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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Race Review: Sleigh Bell Trot 5K

Nov 23, 2011 by

Race Review: Sleigh Bell Trot 5K

Had a last minute addition to the race schedule – The Sleigh Bell Trot at Saluda Shoals Park in Irmo, SC.   This is a pretty cool concept for a race – run at night under the holiday light displays.    Two years ago, my son, wife and I all did this race and had a miserable time mainly due to lousy weather – cold and drizzly.

So, this year, when my son wanted to run it again, I was a bit hesitant. The rest of the family wanted to see the lights, though,  and I wanted to keep my son motivated to run, so I signed us up.

We caught a break with the weather.  It was actually a balmy 70 degrees!  Not bad for November 22.  I was hoping for about 60 degrees, but I can’t really complain.  It was much better than 40 and drizzle.

I had one main goal for the race, break 23:00 again.  I had set my personal best 5K back in May with a 22:48 and I was hoping that I could be in that neighborhood again.  My secondary goal was to beat my teenage son.  On paper, he is the 5K champ of the house, with a personal best under 21:00, but he hasn’t beat me head to head because of the timing of the races we have competed in together.  If we were to go head to head during the middle of cross country season, he beats me hands down, but that didn’t happen. Cross country has been over for almost a month, though, and his training has been pretty light since then.  So that, along with too much Xbox on his part, meant I had a slight chance.

So, how’d we do?  Unfortunately, the youngest runner in the house did not have his best race.  He allowed the old man to catch him about the 1 mile mark, then pull away by mile 2.   The old man ended up setting his PR in a 5K with a 22:37.   Not too bad for not doing any speed work recently.  You can see the entire results here.

So, I accomplished my goals, but I didn’t rub it in to my son about losing to the old man.  I really wanted him to have a better race.  Maybe a loss to Dad will get him motivated again.

That will probably conclude my fall racing season.  The new training I’m working on recommends not racing for a few months while building a better aerobic base.  So, I may not race again until February.   I’ll keep you posted.

POFIFOTO & Happy Thanksgiving!



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Cross Country: SCTCCCA Coaches Classic 2011

Sep 11, 2011 by

Cross Country: SCTCCCA Coaches Classic 2011

This past weekend, I attended what I think is annually the largest cross country meet in South Carolina.  Over 70 schools from across the state descend on the Sandhills Research Center in Columbia, SC.  The runners compete in 7 divisions, 4 varsity and 3 Junior Varsity.  For a break down of the finishes, you can click here.

Thundering Herd

This year the organizers broke the JV boys division into two divisions, 7th-9th grades and 10th-12th grades.  In previous years, this race had over 800 boys in it.  I had hoped to show you a video of the 800 person stampede of a start.  However, with the split, my video here is of the 7th-9th grade division and probably has 300+ in it.  I still think you get the idea.  That’s quite a start.


One thing I’ve noticed at cross country meets is the clever t-shirts the teams have come up with.  I took pictures at Coaches Classic to share:

This Sport would be great if it weren't for all the running.

Can you read this? Not for long.

No Walking. Pain is temporary, quitting is forever.

You can never run a hill TOO HARD: You will collapse before hurtin it.

I do today what you won't, so I can do tomorrow what you can't.

Cross Country: The only sport where spectators run too!

No short cuts just short shorts


My sport is your sport's punishment

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Xterra Harbison Half Marathon Preview

Jun 30, 2011 by

Since taking up running, I’ve rarely run off pavement. This summer, I decided to hit the trails as a way to get away from the direct sun. I have been doing a good bit of running around the trails that surround my neighborhood. A couple of weeks ago, I stumbled across a new event in my area – the Xterra Harbison Half Marathon and 5K, scheduled for July 10 at Harbison State Forest (HSF). My first thought was ‘Who in the world would run in a half marathon in Columbia, SC in July?’ Day time high temperatures regularly push 100 degrees most days in July and it is not a dry heat. I saw the race started at 7am, so the temperature at race start will only be about 72 degrees with the usual July early-morning humidity near 100%. By finish time, the temp should still be below 90. Hmmmm….maybe I would be one of these people who’d do such a thing. I had never having entered a trail race before. Before committing,  I wanted to check out the course.

Despite living in the area for 18 years, I had never ventured to Harbison State Forest. I knew mountain bikers used it. I knew the local cross country kids trained there some. I knew where it was but that was about it. I couldn’t find a course map on the race website, so I emailed the race organizers. Victoria Seahorn returned my email pretty quickly and said the course maps were now on the site. I wasn’t interested in the 5K, so I printed out the map for the Half. The organizers had taken the map from the Harbison State Forest official site and marked the route on it. Since this made a bit of the detail of the original map hard for me to see, I printed off the non-marked map as well and put them in a plastic notebook page protector. I then headed out to the site with the idea of checking out at least half of the course. I did 10+ miles that first day, and I went back the next weekend to cover the final 3 or so.

After checking it out, I decided to enter.

Here are my thoughts about the course and how I’m going to approach my first trail event.

Thought 1:Course is pretty tough.

The HSF consists of 9 trails of various terrain and difficulties. For this race, the organizers have created a course the utilizes parts of several of these trails. You will encounter compact sand, some clay, gravel, small wooden bridges, pine straw, some rocky spots, and a lots of roots. Roots seem to be the biggest hazard. On the days I ran, it was very dry, and mud or slick spots were not a factor. If there were to be significant rain for a few days before the race, then there could be some slick spots. This is unlikely for Columbia. I don’t know how trails are rated for technical difficulty, but most of it seemed mild, especially the Firebreak Trails. I ran in my New Balance Minimus Trails and did not have any problems. There is a 3 mile section called Spider Woman II that is rated the most difficult in the HSF guide. It is very winding and narrow. Looks like it starts between mile 4 and 5. It was tough. It has over 300 ft of climb during this stretch. According to my GPS watch, total elevation gain over the course is 4000+ feet. Columbia generally a pretty flat place, but this course has plenty of hills. I was disappointed that there is not a great view of the Broad River along the way. There is a part of the Spider Woman II with a view through the trees.

For some additional information on the  HSF and similar routed run, check out the information at the Harbison 50K site.

Thought 2: Heat may be as big a factor as the course

Heat does a number of most runner’s speed and endurance, and I’m no exception. In the cooler months, my road half-marathon pace is 8:15-8:30/mile. On the days I ran HSF, it was mid morning with temperatures in the 80’s and very humid. My pace on the trails was over 12:00/mile.  The 10 mile day was the toughest workout I’d had in a long time. I’ve done 4 road half marathons, all in the fall months and all under 80 degrees. This will be the toughest half I’ve encountered. I have a goal of 2:30. Maybe my goal should be just to take it easy and just finish.

Thought 3: Caution
If you have not done half or full marathons or have not been training for 10+ miles in the heat, be careful about entering the half. Stick to the 5K. Also, if you have not been doing trail running, be careful. Your muscles will get worked much different than the road. As a mentioned before, this is one heckuva workout.

Final Thought: Logistics
The entrance to HSF is easy enough to find. It is not far from I-26. Once you turn into the park, there is some immediate parking to the left. I don’t think you want to park there. If you follow the main road in about .6 miles, you hang a left to get to the start/finish area. I’m hoping they’ll allow parking in this area. I don’t want to add any more distance than I have to that day!

Come join me!


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