Friday, November 15, 2019

The Veterans Day 5k Recap

  Most non-marathon races happen on a Saturday.  But since it was Veterans Day weekend the Veterans Day 5k was not on the typical Columbia weekend run and I got to enjoy my sleep.  And I forgot to look at the race calendar to see what would be happening on that Saturday, so there’s that, too.

  I ran in the inaugural USC Veterans Day 5k last year, and one of the much faster runners inadvertently changed the course and everyone followed their lead, including me.  It made for an interesting time while crossing Assembly Street with traffic coming at us both ways.  (see last year's race by clicking on the video.)

  This year, the course route significantly changed, and it would start and end in different spots.  The route started by the Long Street Theatre, went around the Horseshoe perimeter, made a couple of turns, and ended at 920 Lady Street. 

  Sunday afternoon, I headed out very relaxed and ready to go.  Packet pick-up started at 11:30 AM, and would go on for the next two and a half hours.  I arrived at one of the UofSC parking lots and dropped my stuff off at the library around 1 PM.  I hung out and talked with some of the college kids working, to which one of them asked me about the race.  It seemed that she got stuck in traffic during the Tunnel to Towers 5k the other month and didn’t want to have that happen again. I assured her that the race wouldn’t linger past her work schedule, and that the end was off campus so she would have no issues.

  After a little bit, I go outside and walk up for my packet pick-up.  I see quite a few Team RWB shirts surfing among the crowd which was amazing because I do not recall anyone talking about it on the local RWB Facebook page.  Of course, my RWB shirt was in the wash because someone spilled a drink on my stuff and my Columbia Running Club jersey was nowhere to be found.  Instead, and thankfully because of the slightly cooler weather, I would wear my cotton Columbia Running Club t-shirt for the race, so at least I would represent one of the two organizations out there.

Me and the Prez

  As I mingle among some of the participants, I spot Bob Caslen, the President of the University of South Carolina and retired Army three star general and he was ready to run.  Cocky was out there, too, and it was hard to figure out which one of the two ended up in more picture taking opportunities for social media.  #uofsc #cocky #gococks #goarmy #toomanyhashtags.

  Eventually, we all make our way to the starting line.  According to, 388 people signed up for the race, but I believe there were over 400 out on the course.  The national anthem is sung and once the buzzer goes, we are off. 

  I follow the crowd before me, and everyone makes a right after passing the Long Street Theatre.  I have my Halo 3 theme music going in my Aftershokz, GoPro in my hand, and I’m weaving around strollers and walkers.  I’m enjoying myself as I get close to the gate blocking vehicle traffic on Greene Street.

  And then several of us hear a woman say we were going the wrong way.

Turn Around, You're Going the Wrong Way!

  I could see a long crowd of runners still going forward, but those of us from the back only had the minimal amount of turnaround distance to do.  I feel this certain energy coursing through my veins and I somehow sprint back onto the correct route, and sprinting at the beginning definitely goes against what I used to tell my Soldiers when I was still in the Army.

  I got back on track and there are very few people in front of me.  Eventually, I pass enough people that for a brief quarter-mile I am one of the top ten runners of the race.  Technicalities and mishaps aside, I took that in stride and ran a little faster.  It wouldn’t last.  Slowly, and one by one, the fast pack of runners catch up and surpass me.

"You better run up that hill!"
  We make it to Bull Street, one of two uphills in the race, and this one is THE dozy.  It’s steep and it has four Marine drill instructors “encouraging” us get up that hill.  They were very animated. And vocal.  I run up the hill past all four, and about 50 feet past the final one, I slow down to a walk.  I can hear the last drill instructor behind me yelling that I should not be walking and that I needed to keep running.  At this point, I’m near the apex the hill, and I spot two volunteers to which I tell them as I start running again, “if I wasn’t retired, I might have been intimidated by them,” meaning the Marines.  They laughed.

  I hit the water stops along the route and one of them was on Assembly Street, the other not-as-steep uphill.  After cresting the hill, I run by what looks like at least three platoons of Army drill sergeant candidates, who were out there actually encouraging us with signs, dancing, and clapping. 

  The route had us running in front of the state capitol grounds, and a squad of UofSC cheerleaders followed suit with the Army by cheering us on.  A couple of turns later, I made it onto Lady Street. 

  Lady Street felt weird.  I am so used to driving on it, that I never really get to take in how downtown Columbia looks like a normal metropolitan area, and I do not mean that in a bad way.  This time, I’m running down it and soaking in the building architecture.

  Eventually, the finish line is within eyesight and the crowd within earshot.  I sprint from the final traffic light and pass Cocky.  That bird is everywhere.  More cheerleaders line the finish line, motivating people as they approach.  I finish with one of my slowest times ever, but it was worth it. 

  I did not stay for the after-party or the awards ceremony because I had some sick kiddos to get back home to, but those who finished (and had the proper ID) got a free beer and sliders from Carolina Western Pub.  The race packet included a performance shirt and an FN America baseball cap.  I’ll take a hat in a race packet any day. 

Cocky and the president crossing the finish line

  Other than the initial hiccup at the beginning of the course, it was good; the crowd and atmosphere were in happy spirits, and any chance to support raising money for the Fisher House is a-okay in my book.

The video for the race is below, check it out.


Wednesday, November 6, 2019

The Superhero 5k in Columbia Recap

  Strictly Running is great.  I received a reminder email from them about the Superhero 5k a little while back.  I checked my schedule and saw that while I would work at the library that day, I did not have a race scheduled on the calendar.  I ran the DC Wonder Woman 5k the previous week, so I figured that if I participate in the Superhero race, I could wear that sweet red shirt I got from the previous run.

  And then my youngest, Tori, wanted to run in the race.  Years ago, Tori dressed as “Princess Hulk” when we lived in Texas.  Amanda thought it would be a good idea for Tori to reenact that again, but this time for a run. 

  Friday afternoon, I head to Strictly Running for packet pick-up.  They have everything ready, as usual, and it was quick.  In the bag was my bib, a bright yellow shirt, literature on child abuse awareness, and a voucher for a free game of bowling. 

The dog was ready for the race to start
  Saturday morning rolls around, and it is bitter cold.  I verbally ask Google for driving directions to “Segra Park,” but each time I do, my Android phone insisted on giving me three day directions to Sequoia National Park in California.  Five times.  So much for a traffic update, but at least I know where I’m going. Tori and I drive down I-126 to get to the baseball stadium, and the Broad River had a thick layer of fog slightly rising around it.  It made the Columbia skyline look amazing as we drove closer to town.  I haven’t been to Segra Park since it was renamed, and construction happening around it threw me off for a bit.

  We arrived and parked the car.  Since it was still cold and we had 15 minutes, Tori and I sat inside for a few minutes before we braved the 37 degree weather.  She had her Hulk outfit on, but she put Amanda’s old high school cheerleading sweatshirt on over it, and decided to wear a Stranger Things’ Scoops Ahoy hat instead of a tiara.  I guess season three of that Netflix series needed someone to get angry and go green.

  In the meantime, I watch several people wearing bibs get out of their vehicles and walk around the stadium.  At the ten minute mark, Tori and I get out of the car and start walking to where the others headed.  I make it five feet when a woman stops me and asks if my daughter and I were going to the race, and I reply yes.  As I answer, I turn completely around and both of our bibs are in clear view.  The woman asks us if we are running in the race or if we are here to show support, and I say “yes we are,” thinking the bibs are a dead giveaway.  She then tells us that she thinks we are going the wrong way because someone told her that the race started somewhere “north on Turner Street.”

  At this point, I’m so confused after watching at least 15 people walk around the north side of the stadium heading west and I have never heard of Turner Street.  I tell her that I watched several people walk around the stadium, and she replied that maybe I should ask the people at the stadium to make sure.  Tori and I hurry towards the stadium and we see other people trickle out of their cars and head westward… like slow moving, cold shivering miners looking for gold.

  We make it to the starting line with about five minutes to spare.  I spot Alex McDonald (pulling picture taking duties), Naomi Rabon, Jen Kryzanowski, Rocky Soderberg, Kerri Stubbs, and Clara Nance among the mass of running attire and costumes flowing throughout the start line assembly area.  Tori initially wanted to walk the course, once the race started, she was right behind me running along.

  We head north running around many costumes and capes along the way.  At the half mile area, there’s this hill that looks a little intimidating, especially for a kid who doesn’t like the cold weather.  I keep telling Tori that we need to keep a good pace, especially since other children her age are sprinting and wearing themselves out before the first mile.  We trod up the hill and make it, but eventually Tori needed to walk near the 1 mile mark. 

  We make the corner at 1.5 miles and I notice a bunch of people in blue shirts walking towards us.  I didn’t remember seeing a mass of powder blue shirts at the starting area, but Tori had slowed down quite a bit since the 1 mile mark and I just chalked it up to… fast walkers?

Heart Check participants 

  As we pass the third group of blue shirts, Tori remarks that the shirts all say “Heart Check” and both of us thought it was pretty neat that two events cross paths around the same time.  I bet the police and both event volunteers had an interesting time keeping streams of traffic from both events safe and on the right path.

  As we continue past the sea of blue shirts, Tori and I push up a hill and keep going, and the next mile was so flat that was quite refreshing.  As I run along, I reminisce on the Bunny Hop 5k that Tori and I did around there a few years ago.  We go around a few corners and make it down Calhoun Street, and I mean down because of the decline.  Tori and I turn left towards the stadium, and at this point, I have to remind Tori that we are almost done… because she IS done. It’s cold, she hasn’t run in a few weeks, and she wants to go get a Cherry Icee (Stranger Things reference).

Where is my ICEE?

  I make a deal with Tori that she will get an Icee if we finish strong.  She agrees, and I try to pump her up mentally as we round the corner and head along the walkway to the stadium interior grounds.  Tori didn’t care, but we sprint to the finish line and walk to cool down.  She and I finish around the 36 minute mark, but that didn’t matter; we stayed together the whole time. 

  We had a few minutes before Tori and I had to meet up with Amanda at the Soda City Saturday Market on Main Street, so we checked out the stands, grabbed several bottles of water, a hot dog, and some nachos.  We couldn’t stay for the awards ceremony because I had to get ready for work at the library, and a sick Amanda was probably waiting on Main Street, thus Tori and I took off.  Oh, and out car was so warm after standing around in a slightly higher 40 degrees for 10 minutes or so as we left the stadium and made our way to Main Street.
Leading up into the stadium
The finish line is in sight!

Please check out my video showing the course, capes, and costumes for the Superhero 5k.