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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Race Review: Spinx Run Fest Marathon 2012 Part 1

Oct 30, 2012 by

Race Review: Spinx Run Fest Marathon 2012 Part 1

This is part one of my write up on the Spinx Run Fest Marathon in Greenville, South Carolina. In this part, I’ll cover pre race.

Three weeks ago, I considered not going to the Spinx Run Fest (SRF) marathon.  My last couple of scheduled long training runs before race day had not gone well, and I was doubting my fitness.  Since I had paid the early registration, I figured it wouldn’t be the first time I’d wasted $50.  Well, a turn in the weather and a decent 12K race two weeks prior changed my mind.

I am so glad I did.  The SRF was definitely worth the two hour drive to Greenville.

Short Version:  I really enjoyed my SRF experience.  I thought the course was excellent, especially the Swamp Rabbit Trail.  Finishing in the stadium is a nice touch.  If you are from out of town and can make a weekend of it and stay at one of the downtown hotels, I think you will really enjoy Greenville.  For the race results click here.

For the long version, read on.

Day Before

Packet Pickup/Expo

As you probably know, most marathons have an Expo the day before the race, where vendors and other race promoters gather to sell and advertise to the runners.  From what I could gather from articles about Run Fest, last year’s Expo was held outside at Fluor Field and the weather was iffy.  This year’s Expo and packet pickup was moved to the nearby Kroc Center, but vendor participation seemed small to me.  I did appreciate the candy corn handout from Pace Magazine.  A small bit of carb loading! I also found a sweet orange Saucony jacket at one vendor’s tent that almost made the trip back with me, but I refrained. The packet pickup went smoothly, and I headed out to scope out parking near the race start.

The main thing I care about for a race is the shirt.  The SRF did a great job on the shirt.  It is a two tone white and gray long sleeve technical shirt.  Seems to be better quality than some of the long sleeve tech shirts I’ve received from other races.  And it fits well.  Several of the poorer quality shirts didn’t fit well, and when I tried to trade for another size, they didn’t have that option.  SRF had that option on race day, but I didn’t need it.  As a swag bonus, the marathoners received a pair of socks with the race logo.

Shirt Front












One very nice surprise in the race packet was the official race magazine.  It had course maps (there were 3 other races in the SRF – a half marathon, a 5K and a kid’s fun run) and additional detail of complicated spots like Furman University.  I found it very helpful to study the night before.

Race Guide












Early to Bed

I left the Expo area with map in hand and drove the first 2 miles of the course.  Just after mile 2, the course hits the Swamp Rabbit Trail and cars are not allowed! I briefly entertained driving out to Furman to scope out that section, but since it was in the opposite direction of my Friday night lodging, I decided against it.

Trying to keep the expenses for this marathon as low as possible, I bummed a room off father-in-law for the night.  I arrived at his house, ate dinner, and studied the course map.  I pondered my target pace for a while, made the decision, and then went to bed early.

Coming soon…Part 2: SRF Race Day


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Race Preview: Spinx Run Fest Marathon 2012

Oct 24, 2012 by

Race Preview: Spinx Run Fest Marathon 2012

“Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it” – George Santayana

This quote hung as a poster on the wall of my 11th grade U.S. History class and has stuck with me ever since.  Unfortunately, that is about all I remember from that class. I guess I’m no good at remembering my marathon past, either, especially how much the last few miles hurt.  As a result of this memory loss/denial,  this weekend on  October 27th, I’ll run my 4th marathon, the Spinx Runfest, in Greenville, South Carolina.

Earlier this summer, I planned to run Kiawah Island as my next marathon.  Plans changed, and I had to switch to Greenville.  The early bird low price made it a good choice, too.    Unfortunately, the race is six weeks sooner than Kiawah, so my training cycle was a little shorter.  That’s OK.  I was tired of the long Saturday runs.

Switching to Greenville is going to have one disadvantage to Kiawah, though – the hills.  The race starts in downtown Greenville and make its way up the Swamp Rabbit Trail (a reclaimed railway path), over to Furman University, and then on to the town of Travelers Rest.  There, we’ll turn around and pretty much reverse the route back to the finish in the Greenville Drive’s stadium.  So, generally the first half is uphill and the second half is downhill.  Sounds like the perfect time for a negative split.  Here’s the elevevation map, courtesy of the Runfest web site & MapMyRun.com:

Spinx Runfest Marathon Elevation Map

Back to history.  Since this will be my fourth marathon, I suppose I should look back on the first three to identify some big mistakes and try not to repeat them.  Here are the biggest mistakes from each of my first three.

1. Kiawah Island, December 2009.   Mistimed my final pre-race trip to the port-a-johns and the lines were too long.  Not wanting to mis the race start, I decided to wait until I really had to go on the course.  This occurred about mile 15.  Unfortunately, my legs thought this 2 minute break was for good and really balked about restarting.

Kiawah Lesson: If you cannot take a last restroom break immediately before the race, at least stop in the first few miles.

Likelihood of remembering this on Saturday: Excellent.

2. Myrtle Beach, February 2011.  After training all winter in cold weather, the race day starting temperature was a balmy 55 degrees.  This was great running weather for a while.  As the sun climbed, though, so did the temperature.  By about mile 18, it was around 70 degrees and sunny, much hotter than anything I’d trained in for months.  Since the first part of the race felt so good, I did not do a good job of taking in fluids, and I was about to pay the price.  The last two miles were a big struggle as I was severely dehydrated.

Myrtle Beach lesson: Take in fluids early, even if you don’t feel like it you need it.

Likelihood of remembering this on Saturday: Very Good.  Weather forecast very similar to that day in Myrtle Beach.

3. Columbia, SC, March 2012.  Around mile 16, I was running all alone and my focus was starting to drift.  Then, the 3:45 pace group passed me. I hadn’t been too concerned with pace up to this point and was just enjoying the day.   As they passed, though, I had the crazy thought of ‘Hey, I’m feeling OK.  If I can keep up with these guys, I’ll set a PR on my toughest marathon course yet.’  That went well for about 6 miles.  I then crashed and burned on the Trenholm Road hill, watching the pacer pull away.

Columbia Lesson: Don’t make unrealistic pace decisions during the race.

Likelihood of remembering this on Saturday: Hmmm. Still pondering!



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Race Review: Ray Tanner Home Run 12K 2012

Oct 15, 2012 by

Race Review: Ray Tanner Home Run 12K 2012

I could take the easy way out and copy and paste last year’s Home Run review because, in reality, the experience was almost the same – a great event and a good personal result.

While I can be somewhat lazy, I suppose that might be crossing the line.

The Event Summary

As I’ve mentioned before, this is one of the best events in the Columbia area. This year lived up to that reputation, with a sold out event for both 5K and 12K races.  I think the organizers have some kind of deal with Mother Nature, too.  While somewhat cool and breezy before the race, once we started, the weather was perfect for running.

Also, I believe the organizers made the 5K start time a few minutes later, as they were not in the way of most of the 12K runners as we came back down Knox Abbot Drive.

Race swag included another Under Armour short sleeve shirt and a coffee cup.  Only nit picky complaint with the shirt is that it is basically the same color as last year (just a slight shade difference in the garnet) and they don’t include the year on the shirts.  I didn’t notice that last year.

The post race spread was very good with bananas, oranges, bagels, cookies, hot dogs and snow cones.  One could definitely consume more calories than burned during the race, if not careful.  There was also a rock band playing.

You can view the race results here.

Personal Summary

This event was two weeks before my next marathon.  In an ideal race prep world, I’d do a half marathon at full marathon pace (i.e. a bit slower than normal half marathon pace) to test my fitness level.  My full marathon target pace per mile for this next one will be in the 8:50-9:00 range.  Well, there was no half marathon close by, so I decided to give a hard effort at the 12K (7.4 miles) distance.

My last couple of long training runs had not gone well at all, so my confidence was getting pretty low.  However, a pretty good short workout a few nights before the Ray Tanner gave me a glimmer of hope.  With a relatively short distance of 7.4 miles, I felt breaking the 8:00/mile pace was attainable, but would be short of last year’s 7:31 pace that resulted in a 55:49.

So, how did I do?  Much better than I expected. Here are my mile splits:

Mile 1: 7:19

Mile 2: 7:54

Mile 3: 7:20

Mile 4: 7:34

Mile 5: 7:54

Mile 6: 7:14

Mile 7: 7:36

last .4: 2:41 (6:44/mile pace)

Total 55:36 (7:29/mile) for a PR in a 12K, beating last year’s time by 13 seconds.  I really didn’t see that coming. At least I have some confidence back as a taper for the marathon.

If you want to run the Home Run next year, be sure to sign up early.


Finish Line



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900 Reasons to Buy Newton Running Shoes

Jul 31, 2012 by

900 Reasons to Buy Newton Running Shoes

New (Left) vs. Old

The couple of long time followers of my blog know that I am a big fan of Newton running shoes. I really don’t have 900 reasons to buy Newton shoes, but I do have a pair of 2011 Newton Gravity’s with over 900 miles on them.  That’s kind of 900 reasons.  Here’s a picture (right) of the my old pair with 900+ miles compared to a new pair. Notice how the lugs are worn toward the toe.


Why Newton?

I’ve used “traditional” running shoes, and I’ve tried “minimalist” running shoes. What I have found with the Newtons is they strike a balance between wanting the lower heel-to-toe drop of minimalist shoes and actually having some shock absorbation that the minimalist shoes don’t offer.

So, with my 2011 Newton Gravity’s over the 900 mile mark, I decided it was time for a new pair.  I was headed to one of my favorite shopping locations, Charlotte, NC,  and planned to stop in at the Charlotte Running Company to buy a new pair.  I still don’t have a local retailer. I could have ordered them online, but I wanted to compare a 10 vs. a 10 1/2.  I also wanted to try on a different model of Newtons called the MV2.

I arrived at the store late one Saturday morning a couple of weeks ago.  The had the 2012 Gravity’s but only in 10 1/2.  Unfortunately, these were too big.  Well, the manager (I think) got on the phone for a minute, then told me he’d be right back if I could wait about 15 minutes.  No problem.  I just drove 2 hours, so I didn’t mind.  I think he grabbed a 9 or 9 1/2 box of Newtons and headed out the door.

While waiting, I tried on the MV2’s.  These are sort of the ‘racing flats’ of the Newton line, geared for shorter distances.  They were way too tight for me in the toe box.  Oh well, I couldn’t afford two pairs of Newtons anyway.  I think they were yellow, too.  Not really my style.

Now I was “forced” to shop in the running store for a few more minutes. Darn.  The manager returned shortly with the 10’s.  These fit well and I took them.  I’m not sure if he met a guy in a back ally to swap shoes or happened to have a agreement with a competitor up the road to swap the 9 for the 10.  Didn’t matter to me.  That was great customer service.

Break In

When I bought my 2011 Gravity’s last year, they cautioned me to build up slowly with these.  The lugs on the sole really work your feet and legs differently.  I heeded their advice and only did short runs in them of two miles or less for a week or two.  I figured this year I was in the clear, having run in the old model for a year.  Nope.  The first thing I noticed was that the new shoes worked my feet and calves differently again, just like in 2011.  By mile 4 of the first run, I knew I better build up slowly again as I had some discomfort in my left foot and calf.  By the third short run, I was OK, though.  I still haven’t gone over a 5 mile run in them, but the discomfort is gone.  I’ll slowly build up to longer runs in the 2012’s while phasing out my 2011’s.


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