I grew up in Columbia, SC and try to go back at least once a year since my parents and sister still live there. I haven't been there in over 2.5 years because I didn't want to take Ellis on such a long car ride (Eightish hours for a one year old wouldn't be fun). But since both my wife and I have summers off, we were due for a trip.
I decided to line up the trek with the Born in the USA race, hosted by Strictly Running. I worked for Strictly Running during my college breaks and did my token Sunday long runs with them as well. It was probably my favorite training group ever as they had a good group of guys ranging from solid high schoolers to Masters runners who could put a whooping on your butt.
I love the Nashville running community and there are a lot of cool races and stores, but I'm always impressed with how well and organized Strictly Running's races are. They have timing mats and clocks at the mile markers, you have the results posted on a huge screen and everything is organized very well. So I knew this race would be another solid event.
The course is advertised as flat and fast, which is my type of course, especially with the shorter race distance. And even better, they had a time bonus system set up where if you won and broke 19:30, you got $500 and if you broke 19:00 and won, you got $1000 (in addition to the $100 first place prize). Since Columbia weather is even more miserable than Nashville, I thought sub 19:00 would be too tough, so my goal was to attack 19:30. I was going to use my GPS and try and stay under 4:50 for each mile and then hammer home the last mile.
I looked up the course and it turned out to not be too flat and fast! It was mostly the same course where I ran a 14:55 or so 5k at the Cold Winters Day 5k a few weeks before the 2013 Houston Marathon...and I was trying to haul in that race. There are really no tough hills, you're just either going slightly up or slightly down, with the first half mile of the race being a gradual uphill...not exactly a course for rhythm runners like myself. So sub 19:30 was going to be even tougher, but since money talks, I was going to at least try.
On race morning, it was a warm 75 degrees with a dew point right at 70. It rained beforehand, but luckily it cleared up for the race. On my warm-up, I saw Adam Freudenthal, who is a low 14s/29s guy from the upstate. I wasn't sure how race fit he was, but I was hoping I would have the element of surprise over him since he probably wouldn't know me. I anticipated him leading for a while and then hoped my gas tank and old man strength would take him out in the later part of the race. But we ended up chatting a little bit at the start and both said we were hoping for sub 19:30 and only one of us would be able to get it. So there went the element of surprise.
When the race started, we ran side-by-side and went up the half-mile hill at just under 5:00 pace. Once we turned, you had a little bit of downhill running, so I decided to push the pace and see what happened. I instantly had a small lead, so I decided to keep on pushing in hopes to break him.
I went through the mile in the high 4:48s, which was perfect, considering it was a slowish mile. I kept my foot on the gas and was happy to go through the two mile in 9:32. I was pretty certain I had sub 19:30 and was tempted to go for sub 19:00. I came back with a 4:50 and knew I had to run in the 4:30s if I wanted a much bigger bonus. I tried to go after it but the last mile had too many short climbs, which really stole my mojo and rhythm. I crossed the line in 19:11, which was really motivating. I felt like I could have run sub 19:00 if I had a pack to run with, which is a good sign in the muggy weather. Not a bad place to be three months out from Chicago!