Kiawah Marathon – Kiawah Island, SC – 12/13/14


Photo Credit: Pat Norcia

So this is it. Somehow I got suckered into signing up for the Kiawah Marathon about nine months ago. My mind was already made up – this would be a year to get healthy and maybe, just maybe, get somewhere near where I was before my Hawaii debacle in July 2013. But everyone was planning for a fall marathon then, and my 5k speed was picking up, so somehow I developed the twisted notion to do Kiawah.

And this wasn’t going to be for grins and giggles. Oh no, if I was going to do another 26.2, it was going to be for all the marbles – the elusive Boston qualifier. The big BQ. Sure, the longest run I had done since my cliff dive was 13.1 at the Newberry Half, and nine minutes slower than my PR. But my melon head has no limit to its grandiosity, and I was in.

One problem – I suck at marathons. I’m all 5k – 20 minutes of cathartic pain and frenzy is my thing. Carefully measured pacing and restraint is not.  And the marathon has been a brutal mistress. She left me wrecked on the side of the road in Richmond at mile 18. I got way dehydrated at Jacksonville and was saved by a random stranger with a water bottle. Richmond part II brought me to a crawl past mile 22.

And this whole BQ thing. Fortunately my advanced age bought me 5 extra minutes. I turn 40 in March so I could get in with a 3:15. That’s great and all, but my marathon PR was a 3:20:44 in Jacksonville which I thought I ran almost perfectly (save for the guardian angel with the critical water bottle at mile 12).  I was going to have to shave at least 5 minutes. “At least”, because even those who qualified last year got screwed when the race filled up before those that were close to their qualifying times could register.  Just ask Randy Hrechko or Jeff Godby about that. Brutal.

So I was probably looking at more like 3:13 to be sure. That’s around 7:20 pace.  Just a 22 minute 5k….eight and a half times in a row. No sweat, right? Yeah.

To be honest, I had very little confidence going into my training. But Justin drew up the TUS workout schedule (on a monthly basis, as not to scare us for the horrors to come) and I drank the yellow and black kool-aid.  No messing around this time. Sure, I switched some days so I could do my ridiculous racing schedule, but I made sure I did every key workout.

I’m pretty sure Justin did some time at Guantanamo Bay before coming to SC, because this plan was insane. I was doing mid week 10 milers, crazy long speedwork, marathon pace intervals in long runs. It beat me up pretty bad. Luckily the Pale Beast agreed to be my company for the Sunday long run misery, so that helped. I finally came up for air for a couple of days to test myself at the Savannah half last month. It was total Mr Miyagi paint-the-fence/wash-the-car/sand-the-floor. Totally stunned with a 1:28 –  a 2 minute PR. Not post-cliff, but all time. I was convinced.

Flash forward five more weeks. Three more killer 20+ milers.  Tapered for about a week and a half. I was scared to death of every little twinge and tingle but managed to make it to the starting line healthy.  Code, Joyce, Justin and I rented a condo on the island, just a short walk from the start. Definitely the way to go. Doubly nice was not having to share a bed with the Code, though our sleeping accommodations were better suited as military barracks for children.  Plus Darrell likes to keep the condo at below 60 degrees to help him sleep. As if you didn’t know he’s a freak already.

But you couldn’t argue with the condo location. I got to desecrate an actual bathroom instead of the portapotty nightmare. Sweet. We were able to leave at about 7:40 for an 8 am start. Everyone and their mom from Columbia was here. Meme Spurgeon, Pam Inman, Angel  and Laurin Long (running the half post chemo – total beast mode) were there for Palmetto Runners. The Strictly “Red Storm” featured Erin Miller, Linn Hall, Jennifer and Jordan Lybrand and MC Cox.  Pete O’Boyle, Karen Manning, Geary McAlister, Howie Phan, Mike and Kat Hudgins, Coleen Strasburger, Ken and Patti Lowden,  Sheila Subbarao, Shufy Rowe, Lee Walker, Jennifer and Mario Tudor were some familiar faces.  TUS fielded myself, the Code, Coach Bishop, Lorikay Keinzle, Carol Wallace, Julia Early, Joyce, Ivanka Tolan, the Yerg (running the half with Laurin). Jessica was running with Marathon Man.  In a great coincidence, my high school friend Cole Smith was running the marathon with the same BQ goal, and Emily Granberry , my original running partner, was visiting from San Antonio to do the half.   Temps were cold and little to no wind or humidity. Time to put up or shutup.

I was nervous as hell at the start but I had Cole and the Code to form a mini 3:10 pace group. I had gone back and forth as to what I would try to do, but I figured 3:10/7:15 pace gave me the optimal speed with room for error. Main goal: Anything under 3:13. Reach goal was to go sub 3:10. B standard: 3:14:59. Nice on paper, though I knew all was theoretical since nothing prepares you fully for the actual race.

With the start there was a lot of jockeying for position, but we were finally able to settle into a nice groove. We rattled off a bunch of sub 7:10 miles. It felt pretty crappy early on. Just none of the light, euphoric feeling from Savannah. I kept trying to block out the mental magnitude of the 26 miles. Luckily we had Superman in our pace group – also known as Joe Wilson from Atlanta. He helped keep us occupied on something other than the long miles ahead of us and gave us a mini history of running in Columbia in the early 2000’s when he lived there. He even knew Brandenberg and how he’s a beast on the bike. Great – as if JB’s ego needs any boosting. Pace was dialed in pretty well, if maybe a touch fast. I figured it might be good to have a little time in the bank anyway. Yeah – we’ll get back to that.

Kiawah no longer has a two loop course, which is nice, though one must realize its a pretty small island. Solution: run down every cul de sac and road in the whole place. The majority of the distance was four out-and-back “fingers” which took you out to the north end of the island and back. The first finger (miles 5-9) was nice – it felt good to be out in the sun and you could start to see the race unfolding ahead of you. Eric Ashton and the two other half leaders came blowing by us on the way back at some insane speed, and I thought for a second Kiawah had added a 5k. Nope, just some low 5 minute half marathon pace. Holy crap. Joe and I had separated a bit from Cole and Darrell at this point, which I knew meant bad news for the Code, since his half PR is three minutes faster than mine. This was his first marathon though.  Popped the first espresso love GU as planned just before the turnaround at mile 7. The way back probably made my race. So much support from all the other Columbia runners, even some people I didnt even know were there. Its easy to stand out when your 6’3″, in a black singlet, and have the complexion of Edward Scissorhands. I even saw Emily out on the course for the first time in 5 years – that was pretty cool. I got a little speedy but made sure to tell myself to not be an idiot and trash my race by getting too excitable. Yeah – we’ll get back to that too.


A whiter shade of pale

A whiter shade of pale


Once the first finger was done, more flat shady miles in the main part of the island. Kiawah is kind of like Hilton Head – everything is kind of understated and everything pretty much looks the same, so I had no idea where we were. Some girl, who I assume was doing the half, was getting it and using me as a human wind shield (FYI, if there’s one thing I’m good at its blocking wind). She was sucking air like it was going out of style and I felt like I was being chased by a rabid hyena for at least a half mile. I guess we all get a dose of our own medicine at some point. Joe sped up a lot on the way back and gapped me quite a bit. Suddenly Cole comes back into the picture, and it was just us for a while. Neither one of us were runners or athletes in high school, so I kept thinking how improbable this moment would have been to our 1993 selves.  All of a sudden the half and full separate at about 11.5 miles. I am mercifully relieved of hyena girl and it gets dead quiet. There’s like one guy ahead of us, and he’s the only thing separating this race from a glorified training run at this point. I had been feeling pretty good up to this point, but there was a little belly churning going on and I was fearful of having a Code Brown signature moment. Thankfully it subsided. Hit the half at 1:34 – a little quick but basically right where I wanted to be. Second finger was miles 14-15. I was feeling a little tired, but GU number two gave me a jolt of energy. I ended up leaving Cole and passing Joe and I felt pretty good.

Then I broke the first rule of marathoning –  respect the distance. I admit, the head started to swell and I started thinking about rocking the crap out of this race. I was going to be a bad ass and pull off some ridiculous 3:05 or something. I hit mile 15 in 6:57 and kept going. Another 6:57 at mile 16. I was feeling great. Only ten miles to go – how hard could it be?? Third  finger was miles 16-20. It just went on forever. I saw Robby walking and I was crushed, since we had done a lot of the Team Utopia speed sessions together. Still, he was on his way back so he was probably at least a mile ahead of me. Angel was also on his way back and looking strong. It felt like we running halfway to Charleston (at one point you could even see the Cooper river bridge) but eventually the turnaround came. On the way back things started to take a slight turn for the worse. I was still hitting the 7:10ish pace but I was laboring a bit more. I saw Larry and Joyce looking good on my way back in.  Finishing the out and back was the 20 mile mark. I forget the exact time but I was way ahead of Justin’s 20 mile Boston threshold of 2:29. I got a slight jolt of adrenaline but my great feeling of miles 15-17 was definitely gone.

You get dumped right back into the out and back of finger four for miles 20-22. Things were going south in a hurry – certainly the fatigue but also a subtle mental fogginess too. Ruh roh. The mile markers seemed to be taking a lot longer to appear. I hit mile 20 in 7:18, which was my first one slower than goal pace. This scared me a bit so I think I pushed it a bit in the next mile, bringing it only down to 7:14. I finally took a sharp right and I knew it headed back to the finish. All of a sudden I  hear a cop shouting me down on the road and I realize I’m supposed to be on the damn paved trail. Turning around and having to go backward was pretty crushing. Mile 22 was in 7:23 and I started getting really scared. I felt like complete death. I put the blinders on and just tried to focus on whatever I could see ahead of me.

At the mile 24 mark I knew I was in a world of trouble. I was still on the paved trail, now dodging three hour plus halfers. A few times I stepped off the path and felt my leg start to crumple beneath me. I wasnt familiar with that, but I figured it was decidedly bad. I finally hit mile 25 after an eternity and I didnt dare look at my Garmin. At this point I was dangerously close to having to hit the med tent. Just  totally in a fog, nauseated, legs like jello. One mile to go – even with the death march going on I knew I had enough banked time if I could just get my Sasquatch ass across the finish line. I summoned all the demons of the past 16 months to help me – the pain and frustration  of Kauai, the walking on the side of the road in near tears when my toe hurt too bad to run, the months of couch surfing. I kept screaming to myself “IT’S JUST ONE FREAKING MILE!! YOU CAN DO THIS!! “. That , and a new world record for F bombs. Finally, finally, I “saw the light” and people turning towards it. Either I was about to die or this was the finish. I was ready for either. Luckily, it was the latter. Justin caught me at the turn and said “You’re going to Boston!!” and I made out  3:10’s on the clock. I got a jolt of adrenaline and tried to muster a kick and instead got brutally blue shoed by a woman half my size (wow, after rabid hyena, that’s karma payback number two for this race). Hit the tape at 3:11:16. Nine minute PR and a BQ by almost four minutes. Completely blown away.  In my mind I had envisioned some triumphant, epic finish to BQ, but at this point I was complete and utter toast. I sat down on one of the chairs and had to wait about 5 minutes to make sure I was a) not going to puke and b) not going to pass out when I stood up. So it wasn’t glamorous… but damn was it sweet. This guy gives it a big thumbs up:


Lots of people to list here thanks to our huge Columbia contingent. Coach Justin was a little underwhelmed by his performance but still grabbed third overall in 2:44. I do owe him a huge debt of gratitude for getting me to Kiawah perfectly trained and injury fee – thanks dude! Maybe I’ll take it easy on you in our next Sega NHL 95 showdown.

Team Utopia BQ’ers also included Lorikay Keinzle (who also got 2nd grandmasters in 3:44), Joyce (3:38)  and Julia (3:48). Robby, Cole and Code had a tough day but its only a matter a time before they will join the 2016 class. Mike Hudgins had a big PR with a 4:30.

Others included Angel rocking a 3:06 to qualify for Boston again. Karen Manning rocked a 3:28 (BQ), Jennifer Lybrand 3:33 ( a big PR and new BQ), Larry Bates 3:35 (BQ), Wendy Hart 3:46,  Hal Ray 3:54, Laurie Royson 4:02,  Meme Spurgeon 4:06 (first marathon)  Ivanka Tolan 4:11 (first marathon) , Alexandra Rippy 4:18, Lorand Batten 4:19 Pam Inman 4:24, Mike Hudgins 4:30 , Jessica Workman 5:41, Hou-Yin Chang 6:05,  Jennifer Tudor 6:16, Mario Tudor 6:16,

In the half, Caroline Peyton finished 3rd in 1:22, with Erin Miller just behind in 5th in 1:23. Eric Ashton placed 3rd in 1:11. Linn Hall took 3rd female master in 1:32. Irv Batten blazed to first in male masters in 1:17, while Marc Embler set a pending age group record with a 1:19 at age 57. Wow. David Quick placed 3rd grandmasters in 1:24. MC Cox took 3rd in the brutal 35-39 age group. A quick scan of the results: Jordan Lybrand 1:31,  Geary McAlister 1:32 (3rd in AG) Howie Phan 1:33, Pete O’Boyle 1:34 (4th in AG), Leyden Hane 1:42, Lee Walker 1:44, Carol Wallace 1:51, Coleen Strasburger 1:51, Sue Porter 1:57,  Kana Rahman 1:59, Renee McCormick 1:59, Sandy Smith 1:59,  Heather Alexander 2:04, Peter Mugglestone 2:04, Emily Granberry 2:07, Mike Wainscott 2:08, Teresa Harrington 2:08, Ken Lowden 2:12, Jeff Smith 2:17, Sheila Subbarao 2:21, Patti Lowden 2:25 Kat Hudgins 2:49, Rob Yerger and Laurin Long 3:13. Sorry if I missed anybody.





Shandon Turkey Trot 8k and Runway Run 5k double dip – Columbia, SC – 11/22/14


Oh, the double dip. I mean if youre going to be all obsessed and race every week you might as well go all out, right? While I wouldnt recommend it for your average road racer (i.e. someone who values sound decision making and adequate rest) , the double dip is perfect for the advanced level trophy hunter.

The first step is actually finding two races that are physically possible to make it to the start line of both without finding a wormhole in the space-time continuum. You would think that a relatively small city like Columbia wouldn’t give you many opportunities for this, but with multiple races every weekend in the spring and fall, its more common than you think. Preparation is also key – if its going to be a time crunch, early packet pickup is crucial on the second race. Parking your car in a getaway position at the first race is another consideration. Timing of portapotty hits, warmups and mental strength are also variables which come into play. It is not for the faint of heart.  But I have apprenticed under the wing of double dip veterans like John Gasque, Pete Poore, and William Schmitz, and they have taught me well.

This tutelage culminated in my senior thesis: the March for Meals/Colorectal 5k/Race Judicata triple dip in March 2013. Three races, three age group wins, 35 Tour de Columbia AG points and 17 open points. Oh and we mustn’t forget the epic shaming of the Trophy in the third race. Victory has rarely been sweeter.


But this double dip is pretty easy. Sure the Shandon Turkey Trot is an 8k, but its about as flat as downtown Columbia races come. The Runway Run is a 5k , two hours later and completely level.

Shandon has historically been one of my favorites. Certainly not for its course – while its flat, it is one of those cursed two loopers that cruelly brings you by the finish area when you are only half  done. No, it is because it has actual, honest to God trophies. Big ridiculous turkey ones…even for age groupers. Awesome.

Unfortunately there is usually some pretty tough competition for the golden turkeys, and in the past Code, Angel, Phil Midden, Drew Williams and other random superfit soccer dads have shown up to steal my precious. But this year was looking up. When I got to the race, there were none of the usual 35-39 suspects except for Ken “The Pale Beast” Vowles.  Time for yet another albino showdown I guess. Although I still savor the holy grail of the Resurrection 5k overall win over him, the Beast gave me such an epic beatdown at Race to Read that it  still gives me nightmares. He remains my sole rival that can beat me at my own game: the Blue Shoe kick.

Omar Sharif was the one elite level guy I saw at the start, but Strictly also brought in Shannon “Decent” Iriel, Jeff “The Pose” Godby and Luke “The Stache” Godwin as some worthy Blue Shoe level competition. Kenzie Riddle was also there to claim the women’s win.  Parker and Joe Roof, Colleen “Ms. Beast” Vowles, Beau Long, Ponamarev, Gasque, Henry Holt, John Zemp and Wes and Rhea Spratt were some familiar faces. Laurie Royson was on hand to cheer on her son Cotes in the 4k.

I did about a mile warmup with the Beast but I was afraid to do too many miles with the double dip. My strategy was to try to aim for 6:20’s similar to last weekend’s 5 miler. The start separated out the top end almost immediately. Omar and Parker blasted out to the front with Kenzie right behind. Shannon went out fast too just in front of me. For the first mile, it was weird to actually have a pack to run in. I tucked in behind the Beast, Luke, Godby and some other guy. Just as we approached the mile mark myself and Vowles separated a bit and he hit the split at about 6:27, right where I wanted to be. Although the course is pretty flat, mile 2 had the only major inclines. One thing was sure, this week was going to suck a lot worse than last. Legs felt like crap. Vowles was on me like white on rice. This was going to be brutal. Mile 2 faded to 6:41 and still felt like death despite being at the same pace as most of Savannah’s half. I tried to pick it up some but legs refused to respond.  What’s worse is that “other guy” from our mile 1 pack was almost literally breathing down my neck, using my Sasquatchian physique as a convenient wind shield.  By the finish area, I could see we were way over pace, like 16:20 for the first lap. I really wanted to bail out to the 4k, but I’d never hear the end of it if I “won” that race. The second lap at least got me over the psychological hurdle of the two looper. Mile 3 was in 6:37.  By this time “other guy” had faded and it was me and Vowles running stride for stride. Shannon was still ahead from the start but I could sense our gap slowly shrinking in the 4th mile, especially when we hit the inclines near the Prospect street turnaround. I knew I was in trouble. For one, the pace had picked up some and damned if the Beast wasn’t right at my side. I know I have to break his spirit early or kick it in from way out to hold him off, and neither seemed to be happening. Right around the mile 4 mark I tried to throw in a surge and I passed Shannon (it should be noted she is just 2 weeks out from a 3:11 marathon). Ooh, maybe I’ve finally lost my shadow?? Not a chance. Just when it started to get a little quiet here comes Vowles panting like an elephant in full stampede mode. We both start ramping it up from there, at least .75 to the finish. I feel like the sweet release of death would be nice at this point but my maniacal competitive streak will not let me back away.  You can see the finish from way out on a long straightaway and we are just flying down the home stretch. Just when I think its going to be a photo finish, Vowles finds another gear two blocks out and leaves me in the dust. I try to respond , but the legs and lungs have had enough. I cross the finish in 32:18, 6th overall and 2nd in AG. Not my best race, but glad I was able to push it to the finish. Last 0.96 was in 6:11 pace so at least I made the Beast earn his victory.


Omar crushed the field in 28:06 to take the easy win while Parker Roof also broke 30 to take second. Kenzie took the women’s win in 30 and change with Shannon and Christie Martin placing 2nd and 3rd. Theo Kuhler, a 16 year old kid, placed third male. Luke Godwin placed 3rd in our age group and 9th overall, proving the 35-39 is always stacked. Godby finished a few seconds behind him to take the 40-44.  Other age groupers included Matthew Pollard taking the 25-2 and Carly Jackson winnin gth e 30-34. Colleen placed 2nd behind Shannon in the 40-44 since they didnt take out 2nd or 3rd overalls. Beau Long placed third in the male 40-44. Joe Roof was tops in the 50-54. Wes Spratt placed third in the 55-59 despite being ruthlessly turkeyed by “Thom Gobbler” (,aka Shawn Chillag) who took home 1st in the 60-64 in full costume. Henry Holt won the 70-98 in sub 10 minute pace at age 79.

I had to leave of course before the award ceremony. Sources confirm they only had medals this year, which crushes me. You know I love my golden turkey. Other sources confirm that Strictly will likely be taking over the race next year, so hopefuly they can resurrect my favorite gilded bird.


Nothing like crushing out the last mile of a 8k and having to think about racing a 5k in less than 2 hours, but that was the task ahead of me. Plenty of time to get to the airport. Legs feel trashed but less sore than they have on other double dips. I already had my packet from early pickup so I was good to go soon as I got there. I did a quick mile or so warmup with James Hicks. Felt good to flush out the lactic acid bath I had just given my legs a half hour before. The Runway Run is in its fifth year and this is supposed to be the last year of the event. Not sure why, since the race has exploded to over 600 runners a year now. Must be something with airport operations, though CAE is hardly O’Hare.

Since they offer a free airline ticket as the top prize, the big dawgs will come out for this. Three time champ Eric Ashton showed up along with fellow elites Ricky Flynn, Jud Brooker and Justin Bishop. Several hundred people on the runway made it hard to scope out the crowd but I saw Linn Hall, Geary McAlister, Birgit Spann, Ilia Owens, Makenzie Wilson, Drew Williams, Tracy Tisdale-Williams, and Ian Clawson. This was also the target race for the Run for God program, so Jeanna Moffett and Bill Haselden led a huge group from Riverland Hills.

I’m not sure what happened to the start of this race. I was back in the middle of the pack taking pictures and had just put my phone away when I hear a GO, and the whole crowd stampedes. I didnt hear an intro or anything. Suddenly I’m weaving through hundreds of people in a total free-for-all towards the open runway. The sudden break into race pace isn’t doing the double dipped legs any favors, but it actually feels easier on the lungs. I guess I already blew them out in race #1. I find a seam on the outer edge and find my way up through the mob, first seeking out Birgit then just trying to find around a 20 minute 5k pace. The wind is always critical at Runway and this time its smacking you in the face the whole way out.  I hit mile 1 in 6:28 – not too bad considering the hundreds of people I had to dodge to get there. Shortly after the mile mark the course turns, forms a track like loop, then folds back towards the finish. Right near the loop I spot Drew Williams, who appears to be inexpicably just cruising along. Then I realize he is pacing Ian. Hopefully, one less age grouper to worry about, though Ian is getting faster by the day so I didnt know for sure. Must be nice to be young. All of a sudden I spot Micah Simonsen to my left and he is motoring along at a good clip. The break in the wind and the turnaround has me feeling better so I ramp up the pace some in hopes of holding Micah off. Suddenly I’m all alone for awhile as I pass mile 2 in 6:20. Strangely, I now feel the best that I’ve felt for the whole double dip. The wind is no longer a factor, I’m headed home, and I see a strange pack up ahead to try and track down. Its Linn and two other small women right next to her with Geary McAlister, a whole head taller than the rest of them, right behind. I’ve suddenly locked into some zone and everything seems to be flowing easier. I’m going way faster than before but have no idea what my pace is.  I finally catch the pack with a little less than a half mile to go . I thought Linn was battling it out for first so I tried to encourage her to follow me to the finish. The guy ahead has led us way out on a wide turn when I know in years past you could take the inside track near the grass. I dont want to get DQ’d so I follow. By the time I can make out the finish I’ve been redlining it for a while and its getting rough quickly. But seeing red numbers apparently causes enough of an adrenaline spike to keep me going. I’m surprised to see 19:30 on the clock and I sprint it out as hard as I can to the finish, crossing in 19:49. I’m shocked to learn this is good enough for 1st in AG and 8th overall. I had no idea since the chaos of the start gave me no sense of who was still ahead. Last mile of 6:05 certainly helped get me under 20, though our wide turn made the course 3.17 miles.

In the overall, Ricky Flynn cruised to the win in 15:17, with Jud Brooker not toof ar behind in 15:48. Eric finished third in 16 flat. Justin posted one of his best times of the year with a 16:29 to take 4th. Alyssa Bloomquist, running for Eric’s new racing team, crushed the women’s field in 18:01. Linn’s pack was a race for second actually, and looking at video shows I was awfully close to getting chicked by Kaci Handlery. All three of them broke 20 minutes, with Linn finishing 1st in female masters. Geary was just a few seconds behind in 20:05, taking first in male masters (watch out Geary someone turns 40 in 3 months). Birgit took 2nd in female masters in 20:42.


Ian made mom and stepdad proud with 1st in the 11-14 and a new PR 21:19. Alex Wilcox was the guy ahead of me at the end, though I had no idea with all the oxygen deprivation going on. Micah took 2nd in my AG with Drew still getting third even on pacing duty. John Ramage of RUI placed 2nd in the 55-59, while Harry Strick took 3rd in his new 60-64 age group. Ageless Albert Anderson took 1st in the 65-69 in 21:52, which is surely an 80+% age grade performance. Impressive.





Spring Valley Presbyterian 5k and 5 miler – Columbia, SC – 11/15/14


The Spring Valley Presbyterian Church 5 and 5 is a small race that actually has been around for 22 years – it was previously known as the Bizarre Bazaar 5k and was tied to the fall festival (“the bizarre bazaar”) put on by the church. They’ve now separated the event and added a 5 miler, hence the 5 and 5.

Last year was a bit of a nightmare, as the top 8 5kers, including myself, got sent off course and ended up running just a little over 2 miles. Even though I was still recovering from my injuries last year, I don’t think I’ll be able to touch my 13:20 “5k” PR set at this race in 2013. Jennifer Lybrand and a couple of the 5 milers also ended up taking a tour of northeast Columbia and ended up all over the place. However, this turn of events led to what has to be the most mind boggling trophy hunt of all time: Wes Spratt winning a 5k. That’s like me winning the Kona Ironman. The apocalypse is surely upon us.

But with Gov  Cup just a week beforehand, and the course just 5 minutes from my house, this is a trophy hunt I couldn’t turn down.  Blue Shoes trophy hunt rules dictate running the “undercard” race if there are two offered. However, since i knew the 5k to be more established, I figured I’d jump into the 5 miler and try to get an overall win. Brandenburg usually does the 5k at this race, and sadly, he can probably still whoop my tail even at his advanced age.

I get there my customary hour early and it is just balls out cold. For whatever reason, November this year has played out like January, and I’m shivering even in my warmups.  I did 2 miles with the Pale Beast, who fortunately was doing the 5k.  Kenneth comes with us and announces he is doing the 5 miler with me. He just ran sub 17 at the high school state CC champs last week.  Trophy hunt has officially been flushed.  Damn these meddling kids!

Jennifer Lybrand, John Gasque, Andy Mikula, Alex Ponamarev, Peter Mugglestone and Tommy/Cheryl/Gizmo Outlaw are some of the few familiar faces in what is a pretty small crowd. Jeff, Barb and son Clayton fill out a formidable Team Brandenburg contingent.  The Spring Valley CC team fielded quite a few in the 5k, thus scuttling what I’m sure was also a trophy attempt by the Beast. When they lined people up for the start, only myself, Jen, Barb, Mikula and Kenneth knew about the different 5 miler start area, so we thought it was a 5 person race initially. Fortunately about 20 or so ended up coming back to us after the brief intro announcements at the 5k start.

With the start,  Kenneth takes off like a bat out of hell and I actually try to give chase for a while.  The 5k starts simultaneously about 50 meters ahead of us so we hit the back of the 5k pack almost instantly.  Fortunately my tailback moves are sharp from last week’s Savannah mass start and some of the 5k walkers avoid getting run over by a crazed Albino Sasquatch. A quick turn left and Kenneth leaves me for dead. Up ahead I can see the Pale Beast locked in an epic battle with Brandenburg…and his dog. Wolfgang the weimeraner trains with JB in Sesqui all the time and does coyote and deer chasing  intervals, and can apparently rock out a 5k as well.

I take a right onto Valhalla and push up a hill, where the female 5k leader is not taking too kindly to being chased down by a rabid grizzly. I pass her at the top of the hill and then plunge down into Hogans Run, which does a small loop before coming back to Valhalla. Mile 1 pops up on my Garmin a bit ahead of the mile marker at 6:23, about what I had planned. The first nasty hill is just afterward, running up across Valhalla again and onto Viking Dr (Yes, for some reason the Woodlands has a combo Nordic-Golf theme to their streets). I can still see both Vowleses, Brandenburg and Wolfgang up ahead. Kenneth has already blown past the 5k group. I track down a straggling Spring Valley kid just to inflate my already oversized ego, and suddenly the courses split in front of the country club. I’ll hand it to the race organizers – they made sure no one went off track this time. Each turn is decked out with volunteers, signage and painted arrows. That’s how its done.

Once the course splits and I realize the downside of a tiny race trophy hunt. Pale Beast, Jr. has entered another zip code and is nowhere in sight. On the other side, I must have a minute or two on Jen and Mikula. Read: I am completely alone. I come crashing down a huge hill on Wotan and my Garmin chirps back the 6:33 surprisingly loud, because there is complete silence. The split isnt too bad considering the roller coaster of hills on that mile, but I still try to ramp it up some. But between the quiet and no one to chase, I keep fading into mental lapses. It gets tough to maintain pace when I keep fading into designing my Clash of Clans base, tolerating the cub scouts camping trip or thinking about how bad that 21 miler is going to suck tomorrow. I hit a 6:27 3rd mile and take a turn from Valhalla to Valkrie. There they have a cheering outpost that is hilarious. They were just milling around until someone spots my Sasquatch ass lumbering towards them. All of a sudden Sandstorm starts blasting out of the loudspeakers and they start screaming like the girls of Wellesley at Boston. You’d think Meb was running through.  I try and play to my newfound fame but the second I leave the area I hear the soundsystem cut off and complete silence again. I dont hear it again so I know I’ve got a comfortable lead on #3.  Right after Sandstorm is a nasty slog up a two tiered hill. I had been running pretty smoothly but these mountains deliver a 1-2 punch to my lungs. Strangely my Palmetto 200 teammate David Mcneice is camped out on one of the turns and it takes me a couple of seconds to realize he’s not a hallucination. I hit mile 4 just over the top of the mountains in 6:27, so still on pace. I give myself a quarter mile to restore the whole oxygen exchange problem with the hill climbing and start kicking it in. Back on to Valhalla then a long stretch to Sparkleberry rd. I am going close to all out though its tough to gauge my pace since I’m now merging back in with the 30 minute 5kers, most of whom appear scared to death of the elephant stampede they hear behind them.  Just as I round the last turn my Garmin spits out the mile 5 split (6:14). Wait a second… that’s supposed to happen at the finish line. I had hoped to sub 32 this race but I by the time I make out the clock its already flipped over to 32:04. One last blue shoe kick blast and I cross the mat with two 5kers who are probably fearing for their lives from this strange albino freight train coming through. 32:26.  5.08 miles. 2nd overall.

I’ll take it. I think it actually equates to my 8k and 5 mile PRs by my Garmin, and the 6:23 overall pace would get me my first sub 40 10k if I could hold it for another mile. Justin’s 55 mile Kiawah training weeks are definitely paying off.

Kenneth blazed the course in 29:30 for first place, robbing me of my trophy but at least not teasing me with any hope of beating him. Jennifer Lybrand raced smart this time and I believe captured a 5 mile PR in the process, running 35:18 and 1st overall female. Andy Mikula ran 36:09 and took 3rd male while Barbara Brandenburg took 2nd female in 39:33. Notable finishers (everyone placed in their age groups) included CRC’s Peter Mugglestone and Tommy Outlaw, Running under the Influence’s Alfred Baquiran, and USC School of Medicine fellow alum Cedric Rivers.

In the 5k, the Spring Valley team swept the overall with Ben Garrett, Jacob Malodow and JB’s son Clayton Brandenburg. Sadly the Pale Beast was taken down by an actual beast as weimeraner Wolfgang smoked him with a vicious 4 legged kick. Human companion Jeff Brandenburg also edged out Ken by 3 seconds. Oh, the shame. Sara Bonner took the women’s win in 21 minutes and change. She is still recovering from getting Sasquatched. John Gasque, Cheryl Outlaw and Alex Ponamarev all took home age group wins.







Savannah Half Marathon – Savannah, GA – 11/8/14


OK… Let’s try this again.

That’s what I told myself back in April when I convinced myself to head back to Savannah for the Rock and Roll Half marathon.  There was a big group going down from Columbia, many inspired by Team Trust – the group assembled in honor of Jake Zeman, the Columbia runner who died near the finish line last year.  The course is super flat, the weather is usually ideal, and the town is beautiful. What’s there not to like?

Well, the only problem was that was my same thought process in 2013. I was in my peak running shape, all signed up for the full marathon, and ready to make my run at Boston 2015.

And then Hawaii happened. Control-Alt-Delete.

As it turns out, wrecking most of your body and missing 3 months of running is not on most marathon training plans. But I did make it a point, that, hell or high water,  I was going to make it down there. I ended up backing down to the half and pacing Ashley to a sub 2 hour time. I’d like to say I did that with ease, but having only hobbled a few 6 milers before the race, that 1:56 was no picnic.  I thought I might have lost her at the end, but she epically blue shoed me right before the finish line. I was so proud.

I really didn’t know when, or if, I would be able to tackle long distance again after that race. The gimp toe just didn’t like it. I was able to slowly build back some miles over the next few months,  feeling like I was clearing up the wreckage from some disaster. My legs had turned into mush, I had put on some pounds, my cardio had gone to crap. My pure sprint speed, always my strength, just wasn’t the same with mr. mcgimpy toe.

But somehow things got a little better this spring and I started getting faster. It peaked with my ridiculous win in the Resurrection Run, and I think the grandiose glow of this accomplishment led to me throwing my hat back in the ring for a fall marathon. This time it would be Kiawah, with the Savannah Half as a training test about a month out.  I hit Justin’s Team Utopia South training program with a vengeance. It was, and is, brutal. I’ve been putting in 50-60 mile weeks and feeling tired a good part of the time. I was training right through races so I had accumulated some confidence –deflating results, especially Ray Tanner.

I was actually giving myself 2 whole days off before Savannah this year. It felt like an eternity. The Code called me the day before and said Shannon and Joyce had two spots open in their condo, so I quickly dumped our crazy expensive $330 a night hotel (this is typical for marathon weekend in Savannah) and shacked up with them. Code said he would take the couch when we got there, but the queen Tempur-Pedic was too much to turn down. Now I have Joyce’s “snuggle bunnies” photo that will probably follow me around as long as my “tri fail” pic.  According to my wife, though, I made the right choice in sleeping arrangements. Friday night we participated in Shannon’s pre-race pizza ritual with Jeff and Andrea Godby at Vinnie Van Go-Go’s, which was amazing. That led to me participating in my pre-pizza ritual, consuming large quantities of beer. I hoped that decision wouldn’t come back to bite me.


Race morning was pretty much perfect. Temps in the 40’s. Not much wind.  Shannon left early since she was doing the marathon and had to find Jeff, who was acting as her first half pacer. I had planned to do a two mile warm up with Joyce and the Code but ended up doing portapotty intervals with all my aggressive rehydration from the previous night’s beerapalooza.  Code and myself made our way to corral 1 and found Scott Flicker, who was doing the full in a BQ attempt. I felt good but my races in the past month had me with pretty low confidence. I figured I could target the 6:54 pace needed for a 1:30 and see what happened. My PR was set at the Charleston Half way back in 2012, 1:30:22. The sub 1:30 had been one of my goals to break before I decided to break my leg instead last year.

The start was pretty insane.  There were like 17,000 people in this race but luckily we were separated by pace in corrals. I had thought corral 1 would be fast but there must have been a lot of people with grandiose streaks, because this mob scene was shuffling like a herd of cattle. It took about 25 seconds for me even to reach the start mat. The whole first mile I was in full tailback mode, trying to find any crease or seam I could. Code apparently has better running back skills than me because he was leaving me for dead right off the bat. So much for his “marathon pace” tempo run he was blabbing about. Of course knowing Code, I knew this was complete crap.  I caught up with Shannon and Jeff about a half mile in and wished her good luck, completely ignoring Godby who was feeling all hurt. And I thought I was the attention whore.  The first mile has the only real hill on the whole course – a trip up a highway overpass. With the hill and all the dodging, I thought for sure I was at 7:30 or something. Surprisingly, my Garmin spit out a 6:54. Right on target.

The next few miles are a lovely tour of Savannah’s finest pawn shop and title loan neighborhoods. Not the most scenic, to be sure, though I do admit the residents were out in force and vocal. Much better than some off the stuffy historic districts. My legs were good and warmed up by now and everything felt completely different than my last few races.  Like I had energy, like my legs weren’t  cinder blocks. Psychologically I was still in full Debbie Downer mode – surely this wouldn’t last, there’s so long to go, blah blah blah. I decided to try and block it into race distances I was familiar with, so I started with the 5k. Miles 2 and 3 were high 6:40’s and I crossed the 5k mark at a little over 21 minutes.  I was pretty astounded by this – my worst 5k this year was around 20:40 so this was blazing for a half.  I was cautiously optimistic, but far from getting too excited – still 10 miles to go. The slog back to the historic section was often right into the sun so I kind of drifted into a zone at this point.  I had settled into a nice pace and clicked off a few high 6:40’s. I was banking a few seconds against the 1:30 so this would be good later on when I was sure to fade some.


I woke up some when we entered the heart of the historic section just as the 10k point was approaching. I was still feeling pretty good, maybe a little fatigue. I hadn’t trained with GU at all this year, but for some reason I brought my old espresso love gel  this time.  Just before mile 6 I took the gel and realized how much I hate GU. It did seem to give me  a little boost though, plus the crowd support is great right around the relay zone (theres a marathon relay in addition to the half and full) . The 10k was just over 42 minutes by the main clock. Subtract 25 seconds or so and I had just run my fastest 10k since Cooper River right before Hawaii.

Instead of making me more confident, I was actually more afraid that this was going to lead to an epic bonk. The Debbie is quite strong with me.  I purposely slowed a touch and hit mile 7 in 6:55. Ruh roh, here it comes.  But at some point I realized that the fade just wasn’t happening. My legs felt strong. The course was flat. The weather, perfect. GO FOR IT. 10k to go.

With that I took off.  I started catching people. First slowly,  then in big groups. What was once a huge crowd now thinned to a group like a local 5k. One guy didn’t take too kindly to getting passed and told me to “go get those 5 more miles”.  I took this moment of douchery and used it to reel off a few  6:40’s, making sure to drop that dude good. When I reached mile 10, I got the first twinge of euphoria that this was really going to happen. Not only was I a good minute under 1:30 pace on the big clock, but I knew I had another 20+ seconds on top of that. I figured about a 22:30 5k would get me my goal.  I took my first tentative step inside the pain cave and decided to kick it up a notch. Mile 11, 6:31. I was starting to suck some wind, but I was completely jacked up on adrenaline. The crowd was getting more and more sparse.  After passing hundreds of people I finally got blue shoed myself by some super lean bearded guy in a singlet, but then realized he was doing the marathon. No one else had my Sasquatchian physique around me, so I knew was blazing it.  Just after 11.5 is the split from the marathon course and it’s a straight shot to home, except for the last curve right at the finish. There were a few soft inclines and I actually faded a touch to 6:40 again in mile 12. But as I passed the last mile marker, I saw a familiar gait in the distance. THE CODE. By this time there was some hurting going on, but the euphoria of the impending finish was incredible. I kept gaining on Code the whole way in. I knew at some point I couldn’t catch him, but I was at least going to make it close.  The finish is a turn into a tunnel of people and noise and I was in full blue shoe kick by this point. I saw Code cross the line and looked up to see low 1:28. I sprinted it out on pure adrenaline and probably scared half the spectators with an Incredible Hulk yell at the line. 1:28:40’s by the big clock. 1:28:29 official time /6:44 pace.  Ho-ly crap.  PR by almost 2 minutes and 70th out of 10,000+.  To say I was a little excited would be the understatement of the year.





Soon after I saw Jeff finish and we realized Shannon was absolutely crushing it. She was on 3:10/11 pace through the half. I had brought my phone in my spibelt fanny pack like my usual dork self, but it was nice to be able to track people live. Joyce came blazing in way ahead of schedule and I barely got a pic of her finish. She got a 1:40 and a big PR, which even qualified her for the super strict New York Marathon automatic qualification standards. We hurried back to the condo to change but was way bummed when we just missed Shannon’s finish. She crushed a 3:11, not only a BQ by over a half hour, not only first masters, but 4th overall. Incredible. Scott Flicker came in 2 minutes later and punched his ticket to Boston 2016. Other Columbia area finishers included Betsy Long, Katharina Vorhauer, Winston Holiday, Julie “Flashbang” Bitzel, Sydney Frontz and Brad Marlow.








Ray Tanner 12k – Carolina Stadium – Columbia, SC – 10/11/14



The Ray Tanner Home Run 5k/12k is only in its 9th year, but has become one of the focal points of the road racing year, perennially drawing just about everyone who runs in Columbia. Its put on by Ken Lowden and his huge group of volunteers, so its always a well done race. Plus the course is one of the best in the Midlands – a two bridge route over the Congaree river and a finish at the home plate of Carolina Stadium.

That’s all well and nice, but the event has been a thorn in the side of my road racing career.  Of all the races I’ve done, it remains the only one that I have no bling to show for it. Not one trophy, medal or shiny trinket. Not even an age group placement. Nada.

The primary reason for this is my determination to get the bling in the 12k. There is a 5k, and my primary trophy hunting rule is to always go with the undercard, but I’ve come so close in the 12 so many times that I keep going for it. And keep losing. I’m the Susan Lucci of the Ray Tanner Home Run.

One main reason – Superfit Soccer Dads. These guys stealth train and never race, remaining completely unknown until they show up and kick my ass at Ray Tanner. And they are always 35-39. Perhaps the most crushing was my course record 49:10/6:36 pace in 2012, which got me all of 23rd overall and eighth in age group. Eighth. One of my best races ever and I wasn’t even close. Damn them.

This year was looking up though. The Code was wussing out and not racing.  The Yerg was chasing Boston at the Steamtown marathon. And I didnt see habitual Blue Shoe beatdowners Angel Manuel and Steven Johnson on the stalker list (the Ray Tanner website had a participation list).  Even the Pale Beast was doing the 5k. The age group was looking good. Maybe, just maybe,  this was the year.

I showed up my typical hour in advance, looking ridiculous again in my black TUS singlet, alabaster guns ablazing. No one ever said I raced pretty.  Shirley and Sandy even ragged me for not combing my hair. Ugly is my trademark. Trophy showed up a little while later and started complaining about the weather, and with good reason. The weather sucked. Perfect if you wanted to hang out for a backyard barbeque. Not so good if you wanted to race 7.4 miles. Just ridiculously warm and humid for October. In the 70’s and 80 percent humidity, easy. My grandiose goal of breaking my course record wasn’t looking good. I did the first mini loop of the 12k course and realized quickly this was probably going to suck. I was soaked like it was late July and it didn’t help the legs were complaining about another 50 mile marathon training week. Was it too late to go switch to the 5k?

Everyone and their mom showed up for this one as usual. I thought Eric Ashton and Tim Jeffreys would have a showdown for the win. Justin was doing a marathon pace run but that would probably still place him pretty high. Plexico was also there to ramp up the  local elite factor. The women’s race was decidedly less stacked – I didnt see any of the elite ladies from Charlotte, but Erin Miller and Linn Hall were there from the SR racing team to make it competitive. Shannon must have been pulling the wuss card with Code and Joyce. There was a rare Larry Jourdain racing appearance. David He was back in training and racing again. No surprise to see Flicker, Howie, Ty, Brad Marlow, Larry Bates and Burgess. Jennifer Lybrand was there a week after her ultra (you might have heard about it on facebook ;) ). Colleen “Mrs. Beast” Vowles  and Birgit Spann were on hand to race Jennifer. Charley Clements, Michael and Kate Ferlauto, Sarah Blackwell, Lisa King, Bill Haselden, the Robertsons, Bill Iskrzak, Pam Inman, James Hicks, Arnold Floyd., Henry Holt,  Scott Marr, Peter Mugglestone, Cait Costello, Tommy Outlaw, Greta Dobe, Joe Robinson, Jennifer Reeves,  Mike and Pam Griffin, Wes Spratt, Mr and Mrs Diesel, Lisa and Jesse Smarr were some familiar faces.  Mike Jensen,  Mike Compton, Ashley Horton, Chris Fawver, Tracy Meyers, Carol Wallace, Sheila Subbarao and Kana Rahman were there to represent the black and gold ( or not (cough) Ashley (cough)). And this was just the 12k.

This pic is already giving me nightmares

This pic is already giving me nightmares

I didnt see most of the 5kers since they start 30 minutes later, but the Beast, Jason Dimery, Meme Spurgeon, Eric McMichael,  Brian and Jennifer Clyburn, Brady Ward, Sarah and Eric Allers, Jeff Smith, Luci Velicu, Debbie McCauley Meg Weis, Daniel Patrick, Jonathan King, Pete Poore, John Gasque,  Rocky Soderberg, Tom and Lisa Hart and Jonathan Burrows were there. Apparently Ted Hewitt was there but he must have gone totally stealth.

After an intro by Ken Lowden and the Tanners, and a prayer from Jim Manning, we were off. First mile is a flat, track like loop taking you around a few blocks and right back to the start line again. I’ve told people time and time again not to go out too fast on this loop – you hit the start area again and there’s like 1000 people screaming, so of course there’s a tendency to speed up. I try to stay in control, but I think the oversized melon is seized with grandiosity and tells the legs to blast through the whole area alongside the stadium. It doesn’t help that Linn Hall has latched on the Blue Shoes express and is shadowing me step for step.


mid Rick Flair-esque wooooo!

Can’t let her get in front of my posturing for pictures. Mile 1 is hit right around the corner from the stadium after the loop. I figure aiming for about 6:42 (50 minute pace) would be a good start. I let out the first F bomb of the day as soon as I hear my Garmin beep and give me the split. 6:16. That’s a decent split for me…for a 5k. I thought I was doing OK despite the ridiculous first mile, but directly after the mile marker is the long slog up the Blossom Street railroad bridge into the Greek Village/Colonial Center area. The sun started beating down in my face and I wanted to crawl in the fetal position and cry. Wind suckage commenced. Howie started leaving me for dead and Linn took the lead on me. Luckily the course flattened out in the Greek Village and gave me some time to recover. I scared the hell out of some early rising (or perhaps still awake) sorority girls who had never seen an Albino Sasquatch. Sorry Tri Delts. A long straightaway to the Colonial Center, and Flicker gives me the beatdown just as we turn up the Green St hill for a mini loop before turning back. Linn is starting to gap me but I’m keeping her in sight. Mile 2 comes back in 6:52. Um , yeah, just a touch slower.

Mile 3 is a trip back down the straightaway and back over the railroad bridge. By this time I realize that I have really shot myself in the foot with mile 1, because I feel like death. It hurts me deep inside to think about the hills to come. Somehow I manage a 6:51 for mile 3 but the wheels feel awfully close to falling off. The cruel twist of the 12k is that you go right by the finish line (Carolina stadium) right at the mile 3 marker, and it takes every ounce of willpower not to just step off the course and walk on over. But there’s the Strictly photographer and MC Cox taking pics, so I cant let that shame be documented for posterity. So I soldier on over the Blossom Street bridge into Cayce in what feels like a snail’s pace.  To add to my sense of slowness, the 5k has begun and the leaders start to pass me. Two kids and Eric Allers blow by me like I’m standing still. Oh God, please let me make it to B avenue (the 5k/12k split off) before the Pale Beast catches me. By the time we reach the State street turn I notice I’ve reeled in Linn just a bit. Even though I’ve already accumulated an oxygen debt I cant afford to pay, a little bit of race adrenaline goes a long way with my overblown ego. But as I near the notorious B avenue mountain, my Garmin shows I’ve faded to 7 flat, and I start dropping more internal F bombs. What’s worse, some kid in racing spikes is in the 5k and is chasing me down with the most annoying click clack sound ever. I will not let him break me! Plus, I figure Vowles has got to be right behind him.


Somebody shoot me

Finally we reach the Inspiration station with the steel drum band and all of Ken’s friends volunteering. I try to use this energy and ramp it up to avoid getting Vowlesed and to attack the mountain of B avenue. B avenue is not super steep, just endless. It sucks jogging up the thing. Racing up it is pretty soul crushing. A quarter of the way up though I actually catch Linn, who is also dying a thousand deaths. She swears she will never chase me again. I swear I’ll never go out like Jennifer Lybrand on crack again. Surprisingly, my wind sucking has abated somewhat – probably the product of finally recovering from the start and also the heavy mileage volume of marathon training.  I feel a little better because of it, though its all relative since no one feels good climbing this monster. Less than halfway up Eric Ashton, Tim Jeffreys, Ryan Plexico and Justin come flying by on their way back down. But there’s hardly anyone after that, so I know there’s not too many people up ahead. Maybe, just maybe I can age group?

Few things are nicer in your road racing year than finally reaching the top of the B ave. mountain. Mile 5 at the top is 7:08 but its always way slower with the climb. Unfortunately I dont have much drive left in the legs to really crush the downhill like I’ve done in the past. It is nice to see everyone behind you on the way down. Even catching Diesel getting the walksies near the bottom. C’mon dude!

Legs feel like toast after jackhammering down the mountain, and it starting to feel like summer with all the heat. I scare Tenacious J’s daughter Sophie (running the 5k with dad Jeff)  by trying to yell some encouragement. Jeff tells me I’m not trying hard enough if I can yell, which is a good point. Apparently the lungs are enjoying the marathon training more than the legs.

The turn off of State street is kind of a nightmare because the 12k is now fully merged into the back of the pack 5kers, some of whom are walking like 4-5 people across. And we are crossing  the Gervais street bridge, with one lane of active traffic. So now I feel like a mega-douche for screaming at people to get out of the way on the far left, but its either that or I get run over by a truck. Plus there’s one stretch where literally the whole lane was blocked by walkers and a woman pushing a stroller right in front of me. I’m sure she and her child are having nightmares by now of being chased down by loud, panting polar bear, screaming ” ON YOUR LEFT!!!

I can’t see most of the 12kers in front of me now, with the huge crowd of walkers, except for shirtless guy. I think he was one of the dudes that passed me early on, but he’s fading a bit. After the bridge is a nasty climb on Gist and Huger street, and you can stick a fork in me. Still, I can’t tell how old shirtless is, and maybe he’s one of the Superfit Soccer Dads. All of a sudden Rocky Soderberg, who’s doing the 5k, surges right next to me and tells me to take down Shirtless. Rocky runs about 9 min pace 5ks these days (at age 72) but he apparently can still harness some of that 1966 SEC mile champ speed (’s%20Indoor%20Track%20and%20Field%20Record%20Book.pdf) (See page 6). Oh jeez, I cant let Rocky down. But I’m in  world of pain by now and it would be so nice to just phone it in.  Plus, Shirtless is ramping up the pace as we near the finish.  Once you crest the Huger St hill, its all downhill to the finish. I hit mile 7 in 6:39 and try to muster a kick. I’m starting to give up on catching the guy but my ego will not have it. I start to draw within 10 meters or so as we hit the tunnel of the stadium. I hear Shirley announce my name on the stadium PA system and seeing the finish line sends me into an all out headless chicken. I blow by Shirtless right at third base and flop across the finish at home plate, in what is surely one of the ugliest finishes of all time, preserved by Milly Hough:




No one ever said I raced pretty. 50:34, 16th place. And……4th in age group. Trophy was more than glad to inform me of this fact. More painful was seeing that I would have placed in every single age group…except my own. Susan Lucci’d once again. Oh well. At least I was able to tell “Coach Rocky” that I did what I was told. It turns out Shirtless is named Matthew Pollard and is all of 28, so it never mattered anyway. Sorry for my douchery, Matthew.  You can take solace in the fact you look way better in your finish photo than that abomination in the foreground.

In the 12k, Eric Ashton smoked the field in 39:34/5:19 pace, nearly two minutes clear of the field. Incredible, especially at age 46. Tim Jeffreys and Ryan Plexico went 2-3.  Justin Bishop nailed his marathon pace at exactly 6 minutes and still finished 5th in what was essentially a tempo workout. I think I hate him, even if he is coaching me.   Erin Miller crushed the women’s field in just under 48 minutes, with Linn Hall taking second and Kristin Lowe third. No surprise to see Larry Jourdain and Howie Phan take male masters and grandmasters respectively, with Chantal Faure and Birgit Spann winning for the women.

In the 12k age groups, Alex Robertson won the 14-16. David He took the 25-29 over the guy in the background above. See, being eleven years older gets you squat. Jamey Wilson took second in the female 25-29, just ahead of Jen Lybrand taking third on tired legs. Bishop won his age group by 8 minutes in the 30-34. Phil Midden took second in my group in between Daniel Carter and David Taylor, neither of which I’ve ever seen before. Flicker said he was doing a marathon pace run and took first in the 40-44, but unless he’s going sub three he night have been racing a little. Colleen “Don’t call me Mrs. Beast and definitely don’t call me Vowels” Vowles won her age group by four minutes over Dorette Coetsee. Pam Inman won second in the 45-49, while Ty Thomas and Jeff Burgess went 2-3 on the men’s side. Brad Marlow went out for a jog and still won his age group, with Phil Togneri finishing 3rd. Lisa King and Tracy Meyers went 1-2 in the 50-54, while Larry Bates won the 55-59. Alsena Edwards and Carol Wallace went 1-2 on the women’s side. Lynn Grimes captured first in the 60-64 women, while Mike Compton finished second among the men. Bill Iskrzak and Peter Mugglestone finished 1st and 2nd in the 65-69. Brigitte Smith claimed 2nd in the women’s 65-69 while Arnold Floyd blew away the competition in the 70-74. Racing legends Henry Holt and Jesse Smarr claimed the 75+.

In the 5k, Greg Lowing from New Jersey won, ahead of locals Hunter Jarvis and Jason Dimery. Megan Weis claimed 3rd overall female behind Caroline Peyton and Heather Elliott. Team Allers cleaned up on the masters division, with Sarah and Eric both taking the win. Steve and Charlene Fink did the same in the grandmasters division.

Age groupers include: Tus’ Daniel Patrick winning the 25-29. The Pale Beast Ken Vowles took the 35-39 in 19:28, his second best time behind last week’s 19:10. Jen Clyburn won the 35-39, with Lucia Velicu second. Meme Spurgeon claimed 3rd in the 40-44 in a super competitive age group, Jennifer Conrick placed second. Lisa Hart placed second in the 45-49. Jonathan King took 2nd and Jeff Smith third in the 50-54. Rocky Soderberg took the 70+ by a mere 17 minutes.

Richland R.U.N.S. 5k and 10k – Owens Field Airport – Columbia, SC – 10/4/14


Richland R.U.N.S. is a new race put on by Richland County in celebration of the county’s 215th anniversary, benefiting the United Way.  With a 5k and a 10k option, a first time race, and a date the week before Ray Tanner, this race set up nicely for a trophy hunt. Now, one of the key Blue Shoes trophy hunting rules is to always do the undercard. The 5k is my best race anyway, and this was going to be a fairly “flat and fast” route that borrowed heavily from the Crawdaddy Dash course.

But then they had a press release about the 10k winner getting a airplane tour of Columbia, and I thought that would be pretty cool. But I was still on the fence until I went Strictly stalking. Although the Strictly Running site doesnt have a “participant list” option, you can check names individually with the “confirm entry” button. Technically this is for people to make sure that they are registered, but it also serves as a beautiful way to stalk your competition. Sorry Angel, Code, Stephen Johnson, Phil Midden, Derek Gomez, OJ Striggles. I am one sick bastard, and you guys keep me from my precious golden trinkets. Unfortunately for me, the Pale Beast has now ended up on the stalk list, and sure enough he was in the 5k. That was fine and dandy when a 200+ pound , 22 minute 5k running Beast existed, but now the Vowles is a lean, mean sub 20 machine. I had gotten a beatdown at Race to Read, and my oversized but fragile ego couldn’t handle a potential repeat of that shame.  The 10k it would be.

Which overlooks one major thing….I suck at 10ks. And double loop courses. (Richland RUNS is a two looper.) Not to mention my 50+ mile week preceding the race, getting the virtual smackdown by the TUS Kiawah training schedule.  Oh well, you never know.

I actually couldnt decide between the races for so long that I missed the online registration and had to sign up at the race table. I couldnt find it at first and ended up signing in just 20 minutes or so before race time. To say it was a little disorganized at the sign up table would be an understatement. The girl took my check and wrote my name and bib number on a scrap piece of paper. That’s a first. I did a couple of miles with the Beast and Meme as warmup and it was basically time to go by the time we got back. There was a slight delay with all the scrap paper entries but we eventually were in place. Definitely a small crowd, though good to see the CRC making a good show. Kimberly Taylor, Marie Demetriades, Pete Poore, John Gasque, Lisa Smarr, Sandra Manning, Meme, Vowles, Sheila Subbarao, and Leeds Barroll were some of the familiar faces.

Other than Lisa, I didnt recognize any of the other 10kers. Our start was first, and my quick trophy hunt assessment of the crowd made things look pretty good. One older guy in a singlet, who looked upper 50’s,  and two reasonably fit guys that were probably under 40.  I jumped on the start and was out in front for about 50 meters before I started to make a wrong turn. Apparently it was two loops with a tiny out and back at the beginning. Gotta study those course maps better. Older guy and young headphones guy jump in front and I linger just behind them as we completed the little loop. Instantly there was a world of suckage because the road (Jim Hamilton Blvd) paralleling owens field is ever so slightly uphill and is a freaking wind tunnel right in my face. Its killing me but I’m already getting dropped like a bad habit by older guy. WTF? This guy has to be pushing 60. My fragile ego is getting shamed anyway as karmic payback for wussing out against Vowles. But hey, maybe he’s going out at a suicidal pace, <cough> Jen Lybrand<cough>, only to fade later.  I try to keep him in my sights. Um, yeah, not so much.  There’s the nasty hill at the beginning of Crawdaddy and it punches me in the stomach, particularly when I have the painful thought I’ll have to do this twice. Getting beatdown by a 60 year old and feeling like death makes me believe I’m doing something north of 7 minute pace, but the Garmin spits out 6:41 for mile 1, which really shocks me. The guy in the singlet may be old enough to be my dad, but he sure as hell isn’t running like it.  I should also mention that one of the other guys is also kicking my ass, but he at least looks younger than me.

And that’s pretty much it. I passed the other fit looking guy about 200 meters in and by Rosewood Drive I was completely by myself, which would stay that way until I caught the back of the 5k pack towards the end. Miles 2 and 3 were about the same as one, pacewise, but then I hit Jim Hamilton Blvd and the Crawdaddy hill and pretty much mentally checked out. Between the wind, inclines, and no one to race, my pace went to crap. Fell from the 6:30’s to 7:01. Once I hit Rosewood again, I noticed that all the marathon mileage may actually be paying off because I didnt feel as wrecked as I usually do on the last couple of 10k miles. The course turns downhill all the way to the finish once you take a right on Ott, so I figure I’ll try to make something of this race, which has turned into a solo hard workout. Back into the 6:30’s for mile 5 and I ramp it up a bit into the last 1.2. I can actually see #2 again with the quickened pace, but I don’t have a shot in hell of catching him. The Beast makes an appearance about a quarter mile from the finish and seabiscuits me in at about 6 minute pace. I hit the finish in 41:44, 3rd overall. Not my best , but not terrible either. I ‘m still chasing the ghost of the sub 40 10k four years after my first sub 20 5k (and almost 2 years after my sub 19’s). Hawaii has something to do with that, but hopefully I can make a legit shot at that goal in the next couple of months.

Speaking of goals, the Pale Beast, who also goes by Ken Vowles, crushed an insane 19:10 in the 5k. Forty two seconds off his old PR. 42. I was just joking about the cocaine last weekend but maybe he is doing lines before his races. Helps to be 20 pounds lighter it seems. Wish I could make that happen. He also placed 3rd overall.

Oh, and singlet guy is 60 year old Dave Geer, whom I actually recognize from looking through old race results. Dude was a legend in the 80’s and 90’s, like Ashton level,  and apparently still has it. He has a pending state 60-64 10k record with his 37:23. 6:01 pace. Smokin’!

Lisa Smarr took advantage of the trophy hunt and nearly took the female overall in the 10k, just getting nudged out by a 23 year old. Meme continues to rack up the overall wins with another in the 5k. Pete , John , Kim, Sheila , Sandra and Leeds all took home some age group bling.





Race to Read 5 miler – Lugoff, SC – 9/27/14



Everybody remembers their first time…

Race to Read was mine. In 2010 I ran this race before it was on the Tour de Columbia, before it was on the Palmetto Grand Prix. Just a little rural race with a loop course to benefit Doby’s Mill Elementary school . I thought I was going to end up third in the middle of that race, and I was going to be pretty happy with that. There was a fit looking kid with a Lander college singlet out in front and Greg Howell seemed to be pulling away  for second place.

But the kid bonked at mile 3 and Greg started to fade. A quarter mile from the finish, I passed Greg in full-on headless chicken mode. I somehow suppressed two dry heaves on the last turn and came crashing through the finish in what was assuredly one of the most hideous finishes in SC road race history.

But I won. Not just the age group. The whole damn thing.

If my first age group win the year before was my gateway drug, this was pure cocaine. The overall trophy hunt was my new addiction.

But alas, this was 4 years ago. Betsy Long, the race director, got her race on both the TDC and the Grand Prix, and changed the date a couple of times to avoid other race competition. Although the race was still small, it certainly had no lack of speed. My chances at a repeat victory grew increasingly small – especially when beasts like Justin Bishop and Ryan Plexico started signing up.

But that doesn’t mean I  stop trying.  I even signed up last year, a few weeks removed from walking around in a orthopedic boot and bearing the multiple scars of my ill fated cliff dive in Hawaii. I finished 6 minutes slower than usual, but at least I got to relive the glory of the course.

This year I had been signed up for a couple of weeks but the race got talked up at this week’s Team Utopia South practice, so it became an unofficial side event for the team. Coach Bishop, the Code, Joyce, Julie, the Pale Beast and myself were all on board for the black and gold.  I also recruited my friend/coworker Michael Ferlauto to sign up after plying him with pizza and craft beer the night before.

There was a small but decent crowd on hand when I showed up. Of course, any thoughts of the overall win were squashed with Bishop showing up, but “Trackstar” Eddie Lopez was on hand to pick up the slack should the “A standard” get attacked by a stray country dog. Heather Costello was also there, which made getting chicked a virtual certainty as well. Billy Tisdale was there to provide me a nice pacer. In addition to the TUS crew, Jen Lybrand, Alex Ponamarev, the Robertsons, Rocky, Andy Mikula, Burgess, Shirley Smith and Ron Hagell were some familiar faces. I did a nice 2 mile warm up with the team, during which some Lugoff-Elgin high school guys dared to mock the Utopians. That was ok, because nothing feels better than administering a beatdown to a kid half your age (in a race, of course). Code was in typical “I’m going to suck because I have a (insert leg/foot injury or illness here)” mode. Julie was all spazzed because this was her first time competing in front of the coach, plus her chances of playing DJ Khaled were severely limited by the presence of Ms. Costello. And of course, the Battle of the Paleness was set up once again with myself and the Beast.  Bishop was on a most unpleasant race puke streak that he was hoping to break. Notably absent were the Wards, who live like 5 minutes away, and the Trophy. You’ve been officially called out, guys.

With the start, the first quarter mile is uphill, so the small crowd thinned almost instantly. Also instant, in my mind, was the fact it was a lot hotter than last week and wearing an undershirt to my racing singlet was a terrible idea. There had been some significant time since my last pool/beach visit, so the guns were back to their ghostly pallor, which caused me a moment of ill-fated vanity that morning. I mean, when did I start caring what I looked like in a race?? Racing ugly is my signature. Anyway, the heat was building up from the get go. I settled in behind Billy with Vowles on me like white on rice. Lybrand had done her usual sub 6 sprint off the line but she retreated back to sanity quicker than usual, and we passed her about a half mile in. The rest of mile 1 is flat on a country road into the sun, with the marker just as you turn right onto a gravel road. Split was 6:30ish, so not too bad. I didnt want to go out too fast with the hilly second half.

Mile 2 is almost completely on the gravel road, and mostly a slight downhill (with a slight bump towards the end). The downhill was nice, but Vowles was pretending he was a Garmin training partner. I became acutely aware that we were completely alone and that there was only one sound of feet hitting the ground. Completely in tandem. Damn, he means business today. I could see Billy up ahead, a Lugoff kid, then Code and Costello together. Justin and Eddie had pretty much dusted us by the time we neared the mile 2 mark. It was about this time when some significant suckage commenced. Whether it was the high mileage this week, or too much Ommegang Three Philosophers Quadrupel Ale (oh, you didnt know I was an epically douchey beer snob? Now you know.) the night before, I was laboring way too much. And Vowles was trying to leave me. Never! There’s a nice scenic route through Turtle Creek Farms in the third mile, but you tend to not notice the cows and horses because “the hill” starts kicking your ass. Its no Blossom Street or Quarry, but its long and highly sucky. I’m used to powering up it and dropping some road kill on the way, but Ken is actually dragging me this time.

The mile 3 marker is at the top of this monster (definitely the slowest, almost 6:50) and my legs feel like lead. All the spring from last weekend is just gone. And the Pale Beast must sense the blood in the water, because he just takes off. Not a subtle surge, but he starts barreling ahead like the finish is around the corner. And I’ve got nothing. We finally turn the corner at an ancient gas station that looks like it closed in the Carter administration, and we’re back on the road home. A much welcome downhill all the way to the mile 4 marker. I suck at downhills but I’m trying my best to push the pace, but my spirit is getting crushed every time I look up. Vowles is speeding up and passes Billy. What the hell, did he snort a line of coke at the mile 3 marker??  I’d like to say I used this as the catalyst for an epic kick to the finish, but my legs were having no part of it. Split at mile 4 was actually about the same as the first two, around 6:30, but it felt slower with me getting so brutally Beasted. After the marker is the last nasty hill, over a quarter mile slog up to the Doby’s Mill back entrance, upon which you get treated to the weirdest loop in a road race I’ve ever seen. The “nature trail” – a twisty, winding paved trail on the elementary school grounds. It’s mostly out in the open, so you can see exactly where you stand in the race. At one point the trail loops back on itself,  and I could almost reach out and trip the Beast….not that I would ever think of something like that…never.  I had an outside chance of catching Billy right before the trail, but he can see me now, and he’s still got a killer kick. No way. After the trail you dump out onto the parking lot. I can make out low 32’s on the clock and I throw down as hard as I can in an attempt to get sub 33. And….nope. I hit the last turn, where I had the dry heaves in 2010, and the clock flips over to 33. Finished in 33:08, 8th overall and 3rd in age group.

So, not thrilled with the result, but I’ll chalk some of it up to a 50 mile week and the warmer weather. I have to give credit to the Beast – he crushed the last 2 miles in 6:01 and 6:08. No way I could have hung on to that this week. He crushed a PR and beat my best time on this course with a 32:16. Justin won the race, though Eddie was only 15 seconds behind. Unfortunately, this led to the puke streak remaining intact. Costello easily took the women’s win, finishing third and outkicking the Code, who took 4th., both in high 31’s.  The only L-E kid in the top 10 was Andrew Mills, who finished just ahead of Billy and me. Editors note: TUS placed 5 in the top 10.  Julie missed out on her win but did take second in sub 7 style, recording a 34:44. 62 year old racing machine Rob Kriegshaber also broke 35 just behind her.

Jennifer Lybrand rocked a new 5 mile PR with a 35:27 and 3rd overall. Burgess finished first in AG and looked ravishing in his pink princess backpack.  Andy Mikula also got 1st in his age group for Palmetto Runners. Oh, and I forgot Ferlauto had just turned 40, which got him out of my murderous age group and scored him a 1st place. I even had to deliver him his prize. Oh the shame. He did manage an epic blue shoe of Joyce, which I made sure to extensively photodocument. Gotta lift those legs! She still won masters and got a nice gift basket to console her. Shirley Smith and Ron Hagell also won 1st place AG mugs, along with racing machines Rocky Soderberg and Brigitte Smith.