Hairy Bison 15/30k – Harbison State Forest – Columbia, SC – 11/18/17

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The Hairy Bison is an event, or in the organizer’s terms, an “anti-race”, put on by the Harbison Trail Runners each year since 2013 on the last Saturday before Thanksgiving. The “race” is masterminded by runners/creative geniuses Rick Stroud and Dean Schuster, who put an incredible amount of effort into this thing for the apparent sole purpose of having a good time. Mission: accomplished.

I had missed out on the first few iterations of the Hairy Bison, mostly because of my unhealthy obsession with chasing down little metal trinkets on the road. But when the Runway Run went extinct and the Shandon Turkey Trot nixed their awesome turkey trophies, I went looking elsewhere. I was set to run the HB last year, but as bad luck would have it, I was having some particularly bad ride of the injury train I’ve been on since the mid 2000 teens, so I had to bail. This year, though, I was primed and ready to lose my Hairy Bison virginity.

I’ve known Rick and Dean for a few years, mainly for engaging in epic battles in the forest for trail supremacy, mostly at the Make my Day 12k. Although Dean fell victim to some of the most brutal blue shoe kicks ever, he finally found his revenge this year with an age group victory over me in the Firebreak Half Marathon. He was comfortably in the lead until the last quarter mile when he saw a sasquatchian figure thrashing in the woods behind him. A deep, dark force arose in the normally super-chill Mr. Schuster that day, as if his home forest’s spirit willed him to a sprint finish to secure the victory. See below.

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They followed it up by enticing me to run the Hogpen Hill Climb in Helen, GA, baiting me with the built in 5k-18k double dip of the race and that it was all on roads, so how hard could it be? Very, as it turned out. The Yerg (Rob Yerger)  and I battled it out in a ridiculously hilly 5k, and then we both proceeded to die a thousand deaths (and get smoked by both Rick and Dean) in an unholy 11 miler straight up a mountain. They were at least gracious in their victory by treating us to craft beer and pizza. There are few things in my life that those two items can’t help.

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Fast forward back to the Hairy Bison, which requires a little explanation. The “anti-race” is “forever free” and features a 15k (1 Harbison loop )and 30k (2 loops) option, is timed, with awards only going to the top male and female overall winners, thereafter known as Mr. and Ms. Hairy Bison. A pre-race briefing/performance starts the race, with the hopeful appearance of the Bison himself, if, as racers are instructed, “your heart is pure”.

Oh and the bibs. Dean and some graphic artists spend what must be an incredible amount of time designing unique themed bibs for the 200 some-odd runners. They really are works of art. You are given a bib when you arrive at the registration table, and as they say, “you do not choose the bib, the bib chooses you”.  When I showed up about an hour early, I was slightly upset as Laura Stepp informed me I had just missed out on a 38 special themed bib (i.e. one of my fav cheesy 80’s bands) and got the 39 “Thor: ragnorak” themed one. Well, with our chiseled jaws and ripped torsos, Chris Hemsworth and I are always being mistaken for one another, so I guess it fits. I also noted it was a 30k bib, so I guess I was doing 18 miles in the forest that day. I wanted to wuss out and do the 15, but one does not disappoint the Bison and his pagan forest spirit. 30k it would be.

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The prerace ritual was even better than advertised, with an ancient Egyptian theme and “Bisonubis” making an impressive entrance to pharaoh Dean Schusterkhamun and anthropologist Rick Stroud. I was told this was the biggest turnout yet , over 200, with some familiar faces including: Larry Jourdain, MC Cox, Derek Hutton, Jennifer Glass, Betsy Long, Jennifer and Mario Tudor, Joyce Welch, Rob Yerger, Roy Shelley, Brian and Jen (and top dog Tuff)  Clyburn, Pam Walker, Lois Leaburn, Teresa Harrington, Sheila and Ken Bolin, Michael Nance, Kenneth and Brooke Ebener, Tracy and Julie McKinnon, Trey McCain, Marian Nanney, Pete O’Boyle, Harry Strick, Jeff Curran, Bill Seibers, Jennifer and Chris Conrick, Darby Shinn, John and dad Andy Richards, Millie and Connie Hough, Robyn Culberson, David Nance, Jenny Prather, Pamela Knapp, Eme Crawford, Greta Dobe, Mackenzie Wilt, Tug Quarles, Mike and Janice Compton, Steve Rudnicki, Kelly Ghent, Wendy Hart, Stevie Dee, Melinda Petruzzi and Michael Beaudet. And I’m sure I’m missing some. Let’s not forget Adam Feigh, Mr. Hairy Bison 2016, who was returning to retain his title and hopefully break the mythical 2 hour barrier for the 30k. It should also be noted that Tracy, Ebener and Nance started at 5:30 to make this an unofficial 45k. Day-um.

By the time the start rolled around I was pretty chilled even with my CRC hoodie, but I made the snap decision in the first 100 meters to ditch it, which was definitely a good choice. As a roadie, and this not being an official race, my primary objective was to arrive at the finish line, preferably with no entry into the “best blood” category. I started off pretty leisurely and formed a peleton of about 10 with Roy Shelley and Darby Shinn going through the forest after everyone spread out. Fortunately I was at the front, because my fragile ego can’t take it, and no one wants a man the size of a bus breathing down their neck. Unfortunately all my pre-race “marathon in the woods” anxiety and hydration led to an early pit stop about 3 miles in. After using nature’s bathroom, I found myself at the tail end of a long conga line. After being a monkey on some dude’s back for about a half mile, I did a full on charge in the leaves to come back to the front. Again, giant untamed ego, but I’ll also blame the short-stepping angering my rogue right piriformis. After that I was loosened up some, so I decided to pick up the pace purely for the sake of limiting the time on my feet out there. Chris Conrick rode my slipstream for awhile before peeling off himself for a pit stop. Midway through was the aid station, complete with buffalo nickels (to prove you ran the loops, Barkley style) and the Bill and ted’s phone booth from Schusterween. Awesome. I caught up with the Yerg, who was operating on 3 hours of sleep from his overnight shift. The Yerg is a beast. We ran together for several miles before I ramped it up some more in the final miles of lap 1. The Bison makes you run the second loop in reverse, which is really nice since you get to see everyone ahead and behind you. Some random guy comes flying by at about my mile 8, which is a surprise since I wholly expected Adam to be on his own. Feigh wasn’t far behind though, and I figured he was just waiting to drop the hammer. All the faster people coming though hurt my pride a little, so I did ramp it up some more, even though I kept telling myself this was “only a training run”.  Mile 8 featured a random 80’s jambox playing “Jessie’s Girl” , and who can’t feel motivated with some rocking Rick Springfield? Finally I make my way to the finish area and Laura is there to remind me where to turn around. My road racing pride can’t take bailing with all the trail people around, so I head back out for loop 2. Jambox selects some “rock me like a hurricane” this time. Scorpions rawk!  I am actually feeling pretty good by this point, which is surprising to me. All these fall halfs must have actually given me some endurance. The next three miles are great because I get to see everyone behind me. My biggest fear on this loop is getting lost, since it looks completely different the other way. Fortunately I noticed on the first loop that a “pink ribbon fairy” had marked the way on a few tricky intersections, despite the proudly stated “no annoying course markings” stated on the website FAQ. I later found his name by chance, but his secret is safe with me. The “getting lost” fear ramped up when I passed the ruckers (hiking with heavy backpacks) around 4 miles in. I figured no one was behind them so I was on my own. And boy, was I . Dead silent for most of the next couple of miles. I did pass a coupls of guys and two mountain bikers, but mostly just me and the forest. This was nice, except the legs were starting to protest all this fun about 13 miles in. I pick up my second nickel and some water at the now abandoned aid station, and briefly think of taking selfies in the phone booth, but then fear of not being able to get going again. I catch up with some ripped looking younger dude who seems to be having a rough time, barely moving at this point. He tried to ramp it up when he saw the old albino sasquatch catching him, but he was toast. After him there was nothing. The last 4 miles got pretty brutal, I just focused on constant steady forward movement. Unfortunately the feet were developing a deep affection for the roots, and I was tripping 3x as much as the first loop. In an unsurprising coincidence, so were the loud F bombs. I did manage to keep the bus upright though, “blazing” down the trail in just under 10 minute pace. I decided I needed to keep this under 3 hours if I could. Near the end I must have been delirious since I ran out into the front parking lot instead of the education center, but I eventually managed to find my way. I rolled into the finish with like 2:50 on the clock , I believe. My Garmin was off since I forgot to restart it after the second nickel pickup. Not bad – I think my longest run by time since 2016 Boston. The finish area was great with what surely is the best soup ever made and chili. Adam took a nasty fall at mile 12 and had a grapefruit ankle at the finish, yet somehow still finished under 2 hours and finished 2nd by less than a minute. #hardcore.

Oh, and the raffle. TONS of great swag from fleet feet, half-moon, conquest beer, british bulldog pub, among others. British bulldog gave us free beer tickets. I won a yeti-like wine glass from Fleet feet and then came home with the huge $100 gift card from fleet feet as well after renewing my “Friends of Harbison State Forest” membership. All of this followed by some awesome beer at the British Bulldog after party, and it was quite a morning. Big thanks to Dean and Rick for putting this on. It is free but I highly recommend throwing them some cash their way to help support the amazing amount of work they put into the HB. I will be back again!

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SVPC Bizarre 5 and 5 Race for the Build – Columbia, SC – 11/4/17

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The SVPC Bizarre Race for the Build 5 and 5 (5k and 5 miler) is a race dating back 27 years, and despite its small size, is one of the oldest continuous races in the Midlands. Proceeds go to benefit Habitat for Humanity. Of course, I see “small size” and immediately my trophy hunting sense starts tingling. Plus, the race is literally 5 minutes from my house and is run on the ancient, hallowed Blue Shoes training grounds of the Woodlands neighborhood.

I was yearning to do this race since last year. Although it was in the middle of my college mini-reunion weekend and I ran a hung-overish 20:30 something in the 5k, I saw Randy Hrechko bring home the glory in the 5 miler. I should have known by my own trophy hunting rules – the “add on” distance to an established race is always the best bet for the shiny golden trinkets. Through my completely ridiculously encyclopedic race results brain, I knew this race to be ripe for a holy grail (overall win) attempt. Les Boan ran 22 minutes several years ago in the 5k for the win. Hell, even Wesley Spratt won one year when a course misdirect for the leaders gave him the podium.

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There is only one monkey wrench in the trophy hunting equation for this race, and that is one Dr Jeff Brandenburg. The race is held at his church (Spring Valley Presbyterian), even though it’s hard to fathom that someone whose friends call him “Lucifer” goes to a place of worship. Believe me, the nickname is well-earned. Anyway, with his 47-minute Ray Tanner 12k recently, he’s probably a notch faster than me at the moment. But the race brain was engaged and a quick meta-analysis showed he’s never done anything but the 5k. Between Brandenburgian 5ks and Hrechko’s win last year, the 5 miler it would be.

I got there 45 minutes early and there was not a huge crowd, so the trophy hunt was intact initially. Brandenburg made his arrival and luckily my race memory analysis was correct. He was doing the 5k with Kona (his Weimeraner). Things were looking really good for a while, but then Angel showed up. He’s a total wild card in terms of his fitness, so I never know when he’s going to just crush me or if I have a chance. He’s still hating getting Sasquatched in the Revolution Run Half (at mile 12.5) in September, so the target was definitely on my back. We are all talking about another epic showdown when Ediberto  “Trackstar Eddie” Crisanto shows up to crush the dreams of two old men. This was going to be a battle  for 2nd, not the holy grail.

Jennifer Lybrand + Wilson, Geary McAlister, the whole McGrievy clan (Matt, Brie, Sabine, Quentin), Mario and Jennifer Tudor, Arnold Floyd, Peter Mugglestone, Brigitte Smith, Henry Holt, Chaplain John Houser, Lisa and Jesse Smarr, Kerry Stubbs, Michelle Parnell, Barb Brandenburg, Lisa King, Leeds Barroll, Rocky Soderberg, Kerry Stubbs, Ron and Helene Lipe, Dave Hale were some of the familiar faces. High school/med school friend James McCallum with his two daughters, my Palmetto 200 teammate David McNeice and neighbor Danna Fields were also either volunteering or racing as part of their ties to SVPC.

I wasn’t sure about my strategy for this race, now that the holy grail was off the table. I did the 5 miler once before on a similar trophy hunt in 2015, where Kenneth Vowles showed up and left me for dead. I did take 2nd in around 32 minutes, so I thought I remembered the course as pretty decent. The first 1.5 miles of the 5k and 5 miler are the same, and I knew there were some nasty hills in that initial shared section.

The start to this race is pretty unique. There are actually 2 separate start lines, with the 5k start about 50 meters ahead of the 5 miler. As predicted, the 5  miler field was slim, with only about 30 people. With the start, Eddie takes off like a man possessed and immediately leaves us all. With my trophy dreams crushed, I just try to make an honest effort. Angel is on a mission, however, and blasts pretty hard out of the gate. There’s a little congestion early on as the two fields start to mix, but with a total number of maybe 70 people, navigation really isn’t a problem. The first half mile is pretty flat. There’s a 40ish guy taller than me suddenly running beside me early on who looks pretty fit, so I’m already worried of barely placing in my age group much less the overall win. Turns out the guy is Kristopher Dempster, who I’ve seen many times in the results but never placed the name with the person. I draft off of him or awhile before surging to make sure Angel isn’t too far ahead. The route heads off Valhalla and turns on to Hogan’s Run, which is a semicircle of suck. Sure, you get to plunge down for a nice downhill, but you end up paying for it on the other end with a multi-tiered mountain climb that destroys your will to live almost immediately. I reach the top of Hogan’s hell and I know to go straight this time and not let a confused volunteer lead me back to a 13 minute “5k” , which resulted in the top 10 being  DQ’d and Wesley Spratt’s infamous victory.

Mile 1 was 6:33 or something, which was OK by me. I’m not feeling particularly strong and my heart really isn’t in it. Angel started out pretty fast though, so maybe I can catch him. I‘m also trying to make sure Dempster doesn’t get any ideas about slaying the Sasquatch. A couple of tough hills on Fenrir and Norse Way, and the courses split around 1.5 miles at the front of Woodlands Country Club. Like 2015, after the split I am entirely on my own. There’s a crazy roller coaster downhill on Wotan but then a nice flat and downhill for the next couple of miles. It feels really weird, since I run these roads fairly frequently for training and the only difference is the bib. Pretty tough to maintain pace as Angel has a huge lead by now. Miles 2 and 3 are 6:43, 6:39 and I try not to think I just did a 10k in 6:23 pace 2 months ago. To be fair, though, the Dam Run course is WAY easier than this one.

I don’t fully appreciate this until the 4th mile.  I somehow deluded myself into believing the rest of the course was gently rolling, but this was not the case. Mile 4 greets you with nasty hill that brings you to a crawl pretty quickly. There’s some random jogger on the course and it feels like I’m barely passing her on this lactic acid bath section. I finally get to the top and see I’ve actually made some ground on Angel, though it would probably take a bonk of epic proportions for me to catch him with just over a mile to the finish. Mile 4 slowed to 6:45 with the killer hill. With a well-known, fairly flat stretch to the finish, I try to muster somewhat of a kick. But I don’t sense anyone behind me, and with Angel probably uncatchable, the motivation isn’t quite there. It is nice to meet up again with the 5k course and run with some of the 30ish minute 5kers for a while, a welcome break from my breathless solo “training” run.  As I approach the finish, I see I’m not even going to break 33 minutes, so the spectators were not treated to one of my headless chicken kicks. I cross the line in 33:16, good enough for 3rd place. 2nd in age group/masters behind Angel.  My only solace was that apparently I was taking up residence in Angel’s head the whole time and pushing him to some post race pukage for fear of getting Blue Shoed. You’re welcome, Angel.

There were some results issues with the two races, but apparently a kid named Fernando Castro beat down Brandenburg for the overall win in the 5k with a 19:31. His dad Carlos took 3rd.  Michelle Parnell continues her strong return to racing with the women’s win. Apparently all mental health providers in the Columbia area are prone towards the racing obsession. Multi-time champion Barb Brandenburg settled for 2nd while Brie McGrievy trophy hunted well to take 3rd.  5k age groupers: Sabine McGrievy won the 2-10 girls. Danna Fields was 3rd in the 40-44 women.  Jim Williams and the indestructible Dave Hale took the top 2 in the 55-59, while Lisa King won among the women. Helene and Ron Lipe were champs of the 60-64. Alex Ponomarev and Leeds Barroll claimed the 65-69 podium, while Rocky Soderberg win the 70+.

In the 5 miler, Eddie won in 28:24 with no competition. Angel took 2nd. Jennifer Lybrand may have been pushing Wilson but still won the women’s race by about 6 minutes. Cheryl Monroe and Jane McCallum finished 2nd and 3rd.

5  miler age groupers:  Quentin Mcgrievy claimed the 2-10 boys. Kris Dempster placed 3rd in age group and 4th overall. Don’t tell me my age group isn’t brutal. Just ask 4th place AG/7th OA Matt Mcgrievy.  Jennifer Tudor and Kerry Stubbs took top 2 in the 45-49 women. Lisa Smarr won the 55-59 group with Geary McAlister taking top honors in the 60-64. John Houser and Brigitte Smith were champions of the 65-69. Arnold Floyd and Peter Mugglestone won the 70-74, while Henry Holt and Jesse Smarr claimed the 75+.

 

NW YMCA Pumpkin Run 5k – Irmo, SC – 10/28/17

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The Pumpkin Run has been a fixture on the Tour de Columbia for years, and has usually been a part of my personal race calendar as well. It was actually one of my better 5ks from the rookie year of my obsession, landing me one of my first top 10’s. Granted it was over 22 minutes and a total trophy hunt, but that’s never stopped me from blowing up my own ego before. Over the years, I realized the course was pretty brutal and on the long side of the certified range, so I skipped it. However, Erin Roof lured me back with great race swag, a masters division and a costume contest.

2009 results: http://sc.milesplit.com/meets/63026/results/110365/raw#.Wfh-kVtSyJA

Costumes, of course, play right into my attention whore tendencies. And since I wasn’t going to set any records on this course in regular clothes, why not give it a go in full cosplay mode. Most people would run in a costume for fun, but since I know no other mode than “maniacally competitive”, I have always tried to see how fast I can go. The pinnacle of cosplay speed was definitely the 2017 Bunny Hop, where somehow I pulled a 20:21 in a seven-foot lava-hot rabbit costume. I don’t think I have ever sweated as much before or since. But hey, my usual sense of pride by blue shoeing thin and fit people is magnified 10 fold when they get passed by a chunky Sasquatch…dressed as a giant bunny.

While the bunny costume was a “gift” from Erin, I have tried to actually pick costumes for myself that are at least somewhat more runnable. My first Pumpkin run costume attempt in 2015 was an admittedly lame Hulk outfit that was mostly a mask and an ill-fitting green nylon shirt that was supposed to give me muscles. Since it was like size XXL it mostly looked like a dress. Hulk appeared to be dying of some terminal disease, or had just undergone gastric bypass. I ran like a quarter mile with the mask and had to abort since I couldn’t breathe through the two tiny air holes at mid 6 pace. Go figure. After the mask was gone it was pretty much a regular race. With masters money on the line, I caught Angel about 2.5 miles in, and we had one of the most epic battles ever to the finish. He kicked my arse on the final incline and my blue shoe kick was just not enough. I crossed literally one second behind Angel in 19:57, though I did make sure to “put the mask back on” for the finish photo.

Last year was my Egyptian pharaoh year, and my first, and perhaps my last, attempt at wearing makeup. The race went pretty well – the headdress and arm shields were insanely hot but at least my legs were fine. My golden staff couldn’t handle the arm pumping of the blue shoe kick though and broke in half only a quarter mile from the finish. Still got a rare “double” win of masters and 2nd in the costume contest. It seems I’m definitely at a disadvantage in costume contests with kids and attractive women. That’s probably because adult men in costume are just inherently creepy. And I’m probably not helping that stereotype.

This year I almost went as a gladiator, but was told it was too much like the pharaoh from last year. I was looking for something from Game of Thrones, and the Party City “Viking” was pretty close. With fur leggings (think Olivia Newton john 1982 physical video leg warmers) and fur sleeves, this thing looked cool but was hotter than Hades. But it had the critical shorts/dress like lower half that would make it race worthy. Improbably, the Viking horn headpiece must have been made to fit Andre the Giant because it actually fit my gargantuan cranium, even a little loosely.

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On the way to the race I had a terrible realization. I had left my Viking battleaxe! It’s embarrassing to describe my profound disappointment at this fact. Just crushing firstworld problems. I get to the race about 45 minutes early, and my costume contest dreams were even further crushed almost immediately. One of the female volunteers was directing parking with THE EXACT SAME COSTUME. Oh, the shame. At least she wasn’t running. I tried doing a little warmup in the suit but I was going to have to save the effort for the race, because it got hot in a hurry. Plus, my Korean restaurant/beer/late night Superchunk concert in Charlotte routine the night before was wreaking havoc on me. Luckily I knew the secret bathroom in the Irmo Y (I’ll never tell!). Let’s just say pre-race pooping in full costume requires some delicate maneuvering.

Initially the crowd was looking trophy huntish and I was already second guessing my costume run. Luckily Sean Marden, Joseph Kiprotich, and Trey McCain showed up to make sure I didn’t think the holy grail was up for grabs. Angel showed up last second to try and repeat his 2015 masters win. Sara Bonner, Johnathan Kirkwood, 8-year-old phenom Kendra Miles, Roy Shelley, Tommy, Thomas and Cheryl Outlaw, Alex Ponomarev, Arnold Floyd, Leeds Barroll, Jessalyn Smith, Ronda Sanders, Christina McCarty, Heather Hawn, Stephanie Dukes, Luci and Jeff Smith, Alfred Baquiran, Hou-Yin Chang, Sue and Rich Weaver were some familiar faces.

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The start was pretty fast since there were a ton of kids racing. A lot of these little guys/girls were sporting Storm track team and team Utopia Youth shirts, so I knew they were no joke. There’s a flat stretch in the parking lot, a slight incline to the road above, then a nice flat to downhill stretch almost to the first mile mark. Maybe it was the late night and dehydration but I was not feeling it from the get-go. Ginormous Viking horn helmet was already falling off so I just grabbed it in my hand. I was getting the beat down by a lot of people, including several kids, even as we approached the mile 1 mark. Felt rough, but I felt better when the Garmin gave me a 6:27 split. Being a veteran of probably 6 other Pumpkin runs, I knew the worst was about to come. Sure enough, the misery starts right before the mile mark and seems to last forever. Multiple tiers of unrelenting hill. This is where little Alex cursed my name for getting him to run this in 2013. My pace had gone to crap, but I was making up serious ground on the field. All those trips up Laurel St from Riverfront park in 95 degree heat were starting to pay dividends. Some serious wind  suckage was going on though. I was surprised not to see Trey and Sean coming back down as I neared the top, and I wondered what was going on. Finally I crest the last of the tiers and see why… The turnaround, which is supposed to be just over the top, was all the way down to the next intersection where Firetower rd ends. I’m in a bout of internal cursing as I see the painted white turnaround point for the last 10+ years of this race. Since everybody was doing the incorrect route, and a giant Viking cutting off the course wasn’t going to be subtle, I decided just to go with this new 5.2k.

As I rounded the turn, I had made up some ground on Angel but I knew he was going to torch the downhill. With masters seemingly out of reach I focused on one thing…not getting chicked by someone still in elementary school. Normally this isn’t a problem, but one of the Storm girls was leading the women’s race. She looked like a typical 5th grader except she was effortlessly bounding down the course with some ripped legs, so I knew my pride was definitely going to be threatened. I tried to burn it on the way back down, but staying for the encore in Charlotte and that last craft IPA were also starting to pay dividends. Mile 2 was, as usual, way off pace with a 6 fifty something. I do like out and backs since it lets you see the rest of the field. The costume game this year was way stronger than in years past. My personal favorite was Larry the Dr Pepper guy. Just after the two mile mark I finally pass mini Kara Goucher, but I’m still petrified of getting beat down by someone still trick or treating. I’m dying towards the end, especially when the decline ends and we have to make up the downhill of the opening stretch. I catch some teenage guy who is not liking getting Viking-ed one bit. He surges and repasses me but then dies on the same hill Angel beat me down on in 2015.  Mile 3 goes off at the start of the same hill, so I’m guessing at least 3.25 miles in this one. Angel is still in sight but there’s nothing left in the tank and not enough real estate. I blast out a kick just to make sure the 11 year old girl doesn’t shame me at my own game. Finish is 21:09. Garmin had 3.23 miles and 6:33 pace, so probably around 20:20 for 3.11.  Ended up 2nd in AG behind Angel, though actually 3rd since 40 yo Ross Shealy  nipped Angel at the line by 2 seconds for the masters win. Still got the unofficial “fastest costume” award, though was beat out by Wonder Woman for the best costume prize.

In the overall, Trey McCain held off Sean Marden for the win in 18:42 (again probably more like 18 flat for the 5k). Joseph Kiprotich took 3rd so a good day for Team Utopia South (2nd and 3rd).  Abigail White was the mini Kara Goucher in question and she took 1st female, 21:18 and all of 11 years old. Wow. Mackenzie Johnson was 2nd and Allison Spirek 3rd.

Heather Hawn won female masters along with Shealy’s male win.

Age groupers: Kendra Miles won the 10 and under girls, running 22:34 on the long course. Her brother Tyler won the male division in 21:48. Sara Bonner took the women’s 35-39. Angel won 1st in the 40-44 men, while Christina McCarty won 3rd among the women. Johnathan Kirkwood easily won the 45-49 without his nemesis Randy Hrechko to challenge him. Kevin Potts and Roy Shelley were top 2 in a fast 50-54 group. Sue Weaver was 2nd in the 50-54 women. Jeff Smith won 3rd among the 55-59 men. It was a good day for Team Outlaw, with Tommy and Cheryl both claiming top spots in the 60-64 groups. Alex Ponomarev and Leeds Barroll paced the 65-69 men, while Arnold Floyd, Henry Holt and Rich Weaver provided an all CRC sweep of the 70+. Rich gets extra points for racing in the CRC hoodie for sure.

https://racesonline.com/events/ymca-pumpkin-run-5k/results/2017?utf8=%E2%9C%93&category_id=11792&age_group_id=&gender=&search_term_display=&commit=Search

Revolutionary Run Half Marathon – Camden, SC – 9/23/17

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So I’m definitely a short track kind of racer. I’ll take 20 (or hopefully less) minutes of lung busting frenzy in a 5k any day over a long slog like the marathon. That being said, I do have a special place in my heart for the half. It’s long enough to make it a challenge, knowing you can’t go all out, but short enough to race without feeling like the rest of the weekend is toast. Racing a half is tough but always feels infinitely better than the torture I put myself through in the shorter distances.

My goal race is usually just whatever is next weekend, but since I signed up for the Kiawah Half Marathon way in advance, I guess that technically makes it the goal for the fall. Looking at our Tour de Columbia for the fall (www.columbiarunningclub.com), we have a half every month in Sept/Oct/Nov, so I figured what better way to help me train than 3 dress rehearsals for the real thing in Kiawah in December.

First up: the Revolutionary Run Half in Camden. It’s a first year event, though Eggplant and Erin Roof were involved, so I knew this would be well done. I’ve done a few long runs in Camden, the last being in 2012 training for the Richmond marathon, so I knew I it to be pretty flat. That was good, since it’s super early in my half training, and September in SC is never cold. What was best for me is that it was free. I agreed to help promote the Get to the Green 5k in a very early morning live spot on WIS TV in March, so Erin agreed to give me a free registration to an Eggplant event in exchange. Of course, my ego gets fed by any media coverage, so that was probably unnecessary. Still, 4:30 am is rough even for grandiose attention whores, and I think registration was 65 bucks, so I took it.

Waking up Saturday morning I usually question many of my race decisions, but jumping into a half with minimal training with an early 7:30 start in Camden really had me cursing myself. Not to mention my decision to eat wings and drink beer with Trophy the night before. Why not just drop a grenade in my colon.

I got to Camden at about 6:45 and it’s still dark outside, and I’m still in a fog from my 5 am wake up call and being lulled into a stupor by the ride. Pulled the pin on the colonic grenade and then got a chance to actually look at the course. Holy turns, Batman. There was no way I was going to remember this thing. I was half-nervous about this potentially turning into a trophy hunt. Eric and Sarah Allers and Angel Manuel were the competition I spotted early on, but didn’t see anybody else that could clearly take the win. At some point in time, though, Plexico made an appearance. My only hope was Ryan taking one of his classic road trips off the course, but nobody wants to win like that (well, unless you’re Wesley Spratt) .

The Camden -Lugoff contingent had a good turnout with Heather Costello, Whitney Keen, Andrew Lipps, Mark Chickering, Melinda Cashion, Amanda Holland, Betsy Long, Kaye Sostak, and Nancy McKnight. Angel, Terrell Burch, Jeryl Graham and Yvonne Murray-Bowles were representing Montkemba/Palmetto Runners. RWB had Michael Beaudet, Matthew Berube, Teresa Shelton, Carrie Miller and Kerry Stubbs among others. Pace running from Greenville had David Spark, Denise Bryson and Chris Ferland. Other CRC/familiar faces included Michael Jensen, Jim Williams, Carol Wallace, Tommy and Thomas and Cheryl Outlaw, Ron Hagell, Jennifer Reeves, Shenequa Coles, Bill Iskrzak, Geary McAlister, and Larry Bates.

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I wasn’t sure what my strategy would be in this race. I had originally planned on a sub 1:30. However, my post Dam Run 10k runs had felt like death, and it didn’t help my little disease vectors, I mean children, were passing around a low grade bug all week. Temps were already in the mid 60’s my race time, with highs predicted in the high 80’s.

But hey, my melon head had grown 3 sizes since the sub 40 10k , so 1:29 would be a cake walk., right?

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Start was like a jolt since they fired one of the revolutionary musket replicas. Plex took off and left the field pretty much immediately. I settled back and figured I’d target 6:50 something to get started (1:30 is 6:52 pace). A lot of people jumped out ahead but I told myself I was going to be smart and not kill myself right off the bat. I ran along with Whitney Keen, who was doing his first half. He had told me a 1:35 goal but I figured he would do way under that. I’m talking him most of the first mile when my Garmin split pops up for mile 1. 7:15. DAMN IT. I’m only a mile in and I’m way, way off pace. I look ahead and see Heather Costello, Angel and Eric about 50 meters ahead. Yep, that’s where I’m supposed to be. Crap. I try picking up the pace some. It initially feels OK, but I’m not making a whole lot of ground on the pack ahead. Mile 2 comes back in 7:05. Way to blaze it, hero. Already going 35 seconds into debt against my goal. Ramp it up a little more. Mile 2-3 is straight on 601/Broad St right through the center of Camden. I thought it was dead flat. My lungs and legs now inform me that it is actually a long, slow incline. I may be headed north but things seem to be going south in a hurry. Just not feeling it. Mile 3 seems to take forever and it’s still over pace at 7:00. Not much closer to the pack, but at least I’m not losing time to them. A guy and Costello have fallen off a bit, while Angel is still in sight. Eric has gone on ahead. We finally turn off Broad near mile 4 (another 7:00). There seem to be some pretty historic homes and stuff, but I’m just focused on trying to keep this race from imploding. We end up on a long stretch on some gravel road at some point soon thereafter and we finally get some downhill for a bit. I manage to click off a couple of 6:52 miles for 5 and 6, my first on-pace splits. But there is definitely not going to be a heroic, fast finish. In fact, everything feels terrible. The heat is definitely a factor, but the legs also have no spring. I had seriously thought about bailing around mile 4, but the eject button felt even closer 6 and a half miles in and realizing you’re not even half done. There is a little loop starting right at mile 7 near Kendall lake, and before I can even get there, Plex comes flying towards me the other way. Dude is killing it. Nobody anywhere near him. The loop has a couple of nasty little hills and by the time I get out myself I’m a little afraid that I might have to pull the plug again – head feels like a good pass out on the side of the road might be nice. But I can’t bail on the corner where Whitney’s wife Caroline and daughter Julia is cheering, plus I don’t want Whitney himself beating me. Fortunately for me, everyone else is not having the best time either.  I hit a long straightaway  near mile 8 and I finally catch the dude from the back of the Costello/angel/eric pack. Heather is right ahead and I just try to keep up with her. Miles 8 and 9 were 7:16 and 7:21, just trying to finish at this point. After the mile 9 marker is a long, slight decline mirroring the reverse of the 601 climb. For the first time since mile 2, I start to feel OK again. Not great, but well enough to feel like maybe I’ll finish. At some point, Heather can’t take the giant Sasquatch huffing and puffing behind her and I pull ahead, no one really in sight at this point.

Just as I pass Heather though, I hear heavy footsteps and I just know Whitney is about to kick my ass. I look to the side and some random guy has decided he’s going to kick it in like right then. I tell him to go get it, figuring he may fizzle out, since its not even mile 10, but he just destroys me on the straightaway. Mile 10 and 11 are both around 7:06, and by the 11 mile mark I can see Angel and some kid running side by side. I’m slowly making up the gap, but they are pretty far ahead. With the end near, I try to ramp up the effort a little, but not too much, lest I decide to wander into pass out mode again. Mile 12 comes back in 7 flat and I can see all we have left is a little bit of road followed by a loop in Revolutionary Park. Some part of me wants to mail in the last mile and stroll across the line. The other part sees Angel and the kid ripe for  a good blue shoeing. If you know me or read this blog, you know which side won out.

As soon as we hit the park, I start shifting into overdrive. Angel may sense a Sasquatch  in his midst since he leaves the kid and surges ahead. I overtake the kid pretty quickly, then he passes me back as we all three fly down a hill in the dirt. As soon as we hit the bottom of the hill, the course starts looping back and the sand content of the trail suddenly seems to increase 10 fold. Feels like I’m out with the kids on the playground. Its miserable as we start the trudge back towards the finish, but Angel is not more then 10 meters ahead. Time to go all in . Chips get pushed on the table and out comes the headless chicken. I catch Angel and give it everything I have up the hill. Suddenly I feel like Lando Calrissian being sucked in by the sand monster.

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Feels like I’m running in place while my lungs struggle to free themselves from my chest. Where’s Han with his blaster??  By the time I hit the road I’m pretty much toast, but I’m deathly afraid of Angel or the kid catching me back. About 200 meters of road to the finish. Near the last block or so, I can see the clock in the 1:31’s. One last surge and I manage to the get just under 1:32 with a 1:31:53.

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OK, so far from my best effort, but on this day its about as good as I could have hoped for, especially with seriously debating dropping out several times. Good enough for second master behind Eric Allers, who did a 1:30:27.  Not a lot of fast times with the heat. Whitney did kill his goal with a 1:32:54 for his first half – very nice. I felt terrible for all the runners coming over 2 hours because I swear it was 10+ degrees hotter not more than a half hour after I finished. I was taking pics at the top of sand monster and got dehydrated just standing there. Luckily they had beer at the finish, which aided with my “recovery”. I look very classy clutching a trophy and a bud light with my official race photo.

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Credit: Johnny Deal photography

In the overall, Ryan Plexico torched the field for the win in 1:20:40, followed by Mark Truesdale and Robert Wiley. In the women’s race, Heather Costello easy took the win in 1:33:56, with Suzanna Hall and Lesley Lavasser also placing.  In female masters, Sarah Allers won by over 9 minutes, with Laura Pratt 2nd and Khamphiou Boualapha 3rd. Eric Allers won male masters in 1:30 and change, with me and Angel filling out the podium.

Age group honors: Grant Maree from Camden high was the kid in my showdown with Angel in the park – he took 1st in the 15-19. Thomas Outlaw was 2nd in the 30-34 men, while Jeryl Graham placed 3rd among the women. Whitney Keen was 1st in the 45-49 in his first HM. Terrell Burch and Mark Chickering took the top 2 50-54 men, while Melinda Cashion was 2nd among the women. Larry Bates crushed the 55-59. Geary McAlister  won the 60-64 by a half hour.  Carol Wallace won the women’s 60-64 by over 10 minutes. David Spark rocked a 1:37 at age 68, has to be the best age-graded time of the day.  Bill Iskrzak placed 2nd. Lynn Grimes won the women’s 65-69 only by an hour and 17 minutes. Close one! Ron Hagell was champ of the 70+.  Special props to Kaye Sostak  and Nancy McKnight, who double dipped with another half on Sunday in Charlotte. Hardcore!

https://connect.garmin.com/modern/activity/1995529418

http://racesonline.com/events/revolutionary-run/results/2017/dashboard

Lake Murray Dam Run 10k – Irmo, SC – 9/16/17

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The 10k is my nemesis.

Twice the length of a 5k and roughly half a half marathon, I’ve never been comfortable with the distance. And in case you needed any proof, you can just look at my 10k times. Granted, there aren’t many of them, since I’m always trophy hunting in the 5k undercard, but the ones that do exist mostly suck.

My first 6.2 miler was the Dam Run 10k in 2009, where I ran just a shade over 45 minutes, which wasn’t too bad at the time.

http://sc.milesplit.com/meets/59102/results/99882/raw#.WcFd0GeWxts

I followed it up with the Habitat for Humanity 10k, known for its nightmarish hills, and caught my first case of race walksies en route to 52 minutes. Did the Lexington Race against Hunger and managed an uninspired 43 minutes. At some point in 2010, I wrote down some running goals, including a sub 19 5k, sub 1:30 half, BQ marathon and a sub 40 10k. My first attempt at the sub 40 was again at the 2010 Dam Run, where I tried to keep up with Amy McDonough and Megan Weis in the first mile (6:18)  and suffered an epic bonk for the ages. Just look at that surrender cobra:

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http://sc.milesplit.com/meets/83388/results/145240/raw#.WcFcA2eWxts

I think the 42:11 was still a PR but nowhere near what I should have been doing by all the running calculators. Plus, I got blue shoed in the home stretch by Tigs and the Yerg. After that I think I was too scared to even try and push it in a 10k. I’ve run a bunch of 41-42 minute races, with my best a 40:38 at my only Cooper River Bridge run in 2013. My reward was falling off a cliff 3 months later. In the meantime, all of the above goals were met years ago. For some reason I just couldn’t it make it happen in the 10k. My 12k PR actually was right at 40 min 10k pace, and technically the last 6.2 miles were 39 something, but that doesn’t count.

So when I filled out my Team Utopia South goals this year, there was really only one: get that 39:59.

First try: A crushing repeat of another 42:11 at the Get in the Pink. This was becoming my personal white whale. And I wasn’t even in the same zipcode as Moby Dick.

So that leads me back to try number 2.

A return to my first 10k, the Dam Run to Irmo, now in its 31st year. It’s obviously been around forever, and I even used to own a 1990 Dam Run shirt from high school. I think I volunteered or something because I sure as hell didn’t run it. The cool thing leading up to this race was a major course change. Instead of 2 hilly neighborhood loops, the new course simply leads you across the dam, onto Bush River Rd, and then into Saluda Shoals park, with the finish in the new part of the park at the St Andrews Rd entrance.

I came into this race feeling pretty decent about my fitness, and the Labor Day 5 miler felt like I could have gone the extra 1.2 to at least PR the 10k. So my plan was to basically go all in and chase the white whale from the start. No negative splits like I usually do, just go out in 6:20 and change and keep it below the magical 6:26 the whole time. This was undoubtedly going to hurt.

I got to the finish line super early since they were actually busing us to the start this time instead of the reverse. Having ridden several of those hotbox stinkfests at the finish in the past, this was definitely an upgrade. They also were offering a timed but awardless 5k this year, and they didn’t have to catch the early bus ride (out and back loop in the park). I was already wondering if a trophy hunt in the undercard would have been a better idea. But hey, you cant have a trophy hunt without a trophy.

Got to the Lexington dam about a half hour before the start time and the place was crawling with beasts. Michael Banks, Ricky Flynn, Striggles, Ashton, Plex, Trackstar Eddie – this was not going to be slow. Women’s field had Shawanna, Caitlin Batten  Joy Miller, Erin Miller and MC Cox, so plenty of fast ladies as well. Outside of Striggles, I didn’t see any of my usual age group foes. No Angel, no Gomez, no Code, no Toby Selix. Nance was still on the DL from his separated shoulder and Drew Williams was exactly 39 years and 364 days old, so it looked pretty good as long as OJ could snag a masters podium. Still, so many fit and fast people were milling about that I couldn’t rule out a random soccer dad trying to show me up.

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Good TUS turnout with Chris Fawver, Mario Alvarez, Carol Wallace, Sam Hilliard, Roy Shelley, Tug Quarles, Sara Bonner, and Sean Marden on hand. Justin was sitting this one out with Tunnels to Towers the night before. Strictly had Erin, MC, Jen Lybrand, Banks, Drew, Plex and Matt Pollard.  Jesse Harmon, Kristin Cattieu, Pete O’Boyle, Brigitte Smith, Jeannette Farr, Peter Mugglestone, Henry Holt, Kerry Stubbs and Jessalyn Smith were some other familiar faces. Rocky, Gasque and Johnathan Kirkwood were undercarding it in the 5k.

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The start, as you might expect, was blazing. But at least you can’t beat the dam for being flat. I had planned for a 6:20 something first mile, but it was really hard to judge with so many blazing fast people ahead of me. I had MC right in front of me, so I figured that might be a decent marker for pace. It felt pretty rough right off the bat, but I figured it would have to feel that way to be fast enough. Mile 1 is still on the dam and comes through in 6:21, which I guessed was pretty ideal. Didn’t give me much leeway though.

The latter part of the dam drifts slowly downhill and I could see the cop car way up ahead – the lead guys had to be doing way under 5 minute pace. For quite a while I break free of my pack until I start catching up with a younger guy at the turn onto Bush River. Just when I catch up to him I start hearing footsteps and Jesse Harmon comes up beside us. We all pass through the two mile mark together, my split at 6:23. The course starts rolling at this point, but I feel surprisingly good now that I’m actually adequately warmed up. Gotta stop doing my 1 mile hobby jog as my pre-race routine.

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Jesse appears to be trying to drop me but I latch on like an oversized albino monkey. The other dude drops off when we hit one of the hills. Having just suffered through the mountains of the Blue Ridge, these bumps hardly qualify as hills anymore. Plus the course is a net downhill, so plenty of recovery on the flip side of these inclines. I’m feeling it now and I start to apply a little gas. Mile 3 comes back in 6:16, and I start to wonder if my giant ego is starting to get the best of me. I can’t calculate exactly, but I figure I’ve just run about a 19:40ish 5k. Now I just have to do another one. Great.

The 4th mile is basically a carbon copy of the 3rd. Rolling hills on Bush River. Jesse and I are attached at the hip. Plex told me mile 4 is right at the Saluda Shoals entrance, and sure enough the Garmin goes off at 6:18 right near the sign. Somehow I’ve just set a 4 mile PR and passed Erin Miller at the same time, so clearly I’m either in the midst of the race of my life or about to implode.

It sure feels like the latter as we enter the park. Going up an incline past the entrance booth, the sun hits you in your face and the good feeling from Bush River rd has definitely left the building. We hit a mass of cones that seem to make no sense, which I eventually surmise is the 5k turnaround. Suddenly we take a turn into the woods, with roots and dirt, and I’m desperately trying to navigate without busting my ass. We then empty out onto a concrete paved trail which I recognize from running the Sweet Baby O 5k a few weeks ago.

And damn it is starting to hurt big time. Legs are beginning to feel a little Jello-ish and lungs are wanting to come out of my chest. The pain train has officially been boarded, and I’m not sure if I like its destination at his point. Mile 5 in 6:29 (also a 5 mile PR of 31:50) but I freak out because its over pace. Jesse is still riding me and pulls a step ahead. I fight like hell to try and stay in his draft, though unless William Schmitz comes back to Columbia, no one is an adequate draft for my Sasquatch physique.

But its 1.2 miles to go, and as Tenacious J is wont to say, how hard could it be? Very, as it turns out. As we weave through the winding turns of the park trail, I keep begging for it to open up to the finishing stretch. I am desperately hoping that the course isn’t the same as Sweet Baby O. That finish takes you away from the finish and drops you down a hill only to make you climb straight back up…on gravel.

I am really running on fumes at this point but I finally see an opening up ahead. We pass another guy who I swear is age grouper Anthony Ortaglia, and it freaks me out again (turns out it was just a race hallucination) . As I near the open space, I also make out an arrow. Pointing down the damn hill. %#*!! I flop down the gravel road basically with Jesse still on my shoulder. Once we make the turn though, I pull a David Banner green-eyed transition to an albino Hulk and go completely nuts.  I ignore the mile split, knowing its ugly, (bleeding time with a 6:37) and throw down whatever I have. I see Nance spectating and he looks scared at what he’s witnessing. The finish is pure uphill but I’m flopping about in full sprint towards the finish. I can make out the clock as the gravel turns to pavement. My heart sinks as I swear I can see it at 39:50 or something. As I come closer though, I realize it’s a 38! I am fixated on those red numbers and take a few more steps deeper into the pain cave, blasting through in 39:26. YESSSSSS!

It takes me almost a minute to be able to stand up again after my typical ugly race-face crash out collapse over the line. But I’m as giddy as a schoolgirl. Seven years after my first try, at my “hometown” 10k. PR’d by a minute and 12 seconds, and most importantly, a 39 at the front of that time. Pretty sweet.

In the overall, Ricky Flynn and Michael Banks had a battle royale for the title, with Flynn edging Banks 30:25 to 30:42, both under 5 minute pace. Smokin! Flynn has been tearing up the tri circuit with a bunch of sub 15 5k times off the bike and a 1:11 half at the 70.3 worlds in Chattanooga. Banks is the 12k state record holder and just came off a 7 month layoff, so both of these guys will probably get even faster. Frank Devar took 3rd in 32:17.

Shawanna White crushed a new PR and won the women’s race again, running 36:04. Her friend Joy Miller finished just behind her, also with a PR in 36:21. Julie Weimerslage placed third in 37:14.

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Age group: Ediberto “trackstar Eddie” Crisanto took 2nd in the 20-24. Sean Marden took 3rd in an unbelievably competitive 25-29 with a sub 6 pace 36:53. Plex won the 35-39 in 35:34. Jen Lybrand posted a post-baby PR in 43:57 and took 3rd in the 30-34. Caitlin Batten was 1st in 37:58. Drew Williams and Jesse Harmon took the top 2 in the 35-39, while Kristin Cattieu and Sara Bonner did the same among the women. Striggles won the 40-44 men, with the Sasquatch 2nd. Erin Miller and MC Cox went 1-2 among the 40-44 women. Jeannette Farr and Heather Hawn placed the top two in the 45-49 women. Ashton took tops in the 45-49 men, with Anthony Hernandez 2nd and fellow psychiatrist-runner Biemann Otherson third. Phil togneri, Roy Shelley and Tom Lance filled the podium in the 50-54 men. Cynthia Arrowwood from Hartsville ran a blazing 46:37 in the 50-54 women, good enough for the age group win by over 12 minutes, would have also placed 2nd among the same age men. Mario Alvarez and Tug Quarles took the top spots in the 55-59 men. Pete O’Boyle crushed the 60-64 competition by 13 minutes by registering a 43:34. Not to be outdone, Carol Wallace destroyed the women’s 60-64 by 19 minutes with a 50:48. Peter Mugglestone and Henry Holt took top honors in the 65-98 men, while Brigitte Smith won 2nd in the 65-98 women. I really think they need to have age groups through 75, by the way.

Lets not forget the 5k. They didn’t offer awards in this race, which I think is kinda lame, but at least it was timed. FYI, these guys will get tour de Columbia points. Advanced level trophy hunter Johnathan Kirkwood was 2nd overall in 21:16. John Gasque was 2nd in the 55-59. Ron Lipe won the 60-64. Pete Poore was 2nd in the 65-69, while Rocky sprinted his finishing kick to place 1st in the 75+ age group.

 

 

Blue Ridge Relay – Grayson Highlands, Va to Asheville, NC – 9/8-9/9/17 – Part II

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After we handed off to Van 2, we had several hours to kill, which ended up being fortunate since the place we went to in Boone for lunch took like an hour and a half to eat. The rest of my van apparently isn’t keen on hipster brewpubs like myself, so my choice was not a popular one. Especially when they left Julie waiting for a pizza 15 minutes after the rest of us were served. Damn you, Lost Province Brewery. At least Geary got to see his daughter who had just started at App State.

We were still able to make it to the start of Leg 12 in plenty of time for our second set of legs. Kim came rolling in all of a sudden, blasting out what looked like a sub 6 pace kick at the end of her 8.4 miles. Geary took off on a leg mostly on the parkway, so we had to skip ahead to the next exchange zone (Vans aren’t allowed on the parkway except for the last leg). The next exchange zone is one of the big van turnover sites, at least for regular teams with 12 members. It was cool to see almost all of the faster teams at one site. Lots of totally ripped beasts milling about making me feel particularly Sasquatchy. Speaking of beasts, local elite Shawanna White was running with JITMO, a mixed team out of Charlotte. She apparently ran a few miles off track on her first leg so she was none too happy about that. Her team was still in the race for the mixed lead though.

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Geary tore up his leg and handed off to Dan for what is my favorite part of the relay, which is now Leg 13. It was Leg 12 when I had my fabled pale chested reflective vest mansierre run of 2011. Hurts like seven hells getting up a huge mountain, but the views on the parkway at sunset are amazing.  The sun set during his 9.3 “very hard” leg, setting me up for my second run, a 6.2 miler labeled as hard. Start was in Blowing Rock, which is cool since we go there every fall to see the colors, and I had actually run part of my leg last time we were there. What was not cool was the no-portapotty, only small public bathroom exchange zone which had ridiculous lines. I ended up going super early to make sure I had a toilet opportunity.  When Dan came rolling in, I started up what looked like a mile and a half climb, and I was all jacked up because I saw a lot of potential roadkill leaving the zone just before me. I last about 60 seconds before I realize my premature pee didn’t do the trick. I debate for awhile and finally succumb to pulling a power piss on the side of the road, desperately afraid that some car would come by and flash by naughty bits to all of Blowing Rock.  Luckily for everyone involved, that didn’t happen. I took off on the long climb and managed to pick off my first roadkills of the relay, 3 or 4 ten minute pacers. After cresting the main hill I took off like a champ aiming for this dude carrying a flashlight that I thought I’d easily overtake. Turns out he was bringing it, too, especially on the downhills. I ended up blasting out a few sub 7 miles and breaking my pact not to stray too far from my marathon pace. But my pride wouldnt let flashlight guy get away without getting blue shoed. Finally, almost 6 miles in, I empty the tank to pass him. I should note this was completely unnecessary and meant absolutely nothing, but apparently my competitiveness knows no bounds, or logic. I come flying into the exchange with the Code around 9 pm and I’m starving. Luckily my exchange zone is the Grandfather Mountain store, and they are serving burgers with homemade baked beans. Sweet baby Jesus those beans were good. And probably setting up a GI detonation later, but so worth it.

https://connect.garmin.com/modern/activity/1966368478

Darrell’s next leg sucked with a capital S. Ten and a half miles, in the dark, straight up Grandfather Mountain, with just about no flat or downhill. Code kept calling it Grandpa mountain, so I guess he had already bonded with his friend. I think old gramps was about to make him his bitch, unfortunately. Code looked pretty strong early on, though he did admit to catching a brief case of the walksies near the top. None of us cared – we were just so glad it wasn’t us. Julie then had one of the few easy legs, a 5k right down the mountain. It probably would have been easier if she wasn’t totally attacked by a dog, though. Apparently an FBI agent kick to its head made it realize Julie does not play.

With the handoff to Jay, we were off for a several hours, projected until 3 am. This was prime sleep time, so we made our way to Geary’s next exchange zone to hopefully catch some Z’s. Of course when we got there, it was a freaking mardi gras atmosphere of vans at an Ingles grocery store. Geary managed to squeeze our van around the back and it was dead quiet there. The others slept in the van while I pulled out my sleeping bag and made love to the sweet green grass in the field nearby. It was pretty chilly but my 30 degree sleeping bag gave me a cocoon of warmth. I was briefly awakened by a rustling in the woods which I prayed wasn’t a snake or Julie’s Cujo coming back for vengeance. I was so tired that the next thing I know Geary is waking me up. Must have been close to 2 hours later, which is like an eternity of sleep for a relay.  Unfortunately our Van 2 teammates were crushing it on their legs, and we were ahead of schedule for our 3rd set.

Geary and then Dan took off on their 3rd runs,  a couple of moderately rated legs which were relatively easy compared to their others. Mine too was also not too bad – a 4.3 miler that was also rated “moderate”. Apparently it would be easy except for a half mile plus of brutal 7% climb at the end. As I was preparing for Leg 3, the abuse of the first two legs had officially caught up with me. Sore as hell, like someone had taken hammers to both sides of my legs. It was also like 45 degrees, so I stood freezing my ass off at the exchange zone even with my CRC hoodie on for warmth. Did I mention it was 3:45 am? Times like these make you wonder why anyone would voluntarily subject themselves to this “for fun”.  I saw Dan come around the last turn and I desperately try and throw off the hoodie without taking off my headlamp and everything else at the same time. Zero points for style. Launching into Leg 3 feels like complete death. I’m trying to run fast but the legs are exercising their veto powers. First mile was in 7:58 on fairly flat terrain. But hey, everybody else is feeling the pain too, so roadkill is still plenty. A group of four F3 guys had all started off together a few minutes before me, so I was on a mission to track these guys down. We had already labeled our van the F4 team – the fourth one being whatever variation of the F bomb you should choose. This leg’s F was F$%& tired and cold. Thankfully the middle miles of this run were downhill. There was a loud train somewhere right next to the road, adding F$%^g deaf to the whole equation. It was so F%$%^ dark though I couldn’t see it. I finally spotted the F3 foursome just as the hill from hell began. I was actually somewhat warm by then and ramped up the pace to pass them, nearly blinded by the assortment of blinkies and headlamps. Just as the course leveled out , they throw in one more quad busting hill before the exchange zone and I hand off to Darrell.

https://connect.garmin.com/modern/activity/1966670506

Things got a little tenuous during Code’s leg since Julie was having serious doubts about her 9 miler. Between feeling generally pukey and operating on very little distance training, she was not sure if she could finish it. But with Code already running and the other three of us having a 4th leg to go, there wasn’t much of an option. At this point I didn’t care how much she walked. Julie was a trooper, however, and took off with a good faith effort. About 90 minutes later, with some pukesies and walksies ,she managed to power through, and she (and Darrell) were officially done. I apparently spent that hour and a half mostly in a coma. At some point I saw Dan W and Rob at my window, which I think was reality, but I can’t be entirely sure.  Geary said I was making weird noises, probably cursing the blue ridge mountains in my sleep.

With the handoff to Van 2, we knew we then had a very long layover to the last three legs. The Legs 28-33 are just brutally long, with two labeled as MOUNTAIN GOAT HARD. It took 45 minutes in the van with Geary “done-with-this s$%” driving just to get to our next zone.

At this point we were all pretty much done. Our black, undecorated van was fairly appopriate for our team spirit at this time, and the fourth F was evoked many a time. We also had additional cursing due to Darrell. Code had group texted us all before the relay that he would be staying in Asheville the rest of the weekend after we finished. Unfortunately for him, his iPhone autocorrected Asheville into “asshole”, and a whole weekend in asshole seemed like a very long time to me. I made sure Code know that we were almost in asshole now, and that my last leg was a steep drop into asshole.


Sure enough we were at the Van exchange forever, and unfortunately none of us could really sleep since it was daytime again. Luckily I had procured a jimmy john’s sub near our ill-fated brewpub stop in Boone, and though it was half-soaked from melted ice, I’ve hardly had a  better breakfast before or since. Dan got a good chance to relax in his new 12 dollar Deerfoam slippers, quite the score from the Boone Big Lots store.

Finally around noon, Kim finished her mountain goat leg in a flurry of all out sprint with awesome spandex jorts pants. Geary was off on my leg from 2011 where I collapsed at the finish. To his credit, he didn’t even seem tired at the end. Total machine. Dan had leg 35. This leg was only 4.2 miles and labeled as “hard”, but that is just ridiculous. It has alomst 2 miles of 10%+ grade, and since its going to be your last leg, I can’t think of any part more deserving of the mountain goat label. I have yet to hear of anyone not walking a little of that leg. Just brutal even to drive up.

So here I was for leg 36, the last hurrah, the glory leg into Ass..I mean Asheville. I had this one on 2012, and I was not prepared for it at all. I thought at the time we were on top of the mountain after all that leg 35 climb. Wrong answer. The final leg features another 1.5 miles of pretty much straight climb. Not as bad as 35, but brutal nonetheless. When I got the relay bracelet I charged up the hill, only to be a reduced to a relative crawl about a half mile in. My 8:40 split for mile 1 was about as hard as I could go. Fortunately, the next 4+ miles are gloriously downhill with a few flat stretches to recover the legs. I got jacked up on pure adrenaline and used my full Sasquatch powers to fly down the mountain as hard as I could. A bunch of 6:50 miles followed by a 6:30 as I plunged down a ten percent grade with a turn onto a bridge into the city, taking down some more roadkill.  Seeing the whole Asheville skyline was such an adrenaline rush.  Thankfully the traffic was light as I came across and I was able to go over the bridge without any problem. I hit a very busy intersection as the crossing timer was dwindling down and I sprinted across just in time. One more turn and BAM there was the finish line. I was going mach 5 at the time, so I think I took my team by surprise. No chance for a together finish. Thankfully, Geary had a cold IPA in hand for me the second I crossed the line, and Van 2 had gotten a ton of Mellow Mushroom pizzas. Impromptu tailgate party in the parking lot as we all had different plans for the weekend. Especially Darrell.

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Overall a great result for the Rock Hill Striders – 16th overall in 26 hours and 19 minutes. Not too shabby in this crazy competitive relay. Top finishers Asheville Running Collective and Charlotte Running Club both went under the previous record in 19 hours and change, well under 6 minute pace. Insane. This race always kills me, but I’m sure I’ll be back again.

 

Blue Ridge Relay Part I – Grayson Highlands, VA to Asheville, NC -9/8 to 9/9/17

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I’m pretty sure I swore off this race back in 2012, the last year I ran it. As anyone will tell you, I am a hardcore relay addict. I get jacked up every spring for the Palmetto 200 like its the damn Super Bowl, eight years running. But the Blue Ridge Relay (BRR) is a whole other animal. You think you’re tired doing that flat run at 4 am down in the Lowcountry? Try doing it in the cold, up a freaking 8-10% grade mountain for a couple of miles, against a bunch of studs with zero percent body fat tracking you down.

Read: the BRR is brutal. They start you off with some tough climbs, but lure you into the false sense that this is not so bad. They save the worst for the last few legs when you’re dead tired and can’t believe that roads this steep actually exist. They give you topographic maps of the elevation changes in each leg, and even rate the legs from easy all the way to MOUNTAIN GOAT HARD. Believe me, they are not kidding.

My first foray into the BRR was in 2011 with my Palmetto 200 team, Van on the Run.  I did everything wrong. We camped the night before and I got very little sleep thanks to the cold and possible mountain lion roars. My coworker that I recruited bailed at the last minute, which gave me 4 legs and over 20 miles. I ran the first careening downhill leg at 6 flat pace and pulverized my quads into hamburger. I ran off course down a very dark and isolated driveway, fearing gun shots all the way back. I had a cheap headlamp that gave me a 5 foot window of vision into the pitch black. I ran out of food. My last leg featured a bonk so epic it registered on the Richter scale, and I almost passed out on a mountain side. Good times.  Apparently I’m a masochist at heart because I did it again in 2012 with the 621 ninja team. I learned from the previous encounter, though the heat that year sucked, we got our van stuck not once but twice, once requiring a tow truck. Not to mention my shirtless reflective vest mansierre run on the parkway and getting ruthlessly chicked and grandmastered on the final leg into Asheville.

Did I say grandmastered? The 50 something in question that whipped my tail was the Rock Hill Striders’ Jay Abraham, the only person to have done the BRR since its inaugural year in 2003. I guess its only fitting that Geary McAlister, another grandmaster beast, recruited me over to Jay’ s team for 2017, making me an honorary Rock Hill Strider for a day. If you can’t beat ’em, join ’em, I guess. In addition to myself, Jay and Geary were able to sway Van on the Run alumni Dan Carter, Rob Gannett, Julie Yelk and of course Darrell “the Code” Brown. As it turned out, this team was kind of cursed from the start. We had people drop out, come back in, and Jay scrambled to put out leg assignments each time. Finally we had a good set up and 12 healthy members by the week of the relay. Of course, then hurricane Irma decided to pay an unwelcome visit at the last second, and one of the Striders now living in Orlando couldn’t make it. We were at 11 once again less than 48 hours out. Sure enough, the last iteration of the leg assignments featured lucky 4th leg recipients Geary McAlister, Dan Carter and THIS GUY. Damn, this was going to suck, again.

While most of the Rock Hill crew sensibly left on Thursday night and stayed near the start, the Columbia contingent decided to leave at the crack of dark thirty on Friday morning. Because, why not double your sleepless nights, right? Between a wreck and tons of Florida evacuees, we got stuck in traffic and showed up less than an hour before our start time of 11 am. We finally got a brief moment to meet our Van 2 teammates Jay, Dan W, Kim, Jeff and Dave (Rob was also joining their van) just before our start, but we were finally there after 50 emails, a ton of injuries and a roulette wheel of leg assignments.

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Geary was first up for our van, and he got a chance to run my Leg 1 from 2011. The crazy fast four mile freefall. I was hopeful that Geary might set a tone for low expectations (I distinctly remember texting my 4 leg plan to be “slow AF” for this years relay), but unfortunately he had to smoke a lot of kids on the way down the mountain in low 6 pace and show these guys how 60 is done. Dan struck out on his first leg like a man on a mission, so I was like damn I’m going to have to actually try.  My first leg was number 3, labeled as “moderate” in difficulty. This meant there was actually a bit of flat before a nice mile long jaunt up an 8 percent grade gravel road. At least the last 3 miles (5.2 total) were downhill. I took off like a champ, since the weather was nice and cool and I was a ball of nervous energy. A ball that apparently forgot to tie his shoelace. Nice job, cool guy. I stop almost a mile in to tie it and there’s already some dude tracking my ass down. Really?? Alright, he’s going to get smoked on this brutal hill. Yeah, I don’t even make it to the mountain before this guy gives me the beatdown and tells me “good job”. Oh the shame. I can count on one hand the number of guys passing me in the P200 in 8 years and I’ve lasted all of 7 minutes out here. I hit mile 1 around my net projected pace of 7:10-7:20. I figured I had 22 miles scheduled so I might as well stick to my Kiawah marathon BQ pace. It turns out Kiawah doesn’t have 8% grade mountains. I blast away at the relentless incline for the whole mile and get all of 8:30 in return. Flopping over the top is like pure heaven though, because I know its all downhill from there. I ramp up the pace back to 7 minutes flat and I’m generally feeling pretty good until dammit, here come footsteps again. Sure enough, some singlet wearing kid from “THE LEATHER PRESIDENTS” team blasts right by me like I’m standing still. My sasquatch ass registers a 6:58 mile and this guy whips by like I’m a soccer mom out for a sweatpants stroll. Double shamed already. I just bury my pride though, because killing yourself in leg 1 is a recipe for disaster. I rumble in to the exchange zone, averaging about 7:23 for the leg, and handoff to the Code.

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Code and then Julie rock out two legs with crazy climbs at the end, with Julie having to navigate the town of West Jefferson. We meet back up with Van 2 at our van flip site just outside the town limits. Apparently our meet and greet  with the Striders wasn’t quite long enough because Jay and Julie don’t recognize each other at the zone. After a brief moment of utter confusion, the handoff was executed and Van 2 was off for a few hours.

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Part II to follow