17. Reindeer Run, 2007

Ready to Run

Time again for the Reindeer Run. You know, it’s kind of strange going through the Charleston races for the second time. There are lots of little differences. First of all, everybody seems to want to start at 9am this year. I guess it’s because of the cold, but it was just as cold last year. Waiting until 9am does allow the day to warm up a little, and it also lets people sleep in for another hour. After freezing my hands off on a few early-morning downtown runs, I seemed to have developed a bit of an attitude. I have to be careful not to label people as “wimps” just because they don’t want to be cold. We are in the South, after all. Maybe we should take advantage of the mild winters.

Checking Out the Costumes

This is one of the smaller 5K races in the area, so it’s safe to allow baby strollers and dogs in the race. The relaxed atmosphere also mixes with seasonal traditions to produce a pretty healthy costume culture.

Everyone gets antlers in their race packets, and it’s pretty easy to find elves and other Christmas-type characters. And of course, the Piggley Wiggley Pig was there again. I’m not sure why Piggley Wiggley is so involved in all these races, but we’re all glad that these races have enough sponsors to keep going every year.

Four Wise Men. Seriously.

Waiting at the Starting Line

Things in general seem to be a bit bigger this year. The Turkey Day Run had over four thousand people registered this year, and the Reindeer Run had enough to exhaust their supplies. Not only did they run out of medium shirts, but they also ran out of registration forms. That’s a little odd for a small race like this.

It could have been the extra hour before starting, but it also may have been their own fault. I’m inclined to guess the latter since there was almost no competition to get near the Starting Line just before the race. We didn’t seem as crowded as the lack of forms would imply.

Hanging around before the race.

I noticed right away that they were disorganized at the tables. First you sign up at the registration table, then you had to get into another line to get your packet. This line, in turn, wasn’t separated very well from the line of pre-registered runners who were getting their chips.

Finding out how things were arranged involved talking to several people and sorting the information between them, since no one person seemed to know what was going on. And did I mention that only pre-registered people received chips at all?

It was just poorly done. The people were nice, but they deviated from standard practice. Pre-registered packets should be assembled ahead of time, shirts and all. The registration deadline gives you enough time to do this. Then it’s a small matter to just assemble new packets with available supplies on Race Day as people show up to register. This is how most of the Charleston races operate, including last year’s Reindeer Run.

Of course pre-registering is better, but that’s usually because you save about five bucks by doing so. This is the first time I’ve been denied a chip because of it. My guess is that something different happened in the early stages, and somebody just didn’t manage things properly. Hopefully next year they will go back to the established local patterns.

The Race Begins

The race begins

I didn’t have any trouble getting near the front. I usually try to find a place behind the really, really fit people, and in front of the out-of-shape people. This time there wasn’t one. The crowd was pretty mixed. After a few minutes I realized that I was farther back than I thought. The start of the race was actually about a hundred meters in front of the actual Starting Line. (They only had one banner, with “Start” on one side and “Finish” on the other.)

Suddenly everybody just started moving up, and I realized that we were being led forward to the official mark. Then there were some speeches, the National Anthem and then they finally let us go. The crowd opened up quite nicely, so I was able to pick up the pace almost immediately.

Support from the Sidelines

There are usually a few spectators for these races. Hell, if I could sit in my own front yard and watch this sort of thing then I’d bring the coffee pot outside. This time, we got a more official reception. After the school kids, things returned to their usual scale.

Support from the Kids

Another strange thing I noticed along the course… the water stations were pulled back from the course, and they were offering doughnuts. Volunteers were still up front and handing out water with their usual efficiency, but the table had enough space in front of it to allow people to slow down and enjoy a snack without slowing other people down. It was an indication that this event was intended mostly for fun.

Bathrobe Loses His Phone

I wound up talking to this guy near the end of the race. I don’t know his name, so now he’s going to be known as Bathrobe . (Lucky guy.) He was running at a good speed to pace with, and he complained that his bathrobe was acting as a parachute. (He had something written on his chest, but I never got a chance to read it. Something involving Christmas, I would imagine.)

Bathrobe Runner

As we approached the Finish Line, he said “Wanna sprint?” and we both poured on the speed. I wasn’t sure if I could keep up with the guy, but I was doing pretty well until his phone flew out of his right robe pocket. I was able to see it because he was a little ahead of me, but I wasn’t far enough back to retrieve it on the way. I had to stop and reverse direction to get it. I lost a few seconds, but there was no way around it. Losing your phone sucks, Big Time.

I probably could have kept up with him, but there was no way I was going to catch that guy. I just kept the distance as short as possible and caught up with him after the Finish. He had been running so hard, he didn’t even know the thing was missing. I made a mental note of that in case I ever try to run with something important in my pocket.

Finishing with Another Personal Best

This crappy Kodak camera that I bought is just terrible at taking quick photos. I do not recommend the Kodak EasyShare C613. It just sucks. It looks okay on the packaging, but there’s no auto-focus, it hesitates before taking the photo and it has almost no ability to deal with anything less than absolutely perfect light. Even as a point-and-shoot for Grandma, I would suggest that you go elsewhere. Get something that has auto-focus and allows you to change the f-stop, shutter speed and ISO settings manually. Even if you don’t use the manual settings, those cameras tend to have better automatic settings as well. I’m stuck with this Kodak for a while, but I’m still planning to replace it when I can.

Okay… that’s out of my system for now. About the Finish:

I’m glad to announce another personal best! I finished in 23 minutes and 7 seconds! I would like to say that I’m just so awesome that I can shave 23 seconds off of my time in a couple of weeks, but I’m pretty sure the increased performance was largely due to the decreased population.

At the Turkey Day Run I spent a lot of time just working through the crowd. This time I was able to move much more freely. Phone-dropping aside, this time isn’t really better than my previous finishing time… it’s just more accurate. Still, it’s a lower time than I’ve had before. I’m pretty happy about it.

Fast Finish
A new Personal Best!

Hanging Out With Miss South Carolina

The hostess of the event was Crystal Alicia Garrett, the current Miss South Carolina. This is a step up from posing with Miss Summerville. After all, this lady has the whole state! She may even have minions, and her own underground lair!

Or, maybe she’s just a nice woman who’s enjoying her year. She’s an artsy type who studies Music and Theater at the University of South Carolina. That means that she’s more than just some singer. She can sing from sheet music that she hasn’t seen before, and plays the piano besides. That’s pretty hardcore. Crystal is hoping to study at Juilliard after she’s done with USC and eventually get to Broadway, but there’s just one problem… she won a pageant.

Apparently it’s worth stalling your school for a year when you win a beauty pageant and get all sorts of travel opportunities. If she wins the Miss America pageant, she’ll stall for another year and travel some more. Who can blame her, really? She’s only 21. She has forever to finish at USC.

Hanging Out With Miss South Carolina
Here I am with Crystal Alicia Garrett, aka Miss South Carolina.

In the photo above, she has her hand on my back. I warned her about that. I was sweaty, and you don’t want any of that when you’re all dressed up and wearing a crown.. She didn’t mind, though. Maybe she had some sanitizer nearby, or something…

Better Chipmunks than I Remember

After I wandered off in search of bananas and a wonderful assortment of chocolate chip and peanut butter cookies, I returned to find something even better. (Well, okay… nothing is better than free peanut butter cookies, but I’m giving the lady a break.)

Right there across the crowd was a much more attractive Alvin than I remember seeing on television. I took the photo as quickly as I could, in case people got in the way or something changed. She was speaking with Miss SC, but looking at in now I have to wonder if she was posing for me.

Better Chipmunk than I Remember

At the time I was more interested in something else. If Alvin is here, could there be a Simon or a Theodore? Yep, there sure were, and they were all nice enough to pose for a picture. The ensemble photo below is what I could manage after a good bit of Photoshop correction. (Curse you, Crappy Kodak Camera!) Sadly, they didn’t win the costume contest. Three women in skimpy white dresses and snowflake signs got first place. They were attractive, yes, but they weren’t Chipmunks.

Theodore, Simon and Alvin

Awards, Entertainment and Contests

Remember all that stuff I said about Crystal Garrett? Well, I almost laughed when she told me about her major, and the reason is in the photo below. Before this lady came out to sing the Star Spangled Banner, Miss SC whipped held up a piece of paper and read her introduction.

It contained such phrases as “reaching notes that few singers would dare to attempt.” I rolled my eyes at that, and then again when she tried to do her own version of Whitney Houston’s version of our national anthem. Why do people keep doing this? All they ever do is wreck the song. On the bright side, I managed to control my mirth when I found out that a glorified karaoke singer was introduced by someone who can actually read music.

I have to be fair, however. After the race, Lady K (I don’t know her name, so I’m giving her one) returned to sing an entire set. There were Christmas songs of course, but there was other material as well. I have to say, it was pretty good. I found myself changing my mind about her. She really can sing, as long as she’s not trying to sing like somebody else.

Local Diva. Sort of.
Cool Costumes

Heading Home

Another one down. Been there, done that, and yes I have the t-shirt. Things are different this year, primarily because I work downtown and I often run along the Battery. I’m more familiar with the area and the way things work. I’ll admit that it takes some of the magic out of downtown events, but I’m still enjoying it as much as I ever have. I can’t wait for the next one.

All Done and Heading Home