Safe in the City 5k – Columbia, SC – 10/25/13

Drew's "Blue Steel"

Drew’s “Blue Steel”

Safe in the City is now in its third year, having previously been held in the middle of Columbia’s most miserable month – July.  I heard earlier this year the race may not be happening, which was surprising since it seemed like such a success in 2011 and 12. I later heard it was going to be postponed, which I interpreted as done. Luckily it turned out the race was rescheduled after all – on a night in late October.

This was awesome news, because outside of the soul crushing heat and humidity, the SITC was perfect. Unbelievable course. About as pancake flat as you can get in Columbia, with a great straightaway finish in front of the Museum of Art. And now the weather would be cool.

Once the date was set, I ended up signing up several weeks ago. I had the hope that maybe, just maybe, I could actually RUN a decent 5k. I say this because the comeback is still in its formative stages – a few miles here and there, with 4 races under my belt that I was using as speedwork.

Coach Justin of Team Utopia South picked this race for the team as a good measure of training given the course and probable ideal conditions. i’ve managed one TUS practice in three months – and was so sore I had to take the rest of the week off. Somehow, this turned into a back and forth on facebook where our fastest girl not named Amy, aka Sydney Frontz, was going to take me down at this race. Having no restraint on my grandiosity or care for my personal well-being, I said it was on like Donkey Kong. Smart move, cool guy. At the time of the challenge, I was pulling 15 mile weeks and my last 5k time was 26:06. I did manage a very short Race for LIfe  (2.76 mi) at about 7:10 pace that about killed me at the start of October, but I had no business talking trash. But I can’t help myself. The melon headed ego sometimes bypasses higher thinking centers and goes straight to the mouth.

Syd is no casual jogger either. I think her “adult” 5k PR is 21:30 and she used to run cross for Chapin high. Oh, and shes 22 years old and weighs about 100 pounds less.  And was marathon training. Yep, I was going to get destroyed. At best. Probably publicly humiliated.

But hey, the jagged talon that passes for my left toe sesamoid bone started cooperating a little more, and I was actually able to run 20-25 miles per week in the last half of October. A lot of this was at about 10 minute pace, but after Kauai I will accept any forward motion and love it. Also, I would like to welcome my left leg back to the rest of my body. After acting like a lifeless cinder block since July, I have actually been able to push off the gimp leg and approximate the hideous form that I’ve relied on for the last 5 years. Granted the lungs act like I’ve been chain smoking Newports, but what do you expect with all the couch surfing and candy crushing.

I drove to the race with the Code. Apparently we were so amped about this race we showed up an hour and 15 minutes  early, like kids on Christmas morning. Do not underestimate our running nerdiness. It was pretty cold for racing singlets, so I wore a black long sleeve shirt under the TUS uniform. Please see previous sentence. Syd and the Trophy showed up a little later, and were so cold we hung out in Mast general store. Columbia racing legend Jeremy Becraft was working that night and gave us discount cards. Swag score! Syd was already pulling a Code, complaining about being sick and nervous. Trophy was actually in good spirits, since the temp was below 60 degrees. Lady McGaha wilts like the Wicked Witch of the West in the heat. He was hoping to pull a sub 20 performance with all his marathon training and “watching his figure”.  Code was crying about Justin expecting him to run like 18:30 pace or something. So much bitching and moaning, I almost felt obliged to pull the cliff diving/almost dying card. But I restrained myself.

Pretty good crowd by the time we got around to warming up. Diesels were all in attendance, though both parents were hiding behind the kids. Tigs and Eric represented Team Allers.  70’s beasts Rocky, Henry and  Arnold Floyd all showed up. Fellow obsessive racers Alex Ponamarev, Jennifer Lybrand, Shannon Iriel , Valerie Selby , Billy Tisdale, Howie Phan and John Gasque showed up. Drew Williams was on hand to crush my age group chances, along with Tracy Tisdale.  Local elites Tim Jeffreys, Coach Bishop, Jason Dimery, and Kathryn Cavanaugh were there to make sure no trophies would be hunted that night.  Meme Spurgeon showed up to solidify her CRC rookie of the year status. Fellow TUSers Mike Compton, Ashley Horton , Travis Moran and Sheila Subbarao were representing and making sure the  Syd-Blue Shoes battle did not go unwitnessed. Team Manning was there to claim some age group glory. Scott Hodukovich and Tenacious J were there representing the ultra and tri world. Andrew Touzel, Emily Richbourg and Rob Yerger were spectating.

I lined up third row right behind Syd and all of a sudden we were off. First mile is pool table flat – straight down Main St, then a run around the left side of the State House on Gervais/Sumter/Pendleton and back on Main on the other side. After all the John Bingham style runs Ive been doing , 5k race pace felt blazing fast. On the upside, thanks to left leg deciding to join the party, I was able to generate some decent speed. Its amazing what having two legs will do for your pace. Still, we were way below 7 pace and that was severely taxing the new, not-improved fat ass blue shoes. But I’ve always been good at substituting actual athletic talent for sheer stubborn determination. I know the pain cave all to well. What was probably a really big pain to Syd was having the sensation of a grizzly bear in heat breathing/stomping down her neck. I pulled even with her right at the mile mark and she said something to me. I tried to yell out something encouraging but apparently you need air to talk. I didnt look at the mile 1 split (right near the Hunter Gatherer pub) or the Garmin at all the rest of the way.  It was already completely dark anyway. With mile 1 down, Syd turns on the jets. In my paranoid state of mind, I instantly think Justin has told her to crush my spirit early so I wont be able to outkick her. Mind you, no one is rooting for me. The least anyone wants is for my head to get any bigger. I’m already hating life, but I still follow her. Luckily for me, some little hills pop up in mile 2 in the USC campus.  No one likes hills but strangely I seem to do better than most climbing them in races. This makes no sense given I weigh 50 pounds more than most of my competitors.  Syd gets reeled in a little on each incline. I keep seeing Jennifer Lybrand ahead and I’m really can’t figure this out. She usually pulls 22-23 minute 5ks and it feels a lot faster than that. I also see Tigs and her hand lights not too far ahead,  which would suggest sub 21 speed. I’m completely confused. One thing I’m not confused about is how epically chicked I’m going to get.

The mile 2 mark is at the turnaround point of the USC loop and I’m still right with Syd. I told someone that if I was anywhere near her at this point I would definitely win. I remember getting passed by a guy at last years Crooked creek race in the final mile, but that’s the last time I remember. It probably just means I dont push it enough in the early stages of a race. I’m a wuss like that. Well I was already toast at this point, but I knew it was just one mile and we were now headed back home. Unfortunately Syd starts ramping it up some too. We finally pass Jennifer at about 2.5 miles. Finally we approach the last left turn before about a quarter mile of straightaway to the finish. Justin (having crushed a sub 16) sees us coming and starts seabiscuiting Syd to the finish, screaming at her I’m right behind her, “no joke”. I’m sure she was already aware, since I sounded like a wounded elephant gasping its last breath. With the finish line now in sight I am completely redlining it, and I’m making exactly zero progress against Ms. Frontz. My first view of the clock actually shows the 19’s and I can’t believe it. Finished in 20:38, absolutely gassed.

So yeah, I got beat. Fair and square, me giving 150 percent, and I got smoked on my specialty: the finishing kick. Hats off to Syd, who beat her PR by over a minute (20:31). Pretty incredible. I took a great deal of solace in my own time, which is 5 and a half minutes faster than the beginning of my long trip back to health. The time gives me hope I may eventually  get back to pre-cliff shape. That seems a lot closer than when I was hobbling around in a boot in August.

Lots of fast times at this race – conditions were just about perfect. Tim Jeffreys took the win over Justin 15:33 to 15:56 – not too shabby. Heather Hunt blazed a 17:38 at age 39, good enough for an 86 percent age grade and the women’s win. Awesome. Dimery finsihed third male. Kathryn Cavanaugh and Anna Battiata battled it out for second, with Anne edging it out for 2nd 18:21 to 18:30.  Some blazing fast times in the top 10 also included  Eric Allers’ 18:05, Travis Moran’s 18:12 and Drew Williams 18:18. Howie Phan crushed a 19:08 just 2 weeks removed from his 3:05 marathon.  The Code ran a 19:20 and was inconsolable for running so “slow”. Shannon Iriel crushed a big PR with a 19:24, followed close behind by Billy Tisdale and Geary McAlister. Trophy had an agonizing 20 flat, though his exact time was 19:59.95. I’d take it. Tigs ran a 20:28 and just avoided getting McGimped.  Jennifer nearly chicked me en route to a 20:54 huge PR. Michael Ferlauto PR’d as well in 22:03, but will have to live with his Race to Read win as his sole blue shoes victory.

Age group glory included Brady Ward winning the 2-10 by thirty seconds, with sister Brooke Ward taking 2nd in the 11-13. Sheila Subbarao took 3rd in the 30-34. Jennifer “Tenacious J” Hill won 2nd in the 35-39 with a PR, while Meme Spurgeon won 2nd in the 40-44. Tracy Tisdale took 3rd in the same group. Scott Hodukovich ran a sub 22 and took 2nd in the 45-49. Lorand Battern finished 2nd in the 55-59  ahead of Jim Manning. Valerie Selby and Sandra Manning went 1-2 in the 55-59 women. Mike Compton and Ponamarev took the top 2 in the 60-64. John Hancock won the 65-69 while the 70+ was a sweep by Arnold Floyd, Rocky and Henry Holt.

Guest Blogger: Trophy Hammer the Hills 5k/10k/15k – Columbia, SC – 10/19/13


Trophy agreed to do a guest blog post this week, since I was up in the mountains with the family this past weekend. Hammer the Hills is an awesome race, so I was kind of bummed to miss it again this year. Then again, its probably best for the gimp to take some weeks off. You know…like normal people. Here is his report:

The 10th annual Habitat for Humanity Run/Walk was on Saturday. This race is also known as “Hammer the Hills”, for good reason. I had never run the race before, for mostly obvious reasons. It’s hilly and normally there is another race on this day that seems more appealing. This year, I decided to do it. It was a free race for us BlueCross runners, so that definitely played into my decision. Camden was featuring a very flat and fast course on Saturday as well, but I made a non Trophy like decision and took the hard free race. I know, shocker. I’ve been training pretty hard lately and actually thought that running a hilly course would be good for me. Not sure what came over me. I’m not going to lie, I looked at past results and knew there was a chance of me winning one of the races. Not a complete trophy hunt, but definitely factored in. They have a 5K, 10K and a 15K for those that want to run long on some hills.  9 miles on hills did not sound too enticing. Normally I would pick a 5K, but I’m trying to change my ways and embrace distance and hills, so I chose the 10K. 

 “Not a complete trophy hunt, but definitely factored in.” Whatever, dude. The Trophy took one look at Andy Mikula’s 44 minute winning 10k time from last year and went for it. 

Our normal blogger and leader of all Columbia running apparently decided to go up to the mountains. Sounded like a nice idea, then I looked at some pictures of him on Facebook.  Apparently he decided to give up cliff diving for mountain diving! Yikes. I will admit I was a little nervous. Anyone else get nervous too???  Then I thought about what he must be going through, having seen my name ahead of his for the last two races. Has to be brutal on the psyche and maybe this is why he went to the mountains??? I’m not sure, but I do know that he made it back safe and sound. I’m happy about that since no one blogs like him.

This is him expressing faux concern and feeding into my ridiculous melon-headed ego in order to bring up the fact he has actually beaten me the last two races. 

This race doesn’t draw a large crowd. If you put all three distances together it comes about to a normal size race. It’s well run and directed though. Jenn Covington is the race director and does a wonderful job. There are quite a few turns on the 10K route and all of them had people at them. Nothing like making a wrong turn and ending up lost or worse…a short course.

 Course misdirections are my number one pet peeve. Jenn is a runner so she knows how to marshal a course correctly.

I got there early to pick up my bib and scout out the talent. At first it was mostly non racers. Randy Hrechko showed up, but luckily he was running the 15K. I see Geary show up, but he in 5k. What?!? But hey, I am happy. Not many women show up other than Ashley Horton. She is running the 10K as well. I see Howie, but he is in street clothes with a camera. Whew. He is coming off an awesome marathon. But wait…there is Angel. Oh lord. Fast and in my age group. Awesome. But of course he went for the 15K. So far looking good. I eventually see Sarah Blackwell, Alex’s running mate from Ray Tanner. She has come to run the 15K. The bibs have different colors so that helps with determination. Temps were ideal…low 60’s and 150% humidity. Just how I like it. Not. I do a warm up with Randy, Geary, and Ashley.

I told the Trophy the 10k was definitely the trophy hunt pick. The fast guys will pick the longest race and when forced to pick between undercards, always choose the middle distance. Surprised Geary chose the 10k, that is his specialty. Howie is also good at the 10k, but I guess 1 week removed from a 3:05 marathon at age 50, he deserved the rest.

 We line up and the 15K and 10K are in front, 5K behind. I’ve got a couple 10K’ers on my radar. Figure I will know quickly what competition I will have. There is one guy with an UA shirt on that is sketchy and one guy who is shirtless who is looks like he could be fast. About all I see.

 We start and it’s about what I expect. Angel and one of the sketchy guys are up front. Then there are two young kids running the 5K and then the shirtless guy and me, oh and Coolio. We make the turn and separate from the 5K and I’m in 5th by my calculations. My plan for this race was not to kill myself on the hills and then recover and speed up the last part after the hills. My plan. Rarely does my plan go how I want.

 I like how anyone capable of beating him becomes “sketchy”. 

After a couple miles I can still see Angel, Coolio, and shirtless guy. Angel is starting to break away. UA guy is nowhere in sight. I know he is running the 10K so I’m just hoping he dies near the end. I have Coolio, who I wasn’t sure what he was running, and shirtless guy in my sights. I run through the hills about 50-100 yards back of them. Somewhere in there Randy comes by me doing the 15K. He catches up to shirtless guy and Coolio and they run back in a pack for a while. I’m just biding my time keeping an eye on them.

 We get past the hills and only have maybe a mile and a half left. I know there is a flat portion for a while so I try to speed it up. Looks like they might be fading a little so I’m ready to pounce. I pull from my inner Blue Shoe and make a plan to pass them.  All I live for is to make the Blue Shoes proud, which of course, was the color or my shoes that day. We are going down a road back to 378 and I’m gaining. With each little bit I gain, I get more confidence. We eventually turn down the Botanical Parkway and have to make a loop there. A little bit after we go in I see UA guy come by and know he has first place locked up. I’m still gaining on Coolio and shirtless guy and now I’m pumping even harder. By the turn around I am only 10 yards behind them. Quick look at Coolio….blue bib. 15K  Doesn’t matter, he is toast and I fly by him. Shirtless guy and Randy are running right in front of me as we head out for the last half a mile. Now I have some adrenaline and I’m kicking it. I catch shirtless guy and I’m not sure if he will try to race me or not. He glimpses over like he saw a ghost and I know…he is toast. (After the race he was like, where did you come from???) I keep moving and pass Randy before I hit 378 and the final .2 of the race. I hit the hill up 378 and I’m trucking. No way I am letting shirtless guy come back on me. I finish and turn around and he is not that close. Whew.

I have taught you well, grasshopper.

 2nd place overall and shirtless guy ended up 19 seconds back at the finish. I’ll take it. First guy ended up almost 2 minutes ahead for the win. I rested a minute then started heading back down the course to see how Ashley was doing. I got to her and she is running not far behind another woman. I believe these are the first two, but I’m not sure. I pace her as best I can and we catch the other chick, but she is fully aware that we are there. She keeps us just behind her and holds off Ashley for a 3 second win. A second overall for Ashley.  She has since been enrolled in the “Blue Shoes I will cut your throat to beat you to the finish” school. We’ll see how that is working out next race. J  Very good run for her.

Pain is temporary , pride is forever! Gotta be willing to enter the pain cave, Ash.

 Angel cruised to a win in the 15k and Randy got second. Sarah managed a second overall as well. Geary got beat out by two youngin’s in the 5K and managed a 3rd overall. It was a nice race and despite the hills and the humidity, I actually enjoyed it. I didn’t go up on the Blue Shoes anymore in the trophy area, but I’ll still take a 2nd on a hilly course. I heard there was a nice breakfast, but did not partake in it. Watching the figure.  I did get a cool new headlamp for my efforts! Can’t wait to try it out!  And by the way, top 3 males were all in my age group. Go figure. Apparently obsessive runners were all born around the same time. Go figure. Until next time….

Pre died in 1975 and passed on his spirit to all people born in that year apparently. Trophy will be first to point out that he has me beat in the overall win category 3-2, and left me in a crumpled heap in the 2010 Richmond marathon. I could mention a four year 5k win streak, though that is likely going down on Friday .

Other winners included John Gasque rocking male masters in the 5k, with Paul Bates finishing 2nd in the 55-59 and Pete Poore winning the 60-64. In the 10k Steve Rudnicki and Ramsey Makhuli finished 2-3 in a tough 50-54, while Ponamarev took 1st in the 60-64. Jesse Smarr won the 75-79. Jesse Harmon won the 30-34.  In the 15k, Meme Spurgeon crushed a 3rd overall. Katharina Vorhauer won the 35-39, while Hou Yin Chang placed third in the male division. Travis Cowan stood alone in the 45-49, while Andrew Lipps and Frank Eichstaedt took the 50-54 and 70-74 respectively.

Thanks for the report Trophy!


Photos above and below are courtesy of Howie Phan

Ray Tanner 12k – Columbia, SC – 10/12/13



The Ray Tanner “Home Run” 12k and 5k  started as a small event but has now grown to one of the biggest races in Columbia.  Unlike other races that are attached to a festival or some other event, Ray Tanner is a standalone race that feels like a celebration of the running community in this city. No color clouds, no mud, no zombies, just a really cool race.  Our own “Bart Yasso”, Ken Lowden, race directs and recruits a good many of his Wednesday evening/Saturday morning regulars to volunteer, and they do an awesome job.  Its held at a perfect time of year when the weather is usually cool and has a great course that starts and ends at Carolina Stadium. Even with my trophy hunting tendencies, I’ve never turned down going to RT in favor of searching out some rural podunk 5k. 

Being a race by runners, for runners, everybody and their mom comes out for this one. It remains the only race in Columbia that I’ve never age grouped in. Last year I was all beaming with pride with my shiny new 49:09 45 second PR in this race, and I figured I had finally gotten some age group glory. Nope. Freaking eighth. Not even close.  Between my increasing suckage at everything over the 5k distance and all the random surprisingly superfit soccer dads that race this event, I just dont seem to have a chance. There’s always the much less competitive 5k, but I’ve made it my mission to place in the 12. I thought I had a decent chance when I lowered my 12k PR by a minute at the Rose Festival in June, but then came the cliff dive, and well, control-alt-delete.

This is my third week back to actually doing some running, though I keep having delusions of grandeur I can still do what I used to, so I end up overdoing it and having to take some days off. If I never see a stairclimber or elliptical again, I wont be sad.

I got to the race about an hour early, doing some probably illegal maneuvers around the already coned off course. I was vaguely aware it would probably be poor form for the Columbia Running Club president to get arrested for reckless driving on a race course.  Code and I carpooled. I seem to have a habit of destroying my age group chances by personally driving them to the race. See also Angel and Bayler’s Bash. Code had his Justin Bishop prescribed 2 miler for warmup, probably at a pace I cant even race at right now. Knowing my current speed, I didnt even want to bring shame to the Team Utopia singlet. I did about a mile of a slow jog with Trophy and Charley instead. Most of the Columbia running community either showed up racing or volunteering.  Even Tenacious J made a rare appearance at an event where she couldnt shame me in cycling, swimming or transitioning. The 621 ninjas, harbison crew and tri guys seemed to have taken this one off . Wes and Rhea Spratt did show up though.

My main goal in this race was finishing in one piece. My “long run” for the second half of 2013 has been 5 miles. Beyond finishing, I had already trash talked about gimping the Diesel, and hopefully hit about 7:30 pace , as this was similar to my first and slowest Ray Tanner in 2010 (55:55).  One major factor this year was the temperature – freaking warm. Ive done this race in long sleeves before, but this year I was sweating like a pig just warming up.

After a few words from Mrs. Tanner (Ray, now the athletics director, was at the Arkansas game in Fayetteville) and an invocation by Jim Manning, we were off.  As I’ve mentioned before, the first mile is one big loop back to the start, where there are hundreds of 5kers , cheerleaders and music to make you go way too damn fast. It felt terrible. Humidity was close to 100 percent, and everything just felt heavy. Plus, I always suffer from a bit of post cliff depression at the beginning of races these days, where my former racing peers leave me in the dust. I was hating life already at the mile mark, which sits just before the big overpass over the railroad tracks on Blossom St. I read my split as 7:53, which got me even more down since I couldnt believe how rough it felt. Last night I uploaded the Garmin data, and realized it was not 7:53 but 7:13, and this was minus the mad sprint at the beginning (i let my watch go into power save mode waiting for the start, so i had to restart it 100 meters in). I can see Diesel up ahead and he’s kicking my ass. A tough slog up the overpass and I swear I’m ready to quit already. Really laboring. After the overpass, you take a nice flat tour through the Greek village and then head towards the Colonial center on Lincoln St. Despite working myself into a Debbie Downer funk, I can see I’m gaining on the Diesel quickly. At the time I thought maybe he’d gone out a touch fast, like low seven.  After seeing my correct mile 1 split, he probably went out in a virtually suicidal sub 7.  I tried to get him to maintain my 8 min pace, but he looked like he was toast already. We did a loop around the parking garage and I’m really slowing down, getting passed by quite a few people.  Mile 2 in 8:05. The toe is starting to feel a little less stiff, but I’m seriously considering bailing at mile 3 when we pass the start again. Sarah Blackwell passes me just past the 2 mile mark and accuses me of sandbagging. Oh how I wish. On my way back on the overpass, I start getting really tired of hearing footsteps and getting passed, so I throw in a surge just to make me feel better. The 12k course passes Carolina stadium again almost right at 3 miles, and I know the 5k starts 30 minutes after the 12k. I check my watch as I near the intersection – oh good, its only 24 minutes and change, and then I hear the airhorn for the start of the 5k. Damn it, Mrs. Tanner must have an itchy trigger finger. Pretty soon I’m crossing the bridge and already the  fastest 5kers are blazing past me like I’m standing still. First some young singlet wearing dudes, then Travis Moran, Eric Allers and Brian Clyburn. All of a sudden my ass is getting slapped and sure enough Tigs blows by me, much like my double Schmitz humiliation at Richmond. I made sure to throw in 10 feet of 6:20 pace to return the favor before she left me in the dust again. The mighty whiteys certainly prevailed over the blue shoes on this day.  After a painful stretch of getting smoked by the lead 5kers I finally equilibrate in pace with the midpack of the shorter race. The 12k and 5k routes diverge on the corner of State Street and B avenue in Cayce, home of the Leona Lavallee Inspiration Station. A whole bunch of Ken’s running crew dress in grass skirts and coconut bikinis ( including the men) with a steel drum band. The station is named after Leona Lavallee, a big part of the Columbia running community who tragically died in a car accident right after the Labor day race in 2009. The station provides awesome crowd support at a tough point in the race.  I was feeling pretty rough at the time, but all I remember is Jeff Burgess and his sagging coconut boobs and Tommy Outlaw laid out in a stretcher just post knee surgery. With the injured Tommy and all the island imagery I thought I was having flashbacks to Kauai.

It was a nice little boost, because right after the station is the grueling B avenue climb – about a half mile of low grade relentless hill. Not crazy steep but over 4 miles in it is a most unwelcome sight. At the top the hill is a one block loop before heading right back down.  It gives you a good idea of where you stand in the race since you can see everyone ahead of you on the way up and behind you on the way down. In my case, seems like just about everybody is kicking my ass. Ive slowed down to over 8 minute pace as I slog up the mountain. The only good thing is my toe feels better on the uphill. Jim Lichty catches me about halfway and helps distract me from how ridiculously out of breath I’m getting. I did manage to re-pass Blackwell just before the top, but after we hit the turnaround, she blows right by me again. Lichty has had enough of my slow ass and leaves me for dead too. As I complete the one block loop, Ashley Horton is right there, and I start to imagine how much Team Utopia south grief I will get if she chicks me. Usually I fly down the backside of B avenue at low 6 pace, but I spend most of the downhill just recatching my breath. Sarah is gapping me pretty bad but I try to keep her reeled in. I usually like to stealth follow, but in case Sarah was wondering Sheila Subbarao decides to scream at Blackwell that I’m tracking her down. No love for her TUS teammate? i’m starting to think this whole race is some huge karmic payback for my ridiculous unfounded narcissism. Once I make it back down to the Inspiration station its time to weave into the back of the pack 5kers.  This gets pretty tough, since its mainly walkers by the time I get there, and Im really having to juke and jive to get through the pack. People walking three, four across. Um..isnt this supposed to be a race? I turn wide and try the sideline approach but I about got sideswiped by an SUV on the bridge, so I go back to the weaving. Its not like I’m breaking any land speed records anyway. By this point my pace has slowed to a couple of 8:20 miles, so I set a late race goal of making sure I break an hour. Oh, and tracking down that Blackwell chick. Once I cross the bridge at the six mile mark is usually where I seriously throw down, so I try to pick up the pace some. Im in a world of hurt. Its good that its not toe or knee hurt, but more of the wow I cant believe how much fitness ive lost kind of hurt.  Sweating like a pig and sucking wind like a boss. Finally I crest the hill on Huger street and see Sarah up ahead, whom I had lost for awhile in the sea of 5k walkers. Time to really lay the hammer down, or in my case, throw down some wicked pre cliff half marathon pace in a 12k. As the stadium gets nearer, Sarah still has a decent lead on me but I’m slowly getting closer. I can start to hear the announcer (Shirley Smith?) as I make the last turn into the stadium. Blackwell is right there but there’s a ton of walkers in the way. Shamelessly, I pull a Marcus Lattimore cut to the outside, find a seam on the sideline, and headless chicken it to the finish, passing Sarah with about 20 yards to go. Yes, apparently I am an insufferable jackass. Finished in 59:22, good for 120th place and 24th in age group.

Yes, its tough to be eleven minutes slower in a distance you raced just 5 months ago, but I’ve been told I need to be thankful for being alive and stuff. It felt like a marathon but I’m glad I stuck it out and finished. Something tells me I’ll have a lot more pride to swallow in the months to come. That may not be a bad thing.

12k -Eric Ashton crushed this race in 38:18 for the win. At age 45. 93% age grade, which is world class. Not sure he’s human. Tim Jeffreys finished second and Jonathan Eggert finished third. I ran into Eggert at the Ryan Rawl run. He used to play soccer at USC, and has the build of a soccer player, but apparently he discovered later he had a freakish ability to crush the city’s best distance runners. Wish I had that problem.  Justin “A Standard” Bishop finished in 4th, Plexico 6th.  I see an epic showdown happening at Gov Cup between these guys. The top 20 is full of Columbia road racing beasts – Frank “Dr Chicago” Clark, Jason Dimery, Phil Midden, Larry Jourdain (at 51 – top male masters!), Yerger, Flicker, Brad Marlow and yes, even the Code.  Looks like the women’s race was awesome, with the top 3 all finishing within a few seconds of each other. Ashley Sears took the win in 50:15, with CRC’s Devon Shirley in 2nd and Rian Landers-Ramos in third.  Birgit Spann won female masters at age 52 – incredible. Paul Laymon won male grandmasters in a blazing 49:11 while Carol Wallace won female grandmasters.

Age groupers – Jennifer Lybrand took first in the 25-29, Bishop, Plex and Frank won the most brutal 30-34 age group ever. Phil Midden, Rob Yerger and Flicker took the 35-39. Erin Swanson won first in the 30-34 females. Kenny Culbertson won 2nd in the 40-44 while Brad won the 45-49. Sharon Cole took the women’s 45-49. Larry Bates and Sue Porter won the 55-59. Newly 60 Mike Compton placed second in the 60-64, while Bill Iskrzak was 3rd. Jan Hardwick and Peter Mugglestone went 1-2 in the 65-69.  70 year old John Sneed whupped my tail and won the 70-74, while Henry Holt and Jesse Smarr took 1st and 3rd in the 75+.

In the 5k Michael Rusnaczyk won in 16:06 followed by Greg Lowing and Daniel Noval. Kathryn Cavanaugh finished an impressive fourth overall to win the womens race in 18:31 Heather Costello finished second followed by Ms. mighty whiteys herself Sarah Allers. Tigs rocked an 86 percent age grade – highest in the field.  Travis Moran, Eric Allers and Evan Mikula were also in the top 10, Eric winning male masters. I was very excited for the “capitan” of my Palmetto 200 team, Brian Clyburn, who broke 20 minutes for the first time on Saturday. Awesome! Speaking of awesome, Tracy Tisdale captured her first overall trophy by winning female masters.

Age groupers – Brady Ward won 3rd in the 2-10 rocking a 24:51. Jennifer “Tenacious J” Hill won 1st in the 35-39 with Brie McGrievy just a few seconds behind her for third. Sadly I could not beat J across the line. Husband Jeff Curran finished 3rd in a tough 40-44. Caroline Keen finished 2nd in the 40-44 on a good day for Team Keen – Whitney ran a sub 51 in the 12k. Cheryl Vaught won 3rd in the 45-49 while Jonathan King took 2nd in the 50-54. Dolly Rodgers finished third in the 55-59 while Pete Poore took home third in the 60-64. Nancy Sneed won the 65-69, with Rocky Soderberg claiming the 70+.

Race for Life 5k – Columbia, SC – 10/5/2013


The Race for Life is my third race back from the lava rocks of Kauai. Its actually part of a giant event called the Walk for Life, which brings thousands of people to downtown Columbia to raise money and awareness for breast cancer research. I’ve done this event each of the last three years to support a friend, Dana,  and my aunt Sue, both breast cancer survivors.  My wife and kids do the walk as part of “Team Dana”, and normally I do the race and run back to walk more than half the course with them.

I wasnt so sure about the race this time, as each week is a complete crap shoot as to how the gimp leg/foot is going to feel. Things have slowly been getting better. The week before the race I managed a total of 15 miles, which brought the grand total to 25 since July 15.  So basically Ive put in about a half week of my usual weekly mileage in 2.5 months. But hey, I’m running again, so no complaints here. I could still be playing Candy Crush on the couch.

I was able to run sub 8 pace at the Race to Read 5 miler and just over 8 pace at the wednesday night riverfront group run, so I thought I might actually put some effort into this 5k. I figured anything sub 7:30 would be great. The course certainly would help – its an essentially flat out and back with only one major hill about halfway in. There is a net drop in elevation, as you pass the original start line about 2.9 miles in and plummet down a mountain into the road on the other side of Finley Park for the finish. They used to finish in the park itself, but I found out they changed it last year when I sprinted into an open field and one there.  Luckily I was able to get back to the course and maintain my finishing position last year, about 20 seconds later than originally planned.

I showed up about 45 minutes early with the family and let them go down to the meeting area for the walk at the bottom of the hill. Did about a half mile warm up and felt pretty good. Just wanted to loosen up the toe some. The 10k started 15 minutes before the five and I was able to see Eddie Vergara, Angel Manuel and Steven Johnson leading the pack. Lois Leaburn, Teresa Harrington,  Joe and Luke Naylor, Kate Ferlauto, Ted Hewitt, Kana Rahman, Missy Caughman, Dina Mauldin and George Summers were some of the familiar faces.  AFter the dust cleared from the 10k, I tried to scout out if I had any age group competition. This race has been a pure trophy hunt in years past, and Ive usually finished in the top 5 despite my decidedly less than elite status. This year would require a real stroke of luck, as I figured at best I’d finish in 22:xx. I didnt immediately recognize any age groupers. Code was down in Aiken at the Whiskey Road 10k, Angel was doing the 10k of this event, and Trophy was doing a long run with my marathon training group, so it looked fairly wide open.  PLexico showed up with no one else in his league to challenge him. The 621 ninjas did send a pretty fast contingent with Hedgecock, Erin Miller, Randy Finn and Coke Mann (as well as Steven in the 10k). Coke hardly races so I had forgotten he had already aged up, but it turned out Randy had taken his place in my brutal 35-39.  Veteran racers Pete Poore, John Gasque, Rocky Soderberg and Alex Ponamarev were all at the 5k start, smartly choosing the shorter race (the 10k is a compelte sufferfest).  CRCers Andrew Touzel, Emily Richbourg and TUS teammate Sydney Frontz were also on hand. Sydney was out to pace a friend at her marathon pace, so I hoped to stay ahead of her.

The start was a complete mob scene. There were hundreds of people in the race, and quite a few were starting out like it was a 400 meter track event. Even Rocky blasted by me, probably accessing some of that 1966 SEC mile champion speed. I settled into a comfortably hard pace. I wouldnt say the left leg felt normal, but it at least felt more like a part of the rest of my body , instead of like dragging a stiff wooden peg.  The first mile is awesome in this race – straight through the heart of downtown with a slight downgrade. I kept trading places with a blonde haired girl who was running in weird bursts of speed and then slowing down. There was also a pack of teenagers who were doing the same thing, except completely walking in between intervals of sprinting.  Im pretty sure this is not Jeff Galloway method. Im feelign pretty good about the first mile until I see everybody turning left in front of me. WTF? I know the course turns right, having run it the last two years. Instantly the race feels like a complete disaster, but I try to keep up some hope the course changed this year without me knowing. Nope. I see us making the turnaround already and mixing in with the back of the pack 10kers. We ended up cutting off a few blocks and that nasty hill, so I knew this was going to be really short. This took the wind out of my sails, but I tried to keep up my pace nonetheless. First mile ended up being 7:15, so better than I thought. Mile 2 was tough. Fortunately the gimp leg was cooperating but the lungs were complaining that this was even more difficult than level 75 of candy crush. Just sucking a ridiculous amount of wind. Turns out couch surfing, TJ Hooker marathons and Flying Saucer excursions do not do wonders for one’s cardiovascular fitness. Go figure. This is about the time when I realized that youre actually going up a slight incline all the way back home.  After mile 2 (7:18) it starts getting a little congested because of all the 10kers, so I lose track of who I’m actually racing against. Despite feeling like death, I cant help but try and throw down a blue shoe kick since I know this is to going to be way short. I pass Sara Hutchins, someone who I’ve never met but remember from my obsessive race result tracking of 2009-2010.  Just when I’m feeling good about the kick I’m laying down, a black woman about my age (enigmatically listed as S SUMP on the results) just chicks the hell out of me from nowhere. I go after her like a rabid sasquatch and overtake her on the last small hill of the course beofer plummeting down towards the finish line. Gimp leg , understandably, is not fond of rapid downward acceleration, though I’m still going six something pace. I start to turn the last corner when damned if I dont get SUMPED as she passes me at  Allyson Felix speed, and theres no way I can respond, especially with a sharp left turn on the bum leg. Truth is, she would have kicked my ass even at 100 percent I suspect. I cross the line in 19:38, 2.76 miles by my Garmin and 7:08 pace. 6:46 pace on the last 0.75.  Very pleased with the result despite the course misdirect and epic Sumpage. I was on pace for a possible sub 22, so I’ve made up the equivalent of 2 years in 2 weeks at the 5k distance.  Nicer to be at 2009 pace than 2007. The leg is getting stronger so I’m hopeful this will continue. I had to run back to my family and Team Dana, but I ended up placing 3rd in age group, 17th overall. 

In the 5k, Plexico had an easy win. I suspect he mailed it in after the misdirect, because he wasn’t too far off his full course 5k times. Hedgecock finished 2nd in 16:34.  Heather Costello tok the women’s win, barely beating out Erin Miller, who Im sure would have had a PR on a full course. Randy finished 7th and Coke 11th, In the age groups, Sydney coasted to first in the kids , i mean 20-24,  division in 19:49. Andrew Touzel won the 30-34 while Sara Hutchins took the 30-34 women. Since they only went 1 deep overall, Erin ended up first in age group, while the SUMP finished 2nd. Gasque captured the 50-54 while Alex and Pete went first and third in the 60-64.  Jan Hardwick won the 65-69 with an amazing 21:59. Margaret Holt took the 65-69 women while Rocky easily won the 70+

In the 10k, Eddie Vergara won the overall easily, with Luke Gleissner taking second. Angel and Steven Johnson finished 3rd and 4th despite being directed way off course in he second half of the race. I think most of the 10kers ran a full length, correct course.  Ive never heard of the female winners, but they were Nicole Heilman, Michele Wyatt and Sara Wagner. Ted Hewitt ran a strong 45:15 to finish 15th overall and 3rd in the tough 40-44 age group. Sadly, I could not capture on film the same face of pain from last year, though Ted was definitely blue shoeing it at the finish. Familiar names in the 10k include Tim Rollason-Reese and Jessica Chiu winning the 30-34 and Meme Spurgeon placing second in the 40-44.  Teresa placed 2nd in the 50-54,  John Hancock placed second in the 65-69 while Henry Holt took the 70+.

Race to Read 5 miler – Lugoff, SC – 9/28/13


Stop number 2 on the comeback tour is the Race to Read 5 miler in Lugoff.  I decided I would actually sign up for this race in advance because there was no way I missing this one. Race to Read was my masters thesis in the study of trophy hunting, beautifully executed in 2010 to bring me my first holy grail: the overall win. The race turned into a brutal battle between myself and Greg Howell, two age groupers dead set on claiming the ultimate glory. I passed Greg with a quarter mile to go and kicked so hard I almost donated some Honey Bunches of Oats at the finish line. But it was sooo worth it.

My luck has been decidedly different over the past 2 years, with the Race to Read getting on the Palmetto Grand Prix as well as our Tour de Columbia. Suddenly people who were actually fast started signing up. Damn them.

But they cant take away my moment of glory, so I always come back. This is actually an awesome race even without the trophy moment. Betsy Long, who is a runner herself, knows how to put on a good event. The course is a beautiful rural route through the rolling hills near Lugoff, with a start and finish at Doby’s Mill Elementary. The start features a short incline followed by a mile of paved flatness. Mile 2 is almost all on a gentle downhill gravel road. You then turn back on a paved road with a big climb. After the 5k point, theres a turn then long downhill to mile 4. The last mile has a killer hill at the beginning then a weird detour onto a curvy paved nature trail on the elementary school grounds with a finish near the start in the parking lot. Despite all the rolling hills, times have been pretty fast on this course.

I showed up about an hour early, not knowing if I could or should run the race. I still fight some stiffness in my left toe in the mornings, and the whole left leg is probably operating at 60 percent. I ran the dry run , 3 miles two days later and had an aborted try 2 days after that when I tried to run first thing in the morning and it just didnt feel right. Grand total of 10 miles since July 15.

I jogged a warmup with Billy and Trophy and after debating back and forth at least 10 times,I decided to go for it. This was scary, because there is no shortcut on this route other than skipping that nature trail at the end. Once you start, you either have to continue or head back the way you came. I kept having these horrible images of me limp walking half the race, with everybody passing me and finally the cop car flashing right behind me.

Yes, the Trophy was there.  With a perfectly good, free Gov Cup preview run the same morning, I can only surmise that the Trophy was out for Blue Shoe blood.  He can only ride out that 2010 Richmond marathon victory for so long. Early on, I was thinking Billy would win this thing, though power couple  Bedenbaugh and Shannon showed up a short time later to pretty much seal the overall trophies. Still, there were no other elites there. Sharon Cole has won this thing in the past I think, and she was back to defend her title.  Sure as the sun shines in the morning, Gasque, Henry Holt and Ponamarev were on board. Pete was surprisingly missing though. Birgit, Andy mikula, James Hicks and Valerie Selby were the rest of the CRC contingent. Mark Robertson and his two sons showed up, so figured they would be good to pace off.

With the start, the small field kept surprisingly together, as there were no Bishop/Plexico/Ashton types. A quarter mile in and I can see the mini pack of Shannon and Billy (with Bedenbaugh pacing) leading the race and its killing me. I’m always racing with those two when I’m at 100 percent. Oh well, I can’t be thinking of trophies with the gimp leg.  Speaking of the gimp leg, even when the toe loosens up it still feels different from the uninjured leg, so I really have to concentrate on the actual mechanics of putting one foot in front of the other. On the plus side, chugging along at 8 minute pace is not that bad cardio-wise despite the 2 month+ layoff. I keep up with the Robertsons for awhile then move up to Ponamarev pace, and pass mile 1 in like 8:05. This is blazing in comparison to my first race back with the 9:15 start. After the mile marker is another mile of all dirt road. The cushioned surface feels good and I speed up just a touch, passing a couple of people. Up ahead I can see two targets: Hicks and Ferlauto.  Just short of mile 2 we turn off the gravel road onto a paved one, and Hicks looks back. I try and wave a sign of support but maybe he took it as notice I was gunning for him. Maybe I was. With the toe actually working to push off I ramp up the pace and draw near James. We hit a long nasty hill before the mile 3 mark and I know I’ll catch him, because McGimpy toe loves uphills. I pass James about halfway up the hill and see my next two marks – a guy in a blue shirt (later identified as Garrick Douglas)  and the Ferlauts.  The hill has shrunk the once huge gap and I’m closing in just after mile 3. Unfortunately, the course then turns back towards home at this point and its downhill for a half mile. As much as Senor toe loves the uphill, he is not so fond of the downs. Garrick and Michael start to pull away again. Just after mile 4 is the worst hill on the course, the one I used to catch up with Greg in 2010 and capture my glory.  I try and really push it up the hill and this is the first time I’m really starting to suck wind. Pace has dropped into the low 7’s by time we crest the hill and start the nature trail. I’m really gassed from charging the hill but I catch up with Garrick, who resists and then finally relents to being blue shoed.  The nature trail veers out into the open and blows my cover on the stealth approach to Ferlauto.  Michael is looking like toast but the combined effect of the finish line nearing and the palpable shame of possibly being McGimped by one of his coworkers is enough to motivate him to kick it in.  He’s too far away once I get out of the trail, and my kick is probably 50 percent right now, so I have no chance. I still mount a little bit of headless chicken mode, just to make sure Garrick doesn’t decide to return the favor. I cross the line in 38: 50ish, 7:47 pace.

Pretty happy with the result – a big increase in pace from my first race back 2 weeks ago, and that was a 5k. Toe and knee felt OK afterward. Still far from 100 percent but heading in the right direction.

Bedenbaugh won the overall – he paced Shannon for 4 miles then decided to lay a beatdown on the rest of the field for the win. Billy actually wasn’t too far behind though for 2nd. Shannon easily took first female, though Birgit and Sharon Cole has strong times to place overall as well. Oh, and then there was Trophy. Trophy placed third male and claimed a rare head-to-head Blue Shoe triumph. Don’t worry Lady McGaha, I’ll be back.  They only did one deep in age groups, though the prizes were really cool – hand painted gourds by the Doby’s Mill kids.  Alex Robertson made his dad proud with a win in the 13-19, and Andy Mikula represented CRC well in the 25-29. Valerie Selby won the 55-59, while Alex Ponamarev took the 60-64 and Henry the 70+.