Race Review: 2013 Harbison 50K Trail Race Part 1

Jan 7, 2013 by

Race Review: 2013 Harbison 50K Trail Race Part 1

Our Hero’s Race Bib

Happy New Year!  When we last left our hero he was listening to Freebird and crashing badly at the end of the Spinx Run Fest Marathon in Greenville, SC.

Given the lack of posts the past two months, it may  seem he finally came to his senses and gave up long distance running – after all,  it was around mile 22 at Spinx where the inevitable “Why do I do this?” question popped into his head.

So, did our hero abandon his Walter Mitty-esque running goals – breaking 20 minutes in a 5K, qualifying for the Boston Marathon, beating the local shirtless runner?

Of course not.  As a matter of fact, it wasn’t too many days after the Spinx Marathon, that he had what some have said was a crazy idea. “I think I am ready for the Harbison 50K”.  It made perfect sense (to a crazy runner, anyway.)  How? You say.  If you can barely finish 26.2 miles on the road.  How are you going to do 31 miles in the woods?

Easy. You see, at some point much of running is between the ears.  And with the progress he had made with heart rate training over the past year our hero felt he was ready for the next challenge – an ultra marathon.  Less than two weeks after Spinx, he had signed up for the January 5, 2013 Harbison 50K Trail Race.

The training plan was pretty simple, keep the normal weekly workouts going (4-5 workouts, mostly 45 minute to 1 hour runs) but do a couple of long (3+ hours) training runs on the  Harbison trails in November and December.  As an added bonus, a local cycle shop, Cycle Center, was putting on a half marathon trail race at Harbison three weeks before the 50K – perfect tune up.

The Actual Event Review

If you’ve read any race reviews, you may have seen that my general formula is to break my reviews into two sections.  The first section is about the race specifics – course, swag, organization.  The second is about my personal struggles and triumphs during the race.  I’ll stick to that here, but try to keep the remarks a bit shorter.

Race Administration

This is the 3rd running of the Harbison 50K and is organized by the same Dan Hartley who directs the Columbia Marathon.  If you read my review of the 2012 Columbia Marathon, you know I was impressed by how well that race went for a first time event.  I hoped he could live up to the expectations set by the road race.

Well, I’m happy to report, this was an excellent event.   Swag consisted of a nice long sleeve technical tee shirt that was a unique shade of blue.  We also had a first for me in swag – a pint glass with the race date, logo and sponsors engraved.  Finally, the current issues of Trail Runner and Ultra Running magazines were in our bag.  Our race bibs also had our first and last names.

In what I suspect is common in the trail ultra events, Dan held a pre-race briefing the night before the race at a local hotel to cover course markings and answer questions.  This was helpful.  He also held a raffle, giving out probably close to two dozen prizes.  Unfortunately, despite lots of no-shows (must be present to win!), I did not win anything. I would have liked one of the free entries into this year’s Columbia Marathon.

The Course

As the race name says, the event was held at the Harbison State Forest in Columbia, SC.  I don’t have extensive trail running experience, but I have done two half marathons there and try to get out there a few times a year to run.  Basically, Dan has created a large loop out the various trails there and we ran the loop twice.  Of course, he managed to work in the entire Spiderwoman trail, making miles 9-12 and 25-28, especially tough.

One thing I really liked about this race was the way we started.  The first mile and a quarter or so was on a wide gravel road.  This allowed the field to spread out into its natural order.  The other 2 trail races I have done had a much shorter gravel road start, and then passing in the woods during the first few miles is a real pain.  This start worked pretty well, I thought.

About the only slight complaint, I have is the finish. We appeared from the woods back at the center gazebo area and had to cross the gravel road and there was just a guy holding a medal for us in the grassy area.  I didn’t see a finish banner or anything.   There was a clock next to him, but it didn’t seem to be working, or I could have been delirious.

Aid stations

The course had three aid stations that worked out to seven stops due to the looping and routing.  They were well stocked with all kinds of goodies: Gu gels, trail mix, M&Ms, peanuts, pretzels and other stuff.  I’m not used to eating much on long runs, and had not really trained for that, but so I stuck with trail mix and M&M’s.  I had hoped to have some chicken noodle soup as advertised, but when I asked about soup at one or two of the stations, I was told all they had was chili.  That didn’t sound good on the run, so I went on.

Post race

Post race spread looked like a cookout with burgers and hotdogs.  I had a burger but really didn’t feel like eating much, so I watched a few more finishers and left.

It is getting late, and I haven’t even covered my personal struggles during the race.  I’ll work on a part two and post that later.  I will tell you I finished in 6:01:52 officially.  Good for 72nd out of 146.

For the final results click here: http://ultrasignup.com/results_event.aspx?did=17108


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Event Review: Color Me Rad 5K – Columbia, SC

Oct 22, 2012 by

Event Review: Color Me Rad 5K – Columbia, SC

Participated in a gimmick event on October 20 – the Color Me Rad 5K.  Gimmicky events seem to be expanding.  As the number of race options explode, event planners are coming up with new and creative ways to lure participants.

Mud runs, burrito dashes, Krispy Kreme challenges.  All of these have a novelty of some sort of offering other than just a scenic course and racing against a clock.

Finish Line

So what did the Color Me Rad have to offer?  Besides a chance to chase my son for 3.1 miles, it also offered a chance to get “bombed” with colored corn starch and squirted with some mystery liquid.  Participants were encouraged to wear white.   And their was a lot of white at the beginning- over 6000 people turned out.  We wore our white and, by the end, we looked like we’d been through the tie dye machine.

So, overall, this gimmicky event was pretty fun.  Anecdotal evidence suggests the young male runner in the family beat the old man by four minutes.  However, since this event had no official timing, that is just a rumor.





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Race Preview: Ray Tanner Home Run 12K 2012

Oct 7, 2012 by

Race Preview: Ray Tanner Home Run 12K 2012

Saturday, October 13, 2012 is the next running of the Ray Tanner Foundation Home Run.  I don’t have  a whole lot of time to cover the preview on this one,  so here’s the low down.

1.  This is one of the best races in the Columbia area.The post race spread is probably the best.

2. Both the 5K and 12K races are sold out for 2012.  So if you missed it this year, sign up early next year.

3. Here’s the elevation map for the 12K.  I tracked this during last year’s race.

Elevation Map Ray Tanner Home Run 12K


For more information about the course map and other details, please visit the official site at http://raytannerhomerun.org.

Last year the weather was perfect, and I ran one of my best races ever.  Right now, less than a week before the race, the forecast looks good but maybe warmer than I like.  This race is two weeks before my next marathon, so this will be a good gauge of my fitness.  If the last couple of long runs are any indication, I’m in trouble.  I’ll keep you posted.

To see my review from last year, please click here.



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Five Ways to Beat Summer Heat

Jun 21, 2012 by

Five Ways to Beat Summer Heat

Image Courtesy of Sasha Wolf Under Creative Commons License: http://www.flickr.com/people/sashawolff/

If you’ve ever subscribed to a hobby/interest magazine, like Men’s Health or Golf Digest, you eventually start to see repeat articles.   Sure, they’re not word-for-word reprints, but titles like Washboard Abs in 8 weeks (doesn’t work, by the way) or Fix Your Slice Now! (don’t know about this one, I hook the ball) inevitably reappear every so often.

So it is with the running magazine summer issues and the Beat the Heat articles.  I haven’t been reading my running magazines lately, so I don’t know if they’ve put out any new tips on beating the heat.  I do live near a city that uses the slogan “Famously Hot”, and I have been running in the heat,  so I feel more than qualified to rehash these suggestions for running in the heat:

1. Avoid the “heat of the day”.  Around here that pretty much means avoid 9am to 8pm.  If you go early it usually means a slightly lower temperature but higher humidity. If you go late in the day, the temperature is higher and the humidity is lower.  Still not a dry heat here, though.

2. Run slower.  A lot slower.  Even walk some.  Maybe it is an age thing, but the heat really hammers me.  In the past summers, I’ve pushed myself to run my cooler weather faster paces.  This year I’m doing two things differently to slow down. First, I’m doing heart rate training, not allowing my heart rate to exceed a certain limit.  This slows me down in cool weather and even more in the heat.  Second, I’m doing a lot of running with someone whose pace is much slower than mine.  I’ve learned to run at that pace, which has helped me in the heat – her, not so much, though.

3. Drink up.  Before, during, and after. I’ve really made a conscious effort on hydration over the last few months. I’ve realized it is best for me to make hydration part of the overall fitness routine, and most days I drink about 80 ounces of electrolyte fortified water.   Sometimes it is hard to drink that water instead of a Diet Dr. Pepper, but I make it most days.  During runs, especially those over 45 minutes, I make sure I have water with me or in the mailbox on a pass by.  To learn about the water program I adopted click here.

4. Clothing.  Not optional.  I think everyone over 30 should run with shirts on.  That being said, the standard lighter colors and moisture-wicking story applies here.  Avoid cotton – in socks, especially.  I almost always run with some kind of headwear, too.  I’ve been leaning toward visors lately, but I’m also a fan of the Original Buff from Buff Headwear.  This is an update on the old cotton do-rag.  It is moisture wicking and can be configured several ways to provide different varieties of head and neck protection.  Does a great job of keeping the sweat out of my eyes.

5.Find some shade.  Two options here. A. Stay Indoors.  If you have a treadmill in the house or access to a fitness center, sometimes this is the best option, especially as temperatures climb over 90.  B. Hit the trails.  I like this option better than staying indoors, but getting to trails can prove time consuming.

So, that’s it.  No big surprises here.  Just use some common sense and be safe.  Just think about how good it will feel in September when the humidity breaks.  What are some ways you’ve found to beat the heat? Leave a comment below.  Thanks!



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Race Preview: Columbia, SC Marathon 2012

Feb 21, 2012 by

Race Preview: Columbia, SC Marathon 2012

I don’t remember the exact date last year when I heard that a marathon was coming back to Columbia, but I was very excited.  The initial announcement described a point-to-point race that would cross the Lake Murray dam, head down one of my favorite scenic roads, Corley Mill Road, and eventually end up in downtown Columbia.  I liked it.

Unfortunately, the final approved official route turned out to be totally different. I’m assuming logistics and getting two different counties to cooperate proved too difficult.  The new route is a two-loop adventure around the hills of downtown Columbia.  I’m not a fan of two-loopers, but I was already mentally committed when I found out about the change.  I also wanted to support the local race.  No travel expenses is an added bonus.

The Course

My previous two marathons were away from home and did not afford me the chance to run any sections before hand.  They were also really flat – Kiawah Island and Myrtle Beach. This race, though, is just down the road and will have more hills than I care to see in one day.

The other week, my buddy Craig and I traveled to downtown Columbia, and with map in hand, set out to preview the route. We ran the loop once, and when we finished, I can’t say that I was super excited.  Don’t get me wrong, I liked the route and the scenery, but my thoughts were more like “Oh crap, this is going to hurt”.  This is one hilly loop.  And we get to do it twice!  Here’s the elevation map, courtesy of the official web site:

If you have run the Governor’s Cup half marathon in Columbia, then some sections of this race will look familiar.  In fact, the loop is very similar to the Governor’s Cub, just in reverse.  So, instead of up Blossom, you get to go down.  Instead of down Gervais St, you get to go up.

The race will start and end in the Vista area of Columbia, near the Columbia Convention Center.  We’ll travel through the University of South Carolina, Shandon and Lake Katherine areas, slog up Trenholm Rd and Gervais St, weave back through USC, do it again, and then finish up at the Convention Center.  In my opinion, there are two brutal sections of this course.  The first is a a 4 mile stretch that starts just past miles 7  & 20 where the course bottoms out at Lake Katherine.  You must then climb Trenholm Road and Gervais St. You get a brief break as Gervais nears Milwood. Then the second rough spot  it is up Gervais St. for a half mile or so starting just past Harden St. and ending with the left turn onto Pickens St.  At the point, we’ll be entering the USC campus area again, and I’m hopeful there will be a crowd pick-me-up.

Click here for the course description on the official site.

Weather A Factor?

Besides the hills, a race date of March 10th has me slightly concerned.  This has been a mild winter, and I’m a afraid Famously Hot Columbia might rear its ugly head with some heat.  My February 2011 Myrtle Beach Marathon heated up too much and caused me problems toward the end.  This race is weeks later, so we’ll see. The 7:15am start should help.  On the other hand, we’ve had snow and ice in mid March, too!

Strategy & Goal Time

As you can see from the elevation map, there is not much flat to this course.  Since the hills will kill my pace, the strategy will be to let loose on the downhills.  This has led to problems in the past, so I’ll have to be careful.   When I first thought about running a 3rd marathon, I wanted to improve upon my last marathon time of 3:47, maybe approach 3:40.  Well, after experiencing one loop of this course, I am resetting my expectations.  I will be extremely happy if I break the 4 hour mark.

Wish me luck!



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