I saw a shirt worn by some crossfitter the other day that said “Obsession is what they call our dedication”. Well, I’m pretty sure double dipping road races in August in South Carolina just because you’re in race withdrawal from your family vacation just qualifies as plain obsession. But this was the first time in years a beach trip didn’t interfere with Hot Summer’s Night, and I couldn’t resist the lure of a mom n’ pop style small town trophy hunt like Little Mountain. So I was in for both. Since LM is in the morning and HSN in the evening, you would think this would be an easy double. Au contraire. Twelve hours between races means plenty of time for sasquatch masters runners to get super tight and gimpy. Not to mention trying to navigate the colonic calculus of trying to stay fueled during the day without leading to another True to the Poo episode like this April.
First on the docket, the Little Mountain Reunion 5k and 10k. When doubling, the obvious choice would be to go with the shorter distance, but this race has a secret. The 5k course is a tortured hellish pathway to the top of Little Mountain and back. This merciless monadnock will beat you down and leave you begging for the sweet release of death. Seriously, it is the hardest 5k course I’ve run in the midlands. I did it last year completely ignorant of what I was getting into and had to walk for a little bit. In a 5k. And I still finished second. So my brain says: LETS DO IT AGAIN. Of course.
The Little Mountain Reunion races have been around several years and are tied into the parade and festival, totally awesome small town vibe complete with classic cars and barbeque. The original race director, Glenn Shealy, sadly passed away a few years ago and the festival has continued to hold the races in his honor. Really nice. His intent was to make the races challenging, and he definitely succeeded. The 10k is not as soul crushing, but it’s no joke either.
Little Mountain is a solid 40 minutes from my house. So between the drive time, early 7 and 7:15 am starts and my still resolving jet lag from California, it was a tough coffee-fueled O’dark thirty morning. Decent crowd when I got there. I see Plexico, Pasha Elisor and Joseph Kiprotich and my immediate concern is trophy hunt: crashed. Fortunately all three were doing the 10k. Whew. Shawanna (5k), Jen Lybrand and Sarah Bonner (10k) were all there to make a competitive race on the women’s side. All three were also double dipping with HSN as well. Ivery Baldwin, Dianne Steadman, Harry Strick, Ayden Bazemore, Dorothy Hutchins, John Baker, Jeannette Farr, Cheryl and Tommy Outlaw, Rocky Soderberg, Chaplain John Houser were some familiar faces. The Hernandez brothers, whom I never see except at this race, were both back doing the 5k. Carlos beat me for the Holy Grail (overall win) in 2018.
The 10k went off at 7 am and only had about 20 people, though pretty heavy on the top end with all the beasts. I tried to finagle a bathroom attempt for reassurance in the 15 minute interim between races, but apparently someone was giving birth in there so I was forced to pray for colonic quiet. We all went off on time, screaming downhill for the first quarter mile. I got passed by about 20 people, but unlike many, I knew the hell that awaits. You get your first dose of reality pretty quick with a right turn onto the monster Jacob Shealy rd hill. I do most of my training climbing the hills of downtown Columbia, not to mention a couple of brutal runs in San Francisco last week, so I was able to catch a bunch of people right back on this mountain. Turning right is a bit of a dip and then another gradual incline all the way to highway 76. I managed to pass child prodigy Ayden Bazemore on this stretch who told me he I hate these hills. I said you haven’t seen anything yet. Mile one in 6:46, about 30 seconds off my usual 5k pace but probably appropriate for the course. You get your only flat on Hwy 76 and I’m still sitting probably 7th or 8th place. Looks like the two Hernandezes , Shawanna, and a bunch of high school kids up ahead. I manage to pass one of the guys as I turn right and plummet down a long hill. This was the hill I decided to accelerate down last year only to die a thousand deaths later. I put it in check as the pack of four up ahead gap me a little more. At the bottom of the hill is a right turn on MOUNTAIN RD. It seems harmless and flat at first, but gets real nasty , real fast. All of a sudden a kid starts walking, then another, as the 10 percent grade kicks in. Time to throw in a 1983 Night Ranger Sister Christian style surge. MOTORING! The kids look on in shame as the pale ass 40 something Clydesdale in the dorky blue shoes shirt leaves them for dead. My quads start burning on the incline and the walksie voices start screaming, but I swore I wouldn’t take a mid-race stroll again. Finally I see Shawanna and both Hernandez brothers coming down, so the turnaround can’t be that far. I have one more kid ahead of me. I know I’m sitting fourth right now and they have cash prizes for the top 3. MUST CATCH HIM. He beats me to the top of the mountain but he’s only about 5-10 feet ahead, turns around and takes off. Despite my distinct gravitational advantage, I suck at downhills, so my main goal is to not fall on this torn up old road and keep 3rd place kid in reach. The kid is cruising down the mountain and giving high fives, seems to be a local. He gaps me a little but I manage to keep him within 10-20 meters or so. Finally we hit a bit of a flat stretch at the very bottom and a woman tells him to go faster because someone is on his tail. An old, sweaty, maniacally competitive someone. We turn to the left back up the hill towards to the finish and MOTORING commences again. Time to exact his PRICE FOR FLIGHT. I pass 3rd place kid and launch into full headless chicken. At the top is a left turn to a flat stretch and then another left. The whole time I have this feeling that he’s one of these kids with a good finishing kick, or maybe he was taking it easy, but in either event I am going 1000 percent. I round the final turn in full blast and crash through the finish like it’s an Olympic 100 meter final. 21:31. Exact same time as last year. And the kid I was so sure was on my tail was thirty seconds behind. Third overall scored me 20 bucks and a chance to be in a winners photo that makes me look like Andre the Giant.
5k results: Carlos (18:45) and Noe Hernandez (20:40) took the top two male slots, while Shawanna was first female and second to cross the finish in 19:39. Eight year old phenom Dorothy Hutchins was 2nd female with Jessica Weems third. Age groupers: Ayden won the 2-14. Jeannette Farr took the 40-59 female, while the 60-98 was won by Cheryl Outlaw and Rocky Soderberg.
10k: Pasha Eliisor won the overall in 39:32 in a tight race with Plex (39:47). Joseph was 3rd in 40:46. Jen Lybrand took the women’s win in 46:05. Sara Bonner was ruthlessly blue shoed by Ashley Holman in the battle for 2nd and 3rd. I was teasing her about it which is probably bad karma. YEAH …WE’LL GET TO THAT LATER. Ivery Baldwin won the 40-59 and Tommy outlaw took the 60-98.
OK, fast forward about 9 hours later. Drive back home, short nap, 11 year old birthday party at the house. A wonderful pre-race meal of some chips and a piece of Domino’ s pizza from said birthday party, washed down with some coke to try and wake up some for part 2 of the double.
If Little Mountain is the quintessential small town trophy hunt race, Hot Summer’s Night is anything but. Held for over 25 years, HSN is put on by Strictly Running and brings out all the beasts. The race has been held on a rectangular course in Shandon which was modified this year to start and end at the Strictly Running store on Devine St. Contrary to Selwyn’s assertations about the Cold Winter’s Day course, this race is actually “flat and fast”. This year, Plexico had his foundation sponsored some awesome ginormous trophies for top overall, masters and high school finishers. Tracy Tisdale / Jedi Runner photography was out to document the event along with most of the Strictly team members volunteering. Sarah and Eric Allers were on hand to spectate. Craft and Draft was also doing a dollar off beer special following the race, so that was definitely part of my plan as well. I showed up an hour early and desperately did some warmup jogging to try and shake off some of the lingering effects of my morning beatdown. Things were not great but it definitely helped that the weather was about as good as could be hoped for in August in Columbia. Cloudy and mid 80’s.
As expected, all the fast people were out for this one. Although I lusted for that masters trophy, OJ Striggles was there and you could’ve engraved his name on that thing from the start. With Drew volunteering and Angel now living out of town, and the Code nowhere to be seen, it looked like the Yerg would be my main age group competition. Yerg fought off a vicious blue shoe kick at the Born in the USA 4 miler a month ago to beat me by 2 seconds, though he did fall victim to Ed Aulfuldish last weekend in another near photo finish at Guardians. I figured these guys, along with Ivanka Tolan, would be a good group to help me pace.
I had previewed the new course at the Columbia Running Club/HSN/Craft and Draft event a few weeks ago, so I knew this would be a pretty easy route through Shandon. The only wild card was how my legs would hold up to round 2 of the abuse. My goal was to break 20. Silent H had predicted a 19:45.
With the start, it was pretty nuts and I actually got boxed in with everybody going hard. Before I could even find some open ground, Yerg was blasting it out there like a maniac and leaving me for dead. Ed and Ivanka also were up ahead of me from the beginning. After the start on King Street, you take a left on Duncan and go all the way to Bonham at Sims Park. I was having trouble keeping a rhythm and staying relaxed, a combo of the post-LM stiffness and the 2 shotgunned Cokes from Drew McDonald’s birthday party. With all 3 in my unofficial pace group ahead of me, I figured I was failing miserably in my sub 20 attempt. My Garmin chirped back 6:20 at the 1 mile mark, so I was surprised to be actually well under goal pace (6:27). I guess everybody is just jacked up out of the gates. Yerg apparently took a pre-race hit of cocaine or something because he was at least a block ahead of me at this point. We rounded Sims Park at Bonham and started coming back on Duncan. Typical rolling Shandon roads, nothing too tough. Ed and Ivanka got reeled back in a bit and I was basically right behind them at this point. Definitely sucking some wind but I managed to pull even with Ivanka right around the 2 mile mark, 6:25 split. Still on pace but fearful that I’m bleeding time. It’s going to be close. Yerg has come back a bit but damned if Ed isn’t slowing down. Rounding the turn at Queen Street I feel like its time to throw down. Tank is about on E, but with the lure of the finish nearing, I start firing up the engines anyway. Somewhere between Queen and Devine I finally pass Ed and Jeff Fretwell , and turn onto Devine in an all out sprint.
And then I feel it. Having raced almost weekly since 2009, I can count on one hand the number of times I’ve had a blue shoeing returned to me. Ken Vowles at the 2014 Turkey Trot 8k is the last time I can remember. But sure enough, I can feel someone coming up close on my side. Holy S#$% this can’t be happening. Panic sets in as I try to find another level of sprint in my oxygen deprived brain and legs, but the reactor core is already in meltdown mode and there’s graphite on the roof. Like the Zapruder film, there have been various analysis of eyewitness accounts and video/photo documentation of what happened next. I suspect a desperation elbow may have been extended in the general direction of Ed Aulfuldish. In any event, after a few seconds of furious side-by-side thrashing (mostly on my part), Ed breaks my spirit and takes me down a few feet from the finish. Damn. Wow. Kudos to Ed at beating me at my own game, and he definitely has some wheels! But hey, the side benefit of a brutal all-out duel is crushing my time goal with an official 19:29 and 2nd in AG. I will take that and be happy with it. I hate “losing” but I’d be lying if I don’t live for finishes like that.
In the overall, ex-Dutch fork, ex-Clemson stud Roland Hakes took the win in 16:25 with 15 year old Zander Jeffcoat giving him a run for his money in second with a 16:44. OJ Striggles was third overall and first masters in 16:53. The women’s race was ruled a tie since friends and training partners Shawanna White and Joy Miller crossed the line simultaneously holding hands in a blazing 17:53. This is why women should be world leaders instead of men. Ivanka Tolan was 3rd overall and first masters in 20:01. Grandmasters (50+) was won by Ed and Alsena Edwards. Senior masters (60+) was won by Geary McAlister and my pre-med college advisor Eileen Korpita. The ageless Arnold Floyd and Pamela Bulak took the Veteran Masters (70+) titles.
Age groupers: Ayden Bazemore double dipped to 2nd in the 11-14. Katie weber was 4th in the 15-19. Nate Carrasco was 1st in the 20-24, with Ryan McCormick placing 3rd. Eddy Crisanto placed 3rd in his brutal age group with an 18:02 pushing his son in a stroller after running a 34 minute 10k that morning. Unbelievable. Nicole Rybar won the 25-29 women. Andy Mikula was 1st in the 30-34 men, while a double dipping Jennifer Lybrand won the 30-34 women with Wilson in the stroller. Wilson double dipped the kids race to be like mom. Jeff Fretwell was 2nd in the 5-39 men, while Sara Bonner (double dip) was 2nd among the women. Heather Hawn was 3rd in the 45-49 females. Greta Dobe won the 50-54 women while Presidente Roy Shelley placed 3rd among the men. Renee McCormick won the 55-59 women, with Rich Weiner 2nd in the men. Billy Tisdale won the 60-64 men – good to see him racing again! The 70-74 men was a clean CRC sweep with Peter Mugglestone, Rich Weaver and John Houser taking the podium.
Other familiar finishers/CRCers include Gena Ochal, Sheila Bolin, Will Rowan, Kana Rahman, Pete Poore, Sue Weaver, Nina Brook and sons Dean, Robert, and Ben, Shenequa Coles, Missy Caughman, Teresa Shelton, Hou Yin Chang, Kara Blaisure, Kerry Stubbs, Patrick and Dylan McCormick.
HSN photo credit: Jedi Runner Photography