Having raced almost every weekend in Columbia since 2009, there aren’t many events that I haven’t already done. So when I see a new race with a new course, I usually jump at the chance. The SCOA Ring the Bell 5k is a completely new race, put on by South Carolina Oncology Associates (a group of physicians specializing in cancer ) to benefit the SCOA Cares Foundation, which goes to help fund patients with the cost of care. “Ringing the Bell” is a symbolic ritual for people finishing their treatment.
The 5k course was originally going to be near the SCOA Cares building, which is on Stoneridge Drive near Greystone Blvd. I was excited about the idea of a completely new course, but a quick look at the proposed route had me worried. In a previous pre-Blue Shoe life, a 23-year-old Alex resided at Stone Ridge apartments just down the road. I was definitely not a runner in 1998, but I distinctly remember living on a hillside, and nearly throwing out my back carrying a 100 pound Gateway computer monitor (this was before the flat screen days, kids) from the apartment office building down to my unit. Back then my bad choices included paying for a state-of-the-art 1 gig hard drive $2000 computer completely on credit instead of signing up for ill-advised races. But apparently I had to have my AOL dial-up, napster and yahoo chat. Oh, the good old days.
Anyway, they ended up scrapping the mountainous 5k course and just going with Saluda Shoals. While lacking in excitement, it probably was a lot easier than diverting zoo, Embassy Suites and Platinum Plus traffic during the race. But for anyone that has had to dodge cars while going all out 5k pace, it’s not so bad to be in the friendly confines of a park. I was familiar with the course, shared by a number of other local 5ks and the end of the now defunct (sob) Dam Run 10k. A simple out and back, mostly paved. A couple of hills and a tough gravel road climb at the very end.
With JEDI photography on the sidelines with family obligations, I (aka SWEATY IPHONE PHOTOGRAPHY) agreed to step in for photo duties. They offered me a free entry in exchange for my photography services, which involve:
a) Melon headed selfies and random pre-race crowd shots
b) Running the race at a million percent effort and missing the first few runners and a couple after me as I recover in a sweaty mess on the ground
c) Taking the iphone from my spibelt (an attempt at a cool fanny pack) and taking a million pics of greatly varying quality , looking like a random creeper dude to all who don’t know me (and perhaps some that do).
d) Dumping said pics into a massive race photo album on facebook. Complete with duplicates, horrific race faces and/or random error shots like my shoes.
But hey, my price (free) is right so they were ok with it. Sara Bonner was acting as a co-race director so she agreed to fill in the gap and take pics of the people who beat me.
I showed up an hour early and started my long pre-race warm up, because I never know what my Achilles has in store for me on any given day. Lately it’s been good. I hadn’t raced a 5k since Lugoff in early December. Given my training pattern of all 9 minute plus pace miles, I never know what’s in the 5k box of chocolates until I let the demons out of the cage. Between all the 1988 crystal light aerobics stretches and slog jogging, I see a pretty sizeable crowd. Looks like the first year event is a success. Temps are ridiculously warm, humid and 60’s in early January.
Trackstar Eddie and Plexico are out there, so any trophy hunt delusions I might have had are quickly quashed. I know they had some cash awards for overall and masters. I also run into masters beasts Brian Kistner and Sean Higgins, both of whom can usually give me a beat down. It’s not looking good for me. At least Kistner is only one week out from the Harbison 50k. I figure Higgins would love to exact some revenge from the Famously Hot pink 5k, where he and the leaders missed the turn into the stadium and gave me the hollow victory. (Still pretty cool though, not going to lie.)
Chap, John Baker, Tim and Tori Pearson, and Will Rowan are few of the familiar faces at the start. Nine year old phenom Dorothy Hutchins is toeing the line with her game face on. Oh please don’t let me get beat by a fourth grader.
The start is a mad rush as we get released down a hill from the east entrance of Saluda Shoals. I’m trying not to get too crazy as the Achilles doesn’t like sudden starts. Everything feels ok on the initial quarter mile to the first turn, so I settle into a race pace. It’s pretty difficult to judge with a month’s worth of slog jogs, so I just try to rely on he memory bank of 400 some odd 5ks to guide me. The guiding principle being that if it doesn’t feel like death, you’re probably not going fast enough. I catch up to Kistner and still have enough breath to make fun of his Clemson outfit, though it’s not if Gamecock fans have anything to talk about right now. I’m guessing he still cashed from the 50k or just taking it easy. We wind through some flat road before hitting the “12 days of Christmas” hill, so named for the lights there during the Sleigh Bell Trot. They’ve taken them down by now but it’s still no fun climbing up this thing. Summit is about 0.75 miles in, with the horrific clay mountain from the now defunct Climb the Clay (sob) race off to your right. The field has separated out by this point, though Higgins is about 20 meters ahead. Surprisingly, Regan Freeman is still out in front of me. I know he runs 21ish minutes, so either he’s been training or setting himself up to die. Eddie, Plex and the other 2-3 leaders have gapped the rest of the field by a good bit. My first mile, which I expected would be 6:30ish given my conservative start, comes back in 6:14. Wow – guess having some pacers helped with the speed. We go up another incline to the turn around near the dog park. Eddie is in the lead with Plex not too far behind. I don’t recognize the other guys, though one looks age grouperish. But surely there isn’t another 40ish dude in Columbia that can run sub 19’s, right? We’ll get back to that.
Coming back down the turnaround incline, Regan starts to realize his 6:05 first mile wasn’t perhaps the best idea and I manage to pass him near the bottom. I’m surprised to see Michael Beaudet right behind Michael Ferlauto, who typically does 22 minutes. Guess this race is full of fast starts. At the bottom of the hill we suddenly turn right and encounter a tiny bit of connector trail which deposits you on a paved walkway. This part is always tough. It probably would be scenic with the overhanging tree canopy and all , if it weren’t for my entire body crying out to stop the torture. But hey, there are trinkets to be won and Higgins is actually not too far ahead. The paved nature path has no definable markers so it seems to take forever. I’m able to glance to my left occasionally to judge where I would be on the road. Luckily the path does not go up the 12 days of Christmas hill on the way back. Mile 2 comes back at some point in 6:23, so keeping up the sub 20. The mile 2 beep is usually my signal to go all in like James Holzhauer on a Daily Double, but with a month off from racing I’m not sure how big the chip stack is. But, I gotta go get Higgins. Slowly, painfully, I start to reel him in. Finally, just before the course dumps out onto the gravel road, I pull up beside him. Oh well, with my cover now blown, it’s time to put up or shut up. I try to coast down the hill to the turnaround point, knowing I will need every bit of fumes I have left to carry me back up this thing. I hit the turnaround and Higgins is right behind me, with Kistner already on the road too. Damn it. Going to have to headless chicken it. Up the hill I go, scared to death I will get passed back at any second. I’m basically running completely on adrenaline because my legs are pretty much bathing in lactic acid by this point. Thankfully I make it to the paved road again still in the masters lead and I just focus on those red numbers. I had a couple of Higgins hallucinations on the final stretch but somehow he never materializes. I blast through the finish in 19:39, 6th overall/1st masters. Not too shabby for the gimp. I should say “masters” with air quotes though, since it turns out 41 year old Matt Lafave placed 3rd overall in 18:33. Somehow there are still unknown superfit dads out there ready to take my trophies. Thankfully he must have edged out the 28 year old 4th finisher by a nose (they have the same finishing time), which bumped me up to the masters win. Nice job, dude.
After a quick pavement make out session, I jumped up to take pics. It sucked that it was drizzling at times but definitely helped to have Sara Bonner help me with hydration , both of the hops and non-hops variety. Post race spread was awesome with three breweries (Hunter Gatherer, Steel Hands and Columbia Craft) handing out samples and music from WXRY. Awards were some really nice pint glasses and cash awards for top 3 overall and first masters.
The overall women’s race was one of the most exciting finishes I’ve seen in a while. Nine year old Dorothy Hutchins had a slight lead coming up the home stretch with 39 year old Kelli Roof right on her tail. The two sprinted side-by-side to towards the finish chute with Kelli leaning in to get the win. Before anyone criticizes Kelli for that, 1) I’m sure Dorothy would want any competitor to give it their all and 2) I WOULD HAVE DONE THE EXACT SAME THING. I know Dorothy must have been disappointed but it was really fun to watch.
Ediberto “Trackstar Eddie” Crisanto got the male win in 18:02, with Plex second and the aforementioned Matt Lafave 3rd. Lindsay Hendren took 3rd for the ladies. First masters female was Jennifer Cooke in 23:59.
Age group honor roll: Matthew Kistner won the 15-19. Regan Freeman was 2nd in the 20-24 behind Little Mountain 5k winner Noe Hernandez. Seth and Lauren Lapic both were champions of the 30-34. John Baker took the 35-39. Will “that GoPro guy” Rowan won the 40-44 with camera in hand. Brian Kistner and Michael Ferlauto were 1-2 in the 45-49, while Amanda Charlton was 2nd and Jeannette Farr 3rd among the women. Missy Caughman was 2nd in the 50-54 women. Sean Higgins was right behind me in 19:48 with Joey Swearingen 2nd in the 50-54 men. Cliff Corley was tops in the 55-59 while the indestructible Dave Hale was 3rd. Lisa Powell was tops in the 55-59 women. Sue Porter and Dawn Galloway-Hale were 2-3 in the 60-64, while Jim Williams was 2nd among the men. Leeds Barroll was the champ of the 65-69 while Lynn Grimes was 2nd among the women. The 70-74 were clean sweeps for the CRC with “Podium Patti” lowden and Brigitte Smith placing for the women, and Peter Mugglestone, John Houser and Ken Lowden winning for the men. Rocky Soderberg was tops in the 75+ .
Other familiar names in the 300+ finishers included: Amanda Rowan, Shenequa Coles, Clara Nance, Dianne Steadman, Kerry Stubbs, Gabriella Swearingen, Stephanie Dukes, Gretchen Lambert, Stephanie Miller, Hou-Yin Chang, Samantha Horsely, Tony Clarement, Erin Kallio, Louis Krause, and Laura Howell