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


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

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


5k finish, 2010. Beautiful.


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

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

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

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

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

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




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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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







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


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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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





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


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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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








Bunny Hop 5k – Columbia, SC – 4/4/15



The Bunny Hop 5k is a relatively new race in the YMCA series, first held in 2013. For whatever reason, the stars aligned that year and somehow I took home the first male overall prize. I’d like to say I won the race, but as it turned out, Amy McDonaugh thoroughly chicked me and actually crossed the finish line first. Amy came rolling in to the finish looking all athletic and strong, to a huge ovation. The poor bystanders then had to see me completely headless chicken it , about ready to puke, in an effort to break 19.  No cheers for the Sasquatch,  but I got my 18:59. Beautiful. There was an award for first male overall, and I wasn’t about to turn down a hundred bucks, despite the shame.

With a female overall winner and an Albino Sasquatch male champ, you can be sure that fellow trophy hunters will take notice. And notice they did. The race grew significantly last year and exploded to 300+ in 2015. I didn’t get to defend my “title” in 2014 with the Palmetto 200 coinciding, but I think Justin Bishop came out and crushed the field for the win.

Speaking of defending titles, I certainly don’t get a chance to do that very often, but this was also Resurrection Run weekend. Resurrection was the site of the epic battle of whiteness last year, a brutal battle of the pigmentally challenged. I edged out the Pale Beast and basked in the afterglow of my first post-cliff victory. We won’t mention the fact there were like 40 people in the race and half of them walkers. A win is a win, baby.

But since I had missed a few YMCA races last year, and my Resurrection victory surely bringing in people that were actually fast, I opted for the Bunny Hop. It was definitely not a wise trophy hunting maneuver, and I was pretty sure Brandenburg was going to make me pay for it. However, perhaps I could make up for it with a double dip. The rebranded race Judicata, now the “WIL (USC women in law) to run” was going on at 10:30. With the Bunny Hop relatively nearby and 2 hours between start times, this would be a pretty easy one. I decided to make it a last second decision – I would wait to see how Bunny Hop went and then pull the trigger if I was up to it.

When I got to the Columbia YMCA that morning, I could tell this was the mother of all bad trophy hunting decisions. The place was crawling with blazing fast people.  Right off the bat I saw Ashton, Striggles, Bishop, Jason Dimery, Angel, the Yerg, Michael Nance, Parker Roof, Shawanna, and Eric and Sarah Allers.  It was like Cold Winter’s Day in April.  I did a q short warmup with Jeff Godby, who I suddenly realized was now back in my age group with me aging up to 40. At least I didnt have to deal with Rob, Angel, OJ and Nance. When Trophy got there a little later with Jamey, I promptly informed him he would be good to place in the top 10 of the 35-39. I’m always a good friend like that.  Lots of CRC/TeamUtopia/Palmetto/Strictly peeps on board – Ivanka and Eliere Tolan, Ashley Horton, Kana Rahman, Brittany Robbins, Carol Wallace, Israel, Coleen Strasburger, J-Lybrand, J-Reeves, Luci Velicu, Hrechko, Talkington, Cait Costello, Laurin Long,  Will Brumbach, Joe Roof were just a few of the people I remember seeing at the start.

Let me clue you in to my finely tuned 5k strategy… run like hell until you want to puke. Yep, there is no saving up for the second race. Once the bib is pinned, it is on like Donkey Kong. And this course sets up nicely for a fast time. Basically an out and back course with 2 track-like loops at the end. About as flat as you can imagine in downtown Columbia, starting and ending at the Columbia YMCA. The loops are probably the most challenging, since you have to maneuver through the back of the pack on the second lap. For my agile physique, this is akin to plowing a speeding bus through a crowd without running over anybody.

I actually eschewed my usual grandiose practice of toeing the line to let people who were actually talented start in front. With the gun, we all took off WAY TOO FAST. With all the blazing people around, it was hard not to get caught up in the cattle stampede. The first quarter is pretty much flat, followed by a left turn with a very slight decline all the way to the loop area. People were totally getting it. I was trying to throw down hard, but damned if  Jennifer Lybrand wasn’t killing me in the first half mile, Sarah Allers was breathing down my neck and Will Brumbach had firmly attached himself to my hip. Angel and Talkington were leaving me for dead. I was really confused by the pace – with all the people around I assumed I was going slower than usual. Maybe even 6:30?? We hit the first part of loop 1 near the mile marker, where I distinctly remember telling Parker Roof that he was going too fast in 2013. My, have times have changed. Anyway, mile 1 comes back in 6:08, so apparently either everyone is going sub 19 or there was a lot of coffee drinking this morning. The outer part of the loop has a couple of subtle inclines that make the wind suckage commence. Still a long way to go for that. I catch up to Angel and pass him, which means he’s either sick or not racing. Rounding the last corner of the loop I finally catch Talkington, who is still coming back from some time off. Dude decided to run like a 6 flat first mile, so I guess he was a little excited about racing again. Second lap is all about the juking and jiving. Walkers first then the back of the pack runners. The walkers are always tougher because they are prone to sudden movements and not paying attention, but luckily everyone is staying in their place. I assume Eric, Justin and Striggles blowing by them at 5 minute pace probably caught their attention earlier. I am able to find some good seams but the corners are a little tricky. I see MC Cox and Rob up ahead so I try to stay within their ballpark. Mile 2 is like 6:07 and I’m suddenly aware of the sub 19 possibility.  I am hurting pretty bad but give me a time goal and some people to track down, and I will spelunk the pain cave to new depths. Suddenly I’ve caught up to Rob and MC and pass them, which is highly unusual. I haven’t beaten Rob in years and MC usually takes me down too. Once we leave the track loops and head back to the Y, I throw down as hard as I can. It’s a long way, and Yerger’s ghost is riding me the whole way. I ‘m also afraid Brumbach is going to come back and spank me like the Crit and the Wild Run. I turn the last corner and hope for the 18’s, though I realize my Garmin has beeped mile 3 pretty early. I see the clock turn over to 19:00 as I hit the final stretch.  I’m on fumes, but I do a little headless chicken and hit the tape at 19:14.  Dang. A good time for me but a big disappointment after the first 2 miles. My Garmin has 3.16, though course is certified. Looks like I’ll need to practice my Adrian Peterson moves a little better on lap 2 next year.

Awards were at 9:30, so I hung around to see if I got anything. The whole time I had decided to forget the double dip. Thanks to my new found old age, I was able to slip into third in the 40-44. I knew I’d lose to Eric Allers, but damned if Toby Selix hadn’t slipped in all stealth-like and took 2nd place. Oh well, this being a YMCA/Erin Roof race, swag was great as always with a Bunny Hop coffee travel mug. Sure beats another medal.

In the overall, Eric Ashton had some competition this time, but was able to beat out Striggles (2nd) and Justin (3rd) in 16 minutes flat. I would have liked to see those guys throw down, but I was in another zip code.  Among the ladies, Shawanna White crushed the field and nearly took down Eric Allers in 18:06 for the win. I believe this was a post hip surgery PR for the “Peachrunner”.  Well done. Shana! Caroline Peyton took 2nd in 18:20 with MC Cox taking third in 19:25.

Age group honor roll: Nine year old Madelyn Gomez, with dad Derek in tow, crushed a 26:26 to take first in the 8-10.  Sophia Bilbao, running with dad Israel, won 2nd in the 11-13. Parker Roof is done with Sasquatch pacing and ran  18:11 to take the 14-16. Alex Robertson placed 3rd. Brittany Robbins (TUS)  eked out a win in the 14-16 girls by like 5 minutes. TUS’ David Russell and Sr’s Jen Lybrand were the class of the 25-29. Jason Dimery rocked a sub 18 to win the 30-34. Ashley Sears and Katie rose went 1-2 in the ladies’ 30-34. In the 35-39 men, TUS’ Michael Nance and the Yerg took the top two spots, with 621 ninja Will Brumbach 3rd. Ivanka Tolan (TUS) and Lucia Velicu (Palmetto) won on the ladies side. In the 40-44 women, Shannon Iriel started her comeback from a long bout with plantar with a strong 20:35. Healthy Cap race director Shenequa Coles took 2nd.  Randy Hrechko blue shoed J-Lybrand and the Trophy in the final stretch and won the 45-49. Barb “Blandenburg” (why couldn’t they have done that to Jeff) , Pam Inman (Palmetto) and Sandra Riccuito swept the 45-49 women. The 50-54 women were blazing, with Sarah Allers (Reckless) taking the win over Lisa King and Coleen Strasburger. Eliere Tolan (TUS) outpaced Joe Roof and Phil Togneri in the 50-54 men. Carol Wallace was once again the 55-59 champ, viciously outkicking pal Coleen. Sue Porter and Lisa Smarr (with bunny ears) placed 2nd and 3rd. Tommy Kahaly and Rick Gibbons just aged up and rocked the 55-59 men. Mike Compton and Pete Poore took 1st and 3rd in the 60-64.  Ken Lowden threw down a 27:42 and took 2nd in the 65-69, with Ron Hagell 3rd. Patti Lowden won the ladies’ 65-69, and ageless Henry Holt took the 70+.

And as I strolled back to my car, the double dip temptation proved too much to bear. I was in.

Climb the Clay 5k – Saluda Shoals Park – Columbia, SC – 3/28/15


Climb the Clay was previously known as the Earth Fair 8k for several years – a trail race through Saluda Shoals Park in Irmo. A couple of years ago, they scrapped the Earth Fair (this was a festival at the park, not the crunchy supermarket, that’s Earth FARE) and that left the race all by itself. Luckily, Smith Harden, the race director and a Saluda Shoals ranger, kept the race afloat and renamed it “Climb the Clay”.  “The Clay” in question is a miserable mountain of slippery red mud in the middle of the park. It happens in the first mile of the race and sucks every bit of life out of you right away. But hey, there’s no mistaking it’s there, so might as well advertise it.

I really like this race. Its small, has no chip timing and usually draws the same people every year. Held during the Cooper River Bridge weekend, it’s that race’s polar opposite. Yes, I love the little mom-and-pop races for trophy hunting purposes, but I also like the personal feel of small, local, non-corporate events like this one. No zumba warmups, no gimmicks, no generic running-themed songs blasting out of a start line loudspeaker. Just a bunch of people who actually enjoy running and racing by itself. I know…novel concept.

I do need to mention it is a trail race, which is a huge handicap for me. My lack of agility and grace on singletrack switchbacks has been well documented elsewhere. Little short and light dudes can scamper all over the forest.  I am more elephant stampede through the jungle. Still, I have had a couple of overall podium finishes here. Most notable was an epic throwdown between myself and the Code in 2013, where I just missed out catching a dying Darrell as he bonked into the win. Our battle was set up by David He, who so graciously decided to take himself out by running (in the lead) the wrong way with headphones, impervious to our screams to right him. At least we tried.

I showed up about 45 minutes to showtime, and damn it was cold for late March. Mid 30’s. Those bridge runners must have been hating life waiting out in the corrals. As soon as I  finish my registration at the table, I turn around and I’m temporarily blinded by the sun. Approaching is the shadow of an all-too familiar silohuette, my masters nemesis, Brandenburg. In an all-out war of Columbia area running psychiatrists, JB has made it his mission to crush any chance I have at winning masters on the Tour de Columbia. He’s now in the triple digits. I have 3 points thanks to my March birthday and my epic fail at Get to the Green. I really need him to start missing races, so I can pull off the Blue Shoes special: quantity over quality. Oh well, still 8 months left. Bring it.

Also on board for this race is JB’s neighbor and fellow Wes Spratt abuser Tom Beattie. Wife Barb is also there to pick up a perennial podium spot. Dina Mauldin, Melinda Petruzzi, Rocky, Stephanie “Stevie Dee” Dukes, Pete Poore, Henry Holt, Brigitte Smith, Mario and Jennifer Tudor, Joe Naylor and Sue Porter are there to represent the Columbia Running Club. About 50 total signed up.

The course, typically an 8k, has been shortened to a 5k because of construction. I’m not totally sure, but I think the Silver Fox 5k course was mostly used – that race and CTC have a lot of overlap anyway.

With the start, Brandenburg and quite a few kids blast out in front of me as we make our way down the power line cut towards the eponymous mountain ahead. The course is as expected – it rained a ton the night before and there is a lot of puddle/mud dodging right away. I try not to get too carried away early on, and I let JB go..for now. Sure enough, the clay monster rears its ugly head just a half mile into the race and all those speedy kids suddenly arent so speedy. I power up the clay wall with the freak quads and do well for a while. Unfortunately the last little bit sent me into oxygen debt overdrive and I’m panting like an overheated grizzly by the top. The Clay has taken its toll – only JB and a high schoolish girl are ahead of me.

After a brief open stretch at the top, we plunge into the forest for the first time. I hit mile 1 soon after but I didnt bother to look at the Garmin. The first half of mile 2 is all rolling, winding single track. There are a couple of screaming downhill stretches and one sudden, near 180 degree turn that brings me to a virtual stop. I feel sorry for the girl in front of me. The whole time she must hear some giant dude breathing down her neck and matching her every step. But she isnt giving in a bit. My 19ish 5k times typically has me racing high school cross country girls all the time. And they are brutal. Elbows flying they will cut you off and leave you for dead if they can. Just evil. I still have nightmares of the Bythewood 5k a few years back when Dutch Fork’s Hope Whisman, all of like 14 years old,  mowed me down in the last half mile. Not a proud moment. I also got the beat down by DF’s Anna Jenkins and Bri Hartley a couple of times last year. Epically chicked.

At about 1.5 miles the course spits you back out at the bottom of the clay mountain and makes you do another hairpin turn, which I’m sure I executed ever so gracefully. Or not. More sloppy but open trail, then a beautifully straight and paved section. Brandenburg is visible but way up ahead. I’m still riding this poor high school girl’s back like an overgrown monkey. Finally we hit the 2 mile mark and the girl either tires some or just cant take the emotional trauma of being stalked by an Albino Sasquatch.  Daria Yoder, I am forever sorry for your nightmares.

With a mile to go, I start ramping up the pace and trying to track down JB. Unfortunately he has a monster lead but I can feel him reeling back in some. The course winds some through the woods but has more open stretches. There’s two crazy mini-ravines where I nearly bust my ass. We hit a straight section at about 2.5 miles in and I see I’ve made up some pretty nice ground on Brandenburg. I’m sucking some pretty serious wind by now but I try to throw down the best I can. Forget the puddle dodging now – I’m plowing straight through the mud – trail blue shoes be damned. Apparently the volunteer temporarily led JB in the wrong direction because when I hit a road area he’s pretty close. Unfortunately I suddenly recognize where we are, near the entrance guard shack, and I know I have no chance. Sure enough, I turn the corner just in time to see Jeff cross the finish, defending his 2014 title.

I cross the line about 20 seconds later in 21:26, 2nd overall. Anytime I end up on the overall podium I’m happy, though seeing JB claiming another victory isn’t much fun. Kind of like getting a Ken Vowles beat down.

Daria Yoder did claim 1st female, despite never being able to enter the forest again without rabid grizzy bear flashbacks. Not entirely sure on the age groups or other overall winners, since only names on the results. I think Jennifer Conrick won female masters. Melinda Petruzzi, Mario and Jennifer Tudor, Rocky, Henry, Joe Naylor, Tom Beattie, Barb, Stevie Dee, Pete and Sue Porter all won AG awards as I recall. Awesome pint glass awards again this year. Thanks to Smith Harden for putting on this cool race. He goes out and paints every root and marks every turn, so major props go out to him for all his hard work!







Palmetto 200 – Columbia to Charleston – 3/20-3/21/15



Relay time! The Palmetto 200 has become a fixture on the Blue Shoes racing calendar since I first got involved with the relay in its first year of existence in 2010. Although I died a thousand deaths in that first year, complete with walksies, f-bombs and hallucinations, I came back, and the rest is history. 2015 marks my 6th consecutive year with Team Van on The Run (VOTR) in our never-ending pursuit of relay glory.

For the uninitiated, the Palmetto 200 is a 200 mile, 36 leg relay starting in Columbia and ending in Charleston. The full team is 12 people running 3 legs apiece, but they also have ultra teams with as few as 4 people. Dan Hartley even did a 2 person team a few years back, which in my professional opinion, is completely batshit insane. It should be known that 90 percent of the teams involved are totally in it for the experience, and God forbid …for fun.  They share reflective vests, stroll up to the line, head off in a jog, etc, etc. Not VOTR. We like to spike our fun with some maniacally competitive , balls-to-the-wall adrenaline.  We have 4×100 style relay exchanges and full-on race face, grab your knees, gasping for breath finishes. Are we elite? Hells no. Are we local age groupers hell bent on overachieving? You bet.

The master of our relay world is our fearless leader, Brian “EL CAPITAN” Clyburn. His masterpiece is the multi-page, color-coded, individually-paced spreadsheet. The thing is a sight to behold. If everything goes to plan, you can predict down to the minute when each runner will arrive at each exchange zone. He even has done corrective factors for heat and humidity in previous incarnations, though luckily temperature was not a factor at the new, earlier relay date.

Did I mention individually paced? Last year I was still in post-cliff recovery and Brian gave me a 7:30 pace,  actually the slowest on the team. While appropriate given my extended recovery, my giant noggin doesnt deal well with ego blows, and I spent the entire 2014 relay making sure to blow the spreadsheet all to hell giving a 1000 percent effort to match my old 7:05 pace. My reward for 2015 – 6:45. And 18 miles. Well, no sandbagging for me this year. This was going to be rough.


Keep in mind…this is only page one of five.


On top of that, we were the walking wounded. Enterprise gave us a black van for Van 2 this year, and we immediately named it ‘The Hearse”. David “D-Mac” McNiece was nursing a nasty ankle injury , Brian had a gimp knee following a marathon DNF, and Joel had a tweaked hamstring. Oh, and Julie was in the ER with possible appendicitis less than a week earlier. And they kept it in. I told her my surgical skills were a little suspect this far out from medical school, especially with a headlamp and a pocket knife. But hey, girl’s gotta have priorities.  Jen Clyburn was less than 3 weeks out from her BQ 3:28 marathon and perennial ringer Andy McNiece was supposedly not in the peak of shape either. Van 1 was praying to the relay gods that one of our gimpy brethren would not drop out and make us run a dreaded 4th leg.

I was in Van 1 this year again, with all the supposedly healthy dudes. Darrell “The Code” Brown, who is perhaps the only person with more relay enthusiasm than me, was sadly out with an injury. Replacing him was grandmaster beast of the local racing circuit, Geary McAlister. Back for a second year was Ty Thomas, fresh off a PR at Lexington Race Against Hunger and a brutal blue shoeing of the Sasquatch himself. Ty enlisted new recruit Dan Carter, who I apparently bashed as one of the “superfit soccer dads” that terrorize my old 35-39 age group at Ray Tanner.  He was definitely our fastest. Brandon and Conner were also back for what has to be their 3rd or 4th time as well.

The relay start was moved this year from the Old speedway in West Columbia to the much more picturesque Coble Plaza behind Edventure on the river.  We were given the last start time at 12:00 noon on Friday, which they assign to the teams with the fastest projected pace. The idea is to have all the teams finish around the same time in Charleston on Saturday afternoon, this time at Patriots Point in Mt. Pleasant. The slowest teams leave at 5:30 am, because you always want to go into 36 hours of no sleep a little tired.  Being in the last group, thoughts of trophies start to enter into our grandiose heads. We won the coed full team division in 2013 and managed the top full team in 2014, though we were bested once again by the Clemson Thundercats ( a bunch of college kids) ultra team. The Thundercats fielded a slower team this year, so we were up against  Paul Reardon’s Sole Asylum (full), The Banditos (full) , 50 shades of fast (ultra) and Make it Hurt (ultra).  After some requisite van decorating we went down to the start line. I had to replace Code Brown for his annual toilet picture – to which he wanted to make clear he was “not dead”.


With the start, Geary comes tearing out of the gates in the lead and we have to high tail it to the first exchange zone, where I’m up for my first leg, a 6.05 miler. This is the dreaded poop zone, next to the water treatment plant. What’s worse is that everybody and their mom has already gone through and committed unholy sins in the 2 provided porta potties. Those images still scar my mind. Thanks to Barefoot John’s family (wife Char and dad Andy) for providing some emergency TP and being a race volunteer. The girl from 50 shades comes through first out of the forest and some lanky 20 something in neon orange blasts out of the zone. About 20-30 seconds later here comes Geary in a full sprint and off I go.

The 6 miles is mostly on the dirt Old State Rd.  It is obviously close to Columbia but feels like its in the middle of nowhere. The road is blocked off from vehicles so its just me, the mud, and neon dude in the distance. It rained a lot in the hours leading up to the race, so it’s hard to lock into a pace with all the puddle jumping. You do not want to get wet shoes and get a case of swampfoot brewing for 24 hours in an enclosed van. That was  last year. I was trying to hit 6:45 but getting all excitable in the beginning led to a 6:20 something. I’d better rein in in if I’m doing 18 miles. The next few miles kind of suck – it’s dead quiet and neon dude is slowly leaving me for dead. At least its mostly flat.  In a weird coincidence I suddenly find myself on the 5k course for the March for Meals. Makes me think about Brandenburg inevitably upping his masters lead on the TDC this weekend. Four miles in I have to do a complete stop to do some rural parkour over a concrete barrier  blocking the path and its tough to get going again, but at least I’m back on concrete. I do peek over my shoulder and there’s one guy way off in the distance. Mile 5 is on asphalt but has a painful overpass of I-26 which about kills me. Of course my van gets to see me dying on the hill, my form already going to hell. One last turn just past the 5 mile mark, and I’m pretty close to 6:45 pace. I suddenly get scared the dude behind me may be some beast and tracking me down, so I throw down pretty hard. The last stretch is on Charleston highway, filled with huge trucks and lots of traffic, so I’m dodging onto the shoulder every chance I get. Finally I get a break in the traffic so I can cross over, and I’m sure these people are convinced the Sasquatch myth is real. I’m sucking wind pretty bad but I gotta look strong in the exchange zone. Yeah, not so much. I give Brandon the bracelet at the Kangaroo zone and I’m pretty much toast. Six miles in 40:06, 6:41 pace. Man these other legs are going to be rough.


Luckily we have about an hour to kill since Brandon has a miserable 9 miler that about took my life in 2010. I get a ginormous loaded sub at Subway and wolf it down on the way to the next zone. I used to be a crackers and GU relayer, but that is a recipe for disaster – you need calories for staying up all night and racing each leg hard. Thankfully it’s cloudy out because Leg 3 is deadly in the heat with all the exposed road. Brandon got tracked down by some freakishly fast guy but crushed his leg well below spreadsheet pace. Conner then drew the dreaded 2.6. This is the leg that Trophy complained about the whole time in 2012. Although I mocked him endlessly for his bitching and moaning, I got a vicious karmic payback by having to do it last year. I about died – the last mile is 100 percent up a brutal mountain. You will definitely not feel fly after this two-six. Sure enough Conner looks like he’s about to go into cardiac arrest at the exchange zone but again in sub-spreadsheet pace. Dan took the bracelet from there and proceeded to just destroy whatever lead the other teams had, roadkilling everybody on a hilly 10k in like 38 minutes. Nice recruit, Ty. I like him better when he’s not stealing my trophies at Ray Tanner. Speaking of Ty, he was the most unlucky to get Leg 6, probably the worst in the whole relay. Eight total miles, with about 4-5 miles of rolling hills before hitting one of the most unholy of mountains in the midlands. I have yet to see a picture that does it justice. It basically disappears beyond your line of sight into the sky. It brings almost everyone to a walk, and Ty was no exception. I think its probably best to catch some walksies on  the steepest section anyway. Ty was all mad when he finished, cursing  the fact he didnt meet his time on the sheet. Believe me, there wasn’t anyone complaining about his pace – we were just thanking El Capitan for not bestowing us with that misery. Ty passed off to Joel in van 2 and we in van 1 were off for several hours.

At the van turnover zone, Sole Asylum was waiting. They had a couple of minutes on us at this point, as Lee Moore, one of the fastest Fitness World runners, had torched leg 6. These guys were going to be tough. Paul himself is a 17 minute 5ker and ex-Francis Marion beast in the lineage of Mark Bedenbaugh and Ryan Plexico. Besides Lee and Paul, they recruited Angel Manuel, terror of my age group and always good for kicking my ass in just about any distance. I think they had other beasts like Gene Grimsley and Mario Alvarez too. And, they were riding in style in church buses with beds and a TV. We were praying that maybe some of their others were considerably slower because they would crush us with their top end.


We headed to Cracker Barrel in Santee, SC for “dinner” though I don’t even think it was 5 o’clock. Somehow I ate some chicken fingers too. I think I was trying to gain weight on this relay. We spent the rest of the downtime laid out in Santee State park , the site of the next van turnover. It was pretty crowded with all the teams starting to come together. We all tried to sleep some but I don’t think any of us really crashed out. Ty brought an awesome portable hammock that I must have before next year. There was a Jim Lichty and Jason Lockhart sighting, straight out of Moore dorm 1993. They were part of the huge F3 contingent this year – must have been like 20 teams.

The Hearse came rolling into the station after dark when most of the earlier teams had cleared out. They were all hurting but had apparently kept up our sub-spreadsheet pace (team pace was 7:22 projected). Sole Asylum was right on our heels, a couple of minutes behind. Banditos and the two ultra teams had faded a bit. Brandon took leg 13, a straight but steady incline up to Lone Star BBQ, site of the best mid-relay meal I ever had a couple of years ago.  Geary followed with the leg I’ve done twice before, a route right through the middle of Santee with tons of traffic and sidewalks. All the locals look at you like you’re totally insane. And they’d be right.

My leg is next, from Lake Marion High school on Tee Vee Rd. The location is difficult to pinpoint, but I like to refer to it as the epicenter of nowhere. Pitch black and hardly a soul around….save for a few dozen white vans and about a 100 caffeinated relayers. Our volunteer, Miranda, is there keeping track of it all with 3 kids in tow. For that, and taking 200 bucks off our entry fee, I am eternally grateful. My kids would be staging a revolt over being out of wifi range.

Geary hands off to me again and I’m off on my 8.8 miler. Dead flat, dead straight, dark as can be. It’s tough – outside of  the halo of my headlamp you can’t see crap. The complete darkness is broken up every few minutes by a car, usually with high beams, going about 55 mph ,and being 10 pm on a Friday night – of questionable sobriety. Luckily I’m lit up like Times Square with my multiple red blinkies and a petzl headlamp that can be seen from outer space. Still, I’m dodging into the grass every time. I’ve met my major trauma quota for this decade, thank you. I am eternally thankful I hit 6:44 on mile 1, since all I need to do now is hold this. It’s actually not too hard since it is totally pancake-sque out here. After a few miles I finally encounter a few other runners and take down three of them. I’m paranoid the whole time of Sole Asylum catching me. It feels like the ghost of Paul Reardon is chasing me into Holly Hill. I hear Angel with their bus at one point, though I can barely see them. Angel feeds into my fear, telling me they are right on my tail. I’m bleeding a few seconds here and there, hitting mostly around 6:50 miles. The I-95 overpass is cool, thinking about how much distance we’ve covered, though the accompanying hill isn’t any fun. Pacing is so difficult when the only stimuli are your breathing, the lights bouncing on your vest and the mind-numbing glow of your headlamp. Finally I hit mile 8 and decide I have to ramp it up to get back some seconds. I pick it up a bit and throw down the last bit, hitting a 6:32 split and 6:46 overall. Almost perfect. I’ll take it.


And surprisingly I feel OK. Not jumping for joy for a 3.7 miler at O dark thirty, but a lot better than in previous years. Especially after using the Target AME church facilities. I don’t know what church activities they do, but apparently a pimped out lounge room bathroom is necessary. Hey, I loved it.  Conner took the next leg straight through Holly Hill, the site of my Subway denial last year. He then passed off to Ty, who attacked his 2.7 miler with a vengeance, pouring all his angst from leg 6 into like a 6:30 pace. He was rewarded for his efforts with a whole bounty of roadkill. Nice work. Dan then headed off on a most miserable 9.67 miler that was like a longer version of mine. We had started catching up with all the other teams at this point and Dan must have blown by these guys like they were standing still, crushing low 6 pace. The long leg gave us a chance to have an extended layover at the next van turnover zone at St Paul’s United. They were selling do it yourself sandwiches, chips and a drink for 6 bucks. This may seem like a lot, but Cross, SC is not exactly crawling with dining opportunities at midnight. Works for me. It was awesome.

Dan rocked out his leg and with everyone else (save for my 8 second overage) crushing the spreadsheet, we were like 18 minutes ahead of pace. Geary has a thing about hot food, so we headed to Waffle House immediately thereafter in Moncks Corner. Apparently it is the place to be in the MC, because it was freaking packed at 2 am. I zonked out in the van or awhile since I think I had met my 4000 calories for the day. After that we journeyed to the final van turnover at Witherbee Ranger Station in Francis Marion state forest. It had drizzled a little but I wasnt about to sleep in the van again like my misery from last year. I crashed under a tree with about 10 other people all laid out like Jonestown under a tree. It was surprisingly comfortable with my pillow and sleeping bag and I got probably an hour or so of hardcore sleep, which is absolutely golden in these relays.

I wake up ahead of schedule and start moseying my way to the portapotty. When I get out, a frantic Brandon is already in full gear and says we have to get ready NOW. Damn, I thought those Van 2ers were all gimps! Sure enough, they are 20+ minutes ahead of schedule and Brandon takes off while I’m still getting ready. Suddenly I’m pounding a Starbucks Double Shot, throwing back some ibuprofen and trying desperately to get my body to ignore the fact its 4:30 am. We journey to the next exchange zone which is like Grand Central Station. Its the old “House of Horrors” zone, but people are just forgoing the Blair witch project bathroom area and parking on the side of the road for like a quarter mile. They must have read the blog from years past. I do a brief warmup in the dirt parking lot but I barely have a chance to stride up to the exchange area when Brandon is shouting Van on the Run and cruising into the zone at Mach 5.  I take off like a man possessed, ready to get this miserable third leg behind me. Leg 26 is 3.7 miles, of which I swear is almost all uphill.

Uphill or not, I basically empty the tank on this one, giving close to 5k effort. Between the uphill, 4:30 time and 15 miles under my belt, I’m only getting 6:30ish in return, but it feels like about 30 seconds faster. Roadkill is in very ample supply by now, and I’m sure all of these guys are having nightmares of the crazed grizzly sprinting past them gasping and moaning.  Like leg 2, you cant see a damn thing. I keep thinking there’s a downhill finish, having done this leg at least once before, but it never comes. I hold steady at 6:30 and I realize at the last second that the end is not over the next hill, but right in front of me. So much for the blue shoe kick I had planned to throw down. Still got 6:31 pace for the 3.7 and  a couple of minutes chopped off the spreadsheet.

Nothing feels more awesome than getting that leg 3 under your belt and being done. True, the van one legs are 2/3 in the dark in the middle of nowhere, but the upside is being able to relax for 5+ hours at the end. Maybe it’s endorphins, but I actually don’t feel too wrecked. Geary took the next 7.47 miler, which gave me vague PTSD from my 2010 P200, where I was hallucinating and walking on that leg. I still dont know how I recovered to finish that leg. Conner followed with the second of the twin 7.47’s cruising through the last of Francis Marion forest and hitting Highway 17. The Seewee outpost is my favorite exchange zone, with its coffee and to-die-for sausage biscuits (usually by this time the McDonald long run scale has left the Scarlett Johanssen zone and is firmly in the sausage biscuit area).  It also means you have left Deliverance-esque woods and have finally hit the outskirts of Charleston. I love me the Seewee. Dan takes it from Conner and has a straight shot down Hwy 17, just killing it. The next zone is a torture chamber of mosquitoes and gnats but Ty figures you can avoid them if you run fast enough. He has my final leg from 2014, which I ran in a blinding monsoon and screaming out at God’s wrath for torturing me so. OK, so I tend to be a touch overdramatic. Ty has it considerably easier, cruising through Mt. P neighborhoods and taking down what little roadkill is left. By the time he hands off to the Capitan, we are sitting almost a half hour ahead of schedule, and about 45 minutes clear of Sole Asylum. After a careful check to make sure no 11 am team has done some astronomic sandbagging, we realize we are on the verge of the overall win.

But it hardly feels in the bag – Van 2 started out hurting and now is running on fumes. David’s got like a grapefruit for an ankle and Brian was limping. Thankfully Julie has held on to her internal organs. Joel’s hamstring is a wreck.  We are already debating who might have to bite the bullet for a leg 4. Of course, we pretty much wreck our ability to do so with an epic IHOP trip. I think my french toast/sausage/eggs/hashbrown combo was the lightest among my group. Dan partook in the Colorado omelet, which looks like it could feed a family of six.

When we finally head to the finish line at Patriots Point, its a complete ghost town. Nothing is set up, save for some beautiful virgin portapotties. I fear that we may not get an official time for beating the race organizers there, but luckily the finish line area goes up within a half hour. We actually are not the first to finish, as a 9 am start team rolls in around 11ish, along with another early start team soon after. We are ever so thankful to hear from the other van that everyone made it through, and that only our last runner, Andy, was out on the course. Sure enough, 23 hours and 53 minutes after our start, Andy comes tearing into the park and we cross the finish line together: 2015 Palmetto 200 overall champs!


Clock is 6.5 hours ahead, starting at 5:30 am Friday


Sixth time’s a charm! The finish line setup was awesome with tons of beer and tacos. Capitan was able to get our victory glasses from the organizers, give one of his patented speeches, then we drank from the awards and ate from Julie’s 30th birthday cake. Pretty sweet. Lucky number 7 in 2016!