Tri the Midlands – Lake Carolina – Columbia, SC – 6/20/15


Tri the Midlands is a sprint tri (500 m open water swim, 14 mi bike, 3.1 mi run) put on by Set Up Events in the Lake Carolina neighborhood.

First, it should be known that I am not a triathlete. But racing options start drying up in the summer and somehow I get the ridiculous, grandiose idea that I can wing a tri and still do well. You’d think I’d have learned. The Downtown triathlon in 2012, my maiden attempt at a swim-bike-run event, was such an epic failure that I still get crap about it. I’m pretty sure Brandenburg and Wes Spratt have my T1 shame photo as the background on their computer screen. For the uninitiated, here it is:




That’s me, sitting down, more exhausted than I’ve ever been at any athletic event before or since. This after a “brutal” 500 meter pool swim. I use the term “swim” loosely, since I pool walked about 75 percent of it. Somehow  I thought I could swim with absolutely zero training. A word of advice: I wouldn’t recommend it.

That same year, I decided to try and earn back a shred of triathlon dignity by jumping into this event. I trained for the swim like a man possessed, because this being an open water swim, I’m pretty sure I couldn’t walk it. That time I plowed ahead as hard as I could go…towards the wrong buoy. I almost panicked and had to be rescued (ask Diesel for his story) but I managed to correct and finish the swim. I even placed 2nd novice and Blue Shoed Trophy after he passed me on the bike. I can’t thank Greg Howell enough for capturing that moment for posterity:


But all of that was 3 years and one major trauma ago. I did do the Tom Hoskins duathlon last year, and some beer fueled night a couple of months ago I decided to go all in for the tri this time. That’s in July. And I guess some other equally beer influenced decision 2 weeks ago, I decided to jump into Tri the Midlands again to see how my “training” was going. Apparently I need to stay away from computers while drinking. Training needs air quotes too, since I had officially done 4 bike rides in June, only one over 10 miles. My swimming amounted to about 5 times in the pool, topping out at about 42 lengths (about 1000m).  But hey, my grandiosity knows no bounds, so I was going to crush this, right? Plus, I finally made the plunge and procured myself a 58 cm bike (Felt Z95) that actually fit (my old one was a 54 cm) – thanks to Henry Mandrell at Summit cycles. I was surely going to be Craig Alexander in no time.

I showed up to Lake Carolina about an hour ahead of time. I had originally planned to be 90 minutes early, but I kept forgetting stuff and generally being a total noob. I ripped the laces out of my blue shoes to replace them with elastic ones, only to break the elastic laces and be totally screwed. I brought my huge orange hokas as an emergency backup. The Code was already on site to spectate presumably because my tri attempts are such high comedy. The parking is like a half mile from the set up area so I had to go over everything in my mind several times to make sure I didn’t leave anything. Darrell offered to help with the gear transport – I think they call this a “sherpa” in tri speak, but I just prefer “bucket bitch”, so that was his new title.

The transition area was pretty packed. Of course, thanks to both of us signing up last second yesterday, the Pale Beast and I got side by side set up areeas. The battle of the Paleness was on. I had toyed with the idea of signing up as novice again (this is my third tri and first since 2012) or even better “masters clydesdale” but I figured the former was kind of weak and I couldn’t fudge 25 pounds to be 220 (running races usually do 200). So age group it was, complete with a periwinkle blue swim cap. So manly.

There were a fair amount of familiar faces. Trophy was on hand to photodocument all the whiteness. I saw Laura and Greg Howell for the first time in forever, which was nice. Ken Lowden and the Howells were helping man the boat/SUP/kayak brigade meant to keep us clueless swimming noobs safe. Eternally grateful for that. J Reeves, Erika Burgess and Pam Griffin were volunteering. Both Brandenburgs, Rob Weber, George Smith, Ilia, Paul Laymon, Wendy Hart, Missy Caughman, Healther Alexander, Keith Sikes, Les Boan, Tenacious J Hill, Patti Lowden, Sandra Ricciuto, April Hutto, Pat Norcia, Kristin Cattieu and the Vokatys were some familiar faces. Aubrey Johnson and Angel were doing the relay. Wes Spratt had called me out about not registering and Tom Beattie was thinking I might be able to beat him, though Tom is unaware of how bad I suck in the swim-bike area. I would have to be less than 5 minutes behind at the start of the run to catch him. Hey, maybe I can do that?

THE SWIM-500 meters

We all line up for the start on the shore and I’m nervous as hell. Damn that buoy looks far off. I squirm up to the front to see the whole course and make  ABSOLUTELY SURE I don’t sight towards the wrong buoy this time. Set Up starts playing what seems to be their anthem, Eminem’s “Lose Yourself”. I think it’s supposed to make you fired up but all it does is about send me into a panic. Open athletes go first, followed by the under 40 men’s age groups 3 minutes later. All the “old men” are next, which now includes me, complete with periwinkle swim cap crushing my oversized brain. The water is disgustingly warm. Total bathtub, and murky as hell. I look around and there are a lot of people. Novice had like 15 in 2012, there’s got to be 30+ in the age group wave. The start is complete mayhem. I was dumb for being right in the center, and suddenly I’m getting beat up left and right. First a hand to my head, a couple of kicks, then some dude slides right over me. WTF?? Lots of warm masters man on man action. Not exactly my thing, but at least I know why Brandenburg loves this stuff.  I’m having trouble trying to get into any rhythm, and it turns out Lake Carolina doesnt have lane markers and a black stripe on the bottom. I’m sucking in a lot of wonderful bacteria-free Lake Carolina  water and having to dog paddle at times to not grab feet or go off course. About halfway to buoy 1 I abandon any hope of my usual swim pattern and just breathe with every stroke. It actually gets me free of the pack and I plow ahead through the warm murk.  Suddenly I look up and I’ve managed to get right at the buoy, mostly by blind luck. It’s pretty scary to be out this far, remembering my downtown tri nightmare and definitely violating everything that early 80’s Sallie McDonald ever told me about water safety. I’m still breathing too hard but at least I’m free of the Marquis de Sade bathtub scene from earlier. Somehow I hit the tangent of the 2nd buoy and I start picking up the pace towards home. I’m actually catching some of the royal blue young dudes. Geez, these guys must be really slow. One of my fellow periwinkle caps has adopted some power breaststroke just ahead to my left. I stop sighting and just follow him, since I figure he sees the shore, and my noodle armed freestyle isn’t much faster. I’m totally euphoric when I take a stroke and hit mud. The great white whale has been beached!  I spring towards the shore and all these guys are freaking walking. Dudes, this is a race isn’t it? I break free and do my best spandexed pants barefoot jog about 50 meters to the transition area. Trophy and Julia Early make sure to capture all the paleness for posterity. I’m just glad to have survived, though Trophy informs me the Beast is just ahead. (Swim split 12:14 )

Sure enough, Ken is power fumbling through the swim-bike transition and I join him in the chaos. I throw on a shirt to avoid blinding passers-by and do a thoroughly awkward and slow shoe change. I throw the megamind helmet on and do my stiff bike-cleat jog out of T1. At least I can stand upright next to my bike now instead of hunched over. (2:06)

THE BIKE – 14 miles

Thanks to not doing an extra 100 meters of swim this time and having a bike that fits, I tear out onto the bike course like a man possessed. Oh yeah, these suckers are going down. This lasts maybe one mile until our first incline, when it suddenly dawns on me that I havent even done 50 miles of total bike training in a year’s time. Jeff does more than that on a bad DAY. A couple of miles in I manage to pass some people and I;m feeling pretty good. Pretty good, until Kristin comes whizzing by like I’m standing still. WTF? I guess it pays to actually train on the bike. On Kelly Mill road, I can actually see the Pale Beast up ahead, so maybe I can catch him. No matter that he’s been bike training while being run-injured and left me and Trophy for dead on our last group ride. I can take him! Or not. A big incline on Addams rd (see Blythewood labor day 5k 2012) sucks some energy and I realize I maybe got a little too frisky out of the gate. Langford road has some nice flats and downhills, but I know what is to come. Sure enough, the Langford section ends with 2 nasty inclines that I’m probably barely doing 10 mph on. I do manage to pass a Clydesdalish guy and a woman that had both passed me earlier. Twenty five mile creek rd is awesomely downhill so I start crushing it in the big ring pretty hard. Oh yeah, I am the man. And then I get re-passed by Clydesdale guy, and then an Athena-ish woman… 2 of them actually. And Ken is no longer visible. So much for pride. 25 mile creek ends with a brutal wall like hill and I reclaim a small sliver of dignity by passing Mr. Clydesdale yet again. Not the two Athenas though – those girls have destroyed me. Back on Kelly Mill, I know I’m only a couple of miles from the bike finish. One problem – stick a fork in me, because I’m done. The heat has come out with a vengeance (80’s) and I start hating life pretty quick. There’s a long slow incline on Kelly Mill and my legs are complete jello. I contemplate small ringing it on this really weak hill but my pride wont let me. What’s worse is that I have yet to develop the cyclist’s iron crotch, and my nether regions are crying out for me to stop the torture. I’m standing up in the saddle to get some blood flow back to the naughty bits and moaning like a shot elephant trying to power through the last few inclines in Lake Carolina. Thankfully no one passes me during this ugly display. Maybe they were just scared.

I’m eternally grateful to be done with the bike pulling into T2. Vowles has already  left the building. I throw on my Hokas, which are easy to lace up. I neglected to think about the fact they weigh twice as much as my racers. Between the fidlding around and taking my Garmin off the bike, I transition like somebody’s grandma.

THE RUN 3.1 miles

I hit the run course the same time as April Hutto, and I try to impart some encouraging words, but then I realize we are treading on the surface of the sun. Or an oven, or whatever extremely hot metaphor you want to use. It’s probably 85 degrees, but the internal furnace I built up by overextending myself on the bike has left me dangerously close to a meltdown. I run by my friend’s Ryan’s house and scare the hell out of his 4 year old son who is wondering what freak out there knows his name. I’ve likened the run to bike transition as jogging while 2 cobras bite you simultaneously on each ass cheek. Thankfully, the new bike has made this considerably better, maybe just vipers or some other lower grade snake. Still, I am just trotting. Here I am, finally at the part I’m supposed to be good at, and I’m royally sucking. The heat has me totally paralyzed, and here we go up another hill out of Harborside (see Harborside Lights 5k 2013).  The Code and Colleen are there trying to be supportive, shouting out encouraging words while giving me “what the hell is wrong with him?” looks. A finisher is being announced as I start my 5k slog and I ‘ve never wanted to be “Michael Frassica from Irmo”so bad. But hey, even my power jog is letting me pass people because it is a total war zone out there. No shade, sun beating down like satan’s anus. Lots of walksies even a half mile into this. After the climb out of Harborside, there’s a nice long downhill. Erika is there at the water stop and I take hers and another cup and do a double chug. I’m maybe doing 7:30 pace on the downhill – between the furnace-like conditions and my general lack of motivation (i.e. no trophies) I just can’t fathom going any faster. I even get chicked by a woman in green and can’t respond.  I see Angel coming back towards home and then Kristin, who not only has killed me on the bike but is doing the same on the run. Kudos to her. The worst part of this course is Mt. Carolina – a towering hill right smack in the middle of the 3.1 that is annually the leading cause of walksies in the Columbia area. I start the miserable slog up this mountain and the walksie voices are really screaming, made worse by seeing Vowles trundling downhill and being completely uncatchable at this point. Damn that Beast.  I finally reach the summit of this monster pulling like 10 minute pace, but I can’t walk now with J Reeves herself managing the water station (who I constantly rag about 5 k walking). I let gravity take over on the way down, just doing nothing but falling down this hill. I’m really good at that, trust me. That nice long downhill after Harborside is now that not-so-nice climb back up. The heat is out of control. I manage to pass Barb Brandenburg on the hill less than a mile to the finish. I feel really good about this pass until I realize she started three minutes behind me. I finally hit Harborside again and I give it all I can in the last quarter mile or so, which is probably the only time I went under 7 minute pace for the whole run. I see the clock heading towards 1:33 and I put the jets on to cross in 1:32:51, or 1:26:51 corrected for my wave. 6th in age group.

OK, so triathlons are definitely a humbling experience. I’m happy with improving my swim time by a minute and bike by two minutes (from the 2012 event) with minimal training. The only problem is that the effort to do that produced a world of suckage on the run (3 minutes slower). I have this sneaking suspicion it might help to swim and bike more. Novel concept. Oh, and I desperately need to transition better. That’s probably because I use them more as rest zones and go about them like a grandpa changing into his slippers to go get the Sunday paper.

I don’t know a lot of tri peeps but here are some of the names I recognize. Brandenburg was a beast of course and won 1st male masters and 3rd overall. 34 minutes on the bike, jeezus H.  60 year old Jeff Allums placed 5th overall and won the 60-64. Wow. Michael Frassica placed 3rd male masters. Jennifer Kryzanowski placed 2nd open female and Janice Addison took home first in female masters. Kristin ran 21 minutes and change for the 6th fastest run time overall and had the 2nd fastest women’s total time, winning the 35-39. Wendy Hart took 3rd in the 40-44, while Barb Brandenburg won the 45-49 and yes, beat me by over 2 minutes. Lisa Powell took 1st in the 50-54 and Paul Laymon took 2nd on the men’s side. I did manage to beat Wes Spratt by 5 minutes on the run, though perhaps that just underscores his blue shoe destruction on the swim/bike, beating me by almost 6 minutes overall. He took 2nd in the 55-59 for his efforts. Patti Lowden and Shawn Chillag were champions of the 65-69. Ilia finished 2nd overall Athena and Pat Norcia won the aquabike, overtaking Tom Syfert with a blazing 38 minute bike split.




Sweat it Out 5k – Columbia, SC – 6/6/15


The Sweat it Out 5k is a new event this year that goes to benefit the National Foundation of Ectodermal Dysplasias, genetic conditions that, among other problems, make those afflicted unable to sweat. A local family, the Dukes, have a son, Nicholas, with Hypohydriotic Ectodermal Dysplasia. He was the inspiration behind the event and actually designed the race shirt. One of our own, Shannon Iriel, was race directing, so I was definitely in to help support a fellow runner and a good cause.

I came in to this race with pretty much zero confidence. Ever since I tweaked my back about a month ago, I’ve been riding the injury train and have probably put in half the miles I usually do. Run Red Bank was my first race in a few weeks, and even that wasn’t at full effort.

But I decided to give it a go this time. I have been pain free for a couple of weeks, and I was back to at least about 70 percent of my usual 40-45 miles per week. It would probably help to start back with the morning training routine, but I haven’t been able to drag my butt out of bed recently. My punishment: afternoon runs in the Columbia summer inferno. Famously hot, indeed.

Speaking of getting up early, this race was at 7 am to avoid the heat. I got there about 45 minutes ahead of time and its impressive how many people showed up for this first time race. It was great to see so many Columbia Running Club peeps out to support one of their own. Of course, CRC peeps are inversely proportional to the degree of trophy hunting. This place was crawling with beasts. Kenzie Riddle, MC Cox, Heather Brumbach, Anna Jenkins and Linn Hall made for one of the strongest female fields I have seen in a while. The Yerg, Angel, Jeff Godby, and Adam Bernthal meant there’d be a big pack in the 18-19 minute range. Larry Bates,  Wayne Shuler, Leeds Barroll, Rocky, Henry Holt, Ponomarev, Lisa and Jonathan King, Mike Compton, Michael Jensen, Tom Beattie, Arnold Floyd, Colleen Vowles, Gasque, Pete, Jessica Workman, Peter Mugglestone, Ken Lowden, Hou Yin Chang and the Tanner family (minus Ray) were some of the familiar faces. The CODE was out for support but can’t race yet. Tom tried to fool me into a Brandenburg sighting, but mercifully tri season has begun and he was nowhere to be found.

I had no idea about this course. Ken and Tom were telling me it was fairly flat with a hill near mile 2. The only race I ever ran in this neighborhood (near Hammond Academy behind the VA) was the 2009 Strides for Health at the med school, which was almost all flat, so I had my fingers crossed. I was going to run this pretty hard, but I also needed to factor in the heat and being off my training.


Little Nicholas did the start, and we were off. With all the beasts, it was blazing. Some unknown kid took off like a maniac and I never saw him again. There were a bunch of other younger kids tearing out of the gate like it was an Olympic 100m. Of course they stopped a quarter mile in and  almost got run over by a pale, 40 year old bus. Although the cardio involved in running 5k pace was like a kick to the chest, the legs were actually loving the speed. I swear I get injured more often doing my slow runs. Godby is on my back like a monkey, and I figure we are pretty even with him in the middle of marathon training (Grandma’s marathon in Duluth, MN). He was weakened, however, by having to deal with what I sweat out in the bathroom pre-race. Must fight him off for masters! Speaking of masters, a 40ish dude comes into the picture in mile 1 and passes both of us. I’m not sure who he is, but 12 year old Adam Bernthal told me he was on a quest to beat his dad today, so this is probably him. I point him out to Godby to make sure we are aware of a fellow old dude in our midst. First mile is pretty much flat, Garmin spits out a 6:12, which is about where I want to be.  I’m running in a pack with Heather Brumbach, Adam and Godby. The senior Bernthal, Angel, MC and Yerg are just up ahead. In the next half mile I manage to surge ahead basically maintaining the same pace. Feels OK – the heat/humidity are definitely a factor, but I feel way better than my battle with Brandenburg at the JROTC 5k a month ago, where I went out in 5:50 something and wanted to die the rest of the way. We finish an out and back loop and head back out on the road (Galway) we were on earlier. With my 5k race brain, I see some larger buildings up ahead and I figure its the last out and back before we turn around to head back home. Um, not so much. Turns out it was Hammond Academy, which I’ve known about most of my life but never seen in person. The first feelings of death start to creep in as I see we are heading out again on the last out-and-back loop to the right on Saye Cut. Code is out there spectating, probably rooting for people to take me down.

On the way out I can tell we are going slightly downhill, so I guess we will be climbing this on the way back. It’s really nothing – about what amounts to a hill in Shandon.  As we near the turnaround I am surprised to be closing in fast on Yerger. Dude ran a PR 18:12 on the track last week so I guess he’s not feeling it. I pass him and Adam as we hit the turnaround cone. Mile 2 comes back with an identical 6:12. I see Godby, Linn and Heather right behind me as I start the trek back home. I’m trying to kick it in some but the slight uphill and heat/humidity are taking their toll. Code pops up again and is talking trash. I can’t really respond because the wind suckage has begun in earnest.  Finally turning back on Galway is a relief because I know we’re getting closer to the finish. I had done a warmup before the race and knew I could unleash the hounds as soon as I reached Meadowfield Elementary. It seemed to take forever, and plus there is a fairly significant incline right before the school that I somehow totally missed. Surprisingly, Angel and MC are right ahead and I can even still see Kenzie. I motor up the hill to Meadowfield, take a couple of deep breaths and fire up the blue shoes. I’m closing in fast on Angel, who I can tell is not kicking it in. Oh well, I’ll take what I can get. I blast it into overdrive as we turn on to Olde Knight and I catch Angel right at the parking lot for the park. MC has matched my kick and I cant quite catch her. This is the second time she returned the favor for Bunny Hop. I see the clock and I’m surprised to see it already at 19:10 or so – I had thought faster. I crash through the finish in typical ugly race face fashion in 19:29. 6th overall, 4th male, 1st in age group. I technically won masters too, though it was a hollow victory with a 49 year old (Bob Daley) taking 3rd overall and bumping me up. I got a nice plate though, so a trophy hunt success! I’m pretty happy with the time – Garmin had 3.15 (certified course) and there’s always the Columbia famously hot heat index slowing you down in June.

Taking the win was 15 year old Bennett Egan. I don’t know him, but I would guess he’s a high school cross country guy.  Second was Rick Southard, another guy I’ve never seen before. Bob Daley (3rd)  is supposedly the guy who raced with the Pale Beast at the Richland R.U.N.S. 5k  but I havent seen him since. I guess he’s gotten faster with the 18:55.

The women’s race was super competitive for a first year event, with Kenzie taking the win, MC second and Heather Brumbach 3rd. Heather had to lean at the tape to edge out Dutch Fork’s Anna Jenkins. Anna, age 13, is going to be an absolute beast when she gets older. She already blue shoed me last year at Run Red Bank. In masters, I got the consolation prize win with Jeff Godby and Matt Bernthal taking 2nd and 3rd in another photo finish in 19:55. In fact, Anna, Heather, Jeff and Matt all crossed the line almost simultaneously in 19:54-19:55.  In women’s masters, Linn Hall took the win followed by Colleen “Don’t call me Mrs. Beast” Vowles and Lisa King.

Age group honor roll: Adam Bernthal crushed a 19:38 and beat his old man en route to a win in the 11-14. Anna Jenkins took the win on the girls side for a double sub 20 11-14 age group. Wow.  Angel and the Yerg went 1-2 in the 35-39. Marian Nanney crushed a 20:31 to take the women’s 35-39 with Jessica Workman 3rd. Michael Jensen won the 40-44. Wayne Shuler ran a very strong 21:25 to take first in the 45-49. Jonathan King edged out William Brown in the 50-54, with Tom Beattie 3rd. Larry Bates crshed a 21:19 to take the 55-59, with Tour director John Gasque 2nd.  It was a CRC sweep in the 60-64, with MIke Compton, Pete Poore and Leeds Barroll. Leeds demonstrated his brutal sprint kick that is very Blue shoesesque. I was so proud. Alex Ponomarev and Ken Lowden went 1-2 in a very competitive 65-69. Likewise with the 70+, won by Arnold Floyd, Peter Mugglestone and Henry Holt.




Run Red Bank 5k and 10k – Lexington, SC – 5/30/15


Run Red Bank is in its 5th year and this marks my 3rd time doing the race. I think the race was put on by a dental practice its first year (weird), but then was picked up by the YMCA and Erin Roof, which is how I started running it. As it has been thoroughly documented in this blog, Erin’s races are exceedingly swagtastic, so despite the long odds they are always worth a trophy hunt.

That being said, let”s not sugarcoat this. This race is tough. It was held at White Knoll high school and that course was brutal. The race had a change of venue to the Lexington YMCA in 2014, which I naturally assumed was done to make the course flatter. Um…not so much. I went charging out in the 5k last year like a maniac and died a thousand deaths climbing up a mountain for the first mile and a quarter. It didn’t help it was 80 degrees and humid either. The second half was mostly downhill but I was already toast. I got chicked by a 12 year old in the last half mile and ran my slowest 5k in 5 years (20:40 something).

So I wasn’t stoked to go back again initially, but Erin told me the 10k registration was pretty low, and apparently my lust for trophies outweighs any rational thought. Because what’s better than a humid, hilly sufferfest?… doing it twice, of course. I really need to stay away from Strictly Running’s website after a couple of beers.

Oh yeah, and I was coming back from injury too. After a tweaked back nixed by Get in the Pink race, my Hawaii toe acted up and made my shin feel all tight and sore. I was panicking about shin splints and stress fractures, but some rest and avoiding the hard runs seemed to have helped. I even skipped Jailbreak too, which about killed me. I mean, the header on this page is from that race. I wanted to cry.

Since this would be the first race in a few weeks, I figured I needed to take this one easy. Actually, let me clarify. I mean not maniacally, insanely hard. Once I get a bib on, you can forget easy. But at least maybe I could rein it in some. Yeah, impulse control is not my strong suit.

Lexington is a bit of a drive for me, but I managed to make it out there about 45 minutes early. Pretty sizable crowd was there already, helped by a huge group from Run for God. About as humid as last year, maybe a touch cooler. Orinthal Striggles, Shawanna and Ryan Plexico are like the first people I see, and my immediate thought is Mrs. Roof has tricked me with the false lure of a trophy hunt. Roy Shelley, James Hicks, JOhn Gasque, Pete Poore, Craig Wlaschin, Eric McMichael, Lucia and Jeff Smith, Cheryl and Tommy Outlaw, Tom Beattie, Andy Mikula and Barb Brandenburg are some of the other familiar faces. Most surprising is the absence of Barb’s evil husband, so despite all the fast peeps, the masters trophy hunt is looking better than most. It’s tough to tell who is running what race, but a quick analysis at the start says that I can take the 10k masters if I can hold off Joe Roof. Oh, and not die on the mountains. There’s always that.


With the start I keep telling myself to run this like a tempo. No one’s going to set any  PR’s on this course, and I need to protect the gimp shin. I figure if I can do 7 minute pace I should be OK.  No problems reining it in -the first mile is a killer. After a very brief plunge down, the next mile and a quarter is mostly an uphill slog all the way to Two Notch. The humidity is like a wet blanket. Luckily the legs are fairly fresh from reducing my miles most of May. Unfortunately it’s my brain that is hurting – it seems to have having trouble comprehending why in the bloody hell did I decide to do the 10k??. Especially when you climb 2 brutal hills then look out on a half mile mountain to climb after that. Apparently Shawanna and Angel are also taking it easy because they aren’t that far in front at the mile mark, which I hit in about 7:10. Another quarter mile and I’m finally at the summit for the first climb. I’m pretty gassed already. Two  young teenage kids, who are doing the 5k, keep trying to pass me. They would surge ahead, get tired, then apparently face unbearable shame by having a ghostly white Clydesdalish 40 year old  pass them again. Eventually the Albino Sasquatch broke their spirit. The next mile or so is pretty glorious. One long gradual downhill that lets you get rid of the lactic acid bath that your legs take at the start. I think I kind of zoned out at this point and just let gravity be my friend. Mile 2 came back in 6:50ish. At the bottom of the hill you hit a dirt stretch and I hit a low point mentally when I see the 4 mile marker. Low, because the heat and humidity is getting nasty really fast, I’m facing having to climb that damn mountain again, and I still wont even be near done when I get back down again and pass this 4 mile mark for real. Once the 10k  course splits off for my second lap I realize Erin wasnt lying about the registration being weak for the longer race. Suddenly everybody’s gone, and I realize I’m probably like 5th or 6th overall in the race despite taking it relatively easy.  I can still see Angel, Shawanna and Craig pretty far ahead, and I know OJ must be in another zip code by now. Loop 2 of the mountain is similar to the Double Quarry Crusher – it actually is about the same or slightly easier the second time around since your legs are warmed up. Mile 3 is 7:07. It’s nice to get near the top since I start hitting the back of the 5k pack and there’s people to see again. My biggest demotivator is not having people to try and catch. Conversely, I will fight to the death to keep someone from passing me. And it’s at the bottom of lap 2 that I start hearing quick footsteps behind me. At first I think it’s a 5ker suddenly kicking it in but then I realize its some super fit young guy doing the 10k trying to assert his dominance. He uses me as a windscreen for a while (smart choice)  then pulls ahead as we hit the dirt stretch. Oh hells no. I decide to stay just behind as we near the split point again. Suddenly he goes right at the split up the mountain again. Apparently he loved the hill so much he wanted to do it a third time. I hear some of the volunteers yell and I tell the rest to go get him. No one deserves to climb that thing 3 times. I break off to the left and head out into a short out and back in a neighborhood, which is yet another hill. Good times. This out and back is shared by the end of the 5k course and there’s plenty of traffic, but its pretty short. At the turnaround I see superfit is pretty close behind but maybe fading a bit. I decide to put some pep in my step on the downhill as the 10k course takes one more out and back that I’ve never seen before. I remember it looking not too bad on the course map but sure enough it starts with, you guessed it, another hill. The course takes a right turn and goes up a little more, and I keep telling myself the turnaround has got to be coming up pretty close. Then suddenly OJ appears. Oh dear God. I thought OJ had already completed the loop, and he’s easily 6-7 minutes faster than me when I’m going all out in a 10k. And here he his still coming back from this “short” out and back. Sure enough another expanse opens up and there is neither a turnaround or anyone else to be seen.  My brain reminds me how stupid I was for doing the 10k. Plus, any clouds or coolness from the morning is now burned off and it is getting hot in a hurry. After what seems like an eternity,  a teenager (Brady Rafanan), Shawanna and Angel  finally show up on their way back, and I can finally see the turnaround.

Heading back towards home I see mr. wrong way is still pretty close behind so I ramp up the pace a little bit – 1) to put some distance on him and 2) to get this thing done quicker. Andy Mikula is next in line behind, and then Joe Roof a couple of minutes back. I just need to make it home in one piece to sew up the masters win. More hills on the way back.  Fun. The heat and the course have taken their toll and a few cases of the walksies have broken out around me. I don’t blame them. Finally I crest a hill near the end of the 10k out-and-back and I realize it’s all downhill until right before the finish. I ramp it up pretty close to 5k pace to make sure the dude behind me doesn’t get any bright ideas. The 40 minute 5k crowd is fully traumatized by hearing a rabid bear approaching behind them, so I make sure I give them plenty of room when I pass. I finally make out the finish clock turning over to 44, and I sprint out the last little bit to cross in 44:16, 6th overall and 1st master!  I’ll take it since the goal was to do 7 minute pace – 7:08 by official results, though 6:58 / 6.35 miles by Garmin. Erin and the YMCA did not disappoint with a ceramic tile, 10 dollar Dick’s gift certificate and 50 bucks cash! Awesome.

Orinthal Striggles easily won the 10k overall with a 36:44. Aiken’s Brady Rafanan (40:33) placed 2nd and Harbison Trail Runner Craig Wlaschin  (41:27) took third. Among the ladies, Shawanna White went out for a jog (41:20) and still claimed the win, followed by Gina Campbell (49:29)  and Erin Thompson (52:36) .  Monica Wright won female masters.

In the age groups,  it turns out Luke Fang was the guy chasing me – he took 1st in the 25-29 ahead of Palmetto Runners’ Andy Mikula. Thomas Outlaw, the younger, claimed 2nd in the 30-34.  Angel won the 35-39 with James Hicks 3rd. Lucia Smith took 2nd in the 35-39 women. Roy Shelley easily claimed the 45-49. Joe Roof won the 50-54 , with pastor and TDBS reader James Laurence second. Tommy Outlaw, the slightly more mature, won the 55-59. Cheryl Outlaw completed the Outlaw sweep by placing 2nd in the women’s 55-59. Racing machine Brigitte Smith won the 65-69.

In the 5k, it was a good day for  Strictly Running with Ryan Plexico and Jordan Lybrand going 1-2 in the overall men and Erin Suttman and Barbara Brandenburg finishing 1st and 3rd among the women. Parker Roof finished 3rd male and Whitney Craft 2nd female. Masters winners included Lisa King and Palmetto Runners’ Eric McMichael.

Age groupers included: Team Utopia South’s Michael Jensen and Todd Whalen going 1-2 in the 40-44. Stephanie Dukes won on the women’s side with Lucia’s sister Aura Sinescu placing 2nd. Tom Beattie placed 2nd in the 50-54. Tour director John Gasque crushed the 55-59 by 5 minutes to take the win. Alsena Edwards and Sue Porter went 1-2 in the women’s 55-59. Pete Poore and Leeds Barroll took 2nd and 3rd in the 60-64, while ALex Ponomarev claimed the 65-69.  Peter Mugglestone, Henry Holt and Rocky Soderberg once again swept the 70+.


Get in the Pink 5k and 10k – Columbia, SC – 5/9/15


The Get in the Pink races are in their 7th year, and are held to benefit Share our Suzy, a foundation to help fund the costs of women battling breast cancer. It’s been one of my favorite races – it’s centrally located in Columbia, draws a big competitive crowd, and has been well directed by Alicia and Matt Buffum. I was worried this year that it wouldn’t be held, as the women’s shoe store that was integral in the beginnings of the race (Kicks) went under. Luckily the race has grown enough to survive with other sponsors.

My memory is a little hazy on this one, but I believe the race was originally just a 10k in its first year (2009, and the 5k was added the year after. I recall this because at the time, a 10k was “long distance” and beyond what I thought I could finish, so I didnt do the race in ’09.  The 5k holds some cherished memories – I had my fastest Blue Shoe kick ever in 2011 in the 5k, dipping into sub 4 minute pace in the last tenth, with William “Crazy Legs” Schmitz screaming at me,  to capture 3rd place. I had forgotten who was the victim of such an unceremonious Sasquatching until Steve Fink reminded me at this years race. It was him. Sorry Steve, I will would blue shoe my first born son if it meant a chance at overall glory. I also chased down Randy “don’t pronounce the H” Hrechko one year, and there was the year I tried to chase down Winston but we both almost got run down by an ambulance. He then outkicked me. I also battled it out with Tigs and Coke Mann in an epic struggle one year. Good times.


5k finish, 2010. Beautiful.


Notice I don’t mention any actual race times. The 5k actually isn’t too bad. You go flat to downhill in the first half and then come back up the whole second half except for a relatively flat finish. It’s easy to go out way too fast and die a thousand deaths on the return. My finish photo from the Coke/Tigs year (2010, above) is proof of that. It is conducive to some fast times, though.  The 10k…not so much. It’s pretty killer. You go even further downhill, all the way to the bottom of Kilbourne to Shady Lane, then you have to make up the climb in the last 2 miles. The temps for the race are usually on the warm side, making it even tougher with the longer distance.

I guess this is where I should say I didnt actually run the race this year. Anyone who knows me is aware that I have to be really injured or really sick not to pin a bib on Saturday morning. It was the former. I did 5×1200 repeats on Owens Field track on a Tuesday, got really tight, then decided to make a little too exuberant of a move out of my office chair the next day. Tweaked the hell out of my back and made it tough to walk, much less run. I make stiff and awkward a way of life but there was no way I could generate any speed. I actually did jog 3 miles that afternoon but it did nothing to loosen it up. So I’m on the disabled list for a few more days until I can get this back thing situated. Tigs was gracious enough to work on my back at the finish line area after the race. While free in terms of money, I knew I would be paying for this in embarrassing facebook pics, and sure enough there are already some out there. They can’t be any worse than the multitude of  my ugly race faces that exist in cyberspace.

I did show up and take pics though – below are the pics I already posted on facebook but I lightened up and cropped most of them since the shadows are so bad.

Taking the 10k overall win was SC racing legend Eric Ashton, who left the field from the get-go and cruised to a 34:18. Second overall was actually women’s winner Shawanna White, who has come all the way back from hip surgery and is tearing up the roads again. She clocked a 38:34. Second among the men was longtime age group rival Phil Midden, who I am glad to see is still 39. Stay young, dude!  New rival Toby Selix has already gone masters on me and took 3rd place. Among the women, Shannon Miller ran a  39:19 for 2nd place female and fifth overall. Strictly’s Linn Hall placed 3rd.

In masters, Coleen Strasburger crushed a PR in 50:58 to claim 3rd. She and Carol used a “divide and conquer” strategy instead of their usual Mayweather-Pacquiao  like  battles. Randy didnt have to worry about blue shoed footsteps this year, taking male masters over Ty Thomas and Rob Kriegshaber. In the age groups, Matt Pollard won the 25-29. Jennifer Lybrand did the same in the 25-29 and put the pressure on teammate Linn. She did miss an easy trophy hunt win at the Poultry fest race. I feel your pain, J. Luke Godwin clocked a 41:12 on this tough course for the 35-39 win. Scott Flicker was out for a jog and still took the 40-44 win. Ramesh Tippabhatla took the 45-49 men, with Pam Boggs winning among the women. Phil Togneri claimed the 50-54. Beth McCorkle placed 2nd in the women’s 50-54. Alsena Edwards crushed the 55-59 field by over 16 minutes. Brigitte Smith placed 2nd in the 65-69, with Peter Mugglestone taking the 70+.

In the 5k, Greenville’s Matt Shock of Pace magazine rocked a sub 16 and took the win, with Orinthal Striggles claiming second and Jamie Sires 3rd. Caroline Peyton blasted a 17:51 to win over EA’s Michelle Ziegler (18:05) and Strictly’s Erin Miller (18:24).  Masters was full of beasts with Eric Allers winning the mens division in 17:57 and Mike Hedgecock 3rd. Shannon Iriel continues her comeback with the female masters win in 20:04. Tigs was just behind in 2nd in 20:29. Age groups: 12 year old Adam Bernthal followed up last week’s impressive Rose Fest 5k with an even better 19:41 to take the 11-14. In the 30-34, Jason Dimery took 1st with Barrett Boozer 3rd. On the women’s side, Jamey Wilson crusied to first b almost 4 minutes. In the 35-39, the Yerg edged out Robert King 18:49 to 18:52, showing a return to form for him. Trophy blackjacked a 21 minute 5k and got called “Mc GAY ha” at awards, which will hopefully cause him to get back on the training horse. Strictly’s MC Cox easily took the women’s 35-39 in 19:32. Palmetto 200 teammate Joel Pierstorff is racing very well again, claiming the 40-44 in 19:40. Team Utopia’s Joyce Welch rocked a sub 23 and took the 45-49 win over Palmetto Runners’ Laurie Royson, who PR’d in 24:17. Jamie Duke was 3rd. Charlene Fink won the 50-54 women, with Travis Cowan and Tom Tanner going 1-2 among the men. Carol Wallace, sans Strasburger, claimed the 55-59 and breaking the 24 minute barrier. Pete O’ Boyle, Jim Williams and Mike Griffin swept the 55-59 men in a blazing fast category.  Mike Compton won the 60-64 with a 22:17. Albert Anderson is still crushing the age groups at 66 with a 22 minute time, Alex Ponamarev finished 2nd. Henry Holt is back with a sub 29 effort to take the 70+ at age 79.




Festival of Roses 5k, 12k and Double Down – Orangeburg, SC – 5/2/15


Whoever originally thought up the Festival of Roses races was clearly a kindred spirit of mine. Instead of putting 2 races together at the same time (like virtually every other multirace event,  lets have a 12k at 7:30 and a 5k at 9:00, so that people can run both if they want. Oh, and lets sweeten the deal with a competition of who can be the fastest double dipper. Finally, someone not only recognizes the plight of the obsessive racer, but legitimizes it by making an official separate event. They call it the “Double Down”, and it is awesome.

That’s not to say I was a little torn about which race to attend this weekend. I love the Crawfish festival and the associated Crawdaddy Dash, having raced it 3 times before. The race is still cool but they strayed from their mid 90’s alternative rock band booking this year, so they lost me. Seeing Everclear in 2014 was definitely this aging music freak’s highlight of the spring. The other race was the Run to the Press Box 5k out at Lugoff-Elgin High School . I did their first event last year and I love the small town, local races – especially one only 15 minutes away. And yes, I love me a good trophy hunt.

But the Rose Fest holds a special place in my heart. I’ve only done it once before, in 2013, just before the cliff dive. I PR’d in the 12k by a minute (48:11) then ran a 19:45 5k  in an adrenaline fueled, all-out war with Billy Tisdale. It was probably the best day of my running life, and I won the male overall double down and 150 bucks. I still don’t know how I ran those times, but you throw two maniacally competitive people together and I guess they bring out the best in both. The 150 bucks was a gift card to a local drug store where I got my first pair of Costa sunglasses. They broke about as bad as my toe in Hawaii 2 months later. Good times.

So Rose Fest it was. The only thing that sucks about it is having to drive to Orangeburg, a good hour from my house. This is not usally a big deal, but then I realized I had done some crappy planning leading up to this race. Apparently in an effort to replace my 90’s alternative fix left behind by Crawdaddy, I had already gotten Offspring tickets for a show in Charlotte on the Friday night before the race. Yeah, that is just not a good idea. For one, it means being on your feet for hours trying to hold your spot in a cramped club. Two, dealing with this unpleasant situation usually involves copious amounts of beer consumption. Three, I usually go to bed at 10 and that is when the band actually decided to start…in Charlotte. Four, we even left the show early and didn’t get home until 12:30. At 5 am I woke up exhausted, gimpy-legged and cotton-mouthed. With two races ahead of me, this was not looking good at all. New flash, Alex – it’s not 1995 anymore.

But I went down to O-burg anyway. The Yerg had already told me he was double downing so that pretty much squashed any chance I had at a repeat championship. At least Michael Banks wasn’t coming back to set a state 12k record like 2014. The 12k turnout seemed very sparse this year, not sure why. James Hicks, Joe Robinson, Joe Roof and Jennifer Reeves were a few of the CRC contingent, along with myself and Yerger. Although Banks wasnt here, some SC racing legends turned up. Marc Embler, who won Cooper River back in 1980, and has been tearing up road races and state records ever since, showed up. Dave Geer, the 60 year old who kicked my ass at the Richland RUNS 10k last year en route to the 60-64 age group state record, was also on hand. Nonie Hudnall was also there – age 65 and a national level age group track beast. Erin Miller was making an appearance to surely take the women’s win. Strictly had her in the 12 and Kenzie Riddle in the 5k in a divide-and-conquer strategy. I’ll save you the suspense: it worked well.

Temps were in the 50’s and pretty close to ideal for early May. Billy wasn’t there, so I wasn’t sure if there would be anyone to pace with. I figured 6:30ish would be a decent starting point and see how it goes from there. Rob had said he was going to pace off Erin, which for me would be suicide. Erin has turned herself into an elite level runner after running behind me in 5ks just a couple of years ago. They were going to do 6:15, so no way was I going to pull that off and still be alive after the 5k point.

So there isn’t much to say about the 12k. The field was small, and it immediately separated out. I felt like crap thanks to my partying like a college kid the night before. I thought I was hitting the right split but ended up somehow doing like 6:56 in my first mile,  which is pretty close to my marathon pace. To be fair there is a long climb at the start (which makes a nice finish on  the way back) but this was still crap. By this time Rob and Erin had left me like a red headed stepchild and Geer and Embler were in another time zone. The leader was some kid who looked like a pro and was trouncing everybody. After cursing up a blue streak when my Garmin spit out the split, I tried to crank it up some. Wasn’t really feeling it. Mile 2 has a long straightaway and this was about the last I saw of another runner. Completely and utterly alone. I was able to slowly bring the pace back to my goal but it was super tough to maintain any motivation. The course was basically a winding route through a residential area. I hadn’t reviewed the course very well so I felt pretty lost. Luckily all the turns had flour on the road to mark them, but I was zoning out so much I kept fearing I had suddenly missed one. Miles 3, 4 and 5 were about 6:40. At 4.5 miles the course folds back on itself, so I finally started to see some of the middle and back of the pack, which was nice. The miles before that felt like I was out for a training run without my iPod. After mile 5 the course starts to get flatter and downhill, so I picked it up some. After mile 6 came back in 6:36, I decided to try and salvage a sub 50. At least it would give me a goal with no one around to push me. I ramped it up quite a bit and really kicked it in when I thought I was nearing the last bit on Riverside Dr. One problem…I was on RiverBANK drive. Luckily I heard a faint yell as I passed an intersection with Pinehill rd. I came to a complete stop, powered back up an incline, and sure enough I had missed the turn. Now I knew a sub 50 was going to be really tough. Once actually on Riverside I finally recognized the final hill climb that gave me the edge over Tisdale in 2013, with mile 7 beeping out a 6:26 just before.  I powered up the incline as hard as I could and then saw the clock way in the distance. Rob may have been finishing but I couldn’t tell. I ran about as hard as I could in the final half mile, total headless chicken. Tigs, warming up for the 5k, saw me and screamed out “GOOD FORM!”. Totally delusional. Everything is flopping around and looking like a hot mess . She was the one who told me Billy was right on my tail at the 2013 finish, where I nearly burst a lung before turning around and seeing him at least 200 meters back.  As I near the finish I make out the time and its going to be reeeeallly close. One more gasp and I hit the tape right at 50 minutes (50:00.9 by Garmin, 50:02 by official time). 7th overall, 1st in AG, 3rd masters. I’ll take it on a bad day with no one pushing me. Garmin had my total distance at 7.58 because of the wrong turn and backtracking, so probably closer to 49:30 if I had paid attention.

But no time to think too much about the 12k because the 5k is coming up in 40 minutes. I make sure to walk and stand around to keep from getting too tight. I realize there is zero chance of a double down victory, since the 12k winner (Chris Bailey) has already told Rob he’s doing the 5k too, not to mention Rob himself whipped my tail in the 12. Pretty much every part of my body is screaming not to do the 5k, but its too much of a hit to my pride not to give it a go. I took a bunch of pictures and was surprised to see Jennifer Reeves come cruising in at 1:20, a full 8 minutes faster than her PR. It’s a good thing too, since she’s also doing the double down, and the 5k starts exactly 1:30 after the 12. Although the 12k crowd was pretty sparse, the 5k appears to have more than made up for it. Lots of race t-shirts in this crowd, so I’m figuring not super competitive. Sarah and Eric Allers, Parker Roof, Mike Compton, and Eric McMichael are the new faces I hadn’t seen in the 12k.

By the time 9:00 rolled around, my legs were still toast and the temperature seemed to have jumped 15 degrees. I was debating the unthinkable (by my obsessive, insanely competitive standards) and actually jogging this one. I wasn’t sure I could generate any speed off the two cinder blocks I used to call my lower extremities. But then I thought about Brandenburg, and how I  could virtually be assured he was going to go trophy hunting and knock out another 10 masters points (sure enough he mailed in a 20 minute 5k at the Press Box race in lugoff, taking 1st masters – totally weak, dude.) So, I was going to have to try. At least the course was pretty flat – same start and finish of the 12k with a different neighborhood loop on this out-and-back.

The start was just ugly. My legs were sending the brain rapid-fire “WTF are you doing!!?” messages and I was getting passed left and right. I saw Bailey jump out to the early lead with Eric, Parker and Kenzie right behind. Tigs was going out hard and leaving me for dead. Rob was feeling the pain too and he lagged back just ahead of me, forming a Team Utopia mini pack with me and Mike Compton. Legs were super tight through mile 1 , which came back in 6:40 something. Wasn’t too happy pulling half marathon pace in a 5k, but I figured this would be good enough to at least score some AG and masters points.  By a mile and a half in,  I had passed Mike and it was just Rob and I out for a tempo run on very tired legs. At least I had someone to pace with. Tigs was holding her own up ahead and maintained the gap through mile 2, which was pretty much the same pace as mile 1.  Right after the split, we got spit back on to RiverBANK drive and I know we are headed back hime. I am more than ready to get this thing over with by this point, and the legs have finally loosened up some. Rob picks it up too and we start gaining on a pack which includes Daniel Patrick, a kid (Adam Bernthal) and Tigs.  We are all starting to kick it in when the three ahead, and Rob, make the same mistake I did in the 12k, running right through the Pinehill/Riverbank intersection. I yell out but no one hears me as I turn left on Pinehill then right on RiverSIDE Dr. As it turns out, the Rob/Daniel/Adam?ZTigs pack took the next left and ended up almost exactly as we were before. Rob and I hit the last incline together, but my uber competitive dark passenger has taken over and I just start sprinting it out. I pass Rob and draw even with Daniel, who informs me he is not going to be blue shoed that easily. He starts riding me like a circus monkey as we both go  careening towards the finish. Shockingly, I see we are still in the 19’s – I was already thinking of a 21 minute finish at mile 2. I’m closing very fast on Tigs but I’m also running out of real estate. It would be so sweet to take her down again within the last 20 meters (a la 2012 Shandon Turkey Trot) but it is not to be.  Bernthal’s 12 year old legs apparently are fresher than all of us old farts and he blasts through the finish line first with Tigs a few steps behind him. Daniel and I come crashing through almost simultaneously, but he had a step on me at the last moment, and finishes a few milliseconds in front. 20:10, 8th overall, 1st in AG, 2nd masters. Not a great time for me, but I was glad to clock a 6:12 last mile to make it respectable.

I was pretty happy with the results, especially with way I felt – 17 masters , 20 age group  and 7 overall  Tour de Columbia points was not bad for a day’s work. In the euphoria of being done with the grueling double, J-Reeves mentioned to me there was a masters double down category. No way. But sure enough I checked the flyer and the results, and there it was – male masters double down winner!  Wow, being 40 is great, even if I still behave like a 15 year old. Scored 2 roses and 30 bucks in the trophy haul. Erin Roof and Todd Heinicke officially remain the ultimate race swagmasters.

12k results – Chris Bailey torched the field in 39:11 for the win. Marc Embler, at 57 years old, ran a sub 6 pace 44:37 and an age group state record. Not to be outdone, Dave Geer (60 ) also set an age group state record in 45:11. They also finished 2nd and 3rd overall. I want to be like Marc and Dave when I grow up.  In the women’s field, Strictly’s Erin Miller crushed the competition by almost 10 minutes to take  the win in 45:33. I only wish she and Kenzie had doubled down and battled it out together. Anne Rosen and Julie Brown finished 2nd and 3rd.  Nonie Hudnall captured female masters  with Embler taking the mens win. Age group honors: Andy Mikula of Palmetto Runners won 1st in the 25-29. Yerg took 1st in the 35-39 with a 48:16 with James Hicks second. Joe Roof won the 50-54.

5k results: Chris Bailey cruised to a 16:24 overall win, followed by a blazing Eric Allers in 17:37, which I believe is a PR. Nice job , Eric! Parker Roof finished 3rd in 18:!8 to make Erin and Joe proud. Kenzie Riddle from Strictly Running ran an 18:52 to take the women’s win, followed again by Anne Rosen and Julie Brown. It was an awesome day for Team Allers, as Sarah and Eric both took home masters wins. Age group honors; Adam Bernthal broke 20 minutes at 12 years old to take the 11-13. Daniel Patrick won the 25-29 and pulled a rare blue shoes reversal. Run the 12k next time, dude!  Yerger and Hicks again went 1-2 in the 35-39. Palmetto Runners’ Eric McMichael placed 2nd in the 40-44. Joe Roof won the 50-54 again. New CRC’er Tim Pearson placed 2nd int the 55-59 in his first 5k. Nice trophy hunt, Tim! Mike Compton easily won the 60-64.

Double Down – Chris Bailey made it easy by winning both races to take the men’s win. Julie Brown finished 2nd behind the Strictly Running red storm twice to capture the women’s double down. Anne Rosen finished 3rd twice to win female masters.  Other familiar faces completing the double down were: Jennifer Reeves, Hou-Yin Chang, Joe Roof, Rob Yerger,  James Hicks and Joe Robinson.







JROTC Amazing 5k – Blythewood, SC – 4/25/15


The JROTC Amazing 5k is a first year event put on to support the Blythewood High program and to celebrate the 99th anniversary of JROTC nationwide. It seems they were also trying to get as many participants as possible in order to qualify for a world record – the most people starting a 5k at one time. Obviously its held in conjunction with many other event sites around the country. I think they were aiming for 105,000. The event was also free if you didn’t want a shirt, in order to get the most people possible. That’s definitely a first.

In order to start everyone at the same time, they were holding the race at noon, which set up perfectly for a double dip…if you had two X chromosomes. Sadly, the morning race was the Women’s Lexmed Heart and Sole, so no way I could sneak into that one. I’m not known for my delicate feminine features. I did get to go take some pics from that race and enjoy the fact I didn’t have to slog up the Gervais Street hill in the rain. That looked brutal…at least from what I could tell sipping on my coffee under an umbrella. Congrats to Shawanna White and Kenzie Riddle placing in the top5 5, Shannon Iriel taking masters and Janice Addison winning grandmasters!

There was supposed to be absolutely awful weather for this thing. Ben Tanner had a giant splotch of red moving over the radar at noon. I was wondering if the race would even go on, since there might be a tornado watch or something. But when I got there it was actually perfect. Cloudy, no rain, and 50ish degrees. Almost a little cold. You can’t beat that for late April in Columbia.

With it being a first year event, I have to admit there was at least an inkling of a trophy hunt involved. Of course, this came crashing down pretty quick with my stalker Jeff Brandenburg showing up and then Plexico deciding to double dip the JROTC after the Imagine a Difference race in Winnsboro that morning.  It being a high school based race, there were also a bunch of  teenage kids there who might be cross country guys.

There was a decent crowd for a first year event – results have a 100 people.  A pretty good CRC contingent – JB, myself, Paul Laymon, Mike Compton, Matt and Brie McGrievy,  Janice Addison  , Arnold Floyd, Rocky Soderberg, Alex Ponamarev, Jim Williams, Tom Beattie, Jennifer and Mario Tudor,  Tom Tanner, Lisa Smarr, Leeds Barroll, and Brigitte Smith were all on hand. Paul, a 2:20ish marathoner back in the day, was making his first 5k appearance in a couple of years. Matt McGrievy was also getting back in the saddle after a very long layoff due to a bum Achilles.  Janice, Lisa, Brigitte and Jennifer were our double dipping ladies. Erin  Roof (YMCA/Rose Festival) and Jaime Lomas (Eggplant Events/Crawdaddy Dash), our RD’s for next week’s Tour de Columbia events (along with the Able Club’s Race to the Press Box) were volunteering.

The course was a big question mark.  It’s a new certified course, starting and ending at Blythewood High. I knew the stretch on Blythewood’s main street was relatively flat, since Ken Calcutt, Diesel, Trophy and I used to run that as part of our Sunday long run. I  had no idea about the far part of the loop beyond the Langford Rd. intersection.


Like any race with a lot of kids, the start was super fast. I lined up front row and got passed by about 15 teenagers right off the bat, only to pass back all but a few by the quarter mile mark. Some kid jumped out to the early lead, with Lightning Plex striking right behind him. JB went out super fast too. I was just going to let him go, but I tried to make myself at least keep him in range. Paul was wisely using me as a giant wind shield and was breathing down my neck. After taking a left out of the school is a slow, gradual incline. Most of the kids fell by the wayside on this hill and surprisingly I was closing in on Brandenburg. Is he trying to take it easy on me? He usually likes  to crush my spirit from the get-go.  All of a sudden he’s right in front of me and we fall into a mini pack. It’s us overzealous masters psychiatrists and a tall kid who is inexplicably wearing some kind of cleats, clickety clacking along at high volume.

After the Langford intersection, the course becomes pancakeishly flat, and surprisingly remains that way the rest of the race. We hit mile 1 and I realize why JB isn’t way ahead…5:58. Whoopsie. I guess restraint was not in the cards today. I’m usually fine with 6:10-6:15. This was going to hurt. Still, I guess all the Team Utopia track torture on Mondays must be paying dividends, because I was pretty OK at this point. The next mile led us through Doko farms and into a neighborhood on the other side of Main st. I had no idea where we were. The only thing I could remember was that the mile 2 marker was somewhere on a curve on Boney Rd. Things start sucking about a mile and a half in, when I start paying for that sub six first mile. But JB was still there, and I’ll be damned if I’m going to let him go now. We hit Bethel Hanberry School and the Garmin spits back a 6:12. One part of me accepts this as a reasonable slow down from a too-fast start. Another side, the dark maniacally competitive beast within, says its time to get that sub 19 again. I surge ahead and get in front of JB, who then tucks into my sizable wake. Time to push all the chips in. I’m surging, riding an adrenaline wave when I blast out onto McNulty St, heading for home. One problem…it’s the wrong way.  The volunteer, as well as a very sportsmanlike JB yell at me to get back on course, and luckily I correct before going completely off-track.  The extra distance lets JB get back ahead and all that adrenaline goes out the window fast.  My spirit was broken. Almost. I fight to stay with JB on McNulty St and I can see Main just up ahead. JUST. HANG. ON. I’m not sure what happened but all of a sudden a kid comes down main st and passes JB at the intersection with Mcnulty. Not sure if he totally went the wrong way or he’s some guy that decided to cut the course. I think its the former, since he jets out to  lead over JB. I am just behind wishing I could crawl in the fetal position and cry for my mommy. Everything hurts and the finish cant seem to come fast enough. I’m painfully close to JB and the kid, but the body is revolting against a kick attempt. It’s hard to push it when you’re already past redline. Finally we hit the school entrance road and even this last quarter mile feels like pure torture. As I turn the last corner I can make out the clock – 18:20’s??!  Somehow I find another gear and about donate a lung and breakfast flopping across the line. 18:39. Holy crap.  4th overall, 1st in AG.

So my PR is 18:46, so I instantly start scrutinizing everything. It is a certified course, and the start/finish is exactly where it should be. The 3.06 on my Garmin is irritating me, but Plex had 3.14, and an informal survey had everyone right around 3.10. I’ll take it. In any event, it’s way under 19 minutes, and my first dip under that barrier since a fateful hike in Hawaii back in July 2013. Feels pretty damn good.

Plex won this race easily, clocking a 17:14. William Beacham was the 15 year old kid that I guess took the wrong turn and placed 2nd. JB finished in 18:31 and got 3rd. At least I made him earn it this time.  On the ladies’ side, Janice Addison crushed a 21:56 after winning grandmasters at the  Heart and Sole 5 miler. Not bad for a day’s work, and pretty incredible for 55. Stephanie Roberts and Michaela Brown finished 2nd and 3rd . Lisa Smarr and myself got consolation masters wins, since our competition was good enough to place in  the overall. In the age groups,  it was a good day for the McGrievys with a win the 35-39 for Brie and 40-44 for Matt. Matt’s 21:53 is especially impressive given his 2 year lay off. Brie almost broke 26 as well.  Jennifer Tudor captured 1st in the 40-44, also double dipping. Beth Tanner won the 45-49. Paul Laymon and Tom Beattie went 1-2 in the 50-54, with Paul sneaking in under the 20 minute barrier in 19:54. Jim Williams crushed the competition in the 55-59. Mike Compton won the 60-64 with his best time since 1995 – 21:41. Leeds Barroll took 2nd with a blazing Blue Shoe style kick. I was so proud.  Double CRC wins in the 65-69 with Brigitte Smith (double dip) and Alex Ponamarev. Arnold Floyd and Rocky Soderberg claimed the 70+.





Quarry Crusher Run – Olympia – Columbia, SC – 4/18/15


The Quarry Crusher is back again for its 4th year in 2015, and this is also my 4th time doing the race. I entered this event on a whim in its first year and I keep coming back because its one of the most unique and fun events in Columbia. The concept is simple: run about a third of a mile on a road, then plunge into the center of the earth via a mile-and- a -half -long -ten -percent- grade gravel-laden -corkscrew- of- death. Oh yeah, then haul your butt back up to the surface for the finish. Total distance about 3.8  miles. My first year I went out like a headless chicken  with the leaders, doing a 5:40 first mile. On my climb out I was reduced to a gimpy soccer mom on a mall walk, trudging up at like 14 minute pace and setting a new world record for F bombs in a race. It wasn’t pretty.

Since that time I’ve managed to do better, maintaining at least a slow jog on the way up, but I’m still on the fence as to the best race strategy. I’ve seen people do OK with the walk-run method too. The mile and a half incline is merciless and unrelenting.

Of course, what could be better than trashing your legs on a 400 foot drop into a pit and crawling your way out? Doing it twice. This year they decided to add the “Double Crusher” which was exactly that. Frequent racers such as myself possess a sick, twisted kind of masochism which makes this sort of thing seem appealing. Of course I was in for the double. Duh! Bonus: the quarry keeps getting dug deeper every year, so the race gets even longer. Awesome.

With the new double crusher in play, I was pretty psyched about this race. I showed up almost an hour early and I could tell this event is continuing to grow in popularity. Already a big crowd.  Derek Gomez had told me he would be there for a warm up. Race day was also his 40th birthday, so my brief respite from the beasts of the 35-39 was quickly coming to an end. He was doing the single crusher, so my trophy hunt was still in play. A quick look online at the registrants for both races showed hundreds in the single but maybe only 70 in the double, so the “undercard” strategy was working for me in the shiny metal trinket department.

Speaking of 35-39 beasts, my Team Utopia teammates Michael Nance. Drew Williams and the Yerg were already there. Apparently kicking my ass on the track every Monday wasn’t enough. It should be noted that the Yerg kills this race. Dude is already fast, but something about him being super light and doing all that Mount Mitchell training makes him a total quarry stud. Speaking of Mt Mitchell veterans, there was a large Harbison Trail Runner contingent on board, ready to crush the spirits of all us wussy road racers. Fearless leaders Rick Stroud and Dean Schuster were there along with  Winston Holliday, Craig Wlaschlin, Jay Hammond, Kenny Standley, Bill Siebers, Alfie Hipps, Marian Nanney and Rick Gibbons.  Other familiar faces/CRCers on site included Steve Rudnicki, James Hicks, Greta Dobe, Mario and Jennifer Tudor, Henry Holt, Rocky Soderberg, Micah Simonsen, Wes Spratt, sisters Milly and Connie Hough, Robyn Culberson, Brigitte Smith, Emily Richbourg, Harry Strick, Pam Boggs, Makenzie Wilson, John Richards, Hou-Yin Chang,  Shiela Subbarao and  Jen Reeves. Milly and Robyn had mentioned something on facebook about trying to complete the single before I finished my double. Challenge: accepted! J-Reeves asked about the option of upgrading to the double the night before, and was emailed back that they already switched her. Time to man up JR.


This being my fourth crusher, I was actually pretty familiar with the course and racing strategy. You start off with a relatively flat third of a mile or so on paved road. The first little bit in the quarry gives you a false sense of security that it isn’t going to be that bad. A soft decline and even a water stop at the half mile mark (which actually I think is for the way back up). Once you pass the water stop there is a sharp decline, then a 90 degree turn to the left and another sharp decline. I call these the upper mountains. Once you reach the bottom of the second mountain, you reach a plateau I call Oh S$^%! corner. It’s a flat area with  another water stop, and you get your first look at the corkscrew down into the seventh circle of hell. Hence the Oh S@#$#.  The rest of the course is the Corkscrew of Death, finishing with virtually no rest before you have to go right back up. For the double crusher, you have a turnaround at the quarry gates to repeat all the fun.

My race strategy was to stick with the “just keep going” plan I’d done since the second race. If I start walking, I lose all motivation, so I planned to avoid it if I could. I had no idea if that was going to be possible the second time around.  Competition-wise, if I could hang with in the middle of the Harbison guys (like Make my Day)  I’d  be happy. I dont make it out to Harbison much, but I train on Mount Sesqui all the time, so maybe that would help with the off road climbing.

At the start, I realize I haven’t hydrated well because I’m actually thirsty before I even take a step. It’s on the warm side and super humid. This was going to be rough. I had lined up about 3 rows back, but with the start I’m getting passed left and right right off the bat. It was OK, I had a strong feeling I would be seeing them again. Rob, Drew, Derek and Nance dropped me immediately, and I let them go. Drew and Gomez were doing the single, so I knew they would be hauling. Nance and Yerg were going to crush me in the double. I decide to latch on to Micah as a pacer. A half mile in I plunder the first water stop, double fisting the cups like I’ve just done a marathon, chugging like its a beer mile. At least I’ve got the dehydration thing taken care of. I am getting passed left and right on the Upper mountains. It’s the Sasquatchian Paradox: all this weight and can’t go fast on downhills.  Rapid acceleration down walls of rock has never been a good thing for me either. I take another chug at Oh Sh@##$ corner and proceed to the Corkscrew of Death. I hit mile 1 in like 6:40, which I guess is OK, considering the double.  I’m experimenting with all kinds of form on the way down, trying to get the most speed without turning my quads into hamburger meat. It’s not working very well. Between all the pounding I start hearing vague echoes from below, like some kind of ghostly hallucination. Before I start questioning my sanity, I see they’ve actually got a band down at the bottom. It’s weird because you can’t hear them at all at the top. Appropriately they are playing ” (I am) My Own Worst Enemy” by Lit when I get there. #truth. This year the bottom is a big loop, and damned if Gomez, Yerg and Nance are already completing the loop and going up again by the time I drag my butt down. I finally hit “rock bottom” and start the slog up. Somehow I always forget how much the climb sucks. It does…very much. I try very hard not to think of how long it is to the top. Micah and Craig are up ahead doing some walk running pretty much immediately. I just chug along, blazing a ten minute pace. I do seem to be passing quite a few people, though Simonsen is keeping the gap up with the run intervals.  The walksie voices start screaming pretty loudly near the top of the Corkscrew but Oh S@#%$ corner gives me a brief respite to flush out some lactic acid. Irish handcuffs again with the water. The Upper Mountains really suck but you can see the top on the second climb, so that briefly distracts me from the burning, quivering masses that used to be called my legs. Reaching the top is usually euphoric but I can already see the leaders coming back from the turnaround ahead.  The double crusher is suddenly seeming much less attractive.  But actually the way back down is much nicer. My legs are so grateful for the climbing break, I swear I’m going faster on the second trip down. It’s nice to be able to see a bunch of familiar faces, especially when you’re freefalling and they are in an epic struggle. Yes, I am a terrible person. I am still latched on to Micah, who by now is probably REALLY getting sick of having a rabid bear chasing him. Sorry for the nightmares, dude. At Oh S@#$ corner I realize my shoelaces are coming untied. Unfreakingbelievable. A couple hundred races in and I still can’t get basic stuff right (that and being able to pin a bib on straight – I really suck at that). I realize this is probably a hazard flying down a 10 percent decline, but, as has been thoroughly documented, I am not known for my sound racing decisions. I manage to make it all the way down the corkscrew with laces flying, when I finally come to my senses and stop to tie them. It about kills me because I can see Micah leaving me behind, and then Winston passes me too. It’s not fair! At least that’s what my inner 5 year old says. He actually guides much of my other behavior too, apparently. Starting up again is tough, since I’ve decided to come to a dead stop at the bottom with a mile and a half of torture to go. I launch into my power jog once again, which may have even been under 11 minute pace. Blazing. Band is playing “Inside Out” by Eve 6 and I wonder how many race/quarry related songs these guys know.  I was impressed. One thing I notice on the slog back up – its not actually any harder. It still sucks royally, but I guess your legs get used to the abuse at some point. I keep drawing near Winston, Micah and Craig when they walk but as soon as I get close they take off again. Damn them! Women’s leader Marian Nanney passes me on the run then I pass her back with my relentless shuffle on the Upper Mountains. As we near the summit of the second lap, I can see everybody start to quicken the pace, and I slowly start to fire up the engines. We reach the gate area and we’re only a third of a mile on the road to the finish.  Micah and Craig seem out of reach, but Winston has fallen off the back a bit and what’s this?? It’s a pink Ray Tanner shirt! Must be Milly or Robyn. And then the beast is awoken. It feels like I’m taking a twitchy stick shift out for a ride, but I quickly switch about 5 gears up to 5k pace, and then all out headless chicken mode. With about 50 meters to go I pass Winston and then Robyn, who I think said something unprintable on my way by. In an all out sprint, I try to take down Micah, but he finishes a step ahead and narrowly avoids being run over by the Sasquatch bus. I cross the line in 51:19, 12th overall in the Double, and inexplicably, 1st in age group! Apparently it pays to be 40 this time – i would have been 4th in the 35-39.  Awesome ginormous race bling for the age group winners – bigger than a lot of marathon finisher medals.

In the Double, Brad Popple won the overall by like 5 minutes. Dude looked like a pro and was running up the quarry looking like my 5k pace. Harbison trail runner Marian Nanney took the women’s win. They only did 1st in AG for the double, I guess because of the small field. In the 30-34, Sheila Subbarao beat out a host of elite 30-34ers to take the win, with Craig Wlaschin winning among the men. Bill Siebers took the men’s 45-49 and Catherine Harris took the women’s title in a pink tutu. Stole my idea. Kenny Standley ran an amazing 44:49 to take 2nd overall and win the 50-54. I am not worthy. Wes Spratt won the 55-59 but paid for it with one of the best finshing photos of all time. Dr. Shawn Chillag took the 65-69.

In the Single, Derek Gomez celebrated his 40th in style by taking the overall win, edging out Trent Morrow and Jeremy Becraft. Strong work, dude! Jennifer Oblinger took the women’s win. Ryan Sacko placed 3rd in the 30-34.  Drew Williams technically took 3rd in the 35-39, though they used chip time on age group awards instead of gun time, so he was left out. Rick Gibbons won the 55-59, and Jack Kuenzie took the 60-64. Brigitte Smith won the 65-69, while Henry Holt and Rocky Soderberg went 1-2 in the 70+.