Sleigh Bell Trot 5k – Saluda Shoals Park – Irmo,SC -11/22/16


The Sleigh Bell Trot is a 5k at Saluda Shoals Park that serves to kick off their “Holiday Light at the River” Christmas lights event. I don’t know exactly how long the race has been in existence, but at least since 2009, my first year doing it. The race has exploded in popularity since then, which has been great for the park, but has created some growing pains. Throw 700+ people into a confined space in the dark, and there will probably be problems. Fortunately, they have now divided up the “stroll” (all walkers) and the “trot” (timed 5k) into separate nights, which was huge for alleviating congestion. Start time has traditionally been 7:00 on the Tuesday before Thanksgiving. This year promised to be even better , with a new, less curvy course making use of the new entrance and 1.5 miles of paved trail.

With cub scout camping cramping my trophy hunting plans over last weekend, I almost forgot about this race, which I had signed up for weeks ago. I’ve never run particularly fast times at Sleigh Bell, largely a product of having to maneuver my less than agile frame over all the cul-de-sacs and turns of the park . Despite the huge crowds, this race actually is a bit of a trophy hunt in disguise. Very bottom heavy, virtually no elites. The only bummer is its been a popular race for Irmo/Dutch Fork cross country kids, stealing my precious overall Tour de Columbia points.

Did someone say kids? I was feeling all lazy on Tuesday afternoon, thinking of phoning it in for some age group/masters points, when all of a sudden I remember Joyce’s warning from the Lexington 5k. Ten year old Connor Forche was out to seek his revenge at this race. I go from the pleasant excitement of a cool holiday event to the gut wrenching anxiety of getting a beatdown from a fifth grader. Sure enough, I later received these screencaps from the puppetmaster herself:


Oh, dear God.

Luckily by this time I had already managed to show up over 2 hours early and run the entire point-to-point course forwards and back. Why? Because I my running nerdery knows no bounds. This was going to be way nicer than years past. Mostly flat, except for a decent hill a half mile in near the red dirt monster from Climb the Clay. Basically 1.5 miles into the park before doing a lap of the interior loop, except for one little cul-de-sac from the old course. Much faster than the former route for sure.

One downside of doing all this was being ready and super warmed up ONE HOUR before race time.  I managed to then get majorly chilled and ended up retreating to my heated car for most of my pre-race prep, essentially wasting all that warm-up. I did jump out of the car about 20 minutes out and do a bunch of strides to stop shivering. It was difficult to see my competition in the darkness. I didn’t see any obvious 40-somethings but Zach Demoya,  Wilson Harvey, Parker Roof and a slew of other XC kids were sure to keep me from having any holy grail ideas. It was cool to see longtime CRC member Birgit Spann with husband Holger back in the States on vacation. They’ve been in Germany for the last 2 years. Pete Poore, Roy Shelley, Devon Shirley, Leeds Barroll, Shelley Hinson, Jim Selbee, and Rocky Soderberg were on hand. Joyce’s Team Utopia Youth were out in force, including Connor, raising the fear of at least one of them giving me a beat down.As Joyce would say, I was skeered.


The gun goes off and I notice one thing right away. The high powered headlamp I always bring to this race sure works a lot better on my head, AND NOT ON THE PASSENGER SEAT OF MY CAR  where it happens to be at that moment. Nice job, hero. There are a fair amount of Christmas lights out there, but it is still pretty dark. Fortunately I know the 1.5 mile entrance road is all smooth with no speed bumps. Time to go not so gently into that good night.  I usually like to lay off the first mile, but if I’ve got a pack of grade schoolers gunning for me, I’d better go get it. Having done a couple hundred 5ks in the last 7 years, I’ve basically come to the conclusion that the best strategy is just to really suffer as long as you can stand it. I spend the whole first mile like some evil nursery rhyme villain, chasing children through the dark forest. None of them are Forche, but plenty of coach Joyce’s black and gold minions. The hill a half mile in helps spread out the field some and gives me a little room, the top at 0.75 and the mile at the bottom on the other side, 6:15.

This is pretty much perfect pace for me, and I feel surprisingly good. My goal is to hold this through the 2 mile and see what the blue shoes can get me. Finally, I see a familiar small shadow in the slight rise before entering the interior loop of the park. I do a quick check as I pass him, and I’m pretty sure its Connor. He looked up as I slid by with all the finesse of a stampeding elephant, so I know he’s locked in to the Sasquatch. A few meters ahead I also catch whom I think is his dad, so now I’ve got the whole freakishly fast clan chasing me down. Blasting into the interior loop, the suffering has kicked up a notch, but I’m holding steady. I hear what I think is the cul-de-sac with the 2 mile mark (which was playing loud music and disco lights when I did my warmup) and I surge towards it, but it’s actually some other display. Damn. Finally I see the cul-de-sac 2 mile marker, with Parker Roof and some other kid leading the way out. I’m pretty gassed, so I don’t even bother to check the Garmin. Time to throw down. I round the turn and head back out onto the loop, which is very familiar to me from years of doing the old route. It’s darker with the lights more spread out, but I make out the old registration shed and finally a downhill area with blue icicles. I mentally check my run nerd notes and remember blue icicles=blue shoe, a half mile to the finish. I’m already blasting away at 1000 percent effort, but hey, let’s ramp it up a notch anyway .Painfully, there’s a slight hill as you round the old entrance and head past the admission booth. By this point, I can see the finish in the adjacent parking lot when I catch some cross country kid. He does not like being Sasquatched. Not at all. He starts sprinting it out and we are riding shoulder to shoulder in the parking lot. Sadly, the 25 more years and 40 plus pounds must deal with reality as he pulls away near the last turn. I swing around the bend and I’m momentarily pissed when I see the red seconds in the 50’s. All this work for a 20 minute 5k??? Just as I start raging I notice the big 1-8. OMG.  I launch into full headless chicken, but painfully I am just a few seconds late, crossing in 19:03.  My first fear is a short course, but I get a 3.09 on the Garmin and I know the course is certified. Bam. I’ll take it. My fastest 5k in over a year and almost a return trip to the 18’s. 1st masters, 8th overall, 1st in the 40-44 and 2nd among those who can legally buy a beer. Apparently my key to speed is the fear of getting fifth gradered.

In the overall, Zach Demoya took the win in 18:23, with Wilson Harvey running 18:31 for 2nd. Wilson finished behind me at Springdale in August, so whatever he’s doing the past 3 months-it’s working. Seth Kurtz was 3rd. Devon Shirley showed up the kids in the women’s race, taking the win over teenagers Daria Yoder and Ashley Golbus.

Age group honor roll: First, Coach Joyce’s shout out:

More Team Utopia Youth domination at Sleigh Bell Trot!
Female Age 8 & under
1st- Kendra Miles, age 7, 23:43
3rd- Ryan Welch, age 5, 34:26 PR
Male Age 9 & 10
1st- Connor Forche, age 10, 19:42 PR
2nd- Wyatt Wilson, age 10, 20:52
5th- Jesse Oates, age 9, 24:47
Female Age 9 & 10
1st- Rylee Matthews, age 10, 23:45 PR
2nd- Elizabeth Brooks, age 10, 26:28, PR
3rd- Ashley Wardlaw, age 10, 27:43, PR
Male Age 11 & 12
2nd- Luke McKenna, age 12, 19:46, PR
3rd- Tyler Miles, age 11, 20:07, PR
4th- Ethan Kurtz, age 11, 21:28
6th- Ian Lewis, age 11, 21:56 PR
7th- Trapp Bryan, age 12, 23:23
Female Age 11 & 12
2nd- Ainsley Norris, age 11, 24:17

Chris Conrick won the 13-14 and took 4th overall. Tricia Roland was 3rd in the 35-39. Jason Forche took 2nd in the 40-44. Roy Shelley blazed a PR, went sub 23, and took 2nd in the 45-49. Jennifer Conrick won the 45-49 women. Jim Selbee was champion of the 50-54. Birgit Spann still has the speed and won the 55-59 by 6 minutes (21:40). Leeds Barroll and Pete Poore were top 2 in the 60-64. John Houser was champion of the 65-69. Henry Holt, Rocky Soderberg and Michael Lambert swept the 70+.



Lexington Half Marathon and 5k – Lexington, SC – 11/12/16


This is the third year of the Lexington Half marathon, an expansion of the Run Hard races which includes the Columbia Run Hard Marathon in March. It’s put on by Jesse Harmon, who basically rose the Columbia Marathon from the dead, directs the Run Hard program and apparently decided to add this race in his free time. I have a hard time just writing this ridiculous self-indulgent blog, so hats off to him!

Speaking of unmotivated, I was very slack about signing up for this race. I just did the Famously Hot Pink Half a few weeks ago, and I had planned to do this one on the road to my goal of the Kiawah Half in December. Unfortunately, between having a few illnesses, nursing a still somewhat wonky hamstring, finishing the tennis season, and various other non-running life events, my training has definitely been less than optimal. So I wussed out and did the 5k. I decided so late they had already shut down online registration and I had to drive across town to sign up in person at the expo.

As it turns out, it ended up working out well. The course was completely changed from last year, and now started and ended at the Blowfish baseball stadium. Jesse had promised a flat course, but I’m always skeptical of anything flat in mountainous Lexington. So I decided to do an easy pre-race 5k preview of the course since I was already out there. Turns out he was right – this route was really pretty nice. No major hills to speak of. Props to USATF coursemaster Ken Lowden for taking it easy on us.

This Saturday was looking a little more hopeful than last weekend, where I tried to combine my mini college reunion with racing the Spring Valley Presbyterian 5k and 5 miler. Turns out multiple beers at the Flying Saucer and the Salty Nut does not bode well for optimal race performance the next morning. Lord knows, you’d think I’d have grasped that concept by now. But again, impulse control is not my strong point. I felt like death the whole 3.1 last weekend and pulled a 20:30. What’s worse? I missed a holy grail trophy hunt in the 5 miler, won by Randy “THE H is SILENT” Hrechko.

I got to this race super early in order to catch the half marathon start for Columbia Running Club pics. There was a huge crowd on hand, so it definitely looked like registration was up. There was some nice cash to be had for the overall and masters winners, and it looked to be an epic battle between superhuman Eric Ashton and newly minted pro triathlete Adam Feigh for the men’s win. Shawanna “Peachrunner” White also appeared to have this in the bag for the women, though Sara Ashton might at least give her a challenge. Because I wussed on the half, I realized I probably missed a potential battle with the Code and Angel for masters money. But at least I’d be able to see them duke it out without an hour and a half of busting my ass. Masters women contenders included Team Utopia teammates Julia Norcia and Joyce “the puppetmaster” Welch. Michael Nance was out to pace his invisible friends to a 1:30 finish. The Yerg, Tug, Sam Hilliard, Chris Fawver, Michael Jensen, Mike Compton and David Russell were also representing the Black and Gold. Zander Jeffcoat, the 13 year old that unofficially won the Famously Hot Half , was on hand to shame the adults again. Other familiar faces were Larry Bates, Wendy Hart, Kristin Cattieu, Jennifer Conrick, Joe Russ, John Bradley, Jim and Sherry Fadel, Scott Flicker, Mike Griffin, Jeff Smith, Pamela Knapp, Alsena Edwards, Jen Clyburn, Dawn Erickson, Donna Chen, Jack Brklich, Andrew Lipps, Cheryl and Tommy Outlaw, Michael Beaudet, Barb Brandenburg, Reneww McCCormick, Ken  Lowden, Carol Wallace, Sandy Smith, Makenzie Wilson, Jennifer Hill, Wade Bauer, Kaye Sostak, Alan Humphries, Sharon Sherbourne, Jennifer Reeves, Hou Yin Chang. So yeah, a big crowd and lots of CRCers in there.

After taking pics of the start, I had another half hour to get ready. One side benefit of being a wuss about the half was potentially stumbling into a trophy hunt in the undercard 5k. Eric and Sarah Allers showed up though, so that meant I could forget about the holy grail and possibly masters as well. Also, Sarah’s times have been getting faster again so I was fearful of getting chicked and then never hearing the end of it. The melon head couldn’t take that. Drew Williams, my primary nemesis of 2016, was on hand for another epic battle. He had thrown down an incredible time at Ray Tanner a while back, and I have had a crap fall racing season, so it didn’t look good. At least he’s not 40 yet. There were a ton of kids there from the Run Hard program as well as Joyce’s Team Utopia Youth, so difficult to see who else might pose a challenge. Shelley Hinson, Jen Lybrand, Kimberly Hardin, Luci Smith, April Hutto, Rebecca West, Gretchen Lambert, Leeds Barroll, Rocky Soderberg, Patti Lowden, Stephanie Dukes, Dolly Rodgers and Jeanna Moffett (with a huge Run for God group) were representing.


I lined up on the front row, and with the gun it was a total madhouse. The Run Hard kids must have thought they signed up for a 400 meter sprint, because I was immediately swarmed by a sea of grade schoolers. I was pulling Barry Sanders moves and stiff arms to avoid getting trampled. Eric and Drew hauled tail from the start so they got a nice lead from the mob scene behind them. After navigating the first 100 meters, I then knew I would deal with the reverse of this – kids stopping and bailing out. Like a bunch of SmartCars hitting the brakes on the freeway with a Double tractor trailer behind them. Thankfully, I was able to avoid an epic collision, though I was already sucking wind a half mile in from all the dodging. Finally I settled into something of a groove, but damned if Drew and Eric were already way ahead and Tigs had a few steps on me too. The start is mostly flat, maybe an ever-so-soft incline on Ballpark road. I decided to ramp up the pace just a bit to pass Tigs, but honestly it felt like death, so I backed down a notch. Mile 1 in 6:28…when I usually shoot for around 6:15. The next mile was a neighborhood loop with a slight rise on the turnaround on Yale Rd and way back on Leaning Pine. I was catching a severe case of the Debbie Downers on this stretch. With the slight incline and wind in my face, I was laboring too much and it just felt slow. Wah wah.

Oh, and the kid. When I say kid, I don’t mean some college guy or cross country teen, I mean actual child. About 5 feet tall, this stud of the elementary school was rocking low 6 pace and unknowingly dragging my pride through the mud behind him. It’s one thing to get chicked, one thing to get grandmastered, and a whole other thing to get pre-teened. This could carry more shame than my first tri pic or the darrell brown snuggle bunnies photo. As I pulled near I heard some onlookers cheer him and call him Connor. Oh no. It’s that dude from Joyce’s team Connor Forsche. The kid that has already broken 20 minutes at age 10. Plus, he has an 8 year old brother who is almost as fast and probably right behind me.

I finally pull up next to him but apparently Joyce has been teaching cutthroat racing tactics as well. As soon as I put a few steps on him he surges and starts swerving a bit into the wake of the tractor trailer of a 41 year old next to him. I step to the side and push ahead, only to have him do the same thing. We hit the mile 2 mark and somehow I’ve slowed down even more, 6:30 split. The course has flattened out and now we are doing the reverse of the slight incline from the start. The kid is still battling me like David and Goliath, so I am forced to push in the Blue Shoes chips a lot earlier than usual. I apparently have zero shame, so as soon as I hear him really laboring I step on the gas. He lets out a moan or something, and I feel kinda bad, but apparently not bad enough to ramp it up another notch. After my extended pissing match with a 10 year old, I realize that Drew and a teenager have gotten a lot closer. The teen suddenly stops for a few seconds, but then looks up and sees the terrifying scene of the Sasquatch in full kick mode. He takes off like he’s escaping a rabid grizzly bear. I am really hurting by the time we near the baseball stadium but Drew and the kid seem so close. Unfortunately, they both ramp it up as we enter the stadium. Too gassed to look at my watch for the 3 mile split. What I thought was a direct shot in is actually a lap around the outfield warning track, and I am completely on fumes. Not enough room or time to catch Drew and I’ve got nothing left anyway. All I could see coming into the finish is the half marathon clock before I do a flop onto the turf. Pretty depressed I had to about donate breakfast for a 20 minute 5k. But wait, I actually have 19:35 on my Garmin. Is the course short?  Nope – 3.12 and even longer by Eric and Drew’s watches. I was very confused about the race all the way until I got home and uploaded the Garmin data – 5:53 last mile with a 5:40 kicker. Jeez, I guess i need more 10 year olds to almost shame me. Apparently he’s coming back at Sleigh Bell, so I better lay off my chips and salsa addiction and the adult beverages. Good enough for 4th overall, and another “consolation masters” win since Eric won the whole thing.

In the 5k, Eric won easily with an 18:36. Drew took 2nd in 19:18 with Jennifer Conrick’s son Chris (age 13) getting 3rd in 19:27. Sarah took the women’s win 20:27 ahead of Gabbi Hart and comeback kid Jen Lybrand. Jen took 3rd in  a post baby PR of 22:26. They did masters three deep with trophies, so you know I was happy. Shelley Hinson took 2nd female masters. In the Run Hard division, my 5th grade rival Connor Forsche took the win in 20:08, with Nolan Bausch 2nd and Tyler Miles 3rd. Connor’s little brother Camden ran a 20:34 as a third grader. Those are some insane times.

5k age group honor roll: Kimberly Hardin rocked a 23:50 to take 1st in the 30-34. Rebecca West on the 40-44 with Gretchen Lambert 2nd. Leeds Barroll was 2nd in the 60-64.Patti Lowden was champ of the 65-69. Rocky Soderberg took the 70+ win.

In the half, Eric Ashton continues to amaze with the win over Adam Feigh, exactly half his age. Mike Kilbourne from Augusta was 3rd. Among the women, Shawanna easily won in 1:21. I heard Sara Ashton was hurt pretty bad around 3 miles in – hope she is OK. Cruz Figueroa took second, with Cymbeline Wilke 3rd. Male masters was won by Brent Shealy – I seem to remember him stealing a trophy from me before. The Angel-Code showdown did not disappoint. Angel passed Darrell just a few meters from the finish to take 2nd masters. BRUTAL.  I am forever indebted to Luci Smith for capturing this montage:

The women’s masters competition was equally fierce, with a sweep of the category by some very fast Lexingtonians: Julia Norcia 1st, Wendy Hart 2nd and Jennifer Conrick 3rd. All within 2 minutes of each other.

Half marathon age group honor roll: Zander Jeffcoat had a tough day but still managed 1st in the 2-17. Miles Fowler won the 20-24 and 5th overall. David Russell crushed the 30-34 with a 1:23:07 for 6th overall. Michael Nance did another great invisible man pace job for 1:29:40 and 2nd in the 35-39. Kristin Cattieu took 2nd among the women. Sherri Mims was 3rd in the 40-44. Joyce, Heather Hawn and Sherry Fadel swept the 45-49 with Kenny Culbertson 2nd among the men. Phil Togneri was 3rd in the 50-54. Barb Brandenburg paced Sherry and took home 2nd in the 50-54 women, Renee McCormick was 3rd. Larry Bates and Alsena Edwards were champs of the 55-59. Carol Wallace paced the 2:15 group and took 3rd. Mike Compton blue shoed Joyce at the line and easily took the 60-64. Sharon Sherbourne won 2nd in the 65-69. Michael Lambert placed 3rd in the 70+.

My 5k data:

Half results from Strictly Running:

5k results:





NW YMCA Pumpkin Run 5k – Irmo, SC – 10/29/16


The YMCA Pumpkin run 5k celebrate d its 10th year in 2016. Although I haven’t done the race every year, it holds a special place in my heart for being one of the surviving races of my “rookie season” in 2009. Supporting evidence exists from Halloween of that year, where I helped contain the power of a young, very hot and cranky  jedi master in my old-school Pumpkin run shirt.


I had no idea about the course that year. I was a young punk high on the intoxicating scent of age group trophies and PRs, so I went out trying to go sub 21 for the first time. I suffered a very, very rude awakening. The first mile of this course is totally fine and non-threatening, but it hides the pure evil of a straight up 2nd mile that will slowly exorcise your will to live.  I almost caught my first case of walksies in that race but managed to trot to the turnaround and pull a 22 and change overall. The course is certified but always measures around 3.17 by Garmin, so definitely not a PR worthy route. Still, the YMCA always makes up for it with awesome shirts and swag, plus a costume contest.

In 2013 I was still in Hawaii recovery mode, so I dragged little Alex out for his first, untrained 5k. I think he cursed my name a few times on that mile 2 mountain, but at least he managed a feeble finishing sprint  to outgun a few Southern Strutt girls who passed him near the end.  Its important to pass down the most precious family values, like not getting chicked. The 2015 marked my first attempt at a costume. The Hulk mask was great at the Strictly Running costume run, but proved less than ideal when pulling 5k race pace.  I ended up yanking it off a quarter mile in when I realized I was either going to pull ten minute pace or suffocate. Death via Hulk mask didn’t seem like a cool way to go.  Angel ended up catching me just after the 2 mile mark, and we waged an epic battle the rest of the way in. I surged too far from the finish and got caught on the last incline – giving up pride, the masters money, and nearly my breakfast in the process. Our finish pics are definitely classic though:


Since having a costume appeals to my attention-whore streak, I was more than ready to do a repeat performance in 2016. I was already seasoned by my Bunny Hop 5k race, where I learned that nothing beats blue shoeing someone like blue shoeing someone in a GIANT ASS BUNNY SUIT. The 21:13 currently stands as the state 5k masters costume record, or at least in my mind.  I was just about to check out at Party City with an admittedly kinda lame Captain America outfit when my wife brought up the Egyptian Pharaoh. This seemed to be the perfect mix of being ridiculously attention seeking while still allowing you to run reasonably fast.  I didn’t realize until later that it also meant eyeliner and a skirt, making me look half Egyptian royalty, half aging drag queen. But at least I now have more appreciation for how long it takes women to get ready to go out.


Again, I had a test run with the Strictly Halloween run (Columbia Running Club sponsored!) and it  went pretty well. No mask this time, though the 6 foot staff of power might require some delicate maneuvering in close quarters.

When I showed up on race day, I was a little nervous, since I was expecting another knock-down drag-out fight with Angel for masters. But then I see OJ Striggles, who probably wonders why I look all disappointed every time I see him.  Bye bye overall, masters and age group, at least by CRC points. Oh well, as it turns out Eric Ashton showed up last second as well, so “trophy hunt” was definitely not in the cards today. The hardcore CRC contingent was all there – Tour director John Gasque, Pete Poore, Alex Ponamarev, Leeds Barroll, Henry Holt, Rocky  Soderberg, Peter Mugglestone,. Probably 5000 races in our little group at the start line, ten minutes early.  Shawanna White was there to surely  take the women’s win. I’m not sure we have another woman in Columbia that can challenge her in the 5k anyway. Maybe Erin Miller?  Jonathan Kirkwood and Nate Carrasco would probably be in my vicinity.  Andy Mikula,  Adam Bernthal, TUS’ Sara Bonner, Robbie “OG” McClendon, Wayne Shuler, CRC webmaster emeritus Jim Selbee, Deirdre Maldonado and son Louis, Lisa Smarr,  Jessica Weaver and mom Susan, Melinda and Reese Petruzzi, Janette and Joe Robinson, Makenzie Wilson , Tommy and Cheryl Outlaw , Brigitte Smith , David and Dawn Hale, Hou-Yin Chang and Ken Sekley were some familiar faces.

Just like Famously Hot last week, I am just standing around when someone shouts GO! and we all take off. The first quarter mile I’m trying to keep the staff from impaling  anyone as the crowd starts to thin. Exiting the parking lot, a woman is encouraging two kids, in a very serious manner, to keep up with the pharaoh. I start laughing but I swear they were still around at the mile mark. Of course, OJ and Eric have left everybody for dead and Shawanna isn’t too far behind. Nate has blasted off like it’s an 800 meter track race, and Bernthal is close to him with another cross country kid. I’m running with Sekley for awhile, though I have no idea what his current fitness is since I haven’t seen him race in a year.  I’d like to say I always run my own race,  but my ADHD race brain and oversized ego often veer me off track to whomever is “beating me” a half mile in. As mentioned before, mile 1 is pretty easy, mostly flat and downhill to the marker. My Garmin gives me the split in 6:28 . This isn’t as fast as I want, but better to save some for what’s to come. Plus, one must consider my oversized relay baton and the inferno-like heat production of a shiny Egyptian headdress.  A strong looking dude with close cut hair passes me close to the mile marker and I’m pretty sure its that Ortaglia guy. The same guy that “stole” my age group win at the 9-11 race.  Time to exact my revenge – in eyeliner and a dress.

Mile 2 just sucks. A mountain of hill that just keeps going and going. I train on hills constantly, but damned if this monster isn’t sucking all the wind out of me. Short and steep inclines are fine for me, but these gradual unrelenting beasts are just killer.  Ashton and Strriggles eventually  come into view, so at least there’s some hope for a  turnaround at some point. By the time I reach the summit, I’ve managed to put a few steps on Sekley and I’m right next to Ortaglia.  Just when you are ready for the downhill mile, they make you come up over the top, go down a steep decline and turn on a dime around a traffic cone. Like the Darlington 500, Ortaglia makes the turn wide and I pass on the inside, chugging back up the mini hill to get some momentum down the ski slope ahead. I see Kirkwood and a host of others not too far behind, so I make an effort to throw down a little to create some separation. It helps that I have a significant “gravitational advantage” on most of my 5k peers. The return home feels glorious, and you get to see everybody in the race on the way back down, which is nice. What’s not so nice is the 6:52 split for mile 2 near the top. Holy half marathon pace in a 5k, Batman!


I’m gunning it on the way down when I see Carrasco getting reeled in pretty fast. He fell victim to the same thing at the Dry Run. I try to encourage him as I pass, but then he jumps on my back and rides the wake of my Greyhound bus almost all the way down. Eventually he pulls back very suddenly and we’ve finally hit the valley of the mountain. Just a couple of short inclines to go – unfortunately they are the same ones that stuck a fork in me last year in my battle with Angel. And who knows if Ortaglia is lurking back there? With this in mind I decide to empty the tank just as I turn onto Kennerly road. Arms pumping, headdress flying, maybe makeup running, I throw down the kick. About half way up the hill, I hear a THWACK! and there goes the top of my staff. It seems Party City plastic sticks are not safety tested for the torque of a Blue Shoe 5k kick. Oh well, damned if I’m picking it up – my trophy mind has already processed that Eric and OJ will take top 2, leaving me my coveted masters win, even if it’s a consolation prize. Of course it won’t matter if some other old dude catches me, so I throw down as hard as I can. Mile 3 is at 6:06 and comes up pretty far from the finish. I can see the 19’s flip over  to 20 on the last stretch in the parking lot, and I cross in 20:17.  6th overall, 1st masters.


I never like going over 20, but I’ll take this with the hard course and the costume. The staff probably slowed me a little, and the heat from the headdress and the wrist covers was surprisingly bad, even in the cool weather.

In the overall, Eric took the win in 16:42 with OJ second in 17:16. Adam Bernthal clocked a 19:44 for third at age 14. Sadly, my days of beating Adam are probably done. As expected, Shawanna easily took the women’s win in a blazing 18:22, an amazing time for this course. Fourteen year old Allison Spirek placed second in 22:10, with TEN YEAR OLD Abigail White third in 22:17. This was the girl running with me at the beginning – extremely impressive.  Looks like Chapin XC has some good years in its future.  Allison Henry won female masters.

Age group glory: Nate Carrasco won the 20-24  men. Makenzie Wilson took 3rd in the 25-29. Andy Mikula won the 30-34 by a measly 7 minutes. Sara Bonner and Deirdre Maldonado  went 1-2 in the 35-39. Triathete Mike Frassica won the 40-44.  Ortaglia, Kirkwood and Wayne Shuler swept a fast 45-49.  Heather Hawn took the 45-49 women. Phil Togneri and Jim Selbee went 1-2 in the 50-54. Ken Sekley won the 55-59 men with John Gasque 3rd. Lisa Smarr was champ of the 55-59 women with Dawn Galloway-Hale 2nd. Robbie McClendon, Leeds Barroll and Tommy Outlaw won the 60-64, while Cheryl was first on the women’s side. Alex Ponomarev and John Houser went 1-2 in the 65-69 men. Brigitte Smith won among the women. Jan Hardwick, Peter Mugglestone and Henry Holt claimed the podium in a very competitive 70+.

Oh, and Dorothy and her cowardly lion dog won the costume contest in an election dominated by some very screamy southern strut girls. I did manage 2nd place, though. Always love a double trophy hunt. The gingerbread girl themed Weavers took home 3rd .

Famously Hot Pink Half Marathon – Spirit Communications Park – Columbia, SC – 10/22/16


The Famously Hot Half Marathon is the latest addition to Palmetto Health Foundation’s Walk for Life series, which originally started in 1991. A few years ago they tacked on a 5k and then a 10k to the walk, and its been a mainstay on the Blue Shoes calendar ever since. Its cool to see literally thousands of walkers fill the streets after the race, and my family (they do actually exist) has often done the walk while I selfishly go for age group glory on the flat and fast course. Here’s a pic below, for which I suggest you wear sunglasses before viewing:


Damn, we’re white.  The old 5k course was awesome, but the 10k they added later was absolutely brutal. This year, they decided to go big and add a half marathon, plus move the whole thing from Finley park to the new Fireflies stadium.

I somehow got suckered into running the Kiawah Half in December, so I started the training about a month ago. The smart thing may have been to race the 10k with the limited training lead up to this event, but sound, rational decision making is not my forte. Four days before the event, I had a couple of beers and committed my most common crime: RRUI (Race registering under the influence). I was going to do the half.

Half marathons are probably my favorite non-5k race, but they are still kind of scary. You line up for a 5k, and you know its just balls-to-the-wall, 20ish minutes of pain. No water , no gels – just lace it up and haul ass. Halfs actually require some degree of pacing, hydration and nutrition, which my simple racing brain has trouble comprehending. I have found that optimal half pace is actually fairly comfortable, which makes sense since you’ve got to hold it for 90 minutes plus. I had heard from Justin, and from Ken at the race, that the course was fairly flat/downhill until you hit 9.75 miles, and then…not so much. I figured I’d shoot for 1:30 since I was probably not in top PR shape (1:28:27 at Swamp Rabbit this past spring).

I got up at the absolute crack for this race, since the half was going off at 7:15. Temps were surprisingly chilly (40’s) and pretty much perfect for racing. After doing a little bit of warmup there didn’t seem to be any elites on hand. I suddenly remembered that I had missed Ray Tanner the week before with the family vacay to the mountains. I forget normal people actually take breaks after racing. So weak.

It was actually still dark at the start, and 30 minutes before the 5k/10k, so I didn’t see a whole lot of familiar faces. The line was just outside the entrance to Spirit Communications Park. Jen Krzyanowski and Angel were on hand, so I figured they would be good pacers. Melinda Kurhan was up again from Charleston with boyfriend and family, enabling her newfound racing addiction. Anita Recchio, Kyle Addy, Jen Lybrand and Julia Norcia were the only others I could see in the pre-dawn darkness. Angel introduced me to a kid who he said ran 17 minute 5ks and was the fastest in the state.


I’m waiting around for the rest of the crowd to start edging toward the line, when out of nowhere, the gun goes off. Suddenly one guy sprints out from the start followed by me and Angel going WAY TOO FAST right off the bat. The first mile loops right back by the start, similar to Ray Tanner (i.e. another Ken Lowden design). The crowd support is nice but of course it only fuels more poor pacing. The kid blows by right before the mile mark and me and Angel both hit it at 6:33. Whoopsy. That’s going to suck later (FYI 1:30 pace is 6:54) . A teenager in sweatpants is in our mini pack and actually breaks away from us as we leave the park area and go out onto Harden extension near the hospital. Damn, I’m already getting smoked by a 12 year old and somebody in sweats. Not a good confidence builder. On Harden st, some unknown tall skinny white guy passes me and joins Angel, who has started to gap me too. Even though we are at the front, me being in the back of thid pack feels like I’m dead last. Sprint guy is still far ahead but definitely not going sub 6 like he was out of the gates. Mile 2 comes back in 6:52, so back on track pace wise. The course then does a mile ripped out of the Bunny Hop course, followed by a long trek on Calhoun St from the original Finley Park based Race for Life. A bit of a cross breeze but temps feel awesome. I settle into my high 6 pace and it feels pretty decent.

Until I start hearing footsteps. What dude is tracking me down now?? I glance over my shoulder and see this dude has neon pink shorts and a ponytail. TOTALLY CHICKED. I thought I would know who she was but I’ve never seen her race. What’s worse is she’s wearing earbuds and looks like she’s just cruising through her weekend long run. My ego reels from the bruise to my pride, so I make sure to keep her in range.

There is a long out and back offshoot from the course that brings us by the Palmetto Foundation offices. As I near the turnaround, about 4 miles in , I see the kid out in front just killing it with sprint guy a little behind. Sweatpants still has a lead on Angel and tall guy, with me and female leader a good bit behind.

The next 2 miles are flat, then a huge downhill as you plummet towards Riverfront park. Pace is pretty consistent in the 6:50’s. I was looking forward to Riverfront, since its nice and flat and gives you the option of using the dirt trail. I reach for my GU at about 6 miles in. GU is nice because it can give you a boost of some electrolytes, glucose and caffeine. But as it turns out, the GU is probably less helpful if YOU’VE LEFT IT IN YOUR WARMUP PANTS. Nice job, hero. What’s worse, the Riverfront was perfectly positioned for that brisk cross breeze to be DIRECTLY IN MY FACE. Wind plays a factor for any runner, but when you have the physique of a Greyhound bus, it’s just killer. 2.5 miles of constant headwind start crushing my spirit – my pace bleeds a few seconds upwards and the psychological battle about what’s to come starts to weigh heavily in my mind. At least pink shorts is feeling it too and has gotten reeled in a bit.

Mile 9 is right at the Broad river bridge onto River drive, and its as nasty as Ms. Jackson. Up a pretty decent incline and straight into the sun. My legs hadn’t tasted an incline in 7+ miles and they are none too fond of this. And wait, this wasn’t even the bad part yet. Thankfully we didn’t have to climb all the way up and we took a right onto Lucius road. There was a big water station there where I chugged the fullest cup I could see. I was hoping for a GU angel to come and help, but there was none to be had. I threw the cup in a perfect shot into their trash, did a dork celebration and managed to knock my sunglasses off. So smooth. Stopping and going back to pick them up felt like death, and it was tough to get back on pace. As we continued on Lucius rd, I started getting major flashbacks from the trauma of the See Spot Run/Tame the Beast 12k. Oh noes, we hates those hills.

Lucius starts getting ugly real fast and I realize we’ve hit the much-discussed 9.75 mile mark. The hill, which sucked at See Spot 2 miles in, is just devastating at 10. My legs slow their turnover into the pace of a hunched over mall-walking soccer mom. Probably would have been better to suck it up and walk. You get dumped out onto Lindsey street for a brief respite before meeting her bitchy sister Florence for another incline from hell.

By the time I make it to the summit of Park Street, any chance of the 1:30 is completely shot. I’m hemorrhaging seconds on these mountains and the legs feel like cinder blocks. I plummet down Park street, which at least gave me some wind back in my lungs. Two more nasty climbs on Park and Gadsen have me sucking wind again, but least we are starting to get out of this God forsaken neighborhood (Sorry, Earlewood, I’m sure you’re normally very nice). Just as I approach the Elmwood overpass on Wayne, Sweatpants has officially suffered an epic bonk because he is barely moving at this point. I can only imagine the chafing. After I pass him, I decide I need to payback pink pants for her epic chickage from mile 4. Finally we hit Calhoun street, and I figure its basically all flat to the finish. Blue shoes kick gets thrown down as soon as mile 12 pops up on the Garmin. Legs are so happy not to be mountain climbing that they start actually running again. I start hitting the back of the 10k field, so nice to have some company. Ponytail girl finally gets passed, and I briefly hear her drafting me, suffering an even greater ego blow by getting Sasquatched. From a half mile to the finish, I basically empty the tank. One turn onto Barnhill , a tiny incline and one painful lap around the outside of the stadium. The finish is an awesome run into the stadium, a la Ray Tanner. I make out 1:31 as soon as I hit the outfield  and I sprint it out to the finish near 2nd base, crossing in 1:31:21. 4th overall.

Or was it? I see the results posted soon after and it has a 48 year old woman in 4th with a 1:29. After a protest by Jen K and my verification that “pink shorts” was definitely the women’s winner, they removed the name. Turns out it was probably a half marathoner who switched down to the 10k. No Rosie Ruiz after all.

In the half, the actual winner was the 12 year old kid, but apparently he had just signed up as a walker, so he didn’t get a time. Daniel Hayes, the guy sprinting off the start, held it together and won officially in 1:26. Radek Mittelbach took 2nd with Angel just a few seconds behind in 1:29. In the women’s race, “pink shorts” is actually Holly Smith from Florence, winning in 1:32. Paola Figueroa placed second with Jen K taking 3rd in 1:34. Noel Schuch won female masters with the male masters consolation prize going to some big headed dork.

Half age groups: Jen Lybrand had hoped just to go sub 2 but crushed a 1:44 in her post baby half debut – good enough for 1st in the 25-29. Amos Disasa won 3rd in the 35-39. Marian Nanney won 1st in the 40-44, with Sarah Soltau coming back home from Memphis to win 3rd. Jennifer Conrick and Julia Norcia took 2nd and 3rd in the 45-49 with the same time. Probably holding hands and smiling, if I know Julia. Anita Recchio won the 50-54 with renee McCormick 3rd. Phil Togneri was 2nd among the men. Alsena Edwards and Donna Freeman went 1-2 in the 55-59 women. Ken Lowden won 2nd in the 65-69 men.

10k: Drew Williams placed 3rd overall just a week removed from crushing it at Ray Tanner. Katie Rose and Kathryn Cavanaugh went 1-2 among the women. Matt McGrievy was champion of the 40-44. Chris Fawver rocked a PR in 49:20 to win 2nd. Kana Rahman was 2nd in among the women. Mike Hedgecock and Scott Brewer went 1-2 in the 45-49 men. Mario Alvarez won the 50-54 men. Rick Gibbons won the 55-59 men in the middle of a long run while Joe Robinson placed 3rd. Lisa Smarr placed 2nd among the women. John Houser took 2nd i the 65-69 men. Brigitte Smith won among the women. Peter Mugglestone took the 7o+ men, with Henry Holt and Ron Hagell also on the podium.

5k: Zach Demoya took the overall win with Gregory Jones, Sr. 2nd. Myles Hedgecock was 3rd. SC racing legend Catherine Lempesis won 2nd female overall at age 65. Wow. Thomas Livoti finished 3rd in the 45-49, while Heather Hawn placed 2nd among the women. Greg Howell took first in the 50-54, with Pam Inman 2nd female. Tour director John Gasque was 2nd in the 55-59. Ginger Belka was 3rd in the women’s 55-59. Sue Porter won the women’s 60-64 with Pete O’Boyle and Leeds Barroll 1st and 3rd among the men. Alex Ponomarev won the 65-69. Rocky Soderberg was 2nd in the 70+.





Fallen Fireman 5k – Lexington, SC – 10/1/16


The Fallen Fireman 5k is a second year event, put on by Erin Roof and Eggplant Events, and going to benefit the Jeffrey Chavis burn center in Augusta. Jeff Chavis was a fireman from Lexington who lost his life in a fire in 2001, and his family has put this race on to honor his memory.

I did this race last year, which was delayed by a few weeks due the infamous 1000 year flood of 2015. I was hoping for a trophy hunt with the rescheduling and did end up 4th/1st masters.  I didn’t remember much about it, other than the futile effort of chasing down the Yerg and suffering a thousand deaths on the hilliest course known to mankind. But other than that, it was great. Actually it really was – Erin and Eggplant always put on quality races, and if you’re in Lexington, there are going to be hills. Just don’t go shooting for PRs on this monster.

This year, there was the option of doing Crooked Creek, which actually got postponed this  year for excessive rain. I hadn’t signed up for that one ahead of time, and I knew the Code was doing Crooked anyway. Yerg was doing an ultra in the upstate. Last years champ Jason Dimery hadn’t been doing any recent races. With Crooked and the Lexington Half preview also going on, my overall trophy sense was tingling for Fallen Fireman.

Getting there over an hour early, things were looking good initially. The temps were amazing. The first cool racing morning in months – mid 50’s. Didn’t see a whole lot of familiar faces in my warm ups. The Hinsons were on hand – amazingly Marion had just done a full Ironman the weekend before. That is nuts even by my obsessive standards.  Lisa and Jesse Smarr were racing to celebrate both of their birthdays. Leeds was out to defend his home turf again. John Hauser, Deirdre Maldonado and son Louis,  Joe Roof, Peter Mugglestone, and Cheryl and Tommy Outlaw were some other CRCers out on this near perfect morning for a race. There were a few random fit looking dudes out there that might be out to steal my trophy. I saw one guy with a USC track jacket that pretty much ended my holy grail (overall win) hopes, though.


Fallen Fireman uses the Patty Packs 5k course

There was a pretty nice turnout this year, 200+ I think , and the crowd was a little slow getting lined up. I was busy taking pics when suddenly the emcee guy gives a quick 5 count and GO! Yeah, I was totally not ready. I turned on a dime with my running belt and key in one hand and my iphone in the other. I sprinted out ahead, but it turns out putting this stuff on was a little harder at sub 6 pace than standing still. After a brief moment in the sun for 100 meters, three guys passed me as I took another quarter mile getting the damn belt, my car key and the phone in place. First half mile to this race is a freaking freefall down South Lake drive. I was trying to relax and let my significant gravitational advantage take hold, but also realizing I needed to save as much energy before hitting the brutal parts of this hillfest. I could see USC guy and some other young, skinny guy up ahead going shoulder to shoulder, and I figured these guys were a lost cause as far as my Sasquatch ass catching them. The Red shirt guy just in front had a mere mortal’s physique and I was nervous he might be one of these stealth fit soccer dads that always lurk in the shadows to steal my glory. Luckily,  the first mountain sticks a fork in him right away and I pass him on this hill, which is probably the second worst climb on this roller coaster course.

Mile one is right over the crest of this mountain, split was in 6:34 – a lot slower than my 6:08 blast off from last week, which probably also explains why I’m feeling relatively good at this point. This is fortunate, because the second mile of this course has 90% of the overall pain. Sure, you start off with another freefall, but the rest of the mile is 3 separate up and downs on Church Street. The last of these is the worst, a long soul crushing slog with the mile 2 marker at the summit. Knowing this course, I admit I did a little phoning it in for a while. The two leaders with the cop car were in the distance and there was no one behind me. It felt like I was out for a race pace interval in the middle of a Lexington mountain range. I started drifting off into trying to figure out who USC was going to lose to that afternoon and how Code might be hitting the trophy jackpot up in Chapin.

One thing was sure, all the heat training this summer was giving me a third lung, because this weather was making things so much easier. When you’ve grown accustomed to sweating your balls off in hundred degree humid afternoons, 55 and breezy feels like heaven. The soul crusher at the end of mile 2 wakes me up as I start some wind suckage hauling my Clydesdale butt up this mountain. Mile 2 comes back in 6:31, so actually a little bit of improvement. Probably helped I wasn’t trying to get dressed for the race on the fly like the start.

I wanted to try and rock out the third mile, but climbing the last hill and with no Yerg to chase, it doesn’t seem to be happening. I finally catch my breath well after the turn onto Third street. The course mercifully flattens out for a little, but then I see the street plunge down after we cross Hendrix st from the Race Against Hunger. Damn, I know were going to have to climb out of this hole. Sure enough, another short but quad crushing incline all the way back up to Main Street. I’ve lost the leader but I can actually see 2nd place, so I must have picked it up a bit. With a nice mostly downhill to the finish, I try to ramp it up a bit. At least try and break last year’s time. I hit mile 3 at 6:21 and I have brief delusions of breaking 20 on this hillfest. I throw down as best I can but the legs are pretty trashed. Despite the sprint, I cross in 20:10.  I hate going over 20, but this is about 25 seconds better than 2015, and third overall is nothing to cry about. I think this course is probably 45 seconds to a minute slower than a flat route, so I’ll take it.

In the overall, Greg Lowing  took the win in 17:48. He apparently was injured and usually pulls 15 minutes. Google stalk results = Second place went to 33 year old William James, whom I’ve never seen race before. Deirdre Maldonado captured the women’s win with Amanda Lyons and Shelley Hinson 2nd and 3rd.  Joe Roof and Lisa Smarr won masters.

Age group glory: I may miss some since the age groups aren’t separated on the readout: Marion Hinson was 1st in the 40-44 with Shawn Sturkie 2nd. Leeds Barroll held off Peter Mugglestone in an epic finish: both won their age groups. Tommy Outlaw was 2nd in the 60-64. Cheryl won the 60-64 women. John Hauser took the 65-69 men. Jesse Smarr got 2nd in the 70+ for a nice birthday present.

I saw this story after a pic I posted of Michael Lambert (3rd place in the 70+)  from the race got a lot of likes – pretty inspiring! Nice job, Michael!


My Garmin readout:

2010 Kiwanis 5k (same course):

2016 Fallen Fireman

Dry Run 5k – Shandon – Columbia, SC – 9/24/16


The Dry Run has been a staple on the Blue Shoes racing calendar, dating back to 2009. I believe the race is now in its 10th year, and goes to benefit Midlands Faces and Voices of Recovery (FAVOR), a substance abuse recovery advocacy group. It’s been well directed for years by Mike Hedgecock of the 621 ninjas and Strictly Racing team.

The Dry Run has held a special place in my heart for a few reasons. Originally it was one of the highlights of my “rookie season”,  in 2009, where I went low 21 and the first seed of the sub 20 goal was planted.  This was back in the awesome years of the most ironic age group award ever, the pint glass. I almost had a full set of 4 Dry Run pints when they someone apparently thought they were in poor taste and they went to a crystal disc instead.  Never one to be shackled by good taste, the three dry run glasses are still part of my regular beer drinking rotation. This race has also signaled for me the start of the fall race season. It’s usually been held in mid-September and has often been the first cool weekend morning of the year.  It’s produced some pretty fast times (for everybody) as a result. Lastly, this was the site of my first race back from cheating death on a cliffside in Hawaii in 2013. I started at the back of the pack, awkwardly ran a near 11 minute first mile. My toe then loosened up, the cool breeze hit my face , the legs started working again, and I began tearing up for being so grateful I was free from the couch. I ran a 26:06 and have rarely been happier.  Geary gave me his age group award to remember it by, and I’ve kept it with my race bag ever since.


Dry Run 2013  26:06

The race was being held a couple of weeks later this year, but as it turns out, Columbia’s summer has been lingering like your drunk uncle at a family reunion. Humid and 70’s at this year’s race when I got there an hour before race time. I had visions of double dipping with the WIL to run 5k at 10 am, but the conditions were rough. Plus, WIL wasn’t on our Tour de Columbia this year, so I felt like the jilted ex-girlfriend.

The Dry Run is kind of a toss up as far as competition goes. It’s usually small, but it sometimes brings out some real beasts.  With Hedgecock at the helm, there’s always a chance of him bringing some of his SR teammates to come out and crash the trophy hunt. Being in Shandon, you never know when fast masters guys named Eric may come out of the woodwork and steal the cash too.

Scouting the competition early on, the only age group threat I could see was, of course, the Code. This summer, the Code wilted at Hot Summer Night, which of course made it open season for me to taunt him for weeks. He got his revenge pretty soon afterward, whipping my tail at Stomp the Swamp and Labor Day. No other 40-44 guys were around, though I saw Eric Ashton warming up with Sara, and Bedenbaugh was being cagey about maybe running too. Eric Allers made an appearance with Sarah, but it turns out they were just watching.  Or were they? That’s how my sick paranoid mind works. Masters hopes weren’t looking too bright.

CRC regulars Jennifer Lybrand, Pete Poore, Leeds Barroll, Alex Ponomarev, All the McGrievys, Peter Mugglestone, Lisa Smarr, Sue Porter, Greta Dobe, Sara Bonner , Mario Alvarez and Deirdre Maldonado were on hand. Ken “THE PALE BEAST” Vowles was making an unofficial comeback from hip surgery by pacing Zach. Colleen, Kenneth and Danny were all racing as well.

I figured I’d race this pretty hard, but I didn’t have any real strategy until I walked up to the line. I was going to jump on Code’s back like a circus monkey. The course is very well known to me – basically a big Shandon rectangle followed by a little one after a painfully close encounter with the finish line. I thought I was crushing low 18 minutes back in 2009 before realizing I still had a half mile to go. Standard Blue Shoes grandiosity.

We take off at the gun and one kid leaps out to the front, followed by another kid, Sara and Eric Ashton, and a couple of pasty 41 year old nerds. Eric is clearly pacing Sara, since he’s not way out in front like the superhuman he is. My biggest question is …why are we just a few steps behind them???. Of course, the answer to this question is the Code and his undeniable death wish in the first mile of a 5k. He’s out there arms pumping, blasting away at sub 6 pace like there’s no tomorrow. Who’s dumb enough to follow this maniac?  This guy. As though this was my first road race, I’m hanging on to Code’s shoulder for dear life, even though I know how ridiculous this is. I mean, I probably weigh the same as the Ashtons combined. Sarah Allers is spectating about a half mile in and is telling us “TOO FAST!” Yep..  At some point soon after, I realize I’m pulling like 5:40ish pace. I finally back off, the unspeakable memory of my walksies at 2015 Bayler’s Bash 5k coming into view in my mind. Code apparently is content to continue his suicide mission and hits the mile mark quite a bit ahead of me. My garmin spits out a 6:08 (i.e. about 19:00 5k pace), which would be fast but OK if I hadn’t included a lactic acid producing 1200 meters of death to start off.

What’s worse is that I am the straggler of a very spread out lead pack, which basically makes me feel like I’m dead last. Letting cars in behind me and everything. We make the turn at King to head back toward the finish and I’m struggling to find some sweet spot of gaining some form of recovery and not letting Code and the others get too out of hand. There’s a long straightaway on Hayward street that is familiar as the 2nd mile in like a dozen local 5ks. It seems fairly flat on paper but it’s actually got a fair amount of roll. The second kid, later identified as Nate from Shawanna’s running group, has backed way off the initial pace and Code and myself pass him near the mile 2 mark. 6:27 split. Not too thrilled with the slow down but the recovery was definitely needed.

With a mile to go, I haven’t made much progress on Code’s lead but it’s remained fairly steady. The legs have loosened up but damned if the lungs still want to suck up all the oxygen in the Shandon area.  There’s a nasty little incline before the “Heyward squiggle”, a quick right and left as the street crosses over Ott. I wake up from a couple minutes of mental napping to realize mile 1 may be exacting its revenge upon poor Code.  I’ve definitely reeled him in some. And, having had the most unfortunate experience of staring at his back for years, I can see his form breaking down a bit. Of course, he knows better than to look back because this has been known to set off many a headless chicken Blue Shoe kick.

Bonham street features not only a soul crushing long incline (a la the Race for the Place downhill start in reverse) but gives you the faux finish line mentioned earlier. I’m sucking a lot of wind by now and Code still has a decent lead. I think my stealth attack was let out of the bag since Jordan is cheering and surely alerts the Code to an impending Sasquatch invasion. We hit the turn onto the little finishing loop and my mind is having an ongoing debate about mailing this in versus going for broke.  Especially when I realize I misjudged the loop with the turnaround a whole block further. But who am I kidding? This blog is not called Tour de Mail it in.  I turn the one block circle around into my own personal  400 meter homestretch at Rio. Right at the corner Code gets passed and he shouts something at me that sounds like, loosely translated,  YOU BETTER F^*&G RUN. The last quarter mile is one big slog up a slight upgrade that sucks any remaining life out of you. I pass Coach B spectating (whose hinting at racing must have been just to see the terror in my eyes) and he tells me to STRIDE OUT!, which probably means I’m looking like a seizing T-rex on cocaine . The morning sun is blinding and I feel like hell, but I’m scared to death of the Code coming back to Blue Shoe me. Fortunately it was not to be. I hit the finish at full speed in 19:25 and do one of my classic Sasquatch pavement flops.  But I make sure to whip out the iphone to capture the Code’s finish. These opportunities don’t come along too often.


Pretty happy with the result – 3rd overall and first masters thanks to Eric not officially racing. Fifty bucks and a Code takedown are always going to make me happy. Despite the average time, I think this is actually a course record for me – I usually slow way down over the summer and take a while to get back up to max 5k speed. So hopefully this bodes well for the fall.

Dustin Corder,a  new SR team member, took the overall win in 18:11, with Sara Ashton claiming the women’s win in 19:00. Colleen won female masters and also was an impressive 2nd overall in a PR time of 21:46.

Age Groupers (only one deep):  The 2-14 was a good day for second generation CRCers with Sabine McGrievy and Danny Vowles winning. Kenneth Vowles paced Danny to a 24:31 and picked up an unexpected age group as well in the 15-19. Nate Carrasco won the 20-24. Jennifer Lybrand was shooting for sub 25 and crushed a 23:23, not even 4 months after giving birth to baby Wilson. She took the 25-29. Sara Bonner won the 35-39 women in an epic TUS battle with Colleen. Code and Brie McGrievy took the 40-44. The 50-54 was claimed by Mario Alvarez and Greta Dobe. Lisa Smarr won the 55-59, with Sue Porter taking the 60-64. Alex Ponomarev won the 65-69 while Peter Mugglestone claimed the 70-98.









Run for Our Troops – Cayce, SC – 9/11/16


The Run for our Troops is a 5k in its 4th year, and is always held in the evening on September 11th, regardless of the day of the week. Based at the West Columbia Riverwalk, the event has become pretty big, with attendance in the 150-300 range over the years. Proceeds go to fund Hidden Wounds (a veteran’s advocacy group for PTSD, TBI and other post-combat conditions) , Team RWB and the host group, Cayce-West Columbia Jaycees.

I actually missed the first couple of RFOT’s, with the odd time and day, but the one last year was really cool and moving, so I wanted to come back. They have a nice ceremony preceding the race honoring veterans and those affected by the Sept. 11 attacks. The course is pretty unique with a finish on the Riverwalk itself.

This year, however, there was a construction issue on the certified course, so they opted for a one-time non-certified route in West Columbia. I noticed this a few weeks ago but didn’t bother to look that closely at it. Yeah…we will get to that.

You’d think I’d have learned from my rough weekend over Labor Day about race prep, but apparently that went right out the window. I have a few half marathons (Palmetto Foundation, Lexington, Kiawah) on the fall schedule, so I have been ramping up the long runs. I missed several weeks over the summer, but started out at 10 last month and got up to 12 last week. I ended up doing 14 on Saturday since there wasn’t a local race, but I couldn’t turn down an offer for tennis that morning either. Between the 14 miler and two hours of tennis in the heat, I was completely wrecked the rest of the day. Somehow my 17 year old brain hasn’t come to terms with the 41 year old body to which it’s attached. At least I took it easy on the beer and avoided getting tortured by a Hrechko-led body pump session. It was not looking good for a Sunday race.   Code was planning to run RFOT but wussed out after the Saturday long run. Typical Code.


I woke up on Sunday and thought I’d be mr. tin man again, but I think all the tennis actually acted as a prolonged stretch/cool down. A little sore but not too bad. I was all good until I left the house for the race that afternoon. Holy crap it was hot. Last weekend was a total tease that fall was here, and summer decided to come back with a vengeance. Like 95 degrees with a nice wet blanket of humidity. Fantastic.

I got there with a little less than an hour until race time, forgetting about the half-hour ceremony beforehand.  The place was pretty packed. I met up with Tracy for a warm up and got my first look at the course. O.M.G.  We started going uphill, then some more hill, oh, and lets add some steeper hill. Sun was beating me down. Eventually we stopped and tried to make sure we were still on course. I could barely see my phone through the blinding inferno in the sky and my oversized head wringing out sweat on my screen, but it turns out we stopped right at the turnaround.  OF THE FIRST HILL. Dear God. Three quarters of a mile straight up.  What’s next? Run back down and do the B avenue Ray Tanner climb just for funsies. At least the rest of the course was mercifully back down to the finish.  We only did the one hill up and down, but by the time I made it back to my car it felt like I had been on a caravan in the sahara. I took down every remaining drop of liquid in my car – the rest of my zoe’s kitchen tumbler of tea and half a cooler of nice warm leftover water from yesterday’s tennis match . Mmmm, tasty.

I ended up missing the opening ceremony with my impromptu drinking binge, instead seeking refuge in the shade near the start with CRC veterans Pete Poore, John Gasque, Rocky Soderberg, Henry Holt, Leeds Barroll and Brigitte and Garrett Smith. I’m sure our lifetime races would add up to several thousand. Liz Locke was also taking a rare break from the timing at SR to do a race. Later OJ and Shawanna showed up to dash , yet again, any remote hopes of a trophy hunt. The Yerg was there anyway, so he was probably ruining those chances too. Ever since he got his payback and winning the beer bet at Stomp the Swamp, he’s trying to bet a beer on every race. He may never pay for brew ever again at this rate. RWB brought out almost their whole crew including Omar Armstrong, Michael Beaudet, Jack Brklich, Teresa Shelton, Matt Havens, Joe Greene and Maria Huff. Scott Brewer, the unwitting photobomber of the legendary Code-Blue Shoes Jailbreak finish, was on hand.


Carrie Miller, Melinda, Bob and Reese Petruzzi, Hou-Yin Chang, Ken and Patti Lowden, and Kat Vorhauer were some other familiar faces. Gretchen Lambert and Sammye Locklair are some frequent racers newly popping up on the Blue Shoes age group radar recently.

The start is sudden and off I go at 5k race pace straight up a hill in the 90+ degree heat. Fun times.  Surprisingly, it feels marginally better than my warm up slog, probably because you get at least a little breeze running faster. Striggles and Shawanna immediately shoot to the front followed by some ripped young guy and a mini pack with me, Liz Locke, Scott Brewer, a random shirtless guy and the Yerg. Legs actually feel decent, though I could do without the suffocating wet blanket of Columbia’s famous heat and humidity.  Yerg starts to gap us a bit near 9th street as the hill decides to kick it up a notch. The Yerg may be kicking my ass and taking my beer of late, but I have to at least make him earn it. Plus, you never know when he might pull a Code-esque epic bonk, a la his 2015 Stomp the Swamp or my own 2015 Bayler’s Bash. We reach the top, navigate a short block and then start plummeting back down. Shawanna and OJ are still visible but they are giving the rest of the field their typical beatdown. I feel surprisingly good and I start being all impressed with myself until the Garmin spits back its first split. 6:54. WTF?? Nice half marathon pace mile in a 5k, hero. I try to step it up on the ensuing decline, but I am notoriously bad at going downhill. You’d think a 190 pound boulder would have some serious kinetic energy, though mine seems to get wasted in head flopping, unnecessary braking and assorted Elaine Benes dance moves. It’s not pretty.

We (and by this time I should say “I” since I’m getting left for dead by this point) hit the turnaround with the water station. I would have grabbed a cup but I wasn’t sure if the day-old tennis water and chugged sweet tea wanted the company. I then turn onto B avenue – the site where many a Ray Tanner 12k dream has been crushed. And damn it starts to suck real quick. Halfway up there’s a big patch of sun, a shadeless inferno of pain. Just my brief time in this oven sucks any remaining will to live, sun shining off my oversized noggin like a giant solar panel. But at least I’ve made some ground on shirtless guy and the Yerg, who are now both feeling the pain. I hit mile 2 in 6:39. Wow, I’ve almost made it to 10k pace now.

I know the last 1.1 must be almost all downhill, but I’m having a hard time generating any will to push it. Yerg is still 39 and outside my AG for another 3 months, and surely this random guy is not 40, right? Yeah… again, we’ll get to that. More flopping and albino incoordination follow on the long downhill back to State Street. I keep wishing I could really haul some ass on this part but the B avenue climb has sucker punched me and I’m still trying to catch my breath.  Striggles and White are barely even visible at this point and are way out of the picture by the time I hit State. I forget State has a little roll to it and the last mini incline saps any thought I had of catching shirtless guy. I turn the last corner near New Brookland tavern and I’m very surprised to see low 19’s. I must have really crushed that last mile. But wait, I never felt the 3rd mile buzz on my watch. I hit the finish in 19:46, hit my watch and then see why. 2.98 miles. My new 4.8k PR. But hey, I’ll take it since I knew it was uncertified and this brutal course needs a handicap anyway. Hopefully we’ll get the old course back next year.

In the overall, OJ cruised to a first place finish, repeating as champion from his 2014 win. Devante Kinlaw was 2nd with the Yerg taking home third. Shawanna took the ladies win, just a few steps back from Striggles. Liz won second and Jasmine Harris third. Awesome eagle trophies for the overall winners.

Age group honor roll: Reese Petruzzi placed second in the 2-14. Omar and Matt Havens placed 1-2 in the 35-39. Turns out the guy in front of me was 44 year old Andrew Ortaglia, so I got all of second in age group (3rd if you consider OJ) for being 6th overall. Damn these old dudes are fast. Gretchen Lambert won the 40-44 women. Tracy won the 45-49 women, while Scott Brewer and Jack Brklich were champs of the 45-49 men. Sammye Locklair and Carrie Miller won the 50-54 women. Tour de Columbia director John Gasque won 2nd in the 55-59 men. Mike Compton was the 60-64 champion. Henry Holt scored an impressive 65-98 win, with Ken Lowden 3rd. Patti Lowden and Brigitte Smith went 1-2 among the women.