Born in the USA 4 miler and 2×2 mile relay – July 4, 2014


The Born in the USA 4 miler and relay is one of Strictly Running’s 2 summer events (along with Hot Summer’s Night 5k) and features a course through the Forest Lakes neighborhood. Essentially it uses the majority of the Cold Winter’s Day course with an extra mile tacked on.

Although I’ve run the full course hundreds of times, its been 5 years since I actually did the 4 miler. This can be explained in one word: relay.

As anyone who reads this blog knows, I am a relay freak. I live for the 12 people in a van, 200 mile variety, but I’ll take any version I can find.

I love the team concept, running like a bat out of hell in short distances, and of course..the trophy hunt factor.

Most relays bear the prejudice of “real runners” who deem them the event for newbies, kids and old people. I, for one, don’t think this way. I love me some newbies, kids and old people. They dont get in the way of my lust for golden trinkets.

Case in point: the relay part of this race was a total cake walk for most of its existence, setting up my first entry into the event in 2010. The result, is below:



Trophy and I (the aptly named team “Trophy Hunting”) won the damn thing. We got fifty dollars and a couple of watermelons. Eight individual runners beat us in the 4 miler, but I”m apparently completely without shame when it comes to hollow victories. I mean look at that grin – it  looks like I won a week in Bali with Scarlett Johannsen rather than 25 bucks and a fruit I don’t even like that much.

That was the end of our glory though. Once actually fast people saw that jokers like us won, it was all over. We have never come close again, even with Code subbing out for Trophy the last couple of years.

Code was in again this year, and Trophy Hunting, Part 5 was trying the waters again. I keep hoping that the cycle will come back again, that teams will get discouraged and the competition level will get lower. I’ll save you the suspense – it doesnt. I had already done a quick “Strictly stalk” of the registered teams and it was looking grim. A bunch of cross country kids, the Spring Valley CC coach, plus the super fast team that won it last year were signed up. Yeah, we were dead on arrival.

Oh well, at least it would be a good test of a 2 miler. I was taking leg 1 and giving the anchor to the Code. I usually get to races an hour early, but I was feeling lazy and wound up with under a half hour to go by the time I drove up. Code was having a panic attack but it at least gave him some time to jog out to the exchange point.

Everyone and their mom was out there, though they didnt have the elite crowd they drew last year (won by Michael Banks in 19:20 something).  Justin was in ATL for the Peachtree 10k, but we had a decent Team Utopia presence with Julie (doing the relay with Jen Clyburn), Michael Nance, Stevie Dee, Jeff, Lucia, Mike Compton, Ivanka, the Yerg, Kris, Chris Fawver, Tracy, Michael Jensen, Hunter and Laurie.  Lots of Tour de Columbia regulars with Howie Phan, Scott Flicker, Jeff Godby, Shannon Iriel, Randy Hrechko. Billy Tisdale, Birgit Spann and husband Holger, Geary McAlsiter, Pete Poore, Pete O’ Boyle, Andy Mikula, Parker and Joe Roof, Naomi Rabon, Larry Bates, Jim and Sherry Fadel, Albert Anderson, Kathryn Cavanaugh, Meme Spurgeon, the Griffins, Pam Inman, Angel Manuel, Bill Iskrzak, Arnold Floyd, Harry Strick, Henry Holt, Ken Lowden, Rocky Soderberg, Jason Thompson, Jesse Smarr, Sharon Sherbourne, Laurin Long, Cait Costello, The Wards, Coleen Strasburger, Lisa King, Linn Hall, the Ferlautos. I’m leaving out a bunch of people but you get the point. Great CRC turnout.

Since we had no chance of winning, maybe we could at least race the girls. That would be fine except the top womens team had MC Cox and Kenzie Riddle, so I would have to spot the Code a nice lead for us to have a chance at that.

Well, with the start, MC let me know there was no way in hell that was happening. Took off like a beast out of the blocks and left me for dead. The start was weird because they relocated it from the Coplon’s parking lot (which had steeplechase pit like pot holes last year) to a small loop off of Trenholm. Although the footing was more secure, it was super narrow and I got boxed in. As soon as we left the loop (less than a quarter mile) we had the fun of ascending Mount Trenholm – a low grade but endless hill. It sucks jogging up this thing but going sub 6 pace makes you want to cry. At the top I was a half mile in and wanted to stop. Not only was MC way ahead but Angel and the Yerg were kicking my tail, and they were doing the whole four miles. It probably doesnt help I weigh about the three of them combined. Thankfully there’s a long downhill after this, but I’m never good at flying down declines, particularly steep ones in tropical locales.  I make out the mile clock and I can see I’m going to be way over my hope for a 5:50ish pace. Actually did about 6:09 – 2 whole seconds faster than my post cliff 5k pr pace. Way to go hero.

OK, a mile to go, just headless chicken it. It doesnt help that you have yet another nasty incline right after the mile marker, which essentially sits in a valley. At the top of that hill is a turn right and I know its basically all downhill or flat from here. I start trying to ramp it up some. It would probably help if my lungs would stop trying to free themselves from my chest. Those hills take a toll. I finally track down Angel, and I can make out Parker Roof, MC and the Yerg just ahead. Unfortunately I am pretty much toast though, and I’m not making up much ground. Just one short slight incline to the finish but it feels like a roundhouse to the gut. Any chance at sub 12 goes out the window but I do manage a feeble kick right on Parker’s heels. I apologize for the future “being chased by a rabid bear” nightmares, Parker. Hit mile 2 in 5:57, but I had an extra .04 by Garmin, probably due to my jockeying around in the early going.  Code took off after the hand slap and I collapsed in a crumpled heap, making sweet love to the asphalt.

I hung around to take some pics and then jogged back to the finish, some with Jen and Brooke, who was cursing her mother’s name for dragging her through all these hills. Code finished in about 12 minutes and we came in at 24:19 total – both chicked and Yergered, and in 7th place. Still a lot faster than the 2010 win but with competition 100 times more brutal.

Below are results from the Columbia Running Club newsletter. That editor sure is a great guy.

Let it be known that Shannon crushed the competition to take the overall female win.  Michael Lantz won on the mens side. John Charlton dominated male masters with a  blazing 5:49 pace 23:13., while SR’s Linn Hall  won among the women.  No surprise to see Birgit Spann and Billy Tisdale win grandmasters.

In the age groups, Brady Ward took the Under 10 division and Matt Fadel placed second in the 11-13.  Anna Jenkins, fresh from beating down the Blue Shoes at Red Bank, easily won the 11-13 females with an impressive sub 7 effort.  The Golbus twins won the 14-16 while Sarah Hudgins made mom and dad proud with a  first place in the 17-19. Eddie Lopez won the 20-24.  Jennifer Lybrand claimed yet another 25-29 victory in a PR 28:36.  Rob “the Yerg” Yerger topped a competitive 35-39 division over Angel Manuel and Michael Nance. Naomi Rabon won on the women’s side. Jeff Godby and Scott Flicker battled it out for 1-2 in the men’s 40-44, while Meme Spurgeon and Shanequa Coles placed among the women. Pam Inman and Sherry Fadel  took 2nd and 3rd in the 45-49, with Randy Hrechko placing 2nd in the mens division. Lisa King placed second in the 50-54, with Howie Phan taking the mens win.  The 55-59 men was swept by a trio of racing studs: Tisdale, Peter O’Boyle and Geary McAlister. Alsena Edwards won the 55-59 women. Mike Compton placed third in the 60-64 while Lynn Grimes placed second among the women. Ageless Albert Anderson won the 65-69 while Bill Iskrzak finished third. Nita Eichstaedt placed second in the 65-69 and husband Frank did the same in the 70+.  Arnold Floyd and Henry Holt placed first and third in the 70-98.

Oh, and don’t forget the relay. Competition was brutal this year, though I heard the 7th place team was very fast and devastatingly handsome. Mini Van on the Run (Julie Bitzel and Jen Clyburn) placed second among the female teams, with Super Foxes (Bri Hartley and Marie Demetriades) taking third.  Lets not forget Laurin Long also—winner of the costume contest!


Run Red Bank 5k/10k – Lexington, SC – 5/31/14


The Run Red Bank 5k is now in its 3rd year – it was initially was put on by a dental practice in 2012 (still trying to figure that out), then switched over to being a YMCA race last year. It has  faced some stiff competition from other races the first two years but has drawn a respectable crowd each time. It was previously held at White Knoll High School and featured a pretty brutal course with a killer hill right at the finish. I did the race last year and about wanted to die – went over 20 minutes and fell into a crumpled heap afterward. But at least the race was great with awesome volunteers and organization by Erin Roof – she and Todd Heinecke always put together a quality event with great prizes for the overall winners, which always tempts me to trophy hunt.

Speaking of trophy hunts, this year looked good for one. The race was being held the week after Jailbreak, which I figured would mean all the actually fast runners would take the weekend off. When you’re Clydesdale-ish and have a bowling ball for a head, you dont want to be competing against skinny guys in singlets. In addition to a change of venue (moved to the Lexington YMCA) the event added a 10k, which I thought would create the “undercard” factor for the 5k. The flip side was that there was no other race in the area competing with this one. Good for the race, bad for trophies.

I signed up for the 5, partially for the aforementioned trophy factor but also because its South Carolina and its almost June. Read: there’s a good chance its going to be brutally hot. I was hopeful about the course, since I was told that the venue change was to provide a nicer, less hilly route.

Umm, yeah, we’ll get to that.

I showed up about an hour early to the race and there was already a decent crowd there. One step outside my car and I was enveloped in a thick coat of South Carolina 100 percent humidity. Fantastic. Temps already in the 70′s too. I started complaining like Trophy (except he whines when it gets over 50). Packet pickup featured a line of volunteers cheering for you just for showing up. Wildly enthusiastic unearned adulation? This is my kind of race. Also – blue fitted cotton shirt – perfect! I could clothe a third world country in seldom used race shirts that fit like a Coleman tent. This is one I might actually wear.

The first thing I notice is that my trophy chances are going down the drain. I see Plex and Billy already there and they are both doing the 5k. Turns out the 5k is on Strictly’s Palmetto Grand Prix. DOH! Critical trophy hunting fail. Brian Talkington has shown up to even make my age grouping difficult, though he informs me he’s been way off his training and hasnt even run in recent weeks. Dina Mauldin, the Outlaws, the Griffins, James Hicks, Ted Hewitt, Angel, Meme, Alex Wilcox, Alex Ponamarev, Pete Poore, Arnold Floyd and Henry Holt are all on hand.  Stephanie “Stevie Dee” Dukes showed up with her husband Henry, so we could be assured there’d be about 2000 pictures of the race available (literally). Justin Bishop was there to pace Brittany Robbins.

Justin had tipped me off at the SR Pizza Run that this course was definitely not “flat and fast”, and my brief warm up around the start area didnt look encouraging. He said there was a lot of climb in the first mile.

The start , though, was an immediate drop, so it was a total cattle stampede the first tenth of a mile. Once we bottomed out there was a slow climb out of the YMCA grounds and onto YMCA rd.  I was trying to lay back some because of the hills to come, but damned if I’m not already hating life. Feels like I’ve decided to go for a jog with a fur parka and a face mask. Just suffocating. We hit a nasty hill after joining the paved road and I figure this is what Justin was talking about. I’m getting destroyed by Talkington and Tisdale so I try to ramp up the pace a little so I can really push it once I get over this hill. I suck some wind with the effort, crest the hill, and I’m rewarded with the real monster – probably a half mile slog up a mountain to Two Notch Road way in the distance. This is going to get ugly.

Halfway up the mountain I get my first mile split at 6:53, a full 50 seconds slower than my last 5k. Nice. Not to mention I’m feeling like death after this tempo mile. The hill just never ends and sucks my will to live. Finally, probably at least 1.25 miles in, we get to Two Notch and have about 100 meters of glorious flatness before turning back down the mountain on a parallel street. Normally I’d be crushing it down the decline, but my lungs are still in my throat after rappelling up  Mount Red Bank, and someone’s added a another layer to the fur parka and stuffed cotton balls in the face mask. I had been running by myself but at least I’m starting to make up ground on Talkington. Angel is way ahead too but he’s doing the 10k. I think mile 2 was around 6:40 which dives me into an even deeper funk. I finally catch Brian right after the 2 mile point and the course levels out onto a dirt road. Just when I start to get some wind back, when I am shamed by some teenage kid who looks like he’s in middle school – just leaves me for dead. I’m in the middle of justifying this fact, that he must be on the cross country team or something, when some girl who looks like she’s one of my 5th grade son’s classmates passes me too. I’m not only getting chicked..I’m getting chicked by a child. Man, this could be a worse shame than getting double blue shoed by the Pale Beast in March. Well, maybe not that bad. One more painful hill and an out and back loop up a cul de sac. I’ve actually started to approximate real 5k pace at this time. I’m blasting it out as fast as I can go, but I am just a wreck. And I’m not gaining any ground on the underage duo in front of me. At least Talkington is hurting too when I see him on the turnaround. One last plunge into the YMCA grounds again and I’m flopping around like bass on the dock. I finally see the clock and I’m surprised its still on 20. I finish in 20:49 in a sweaty, gasping mess. Slowest 5k since I did the Dry run as a full on gimp post fall. But hey – first in age group and 9th overall. A hollow victory indeed but I added a Red Bank glass to my YMCA collection. And congrats 12 year old Anna Jenkins – you outkicked the blue shoes.

Plex won the 5k by over 2 minutes in 17:41, with Billy Tisdale rocking second place in 19:59. Erin Suttman and Anna Jenkins went 1-2 in the women’s race right in front of me. At least Erin is 21. In the age groups, Brittany Robbins took 2nd in the 14-16. Alex Wilcox won 1st in the 25-29 and was 5th overall. Meme won the 40-44 by like 7 minutes, and no recurrence of the Jailbreak walksies. Stevie Dee took 2nd and almost broke 30 again with these brutal conditions. Mike Griffin won 2nd in the 55-59 behind Billy. Alex Ponamarev and Pete Poore went 1-2 in the 60-64 to no one’s surprise. Grand Prixer Brigitte Smith won the 60-64 female while Jan Hardwick and Peter Mugglestone took the 65-69. Aronld Floyd, Henry Holt and Rocky Soderberg swept the 70+.

In the 10k, Angel won easily in 41 minutes, with Syd’s rival Whitney Drozd taking first female and 2nd overall. James Hicks took 2nd in the 35-39. Pam Griffin won 2nd in the 45-49, while Joe Roof won second among the men. Cheryl and Tommy Outlaw both won their age groups and Gizmo was so proud.


Race to the Press Box 5k – Lugoff, SC – 5/17/14



This is a brand new race put on by the Able Club of Lugoff-Elgin High school, their athletic booster club, to honor two of their longtime supporters (Rob Evans and Joey Dorton) who recently passed away. Proceeds went to a scholarship fund in their memory.

I originally had See Spot Run on my calendar this weekend, but the Diesels were helping promote this race, so I had to support the Sunday morning marathon training wolfpack. Although I love me some See Spot, this race met key trophy hunting criteria as well – first time event, relatively rural, and of course competing with a more competitive, established race. I admit, I had some grandiose beliefs that it could be a holy grail (i.e. first overall) opportunity. At the very least, I knew it would be a chance to redeem myself against Trophy, who so unceremoniously dropped my ass at the Palmetto Half. It was on like Donkey Kong.

Pale Beast had already declared he was See Spotting it, thus avoiding another episode of the Pale and the Clydesdale-ish. I showed up way early because I always overestimate how much time it takes to get to the Kershaw County area. It was even faster than downtown Columbia from the casa de Blue Shoes in the northeast.

Jordan and Jen Lybrand were already on site when I got there. Luckily Jordan was working the SR timing, because the dude can smoke a sub 18 5k these days in his sleep. A few minutes later I see Bedenbaugh show up, so holy grail hunt was officially over. Coach B may come and go with his training and injuries but since he is a Columbia racing legend, he can pretty much crush me whenever the mood strikes him. Whitney Keen and his wife Caroline showed up a little later, thus ensuring at least a three way battle for second place. Chad and Betsy Long, Jennifer Reeves and of course all the Diesels were on hand. Diesel was on Brady pacing duty while Jen was wussing out and spectating. I punished her with picture duty so I could have plenty of facebook-worthy shots of my giant melon and ridiculous photo hogging.

Did a lap of the Lugoff Elgin high school grounds with J-Lybrand and the Trophy. I confessed I had done an unthinkable and not even looked up the course. Hope it was going to be well-marked. Diesel said it was fairly flat, but maybe he was colluding with Trophy to take my giant ego down a notch. The finish at least looked cool, since it ended on the LE track inside the stadium.

With the start, I figured it was probably going to be Coach B and the rest of the field chasing him, unless one of the many LE kids was some cross country stud. By the time we left the high school grounds though, some girl is torching the field already. Then I heard someone say it was Heather Costello, who basically can hold her own with any of the top females in Columbia. Guess it would be a fight for third. Or not..because there is still quite a bit of traffic in front of me a half mile in. I dont know any of these guys, though most are teenagers and one random guy in a singlet. On top of that, Trophy and Whitney are jockeying back and forth right beside me and I’m starting to feel like death before mile 1. This is not a good sign.  And we are going downhill forever, which I know we’ll have to make up in this loop course. Costello is destroying us and Bedenbaugh is way up ahead as we near the mile marker. Since we’re way behind, and there are still a few randoms ahead of me, I figure I must be going really slow and this is just going to be a bad day-which sucks because the weather is so nice and my training is going well and…BEEP..MILE 1 6:03.  And expletive number one for the day is dropped. OK, so some of this is because of the long downhill, but in any case this is pretty speedy for my post-Kauai self.

I think everybody just blew up after the mile marker because all of a sudden I surge ahead of the entire pack. The downhill has ended and some inclines start popping up. I have a sense that Whitney and Trophy were nearby initially but then it gets very quiet. Mile 2 seems to take forever and there are a couple of long straight stretches that kill my motivation. Thankfully the course is very well marked so at least I dont have to think too much about navigation. Plus, I can still see Bedenbaugh and even Costello at times. I’m able to keep up close to the same effort from the first mile, but the hills drag me down to 6:15. Mile 3 is just brutal. No major hills, just my sasquatch body is having trouble paying back the oxygen debt from that frisky first mile. I zone out for a while as I jump on the pain train and go for a ride. Just when I think I’m toast I get a jolt of adrenaline when I see Coach B start to get reeled back in a little bit. Maybe I can catch him!  He must be deathly ill or injured, but believe me, I’ll take first male- especially over a beast like Mark. No shame in getting chicked by Costello either. Bedenbaugh decides he’s had enough fooling around though, and he’s not going to let some melon headed sasquatch take him down. He ramps up a kick and I’m no longer making ground on him. At some point I realize I have no idea where we are or where the finish is, and I take a look down and see 2.77 miles. Holy crap, time to throw down! Finally we make a turn and I see the start area. In my oxygen deprived fog, I totally forget about the track finish and start looking for the clock. I’m in a world of hurt when I see Bedenbaugh turn into the stadium. Oh jeez, I dont know if i can make another 300 meters. But as soon as I hit the track its like Team Utopia monday nights , so it seems oh so familiar to be gasping for dear life on an orange oval. As I hit the last straight I’m really bummed by the time already in the 19:30′s. WTH? Did I really slow down that much in the last mile? I make one last headless chicken blast and finish in 19:48. I hit the Garmin and it shoots back 3.2 miles. Well, that explains it. The course is certified, so I know its legit – probably just one of those longish ones. I was all over the place on the course since I didnt know where I was going , but two other people had 3.2 also. Oh well. I had a 6:11 pace per Garmin, so around 19:18ish for 3.11. 3rd overall, 2nd male, 1st in AG. I’ll take it!

Heather Costello took the overall and female win in 19:08, with Coach B taking the men’s win in 19:35. In the (very weird) age groups, Brady ran a 24:31 at age 9 to take 2nd in the 2-14. Garrick Douglas took 1st in the 25-34 just a few steps ahead of Jennifer Lybrand, who won the female 25-34 and 2nd female overall. Monica Frazier took 3rd. Whitney and Trophy took 2nd and 3rd in the 35-44, while Race to Read director Betsy Long won the women’s division. Sharon Cole took the 45-54 in a very competitive group – third was 26 minutes. Sorry J-Reeves.

Bummer I have to miss Jailbreak next week because of a wedding (don’t these people consult my race schedule first??), but I’m signed up for Run Red Bank on May 31. See ya then.




Get in the Pink 5k/10k – Columbia, SC – 5/10/14


So every once in a great while I stop my relentless trophy hunt and sign up for a race for reasons other than the maniacal obsession with metal trinkets. I hadnt done a 10k since March, so I figured I’d give it a shot at the Get in the Pink 10k.

This was the absolute worst race this weekend for stroking my ridiculously oversized ego. The GITP 10k is in its 5th year and has typically had a pretty competitive field. Usually Ashton comes out and dusts the field, but there is usually a decent sub 40 crowd as well. The 5k has mostly been soccer moms and kids. The Cones for the Cure 5k and Rotary Run 5k had trophy hunt written all over them. What was I thinking??

But with my recent return to sub 20 land in the 5k, I wanted to see where I was in the ten. I should know the answer already: I suck.

I love the 5k of course, and  I’ve run some pretty good 8ks, 12ks, and halfs. Even my marathon PR is ok. I have never run a good 10k. Like, ever. My PR in the distance is 40:38 at last years Cooper River, when I was coming off a bunch of sub 19 5ks, which should translate to at least a minute faster. My 12k PR is actually at a faster pace.

But I keep trying. So I bit the bullet after a beer on Friday night and signed up.

Felt pretty good the next morning and got there my customary hour early.  Trophy was already there because he’s a freak too. We knew the Pale Beast was trying his luck once again at the Cold Winters Day course at Cones. Coach Justin ” A Standard” Bishop had made a plea for all TUS members to wear the black and gold, so once again I had to blind everyone with the black singlet against my Edward Scissorhands complexion. Lots of fast peeps are already there – we latched on to a pack of 621 ninjas (i.e. Pete O’ Boyle, Shufy Rowe, Jeff Godby, Leyden Hane, Steven Johnson) and the whole SR ladies team (Erin Miller, Kenzie riddle, Shannon Iriel, Linn Hall, MC Cox..well minus the trophy hunting Jennifer Lybrand) for a couple of miles of  a little sub 8 minute pace  “warmup”.  Usually my warmup consists of jogging like an 80 year old, so it was a little brisk. We get back and all 4 Diesels have decided to show up, along with the Robertsons. Blue Shoes rivals Billy Tisdale,  Joel Pierstorff and Randy Hrechko have made an appearance. Micah decided to come back after Rosewood and I finally got a chance to meet yet another blazing fast age grouper. Speaking of age groupers, Jim Lichty showed up with Jason “Toonce” Lockhart and it was a mini USC class of 1997 reunion.  CRC age groupers Coleen Strasburger, Alex Ponamarev, the Lowdens, Sharon Sherbourne, Lisa King, Lynn Grimes, Lois Leaburn, Jim Fadel and Teresa Harrington were on hand.  Team Utopia teammates Ashley Horton, Andrew Touzel and new member Michael Jensen were present and accounted for.  Elites Eric Ashton, OJ Striggles, and Kathryn Cavanaugh were out to give Bishop and the SR ladies some trouble.

Oh, and my age group was going to be ridunkulous. Ken Cobb and Phil Midden were going to kick my tail, and I would have had no chance at all if OJ hadnt switched to the 5k at the last second. Now that is a masters level trophy hunt maneuver, OJ. I thought Flicker would take me down too, but then I remembered that he had just aged up to 40. Yes!

They had couple of bagpipers lead us up to the start line, which was odd but kind of cool. The start was typical for a big, competitive race like this – super fast. The first 3 miles are pretty much all flat to downhill. I was getting dropped like a bad habit despite feeling like I was blasting out 5k pace from the get go. I had thought I’d keep Shannon and Billy in range for pacers, but they had other plans and just destroyed me from step one.  Oh well. About 3/4 of a mile in the crowd had thinned out and I saw Micah and Hrechko just ahead, so I decided to make them my substitute pacers since Billy and Shannon were so rude to me. Mile one in 6:30ish as we neared Beltline, then a mostly downhill mile 2 in 6:36. Ruh roh. Pre cliff 10k pace. This was going to either be great or headed for an epic bonktastrophe. My bet was with the latter, since the warmth and humidity were starting to make things suck in a hurry. At just over 2.5 miles is the very long Shady lane, which is pretty flat but goes on forever. Plus, I know the almost all uphill finish starts just past the 5k mark. Randy is gapping me a bit but im keeping Simonsen in range. There’s like nobody else around. Feels like I’m out for a training run. A really hard, wind sucking training run with no music except for the sound of me panting like a rabid elephant. Just before the turn off Shady I look down and see just under 21 minutes for the 5k split. Oh man, this hill climb is going to hurt. I finally catch Micah just past the turn after he was almost assaulted by a pair of geese. He was hurting about as bad as me and he was delighted for me to tell him about the upcoming hill fest. I attacked the first mountain up to Nandina drive because I knew there was some flatness to recover there and on Brennan. I guess there was, but I had already taken a few steps in the pain cave and I was too winded to use the water stop at the top. I was somehow making some ground on Randy at this point, despite my 7:05 mile 4 split on the mountainside. From Brennan you turn on Kilbourne and face a long slight incline all the way in. Randy stopped to walk at the water stop, and I thought I had him but he took off as soon as he gulped down the cup. Still made up some time though. The whole section on Kilbourne was tough because you merge in with a bunch of walking 5kers, creating a minefield of potential collisions and losing your sense of where you stand in the 10k. Luckily Randy is like 6’5″, so pretty easy to keep track of him.  I didnt look at the mile 5 split since I figured it sucked and I wanted to die anyway. The happy and smiling 5k walkers seemed to beg me to join them. But there was roadkill ahead. Must. take. down. Hrechko. I finally pushed in all the chips once we hit Devine st, but turns out thats a pretty long freaking way from the finish. And a nice little incline before the millwood intersection. Wonderful. Head flopping and trex arms have started. Finally the course levels out and I can make out the finish. If I can see those red clock numbers, there is no limit to how far I’ll spelunk the pain cave.  I finally catch Randy about a quarter mile before the finish and it feels like forever. I’m dying a thousand deaths when I finally hit the finish area and hear Trophy sea biscuiting me from the sidelines. I  ramp it up one more notch when I see the clock, just to make sure I get sub 43. Finished in 42:54.

Its a 10k, and a warm and hilly one, so I’ll take it. Almost identical time to my last one at Get to the Green in March, which was much flatter and a whole lot colder. Crushed in my age group though – I got 4th . Seems Mark Tibshrany turned 35 and even took down Cobb, who finished 3rd. Phil Midden killed us all in just a shade over 40 minutes.

In the overall, Eric Ashton cruised to another win despite still nursing an injury. A Cory Tretsky took 2nd, who’ve I’ve never seen race before. Bishop took 3rd. In the women’s race, Kenzie rocked out a sub 40 to take the win, followed by MC Cox and Shannon Iriel around 41 minutes. Total SR sweep. Billy finished a few seconds behind Shannon and took the male masters win. Flicker got second.  In the 10k age groups, Randy got first in the 45-49, with Jim Fadel second. Phil Tognieri placed 2nd int he 50-54, Total CRC sweep in the 50-54 women, with Coleen Strasburger, Lisa King and Teresa Harrington taking the category. Lois Leaburn and Carol Wallace went 2-3 in the 55-59. Lynn Grimes won the 60-64.

In the 5k, OJ had a successful trophy hunt to take the 5k, though women’s winner Kathryn Cavanaugh wasn’t too far behind in 18:23. Erin Miller also crushed an 18:45 to take second female, third overall. Steven Johnson and Jeff Godby won 2nd and 3rd male with Linn Hall winning 3rd female. Joel Pierstorff and Pete O’Boyle placed in male masters.

In the age groups, William Zemp placed 2nd in the 15-19, while Ashley Horton made TUS proud by placing 2nd in the 25-29. Touzel had the best performance of the day with a 21:45 huge PR and 2nd in age group (30-34). He also blue shoed 3rd place in the last 20 meters, so I was so proud. Trophy worked the McGaha magic and took 1st in the 35-39 in 20:15. 621 ninja Leyden Hane won the women’s 35-39.  Travis Cowan pushed a stroller but was still good enough for 1st in the 50-54. Shify Rowe blasted the 55-59 competition by almost 8 minutes to take the win. Alex Ponamarev and Shaoron Sherbourne dominated the 60-64, while Ken and Patti Lowden did the same in the 65-69.






Rosewood Crawdaddy Dash 5k – Columbia, SC – 5/3/2014


So its been a couple years since I’ve done the Crawdaddy – I was sick last year and I think it conflicted with Get in the Pink in 2012. I figured I’d go back this year, since I was all jacked to see Everclear at the Crawfish fest (with which the race is associated)  and you get free admission with registration. It depresses me to see all my college era bands relegated to nostalgia tours these days, but when you get old, what are you going to do?

I felt a little guilt about not defending my epic 2013 double down victory at the Rose Fest in Orangeburg, but when some chump like me takes a win, you can bet the race will be loaded with elites the next year. Sure enough, Justin was going down there with Spence and Syd, so that left me third if no body else showed up. Turns out Michael Banks came out, ran a 4:59 pace 12k and set a new state record. Kenzie Riddle also won the women’s race and would have smoked me too. Good call. Sorry Erin, I’ll be back at Run Red Bank.

Still, Crawdaddy was definitely not the trophy hunt pick of the week. I had that pegged for either the Empower 5k or the Firebreak 10k, but I knew the Empower was a holy terror of hills and Firebreak is at Harbison, for which I still have nightmares about my shirtless delirium at the 2012 Xterra half.

So Rosewood it was. I had no idea about the competition at this one, but historically its been a pretty big race and fairly competitive. They usually have some elite types doing sub 17ish, and over 500 people total. I figured I’d be good with 3rd in AG. I had no idea what my archnemeses were doing. Trophy was being his usual mute self when it came to declaring his weekend race, and Vowles was being all cryptic in his texts. Code was staying off the grid.


I get there an hour ahead and there’s a decent crowd there, though not a whole lot I recognize. Looks like a large bunch of newbies and a bunch of crossfit types doing the Crawdaddy challenge (race + weight lifting/crossfit stuff) . One day I’ll look into crossfit, since it looks like something good for speedy sasquatches. Charley turns up for a rare race appearance with canine pacer Winston. Julie “Flashbang” Bitzel  is high on the crack of  2 overall placements in her first two races, and was back for another fix.  My age group looked pretty good, but with all the randoms, who knew. No trace of a surprise Trophy or Pale Beast sighting.

I did a mile-ish warmup with Charley and Julie, because the Bitz is deathly afraid that she’ll get tired out by our brutal 10 minute pace jog on a flat road. Speaking of flatness, most of Crawdaddy is pretty level. The start/finish has been changed since I last ran it, but its the same loop. Starts and ends at City Roots near Owens Field. Unfortunately the one nasty incline has been moved to the beginning, and for whatever reason, an early hill has always sucked for me. I get back from the warmup and decide I gotta hit the portapotty, but the line is like 50 people long. Apparently 6 isnt enough for like 800 people. I decided the bushes at City Roots looked a little dry and proceeded to water them.

By the time everyone lines up, this race is looking huge. I cant even see the back of the pack. Lisa Smarr, Sheila Subbarao, Alex Wilcox, Mickie Ishizue, Teresa Harrington are a few of the CRCers on hand. Linn Hall showed up for Strictly, which I told Julie would probably prevent her from playing DJ Khaled today. Eric Ashton and Jud Brooker were on hand, presumably to face off for the win.   Even Merritt decided to show up a week after going suspiciously MIA at the quarry. Mike Wainscott showed up to spectate and Ashley Horton graciously agreed to man my iphone to take pics. She said that she, Sheila, Laurie and the Trophy had just done a longish run. So weak, Trophy.

The start went off OK despite my worries about a huge bottleneck – the start area was super narrow. Luckily no one was being a hero about their running ability except for possibly the large headed beast on the first row. Of course, the oh so useful power save function on my Garmin has decided to silently shut down my watch. It takes a good quarter mile for the thing to sync up to a satelite, so I’m basically running on feel from then on. Linn is crushing it but I try to keep her in range, since she’s consistently around 20 minutes. I fight the urge to slack on the opening hill and charge up the long incline followed by a short steep turn to the left. Im so hating those early hills because its like a punch to the stomach right off the bat. I slow a little at the top to catch my breath and Wilcox, i.e. the fitter/younger/blonder Alex, blows by me. Once I catch my breath I notice the field is actually pretty sparse on the top end. I see a shorter, kind of muscley dude not too far ahead, and somewhere my evil age group mind recognizes this as the enigmatic Micah Simonsen. I’ve never met this guy, but he has a way of weasling into my trophy hunts and stealing my precious trinkets. He must go down. But damned if he and Linn aren’t kicking my ass. We turn onto Rosewood and they are both several meters ahead. I swear I still havent recovered from the early hill action because I’m pretty winded for mile one. At least now the course has pretty much flattened out. Once we pass Rosewood Elementary and turn on Ott there’s a very long flat to downhill stretch that goes on forever. It’s nice and shady, and I figure this is the best time to pick up some speed, because I know the last stretch at Owens Field is out on the open and slightly uphill. It may be slightly downhill, but it still sucks since I’ve decided to suck wind a half mile into this race. Just before the two mile mark I pass Simonsen and I realize I’ve just pushed my chips into the table. Oh Dear God this is going to hurt. I’m scared of Simonsen passing me back, and some paranoid part of my oversized melon starts wondering if Vowles hasnt stealthed this race and is right on my heels. Its bad enough running against your actual competition , not to mention being haunted by the ghost of the Pale Beast. Linn has started to fade just a bit and I finally catch her just before the owens field stretch. I think she offered some words of encouragement, but all I could utter were the breathless sounds of my will to live leaving my body. The turn on to Jim Hamilton blvd is just torture. Slightly uphill and three quarters of a mile long, it just never seems to end.The sun has come out, its way hotter, and I feel like death. Does that mean slow down? Hell no – if I do Linn will chick me and then that Micah character might get away with another trophy theft. My form is going to complete crap – I’ve got T-rex arms, all tight and drawn in, my giant melon is tipped back and gasping for breath, listing over to one side.  This is going to be one ugly finish face. I’m trying to chase down Wilcox but he’s just out of reach. I finally, mercifully, hit the last turn and make out about 19:30 on the clock. I take a few more steps into the pain cave and cross the line in 19:43. I stagger a few more steps and then make sweet, sweet love to the asphalt. Takes me about 30 seconds to stand up again and I see Linn and Simonsen finish. I swear I thought they were right behind me. And Pale Beast’s ghost is just that – he’s not there. I’m pretty jacked about the time – good to see the 19′s on a regular basis again. Though I’m still a long way from pre-cliff, the Team Utopia South Monday nights at the track are paying their dividends.

Linn took overall female in 20:07, and Julie flashbanged to the finish with an awesome kick to break 21 and take second (20:58). The men’s race was super fast, with Jud Brooker breaking 16 minutes and taking down Ashton, who looked to be limping a bit afterward but still clocked a 16:15.

Not a whole lot of familiar names in the age groups – Wilcox took 1st in the 25-29. Thankfully there were no superfit soccer dads in front of myself and Simonsen, who went 1-2 in the 35-39. Charley finished 2nd in the 40-44, while Shenequa Coles placed second among the women in the same group. Katherine Harris took second in the 45-49. Lisa Smarr won 2nd in the 50-54.Barroll Leeds, who is turning into a blue shoes style racer, placed 2nd in the 60-64. Peter Mugglestone placed third in a brutal 65-69.

Oh, and apparently the Pale Beast pulled a stealth trophy hunt in Irmo at the Empower (previously Going the Extra Mile) 5k. His reward – another second place finish…to a 64 year old guy. Norm Ferris, you are my hero.







Quarry Crusher Run – Columbia, SC – 4/26/14



This is the Quarry Crusher’s third time around, and it seems to be getting more and more huge each year. Year one had less than 200, 2013 had about 350 and this year, 500. Although the infamous McHaffie video has since been taken down off the interwebs, some other shameless Quarry crusher promoters still continue:

And of course word of mouth has helped. I’m sure this race would be even more huge if they didn’t schedule it up against the 2300 participant Women’s Heart and Sole 5 miler, but at least the race provided those of us with a Y chromosome something to do on a Saturday morning.

I have a tendency towards being dramatic – I know, hard to believe. But reading the last two blogs of this race made me think it can’t really be that bad. They close the quarry the other 364 days of the year, so maybe my memory of this being an all out torturefest was just hyperbole. I mean, its under 4 miles. How hard can it be? About a quarter mile of flat road, mile and change down, then a mile and change back up, then another flat quarter mile. Piece of cake.

And I was going to run it harder this year. Last year I went super easy on the way down. Sure, I met my goal of not walking, and I ran it a lot faster, but still pretty far from age group glory. I was in a lot better shape last year, and had a fully functioning left foot/leg, so maybe I could hope to get close to last year’s time if I really tried hard.

I suckered the Code into running this thing with me so we decided to carpool. Us racing a big event is like 2 kids on Christmas morning, so we showed up ridiculously early, like an hour and 15 minutes. When we got there though, newbie racing freak and 2014 resurrection 5k champion Julie was already there raring to go. Someone is jacked up. She’s already talking strategy and fantasizing about using flashbangs ( to disable her competition in order to secure her trophy. Someone just earned a new nickname.

Julie doesnt warm up more than 5 minutes so the Code and I did about 2 miles and scouted the competition. There were two chances of me getting age group glory in this race: slim and none. Becraft, the Yerg, Ken Cobb and of course the Code himself stood in the way of this, not to mention my partner in paleness, Ken “Dont call me Vowels” Vowles. Fresh from his epic defeat at resurrection, he was looking for blood. There were a ton of random thirtysomething dudes hanging around too, so I was sure at least one of these guys would be a superfit soccer dad type that would also crush my trophy dreams. Damn them all.

Andrew Touzel, Winston Holliday, Barb Brandenburg (I guess she has more balls than JB), Sue Porter, Lisa Smarr, James Hicks, Ferlauto, Heather Alexander, Jason Thompson, Malechi, Hou Yin Chang , Ilia Owens, and Ken Sekley are some of the familiar faces at the start. A lot of the local running community is racing or volunteering at Heart and Sole. McHaffie was conveniently out of town. Hmmmm.

Although my plan is to lay off the gas a little on the way down, I decide the best place to line up is the middle of the first row. My melon head just cant stand not being in the spotlight. With the start, there is a big frenzied push and people are killing it right off the bat. Even Becraft is back a few in the crowd. FYI, if a 16 minute 5ker is behind you a quarter mile into the race, you may want to simma down a bit. That wasnt a problem for me, since I’m already way back from the lead heading into the quarry gates. Vowles is being a total hero up ahead and I’m already wondering when I’ll pass him when he’s walking on the way up. I start to drift back further but then find Code and Julie and decide to stay with them. I’m doing fine taking it easy on the first decline, enjoying the great weather and running my mouth when BAM!, dude in a tough mudder shirt gives me an NHL body check as he blows through me and Touzel. Tough Mudder, you are going down, my friend. Total David Banner green eyes.  There’s 2 declines before you can see the whole quarry pit and I’m thinking this is really not as bad as I remember, when …holy mother of God – the pit opens up to show its full glory. One mile all downhill, corkscrewing around the sides at a 10 percent grade. At this point the jackhammers come out on my quads and start beating them into submission. I’m suddenly just trying to keep upright, but gravity is doing a pretty good job slamming me down the hill and trying to get me to full out sprint. We hit mile 1 at 6:30ish which is about what I wanted to do, but now I’m more worried about destroying my gimp toe in this freefall down the canyon. At least I’ve stopped getting passed by everybody and their mom though. After a seeming eternity we finally hit the flat stretch at what I think is the bottom. Nope – they’ve dug a little deeper and added another small decline, adding to the fun. I think there is like one cone marking the turnaround and damned if Vowles has really gapped me bad.

OK, here comes the brutal part. Almost a mile and a half, 10 percent grade, almost no breaks. Code turns into an absolute beast at this point and starts crushing it up the hill. I let him be a hero and concentrate on a slow and steady climb. Holy crap,

this is hard. I neglected to mention it was sunny and nearing 80 degrees, and you felt every bit of it when you came out of the shade of the rock face. Julie starts to slow but I’m pretty sure she’s right behind me. All of a sudden I see Tough Mudder walking. Bwa ha ha . He does a little interval of running but I eventually pass him. I’d love to have thrown him a shoulder but the impact is not as great trudging up the mountain at couch-to-5k pace. Seeing all the walking is highly contagious. The walksie voices are screaming, Clarice, but I will not listen. Must defeat the cliff! Literally and metaphorically. It turns out I was not joking in my previous blog posts. Probably the toughest mental and physical test of any of the races I’ve done. Not counting getting my ass slapped by the Schmitz and Burgess in the Richmond Marathon. Nothing can surpass that shame.

I’m awakened from my misery on the very last incline in the quarry. It’s Vowles! The Pale Beast is walking! I can take him down! But even my maniacal competitiveness can not motivate me to go any faster. I’m crushing like 11 minute pace when I see him reach the top and take off. I guess he’s taking this one. I finally reach the top and the soft incline out of the quarry feels like heaven. My legs are completely fried, but then I see Sekley, the victim of two of my most epic blue shoes (2010 See Spot run and 2012 Earth Fair 8k – yes I am a loser for knowing this off the top of my head). He’s a good 50 meters ahead with a quarter mile to go, but I launch into a full out sprint. I’m sucking wind like a banshee but the speed actually feels better than the grandma crawl I had been doing the last mile and a half. Just as we round the last corner I overtake him, looking like a complete idiot I’m sure. I don’t see the clock until I’m almost under it – finished in 26:15 .

I spend the next 60 seconds gasping for air in a post race delirium, but I see Julie finish in 2nd overall place. So 2 races in she’s got a 1st and 2nd. Not a bad trophy hunt average.  After taking pics and chugging like 3 bottles of water, I get my results – 34th overall and 10th in age group. Holy crap thats a lot of fast soccer dads. Becraft took first overall , while the Yerg crushed it for second, and not too far behind him. Winston placed an equally impressive third. Ken Cobb and Jesse Hawkins also finished in the top 10. The Code ended up placing 12th, which is incredible since we were probably both at around 100th at the bottom of the pit. Vowles finished almost a full minute ahead of me in 25:25. Nice work, Pale Beast.

Other age groupers included Malechi Doren, first in 15-19. Craig Wlaschin took 2nd in the 25-29. Scott Brewer won 2nd in the 40-44, while Heather Alexander took 1st in the 40-44 women after a long racing layoff. Barb Brandenburg easily took the 45-49, while Lisa Smarr placed second in the 50-54. Sekley crushed the 55-59 by 5 minutes. Sue Porter took second in the 55-59. Shawn Chillag took the 65-69.


Resurrection Run 5k – Forest Acres – Columbia, SC – 4/19/14



The Resurrection Run is a small 5k put on by a women’s church group the day before Easter. It borrows the Cold Winter’s Day course and even borrows Strictly’s infamous “flat and fast” tagline. Historically, its been all over the map in how many people show up for the race, since the date of the event changes from year to year (i.e. whenever Easter falls). They had over a 100 people in 2012 but usually 40-60.  We’ve had it on the Tour de Columbia a number of years, but you’d be hard pressed to find out any additional publicity.

Which of course, makes it an excellent trophy hunt. The trophy conditions were excellent this weekend. Cold, rainy weather and about 4 other competing area races were a good bet to drive down registration. To boot, the Boston Marathon siphoned off quite a few of Columbia’s best runners (i.e last year’s champ Justin “the A standard” Bishop) . And, in Charleston, there was a tri going on, so that took care of Brandenburg – a perennial podium finisher at this race.

Despite the favorable chances of shiny metal trinkets, I was considering blowing off this race. I had done a bunch in a row, including 2 halfs in the past month, so maybe it would be good to rest.

But then Trophy told me Vowles was running. After an epic( and losing) battle with one of the three amigos last week, I wasn’t about to let the other one come in and steal some age group glory. I was in. Apparently the Trophy let the Pale Beast know, because I start getting trash talk texts in the middle of my easter bunny shopping at CVS. Oh hell no. Bring it, Beast.

Still, I wasn’t signed up, and hearing the steady rain when my alarm went off made me second guess leaving my warm, soft bed. But then I thought about the “crap weather” trophy hunting principle, and I figured I had to give it a shot. I had put in a solid month of weekly speed sessions with Team Utopia South on the track and hadn’t had a 5k to try them out.

I get there and its a trophy hunter’s dream. Pretty much a ghost town. Cold rain. Perfect. My Palmetto 200 teammate Julie was on hand for her first race since college, and she was all nervous like the first leg of the 200. But I had indoctrinated her into the Blue Shoes race addict philosophy, and suddenly the girl who ran with a timex by herself was sporting a new garmin, enrolled in the CRC, and had 3 races on her schedule for April. I was so proud.

We did a mile warmup and by the time we gt back it was still pretty desolate in the parking lot. Stephanie Dukes was on hand, unfortunately without her husband, who takes (literally) thousands of pictures when he comes to races. She had been hitting the TUS training pretty hard too and was looking to throw down a good time. CRC regulars Pete Poore, Alex Ponamarev and Brie McGrievy showed up, along with TDC age group winner Lisa King. Vowles showed up as promised, assuring the age group showdown.

There were “opening ceremonies”, complete with a group stretches and a 50 meter jog up a hill. These small races rock.

At the last second, Jesse and Lisa Smarr showed up, along with James Hicks, so at least we had a solid CRC contingent to what was looking like a very small race – 40 -50 tops. As we all strode up to the start line I took a good look around. No singlets (except for the Pale Beast), no lean looking elite types. Oh dear God….this wasnt for age group glory. This was for the holy grail, the ultimate achievement for the trophy hunter – the overall win.

The race starts as 3,2,1..HE’S ALIVE! and we’re off. Sure enough, I take off up the hill with Vowles on my back and instantly it gets very quiet. No one is following us. Wow. The total Eric Ashton experience..if Eric was about 80 pounds heavier, 5 shades paler and hell of a lot slower. And he usually doesnt have the Pale Beast breathing his neck like a rabid bear taking down his prey. Vowles is right on my shoulder the first half mile and then wisely slips behind my sizable wake, letting me take all the wind and pacing duties.

It occurs to me that maybe I should race this tactically, as in doing just enough to beat your opponent. I consider this for a while and we hit mile 1 at 6:36, which is slower than I wanted but not too terrible considering the two decent climbs early on (one right at the start). I suddenly realize that this won’t work. Vowles has a killer finish, even besting the legen..wait for it..dary Blue Shoe kick at times. We get into a sprint at the end and its anyone’s race.  I decide, like Drago from Rocky IV, I must break him.

But when and where? I have no idea. By this time I’ve kicked up the pace a notch but Vowles is still there just a few steps behind. Then we get to “the hill”, a nasty long incline at least a quarter mile long at about the 1.5 mile mark. I have no idea how Ken is on hills but its my relative strength (paradoxically, considering how much freight I have to tow). I’ve already commenced the wind suckage but I figure this is my chance. I attack the hill hard, and although it about kills me, it has given me some separation. I’m too afraid to look back. I suck on downhills but I try to power down the next one because I can still hear the Pale Beast behind me. Mile 2 then beeps but I’m too afraid to even look at the split.

Here it is – the holy grail – a mile away and symbolic retribution for that platform walker, the hours on the couch, the MRIs, the x rays, and all the frustration and pain. At the Resurrection Run no less. On the course where the race addiction started in December ’08. Time to throw down – hard.

Oh, and it sucks. I start stumbling deep into the pain cave, but I can feel the improved strength of all the speed training. As I turn the corner with a half mile to go, I am completely redlining it. striding out, headless chicken style. The taste of lung and death is now being matched by the pure euphoria of the finish line approaching. I still have a whisper of fear of Vowles coming to get me, but its not like I could give more effort anyway. The last stretch plunges you down a short hill and there’s the clock. 19:20′s?? Holy crap. I sprint it out and cross in 19:36, completely spent. 6:04 last mile, 5:19 pace last tenth. 1st overall.

Yes it may be a race of 44 people, only 25 of whom broke 40 minutes, but I’d totally be lying if I said I wasn’t giddy as a freaking schoolgirl. Overall win with a post-cliff PR? With a victory over the Pale Beast? It was poetic. Everything is awesome.

I suck wind for at least 30 seconds and I’m unfortunately too gassed to catch a photo of Vowles finishing in 20:12. This is probably his best time in the last few months, but as he put it “the most unsatisfying 2nd place ever”. I seem to have had similar feeling when he double dipped/double blue shoed me back in March.

Thrilled for Julie, who captured the women’s win in 21:45. Must be nice to race for the first time in 6 years and take the overall. I should have known since she introduced me to her theme song at the 200

Lots of trophy hunting in the small field, but some fast times nonetheless – Lisa King took women’s  masters in a sub 25 performance. James Hicks placed 2nd in AG with a strong 23:47 and 5th overall. Brie McGrievy had a girl ruin her trophy hunt (Trameka Persaud – finished 4th overall in 23:40, never seen her race before) but still took home 2nd in AG, 9th overall in 25:53. Stephanie “Stevie D” Dukes crushed her age group and just 2 painful seconds short of a sub 30. Lisa Smarr took the 50-54 by 13 minutes, which is less time than she gave herself to show up and register for this race! Jim Manning took the 55-59, while Alex Ponamarev and Pete Poore went 1-2 in the 60-64. Jesse Smarr won the 70-98.