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!