Lexington Half Marathon/10k/5k – Lexington, SC – 11/14/15


This is the second year of the Lexington Half Marathon, the second race put on by Jesse Harmon’s Run Hard group, in addition to his resurrection of the Columbia Marathon in 2014 and 2015. The guy must not sleep much because the idea of putting on two major races a year sounds like a metric crap ton of work.

I was in the midst of Kiawah training last year, and had just done the Savannah half the week before, so I did the half in 2014 with Justin Bishop and Kristin Cattieu’s 1:45 pace group. It worked out perfectly with knocking out my long run for the week. I was definitely surprised at Jesse and Ken Lowden’s ability to put together a 13.1 mile course in Lexington that actually wasn’t too hilly. For the uninitiated, Lexington must have been the site of some ancient mountain range because the area is one roller coaster hill after another. But the Lexington half was pretty good, save for a nasty stretch on 378. The caveat being that I didn’t race it.  Still, Ken Vowles spent half the race in a portapotty last year and still clocked a 1:32, so it can’t be that bad.

With all my eggs in the 2016 Boston basket, I haven’t been marathon training this fall, and instead focusing on the shorter stuff. Last week’s Gov cup 5 miler was a big confidence boost that I’m nearly back to where I want to be, though I’ve been dealing with some right hamstring/glute tightness that has been nagging me since. Yes, Tigs, I know, I know.

I was on the fence about which race to run of the three. My trophy studies have yielded that when three races are available, always choose the middle one. The big dawgs choose the longest race, and people just kind of forget about the middle distance. In this case, I actually think there would be a similar undercard factor to both the 5 and the 10, and probably spreading out the field to make both weaker. You can tell I spend way too much time on this completely useless stuff. Alas, the trophy addict must get his fix.

Joe Wilson, ex -Columbian and my random running partner for half of Kiawah 2014, was coming up to run the 10k, so I agreed to put aside my hatred of the 6.2 and give it a shot. Breaking 40 is my last major running goal I set out for myself years ago, and it has eluded me even when I should have already done it. Technically I did it in the last 6.2 of the Orangeburg Rose Fest 12k, but I need to see those 39’s on a results page to make it legit. Either way, I’m not quite in that shape again for this race.

Arriving at the race I heard some reports that the 10k had the smallest field, so the trophy hunt was on. I knew Randy Hrechko was doing the 10k,  so he would probably be my main competition, and I figured Joe would probably take me down since he got his 39:xx at Peachtree.  There’s a huge crowd for this thing, with a ton of people I don’t know. Temps are literally 30 degrees colder than last weekend, high 30’s-low 40’s. I ran by the half start to check out the competition. Eric Ashton is there, so I know he’ll be running this thing solo. Dude is 47 and still running close to 1:10.  Ty Thomas, Michael Nance (1:30 pacer) , Devon Shirley , Linn Hall, Eric Bopp, Lynn Grimes, Jennifer Reeves, Maria Huff, Julia Early, Joyce, Flicker, Trophy, Ivanka and Eliere Tolan, Rick Gibbons, Mike Jensen, Jeanna Moffett , Jennifer Glass, Marlena Crovatt-Bagwell, Jennifer Hill, April Hutto, Ilia Owens, The Fadels, Wendy Hart, Alan Humphries, Jenn Covington, Ken Lowden and Hou-Yin Chang are some of the familiar faces. There was about a 8-9 minute delay on the start but no worries, I still have 20 plus minutes to do a quick warmup. The Code and I join Joe and his friend Danny from Atlanta on a 1.5 mile warmup and get back to the line at 7:54 for the 8 am start. I’m moving my way up to the front when someone tells me I missed the 10k start. WTF??? Sure enough, I don’t see any other 10k bibs around. Although the website said 8:00, there was apparently some announcement at the half start that they were going to have us 10kers go off at 7:45. Well… I missed that memo.

The four of us start running, but I turn around about 100 meters in and we all get the go ahead from Jesse that we can last-second transfer down to the 5k. I know this is going to be an epic timing cluster for Strictly Running, but there’s not much I can do about it at 7:58. I guess the 5k is also a target event for the Run Hard school program, because I am up on the line with a ton of kids, Joe, Code, Danny and Brandenburg.  The start is crazy with all the kids and I feel like I’m a bus among a bunch of speeding subcompacts. One thing is sure – I am just not feeling it. I guess I have to mentally steel myself against the 20 minutes of torture that is the 5k, because I am just hating life from the get go. Joe, JB and Code form a minipack ahead while I wallow in my pool of negativity a few meters back. What’s worse, my hamstring is really not liking the sudden jolt to low 6 pace.


I manage to free myself from the pack of grade schoolers, though there is one stubborn pre-teen that isn’t liking getting passed by a 40 year old Sasquatch. He lingers through the first mile but eventually gets dropped right after the marker. I was debating about doing the unthinkable and dropping out for the first time, since my heart wasn’t in it, but getting a 6:15 on the Garmin told me I could at least pull an ok time. After mile 1 is a plunge downhill on Pond View Lane. Right leg is still tight and I’m fighting against it.  Code has dropped back from Joe and JB and I’m tracking him down hardcore. As I’m trying to gain on Code, some thin African American guy (later identified as  Kennedy Mulinqe) passes me. I’ve never seen him before, but dude looks super fast. I wonder if he was supposed to do the 10k too?  He runs up ahead and takes down the Code too. Damn, now I’m in 5th. My trophy hopes are dying in the cold Lexington air. I finally catch up to Code just before we have to do a little cul-de-sac out and  back.  Dave Hale was there at the turnaround cone taunting, I mean cheering, us.  We’ve caught up to the half and 10k pack by now and its pretty crowded.  Between my tight leg and all the people around doing different paces and distances, I start sinking into Debbie Downer land. What’s worse, we get to make up all that downhill as soon as we get out of the cul-de-sac. I am ready to get this thing over with, but I’ve got no power going up this hill. The sun is beating down on me and I can literally see the Code’s shadow on the ground in front of me. I catch up to Ken Lowden, making it 2 weeks in a row we’re struggling up a hill together. At least I don’t have 4 miles to go like him, though. Mile 2 in 6:30 something.  Finally I reach Barr road and I’m pretty sure its flat and straight to the finish. Kennedy is slowly getting reeled in. By this time, my lungs are blasting but the hamstring/glute is at least a little looser, so I’m not fighting my own body as much. With visions of trophies dancing through my head, I push all the chips in when I can see the church. Kennedy either looks really smooth all the time or just isn’t trying, but I pass by him in a fury of flailing arms and legs. I’m sprinting it out from there, having no idea what this dude can do, and scared to death he’s going to blue shoe the blue shoes. I round the turn into the church parking lot and about blow out a lung hauling tail to the finish chute. The clock has the half time up, but my Garmin spits back a 19:53. 19:51 officially and 3rd overall.

Ok, so not bad for a 5k where I kind of phoned in the first 2 miles. I’ll take it. I don’t think I was any threat to break 40 in the 10 anyway with my bum hamstring. Selwyn Blake was my hero at the finish. I had to go up and explain the whole situation and we ended up giving him a pile of bibs while he’s trying to manage 3 ongoing races. Major props to him for getting everything worked out.


Eric won the half in 1:13, nine minutes clear of the field. Wow. Brandon Derrana was second with TUS’ David Russell third just a  few seconds behind. Devon Shirley took the women’s win in 1:32, with Cruz Figueroa 2nd and Linn Hall 3rd.  Julia Early and Joyce Welch went 1-2 in female masters, while Ty Thomas took 2nd in male masters. Ty was heartbroken when he learned his new 1:28:39 PR was 11 seconds slower than mine. To be fair, mine was on the pool table flat Savannah course.

In the age groups, Kim Hardin took 2nd in the 30-34. Michael Nance won the 35-39 when no one could match his 1:30 pace group. He did nail the time with a 1:29:52. Kenny Culbertson and Eric Bopp went 1-2 in the 40-44, with Ivanka Tolan and Wendy Hart doing the same among the women. Jennifer Conrick and Jenn Covington went 1-2 in the 45-49. Phil Togneri was 2nd inthe 50-54. Rick Gibbons was 3rd in the 55-59, while Alsens Edwards placed 2nd among the women. Rob Kreigshaber claimed the 60-64 by 13 minutes. John Houser was champ of the 65-69.


Jonathan Kinsey showed up for the 10k to destroy all holy grail chances for the mere mortals. His 33:16 was ten minutes clear of the field, with Randy Hrechko taking 2nd. Laura Day had a trophy hunt by winning the women’s race in 50 minutes and change. Peter Mugglestone claimed 2nd masters at age 70. Not too shabby. Tommy and Cheryl Outlaw were champs of the 55-59, with Dolly Rodgers 3rd. Sharon Sherbourne took home the 60-64. Patt Lowden won the 65-69 with Ken Lowden 2nd among the men.


Joe Wilson held off a charging JB to take the win in 19:14. Code got first masters, with Wayne Shuler 3rd. Four out of the top 5 were 40+. Yay for old men. Susannah Cate took the women’s win followed by Sara Bonner and Kristie Mears. Mary Howk crushed a 23:52 at age 64 (81 percent age grade, equivalent to an 18:05 ) to win female masters, with Barb Brandenburg 2nd. Danny Freeman took the 35-39. Beth Tanner placed 3rd in the 45-49 with Tom Tanner 3rd in the 50-54. Tour director John Gasque won the 55-59. Alex Ponomarev and Brigitte Smith were 65-69 champs. Rocky Soderberg won the 70+.










Governor’s Cup Historic 5 miler – Columbia, SC – 11/7/15



The Gov Cup is the granddaddy of Columbia road races, first put on in 1973 with about 300 runners, then progressing to the big event it is today. It started as a 5 miler and 15 miler, but it’s been an 8k and a half for the past 15 years or so. The Columbia Running Club helped found the race, but later let the Carolina Marathon Association (which also directed the Carolina Marathon 1977-2000) take over. Now the CMA hosts the Gov Cup in the fall and the Women’s Heart and Sole 5 miler in the spring.

This year, new Gov Cup race director Ray Renner and the CMA decided to take the race in a totally new direction and hold it in May, though this left the traditional first -week-of-November race date empty this year. To fill the void, they decided to hold this race, a reiteration of the original 1973 5 miler course.


We held a combined Gov cup 5 miler course preview/Columbia Running Club social last month which exposed the masochistic side of those headband and long tube sock wearing dudes 42 years ago. This thing was pretty brutal. I thought the beginning was going to be pretty flat, but it turns out the course went down Barnwell St, which plunges you down into a chasm and makes you hike right back up to Gervais. And just when you’re getting tired, they threw in Saluda hill at the three mile mark. Damn you, 1970’s guys. Our preview also featured a torrential downpour and lightning for dramatic effect.

Speaking of weather, I woke up on race day and swore I must have taken a Delorean ride at 88 mph back to August. Over 70 degrees and nearly 100 percent humidity..in the early morning…in November. WTF?? I was sweating just walking out to my car.  Code and I carpooled downtown and did a couple of miles with our large Team Utopia South presence. I did Barnwell hill at 10 minute pace and was already sucking wind. This was not going to be fun.


By the time we started lining up to the start, I could tell this was the exact polar opposite of a trophy hunt. Beasts everywhere. While Brandenburg was cruising to a 19:47 win at the Spring Valley 5 and 5, I was going to have to compete against the best runners in the state. Eric Ashton, Jud Brooker, Matt Shock,  Ricky Flynn, Justin Bishop, Orinthal Striggles -these are all guys used to winning every race they enter. I’d be lucky to crack the top 20. The women’s side was stacked too with Eric Ashton’s team of Sara Powell and Michelle Ziegler. Greenville sent some of their elites down as well. On top of that, 49 year old 1984 Olympian Zola (Budd) Pieterse was on hand. And these we just the ultra elite. Eric Allers was on hand to make sure I didn’t have a prayer of placing in Masters, along with Toby Selix. I figured I would have plenty of company with Sarah Allers, the Code, Randy Hrechko, Winston Holliday, Linn Hall , Geary McAlister and Ivanka Tolan. Team Utopia also fielded Eliere Tolan, Julia Early, Lorikay Keinzle, Chris Fawver, Travis Nichols and Mike Compton. Mary Lohman, Lynn Grimes, Dave Hale, Shawn Chillag, Chip Lupo, Hou Yin Chang, Ellen Rodillo-Fowler, Brigitte Smith, Jesse Smarr, Kimberly Hardin, Neil Derrick were some of the other familiar faces.

After hearing a few words from WIS’ Judi Gatson and legendary Columbia runner/multi-Gov cup champ/CMA head Russ Pate, we were off. With the super fast field, I got sucked in immediately. I drafted behind Zola for awhile to get the 1984 Mary Decker Slaney effect but then realized she was still way faster than me. We made the first turn and I knew we were going too fast. Tigs and Code were already talking about it behind me, but I was getting locked into a pissing match with a surging Ivanka and Linn. I have a tendency to be too conservative in the first mile, so I made a point to stay with them. I knew Barnwell was coming up soon but my melon head ego wouldn’t let me ease off. We finally hit the turn on to Barnwell less than a mile in and the mountain ahead looked like an absolute spirit crusher.  That didnt stop me from flopping down the preceding plunge downhill, passing the mile marker in tandem with Ivanka and Linn at 6:15.


And the first expletive of the day gets uttered. Yeah..that’s my flat 5k pace, not my hilly as @#$ 5 miler pace. I remember bitching and moaning to Ivanka but she didn’t want to hear it. We were getting slammed in the face with Mt. Barnwell. We passed Barnhill Colony student housing  on the left, which I used to bitch about in 1996 walking there to drink beer with my friend Dan. Racing it at sub 7 pace was definitely less pleasant than that. I reached the summit at Gervais and I’m sucking wind like I’m blue shoeing a finish… except the finish is almost 4 miles away. Linn doesn’t seem to care and is just crushing it. Must be nice to be 80 pounds lighter. I’m fighting through a case of the no oxygenzies for the better part of the next quarter mile on Pendleton and finally catch my breath to hit another hill at the Pendleton-Pickens intersection. I forgot about that little treat. By the time I reach the turn onto Sumter I’ve managed to drop Linn and it feels great to find some flat. Sumter and the Horseshoe is my old student home so I try to pick up some good karma from my past. As if the aura of drinking beer and eating wings will make me faster. Mile 2 was about 6:42 with the nasty hill.  Sumter turns downhill past Longstreet past the old Towers site from my freshman year which is now some high end luxury dorms. Not that I’m bitter, not at all. Luckily I’ve picked up a new pack of a girl and a tall teenaged guy (later identified as Gage Bowman and Ashley Sears) that I can actually draft off a little. We fly down the turn on Wheat and we all seem to slow down as we pass the old Blatt PE center. It always sucks to pass the finish line area in a race, but I think we all know that Mt. Saluda awaits. We remain in a mini-pack through Maxcy Gregg park and I’ts hard not to despair of what is coming up. I feel myself losing concentration and then get pissed and tell myself to man up – time to get this thing over with. I jump out of Maxcy Gregg and go alone out into the street. The sizable elite and sub-elite field has left us all for dead long ago, so it feels like I’m suddenly winning the race of mere mortals. Mile 3 in 6:29. Carol Wallace and Ken and Sheila Bolin are at the Saluda corner cheering, so it was nice to get a boost before I attack the monster. And I mean attack, hard. Ken Lowden is marshaling the course on his bike (having newly minted himself an Ironman in Chattanooga a few weeks ago) and starts up the hill with me. Arms are pumping, lungs are burning, but I figure if I can just get to the top in one piece it will literally be all downhill from there. Ken is powering up the hill on the bike and I try hard as hell to keep up. Shockingly I am able to motor up this thing pretty fast –  all the Team Utopia monday workouts must be paying dividends. I manage to keep up with the bike most of the way and exit out onto Heyward St half euphoric from being done and half wanting to donate a lung or my breakfast to the street.

I fly down Heyward as fast as I can go, fittingly in the same area we do the TUS warmup. I’m still deathly afraid of a Code or Tigs appearance but its gotten very quiet, so I’m hoping the Saluda blast has earned me some distance. Rounding the turn on Pickens onto Enoree I can actually make out Toby in the distance. Wow, must be doing well. Mile 4 with Saluda was 6:42. With flat Enoree and a downhill to Wheat to go, I ramp it up to blue shoe kick mode. The heat/humidity are really making themselves known by now, but its time to empty the tank. They let a car in behind me so I know I’ve got a good gap on my pack. I’m absolutely flailing down the hill that parallels Saluda and almost trip over myself flopping onto Wheat. With the red numbers in sight I go into overdrive. No one to catch, but I see low 32 and sprint it out to get under 32:30, 32:28, 6:08 last mile, 6:30 overall. I make sweet love to the asphalt for awhile but I’m pretty excited about the time. This is a good minute faster than my Race to Read 5 miler a month ago, which was colder and probably about the same hill-wise.  I ended up 4th master and 2nd in the 40-44, so pretty thrilled about getting some bling in such an uber-competitive race. Nice woodcarvings for awards too – very sweet.

Results –

Ricky Flynn crushed the competition by blasting just under 5:00 pace to take the win in 24:58. CIU coach Jud Brooker ran a 25:59 to take 2nd, with Eric Ashton just a second behind for 3rd and 1st masters. Greenville’s Nicole DeMercurio and Dylan Hassett went 1-2 with EA’s Sara Powell taking 3rd among the women.  Zola took 1st women’s masters, with Linn 2nd. Eric Allers took 2nd men’s masters. Geary McAlister and Sarah Allers were grandmasters champs.

In the age groups, Gage Bowman took 1st in the 2-14. Travis Nichols won the 25-29 with Kortni Miller 3rd among the women. Matt Shock and Justin Bishop went 1-2 in the fastest 30-34 ever. Michele Ziegler and Ashley Sears made for a pretty fast women’s 30-34 too. Striggles took the 35-39 by only ten minutes. Toby Selix won the 40-44 followed by the Albino Sasquatch and the Code. Ivanka had a rough Saluda hill but still got 1st in the women’s 40-44. Randy Hrechko and Winston Holliday went 1-2 in the 45-49, while Julia Early showed a blue shoes style kick to win in the women’s division. Chantal Faure won the 50-54 with Francisco Mora and Phil Togneri going 2-3 in the 50-54 men. Lorikay Keinzle took the 55-59. Mike Compton and Neil Derrick went 1-2 in the 60-64, with Lynn Grimes placing 3rd among the women. Brigitte Smith took 2nd in the 65-69, with Shawn Chillag winning the men’s division. Peter Mugglestone took 2nd in the 70-74 while Jesse Smarr won the 75+.





NW YMCA Pumpkin 5k – Irmo, SC – 10/31/15


The Pumpkin 5k is put on by Erin Roof and company at the YMCA and goes to benefit their Annual Campaign to make the Y available to everyone through scholarships and financial assistance. I first did it in 2009 and I’ve run it several times since, including a scorching 42 minute 5k with a complainy 10 year old in 2013.

Little Alex did have a point – the course is pretty brutal and a little long (garmin has been 3.18 consistently), but it being a Y event I could count on it being well done and swagtastic.

Since it was Halloween, I saw they were encouraging costumes for this one. I am typically a purist – dont make me run through color clouds or eat a box of donuts halfway. Running Times not Runners World. Yes, I am an insufferable runsnob. But, I got suckered into buying a Hulk costume in a post-beer Target expedition with three overeager preteens, so I might as well get some mileage out of this thing.

The problem is that I am not the chunky beast I once was, so putting on the oversized green muscle shirt looked pretty pathetic. Like Hulk was dying of some horrible illness. Bonus is that masks have evolved since the 1980’s. The ones from my youth were oppressive sweat boxes for your face, forcing you to breathe through two pin holes until you hyperventilated and were about to pass out. Not to mention the plasticky Gi-Joe sauna suit that left you drenched on a typical 70 degree South Carolina Halloween night. This Hulk mask had padding and was pretty easy to breathe through, and the shirt was fairly comfortable.I even test drove it at Strictly Running’s costume Run for Pizza. This was going to be fine.

I was impressed at the turnout when I showed up on race morning. Erin had told me they were shooting for 800, which I thought was a grandiose delusion on par with something I would see at work. This was a week after Ray Tanner, so I figured it would be tough to get people out 2 weeks in a row. Some people think that’s excessive. BAHAHA. Amazingly, there seemed to be at least several hundred on hand, so hats off to the Roof publicity machine.

After doing a couple of warm up miles with Charlie Clements, I realize that this crowd is really slim on the competition factor. I don’t see any elite types, at least not initially. I ran into Angel and figured he might be eligible for the trophy hunter’s holy grail, the overall win. I mean, the Code is a former champion here, so mere mortals have prevailed in the past. That was all shot to hell when Dimery made his typical last second arrival. And when we finally lined up, there were some front row guys that at least looked really fast.  I figured Liz Locke was going to win the women’s race in a cake walk (though disappointed she didnt choose the Stay Puft costume from the SR run). Alex Ponomarev, Pete Poore, John Gasque, Arnold Floyd, Peter Mugglestone, Brigitte Smith, Rocky Soderberg and  Henry Holt made up a crew that have probably already put in 20+ races each this year. Pete O’Boyle, Karen Manning, Missy Caughman, Lisa Smarr, Wayne Shuler, David Pappas, Shelley and Marion Hinson, Pam Griffin, the O’Toole family, The Petruzzis, and Mike and Kat Hudgins (as Fred and Velma from Scooby Doo) were some of the familiar faces. Todd Heinecke, Paul Sadler and of course Erin and Sarah Roof were on hand as race staff.

At the start line I reviewed the course with Angel. You run up and out of the parking lot and then downhill onto Firetower Rd. From there, a mile of hellish, quad destroying hill, then turn around and come all the way back. Seemed simple enough. Luckily this time I wouldn’t have to endure watching my son getting chicked by a bunch of preteen Southern Strutt girls.

I lined up just behind Dimery and the start was a total stampede with so many people (results had 494, Erin said about 600 total registered plus the kids run). I am trying hard not to hit people, though when you’re nearly 200 pounds and wearing a Hulk costume, people tend to give you the right of way.  The mask made it about 200 meters. It might have been fine at 9 minute pace, but the wind suckage at low 6 was not mask-friendly. In hindsight I should have just ditched it there near the parking lot, but I wanted it for the finish photo. We’ll get to that…

Luckily, the demasking helped a lot with the whole oxygen exchange thing, and I was able to settle in. As usual, there are all kinds of people all around me trying to crush the first mile. Did these dudes even look at the course? I guess not. Liz is taking a page from her SR teammate Jen Lybrand and is blasting it out too. Angel is surprisingly not in the picture. We round a turn near the mile mark and we get our first look at the multi-tiered mountain ahead of us. Oh God, this is going to suck. Mile 1 in 6:15, a little overcooked, but not surprising given the amount of downhill and adrenaline rush of the start.  Once Mount Misery begins the pack gets real thin, real quick. Dimery and three other guys are a whole zip code ahead, but suddenly its just me and this familiar looking guy just ahead. He’s a got a few grays so he’s probably masters and threatening to take my trophy. He must be beaten! Despite the extra luggage of beers and pizza I carry around, I’m surprisingly good on hills. I power up the mountain taking down masters guy and Liz in the process. Suddenly it feels like I’m winning the race, if it wasn’t for the four guys with actual talent a quarter mile ahead of me. Speaking of these guys, they suddenly come into view again on their way back down the mountain, so I’m hopeful the turnaround is somewhere up there soon.

I finally motor over the summit of Mt. Firetower only to realize the turnaround cone is about 50 meters down the other side. Approaching the cone, I exhibit all the finesse of a speeding 18 wheeler trying to stop on a dime. There’s just no way to gracefully turn around on a downgrade at 5k pace. I jolt to a complete stop and try to power back up to the summit again the best I can.  Turnarounds are good for scoping out the competition though. Masters guy (later identified as Anthony Hernandez)  and Angel are on my tail a few yards back. Its looking like one 4 man race for the overall and one three man race for masters. Liz is miles ahead on the women’s side.

The mountain climb has given my lungs a gut punch so I do try to maximize my considerable gravitational advantage for awhile. Unfortunately my gorilla physique is not real efficient in turning that potential energy into kinetic power, because I can hear Hernandez riding me like a circus monkey. It is nice to see everyone on the way down – man this race is huge. I then push it for awhile and lose Hernandez, but then hear a slightly different set of lungs sucking wind. I hit the mile 2 marker and before I can check my Garmin (an ugly 6:42) I look up and Angel takes me on the right. I figure he’s gone out easy and is now going to crush it. I tell him to go get it, but damned if my oversized melon headed ego isn’t wincing from the pride injury. Time to man up. We complete the freefall down the mountain basically side by side. An all-out old man war is in progress. Angel surges on the last two long inclines to the Y, and I follow suit. We are both sucking wind like there’s no tomorrow, Angel now a step ahead. I’m sure I’m giving him rapid-bear-chase nightmares for months to come. I keep telling myself, maybe I can get him in the Y parking lot… except every bit of my being is screaming to stop this torture..and damn I wish I wasn’t carrying this ridiculous mask.  Mile 3 (6:00) chirps back before we even hit the Y, so I know this is going to be longish. We plunge into the parking lot and I am just toast – I’m half worried my legs are just going to crumple in front of me. Angel is painfully close but he is sprinting it out like a beast too…and damn it’s going to be close to 20 minutes. But I just can’t do it. We crash through the finish with me a step behind, flashing my mask in my face for the photo op, looking absolutely ridiculous. 19:57.


Man, I hate to lose, but these battles are what I live for.  No way I drop a 6 flat last mile without chasing someone. Angel is a beast too, so no shame in finishing a second behind him. I’ll take it. Nice tervis tumbler 2nd masters award, even without the first masters cash.

In the overall, the four man race was won by Joe Keitt, Justin Carder and Jeff Spraker – never seen any of them race before. Justin is from Pelion so I wonder if he’s a Coach B product. Dimery finished 4th, though he’s over 10 years older than the other three. Angel, myself and Anthony Hernandez finished 5-7th in the masters race. Liz Locke easily claimed the women’s win, with Ashley Culler 2nd and my former Blue Ridge relay teammate Karen Manning 3rd (and 1st female master). CRC’er Shelley Hinson took 2nd female masters.

In the age groups, Mary O’Toole placed 2nd in the 14-16. New CRC member Sarah Merriman took 3rd in the 25-29. David Pappas enjoyed everyone aging up and took the 35-39. April Hutto said she was “out for a jog” but couldn’t help placing 3rd in the 40-44, with Christina McCarty 2nd. Charley Clements, Marion Hinson and Todd Whalon (dressed as a neon fairy) swept the 40-44 men. Wayne Shuler placed 3rd in the 45-49. Pam Griffin crushed the 50-54. Ken Sekley and Tour Director John Gasque went 1-2 among the men. Lisa Smarr was champ of the 55-59 women. Petes O’Boyle and Poore were 1st and 3rd in the 60-64. Jan Hardwick and Alex Ponomarev were beasts in the 65-69, with Brigitte Smith taking the win among the women. Arnold Floyd, Peter Mugglestone and Henry Holt swept a super tough 70+ division.






Fallen Firemen 5k – Lexington, SC – 10/17/15


The Fallen Firemen 5k is a first year event in Lexington put on by Eggplant Events to support the Jeffrey Vaden Chavis House  at the Burn Center at Doctors Hospital in Augusta, GA.  Jeff was a Lexington County fireman who lost his life from burns suffered in a house fire in 2001. The House was set up in his name by the Chavis family to help other families have a place to stay while their loved ones are undergoing treatment at the Burn Center.

This race was a late addition to the Tour de Columbia, but I was planning to do it anyway because of the good cause. It was originally scheduled for October 3rd, which ended up being the first day of the 1000 year, Biblical flood of Columbia, so it got canceled. They rescheduled for the 17th, which was the day of the Sumter Tri that I had been training for all summer. Then that got canceled too, and the Race for Life (which I try to do every year) got postponed to January. So by multiple twists of fate, I ended up still doing this race.

Though I was glad to be able to do a race that I had already paid for, this course had me scared. I had to reach way back in the Blue Shoes mental archives, but I distinctly remember the old, now defunct, Lexington Kiwanis 5k.  I did the last year of the event in 2010 , and it stands out as one of the smallest races I’ve ever done. There were maybe 25 people there. I ran out hard from the gun in a misguided attempt at the trophy hunter’s holy grail, the overall win. I died a million deaths in the mountains of that course, and everyone had slow times. I couldn’t catch future Run Hard marathon director Jesse Harmon, though I did pull an epic blue shoe of Amy McDonough (now Kelley) to take second. I think everybody ended up winning an age group medal in the race and I distinctly remember the last place finisher taking female masters.  Google is a wonderful thing :



The Firemen 5k pretty much mirrors that course, and actually is the same one as the Patty Packs 5k in December.  That’s a newer race I’ve yet to do, but the consensus about the course sticks out in my mind from the CRC newsletter: absolute sufferfest. Oh well, at least everybody else has to run those hills too.


Not a huge crowd but a good turnout for a rescheduled first year event.  As some kind of karmic retribution for the rainout, the weather couldn’t have been more perfect. Cloudless and about 50 degrees. The first cold-ish race of the year. The Yerg was already there and we did a couple of miles on the middle of the course, which was taking the wind out of me at 9 minute pace. Awesome, cant wait to do this at my 1000% race effort.  We get back and its looking good for the Yerg’s overall trophy chances. I don’t see any of the big dawgs – no plexes or bishops or ashtons.  Leeds Barroll, Pete Poore, Alex Ponomarev, Kristin Cattieu, Shelley Hinson, Pam Griffin, Brie McGrievy, Maria Huff, Rocky Soderberg, Peter Mugglestone and Brigitte Smith were all on hand. Rob had raced the Hump Day 5k on Wednesday and the Hoka Oktoberfest 3 mile run the night before, but his chances were still looking pretty good. There was one kid that looked pretty fit but that was about it. Then all of that went crashing down when Jason Dimery showed up last second. Dimery has a habit of barely making it to the start line as the gun sounds, and I remember him winning the See Spot 5k a few years back showing up about a minute late. The Yerg would have to wait for another day to get his glory.

I had no time goal with the brutality of the course, save maybe to avoid the blackjack (21 minutes) and having to endure Trophy mocking me for months. Oh, and don’t get Kristinned. She had already crushed me in Tri the Midlands earlier this summer, and I wasn’t too keen to have that get repeated, despite my tri-ineptitude.

The start was super fast since you go out flat then plunge down into a valley on South Lake Dr.  It seems almost every 5k has that couple of kids who go hauling ass out of the blocks only to crump about a quarter mile in, and this race was no different. I had to pull a couple of Leonard Fournette moves to avoid these dudes getting hit by a Blue Shoed Bus. This maneuver then got me forced to squeeze between the two kids running with flags in honor of the fallen firemen. Classy move, Sasquatch.

Dimery had already crushed the field by the time we reached the first monster hill, followed by the high school kid and the Yerg. The first half mile was mostly downhill, but guess what, time to make up all that elevation gain right away. Brutal long slog all the way to Gibson Road and the mile marker. I hit it in 6:36, probably the average of my 6 min pace screaming down into the valley and 7 minute pace trudging back up. While Rob had left me for dead in the distance, 2 fit looking dudes were just in front of me who I’d never seen before. I couldn’t tell but they were looking kind of age groupy. I needed to latch on lest one of these randoms take my precious trophy – there was Dimery, the fast kid and Yerg ahead of these guys, so masters was still up for grabs. Unless one of these dudes was 40… oh hell no. Luckily I was gaining on them without surging, and by the time I reached them near the halfway point, they seemed pretty gassed. One of them jumped on my back for a while after I passed, but I surged on the next hill and left them. These crossfit guys sure hate getting Sasquatched.

Did I mention hills? Sweet baby Jesus mile 2 sucked. My Garmin readout makes it look like a couple of bumps, but rest assured South Church Street is a veritable mountain range. Total roller coaster. The worst is the slog leading up to the mile 2 marker. While I had been feeling pretty good, the last hill on Church had me praying for mercy. In the fog of my oxygen-deprived brain, I noticed the Yerg was getting a wicked case of the bonksies and I was slowly gaining on him. Maybe the three races in four days had left him ripe for the picking? Would there be another Stomp the Swamp epic blue shoeing?

Mile 3 had to be relatively flat, so I started to ramp it up some. Mile 2 split was an identical 6:36. Unfortunately the Yerg glanced back at the turn onto 3rd St and my stealth stalking cover was blown. Damn. I tried to redline it some more but the mountain range had given me a sucker punch to the lungs. Nothing left. I spent the whole last mile completely alone with nothing but the jackhammer beat of my heart and death gasps from my lungs to keep me company. That, and the paralyzing fear of crossfit guys or Kristin blue shoeing me along the way. One last little bump on to Main Street and I managed a weak kick on fumes. Yerg was painfully close but I had run out of real estate. I rounded the last turn and crossed in 20:37.  4th overall, 1st masters.

Definitely not happy with the time, but I figure this course adds 30-45 seconds from a flat course. Not the most brutal, but close. The Lexington Jingle Bell still reigns supreme for 5k sufferfests. I’ll take first masters any day though. Nice plaque for masters and top 3 overall. Beer glasses for the age groups!

Jason Dimery crushed a 17:23 to take the win. That’s sub 17 easy on a flat course. John Kaminski was the “fast kid” who finished 2nd. He may be the guy who won Tunnels to Towersa month ago. Third went to the Yerg – got me by 19 seconds to avoid the shame of getting Sasquatched. Kristin did win the women’s overall in 23:56 followed by Shelley Hinson. A tiny 8 year old, Ashalyne Fietkau, took 3rd in 25:47, which is pretty amazing.

Age group honor roll: RWB’s Maria Huff won the 35-39 with dog in tow. Brie McGrievy took the 40-44 in her first race back from a tough injury suffered at the Silver Fox 5k. Don’t call it a comeback! Pam Griffin was champion of the 50-54. Leeds Barroll, fresh off his blue shoeing of Tracy Tisdale-Williams on Wednesday, took down Pete Poore and claimed the 60-64. Pete took second with Paul Bates 3rd. To Pete’s credit, I hear he’s been a little busy with the Dept of Transportation recently. Alex Ponomarev won the 65-69 by a mere 22 minutes while Brigitte Smith took 2nd. Peter Mugglestone and Rocky Soderberg claimed the top 2 spots in the 70+.






Race to Read 5 miler – Lugoff, SC – 9/26/15


The Race to Read is a 5 mile race in its 11th year, going to benefit early literacy efforts in Kershaw County. It’s put on by Betsy Long, librarian at Doby’s Mill Elementary, who is also a runner herself. It’s always been a good event and a regular stop on the Blue Shoes racing calendar.

Of course if you know me at all, it will take about 5 seconds before I inform you I have won this race. Not the age group. The whole enchilada. The holy grail of the trophy hunter.

This was back in 2010, before it was on the Tour de Columbia or Palmetto Prix. When it was a little known rural race that just screamed come and take my trophy. And so I did. It took an all-out effort, locked in an epic age grouper duel with Greg Howell, complete with a blue shoe kick and dry heave on the final turn. It was not pretty, but man was it sweet.

But as usual, whenever some pasty Sasquatch wins a race, all the real trophy contenders take note. I havent even seen the winner finish since the glory of ’10.  I got Vowlesed badly last year. The Pale Beast laid down a couple of low 6 miles at the finish to completely crush me. The shame was even worse in 2013. Coming off my cliff dive, R2R was my second race back and got me Trophied and Ferlautoed. Oh, the humanity.

But maybe I could redeeem myself this year. Pale Beast is still run-injured, and takes his sadistic impulses out on our Sunday bike ride instead. Who knew the guy was a covert Brandenburg-esque stud on the bike? Ferlauto was MIA but I did hear the Trophy was going to make an appearance. With his double double deuce showing (albeit the 35-39 “champion”) at the Dam Run last week, I wasn’t too worried, but it would be really awful to lose to him this week, which would mark his masters debut. Happy 40th, Trophy.

I show up to Doby’s Mill on race day and wondered where the fall went. Around 70 degrees, and like 90 percent humidity. Sweating right out of the car. Awesome. At least I had avoided the frequent Friday night Blue Shoe perils of concerts, late nights and beer. I felt pretty beat down, though. The last couple of weeks of training have been mostly without any aches or pains, which is pretty much license for me to overtrain and get hurt.  I usually take Friday off but I ended up running anyway, which led to 6.2 miles instead of the easy 4 I had planned. Nice job, hero.

The first person I see is, lo and behold, the Code. With TUS singlet on, ready to race. The dude has been out for the better part of 6 months, and been my assistant…or as I like to call him – “photo bitch”.  Someone has to help me carpet bomb facebook news feeds with running pics, so he was the chosen one. Luckily for me, he says he’s just going to tempo it and see how the leg feels. I’ve heard this crap before, though, so I make a point to keep my eye on him in the race. He is now 40, and back in my age group.

I did a couple of warm-up miles with Trophy, Code and J-Lybrand, whose trophy hunting is even more voracious than mine. She’s doing the FATS 50k next week. And you thought I was racing obsessed. Back at the school I briefly get a twinge of the holy grail being up for grabs, seeing no elites right away. Then Eddie Lopez shows up, so there goes my dream of the overall glory. There’s still masters, though, and it looks like its only me, Code, Trophy and Whitney Keen. I thought this gave me a good chance, provided the Code didn’t get too frisky. Whitney did beat me at Springdale a month earlier, but I figured that was just me coming back from injury.  On the women’s side there was Heather Costello, who would probably trounce the ladies as bad as Eddie would beat down the men.  Garrick Douglas, who so brutally blue shoed me at Springdale, was also there. Mario Alvarez,  Kara Clyburn, Peter Mugglestone, Rocky Soderberg, Brigitte Smith, Andrew Lipps, Natalia Rozchkova, Henry Holt, Jennifer Reeves, Tim Pearson, Alex Robertson and the rest of the Keen clan (Robert, Julia and Caroline) were some of the familiar faces.


I wasn’t sure what my strategy should be for this one. I figured around 6:40 pace with the hot tub humidity and the hills. The course is mostly a rectangle beginning and ending at Doby’s  Mill. You have a short hill coming out of the school, but then 3/4 of a mile of flatness on Kennedy Road. You turn on Kirkland at mile 1 and run mostly downhill on gravel. The turn onto Porter Cross is near the mile 2 mark. Porter Cross is initially downhill but changes to a mountain range at the end. Mile 3 is on top of the worst hill. Mile 4 is mostly downhill on Fort Jackson Rd, Mile 5 is pretty rough with a nasty hill to start and a twisting short “nature trail” on the school grounds before the finish back near the start behind the school.


Not a big crowd for this one, so the start thinned out the field very quickly. Eddie left us all for dead before we got out of the school grounds. I tailed on to Whitney and Heather at first, but then fell back as we turned on to Kennedy rd. I was already sweating like a pig in mile 1, and didn’t feel great. I started having nightmares about getting Coded and Trophied. Spent most of mile 1 trying to get the lead out from my ill-advised 6 miler the day before and making sure Costello and Keen were in striking distance. Mile 1 was surpisingly fast at 6:31. What the hell did Whitney have for breakfast, cocaine? I expected Heather to soundly beat our tails, since she’s probably literally half my weight. Whitney, on the other hand, has a 5k PR just under 20 and hit mile 1 in what had to be around 6:15. Is he a new Jen Lybrand disciple? I settle in  to the long slog down the gravel road all by myself, alone with my thoughts. Why is Whitney kicking my ass? Oh God, is that Trophy I hear behind me??? I have a severe case of race-induced paranoia. The gravel road is only a mile but seems to last forever. I can barely make out Eddie making the turn way up ahead, and then I lose sight of him. Heather and Whitney are also starting to gap me even more. That’s OK, Whitney is going out way too fast, I’ll catch him!…Right? Mile 2 in 6:45, so pretty close to goal. There’s a nice drop initially on Porter Cross to get your wind back a little, opening up to a beautiful country scene with a field of cows. You might enjoy taking in the scenery if you didn’t look up ahead and see a mountain arising out of nowhere. All of a sudden, I’m huffing and puffing and dying a thousand deaths, climbing up this beast of hill. What’s worse, I am making zero ground on the two ahead of me. This was supposed to be where I could make my move. Yeah… not happening. Mile 3 is at the top of this monster and the split is like 6:50 something. Holy slowdown, batman.  I try to duck behind some trees as we approach the turn onto Fort Jackson Rd, employing the patented Blue Shoes stealth technique. This would work well if I was within at least 100 meters of the Costello-Keen combo, which I’m decidedly not. Whitney doesn’t look back anyway. I try to push the pace on the ensuing downhill, but I’m getting nowhere. Whitney is holding steady, right on Heather’s back and not fading one bit. What is fading way is my hopes of getting my precious masters win. Damn that Keen, crushing Sasquatch dreams. Mile 4 in 6:40 . Once my spirit was crushed I needed to make sure my shame wasn’t amplified by losing my age group to the two jokers behind me. The slog up the last hill on Fort Jackson rd about kills me and it feels like I’m barely moving hitting the nature trail. People either love or hate the nature trail, but you will know where you stand once you get there. It loops back around so you can clearly see who is behind you. Whitney and Heather are nearly done by the time I come to an area where I can see them, so I know my masters hopes are dead on arrival. Thankfully I can only see Garrick as I loop around myself towards the finish. I blast out onto the bus loop and see Whitney and Heather cross the line in what looks like a photo finish. I mount a half-hearted kick with no one to chase and cross over a minute later in 33:40.

Not thrilled with this one – my 2010 time was a minute faster.  To be fair, I’m still on the comeback trail and the 2010 race was when it was held in late October, with race temps in the 30’s. Must get faster..again. But hey, I got this email yesterday about a little race in Massachusetts, so better get to it.



In the overall, Eddie Lopez killed it with a 27:34 for the win. It turns out Heather outleaned Whitney at the line to capture 2nd overall and the women’s win. Whitney got the male masters win, with Nikki Campbell taking female masters.

Only one deep in the age groups, but awesome bricks painted as children’s books instead of medals. I experienced a ridiculous amount of anxiety over someone choosing “Go Dog, Go” before me, since this is the book I’ve read a million times to all three of my minions. Luckily it survived until the 40-44 age group. It was a good day for team Keen, as son Robert and daughter Julia each claimed their age group. J-Lybrand ran a strong, and fairly even-paced 35:49. Garrick Douglas won the 30-34. Mario Alvarez captured the 50-54. Tim Pearson said his goal was not to finish last – not only did he achieve that goal but also took home an age group as well, taking the 55-59. Alex Ponomarev (65-69) , Brigitte Smith (65- 69) and Peter Mugglestone (70+) all took home age group glory as well.






Dam Run to Irmo 10k – Lexington, SC – 9/19/15


The Dam Run to Irmo 10k is one of the oldest races in the Columbia area, now in its 29th year. It holds the distinction as being the only true point-to-point race in the area and it has a net downhill, making it a pretty fast race. It also offers sweet prize money to the winners, so it typically brings out all the beasts. Not exactly a trophy hunt.

But Irmo is my childhood home (Irmo High class of ’93 – Go yellow jackets!) so I do feel some sort of allegiance to doing this race. You can’t beat the scenic views on the dam or the net downhill either.

My original plan was to have some sort of impulse control and “just” do this race this weekend. Unfortunately I fell off the wagon again and ended up racing Tunnel to Towers the night before. Doubling up is tough enough, but doing a 10k as the second race is pretty much a recipe for disaster, especially one with a brutally competitive field. But my eternal optimism (aka supreme egomania) said I could do it and still compete for awards. Hey, it was better race prep than late night concerts in Charlotte and/or beerapaloozas.

Or maybe not. Race morning had me waking up with a headful of doubt, cursing my computer indiscretions on Strictly Running’s website. Legs were cinder block-esque  after last night’s all-out summit of Mt. Gervais St. At least the Hawaii toe has been feeling better. I’ve been wearing size 11.5 shoes for the last couple of years, but I got size 12’s when I saw a random cheap pair of my old blues on ebay. Sadly, I think I’ve been a size 12 all this time. It feels amazing to be able to move my toes around again. Common sense has never been my forte.

I showed up late for the race because a 7:30 start and 30 minutes away don’t work out well with the delicate ballet of coffee-making, cereal-pouring, ibuprofen-popping and bathroom destroying involved in my race morning routine. Did a couple of miles with TUS teammate Julia Early, Trophy and Tommy Kahaly. Trophy suggested I go slumming with him and do his pace. I thought about it but realized there’s no way I could resist giving Trophy a beatdown. Plus, who knew where Trophy was on the fitness scale. Dude fluctuates from 20-22 minutes in the 5k depending on who he’s dating or his  weekly buffalo wing consumption. I had been calling him “Blackjack” (21 minutes) again to motivate him to get faster , but now he’s about to earn “Double Deuce” (22).

Stepping up to the start and its flush with SC running celebrities. TUS coach Justin Bishop, Eric Ashton, Ryan Plexico and OJ “Rashad” Striggles are representing Columbia’s finest, along with Matt Shock from Greenville. On the women’s side, Shawanna White is the favorite, along with Erin Miller and the return of Sara Powell. I recognize Caitlin Batten, fresh off her national Beer Mile championship, along with new husband Irv , both running beasts from Charleston.  MC Cox and Jennifer Lybrand are also representing from team Strictly Running. A ton of the usual Columbia scene is on hand for this one: Greta Dobe, Randy “the H is silent” Hrechko, Pete O’ Boyle, Howie Phan, Matt Pollard, Kenny Culbertson, Francisco Mora, Marian Nanney (also doubling up from T2T) , Ramesh Tippabhatla, Lorikay Keinzle (TUS),  David Russell (TUS), Larry Bates, Michael Jensen, Jim Williams (TUS), Barb Brandenburg (SR), Art Lambert, Jennifer Glass, Wade Bauer (TUS), Sheila Bolin (TUS) , Mackenzie Wilson (TUS), Tom Tanner, Mario Tudor, and Rocky Soderberg.

Not a whole lot of planning on this one – I thought run one mile at what felt like 10k effort and see what the Garmin gave me. The first mile and a half is completely pancake flat over the dam (after an initial little downhill) so it would be a good place to see how the legs and lungs are functioning. I knew mile 2 to be the roughest with some nasty hills in a neighborhood loop. Mile 3 and 4 would be rolling, and the last 2 miles mostly flat. Despite the net downhill, this race has never produced great times for me, probably because of it being right after summer. I ran a 45:05 for my first 10k ever, and then a 42:11 and a 42:08 the other two times.  The 10k has always been my worst distance.


The start, as predicted with the beast factor, is super fast. My legs still feel like crap despite the 2 mile warmup. Turns out 10 minute pace without any strides does not prepare you for race pace. Go figure. I am getting my butt passed left and right as I mentally struggle not to get sucked in by all these guys treating it like a 400 meter sprint. About a half mile in, the dam gets real quiet as the pack starts to thin out. Being an expert level race results stalker, I spot Francisco Mora, Jennifer Lybrand, Pete O’Boyle and Randy Hrechko all in front of me. Quick nerd calculations suggest a 42ish minute pace.  When I’m in good shape I should be just ahead of these guys, but who knows with my current conditioning and last night’s abuse.

I hit mile 1 in 6:49 and felt OK, so I tried to hold it. No need to be a hero this early. Off the dam is a nice downhill which helps you catch your breath. At some point I passed J-Lybrand and Francisco and now targeted Pete and Randy. Pete appeared to be picking it up some and passed Randy. Mile 2 in 6:47. After the first water stop is the Nasty Neighborhood Loop. I’m sure the people are nice there – in fact quite a few were spectating and cheering. It’s just their hills suck.  It’s a pretty short loop and as I enter, Ashton, Shock,  Striggles and Justin are already coming out. Ashton is crushing it. Right away we get treated to a sharp uphill, which hurts but always gains me against the field. Thus is the Sasquatchian Paradox: I’ve got 30-50 pounds on my peers but climb hills better. On the flipside, I suck on the downhills, with gravity seemingly on my side. One of the great questions of mankind.

Speaking of downhills, we get a plunge down one only to set us up for climb number 2, which is even longer and steeper. I again use my quads of steel to shame a kid on the way up.  Coming out of the nasty neighborhood loop is a long stretch on Bush River Rd. Slowly but surely I gain on Randy and pull even with him. He claims to be done when I pass him but I know better. Mile 3 in 6:45. I am actually starting to feel better at this point. I think I’ve washed out the soreness and I’m moving more fluidly. The field is now way spread out and its only me and O’Boyle up ahead in our little section. Must win the battle of Irish paleness! I hit mile 4 (6:44) just before the second neighborhood loop, which I know is much flatter. I’ve got some gas in the tank so I decide to kick it up a notch. I pull up alongside Pete and pass him, but he latches on my back and starts breathing down my neck. It seems no one likes to be Sasquatched. We drop down a hill and we hit a nice flat and straight stretch. I start striding out and O’Boyle fades a bit behind. There’s a long stretch where the sun hits you right in the face every year, but of course this is the one race in ages where I’ve forgotten my sunglasses. I run out into the sun pretty much blind and start to ramp it up for the finish, picking off another couple of guys that are unknown to me. Mile 5 comes back in 6:31, and I’m definitely starting to feel the extra effort. One last little incline after the 5 mile water stop and then down the hill to Saluda Shoals park. It’s almost a mile in the park, so I try not to get too caught up in the moment. I died a thousand deaths in the park in 2011 and ended up getting “white shoed” by Tigs and feeling like I could barely finish (this was the year I thought 6:18 was a good pace to start) . I’m starting to feel the pain this year too, with the toll of a couple of 5kish miles in the bank since passing Randy. But there’s a girl up ahead and I slowly start reeling her in. Matt Pollard is ahead of her, but I don’t see another Ray Tanner blue shoe possible with his lead. Suddenly Justin appears, presumably having finished and gone to get breakfast by now. He shouts I have about a quarter mile to go and 90 seconds to break 42 minutes. Damn, that’s 6 minute flat pace. And I’m on fumes. But give me a carrot on a string and I will do just about anything. I start sprinting, or perhaps lumbering like a rabid grizzly, down the entrance road of the park. The girl is pretty far ahead and the finish line always feels like it’s right around the corner. You can hear it from way far out. Finally I catch a glimpse of the red numbers, around  41:40ish, and rip into the hardest kick I can manage. The time is ticking away and its going to be really close. Girl gets passed with about 50 meters to go and she’s probably still wondering what that white blur was. In full sprint I hit the line and slap the Garmin, and do an ugly flop onto the grass. After having an extended make out session with the finish line grass, I see my Garmin at 42 flat. Damn! But wait…lets check the results. BOOM. 41:59. Awesome.


OK, so still way short of the 40:38 PR, and even that is my slowest personal best in relation to distance. But its a step towards the springtime Blue Shoes, so I will take it. I also got 6.31 miles on my distance, so I probably ran the certified course pretty poorly. Either way, I got smoked in the age group. 5th. 21st overall. To rub salt in my wounds, Trophy came in almost 3 minutes behind me and got…FIRST in age group. WTF? He’s 6 months younger and wins the 35-39 since Striggles claimed 3rd overall. Oh well, Trophy turns 40 tomorrow so he’ll have to man up soon enough.

Winning the overall was Eric Ashton, 7 years my senior and still crushing a 33 flat. Wow. Matt Shock claimed second in a strong 33:30. Striggles was third in 34:22. The women’s race was apparently an epic showdown between Shawanna White and Sara Powell. They ran most of the race together before Shana threw down a vicious kick to take the win in 37:11, 2 seconds ahead of Sara. I would liked to have seen that, but I was barely in the park by then. Erin Miller got a PR 37:34 for third.

Age group honor roll: David Russell and Matt Pollard went 1-2 in the 25-29. Jennifer Lybrand won the women’s 25-29 with Rachel Carter 3rd.  The 30-34 was insanely fast with regular overall winners Justin Bishop and Ryan Plexico taking the top 2 spots. Caitlin Batten took 4th overall and 1st in the women’s 30-34 with a 38:22. Tammy Putt was the unfortunate Blue Shoe victim, taking home 2nd in the 30-34 AG.  The ladies 35-39 was also brutal with MC Cox breaking 40 minutes for the win (39:51) and Marian Nanney 2nd after winning T2T last night. Tracy McKinnon claimed 1st in my age group with Toby Selix coming back with a 39:41 for third after taking the summer off from racing. Randy Hrechko mounted a strong kick to overtake Pete in the park and finished 1st in the 45-49. Barb Brandenburg and Julia Early went 2-3 in the 45-49. I don’t know Laura Stepp, but her 1st place with a 44:54 was impressive. In the 50-54, Howie Phan crushed a sub 40 in 39:49 and took 1st by 5 minutes, Francisco Mora and Phil Togneri were 2nd and 3rd. Larry Bates won the tightly contested 55-59, with Tommy Kahaly 3rd, all within 44 minutes. The women’s 55-59 was also brutal, with Lorikay Keinzle, Carol Wallace and Alsena Edwards sweeping the category. Pete took the 60-64 by a landslide, running 43:09 for the win by 7 minutes. John Houser claimed 2nd in the 65-69 just a few weeks after his half marathon in the Blue Ridge.  Brigitte Smith won 3rd among the women. The eternally positive Rocky Soderberg took 2nd in the 70+.





Tunnel to Towers 5k – Columbia, SC – 9/18/15


The Tunnel to Towers 5k is one of a series of 5ks across the country put on by the Steven Siller Tunnel to Towers Foundation, which goes to benefit firemen, police, other first responders, and the military. Steven Siller was a firefighter who lost his life on September 11 at the World Trade Center, after he ran through the Battery tunnel back to the towers (hence the foundation’s name).

I got a chance to see this race in its first year in 2013, when I was still beat up from my Hawaii cliff dive and had to spectate. It’s a really cool event – the road race really pales in comparison to the hundreds of military and other first responders who show up to run/march in unison. I made it a point to come back and actually run it when I wasn’t nursing multiple broken bones. I think I was out of town last year for the race, but when we added it to the Tour de Columbia in 2015, I was in.

Or… kind of. This race is held on a Friday night, with the Dam Run to Irmo 10k the next morning. I told everyone I was going to do one or the other for the past few weeks, I just needed time to decide. Then I had a momentary Stella-Artois- induced lapse of judgement in front of the computer and went all in for both of them. I know, I need help.

Fast forward to Friday night and I’m already regretting my decision. The first blast of fall we had earlier in the week gave way to a last hurrah sucker punch from the 400 pound gorilla of a Columbia summer, pushing temps back into the mid 80’s. I was sweating on my way to the car. This was going to be brutal. Got there about 45 minutes early with the Code, pulling photo duty once again. The place was packed – looked to be over 1000 people. Not a whole lot of recognizable runners though, which bade well for my unquenchable thirst for trophies. I didn’t see too many big-name elites, presumably because all the studs were going to be doing the Dam Run (I was proven quite correct the next morning). Sarah and Eric Allers, the Yerg, Brad Marlow and family, Mike Wainscott, Teresa Harrington, Lois Leaburn, Mario and Jennifer Tudor, Peter Mugglestone, Rocky, Henry and Margaret  Holt, Alex Ponomarev, Mike and Pam Griffin, Marian Nanney, Pam Inman, Dawndy Mercer-Plank, Marlena Crovatt-Bagwell, Cheryl and Tommy Outlaw, Kate Ferlauto, Ron Hagell, Sharon Cole and John Zemp were a few of the familiar faces.  I didn’t see any of my usual age group archrivals, though clearly Eric (now 45)  was going to block my masters hopes.

I didnt get a chance to run the course, but it looked to be a simple Connecticut-shaped deformed rectangle, going across the Blossom street bridge and coming back on Gervais, similar to parts of Ray Tanner.


The start felt like a big-city marathon – I lined up first row in front of thousands of people, with all kind of photographers and news cameras on the scene. Perfect for my oversized ego. I was a little afraid of getting trampled though, and there was a construction bottleneck about a quarter mile in that made a fast start imperative.  I’m sweating like a pig, 84 degrees at race time by the Garmin. After a long wait, there was a gunblast from somewhere way back and we all started in full-on stampede mode.  Being slightly less svelte than the high school kids and singlet wearers around me, I had to pull a few third down short yardage fullback up-the-middle moves to get ahead. When they see a giant pale bus coming through, the skinny people get out of the way.  Once we take the first turn onto Blossom, I’m a little confused. Tigs, who had rode my butt at the Dry Run and cursed me for taking her out too fast, was pretty far ahead of me barely a half mile in. Marian Nanney was even in front of her. And I am not going out for a jog either – it feels like I’m taking it pretty hard out of the gates. My ego is bruised but I try to focus on myself – it’s feeling pretty rough in the heat and I know the finish is a  pretty tough climb. Tigs and Marian have put even more distance on me once we clear the Blossom St railroad overpass, which is the first kick to the chest on this course.

I hit mile 1 just as we start the trek across the Blossom St bridge. I swear my garmin spit out a 7 something split but I must have been delirious. Recheck of the data says 6:12, which feels about right. Micah Simonsen, a previous 35-39 age group rival, comes up and briefly passes me, throwing out some trash talk. Damn him for taking me by 2 seconds on the quarry crusher. Between him passing me and Tigs/Marian way ahead, I am at a loss. Oh well, I am going at it pretty hard so I can’t go much faster without completely bonking. A nasty little incline after the bridge lets me re-pass Micah though, and I’m suddenly making up all the ground against Tigs in a hurry. I catch Tigs right at the turn to Alexander drive and we mercifully get a little downhill after the long, slow incline of Knox Abbott (Blossom turns into Knox Abbott in Cayce). I pass one of my coworkers, Naoma, on the next turn, who is cheering like I’m winning the Boston Marathon, so that was a nice boost. Alexander dr is pretty flat the rest of the way to Gervais so I was able to catch my breath a little.  Mile 2 in 6:31. I pass a couple of more young punks who aren’t too happy about getting master Sasquatched. Finally we turn on to Gervais towards home. I knew Gervais was uphill but it looks like a damn mountain from the bridge. The Ray Tanner course lets you off right after the bridge, but this one makes you climb all the way into the Vista. I conveniently forgot about the rise before Huger too. Wow, this was going to be a whole world of suck. And it was. The 80 degree heat started making its presence felt in a major way, and the incline was basically unrelenting. I was able to catch Marian finally near Huger, and I was trying to kick it in with about a half mile to go. Yeah.. not so much. I was all by myself, arms pumping, begging for that finish turn that seemed to never get there.  Even being cheered by hot drunken USC girls wasn’t helping – I was too distracted breathing (and probably looking) like a wounded elephant. Finally, I make the last turn on Lincoln and damned if it hasn’t already has flipped over to 20 minutes. I try to make my form a little less headless chicken for the pics but the heat and wind suckage is like a kick to the face. I flop across in 20:31.


Shockingly, a good finish pic

Garmin gave me  ugly 6:12/6:31/6:46 splits  with a 6:06 0.17 mile kick. Probably a mix of going out too hard and then having to run my semi-bonk up a mountain. Totally shocked when I get to the results tent though – 6th overall and 1st masters. It turns out Eric ran so fast (18:23) he got 3rd overall and bumped me up to the masters “win”.  To add insult to injury, he got a small medal while I got a big ass plaque. Sometimes it pays to be slow.

This race had a really nice post-race set up with a band, food (burgers and dogs) and drinks. Sadly, no beer. A kid I’ve never seen race before (20 year old John Kaminski) took home the win in 18:00, followed by David Adams, a firefighter from Bluffton who ran in full fire gear. Insane. My Google stalking him showed me the reason – he holds the high school state cross country record with like a 14:37 in 1999. Eric’s 18:23 for third is really impressive, especially considering the course and conditions.

In the women’s overall, Marian held on for the win in 20:54 and Tigs got second in 21:11. I would love to see the garmin splits on their first mile – had to be under 6. Darby Graham got 21:39 for third. Amanda Cusaac won female masters – I’ve never seen her race either- her 21:57 was very strong.

Age groupers – Sabine McGrievy had a tough day but brought home some bling, finishing 3rd in the 1-9.  Taylor Marlow is a chip off the old block (Brad’s son) and trounced me in 19:59 to take 1st in the 10-14 (5th overall). Kortni Miller and Natalia Rozhkova finished 2nd and 3rd in the 20-29. The Yerg crushed the 30-39 with a 19:42. My Labor Day 5 miler nemesis John Gibbons won the 40-49. among the women, Sharon Cole and Shelley Hinson took the top two 40-49 spots. Chantal Faure won the 50-59. Jack Kuenzie and Alex Ponomarev went 2-3 in a tough 60-69 category, with Marie Queen winning the 60-69 women. Margaret Holt is newly 70 and won the 70+females, while husband Henry finished 2nd in the 70+ males at age 79. Peter Mugglestone won the division, with Ron Hagell 3rd.