Race to the Finish 5k – Lexington, SC – 9/8/18


The Race to the Finish is apparently in its 3rd year, and is put on by Northside Baptist Church in Lexington to help support their missionary work, with the race promotion through Run Hard and timing by Fastrak. It was actually a late add to the Tour de Columbia, though they picked a good weekend with no other races going on. That being said, these small races away from downtown pop up on my radar, as everyone knows I am an unabashed trophy hunter.  Who wants to run against fast people when you can inflate your ego against kids and couch to 5kers? Duh. Anyway, this race looked like at least a fair chance for the ultimate holy grail of trophy hunting, the overall win. Of course when you are a slightly less than ripped Sasquatch, you have to depend on a little bit of luck.

When I showed up, the early crowd looked promising. No super lean types, no singlets, lots of race T shirt wearers. Perfect. Then a couple of high school kids show up, some lean beast in a blue singlet, and to top it off Plex arrives on the scene. It was looking bad for top 5 even. Oh well, such is life for an aging Clydesdale. Didn’t seem to be any known age groupers, so that was a plus. Code decided to take this week off  after basically beating me at the Justin Pepper 5k, though I decided to handicap myself an extra quarter mile by touring the chapin baseball fields before finding the finish. Angel was in Connecticut, Gomez was busy coaching River Bluff at the Coaches Classic , and no sign of Striggles, Whitney, Drew, Nance, Yerg  or Midden. I should be ok, though one must always be wary of the superfit soccer dads.

The course was totally new to me, so I tried to study it the best I could, trying to avoid another 5.5 k like last Saturday. It was pretty useless though, since there was a lot off the road and I had zero idea of the elevation change. In Lexington, though, you can pretty much count on hills. It was also two loops, a course type I struggle with, since I want to headless chicken it every time I see the red numbers of the finish.

There was a decent crowd on hand for a small race. The hardcore contingent of Alex Ponomarev, Leeds Barroll, Rocky Soderberg and Henry Holt were on hand. Andy Mikula, Hou-Yin Chang, and Travis Nichols were some other familiar faces.

The start was in the church parking lot and immediately takes you up a hill to a stretch on 378.  I got passed by a bunch of teenagers, the lead woman, Plex and singlet guy immediately,  so my trophy hunting appeared to be a complete bust. Luckily I wasn’t leading, because I would have plowed right into highway 378. A giant truck right in front of me suggested I might want to use the sidewalk.  You go down the sidewalk for 100ish meters followed by a left turn back into the church grounds, which includes a decent size athletic complex for the Christian academy that is also housed there. The road towards the fields is awesome, nice and downhill. This was going to be piece of cake! But wait… all of a sudden Plex and singlet guy disappear. All of a sudden there’s an arrow, and you go from cruising down the pavement into a sharp turn into a narrow steep trail up to the football fields. Yeah, that is no bueno. My 5k pace gets slowed to a slog trudging up a dirt hill to the football field. I try and pick it up as we do a lap around the field, but the dirt hill has exacted a heavy toll and all the dew on the grass makes the air feel like a wet blanket. But wait, there’s more! Looks like the football field is essentially the turnaround point of each 1.5 mile loop, so here we go making up all that elevation we lost from highway 378. One of the teenagers is gassed, so I pass him and one of his friends, each obviously shamed by letting a giant albino masters runner beat them. I soon find that the whole way back to the finish area is uphill and cross country. Yeah, no sub 20 would be had today. I think mile 1 came back in 6:40ish, a shade faster than my road half marathon pace. More trudging up dirt mountains ensue, and by the time I’m back on pavement I am pretty much toast. Just in time to start lap 2 on that same opening hill. Yay! On the second stretch of 378 I’m pretty much on my own, though I can see Travis, another young guy and the lead girl up ahead. I try and save as much energy on the long downhill because the second climb is going to be brutal.

Up to the football field feels like death, with the top turning into a glorified power hike, yet not quite the walksies. Rounding the end zone, I realize I’ve made up some ground on the group in front. I was pretty sure these were 4th and 5th guys along with 1st female. Either way, I knew all of these guys had gone out hard and the course was taking its toll. My initial laziness seemed to be paying off some as I felt a little better on the second lap. It’s mostly just psychological I think, since I hate a double looper. Off the football field the long climb to the parking lot begins, and the heat and humidity are really making themselves known. I keep inching closer and closer to the pack in front though. Mile 2 was around 6:50ish, so I was going to be lucky to break 21 much less 20. With under a half mile to go, the ground levels out just a bit and I figure it’s go time. I’m in a world of hurt, but I catch all three of the pack just as we hit asphalt. Finally in my element, I go to full throttle up and start sprinting to the finish arch…which apparently is the wrong way. Travis yells out as I go blazing into the lot, and somehow I manage to veer at full speed back onto the course and losing only a couple of steps. Of course, we have to go up the opening hill halfway for a third time, then careening back downhill towards the church. Having probably overestimated the distance of my kick and the general beatdown of the brutal course, I am cruising in on fumes in the final stretch. I manage to cross in 20:48, 5th overall, 1st in AG.  Hard to gauge this race without the usual guys I race against, but all in all a decent effort with a fast finish. Reminds me somewhat of the old Crooked 5k they used to have in Chapin – interesting mix of roads and cross country. Much harder hill-wise than that one though.

In the overall, the lean singlet dude Tim Sestak took the win in 18:51. Apparently he’s an assistant coach on Jud Brooker’s CIU team right out of college. Plexico was 2nd in 19:25. If Plex is running my usual road 5k time, that gives you an idea of how tough this course is. High schooler Nathan Andes was 3rd in 20:14.  I initially thought I was 4th but I missed 31 yo Paul Jackson who finished in 20:28 for that position. The women’s win was taken by 19 year old Margaret Gaither, who got the “join the Columbia Running Club” full court press after the race from the CRC faithful. She showed up at the CRC summer social with the Fischer family so clearly that training paid off. Dawn Sullivan was 2nd and 3rd was taken by the  race director’s daughter, 11 yo Lydia Metz.

Age grouper honor roll:  Lynn Grimes won the 61+ female. Travis Nichols was first in the 21-30. Andy Mikula was tops in the 31-40. Alex Ponomarev and Leeds Barroll were top 2 in the male 61+, though Henry Holt and Rocky Soderberg would have also been age group winners in the 75+ by traditional age groups. FYI, the Tour points are always calculated on the traditional 5 year age groups as on the web site. Hope everyone stays safe this weekend with Hurricane Florence on its way. What was once a 4 race week on the tour is looking doubtful with the Race for our Troops postponed to November 11 and the Tunnel to Towers canceled for Friday.




Grandfurther 25k – Grandfather Mountain, NC – 8/25/18

It’s hard to remember, but sometime last winter, Mike Nance had talked up this crazy race that involved 15 miles up, down and back again on Grandfather Mountain. The Yerg verified that he had done the race, the inaugural Grandfurther 25k in 2017, and kept saying it was “15 miles that runs like a 50k”. I’ve always been a big fan of the Blue Ridge in general, and I’ve been many times to the Grandfather mountain park. The park is up a long winding road and you get out near the summit to take pics on the “mile high swinging bridge” which traverses a steep dropoff and causes panic in acrophobes everywhere. Sadistic as it seems, I was always jealous of the people who would go on the apparently treacherous trail to the actual summit. The wife and kids vetoed this idea, so I never got the opportunity. Plus: bad track record with rocky drop-offs. But hey, why not do a brutal 25k to get the chance to scale my favorite mountain in the blue ridge? I was in.
Or so I hoped. The race had a cap and apparently was anticipated to sell out almost immediately. The week prior to signup we recruited Drew Williams with the thought of making this a beertastic running weekend. I set my alarm and sat on the computer at 8 am way back in February and managed to sign up after a few tense minutes when the tanawha adventures website got crushed. Fortunately we all got in, but I think the race sold out in a matter of a couple of hours. Dean Schuster found out a little late and ended up getting wait listed. With the race in August, we had a whole six months to prepare for it.

Which of course I didn’t really do. My running usually involves slogging a bunch of miles every day with a weekly race or random team utopia workout as my speedwork. The only thing I did that might approximate a hilly trail run was the Vertical Mile 18 miler in June. True, I did the Xterra half at Harbison too, but I think even the Spider Woman was nothing to Old Grandpa.

Flash forward six months later and we were on our way to the Blue ridge. Packet pickup was at Appalachian Brewery in Boone, so we figured that was a good a place as any to start the beering. They have a really nice IPA and blonde but stay away from the brutally cucumberish sour called the Bad Motherpucker (Chosen, of course, primarily for the name). I swear I was burping cucumber all weekend. Linn Hall was nice enough to let us use her mountain condo at Sugar Mountain, so we had a sweet set up for the weekend. Beautiful views of the mountains, plus it was I the low 50’s when we arrived. After a brutally famously hot summer in Columbia, you forget how amazing cool air feels.
The next morning we had a short 2 mile drive to the Lowe’s foods parking lot where the race began, near the new Profile trailhead. Pretty much perfect weather with temps in the 50’s. We met up with Dean and Columbia Beer Mile race director Bobby Scott, who both got in off the wait list. Everyone had to bring an emergency blanket, poncho/rain shell and a whistle as part of the mandatory gear. This was a little scary, but I guess it was better to be safe than sorry. It’s not like the summit of Grandfather is an easy medical evac. Probably harder than being half carried up a Cliffside by two giant Polynesian guys in Kauai. Or so I hear.
I lined up in the first wave. Not by choice, but apparently they did bibs by ultrasignup ranking. I had done one ultrasignup race in the past year, a 2nd place in a total trophy hunt at the Harbison 25k ( undercard to the 50k ultra) in January. With this small sample size, it gave me a ranking of 88 percent and within the top 10 of the 200 something participants. With my “elite” number 12, I strode up to the line with all the zero body fat mountain goats. Luckily it was top 50 so I hid back a few rows.

With the gun we were off. First mile or 2 is pretty decent. I ran along at a pretty easy pace, around 9 minutes, knowing that this would certainly get brutal quickly and knowing the only awards were for overall top 3 male and female. I was fairly certain that wouldn’t be me. Dean and Bobby caught up with me from the next wave and we ran for a little bit but then BAM. Walksies engage hard core. I know the mountain goats likely jogged up the rest of this ascent, but mere mortals are reduced to a brisk stroll, if that. Just unrelenting steepness. On top of a neverending ascending trail, it was a rock garden out there that made spider woman seem like a fun run. I kept trying to put some pep in my step , but I was either slipping or just trying to find a place to put my foot for a good stretch on the initial climb.I think my third mile came back in 20 and change. There something disheartening about “running” a mile slower than your road 5k. This was going to take a while. At some point there were less rocks on the trail and more big boulders around you as we neared the summit. The temperature definitely dropped and some areas smelled like Christmas trees with all the little pines. Suddenly things got a little crowded as we hit the first of a couple of ladders. I tried to focus on what was ahead of me because I had the distinct impression there were some serious drop-offs on either side. Finally we stepped into a brief open patch that I later figured out was the summit. I was still in gung-ho racer mode at the time so I barely looked. Such is the grueling and important battle for 50th place.

Then started the downhill on the backside. I thought this is where I could really run and make up some time from all that slogging on the initial climb. Yeah, that’s going to be a no from me, dawg. One, we had a brief conga line section in which we were all stopped to climb down multiple ladders, one was like 20 feet high. Following the ladder section was an even scarier rock face with limited footholds that I basically had to take on my rear end. I’m sure it was a thing of grace and beauty. Once through with this little section, Dean took off like the downhill maniac he is, along with Bobby. Me, not so much. I have the grace of a baby elephant, so my traipsing down the decline was ridiculously slow. I was getting passed left and right, Old women, chunky dudes, basically anyone with any degree of agility was kicking my ass. It was truly sad. Not really running so much as controlling my fall. Quads were getting wrecked into submission pulling a blazing 15 minute pace. But at least I wasn’t falling. There was a lot of that going on. Plenty of blood. My main injuries where on my hands from trying to grab trees so I wouldn’t face plant. Near the bottom things leveled out a little as the trail merged onto the tanawha trail near the Blue ridge parkway. Mike, Drew, Dean and Bobby passed me on their way back up, so I hoped the turnaround wasn’t too far off. I latched on to a hot Asian girl because apparently that’s what motivates me. I followed her like a creeper all the way to the turnaround, where she dropped me like a bad habit. I was pretty wrecked at the aid station so I shoved some chips and a cup of coke in me, along with a mountainside bathroom break. My Garmin only had like 7 miles but GPS is pretty worthless out in that remote area. Legs were destroyed on both sides, but I had to get back someway so back up the mountain I went. I tried to do some jogging but hit mall walking soccer mom mode pretty fast. I saw a bunch of the field early on, but it soon got pretty sparse a few miles in. I ran into a nice dude named Walker from Asheville, and told him he had a great name for this race. It was good to distract myself with Walker’s predictions for the SEC east this year until I finally got a little frisky and started to run. Around this time I realized that not using my hydration pack in my vest was a very, very bad idea. Started getting really thirsty and a little loopy, just in time to hit the rock face and ladder section. Things were a little fuzzy around this point. All I remember is total jello legs, briefly catching hot Asian again, and taking some really ugly selfies at the summit. I was really happy to be heading down towards the finish, but the dehydration issue was getting worse. I kept hoping for that aid station but apparently I had a really bad memory of where it was. I started hitting a bunch of hikers who were surprisingly gracious and supportive despite us racers probably messing up their experience. The rock garden area on the way down was ridiculously slow between my gimp legs and fuzzy water deprived brain. Random girls started shouting GOOD JOB RUNNER – LOOKING GOOD. Every word of which was a complete lie. I even got a raucous cheer from a whole troop of boy scouts. I tried to limit my Tourette’s –like outbursts of F bombs at that time, since I was screaming every 5 minutes when my toe would hit a root. Somehow I stayed upright. Finally the aid station came and I was half delirious. I handed one of the guys one of my empty water bottles and chugged like 4 bottles worth of Gatorade. I usually hate blue Gatorade but this tasted like nectar of the gods. I shoved more potato chips in my mouth and swore I heard “1.5 miles to go” as I left. This was probably a hallucination but I seemed to believe it at the time. With a belly filled with chip particles in an ocean of blue Gatorade, I staretd off again. More gimpy stepping trying not to fall on the steep decline. At one point some dude said “I seem to be cramping less than you, I’ll be on your left”. Oh hells no. A few hundred meters later the trail actually broke into some single track, that, get this, was runnable. It was wonderful being able to stretch out the legs, and I might have even dipped below 9 minute pace. By this time I was over 3 and a half hours in, so I focused on trying to break four. I started hauling ass, especially when I saw left passing cramp guy, who got a taste of some trail blue shoeing. I managed to refrain from any of multiple potential snarky comments on the pass. The last couple of miles is pretty much a blur – I hit some areas of the old Profile trail so I had a basic idea where I was, which was definitely not 1.5 miles from that aid station. I was all in by then though, so I kept up the pace. I was about out of gas when finally I saw the finish at the Old Profile trailhead parking area. I mini-kicked it and managed just a shade under 3:56.

Wow. That was nuts. Fifteen miles on the road I can churn out in 1:45 but it took me more than twice that with this insanely hard course. I just wish I was fit enough to be able to actually run more of it. Tanawha puts on a great event and this was an awesome experience, so I highly recommend it.
For the Columbia contingent, Mike Nance was the winner in 3:34, Drew turned in a 3:41:06 with Dean hot on his heels at 3:41:07 (though Dean’s 30 second start delay wasn’t added in – controversy!) . Bobby Scott ran a 3:44. So yeah, I was dead last.
In the overall, Luke Paulson was the winner and course record holder at 2:22:41. I was barely past the turnaround when he finished. Amanda Morris was the female winner in 2:54, also a course record. These are mind-boggling results for a road guy like myself. Trail running ability like that is a mix of amazing cardio and incredible technique. Bravo to them.


811 Run 5k – Columbia, SC – 8/11/18

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.


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.


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+



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


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


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.



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.


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.


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.









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


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.


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.



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.


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!











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


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.


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.


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.



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.


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.






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


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.


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.


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+.



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.


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.


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.



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