March for Meals 5k – Timmerman Trail – Columbia, Sc- 3/11/17


This week posed a difficult choice between two races that have been around awhile, both having been regular stops on the nascent Tour de Blue Shoes 2009-2012. I had hoped they would be double dippable, but sadly the Healthy Capital was at 8:30 and March for Meals at 9:00. As fast as I think I am, there’s no way I could get from Columbia High to Timmerman Trail in ten minutes, even when factoring in my advanced level Grand Theft Auto driving skills. While Healthy Cap was my first second overall ( a crushing defeat to a then-unknown Mike Hedgecock), MFM is the race that started the obsession.

Rewind to 2009, all of five races under my slightly larger belt. MFM was then held at Riverbanks Zoo. Being the parent of a 6, 4 and 1 year old at the time, I was well acquainted with the zoo and what I thought was its gloriously flat terrain. I came into that race hungry for a PR and hopeful of breaking the 23 minute barrier. I didn’t know a soul in the running community at the time so I was glad one of my coworkers (Michael Ferlauto) agreed to come with me to race. With that race, I charged out from the start knowing I could coast on flat ground if I started to bonk at the end. I was pretty winded when I hit that first mile, when someone said WATCH OUT FOR YOUR FOOTING ON THE HILL. Uh…what hill??? Suddenly we were directed across the river on a bridge and then up the face of what can only be termed a mountain (later the infamous Mt Riverbanks). I died a thousand deaths up that thing and about wiped out flopping down. I eventually crashed across the finish line in 23:27  and tasted asphalt for at least 5 minutes. Exhausted, we left the race as soon as we were done. A few hours later, I looked up my result and was blown away. Inexplicably I had won the 30-34 age group. Driving down to Senior Resources (the race sponsor) the next day I picked up a shiny golden running man trophy. Like my first hit of some very good drug, I was hooked instantly. And the rest was history…

2009 results:


Drew likes the 2010 trophy


There’s been more drama along the way. In 2012 the race was postponed by an early morning tornado. In 2013 it was the first step of the historic triple dip which was almost waylaid by a stalled train blocking our entrance into the zoo. I think it was 2014 where Ken Vowles gave me an epic beat down in race one of his double destruction of yours truly (got crushed at Race Judicata an hour later). By 2015 the race had moved to Timmerman trail, where I again got double whupped by Brandenburg, first at Race for the Place then MFM.

I missed the race in 2015, but I was eager to race what was a new revised course, this time actually on fresh legs. I made sure to avoid the Friday MUV fitness squats which had derailed me at the Lagniappe 5k two weeks earlier.

With two actual rest days in a row, I felt pretty good rolling into the tennis center out in Cayce for the race. I thought Code might show up, but he was not to be found. No other 40-44 age groupers seemed to be around, though I quickly found out Brandenburg and Coach B were on hand to make a masters win highly unlikely. My only solace was that Mark was coming off an injury and JB had been furiously trying to get back his bike fitness after being a full time runner in prep for January’s Charleston Marathon. Wilson Harvey, Rocky Soderberg, Peter Mugglestone, Kimberly Hardin, Dina Mauldin, the OG Robbie McLendon, Jim Williams, JB’s better half Barb, Sue and Lee Porter were some of the CRC familiar faces at the start.

With the gun, I jump out to the front like a maniac and start to go straight, thinking of the old course. I get quickly redirected by some cones and we veer off to the left for a very long straightaway on the road outside the Timmerman Trail area. Wilson takes his rightful place in the front and I latch on to the back of the masters beast pack of JB and Coach B. There’s another fit looking younger dude and some kid with beats headphones keeping pace nearby. As we close in on the turn into the forest, the kid starts actually jostling up against me and cutting me off, then spits over his shoulder just missing me. It takes every ounce of restraint not to toss this little guy into the ground, so I make sure he gets an earful of F bombs loud enough to blast through his oversized headphones. I guess that was enough to get him jump started because he pulled ahead after that. After Wilson and the beats brat, JB enters the forest first, with me and B conga lining behind him. First mile was about 6:12. Mile 2 is all Timmerman trail, a winding paved route with a few bridges, all pretty flat. JB surges and I latch on to him like an oversized circus monkey. He maintains a pretty hard pace, and throws in a few more surges. It’s killing me but I manage to keep up. A few times he appears to slow just a bit, but as soon as the elephant tries to stampede past him, he closes the seam and pulls ahead again. We hit the mile 2 marker, but the Garmin is all wonky out in the sticks and with all the turns.  I don’t get a mile 2 split until forever after the mark and its like 6:53. No way we are going that slow.

By this time, I sense Mark has faded behind me, but its difficult to really notice anything when you are going full out and an inch from JB’s head. At this point I drop the pass plan and push in all my chips on Plan B: wait until the final stretch. JB may have just a touch less body fat than me, but he’s a fairly effective wind blocker, and if he’s dead set on being in front, then I guess I’ll take the draft. Mile 2 seems to drag on forever. I keep seeing faux finishes, but its just a break in the trees each time. We can see the kid up ahead and he just keeps winding through the forest. I’m sucking a fair amount of wind by now, but chasing someone is at least a distraction from all the respiratory distress. Finally, finally, we hit the wide open area with the finish maybe a quarter mile away. JB starts to mount a kick but this is what I’ve been waiting for. I may not be built for distance, but I’ll take just about anybody against me for 400 meters. Out comes the headless chicken. I give JB about a 3 foot berth to make sure he doesn’t C-Block the Blue Shoeing about to commence. JB tells me he doesn’t have anything left, but I don’t trust him. I flail to the finish at sub 5 pace like my life depends on it, crashing through the Strictly Running arch in 19:18. 3rd overall, first master and AG.  Any victory over JB and Coach B is extremely rare, even with them off their training, so I will most definitely take it. Garmin has 2.99, so I’m not sure about the course. I don’t know if its certified. They had unique spoon medals for awards so that was pretty cool.

In the overall, Wilson Harvey took the win in 18:39 with my “little friend” second in 19:09. Would have really liked to have found those 9 seconds. First female was 13 year old Lexie Vandervelde, with Kimberly Hardin 2nd and Barb Brandenburg 3rd.

Age group honor roll: The guy in our pack in the first mile was Colby Hanson, taking 1st in the 25-29 in 20:54. CRCer Kathryn Livingston won the 35-39. JB and Mark competed in the most brutal 50-54 group ever and of course took the top 2 slots. Third place Kenneth Bohan in 21:16 was no slouch either. Jim Williams won the 55-59 by almost 5 minutes. Robbie Mclendon easily won the 60-64 as well. Sue Porter took the women’s 60-64. Peter Mugglestone and Rocky Soderberg took top honors in the 70+.

Start video


Run for the Saints 5k and D5 Be a Fan 5k double dip – Columbia and Irmo, SC – 1/28/17


I hadn’t planned on racing this Saturday. I had double dipped in the mountains at the Hogpen Hill Climb (5k and 18k , two weeks ago and was pretty wrecked for the week following that ill-advised decision. I had missed the 2017 Tour de Columbia opener at MLK , so I wanted to get back as soon as possible at the Red Shoe 10k the following week. The results were predictably bad – I ran 6.2 miles on an almost flat course, full effort, and managed about what should be my 20 mile pace. It felt awful . The only positive was some awesome pics with my most deranged family member, Ronald. In the week after that disaster, I caught a nagging cold and I was almost sure I would pull the plug on both races this weekend.

But the addict cannot resist the drug. I got up early thinking I would do CRC picture duty since our expert photog, Tracy, was working. But by the time I had some super strong Starbucks homebrew coursing through my veins, I decided to run Saints.

Run for the Saints is a 2nd year 5k put on by Strictly Running team member MC Cox, going to benefit St Joseph’s Catholic School. Like most events put on by runners, MC’s race was a big success last year and she was quick to bring it back to the Tour in 2017. It drew a pretty competitive field last year and had the added bonus of attendance by the giant headed St Joseph’s cardinal mascot. I was in.

The course is a very fast Shandon rectangle, basically the Race for the Place course backwards. St Joes to Queen st via Blossom and Wheat, then Heyward all the way back to Bonham, finish behind the church on Blossom.

I got there super early, always bothering the registration table before they are even set up. It was cold as balls. Sixty degrees last Saturday and barely over 30 this weekend. I’ll take cold all day over hot though. Did a couple of miles with the Code and Sara Bonner. Code hadn’t raced since his spontaneous combustion at Kiawah.

Lots of beasts out there to support MC. Striggles and John Charlton looked like early favorites for the men. Women’s side was more elite than usual with Shawanna, Erin Miller and Linn. Eric and Sarah Allers would be likely to take masters. With overall and masters off my radar, it looked like me and the Code would be fighting it out for 2nd and 3rd, with Phil Midden likely taking the win (and assuming Striggles in the overall – damn the 40-44 is brutal)  Thankfully, Drew Williams and Luke Godwin are still a shade too young. Larry Jourdain was making a rare appearance. Geary , the OG, Henry Holt, Mike Compton, Arnold Floyd, and Alex Ponomarev were also on board from a quick scan of the start line.


The start was pretty brisk with all the competition. My legs hadn’t tasted real 5k pace since Cold Winters Day and they were none too happy. The newly healed gimpy hamstring was definitely giving me a WTF are you doing?? twinge. Code was riding my shoulder like a hairy yellow albino monkey and Luke was also in our vicinity. Drew was crushing it like usual out of the blocks and Linn was up ahead as well.  Mr. Hammy warmed up and the twinge went away, and I settled into a groove, pretty much lock step with the Code. I felt like I was motoring pretty well, but Luke dropped us near the mile mark. I was pretty sure we were pulling 6:05ish pace. Maybe I can back it off a touch in mile 2 since we’re going so hard. NOPE. Garmin spit out a 6:24. Hopefully there werent any children out on Wheat St, because there was some serious F bombage and other Debbie Downer grumblings.

It felt good to hit the turnaround on Queen, since I get a boost from knowing I’m no longer running away from where I’m trying to go. I use the turn on Queen to kick it up a notch, leaving the Code in a mid-race funk and passing Luke in the process. Turning back on Heyward, I’m pretty much on my own. Just my sasquatch feet pounding the pavement and my wind suckage to keep me company. Coming over a rise on Heyward, I’m surprised I can still see the lead police car. By the time mile 2 nears, I’ve reeled in Drew and Linn a bit, split came back at 6:16.

I was hurting pretty bad by this point, but I think my oxygen deprived brain promised my legs I could skip the Dutch Fork race if I threw down in mile 3. Plus, Linn and Drew kept inching closer. Beast mode was engaged. Heyward has a little climb right before it does a little squiggle over Ott street. I hit the incline hard and got within about 10 meters of the Hall/Williams combo. Unfortunately for me, I think they were locked into a bit of a pissing match. My favorite tactic is to stealth pass an unsuspecting solo runner – but these guys were both blasting away against each other. I think Brad Marlow blew my cover at the Heyward/Bonham corner anyway. At least I couldn’t hear anyone behind me. The final half mile on Bonham is actually a gradual incline, but I had already pushed in all the kick chips. The last 800 meters was pretty much a blur – just all out headless chicken, running on fumes. I was almost sure I would overtake at least Drew, but damned if they werent flying too. I missed the mile 3 split (5:50 per Garmin – holy crap) and turned the last corner as the clock flipped to the 19’s. One last blast to the finish, just steps away from Drew and Linn, 19:23.  I will take it. My second 5k in a row where I started too slow and had to throw a sub 6 down to get back my usual 19:10-19:30 range. Good enough for 1st in AG though OJ and Midden took 1st and 3rd overall since Charlton got hampered by an injury.

As mentioned, Striggles cruised to the victory a step ahead of Shawanna in the first part of their double dip. Eric Allers snagged second with Midden third. Erin Miller and Linn Hall finished out the ladies’ podium on a good day for the SR team.  John Charlton still won male masters despite the bum hamstring. Sarah went sub 21 en route to the female masters win. Larry Jourdain crushed a sub 19 at age 54 for the male grandmasters win. Mary Naligan won among the women.

Age group glory: MC’s son Chaplin Cox took 1st in the 7-8, with daughter Olivia winning 2nd in the 9-10. Linn’s daughter Ellie won 2nd in the 11-12. New Columbia college track recruit Brittany Robbins claimed the 15-19, followed by 2nd generation CRCers Katy Hall and Katie Weber. Drew Williams and Luke Godwin went 1-2 in the 35-39. Jennifer Glass took 2nd in the 40-44, with Code second among the men. Heather Hawn was 2nd in the 45-49. Lisa King won the 50-54 women. Geary McAlister, John Bradley and Tug Quarles swept the 55-59. Robbie McLendon, Mike Compton and Ron Lipe won the 60-64. Helene Lipe won the 60-64 women. Alex Ponomarev placed 2nd in the 65-69 men, while Leeds Barroll took third, apparently while playing football with his son half the time. Not sure I could pull that off. Brigitte Smith notched another 65-69 win in the first of her double dip. Arnold Floyd, Peter Mugglestone and Henry Holt placed in an uber competitive 70+ group. Hou Yin Chang, John Houser, MC’s husband Trey Cox, Chaplain John Houser, Michael Sakara, Wendy Robbins,  Sweat it Out 5k founder Jamie Duke, and RWB’s Kerry Stubbs were other notable finishers.



After I got my mascot fix in with both the St. Joe’s Cardinal and the Chick Fil A cow, I was off to Dutch Fork. With 2 hours in between races, there wasn’t much urgency, and I still got there 45+ minutes early. Since I was already “warmed up”, I broke my mile 3 promise to myself and signed up to race this one too. I gotta lay off the caffeine. Scanning the crowd,  it looked good for my age group – didn’t see any of the usual suspects. But, I wasn’t sure if they had masters or masters money, and damned if Johnathan Kirkwood didn’t show up. He was going to make me work for it. This being a high school race, there were a ton of teens there. Not sure how many were XC though.

I was glad to see this race back on tour this year. I heard the RD for 2017 had some health issues, so original RD Kimberly Taylor stepped in with help from Frances O’Toole and some other parents. The race goes to  benefit the Special Education Departments at Dutch Fork Middle, Dutch Fork High and Spring Hill High Schools.

There was a decent crowd at the start – Roy Shelley, Shelley Hinson, Harry Strick, Pete Poore, Brie and Quentin McGrievy, Jennifer Reeves, and Rocky Soderberg  were all on hand.  Brigitte, myself, OJ and Shawanna were the few double dippers.

This race has an interesting course almost completely on the campuses of Dutch Fork high and middle school. They took out a bunch of parking lot loops last year for a much nicer out and back on Old Tamah rd. The first two miles are pretty flat, but the last mile has two nasty “hill repeats” to add on distance, and a climb into the stadium. Finish is 3/4 of a lap on the track and a run onto the football field, similar to Stomp the Swamp.


The start line was cool because they had Foxy, the Dutch Fork mascot, and another Chick Fil A cow. It’s not often you get to quadruple dip on mascot selfies.

The start was crazy  with a downhill in the first 100 meters in the parking lot and a ton of high school kids, similar to the Healthy Capital 5k at Columbia High. Temps were 15 degrees warmer for this race, and with the Saints 5k already in my legs, the start was a lot smoother. They take you out of the parking lot just to bring you back for a lap before heading out on Old Tamah. As soon as I left the parking lot, a couple of teens were shocked to see a pasty old man sasquatch leaving them for dead. That is what I live for. What I don’t live for is hitting this “flat and fast” stretch with a 10 mph headwind in my face. Not prepared for that. Plus, with my physique, you get the same wind resistance as an 18 wheeler. With all the wind and turns in the parking lot, I’m actually pleased with the 6:32 split for mile 1 , which is still on the way out.

The turnaround is just a painted circle but plenty of volunteers around it. The field has already separated out by this time. I count OJ, Shawanna and two high schoolish kids ahead of me. Turning around , I see Kirkwood not too far behind. The way back is considerably easier with a tailwind and an ever so slight downgrade. Rocky verifies my 5th place on the way back. Suddenly the course turns at Dutch Fork middle.  I pull a left hand turn into the campus, across the back of the pack , similar to my Grand Theft Auto skills. Luckily no one got hit by the Sasquatch bus. There’s a glorious downhill but I know the pain to follow. First a small uphill climb into a small bus loop. Not fun but its pretty short. I see Kirkwood entering just as I leave. Mile 2 in 6:23. The next hill is pretty much torture – a long slog all the way back to Old Tamah only to turn right back around and plunge back down the mountain. Thankfully my mountain climbing in Georgia two weeks ago has paid dividends, because now I’m tracking down a teen guy in a red shirt with early 90’s era Chris Cornell hair. Dude can probably hear the albino elephant stampede behind him, so he is not giving up his position easily. He looks pretty relaxed, so probably some 17 minute xc kid toying with the old man. Up one last hill to the track. My legs are officially toast, screaming from all the morning’s abuse. Actually worse than all the wind suckage, though my lungs are putting on quite the performance as well. We hit the track and I am right on Cornell’s butt. I’m pretty much going 1000 percent by now but I just cant seem to find a seam to pass this guy. Rounding the corner onto the football field, I’m in a full sprint. But But Becky with the good hair is holding me off, we hit the line and I’m a half step behind. Dammit. 19:44.


In my oxygen-deprived brain, I thought my fight with the kid on the track was for a meaningless 4th place. I forgot that Shawanna was one of those places ahead of me. The kid got third male and the 25 bucks. However, somehow the  timers were entranced by Revon Landranea’s flowing locks and labeled him as a girl. They initially gave me the cash and 3rd place, but then corrected to give it to Revon. Revon then had to give up the cash since he’s a high school athlete. In a classy move, he gave me the prize money, but I donated it back to the race.



In the overall, OJ and Shawanna made out with some serious cash and CRC points by winning both races. Nelson Addison took 2nd with Revon Landranea taking 3rd among the guys. High schoolers Pippa Richter (I think someone said AC Flora) and Anna Jenkins (Dutch Fork) were 2nd and 3rd female.

Age group honors: Mary O’ Toole placed 3rd in the 14-16. Brie McGrievy was 2nd in the 40-44. Shelley Hinson was champion of the 45-49. Brigitte Smith was 2nd in the 65-69. Joe Greene was 3rd in the 40-44. Johnathan Kirkwood was 1st in the 45-49 with Roy Shelley 2nd. Pete Poore and Harry Strick went 1-2 in the 60-64. Rocky Soderberg won the 70+.  Other notable finishers included Jennifer Reeves, Alfred Baquiran, and Jessalyn Smith.

Hogpen Hill Climb 5k and 18k – Helen,GA – 1/14/17


The story of Hogpen started at last year’s Palmetto 200. Our fearless leader, Brian Clyburn, kept talking about some ridiculously hard race he did in Georgia that ran 11 miles up a mountain. I think I may have promised to go the next year – I’ve been known to make less than wise decisions in the half delirium of a 200 mile relay. I think this promise eventually got its way to Rick Stroud, leader of the Harbison Trail runners, who I believe got Brian to drink the Hogpen Kool-aid. He was organizing a trip to the 2017 edition and asked if I wanted to come along. I was wary, knowing how much the HTR’s love to suffer. I mean  these are the guys that love to do the Mount Mitchell challenge (40 miles) and the Lookout Mountain 50 miler, not to mention the ridiculously brutal Harbison 50k last week. However, I also know they like to drink plenty of beer before/after running, so I eventually agreed. Also, I’ve been racing the same events in Columbia for 8 years, so I wanted to try some new things this year.

The Hogpen Hill Climb is a roughly 18k course that covers over 2000 feet of elevation change and bills itself as “One of the toughest races in America” Starts in Unicoi State Park in Georgia and climbs to the top of Hogpen Gap. Rick also made sure to mention there is a 5k , called the “Piglet” that starts an hour and a half before the main event. What? A trophy hunting undercard and a built in double dip opportunity? Anyone that knows me even remotely knows I chose to do both. Hell, I was driving 3.5 hours so I was going to get my 55 dollars worth. There may have also been beer involved when I registered. #RUI (registering under the influence) as Amy “the Tiny Terror” would say.

Most of the HTR’s were “just” doing the 18k so they could actually make it a day trip, since the race doesn’t start until 11 am. Rob Yerger was the only other one insane enough to do both races, so we headed up  to Helen, GA the night before. Helen is one bizarre place. You travel through miles of rural Northern Georgia, where the cultural highlight is Babyland General Hospital, “birthplace” of Cabbage Patch Kids. A bunch of little non-descript towns and remote two lane highway, when all of a sudden…you’re in the middle of a faux German alpine village. The Heidi motel, windmills, Oktoberfest , Weiner Schitzel – all done up in a kitschy Myrtle Beach style.


Helen, GA


Nope, not even close

I had heard it’s a big tourist place, but apparently mostly for daytrippers. It was pretty dead when we got there at 7:30 pm on a Friday night. My dream of large chested beer wenches serving me overflowing beer steins amidst a live traditional German band was not quite met. We had dinner at the Hofbrau with 2 other tables occupied in the whole place. To compensate, Rob and I felt obligated to go with the 25 dollar 1 liter beer boot glass to wash down our meal. I’m sure my wife will be thrilled to add this beautiful giant piece of glassware to our already packed cupboard.


When we got back to the hotel , the Yerg was dead asleep by 8:30. I was out pretty soon after. Yeah, we party hard.

With the 5k starting at 9:30 am, it made for a leisurely morning, which I spent aggressively rehydrating from the havoc wreaked by chugging the boot. Pretty sparse crowd for the 5k. I could find no description of the Piglet course anywhere, so this could range anywhere from totally flat to a mini version of the 18k. We did a mile warmup and realized it was probably more like the latter. Oh dear God, what have I gotten myself into.

Lining up for the 5k start, we quickly realized this was most certainly a trophy hunt. Maybe 40ish people, most of whom looked like they were just out to support a family member in the main event. But you never know with an unfamiliar crowd. Sometimes those slightly thick beer guzzling old dudes can run pretty fast. So I hear. It was a surprise to see “barefoot” John Richards there. He hadn’t planned on coming, but he and his wife Char were vacationing in nearby Hiawassee, and he couldn’t pass it up. We are definitely kindred spirits.


The start to the 5k is, of course, up a hill. After initially dodging a kid aggressively cutting me off in the first turn (10 year olds are so cutthroat these days), it was pretty clear sailing. A quarter mile in Yerg surges ahead and a teenager follows suit right on his shoulder. Pretty soon after, we hit a prolonged stretch of screaming downhill. This is great, except the race director informed us this is an out-and-back course. Yeah, we were going to be crawling  up this thing at 2.5 miles in. Awesome. Of course, my whole sense of time, pace and distance was completely off. My Garmin was working fine, and it usually gets a signal OK in the mountains, but it generally works better on my wrist and not ON MY KITCHEN TABLE 205 MILES AWAY. I can’t tell you how devastated I was to find this little fact out in my hotel room. Literally woke me up as I started to drift off. Yerg was probably wondering what the random late night F bomb was all about. Anyway, I was using Map my Run on my iPhone as a backup. This is great for about 15 seconds, when the phone goes to the lock screen. It turns out trying to sweatily put in your passcode in at 5k pace is a touch difficult, not to mention carrying the damn thing. I just bailed on the phone and tried to keep Yerg and the teen in shouting distance. The course seemed to go on forever, rolling up big hills and down. I kept begging to see the turnaround. Finally we hit a long downhill and I see the cone. Rob and the teenager have a pretty good lead on me, and I’m afraid that maybe one of the randoms might be tracking me down, maybe that aggro-kid from the first corner. I make the turn and you can see a quarter mile behind you. No one.

I never completely bail out on a race, but I have to admit I did phone in a bit of the way back. It was highly unlikely I could catch either of the top 2, and I’d have to stop and walk for 3 minutes for 4th place to catch me. Plus, there was that whole “one of the toughest races in America” thing coming up in an hour. The last hill was definitely no fun but after you crest it you are home free down to the finish. I was surprised to see Rick and Dean at the finish line already as I threw down a mini-kick to sail in under 22 minutes. 21:56, 3rd overall. The kid outkicked the Yerg at the finish, so he took 2nd. Barefoot John took 10th and did me proud by “Blue Shoeing (footing?)” a kid to ensure the top ten finish.



The 5k elevation map

The hour wait in between races was pretty rough. Just long enough to get good and tight. They stage the race later in the morning to allow people to travel up from Atlanta and elsewhere, and presumably to help with the cold. Strangely, it was almost 60 degrees and perfectly comfortable in shorts up in the mountains in January. Rick, Dean Schuster, his wife Angie, Laura Stepp, and Bill Siebers had made the trip down from Columbia that morning. There were plenty of excuses going around to use for those of us ho would be beaten. Rick and Dean were definitely using the Harbison 50k from last week, though Stroud was also including the brutally cramped middle seat in the back of the Murano. Yerg probably took the cake though, having done the Lookout Mountain 50 miler in December, the snowy Harbison 50k,  long hours on his feet in the graveyard shift as a Kroger grocery  manager, a boot of beer and almost winning the 5k. Plus he had to work at Kroger at midnight that night. #hardcore indeed.


Making our way to the 18k start, I was definitely not feeling it. Running a mountainous 5k with little warmup was wreaking havoc on my gimp hamstring. Uh oh, excuses already. This race is definitely old school – no chips, just index cards and bibs. We basically just strolled up to an approximate start line, waited for a break in the traffic, and we were sent on our way. The first 2 miles of this course, as Rick had said, were a total freefall. Basically following the road out of Unicoi state park, everyone was flying. Yerg, Rick and Dean jumped out way ahead from the get go, as Bill and I held back. I’m terrible on steep downhills anyway, and I was just trying not to get my quads too beat up before all the climbing. As soon as we hit a flat section, I surged ahead, trying to close in on the huge gap between me and the other three blue shirted HTRs. Pretty close to 2 miles in , there’s a turn off the highway and you know the pain is about to commence. A mountain towers above you and forboding signs appear like SCORPION HOLLOW (unincorporated) appear. First two miles 6:45, 7:02.


Miles 3 and 4 start to get a little rough, some tough hills but a few flats and downhills to recover from the climbs. I manage to catch up to Rob, who has fallen off the back of the HTR peloton. I can tell he is already hurting, though we run together for about a half mile. Pace starts bleeding upward, 7:50, 7:58. The hill climbing is still broken up quite a bit, so there’s that sense of pushing through the struggle to get a relief at the top. As it turns out, that was about to change in a hurry. Mile 5 hits at a respectable 8 minutes, but the grade is getting steadily steeper. Despite my Sasquatchian physique, I am actually pretty good at hills. Carrying almost 200 pounds all the time makes my legs freakishly strong, so I start powering up/attacking the inclines like I usually do. After chasing them for miles, I finally catch Dean and Rick. I would say “pass” but we are all chugging up mile 6 in slow motion. Either way, my oversized ego thinks once I overtake someone I will never see them again. I’m OK, I’m powering up this hill, and hey, it looks like it flattens out up there just ahead. Lets surge up to the top! WRONG ANSWER. It just keeps going, and going. Several more false hilltops ensue, slowly draining my will to live. I still have a lead on the HTR’s but Dean’s running commentary tells me they are not far behind. Mile 6 in 9:06.

Finally, we crest a ridge and I’ve never been so glad to see a downhill in all my life. My joy is short-lived though, as Dean and Rick blow by me. WTF guys?? I make sure to keep them in range, but damned if they aren’t flying down this stretch at sub 7 pace. Maybe the next stretch isn’t as bad as Rick said. Maybe he was just playing tricks on the noob road racer. WRONG ANSWER. Just as the freefall ends, we turn a corner and dear sweet baby Jesus. A killer stretch of quarry crusher-esque grade. I start my hill attack mode but the quads and hammies immediately veto that decision. Everything starts burning in a lactic acid inferno. And then here come the voices. Those voices. THE WALKSIE VOICES. No, no, just make it to the crest of this hill, it will level out some…NOPE. Didn’t even get to the top before I’m power striding like the senior women’s group from Wildewood.

Walksies set off an inner panic in my oversized cranium that is hard to describe. My whole being is based on plowing through pain and sprinting as hard as I can go. Here I am strolling on a mountain side with a LONG way to go. My only solace is that Dean is riding that same struggle bus up ahead. Rick is leaving all for dead though, keeping that same steady pace, the one where I so confidently passed him 3 miles ago.

When I started running, I read about 70’s Olympian and coach Jeff Galloway, who advocates a walk/run method even with high level racing. Well, all of a sudden I was a hardcore Galloway disciple. As soon as I reached the top of that first killer incline, there was just another equally as bad stretch. I used signs on the road – ran hard to the sign, then walked, picked another sign and did the same thing. Dean was walking too but he was still gapping me. Legs were beyond toast. Mile 8 blew up to a 10:43, and the grade got even steeper in mile 9. Some older guy passed me at some point, and I knew there was a woman behind me that spectators were saying was the 3rd place female. I could pick up whole conversations since I was barely moving even if I was <air quotes>running</air quotes>.

Mile 9 of this race is the most unholy stretch of all the races I’ve done. There is zero negative elevation change. Over 300 feet straight up. I went from using signs to using the reflectors in the road, which are maybe 10 feet apart. I started alternating run/walking each reflector interval then running one and walking two. Just completely beat down. I can only imagine how sad I must have looked. The girl wasn’t too far behind me, but she wasn’t making any progress either. Mile 9 was a blistering 13:28. A 13:28 at absolute maximum effort.

It’s difficult to remember in my haze of panic and delirium, but around 10 miles (split 10:45) there was a slight break in the incline and then a stretch of downhill. I got a jolt of adrenaline thinking maybe the finish would be all flat or downhill. I start pushing the pace hard. Surely we were at the top of this damn mountain. THINK AGAIN, HERO. Another corner and bam, Mr. Power Strider was back. I could faintly make out a guy way ahead, but at least I had lost the girl with my “speed” interval. By this time I was really ready for this thing to be over. I had thought the 18k distance to be a little over 11 miles (11.18), but when I finally reached the 11 mile mark (10:04)  there was no finish line in sight. I rounded the corner and was met with another brutal incline. My spirit was about broken, but then I saw a person up ahead. PLEASE BE THE FINISH. I powered up a bit, but then walksies attacked yet again. Finally, I could hear voices, which I hoped were real and not some kind of Hogpen-induced psychosis. Sure enough I rounded the corner and saw the red numbers. I started charging up ahead, with Rick and Dean screaming at me to outpace a car , which had decided to tail me at the last second. With one final burst of adrenaline, I outkicked the car and crossed in 1:44, 9:11 total pace.



Rarely have I ever been so glad to finish a race. Shockingly, even with all the power walking, I managed 2nd in age group. I’m guessing I wasn’t the only one ready to join the senior women’s group on mile 9. I still got destroyed by Rick, who managed zero walking en route to a 1:39, and Dean, who was also several minutes ahead of me. Rick got 2nd in AG, Dean 3rd. Bill Seibers finished a couple of minutes later, followed by Laura, who took 1st masters. The Yerg struggled mightily but still came in at 1:54. John had predicted 2:30 for him but he was well under that. I have new respect for Clyburn’s 1:34 from last year. The conventional wisdom is that you’d run the 11+ miles in your flat half marathon time, but I think most of us were way worse than that. This race had amazing hot chicken soup at the top, a bag drop service (it’s a lot colder when you stop running) and transport back down the mountain. Super nice volunteers. Definitely one to mark on the calendar for next year.








Soda City Crit 5k and Destiny Johanna 5k double dip – Columbia, SC – 12/17/16

Although it may seem inconceivable to the non-road racing obsessed, I actually felt like a slacker with this double dip. Why? Like a total eclipse , a TRIPLE dip opportunity only comes along once in a very good while. As has been well documented in this blog, my triple dip in 2013 was my personal masterpiece: an epic trophy hunting, Tour de Columbia points grabbing run through the morning of my 38th birthday weekend. I shouldn’t mention the trouncing Tyler Mcgaha received in the third race after trash talking all week. Ooops..there I go again.


Anyway, this weekend was set up for another possible triple. The rescheduled Destiny Johanna 5k was at 7:30, Soda City Crit 5k at 8:30 and the Arthritis Foundation Jingle Bell 5k at 9:30. It was a little tight but definitely doable. However , Soda City has an elite 5k at 9:30  separate from the main race, where the top two women were going to make a run at the 5k state record (16:30) – I couldn’t miss that.

So double it was. The original Destiny Johanna 5k was scheduled during the Hurricane Matthew weekend in early October, and with the busy fall racing schedule it had to be postponed all the way until now. It’s a first time event, put on to benefit the Destiny Johanna Foundation, a group which assists with parents dealing with the loss of a newborn. Looks like a good cause.

Surprisingly, this first time event not only had a certified course but a unique one that went through the streets of Rosewood, starting and ending at Memorial stadium. I had already pegged this race as a trophy hunt given its limited publicity, competition with a bigger race (Soda City) and rescheduled status. My trophy senses were tingling even more when I showed up kind of late and there was hardly anyone there. The organizers probably thought I was some complete nut job parking and re-parking my car to find the optimal getaway position for the double dip. Kristen Brumbaugh was working the table and said she was a TDBS reader, so always good to have the ridiculous ego fed first thing in the morning.

It was brutally cold, getting late, and I was being lazy, so my “warm-up” consisted of a half mile jog around the area. When I got back there was still only a handful of people there. We had good Columbia Running Club representation with Jennifer Tudor, Stephanie Dukes, Rocky Soderberg, Reese and Melinda Petruzzi, Pete Poore and Gretchen Lambert. I looked around and didn’t recognize anyone else. None of my typical age group peeps, no elites. They had 70 registered but only 27 at the starting line. Jordan Lybrand looked at me and we both realized the obvious: this was going to be a run for the holy grail of trophy hunting: the overall win.


There was one fit looking dude that I was slightly worried about, but he seemed overdressed to be racing. After getting directions to make sure I could navigate the parking lot loops, we were off. The first loop goes through the parking lot and a short out and back around the bathroom house near the field, maybe a quarter mile tops. As I turn back on the road out of the stadium complex, I already have a 100 meter lead on the field. Fit dude is walking with his family. Um , this is not going to be close. Circling back onto Holly Street, I hit mile 1 in 6:23, and there’s no one in sight. Now, I love a good trophy hunt but this just seems ridiculous. My hamstring is complaining since I didn’t warm it up enough, and my mind is already drifted to the fact I have to do another one of these in less than an hour.

The pace gets backed down and suddenly I’m getting a police-escorted tempo run through Rosewood. The total Adam Feigh/Eric Ashton experience -only 2 minutes per mile slower and a lot fatter. I’m kind of confused by the course but the police guy seems to know where he’s going. Slightly hillier than I thought but not too bad. Lots of police monitoring the intersections – sometimes “my ” cop car would pull ahead and say something to the other guys. Probably “How did I get Sasquatch babysitting duty??” Mile 2 was like 6:55, slower than Kiawah pace. This makes me pick it up a little, because I am forever mocking Trophy McGaha about his “blackjack” 5ks. Heaven forbid the crap I would get for going over 21 myself.

I finally make it back to Bonham St after a mile or so loop, and it looks like a good third of  the field is actually just walking. The finish is a long gradual hill up Bonham and Holly St, the same as the old Rosewood Eagles 5k. I turn the last corner into the parking lot, and the clock is already in the 20’s. I do a mini kick and cross in 20:40. It wasn’t pretty but a first overall is always cool. I took a few pics and met Destiny’s mom, Joy, who was super nice. I feel bad about the turnout, but glad to see they had 70+ registered. Hopefully they can have better luck with the weather next year.



I then had to jump into my car and haul tail to the Crit. Start was at 8:30 and I had 8:03 on the watch when I left.  As I was pulling out I saw Gretchen taking 1st female and 2nd to cross the line. Looking at the results, Pete Poore took 2nd  male, with Stephanie Dukes and Jennifer Tudor taking 2nd and 3rd female. Awesome! Rocky , Melinda and Reese Petruzzi all won their age groups.

After a million traffic lights and not finding any parking, I jumped out of my car on Assembly street and sprinted over to the Soda City packet pickup. You’re supposed to do early pickup for double dips, but I figured my kids wouldn’t take to kindly to missing Star Wars: Rogue One so daddy could feed his freaky addiction. I made it to the table with ten minutes to spare. Luckily it was still super cold so I just threw the race shirt on instead of going back to the car.

The Soda City crit is another iteration of what was the Main Street Crit. This race started as a nighttime November race, then a nighttime December race, then a New Year’s Eve afternoon race, then not happening at all last year. I personally like the nighttime December race the best, but I was just glad to see it come back again. Steven Johnson and some of the 621 ninjas put this event on. It is done criterium style (Crit) where you essentially use 2 city blocks as a rectangular track. Its a great event for spectators since you get to see people come back through the same area 6 times. My favorite part is the separate elite race , where the pros and local beasts battle it out for cash.


Ken Lowden course with Blue Shoes notations


I had to throw my bib on and high tail it to the start, which is about a quarter mile from the finish line/packet pickup. Everybody was lining up already. Looked like a decent crowd – Sarah and Eric Allers, Randy Hrechko, Zach De Moya, Ian Clawson, Drew Williams, Will Brumbach, Wilson Harvey, Matt/Brie/Sabine/Quentin McGrievy, Winston Holliday, Kyle Addy, Anita Recchio were all I could see with a quick scan near the front. Oh, and Joyce brought all her Team Utopia Youth minions with her. Oh noes. Here I am weakened from the previous 5k and the Forche family is going to come beat me down. Connor informs me he’s sick, but dad Jason informs me that little bro Camden is going to try for the 8 year old state record, 19:45. Great – there is a legit chance that I’m going to get third gradered and his dad is going to age group me. Awesome!


Photo credit: Tracy Tisdale-Williams

The start feels like death as the cold and sitting has frozen up my legs and the slightly gimp hamstring. The Forches, Randy and Sarah jump ahead of me instantly as I try to get the engine fired back up as quickly as possible. Tigs gives me a quick “gluteal massage” on her pass. Oh, she’ll pay for that. The first corner is the heckler/smoker bus station corner – always good to pull a wide turn around these guys. The second turn onto main st features the awesome 90’s band, which seems to have a playlist completely from the Blue Shoes college CD rack. Nice downhill on main all the way to the finish mat/lap counter. By the first lap, I’ve passed the Forches but Tigs and Brumbach are in a mini pack up ahead. Finally the legs are a little warmed up and I surge ahead, making sure to throw a little elbow and verbal harassment Tigs’ way, drawing a rare British F bomb. I am so proud!  The first couple of laps feel OK, mile split in 6:19, though its hard to trust the garmin signal among the downtown buildings. Around the third lap things start turning a little south – legs are hating the abuse and I can feel Brumbach just behind me. By this time, people are getting lapped so you have to do a little tailback maneuvering and find your seam. A few times, people almost step out in front of the albino bus but I’m able to avoid any significant impacts. I don’t hear the mile 2 split, and I’m really just going by Coach B’s lap signs anyway. With two laps to go, some teenage kid cuts me off and starts blocking. OK dude, its on.These xc kids are ruthless. I start trying to kick it in but the legs are  just toast. Wide turn around the hecklers, a little Nirvana on the turn and blast down the straightaway with one lap to go. My eyes of death meet Joyce and Darrell, both of which I’m sure are rooting for me to get the smackdown from Camden. No way. The last lap is just brutal – the brain is spending all of its energy trying to override the veto of the legs and lungs. I basically throw everything into the  heckler/band curve, hoping to slingshot into the downhill finishing straight. I don’t dare look back. I still see 19’s as I make out the clock with a block to go. One last sprint into the chute and I cross around 19:50. The official time is 19:46, which matches my Garmin. Good enough for 1st in AG, though only 14th overall. I’ll take it for a double dip.


Photo credit: Tracy Tisdale-Williams

In the elite race, Michael Banks, running for Strictly, crushed a 14:35 for the win. Adam Freudenthal ran shoulder to shouder with Banks for most of the race and finished 2nd in 14:41. Brandon Hudgens placed third in 14:48. The women’s race was also close with Victoria Hammersmith and Esther Atkins battling it out side by side all the way into the chute, with Hammersmith taking the win 16:51 to 16:53. Michele Ziegler used a punishing finishing lap kick to edge Shawanna White for third. Adam Feigh had a huge PR with a 15:50. Other Columbia finishers included Eric Ashton in 16:20 and OJ Striggles in 17:01.

In the mere mortals race, Christian Acker clocked a 16:51 for the win over Hunter McGahee and Alex Dahlstrom. Sarah Allers recovered from Blue Shoe harassment to take the women’s win. Even with all the elites, the only state record taken down at the Crit was 2nd place female Kendra Miles. All of 7 years old, Kendra rocked a 21:51 for a PR and an obliteration of the 22:30 record she tied last weekend. Amazing. Ten year old Rylee Matthews ran an impressive 22:50 for third overall. Joyce, what are you feeding these kids?

Age groups: Camden came up a little short in the record attempt but still got 2nd in the 2-14 age group with  a  20:32. Alan Deogracias placed 2nd in the 15-19, with Ian Clawson 3rd.  Zach Demoya ran an impressive 17:53 but only needed to show up to win hs 20-24 age group.Wilson Harvey continues his sub 19 streak with a 2nd in AG in the 25-29. Drew Williams and Will Brumbach  went 1-2 in the 35-39. Eme Crawford took 3rd in the 35-39 women. Rebecca West, Amanda Wardlaw and Brie Mcgrievy won the 40-44 women while Jason Forche and Matt McGrievy finished 2-3 among the men.  Eric Allers, Randy Hrechko and Winston Holliday swept the 45-49 men. Anita Recchio eked out a 50-54 win by a mere 17 minutes. Kyle Addy took the 55-59 men. SC racing legend Catherine Lempesis was champ of the 65-69 women in an impressive 24:34, with Peter Mugglestone winning the 70+.

Soda City results:

Destiny Johanna results:

Adam Feigh’s blog from the elite race:


Kiawah Half and Marathon – Kiawah Island, SC – 12/10/16


The Kiawah half and full marathon are in their 39th year, having been a mainstay of the winter marathon season since the late 70’s. Normally a somewhat snooty gated community, the whole island opens up once a year to let a few thousand people come and trash the place for a few hours.

I hadn’t planned on coming back so soon. True, the 2014 marathon was the crown jewel in my running career – a 3:11 Boston qualifier that I trained like a beast for under the wing of TUS coach Justin Bishop. However, my hydration/nutrition plan, along with a few overzealous sub-7 pace miles, nearly sabotaged the whole thing. The last 5k of the race is easily the worst I’ve felt in any event before or since. It’s a minor miracle I didn’t run over one of the 3 hour half finishers taking selfies and/or cover them with a shower of projectile GU puke. It was rough.

But my vice president Joyce scored some sketchy deal on the race in the fall, and somehow I got sucked into doing the race again. Thankfully, I had the foresight to realize I was in no mood to train for a marathon again. I’m a 5k guy. Nothing kills my soul more than Sunday 20 milers and 5 mile intervals. But I am fond of the half, so I was in. Unfortunately, my training ended up totally sucking for distance. I was doing a lot of 5k specific stuff to compete in the fall races, but just not putting in the long runs. I did a few leading up to the Famously Hot Race in late October and managed a 1:31 on a brutal course. And that was pretty much it.  No runs over 8-9 miles in the last 6 weeks before Kiawah. This could get ugly.

As it turned out, half of the Columbia running community showed up for this one. We had a sizable Team Utopia group going, two condos worth. I was rooming with Joyce, Code Brown and Israel, and I somehow managed to coax my wife “first lady” Mary into coming. Mary is not fond of running, or talking about running, so she was hesitant to go. She did hear that her Boston drinking buddy Sheila was there, so apparently that was enough. Both have an affinity for mixed drinks and F bombs, so the connection was clear.


Speaking of F bombs, I dropped more than a few on the way down to Kiawah. Highway 526 was jacked up for some unknown reason and it took us an hour to go like 3 miles. I lived in this mess for 2 years in 2006-2008, and the traffic is something I definitely don’t miss. Actually the whole reason I got into running was avoiding Charleston traffic and hitting the treadmill at o’ dark thirty in the morning. And the rest was history. Anyway, it took us forever and I was super afraid of missing the 8:30 curfew for the expo.

When I get there I get a jokey volunteer who asks me if McDonald has a farm. Yeah, I might have heard that before. That and “run, Forrest, run”. He then stops, pauses, and smiles. WTH?? Grabbing a piece of paper off the back of my bib, he turns around and yells “LADIES AND GENTLEMEN, WE HAVE A HIGH PERFORMANCE ATHLETE!!!” And all the volunteers give me a round of applause. As I acknowledge my “fans”, Mary’s eye roll behind me is palpable. The ego continues to grow out of control. It’s pretty late by the time we get out of the expo and I’m starting to get panic-level hangry. Luckily Sheila calls and tells us they still have food left from dinner, since Justin was running even later.  Since it was close to 9 pm and I was running on fumes, I’ve never had a finer dining experience than spaghetti with potato chips, washed down with a Miller Lite. I like to keep it classy.

Race morning was pretty much perfect racing weather. Super cold for Kiawah, probably low 30’s. Thankfully, Mary was a saint and agreed to do Sherpa duties, which made things way easier. For the uninitiated, “Sherpa” = someone to carry around all your race s#$% and extra clothing, and take pics. She definitely earns her self-proclaimed “Best Wife Ever” status. I got to stroll into the guarded “HIGH PERFORMANCE CORRAL” due to my “A” number, melon head ready to explode. I thought it was “A” for first place, though Mary felt “A” stood for something else that I won’t print here.  Drew Williams, Ivanka Tolan, Justin Bishop, MC Cox, Joyce  and Linn Hall are some of the other familiar faces in my corral.


The start was ridiculously fast. Although legitimately in the corral (sub 1:30 documented half), I felt like a whale swimming among the marlins. Not too many other Sasquatches in the land of singlets and zero percent body fat. MC and Linn form a tandem, and I try to pace off them for a while, but they are flying and I back off. Code catches me about a half mile in , having done some crazy speed from the corral behind (10-15 seconds back). He didn’t put in his half time when he registered. We cruise through mile 1 in 6:46. Not too bad. I knew a PR (1:28:27) would pretty much be out of the question with the crap training, but I was still hanging on to the sub 1:30 goal, 6:52 pace.  Code and I are pacing together by now – he had planned to do around 6:50 for a few miles as warm up before ramping it up faster.  We catch Ivanka over 1.5 miles in – she must have crushed the start. I start chasing down Drew Williams for the better part of a mile, but it turns out its a pseudo-Drew in a similar blue singlet. Damn it. Pseudo Drew gets blue shoed around mile 3.  Somewhere in there is the bridge that provides a few feet of incline in an otherwise pancake course. By mile 4 I start feeling a little like crap. When the split comes back at 6:44 I realize I’ve been pulling like 1:27-1:28 half pace the whole time, instead of my planned negative splits. Apparently the gigantic head got carried away with all the “high performance” stuff. I consciously try to back it down a notch because we’ve got a long way to go. Code then leaves me like a red headed stepchild and pushes on the gas. Fine – be that way!

Next few miles are more of the same, mostly generic condos and shady streets with a few marsh views thrown in. The course is so flat, I’m trying to change my gait at times to use different muscles. I start getting passed by a few people, notably a pack of college kids from Berry College. I don’t know where Berry is, but I’m pretty sure its not Division I if these guys are pacing with the Albino Sasquatch. To their credit, they surge ahead, but I keep them in sight.  Around 6 miles the course splits off from the marathon and I get a lift that we are at least headed back in the general direction of the finish. 6.5 mile mat reads 44:30.  Pretty soon after, some skinny tall dude pulls up alongside, and damned if it isn’t Brandenburg. I’m so glad JB traveled 200 miles only to shame me once again. He leaves me in the dust as I start entering Debbie Downer mode.

The next few miles provide some nice change in scenery, with a few trips on the golf course cart path and, for a glorious 50 meters, an actual view of the ocean. Imagine that. The turns and twists feel like crap, though, and my pace starts to bleed into the 7:05 range. I’m realizing exactly what hard 5k training will do for you in a half – I’m not breathing hard at all but my legs feel like absolute lead. I’m beginning to feel like the wheels may be coming off soon – it feels a lot warmer, the stomach feels like giving back the little bit of GU I could choke down, and there’s not much motivation. But then I see it…the Code is getting reeled in. After the Sanctuary hotel grounds we’re back near the start line, and I get a boost from my hot Sherpa cheering me on. Off (literally) come the gloves, and it’s time to go catch some Code. It doesn’t take long because dude is definitely hurting – starts moaning about the course being boring, how he’s going to throw up, etc. etc. Sounds like he’s taking a page from the Tyler McGaha book of lamentations.  It’s always nice to pass the Code, but I could probably use a good puke too. Mile 10 comes back at 7:04 and it just pisses me off. OK – just a 5k to go, about 21.5 minutes to break 1:30. I start methodically pushing in all my chips, ramping up the pace. I’m going much harder effort-wise than the start but only getting the same 6:40’s in return. Once mile 12 hits, it’s time to Blue Shoe it.  I finally pass an older guy who I talked to at the start aiming for a 1:29. I’m hurting pretty bad, but then some young guy flies past me, offering some words of encouragement. Oh hellz no. I ride his tail for a while and I see JB and now MC Cox up ahead. Having some new carrots on a string helps me push it even harder, but the legs are really protesting about the abuse now. Finally I hear the announcer and see the last turn ahead. Headless chicken mode is engaged as I round the turn with the American flags, which I remember so well from the ’14 race.  With 100 meters to go, I pull a total Leeds Barroll meets Usain Bolt sprint. Unfortunately, the announcer takes off the stealth mode from my attack on MC and she ramps it up 1000 percent. I pass a couple of Berry college kids, and with one ridiculous sub 4 surge nip the guy who passed me a half mile ago, at the line. Mr. Nobile, I’m sorry/not sorry for ruining your finish pics. Official time of 1:29:21 /6:49 pace. About as good as I could have hoped for in this (air quotes) training (/air quotes) cycle. What’s even better – 5 deep masters and 5 deep age groups yielded me a 3rd in the 40-44. No coveted pelican trophy (overall, masters and grandmasters) but the age group awards are really nice wood plaques.

In the half, Chris Bailey rocked a 1:11 to take the overall win. He barely edged me out for the 2015 Rose Fest double down win. Barely.  Erin Miller crushed a 1:23 en route to a 4th overall. Columbia was well represented in the masters women with Linn Hall 1st, MC Cox 3rd and Ivanka Tolan 5th. PR’s for both Linn (1:27) and Ivanka (1:32), I believe. Brandenburg took 3rd as a newly minted grandmaster. Justin Bishop was 4th in a brutally competitive 35-39. Mario Alvarez PR’d with a 1:36 for 4th in the 50-54. Sue Porter captured 4th in the women’s 60-64, while Pete O’Boyle did the same among the men. Jesse Smarr rocked a 5th in the 75-99.

In the marathon, my Palmetto 200 teammate Rob Gannett killed it with a 3:01, good for a BQ and 2nd in the 35-39. Noel Schuch took 2nd in the 40-44.

Lots of Columbians in the 2800+ runners:

Half: Drew Williams, Darrell Brown, Julia Norcia, John Bradley, Ken and Sheila Bolin, Derek and Jamie Gomez, Michael and Kate Ferlauto, Israel Bilbao, Jason Lockhart, Kelly Ghent, Alan Humphries, Teresa Harrington, Mkie Wainscott, Brent Shealy, Mark Stout, Sam Hilliard, Dawn and Dave Hale, Lisa and Jesse Smarr, Paul Laymon, Lauren Holliday, Peter Mugglestone, Sandra Riccuito, James Dubose, Kim La, Kana Rahman, Krystal McManus, Anthony Hernandez.

Full: Hal Ray, Winston and Kimberly Holliday, Alecia Milling, Mike Griffin, Michael Jensen and Jason Thompson. Special shout out to my original running partner Emily Granberry and husband Michael – Emily finished her first full while training as a mom with 3 kids under 5!

Sorry if I missed anyone – let me know!

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


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

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

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


Oh, dear God.

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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



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


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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

My 5k data:

Half results from Strictly Running:

5k results: