The triple dip. Like a runner’s solar eclipse, the perfect storm of three races being geographically and temporally arranged to complete them all in one morning is an exceedlingly rare event. In the annals of Columbia Running Club lore, the only known triple dip occurred on March 2, 2013. That triple was completed by John Gasque, Cheryl and Tommy Outlaw, James Hicks and myself. That triple was made immensely more difficult since the old March for Meals course at the zoo was delayed by a train by 15 minutes, and had all the triplers get to the second race less than 10 minutes from the start. And of course there was the beauty of the secondary challenge of that day, Tyler “Trophy” McGaha seeking a rare Blue Shoe win by taking me on in the last race of the day. Let’s just say victory is sweet.
I should say that the triple, to be properly done, should be as close to 5k race effort as possible. Most regular runners are not going to have any problem running 9.3 miles (presuming all are 5ks). It’s the intensity of the 5k effort that is the challenge. Just one 5k, if raced at full effort, is brutal. Doing it 3 times in a row should hurt like hell.
This year, everything fell into place again, though very late. The webmaster or somebody put up an 8:00 am start for the Lagniappe 5k originally, but the sleuthery of Roy Shelley resulted in the realization that this was an error, and 9 am was the actual start. So, 2 weeks before the event, we now had the Race for the Place 5k in Shandon at 8, the Lagniappe 5k at City Roots/Owens Field Park at 9 and Cupid’s Chase at Maxcy Gregg Park at 10. The perfect storm had arrived.
I advertised this fact on the Columbia Running Club facebook site and even made an impassioned plea during our awards banquet for any possible triplers out there. I thought I was probably on my own. I don’t know why people balk at the idea of blowing 90 bucks to submit themselves to a morning of psychological and physical torture . Jeez.
As an expert level double dipper, I planned everything in advance. I was very thankful Strictly Running had early packet pickup for the last 2 races, so that would cut down on time. Jordan Lybrand prepared a route where I could actually run between all three. While actually possible, the logistics of navigating 14+ miles and potential for rain made me wuss out on that option. Next time, Jordan, next time. My race strategy was to go balls out in the Race for the Place, and then survive the last two. While I didn’t think three sub 20’s were likely, I wanted to at least get close. “B” goal was to definitely go faster than my 15k PR of 1:01:50. Hopefully place in age group in all 3. Knowing RFTP was the most competitive, this is the reason for the all out effort in race one.
Race prep included not sleeping a whole lot on Thursday post-CRC banquet and beer/pizza at Upper Crust on Friday night. I showed up to my getaway spot in front of St Joe’s church about an hour early and warmed up with the Silent H. Of course, my legs feel like crap and I’m cursing my decision to do a 6 miler on Friday afternoon. Plenty of fast peeps are already there and I’m already not liking my masters/age group chances. Eric Allers is still bitter over the Cold Winter’s blue shoeing and Mike Nance is going to kick my ass age group-wise. Both will probably beat me for masters glory. I’m interested who will win this race as Blythewood high/CRC beast Alan Deogracias has some serious competition with #triathalonAF Adam Feigh and brand new CRC member Mike Schrum toeing the line. Justin was hunting for the top team pizza party prize and there was a big TUS contingent with myself, Justin, Sean Marden, Nance, Sara Bonner, Sheila Bolin, and Mario Alvarez. Joyce was also there with huge Team Utopia Youth representation, including newly turned 9 year old phenom Kendra Miles going for the 5k state record. Randy would be facing off with his “identical twin” nemesis Johnathan Kirkwood. Other familiar faces included Sarah Allers, Pamela Knapp, Ken Lowden, Kat Hudgins, Tammy Carter, Marie Demetriades, Kimberly Taylor, Derek Gomez and his daughter Madelyn, Reese and Melinda Petruzzi, Alsena Edwards, Mario Tudor, Jennifer Tudor, Arnold Floyd, Sandy Smith, Leeds Barroll, Lois Leaburn, Teresa Harrington, Dave Hale, Brigitte Smith, Sharon Sherbourne and Mickie Ishizue.
Ryan Plexico and Lisa Smarr showed up a little later and they both said they “might” triple. Missy Caughman is an awesome race director and apparently ran the race as well.
With the gun, the start was predictably fast with all the beasts in attendance, especially because the opening stretch is slightly downhill. My whole body is immediately screaming for this insanity to stop, since I’ve been lazy about speedwork and just logging a metric crap-ton of slow miles recently. I even get mocked on Strava for my 9ish training pace sometimes, but again, it builds up the can of whupass to be unleashed on Saturday mornings. Take that , Strava bullies. By the time we reach the long stretch on Heyward street, the pack has completely thinned out and I am left all alone. I am just close enough to the Allers/Nance/Marden minipack ahead to have them to gauge pace. Mile 1 comes through in a pretty brisk 6:11. Mile 2 is just tough mentally. We’re still heading away from the start and every time I push it a little, the little debbie downer voices start reminding me that there’s 2 more of these to go. I’m pretty miserable by the time we reach Queen street, the far end of this rectangle course, but its nice to start heading somewhat back towards the finish. It’s really hard to muster up much of an effort because I desperately need someone to push me. Finally mile 2 comes through in 6:36 or something and I realize I’ve really fallen off pace. I start kicking it in, and I can feel the minipack start to drift ever so slowly back to me. Sean just hiked 400+ miles of Palmetto Trail so he’s falling behind Nance and Allers. I’m really struggling with wanting to make a headless chicken attempt at Sean but I realize the only points/position gain I could get is by catching Allers or Nance, and that just isn’t happening. Apparently I make a living out of tracking down faster dudes when they’re hurt or recovering, like a giant white vulture feeding on the wounded. But Marden kicks it in enough to avoid the endless shame that poor Allers and Nance have had to endure previously, and I mount a half-inspired kick to cross in 19:27. Tracy, who is making sure to photodocument the triple dip, catches some absolutely beautiful finish line pics. I had been complaining of my lack of decent racefaces recently. I will complain no more.
In the overall, Adam Feigh crushed it for the win in 16:25, followed by Shrum and Deogracias. Justin also broke 17 minutes for 4th. The ladies’ race was quite the showdown between youth and “experience”, as 12 year old Madelyn Gomez ran a blazing 20:55, followed quickly by 57 year old Sarah Allers in 20:57 and then 9 year old Kendra Miles in 20:59. Kendra’s time is a new state record by at least a minute and a half I believe. But most importantly, TUS won the pizza party. Gotta have your priorities.
I walked around a bit but realized I needed to head over to the Owens Field area for race number 2. The hard effort at RFTP left my legs pretty wrecked and I was super not looking forward to the Lagniappe. I got confused when I got there and almost parked in Owens Field park but then realized the start was at City Roots. I pulled in with about 15 minutes to spare so all was OK. Unfortunately, I realized the start was about a half mile from the finish, so I would have to factor this in for the triple logistics.
Strictly running had picked this as their preferred event and Brandenburg, Coach B, Drew Williams, Jordan Lybrand, Jennifer Lybrand, Plex and Justin Jones were representing the red and white. It was good to see Kimberly Hardin back racing, and she brought a cheering contingent including fellow runner Teresa Shelton. Columbia Running Club’s royal family, the Weavers, were all on hand as well. Reese and Melinda Petruzzi were there to complete their double dip, with Bob and Alex joining them as well this time. Arnold Floyd was also doubling up. Tracy Tisdale was racing , so briefly putting down her camera to actually run. She did manage to steal my iPhone to take most of the start line pics (minus the giant headed self-aggrandizing selfies of course). Laurie’s son Cotes was also on hand. Eme Crawford and CRC award winners Kayce Singletary, Rocky Soderberg, and Chesson Merritt, were in attendance.
The start on this one felt like death. I ran Lagniappe last year on a modified course due to construction, and they were going back to the old one this year. I thought we were being spared the hill on the crawdaddy course by turning left immediately on holt st, but it turned out it was just drawing out the hill on a more gradual plane. This would be fine normally but my legs had gotten super tight and my stomach was grumbling for some eggs and toast, not another gut wrenching 5k effort. It was tough to see Brandenburg and Coach B pull away since I usually hang right with these guys. Ian Loughlin was riding me like a circus monkey early on, but fell off some once we turned on to Waccamaw and got another dose of hill. I finally turned on to Rosewood and my Garmin spat out a 7 minute flat split, and I was deathly afraid my triple was already coming undone. Thankfully the course is basically all flat and downhill from there. I plowed ahead and finally got a little more comfortable after my legs finally realized they were going to be tortured again. I was able to make up a little ground on Coach B and JB, with an unknown girl just behind them. The long stretch on Holly was thankfully a gradual downhill, and mile 2 came back in a more 10kish 6:28. Mile 3 dropped us all the way back down to City Roots again and then headed towards Owens Field park with a long lap around the soccer fields. I entered the park with coach B and JB a little closer, thanks to JB wanting to take the scenic route near the old memorial stadium. I wasn’t sure how long the lap was in the park, but I could see the leader still hadn’t finished yet, so I guess the answer was LONG. The course was all on gravel road from here and for whatever reason I had a wild hair that I could maybe catch the guys. As I rounded the far turn, I blasted into full-on headless chicken. I could tell there was probably not enough real estate to get Coach B but unknown girl was about to get caught. I pulled alongside her and she was having none of it, surging ahead. Of course this triggered david banner green-eyed mode in myself, and I ratcheted it up about 4 unknown adrenaline gears into a ridiculous display that must have scared any nearby women and children. Garmin recorded a 4:40ish pace over the last 0.12 after a 6:10 last mile. Crashed into the finish in 20:14 just behind Coach B in a whirl of fury and pain. Turns out the “unknown girl” was actually Mackenzie Jordan from SR, who took the overall women’s win. Hopefully her victory photos aren’t ruined by an maniacal sasqatchian 42 year old. Good enough for 1st in AG.
Justin Jones took the overall win in 17:18, with Jordan Lybrand in 2nd in 17:34. Plex completed part 2 of his triple in 18:26. Behind Mackenzie was Jen Lybrand, who ran 23:14 with Wilson. Third went to Kim Hardin in 24 minutes and change – pretty strong for not racing in close to a year. Drew Williams and Gay Petrey won masters. Age group honors: Cotes Royson was the champ of the 11-14, with Reese and Alex Petruzzi also claiming the podium. Jessie Weaver won the 20-24 with Ian Loughlin taking 2nd on the men’s side. CRC’s Lauren Mojkowski placed 3rd in the 25-29. Eme Crawford was 3rd in the 35-39. Tracy Tisdale won the 45-49 by a full three minutes. JB squeaked by with the 50-54 win in 13 minutes. Susan Weaver won among the women. Mark Bedenbaugh was champ of the 55-59. The 55-59 featured a double Lisa with Lisa Smarr and Lisa King crossing the finish line together. Harry Strick and Bob Petruzzi claimed the 60-64 men. In the 70+, Arnold Floyd, Rocky Soderberg and a hoodied Rich Weaver claimed the podium.
Of course my headless chicken finish left me even more wrecked after race #2 . I headed over to the River Rat truck and claimed my post race “breakfast stout” beer, with a bonus extra shot of lager when the keg wouldn’t work. Nothing like double fisting at 9:30 in the morning. I can only imagine what I looked like power walking down Jim Hamilton blvd, soaked in sweat and pounding a beer. I eventually had to do the most blasphemous act of pouring out half the beer since I was running out of time. When I got to my car they had me barricaded in for the Mardi Gras festival, so luckily some guys helped me out and I tore out of there. I pulled into the lot at the Lourie center (site of my original 2013 CRC banquet as prez) and had to high tail it to the start of Cupid’s Chase with Plex doing the same.
I strolled up to the start and they were already announcing t-minus 6 minutes to the gun. Whew, a close one. Didn’t have a lot of time to gauge my competition, but Nate Carrasco was on hand to give Plex a run for his money. Plex told me he felt like death, and I was right there with him, though it was great to be ready to finish. It was good to see the OG Robbie McLendon and Nicole after a long time. Matt Gregory and Alex Ponomarev were also on hand. Sandy Smith, Brigitte Smith and Dave Hale were completing a double with RFTP. Lisa Smarr actually registered and walked up to the line less than a minute before the gun. Hardcore.
At the start, Nate takes off like a man possessed and gaps the field immediately. The first mile starts at Maxcy Gregg and mirrors the first mile of Get to the Green all the way up the hill to the King/Blossom intersection. My legs are complaining again but I try and force them to cooperate and keep up with Matt. The hill is brutal but it helps me against the field. In my delirium, I see Ken Lowden cheering about my 2nd 5k, which I think I screamed “THIRD!!!” at him in a maniacal frenzy. Sorry, Ken! Despite my efforts, mile 1 is again slower than my half marathon pace in 6:57. But luckily the rest of the course is also flat and downhill like Lagniappe. I had forgotten how long the course stays on Blossom, and I’m practically begging for us to turn right and come back. Finally we hit the turn on Amherst and come back on Wheat. With the long flat stretch and heading back home, I launch into an extended kick well before mile 2. Just so ready to get this done. I pass Matt and just pray the rest of the way in that he doesn’t blue shoe me in the end. Form is probably going all to hell my now, basically feels like I’m falling forward and trying not to wipe out. Mario Alvarez suddenly appears at Wheat and King and catches some pics of my flopping around. Mile 2 in 6:25. The whole last mile is pretty much a blur. If I can smell the finish, I will give up a lung and my sanity to reach those red numbers. The finish is awesome to this race – flying down Blossom in a reverse of that early climb. There’s a guy in front of me and I can’t tell how old he is, looks vaguely age grouper. With all these bearded millennials , I cant tell the real old from the faux old guys. To his credit, he kicks it in pretty good, and once we reach 5 points, my gas tank is pegged on E. One half hearted flop towards the finish and I cross in 20:15, 6:05 last mile with a 5:49 kicker. SO glad to be done! Thankfully the age grouper guy was in the 35-39, so I was lucky to get 1st in AG again, especially with the one-deep awards. The reason for the one-deep is that the swag is crazy good – I got a “love bug” stuffed animal and a 20 dollar gift certificate to BJ’s brewhouse. Pretty nice for an AG award!
Overall win in this race went to Nate in 18:39, which I think may be his first win. He’s gotten insanely fast really quickly. Major props to him. Dustin Cook took 2nd and a beatdown Plex still was good enough for 3rd. I believe Jennifer Newman took the women’s win, as a guy named Joey accidentally got keyed in as a woman. Angela Titus was 2nd and Katy Mayhew 3rd. In the age groups, Matt Gregory took the 30-34, and Sandy Smith won the 55-59. Robbie McClendon won the 60-64, while Alex Ponomarev and Brigitte Smith were champs of the 65-69.
I want to send a big shout out to all the Columbia Running Club people supporting me in this ridiculous endeavor, especially Tracy Tisdale for taking all the pics and my fellow triple dippers Lisa Smarr and Ryan Plexico. I didn’t do a triple sub 20, though I did calculate my total time as 59:57 – A 19:59 average. Plus my last mile of my last 5k was the fastest, so I’m pretty pleased with the effort. It was a blast!