811 Run 5k – Columbia, SC – 8/11/18

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The 811 run 5k is now in its 4th year, and basically serves as a promotion by SCE&G to call their 811 number before you start digging up your yard, lest you decide to break one of their gas or electric lines. Since I’m not fond of electrocution or gas explosions, sounds like a win-win situation to call the number. Also a win is their promotional pricing, only 8 dollars and eleven cents for early bird registration and 18.11 late. Of course, despite being married for 20 years, I am a serious commitment-phobe when it comes to races. It came down to a recent Silent H injury and a beer-fueled plea for his bib that scored me an entry to this race.
The 811 actually started at Saluda Shoals, then transitioned to Rosewood for the last two years. I only ran the race once before, having picked the 811 for my son Alex, since he had to run-train for the Spring Valley swim team. We did couch to 5k. I knew it was an actually, non delusional Selwyn “flat and fast” course, and Blue Shoes Jr threw down a killer kick for a PR in 33 minutes. I was so proud, despite a few cases of 13 year old walksies.
This year we missed out on the training, so I was ready to go solo. Unfortunately there was some construction around the old course in Rosewood, so the 811 would relocate to a new course near Broad River Rd, near the relic of 80’s mall awesomeness, Dutch Square. I meant to check out the course ahead of time but the whole pesky work thing got in the way, so 5k course scouting gave way to stomping out mental illness. Oh well. I did google map it in between patients and became afraid this course would be a total freaking nightmare. But maybe the images distorted the hills? We would see.
With the race time at 8:11 am, a friendly colon, and the site a mere 20 minutes away, I was actually able to make it to the race in a timely manner. Drew Williams showed up early and we were able to get in a full course preview. Dear God. This was going to be brutal. The course starts off harmlessly enough with a big plunge downhill followed by a nasty hill, but then a smooth decline all the way to the 1 mile mark. Second mile was born from the fiery pits of hell since you basically climb most of the way up the far side of a rectangle. Third mile pretty much continues the suckage with the piece de resistance being the reverse of that mile 1 downhill plunge. Good times.
The course was uncertified, though my Garmin came through right at 3.11 miles for my warmup lap. Pretty big crowd, full of CRCers at the start. The entire CRC royal family, aka the Weavers, were on hand with King Rich and Queen Susan, along with princesses Jessie and Kristin. Prince in waiting Ian Loughin was also there, the whole crew in full CRC singlet attire. Also on hand was the Bald Blythewood Beast Alan Deogracias III, aka ADIII. He was looking for an overall win, though would have competition with current Tour de Columbia number 2 Mike Schrum. Power couple Coach O Striggles and Shawanna White were on hand to surely take the masters and women’s wins. Darrell “the code” Brown and longtime Blue Shoe friend/nemesis was back in action after an extended hiatus. Isaac Homer, Whitney/Caroline/Julia Keen, Andrew Ortaglia, Johnathan Kirkwood, Pete Poore, Rocky Soderberg, Leeds Barroll, Micah Simonsen, Arnold Floyd, Brigitte Smith, Andy Mikula, Geary McAlister, Cotes Royson, Ivery Baldwin, Eric Gilfus, Lauren and Seth Lapic, Will Rowan, Mario and Jennifer Tudor, Tammy Carter, Henry Holt, RWB flagbearer Matthew Berube, Ron and Helene Lipe, Sandy Smith, Dina Mauldin, Pete O’ Boyle (pacing grandson), Michael Lambert , Ed Aufuldish, Ginger Catoe and Kerry Stubbs were some of the familiar faces.

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Lining up, I tried not to be a negative nancy but I think I was bemoaning the course the whole time before the start. With the gun, a bunch of people took off like a bat out of hell and immediately slowed down, so I had to do my best old school Barry Sanders impersonation and juked to find a seam to avoid any sasquatch tramplings.
As mentioned earlier, first mile is a total roller coaster, plummeting down then making you climb a big hill halfway, with more freefalling on the other side. I don’t handle downhills well despite my gravitational advantage, aka fatness. The Code and Whitney, who are the two most similar to my 5k times, left me for dead. Even after the big climb, they both have a sizable lead on me, and I start into full on Debbie Downer mode. Like Tyler Mcgaha on a day over 60 degrees, I start internally moaning about the heat and the hills, and whatever else I can think to complain about. I hit the mile mark in about 6:27, which is pretty slow for me given the mostly downhill course to that point. I’m doing ok from a cardio standpoint but legs are hating all the abuse. We descend further, finally bottoming out near the extremely scenic bush river rd/I-26 exit. Then you turn to tackle the monster. Fairhaven drive just sucks. Long, gradual and steady incline for most of the next mile. I’m hating life, but apparently so is everybody else -,especially anyone who took the first mile hard. I finally catch up with Whitney somewhere near the halfway point, but the whole stretch is just a complete slog. But wait, there’s more. There’s a turn onto Gale Dr that parallels I -20 , and manages to ramp up the suck factor further with a relatively short but steep incline that continues even as you turn back towards home on the aptly named morninghill dr.

I’ve drawn a little closer to the Code but he is still thoroughly kicking my ass. Mile 2 rolls by in like 6:30 something, which is to be expected with the mountain climbing. Another decline ensues before we start back on the mile 1 roller coaster. But wait, there’s more. In case you were thinking of running directly back to the start, you get led on a little side loop that throws you down then up again in the span of a quarter mile. Code has just about broken my spirit by this time and I’m already thinking of how he’s going to give me hell about this. But, he’s always complaining about his keto diet giving him no endurance. Not to worry, I’ve got a whole belt of adipose energy to tap into. One last plunge down and you get the joy of reversing that opening freefall, a sharp kinda long slog back up to Dutch Square Blvd. I’m plowing ahead just trying to get this thing over with. But hold the phone…Code is getting reeled back in. But he’s too far away…no wait ..he’s in range. ENGAGE BEAST MODE. With blood in the water, I get a shot of adrenaline and power up the Hercules legs. I’m gasping like a wounded elephant seal but if I have a chance at Blue Shoeing the code its worth blowing up the lungs or donating Honey Bunches of O’s in the process apparently. With a final surge up the hill, I catch Darrell right before the final stretch on Dutch Square blvd. A dark demigorgon living deep within Darrell’s soul yells out at me YOU BETTER F%$#%G RUN!! Oh hell. Mile 3 chimes in at 6:16 and I hit the home stretch like a jackrabbit on cocaine. Form is going all to hell as headless chicken mode is engaged. I keep thinking about how ugly Tracy’s finishing pics are going to look, but hopefully they will have a demonically possessed keto-depleted Code in the background. One last sprint into the parking lot and I manage to get in under 20 in 19:43. 13th overall, technically 3rd in AG with coach O taken out with the overall. I’ll take it for this course, since I figure you’re donating 30-45 seconds to the brutal mountain range.

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In the overall, ADIII crushed the field with a 16:40. Mike Schrum was second in 17:12 with Coach O third in 17:27. Shawanna White was the class of the ladies’ field in 18:37 with Liv Paxton 2nd and Melissa Stansbury 3rd. They didn’t do masters – c’mon guys!
In the age groups; Andy Mikula finished 3rd in the 30-34. Drew apparently finished 2nd in AG in the 40-44 behind Mike Kilbourne, whom I’ve never seen run before. Damn these superfit soccer dads. Amanda Lyons was tops in the female 40-44. Whitney keen, Andrew Ortaglia and Johnathan Kirkwood swept the 45-49. Ed Aufuldish was 2nd in the 50-54. Sandy Smith was third in the 55-59. Geary McAlister won the 60-64, with Helene Lipe finishing 2nd among the women. Brigitte Smith won the 65-69, while Leeds Barroll and Pete Poore went 1-2 among the men. In the 70-74, King Rich Weaver won with Michael Lambert 2nd. Arnold Floyd, Rocky Soderberg and Henry Holt swept the 75+

https://www.strictlyrunning.com/json/Index_JS_C4.asp?uRaceId=2882

https://connect.garmin.com/modern/activity/2923600341

Special thanks to Tracy Tisdale / Jedi Running Photography for all the great pics!

 

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Little Mountain Reunion 5k/10k – Little Mountain, SC – 8/4/18

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When do you know you’re a hardcore race addict with a serious problem? Hard to tell, but squeezing an early morning trophy hunt that’s an hour and a half round trip just before a family vacation probably meets the criteria.

I’ve only run this race once before, in 2014. Reading the post from then proves that I apparently never change . I went looking for trophies then too, stepping into the 10k and getting destroyed by Plex, Lybrand and even the Code. Total fail. Plus, the course was brutal and I ended up slogging 44 minutes. But, I distinctly recall them announcing the 5k winning time as like 20:40 something. What?? I could do a tempo run and win?? I was totally going to come back and try to capture the holy grail. Plus, the 5k course was different from the brutal 10k, so maybe it was easier for the shorter distance. Yeah….we will get to that.

https://www.strictlyrunning.com/RESULTS/14LITTLEMOUNTAIN.TXT

https://tourdeblueshoes.com/2014/08/22/little-mountain-5k10k-little-mountain-sc-822014/

So as mentioned, the fam was all about going to Folly Beach this weekend, so I occasionally need to be a dad and husband, even though I was crushed not to be able to do Hot Summer’s Night.  We weren’t leaving until late morning though, opening up the morning races. The Sweet Baby O 5k was a lot closer in Saluda Shoals, but I knew fellow age grouper/Carebeer Drew Williams was doing that one, and the temptation for a holy grail was too great. I was going to make the 40 plus minute trek out to Little Mountain in search of glory.

I ended up getting there way later than I usually do for races,  an effect of snooze button hitting and bathroom chernobylizing.  The first thing I see is Mike Nance and David Russell sporting the TUS black and gold, and I’m instantly afraid of my trophy hunting chance is also going down the toilet. Luckily they were in for the 10k, along with Sara Bonner. Ted and Anna Hewitt, Jeannette Farr, Andy Mikula,  Leeds Barroll, Ivery Baldwin and Lynn Grimes were also some familiar faces. I was asking around if anyone knew the 5k course, and Leeds basically tells me its a complete and total nightmare. As it turns out, the 5k skips the fun of the 10k course and just takes you straight up the eponymous Little Mountain and back. He apparently knows the area from hanging out at the little mountain towers in the 70’s and driving the course just before.  Dayum. This was no fun run undercard like I thought.

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The 10k has a pretty sparse field and they went off at 7:00. I was too lazy to do much of a warm up so I just jogged around a bit and tried to survey the remaining 5kers. My trophy senses were tingling because I didn’t recognize any potential threats, and no lean singlet types. Technically I was wearing the CRC singlet but no one has mistaken me for lean. As we line up for the 5k it basically starts to pour rain out of nowhere.  It had been really hot and humid, so at least it would cool things down some. My last scan of the crowd looks pretty promising and we all take off with the gun. Suddenly, some small superfit dude pops out of the side of the crowd, total Jason Dimery style, and leaves us all for dead right from the get go. I swear it looks like the same dude who ran it back in 2014. (it was – Carlos Hernandez).  First part is downhill , cruelly tempting you to go too fast before an abrupt turn onto the miserable Jacob Shealy Rd. hill.  The poor 10kers have to take on this monster twice. I manage to get myself good and winded right away but luckily the Hercules legs can power up the inclines pretty well despite all the extra weight they carry. I end up in 4th place at the top of the hill after briefly getting chicked by the teen female leader.  Carlos is in another zip code by now but two other kids aren’t too far ahead.  You turn right at the top of Mt Shealy and head back towards the town center, but not before dropping you down half the elevation you just climbed and bringing you up again. Just as we reach the town, I manage to pass the two kids and surge into 2nd place.  First mile was like 6:45, mostly because of the giant hill but maybe me not having done true speedwork in over a month. The flat feels pretty good but is very  short lived as we suddenly take a right turn. There’s a long downhill after this, which feels good at the time but has a sense of forboding since I’ll be doing this in reverse in a few minutes on the way back.  As I approach the bottom of the hill, I’m about to go straight but the cop directs me to this little old road to the right called “Mountain road”. Ruh roh. As soon as I veer off it starts to suck real bad, real quick. First a long gradual incline but then just unrelenting climb. Everytime I think I must be nearing the turnaround at the top it just keeps on going. My lungs and legs are screaming at me and the walksie voices keep getting louder. What’s worse is that I know Carlos has a huge lead on me and I still haven’t seen him on the way back down. Finally I see him flying down the hill. I wait for him to pass then I’m forced to take a brief walk of shame. Of course, as soon as I take a few steps, I finally see the turnaround area under the Little mountain tower. I force myself to go back into my power jog and I’m half delirious by the turnaround. I swear I was having hallucinations of  a long haired Leeds in bellbottoms but I manage to round the cone and start plummeting back down. The road is super rough  and my legs are jello, so I’m trying not to get too crazy on the decline. I don’t do well with falls down rocks.  The out and back course at least gets me to survey the rest of the field. I have a pretty comfortable lead on 3rd place but its hard to stay motivated with only second to fight for.  I haven’t even bothered to check the Garmin split because I know it’s ugly. After destroying my quads on the whole return trip down the mountain, you get that fun opportunity to climb up that downhill you just ran to get to Mountain Rd. I can actually see Carlos again, so he has definitely slowed a lot, but I still have no chance of catching him. Especially since my legs are pretty much toast at this point. One more left turn and its a flat and downhill to the finish. I pick up the pace a little but definitely not the typical Blue Shoe kick . I end up with 21:31 and 2nd overall.

So, not too happy with running 2+ minutes slower than normal, but given this monster of a course it’s not too bad. The only comparable 5k course I can think of is the Hogpen Hill Climb 5k in Helen, GA, which will also take about 2-3 minutes off your standard road 5k times. And yeah, its definitely harder than the 10k course, which is no joke either.

Despite the course brutality, this is a really cool race since its held in conjunction with the Little Mountain reunion festival. There’s a parade , barbeque, beer, classic cars and lots of craft vendors. I took a wrong turn and somehow ended up almost leading off the parade. I had to slow down and do my pageant wave. Luckily the cops were nice and got my inflated ego off the route.  Plus, cash prizes for the overall winners! I got 30 bucks for 2nd place so ended up breaking even. Sweet.

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In the 10k, Jim Brophy ruined Nance’s trophy hunt too, taking first in 40:07. Nance took second in 41:44 and David Russell was third in 43:02. Sarah Bonner was the CRC’s top trophy hunter for the day, taking home the holy grail with a win in 48:11. Denise Knight and Ashley Holman were 2nd and 3rd, Denise just 9 seconds back.

In the 5k, Carlos Hernandez won in 19:23, with the Albino Sasquatch 2nd and Noe Hernandez 3rd. In the age groups, Andy Mikula won the 30-34, while Leeds Barroll and Lynn Grimes dominated the 65-69.

 

https://connect.garmin.com/modern/activity/2906079211

https://www.strictlyrunning.com/json/Index_JS_C4.asp?uYear=2018&uRaceId=2895&uEvent=5k

 

 

 

 

 

The Scream! Half Marathon – Jonas Ridge to Mortimer, NC – 7/21/18

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July is the cruelest month for runners, or really anybody, in Columbia, SC. I’m an afternoon trainer, so I get to delight in the joys of running in 95 degree, 100 percent humidity days that make you curse the sport you’ve chosen. Accordingly, race directors are not too keen on staging their events in the oven/sauna of our famously hot summer. So with a lull in the Tour de Columbia in July, what is a hardcore race addict to do? Run to the mountains!

I actually had no intent on racing this weekend, but CRC vice president and resident puppetmaster Joyce Welch offered me a deal I couldn’t refuse. Tug had to bail on this race, and said he would transfer the bib for half price ($45 instead of $90). Joyce said I could crash at their airbnb in Morganton for free with Roy and Kim so it didn’t take a lot of arm twisting for the race addict to get his fix. Plus, this would give me a chance to scout out Morganton for my attempt at the Table Rock 50k in September.

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I had actually heard of The Scream before. Advertised as “13.1 miles of pure hill”, it’s basically running down a mountain. You get shuttled up to Jonas Ridge, run a couple miles on top of the ridge, before an insane descent over the course of the next 10 miles on an old unpaved mountain road. I couldn’t tell by the results, but it seemed like it would make for a crazy fast course as long as the road wasn’t too technical. I read the “Old Runner” Richard Hefner’s blog about the race and he gave it his seal of approval. I was in.

I drove up and met Roy, Kim and Joyce in Morganton the day before the race. The airbnb was super nice and Morganton is a cool little town. We ate at the root and vine and I stuffed my face with their amazing wood-fired pizzas. Later, we had a walk around town and stumbled into a “TGIF” festival with a great live band. A good time, though I was fearful of colonic repercussions the next morning with multiple beers and pizza. Still, it should be noted that I had a 2 minute half marathon PR at Savannah in 2014 on the same prerace routine.

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The logistics of this race are a bit of a chore, so we had a bright and early wake up call the next morning at 5 am. We were staying about a half hour from the shuttle site, “Brown Mountain Beach Resort”, which is different from the start and finish lines. They estimated a half hour ride on the shuttle up to Jonas Ridge. As is her tendency, Joyce the puppetmaster waited until the last minute, and it took some Roy Shelley formula one racing to get us to the shuttle area. Our little troop of short Asian women and exceptionally pale white guys made it there just in time to catch the next to the last bus.  However, with an 8 am start time, we still had plenty of time to pick up our bibs and navigate the portapotties. Plus, it was actually cool. Almost cold. 57 degrees at the start.  Local Columbia Running Clubbers Melanie Lindsay and Jennifer Reeves also made the trek up from SC, along with previous Columbia runners now Concord,NC’s Katie Rose and her husband Jason.

When we finally arrived at the start line, I realized I had no real game plan for this race. I hadn’t done speed in weeks , probably the 2 mile relay was the last time I went fast on July 4th. I have been doing plenty of mileage for me, 40-45 miles per week, so I should be ok on the endurance front.  At some point, I decided to start off  conservatively and see what the hill felt like. Despite my 190 lbs, downhill running is actually my weakness in competition. People pass me all the time on declines. I’m surprisingly much better at hill climbing.  I’ve run the Blue Ridge relay 3 times and I knew that the unpaved downhills can tear up your legs pretty good. We would see.

With the start, everything felt amazing. I realized that 40 degrees cooler and low humidity make for a slightly better running environment. Interestingly, within a mile I was in my own little pocket with no one around me, despite the 350 entrants. First two miles are very gently rolling hills on pavement. Mile 1 came in at 7 minutes flat, which I figured was pretty much where I wanted to be. My half PR pace is mid 6:40’s and I certainly didn’t want to blow up early since my race fitness was questionable. Near mile 2,  the course suddenly turns right and the freefall begins.

Sweet baby jeezus. All of a sudden I’m plummeting down a winding unpaved mountain road, punishing my quads with every step. Given my tentativeness around rocks and drop-offs, (see here) a masters looking dude and 2 ripped women pass me on the first descent right off the back. On one hand, my calm, conservative, race brain is telling me “Now, Alex, run your own race, stay within yourself and remember this is a long distance”, but evil competitive brain says ” DONT LET THAT DUDE STEAL YOUR AGE GROUP. DONT GET CHICKED. BEAT THEM. BEAT THEM!“. Somehow I compromise and try to keep these three in my sights. I’m having a hard time judging pace. Feels chaotic and fast, but not a whole lot of energy is required to maintain the inertia of a 190 pound albino sasquatch in freefall. I try and find that Bob Ross happy little place where it feels comfortably hard.  The miles kind of glide by and I’ve settled into a nice 6:45 that feels easier. It’s hard for me to go much faster because I’m navigating this road with all the grace of a runaway 18 wheeler. Legs and arms flopping all over the place. The second woman in the three pack ahead of me falls off a little and I am right behind her for much of the next couple of miles. With her all of like 5’2” and 100 lbs, I’m sure she will be having nightmares of a grizzly chasing her through the woods tonight.  At some point I end up passing her on the first real incline, in mile 6. Although it’s relatively short, the little hill feels like hell with all the previous decline. Still, it helps me gain on the field and draw closer to masters guy and other woman. Masters guy has a nice fluid stride and the woman had a bull city (durham) running shirt on, so I know she is probably a beast too.  Around six miles I also start hearing a pack of dudes talking , and as soon as the roller coaster starts again they all pass me en masse. Most of them seem younger but at least one may be age grouper. Evil race brain engages again.

More plummeting ensues. I’m still feeling OK, though the pounding is starting to take some toll on my quads. Plus, I made the noob decision to throw on my brand new shoes for this race, and there may be a hot spot/blister trying to happen on my left toe area. More 6:45s on the watch. The Garmin is not matching the mile markers, but the race organizers warned that GPS is going to be off on this twisting remote road in a heavily forested area. I thought there was a significant hill around 8 miles on the elevation map, but this never pans out, may have been the incline at between 6 and 7. There’s another incline around mile 9ish that, again, feels terrible but draws me closer to what is now a sizable mob just ahead of me.  I catch masters guy and bull city girl but the talkers are still ahead. The roller coaster begins once again and mile 10 hits. I love mile 10 because the 5k is my specialty.  With 3.1 to go, I can gauge that. Lungs are doing great, but legs are pretty much toast. Some guy passes me just as I’m figuring the physiologic calculus, and damned if he doesn’t look early 40’s too. DAMN, THE FOREST IS FULL OF MIDDLE AGED DUDES. I figure I will ride the mountain as long as I can and start feeling the pain once it levels out. Just after 11 miles, the road turns right and flattens, so I figure it’s go time. The first straightaway feels pretty good but here comes some little inclines, each sucking out my will to live. I pass the mile 12 marker and push in all the chips. I end up catching the talker mob, one of whom is walk/running by now but still keeping up pace with the back of their pack. I surge ahead on what I think is the last incline and start desperately searching for some finish line. Nope, keeps going and going. Just when I think I’ve killed myself by kicking too early, I see a school bus through the trees. This has to be it. One last turn when I’m about dead and I see the red clock in the distance. Age grouper guy is maddeningly close but he has launched into a kick of his own and I just don’t have the gas to catch him. Maybe I misjudged his age, I hope. Closing in on the finish, it’s still in the low 1:27’s, which I’ve never seen in a half (pr is 1:28:27). One last push and I cross in 1:27:31. I had been feeling great, but that last mile and a half about killed me. Pretty excited about the time, though I know I can’t really count it with the ridiculous elevation loss. I had hoped maybe for some masters love, but with one deep masters and a crazy fast field, I barely eked out 3rd in age group.  And of  course, “age grouper guy”, aka Bryan Hull from Tampa, was exactly my age (43) and beat me by 9 seconds. It’s a good thing I kicked it in though, because nine seconds behind me was a 40 year old and 28 seconds behind me was another age grouper. Top 5 age groupers in the 40-44 all under 1:28 with the 42 year old masters winner pulling a 1:21. Dayum. Age group from hell!

Roy had some pacing issues where he thinks he entered a wormhole in the space time continuum, but still finished with a respectable 1:50.  HIs 50-54 age group was almost equally as brutal. Joyce and Kim opted for a more social run – they were getting a preview of part of the Peak to Creek marathon course in October. Melanie, Jennifer, Katie and Jason were also finishers , along with locals Robert Starnes, George Starnes, and Marcy Utheim. Richard Hefner scored 2nd in age group in this crazy competitive race.

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I stayed at the finish to take some pics and waited for the shuttle back to Brown Mountain Beach. At the resort, they had an awesome roasted chicken lunch, free Catawba brewing company beer (White Zombie is one of my favs) and beer glass awards. You can swim in the mountain stream below and hang out on the “beach” alongside the river. Really nice. A Blue Shoes big thumbs up!

http://www.leetiming.com/SCREAM2018_OA.htm

http://www.leetiming.com/SCREAM2018_AG.htm

https://www.strava.com/activities/1718151239

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Vertical Mile Challenge – Rocky Face Recreation Area – Hiddenite, NC – 6/17/18

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Back in January, I made a return trip to Helen, GA to run the Hogpen 5k/18k double dip with the Harbison Trail Runners and fellow beer/running freak the Yerg. At some point, between a mountain top snowstorm and multiple post race beers and drinking from “das boot”,  Rick and Dean kept mentioning this race, the Vertical Mile. I think in my delirious, frozen and half intoxicated state, I actually thought it was just a really tough mile race in the mountains. Later, Rick kept asking me my precise birthdate and I wondered if he was with the CIA, monitoring my generally bizarre behavior. On the way back home, I learned that I was officially forced signed up to do the Vertical Mile. Apparently “Uncle Ricky”, Rick’s race registration happy alter ego, had struck again.  Twenty five dollars was the price of admission to enjoy watching me suffer.

But it was only a mile, right?? Yeah, not so much. It’s a mile of elevation gain, spread out over 17 miles and 8 loops of an insanely mountainous 2.2 mile course, called the “Stairway to Heaven” trail. But hey, 2.2 miles? As my words with friends/duathlon nemesis Tenacious J is wont to say, “how hard could it be?”. We’ll get to that shortly.

Rick and I attempted to drum up support for the vertical mile trip, but promoting a grueling 17 mile mountain race in mid-June is a bit of a hard sell. Still, Rick, Dean, Ken Hinely, Michael Nance, Justin Bishop and Jennifer reeves were game for trying their luck.  Rob and I were not fans of the proposed 4:30 am start for a day trip up to Hiddenite, so we decided to go up Friday afternoon. As is de riguer for trips with the Yerg, we made sure to include two brewery stops on the way.  We had quality pit stops with flights at Primal Brewery in Huntersville and a tiny place tucked in an office park called Ass Clown Brewery.  Decent beers all around but I like our Conquest/River Rat/Swamp Cabbage options in Columbia better. We eventually made our way to the metropolis of Statesville, NC, where our hotel was. Still 30 minutes from the race site but it was the closest I could find. Our Holiday Inn had a lovely view of the interstate and Miss Priscilla’s adult novelty store. Beautiful. I was tired of driving so we walked to the fine dining establishment of 1849 wings and pizza. No idea about the name but I think I ate a weeks supply of calories in wings and raw fries, essentially loading up the colonic cannon for the next day. We went back to the hotel to figure our supplies for the next day – I was literally in mid sentence describing our raceday game plan when I look over and see the Yerg already in a stage 4 coma. 7:47 pm.  The Yerg is a party animal. He made it all the way to 8:30 in Helen this year.  I made the Ingles run myself and tried to tour Statesville, but realizing it perhaps was not the go-to tourist destination, returned back to the hotel. I was probably out by 10.

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We were up early the next day and got out by 7 am from the hotel after a multi-stage colonic destruction wreaked by the 1849 wings and Ass Clown beer. We met the others from the Columbia contingent and set up our camp – complete with Gamecock tailgating canopy, chairs and the official Blue Shoes race table. The others had GU and all kinds of stuff but all I brought was water and some Gatorade. Maybe I hadn’t thought this through…

About 100 or so people at the start. Most of these people looked pretty fit, and there was huge, sheer rock wall just to the side of us. I was getting nervous. Plus, it was already pretty warm at the 8 am start time. This might be pretty tough. With the gun we were all let loose on the first part of the course.  Started on pavement and then a gentle rolling trail through the forest. Oh man, this is easy.  Maybe a half mile in there’s a sudden drop and climb out of what feels like a dry creek bed.  There’s a slight incline through the forest for a few steps and then …. HOLY #$%^&% dear 8.2 lb screaming sweet baby Jesus.

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As I should have surmised from the race site being called “Rocky Face recreational area”, here was the “Rocky Face”.  Wide open and exposed to the sun, the rocky face looked to be at least double the steepness of anything I’ve ever considered running, quarry crusher included.  I tried jogging the first 10 feet and my quads gave me a definitive EFF YOU, and walksies ensued. And I wouldn’t even call this a power walk. I was hunched over like Quasimoto crawling up like an arthritic grandpa, sweating like a pig.  There is a bit of shade roughly halfway through, which only serves to block your view of the worst of the incline, which is so steep that you could probably crawl/climb just as fast. At the top of this part of the face was the main aid station manned by some very enthusiastic volunteers blasting an array of 70’s and 80’s rock classics. Lap 1 was Highway to Hell. Yeah, no kidding. It levels out to just a regular hill right after that and dumps you into the forest again. Oooh, maybe this is the trail back down.  Let me start jogging again! NOPE. More insane climbing and the legs veto anything but my granny mall walker stride again. We come out of the forest and there’s another freaking rocky face. Mother of pearl.  We hit the forest one more time and finally, FINALLY, I see the trail back down.

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You’d think the trail back down would be a relief. You would be wrong. OK, so it wasn’t rocky face wish-you-were-dead bad. However, my legs, which were now a mixture of jello and hamburger from the brutal ascent, were now falling downhill as fast as I could go. Which wasn’t really that fast since it was switchback after switchback. My Sasquatch physique is perhaps less than cat-like agile, so it was more like a controlled elephant stampede. Towards the end of 2 miles and there was a just a little flat stretch. I tried to ramp up the speed there and my toe caught a root, almost sending me into the dirt and releasing multiple F bombs into the air. Following the little flat part were two more rocky faces going down, the last of which was so steep I started having flashbacks to by cliff dive in Hawaii. Finally, you hit some steps and you’re back on the pavement and through the finish line for lap 1. JUST SEVEN MORE TO GO. Holy hell what have I gotten myself into.

 

I should note that I was dead last among the Columbia guys at this point. Hitting the rocky face for lap 2 I managed to catch up with Yerg and Hinely, both of whom were hating life. I ramped up my awkward power walk to pass these guys, though we stayed together for most of lap 2 I believe. I had to make a portapotty stop at the end of lap 2 since I was hydrating like a machine. Temps were approaching 80 degrees already. I managed to catch Rob and Ken again on lap 3 and passed them. I was running scared on the downslope but fairly soon I was on my own. On Lap 4  I was still doing ok, basically running all the way to the rocky face, walking every bit of the rest of the long climb, then running back down. Near the bottom of lap 4 I started feeling a bit mentally foggy and I realized I didn’t prepare at all for this race. I suddenly remembered the times from the 2017 race, most of which were 3.5 hours plus. This may be a 17 miler but ran more like a marathon. A grueling , unbelievably hilly marathon. I crossed lap 4 in like 1 hour and 48 minutes, so I was probably lucky to do sub 4 hours. I hate gels but this was desperation time. The table had a ton of gels of all kinds, so I stole a strawberry kiwi roctane.

For those interested, you can make a strawberry kiwi roctane at home. Just eat a bunch of strawberries and kiwis, and maybe a couple spoons of sugar. Then throw up in a bag, and heat it to 80 degrees. Voila! I just dumped the thing in my mouth and swallowed it with some water, trying to keep it down like Kobiyashi on hot dog #50.  After I was sure there wouldn’t be a reversal of fortune, I eyed a big bag of Fritos. I’m no huge Fritos fan, but I know they are salty as hell. I grabbed a fistful of corn chips in my hand and stuffed my face like a hungry raccoon,  taking off running and chewing at the same time, washing it down with some water. It was not a glamorous sight. As it turns out my lunch of puke flavored roctane and Fritos was quite the winning combination. I was back to just destroyed quads and hamstrings, minus the overlay of hypoglycemic delirium.  Good times.

Laps five and six were just brutal. Over two hours in, the rocky face was becoming a giant skillet, radiating the almost 90 degree heat back in your face.  Lots of people were just stopped on the rocks in the few spots of shade available. I just focused on maintaining constant forward movement.  Even did some side steps and backwards walking as one woman suggested to me. Anything to keep me going and avoiding sizzling on the skillet any more than I had to. It was great to have the 70’s FM radio gold contingent at the top of the worst stretch, giving out more water. I swear I must have consumed the equivalent of 6 or more full bottles, and I was perpetually thirsty.  I complemented course number one of my prix fixe lunch with another serving of frites de salt paired with a nice vintage purple G2. Delicious.  Loops 5 and 6 were my slowest, right at 30 minutes for the 2.2 mile loop. Blazing.

Lap 7 was the first time I started getting excited I may finish this thing. Legs were just destroyed, and I was on the verge of tripping several times a loop by now since I could hardly lift my legs. But just 2 more times? I can wrap my head around that. Lap 7 on the skillet was really bad. I looked up one time and saw some dude laying down under a bush, which I thought was funny until I realized it was Nance. Nance had caught a wicked case of the groin crampsies and was trying to let it subside. I offered help but he said he was OK. I was about ready to take on the nap on the rocks myself…if they weren’t 80 million degrees.  I dropped down the steps and was jogging towards the timing arch on lap 7 when I hear a “DONT LET ME LAP YOU” behind me. I look back and see Justin descending the steps on his 8th and final lap. OH HELL NO. I took off at 5:00 pace for 25 meters to ensure I didn’t endure a lap of shame. It about killed me.  I saw 3:12 in the clock which meant I should easily break 4 hours if I just keep going. I ran into J Reeves at this point, and she unfortunately had to pull out after her lap 4. I grabbed one last water and set off on my final lap.  Every step was killer on the skillet and  I think the 70’s rock crew were getting more water at this point because they were gone. I didn’t care because I was hell bent on finishing this thing. Once reaching the downhill I powered down the trail as hard as I could go. I think I scared a pack of people just out for a hike on the trail, as they saw a sweaty albino sasquatch bearing down on them at full speed.  I very carefully went down the last steps since my legs were wet noodles by this point. Sprinted as best as I could and hit the finish right at 3:40, 19th overall.

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I was just obliterated. Had to move around and try and cool down as much as possible, which is a little tough at 90 degrees. The misting stations were awesome, where Rick and Dean were camped out and cramping like crazy. Dean crushed a 3:17 while Rick did a 3:32. Justin seemed to be fine, posting a 3:12 and taking the Columbia win and 6th overall. Yerg finished soon after me at 3:44, so good thing I pushed the last loop. Mike Nance did 3:52 despite all the cramp lounging on the skillet. I’m impressed he could finish with cramping like that. Ken Hinely had another tough day (his 2017 vertical mile story is legendary) but he took 30 minutes off last year’s time in 4:29. Most importantly, he was the owner of the raccoon ravaged Fritos bag. I am forever grateful, and sorry, Ken.

Will there be a next year? I will have to see, or maybe just wait or an email from Uncle Ricky.

http://rockyfacepark.com/wp-content/uploads/vertical-mile-challenge/results/vertical-mile-challenge-results.pdf

 

 

 

 

Get in the Pink 5k and Crawdaddy Dash 5k Double Dip – Columbia, Sc – 5/12/18

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So I looked at this weekend and swore I wouldn’t double dip. I would show restraint, do one or the other, maybe even spectate or take pics at the one I wasn’t racing. Sounded like a good plan. But, there it was, just sitting there. A double dip that’s been set up now for a few years, so much so that Coleen Strasburger has taken to calling it the “Pink Daddy” – the Get in the Pink 5k/10k at 7:20/7:30 and the Crawdaddy Dash 5k at 9:00. So close together you could even run between the two races. Plus, I realized I hadn’t done my specialty, the 5k, in a long time. Air quotes on the “long” since it was the March for Meals on March 10. That’s still an eternity for me. Between the Palmetto 200, Boy scout camping, Cooper river,  a 6.5 mile trail race and 2 5ks in full costume, I hadn’t really raced a legit 3.1 in 6 weeks. I was barely in the top 10 overall on the Tour, and not even leading my age group (I see you Ivery Baldwin!). It was time to throw down two in one day.

As noted above, logistics would not be an issue. I wouldn’t even have to employ my advanced double dip skills like early packet up, parking position etc. Even the courses were relatively benign for this kind of thing – no major hills or brutality to deal with. Of course, I did feel slightly less hardcore knowing at least Roy Shelley and Coleen would be doing the expert level 10k/5k double. That is just nuts, especially on that GITP 10k course.

Still, waking up on race morning was that all too familiar feeling of dread, knowing I had ordered 40 minutes of pain on the breakfast menu. It didn’t help walking out the door and realizing Columbia was overanxious for July. Already 70 degrees and the sun was barely up. Awesome.

I got to GITP my customary hour early and warmed up with Silent H and Drew. Between Drew and a Striggles sighting, I knew I was sitting 3 deep in age group points before I even started. Damn these fast old dudes slumming it in the undercard. I was sweating like a whore in church doing a 9 minute pace mile and a half. This was going to suck even worse than I thought.

There was huge CRC representation in both races, and the 10k started 10 minutes before the 5, so I camped out at Devine and Millwood to take pics with head CRC photog Tracy Tisdale handling the main duties at the start line. 10k looked like I had slightly better odds but Phil Midden was there to make second in AG the best I could have done in the main event. A Kenyan guy was running to finally give Ashton some competition.

I was actually nervous strolling up to the start since the heat was killer and possibly producing an epic bonk. My strategy, as in all 5k doubles, was basically to go balls out in race 1 and just see what I have left in the second. “A” goal would be to break 20 in both, “B” goal would be to average out a sub 20, “C” goal was not to die. Really not sure how I would do. I spend so much of my training slogging out 9 minute miles that I never know what’s going to come out when I open up my Saturday morning can of whupass.

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I lined up actually a row back to avoid a headless chicken start. Leeds and Alex Ponomarev were nearby with Johnathan Kirkwood, along with my aforementioned masters nemeses Striggles and Drew. The gun goes off and of course everybody takes off way too fast. I try and rein it in knowing this course well from several previous years. It’s basically a tale of two halves – first half is mostly flat to downhill, devine to adger to devereaux, all the way to Brennan elementary. Second half you get to make up all that downhill, returning on Kilbourne. it’s pretty gradual but it really doesn’t flatten out again until you’re almost done on Devine st. I put in a good effort until Devereaux, then lay off a bit and ride my significant gravitational advantage on the next half mile. I am concerned about my pace because Kirkwood and Andrew Ortaglia are just ahead of me. My encyclopedic race brain engages and knows these guys have hovered around 21 minutes recently. Kirkwood is known for his fast starts but not sure about Ortaglia. I am also pretty sure Madelyn Gomez is just behind me, and though she has gotten crazy fast, I do not take kindly to getting chicked by a 12 year old. Luckily my Garmin chimes in a 6:16 at mile 1 about halfway down Deverereaux, so definitely on sub 20 pace. There’s a slight dip and rise as we cross Trenholm and we pass by Barefoot John and Andy manning the water station. I tell them I’m disappointed in the lack of donuts and ceremonial Blue Shoes toilet paper from their relay aid station. Char may have been there too but its hard to scan the crowd at 5k pace. We turn the corner and Larry Jourdain is there to cheer on his crew, and I see Erin Miller just ahead. Erin may have been 8 miles into a workout before the race but I have no shame in taking  down anyone in a weakened state – just ask Nance, Drew or Brandenburg. The slow climb commences on Kilbourne after the turnaround, and I’ve managed to pass Kirkwood and Ortaglia, leaving only Erin to chase in the immediate vicinity. I can see Drew way up ahead, but, as predicted, he is soundly kicking my ass. Mile 2 comes back in a disappointing 6:32,  over the magic 6:27 sub 20 threshold but I know I’m still overall doing OK. I ramp it up as we near the Devereaux crossing with the back of the pack 5kers still going outwards. Erin gets confused , or perhaps misdirected by a volunteer, and suddenly turns left. I yell out to her as I go by and I see she is headed back on course. With a mile to go, I start firing up the blue shoes kick. The turn on Devine is nice to be heading home but it is still a long way to the finish. I can see Drew way up ahead but I’m all by myself now. Surprisingly I haven’t noticed the heat before, but out in the open I can feel the internal baking commence. I am deathly afraid of Erin chicking me at the finish so I crank it up a couple of notches even though I know that’s a dumb thing with another 5k to go at 9 am. I miss the mile 3 split (6:05) with all the gasping going on, and of course I can’t resist a little headless chicken at the finish. I hit the line at 19:24, 6th overall, a “consolation” 1st in AG since Striggles won and Drew got masters. I got the same number of age group points as overall points. In case you missed it, the 40-44 is no joke.

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As mentioned, Striggles won easily in the 5k, running 17:04 over teenagers Jonathan Tan and Jacob Mangione. In the womens 5k, Erin took the win in 19:51 despite the extra mileage. Madelyn Gomez crushed a 19:55 for her first sub 20 at age 12. Dayum. Chelsea Baker was 3rd in 20:04. Drew and Lynn Long took the masters wins.

5k age groupers: Chris Conrick won the 11-14 with Max Miller 2nd. Ivery Baldwin won 2nd in the 40-44.  Jamie Gomez (Derek’s wife and Madelyn’s mom) won the 40-44 women. Ortaglia ad Kirkwood went 1-2 in the 45-49 with 20:19 and 20:34 respectively.  Dave Hale won 1st in AG (55-59) and is now 20 for 20 in age group placings this year.  Donna Freeman was 2d in the 55-59 women. Helene Lipe won the 60-64.   Leeds Barroll  and “Podium” Patti Lowden were champs of the 65-69.  Sharon Sherbourne took 3rd. Henry Holt won the 70+ plus in a squeaker – only 16 minutes ahead of second. Dang.

Oh yeah, there was the “main event” 10k too.  Harrison Kiriawi took the win in a shade over 33 minutes, with Ashton a few seconds behind in 2nd. Heath McDonald took 3rd. Purity Muwene crushed the field for the women’s win in sub 6 pace, with MC Cox 2nd and Jennifer Conrick 3rd.  Phil Midden and double dipper Coleen Strasburger were the masters winners.

10k age groups – Brittany Robbins was 3rd in the 15-19. Matt Gregory was 1st in the 30-34 with Joe Russ 3rd. Jennifer Lybrand won the 30-34 women with Wilson in tow. Silent H won the 50-54, with Phil Togneri taking the 55-59. Marie Queen won the 60-64. Pete Poore was tops in the 65-69 men, while Lynn Grimes and Brigitte Smith went 1-2 among the women. Peter Mugglestone was the champ of the 70+.

https://connect.garmin.com/modern/activity/2693331672

https://www.strictlyrunning.com/json/Index_JS_C4.asp?uYear=2018&uRaceId=2748&uEvent=5k

RACE #2 CRAWDADDY DASH – I had plenty of time in between races, which was good since my legs felt pretty wrecked. Everything was completely soaked, so I went from the TUS singlet to the CRC one. With my albino sasquatch physique, singlets are less than flattering but I needed every bit of ventilation on this ridiculously warm day. It was only going to be worse at the 9 am Crawdaddy start. Last year, Erin Roof bribed me with a free registration to run in special-ordered crawdad underwear (actually large boxer shorts), so I felt obliged to bring the pair out for their one day in the sun. My wife had put her sewing skills to work last year, making a waist tie and closing the flap so that wardrobe malfunctions didn’t occur. No one wants their junk flopping around at 5k pace. I ended up just throwing the boxers on over my swamplike shorts from GITP anyway.

Thanks to some scouting of the course this past week, I was able to secure a prime parking spot on Holt street, right next to a house for sale by realtor Henry Rollins. Rosewood is so punk.

I managed to sweat another gallon on the short walk to the packet pickup table, then my colon decided it wanted to double dip too. Thankfully I just missed the portapotty rush because the place was getting crowded quick. FYI,  the CIA could get anyone to talk if they lock them in a well used 80 degree portajohn. Unspeakable horrors.

Crawdaddy is known for a pretty big turnout, though a significant portion are just there to jog the thing and get their crawfish fest pass. Trey McCain was there to probably win, and Jeff and Shannon Godby were on hand to likely race in my vicinity. Coleen and Roy Shelley were there for part two of their hardcore 10k/5k double, while Donna Freeman opted for my less intense 5k/5k option. Stephanie Fischer (with her CRC winning daughters Pheobe and Lucy), Jay Hammond and Christie Martin were some of the familiar faces, along with fellow psychiatrist Nikki Campbell. It was good to see Kathryn Livingston (Cavanaugh) back racing again after having a baby.

I had no idea what to expect in this race. Legs still felt like death, and I just wasn’t feeling like a warm up. I figured if a 19:24 5k in the heat didn’t get them warmed up then doing a slog jog wasn’t going to help anyway.  I strode up to the line with zero idea how my body would react. This was pretty similar to my triple dip in February (albeit one hell of a lot warmer). My second race then was the Lagniappe 5k featuring a similar elevation climb out to Rosewood in the opening mile. In that race, my legs were uber tight and my first mile was just over 7 minutes, which is like marathon pace for me. If I was to have a shot at a double sub 20, I would have to do way better than that on the opening climb. Once you get to Rosewood, the rest of the course is pretty easy, especially a blazing downhill 2nd mile on Ott St.

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With the gun, Shannon takes off like a rabbit, and I try to keep her from leaving me in the dust. Jeff is using me as a windbreaker, which is generally a good idea. The main climb is right out of the gate near the old Memorial stadium grounds. It’s pretty rough, but since the legs slogged up from Brennan an hour ago, they slipped back into race mode surprisingly easily. I’m able to make up some ground on the field after the hill plateaus and I catch Shannon just before the turn onto Rosewood. I have no idea what my pace is,  so luckily the mile 1 split is just as you hit Rosewood, 6:32. Not terrible considering the climb, so I just try and maintain the effort. I hit an open patch in the field and then try ramping up the pace to get some momentum going on the downhill stretch on Ott. Legs have decided they don’t hate me and the shade on Ott is awesome. I start nearing some tan, young, superfit singlet dude and catch him about halfway down. I can feel his overwhelming shame of getting sasquatched by a Clydesdalian white beast with oversized crustacean boxers.  Loved it. With the adrenaline of passing superfit, I launch into a kick, which I realize is too early since I’ve misjudged the Ott/Jim Hamilton intersection. Oh well, guess I’m in for a hurting. Mile 2 in 6:07 right before the side of the soccer fields. OK , just need to throw down at least a 6:30 or so to get that sub 20. But giant melon ego has been tripped and the kick has been engaged, so there’s no going back now. I blast around the turn onto Jim Hamilton about bowling over hou yin chang taking pics. Gotta watch out for the bus, HYC.  Jim Hamilton is the road parallelling Owens field airport and it’s as straight as the adjacent runway. You can see the finish line area from way, way out but it takes a seeming eternity to get there. I try not to focus too much on the finish and just work on thoroughly spelunking this pain cave I’ve made for myself.  Luckily the wind is not out today but of course the roasting sun is out in full force. I start having flash backs to the duel in the sun horrific 10k from ville to ville. Luckily there is one dude in a neon shirt that I’m gaining on, so I just blast away hoping to pick him off. Unfortunately I’m running out of real estate to catch him, but as we near the last little turn I’m just begging for the finish. Garmin beeps at mile 3 but I can’t even look . Turning into the finish area, I’m shocked to see the clock just over 19 minutes. More adrenaline and pointless kick ensues, and I cross in 19:26.  I figured I would be fighting to go under 20 not 19:30 – Garmin confirms a 6:00 last mile and 5:46 kicker on a 3.14 miles. Actually faster than race 1 if you go by Garmin (both are certified though). I’m pretty excited about the results, as its the fastest 5k double dip I’ve ever done, and probably second only to my 2013 rose fest 12k-5k double in terms of  age graded performance.

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Aftet the finish, I think I told someone how nice it would be to get a beer at the new hunter gatherer hangar. I found out a little later that they were in fact open. I carry 20 bucks in my phone case precisely for “emergencies” like this. I highly recommend their Zweickel , especially at 9:45 am. Best beer ever.  A celebratory toast was had with Trey for his win and Tracy for double dipping photo duties for both races.

In the overall, as mentioned, Trey crushed the field in 17:32 for the win, followed by Hunter Whetstone and a rare appearance by David He. Shannon took the women’s win , followed by Ivanka Tolan and Casey O’Meritt. Nine year old state record holder Kendra Miles was fourth. Beer mile director Bobby Scott was the neon shirted guy I was chasing on Jim Hamilton, and he captured 4th among the men in 19:19.  I got male masters while Jasmyne Huffman won women’s masters

Age groups:  Emma Charlton won 1st in the 11-14. Kathryn Livingston took 1st in the 35-39. Micah Simonsen won 2nd in another brutal 40-44, while Christie Martin was 2nf among the women. Jeff Godby won 1st in his new old man 45-49 division. Stephanie Fischer won the 45-49 women. Ken Bolin, Jay Hammond, and Eliere Tolan swept the 50-54.  Chantal Faure was second among the women. Colleen Strasburger and Donna Freeman were queens of the 55-59, with Mario Alvarez winning among the men. Jeff Longway was 3rd. Alsena Edwards won the 60-64 women, while Pete O’Boyle took 2nd in the 60-64 men. Alex Ponomarev and Ron Hagell were champs of the 65-59 and 70+ divisions. Ron double dipped as bike escort at GITP.

https://racesonline.com/events/crawdaddydash5k/results/2018/dashboard

https://connect.garmin.com/modern/activity/2693332094

Special thanks to Tracy Tisdale/ Jedi Runner Photography for all the great pics!

True to the Brew 6.5 miler – Pomaria, SC to Peak, SC – 4/21/18

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Columbia definitely has more than its fair share of races, and this fact becomes all the more evident every spring. The weather is often perfect this time of year, and it seems every race director is eying a March or April date for their event. A couple of months ago our Tour de Columbia started filling in fast, and it seemed everybody and their mom decided to have a road race on April 21. On the Tour alone were SIX races all in one morning. The Palmetto Half/5k and the Heart and Sole women’s 5 miler were the big ones, along with trophy hunting opportunities at Jacoby’s Superhero 5k, Spring Hill Derby Day 5k, and Gamecocks for Babies 5k.

But when a race comes along that includes beer and the Palmetto Trail, I was definitely in, especially with Erin Roof at the helm. Erin’s new company Grit Endurance, LLC  was putting on this race , True to the Brew, to benefit the Palmetto Conservation Foundation. Since Grit’s first race (Lucky Leprechaun) was complete with the ego inflation of my own personal birthday cake and reference to being an “elite athlete” (I mean , obviously, since my physique just screams elite),  I felt more than obligated to try this one out as well. Of course, having free beer, food and music at the end of a cool point to point race through the forest and ending on an old train trestle didn’t require a lot of arm twisting.

Erin invited some Columbia running community leaders to a preview run a few weeks ago to get a look at the course. In addition to hearing the harrowing ordeals of Dean Schuster’s near arrest for peeing in the forest, I learned the race course was definitely not what I expected. I was thinking more Harbison/Sesqui trails, but this course was a wide open, almost completely straight line through the forest, very fast for an off-road event. Makes sense, since this part of the trail was an old railroad line. The finish is a beautiful refurbished train trestle over the Broad river. Very cool. With beer and pizza in our bellies and egos properly stroked, we all left pretty excited about this race. Erin played us all like puppets. They had capped the race at 200 but opened up another 20 spots filled with eager Harbison Trail Runners and Columbia Run Clubbers afterwards.

Apparently Mother Nature was also invited to the preview run, because race day was pretty much perfect. Cold start with the forecast to reach the mid 60’s over the morning. Not a cloud in the sky. I was a little later than I thought,  waylaid by the colonic aftermath of poor dietary choices at the Fireflies game on Friday night. I also left the house without knowing where I was going, and spent an inordinate amount of time screaming at my iPhone to correctly look up “TRUE TO THE BREW” and “ERIN ROOF”  in my email and trying to get google maps to understand “Pomaria”.  It probably helps to avoid the F bombs with voice recognition. For the record , “Wilson’s Grocery” works.

I got to the start only about 30 minutes early since I had to shuttle from the parking area with so many people at Wilson’s Grocery. I knew there would be a big crowd but I was also surprised at how many people that were unfamiliar to me. You attend a race every week and you get used to seeing the same band of hardcore freaks like yourself.   Faces that were familiar included Tracy Tisdale, Drew Williams, Derek Hutton, Adam Feigh, Roy Shelley, Kim La, Janette and Joe Robinson, Shelley and Marion Hinson, Ken Lowden, Sandy Smith, Teresa Harrington, Mike Wainscott, Maria Pray, Chesson Merritt, Jennifer and Chris Conrick, Sheila and Ken Bolin, Tracy and Julie McKinnon, Jennifer Clyburn, Pete O’Boyle, Kelly Ghent, Dale Stigamier, Cheryl and Tommy Outlaw, Renee and Patrick MCormick, Will and Amanda Rowan, Makenzie Wilson, Pam and Mike Griffin, Tammy Carter, Brie and Matt McGrievy, Harry Strick, Bryan Leaburn, and Jennifer Sparks.

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After a short pre-race ceremony, we were off. The course, as noted,  is basically straight, wide open, and nearly impossible to get off-track.  It does have a gravel base with some dirt and pinestraw over it.  It might be better to wear trail shoes, though I opted for my typical road blue racing flats. Footing was mostly OK save for a few kicked rocks and squishy spots. From the get-go, Derek and Adam take off and leave everyone, with Drew not too far behind. I am sitting back from them a ways, and pretty quickly it’s just me, myself and I . I’m feeling surprisingly good, having taken a rare day off from my obsessive training schedule, loving the cold morning, and finally recovering somewhat from last week’s brutal Ville to Ville relay.  Mile 1 in 6:45 so not too shabby considering it’s still trail running. Feels pretty flat though the Garmin data shows a slight drop in elevation. Mile 2 in the exact same split and I start daydreaming a little, since Drew is way far ahead and I can’t hear anyone around me. Or do I? After a while I can hear someone a little ways back but I don’t dare turn around. I start doing my nerd runner race calculus and try to figure out who’s back there. Then it dawns on me. Where the hell is Tracy McKinnon? Technically he should be way ahead of me, though I know he just ran a  3:15 Boston Marathon in the worst conditions known to man, and he was already back in the saddle according to my daily Strava stalking. But damned if I’m going to check because the ego can’t stand being weak.

Just before the 3 mile mark I cross a road where my Palmetto 200 captain Brian Clyburn is there with his kids to cheer on his wife and Van on the Run teammates. I’m not through the intersection more than a few seconds before I hear Clyburn yelling “T-BO” (Tracy’s P200 nickname) and I know I’m about to get a beat down. I hear Tracy yelling that his cover is blown now and seconds later he pulls alongside with 14 year old cross country beast Chris Conrick. Initially, my thought is to let these guys go. But, knowing my extreme dependence on others to make me run fast, I decide to latch on and see how long I can handle it. I went out fairly conservatively, so might as well give it a try.  It seems to work – neither Tracy or Chris are hell bent on pulling away, so I sit back in the pocket between them. I hit mile 3 in 6:47 just as they caught me, but I’m able to stay with them with a little surge in pace.  The mile marks are definitely after my Garmin splits, so I know its probably going to be shorter than the billed 6.5 miles. I know the distance from Brian’s spectating spot is exactly 3.5 miles from the finish from the preview run, which was definitely a good bit before the 3 mile mark. My race brain calculates close to a 10k distance. The three of us cross mile 4 in a 6:42 split , and I can feel things start to accelerate a bit. I surge to the front for a bit, then get overtaken again, and I just sit back because I can’t lay out a kick this early, even it is getting into my 5k territory. I know from the preview run that you briefly go off the main trail to go under Broad River Rd about a mile and a quarter from the finish. I figure this would be the time to start ramping the pace. As we near the underpass, Chris surges ahead and I follow him, and surprisingly Tracy tells me to go. Is he just toying with me? I don’t have time to figure that out because Conrick is trying to pull away. Oh hells no. He may be almost 30 years my junior but a chunky middle-aged Sasquatch hopped up on race adrenaline is still a dangerous thing. Mile 5 in 6:34. I should mention at this time that all that good feeling of the first half of the race is decidedly gone. In fact, I’m pretty much dying, but I the course is so straight I can almost see the finish. I’m basically side-by-side with Chris the whole sixth mile, first part kind of tactical but the last part getting more frantic. As soon as I pass the Peak entrance of the trail I can see the trestle and all hell breaks loose. I surge ahead, then Chris overtakes me. At the trestle I launch into a full-on headless chicken and take the “lead”. I’m giving one thousand percent and fully expect that I’ve given him the beat down. Hundreds of races in,  I’ve been passed in the last 100 meters only about 5 times. But damn it, I can hear footsteps, and sure enough Conrick pulls ahead and I GOT NOTHING. No more gears to go. Painfully, I have to watch helplessly as he nips me by 2 seconds. Dang. Strong work, dude. I cross in 42:03 for a Garmin 6.34 distance, 5th overall, 1st masters (with Drew removed for his 3rd overall finish). I hate getting Blue Shoed but the head-to-head epic showdowns are what I live for. I’m pretty happy with the effort too, coming off a tough week post relay.

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After making out with a park bench and sucking all the oxygen out of Newberry county, and taking some CRC pics, I made my way to the afterparty. Awesome chicken bog and a free beer (Palmetto trail ale or RJ Rockers son of a peach) from the Craft and Draft mobile truck. Thanks to Shelley and Janette for donating their beers to the Blue Shoes intoxication fund. Awesome awards with Palmetto Trail camping mugs and cool medals for the overall winners.  There was a bit of a wait for the shuttle back to the start so I just relaxed and enjoyed the awesome weather. The band was really good too. After a while I looked pitiful enough in front of Tracy and Julie so I hitched a ride in their overloaded Camry with Sheila, Jen, and Ken – thanks so much for helping a sweaty beer soaked Sasquatch. Tracy then told me he ran 12.5 miles from his house to the start line (while Julie drove the car to the finish and jogged the course backward) , so that explains why he didn’t crush me out there. I appreciate you handicapping yourself for the race, T-Bo.

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In the overall, Derek Hutton took the win with Adam Feigh second. Adam also decided to handicap himself with a 3 hour bike ride before the race. Damn I’m glad I’m not a pro triathlete (hard to tell, I know). Drew Williams must have run the whole race by himself in 3rd place.  The women’s winner was Palmetto 200 “99 problems” captain Sabrina Gandy, with Madeline Smith second and Chris’ mom and masters beast Jennifer Conrick.  In the male masters, it was me , Tracy and Ken Bolin taking the podium, while Denise Knight,  Julie, and Missy Judy won on the women’s side.

Age group glory:

Women: Kelly Ghent was 3rd in the 35-39. Jennifer Clyburn won the 40-44, with Tammy Carter 3rd. Tracy Tisdale won the 45-49. Renee McCormick took the 50-54. Sandy Smith and Teresa Harrington went 1-2 in the 55-59, while Cheryl Outlaw won the 60-64.

Men: Chris won the 12-14 . Dale Stigamier won 3rd in the 35-39, while Will Rowan took 2nd in the 40-44. Matt “Porn Stache” McGrievy took 3rd while running with Brie. Steve Conrick and Marion Hinson took top 2 in the 45-49. Roy Shelley was second in the 50-54. Mike Griffin was 2nd in the 55-59. Pete O’Boyle, Harry Strick and Bryan Leaburn claimed an all CRC 60-64 podium. Ken Lowden was 2nd in the 70+.

https://runsignup.com/Race/Results/53330/#resultSetId-113123

https://www.strava.com/activities/1522390562

Photo credits to Tracy Tisdale, Roy Shelley and Ken Lowden. Great race, Erin!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Ville to Ville Relay – Asheville, NC to Greenville, SC – 4/15/18

If you know me, you already know I’m an absolute freak when it comes to road racing. The only thing that perhaps exceeds my road racing enthusiasm is the relay. But what if you could have a relay without the sleep deprivation, include mountain scenery, and have breweries at the start and finish and along the way. Uh, are you kidding me?

And so obviously I was born to do the Ville to Ville . Seventy three miles through the Blue Ridge from Asheville to Greenville. Beer themed with start at Highlands Brewery and finish in Greenville sponsored by Thomas Creek. Drew Williams asked if I was interested in forming a team for this and I think I broke land speed records for texting back. We signed up on the day registration opened, which was over a year in advance. Apparently the running/craft beer combo is quite popular because I think the thing sold out almost immediately. This is basically unheard of for an event that hasn’t even happened yet. Whoever dreamed this thing up is a genius.

So after much consternation about team names, we came up with CAREBEERS, which means pretty much nothing, other than a nod to the absurdly ubiquitous cartoon/toy of the 80’s in which we all grew up. Rob Yerger was on board and he was hopeful he could get local awesome beer bar Craft and Draft to sponsor our team shirts. Randy “Silent H” Hrechko, Matt McGrievy and Michael Nance rounded out our team, drawn together by a similar freakish addiction to racing and good beer. It just so happened we are all old so we also got to be in the masters division. Our egos also speculated that maybe we could be competitive enough to win this thing, though of course this was a complete wildcard. Being in the mountains, maybe one of the insanely fast Blure Ridge Relay teams would decied they like beer too and would crash our trophy hunt. We would see.

Over a year passed and luckily we were all relatively healthy and ready to toe the line in Asheville. Randy, Rob, Matt and Drew were able to take off early on Friday and enjoy the packet pickup party at Highland. Me and other working stiff Mike Nance had to catch a later ride. At least we got a chance to visit the Trailhead restaurant/bar in Black Mountain, stormed each year by the Harbison Trail Runners in their quest for Mount Mitchell. A friend of Matt’s from college hooked us up with a sweet air bnb deal, so we got to spend the evening drinking beer on the porch overlooking the forest instead of some sterile hotel. Very nice. Unfortunately I make poor decisions a few beers in, so I woke up the next morning I had registered for my first ultra at the Table Rock 50k in September. My registering under the influence is legendary. Please keep a computer away from me when I’ve been drinking.

The next morning everyone was good to go thanks to the combined effect of my iphone alarm and the amazing amount of roosters inhabiting the valley near Black Mountain. Given our aforementioned grandiosity, we had put down a 6:45 relay pace, which is probably a good reflection of our 10 k average ON FLAT GROUND.  In case you missed it, Asheville is not on the coast. So, after fueling up on the breakfast of champions at McDonalds, we were set to go off in the last group at 8:40 am.

The relay setup was pretty simple – 6 guys running in order for the first six legs of the relay, with the same order for the second six. Twelve legs total, 2 per person. Total mileage per leg was about 3 to 10, and the total combined mileage varied widely depending on which legs you ran. There were also ultra teams, who obviously did a lot more with fewer people.

Randy, perhaps because he had to miss some of the team planning meetings, i.e. drinking beer at Flying Saucer, got stuck with Leg 1. Leg 1 is a 10k with an ungodly amount of climb, ranked number 2 overall in difficulty. They even call it “The Hiker” in the relay guide. And Randy hasn’t run a trail in forever. Plus, with a surprising 8 teams in the same start wave, this could be some brutal competition. Always stressful to go first because everyone knows where you stand against the field. I went first at the 2012 blue ridge relay and had some dude crank out 5 minute flat miles in front of me, leaving me several minutes behind. As expected with the brutal elevation and trail section, Randy was a few minutes off our spreadsheet, which we realized was going to be fairly worthless with all this elevation. Silent H came blasting into the exchange full of F bombs and the declaration that this was the hardest 10k ever. I don’t doubt it.

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Speaking of hard, rob took leg 2, the HILLMAN. Although ostensibly named for Hillman brewing company, this 6 miler involved basically climbing a mountain and coming back over the other side. One part had 23 percent grade, which I can’t even fathom since the Quarry Crusher tops out at 10 percent. I didn’ t ask him about any walksies but I assure you I’d be doing my mall walker power stride that I brought out at the Hogpen races in January. This was rated the hardest leg in the whole relay, and the Yerg did not offer any argument on that. Matt picked up leg 3, the 5.61 miler sponsored by Blue Ghost brewery. Matt was feeling the pressure as technically the slowest on the team (still cranks out a 22 min 5k though) but he actually destroyed his projected time on this leg, so much so that I almost missed him coming in to the exchange zone. .He was doing so in style, decked out with a porn stache even Ron Jeremy would be proud of.  He handed off to Nance, who took off like his life depended on it. I should say at this point that there were a few teams full of young guys that were clearly going to kick our ass. However, in the masters division it was looking like a showdown between us and the REDNECK POSSE, another group of our brethren of middle age. Though they were even grayer than us, they were killing it in the early going and had a few minute lead on us.

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Next up was finally my turn. I am like the least anxious person on the planet but relays always make me a nervous wreck. I start catastrophizing about letting my team down, etc. I was a manic mess of stretching and portapotty destruction in the next exchange zone. I also decided to take one for the team and wear our official Carebeers shirt, which was supposed to be a sleeveless racing shirt but might of come out like an illfitting wife beater best suited for the trailer park. With my super white guns ablazing , I was only short a mullet from looking completely like Joe Dirt.  But I was 1000 percent ready to go,and maybe put a dent in the posse’s lead. Uh, or not. Before I could even think about what was happening, Nance come flying around the corner having just passed the redneck posse’s runner. Holy crap – he made up a ridiculous amount of time. All of a sudden I realized I was running just a few meters ahead of the Posse and being put in the position of essentially racing their guy head to head. Any conservative plan in my 5 miler went completely out the window. I went off like a Banshee, hauling ass from the get-go, which, in hindsight, is not what you want to do with a big ass hill at the beginning. This leg was supposedly the easiest in the relay, but the long climb at the start was giving me the beatdown by the time I reached the top. First mile was like 6:27, though was probably at 6 flat effort given the incline. I flopped down the other side and had a sharp right turn maybe 1.2 miles in. I caught a glimpse of the posse still lurking just behind me. MUST KEEP GOING HARD. Another incline met me at the turn and I was quickly realizing that I was revving the engine way too hard too early, but I had already committed to this pace. Second mile was right around  6:27 again. We got dumped onto the Oklawaha paved trail at 2.2 miles in, where I hoped it would be nice and flat. And it was, basically. Only problem was I was hurting really bad for being only halfway done. The next 2 miles were on the flat trail and I kept telling myself just to keep going. Pace started bleeding upward due to the nice lactic acid bath my legs were swimming in. 6:30’s then 6:40’s. I was definitely scaring the kids on the trail, wondering who let the crazed redneck loose. I was nearing the finish when the route suddenly turned right and into a hill. Not a terribly steep incline, but at that point I was completely on fumes and just absolutely dying. Headless chicken mode was fully engaged as I flopped into Hendersonville, NC and the site of Southern Appalachian brewery. In my delirium I started running into a random parking lot before having to turn around and get back on the sidewalk. Finally I saw the exchange after yet one more climb. I crashed into the zone and handed off to Drew, just completely spent. Way to save some for round two, hero. 6:38 average pace, so not too shabby considering the hill. Most importantly, I suddenly realized my few second lead over the Posse had grown to a few minutes. On the bad side, I was completely and utterly obliterated, the heat of the day was growing, and I had a hilly 6.2 miler to go with limited rest. Fan-freaking-tastic.

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I spent the time at the next zone chugging water and praying I would feel more recovered soon. Drew had a 5.65 miler which he absolutely crushed in low 6 minute pace and amped up our lead even more. Randy was all nervous about protecting the lead and feeling like we wanted to make up for his tough opening leg. He went out on a mission on “The Pickler” a 4.56 miler to start us off on the second cycle, ending in Tuxedo, NC.  By this time we had started catching up to the earlier teams and roadkill was aplenty, in addition to the transition areas getting pretty crowded. To their credit, the relay did an awesome job keeping the traffic and parking moving despite a potential chaotic situation. We ran into Ilia Owens and her team in Tuxedo, with Jennifer Conrick as their ringer they recruited just a week earlier. Pretty fast last second replacement!

Next thing we know, some crazed 6’5” beast comes rolling into the zone all hyped up on a adrenaline and f bombs, and we know that’s gotta be the Silent H. He went into beast mode on the Pickler and took down roadkill like a tractor trailer without any brakes. Handoff went to Rob, who had the “Tali-Ho”, the shortest but one of the hilliest legs at 3.53 miles. The elevation map looked like one big mountain climb. Yerg loves his climbs. Right before the zone was a crossover into South Carolina and a total freefall down the other side of the mountain. McGrievy was the benefactor of the decline, and his 6.2 miler to follow had 1100 feet of pure descent.  I’m sure it was nice to not power up any hills, but this leg looked like a complete quad meat grinder. At the next exchange zone, Nance was gearing up for a beast of a leg, 9.84 miles of up and down. I was starting to get nervous since my legs still felt like death and I was much more inclined to seek out a nap then run a hard 10k. Oh, and it had started getting warm.

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With Nance taking off and with us still having a sizable masters lead, I realized all I had to do was keep it together on my second leg. Even though there was obviously a net elevation loss over the course of the relay, somehow my 2nd leg was a net elevation gain and was rated the 3rd hardest. Awesome. I got to Beechwood Farms and I started getting really anxious. That warmth I was talking about had gone all the way to really freaking hot. Almost 80 degrees. No shade in sight. To boot, everybody and their mom was at this zone. Randy and Rob, who were done were already wolfing down hot dogs. The three portapotties had lines out the yin yang so I was prompted to use nature’s bathroom. Thankfully there were no code browns on the intestinal horizon. Of course, in what has now becoming a relay tradition, Char and John Richards were volunteering at this zone. They brought donuts for our team and my ceremonial blue shoes toilet paper roll. I am forever thankful!

Poor Mike had a finish to his leg out in the blazing sun  across Beechwood Farms strawberry fields forever. I got the slap bracelet and set out on “The Rabbit”, a 6.2 miler named after the Swamp Rabbit Trail where the leg ended. Immediately I get hit with one hill after the other. It feels like there’s no respite between these monsters and I start getting scared of an epic bonk. Everything feels like hell thanks to my balls out 5 miler earlier. And OMG it is hot. 80 degrees on the nose according to the gauge at Traveler’s Rest high school. There is one girl ahead of me who is keeping good pace and I just try and hang with her about 50 meters back. Pace is going all to hell, like 7:20’s, but I know all I have to do is keep this up and hold off the walksies…and the medical tent. There is no shade to speak of on this leg, and I am just in a world of hurt. My only solace is that I’m running alongside a virtual parade of walkers. Everyone is dying a slow death out here, and I’m knocking off about 10-20 roadkill per mile just by not catching the walksies myself. But damned if I didn’t want to. Hills just keep coming. Plus fast girl is actually slowly pulling away from me. I start recognizing part of the GHS swamp rabbit half marathon course towards the end and I get excited, only to have to dial it back when I feel the faintsies and the med tentsies start again. Finally we hit the main drag of the surprisingly hipster Traveler’s Rest and I am begging for the finish. I wasn’t sure where Swamp Rabbit brewery (exchange zone) was and I am just trying to follow the crowd. Some guy says watch the cars , pointing to the right, which I took as go to the right. As I cross everybody is screaming to go straight, so somehow I run completely across the exact center of the intersection. Very thankful that delirious Sasquatches get right-of-way in TR. I blast into the exchange zone, hand off to Drew, and stumble immediately around back. My teammates, already beered up and enjoying the beautiful day (if you’re not running a hilly 10k) are worried I’m going to go puke, but all I am desperate for is to not have the sun blazing down on me. A few minutes later all is good again and I’m ready to drive to the finish to get my beer on.

The finish area is awesome. Beer, food, 80’s cover band. Tracy, Brie, Kelly and Mrs. Blue Shoes herself (Mary) are there already and wondering why we are so far off our scheduled arrival. Turns out there were mountains. Somehow, Tracy got hooked into being the unofficial race photog, in exchange for a couple of beers and t shirts. Worked for us since she may have been partial to the Carebeers since her husband had the anchor leg. It didn’t take long for Drew to bring us home, rocking out a 8.78 miler in sub 7 pace in the same brutal conditions as my 10k slog just before. We cruised into the finish with a time of 8 hours and 48 minutes. Good enough for first male masters and 5th overall! Awards were a bottle of Thomas Creek’s official Ville to Ville IPA, which is amazing, and a trophy growler with the race logo. Wash everything down with beers and the best taco truck ever, and a good time was had by all. Later, we ended up at Barley’s taproom across from the official relay Aloft hotel. We met up with the Redneck Posse, who ended up getting 2nd masters, and they seemed like really nice guys. Carebeers will be back in 2019! Special thanks to Craft and Draft for sponsoring!

https://results.rmraces.live/SVE-Timing-East/events/2018/ville-to-ville-craft-brew-relay/results

https://www.strava.com/activities/1508305499

https://www.strava.com/activities/1508786825