Vista Dash 5k – Columbia, SC – 9/25/11

This race is a “festival 5k”  tied in with the Viva la Vista event, in which the 5k starts an hour before the party starts and lets the runners in first. Similar to the Get to the Green 5k and Crawdaddy Dash 5k , which I believe are also run by Eggplant Events. I signed up for this race on an impulse a couple of months ago, because I saw there were no other local races this weekend and that the entry fee ramped up from 20 bucks all the way to 40 on race day.  So, I got in for 20 bucks in July. This would actually be a good deal, since they give you 6 one dollar tokens for the festival in your race packet. Alas, as a suburban dad of three, I knew the chances I would go to Viva la Vista would be minimal, because 3 year old Drew has yet to share my passion for live music and good beer.  He will learn.

A major wrench in my racing this weekend was the long run. It was on Saturday. Fourteen miles. Eight minute pace.  I followed this up by stuffing my face with grilled chicken and sausage on the grill and drinking beer during the gamecock game.  Excellent race prep, for sure.  Consequently, when I got to this race I was feeling less than raring to go. Did a mile warmup and my legs were giving me a major WTF? reaction. Ten minute pace and could feel every bit of yesterdays half marathon plus slog through the rain.  I looked around and didnt see many  familiar faces – this race was not on the Palmetto Grand Prix or Tour de Columbia, so I think a lot of the regulars decided to (wisely) take this weekend off.  Jennifer Reeves, Drew Walker, and the Allerses were there. Most of the crowd just seemed out for a good time before the festival. Imagine that.  Weather sucked again – temps were back in the mid 70s and the humidity was terrible.  At the start there were a few fast looking kids and Nedrick Rivers, who torched the SR track series and runs 18 min 5ks.  I didnt have a whole lot of motivation for this race, so I tried to look at it as an experiment of what I could do on tired legs.

The course started at the Columbia Convention center, ran across Blossom into the USC Greek village, and right back in the first 1.5 miles. The way out was slightly downhill, and with the gun, I got caught up in going way faster than I had planned. I didnt expect so many people to be ahead of me so fast, so I pretty much burned it all the way to Blossom. Some kid who looked about 14 blasted out at Eric Ashton pace and appeared to keep it up. Tigs and I were running pretty much stride for stride. After the Greek village turnaround we started back towards the convention center and I was really starting to feel the pain. Garmin beeped to alert me exactly why…6:05 first split. Way to go, hero.  The “slight” downhill on the way out was feeling more like a mountain on the way back after that ridiculous mile. Tigs surged ahead when she saw the two girls in front of us slow down, putting her into first female. I passed the two girls too, but considerably slower.  Finally passed the convention center and I was actually going slow enough to grab some water. Total death march.  At this point, dropping out or jogging the rest of the way in sounded pretty tempting. However, the leveling out of the course gave me a little energy, and I started to gain on Tigs again, so I kept going. Course went past the Flying Saucer, over Gervais and turned left on Lady.  Tigs burned me again as we went downhill for several blocks, gapping me by about 20 meters at one point. Mile 2 was nicely marked and hit this at 6:49. Holy slowdown. Surprisingly though, the downhill section and getting a couple of miles in seemed to lift my legs out of their lactic acid bath a little bit. Turned the corner at Pulaski and Gervais and headed right back up the hill we had just come down. I was able to really start gaining on Tigs and a kid in fornt of her. At the top of the hill, I was able to pass both and saw there was just a little over a quarter to  go. We detoured  back to Lady street then turned right on Lincoln for the final stretch.  I was sucking some serious wind but knowing the torture was near over propelled me to a low grade blue shoes kick. Made the last turn right at 20 min and crossed in 20:15. Last mile was 6:34, last 0.15 was 5:33 pace. I have no idea where I placed overall or in age group, since most of the field was unknown to me. Probably around 10th overall as a guess.  Pretty happy with the time given the way I felt. Tigs won first female. I think the kid won overall, but he was well out of sight by the time I got anywhere near the finish.  Had a cooldown mile with Team Allers then had to jet home for daddy duty. Got to surprise a random couple with some free festival tokens. Hopefully the site will post some pics and results soon.

Dry Run 5k – Shandon – Columbia,SC – 9/17/11

This is the 7th year of this race which benefits FAVOR, an addiction recovery advocacy group.  I really like this race because the course is fairly flat and most importantly, it has one of the best and most ironic age group awards. Pint glasses with the race name on them.  I have two from the previous years doing this race and count them as some of my favorite beer glasses in my extensive, mostly Flying Saucer related,  collection.  Last years race was tough because of the heat, but this year the 3 ton elephant that is the Columbia summer just got up and abruptly left. It was 95 on Thursday but the high was mid 60’s on Friday, and the temp at race time was probably high 50’s. Almost cold. I actually wore a jacket for the first time since April. Blue Shoes part 5,  Adidas adizero feathers,  were on for their maiden voyage.  Six ounces of neon blue and flourescent yellow awesomeness.

When I got to the race I felt some pressure, because I wanted to set a good time with the ideal conditions, plus win one of the coveted glasses. I quickly saw that it was going to take a miracle to do this. The race, though fairly small, brings out some tough competition due to the nice cash prizes for the overall winners. Plus, it was so nice this year I think the attendance was up.  I saw Steven Johnson and Randy Finn, two Strictly sponsored runners that can go sub 18, in addition to Code Brown, who has regained his previous form and usually still crushes me. Will Brumbach and Meg Weis were there as well, so I thought even a top 10 overall would be a stretch. The 35-39 age group in this town is just ridiculous,  crazy competitive. I’ve had several races where I’ve gotten more open (overall) Tour de Columbia points than age group points.  In addition to the regulars, there always seems to be some joker coming out of the woodwork who can go out and crush a sub 19 on a whim.  So, I worked myself into a negative funk with all my Bitter Bob self talk , which you can see I’m really good at.  Warmed up 2 miles with Burgess and the Code on the course. There isnt much to say about this course,  basically a rectangle in Shandon with a few rolling small hills. There is a nasty half mile loop at the very end where you see the finish clock  but have to head back out again. USATF certified.

The start felt super fast with all the competition, but I think the weather had everyone feeling good and wanting to push it. The feathers felt really good, and the legs were cooperating, which was something I feared wouldnt happen with the torture I put them through with the Blue Ridge Relay last week.  Eric Ashton and Randy Finn took off with what had to be low 5 pace and quickly separated themselves from the field.  A small pack formed ahead with the Code , Kathryn Ashton , Meg and a couple others that I didnt recognize. I was initially running with Will Brumbach and Michael Ullford, who usually finish near me in 5ks. It felt like I was flying and I eventually drew even with Meg and another guy (John). Thought I was laying down almost a six flat split, but apparently I was having delusions of grandeur because Garmin read out a 6:19 at mile 1. After the first mile there was a turn on Queen St and we started to head back towards the finish on Heyward after a couple of blocks. I was locked into a tight pack with Meg and John at this point, absolutely stride-for-stride, no one wanting to fade. I actually had to do some maneuvering to run the tangents and drafted a bit on the other two for awhile. Hit the second mile at 6:15. I saw the house that I had mentally marked 1 mile from the finish soon after, and tried to really push it. I had been feeling good until then, but it was time to bring the Dr Pain. I took the opportunity at the next hill to surge and separate myself from my mini-pack.  Made the turn on to Bonham St and saw the finish clock in the mid 17’s, so I knew I had to burn it to beat last years time (19:40). Going back away from the finish sucked, compounded by the fact I had misremembered the course and saw the turnaround on this loop was actually one block further. This also meant my landmarks for the blue shoes kick were off, but at this point I guess it didnt matter, because I was hurting big time. Once heading back to the finish I knew it wasnt much more than a quarter mile, so I pushed the pedal to the floor, trying not to fall into scalded chicken form. I was also deathly afraid of getting roadkilled by either one of the two behind me.  I saw Ken Sekley had faded a bit from the pack ahead and I tried to catch him, but there was not enough time or oxygen molecules in Sims Park available for me to do it. Mile 3  in 6:12, though I was too gassed to even look.  Turned the last little corner with the clock turning to 19:30 and finished right around 19:35. Pretty happy with the time, though it felt faster.  Garmin had 3.15 miles, though this is a certified course.

Ran a cooldown with the Code and Burgess after I stopped breathing like a jackrabbit on cocaine. I was thrilled to learn that the Code had finished 3rd overall.  Having a friend run an awesome time (18:48 I think) and place overall is great, but this, compounded with fellow age grouper Randy Finn finishing 2nd, meant there was a chance for a glass for me.  Apparently I think the entire universe revolves around myself.  Sure enough, some guy I’ve never seen before actually beat Steven, but I was able to squeak out a 3rd place and take home my precious glass. One measly TDC point though.

K. Ashton, Meg and Sarah Blackwell won the overall women. Sekley took masters male, and Greta Dobe, reveling in the absence of her friend Tigs, took home masters female and 50 bucks. Burgess was crying about his 20:30 but still easily got an age group glass as well.  I told him the day before he might have to do twenty 400s on our next interval session if he didnt sub 20 with such great conditions. I guess he’ll find out on Tuesday.

Guest Blogger: Trophy , Dam Run 10k – Irmo, SC – 9/10/11

Because of the Blue Ridge Relay, I had to miss the Dam Run 10k this year. I ran this race the last 2 years and PR’d there both times, though since the course is point to point and net downhill, I guess there should be an asterisk. Like Trophy last year, I went out in a ridiculous pace and ended up with the worst bonk ever in Saluda Shoals. Wanted to crawl in the fetal position and cry by the finish. Here is his report:

This is my second year doing the Dam Run 10K.  Last year I ran it for the first time and set my 10K PR.  This year I was out to beat that.  The race usually garners between 400 and 500 runners.  The course was originally much hillier, but was changed a few years back.  According to the flyer this was the 25th anniversary of the race. The beginning is on the Lexington side of the dam and now ends in Saluda Shoals Park .  It is considered a downhill course and is PR friendly.

I arrived around 6:30, planning to do a couple miles beforehand with Diesel and Buckle Up. It was probably high 60’s and felt pretty good. Being who I am, I would have preferred a little cooler. But I was happy with the temperature.  Diesel and Buckle Up wanted to check out the quaint bathroom facilities. If I have a complaint about this race, it would be lack of restrooms.  The women appeared to have a good 20 minute wait up until race time.

Note: Trophy will complain about any conditions short of 50 degrees, sunny with no wind. 

Walking to the dam I surveyed the talent that was showing up.  I noticed a few faster guys and quickly surmised I would not be winning.  Daniel Smoak and a couple other fast looking guys were hanging around. We also noticed that the Ashtons were making an appearance.  Quite a few notables were absent, some due to the Blue Ridge Relay which was going on the same weekend.  At the time my age group appeared to be wide open.  More on that to come.

Note: Glad Trophy figured out that he wasnt going to outkick Ashton for the win. I was gone at the BRR, and Code Brown and Angel were MIA, so there was no excuse for him to not age group place…or so I thought.

My plan for this race was to start out conservatively and not bonk the last couple miles like last year.  I picked out a spot a few rows back next to Diesel and Buckle Up, the shirtless bandits. I noticed a kid who looked to be about 10 up on the front row.  Surely he would not beat me?

Note: I could make fun of Trophy possibly getting beat by a 10 year old, though I was destroyed by a 13 year old girl at Lexington RAH 10k.

We started and I had a hard time finding my pace.  I wanted to try to keep a 7:00 or a little lower for the first half of the race, hoping to come to life the last half and have a negative split.  The dam is very hard to pace on.  It’s very flat and there are a decent amount of faster runners, which both make it difficult to be conservative. It’s a great start to a race with the flat open space and the scenic view of the lake in the morning.  Mile 1 hit and I was right on pace, 6:53. A little bit of a gap was already opening up at that point. The elite runners were already nearing the end of the dam. The second mile is not long after you make the turn onto Bush River Road .  I checked my watch and hit that mile in 6:52. So far so good. Mile 3 does a loop through a neighborhood and is quite hilly. I found it harder to keep pace but tried to push through knowing I had some more flat terrain coming up.  Mile 3 in 6:59.  During mile 3 Jeff Burgess caught up with me, and subsequently passed me.  We turned back out onto Bush River Road and hit the halfway point of the race. 21:25  Was almost exactly what I wanted to do.  We hit a nice flat stretch and I sat back about 30 yards behind Jeff and tried to push it through this stretch without zapping all of my energy.  I was remembering all too well the way I felt the last 2 miles in 2010.  Mile 4 in 6:55.  Feeling pretty good at this point. We turned back into the neighborhood.  There were a couple small hills but also some downhill spots.  I think around mile 4.5 the nasty sun came out. There was one stretch where I don’t think I could see for at least a quarter mile. With the light came the heat. Not too bad, but did rise a few degrees for sure.  Was starting to feel some fatigue by mile 5.  Was keeping Jeff in sight and believe I passed a person during this stretch.  None of the bunch that had gone out ahead of me had faded at all. With a little bit of help from some downhill spots I finished mile 5 in 6:52.  So far the plan was working. I was feeling pretty good at this point. Unlike the Blue Shoes, I can not remember exactly what distances hit at what spot.  We were at the end of the neighborhood and hit a small steep hill. I crawled up it and knew we would soon be crossing over into Saluda Shoals. In the distance I saw Greg “Skirt Chaser” Howell and Jeff.  Jeff had tracked down Greg and was up with him now. I was probably no more than 50 yards behind and felt that I could catch up if I could put a good last mile in. With 1 mile to go I calculated that if I ran a sub 7 last mile I would break 43, which was my goal.  On target!  Was feeling pretty good and the last mile is not very bad.  I crossed into Saluda Shoals. About .2 into it though….disaster hit.  I all of the sudden felt like I was going to throw up…or gag…not really sure which.  Combination maybe?  I had to stop and proceeded to make 4 large gagging noises, dry heaves, on the side of the road. It felt like my lungs might come up. I gained my composure and started running again.  After about another quarter mile it hit again.  I again pulled to the side and made some hideous noises. Nothing was coming out though.  I started back running again and heard foot steps. An older man had caught me and I wasn’t sure I could hold him off.  We reached the 6 mile point (bridge) and I reluctantly let him pass me.  But soon after I felt better and felt Blue Shoes in my head telling me to burn it.  So…I did.  With a tenth of a mile left I did a Blue Shoes Jr kick.  Mile 5 I ran in 7:21 thanks to my stopping. Last .24 I clocked a 6:03 pace with a best of 4:40.  Ended up gapping the older guy and beating him by 5 seconds.  My time was 43:21, what I figured at the time to be a PR.  Ended up being a 2 second PR.  If not for my 20-30 seconds of heaving…..I would have met my goal of sub 43.  Oh well.  I still felt very good most of the race.

Note: I would have made Burgess do 20 intervals instead of 13 if he got Trophied again.  Nice kick though. Blue shoes props for burning by a guy 20 years your senior at the finish.

Diesel came through in 47:20, which I believe was close to a 1:30 minute PR.  Oddly enough he can run the same pace for a 10k as a 5K.  Buckle up came through shortly after in 48:26.  An obvious PR for the new runner.  A very good time in such a short time frame of training for him.  Mrs Diesel eventually came through as well.  No PR for her.

Note: Diesel clearly needs a race psychiatrist – he runs faster in training runs then he does in 5ks, and now runs a 10k at the same pace. I should slip him a valium.

Winning time was 31:14.  A 5.02 pace on a 10K. Wow.  I can only assume this was one of the guys hanging with Smoak before the race. He beat Ashton by 16 seconds. Amy managed to hold off Mrs Ashton to take overall female in 38:39.  I remember the days when Amy was in my sight during races.  Not so much anymore.  Great race for her.

Note: Other impressive times are Billy Tisdale and Megan Weis, both who rocked sub 40’s. Im about even with these guys in 5ks but they apparently would crush me in the 10. 

I ended up 38th overall and 9th in this atrocious age group.  Amazing considering OJ, DB, Angel, and Blue Shoes were all missing.

Note: I would like to make fun of Trophy and his 9th in AG finish, but I wouldnt have done much better. I dont know who any of the top 3 in our AG are.

The 10 year old I mentioned earlier must have run rogue according to the absence of a bib or time.  But his picture was well before when I came in.  Nice.

I would like to thank the Blue Shoes for his continued support (harassment) over the years and for being allowed to be a guest blogger.  I can only hope I provided as much detail and entertainment as he does.
Well done, Trophy.

Blue Ridge Relay – Part II

Once at the Van exchange zone, we had several hours to kill before our van started again with my run estimated at about 830 or so.  In our first relay at the Palmetto 200 in 2010, we didnt eat well, fearing code browns and other GI disasters during the later legs. This led to me being half delirious and seeing spots during my last 7.5 mile leg there . We know now that the key was making sure you eat adequately, actually more than adequately to replace the thousands of calories burned. Hit up a Taco Bell/KFC and a McDonalds for the van. Felt good to get some food, as finding any restaurant out in the rural mountains was difficult. We had to basically follow the course exactly to make it to the next van exchange, where we passed our other van and runner in progress. It took forever with all the winding mountain roads. We soon realized that the hills we saw in the early going paled in comparison to the monsters we were now going to face. We got to our van exchange with about 3-4 hours to spare. Key relay task is to try to find some sleep if you can – just a half hour so will help. I walked out into a mountain field with my sleeping bag and was at least able to rest for a little bit, if not completely doze. The sun and hearing yells from the teams ahead of us entering the exchange zone didnt help.

We got the call from Brian in Van 2 that they were ahead of schedule, and now projecting as early as 6:45. I quickly got some GU, a few ibuprofen for the destroyed quads and got ready to run. Had to do the reflective vest for all the evening legs, as well as a headlamp, so I’m sure I looked super cool.  My second leg (leg 12 overall) was my longest at 7.9 miles and listed as “VERY HARD“.  Let me just say that the relay organizers do not joke around. The topographic map they attach to the leg description showed exactly what I was in for.  I was to go down into a valley, get on the blue ridge parkway, then go straight up a mountain and then another slightly higher mountain, then into a valley to the Tanger Outlet in Blowing Rock, NC.  This time it was me and one other guy. Rick handed off to me and I got to get out the hammer to my quads again on the descent, which felt wonderful. I  was all alone after the first quarter mile, couldnt hear the other guy anymore behind me. After cruising to a 715 on mile 1, I approached a nice size (by Columbia standards) hill, and thought this wasnt going to be so bad. Got a little winded but was able to maintain my pace. Then I turned the corner and let out the first of many obscenities for the rest of the race. That hill was the flat part of the topo map, this ahead of me was just unimaginable.  You know youve got a hard climb ahead when there’s a truck lane and you can hear the cars moaning in some low gear next to you.  And this was just the beginning – once i was all proud of myself for maintaining a good pace on Mt. Ridiculous, I realized it was just the first part of 2 miles of price-is-right mountain climber ( misery.  Pace dropped to 832, then 853. I was pretty much toast by the top, but the reward was unbelievable views of the mountains, riding the top of the blue ridge. My GU also finally kicked in at this point, and I was able to pick it up a bit, back into the low 8’s.  Still climbing hills, but these were only twice as worse as anything in Columbia rather than 10 times. Finally crested the second mountain with 2 miles to go. Went plunging into the valley again at breakneck speed , 657 split. Kept on thinking the other guy was behind me but it was just my ridiculous outfit with the blinky lights and vest. Veered off the blue ridge parkway into blowing rock but was surprised the tanger outlet wasnt right there. Started going up another hill. Some old guy and his wife slowed down to a crawl and shouted “You must be the front runner!”  Then I saw another relay van who honked at me and made some gesture, which I interpreted as “turn around”. Instantly I was seized with fear that I had “pulled a Dan” and ended up going the wrong way. I kept going though because I was almost sure I hadnt.  I still didnt see the outlet, and finally decided I would give it to the top of the next hill before turning back around. I almost sprinted up the hill with a horrible sense I had just botched the whole leg. I then saw the most glorious of sights, a small yellow BRR sign in the distance which meant a) I hadnt ruined the leg and b) I was finished. Blue shoed it to the sign and turned into the tanger outlet, which was perfectly positioned on the other side of the hill so I couldnt see it. Finished in 1:02, 750 average pace.

Dan’s next leg was through Blowing Rock, which is a cool little resort town. Lots of turns and brutal hills, but Dan appeared hell bent on crushing it to make up for his leg 1 hillbilly home visit. This time the van veered off course twice, and we almost ran over Mr Beard, who was now running with Dan since we were a man down. I was betting on Mr Beard to roadkill (relay term for passing another runner) us,  but Dan was bringing the Thunder and held him off.  Freight Train then had the unenviable task of a 10 miler up Grandfather Mtn, the relay’s longest leg. This was a ridiculous climb, made worse by the fact some of the elite teams were catching us and flying by in sub 6 pace. Jon was a trooper and rocked it in sub 9 pace I believe. I would have been walking half of it by then.  Garris and David then were lucky to draw two fairly easy 2.3 and 3.4 milers, which they rocked out at near 5k pace. After the 2nd van exchange we traveled the course again to the start of Leg 23, which was the site of my 3rd leg.  I was half asleep at this time, but we saw some horrific legs which didnt appear navigable by humans, much less those that were trying to run.  We reached the van exchange site around 1 am and I immediately grabbed my sleeping bag and pillow and tried to hide on the other side of the school that was there. Crashed out on the grass.  I tried to sleep but really didnt get much rest. I got bitten by an ant and there were so many vans parked there that inevitably someone had a case of loud talkeritis or decided it was OK to scream if their runner was coming in at 215 am. I did finally manage to conk out for a while when someone nudged me and I looked up and saw David and Dan standing above me. Apparently Van 2 had been so caught up in blazing through their part of the course that they were late in texting us and were about to arrive in less than 20 minutes. I jumped out of the bag in the 45 degree cold, pounded some gatorade and GU, fumbled to put on the whole vest/headlamp apparatus, downed a few advil, waited an excruciatingly long line to use the one bathroom, jogged up to the start and got there just as Rick was coming up the hill to the site.

3 o’ clock in the morning. Not a fun time to do anything that doesnt involve a bed, and certainly not a fun time to run. This leg was 5.6 miles and completely in the epicenter of nowhere. Snow Creek Rd in western NC for those interested. Kept hearing owls, maybe the occasional banjo hallucination. My Garmin was still on leg 2 so I had to start it again and couldnt get it to find a satelite for the first few minutes. Had a hard time fumbling with the watch as my leg quickly became gravel and down a mountain. Couldnt see a damn thing.  Started cursing for picking a 5 dollar headlamp that illuminated wonderfully…the 5 feet in front of me. I was so thankful for the other vans to come along so I could see where I was going. I finally saw a BRR sign, made the turn, and flew down the gravel road for a quarter mile…right to the front step of some North Carolina hillbilly. Bad time for a karma payback for making fun of Dan.  A van saw me and stopped to make sure I got back on track, but I was sprinting to avoid the possible shotgun blast I imagined. Finally got back on the course and soon the vans stopped and I was completely alone in the dark. I was half asleep and almost turned into the driveway for what I read as “Barking  Spider” Pottery, to which I was sure I was hallucinating, because this is the exact term I use to refer to farts with the kids.  I guess I was still awake: Lets hope they make T shirts. Finally got out of the woods in the valley below and hit a stretch of desolate highway that was eerily lit up by an almost full moon. Very spooky. The last 2 miles of this most unpleasant romp in the middle of the night ever was pretty much straight up the mountain. Pace started fading again into the high 8’s but was trying to keep sub 9 as a goal on the hills. The last turn brought me to an excruciating half mile hill, but I was able to make out the faint lights of the next exchange zone.  Sucked wind like it was my last breath on earth during the last bit but made it without walking.

Dan was lucky to draw a 5k distance for his 4am leg, and Jon and Garris also had their shortest legs at this time.  Both continued to put us ahead of schedule. David was most unfortunate in drawing a hilly 9 miler at this time,  but most fortunate that he was the first runner to “miss out” on the 4th leg. We caught up with the majority of the slower teams at this point and David recorded some serious roadkill. The sun was coming up at 630 as he finished and we again handed off to Van 2. The rest of us tried to ignore David and Garris at this point, because they were home free and could relax. We again traveled the course to the next and final van exchange, a baseball park south of Barnardsville. We got our first look at the “mountain goat hard” legs, which were exactly as advertised. Saw a lot of walkers on those. By the time we got to the baseball park, I was completely wrecked.  The lack of sleep had really caught up to me and one side of my legs were destroyed from the downslopes, the other from the climbs. I tried to zonk out in the van for awhile but it wasnt really happening. Didnt help some super cool guy drove up blasting “Hey Ya” like he just discovered the song. For some reason we skipped the last available restaurant for miles in Barnardsville and we were all starving. David and Garris had some tuna and canned chicken which they graciously offered to the three four leggers in the van.  Best canned chicken breakfast ever.  Had a super long layover at this site as the other van had to tackle the most brutal part of the course. I could hardly walk , not from any injury, but just incredible stiffness and soreness. Tried to walk around as much as possible to keep loose but also tried to conserve energy at the same time.

My last leg was 4.4 miles, downhill and flat the first 2.4 miles, up a mountain the last 2. At this point it was all about survival. I had no idea if my legs would even let me run. Plus, the 45 degree chill had melted away into a blazing 80 degree sunny day. Rick showed up a little after 12 and seemed to be running strong despite completing the most brutal leg on the whole course. We were still way ahead of schedule. I took off on a mission to get this thing over with. The slight downhill helped a lot and some of the soreness gave way after a rough first quarter mile. Actually overtook a guy in the first mile in route to a 7:27 first mile. I started feeling better with the blood flowing, and continued to push the pace with another 7:27. Started hunting down another guy ahead, and was boosted by a crazy female team screaming at everybody on the course.  I was also afraid their runner might chick me, so I continued to push it in mile 3 with a 733 even with some hills starting. Overtook the second guy but looked back and saw an older guy tracking me down hardcore. About the end of mile 3 the mountain started and I might has well have run smack into it.  The legs apparently vetoed the decision the brain and heart had made.  Pace slowed to a near crawl on the steep inclines.  Older guy roadkilled me and left me for dead. I was pushing with 5k effort but getting about 9 min pace in return. With a quarter mile to go I saw the finish, and tried to kick, which translated to about 830 pace.  34:33, 750 pace average. Handed off to Dan and collapsed under a tree, just spent, total Hou Yin Chang style. Quickly had to jump back in the van and immediately felt sorry for Dan’s leg, which completed the mountain climb but 10 times worse in terms of incline. He finished surprisingly fast, though said he had to do hill intervals to get up the mountain. I would of had to walk the whole way. Finally passed off to Jon to do the 6.7 mile “glory leg”, a short incline then descent into Asheville for the finish. We arrived in the town square and met up with Van 2 and got to run with the Freight Train for the last 50 meters and across the finish.  Jon was spent and cramping but was a machine bringing it home.  We’ll see where we finished when they publish the results, but we were still an hour ahead of schedule.

Leg 1 (Overall leg 1):

Leg 2 (Overall leg 12):

Leg 3 (Overall leg 23):

Leg 4 (Overall leg 34):

2011 BRR results (preliminary)

Blue Ridge Relay – Part I -Grayson Highlands VA to Van exchange 1 – 9/9-9/10/11

The Blue Ridge Relay is a 208 mile running relay from Grayson Highlands, VA (a state park near the southern border)  to Asheville, NC.  I’ve been wanting to do this race for some time,  as it was the inspiration for the Palmetto 200 relay I’ve done the last two years. Luckily Brian,  our fearless captain and master organizer of the Palmetto team, felt the same way and decided to field a team for the BRR this year. Most of us have to depend on guys like Brian because the amount of organization and planning for these things far exceeds my ability.

For the uninitiated, this relay has the 208 miles divided into 36 sections, or legs.  The legs range anywhere from 2.4 -10 miles, and are classified to their level of difficulty. There are easy, moderate, hard, very hard and for 2 legs “mountain goat hard“.  The usual team is composed of 12 members, each running 3 legs a piece. Total mileage for an individual runner on a full team is anywhere from 13-24 miles. There are also “ultra” teams, where there are six or less team members, each cranking out crazy amounts of miles, 36-50 on average. On the website there is reference to one guy who actually did the thing solo, which is impressive, and also absolutely, completely insane.

Our team, “Van on the Run” was supposed to be 12 members but a guy I recruited bailed at the absolute last second, leaving us with 11 members. I offer an apology to my friends that I barraged with frantic phone calls the day before the race, offering everything short of my first born child in return for their participation.  My anxiety about this was also selfish. The relay runners run in a set order- if there is an injury or no-show the missing runner is skipped (with the next runner running his leg), leaving an extra leg for runner 1 to complete at the end. In this case, having a no-show at the beginning meant he would be skipped 3 times, and runners 1,2 and 3 doing an extra leg at the end.  Of course, I was runner number one.

So we 11 headed up to Grayson Highlands State Park on the day before the race in 2 fifteen passenger vans packed to the gills with clothes, water, food, gatorade and just about every kind of distance running equipment imaginable.  I love to camp, but hadnt done it in 20+ years. In hindsight, it probably would have been best for me to get a hotel, because sleep is like gold before a 26 hour race. I came prepared to camp, but between the scary animal noises and 45 degree night, I was tossing and turning quite a bit. Maybe got a couple of hours tops. Still havent figured out what that loud meowing was at 3 am.

I got up at 6:30, already too anxious/excited to start the race. Relays are generally non-competitive events, but I think the pressure to not let the team down is even worse than our own drive to do well individually. Had to wait what seemed like forever for our 10:30 start time (Start times were staggered from 6:30 (slowest) to 1:30 (fastest) ) Lots of nervous energy, and too afraid to warm up, given the 21+ mountainous miles ahead of me in the next 24 hrs.

It was fun being the first runner, as I got to line up at the start, and as Mrs Diesel says, be a photo hog. There were about 10 of us in our wave, and the first leg as classified as “easy”. Four miles straight down the mountain. There is a certain feeling that you are racing the other teams in your wave, so I wanted to do well in the first leg, but I also needed to remember I now had 4 legs to run, and a whole lot more miles than I had originally bargained for.  All of this careful strategizing and consideration went out the window as soon as the gun sounded. Some unassuming short bearded guy goes rocketing off and I follow him like a rabid bear in pursuit of its prey.  Downhill is really not the word to describe this leg,  uncontrolled freefall is probably closer to the truth.  True to Newtons laws, once 190 lbs of beastly runner jacked up on caffeine gets going,  he tends to keep moving. Actually accelerating. Form going all to hell,  jackhammering my quads all the way down. I had originally planned on 7:15ish pace on this leg. First split: 6:04.  Bearded guy must of been the ghost of Prefontaine, he was probably a minute ahead already at this point. I actually wasnt breathing that hard but having a hard time keeping limbs from flailing and trying not to pound my legs into submission.  This kept on the whole way down, and I was actually thankful for a few spots of flat and slight rise. Hit successive splits in 6:16, 6:14 and a 6:04 kicker at the end, 24:14 total, 2nd in the wave for the leg.  Way to conserve your energy cool guy. They told me Mr Beard finished in under 20 minutes.

Video of the start by team Dirtbaggers:

The other van left with our other six members (Brian “El Capitan”, his wife Jen “She-Hulk”, Amy, Rick,  Joel “Honey Badger”, and Whitney “Big Sexy”), at this point, leaving the five of us in Van 1: myself,  Dan “Thunder Dan”, Jon “Freight Train”, Garris “G” and David “D-Mac”.  Dan, probably our strongest runner, took off in a blast.  Unfortunately,  Dan’s intensity in running does not match his attention to yellow relay direction signs. We drove halfway through his leg and waited for him, but started to worry when half the teams on our wave passed. Just when we were about to jump in the van and find him, he came through. Apparently he took the wrong turn and went a mile off course into the driveway of a Virginia hillbilly, had to turn around and come all the way back, possibly setting the BRR record for F bombs on the course.  To his credit, he still finished ahead of some other runners, on a very hilly “hard” leg.  Freight Train took off after this and continued to crush the pace, despite the fact that his 4 legs now totaled exactly 26.2 miles, a marathon in the mountains.  Garris and David also blasted their legs, where we got the second taste of a “hard” leg. These were already looking tough, much worse than anything in Columbia. Garris’ leg ended with a climb worse than two blossom st hills at the governors cup.  At the end of David’s leg we met up with Van 2, where we passed the baton bracelet to Amy and then had a chance to rest for a few hours. At the van exchange, we met up with a grandmasters all star team of the OG, Drew Walker and Geary. They were the only other team I recognized, and they also had 11 members.

Drew, Robbie, Geary

Labor Day 10k / 5k – Blythewood, SC – 9/5/11

This is the second year for this race to benefit the Blythewood middle and high school orchestra programs. I missed the race last year for some reason but I was psyched to run the new pretty flat 5k course they certified for this year. The 10k course is brutal, pretty much unrelenting hills. I’ve run it in training many times but opted not to suffer the course at race pace. I had an excuse of the Blue Ridge relay next weekend but I probably would have done the 5k regardless. Why is this? Because the Blue Shoes doctrine states that you should always run the “undercard” race in order to boost your fragile running ego, and possibly weasel your way into an overall placement. The holy grail of  Blue Shoes racing theory is to find the most rural, poorly attended race possible, and take home the overall win. The stars have aligned only once for this, a win at the Race to Read 8k in Lugoff last year, though this race did have at least 50 people. I also scored a second in the Lexington Kiwanis 5k last year with exactly 24 others racing.  Ive found you can also get away with doing the 5k in a race that also features a 10k.  All the really fast runners go for glory in the longer race, while, as a running friend recently told me, I go to battle against the “kids and old ladies”. The truth hurts.  That being said, I couldnt hang with the top 10 of the 10k runners in this race.  Some of the top road racers in the area showed up for this one:  OJ, Plexico, Angel, Anton, Kevin Kelley were all there, and all doing the 10k.

The 10k started first at 730, with the 5k ten minutes later. After watching the 10k start, I looked around and saw few familiar faces from the Tour. Conspicuously absent were Trophy and Captain Marathon, who both said they would race here. I was hoping for a possible battle, but I think Trophy saw a 10 percent chance of rain and got scared. Diesel was on daddy and photo duty so Mrs. Diesel could race. She was also following Blue Shoes tactics and doing the 5k. She was accompanied by the Race Whisperer, who shall remain nameless to protect his reckless banditing. I had a nervous few minutes thinking I may be forced to win this race, but luckily Team Allers showed up to crush any dreams of an overall win.  I felt pretty good at the start, despite waking up at 4 am and not being able to go back to sleep. Temps were in the 70’s but really humid. It actually rained most of the way en route to the race.

With the gun, two kids shot out like a cannon at about 4:30 pace, but soon crashed at about a tenth of a mile. I had a few steps of front runner glory before Eric Allers blew by me. I decided to at least keep him visible but he gapped me so bad it was really impossible to use him as a pacer. In the first half mile I heard footsteps and assumed it to be Tigs (aka Mrs. Allers)  but it was some very serious looking high school kid. He flew by me but then suddenly slowed and remained about 10 steps ahead for the whole first mile, split was 6:18. I thought I was going faster but the lack of any other runners around was making it very hard to gauge pace.  I was still feeling good until I saw the Gurgarious St sign and the ugly hill in front of it. It didnt seem so bad when I previewed the course yesterday at 930ish pace, but amping up the pace 3 minutes faster made me start sucking some serious wind.  Luckily the hill killed the kid too, and by the time I reached Langford Rd I was able to pass him.  Strangely, this course had 2 water stops at 1.3 and 1.7 miles, so I guess you cant blame dehydration if you suck.  Eric was getting pretty distant at this time, so I tried to push it after I hit mile 2 at 6:31,  over 20 min pace. The turn on to Trading Post was a welcome relief , as I knew it was all flat to downhill. Started dying after I surged in the first half of mile 3.  Cujo from yesterday had apparently just woken up and only weakly barked at me to let me know I was at 2.5 miles. Seemed like forever on this long straight road, but finally saw Eric turn way ahead on Round Top, and I followed about a minute behind. I was really hurting at this point, but I had no idea who was behind me, so I tried to blue shoe it the best I could. As I approached the last turn in the Blythewood middle entrance road, I let myself take a look back, and luckily no one was there. I relaxed for a second but then saw my sub 20 was getting away from me, so I burned the last 100 meters to get 19:52ish, 2nd place.  Eric won in 19:05 I think. Tigs won top female in 20 something. I didnt see where high school guy finished but he at least got passed by someone else.  Jen had the Race Whisperer guide her to a new PR in 25:20ish, though painfully missed out on the overall awards, finishing 4th female. After my race, it was nice to be able to watch the rest of the 5kers and the top 10kers start coming in. OJ blistered the field in 35 something, Plexico was second. Kevin Kelley and Anton Bodourov apparently had an epic home stretch, battling it out for the masters race, which Anton won.  Code Brown, OG and Greg all said the course was brutal and finished a few minutes off their typical road times, though they all placed in their age groups.

Awards were very nice, with medals that actually had the name of the race on them. Top winners got hand painted wooden violins and cash awards. I didnt get a violin but scored thirty bucks for the 2nd overall in the 5k. Not bad for a days work.

Labor Day 5k Preview

I decided on the 5k at the Blythewood Labor Day race tomorrow, and I wanted a short, easy day today to keep the rust off. I am very familiar with the 10k route, as my training group did it a million times last year prepping for the Richmond Marathon. That preview: constant rolling hills. The 5k route had some familiar parts but had a section I’d never run before.

The start is pretty far back on Longtown road east, at the first school speed limit sign coming out of the longtown loop. First quarter mile is almost flat on Longtown Road East, parallel to Blythewood middle. Then follows a turn on to Rimer Pond Rd for the next 0.75 miles, which is a slight incline, but not significant enough to slow you down too much. First mile mark is almost at the right hand turn onto Adams Rd, which contains the only real hills on the course. There’s a quick up and down hill in the first .25 of the second mile. At 1.33 there’s crazy road sign #1, Gurganious St, which is the cue for the pretty nasty quarter mile hill on Adams Rd. Finally levels out at crazy road sign #2, Lois Lookout Rd, around 1.53 miles. I kept looking for the right turn to Langford Rd after this, but there’s a fakeout intersection at Allen Kelly Ct. The eventual turn on to Langford is about 1.7 miles or so, and continues briefly on a flat stretch of Langford for about a quarter mile. Mile marker 2 is just before the right turn on to Trading Post. Trading Post Rd is mostly flat to a slight decline, which goes more downhill towards the end of the roughly 0.8 miles. Warning to Diesel, at 2.5 miles you will get barked at by Cujo and his vicious looking friend. Turn right onto Round Top Church Rd at 2.81 miles, and time for a blue shoes style kick. There’s a slight rise on the stretch of Round Top, which crosses over Rimer Pond again and takes you back to the parking lot of Blythewood Middle for the finish.

In all, a pretty PR friendly course. Just plan for the brutal Mt Gurganious-Lois Lookout. After that its all flat to downhill. For those that did the 5k course here last year, this new course is much easier.

Here’s the Garmin data , for Trophy to mock my blazing speed:

Run or Walk a Crooked 5k – Chapin, SC 9/3/11

This is my third year doing this race, a small 5k out at Crooked Creek park in Chapin, SC. Its definitely one of the most interesting courses on tour, leading you through soccer fields, paved trail, the perimeter of a baseball field, and 2 parking lot loops. Like a cross country course but about 2/3 of it is paved. Attendance is usually on the small side and is probably mostly local.  One thing hurting this race is competition from other labor day holiday activities and another race on Monday, the Blythewood Labor Day 10k/5k.  Also, it is the only race I run which still uses paper and snail mail entry, and has a non-electronic finish line (except for a digital clock).  I never remember to sign up and always end up paying the late fee. At least they have plenty of shirts for late registrants. Competition is always pretty sparse here too. I ran a 22 plus 5k in 2009 here and ended up taking 4th place overall. More of the same this year. Code Brown,  Plexico, Rocky Soderberg and a few other older Tour de Columbia age groupers were the only ones I recognized. Temps were back to being warm this week, mid 70′s and humid.  Sciatic pain has been slowly improving, didnt feel any twinges after a good warmup.

Course was marked throughout with orange paint, there were a confusing spots when I did the warmup with the Code.  With the gun start, I tried to start out fast, which felt pretty good, but I was definitely was not able to reach my usual first mile speed on the wet grassy field.  Shades of Springdale at Sunset. After a lap around the soccer field, we crossed a small parking lot and into the paved trail section. There were a fair amount of turns in this area, plus a few killer short inclines that slowed you down big time. I traded places with a guy in a white singlet for the first mile – I’d pass him on inclines but he’d overtake me on the downside. Finally gapped him a bit and never saw him again. First mile 6:21, which is pretty fast for this course for me. The Code was feeling it and had already left me in the dust. The top female was ahead of me but within sight, helping me follow the winding course. I think she was maybe 5 feet tall and probably 90 pounds. After 1.5 miles, there was a break out into the baseball field area with some nasty gravel and puddles, almost twisted my ankle on one of the turns but recovered.  There was a confusing part as you circled the ball field,  where the course suddenly turned back into the grass instead of going straight. I almost called out to the girl in front of me that she was going the wrong way, then I realized I was the one in the wrong.  Quickly darted back on course and went back into the paved trail area which overlapped part of the course we just ran.  Passed Rocky going the other way, who gave me a heads up I was running 5th overall. As we went back out into a quarter mile parking lot loop, all of a sudden about 20 people were right in front of me. Apparently from mid-pack on, everybody went straight were I almost went, and they had cut off probably a third or half a mile of course. I was starting to die a bit, so  I panicked a little , knowing I had to pass all these people to retake my position.  Second mile was considerably slower , 6:41. Tried to push it in the last mile, but was not feeling it. I was able to finally pass the last of the misdirected group with about .75 to go, and made up some ground on top female. We came back out into the field with  half mile to go, and had the painful feeling of having to pass the finish line before doing one more lap of the field.  The girl in front of me was fading a little but I wasnt able to gather the motivation to pass her. I thought I could catch her in the last quarter mile but she threw down a nice kick. Saw the 19′s fade away on the clock and finished in 20:16, a second slower than last year. Two seconds from 4th. Must of been the extra 100 pounds I was carrying around.  Plexico blew away the field with a high 17′s time, a guy named Jack finished second, never seen him race before. He was in the 18′s. Code finished in 19:24, a really strong time for this course.  Awards were surprisingly fast given the hand timing. Irmo-Chapin pint glasses. My second favorite pint glass award behind the ironic Dry Run beer glasses.  About 75 percent of the field ran about 2.7 miles with the misdirect. 3.11 by my Garmin. I’m not totally sure, because there was some confusion, but I think they only gave overall awards to the top 3 males, and not the females.  If thats true, thats really uncool. I’m positive they only gave out cash awards to the guys.  Please let me know if I’m wrong.

Results to this race usually take several days to get posted.  Next up is the Blythewood Labor Day 10k/5k on Monday – still debating on which distance. Probably the 5k with the Blue Ridge Relay coming up next weekend.