True to the Brew Half Marathon – Croft State Park- Spartanburg, SC- 9/29/18

The True to the Brew Half Marathon is the second in a possible series of races highlighting the Palmetto Trail, put together by  Palmetto Conservation and promoted by Erin Roof’s company, GRIT endurance.  I loved the first race in the series, a flat and fast 6.5 miler on the Peak to Prosperity trail in April, complete with tons of beer and music at the finish. I was all in when Erin announced this trail half, sponsored by RJ rockers brewery and running through Croft State Park, where I camped earlier this year. Unfortunately,  unlike a certain Supreme Court nominee, I don’t keep a very good calendar, so I didn’t completely think this one through.  Sure enough, I’m putting up my August/Sept/Oct months on my office wall, when I notice the end of September. Ruh Roh. Table Rock 50k Sept 22, True to the Brew half Sept 29.  This was going to suck.

As noted from last week, my entire lower half was pretty much useless in the days following the 50k. Not to mention the epic chafing that had me walking like a bow legged sailor with VD for the rest of the weekend. I did manage a 2 mile shakeout on Monday and two 4 milers on Tues and Wednesday, but even these short jaunts were pretty rough. Legs like cinder blocks. I tried not to hate Tracy McKinnon’s strava when he posted a 10 miler at 7 min pace the Monday after beating me at Table Rock by over an hour. Damn that ultra beast.

Fellow racing drinking buddies Rob THE YERG Yerger and Drew Williams decided to join me this time. There was an alcohol restriction at Croft, so we had to make sure we got true to our brews at packet pickup instead, which was held at RJ Rockers on Friday night in Spartanburg.  They give you a free Palmetto trail pale ale coupon in the race packet,  but I also had a flight of some of their pale ale/IPAs. I made a point not to get wrecked like I did in Morganton before the 50k. Even though this was a hell of a lot shorter, 13.1 miles on destroyed legs was going to be tough enough. Hotel accomodations were significantly better than the sketch Days Inn from last week, though I had to do an epic late night grocery run to procure my race breakfast of choice, Pepperidge Farm cinnamon raisin bread. Don’t leave home without it.

Showing up the next morning I was definitely not feeling it. Between the dark early morning and the 20 minute drive to the start, my piriformis wanted to get crazy tight. I decided to skip any warmup because I was probably going to be slow as hell anyway on the race course.

Since this is a Tour de Columbia race (we bend the geographic rules if there is beer and Erin involved I guess), there was a decent Columbia contingent. Mike Nance was on board to pull a hell of a double – he was going to do the half in the morning and the “Beerlay” 8 mile and 4 beer relay in Greenville later that day. #hardcore status for that for sure. Lynn Grimes, David Nance (with Jenny Prather for support), Roy Shelley, Gabe Hipps, Darby Shinn, Mike and Janice Compton, Kara Clyburn, Michael Beaudet, Will and Amanda Rowan and Matt Gregory were some of the familiar faces.

With the start, we had a short run through the grass and a paved road at Cedar Springs church before almost immediately plunging into singletrack trail. I saw Drew and Nance take off and leave me in the dust almost immediately. It is a little disheartening when you see 2 age groupers kick your ass from the get-go, but I knew this race was going to be all about just finishing. I tried my best early on to at least maintain a brisk pace, because I knew my endurance was probably going to be shot. Ran through the first few miles in high 8 /low 9 pace. It felt faster than that, but this was decidedly not the peak to prosperity section – plenty of rolling technical trail and very little flat. Yerg was also feeling the 50k pain from last week, so he dropped off pretty early. I ran for a good while with Gabe Hipps , though I could definitely see he had the fresher legs. Eventually he and another dude left me, but I was able to keep up enough to see them to reassure me I was going the right way. The course was pretty well marked, but generally I will find a way to go off track if you can. The middle miles of the race on the Lake Johnson section of the trail were nice, since there seemed to be a fair amount of flat open dirt road. Any section where I could just relax and jog for awhile was awesome for me, because the singletrack is definitely a challenge for someone with less than cat-like agility. Particularly with 50k legs.

By mile 8 though, things were getting pretty rough. The flat road sections had disappeared, and all of a sudden I’m doing some serious climbing. At some point, I finally give in and succumb to a bout of the walksies. Luckily, just as I do, I reach the top of the monstrous hill. I double fist some water and the volunteers tell me its all downhill from here. I originally thought to the finish, of which I was sorely mistaken. They were right about the next half mile or so, which was a glorious downhill. Soon afterward though, I was back doing switchbacks and inclines again. There were some more walksies thrown in, though I tried to keep it to a minimum, because the legs and body in general wanted me to crawl into the fetal position in the pinestraw.  I started seeing more horse poop at this point, which actually motivated me. Not because of some bizarre fetish, but I remember lots of horse trails from my previous trip, and I knew the finish is right where we camped. The last few miles are a blur. At some point the forest opened up with a big weird valley of fallen and cut down trees. I have no idea what that was about, but of course the trail wound up and down and sapped any remaining energy I had. Finally I came upon the finish area. I knew at mile 12 I had an outside chance at a sub 2 hour finish, so I started kicking it in as I rounded the horse area. Just as I planned to headless chicken it to the finishing arch, a volunteer told me to run the other way. OH NO. I was deathly afraid there was some mile long loop or something and I was definitely on fumes. Fortunatelu, it was only an extra quarter mile, but damned if it didn’t rip the soul from my body. I cold actually see Gabe again at this point, but had no chance of catching him. I crashed through the finish arch just as the clock flipped to 1:59.  Just wrecked. So not a great performance, but  not too bad considering the gimp legs. Good enough for 10th overall and 3rd masters.

Drew ended up crushing the win in 1:43, with Michael Pryor 2nd and Nance third. The women’s winner, RWB’s Birte Fretwell from Columbia, actually was the second person to finish. She killed it! Jennifer Lee and Michelle Flemming were 2nd and 3rd.

Age groupers: Gabe Hipps finished 2nd master in 1:58. Matt Gregory won the 30-34. Darby Shinn and Roy Shelley were champions of the 50-54. Mike Compton and Lynn Grimes were tops in the 65-69. Kara Clyburn was 3rd in the 40-44 women. Janice Compton was 3rd in the 60-64 women.

Special note – I noticed Kristin Weaver and Ian Loughlin at the finish with Jenny, which I thought was an awfully long way to drive to support a friend.  Kristin pulled me aside and told me the real reason. David had told them to come since he had a surprise in his race vest – an engagement ring. David had a rough day on the course and we all kept nervously awaiting his arrival. Apparently he had a long speech planned out, but all he could muster at the finish was to drop a knee and pop the question. You can tell from Jenny’s reaction that she was genuinely surprised and of course said yes. Really cool to get to see this – congrats guys!

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Table Rock 50k -Morganton, NC -9/22/18

Soleil, Yerg, Cobb, Marion, Dean, Tracy, Andy

As it seems, the fateful night was sometime in mid-April. The Ville to Ville Relay, the beer-themed race from Asheville to Greenville, where my team, the Carebeers, where crashed out in an air bnb in Black Mountain, NC. As the Airbnb was hosted by one of Matt’s old college friends, and in the spirit of the theme of the weekend, many beers were had that night. Just before I went to bed, Tracy McKinnon tagged me in a facebook post about a mountain 50k called the Table Rock Ultra. With craft IPAs running through my veins, I impulsively threw down the 90 bucks and declared myself an ultramarathoner- to- be. In classic Alex fashion, I woke up the next morning to the confirmation email and asked the same question David Byrne asked in 1983, “MY GOD WHAT HAVE I DONE??”

Elevation profile from hell

Months passed, and I thought surely I would train for something as monumental (for me) as running 31 miles. Bear in mind, I don’t really match up well to an ultra marathon. I live for garmins, certified courses, chip timed starter mat go-all-out road races. I’m not used to slogging all day in the woods and worrying about food and chafing. But September kept approaching, and I wasn’t getting my ass out in the woods much. To my credit, I did the Grandfurther 25k in July and the Vertical Mile 18 miler in June so I guess these 3-4 hour runs could qualify as “training”. But hey, no one is going to mistake either of these for ultras. Plus, Table rock was supposed to be equally hard terrain and double the distance. The last marathon I did was in 2016 and the longest run I did on the roads all summer was probably 16 miles. This was going to be ugly.

But as underprepared as I was, I am also equally stubborn. No way was I going to back down, though it sure was tempting to opt for the 30k they also had. But 30k finishers got a medal and 50k finishers got a HOODIE. I was all about getting an ultra hoodie. All my 5ker friends would be so jealous.
I drove up to Morganton the night before with fellow race traveler/bad influence Rob “THE YERG” Yerger. We drove up early on Friday, dropped off our stuff at a decidedly sketch Days Inn and headed straight to Catawba Brewing for packet pickup. Like the uber nerds that we are, we got there right as they started at 5pm. We did a flight of Catawba beers and ran into Soleil from the Harbison Trail runners as well as Jen Ward and Betsy Long from the Camden-Lugoff crowd. Tour de Morganton part II was at Fonta Flora Brewery with more of the HTR crew with Ken and Jill Hinely, and Randy Smith. I was perfectly fine to call it a night after that, and Yerg is usually dead to the world at 8 pm, but he really wanted to try yet another brewery, appropriately named Sidetrack Brewing. Between the breweries and a Greek feast later at Yianni’s, this was probably not an optimal prerace strategy.

Flight #1 at Catawba. Beer snobbing with the Rhubarb Gose

Sure enough my sleep was crap, I was all dehydrated and we won’t speak of the colonic destruction that commenced at the Morganton Days Inn. With about 4 hours of sleep, an unsteady tummy and my body generally a ball of anxiety we headed to the race start/finish, Steele Creek Campground. We got there well before the start (7 am), and it was dark and already uncomfortably warm. I am not an anxious person, but I was suddenly struck with the realization I had no idea what I was doing and was probably woefully unprepared for what was supposed to be a 7-8 hour brutal race. I kept going over my gear, which included a Nathan hydration vest, a couple of granola bars, some Fritos (my survival food from vertical mile), band aids and toilet paper. I said a little prayer to my colon I wouldn’t have to use that last one.  Soleil and Rob were trying to calm me down but I was pretty much a wreck.

Yerg not quite awake, Soleil ready to go

After a short pre-race briefing we were off. I was in full jog mode from the get go, 10ish minute pace. The first mile was through the campground and across a completely open grass field. The majority of the HTR group was ahead from the start but I was dead set on my “all-day long” pace. Well, until we hit the first creek crossing and trail area. All of a sudden everybody was walking and I’m trapped in a long conga line. My mind can’t wrap itself around walking this early into a 31 mile race , so I pull off like a jungle elephant and stampede through about 10 people and break out into a clearing. The rest of the initial 4.8 miles is on a rolling grassy wide open road to the first aid station, “Gods Country Road” (cue the Joshua Tree). I had decided to break the whole race down into aid stations, written on my arm per Yerger protocol. Speaking of Yerg, I got frisky in the first few miles and passed him and Hinely. I felt pretty good early on, since I had about 4 days rest leading up to the race. I managed to pass Yerg and Hinely, and I could see Dean pretty far ahead. I cruised into God’s Country road feeling pretty fresh. Filled up my water bottles. I figured out pretty early on that my hydration bladder tasted all plasticky and probably less than sterile so I was basically carrying 5 pounds of dead weight. Still, I was so afraid of my grandfurther dehydration incident that I wasn’t going to bail on the H2O just yet. The next station was at just over 10 miles. This section was initially a rolling mountain road but quickly narrowed down to single track and multiple creek crossings. Rob had told me there were two creeks but there had to be at least 4 in this section. There was one technical part near a huge waterfall and I had minor PTSD from my cliff dive in 2013. Me and a guy named Kellyn from Raleigh were pretty much running together, which made sense since we realized our road racing times were pretty much identical. I’m jibbajabbing some story when all of a sudden its SONOFABITCH WHAT THE HELL WAS THAT. Sure enough 4-5 wasps decended upon me and machine gun stung me. I put some pep in my step and plunged into the creek in an attempt to wash out the venom. Yeah, that doesn’t work. Felt like someone jabbed me with a needle in my leg and arm the rest of the race. Awesome. A little while later, a few guys had caught up with us, when suddenly I hear BEES BEES MOVE MOVE MOVE. Me and Kellyn launch into  a freaking 50k sprint, launching over technical trail as fast as possible while 5 middle aged dudes ran for their lives. These bees were not effing around. Kellyn went back and attended to one of his friends, who apparently was throwing up and not doing well afterward. Hope he was ok. I pushed on and eventually reached a Barkley style gate with a turn onto another mountain road going uphill. There were a few people coming back down already, which I initially thought might be 30kers, but that didn’t make sense with them starting 15 minutes behind. I soon realized it was a short out and back to the aid station. I trudged up the road super slow but maintained at least a jog. I never saw Tracy but Dean showed up just before I hit the 2nd aid station. This was 10 plus miles in, so I figured some food might be good. They had PB and J quarter sandwiches so I stuffed a few of those down and refilled my water bottles. The next several miles were all wide open mountain road. I thought about tracking down Mr Schuster but remembering the elevation profile, I was plenty skeered. I knew the 16 mile aid station to the table rock summit at mile 19 was a couple thousand feet elevation gain. Yeah, that wasn’t going to be flat and fast. I managed to run/jog the whole rolling mountain road section all the way to mile 16. Tummy started acting up a little and I started scouting out some poop friendly area but I couldn’t imagine the nightmare of trying to pop a squat with my wrecked legs and everything soaked with sweat and creek water. YUCK. Luckily the colon calmed down.  Hit up some more PB and J’s and a couple shots of coke at the mile 16 aid station. I knew the next aid station was the summit. And damn they weren’t kidding with that elevation profile. Walksies hit immediately as I was hit with a trail straight up the GD mountain. Amazingly the race leader passed me coming back down just as I hit the summit trail. Dayum, dude.

The Course

So it was about 3 miles to the summit, but damned if it wasn’t my slowest 5k ever. I walked most of the first part en route to a 25 minute mile. Blazing. At some point I decided to jettison the funky hydration bladder and dumped a couple of pounds. After the initial climb were some possibly runnable areas, though I was also having to let the lead pack pass. The female lead was killing it though was sporting a bloody leg. #hardcore status for sure. I eventually met up with Tracy, who had to be a couple miles ahead of me. He warned me of the “conga line” of tourists up ahead who were not too keen on letting racers pass. Sure enough, a whole group of older hikers were also navigating the summit trail not too far ahead. By this time they were accepting their unfortunate timing and were pretty good giving the sweaty hydration pack crew  the right of way. It seemed to take forever, but suddenly the trail broke open into an incredible view for miles around. They had a photog just under the summit and I tried my best not to look like hell, though the result was mixed.

Table Rock Summit

I took a few pics at the top and some horrendous selfies before descending back down. The actual aid station was in the table rock summit parking lot about a quarter mile down. The Rock Hill Striders had an awesome spread with everything you could want. More PB and J’s and coke with more water refills.

Summit

Dean passed me not too far from the aid station, and I think he actually went the wrong way initially. He is a master downhill runner though, so I knew he would kill me most of the way back down. Sure enough, I struggled not busting my ass the whole 3 miles back down to the mile 16 aid station, which was also around mile 22.

I saw Jim Cobb not too far behind me, followed by Yerg, both Hinelys and Marion on the way down. At the 16/22 mile aid station I had to briefly convince one of the race dudes that I wasn’t on my way up. I told him I may have a sasquatch physique and a food baby full of PB and J squares, but this chunky boy can run. I guess he believed me.

The next section was promised as being nice and downhill, as we were cutting off a lot of distance of the initial 19 mile climb and making it back in 12. Sure enough there was a much more run-friendly soft trail for miles 22-25 and I actually managed to jog almost all of it. I was actually feeling pretty decent at this point, maybe all the “rest” from the power hike up the summit and the PB and J fuel was kicking in. Eventually I made it down to the area where the original mile 6 was and I knew we were headed back towards home. This would be reassuring, except the good feeling of the early 20’s miles was fading quickly. The heat of the day had really ramped up and I could feel the body asking me WTF did I think I was doing. It was refreshing somewhat to trudge through some of the cold creeks but I could feel a case of the cramps coming on as I stepped up out of one of the crossings. Ruh roh. At least we weren’t back in bee city again.
Mile 25 greeted me with a rolling gravel road that seemed a lot more uphill than I remembered it the first time. Of course I was going in reverse this time. Walksies ensued on every climb, but I tried to run all the flats and downhills. There was another guy with me at this point and we formed a spontaneous soccer mom power walk group on the mountain road. Finally we made our way to the Gods Country Rd aid station again, the first and last one, 4.8 miles from the start/finish area. I was so close to home, but I was definitely a little worried. The heat was getting brutal, there was little shade coming back, and every part of my being wanted to stop right there. I loaded up on my last course of PB and J’s with a side dish of chips and coke, double fisted some water and headed out.
And wow it was whole lot of suck. First part out of Gods Country was a long, grassy and sunny incline that just killed me. I had gone through the aid station at 6 hours flat, and figured I had a chance at a sub 7 finish, but even that 12ish min pace average was highly questionable at the rate I was going. Walksies were happening every incline. I at least tried to approximate a jog on the downhills but hell even those were getting difficult with the jello under me that passed for my legs. I kept eying the Garmin and trying desperately to make it to each mile. 27…28…29… I managed to catch a few 30k stragglers but I wasn’t exactly blowing by them either. Right around mile 30 there was a patch of shady singletrack and a creek crossing I recognized from the first 10 minutes or so of the race. SO CLOSE. To the finish, and unfortunately also collapsing. Almost cramped in the creek again, but as I pulled out of the water I could see the field right before the campground. I decided that, hell or high water, I was going to run the rest in. And man, its not as close as it seems. Probably about a mile, and over a completely open, long grass field in the 85 degree heat. I summoned all the 95 degree famously hot Columbia afternoon training runs and embraced the hell. All out pace at this point was 9ish minutes, but I was going to finish dammit. Finally, FINALLY, the road turned and across the bridge I went into the campground. I glanced at the Garmin and saw a 6:59 and ramped it up a touch, an extremely feeble blue shoe kick. I was crushed though, because the clock flipped over to 7:00:00 literally 20 meters away from the finish arch. I crossed in a mixture of delirium and euphoria, grabbed my finisher hoodie and made a bee line for the shade. SO GLAD TO BE DONE. I crashed next to Dean, who had finished in 6:47 or so. Dean was calling out my name in a fog, laid out flat on his back. I sat down and my legs proceeded to straight lock up. Literally couldn’t move.

Thankfully Soleil, who unfortunately had a DNF, as well as Jen Ward (30k) helped us get water and not die. I’m forever thankful. Tracy, who finished in 5:45 and must have already showered, got me my celebratory beer. It took a good 15 minutes for me to return to the land of the living, but I was so excited to finally call myself an ultramarathoner! Best part – my official results had me at 6:59:26, breaking 7 hours after all. 40th out of 215.

KILL ME NOW

In the 50k overall, Reese Wells won in 5:00:56, with women’s champion Amanda Morris finishing in an amazing  5:02:58, third person to cross the finish. Male masters was won by Sonny Girardi in 5:47:15, with our own Tracy Mckinnon less than a minute back. Female masters was won by Valerie Wrenholt in 6 hours flat.

Columbia contingent:

Tracy McKinnon 5:48

Dean Schuster 6:48

Alex McDonald 6:59

Sid Tyner 7:00

John Corbett 7:06

Raymond Hrin 8:01

Jill Hinely 8:05

Jared Holt 8:07

John Ryan 8:27

Martin Herbkersman 8:28

Scott McDOnald 8:28

Rob Yerger 8:28

Andy Richards 8:33

Ken Hinely 9:10

Marion Hinson 9:10

Jonathan Walvoord 9:19

Lets not forget the 30k – Chad Motz won among the men in  3:24, with Jennings Garry winning the women’s title in 3:38.

Columbia area finishers:

Alfie Hipps 4:47

Bridgett Bailey 5:06

Chris Claypool 5:16

Jennifer Ward 5:44

Kathryn Britt 5:50

Will Britt 5:50

Betsy Long 6:14

Rhonda Ware 7:19

Overall this was an awesome race  – scenic, well-organized and awesome swag. Great post race tacos and beer as well. Major props to Tanawha Adventures for putting on the race and White Blaze Marketing for providing on-course pics.

http://ultrasignup.com/results_event.aspx?did=56223

tablerock

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

rtf1.jpg

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

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

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

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

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

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


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

Wow. That was nuts. Fifteen miles on the road I can churn out in 1:45 but it took me more than twice that with this insanely hard course. I just wish I was fit enough to be able to actually run more of it. Tanawha puts on a great event and this was an awesome experience, so I highly recommend it.
For the Columbia contingent, Mike Nance was the winner in 3:34, Drew turned in a 3:41:06 with Dean hot on his heels at 3:41:07 (though Dean’s 30 second start delay wasn’t added in – controversy!) . Bobby Scott ran a 3:44. So yeah, I was dead last.
In the overall, Luke Paulson was the winner and course record holder at 2:22:41. I was barely past the turnaround when he finished. Amanda Morris was the female winner in 2:54, also a course record. These are mind-boggling results for a road guy like myself. Trail running ability like that is a mix of amazing cardio and incredible technique. Bravo to them.
https://ultrasignup.com/results_event.aspx?did=55989

https://connect.garmin.com/modern/activity/2961958659

811 Run 5k – Columbia, SC – 8/11/18

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

 

 

 

 

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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