Famously Hot Pink 5k/10k/Half – Spirit Communications Park – Columbia, SC – 10/13/18

The Famously Hot Pink Half Marathon/10k/5k is an event that has grown exponentially over the past decade. It has always been associated with the Walk for Life, a huge breast cancer awareness walk that attracts thousands of participants. Several years ago they decided to add a 5k race “The Race for Life”, then added a 10k. Two years ago they moved the whole thing from Finlay Park to the new Fireflies ballpark (Spirit Communications Park) and rebranded it its current somewhat awkward name.
While it has become a huge event, it also pops up on the Blue Shoes radar as a surprise trophy hunt. My advanced racing analysis has led me to believe that all the elites target the Ray Tanner 12k as their goal, which is next week. And most normal people don’t want to run a hilly half 7 days before a major race. Ah, but who needs normal?
I’ve run the half here twice, and finished fourth and third OVERALL. With times that are pretty lousy for me, because miles 10-12 are a damn mountain range. If a sasquatch like me can make the podium in a half with several hundred people, clearly the fast guys stayed home. But hey, Palmetto Health, my employer, saw my 3rd place finish last year and featured me on their facebook page The giant ego and cranium grew a few more sizes that day.

With the aura of glory still lingering from last year, I was tempted to try my luck at the half again. Unfortunately the legs had a meeting with the grandiose brain and they decided HELLS NO. Between the seven hour Table Rock 50k and the True to the Brew trail half in consecutive weeks, my lower extremities have been pretty useless the last 14 days. Slogged out a bunch of 5-6 milers at 9ish pace since TTB, nothing long and definitely nothing fast. So hey, let’s jump back into a road 5k! While I pride myself on sound decision making in the rest of my life, road racing makes me act like an impulsive 3 year old.
So I went to the race with a certain amount of anxiety, afraid I would make a fool of myself with an embarrassingly slow time, since my road 5k training has been zilch since August. Because everyone cares so much about my 5k performance. Right.

I got to the park pretty early since the half starts at 7:15 and I didn’t want to be driving around when the race started (7:40 start for 5k) . They had packet pickup at the race starting line, which is like a half mile from the parking lot, so I ended up getting plenty of warmup just going to and from my car. As I had expected, a big crowd but heavy on the race-shirt-on-race-day T-shirt contingent and very few competitive types. I saw Jen Lybrand at the half start and wondered if she might win the race outright, since I didn’t recognize anyone in the first few rows. Rich, Sue and Jessie Weaver were there to represent the CRC royals. Renee and Patrick McCormick, Chris Fawver, Naomi Rabon, Eric Gilfus, Jim and Sandra Manning, Pam Nadolski, Kerry Stubbs, Donna Freeman, Alsena Edwards, Jenny Prather and Michael Lambert were also on hand. Ron Hagell, Kelly Ghent and Janette Robinson were doing bike marshall duty. Drew Williams was pacing the 1:45 group again. The 10k start was at 7:30 and another field light on the top end. Barring some completely covert elite out there, Justin Bishop would win this in a cake walk. Sara Bonner looked to take the women’s win as well. The McGrievys and Reese and Melinda Petruzzi were sporting their CRC gear, with the first hoodie sightings of fall 2018. Peter Mugglestone, Lynn Grimes, Gretchen Lambert, Lois Leaburn, Teresa Harrington, Sheila Bolin, Ken and Patti Lowden and Joe Robinson were the familiar faces. Oh, and Ashley Horton was making a rare appearance with a ghost pacer from races past, better known as Tyler “Lady McGaha” “Trophy” “Blackjack” McGaha. He still exists.

After standing around forever and desperately trying to loosen up my crap right hamstring and piriformis, I finally got the chance to toe the line. I saw one fastish looking dude and my fellow consult liaison psychiatrist nemesis Jeff “Lucifer” Brandenburg. Like David Lee Roth it looked like I’d be Running with the Devil again. Daniel Patrick and Travis Moran were making racing comebacks as well near the start. Leeds Barroll, Alex Ponomarev, Pete O’Boyle, Barbara Brandenburg, Bionic Man Dave Hale, Shenequa Coles, Colleen Vowles, Tug Quarles, Rocky Soderberg, Sabine and Quentin Mcgrievy, and Sandra Manning were on board. My coworker at Baptist , Juliet Glover, and her husband Darius, were also representing the USC-Palmetto psych team.

The gun goes off and I’m instantly reminded of how much 5k pace sucks when you haven’t been doing any speed. Legs are still cinder blockish and the right hammy is pretty angry at being abused like this. Still, with the lack of elites, I’m actually running near the front, with the pace car in sight. Starting with a quarter mile of flat, you take a right turn up a nasty little incline, then a long flattish stretch on Harden St extension in front of the Tucker Center. The small, fast looking dude has taken it out fast but Travis, Daniel and JB are clustered a few meters ahead of me. I’m thinking I’m doing about 6:10-6:15 pace based on my effort and position in the race but the mile mark comes through in 6:30. Damn you, hamstring and slack Brandenburg. I try to pull an Emeril and kick it up a notch. At about a mile and a quarter you turn right on Calhoun. I catch up to Ken Lowden who informs me there’s ONE BIG HILL and it’s just ahead. I figured he probably designed the course so I’m sure he’s right. The man did not lie. Left on Gregg and up a long fairly steep incline we go. Although I hate hills, and you’d think my “less than petite” physique would be like a semi trying to haul upgrade. Paradoxically though, my freakish quads and daily hill training kick in on the mountain, and the incline helps stretch out the gimp hamstring. Furthermore, I’m catching up to JB and Daniel quickly and with a surge of adrenaline I pass them both.
Of course, now I realize there’s no turning back and I’ve just pushed in all the chips with half the race to go. Hitting the top of the hill I recognize the course from the Bunny Hop 5k and I try to channel the magical energy of the seven foot bunny costume. It seems to work, plus catching more 10kers make me feel like I’m flying. Mile 2, even with the monster hill, is a touch faster in 6:27. It’s going to be close to make this a sub 20. Fortunately, the course has leveled out and as we break away from the 10k route, we suddenly plunge down the side of the mountain we just climbed. Another paradox is that, despite my distinct “gravitational advantage”, I suck at downhills. I am deathly afraid of Brandenburg passing me on the decline as I flop down the hill, wrecking my quads in the process. With the turn back onto Gregg st , I know we have just a short way to go to the stadium finish. I’ve managed to rein in Travis a bit and he’s painfully close. I can even see the leader up ahead with the pace car. I start throwing down, thinking I might be able to catch Travis on the little blip of a hill leading into the stadium. Unfortunately, I’ve probably made my presence known, as 190 lbs of flailing sasquatch does not tread lightly. As we enter the stadium, Travis kicks it in and I can’t respond. I hear the watch go off a little earlier than I had expected, which probably means (with the certified course) I’ve navigated a little sloppily through those 10kers. I can make out the clock as I enter the stadium and see 19:30’s. It seems to take forever to make it to the line, but I manage to sprint it out to get a 19:49 chip/19:50 gun time. Good enough for 3rd overall, 5 seconds behind Travis and 32 behind the winner, 15 year old French Joseph (19;17). Definitely not one of my faster times but not too bad considering all the distance in the past month and lack of speedwork. Any Brandenburg beatdown is always a plus as well.

Half marathon: Annie Noffsinger was not only the women’s winner but the first runner to cross the finish line. She possesses the anti-Blue Shoes trait of looking perfect and effortless in running a 1:28:12. Jen Lybrand was 2nd female and third person to cross the line in 1:37. Third place was Denise Knight in 1:42. These ladies definitely put the guys to shame. Men’s winner was Derek Boucher in 1:33, followed by John Mouzakis and Andrew “Co”. I assume the name got cut off. Drew rode his 1:45 pacer duties to second masters. Naomi Rabon won female masters with Alsena Edwards 3rd . Triathlete Bill Wiseman won 2nd male grandmasters , while Renee McCormick and Donna Freeman won 2nd and 3rd female grandmasters. Age groupers: Pam Nadolski was 3rd in the 40-44 as a pacer. Chris Fawver crushed a PR (1:48:08) on this tough course en route to a 3rd in the 40-44 men. Pam Rodriguez was 1st in the 45-49. Queen Sue Weaver was 2nd in the 50-54. Jim Manning and Patrick McCormick were 2-3 in the 60-64. King Rich Weaver and Michael Lambert were 1st and 3rd in the 70+.
10k: As expected, Justin Bishop smoked the competition in 35:49. Steven Hicks and Neil Waldrop were a distant 2nd and 3rd. Among the women, Kelli Rembert and Barbara Turner were surprise winners with Kelli getting the lean at the tape for the win. Sara Bonner was 3rd , only 20 seconds behind.
TDC pointsmaster Matt Mcgrievy got 2nd masters, Jim Williams 3rd grandmasters. Lynn grimes, Teresa Harrington and Lois Leaburn swept the female grandmasters. Age groupers: reese Petruzzi won the 15-19. Brie McGrievy won the 40-44. Gretchen Lambert was champion of the 45-49. Joe Robinson took the 55-59. Pete Poore and Patti Lowden were 65-69 winners, while Peter Mugglestone and Ken Lowden won the 70+.
5k : Barbara Brandenburg was 3rd female overall. Brandenburg, Bill Bender and Pete O’Boyle took male masters. Chantal faure and Colleen Vowles were top 2 female masters. Sabine McGrievy was 2nd in the 2-10. Daniel Patrick won the 25-29. Juliet Glover won the 35-39, with Kathryn Livingston 2nd. Shenequa Coles won the 45-49. Tug Quarles and Dave Hale were 1st and 3rd in the 55-59, both coming back from injury.Bob Petruzzi was 2nd in the 60-64, while Sandra Manning was 3rd among the women. Alex Ponomarev and Leeds Barroll were top 2 in the 65-59. Henry Holt and Rocky Soderberg were top 2 in the 75+.

True to the Brew Half Marathon – Croft State Park- Spartanburg, SC- 9/29/18

The True to the Brew Half Marathon is the second in a possible series of races highlighting the Palmetto Trail, put together by  Palmetto Conservation and promoted by Erin Roof’s company, GRIT endurance.  I loved the first race in the series, a flat and fast 6.5 miler on the Peak to Prosperity trail in April, complete with tons of beer and music at the finish. I was all in when Erin announced this trail half, sponsored by RJ rockers brewery and running through Croft State Park, where I camped earlier this year. Unfortunately,  unlike a certain Supreme Court nominee, I don’t keep a very good calendar, so I didn’t completely think this one through.  Sure enough, I’m putting up my August/Sept/Oct months on my office wall, when I notice the end of September. Ruh Roh. Table Rock 50k Sept 22, True to the Brew half Sept 29.  This was going to suck.

As noted from last week, my entire lower half was pretty much useless in the days following the 50k. Not to mention the epic chafing that had me walking like a bow legged sailor with VD for the rest of the weekend. I did manage a 2 mile shakeout on Monday and two 4 milers on Tues and Wednesday, but even these short jaunts were pretty rough. Legs like cinder blocks. I tried not to hate Tracy McKinnon’s strava when he posted a 10 miler at 7 min pace the Monday after beating me at Table Rock by over an hour. Damn that ultra beast.

Fellow racing drinking buddies Rob THE YERG Yerger and Drew Williams decided to join me this time. There was an alcohol restriction at Croft, so we had to make sure we got true to our brews at packet pickup instead, which was held at RJ Rockers on Friday night in Spartanburg.  They give you a free Palmetto trail pale ale coupon in the race packet,  but I also had a flight of some of their pale ale/IPAs. I made a point not to get wrecked like I did in Morganton before the 50k. Even though this was a hell of a lot shorter, 13.1 miles on destroyed legs was going to be tough enough. Hotel accomodations were significantly better than the sketch Days Inn from last week, though I had to do an epic late night grocery run to procure my race breakfast of choice, Pepperidge Farm cinnamon raisin bread. Don’t leave home without it.

Showing up the next morning I was definitely not feeling it. Between the dark early morning and the 20 minute drive to the start, my piriformis wanted to get crazy tight. I decided to skip any warmup because I was probably going to be slow as hell anyway on the race course.

Since this is a Tour de Columbia race (we bend the geographic rules if there is beer and Erin involved I guess), there was a decent Columbia contingent. Mike Nance was on board to pull a hell of a double – he was going to do the half in the morning and the “Beerlay” 8 mile and 4 beer relay in Greenville later that day. #hardcore status for that for sure. Lynn Grimes, David Nance (with Jenny Prather for support), Roy Shelley, Gabe Hipps, Darby Shinn, Mike and Janice Compton, Kara Clyburn, Michael Beaudet, Will and Amanda Rowan and Matt Gregory were some of the familiar faces.

With the start, we had a short run through the grass and a paved road at Cedar Springs church before almost immediately plunging into singletrack trail. I saw Drew and Nance take off and leave me in the dust almost immediately. It is a little disheartening when you see 2 age groupers kick your ass from the get-go, but I knew this race was going to be all about just finishing. I tried my best early on to at least maintain a brisk pace, because I knew my endurance was probably going to be shot. Ran through the first few miles in high 8 /low 9 pace. It felt faster than that, but this was decidedly not the peak to prosperity section – plenty of rolling technical trail and very little flat. Yerg was also feeling the 50k pain from last week, so he dropped off pretty early. I ran for a good while with Gabe Hipps , though I could definitely see he had the fresher legs. Eventually he and another dude left me, but I was able to keep up enough to see them to reassure me I was going the right way. The course was pretty well marked, but generally I will find a way to go off track if you can. The middle miles of the race on the Lake Johnson section of the trail were nice, since there seemed to be a fair amount of flat open dirt road. Any section where I could just relax and jog for awhile was awesome for me, because the singletrack is definitely a challenge for someone with less than cat-like agility. Particularly with 50k legs.

By mile 8 though, things were getting pretty rough. The flat road sections had disappeared, and all of a sudden I’m doing some serious climbing. At some point, I finally give in and succumb to a bout of the walksies. Luckily, just as I do, I reach the top of the monstrous hill. I double fist some water and the volunteers tell me its all downhill from here. I originally thought to the finish, of which I was sorely mistaken. They were right about the next half mile or so, which was a glorious downhill. Soon afterward though, I was back doing switchbacks and inclines again. There were some more walksies thrown in, though I tried to keep it to a minimum, because the legs and body in general wanted me to crawl into the fetal position in the pinestraw.  I started seeing more horse poop at this point, which actually motivated me. Not because of some bizarre fetish, but I remember lots of horse trails from my previous trip, and I knew the finish is right where we camped. The last few miles are a blur. At some point the forest opened up with a big weird valley of fallen and cut down trees. I have no idea what that was about, but of course the trail wound up and down and sapped any remaining energy I had. Finally I came upon the finish area. I knew at mile 12 I had an outside chance at a sub 2 hour finish, so I started kicking it in as I rounded the horse area. Just as I planned to headless chicken it to the finishing arch, a volunteer told me to run the other way. OH NO. I was deathly afraid there was some mile long loop or something and I was definitely on fumes. Fortunatelu, it was only an extra quarter mile, but damned if it didn’t rip the soul from my body. I cold actually see Gabe again at this point, but had no chance of catching him. I crashed through the finish arch just as the clock flipped to 1:59.  Just wrecked. So not a great performance, but  not too bad considering the gimp legs. Good enough for 10th overall and 3rd masters.

Drew ended up crushing the win in 1:43, with Michael Pryor 2nd and Nance third. The women’s winner, RWB’s Birte Fretwell from Columbia, actually was the second person to finish. She killed it! Jennifer Lee and Michelle Flemming were 2nd and 3rd.

Age groupers: Gabe Hipps finished 2nd master in 1:58. Matt Gregory won the 30-34. Darby Shinn and Roy Shelley were champions of the 50-54. Mike Compton and Lynn Grimes were tops in the 65-69. Kara Clyburn was 3rd in the 40-44 women. Janice Compton was 3rd in the 60-64 women.

Special note – I noticed Kristin Weaver and Ian Loughlin at the finish with Jenny, which I thought was an awfully long way to drive to support a friend.  Kristin pulled me aside and told me the real reason. David had told them to come since he had a surprise in his race vest – an engagement ring. David had a rough day on the course and we all kept nervously awaiting his arrival. Apparently he had a long speech planned out, but all he could muster at the finish was to drop a knee and pop the question. You can tell from Jenny’s reaction that she was genuinely surprised and of course said yes. Really cool to get to see this – congrats guys!