Race Review: Spinx Run Fest 2012 – Part 2

Nov 8, 2012 by

Race Review: Spinx Run Fest 2012 – Part 2


This is Part two of my 2012 Spinx Run Fest marathon review.  You can find part one here.

The Delimma
If you’ve been a subscriber to this blog, you probably remember that for the past year, I have been training primarily by keeping my heart rate below a certain threshold.  Some call this the Maffetone Method. This means much slower training runs than race runs.  If you haven’t raced much lately, like me, then knowing what pace you can handle is a bit of a mystery, especially for long races.

So, here’s a scenario for you: Suppose you plan to run in a marathon.  Then, suppose your training time had been rescheduled and cut short.  Then, suppose your last long training runs did not go well.  Then, suppose the week of the race you had low energy, despite not running 3 days before the race.  And to top it off, suppose you woke up at 3am the morning off the race and couldn’t sleep until the alarm finally went off at 5:15am?

Would you think you should try to go for a personal record (PR)?  Well, if you are me, then sure you do.  I mean, after all, if I could run a PR, then I’d have something big to tell my blog audience, and everyone would probably be convinced (including myself) that the Maffetone Method is definitely the way to go.

So, that was the decision I made Friday night, before the 3 – 5 am no sleep zone.  My marathon PR stood at 3:47:40, which is a 8:41/mile pace.  My 12K race two weeks before (7:29 pace) and 5K fun run/race the week before (7:51 pace)  seemed to indicate I was in the ball park fitness wise.  26.2 miles is a long ways from 12K (7.4 miles), though.  On Thursday before the race, I hastily made a playlist that was exactly 4 hours long.  I had not put a ton of thought into this playlist, so I just stuck my standard finish song, the 14 minute live version of Freebird at the end.  So the setup was this: If I set a PR, I don’t heard Freebird.  If I start to hear Freebird, then I’m toast.

Let’s see how I did.  Remember, the goal is to beat an 8:40/mile pace.

Race Day

Race start time was 7:30am.  Not wanting to pay the $200/night hotel rates in downtown Greenville, I stayed at father-in-law’s house about 30 miles away.   I left there at 5:45, expecting to arrive by 6:30.  With no traffic, I zipped right in arrived in the parking lot close to the start I had scoped out the night before.  It was only 6:20.  Guess I have plenty of time to warm up, I thought to myself.  The car temperature gauge said 61 degrees, but it was a little breezy thanks to Hurricane Sandy out in the Atlantic, so it seemed chilly.  I keep my long sleeve pullover on and went to warm up and find the restrooms.

The Course

Getting started

About 7:25, I ditched my pullover and wandered over to the starting line.  One of the nice things about this race was the half marathoners had a totally separate route and started at a different time.  This made for a much less crowded start.  There wasn’t much fanfare, and eventually the announcer counted down from 10 and set us off.

The course starts out on the west end of Main Street with a downhill 1/2 mile or so and is really too easy to get sucked into starting too fast.   First mile clocked in at 8:24.  Not too bad, I thought.  Just don’t push any faster.

The second mile brings you back down a bit with short steep hill as you pass under Academy Street.  It is then pretty level until a nasty little bridge over the rail road tracks about mile 3.  The race magazine pointed out this hill as a highlighted spot and even apologized, saying it was either the bridge or risk getting stopped by a train.  It really didn’t seem that bad on that first pass, but I didn’t realize we’d have to come back over during mile 24.  Miles 2 and 3 were 8:18 and 8:39.

The Swamp Rabbit Trail (SRT)

What a an awesome surprise.  I had never heard of the SRT until reading about it in the race description and then going to its website, where I learned it was an old rail line.  About 15 miles of the race was on the SRT.  We hit a section of the trail for about a half mile along the Reedy River during the third mile, but starting at mile 3 we hit it for  about a  3.5 mile stretch.   The section was very colorful with the leaves just past their fall peak.  I felt good and settled into a good groove. For miles four through 7, I clocked off times of 8:34, 8:26, 8:48, and 8:18.  With just over 1/4 done, my overall pace was 8:29.  So far, so good.

Furman First Pass Through

We exited the SRT around the 7.5 mile mark and entered a side entrance of Furman University.  I was looking forward to this.  It had been over twenty five years since I’d been on the campus.  Furman did not disappoint.  This was another scenic section, as we ran down oak lined roads and around Swan Lake.  At this point, just past mile 10, we took a slight off road path and re-entered the SRT to head toward Travelers Rest.  Miles 8, 9, and 10  through Furman: 8:46, 8:06, 8:30.

SRT again

This was a pretty tough section of the SRT, slightly less than  two miles.  It could have been my imagination or me tiring, but it seemed to be more uphill than it had been.  Mile 11: 8:40

Travelers Rest

We now exited the SRT for a bit took off onto a short stretch of county roads.  Just to remind us this race was in the foothills of the Applachain mountains, we came upon a tough hill at mile 12.  We then entered the town of Travelers Rest, running down Old Buncombe Road as we hit the 13 mile mark.

Here was the only really odd section of the race.   Just past the 13 mile mark, we entered the SRT again along Main Street in Travelers Rest, still needing to head north to the turn around spot at mile 13.6.  Faster runners were now coming back into us after they turned around and headed back south. The race magazine map and signs on the course urged runners to run on the left side of the path, but no one obeyed.  It wasn’t a big deal, though, and I made the turn,  thinking ‘All right. It’s all down here from here.’  Boy was I wrong.

We headed back down the SRT for about 1.5 miles on a section we had missed by taking the county roads.   Miles 12-15: 8:16, 8:39, 8:35, 7:56 (where did that come from?)  Average pace through 15 miles: 8:27!

Furman Again

Mile 16 split between a repeated section of the SRT and a section we missed due to the first pass through Furman.  At mile 17, though, it was time for the second tour of Furman.  It started out the same, but took a different turn in the middle of campus.  I think everything was uphill on this section,  and any previous run hills had doubled in size.

We then hit the SRT again down behind the football stadium.  It was during this last mile through Furman I sensed the first signs of trouble.  If my legs were wheels, I definitely had loose lugs  now and the wheels were getting wobbly. 19 miles down.  Miles 16-19: 8:51. 8:23, 8:53, 9:06.


I was glad to see the SRT again. Furman had just killed my legs and I was ready for some downhill.  Funny, though, it didn’t seem all that down hill!   I did manage a couple of last decent miles and even managed to pass a couple of people.  Miles 20 and 21: 8:33, 8:41.  Average pace through 20 miles: 8:32.  Still OK.  Let the tough part of the day begin!

Home (Plate) Stretch

I took my last of five energy gels at mile 21.  I hoped this would be some kind of magic boost.  It wasn’t.  Miles 21 through 23 really slowed.  I knew I was really struggling, especially when I actually ran off the paved path.  Twice.  We exited the SRT.  Remember the  bridge over the railroad I mentioned earlier?  It was now looming in the middle of mile 24.  What seemed like a short quick bump at mile two now looked like the Cooper River bridge.  I succumbed to the walk of shame, and some guy passed me.  He agreed with my comment that this was cruel at mile 24.

After the bridge, the course was very flat for a while,  and we actually reentered the SRT along the Reedy River.  I tried to enjoy the scenery, but I was hurting too much.  Just past mile 25, we finally exited the SRT for the last time entered the streets of Greenville.  We ran up River Street until it turned right onto Main.  Miles 22-25: 9:14, 9:25, 9:40, 9:53.  Average pace through 25 miles: 8:42.  Clearly, I’ve crashed and burned.  This is called hitting the wall, folks.  I was now hoping to just possibly break 3:50.

Remember that Main Street downhill start?  Now we had to go up that same hill toward Fluor Field.  At this point, the 3:50 pacer passed me (with no runners in tow), and I just had to watch her go up the hill.  Guess that’s out the window, too, thought. I don’t remember doing the walk of shame, but it was definitely the shuffle of pain.

Fluor Field Outfield

I made it to the top and turned left.  All down hill from here. We made another left and then a left into the Greenville Drive stadium, entering Fluor Field in the right field corner.  I heard the announcer call my name, and a huge cheer went up.  OK, the cheering was from my playlist – Freebird had kicked in.  I had not made my original goal, but I had a new goal – just keep shuffling on around the warning track, turn down the left field line and on to the finish near home plate.  I briefly entertained trying to pick up the pace to break 3:50, but I realized  about centerfield that wasn’t going to happen, so I didn’t try to hurt myself anymore.

The End

I crossed the final line near home plate and someone put a medal around my neck.  My final time was 3:50:44, an 8:47/mile pace.  117th place out of 508 and no PR.  Mile 26 seemed like I was in slow motion and was 11:09.  The final two tenths of a mile was roughly an 11:00 pace as well.   Below is a chart of my mile split times.

There was one last cruel twist after the finish – we had to climb stairs up from the infield to the concourse where the post race refreshments were.  I made it up the stairs and grabbed a vitamin water.  I noticed some ham sandwiches but the thought of a sandwich was not appealing.  I grabbed a small banana and tried to down it.  There was also a yogurt parfait that looked good, so I grabbed one of those, too.  At this point, I just wanted just sit down, but I knew I better keep walking to help recovery.  So, I wandered back down Main Street to watch others battle the final hill.

The Finish

Final Thoughts

If you’ve read this far, thanks.  I hope you enjoyed the rambling.  This really was a fun run.  OK, about 21 miles were fun.  Anyway, I’d highly recommend this race.  If marathons aren’t your thing, then try the 5K or half marathon.

Of the four South Carolina marathons I’ve done, this was my favorite course and definitely not as hilly as I would have thought.  Columbia was worse. For those of you in the Greenville area, I’m jealous of the Swamp Rabbit Trail.  I hope to plan future trips back there for cycling or running with the family.

Click here for final results.



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