The 10k is my nemesis.
Twice the length of a 5k and roughly half a half marathon, I’ve never been comfortable with the distance. And in case you needed any proof, you can just look at my 10k times. Granted, there aren’t many of them, since I’m always trophy hunting in the 5k undercard, but the ones that do exist mostly suck.
My first 6.2 miler was the Dam Run 10k in 2009, where I ran just a shade over 45 minutes, which wasn’t too bad at the time.
I followed it up with the Habitat for Humanity 10k, known for its nightmarish hills, and caught my first case of race walksies en route to 52 minutes. Did the Lexington Race against Hunger and managed an uninspired 43 minutes. At some point in 2010, I wrote down some running goals, including a sub 19 5k, sub 1:30 half, BQ marathon and a sub 40 10k. My first attempt at the sub 40 was again at the 2010 Dam Run, where I tried to keep up with Amy McDonough and Megan Weis in the first mile (6:18) and suffered an epic bonk for the ages. Just look at that surrender cobra:
I think the 42:11 was still a PR but nowhere near what I should have been doing by all the running calculators. Plus, I got blue shoed in the home stretch by Tigs and the Yerg. After that I think I was too scared to even try and push it in a 10k. I’ve run a bunch of 41-42 minute races, with my best a 40:38 at my only Cooper River Bridge run in 2013. My reward was falling off a cliff 3 months later. In the meantime, all of the above goals were met years ago. For some reason I just couldn’t it make it happen in the 10k. My 12k PR actually was right at 40 min 10k pace, and technically the last 6.2 miles were 39 something, but that doesn’t count.
So when I filled out my Team Utopia South goals this year, there was really only one: get that 39:59.
First try: A crushing repeat of another 42:11 at the Get in the Pink. This was becoming my personal white whale. And I wasn’t even in the same zipcode as Moby Dick.
So that leads me back to try number 2.
A return to my first 10k, the Dam Run to Irmo, now in its 31st year. It’s obviously been around forever, and I even used to own a 1990 Dam Run shirt from high school. I think I volunteered or something because I sure as hell didn’t run it. The cool thing leading up to this race was a major course change. Instead of 2 hilly neighborhood loops, the new course simply leads you across the dam, onto Bush River Rd, and then into Saluda Shoals park, with the finish in the new part of the park at the St Andrews Rd entrance.
I came into this race feeling pretty decent about my fitness, and the Labor Day 5 miler felt like I could have gone the extra 1.2 to at least PR the 10k. So my plan was to basically go all in and chase the white whale from the start. No negative splits like I usually do, just go out in 6:20 and change and keep it below the magical 6:26 the whole time. This was undoubtedly going to hurt.
I got to the finish line super early since they were actually busing us to the start this time instead of the reverse. Having ridden several of those hotbox stinkfests at the finish in the past, this was definitely an upgrade. They also were offering a timed but awardless 5k this year, and they didn’t have to catch the early bus ride (out and back loop in the park). I was already wondering if a trophy hunt in the undercard would have been a better idea. But hey, you cant have a trophy hunt without a trophy.
Got to the Lexington dam about a half hour before the start time and the place was crawling with beasts. Michael Banks, Ricky Flynn, Striggles, Ashton, Plex, Trackstar Eddie – this was not going to be slow. Women’s field had Shawanna, Caitlin Batten Joy Miller, Erin Miller and MC Cox, so plenty of fast ladies as well. Outside of Striggles, I didn’t see any of my usual age group foes. No Angel, no Gomez, no Code, no Toby Selix. Nance was still on the DL from his separated shoulder and Drew Williams was exactly 39 years and 364 days old, so it looked pretty good as long as OJ could snag a masters podium. Still, so many fit and fast people were milling about that I couldn’t rule out a random soccer dad trying to show me up.
Good TUS turnout with Chris Fawver, Mario Alvarez, Carol Wallace, Sam Hilliard, Roy Shelley, Tug Quarles, Sara Bonner, and Sean Marden on hand. Justin was sitting this one out with Tunnels to Towers the night before. Strictly had Erin, MC, Jen Lybrand, Banks, Drew, Plex and Matt Pollard. Jesse Harmon, Kristin Cattieu, Pete O’Boyle, Brigitte Smith, Jeannette Farr, Peter Mugglestone, Henry Holt, Kerry Stubbs and Jessalyn Smith were some other familiar faces. Rocky, Gasque and Johnathan Kirkwood were undercarding it in the 5k.
The start, as you might expect, was blazing. But at least you can’t beat the dam for being flat. I had planned for a 6:20 something first mile, but it was really hard to judge with so many blazing fast people ahead of me. I had MC right in front of me, so I figured that might be a decent marker for pace. It felt pretty rough right off the bat, but I figured it would have to feel that way to be fast enough. Mile 1 is still on the dam and comes through in 6:21, which I guessed was pretty ideal. Didn’t give me much leeway though.
The latter part of the dam drifts slowly downhill and I could see the cop car way up ahead – the lead guys had to be doing way under 5 minute pace. For quite a while I break free of my pack until I start catching up with a younger guy at the turn onto Bush River. Just when I catch up to him I start hearing footsteps and Jesse Harmon comes up beside us. We all pass through the two mile mark together, my split at 6:23. The course starts rolling at this point, but I feel surprisingly good now that I’m actually adequately warmed up. Gotta stop doing my 1 mile hobby jog as my pre-race routine.
Jesse appears to be trying to drop me but I latch on like an oversized albino monkey. The other dude drops off when we hit one of the hills. Having just suffered through the mountains of the Blue Ridge, these bumps hardly qualify as hills anymore. Plus the course is a net downhill, so plenty of recovery on the flip side of these inclines. I’m feeling it now and I start to apply a little gas. Mile 3 comes back in 6:16, and I start to wonder if my giant ego is starting to get the best of me. I can’t calculate exactly, but I figure I’ve just run about a 19:40ish 5k. Now I just have to do another one. Great.
The 4th mile is basically a carbon copy of the 3rd. Rolling hills on Bush River. Jesse and I are attached at the hip. Plex told me mile 4 is right at the Saluda Shoals entrance, and sure enough the Garmin goes off at 6:18 right near the sign. Somehow I’ve just set a 4 mile PR and passed Erin Miller at the same time, so clearly I’m either in the midst of the race of my life or about to implode.
It sure feels like the latter as we enter the park. Going up an incline past the entrance booth, the sun hits you in your face and the good feeling from Bush River rd has definitely left the building. We hit a mass of cones that seem to make no sense, which I eventually surmise is the 5k turnaround. Suddenly we take a turn into the woods, with roots and dirt, and I’m desperately trying to navigate without busting my ass. We then empty out onto a concrete paved trail which I recognize from running the Sweet Baby O 5k a few weeks ago.
And damn it is starting to hurt big time. Legs are beginning to feel a little Jello-ish and lungs are wanting to come out of my chest. The pain train has officially been boarded, and I’m not sure if I like its destination at his point. Mile 5 in 6:29 (also a 5 mile PR of 31:50) but I freak out because its over pace. Jesse is still riding me and pulls a step ahead. I fight like hell to try and stay in his draft, though unless William Schmitz comes back to Columbia, no one is an adequate draft for my Sasquatch physique.
But its 1.2 miles to go, and as Tenacious J is wont to say, how hard could it be? Very, as it turns out. As we weave through the winding turns of the park trail, I keep begging for it to open up to the finishing stretch. I am desperately hoping that the course isn’t the same as Sweet Baby O. That finish takes you away from the finish and drops you down a hill only to make you climb straight back up…on gravel.
I am really running on fumes at this point but I finally see an opening up ahead. We pass another guy who I swear is age grouper Anthony Ortaglia, and it freaks me out again (turns out it was just a race hallucination) . As I near the open space, I also make out an arrow. Pointing down the damn hill. %#*!! I flop down the gravel road basically with Jesse still on my shoulder. Once we make the turn though, I pull a David Banner green-eyed transition to an albino Hulk and go completely nuts. I ignore the mile split, knowing its ugly, (bleeding time with a 6:37) and throw down whatever I have. I see Nance spectating and he looks scared at what he’s witnessing. The finish is pure uphill but I’m flopping about in full sprint towards the finish. I can make out the clock as the gravel turns to pavement. My heart sinks as I swear I can see it at 39:50 or something. As I come closer though, I realize it’s a 38! I am fixated on those red numbers and take a few more steps deeper into the pain cave, blasting through in 39:26. YESSSSSS!
It takes me almost a minute to be able to stand up again after my typical ugly race-face crash out collapse over the line. But I’m as giddy as a schoolgirl. Seven years after my first try, at my “hometown” 10k. PR’d by a minute and 12 seconds, and most importantly, a 39 at the front of that time. Pretty sweet.
In the overall, Ricky Flynn and Michael Banks had a battle royale for the title, with Flynn edging Banks 30:25 to 30:42, both under 5 minute pace. Smokin! Flynn has been tearing up the tri circuit with a bunch of sub 15 5k times off the bike and a 1:11 half at the 70.3 worlds in Chattanooga. Banks is the 12k state record holder and just came off a 7 month layoff, so both of these guys will probably get even faster. Frank Devar took 3rd in 32:17.
Shawanna White crushed a new PR and won the women’s race again, running 36:04. Her friend Joy Miller finished just behind her, also with a PR in 36:21. Julie Weimerslage placed third in 37:14.
Age group: Ediberto “trackstar Eddie” Crisanto took 2nd in the 20-24. Sean Marden took 3rd in an unbelievably competitive 25-29 with a sub 6 pace 36:53. Plex won the 35-39 in 35:34. Jen Lybrand posted a post-baby PR in 43:57 and took 3rd in the 30-34. Caitlin Batten was 1st in 37:58. Drew Williams and Jesse Harmon took the top 2 in the 35-39, while Kristin Cattieu and Sara Bonner did the same among the women. Striggles won the 40-44 men, with the Sasquatch 2nd. Erin Miller and MC Cox went 1-2 among the 40-44 women. Jeannette Farr and Heather Hawn placed the top two in the 45-49 women. Ashton took tops in the 45-49 men, with Anthony Hernandez 2nd and fellow psychiatrist-runner Biemann Otherson third. Phil togneri, Roy Shelley and Tom Lance filled the podium in the 50-54 men. Cynthia Arrowwood from Hartsville ran a blazing 46:37 in the 50-54 women, good enough for the age group win by over 12 minutes, would have also placed 2nd among the same age men. Mario Alvarez and Tug Quarles took the top spots in the 55-59 men. Pete O’Boyle crushed the 60-64 competition by 13 minutes by registering a 43:34. Not to be outdone, Carol Wallace destroyed the women’s 60-64 by 19 minutes with a 50:48. Peter Mugglestone and Henry Holt took top honors in the 65-98 men, while Brigitte Smith won 2nd in the 65-98 women. I really think they need to have age groups through 75, by the way.
Lets not forget the 5k. They didn’t offer awards in this race, which I think is kinda lame, but at least it was timed. FYI, these guys will get tour de Columbia points. Advanced level trophy hunter Johnathan Kirkwood was 2nd overall in 21:16. John Gasque was 2nd in the 55-59. Ron Lipe won the 60-64. Pete Poore was 2nd in the 65-69, while Rocky sprinted his finishing kick to place 1st in the 75+ age group.