets blindsided by an errant 8 year old and momentarily runs off the road on the first turn. A half mile in the road levels out some and the kids have been weeded out. I see Plex and Miles locked in a battle way up ahead, with Mike and two unknowns in another mini pack. My pack is me, myself and I. Like no one around. Feels like I’m out for a training run and I forgot my iPod.  There’s one big hill towards the end of mile 1, where they have the 12 days of Christmas lights at Sleigh Bell, followed by corresponding drop on the other side. I catch a glimpse of the clay mountain from Climb the Clay on the right and I’m so thankful I don’t have to suffer up that today. Mile 1 was 6:16, which probably means I was I was doing 5:45 on the first half. Nice job, hero.
Second mile is pretty flat, though there’s a slight rise as you approach the turnaround at the dog park. Nance is surprised to see me at the turn because he thought the big dude breathing down his neck behind him was a grandiose Blue Shoes. As I make the turn I see a pretty nice gap between me and 7th place. There’s a brief folding back on the course followed by a dirt detour through the woods onto the paved sidewalk walking trail. This is pretty straight and flat, and feels like I’m flying since the only traffic is some random walkers. At some point in this tunnel through the forest I hit mile 2 in like 6:28, though I thought it was much faster. That’s the problem with running completely solo. I’m starting to hurt as I finally make out the opening back onto the gravel road. I see Nance as I emerge and realize I have to go back down a bit , pull a tight turn in the gravel, and then head all the way up. Any sense of feeling good gets drained pretty quickly as I hadn’t planned on this entire half mile ending being uphill. Fortunately there’s no one behind me, and more importantly, no random graying superfit soccer dads to challenge the masters/age group. I still have one whole more week before Nance turns 40.
I can see the finish forever, and it feels like it takes about that long to reach it with the incline. Garmin spits back a 6:32, which is completely against the Blue Shoes ethos of bringing it in the last mile. But I’m pretty much gassed. I do a mini kick to make sure I’m not too close to 20 minutes, crossing the line in 19:43. Not super thrilled about the time, but considering the jet lag, heat/humidity and no one to pace against, I guess it’s OK.  I had one of the River Bluff high guys call me sir and explain he was out of shape (his excuse for getting beat by a chubby old man). Good enough for 6th overall, 1st in the 40-44.
In the overall, Miles and Plex had a battle, with Miles edging out the win 18:04 to 18:07. Nance kicked it in and just missed 3rd, running 18:40 to Ryan Strickler’s 18:39. Among the women, Jessica Johnson took the win in 21:22, followed by Celeste Schnabel and Vicki Allen.
Age group honor roll: Lily Sadler took home the girls’ under 14, Agnes Barroll won the 20-24. Sue Weaver was champion of the 50-54, while Brigitte Smith continues to dominate the 65-69. Nance won the 35-39 with Josh Sadler 2nd. Greg Fowler took the 45-49, while Tour Director John Gasque conquered the 55-59. Leeds Barroll won the 65-69 with Pete Poore 2nd. Rocky Soderberg  and Rich Weaver were 1-2 in the 70+.