The Sweat it Out 5k started out 8 years ago as a small independent race, but over the years it has grown to be one of the more competitive events on the tour. Held in the area near Meadowfield Elementary and Hammond Academy behind the VA, the course is a fairly flat and fast route and typically provides the last decent chance at a fast time before the summer heat really sets in. Erin Roof took over race directing early on, so true to GRIT form, there is great post race swag and food, wth chick fil a biscuits, coffee and the signature Chicken Man painting awards. Don’t forget the free beer at Hunter Gatherer at packet pickup on Friday. (I certainly don’t) The race goes towards a good cause as well, benefitting the national foundation for ectodermal dysplasias. The cause and race is in recognition of Nicholas Duke, who has an ectodermal condition that makes it impossible for him to sweat.
Sweat it Out has always been a standby on the Tour de Blue Shoes, but this year my calendar started filling up for June 4. At some point I agreed to do the Cottonmouth Beerlay (8 mile beer relay) with Drew Williams. That was in Greenville that afternoon, so a rough double dip was already in order. But then I realized the Wildewood Fun Run 5k was also that morning at 10 am. And I had to do that too, since I “won ” last year’s event by brutally beating down a couple of cocky teenagers from the ‘hood. Beware the chunky middle aged man showing up to a fun run in Vaporflys.
But I still had high hopes for a decent race at Sweat It Out to lead it all off. I ran a 19:05 last year and had an insane COVID shutdown virtual mano y mano race with F^&*ing Higgins in 2020 in 19:04 (which I lost and got brutally blue shoed in the final quarter mile), so I hoped to maybe crack 19 this year. It’s always a tough call though, because the heat is typically pretty nasty. The race start time is 7 am, which is good to avoid the worst of it. Unfortunately my testy race day colon isn’t used to that, so I’m always afraid of a late encore to my toilet performances of the morning.
Inside sources for this race suggested that the women’s field in this thing was going to be absolutely stacked. Sure enough, Shawanna White, Purity Menene, Sally Davidson, Christa Collins, Jen Davis, Jennifer Lybrand, Ivanka Tolan, MC Cox, Ashley Holman and Shannon Godby were all on hand, and Greenville elite Shelby Jaramillo was there as well. That being said, the men’s field seemed unusually light with no Trackstar Eddie, Shrum or Striggles to be found. Initially it looked like maybe Branham and I, or Regan, would be fighting it out for the male win, though it was all but assured we would be chicked multiple times over. A young fast looking dude and elite masters Get to the Green winner Robert McBee showed up late though, so the holy grail was definitely off the table. I told Branham he really should try to avoid getting blue shoed this time (a la Race for the Place). Getting a Sasquatchean beatdown two races in a row would be embarrassing. There was a huge CRC turnout for this one, since TDC point opportunities were about to get a lot fewer in the next two months.
We all lined up at 7 am and though the heat is definitely there, it’s not nearly as bad as it could be. I was hoping for the freakishly cool morning of the Higgins showdown but high60s/low 70s wasn’t too shabby. The start of this thing was nuts. Everybody just flying in the first quarter mile. I’m getting passed by everybody since I always have to toe the start line with my enormous ego. All the ladies are crushing it. It takes me a full half mile before I can settle in to where maybe I should be in this field. I feel like Branham, Christa and Jen are gapping me already and I’m really struggling not to let them get out of range in the first mile. Regan must have doubled up on the coffee because he is really flying out there with Shawanna. I really, really would like to just pull out as I can tell this race is going to be a dumpster fire from the get go. But maybe I can salvage something. Brendan Holman is riding me like an oversized monkey on my back and I’m deathly afraid of maybe getting Aufuldished too and miss out on masters altogether. Jordan is screaming for his wife so I know JLy is just behind me too. I really thought mile 1 was slow, but Garmin chirps back a 6:11, so not terrible for me. I had been hitting around 6 flat pace earlier this year, but it ain’t January any more. Mile 2 is a rectangle behind the school followed by the Saye Cut straight out-and-back. Saye Cut always gives you a chance to see where you are since there’s no hiding when you turn around right back from which you came. As I near the turnaround, I see the young dude, Purity, and Shelby absolutely locked in a tight pack for the overall win in both genders. McBee is next, followed by Shawanna, Regan, Chris, Jen and Christa. Regan is talking and acting like he’s out for a jog. Must be nice to be 25, I guess. Mile 2 in 6:08 and I’ve managed to keep Branham in range. One problem with pulling my usual negative splits though is that I feel like absolute death. The dumpster fire is starting to rekindle. What’s worse is not only that late hill, but also the thought of that late hill. I’m blasting down Galway pretty hard but the gas tank is pretty empty at this point. I do an ugly arm pump up that incline right before Meadowfield but yeah, I got nothing. In my mind I had hoped to blast past Christa, Jen and Chris in that last half mile, but that most assuredly was not happening. Plus, who knows what danger lurks behind me. I try and make a final surge in the closing stretch but I’m just dying. Chris informs me “NOT TODAY, DUDE”. He’s right.I hit the final turn and have to ugly sprint to get under 19:30, 19:22 officially. Not my best, but I was glad I din’’t bail. I salvaged 2nd masters and another addition to the Chicken Man installation in my office!
(Note – the timing company results had categories set up as if there were cash awards – I’m going by standard CRC Tour de Columbia rules)
In the overall, Shelby nipped Purity by one second in the women’s race 17:39 to 17:40. Looking at other results, Shelby ran a 5:15 mile on Friday in Greenville and got up at 3 am to come down and race in Columbia. Nice double dip! Shawanna took 3rd in 18:54. On the men’s side, 19 year old David Williams took the win in 17:25, with Robert McBee 2nd and Regan 3rd. Regan crushed an 18:54 even while dealing with some recent injuries – pretty impressive. Female masters had a top 3 of Christa Collins, Ivanka Tolan and MC Cox. Chris Branham took male masters, with The Sasquatch and Duane Kimball 2nd and 3rd.
Male age group honor roll; Danny Vowles was 2nd in the 15-19.. Parker Roof took the 20-24 win, while Ian Loughlin claimed the 25-29. Seth Lapic, Westley Mckinney (pacing MC) and Brian Aplin swept the 30-34. Antjuan Seawright and Chris Reed were 2nd/3rd in the 35-39. Brendan Holman was champ of the 40-44. Randy SILENT H Hrechko took the 50-54 with Jonathan Kirkwood 2nd. Ed Aufuldish, Clay Ham (with a 22:12 PR) and Mark Gallagher swept the 55-59. Dave Hale and Patrick McCormick were 1-3 in the 60-64. Ron Lipe and Harry Strick took the 65-69. Alex Ponomarev and Bill Iskrzak were first and third in the 70-74. Ron Hagell was 2nd in the 75-79.
Female Age group honor roll: Evelyn Holman won the Under 9 with an impressive 24:26. Lilly Holman was 2nd in the 10-14. Sally Davidson took the 20-24 crown in 19:47. Jessica Weaver was champ of the 25-29. Jen Davis, Jennifer Lybrand, Kara Stevens (PR in 21:57) and Lauren Lapic swept the 30-34, while Ashley Holman, Brittany Jones and Megan Duffy did the same in the 35-39. Mc Cox, Shannon Godby and Colleen Quarles placed in a brutally competitive 45-49. Missy Caughman was 2nd in the 50-54. Renee McCormick, Kelly Danias and Greta Dobe won the 55-59. Melody Kreiling and Mary Gallagher took the 60-64, while Helene Lipe and Margie Shelburg did the same in the 65-69. Total beast mode for Lynn Grimes, as she won the 70-74 at SIO and was the only TDC double dipper, driving to Sumter and winning her age group there too. WOW.
Other notable finishers: Jamie Duke, Nick’s mom and race founder. Joe Roof, Jonathan King, Phil Smith, Rebekah Robertson, Eliere Tolan, Patrick Hall, Stephanie ‘Stevie Dee” Dukes, Stephanie Williams, Gretchen Lambert, Son Nguyen, Jessalyn Smith, Deanna Rennick, Pete Poore, Jennifer Norris, Lynn Kramer, Kat Hudgins, Maria Pray, and Ken Lowden. Kerry Stubbs competed virtually.
Tragically, my duties as official promotional cosplayer/spokesmodel for GRIT endurance were put on hold earlier this month to attend a friend’s wedding. I was aghast that he had the audacity to plan his nuptials on the same day as my annual run as the world’s largest leprechaun in Camden, leaving me in attention withdrawal for the remainder of the month. But there was always True to the Brew on March 26. Or was there? The Palmetto 200, which I have run since its inception in 2010 was the same weekend. But as it turned out, “El Capitan” Brian Clyburn finally decided to call it a day and put a fork in Van on the Run. I briefly flirted with the idea of joining another team, but sometimes my mind would drift to cold, stiff 3 am 6:50 pace runs in the pitch black dark, and I decided it was ok to let it go.
So, I was in for True to the Brew Run on the Palmetto Trail from Pomaria to Peak, it’s a trail run that’s an easy transition to the dirt for road racers, and serves to promote/support the Palmetto Conservation Foundation. Since it’s built on an old railroad bed, it’s pretty much flat as a pancake and straight as an arrow. It’s got a great finish on the picturesque old Peak railroad bridge and of course, beer at the finish, with a band and post-race food. And as always, great swag from GRIT’s mastermind Erin Roof. No 16-98 age groups here. That being said, I still have trauma from this race, detailed in the Tour de Blue shoes account of “TRUE TO THE POO” a few years ago. The day I prepared for double dipping two races less than a half hour apart, but my colon didn’t get the memo. It’s been three years, but I still wouldn’t go under bridge number 10. The remnants of unspeakable horrors might still be there.
Despite this race selling out again, I was thinking there might be trophies to be had, as there were some competing races on Tour. Race for the Cure had a 5k on the Cold Winter’s Day course in Forest Acres while the Camden Revolutionary Run had a 5k and half out there. I knew Greer was at Camden, but my other arch nemesis Giovannini would definitely be at TTTB.
Since this is a point-to-point race, there are some logistical issues with the start and finish. The best way now is just to use the drop bags and shuttles. What were 15 passenger vans are now huge charter buses, so no more waiting in line. But I still like doing the double car thing, so Tracy agreed to meet me in Peak in exchange for a ride from the finish in my old Pilot. The Pilot would definitely hold more people than the fancy Infiniti, though with the price of dealing with decade old goldfish crackers in the creases of the way back.
We got to the start line with plenty of time to spare. For me to warm up and the injured Jedi to watch Netflix under a warm blanket in her car. We all have our different race prep. I was a little nervous about my choice of wearing the VAPORS to a trail race, but like I said this course is completely non-technical and more like a straight, flat dirt road. I was of course hypersensitive to the POO situation but managed to skip the portapotty lines for the decidedly less than pristine but zero wait confines of the Wilson grocery bathroom. SHH… don’t tell anyone.
Walking up to the start there is no Shrum or any other elite-ish looking people, so the trophy forecast looks fairly bright. Do I have a shot at the holy grail? Not likely in a 10k, but the chances weren’t completely zero. Beating David would be the obvious challenge, plus these trail races can bring some out of town superfit granola dads. Also, Parker Roof and his dad Joe were on hand to actually race this year, instead of volunteer. Parker used to kick my arse on the regular when he was at Chapin HS, but he’s not running xc anymore, so maybe he could get a fat old man beatdown.
With the start, I barrel out of the gates pretty hard and I’m leading the race for the first quarter mile. I have a momentary grandiose moment until Giovannini suddenly bursts forth and leaves me in the dust. And keeps on going. Um, ok. There are two other random dudes in my vicinity. One of the guys surges ahead but the other is hanging on my back and side, riding the wake of the 18-wheeler blasting down the highway. The VAPORS seem to be fine, but since it’s soft ground, they aren’t snapping back like they do on the roads. I hit mile 1 in 6:20, so not too shabby. This course is a touch longer than 10k and I’ve never sniffed a sub 42 much less a sub 40, but I’ve been running really well recently, so I decided to trust it and hold the pace.
But it’s hard. I’ve run the course many times, but I just have trouble making out landmarks for distance. My brain is all about USATF certified course maps and splits, and this scenery and forest is more made for people named Schuster and Stroud. Plus, third place dude has gapped me quite a bit, and I can’t hear anything behind me. I’m out there blasting away for 4th place. David is in another time zone by now and I can barely see him, so that wasn’t happening. But maybe I can catch number 3, and hey, 4th place means masters will definitely be mine. I rattle off a bunch of splits right around 6:30. I’d like to go a little faster, but legs are probably heavy from my constant tennis-ing and recent 20 milers prepping for that race in Hopkinton next month. My main fear is getting Aufuldished or Parkered, but with the silence around me, I’m thinking there’s a decent gap. I don’t dare look back though. Ashley Holman is at the halfway point with her kids and I try to look pretty for her camera, but I’m sure I’ve failed as I always do. Karmic payback for too many sweaty iPhone Facebook dumps. I kind of drift of for a bit, my legs ingrained into this pace I’ve chosen and I’m too afraid to ramp it up this far from the finish. I finally break out of my fog when we hit the underpass, which I know is less than a mile to the bridge. The trail suddenly takes you down and under a road with a few sharp turns, and a nasty tiny incline back on the other side. I’ve managed to close the gap on number 3, but I’m thinking he might have heard the heavy footed sasquatch rumbling on the underpass and ensuing bridge. I try to ramp it up but he’s matching my effort pretty well. I hit mile 6 in 6:33, so not too much hemorrhaging on the underpass segment. With the bridge coming into view ahead of us, I realize I’ve run out of real estate in my attempt to catch this guy. But hopefully I can at least sub 40 it on my Garmin. One last sub 6 pace blast across the bridge and I finish in 40:39. I’m pretty happy with it, as it’s a big PR for me on the course. Garmin distance is 6.33 miles, and the best part, 39:57 for the 10k on the watch. YESSS. 4th overall, 1st masters (and actually legit this time, with no superfit 55 year old kicking my ass).
The afterparty of this race is of course amazing, with Craft and Draft serving up beers and Exec Director Mary Roe from Palmetto Conservation making fresh grilled egg/cheese sandwiches and hot dogs. They had a live band (The Biggest Wave) which awesomely and unironically played Gerry Rafferty’s 1978 classic Baker Street, complete with guitar matching the sax solo note for note. Nice work, gentlemen. Overall awards were nice yeti like drink containers and age groups got a logo beanie. I may be biased, but it was definitely another GRIT success!
In the overall, David “don’t call me geo vanni” Giovanninidestroyed me and the rest of the field en route to a 38:58 victory. Kyle Logue, last year’s winner, took 2nd in 39:19. Third place and blue shoes outkicker was Zack Fuller in 40:03.
Women’s winner was Shannon Godby, who decided to take 3 years off then take 1st masters and 1st overall in consecutive weeks. Kara Stevens was 2nd and Veronica Watson 3rd.
Masters winners included the first lady of Van on the Run, Jen Clyburn, in 1st, with her running partner Julie McKinnon 2nd and Ellen Adams third. Male masterswinners included Brendan Holman in 2nd with a big PR and Ed Aufuldish 3rd.
Women’s Age Group Honor Roll: Eva Greenberg was 1st in the 30-34. Stephanie “Stevie Dee” Dukes won the 45-49, with Brie McGrievy 2nd. Joyce Welch is getting back on the race train and took the 50-54 age group.
Men’s Age Group Honor Roll: Parker Roof took the 20-24 age group win and 5th overall. Brian Aplin trampled the weak and hurdled the dead en route to 2nd in the 30-34. Thomas Outlaw was 3rd in the 35-39. Jeff Godby and Rob Yerger were 1-2 in the 45-49. Michael Jensen was 2nd in the 50-54. Roy Shelley, Joe Roof and Frank Seier pulled a CRC sweep in the 55-59. Fellow president emeritus Rick Gibbons won the 60-64. Wade Bauer took the 65-69, while Leeds Barroll won the 70+.
Other notable finishers (with a great turnout of the RWB group) : Matt Mcgreivy, Rich Welch, Tracy Tisdale, Gretchen Lambert, Sara Wilcox, Teresa Harrington, Sue Porter, Jessalyn Smith, Dianne Steadman, Bertha Woehl, Son Nguyen, Bridgette Honor, Teresa Shelton, Michael and Clara Beaudet, Melinda Waldrop, Mackenzie Wilson, Deanna Rennick, Maria Pray, Harry Strick, Rusty Painter, and Kim La. Nikki Barthelemy and Chris Beattie competed virtually.
At some point in time, many years ago, Erin Roof cajoled me into running as a giant rabbit for the YMCA Bunny Hop 5k. Though I was initially hesitant, apparently my insatiable need for attention overrode any sense of dignity and I ended up loving it. Plus, what is better than blue shoeing people in normal race attire when you can do it as an enormous anthropomorphized animal. Truth be told, the bunny suit is just a giant onesie and I could run fairly freely in it, so I was able to get down to a 19:36 in the suit, a moment of pride for myself and possibly shame for the ones around me. Sadly, my one chance at bringing down Brandenburg as the bunny ended just a few seconds short. I do love the finish pics with me in the background though. Fast forward a few years, and my race cosplay has ranged from Santa, a pharaoh, a viking, a leprechaun, and even a couple of years as the mascot dog for See Spot Run. But by far the least attractive of my suits is the turkey. This monstrosity gives me a faux beer gut, giant wings and tail, and a red skull cap complete with eyes and a gobbler. It is hideous. And awesome. My maiden voyage in the turkey suit was in 2019, where I managed a respectable 20:09 and crushed the poor spirits of Jessa Wigington and Ivanka Tolan. I can only imagine the turkeying helped make them into the sub 19 runners they are today.
Of course COVID canceled the 2020 race but I was back and ready to go for the 2021 Shandon Turkey Trot and Burn 5k. The race, previously known as the Shandon Turkey Trot, has been around for decades. It was on the brink of going defunct when Erin and GRIT picked up the race and revived it. 2019 was a big success with a nice crowd and the return of the awesome turkey trophies of years past. Flat and fast course, plus, free beer at backstreets afterward. What’s not to love?
I got to the race my standard hour early and really struggled with the turkey outfit. Yeah, it was more cumbersome then I remembered. The faux gut is ridiculous and the tail feather had detached so it was falling down. Oh well. At least I could pull up the suit like a dress to make it easier to run and of course, destroy the portapotty as usual. I did a quick warmup with Ed, Christa, Liz Locke and Tracy. Legs felt like absolute death. I guess racing for the 5th time in 7 days will do that to you. Recent blue shoe victims Greer and JB were on hand, but I sure wasn’t going to catch them this time. My goal was to squeak out a sub 20.
I strolled up to the start line and quickly got in a photo portfolio shoot from the race photog and a very enthusiastic B106 DJ. Ms. NC for America has nothing on my pageant poses. B106 girl quickly dropped me when she laid eyes on Muscledup runner, who was apparently more attractive than a 7 foot turkey. Go figure. The start line had a bunch of cross country studs so hopefully they would not let Greer get too many overall points. Rob “THE YERG” Yerger was in full Santa gear as promised in a metaphorical Christmas chasing away of Thanksgiving theme. The start was chaotic as usual with everyone throwing down hard on Woodrow Street. My legs were definitely giving me the WTF feeling. What’s worse was that my SPIbelt wasn’t tight and was bouncing around out of rhythm with my turkey gut. DAMMIT. I finally managed to tighten it while trying to maintain 5k speed. I was already in full debbie downer mode about my ability to run fast, when I heard two dudes say “that turkey isn’t going to last 5 minutes like that” . Oh, it’s on now. I speed up but damned if Silent H isn’t hauling ass with me, along with Seth Lapic. I’m thinking I’m going significantly slower than usual, but my Garmin gives me 6:11 at mile 1 on Heyward St right before Ott.
Mile 2 is pretty much the same terrain but the all out throw down at Sleigh Bell and the 11 miles on Thanksgiving are putting a hurting on my legs. Cardio is good but no spring in my step, even with the VAPORS. I don’t even look at the mile 2 split on Wilmot. As we turn on Shandon on the way back home I finally catch Dr. Lapic and tell him sub 20 is within his reach. Apparently a 19:59 is a rite of passage for all Columbia psychiatrists. Rounding the corner back onto Heyward I surprisingly catch Regan, but he’s feeling the pain of this week’s race schedule too. I’m pretty gassed but even in full turkey regalia, the last mile is my favorite. I’m throwing down hard by the time we hit Woodrow again, and I’m trying my best to catch FAST EDDIE but he’s blasting it out pretty good too. Up ahead I see Greer and JB locked in an absolute shoulder to shoulder sprint. I can’t even tell who won from my vantage point. Finally I see the clock come into view and it’s in the low 19s. One last blast, complete with a few wing flaps at the line, and I cross at 19:30. I’m pretty jacked about the time, and certainly a turkey PR.
Overall: Jack Stacy took the win in 16:41 followed by fellow xc dudes JC Blackwelder and David Wiliams. Christa IRON MAIDEN Collins took the ladies’ win in another impressive 18:52 over Caroline McNeill and Liz Locke. Masters winners were two out of towners in Herbert Krabel and Joel Stacy, while Steve Greer edged out JB for 3rd. Strong work, muscled up, no pun intended. Barbara Brandenburg saved face for the racing power couple with a 3rd place masters win.
Age Group Honor Roll, women: Sarah Hudgins showed running is in the genes with a first place in the 20-24 with a strong 21:50. Lindsey Hendren may be in LA but can throw down some fast times in SC with a 22:13 and 1st in the 30-34. Lauren Lapic and Kara Stevens completed the podium, with Allison Sweeney 4th. Megan Duffy had a full race schedule this week as well and took 1st in the 35-39. Bridgette MZSWEETIEPIE Honor won the 40-44 in just seconds over 2nd and 3rd,with Jessalyn Smith 4th. Angie Thames was 2nd in the 45-49, while Shenequa Coles took 2nd in the 50-54 and Tracy Tisdale 4th. Carol Wallace, Melody Kreiling, Lisa Smarr and Teresa Harrington rocked a competitive 60-64 group. Lynn Grimes notched a 25:58 at 69 to take the 65-69 group in another 80+ percent AG grade performance. Sharon Sherbourne was champ of the 70+.
Age group honor roll, men: Regan Freeman got turkeyed but pulled out a nice 19:41 for 1st in 25-29. Ian “don’t call me loff-lyn” Loughlin took 2nd in 23:50. Seth Lapic got his sub 20 with a 19:52 and 2nd in the 30-34. Antjuan Seawright won the 35-39 with a nice sub 22. Yerg edged out Justin Campbell for 2-3 in the 40-44, with Dr. John Baker just behind. At least he had another epic blue shoeing of Lindsey Hendren to make him feel better. I managed a 1st in the 45-49 and the best turkey trophy ever, proudly displayed on my desk. Randy SILENT H Hrechko captured yet another sub 20 and the 50-54 win. I guess body pump and 25 miles per week works. Jeff Brandenburg, Ed Aufuldish and Frank Seier swept the 55-59 podium with Clay Ham just behind. Dave Hale had a winnah winnah chicken dinnah by placing 3rd in the self-proclaimed “geezer jock” division of 60-64. Pete O’Boyle crushed the 65-69 division by 7 minutes, with Leeds coming in 4th just before his 70th birthday. The ageless Alex Ponomarev placed 3rd in the 70+.
Other notable finishers include: Jennifer Tudor, Laura Hudgens, Ron Hagell, Pam Griffin, Paul Laymon, Will Rowan, Greta Dobe, Jessica Weaver, Sue Weaver, Amy Hildrreth, Gretchen Lambert, Chateau Mangaroo, Pete Poore, Phil Smith, Melinda Petruzzi, Bob Petruzzi, Reese Petruzzi, Kat Hudgins, Joey Swearingen, Michael Jensen, Heather Hawn, Jessalyn Smith, Missy Caughman, Wendy Homeyer, Mike Hudgins, Kana Rahman, Gabriella Swearingen, Melinda Waldrop, Kim La, Ken Lowden, Kristen Loughlin and Margie Shelburg. Also great to see CRC legend Birgit Spann at the race, visiting from Germany!
So, a mere 10 hours after Tunnel to Towers, I was up and getting ready to finish off my CRC quadruple challenge with the Springdale 5k. In addition to being GRIT endurance’s unofficial spokesmodel and superfan, Springdale and I go way back to 2009. They used to have it at sunset and on the horse racetrack. All I remember was the grass was crazy long, it was August and 90+ degrees at race time, and I headless chickened Chad Long to a 23 minute finish. But there was beer, so that was cool. Ah the good old days. Erin and GRIT took over the race a few years ago and produced the awesome horseshoe trophies and the legendary post race waffles. I think I’ve done this race almost every year, save for that time I decided to dive on the rocks in Hawaii in 2013.
Getting to the race an hour early, I am pretty much wrecked. I had another 2 beers post T2T and I’m a combo of sleep deprived, sore as hell and dehydrated. But hey, sounds like a good time to run a hilly 5k! Did I mention hills? There’s basically one. You run down it at the start for a mile and a half, then back up. Pretty simple. If there’s one race you do not want to start too hard in, this is it. That being said, it’s pretty tough not to want to freefall in the first half.
Showing up I was glad to see Jen Davis avoided the ER the night before, though apparently she thought running another hard 5k would be good recovery for her lungs. I would be critical, but here I was half hungover and sore and asking for more pain. There’s a reason we are in mental health.
I see Michael Nance is making a rare race appearance for this one, as well as Steve “@muscleduprunner” Greer. I’m always afraid he’s going to kick my ass and I’ll end up being mentioned on one of his inspirational insta videos. I do a mile warmup with Jen and get a taste for that finishing climb. News flash: it doesn’t taste good. I chug some water and make use of Springdale’s glam portapotty, complete with sink and flushing toilet. Noice. Apparently, I’m a bit anxious too because Johnny Deal’s photo drone buzzes my tower and I jump like there’s an air raid taking place.
At the start I’m not feeling super confident but, hey, let’s get the pain over with. With the gun, I latch on to muscledup and here we all go flying down the opening hill. Ugh, my legs are not liking this one bit, but I need to at least be in shouting range of the leaders. Turns out it’s basically one dude and Greer initially, then Nance comes by about a half mile in. Some kid is trying to ride the Sasquatch bus, but eventually he can’t handle the pace of a 190 lb bus rolling downhill. The course finally levels out a bit around the mile mark, which comes through in 6:01. Yikes, that’s probably a touch fast. At least it’s not that ridiculous 5:48 from last night.
We go blasting ahead. Lead guy (Eric Masaitis) has gapped us a bit and it’s me, muscledup and Nance in a pack. Suddenly we approach an intersection. Having done this race so many times, I feel like we need to turn. There’s a cop there but he’s sitting in his car. I go about 10 meters past, when I suddenly realize there are no right turns in sight, and I hear yelling behind me. I stop and see Jen and everyone else making that turn behind me. DAMMIT. I turn around and start trying to rev the engine back up again. I manage to catch the girl who was yelling, who tells me JUST GO STRAIGHT, I LIVE HERE. I’ll take her word for it. I manage to pass Jen , but there’s some dude with an American flag arm tat and lightning shirt up ahead now in first place. I don’t know this guy but he is going pretty hard. Finally we hit mile 2 , 6:27. That’s including a stop and turnaround, so it is what it is. And my oxygen deprived brain isn’t sure how much extra distance was involved in the misdirect. What I do know is that I’ve pulled alongside lightning shirt and pass him just after my Garmin split. I’ve got about a mile to go, all uphill… but it’s probably for all the marbles. And that’s all it takes. The mere whisp of the thought of an overall win enters my brain and I start hauling ass like there’s no tomorrow. But yeah, did I mention it was all uphill? I’m in a world of hurt the whole time, and I am sure at any moment lead guy is going to catch back up. And every turn on this road feels like it should be the finish. But it’s gotten nice and quiet, and mile 3 (6:11) chirps back loudly as I hit one more turn and see the finish clock. One more surge of adrenaline and I blast onto the gravel driveway and hit the tape in 19:22, just absolutely gassed. I’ve tried to avoid the post race flop but I lay out full HYC style for this one. Of course, Erin sends daughter Sarah over to fully photodocument my ugliness. Hopefully those pics never see the light of day, but I feel like they most certainly will at some point.
To add to the Renaissance tragedy scene, lightning shirt finishes just behind Eric Masaitis (leader at the misdirect) and proceeds to puke right next to me. Perfect. Johnny Deal’s finish pic is priceless.
OK , so there’s a little shame in winning a misdirected race, but shame has never prevented me from basking in the glory of an overall win. And hey, somebody has to finish first. I know Eric ran low 18 at one of the Saluda Shoals races so I will assume he would’ve beaten me straight up. It would have been an interesting throwdown with Nance, Greer and me though.
In the women’s overall, which was unaffected by the misdirect, Jen Davis took the win in 20:24, with Nicole Hill 2nd and Amy Faulkenberry 3rd, all under 21 minutes. Jim Carleton aka lightning shirt was 3rd male in 20:14
In masters, Whitney Keen, Michael Nance and Steve Greer swept the podium for the guys, with Kerry Dean, Melinda Moon and Shelly Sloan winning among the women.
Age groupers MALE: Antjuan Seawright was 2nd in the 35-39, Pavel Mosneaguta was 3rd in the 40-44. Ivery Baldwin crushed a 21:31 to take the 45-49, while Chad Long was 2nd. Prez Roy Shelley was 1st in the 50-54, with Brent Stogner 2nd. Phil Smith was 2nd in the 55-59. Jim Williams won the 60-64. Peter O’Boyle and Leeds Barroll went 1-2 in the 65-69. Alex Ponomarev and Bill Iskrzak went 1-2 in the 70+
WOMEN: Catherine Sostak won the 35-39. Clara Nance and Gretchen Lambert went 2-3 in the 45-49. Tracy Tisdale edged out Sharon Cole for the 50-54 crown. Heather Herndon was 3rd in the 50-54. Melody Kreiling was 2nd in the 60-64. Lynn Grimes crushed the competition with a 26:07 to take the 65-69 win. Leeds checked the age graded times and her 79.9 percentile was tops among all runners in the race. WAY TO GO LYNN!!
The Sweat it Out 5k has been a regular on the Tour de Blue shoes since its inception in 2015. It was founded by Jamie Duke, whose son Nick suffers from a rare condition, Hypohidrotic Ectodermal Dysplasia, which makes it unable for him to sweat. Proceeds from the race go to benefit the foundation that promotes awareness and research for Nick’s condition and other similar conditions. Shannon Godby helped get the race started and then Erin Roof, aka GRIT endurance, took over a few years back. Other than it being hot (it is in June in SC) there isn’t much bad you can say about the race. A free beer at packet pickup, flat/fast/unique/certified course, original Ernest Lee paintings as awards, Chick fil-a biscuits at the finish, this one checks all the boxes. And I’m not just saying that as the unofficial “elite” GRIT “spokesmodel”. Quotation marks definitely needed.
With the aforementioned free beer at packet pickup at the Hunter Gatherer Hangar, I was of course on board for that. As in keeping with my many alcohol-influenced race decisions, somewhere amid the IPAs I stated the rather lofty goal of trying to track down another 18:59. While I had cracked 19 a few times already this season, those times were aided by it being at least 30 degrees cooler than the projected temps for Saturday morning. Plus, the Sweat it Out course is definitely the full 3.11, judging from my Garmin from previous races. Though I had gone low 19 in last year’s virtual showdown with Sean F@$# Higgins, it was May then and freakishly cool that morning. I’m not sure I had gone below 19:20 officially on the course. But hey, since Columbia has decided to bless us with an early start to its oven-like summer, I was already getting some heat acclimation in. The Yerg invited me to pace his virtual Sweat it Out (he had to work Saturday), so I had gotten a chance to do a race pace workout in the heat. News flash, it still sucks.
I open the door on race morning, and sure enough it’s a freaking steam room. The race always tells you to “sweat for Nick”. Well, 5 minutes outside I was sweating for Nick and about 3 other people. Gotta love our famously hot summer. Silent H and I do a warmup on the course and apparently just a 2-mile slog jog has me completely drenched. I was definitely not feeling it, and I knew all the big dogs would be out at this race. Sure enough, Strictly Running and Team Utopia South seemed to bring out most of their teams. Ediberto “Trackstar Eddie” Crisanto always comes out for this one, so nobody’s going to catch him. Newly minted masters runner Justin Bishop is back racing again and destroying us old dudes. Westley McKinney and Jason Dimery were on hand as well so that pretty much eliminated my podium chances. And all the fast ladies were here. Jen Lybrand and MC from SR as well as Jen Davis, Ivanka, Christa, Ashley and Brittany from TUS. With Higgins off to Germany and Drew saving up for the Cottonmouth Beerlay, I was hoping to claim the masters crown (assuming Bishop gets on the overall podium), with Ed and Randy as my main competition.
After a prayer and the anthem (kudos to the young girl who crushed it a capella) we were suddenly off. I wasn’t quite ready for the confetti and the start, and I felt something fall off me but didn’t know what (turns out it was my sunglasses). But when you’re shooting for 18:59 there’s no room for you to go back and check. Ain’t nobody got time for that. The start feels like a kick in the stomach. Everybody is out there killing it and I can already feel the sauna like air filling up my lungs. Ugh. I essentially divide the SIO course into three loops, Prince Wales, Macon and Saye Cut. There is an ever so slight incline to Prince Wales and honestly I’m feeling like death not even a half mile in. I can see Justin, Eddie separate from the field, with Dimery and Westley just behind. Ivanka is a few paces ahead with some random guy I don’t recognize. There feels like a stampede behind me though. I finish the first loop then get dumped out on to Galway drive where I see Jordan and Shawanna spectating. As I enter the Macon rectangle loop I feel like I’m going too slow and honestly wonder if I should drop out. That’s when my watch bleeps out a 6:01, so that probably explains the pain. When you spend most of your days jogging 9 minute pace, a 6 flat feels like a punch in the face.
OK just hang in there. As per usual, my body tends to chill out in the second mile and recognize the weekly abuse I put it through. It feels a little better to make the turn and finish the second loop. No one’s passed me at least and I’m making up some ground on Ivanka. Saye Cut is an out and back on the same road, so it gives you a sense of where everyone is. Eddie has suddenly dropped Justin and is already heading back just as I enter the last loop. Justin comes cruising by and I can tell he’s enjoying this about as much as I am. Read: not very much. Just before the turnaround I manage to pass Ivanka, with unknown guy just ahead. I make the turn and I’ll be damned if there aren’t a ton of people crushing it out there. Ed , Christa and Jen are just behind me with Jen Lybrand not too far back. MC and H are right behind them. Damn, this is going to be a fast race. Mile 2 is 6:05, so still ever so slightly faster than goal pace. Not much room for error though.
It’s a psychological boost to finish the third loop, but you are most definitely not in the clear. It’s about ¾ of a mile back to the finish with the only real hill on the course at about 2.5 miles in. I’m feeling pretty gassed. Unknown guy, later identified as Stephen Hicks, is holding me off just a few paces ahead. I’m trying to keep up pace but as we hit the hill it both slows us way down. I’m trying to lift my legs and power through, but the 78 degrees and humidity are crushing my soul. Turning back on Olde Knight Parkway towards the home stretch, I start having my typical internal debate whenever I have someone in my radar. Rational Alex says “OK, its fine, no need to kill yourself to take out this guy, he’s probably not even in your age group, why are you so damn competitive”. And then dark passenger comes in “TAKE HIM DOWN HE MUST BE BLUE SHOED DO IT DO IT DO IT”. I’m waging this war in my psyche while gasping air and breathing down poor Stephen’s neck. The dude is going to have some serious nightmares. One last turn to the finish and I can see the clock around 18:40ish. It’s going to be close but, having run just a few 5ks, I can tell the 18:59 is probably not going to happen. But seeing the red clock readout makes the primitive monkey brain take over and I launch into full headless chicken mode, pulling alongslide Mr. Hicks for a second and then blasting the last 20 meters to edge him out. 19:04 officially, 5 th overall. I had been so good about avoiding a finish line collapse recently, but I went down like a sack of potatoes. HYC would be proud. But hey, it was worth it. Sure enough, Hicks is 43 and was competing for my precious masters trophy. And thanks to Erin, and possibly Ron Hagell, judging by the video, for saving my fallen sunglasses from the stampede.
In the overall, Eddie won easily in 17:14. Justin is back in the 17s with a 17:49 for 2nd, edging out Dimery in 17:56 in a reversal of their Foot Pursuit 5k showdown. They ended up doing the awards differently, giving Justin the masters win instead of overall 2 nd , with Westley taking 3 rd overall in 18:04 and Steve Hicks 3 rd masters in 19:06. The women’s overall featured an insane performance by Christa Collins, who had never broken 20 minutes before. She ended up destroying her old PR in 19:18 to take the win. Close behind was Ivanka in 19:30 and Jen Davis in 19:35. Jen Lybrand also crushed her PR en route to her first sub 20 in 19:54. Rounding out the women’s masters podium was MC Cox in 20:14 and Colleen Quarles in 22:15. So cool to see such a fast race by all these ladies.
Age Group Honor Roll:
Women: Ashley Holman and Brittany Jones were 1-2 in the 35-39. Sara Bonner took the 40-44 by a mere 9 minutes. Stephanie “STEVIE DEE” Dukes won the 45-49. Missy Caughman won the 50-54, with Renee McCormick taking the 55-59. Lynn Grimes, Sue Porter and Helene Lipe swept the 65-69.
Men: Regan Freeman was 3rd in the 20-24, Fellow psychiatrist Seth Lapic rocked a 21:29 to win the 30-34. Silent H Randy Hrechko and Michael Beaudet went 1-2 in the 50-54.Ed Aulfuldish, Lary Jourdain and Eliere Tolan topped a super fast 55-59. Jim Williams and Patrick McCormick were 1-2 in the 60-64.Pete O’ Boyle, Pete Poore and Ron Lipe swept the 65-69 podium. John Houser and birthday boy Ron Hagell took the 70+.
Other familiar finishers in the results include Joey and Gabriella Swearingen, Jessica and Susan Weaver, Rebekah Robertson, Mark Gallagher, Phil Smith, Will Rowan, Gretchen Lambert, Maria Pray, Kat Hudgins, Greta Dobe, Kana Rahman, Kerry Stubbs, Jennifer and Jason Norris and Wendy Homeyer.
Virtual finishers include: Rob Yerger, Charles Seastrunk, Rocky Soderberg, Harry Strick, Melinda Waldrop, and Dianne Steadman. Lynn Grimes and Kerry Stubbs appeared to have double dipped the virtual and the live race!
All the winners went home with Ernest Lee paintings and lots of prizes were given out at the finish, plus Chick Fil-A biscuits. Another great race by Jamie and Erin!
As it turns out, like the chance of me ordering an IPA, I will reliably and predictably show up for any event that involves beer and racing. Some may argue that drinking in the morning sounds weird and gross, but I assure you they are very wrong, especially when you’ve just thrown down your hardest effort for a few miles.
So when Erin and GRIT endurance started hosting the True to the Brew race in 2018, I was most certainly in. Nice time of year, flat course and music/beer/food at the finish. What’s not to love? The race goes to benefit the Palmetto Conservation Foundation and the Palmetto Trail, so even better. This is a trail race, but the flat and open point-to-point route make it pretty accessible to diehard roadies like myself. Don’t get me wrong, I love the trails, but my Sasquatchian frame is not known for the cat-like agility that fast technical trail racing demands.
This race is so flat I even considered bringing out the VAPORS. But like a small puppy, I treat my 200 dollar precious nikes with the gentlest of kid gloves. The thought of possibly damaging these babies on some rocks was too traumatic to bear, so I opted for my standard blues.
I was glad the TTTB was actually live this year (with a virtual option as well), but there were obviously some COVID restrictions. Since the race is point to point and has vans bringing you back to the start, they had to make sure there wasn’t a huge bottleneck of people at the finish. The solution was doing waves every 15 minutes instead of the 5-10 seconds we’ve seen at most COVID era events. This definitely led to better spacing. I signed up for the race months ago, so I’m not sure how the corrals were divided, though the first one was supposed to be for under 7:30pace I believe. I’m sure Erin recognized my ELITE STATUS and put me in the first wave.
I would say I was well trained for this race, but to be honest, my legs finally decided to pay me back for the abuse inflicted them in recent weekends. The whole past week was a bit of a struggle just doing my daily slog jogs around downtown Columbia. I’m sure “The Sweaty Sasquatch” will be on the next Soda City tourist brochure for local characters. It turns out that following a marathon with a 200 mile relay and sleeping on a picnic bench in the cold do not bode well for a 46 year old’s body. Go figure.
So I arrived at race day in perhaps less than optimal condition. But hey, I was there super early and I was going to make sure that the epic pooptastrophe known as “TRUE TO THE POO” from 2019 would not happen again. My colon still quivers every time I run the Palmetto Trail’s bridges. I’m not there very long before I see Drew Williams AND John Charlton, essentially blowing my masters chances out of the water from the get-go. Lots of CRC people in the first couple of waves. Tracy Tisdale was there to race, sans Jedi camera, thus ensuring that the Facebook masses would be subjected to the harsh eye of the sweaty iPhone. My Palmetto 200 “El Capitan” Brian Clyburn and wife Jen were there with both dogs. Nancy McKnight , Mario Alvarez, Whitney and Caroline Keen, The Yerg and Melinda, Eric Gilfus, Ed “FAST EDDIE” Aulfuldish, Prez Roy Shelley, Sara Wilcox, Colleen Quarles andJoey Swearingen were some familiar faces at the first start.
The first wave took off at 7:30 am, and Drew blasts out to the front immediately, followed by Charlton. Oh hell, I’m letting these guys go. My legs loosen up some as I try to approximate somewhere between 6:30 and 6:40 pace. As has been well documented, I’m terrible at pacing a good 10k. I either go out too fast and die (see 2012 Dam 10k 6:18 first mile), or underperform by not going hard enough. I feel like I’m moving pretty well, but damned if two “kids” pass me in sequence about a half mile in. Being an aging Xer, “kid” now refers to anyone under 40. Well at least they weren’t trying to compete for my extremely elite third masters position. Not too far after I get my first split – 6:53. Damn, not even close. Yeah, looks like the legs and my cardio are on different wavelengths today. The course is dead straight so I fight drifting off into race daydreaming mode, almost wishing I had some music to keep me company. My coworkers have expressed disbelief that I don’t listen to music while I race, especially given my autistic spectrum like pop music knowledge of the last 40 years. But then again , they don’t know the dark and twisty things of the sasquatchian mind that I have to process on a daily basis.
Dark and twisty, like choosing my hello fresh meal for the day and which hazy IPA the irmo craft and draft may have on tap. Yeah, I’m totally goth like that. I am concerned about the ghost of Ed Aulfuldish and Rob Yerger, because I keep hearing things. But it’s always either a squirrel or the rampaging elephant sound of my own body hurtling through space. At some points I try and throw down some bursts of speed, at least to keep Drew, John and the kids in sight, but my legs are quickly shooting down making any moves. I rattle off some more 6:50s and hit the Hope Ferry Rd 5k point in 21 something. By this time I can see that the two kids have actually gotten in front of the masters battle, which is kind of surprising since neither of those dudes seemed familiar. Being a 5k specialist, maybe I can throw down a decent finish here. I give a little more effort for a mile and get back a 6:47. Doh. So much for a big negative split. Over the next mile there’s an ever so slight closing of the gap between me and the other old guys, but not really enough to give me that David banner/incredible hulk adrenaline boost that produced my 5k PR in December.
But at least I’m not getting caught. I figured Yerg would be cashed from his 70 mile mid-week solo ultra he threw down on Wednesday, but there’s always FAST EDDIE, and he already shamed me at Skidaway 2 weeks earlier. Luckily I was able to hold off anyone over the last two miles, basically phoned in couple more 6:50s and did a weak blue shoe kick on the bridge to finish in 43:10. Since this is a trail course and bound by the confines of the bridge and the Wilson’s store parking lot, it’s really more in the 6.3to 6.4mile range. I’ll take it on my cinder block legs. There were some timing headaches with the staggered starts but it looks like they were able to iron them out. There was a great band at the finish and while there couldn’t be beer on site this year, you got a craft and draft free brew coupon (later cashed in at the Irmo location , SHOCKINGLY for an IPA). I ended up 6th overall and 2nd masters, with John Charlton claiming 3rd overall to bump me up a notch on the masters podium. Strangely, some dude in the second wave beat me for the 5th place I thought I took. Damn you,Grier Sponenberg. You’re going down next time!
In the overall, the “kids” Kyle Logue and David Giovannini battled it out for first, with Kyle edging out David by a second. I believe David was my medical student at some point, so I ‘m going to seek out a retroactive failing grade for disrespecting his elders. As mentioned, John Charlton was the pride of the old dudes, claiming third overall. Drew won masters, with me and Jeff Padgett 2ndand 3rd.
Among the women, Martha Beahm won first, with Wendy Hart and Rachel Simmonscompleting the podium. Female masters was super close, with Jodi McFarland, Julia Norcia and Jen Clyburn all finishing in 51 minutes.
Age groupers: WOMEN: Sabine McGrievyclaimed 1st in the 12-14 in a nice time of 1:04. Nikki Barthelemy was first in the 40-44. The 45-49 was swept by Colleen Quarles, Amanda Charlton, Julie McKinnon and Caroline Keen. Tracy “JEDI RUNNER” Tisdale took 1st in the 50-54, ahead of Sara Wilcox and Renata McFadden. Teresa Harrington claimed third in the 60-64, while. Cheryl Outlaw and Janice Compton went 1-2 in the 65-69.
MEN: Quentin McGrievy harnessed his track team speed to take first in the 12-14. Eric “HORN STAR” Gilfus won the 30-34 by 2 minutes. Dr. John Baker, master of the 4 am training run, finished 3rd in the 35-39. Brian Clyburn won 1st in the 45-49 with his 2 insanely hyperactive dogs. Whitney Keenand Roy Shelley placed 1st and 3rd in the 50-54, with Frank Seier 4th. The 55-59 was a CRC sweep with Ed Aulfuldish, Mario Alvarez and Joey Swearingen claiming the podium. Jim Manning took 2nd in the 60-64 with Lorand Batten 4th. Mike Compton was 2ndin the 65-69 with counselor Leeds Barrolllaying down the law in 3rd. Chap John Houser crushed his 1st place in the 70+ by over half an hour, en route to a week where he hit his 300th straight day at the gym – congrats, Chap!
Lots of familiar faces in the results – Mark Chickering, Renee McCormick, Matt Havens, Michael Beaudet, Clara Nance, Lisa Powell, Phyllis Hughes, Darby Shinn, Lois Leaburn, Bryan Leaburn, Craig Campbell, Gretchen Lambert, Matt and Brie McGrievy, Tommy Outlaw, Gabby Swearingen, Tonya Stamey, Jessalyn Smith, Marlena Crovatt-Bagwell, Missy Caughman, Kara Blaisure, Kim La, Kana Rahman, Heather Herndon, Patrick McCormick, and Maria Pray were all finishers.
Virtual completers included Charles Seastrunk, Naomi Rabon , Rocky Soderberg and Amanda Rowan.
Thanks to Erin Roof and family and Mary Roe from the Palmetto Conservation Foundation for another great race!
In 2009, in what seemingly was the prehistoric days of social media, I was a regular on the “SUB 22 minute 5k” message board of Runner’s World magazine. We used to trade race reports back and forth, and for me, that eventually became Tour de Blue Shoes. One of the other regulars, a “MrSig”, started talking about a new relay race in South Carolina, going from Columbia to Folly Beach and wanted to know if anyone was interested. Although the board had people from all over the world, it turns out MrSig and I were actually living in the same city. Fortunately, “Mr Sig” was actually Brian Clyburn and not some crazed Chris Hansen/dateline type creeper, and team Van on the Run was born.
We started (2010) as a hodge podge group of 12 randoms thrown together. All noobs to running, and definitely to relays. We committed just about all the dumb mistakes you can make in the early years, doing stuff like having a driver (robbing your van of precious space), booking a hotel room (80 bucks out the window and hotel water poisoning), and not eating regular food (hallucinations and the walksies for me at 3 am in Huger, SC). But by trial and error and Brian’s relentless recruiting, we were honed into a team of relay beasts, culminating in the 2015 and 2016 back-to-back Palmetto 200 overall wins. Since that time, people noticed our trophy hunt and there’s been some teams way faster than us. But we still have our trophies and the legacy of one of the few remaining (maybe only?) teams that have been there every year. Even in the COVID year of 2020, Brian had us go out and run our legs virtually. I’ll never forget my half marathon’s worth of relay legs on the USC track and Shandon. Good times. We did technically get the overall win in that one too.
In 2019, the last time the relay was actually held, I made the egregious mistake of joining the Van on the Run Ultra team, with only 6 people. Somewhere on my 6th leg, I think I made the vow never to do one of these again . But I signed on again with our full team (12) with the thought that we were fielding another low stress, easygoing version that ran alongside the ultra version in 2019. Yeah, that was a big nope. Brian had reshuffled the deck and produced a lineup of all 40+ age group beasts that was going to go after the masters title. Doh.
As mentioned in previous blog posts, Brian’s P200 spreadsheet is the stuff of legend. It has exact expected paces, time leaving each exchange zone and time coming in to the next one. Previous Blue ridge relay versions even had quotients of difficulty figured in. While an amazing work of art and math, the subtext of this document is definitely: WE WILL KNOW WHEN YOU SUCK i.e not hitting your pace.
And so, on the heels of an epic suckage of a marathon the previous Saturday, Brian let me know that the roughly 18 miles of relay that I would be doing the following Friday would be at 6:50 pace. While most people recommend a few weeks off after a marathon, I was going to be running a 9 , 6 and 3 miler at sub 7 pace in less than 24 hours on virtually no sleep. Again, good times. I half considered bailing, but pulling out of a relay is like jabbing 11 other people in the heart, not to mention raising the ire of our captain. Believe me, I’ve been there. My 2012 Blue Ridge relay recruit bailed at the last second, and I had to do a fourth leg in the mountains of NC with little food and no sleep. I couldn’t do it to these guys.
Due to COVID, they cut down the number of teams this year, and they had to make do with way fewer volunteers. Some of the exchange zones weren’t available, so they modified the course to start at Santee State Park (near Elloree and Santee). Basically we would do a loop up towards Columbia before turning back towards Charleston.
As mentioned, Brian figured our best chance at trophy hunting was to field an all masters (40+) team. Brian and Joel joined myself as the sole individuals with the poor decision making skills to have run in all 11 previous P200s. Brian’s wife Jen was on board as our only female. She claimed to be off her training, but I witnessed her gut out a sub 8 seven miler after vomiting all night in 2010, so her toughness and speed are not to be questioned. Harbison trail runners Bill Seibers (who suffered along with me in the 2019 ultra debacle) , Dean Schuster (my trail running doppelganger nemesis) and Matt Stanek were on board. In Van 2, the “kids” van: Darrell THE CODE Brown, prone to erratic van driving, Tourette’s like obscenities and lots of complaining; Dan Carter, master of the four miler and who has yet to ever run a mile over 8 minutes and Rob THE YERG Yerger , whose superpower is sleeping under any conditions. We also had two new recruits, Nate and Paul, guys from the F3 community in Lexington. They were no relay noobs though, having done several P200s between the two of them. Also their assigned 6:40ish pace left no doubt they were some seriously fast guys. My only concern was how they would put up with our increasingly childish behavior as the night wore on.
We got on site at Santee about 11 am for our noon start time. The P200 has a staggered start with the slowest teams first (5:30 am) and fastest last. You start with other teams of a similar projected pace. From the get-go, we saw that it was us and 2 other teams in the next to last slot, but there was some insanely fast team starting at 3 pm. That basically meant our only overall placement shot was for 2nd. Masters appeared to be ours to lose, with the next fastest team starting at 10 am. We were up against two high schoolish teams, ones that seemed to have a mix of cross-country kids and their coaches, one from Augusta and the other from Lexington. Weather was ridiculously cold for this relay, just over 50 degrees and windy.
We got underway with Joel leading us off. Immediately, Augusta teen dude takes off at like 5:30 pace. Uh, I unless this is just a show, I guess we’re fighting for third. Luckily Lexington had several guys who actually weren’t in high school so maybe we could hang with them. With van 1 off and running, we had about 4 and a half hours to kill. Such is the pain of Van 2. You get all jacked up to sit around and wait. I was in the 12th slot, so I would be lucky to start before 7 pm. We decided to have a regular sit-down meal at our go-to stop in Santee, the Cracker Barrel, which Code so lovingly refers to as the Crack Whore. I’m all for eating regular food on these relays, so I ended up ordering what I thought was a small pot pie. It turns out the potpies in Santee are as big as your face. I showed my usual self-control and mowed through it like the pie-eating contest in Stand by Me. I’m so ashamed. Afterward we cruised by the Subway to get our fuel for dinner, since trying to find anything in the backwoods of Orangeburg county late at night is next to impossible. Apparently we reached the Subway at the exact worst time, and we had to wait an eternity while getting to observe the most random people gathered at a sub shop ever. Such is a rest stop on 1-95. After waiting 20 minutes, my sandwich artist misinterpreted my no mayo order as LETS DUMP THE ENTIRE BOTTLE ON HIS SANDWICH. At this point, I just went with it.
We made our way to the exchange zone for the start of our van, Jericho Methodist church, just outside of Elloree. With hours to kill, we all set out to try and maybe nap a little. I had my hammock, but had to go traipsing through the woods to find two suitable trees, right next to the adjacent cemetery. I tried to sleep put the cold wind and creepy trees and graves probably didn’t help. The ladies manning this zone were super nice, and perhaps most importantly, let us use the ACTUAL BATHROOMS at the church. When you’re facing the unique olfactory and immunologic terror zone of portapotties for 24 hours, real running water is like a gift from God. We were at a church I guess. I ran into CRC alum Matt Gregory, who had moved to Greenville, but was back to run with the Lexington team “Fast Times at Lexington High”. He said he was off his training due to the new baby but would be doing his best. Good to see a familiar face and that his team was at least half dudes that were actually of legal drinking age.
Lexington cruised into our zone first. They had a few minutes on us, but Brian had texted that Van 1 was already beating the spreadsheet. Before long Nate took off, followed by Dan. By the time Code was scheduled to leave from the Elloree exchange, our two fastest had made significant gains on the Lexington team. Their next guy was dressed like it was 30 degrees out, so I told Code he was primed to take him down and record our first roadkill. Our next zone was actually back at Santee State Park, having completed the Columbia loop. Awaiting me there was Andy Richards with his ceremonial Blue Shoes toilet paper. He’s been doing it every year since he saved me from a paperless portapotty back in 2016. And I am eternally grateful.
The Yerg took us to Lone Star BBQ, followed by Paul’s leg back through the home of the Mayonnaise Subway and the Mega pot pie. I was actually very nervous about my leg, an 8.84 miler straight shot down highway 15. Not only was I assigned the 6:50 pace, but I had no idea how I would hold up with my post marathon legs. I even brought out the VAPORS because I was going to need every bit of help I could get. I finally get the baton (slap bracelet) around 7 pm and thankfully it’s still light out. Nothing’s worse than a totally dark straight leg on the side of a 55 mph highway. Of course, I’m not more than a quarter mile from the zone when some young Lexington dude is headed back the other way towards where I just left. Doh. That means I’m maybe a half mile ahead of their team, tops. I try to go as fast as I dare, knowing that this is a beast of a long leg. First mile comes back in 6:55 and everything feels pretty good. I figure this is good enough, especially given that it’s virtually 9 miles. Things loosen up significantly in the next few miles and I actually reel off a few 6:40’s to bring me a touch under pace. Vapors were definitely a good decision. I’m so grateful for the daylight since I actually have something to look at, though it’s mainly just fields. There is one tricky 5 way intersection that I had scoped out the night before. What the map didn’t tell me was the giant Cujo-esque albino pit bull staking out the yard of a huge haunted looking house at that intersection. I definitely picked up the pace as he barked at me like the hound of hell. I looked down and thought I saw 6.66 miles and briefly thought I had entered some portal to Hades before realizing it was only 5.66. The next few miles felt great and I was super happy about my pace, keeping it around 6:50. Super happy, at least, until I start hearing footsteps around mile 7. Surely no one is catching me, surely. It must be my bib or my shoelaces. NOPE. I turn around and there’s Jeremy Lewis, local HS XC coach, dropping low 6 pace. Sonofabitch. He passes me and I figure he is leaving me for dead. I can’t calculate the math at the time , but he must’ve been absolutely crushing it to make up the half mile. And it seems maybe it took a lot out of him, because he only slowly creeps away from me in the final miles. I did throw down a 6:30ish in the last mile just to keep the gap from getting too big. Finished 8.84 miles in a shade under an hour, 59:49 /6:47 pace. I actually felt pretty good, and it was awesome to get half my mileage done early.
With Van 1 now in motion, we made our way to our next start, the Hatchery Waterfowl management boat landing. By this time it was dark, and wow, this boat landing had like zero light. The second we got the landing, the other dudes in the van were immediately ready to sleep. Then I realized the punishment for arriving last to the van that morning. While the other guys had places to crash, I had about 12 inches of space, sharing my seat with our gargantuan cooler that could easily store a dead body. Fortunately, I had brought my sleeping bag and pillow. After finally changing into some clean clothes, my body finally realized it was 9 pm and I hadn’t eaten dinner. I attacked my sub like there was no tomorrow, looking like a total maniac with the EXTRA MAYO everywhere. It was not a glamorous moment. Following my moment of gluttony, I realized it was in the mid 40’s and windy outside. I went into full boy scout camping mode, wrapping up in so many layers like the kid from the Christmas Story. I couldn’t move my arms either. It was insanely dark, but I did make note of a lone picnic table by the water’s edge as we were driving in. That would be my Sealy Posturepedic for the night. I throw down my camping pad and sleeping bag on the table and try to get comfortable. Not exactly the Four Seasons but not too terrible. The only problem is the intermittent splashing I keep hearing that I pray to God are fish. My mind starts thinking I could very well be some enormous homewrecker style burrito for a hungry crocodile from Lake Moultrie. A giant fishing boat comes roaring through and of course there are near constant van lights. I think there is zero chance I’ll get any sleep, but suddenly Code is tapping me on the shoulder and saying we are about 15 minutes from our next start. Somehow I guess I drifted off. Believe me, getting any sleep in the relay is pure, unadulterated gold, so I feel like a million bucks heading back to the van.
Jacked up on a solid 90 minutes of shuteye, I’m ready to go…and wait another 5 hours. Such is the life of the last runner. I feel like Brian has been underselling his Van 1 speed because these guys are taking down the spreadsheet with a vengeance. We are a good 25 minutes ahead of pace going into round 2, though the upcoming legs at o’ dark thirty always suck. I felt bad for Dan, Nate and the Yerg, because each had a super long leg in the middle of the night. Code was driving and complaining as usual. We had to do a spooky scary search at the Witherbee Ranger Station for the portapotties before Code started. It took several minutes in an unmanned zone, but we finally made out the pale blue rectangles in our Blair Witch Project like lighting. Poor Yerg drew the walksie/hallucination leg from my 2010 debacle. I had chills even driving the route. Although we didn’t make any headway on the spreadsheet, we were still maintaining the pace and, perhaps more importantly, had been holding off Lexington. By the time we arrived for my second leg it was 4:20 in the morning and the rest of my van was already crashing out. I got out and discovered it was freaking freezing, high 30s. I waited in the van until the last possible moment. John Richards was at the zone so it was good to see him volunteering in his second position of the relay. The whole Richards clan volunteers, gave us donuts and some beer (for afterwards) , not to mention my toilet paper. They are amazing.
Paul killed his leg and I wasn’t out in the cold more than 5 minutes before he comes rolling into the zone. I take off like a man possessed, half to go fast and half to get warm. I’m so stiff it feels like I’m running on stilts the first half mile. I finally get into a groove and manage a 6:45 or something. My leg is a straight shot down Hwy 17 with a little turnoff at the end, 5.94 miles. The middle miles actually feel amazing in the cold, and there are a few blinky lights in the distance to chase down, as well as their vans, so it broke up the monotony of a very flat and straight route. I catch up to the other runners pretty fast and get a little afraid since garmin is spitting back 6:30s, which is only about 10 seconds off my 10k PR pace. The last three miles are sort of a blur, just kept looking for that turnoff road. I memorized it was Darrell Creek, like the Code, so that helped. Luckily the turn was well marked and I blast it out to the finish. Jesse Harmon comes rolling by in his van so I try to look strong and not absolutely gassed like I really am. Finished in 38:18 /6:38 pace so well under the spreadsheet. I was running scared the whole time that Jeremy would catch me again. Char Richards was at the finish, so it seemed the Richards family was singlehandedly supporting this relay. Van 1 was there to see my finish, but where the hell were my guys?? I looked through the entire complex of Carolina Park elementary school until I finally saw what looked like a dead Darrell passed out in the front seat of the last van I checked. Van support is definitely lacking at 5 am, though I’ve been on the other side too and I definitely understand.
We then rolled on to the start of our third legs, upon which the rest of my van immediately went back to sleep. I was of course still jacked on leg 2 adrenaline and really couldn’t rest. I couldn’t bear to become a human burrito again and head out into the cold, plus I didn’t see any quality picnic furniture to sleep on. Instead, I made sweet sweet love to the gigantic cooler, contorted and twisted in a “head down on the desk at school” sleep mode. It wasn’t pretty but it would have to suffice. It wasn’t long before the sun came up and that made it difficult to really crash out anyway. Except for Rob – the Yerg can sleep like the dead. We were parked directly across from the portapotties and were highly entertained by the fact that two of them were very poorly balanced, creating a violent wobbly effect anytime someone entered. With less than two hours of sleep, this is utterly hilarious. I’m sure the other vans thought we were insane, cheering for someone to pick the rocking toilets.
Seeing daylight again is always nice, and since Van 1 had all their short legs last, we were back in action super fast. Poor Dan and Paul had their longest legs last, which is just brutal. Van 1 had technically completed the run to Charleston, with Seibers touching foot on the peninsula after running over the Ravenel bridge. We were now headed to the finish in Awendaw, but not before Nate’s super long leg into Sullivan’s Island over the IOP connector and Dan’s run back the other way. I feel there should be a plaque at the IOP side of the connector, as this was the site of the inaugural Blue Shoes 5k, a 27:05 all out effort in October 2007. All I know is that my body was crashing quickly. I mowed through my running breakfast of choice, Pepperidge Farm cinnamon raisin bread, but then entered into a post meal coma where I just wanted to nap. I can deal with the soreness and fatigue of the running, but I hate the “sleepy tired” feeling of not getting adequate rest from my burrito nap on the gator plate near Lake Moultrie. I made Code make a pit stop at the Circle K and I got a large cup of the heaviest brew they had. I downed it like a maniac and instantly I was jacked up again. But Paul still had his 7 miler to go, so I’d have to stew in my caffeine induced mania for a while. As we pulled out of the “Dollar General field” (a grassy area behind the store), I heard the worst sound. Suddenly the van was spinning tires. OH NO NOT AGAIN. I had images of the 2012 Blue Ridge relay where it took like 12 people pushing and gunning the gas to unstick our van. After a tense couple of minutes and with everyone out and pushing, we finally were finally able to free our vehicle from the muck. WHEW. I was in an all out panic, thinking I might need to call Brian to come get us emergently.
By the time of my third leg, we knew that we had Lexington beat and the Masters crown should be in the bag. The only variable was if we could break the 24 hour mark. Great, there still has to be pressure. The Circle K brew apparently was spiked with amphetamines because between that and the van/mud debacle I was really revved up. I think I hit the portapotty like 5 times and kept pacing in the cold. The rest of Van 2 was enjoying a beauty nap, I assume. Suddenly Paul comes tearing into the last exchange screaming like a banshee. I wasn’t entirely sure of what time he came in, so I take off like a man possessed. I only had a 5k to go, but I was still afraid of catastrophic walksies or getting lost or something. Legs were like WTF are we doing but I was willing to thrash them into oblivion to throw down a good time. It felt like I was doing a sub 6, but trashed legs gave me a 6:30 for mile 1. Hey, good enough though. Fortunately, my leg was just a simple straight route with one turn at the end into the park for the finish line. I bled a little time in mile 2 to 6:36, but then the adrenaline took over when I could make out the park entrance. I blasted into the park and was praying it wasn’t too far from the finish. Luckily around the first bend you have a long straightaway with the finish arch in sight. I swear it felt like forever, but I finally made it to the home stretch, where the whole team created a little tunnel to go through before hitting the finish. 20:27/6:29 for the 3.15 last leg, and more importantly way under 24 hours as a team, official time of 23 hours and 47 minutes/ 7:02 pace. FIRST MASTERS and actually 3rd overall too. Finish line area was great with New Belgium brews and Moe’s tacos. Lots of familiar faces at the finish including fellow Skidaway vets / TUS teammates/ CRC members Ashley Holman, Brittany Jones and Christa Collins, whose team won first female. Dan “feeling the streets” Bliesner from our early teams was on hand, along with Simon Froese from the Dam to Dam relay. Julia and Pat Norcia were there to support Kyle and his Clemson team. Darrell has stated he is retired after this year, and I always threaten to as well, but I’ll keep my options open. Just hope I get a better sleep next year, and of course, hold the mayo.
It should be noted that the marathon and I have had a very rocky relationship. When you’re built like a greyhound bus, you tend to suck more at longer distances, and this undoubtedly true for me. But if you are runner, you eventually do 26.2, and the holy grail of all that is running is qualifying and competing in the Boston Marathon. The seed for that dream started in 2010 when I tried my hand at running my first attempt at the distance at Richmond. That was a disaster of a bonk with a shredded IT band, electric shock like cramping and a death march to a 3:52 after being on 3:30 pace through 18 miles. I came back a year later and did Jacksonville and managed a much better 3:20, then Richmond again in 2012 in 3:22, though still way off from the Boston standard. My cliff dive in Hawaii destroyed 2013, but I finally buckled down in ’14, following Justin Bishop’s brutal training regimen and notching a 3:11 at Kiawah to punch my BQ ticket. After doing a celebratory and slow Boston in 2016, I wasn’t really motivated to do the distance again. But after the 2018 half at Kiawah, and 3 IPAs deep, I signed up for the 2019 Kiawah full to try and get back to Beantown, this time hopefully to run a good time.
Yeah, so that didn’t work out. My wonky Achilles acted up in mile 10 and I had to take a DNF for the first time in my racing life. UGH, it sucked. I regrouped and trained for 2020 Wilmington in March. Silent H trained with me and qualified at Myrtle Beach, and then COVID hit a week later and canceled my race. I decided just to train though 2020 with high mileage and try for next year. There weren’t any races, so what else was I going to do? I was hitting 50, 60 then 70 miles a week. No speedwork. I finally got a chance to race at Cold Winter’s Day 5k in December and shocked myself with an 18:34. This must be working. I continued throughout January when BAM , both Wilmington and Myrtle were postponed. Desperate, and again a few beers deep (do I sense a pattern?) I found the Skidaway Marathon. It was small, near Savannah, and still being held as far as I could tell. Time to finally put all this work into action.
So, as race week approached, I was pretty confident. All I needed, in my advanced age (now 46) was to run a 3:20, but let’s say around 3:15 to be safe. My 5k times suggested I could flirt with 3 hours flat, but hey, let’s just make this easy. Course seemed pretty flat. It looked like it might be a little warm, but hopefully I’d be done before the worst heat of the day. I tapered down to about 30 miles on race week, no injuries, everything was perfect. I debated the idea of bringing the VAPORS (Nike vaporflys) but decided that the risk of blisters was too great and my goal should be “easy” enough to run in my regular trainers.
I show up on race morning super early and I’m pretty anxious to get this thing going. There was a sizable Columbia/CRC contingent on hand – Ed Aulfuldish, Christa Collins, Colleen Quarles, Ashley Holman, Brittany Jones, Tracy McKinnon, Ken Hinely, Larry Jourdain, Linn Hall, Erin Miller, Brad Marlow, MC Cox, Westley McKinney, and Bridgette Honor were all on hand. Nice to see so many familiar faces this far away from home.
Pretty soon we were off. My biggest fear in the early going was honing in on the goal pace. 3:15 is about 7:26 per mile. I figured 7:20 would be golden, banking some time. I hit mile one in 7:30, then picked it up a notch with a few 7:17 ish miles to try and average it out. Perfect. I was feeling great. Weather was about 60 degrees, legs felt fresh, wasn’t breathing hard. This was going to be easier than I thought. There were some winding parts of this course onto bike and cart paths and it seemed, for better or for worse, that this was almost identical to Kiawah. There were more scenic views of the marsh but the homes, streets and golf course felt the same. I had planned to start taking my shot blox around 6 miles, but I was feeling good and just took in some water instead. I was fearful that eating anything might bring on the menace of my long runs, the poopsies. So far so good, though I got a twinge in the ol’ belly in mile 7 and started to get a little panicky. Thankfully it subsided, though it was replaced with my first sense that all was not well. It seemed like my hamstrings were getting a little tight and I was no longer moving as smoothly as I had. I dropped back to 7:30 in mile 8 and that caused me to correct again back to 7:13, then a few miles of 7:20ish. I took some shot blox in mile 10 in the hope that maybe I wasn’t fueling or hydrating right. But as the halfway point started rolling around, I knew I was in trouble. Something wasn’t right. It made no sense to me but I van only describe it as just feeling “off” and not being able to fully extend my tight hamstrings. Some random girl came up beside me and said, “Christa and Ed said to say hello. They said you could probably do 3:10 pace. I’m doing 7:10 pace if you join”. While running with attractive female twentysomethings sounded nice, I knew that was a recipe for disaster with how I was feeling.
At the half, I was somewhere in the neighborhood of 1:34, so still ahead of pace. But I was pretty much devastated because I knew the wheels were starting to fall off. At some point there was a photo spot, where I tried to look like I had energy. Then some videographer starts running alongside of me and films me for like 15 seconds. I tried to act like I was having a good time, but if I did, it was an Oscar caliber performance. I was dying. Shortly after was the only hill of any kind on the course, some sort of overpass/bridge. Going uphill I realized that maybe this was at least part of the issue. Climbing stretched out the hammies and used some different muscles, and I felt a lot better for a brief moment. But that hill was gone in a flash and I was back to pounding flat pavement. Mile 15 is when my body really started overriding my brain’s attempt to veto their decision. I was trying to increase effort to maintain the same pace, but my legs were just toast, on the verge of cramping. I started bleeding time – first a 7:46, then 7:56 and an 8:09 for mile 17. I found a portapotty right after the mile marker. Half to pee, half to just stop. I knew I my race was trashed and I was so, so pissed. The homeowner’s association of Skidaway is probably going to have complaints of Tourette’s style F bombs being tossed as I walked for probably 30 seconds. In my mind it felt like 10 minutes. Screw this, I’m dropping out of this thing. However, I was absolutely in the middle of nowhere. I lurched to a jog in mile 18 when Christa comes bounding toward me like she just started the race. “I’M GOING TO RUN WITH YOU NOW”. I quickly told her that I was unequivocally done and that she needs to just go. Pretty soon Ed came by as well and I had to tell him the same. Getting passed and facing 8 more miles was just awful. A few more people flew by me in my death slog jog, and Ashley scared the hell out of me at about mile 19. Everyone but me seemed to be having a banner day.
I knew there was an out and back around mile 20 or so. I had been running with the thought of bailing on that loop to get back to the finish faster. But as I approached the turn, more F bombs were released and I realized it was still going to have to run more than a 5k if I dropped. I was going to finish this damn thing. Although I had caught some more walksies, I set out trying to remain running in this loop. Of course, the sun was out by now and it was probably at least 70 degrees. Tracy was already on his way back, proclaiming this the loop from hell. Well now I’m super motivated! But hell, it was hard to envision a more miserable time than I was already having. I hit the turnaround and hoped maybe I could make it all the way to the finish without stopping. Nope, another case of the walksies. At the end of the loop, the 3:30 pace guys finally caught up to me, though apparently they were guiding nobody but themselves. I clocked a blazing 11:19 mile 23. More obscenities. By mile 24 I promised myself no more walksies. I think I didn’t, though honestly the last 2.2 is pretty much a blur. Beyond avoiding a marathon stroll, I hoped to fend off that 3:45 pace pack I saw on the out-and-back section. I recall the countdown number signs they had near the finish line as I was driving in that morning. I thought they were kind of silly at the time, but now I was mentally hanging on by a thread, and each number gave me a goal. Starting at 10, they were probably only 100-200 meters apart but it felt like a mile. Finally, the finish rolled into view and I tried to pick it up. By pick it up, I mean under 10 minute pace. Not exactly the blue shoe finish I had hoped for. In the last stretch I saw the 3:39 on the clock and amped it up to a stiff legged semi-sprint in the last quarter mile to get in just a shade under 3:40. SO glad to be done.
So yeah, this race was pretty much a disaster for me. I am glad I finished, because the DNF about killed me at Kiawah. And no, I don’t think 3:39 is a bad time for anybody, just really disappointing for what I think I can do. I’m still not entirely sure what happened in this race. My best guess is a mix of poor hydration/fueling with the heat, not getting in enough marathon pace practice and the relentless flatness of the course (all of my long run training is over the crazy hills of Columbia). Any who, back to the drawing board. I have the Palmetto 200 coming up this week, so I guess I need to recover fast. Wilmington is April 19, so maybe a chance for redemption there. We will see.
Half:Larry Jourdain 1:30:12 at age 58. Wow. MC Cox in 1:33, Linn Hall in 1:37, Matthew Ulcak 1:51, Colleen Towery 1:53, Savannah Ulcak 1:59, Tyler Jones 2:10, Joanna Neal 2:10, Simeon Roberts 2:17, Colleen Wracker 2:17 , Phyillis Hughes2:19, Sarah Holcomb 2:47, Angela Brewbaker 2:54
Full: Tracy McKinnon in 3:09/BQ, Christa Collins in 3:17, first marathon, first masters and a BQ! Westley McKinney in 3:20, Ed Aulfuldish 3:24 and a PR/BQ, Ashley Holman 3:25 PR/BQ, Brad Marlow 3:26 BQ, Ken Hinely 3:51, Colleen Quarles 3:55, Brittany Jones 3:56, Sara Hartsell 4:46, Bridgette Honor 4:52 first marathon. Kristin Collins 5:30, Mary Sumter 6:19.
A few years ago, someone asked me to reconsider doing the two looped hillfest misery of the Columbia Marathon and do a 5k in Camden. It would be Irish-themed, the course was flat, it would involve post-race beer, and it would be held on my birthday. With a personalized cake. As it turns out, it doesn’t take much arm-twisting to get me to change my plans with that kind of deal. And just like that, the Lucky Leprechaun race became an annual part of the Tour de Blue Shoes. Fifty Camdenites are still wondering to this day why they had to sing “Happy Birthday” to one random guy in 2018.
But one thing was missing, where was the leprechaun?? The first year, Erin Roof (race director and author of the above deal I couldn’t refuse) made her own son wear shamrock boxers to be the character to chase. A year later I told her I couldn’t bear this child abuse and that I would step up for the humiliation. As you may know, I basically don’t need much of a reason to dress up in a ridiculous costume. But my last foray into Irish boxers on race day almost led to a most tragic wardrobe malfunction at the Get to the Green. If we are doing cosplay, I was going all out. Luckily Party City had a full giant green suit costume with velour leggings and knee high socks that were great for running. Perfect. And so for the last two years, the race now has an official 7 foot leprechaun mascot with blue shoes.
My first year I struggled a bit with the costume but managed to clock like a 20:30 or something, but 2020 proved a banner year for cosplay 5k, with a 19:30ish costume PR.
This year was going to be more subdued with all the COVID restrictions in place, with the most devastating effect being the nixing of the beer. But hey, I was just glad they were going to put on a live race.Race day was pretty close to perfect. Chilly and clear. I knew the course was very fast, basically a rectangle in Camden with a slow, gradual climb in the first half and a blazing second part on the way down. I’ve been running some of my best times recently with all the marathon mileage, so I wanted to take down that costume PR. I got there super early as it turns out Camden is essentially the same distance as Columbia from the Northeast. Plenty of time to do a quick warm up jog with my archnemesis Sean “EFFING” Higgins in my regular running gear and do one last portapotty destruction before donning the costume (believe me a cosplay poop is not pleasant). Slipping on the green velour actually felt great since it was so cold. Pretty good CRC/Columbia contingent with Roy “PREZ” Shelley, (also a birthday boy this week), VP JEDI RUNNER Tracy Tisdale, Ivanka THE BULGARIAN BULLET Tolanand husband Eliere, Jim Williams, Stephanie Greenway,Leeds Barroll, Tom and Lisa Hart, Ken Lowden, Pete Poore, Jennifer and Jason Norris. 127 were registered, even with March for Meals competing in town.
With the start, we all blast out onto the main drag of Camden , Dekalb Street. With this being only the 3rd race in three months, I’m still having trouble pacing, especially with the newfound marathon training speed. I let Ivanka and Higgins lead the way, and figure just behind them would be a good place to start. I’m pretty much content with laying back a bit in the first quarter mile, when suddenly this younger dude in a Clemson shirt completely cuts me off at a corner and almost plows into me. OH SNAP IT IS ABSOLUTELY FREAKING ON NOW. Dude pulls ahead but I open up a little bit of leprechaun kick ass and pull up next to him for a bit. He’s breathing hard, so I wait until the next few spectators appear before I execute the cosplay pass of shame. EAT IT DUDE. There are few things I enjoy more than giving someone a good beatdown, particularly with a green vest, top hat and knee highs. OK, perhaps that could be worded better.
Mile one comes back in 6:21 so I’ve been lollygagging way too much in the first part. I thought it was faster, but I guess Higgins and Ivanka are going out slower than I’d hoped. Mile 2 seems to last forever. I keep hoping for the turnaround but the road just keeps going and going. It’s a slight incline, just enough to feel it but not too terrible. Finally I see Ivanka, who is in the lead, turn right, with Higgins just behind. Native Camdenite Whitney Keen is near the turnaround, and tells me this (presumably the giant lucky charms mascot in vapors) is exactly why he’s not running. The turnaround is only a block and suddenly we are careening down the other side. The road is wide open and just meant for crushing it. Mile 2 is 6:12. With a mile to go, I hit the afterburners. I think for second that Clemson dude is tracking me but it’s just me lucky green tails on my suit. Sean suddenly passes Ivanka up ahead and just starts crushing it. I’m going full tilt when I realize that I’ve misjudged the finish and that Dekalb is still another 2 blocks. DOH. Oh well, the chips are already pushed in. Finally we turn back on to Dekalb with a just a few blocks left. I’ve managed to narrow the gap on Ivanka. But sadly, it was not enough real estate to catch her. As we hit the last turn, I suddenly realize that there are still 18’s on the clock. WTH? This kills me since I was just trying to beat the 19:30 costume PR and didn’t know I was this close to 19 minutes. I try to manage an all out kick but I can tell I’m going to be just a touch short of the sub 19. Finish time is 19:03. 3rd overall, 2nd male. I’m pretty happy with the time. Turns out the downhill blast in mile 3 was a 5:53 split with a 5:29 kicker. The vapors and 190 pounds of leprechaun sasquatch rolling down a hill make for fast times, I suppose.
Speaking of fast times, Higgins absolutely destroyed the final mile in a hair over 5:40and won with an 18:30. Ivanka notched an 18:52 for the women’s win over Elise Barronand Jill Surface. Third place guy was Mr. Clemson in 20:32.Masters/Age group honor roll: Roy smoked a new PR in 21:20 for first place masters. Tony Yarborough was 3rd. Tracy scored 3rd masters with Stephanie Greenway 1st. Jason Norris may have walked but he still got first in AG. Hey, everyone loves a good trophy hunt. Mark Chickering was 2nd in 50-54, while Eliere tolan was 2nd in the 55-59. Jim Williams and Tom Hart were 1-2 in the 60-64. Leeds Barroll was tops in the 65-69. Ken Lowden was second in the 70+. Thanks to Erin Roof / GRIT for putting on another great race! Her next event will be at the True to the Brew 10k on March 27.
The Sweat it Out 5k has been part of the Tour de Columbia for the past 6 years, and a regular on the Blue Shoes calendar as well. It’s put on by Jamie Duke in support of her son Nick, who has a rare condition, Hypohidrotic Ectodermal Dysplasia, that makes him unable to sweat. In turn, the race is held in June so that runners will do plenty of the sweating “for” him. It’s a really cool event, initially assisted by Shannon Godby and now directed by the swagmaster herself, Erin Roof (GRIT endurance). In addition to a huge breakfast spread, the race is known for its hand painted awards, made by local artist Ernest “Chicken Man” Lee. Mr. Lee even painted a physique-appropriate award for me one year: Gotta watch the beer intake.
Credit: Jedi Runner Photography
Of course, all races have been toast in the wake of the COVID pandemic. After the one last hurrah at LRAH on March 14, the entire spring and likely summer schedule have been wiped out. What is a hardcore race addict to do??
As it turns out, virtual races. That used to mean these online things that sent you a medal and took your word for it that you ran a particular distance, inviting the overwhelming elitist scorn of the Sasquatch. But when you’re a hopeless race fiend like myself, you take what you can get.
So I signed up for three virtuals, starting with the Columbia Running Club’s own “CoRUNavirus” 5k. I picked out the flattest course I could (Race for the Place) and threw down with Silent H one random Saturday morning. Without any trinkets to win and nobody to catch, it kinda sucked. Thankfully, I very narrowly avoided getting H’ed, with Randy’s clomping size fourteens just behind me giving me just enough motivation. I finished in 19:43 (Randy 19:50). Two weeks later I did the Race the Rabbit virtual Half Marathon, the registration for which must have been fueled by one too many quarantine IPAs. All I can say is, running 13.1 by yourself with 4+ loops of a 5k course is not something I recommend. I had Shawanna and Jen K pace the first lap, but then I went rogue and just suffered the next hour plus by myself. I did a 1:32, about 3-4 minutes off my race time.
With Sweat it Out though, I had a couple weeks to rest and I was planning to try and throw down a good time. The course is pretty favorable, so Randy and I decided to give it a go on the actual route (virtuals can be run anywhere). But I figured I needed someone to catch. Enter one Sean Higgins. After winning the 2006 Tour de Columbia and living all over the world with the military, Higgins came back with a vengeance in 2019 and threw a wrench into an already brutal Columbia masters racing scene. Poor H is in his age group, so he had only one nickname for Sean, using one of his favorite vulgar terms of endearment. Jen K bailed on racing, but at least I now had, presumably with Sean just ahead and H just behind, a mini pack to try and draw out a good pace. Pete O’Boyle caught wind of our shenanigans on Facebook and decided to join the crowd. Little did the Meadowfield community know that a bunch of old men would be terrorizing their neighborhood Saturday morning.
“Race” morning of May 16 turned out to be pretty ideal. Unseasonably cool and about 60 degrees. At the usual race parking lot, they had taken away the critical permanent portapotty. When I got there Randy was looking like a lost toddler looking for a place to dump. I guess the feeling passed though. We did a warm up trot of the whole course to assure Randy and I that we knew the course. Sean just felt more confused, so it sounded like he might rely on some breathless direction calling to make sure he was headed the right way. We all went back to the cars after the warmup, and sure enough all three of us had brought out the aqua and orange colored “Dan Marino” Vapor Flys. It was about to get real. Wooooo!
With no official timer, I became the starter. Basically just did a on-your-mark-set-go and hit the Garmin. I was determined not to run a crap race again this time, so I took off like a wild banshee, blasting out onto Olde Knight and making the first turn on Queens Way just hoping no cars were coming. The SIO course basically has 3 loops going off the backbone of Galway and Olde Knight Rds. I took the first loop at a pretty good clip though I could hear Higgins right behind me. We passed Meadowfield elementary and entered loop number 2, the “M” rectangle bounded by Mason and Merrill St. I just had to make sure I remembered the cross street connecting them was Winston Rd, so my highly visual memory conjured up beast grandmaster runner Winston Holliday when we hit the loop. I know, the Blue Shoes mind is deeply warped. JI see Janice Compton out for a walk, and I’m sure she’s wondering what the hell is going on. I feel pretty decent at the one mile mark and figure I’m probably around my typical 6:15-6:20 opening split. Garmin spits back: 6:03. Sweet baby Jesus I’m setting myself up to hurt. But I don’t know how to purposely slow down in a race, so I figure this bed has been made. I hit US attorney Winston St. and make a left , then turn back on Merrill. I feel surprisingly OK, and it feels like I might be gapping Higgins even. Back onto Galway, I know there’s just loop 3 to go, an out and back squiggle on Saye Cut , right before the Hammond school of perpetual educational debt. OK maybe not that last part. Hitting the turnaround on Saye Cut, I still feel pretty good and BLEEP 6:04 comes back for mile 2. Holy crap, I’m on sub 19 (which is 6:06) pace. JUST. HOLD. ON. At the turnaround I can see I have a pretty good lead on Higgins and H, and Pete is not too far behind. I got this…
Or maybe not. It’s relieving to get back on Galway and headed for home, but the Blue Shoes physiologic CHECK ENGINE light has just turned on. It turns out there’s an acute oxygen deficiency coupled with lactic acid buildup. What’s worse is that the only hill of any sort is just ahead. I throw myself into the incline and though it hurts like hell, its over surprisingly quick. I make the turn back on Olde Knight and I can literally see the finish, just over a quarter mile away. I am all aboard the pain train at this point, and I try to kick it in, but the RPM is already in the red and I’m not really going any faster. I am within about 200 meters of the finish, eyes focused on that little bundle of yard trash we signaled as the line, when I suddenly hear something. I get race hallucinations all the time, usually just the noise of my shoestrings or general air turbulence from my bus-like physique moving through space. But this is not that. It’s the sound of Vapor Flys moving at a higher cadence than my own. And all of a sudden here comes Sean buzzing the tower like Goose and Maverick and blowing by me like I’m sitting still. DAMN YOU HIGGINS!! But I got nothin’. Wasted like GTA V. I blow into the yard trash finish line like a semi and hit my Garmin, and do my classic crumple to the ground. 19:04. AGH, so close to the eighteens. “Official” results were Sean 19:00, Blue Shoes 19:04, H 19:44, Pete 22:36.
You can still sign up for Sweat it Out virtual through 6/30.