Heat Training for Sasquatches

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2013 IOP Beach Run 5k with David Lee Roth chest hair

So it’s June in Columbia, which basically means it sucks for running. Our amazing spring weather gives way to a daily ration of soul-crushing, surface-of-the-sun heat followed by a good chance of monsoon like thunderstorms with death lightning basically every day. Road races kind of disappear, and I’m left with either training in this misery, or (GASP) hitting the treadmill. Shudder to think.

This year I was going to do summer right. In the past I just got lazy and slower, but I’m still chasing my dream of the sub 40 10k, so I really want to be in good shape for the fall. I already did my yearly revisit of the treadmill, which of course reinforced my belief that I’d rather repeatedly bang my head against the wall for 45 minutes than ever do that again. Jeezus. How people (cough) Tyler McGaha (cough) do a majority of their running on the dreadmill defies explanation to me.  I saw them all spring at MUV fitness, churning out miles in front of a TV while a sunny 65 degree day sat there outside. Boggles the mind. So it’s outside or nothing for me.

This summer, I’ve developed three workouts guaranteed to improve summer training for the large and pigmentally challenged.

  1. Albino Sasquatch tanning sessions. I’m a large Irish guy, which basically means my tanning ability runs from the dark beige to maybe a light khaki. My genetics would have me drinking ale by the overcast North Sea, not slogging out miles in the South Carolina heat. But I have young kids, which means I have to make at least weekly pool appearances. And I don’t want to be “that dad” with the shirt on in the pool. I may have lost all coolness points my now, but somehow I don’t want to be the shame of the suburban aging guys at the Woodlands pool. Total middle school,  I know. I go from alabaster to beet red in about an hour, so if I can get enough 30-45 minute sessions of sun, I can actually, vaguely, tan. So why not incorporate this into a run and kill two birds with one stone? I park at MUV fitness, run 1 mile into Sandhills across the street and then let the paleness fly out in the relative seclusion of the park. Four miles in the blazing sun in the open field, then shirt back on for the run back to MUV.  I don’t want to scare women and children. To date, this workout has produced decent results, at least with heat acclimation. Unfortunately, I did one of these on a Tuesday, which just happens to coincide with the weekly Northeast Farmers market. I’m in the middle of my mile loop, pushing the pace, when all of a sudden I make a turn and I’m putting on a pasty, sweaty show for about 50 people. My deepest apologies. At least the portapotty for the market stays there all summer, providing a safety net for code browns, albeit at 120 nose destroying degrees. Bikram pooping is a thing, apparently.
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Photo courtesy of Liz Locke

2.  Sesqui hill training – They say hills are speedwork in disguise, so I figure hitting the double combo of  Mt Sesqui (the entrance road) and Sand HELL (Brandenburg’s torture trail paralleling Mt Sesqui) are a good way to get some quality runs in without overheating too much. I generally take these pretty easy, and they make good scouting runs for the annual CRC sufferfest route. I’ve done this combo a number of times, so last week I was feeling pretty cocky and went back to do Sand HELL one more time after leaving Brandenburg a sand note at his gate. I’m cruising along when I suddenly realize it’s after 6 pm and I was going to meet my college roommate/drinking buddy Ryan at 6:30 to go to Twisted Spur. All of a sudden I go from a 10 min pace slog to a 7 minute pace tempo. The internal radiator starts smoking almost immediately. Shirt comes off, as does my spibelt since it was bouncing with the speed downhill. It’s getting late, so I crank it up to 5k pace as I cross Polo Road, absolutely dying. I’m thinking I’m OK until Ryan texts me he’s early. I get the text just as I come flying around the corner, pure sweaty albino, sucking wind like there’s no tomorrow, double fisting a soaked shirt and an iphone. I get a WTF? look from the car, do a speed shower and rehydrate at the brewery. Let’s just say it was a good thing it was his turn to drive.

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2014 Strictly Running Track Series – Worst form ever

 

3) The Track, or whatever – Nothing sucks worse than speedwork in the heat, but Justin Bishop likes to beat his minions into submission when June rolls around. Going to Team Utopia practice is rough, but at least there’s company to your misery at Owens field. Unfortunately my little minions all have swim meets on Mondays, so this puts a wrench in my TUS attendance. For the non-suburban parent, swim meets are 3 hours plus of roasting in the sun while they have like 60 races. They are just a notch above other kids birthday parties and Monkey Joe’s on the parental pain scale.  So, I’m often left to fend for myself with the 800 meter repeats in June. Last week: 8 x 800 in the rain, by myself, up and down the hills of Wildewood. This was after swim meet got rained out last second, 2 coronas down and an 8 pm guilt trip. I thought this had to be piece de resistance of summer training torture, though I was able to finish. But no, today had to trump that. Meadowlake track near my work, 5.5 x 800 at 6 min pace in 95 degree heat dodging walkers and kids. I was supposed to do nine. Halfway through the sixth I was feeling kind of passy outty so I figured it would not be cool to be carted off on an ambulance. Especially in front of the psychiatric hospital where i work. I’m supposed to be the sane one.

Which goes to reinforce the number one rule of summer training: just don’t die. To that end, never do the 1 x 20 feet at 9.8 m/sec/sec in Hawaii. I can’t recommend it. Stay safe out there…

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July 2013 Hawaii homecoming – Hell indeed

 

 

 

See Spot Run 5k/Tame the Beast 12k – Earlewood Park -5/21/16

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The See Spot Run 5k is a race put on by the Humane Society, and true to its name, is the most dog friendly of the road races in the midlands. They even give out a prize for first dog and have swimming pools along the way for four-legged water stops. Its only fitting that Tuff Clyburn, fur child of Brian “El Capitan” Clyburn /captain of my Palmetto 200 team, has dominated the canine division of this race in recent years, taking the last two wins. I can only guess he gives Tuff a color coded spreadsheet and pace goals as well.

The race was first held in 2010 in the first week of June, and used to be held at Riverfront park. Apparently people complained of the oppressive heat and running past the less-than-aromatic chicken plant on the old course, so they moved it to Earlewood Park a couple of years later. The inaugural race was the site of one of the earliest overall Blue Shoes trophy hunts, a third place almost 2 minutes behind Jason Dimery and Gregory Jones, Sr.  I think I outweighed the other winners combined, but I was grinning like an idiot after an epic takedown of Ken Sekley on the bridge.

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The new 5k course in Earlewood is pure evil. They lure you into complacency with a blazing fast downhill 1st mile,  only to crush you with a killer climb up to Logan school, then turn around, plunge back down that climb and then run that blazing fast first mile in reverse. Trust me, its not so nice the other way. Plus, they used to have 17 minute 5ker Randy Finn dress up in full dog mascot costume and smoke ¾ of carrying 20 pounds of fur and oversize head.  But hey, isn’t that what I already do every race?

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Someone in 2015 thought, hey, this 5k thing is WAY TOO EASY. Let’s add in 4+ miles, 30 turns and cram in as many hills as we can. Awesome!  The See Spot 12k was thus born. It did have some hiccups in its first year though, with a misdirect and Randy Hrechko setting a world record for F-Bombs in the Columbia area.

In order to fix this and improve the races in general , RD extraordinaire Delisa Edwards held a focus group a couple of months ago at Jake’s in Five Points. With free beer and wings, they really had to twist my arm to come. She was really dedicated to making sure the longer race went off without a hitch in 2016, and she said there would be plenty of volunteers and course markings.  I had heard the course was brutal, so I encouraged her to own up to the pain and perhaps not use the “flat and fast” tagline, so she came up with TAME THE BEAST.

We had a Columbia Running Club sponsored a few weeks later, and damn, she was not kidding. I ran the 12k course and got into a training run pseudo race with the Code and Marian Nanney and I wanted to die. Unrelenting mountain range.  No way was I doing this. No freaking way.

But a few weeks passed, and the traumatic memories faded.  I kept putting off choosing which race I would do until somehow I devised a theory that the 12k would be the better trophy hunt. Besides, hills are my strength, and hey, I was the owner of the FASTEST 12K IN THE STATE FOR 2016. Sorry, I just wanted to say that again. We won’t mention it was the only one, and a trophy hunt of epic proportion.

Speaking of trophy hunts, my 12k theory lasted about 5 minutes from the time I showed up.  Here comes Randy, Angel Manuel and Toby Selix, and I’m already sitting 3rd Masters and AG at best. And that’s if I can take down Hrechko, who torched a 19:40 at last week’s gov cup.  Later Phil Midden and the Yerg showed up, knocking me further down the overall ladder and contributing to the overwhelming display of mid-70’s-born running talent. This was going to suck AND I was going to get crap for Tour de Columbia points. Brilliant theory, Sasquatch.

http://www.usatf.org/events/courses/maps/showMap.asp?courseID=SC15011KWL

I could try to describe the 12k course but this thing literally has 40+ turns. It’s basically the fast 1st mile of the 5k course, an insane roller coaster downhill then an unrelenting iron maiden of pain thereafter. The piece d’ resistance is the climb around 6 miles, where you make up all the elevation loss from the roller coaster. Good times.

The 12k starts about 15 minutes before the 5k and, as my orginal theory had predicted, had far fewer people than the well-attended 5k. Only about 60 runners total, which would be great if it wasn’t for all the middle aged beast men.  Rob Yerger, Micah Simonsen, Lisa Smarr, Matt McGrievy, Jennifer Kryzanowski, Colleen “don’t call me Mrs. Beast” Vowles,  Anita Recchio, Kelly Ghent, Tommy Outlaw, Brigitte Smith and Kerry Stubbs were some of the familiar faces.

The gun sounds and I take off like a tempo. It’s mid 60’s but crazy humid and going out too fast on this course would be the kiss of death. First mile is nice and flat and I form a mini pack with Randy and Micah. As we approach the mile marker on Marlboro St, the road appears to end…until you realize it’s the roller coaster.  Ninety feet of elevation drop in a quarter mile. Yeah, there’s no way to run that gracefully. I flop down to the bottom wrecking my quads in the process. Suckage has commenced, and this is just the downhill. The ensuing little bit of straight on Lucius Rd is the lowest point of the course, and the next mile is spent cruising through the canal place neighborhood, then back  through Earlewood  to meet up with the 5k course on Park st. So far so good. I’ve hit the first two miles in 7 minute pace, and I’ve managed to break free from my pack. Park st drops you again and then makes you climb right back up.  Things start going south on this mountain climb, since I really hadn’t recovered from the range I just crossed. I keep hoping for something, ANYTHING, flat. Wayne St is still a slight incline but at least its straight, so it feels good to breathe a little again. Unfortunately, someone is tracking my ass down  as I go under the I-26 /Elmwood overpass into the area near the Governor’s Mansion. Sure enough Angel passes me like he’s out for a Sunday jog, leaving me and my wounded ego in the dust.  Another climb and a loop by Tricky Nikki’s house and we’re headed for home, sort of. Miles 3 and 4 (7:13, 7:23) have faded badly, so I need to make up some time to make this respectable. Jen K and a guy pacing her (Logan Hawke) are up ahead so I focus on tracking these guys down.  Mile 5 feeds back into the 5k course,  and includes the fun climb up to Logan School. By this time my legs are more warmed up to the repeated abuse so it seems a little easier. Its also nice to see some of the 5kers like the rest  of the McGrievys (Brie, Quentin and Sabine) and Cheryl Outlaw (with Gizmo of course).  Mile 5 back to 7:01 and I start preparing for what I know is going to really, really suck – the climb back up the roller coaster. But first a plunge down into a valley on Park Street just to beat your legs a little more.  Park Street features the brutal climb in the 5k that tests your will to live in that race.  Jen K catches a brief spell of walksies and I manage to pull ahead and make up some ground on Angel. I’m so glad to reach the top at the mile 6 marker, but then I forget – the course then throws away all that climb with one huge downhill and starts you all over again. The ensuing mountain is unspeakable. All the elevation climb of Park Street compressed into half the distance, with a Quarry Crusher- esque little 10 percent lung buster at the end. I’m doubled over like Quasimodo on Xanax, trying to give the appearance of running. I think power walking it might have been faster, except my melon headed ego wont let me. Any grandiose thoughts about catching Angel quickly are replaced with making to the finish without getting Hrechkoed or Kryzanowskied.  After the lung buster, there are two more little inclines before finally, mercifully, flattening out for a bit. It takes me a full half mile to get my breath back, and I start to recover some, but by this time its too close to the finish to give Angel a run for his money. The finish throws you down one more hill, and I cross in 53:07, my second slowest 12k ever.

But hey, I know I’m at least one of the first few finishers, right? Yes… and no. While taking 6th overall, I realize all that effort puts me as 4th in the 40-44 behind Toby, Phil Midden and Angel. If the Yerg was 7 months older I would have been 5th.  Unreal.  Since Toby and Phil were so gracious to take overall places, I was able to get 2nd masters and a nice wine glass at least.  Looking at the results, 6 of the 7 40-44 guys placed in the top 11. But with three deep overall and masters, all 7 of us took home some bling. Sweet.

In the 5k, it was triumph yet again for Tuff Clyburn, who pulled Dan Carter to an overall win. Dan was able to put on the jets at the last second to claim first mammal, however. 17:55 is an insane time for that course, especially  having to stop 4 times for Tuff’s  dips on the pools.  River Bluff Hs runner William Moran took second with William Stutts 3rd.  Lorien Clark was the women’s winner at age 13, followed by Sara Hutchins and Elise Germany.

In masters, Jeff Godby managed first with Johnathan Kirkwood 2nd. Gretchen Lambert and Jennifer Othersen took the top two women’s masters.

In the 5k age groups,  Jessica Weaver took the win in the 15-19. Drew Williams won the 35-39, with Ryan Sacko 3rd. Teresa Shelton was 3rd in the 35-39 with two dogs in tow. Henry Othersen, Todd Derrick and Art Lambert swept the 40-44. Chip Lupo was 2nd in the 45-49, while Missy Caughman took 1st among the women.  Tom Tanner won the 50-54 men with Joe Robinson 3rd.  Susan Weaver was 3rd in the 50-54 women.  Lois Leaburn placed 2nd in the 55-59 women, with Tour director John Gasque winning on the mens side to continue his TDC domination this year. Cheryl Outlaw won the 60-64 with Pete Poore 2nd among the men.  Rich Weaver won the 65-69 in a very good day for the Weaver family.  Racing studs Henry Holt, Peter Mugglestone and Rocky Soderberg swept the 70+.

In the 12k, Toby Selix crushed a 6:22 pace to take the win with Phil Midden 2nd in sub 50. McCray Weeks was 3rd. Jen K , Colleen Vowles and Anita Recchio took the podium for the women.  Lisa Smarr took 3rd female masters while Angel,  Sasquatch and Hrechko (best law firm name ever) swept the old men category.

In the age groups, Logan Hawke tok 1st in the 20-24. Rob and Micah were 1-2 in the 35-39. Matt McGrievy was 2nd in the 40-44. Ravi Chockalingam and  John Richards were the top two 45-49 men. Phil Togneri won the 50-54. Tommy Outlaw placed 3rd in the 55-59. Harry Strick won the 60-64 men  while Brigitte Smith was champion of the 65-69 women.

 

 

 

Rose Festival 12k and 5k – Orangeburg, SC – 4/30/16

 

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The Rose Festival 5k and 12k have been around for about 10 years, but initially escaped my attention since Orangeburg is about an hour from my house.  At some point I must have realized, though, that this was an event practically made for me. I spend so much time looking for double dip opportunities, but Rose Fest actually builds one into their race, and makes the double an event all to itself (called the “Double Down 17k” as well. It is a Tour de Columbia points bonanza.

My first taste of the Rose Fest in 2013 virtually assured I’d be coming back again. I consider it probably the best running performance of the hundreds of races I’ve done. I PR’d in the 12k by over a minute and a half, running a 48:12 in an epic battle with Billy Tisdale. The 5k, only about 40 minutes later, was absolutely brutal, but featured a 5:59 closing mile to catch Billy again, finishing in 19:49 and securing a double down championship.  I was hooked.

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Rose Fest 12k, 2013

Of course, whenever someone like myself wins races, it basically screams TROPHY HUNT. I don’t win races by talent, I win by luck and lack of competition.  The Rose Fest featured wins by local elites Justin Bishop, Chris Bailey and Michael Banks in subsequent years – people who could go have brunch after their race and still have time to get back to see me finish.

I was injured in 2014, but I came back in 2015 to race the double again. Charleston’s Chris Bailey trounced everybody in both the 12k and 5k, and I had a couple of so-so races (50:02, 20:08 I think). But, since they added a masters division, I took home the masters double down crown much to my surprise.

This year, I was decidedly less optimistic. Boston, while a euphoric experience, left me just wrecked. At least I knew why I was feeling so bad at the race since I was sick as a dog the rest of the week. I had managed to get a few runs in the next weekend, including an ill-advised preview run of the Gov Cup Half on Sunday.  Even though the legs were slowly coming back, I was dead tired and still not 100 percent recovered from the brutal cold I had been fighting.

But, it was Rose Fest, so I figured I’d at least go down to Orangeburg to take pictures. I think I had a beer fueled moment of poor judgment (not the first, mind you) on Thursday night and signed up for the 12k on a whim. I had to catch my 10 year old’s chorus performance at the Sparkleberry Fair at 10:15 so I really couldn’t stay for the double down. I know… the thug life chose me.

Waking up at 5:00 am on Saturday,  it took every ounce of willpower, coupled with the 40 bucks I had already burned, to get me out of bed. OK I was definitely doing this race easy. I figured I could cruise at my Kiawah Marathon 7:15 pace and see if I could stumble into my age group or something.

I got down to Orangeburg with about 40 minutes to spare for the 7:30 start. Not a big crowd – the 12k is usually fairly small but loaded with elites, the 5k much larger. I ran into Cheryl and Thomas Outlaw, John Gasque (doing the double down), Brigitte and Garrett Smith, fellow TUS teammates Makenzie Wilson and birthday girl Greta Dobe. Rocky was already there despite only running the 5k at 9:00. Justin had mentioned he would be there but was MIA. I did less than a mile warmup, and the legs felt it necessary to remind me on every step that it was indeed only 12 days ago that I ran a marathon.  Total cinder blocks.

As we walk up to the start line, I’m taking pictures, talking to Erin and the cops, and generally distracted. As I put my phone away, I’m suddenly struck…WHERE ARE THE ELITES?? There are a few kids, a random fit looking guy about my age and an older dude with a Charleston Running Club singlet up front. No one I really recognize on the front line. OK, so surely one of these guys must be a sub 6 pace kind of dude. Still, a sense of opportunity, and panic, runs through me.

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The course – mostly flat and residential.

 

With the gun, I make sure I go out easy since this was the plan. About a quarter mile in I see a couple of teenagers in matching shirts running a couple of steps ahead and a guy riding my tail, but there’s no one but me and the police car. I take a quick look over my shoulder and start cussing. I’ve got 20 meters on the field already. Sonofabitch, I’ve stumbled into an unbelievable trophy hunt. I was going to have to at least try.

But, yeah, I really, really didn’t want to. A half mile in and the teenagers are gone. Just me and a random shirtless guy . I turn to him and jokingly say “I guess we are the elites today”, but he doesn’t even look at me. Dude is in a zone, probably dead set on kicking this melon headed Clydesdale’s ass. Normally I would use this as motivation to drop him, but I have no idea what my legs can take right now and  I have no idea what this guy is capable of. I focus on about 7 minute pace as I had no intention on running any faster than I had to  to take home the holy grail. Mile one came back in 7:04 and unfortunately Shirtless is riding my back like an oversized monkey. I don’t blame him since I produce a drafting wake like Andre the Giant. I turn a corner and there’s a long straightaway in mile 2 with a slight climb. OK – lets keep the pace steady but surge up the hill a bit to try and create some breathing room. Mile 2 was slightly faster in 6:54. I don’t feel great, having not done anything remotely fast in the past 2 weeks. I hit kind of a low point near mile 3 where I’m not sure if the police car missed a turn or not. I hear some noise behind me and Shirtless is still in striking distance, maybe 10 meters back. Damn it. The police car then turns and I recognize the course again, so figure I’m OK.

By now, I’m thinking that I can probably just maintain pace and Shirtless will fade, but there was at least one other guy not too far back. They’ll take my trophy from me from my dead, cold hands, so I bump up the pace just a little to be safe. I hit the turnaround right at mile 4, so a big psychological hurdle is overcome. Pace 6:45-6:50 for the middle miles. The heat and marathon legs are starting to get to me but the course quickly loops back on itself, and at least now I have some company going the other way. I focus on the other runners, trying not to get too crazy and kick it in too early. Mile 5 is 6:45. I’m definitely feeling pretty bad by now – legs are nice and loose but I’d really rather still be in bed. I’m almost to mile 6 (slight fade to 6:55) by the time I hit the other police car sweeping the back end of the race. Just stay on course and keep up this pace. All of a sudden I see “the hill”. Just a bump really, but I knew it was a half mile almost all downhill to the finish from the top. The hill where I pushed in all the chips against Billy in 2013 and headless chickened it to the finish. Not quite the same this time, but seeing the finish from the top of the hill is a big adrenaline jolt. I’m pretty much toast but I’m scared to death of some random joker blue shoeing me in the final stretch. I’m too afraid to look back. Burning down the hill I see Eric and Sarah Allers, Rob Yerger and Mike Compton. Sure glad they chose the undercard this year. Compton says there’s no one behind me so I do back it off a touch so I an enjoy the win. Crossed the line in 51:15, 6:52 pace. First overall! My fourth holy grail. I even had a post race interview with the Orangeburg Times-Democrat http://thetandd.com/sports/recreation/festival-of-roses-road-race-has-record-setting-turnout/article_898dc68a-613b-5b97-9f33-7b844422031d.html.   http://thetandd.com/uploaded_photos/festival-of-roses-k-road-race/image_1144fd58-b88e-5c0b-a08f-222e28a8c733.html  The melon head continues to grow.

This was my slowest Rose Fest 12k my over a minute, and second slowest ever, but overall victories are so sweet regardless of the time. I will take it.

In the 12k, John Gasque took 9th place and 1st in the 55-59. Tommy Outlaw took 2nd. Joe Robinson won the 50-54.Cheryl Outlaw won the 60-64 while Greta Dobe took 2nd in the 50-54. Hou Yin Chang placed 3rd in the 40-44. Brigitte Smith won the 65-69. In a critical no show, I see Lee Moore was signed up but didn’t make it to the start line. Thanks, Lee!

In the 5k, Eric Allers trounced the field by almost a minute, with Sarah taking the women’s win. An excellent day for Team Allers, newly representing the Fleet Feet racing team. Parker Roof was 3rd. The Yerg was 4th overall and 1st in the 35-39. Daniel Patrick took 5th and 1st in the 25-29. Joe Roof won the 50-54 while Compton took the 60-64. Arnold Floyd won the 70+. Makenzie Wilson was 4th female and won the 25-29. John Gasque was 2nd in the 55-59 for race #2. Alex Ponomarev won the 65-69. Henry Holt took 2nd in the 70+, running 28 flat at age 80. Not too shabby. Peter Mugglestone was 3rd in a super competitive 70+ age group. Tommy Outlaw was 3rd in the 55-59 in race #2, while Cheryl won her age group again, picking up 20 TDC points in one morning

I was not the only one to benefit this trophy hunt – Tour de Columbia director John Gasque was able to take home the double down championship! Marie McLean-Choi won the women’s title, with John McKinley and Jennifer Ballew claiming the masters titles.

http://racesonline.com/events/festival-of-roses-5k-12k/results/2016?utf8=%E2%9C%93&category_id=3441&age_group_id=&gender=&search_term_display=&commit=Search

Boston Marathon – Hopkinton to Boston, MA – 4/18/16

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This one was a long time coming.

I guess most runners think about doing Boston at some time or another, even Saquatches more suited to doing 5ks. I really should have known better, as the marathon has been my brutal, vengeful mistress. I did my first marathon at Richmond in 2010 with Ken Lowden’s Strictly Running crew, knowing not one thing about running 26.2 miles. I was so scared of the distance I ran my infamous “Blythewood Marathon” three weeks before the race – a very ill-advised 26.2 mile long run – just to prove I could cover the distance. I did this 24 hours after racing a PR 5 miler at Race to Read. My IT band said forget this and I was hobbled for the next two weeks. I still tried to race Richmond and had a proverbial trail of tears from 18 miles in. A miserable walkapalooza that left me delirious – the Yerg and I almost both passed out at the Starbucks at the finish line. Trophy later called me in a panic thinking I had died.  In reality I wandered aimlessly around Virginia’s capital for about 20 minutes until I found my hotel, cramping and nearly puking. Good times.

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Shoot me now.

But after swearing I’d never do another one, I of course broke my promise and trained for Jacksonville the next year. J-vegas was pretty sweet vindication, besting my Richmond time by 32 minutes (3:52 to 3:20) and posting the best time of Ken “Captain Marathon” Calcutt’s training group. The Boston qualifying standard for 35-39 was 3:15 at that time and a seed was planted. I would find my way to Hopkinton.

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Please make it stop

 

I thought poetic justice would be served in marathon #3, a return to Richmond. It was not to be – a rogue 3:15 pace group reeled off a bunch of 7 flat miles in the early going and I was toast in the last 10k. A respectable 3:22, but the Boston standards had just gotten tougher, down to a 3:10 for 35-39.

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2013 looked like my year. The window for 2015 Boston opened in September, and since I would turn 40 a month before then, I could use the 40-44 3:15 qualifier. Awesome. My sights were set on Kiawah in December – super flat, and close by to boot. I was in. I ramped up mileage and was due to start my 16 week training cycle the week of July 15. I’d just wait a few days to get back from my 15th anniversary trip to Hawaii. Those that know me know the rest. Twenty foot cliff dive, multiple broken bones and a totally wrecked body – really lucky to be alive much less training for a marathon. I was on the couch for a few months and didn’t get back to my previous form until late spring 2014.

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Yay, Daddy is still alive

But I did get back, minus a wonky left toe. By the time July 2014 rolled around, I figured -OK… LETS TRY THIS AGAIN. I managed to not endure major trauma that summer. Justin Bishop drew up the plan and I was on it like Donkey Kong. I made it to Kiawah 2014 whipped into some serious shape. Kiawah went so well early on that I got cocky – I was going to kick this marathon’s ass, maybe get 3:05. I rattled off a bunch of 6:50ish miles around 18-19 miles in. Turns out this is one of the many times my overwhelming narcissism has not served me well. Wheels came off with a vengeance in mile 23, and I had a 5k from hell to the finish. I hobbled home in 3:11:22. I fought off the pukes for 5 minutes, and it sure wasn’t pretty, but it was an official BQ. I was going to Boston.

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Emily witnessed the first Blue Shoes run, a 5.5 mph 10 min jog on the treadmill in 2007

Or was I? I had already reserved my hotel for Boston 2016 when the  registration began in September 2015. Because I was within 5 minutes of my qualifying time, I had to wait to the last few days of the registration period. People were talking about a record amount of entrants, and there was much speculation about what the “real” cutoff time would be relative to the BQ standards. After a week of hand wringing, I finally got the golden email – I was officially accepted. Many adult beverages were consumed that night. (Cutoff was -2:28 )

So, fast forward to 2016. I spent much of the Boston training period thinking I would treat this as a victory lap.Initially I was injured with hamstring and piriformis issues. Sarah Allers and Christen Bowman both spent hours helping me recover.  Once I was healed, I put in a lot of slow miles punctuated by my weekly race addiction every Saturday, 50+ per week for most of the cycle. I did the Swamp Rabbit half in Greenville in February and surprised the hell out of myself with a 1:28:27, a PR by 2 seconds. Maybe, just maybe, I would give Boston an honest effort. Shannon Iriel was in my same wave/corral, and was shooting for 3:10, so why not pace with her?

Unfortunately, like in 2013, life doesn’t care if you are pinning all your hopes and dreams on a meaningless road race. The week before my race, my grandma turned 90 and took a serious turn for the worse. A week before Boston,  I went to see her and she was lucid but weak, and she told me how happy she was that I was getting to run the race I had dreamed about for so long. She did not do well over the next few days, and my out-of-state family came to see her for fear of what seemed like an inevitability. With a heavy heart and many reassurances from my mom (who would be taking care of my 3 kids in the midst of this) Mary and I headed to Boston. Rescheduled flights gave us a 12 hour trip and I was noticing I was coming down with a nasty cold – fatigue, congestion, muscle aches, the works. I was exhausted.

I felt a little better the next day and did a 3 mile shakeout with Derek Gomez around Boston Common. It didn’t feel great but I was really taken with an adrenaline rush that I was finally, FINALLY, here. I toured the expo, which was a total madhouse, got my bib, took a thousand pictures and  spent way too much on adidas Boston stuff. I already had the Boston jacket – ordered online and still sealed in plastic, preserving its teal/black hideousness and whatever bad juju might be released by opening it early. Apparently this was not a problem for a quarter of the other runners, who sported their 1988 Charlotte Hornets Boston jacket with pride.

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After some carb loading in Boston’s Italian North End, I got a call on my cell from my mom at about 9 pm. As soon as I saw the number I knew it was “the call”. Grandma had passed. It was a punch to the stomach, but I knew she had been begging for this to happen for a long time. She was no longer in pain, and could finally rest.

I woke up the next morning with not much sleep and not feeling great but a relief that I was here, on race day, and uninjured. I wrote my grandmother’s name on my bib and dedicated the race to her. After a quick Panera breakfast I headed out to Boston Common at about 6:30 to load up for the bus ride to Hopkinton. The bus ride started off with a bunch of loud, nervous excitement but gradually tapered off to being pretty quiet. This ride was taking forever. At some point I saw the exit to Worcester, and I knew something was up. The bus took the exit, then did some weird turnaround maneuver. Being one of the few with a cell phone, I google mapped us and realized we were like 15 miles past where we should be. The 30 minute ride ended up taking us an hour and a half. I would be surprised, but I somehow get used to having bizarre, stupid luck  – good or bad.

Luckily, they ship you down to Athletes’ Village super early. My start time wasn’t until 10:25 so still another 2 hours to kill. The Village was pretty nuts – like a summer music festival without any entertainment. Mobs of anxious people producing some pretty epic bathroom lines. I finally located the rest of our wave 1 and 2 TUS group after a random run-in with the Yerg. I told him we’ve come  a long way from our shared delirium in that Richmond Starbucks.  Gomez was there and offered me a seat on the best idea ever – a deflated plastic raft to keep you off the wet grass. Ken Bolin and Michael Nance were also on board. We were ready to go.

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Yerg, Nance and Gomez left first for wave 1, and about a half hour later Ken and I got our call. As we were walking up to the start, I ran into Tracy McKinnon – Harbison trail runner and member of my 2016 Palmetto 200 repeat championship team Van on the run (sorry, our captain Brian Clyburn requires that whole phrase be uttered whenever the p200 team is mentioned). I walked up with him and also managed to locate Shannon, so we had a little Columbia mini pack in the Wave 2, Corral 1 start. Being in the first corral was awesome, since it made you feel elite, despite the face that the elites, and everybody 3:09 and faster, had taken off 25 minutes ago. Hey, I take what I can get.

I had zero clue what to do with my race strategy, so I figured I’d do my 3:10 (7:15/mile) pace for as long as I could. I did a similar pace at last week’s Palmetto Half as a training run, and it felt pretty easy, so hopefully this would serve me well. I  had studied the course before – looked like mostly downhill and rolling to the halfway point, some flatness, then the nasty Newton hills with Heartbreak at mile 21, then mostly downhill again to Boylston St. But again, this was just a large scale elevation map. we would see…

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The gun goes off and its complete mayhem. I realize I’m leading a group of thousands of people, all of whom have run a 3:09 to 3:25 marathon in the past 18 months. So its fast, real fast. To make things worse, the road out of Hopkinton is like a freefall off a mountain. I’m fighting to keep the pace from getting too crazy. Tracy and Shannon have already left me for dead and people are passing me left and right. The elevation map made it look completely downhill but there’s already an incline not more than a half mile from the start. I hit mile 1 in 7:12, which I figure is pretty ideal. My legs feel fine but I’m already not liking the way I feel. For one, it is ridiculously hot. 68 degrees according to my Garmin but feels worse than that with no shade. Boston was supposed to have a high near 60 but for some reason Hopkinton was supposed to get up to the low 70’s. On top of the heat though, I just have no energy. All the stress and illness in the past week have apparently caught up with me.

But hey, its Boston, so time to suck it up buttercup. I rattle off a few 7:10ish miles and hit another big pack of spectators in Ashland, the next town over. I’ve been known to recover after a bad start but things are still going south, like I’d rather just pull to the side and take a nap. I fight through this feeling until I hit Framingham around the 10k mark. it’s nice to randomly run into Howie Phan, but he starts pulling away and looking back to see my train wreck in progress.  I’m still hitting near 7:20 miles but the wall of noise and cowbells in the town makes me feel a little loopy. I surge to the 10k mats to at least give the people tracking back home a sense that all hasn’t gone to crap.

But it most certainly has. I bail out around mile 8 and use the portapotty and give myself a good thirty seconds of walking. I had been hydrating pretty aggressively in the heat, but now I was more afraid of getting fluid overloaded and hyponatremic. Either way, I was done with any thought of this being a good race. I was paralyzed by the fear that I might not even finish now. Its a pretty big mental hurdle to be complete toast 18 miles from Boylston St.

But people are screaming at me, so I start back up at what feels like an absolute cool down jog. I try to pick it up some, but anything fast makes me feel lightheaded and a step away from the med tent. I’m able to rein it in and keep going, surprised to see 8:20ish miles. With everybody passing you, it feels more like 11 minute pace. I’m considering another bout of walksies on the overpass near mile 12, but then I hear a vague, ghostly wail echoing up head. I come up over a ridge and it hits me like a wall of sound –  the Wellesley scream tunnel. I’m suffering on the side of the road, crawling along, but having a couple thousand college girls screaming at you for kisses definitely helps in the motivation department. Since my race is in the crapper already, I plant a big sloppy one on a cute Asian girl who’s probably still having nightmares from the experience.

The half mat is in downtown Wellesley, and its a 1:42 split. Jeez, I cruised a 1:35 a week ago and felt great. Today, not so much. By this time, I figure my computer trackers know something is up. I’m able to hold it together for a couple more miles when its relatively flat, but things really start to fall apart when the hills start rolling in. I hit a major case of walksies in mile 15 and then a longer one on the first set of Newton hills in 17, crossing the 10 minute barrier for the first time. It’s so bad I pull out my cell phone during the mile 17 power walk to text the wife (who is at the top of Heartbreak Hill, mile 21) to let her know how bad the suckage is going. She texts back, but I can’t read it in the sun except for the first line “KEEP GOING”. The next few miles are pure torture – someone told me the Newton hills arent so bad but I have to heartily disagree. I was powerwalking like a champ. Apparently I ran through all the early water overload and now I was getting thirsty. Some kid was giving out freezer pops and I grabbed one. It was like pure heaven. I chased that with a big cup of beer that some very drunk Boston college girls were giving out. Although I was still pulling  a run/walk strategy like a Jeff Galloway devotee, at least the temperature had dropped considerably. It was even a little chilly in the wind. I spent all of heartbreak looking for Mary and finally found her and Sheila at the very top. Apparently she was holding the GO BLUE SHOES! sign that she and the boys made before we left, but I was too busy giving her an even bigger, sloppier kiss to see it.

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After seeing Mary and cresting the hill, I had the first inkling that maybe I would be OK. I had spent the last 12 miles figuring at least a 50/50 chance of med tenting it, but getting to mile 21 and getting over the big hills was huge. I screamed at myself not to walk again, but damn did I want to. I started thinking of anything to motivate me – my grandma, the kids back home, the long, miserable months of rehabbing from the Hawaii fall, being stuck with that ugly as hell jacket and not even being able to wear it…anything. It was some serious slow going – pace was in the 9’s but better than that 11 minute stroll up Heartbreak. At some point a guy comes up from behind and says “THERE IT IS…THE CITGO SIGN!!” like he just had a religious epiphany. I gave him a Rick Flair wooooo for support. I’d like to say I kept my promise of no walksies, but damn that mile 25 overpass – I got an electric jolt up my left leg and I knew my Richmond cramps might be making a most unwelcome comeback. I climbed to the top and started my power jog back on the way down. Thankfully no more shocks. The last few miles were a blur, but then we went under a bridge and turned onto  Hereford street, and I recognized the scene from watching it on TV for so many years. Up a short hill and a left onto Boylston. Absolutely incredible. A wall of sound and people, with the finish line in sight. I’d like to say I pulled a classic blue shoe finish, but it was all I could do to remain upright at 10 minute pace. Touching my bib, arms to the sky…. I was done.

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3:48 and change. Far from my best but actually not my worst. I was a complete wreck in the walk through the finish area. They were giving me the medal and the mylar blanket between me alternately grinning like an idiot and sobbing like a baby. I was a Boston finisher! Many beers were consumed that night, proudly wearing the ugliest jacket ever.

In the Columbia group, Michael Nance rocked a 3:10 and Derek Gomez requalified with a 3:13. Jeff Godby and Howie Phan both requalified with a 3:11. Yerg ran a 3:23 and Shannon BQ’d again with a 3:24. Ivanka Tolan also requalified, PR’ing in an amazing 3:32. Jennifer Kryzanowski BQ’s with a 3:32 as well. Tracy Mckinnon finished in 3:31 and Kenneth Ebener , running injured, crossed in 3:49. Julia Norcia clocked a 3:55, and Ken Bolin ran a 4:12.Jennifer Sparks did a 4:14.

https://connect.garmin.com/modern/activity/1132039327

http://www.baa.org/races/boston-marathon/results-commentary/2016-boston-marathon/2016-results-search.aspx

 

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In memory of Dolores Gillen, 1926-2016

 

 

 

 

 

Palmetto 200 – Columbia to Charleston, SC -3/18/16-3/19/16

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For those that know me, know I totally heart the relay. I will even turn down a golden trophy hunt opportunity and crucial Tour de Columbia points (www.columbiarunningclub.com/touredecolumbia) in exchange for the chance to pass the baton. Of course, sometimes the trophies still get hunted. Who could forget my insane Joker-esque grin from the 2010 Born in the USA 2×2 mile relay. An improbable championship borne from 2 hapless age groupers, with just little enough pride to accept a win that would have placed them 8th overall in the 4 mile.

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Melons and 50 bucks – sounded like a good time to me.

But the piece de resistance of my relay fetish has always been the Palmetto 200. A chance meeting online in the runners world “sub 22 5k” forum hooked me up with “El Capitan” Brian Clyburn , and the first “Van on the Run” was formed for the inaugural 2010 P200.

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Somehow I was one of the faster runners on this team, and was assigned 21 miles. The race was also held April 30-May 1 then, in 80 degree weather. We got a hotel room for 2 hours and Jen Clyburn got sick from Howard Johnson’s water. I almost passed out on a 8.8 miler in the heat and was hallucinating on my last leg at 4 am. We had no idea what we were doing. But somehow we outperformed and ended up clocking close to 8 minute pace and finished in the top 10. An addiction was born.

Over the years, people have dropped off the team, but somehow Brian has always reloaded with someone even faster than the last. This resulted in gradual improvement until we finally broke through in 2015 with the ultimate trophy hunter’s dream, the overall win.

 

So this marked Palmetto 200 number 7 for me, Brian, and other original members David McNeice and Joel Pierstorff. Other VOTR veterans were Brandon (so fabulous he only needs one name), Darrell “the Code” Brown, Jen “She Hulk” Clyburn, Julie “Bitz” Bitzel, and Dan “Meddler” Carter. New recruits included Tracy “T-Bone” McKinnon, Kevin “Moopy” Selinsky and Rob “Rookie, later “Ricky Bobby” Gannett. It should be noted that all of our newbies are absolute beasts.

Planning out a competitive relay is a pretty tough thing for a captain. Somehow you have to take all of the strengths/weaknesses of your team,  look carefully at all the 36 relay legs over 205 miles, and put them together for optimum speed. There is no one better suited for this job than the master himself, El Capitan. Brian’s spreadsheet plays out like nerd porn – a color-coded, statistically beautiful work of art that can only leave you in awe. I think he even adds in difficulty quotients for heat and hills. Just amazing.

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Brian relies heavily on data for the spreadsheet, and there’s no one with more running data out there than some freak who races every Saturday. I made the error of running a PR, point to point net downhill half marathon last month (GHS Swamp Rabbit), which “earned” me a goal pace of 6:45 on the relay. This was not going to be a recreational jog.

Brief relay tutorial: there are 36 parts or legs to the 205 mile course, ranging from 2-10 miles each. Team members pass a slap bracelet at each exchange zone when they complete a leg. With 12 members on a full team, this means each member will complete three legs, ranging from 13 to 22 total miles per person. Our team typically takes around 24 hours, though there are some that will be out there 36+ hours. Any way you look at it, you will be running some in the middle of the night and not getting much sleep.

This year’s start site was moved to Red Bank Arena, after using Old Columbia Speedway the last 6 years. For what it lacked in ambiance, it certainly was nice to be able to leave your cars at the race site. Our biggest drama pre-race was the van situation. The official vehicle of all 12 man relays is the white Ford 15 passenger van, but there was a recall on that model leading up to the event. Luckily, Joel become a weekly annoyance at the rental car company and probably did unseemly favors to secure us even more awesome vehicles this year – sleek, black, high-roofed minibuses of luxury.  We were traveling in style. Team shirts this year were awesome – garnet and black with 2015 champions on the sleeve. Thanks to Emily Richbourg for printing!

Starts are staggered in the relay from 5:30 am for the slowest teams to 12:30 for the fastest. With three other teams in the 12:30 wave, we knew who our competition would be from the beginning: The Banditos, Sole Asylum and Clemson Thundercats. Sole Asylum we knew well from our battle last year. Angel Manuel, Lee Moore, Gene Grimsley, Mario Alvarez and Paul Reardon are great guys and mainstays on the SC racing circuit. Clemson has fielded a team most years, but with changing students in their running club,  you never know what you’re going to get. They were champs a few years back, but doubtful many of those guys were still on this team. The Banditos are competitive, but we’ve usually lost them by the 2nd legs. There was a scary rumor that Ryan Plexico was on Sole Asylum, but Angel assured me he wasn’t (turns out he was on another team with an earlier start time).

I was assigned to Van 2 this year and wasn’t scheduled to run until leg 11, which was set to start at 7:30 pm per the Relay Bible, I mean spreadsheet. Nothing like getting all jacked up for a race and having to wait seven hours. We followed Van 1 through the first few exchanges. Our Van 1 peeps (David, Kevin, Jen, Brian, Tracy, Joel) set the tone early and were just crushing it, despite the brutal weather (high 70’s and no shade on most of the course). Plus, all the early legs are near Columbia with some killer hills. Between the hot pace and the hot weather, us and Clemson separated from the field early. Sole Asylum was hit with an early misdirect that set them back, per Angel.

By the time Van 2 was ready to go, we were already almost 10 minutes ahead of the spreadsheet. This year’s course was redesigned from Red Bank, so the evil Leg 6 from years past was now Leg 7. Dan, as one of our beasts, had the misfortune of drawing this leg. Fighting some plantar fasciitis, he still blazed low 6 pace and crushed the infamous Mt. Saint Matthews, a ridiculous summit arising in the sandhills of the southern Midlands.  There’s never a pic to do it justice, but here’s one anyway.

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What was scary about this leg was that despite Dan rocking low 6 pace, there was a Clemson runner who came up behind and passed Meddler on the leg. This guy was like 130 lbs, about 110 of it in quads and hammies of steel, whom we named Thunderthighs. I can only imagine what Clemson called me. TT rocked out the brutal 8.5 miles in 5:45 pace. This spelled trouble for our chance of repeating as champs, to say the least. Bitz followed, and as usual, blew the spreadsheet out of the water with a 7 flat pace. She did go and get herself a Garmin, so some of my devious influence must have spread. I didn’t realize our rookie, Rob, was such an absolute machine. He tore up his first 4.5 mile leg in like 5:45 pace. I’m surprised the Cameron, SC PD, known for their speed trap, didn’t cite him with a violation. Brandon is always claiming to be fat and out of training, but it was clear neither was the case in his first leg.

LEG 1 – THE BEAUTY AND THE BEAST – 6.61 miles – Jericho United Methodist Church (Cameron, SC) to Elloree, SC.

After stewing in my own pre-race jitters for 7 hours, I was more than ready to go for Leg 1, which was just after 7 pm. Per rules, I had to strap on the headlamp and reflective vest, which makes my already graceful self look that much sexier. To add to the anxiety, we were running neck and neck with Clemson. A 90 pound girl with long blonde hair took off only about a minute ahead of Brandon into the exchange zone. Like a complete idiot, I blazed out of the gate like a freaking 5k, dead set on chasing blonde girl down. About a half mile in, I realize I had let my Garmin go into power save mode. It’s one thing being in a race and not having a Garmin – you can pace off other people and sometimes they even have split clocks. It’s quite a different thing being out in the middle of nowhere with twilight fading, one other competitor, and no sense of the distance. The Garmin finally finds a satellite over a mile in and I’ve clearly gone out too fast. Legs are burning and I’m hurting way too much this early. To boot, the pollen was in clouds everywhere, suffocating me.  I go into emergency mode, trying to stride out and loosen the lactic acid stranglehold on my legs. I had made up some ground on blonde girl but she was keeping pace, just out of reach. Clemson was following her on the course, so at least I knew I wasn’t going off track. First recorded mile was 6:49 so not too bad after the initial mile of insanity. The course was thankfully almost completely flat. The next few miles were a blur – I kept chasing the Elloree water tower in the distance and seeing the sunlight and my chance of beating Clemson fade away. I faded into some 6:50’s a couple of times and was generally hating life, verbally abusing myself for being so stupid with the early pace. I could see Elloree start to come into view but I could also hear a train coming. For several minutes, I had a racemare of blonde girl beating the train and me getting stuck behind.  Luckily, we were just slow enough to both miss it after it passed through. I came rumbling into Elloree just after sunset and fell into a crumpled mass in the dirt after handing off to Code. Nice job, hero. According to the spreadsheet I was better than goal pace (6:45), so that first mile must have been a freaking sprint. Blonde girl whipped my tail and probably added some seconds to their lead. Definitely NOT the way to start off a relay with 2 more legs to go.

We then went to Santee State park, one of the huge van switch exchange zones. Van 1 was waiting for us and was closely following our progress via our group text. As usual, we were still behind most of the earlier start groups and most had cleared out by the time we got there. Plexico was there and confirmed he was not a Sole Asylum ringer but was a last second addition to a team with a family connection. Running Under the Influence had an awesome tent and chairs set up for their camp, so that may need to happen for VOTR in the future.

Code came in right on pace for his tough 7.4 miler, though Clemson had another beast and stretched their lead some. After the handoff to David, it was 8:30ish and we had some time to kill. First off: FOOD. I have long since dispensed with my early strategy of eating light – my crackers and GU of the 2010 relay nearly landed me in the med tent. You need real food to fuel 15 miles of hard racing. After a failed attempt at Cracker Barrel (we vetoed the 25 min wait) we settled on Pizza Hut. Santee’s Pizza Hut may not win any culinary awards, but their pizza after a hard 10k tasted like filet mignon. Brandon and Rob stepped up their grease game with a large garlic knot crust pizza to share between the two of them. Brandon said he had license to be a fat bitch if he was going to run this much. I wholeheartedly agree. They actually got a to-go box, which added a tinge of garlic to our enticing van aroma of sweat funk.

After face stuffing, our next step was to journey to the next van exchange zone and attempt to get some sleep before Bitz had to take off at 1 am for our second shift of legs. Darrell likens a 15 passenger van to a monte carlo indy car, so we made it there in record time with plenty of g-forces to churn up that pizza hut. When we got there…holy crap. After starting so far behind everybody, we had clearly caught up with the main pack. Galilee Christian Church, site of the most amazing midnight sandwiches on Earth, was Grand Central Station. The volunteers were having to stuff vans in like sardines, and we were one of the unlucky vehicles right next to where the runners were coming in. I did see they had a sleeping area inside, which was vaguely creepy with people camped out on the church pews. I opted to stay in the van since it was crowded in the church and freezing outside. Sleep, though, was an elusive beast. For one, we couldn’t figure out why the back light wouldn’t turn off, and deemed it must be an evil spirit cursing poor Julie, who had the seat right below it.  In addition to the constant loud talkers/screamers of our fellow competitors, the main volunteer had a pair of lungs that would make Christina, Pharrell, Adam and Blake all turn around. Over and over again, I kept hearing what sure as hell sounded like “MY BOYS! COME INTO MY BOYS!”. It wasn’t until about a sleepless hour into this, with the whole van in a giggling delirium, that we realized BOYS was actually VOICE. He was directing people into the exchange zone, which was a confusing Times Square of lights in the middle of nowhere. Nonetheless, COME INTO MY BOYS became the unofficial rallying cry of Van 2 from then on.

About 12:30, Tracy came blazing into MY BOYS and Bitz took off like a mission. A few 7 minute miles later, poor Dan had to rock out a 9.75 miler in the middle of the night. I can’t imagine how much that must have sucked after the horrific climb of Mt St Matthews earlier. He crushed it in sub 6:30 pace and had more road kill than you could count.  Meanwhile, I stood at the next exchange, cold and tired but dead set on improving my craptastic leg 1. I tried an espresso love GU, but only choked a little down before fearing a Pizza Hut reversal. Clemson was right there, listening to Eminem’s Lose Yourself, which I deemed must be classic rock to these guys. One of their girls took off about 8 or 9 minutes ahead of my start at about 2:30 am.

Leg 2 – NOT GOING GENTLY INTO THAT GOOD NIGHT – 5.6 miles – Hatchery Waterfowl Management Boat Landind to Berkeley Elementary School, Moncks Corner, SC

Despite my urge to seek revenge on leg 1, I made sure to not pull another 6:10 first mile like I probably did before. As usual, leg 2 is actually easier, because you’re not running completely cold. The 10k earlier seemed to make it easier to find my stride on this leg, which was a nearly flat and straight route on a lightly traveled highway. It being in the middle of nowhere and 2:30 am, this could have been a deadly boring run. Luckily, we were right in the midst of all the other teams at this point, giving plenty of lights up ahead to catch and keep me going. I think I must have passed about 10 people in the early miles, including one that called me by name. Turns out it was James Lichty, a guy I went to college with and running on a Columbia area F3 team. Cool to see a familiar face out here in the jet black darkness in the middle of the night. I hit mile 1 in 6:36 and just focused on maintaining this pace. Next few miles were metronome-like, 6:31 and 6:32’s. First 3 miles felt great, but suckage began in the last 2.5. I was hitting the same pace but laboring a lot more. But I’ll be damned if I was slowing down. Not when that next light may be Clemson girl. By the time mile 5 buzzed on my Garmin (another 6:31), I was begging for this misery to stop. Thankfully, Moncks Corner is beautifully flat and so straight that I could see the exchange zone forever. I was so gassed but seeing/hearing the zone poured enough adrenaline into my veins I was able to take down one last roadkill. OK, she was walking, but I have no shame. Passed off to Code and sucked wind like there’s no tomorrow. Except there was, and only 7 hours away. Code and Brandon kept up the strong pace with a couple of 4 milers, though Brandon survived a delayed colonic attack by the garlic knots just before his run. Rob then faced the most brutal task of our van. Having already done a 5:45 4 miler, he was going to have to do an 8 mile leg as the last of this shift, then another 8 miler as the first leg of our third shift only 4 hours later. He responded accordingly with a blazing 6:10 pace and picking up another ton of roadkill in the process. I’d like to say I cheered him at the finish, but it turns out I passed out in the van during his hour run. Don’t remember a thing. At least I got in some crucial Z’s though.

In my near comatose state, I felt Code racing the van again like Mario Andretti, all the way to Mount Pleasant, where we crashed out in Jennie Moore Elementary. We had finally gone through the entire pack and now had the school to ourselves and a few other vans. Without COMING INTO MY BOYS, we all crashed hard. There had been some talk of Waffle Housing it, but that idea lost out to pure, unmitigated exhaustion. One moment we were parking the van, then the next it was light out, probably an hour or so later. Just that little bit of sleep felt like heaven though. What was not like heaven was sitting up and realizing I had passed out with my neck in a weird position. Hurt like bloody hell. After a few seconds of terror, I realized it wasn’t going to affect my running. I pounded some ibuprofen, stuffed my face with my cinnamon raisin bread and drank the rest of the gallon of water I had been nursing all relay. It wasn’t pretty, but I was ready.

Brian let us know when their last runner, Tracy, was out on his run. He also let us know Clemson probably had 10-12 minutes on us. With that lead, and only 6 legs to go, it was looking grim. At least third was nowhere in sight. For some time we debated the “Blazing Eights” plan. As in phone in the rest at 8 minute pace – fast enough to keep 2nd and not kill us. But eventually Brian told us that “Anything can happen”, and none of us wanted to be the first one out there blazing those eights. Rob was really hurting but no one wanted to trade legs at this point. No way could I do an 8 miler. He sucked it up and headed out to the exchange zone. Waiting for him was Thunder thighs, and our hearts sank even more. Oh well, here we go.

Rob took off and we headed over the IOP connector to the exchange zone for my last leg. I always love this part of the relay -the sun has come up, and you can see the ocean from the connector, which is the site of my very first 5k in 2007 (IOP connector 5k – 27:05). Appropriately, I would be pulling another 5k for this 3rd leg, hopefully a bit faster than my last 3 miler on Isle of Palms. One of Clemson’s guys was there, who was really nice and informed us he was born in 1996. Damn that made me feel old. The Thighs came blasting in soon thereafter, having crushed 6 minute flat pace over the 8 miler and looking like he went out for a Sunday jog. Ten minutes later Rob rolled in, so amazingly we hadn’t lost any time against their best runner. Rob gets major kudos for doing those double 8 milers only a few hours apart.

LEG 3 – SPLITS AND S@$#^S – 2.95 miles – Sullivan’s Island

Knowing Rob hadn’t blazed eights, that Brian was counting on us, and embracing the immortal words of Thunder Dan Bliesner (“The faster you go, the sooner its over), I took off on a mission. And OMG it freaking hurt. I took off like a 5k but it was basically brain battling against my tortured lower body. 12 miles of 10k PR pace had exacted a heavy toll, not to mention an hour of sleep, a jacked up neck and a stomach tossed about by Code pulling G’s around every turn. Thankfully it was pancake flat and straight. I plowed ahead going absolutely as hard as I could go, hitting the same 6:30ish pace at a 6 flat effort. I almost got hit by a car on one of the 50 intersections, but managed to slide right behind it, too afraid to stop. By the mile 2 mark (6:30 again) I was really, really dying. Pretty much in agony, but the finish was so close I could feel it. Finally, I saw that beautiful EXCHANGE ZONE AHEAD sign, turned the corner, and I’ve never been so glad to see Brandon in my life. Redlined the finish to a 6:27 split and 6:30 overall. Unbelievably glad to be done. Complete toast.

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As soon as my delirium passed, my teammates were buzzing about our deficit being down to only 4 minutes. Apparently the Clemson kid had some GI distress and was forced to run/walk the last bit. Hate that for him, from the words of El Capitan, “Anything can happen”.

And things did definitely happen. Leg 33 had a turnaround at the end of the island that had some very confusing signage. We took a wrong turn with the van and had to circle back around. I saw the Clemson girl heading backwards on the course, apparently lost. After a couple of other turnarounds we finally got back on course almost 20 minutes after Brandon started. We finally got to the Ben Johnson bridge from Sullivan’s to Mount Pleasant and we were all shocked. Brandon was up near the top and Clemson girl was about 100 meters BEHIND him. Sweet baby Jesus. As we crested the bridge, the whole van screamed at him to run as hard as he could, and he gave us a total WTF look. On the way to the exchange zone, Code and Bitz were all of a sudden super nervous and they agreed to swap legs, giving Code the longer 4.3 miler and Julie the 3.12 mile one, since Code was 6:45ish pace and Julie 7ish. Brandon came rolling in at just over 7 minute pace for his 5.8 miler and Julie took off like a girl on fire. Clemson came in a couple of minutes later and were none too pleased. They had a strong runner in their next leg and we knew it was going to be close from now on. We followed Julie onto Coleman blvd and by chance van 1 was parked right nearby – she had the whole team screaming for her at once. She ended up throwing down a 5k almost as fast as a fresh legged one – 6:45ish pace. Pretty amazing for a leg 3. Code went off on leg 35, a 4.3 miler over the bridge into Charleston. Clemson was super close, only about a minute and a half behind. Same blonde girl who kicked my ass on leg 1. In the meantime, Brian informed us Clemson had filed a complaint that Brandon had cut the course short. Brandon admitted to a misdirect but swore he got back on course without cutting it short. He doesn’t wear a Garmin, or any watch for that matter, so it was our word against theirs. The race director would have to wait and see the outcome before making a ruling. As you might expect, we were less than pleased with this turn of events, and there was definitely some unspoken tension at the last exchange zone, with our 2 teams the first to arrive. After several nervous minutes, we erupted when Code pulled into view around the corner. We had Dan, one of our fastest, on the anchor leg – a 5.35 miler back over the bridge into Patriots Point. We waited to see how much a lead he would have – their anchor runner looked strong. We waited…and waited…and waited. Twelve minutes went by. Something was definitely wrong – either the girl completely bonked, or more likely, was lost. Clemson took off on a search party for her as we piled into the van and sped off for the finish. We were at Patriots Point for only about ten minutes when Dan comes blazing in , catching us off guard. We missed the team finish but we crossed in 23 hours and 4 minutes, a 6:45 overall pace. A huge pace PR for our team. We waited anxiously at the line, fearing that a close finish would force the director into making a tough judgement call about their complaint. But it was not to be. Clemson showed up 39 minutes later, and the complaint was moot. We were champions once again!

OK, so this was obviously not the way I would have liked it to go down. I wouldn’t wish poop attacks and misdirects on anyone. I was hoping that after the screwy leg 33 that it would be a real battle to the finish, but them getting lost again negated any of that. They definitely had a faster team, but I guess the combined experience doing the relay for all these years finally paid off. To their credit, Clemson was gracious in defeat. It was a sweet win nonetheless, and my hat goes off once gain to our fearless leader, El Capitan, for masterminding another P200 championship!

http://www.palmetto200.com/

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Run Hard Marathon / Half / 5k – Columbia, SC – 3/5/16

 

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The Run Hard marathon/half and 5k is now in its 3rd year, having risen like a phoenix from the ashes of the Columbia Marathon’s two year run. How Jesse Harmon took on this huge project in 2014 with minimal prep time, is beyond me. The idea of directing a small 5k seems overwhelming. But somehow it was done, and the race seems to be a big success. Unfortunately Myrtle Beach moved their date to the same weekend this year, which may have cut down on the elite participation. It didn’t seem to hurt the overall registration though.

My favorite part about this race has been the relay. Team Blue Shoes has done well, taking the overall win one year and placing second another. I am notoriously late in throwing these teams together, since the CRC banquet prep seems to occupy most of my time until early February. This year I got the Code on board early, and he was able to semi-convince our Palmetto 200 teammate Julie Bitzel to join as well. All we needed was one more female for a coed team. Unfortunately, our attempts were unsuccessful. Given both of our track records with women, this should not be surprising.  To our credit, we were looking for at least a sub-24 5ker , so the candidate pool is relatively small. And it was inside of 2 weeks to race day. And it didn’t help that the late relay team fee came out to 47.50 a person either. Alas, our team did not come together. Code opted just to spectate, but I had to do something. At the last second, and even knowing that my masters archnemesis Jeff Brandenburg was signed up, I opted for the 5k. Somewhere in my melon-headed grandiosity I think I can beat him, despite being handicapped by 30+ extra pounds and the fact that my 5k is NOT a warmup for my 100 mile bike ride later.  I never claimed to make rational running related decisions.

So the 5k it is. Since I’m still in the throes of Boston training, I decided to make the race part of my long run for the day. Doing solo Sunday long runs a day after a race is pretty much nails on a chalkboard, so if I could get it done on Saturday with the race crowd, that would be considerably better. I showed up an hour ahead of time and put in some miles with Rob “the Yerg” Yerger and Randy “Don’t pronounce the H” Hrechko. The Run Hard races are like a party for the Columbia Running community, so tons of familiar faces. Even the Harbison Trail Runners came out of the forest and helped man the pace groups.

The Half and full went off 30 minutes before the 5k, so I took a bunch of pics at the first turn. Looked like a pretty good crowd. As noted, not a whole lot of elite looking runners. Anton Bodourov was there at the start, and I asked him if he was going to win. Just a smile. Dude knew he was walking into a trophy hunt.

A half an hour later I’m at the 5k start, where hopefully someone got some pics of me photobombing the 5 chick fil a cows they had there. Chick fil a was the sponsor and offered free weekly meals for a year to the top 3 overall men and women. Sadly, with Striggles and Parker Roof there, along with a young guy in a singlet (later identified as Miles Fowler), Travis Moran and yes, even Brandenburg, my shot at chicken was slim to none.  Drew and Tracy Williams, Leeds Barroll, Pete Poore, Alex Ponomarev, John Gasque, Will Brumbach, Ryan Shelley, Johnathan Kirkwood, Jennifer Clyburn, Joyce and Tate Welch, Tracy Meyers, Luci and Jeff Smith, Brittany Robbins, Henry Holt, Rocky Soderberg, Patti and Ken Lowden were the familiar faces. Pretty strong CRC turnout for what was clearly the trophy hunt undercard race of the day. I have taught my constituents well.

OK, quick course review. I had never raced the 5k but I know the USC campus like the back of my hand, especially those routes headed towards 5 points. Mile 1 looked blazing fast, basically the mirror image of the brutal Gov Cup Blossom street finish. Mile 2 looked to be precisely the opposite, making up all that elevation in almost exactly one mile. Mile 3 was fairly flat, with parts of Bunny Hop, the Long Run and Main St crit courses.

The start was predictably fast, a long flat straightaway on Sumter st in front of the Horseshoe, followed by a squiggle on Green and continuing on Main. Drew and JB are crushing it and gap me from the beginning. I’m always kind of sluggish out of the gates so I try and at least keep these guys in range. Randy and Brumbach should be nearby, so I assume just behind me. Some kid from the Run Hard program is latched on to me for the first quarter mile, and I have visions of getting a beat down by an 8 year old before he finally wears out. Main st turns downhill, slowly at first before turning into a freefall. The Blue Shoes paradox, familiar to readers of this blog, is that my sasquatch physique does terribly on downhills and better on climbs. I mean, gravity should be my friend. Unfortunately it turns me into a rubber chicken, flopping all over the place, heel striking and basically wasting all of my significant potential energy. I try to do all of this rubber chickening as fast as I can, since the JB and Drew tandem are trying to pull away. While far superior athletes, they both have been shamed by the Sasquatch on occasion, and have subsequent deep-seated fear of stomping blue shoes.

Mile 1 comes back in 6:11, which seems actually a little slow, since we’re basically falling off a cliff. I’m apparently not very good at that. Just after the mile marker, Roy Shelley is there directing us into the torture chamber of mile 2. Up Laurens street we go.  Laurens is a nice walk up from Blossom to the Salty Nut Cafe, site of my many misguided beer and life decisions in the mid 90’s. Racing up this thing is even worse than that Jager mini bottle night in 1996. The pace feels absolutely glacial after the downhill freefall.  I start sounding like a wounded elephant hoofing up this mountain. But, as the paradox states, I start reeling people in. First Drew then some other random guys. Soon its just me and the Brandenburg. I had drawn pretty close to him by the turn onto Pendleton, but by the time my heart and lungs stopped pummeling my chest wall, he had pulled ahead again. At the next turn on Pickens, Code is taking pictures. JB does a blue shoes style pose and takes a quick look back. At least I’m in his head.

Mile 2 comes back in 6:48. Yikes, holy slowdown. All of the uphill on the entire course is crammed into that mile, so I guess that’s to be expected. Still, I had better kick it up a notch to make sure I at least get under 20. Mile 2 starts near Gervais and does a pretty flat rectangle back to the finish in front of the state house. I’m hurting pretty bad but the flatness is beautiful after the mountain climb. I can see JB and Shawanna up ahead but the male chicken dinner winners are out of sight. We head back home on Main after the turnaround on Taylor. The Soda City market is setting up so they send everyone through a chute in the middle of the street. I can see the finish far up ahead which helps me launch into overdrive. I’m getting closer and closer to JB, but just when I think I have him in range, he throws in one last surge in the last two blocks and breaks my spirit. I cross the line 5 seconds behind in 19:34.  8th overall/7th male/2nd masters. I had a shortish course with 3.06, but its certified and some others got 3.10-3.12.

I had to get a long run in, so I ended up running the half course in reverse with the Code. Got in nearly 20 for the day and I was definitely toast after climbing up Blossom at the end. Sadly, I missed the awesome awards ceremony with multiple Chick fil A cow mascot photo ops. Tragic.

Taking the overall was Rashad Striggles in 17:30, just ahead of Miles Fowler. Parker Roof took 3rd in 18:07. Shawanna led the way for the women with a 19:10, with Laura Holt and Jennifer Clyburn in 2nd and 3rd around 23 minutes. They actually did masters out to three places, though sadly there was no chicken for the old folks. JB, myself and Randy did a CRC sweep of male masters, while Joyce, Melissa Lance and Barbara Brandenburg won among the ladies.

Age grouper honor roll: Joyce’s son Tate claimed the 2-10. Ryan Shelley won 3rd in a tough 11-14. Brittany Robbins was champ of the 15-19. Travis Moran finished a painful 4th, just outside of the chicken, but got first in the 25-29. Drew Williams and Will Brumbach took the top 2 male 35-39 spots, with Luci Smith 3rd among the women. Chris Fawver had a blue shoe finish for the ages and got a PR 24:22. Johnathan Kirkwood and Tracy Tisdale-Williams were champs of the 45-49. Tracy Meyers and Tom Tanner did the same in the 50-54. John Gasque won the 55-59. Pete Poore and Leeds Barroll went 2-3 in the 60-64. Sue Porter won on the women’s side . Patti Lowden was 2nd in the 65-59 while Alex Ponomarev and Ken Lowden took 1st and 3rd among the men. Henry Holt and Rocky Soderberg claimed the top 2 in the 70-98.

Full Marathon: Anton Bodourov made good on my prediction, crushing the competition with a 2:55 on this brutal course at age 45. Not too shabby. Palmetto 200 teammate Kevin Selinsky paced the 3:05 group only to finish alone and claim 3rd! Whitney Carpenter took 2nd and Jennifer Kryzanowski claimed 3rd among the women . Tracy McKinnon was also pacing and got 1st masters for his efforts. Age groupers: Ty Thomas was 3rd in the 45-49. Other finishers I recognize: Kenneth and Brooke Ebener, Scott Flicker, Blair Baldwin, Travis Cowan. Rick Gibbons, Rick Stroud, Winston Holliday, Dean Schuster also helped out as pacers.

Half: Kenny Rayner, Javier Torres, and John Krenar won the podium for the men, Caroline Day, Cymbeline Wilke and Katie Hammock won for the women. Cymbeline is the only local name I recognize out of those six. Toby Selix won masters in 1:26 while Larry Bates took 3rd in 1:36. Age groupers: Fiona Martin and Kimberly Hardin went 1-2 in the 30-34, while Ryan Sacko was 2nd among the men. Nance and Yerg took the top 2 35-39 spots despite Mike pacing and Rob doing his Boston marathon pace. James Lichty was 3rd in the 40-44. Sherri Mims won the 40-44 women while Jennifer Conrick took home the 45-49. Jeff Burgess and Phil Togneri were 1st and 3rd in the 50-54. Lisa Powell, Terri Pignone and Anita Recchio won the 50-54 women. Jim Williams was 2nd in the 55-59. Mike Compton was champ of the 60-64. Brigitte Smith won the 65-69 and Ron Hagell took 2nd in the 70-98.

Oh, and the relay. Three Michelin teams swept the men’s podium with 1st in 3:56, so clearly we missed that trophy hunt. Four Women and a Baby (Carol Wallace, Sandi Smith, Tricia Roland and Coleen Strasburger) won the women’s relay with JZ’s angels (Debbie McCauley, Brandi Bradley, Dawn Woodrow and Pam Zemp) winning female masters. I’m sure JZ (John Zemp) was proud.  The Coed relay was won in 2:57, so we would have been hard pressed to beat that.

https://connect.garmin.com/modern/activity/1074190005

http://www.strictlyrunning.com/RESULTS/16RUNHARD_5K.TXT

http://www.strictlyrunning.com/RESULTS/16RUNHARD_HALFMARTHON.TXT

http://www.strictlyrunning.com/RESULTS/16RUNHARD_MARTHON.TXT

http://www.strictlyrunning.com/RESULTS/16RUNHARD_RELAYMARTHON.TXT

GHS Swamp Rabbit Half Marathon – Greenville, SC – 2/27/16

 

IMG_7746With a couple of races in town every weekend, I’ve only traveled to run a handful of times. Sure, I’ve jumped into a few races on vacation – an addict always has to get his fix – but it’s pretty rare for me to go somewhere specifically to race. The ridiculous production of hydrating/pooping/stretching/warm-up/breakfast is chaotic enough when you’re own home, but its a whole other thing from a hotel.

But Derek Gomez pitched an offer to Team Utopia last month – come run the fastest, net-downhill half marathon in the state and stay at his parent’s unoccupied house in Simpsonville. Intersperse all of the above with beer. I had a hard time giving up my March for Meals (first trophy ever) and Lexington Race Against Hunger (a standard on the racing calendar for 6+ years) but eventually I gave into the offer just 2 weeks from race day.

That being said , I haven’t raced a half marathon since Savannah 2014. That one was a perfect storm of awesomeness – one of my greatest races of all time and a PR by 2 minutes. I almost didn’t want to tarnish the memory. But eventually I had to do another one. This one was to be an experiment of sorts. I have been training for Boston merely to finish and enjoy that race, figuring it to be the pinnacle and perhaps last chapter of my marathon career. So zero speedwork outside of my weekly races. I’ve been religious about the long run, slogging out 16,18,20 milers by myself at 9:30 pace. I’ve somehow cursed all my usual training partners to injury. I had a fair amount of anxiety about this race as I had no idea of what I might be capable. There was just no recent data to go on. I decided to try for a sub 1:30 figuring there would be at least a 50/50 chance of a complete crash and burn.

I drove up to Greenville after work on Friday. For those of you living in Irmo, Chapin and Lexington – I feel your pain. Traffic is a supreme cluster. Accommodations at Chateau de Gomez were superb. He had a pasta dinner waiting for us (Michael Nance, Justin Bishop and Ivanka Tolan) and coffee/breakfast in the morning. You can’t beat that. Oh, and he picked up our packets. We are forever grateful, Derek.

The Swamp Rabbit course is point-to-point, starting at Travelers Rest High School and ending at the TD Bank amphitheatre along the Reedy River in Greenville. After going about a mile north, and running some coned off roads, mile 3 to the finish is basically following the Swamp Rabbit trail – a paved pedestrian/bike path that goes over 30 miles from TR to Simpsonville. The best part is, since its point-to-point, is a net downhill as you follow the natural decline in elevation towards the coast.

We get there way early to be safe. They had shuttles to and from the finish, which sounds nice. However, since it was 30 degrees and no inside place to wait (<cough> high school gym <cough>) everyone from the shuttles were fighting hypothermia. We did the multiple car thing based on Justin’s experience from last year. Hence my butt was overly warm in the heated seats of my Honda Pilot. Nice.

A few from Columbia were on hand. Jeff Godby and Shannon Iriel were there, which I was very happy about, since they would be good pacers with our similar half times. It was nice to see Shawanna White and Rashad Striggles, though both would be in different time zones from me. Michael Jensen was representing for Team Utopia – fresh off a sub 22 PR at Race for the Place.

I lined up close to the start with the narrow trail, but backed off the actual line because there were a ton of lean, singlet types that looked like they do my 5k pace to warm up. I’m sure the 2% body fat crew was wondering why some Sasquatch with an iphone was in their midst, but they were unaware of my X-men mutant power.

After freezing my butt off for a couple of minutes, we were off. The first mile and a half was actually away from Greenville and featured some of the few hills on the course. Nothing too bad. I realized I had absolutely no idea how to pace this. My goal was 6:52/mile and run it as even as possible. Hitting that first split would be crucial. I drafted behind Jeff and Shannon for most of the first mile but surged ahead when things were getting cramped. This race was ridiculously competitive, so I felt completely like a mid-packer. I was able to find a little space and hit the mile marker at 6:46. Whew – this was good. A little fast for the first mile, but pretty close. Second mile started to suck. There were a few inclines and it seemed like I as laboring more than I should. It also always hurts to know you are running away from the finish line in a whole other city. Mile 2 comes back in 6:59 and I am really thinking this is going to turn south in a hurry. We hit a nice downhill but I’ve got some nasty lactic acid building up in my calves. I don’t know whether its being cold or anxious but I better shake this out quick. I was bummed to see Shawanna dropped out near mile 3, but she seemed like she was OK. I got passed by a couple of young guys and Jeff pulled alongside for the next couple of miles. He asked how I was doing and I think I said something vulgar to the effect of NOT GOOD. Shannon said she was going strong, drafting just behind my sizable Saquatchian wake.Despite the crap feeling, I was hitting 6:40’s thanks to two mostly downhill miles back on the trail.

At mile 4 I realized I really needed to change something up because I couldn’t bear 9 more miles feeling like this. I focused on driving from my hips and putting less stress on my calves/ankles, letting them relax as much as possible. I don’t know whether this strategy worked or my legs finally warmed up, but things got much better very quickly. I fell into a good rhythm and just spaced out for awhile. Lots of downhill and flats. I ran by myself for awhile and then ran in tandem with a younger guy who looked to be in way better shape. I think he wasn’t liking some 40 year old beast catching him but we might as well have been holding hands for a good couple of miles. I was nervous about a crash because I had left my GU in my bag in Derek’s car. I was overjoyed at mile 6 when I heard someone shout GU at the end of a water station. I grabbed a water and tried to get the gel but the teen girl was spaced out and I missed the exchange. DOH! I debated about stopping to get it but I didn’t want to break stride from this zone I was in. Oh well, I hadn’t trained with GU so maybe this was a good thing. No one wants a pooptastrophe in a race.

The middle miles were a blur. I lost Mr. Fit and focused on pacing with the trio of young guys who passed me at mile 3. My mind wrestled with the creeping anxiety of an epic bonk and the euphoria of possibly crushing my goal time. Just hit even splits, don’t get crazy. Run in that comfortably hard zone just outside of your lactate threshold. My dream-like state was awakened by another “GU!” shout at the next aid station. This time the exchange was a success and i held a completely random chocolaty flavored accel gel  in my hand. Conventional wisdom always says don’t try anything new on race day, but it also says don’t race every weekend and jump into half marathons with no real training. Here goes nothing. The chocolate was thick and kind of gross, but whatever, i figured it had sugar and maybe some caffiene. Took me most of the next mile to finish it, since eating and 6:40 pace don’t really go well together.

Just after mile 9, I had a sudden moment of euphoria. I was still banking time towards my 1:30 goal, and I started to recognize the course. I had done an 8 mile out and back on the swamp rabbit from my hotel in Greenville last April, and here it was – the place I turned around. This memory, and a nice downhill ahead, helped me recover some.The distance was starting to take its toll, and I was no longer in my nice comfy space. The mile 10 marker was a sudden surprise after I was lost in my head for awhile. This is it – 5k to go. I thought I was ramping up the pace, but it was more like ramping up the effort. This far in, it just took more to keep up the same pace. It felt faster though, because the field started coming back to me. First two of the young guys. Then a couple of masters/grandmasters women and men who reminded me how crazy competitive this race is. I finally caught tall dreadocked kid who had left his two buddies and looked back to see a gasping Sasquatch tracking him down. Catching him launched me into full on kick mode around mile 11. The course starts taking some twists and turns with a lot of road crossings, so this was making it tough. Still mostly flat though. I finally caught a kid who looked 15-16 who I saw at the start, with 1:25 goal splits written on his arm. I got excited at this idea but then even my fuzzy mile 11 math calculated he was just having a bad day. With the mile 12 marker I pushed in all the chips. With a  6:41 and still banking time against the 1:30, it dawned on me I was probably closer to flirting with the PR. By this time you can see all of downtown Greenville around you, with the noise of traffic and spectators ramping up. I was begging for the finish by now because the kick I began at mile 10 was running out of steam quickly. Justin came into view, and he was stationed right at the half mile from the finish mark – 800 meters! two loops of the track! go hard at the turn onto the street! Any restraint went out the window at this point.  I almost ran over some woman on her Saturday morning jog who refused to yield an inch to someone flailing away at the end of a half. I used some of my precious remaining oxygen to curse her but then I saw the street. I was absolute toast on the little bridge over the Reedy river but by then the street is lined with people screaming. I finally saw the finish chute and gave it everything I had left.  Hit the line right at 1:28:32.

Wow, so this was beyond anything I had hoped. I would have been thrilled with anything sub 1:30 and I had come oh so close to bagging the whole thing at mile 4. I was a little disappointed I missed out on the awards (this was only good for 5th in age group) but this is probably the most competitive half I’ve ever done. I think i was top 40 at Savannah, only good for 6oth here. I was also bummed at coming so close to my PR, which I was almost sure was 1:28:22 at Savannah. After the results came online they gave me a 1:28:27 by the chip (which matches the time on my Garmin). After a few beers at the Whistle Stop in TR, I did a quick check of the 2014 Savannah results. HOLY CRAP. It was my marathon time (3:11:22) that had the 22 seconds. My half was 1:28:29. So I got my PR! Two measly seconds. Sure glad I didn’t go back to get that first GU.

Two of my TUS teammates absolutely destroyed their PRs – Michael Nance did a 1:22:51 and Gomez finished just behind him in 1:23 flat. Both their bests by a few minutes. Gomez was able to get 2nd in AG but somehow Nance got nothing (4th) due to the unbelievable field. Speaking of unbelievable, Bishop rocked a 1:15 and got all of 3rd in AG. Insane. Godby got a PR as well, finishing in 1:30:07. Shannon crushed it, clocking a 1:30:53 and capturing 1st in AG. An awesome time after having a very rough injury-ridden year and not racing since last year’s Jailbreak. Ivanka had a tough day with some walksies but still did a very respectable 1:38 (4th in AG). Michael Jensen completed the PR parade with a 1:43:48, breaking his old mark by several minutes. Rashad Striggles went low 1:15 and captured 2nd masters in this brutal field. Erin Suttman was 1st in the 20-24.

In the overall, Brett Morley, our Long Run 15k champ, took the win in 1:07:52. Ladies winner was Victoria Hammersmith in a smoking 1:17:37. Matt Shock was 6th overall in 1:11:52. EA’s Alyssa Bloomquist took 3rd female. Caitlin Batten and Michele Ziegler were the top 2 30-34 women. The ageless Susi Smith took 3rd masters female in 1:29:52 at age 56 – incredible. I heard her support just behind me most of the race.

Amazing times on this super fast course and perfect weather!

http://www.setupevents.com/index.cfm?fuseaction=page&filename=GHSHalfresults.html

https://connect.garmin.com/modern/activity/1066195206