Newberry Half Marathon – Newberry, SC – 3/22/14


The Newberry Half is a brand new race, first announced probably 6+ months ago. This event looked pretty cool, and the race director (Mark Baumgartner) targeted the running community early on with some bargain basement prices. I think I signed up in October for this race. Not because I was raring to go run a half. I was probably three races in post cliff and was still pretty beat up. But when you see a half for 35 bucks, you jump in it. (0:18)

But despite my general recovery since then, the Achilles injury wrecked my January, and I was in no shape to race a half. Seriously, I think my longest long run was maybe 12 miles in 2014, and slow at that. My 10k last weekend was done at pretty close to 100 percent effort and it was almost right at my old half marathon PR pace, so I knew I wouldn’t be tearing it up this Saturday. I was very pleased with the RD’s communication via email leading up to the race – dude seemed to know what he was doing despite this being a first year event. I had been concerned about misdirects on the winding course, but he assured us there would be two markers at every turn and volunteers at most.

I had to wake up at the crack for this one, leaving the house at 6 am for the 45 minute drive to Newberry. Got there pretty close to an hour ahead of time. The early bargain prices apparently brought out all the racing studs from Columbia. Bishop, Erin Miller, Larry Jourdain , the Yerg, Flicker, John Bradley and Howie were just a few of the people who would be whipping my tail that day. This was a Team Utopia South approved event, so I showed off the ghostly guns in my new black singlet. Syd, Joyce, Stephanie, Lee Gallman, Tracy Meyers, Mike Compton,  Jeff and Lucia were all representing the TUS as well. CRC peeps were out in force as well with all the TUS, Jennifer Tudor, Rick Gibbons,  Pam and Mike Griffin, Mike and Kat Hudgins, Coleen Stasburger, Ken Lowden, Shirley Smith, Scott Brewer, Lorikay Keinzle, Michael Jensen, Jenny Prather, Crystal Cordoba, Kristen Cattieu, Jeff Burgess, Pamela Knapp, Lynn Grimes, Brad Marlow,  and Eleen Rodillo-Fowler in attendance.

Oh and wait. Who is that in the pre-dawn shadows? THE CODE. Making a rare 2014 appearance. Dude has been churning out 20 milers on Saturday but hasnt raced in ages. Must be afraid of the blue shoe resurgence. Or maybe not.

I was kind of fearful of the 13.1. Just no idea how to pace it given the train wreck of the past 8 months for me. I figured I would wear the giant Hokas and aim for around 7:40ish (my old marathon PR pace)  . Something that would feel like a good training run bit certainly nothing that would leave me in a crumpled mess by the side of the road. It was good the Code showed up because he was game for about the same thing (the pace, not the crumpled mess).

Start was at 8 and after we left Newberry High it was a few softly rolling miles down main street towards downtown. Bishop left the crowd for dead right off the bat and never looked back. I saw Flicker and Yerg ahead and already counted the Coed and I fighting for third in AG,  should it come down to some racing. We hit mile on in 7:44 and it felt very comfortable. It was good to see my poor brother in law, a Newberry city cop, who had to come in on his day off to help direct traffic. Sorry Jake! Burgess passed us in the first mile and seemed to be crushing it out of the gates. First 5k was really nice, running through the 1950’s style small town feel of Main street in Newberry, past the Opera House. After the first 5k was a few miles of rolling residential hills. None too bad but definitely not as flat.

There was definitely a slight drift in the pace and we were hitting 7:30’s as we neared the 6 mile point. I was a little concerned with the whole GI situation. Washing down a hamburger and hot dog with some Dogfish head 90 minute IPA the night before is probably not a fantastic pre-race fueling option, and there was some definite unpleasantness going on down below. Fortunately there were some reassuring portapotties in this area that kept me from going into panic mode. Luckily things didnt “progress”. What I did notice was the Code starting to want to drop my pasty ass. Miles 6-7 were around Newberry College and he would push ahead with me latching on like a sweaty pale monkey on his back. The pack had thinned out quite a bit, but I noticed we were starting to pass quite a few people. After mile 7 I saw Jake again and we headed out into the country. Quite a few long stretches where you could see for a good half mile at a time. I was starting to hurt a bit but it was reassuring to be at least half done.

Around mile 9, Code started really pushing the pace and I was too scared to follow him, since we had 4 miles left and I dint know what might happen with my endurance or that sleeping monster in my gut. I still have nightmares from Trophy unceremoniously leaving me for dead on Devine street at the 2009 Gov Cup (my first half). But I don’t take kindly to getting dropped either. I made a pact with myself that if I could make it to mile 10 in one piece and not Chernobylizing a portalet, I would race the last 5k. Mile 10 started on the encouragingly named Short Cut road and I started trying to pick it up. This is tough when you’ve been metronoming mile after mile in 7:30’s, and there were some more hills. Ken Lowden, who certified the course, said there was a nice downhill finish with one very nasty hill in mile 12. Mile 11 came back in the 7:20’s, so I ramped it up another notch and started hitting the downhill. Code had turned into an absolute beast and I could barely see him up ahead.  I was definitely moving at this point but he was still gapping me even worse. Thats if you call a quarter mile “a gap”.  Suddenly I came across ‘Chicago guy” from the Columbia marathon whom I had briefly met after the race. A guy who I thought was just there for that race. Well he was here again, encouraging me to break 1:40. I decided to take him up on the offer. Hit mile 12 in 7:05. Justin then appeared, presumably having finished, showered and eaten lunch. He said “the hill” was up ahead and about 600 meters long. Suddenly I rounded the corner and ran smack into it. Ho. Ly. Crap. People always talk about the evil Blossom street hill at Gov Cup. This mountain makes Blossom look like a speedbump. I always attack hills, but pretty soon my assault on Mt Newberry turned into a whimper and I was chugging along quarry crusher style on this monster. I think I passed 2 guys walking. It took every ounce of willpower not to do the same. I went from being completely outside the pain cave to being hopelessly lost in it. Even as the steepness evens out the last bit of incline feels like hell since your quads have been officially set aflame.

Finally a turn back onto Main street towards the high school . Totally sucking wind like its going out of style. I see an older guy with a Team Kattouf outfit on, so I figure he must be a tri beast. I decide to give him a taste of the blue shoe kick but damned if he didnt hold on for quite awhile. That will be me in 30 years. I glance down at my watch and see high 1:38’s and I’m already past 13.1, so I’m afraid I wont make it. I somehow find another gear and kick it in right at the high school to cross in 1:39:29. 6:18 kick after a mile 13 in 7:17 (including a stretch of almost 9 minute pace up that hill).

I’ll take it. Finished in one piece, and didn’t feel too bad despite the brutal last 1.1. Wasn’t even close to age grouping (5th). I forgot Flicker turned 40 already, but there were two other randoms that finished in front of the 3rd place Yerg. Code must have run about a 20 minute closing 5k but still finished 4th. He did catch the Burgess though and got me by 2 minutes.

In the overall, Bishop crushed the field in 1:18, which is easy for him. Clint Grant and Matt Henderson finished 2nd and 3rd male, but Erin Miller totally rocked first female and 3rd overall. She was finishing behind me in 5ks a year ago. Now, not so much. Ashley Sears finished third behind a girl from West Virginia (Gretchen McDonaugh). The legendary Larry Jourdain also finished in the top 10 and first masters in 1:25ish, followed by Scott Flicker and John Bradley among masters men. In the masters women, Joyce went out for a training run and finished first with Wendy Hart and Lorikay Keinzle taking second and third. Howie Phan and Brad MArlow took the top two spots in grandmasters while Coleen Strasburger and Carol Wallace went 2-3 among the women.

Age groupers included Doug Robinson finishing 2nd in the 30-34. He finished with Katie Rose, Jason Rose and Kristin Cattieu who all placed in their age groups. Scott Brewer took second in the 40-44. Burgess and Todd Nichoalds went 1-2 in the 45-49. Tracy Meyers finished thrid in the 50-54 while Mike Griffin took top honors in the 55-59. Mike Compton finished 3rd in a tough 60-64. Lynn Grimes won the 60-64 women, while Ken Lowden won his one man division of 65-69. Nice trophy hunt Ken!

Overall a great first year event and very nicely done. Thanks, Mark Baumgartner!

Guest Blogger Trophy: Healthy Capital 5k – Columbia, SC – 3/22/14


I usually do the Healthy Capital – its a nicely done race and it’s usually a good trophy hunt. I got all excited in 2010 thinking I would win the race but a then unknown (to me) Mike Hedgecock came out and whipped my tail. Last year I would have gotten first male but some guy from California came out on a whim and left me for second again (actually third overall since Kenzie won first female). In any case, I signed up for the Newberry Half about 6 months ago when it was 35 bucks, so I had to miss the Cap this year. Trophy filed this report:

The Healthy Capital 5K was Saturday at Columbia High School . For those of you who don’t look, there were a lot of races on Saturday. This was a tough decision for me. My “Trophy” race was on Saturday as well. For those of you who don’t know, this is the race that led to my name. I went out to the big town of Swansea and ended up winning overall.  Not only that, I got a pretty good size trophy. The rest is history. I also won the race last year. It was close though, I only had like a 5 minute gap between me and second.

Trophy totally owns the Swansea Special Olympics 5k. Swansea city council has considered erecting a monument to his double epic wins in the race. Its totally under the radar and meets all the TH criteria – no publicity, rural, and competes with  multiple other more popular races. The trophy spawning the “trophy” nickname is completely ridiculous. You’d think he’d won Cooper River.

 So do I go back there or go to HC?  I picked the right one since Bedenbaugh decided to go out to the country and win a race. Whew. There was also a new race in Lugoff that I was pretty sure I could win and a West Columbia race that likely no one would be at. Most of the fast people either signed up for the Newberry Half a year ago when it was like $20 or they were racing while eating a burrito. Kudos to those who can run after eating a burrito. I can barely do anything after eating a burrito. So it came down to trophy hunting or running HC to see if I could get some age group points. It was very possible I could finish top 5 overall and still be 3rd in age group. I don’t know if anyone has noticed lately, but 35-39 year old males are obsessive when it comes to running races. We are like mosquitoes in the summer time. You can kill all you want, but they will keep on showing up.

I swear there are like fifty 35-39 guys in Columbia that can run a sub 20 5k. I’ve placed in the top 10 in a few races where I didn’t even place in my age group.

Oh, and hindsight is 20/20 but the Lugoff race was won by Sharon Cole in 22:12 and J-Lybrand won the Run to Win 5k in 21 minutes. Fast times by these ladies but alas, two chances at the holy grail (overall win) lost.

 So after all that I decided to go for points and because it was a short trip over to Columbia High School . I had run the race before so I knew the course. I get there early as usual to register and scout. Didn’t take long to figure out the pecking order. Team Brandenburg showed up, likely because they needed some spending money for their weekly trips to Boone. Talkington apparently didn’t have time to run the Half that he signed up for, so he decided to come run this race. Lucky me. Then I see Ken V, who is quickly becoming the next Blue Shoes. Dude shows up for every race. And he was racing Beaufort that night. The only good news was that Blue Shoes had signed up for Newberry and wasn’t here. So only two of the Three Amigos, as I have decided to start calling us. We all run near the same pace, race a lot, and lack color.

I upped the paleness factor to a new dimension by showing off the alabaster guns at Newberry. The black singlet made me look like Edward Scissorhands’ long lost brother.

A few other of the regular CRC runners showed up.  Ashley Horton, Alex Ponomarev, Meme, John Gasque, J Reeves, Pete Poore.  The biggest surprise of the day was the Old Geezer showing back up in Columbia to race! I’m glad I was there just for that reason. Been a while since the OG was in Columbia racing. He used to be a fixture on the circuit. Was good to see him back. Of course this was one more person that would likely beat me, but it was ok.

I was bummed I missed a rare OG sighting. The OG is almost exactly 20 years older than me and can still whip my tail. A legend!

 My main goal for this race was to beat my crappy time from St. Pats and to of course, beat Ken. I had run the race before and knew the course was downhill to begin, and uphill to end. Fun combination. The start was quick and off we go. This race is comprised of 70% kids, and of course a handful of them blast out the gate. Ken and I start off at a pretty good pace, but still behind the crazy kids and behind JB, the OG, and Talk. I figure this is the order it will end up in, but at the start there is a random dude up front trying to show his dominance. Had never seen him before.

 After a fast mile 1 I have pulled away from Ken ever so slightly. The people in front of me have dwindled as the kids start to…stop. I pass the last of them around 1.5 in and I’m now in a hole behind Talk and just in front of Ken. I know there is a nice hill at the end and I’m trying my best to keep a lead on him. I look back a couple times and see he is not far back. I’m thinking he will catch me in the last half mile. With a about a half mile to go I am gassing, so I might be right. I want to just give in and let Ken catch me and then who pops into my head???  The Blue Shoes! All I can think of in my head is how he will harass me for letting Ken catch me and then beat me.  Even when he is not around he is causing trouble. Sad that my first thought is what will he say to me.

Well, I would give him hell about that …if Vowles hadn’t completely dusted me in the last half mile at Judicata a month ago. I’m so far in the Trophy’s head that I haunt him in races I don’t even run. It’s my special psychiatric powers.

So I draw upon my inner Blue Shoes and summon the strength to keep up this pace and finish strong. You turn back up the hill with maybe a quarter mile to go. At this point I am still ahead and I’m catching unknown guy and Talk is not too far up. I hit the hill and figure I can power up this last couple tenths and it might hurt but I can do it. The end of this race is about as bad as they come. You go back up the nice incline you started on. Then for good measure you get to turn into the parking lot and then go up another small incline. I was pushing as hard as I could up the hill and caught unknown guy and then got to the corner of the parking lot. I look back and my lead is big enough. With that finish it’s almost impossible to put together any kick at all. I stumble across the finish and think to myself how bad my legs feel. On fire. I look at my watch and see my time and then see why my legs are on fire. The supposed .2 hill was actually close to .3. The course was a good tenth of a mile long. No wonder it hurt so bad and felt like forever. Clock time of 20:54 but figure closer to 20:10 or 20:15 if you make it regulation distance.

Damn you, Vowles. You repeatedly kick my ass this winter only to let Lady McGaha dust you at Healthy Capital? Oh, the shame. The original course, which is certified, was altered last year with a whole patch underwater due to rain. This led to a 3.2 mile course. Per JB’s Garmin they did the same thing this year: Trophy is also delusional about the hill..its the same in either the old or new course. But yeah, it does suck though.

 JB eventually stopped playing around and cruised to the win. The OG was a little bit back and then Talk and me. Ken passed unknown guy to finish in 5th. So 3, 4, 5, all in our age group. Awesome. Some unknown 19 year old won for females. Meme managed 3rd overall female and the better Brandenburg was not far back in 4th. I’ll let Alex run down the other age group winners.

 Thanks Trophy! Ashley squeaked out an 11 minute win in the 25-29. Brie McGrievy similarly crushed the 35-39. J-Reeves finished 2nd in AG behind Barb. John Gasque took the 50-54, while OG easily took the 55-59. The 60-64 was once again claimed by the dynamic duo of Alex Ponamarev and Pete Poore. Peter Mugglestone took the 65-69.

Get to the Green 5k and 10k – Columbia, SC – 3/15/14


The Get to the Green race has been a fixture on my calendar since my first year of racing in 2009. Associated with the 5 points St Patty’s Day festival, you get the 15 dollar festival admission price free with registration, so definitely a bonus there. They have had the 5k since 2003 (with the inaugural race won by a 19 year old Plex) but they added a 10k last year. I debated a rare reverse undercard trophy hunt last year. I mean the 5k was the more established race and the 10k was the add on, so paradoxically the longer race would be the best trophy bet. But the 5k is my specialty, so I actually tried to face some tougher competition. Plus, the 2009 5k was Trophy’s last win at that distance, so I had to add to the streak in 2013. Turns out I sucked it up with a hurt back and finished 5th in age group, so all the hunting strategy was for naught. But at least I took down Lady McGaha.

All of this was pre-cliff of course, so Trophy has already broken the 5k streak. It took him major trauma to do it, but its over regardless. Since I was almost certainly out of a trophy hunt this year, I opted for the 10k. Not because I like the distance. No, I really suck at it. I dont know how to pace 6.2 miles and I usually either blow up by going out too fast or just never kick it in early enough. The most striking example of this : my 12k PR is actually a faster pace than my 10k. WTF?

So I figured I had nothing to lose by going 6.2.  I couldn’t do much worse than my Lexington Race against Hunger race a month ago, where I completely imploded and finished in my 2nd slowest time..ever. Plus the course is just 2 loops of a pretty level 5k course. Certainly none of the mountain climbing involved in LRAH.

I was feeling pretty good about my progress over the past few weeks. Slowly ramping up the mileage again and even started the Team Utopia Monday workouts. However, I was feeling so great about the mobility of my toe that I decided to play my first singles tennis match in 5 years on Thursday night. What’s worse I got put up against a 20 year old kid who had just come off being the number one player at Lugoff Elgin and 2 years at USC Lancaster. He ran me ragged all over the court and generally smoked me 3 and 2. Turns out 39 is different than the early 30’s and I ended up being sore as hell everywhere. Not the best race prep.

But what else is new? I showed up about 30 minutes early and the Trophy is already there. Of course he had already scoped out that I was 10k’ing and he opted for the five. I must be improving if he’s already avoiding me again. I only got in about a half mile of warmup because of an unexpected nuclear detonation in a unsuspecting portapotty. Sorry, fellow racers. Legs felt like death with all the post tennis soreness.

I lined up second row because I can’t not be in the start photos. Of course most people are wearing the st pats green, and I made a snap decision to wear my fifteen year old “Kiss me, I’m Irish” boxers  that just happened to be on top in the drawer. Over my running shorts of course – I didnt want any wardrobe malfunctions. Too late. With the start the first thing I notice is my freaking pants wanting to fall down. I’m not more than a quarter mile in and I’m running with both hands at my waist pulling up my underwear. Great. Thankfully I’m a big dork and run with my iphone in a SPIbelt, so I manage to stuff some of the boxers under the band.  And I’m already getting smoked by everyone I can recognize ahead of me. The first mile is probably the worst hill-wise. You have to make a long steady climb up Blossom Street then turn right for a couple of more rolling hills on King. Mile 1 marker is in front of Hand middle and I hit it in about 7:10. Not too bad. At least I didnt go out too fast, though the two evil cobras from my tri disaster have come back and bit me in both glutes again. So sore.

And then I see Ted Hewitt. He’s a good 20-30 meters ahead but I figure I need to keep him in range. I mean he usually runs about 44-45 minutes in a 10k. Yes, my brain is full of completely useless, vaguely stalkerish information like that. MIles 2 and 3 are pretty tough. I’ve separated myself and I’m finding it tough to get motivated. Oh, and the underwear is attacking me again. I keep pulling and tugging and trying not to look like a total perv on the loose. Luckily I was not in the process of adjusting when I see Anita cheering people on in the middle of her long run. And what the hell? – Ted is dropping my ass like a bad habit. Must. Stay. With. Him.  I try to pick up the pace a little but the soreness is still killing me. I’m about 2 seconds from pulling a Magic Mike and ripping off my boxers when I see a huge pack of kids on Devine Street cheering. I’d like to avoid the sex offender registry, so somehow I managed to twist the underwear around the belt just right and it stuck. Hallejuah!

Not having to fight undergarments lets me focus on the Tedder. He’s still got a big lead on me – so bad they are letting cars in between us. Somewhere near the start of the second loop the cobras release their gluteal grip and I’m not quite so sore. Coach Phil yells out a 28:20 or something at the mile 4 mark, so even with my oxygen deprived math abilities I know I’m just over 7 minute pace. I had hoped to get under that. Time to take a step into the pain cave. By mile 5, I’ve actually made some ground on Ted but I’m starting to suck some wind. With 1.2 to go, I decide to go all in. Chips get pushed into the table and I start really bringing the pain. Just past the mile marker I’m surprised to pass Jason Thompson, who I went to high school with. He’s apparently gotten faster, and I didnt even recognize him from behind.  There’s now one other guy and Ted ahead about 20 meters or so. Just before we turn onto Devine I see Ted wipe his face with his shirt and there’s the blood in the water.  I hit Devine and start hauling with everything I’ve got. I pass random guy and it’s just Mr. Hewitt. The problem is that he’s already started kicking it in. Drawing near him I catch a wave of adrenaline that only a crazed rabid albino sasquatch gets before devouring its prey. But not so fast. Ted hears my thundering stampede behind me and we go skipping hand in hand very deep into the pain cave.  For 200 meters we are shoulder to shoulder, and I am just dying. Finally, with 100 meters to go, I find another headless chicken gear and flail towards the finish. I see 42 minutes counting down and I give it one more red line push to cross in 42:52.

OK, so more than 2 minutes off my PR but three minutes faster than LRAH, so some definite progress. Plus, didnt feel the toe in the warmer weather. I will definitely take it. Only bummer – they allow you to instantly check your official time and place and…yep I’m freaking 4th. One place out of the glory (which was gift cards of 20, 15 and 10 dollars). Turns out Micah Simonsen beat me by about 20 seconds. Doh! Oh, and Ted rocked a PR just a few seconds behind me, 42:56.

In the 10k Ricky Flynn outdueled Mark Pepin for 1st place in 31:40. Eric Ashton had a rare 3rd place finish. Sarah Crouch took the women’s win, with locals Kenzie Riddle and Heather Costello. Shannon Iriel crushed her first sub 40 in a PR masters win. Dennis Funk won for the men.

In the age groups, Brady Ward took the 0-10 in full leprechaun costume. Dutch fork’s Hope Whisman won the 15-19 while Jonathan Eggert took the 25-29 and 4th overal. Travis Moran finished second in a sub 39 PR. Jason Dimery won the 30-34, with Drew Soltau third in a sub 40. Yerger and Phil Midden went 1-2 in the 35-39. Linn Halll won the 35-39 in the week before her 40th. Kenneth Ebener and Jeffrey Godby went 2-3 in the 40-44. Winston Holliday crushed the 45-49 win in just over 39 minutes. Ken Sekley won the 55-59 males while Lois Leaburn placed 2nd among the females. Donna Freeman won 3rd. In the 60-64, Pete Poore finished 2nd while Shawn Chillag and Ken Lowden placed in the 65-69.

In the 5k, Matt Shock took the win just a few seconds over local stud Omar Sharif. Mary Ballinger won among the women, with Kathryn Cavanaugh and Shawanna White went 2-3. John Charlton won male masters.

In the 5k age groups, Emma Charlton won 2nd in the under 10 in 26 minutes. Parker Roof took 2nd in the 11-14. Alex Wilcox took third in a tough 25-29. Barrett Boozer finished 2nd in the 30-34. Ken Cobb won the 35-39 with Brian Talkington 3rd. Jennifer Clyburn and Michele Parnell went 1-3 among the women. Steven Johnson took 1st in the 40-44 in his first masters race. Meme Spurgeon continued her dominance of the women’s 40-44. Mike Hedgecock and Joe Roof placed in the 45-49. Pete O’ Boyle won the 55-59. Bill Iskrzak and Ponamarev went 1-2 in the 60-64. Sharon Sherbourne won the women’s 60-64, while Patti Lowden won the 65-69.

Finish line video. Epic race face at 12:19.

Run Hard Marathon – Columbia, SC – 3/8/14


Lets first say that the fact that this event exists is a minor miracle. The former Columbia Marathon was officially declared dead in October last year, which was all of about 4 months and change from the race date. Most 5ks have more planning time than that, so I had already chalked this race up as a loss. There was an immediate surge from the running community to get the marathon back, but we were all thinking that this would assuredly mean a restart in 2015. I mean no one can put together a city marathon in 4 months, right?

Enter Jesse Harmon. My only recollection of Jesse was from one of my many wrecked trophy hunts, where he beat me in 2010 to win the ridicuously poorly attended Kiwanis 5k out in Lexington. Yes, I realize there are more important things to remember, but your name will be forever etched in my mind if you deprive me of my precious trophies. At any rate, he and his Run Hard organization (An after school running program for boys, analagous to Girls on the Run) swore that they would bring the marathon back to life in 2014. I admit – my first reaction was probably something like “good luck with that”.  But damned if he wasnt enthusiastic about it. Not more than a month into the process he was recruiting a ton of volunteers, reaching out to the Columbia Running Club, securing sponsors and getting the police to approve the course. Wow, dude is serious.

So 4 months later, here it is. No idea how he put this thing together, because I know he has a wife and kids. He is a youth pastor so he probably had some divine intervention for sure. Just an amazing feat.

My plan all along was to field another relay team to defend Team Blue Shoes – Columbia Running Club’s win from 2013. We blazed a 2:48 last year, mostly on the backs of our beasts Angel Manuel, the Code and Derek Gomez. But Angel was doing the full marathon this year, Gomez had a cross country meet that morning and the Code said he was also doing the full. Suddenly I was the only returning member. And I was the slowest from last year, when I was also in the top shape of my life and hadn’t kissed the Hawaiian lava rocks at 20 mph. But if Jesse could resurrect the marathon than surely I could scrape together a team in a month. Spence and Trophy jumped in right away, and then we were able to secure my pale 38 year old archnemesis, the Vowles.  OK, so we werent Nirvana, but at least we were the Foo Fighters. And I was still the slowest.

I had gotten the final relay email this past week, and it was looking good. Sure, I didnt recognize a lot of the teams, but none of them were racing teams and I figure we could hold our own with guys like “Team Sloth”, so the trophy hunt was still on. Even with some competition, I figured we were all solid age groupers and Spence was our 25 year old ringer. But then the expo happened. In comes Randy Finn all excited about a last minute mens relay team that Strictly was putting together. Him, Hedgecock, Steven Johnson and Coach B.  The trophy hunt was officially flushed. At least we wouldnt get epically chicked by the women’s team though.

I got to the race my customary hour in advance and gave Trophy his bib. Spence showed up and was planning to warm up to Brennen Elementary…except it was 5 miles away and he didnt know where it was.  Oh jeez. I guess he eventually figured it out.  I was scheduled for the first 5.1 mile leg, Spence for the 8 mile 2nd, Tyler for the 5.1 mile leg 3 and Vowles for the last 8.  Pretty good crowd on hand. Dean Schuster and Winston were handling pacing duties along with Kristin, Drew Williams, Rick, Larry Jourdain, Brad Marlow and others. Angel, Plexico, Bishop, Jen Ward, Jen Lybrand, Randy Hrechko, Joyce, Israel, Linn Hall, Jeff Godby, Mary Howk, Mike Compton, Joe roof, Anita Recchio, Usa, Carol Caulk, Mike and Kat Hudgins, Jesse Smarr, and Greta Dobe were all out for the half or full. I didnt see the 5kers since they started 30 minutes after.

I lined up front row because my melon head cant take the fact I’m significantly slower. I took off fast at the start because I still think none of the last 8 months happened. It doesnt matter in the opening mile because its awesome. Mostly flattish couple of blocks around the state house and hunter gatherer/Sandy’s hot dog area before turning on Blossom for a freefall down the Gov Cup finish.  It’s probably high 30’s at the start so my toe is pretty locked up, but all the adrenaline and the downhill helps. As the mile 1 marker nears around Maxcy Gregg park, Steven Johnson is still not too far ahead. Surprisingly, Erin Miller, who I knew to be doing at least the half, is destroying both of us already. I hit mile one in 6:20ish. Whoops. I was supposed to shoot for 6:45. And I’m already starting to suck wind. Not good. Some guy doing the half starts asking me about the relay, the gist of which is “ISN’T THAT CUTE, YOU DOING THE RELAY.  WOW I’M SO MUCH FASTER THAN YOU”. Let’s just say he is lucky the baton is only plastic. I wanted to pull a Gilooly to his knees. About 1.25 miles in is the left turn onto the Saluda mountain. Its just soul crushing. Fairly steep and a half mile long, I knew it would be brutal. And it was. I’m getting passed big time. Even hot marathon girl in microshorts cant motivate me to go any faster.  I saw Shufy at the “summit” taking pics and I tried to pose, but I wanted to just crawl into the fetal position and die. Thankfully there is a left turn off of Saluda onto Heyward that leads you into Shandon, which is a steep downhill. Instead of flying down the hill, I was stomping down trying to catch my breath. Jeff Godby, who is doing the half, passes me, followed by Linn Hall. OK, nothing shameful to be passed by these guys but I’ve got way less than half their distance. Pretty depressing for me. But at least Shandon brings back some flatness and I’m able to hold off the tide of people blowing by me. Steven and Erin are now out of sight. The one good thing is that I havent seen any more batons, though my paranoia is that they have them tucked away in some layer of clothing. Yes, I need some of my own meds. It seems like an eternity before we reach Kilbourne, because the fast start has rendered me completely useless to mount my usual negative split charge. Somehow I’ve forgotten that Kilbourne has hills, but damned if there arent some nasty little inclines. Once we pass Devine street there’s a mile left. I’m trying to speed up but there’s not much left in the tank. Until I hear talking couple. Suddenly right behind me is a couple chatting it up. And they are dangerously close to passing me. I even hear them mention the relay and get quieter (note: this may be my oxygen deprived brain causing psychosis). This awakens my dark passenger and I kick it into some unknown gear, exploring new sections of the pain cave that I’ve never spelunked. I’m making Devereaux street my bitch the best that I can, but she comes up and slaps me with one final hill just before Brennan Elementary. I round the corner in a haze of death and I can hear the band blasting some mid 90’s cover tune and Spence screaming at me. Total headless chicken to the finish. We pass the baton like its the olympic 4×100. Full running start and everything.  Almost right at 34 minutes, 2 minutes slower than last year. I’ll take it though, because I’ll be damned if chatty couple was taking me down!

I find Shannon who confirms we are running second behind Strictly, so my paranoia was luckily just that. Not more than a minute later comes Leyden Hane of the 621 ninjas “Pardon my Fartlek” team. They are a coed team but pretty fast. I’m hopeful we can hold them off now that the blue shoed liability is done. I recovered and took pictures for about 15-20 minutes or so, but was soon faced with having to get back to the start. I debated several times about cutting it as short as possible (probably 4 miles) but eventually decided to experience the rest of the half course (8.1 miles) starting from just behind the 4:30 pace group. I was such toast I barely made any headway on the field for the first mile. It was interesting. Lots of run/walkers. One young guy was doing a weird pattern of taking off at sub 7 pace and then stopping to rest when he hit the mile marker. Everytime he saw me he started again, dodging through the 10 minute pace crowd. At mile 9 he was a little late and as soon as he took off I followed him. Because I’m an ass. A big one. Of course after I managed to pass him I had to then slog up Trenholm hill. Basically you turn left on to Trenholm at about 8.5 miles and its just one relentless incline to Gervais street about 1.5 miles later. My legs were hating me by this point and my toe was not liking the racing flats. Thankfully Sarah Blackwell and the hashers had their beer stop operational. It was probably just Bud Light or something but damned if it didn’t taste like heaven. Gervais street was kind of a haze. Twelve miles is my longest run since November and that was last weekend. The sun started beating down and it got a lot warmer. This was great weather for anybody else but I was hating this for the full marathoners. Three more nasty hills on Gervais, with the last one being the piece de resistance – a quarry crusher-eque 10 percent grade that I can only imagine what torture it must be at mile 23 on the second lap. I flirted with the idea of cutting the last loop off and going straight to the finish, but I decided to gut it out so I could get in the full 13.1. This is actually the best part of the course – pretty flat with an awesome finish down Main Street, through the Soda City market and finishing at the State House. Probably not as good if its only your first lap, but I was plenty happy to see it. Colleen (Ken’s wife) gives me this evil look, similar to the one she gave Ken at Judicata last week when he was behind me. Apparently I’m not going fast enough. Turns out she had missed Spence and thinks I’m phoning in the relay at 9 minute pace. You’d think she would know by now I never race less than 1000 percent effort. Turns out Spence absolutely crushed the 8 miles at 6:27 pace which pretty much sealed the 2nd place. Trophy actually got taken off guard and had to sprint to the exchange zone.

Now it was just a waiting game. The marathon finish was exciting with an epic battle of the Justins. Justin Gillette, last years winner and winner of 73 other marathons, was nearly taken by our own Justin Bishop. The two were apparently together until just after the Gervais hill, when Gillette threw the hammer down and took the race by a minute. Hedgecock had the anchor for Strictly and they easily took home the win in 2:50. I was hoping we might get a sub 3, but Ken came into view just after, and we took 2nd in 3:01:50 – still sub 7 pace on this super hard course. Really proud of the team with the performance!

Turns out we had a 35 minute cushion on the other men’s teams, but the coed division was much more competitive. USC Running Profs, Brie McGrievy’s team, ended up in first in 3:06. Brie told me they have some blazing fast guys. Fartlek , with Leyden, Shufy, Lee and Jennings placed third in 3:11.

In the marathon, Jim Cooper from NY finished third behind the two Justins in 2:53. The top 20 was almost all out of area except for the A Standard, but Ty Thomas finished a very impressive 16th with a 3:21. Angel finished 21st after having a rough finish. In masters, Usa Engelbrecht took home the win in just over 4 hours. In the 30-34 Jessica Workman took the win followed by Kristin Cattieu. Kenneth Ebener won the 40-44, while Pam Rodriguez placed third. Pam Griffin finished third in the 45-49. In the 50-54, Jonathan King took the win followed by Howie Phan. Mike Griffin completed a  good day for Team Griffin with 3rd in the 55-59.

In the half, Sango Assante came up from Moncks Corner again to vanquish Ryan Plexico for the second consecutive week. Erin Miller was on pace to easily take the women’s win but took a wrong turn at mile 12 and cut the course short. She actually disqualified herself even though she would have been the winner. Classy move – must have been really tough. Linn Hall took 3rd behind Caroline Peyton and Becky Younger. Joyce Welch was glad that Linn is one week short of 40 as she picked up the masters win in the middle of a training run. Jeff Godby and Randy Hrechko took 2nd and 3rd among masters men.

In the half age groups, Jennifer Lybrand crushed the 25-29 with a 3 minute PR in 1:36. PRing on this course is nuts and probably means she could go 1:34 or lower on a flat route. Mark Tibshrany won the 30-34 men while Jessica Chiu won the female division. Drew Williams won 2nd in the 35-39 as a 3:05 marathon pacer. Jennifer Glass crushed the 40-44 for the win with Betsy Long finishing 3rd. Matt Buffum took 1st in the 45-49 with Jim Fadel 3rd.  Anita Recchio won her 45-49 age group also as a training run. A trio of speedy CRC ladies in the 50-54 with Lisa King taking the win over Coleen Strasburger and Sandy Smith. Larry Bates placed 2nd in the 55-59. Neil Derrick, Mike Compton and Jack Kuenzie swept the 60-64, while Mary Howk won first in the women’s division with an incredible 8:08 pace. Shawn Chillag placed 2nd in the 65-69 in bright green hair, making USC’s Internal Medicine department proud.

In the 5k, looks like Jason Dimery barely made it to the race on time, but easily won in 17:47. Brandenburg took 3rd in 19 flat, while Parker Roof finished just behind in 4th. Will Brumbach and Geary McAlister also placed in the top 10, with Geary winning masters as well. Among the women, Barbara Brandenburg just missed out on the win by 8 seconds to Kathryn Ryan. Maggie O’Toole took 3rd at age 15. John Gasque placed 3rd in the 55-59 while Alex Ponamarev did the same in the 60-64. Sharon Sherbourne took 2nd in the 60-64 women, while Ken Lowden won 1st in the 65-69 while doing volunteer duty as well. Wife Patti Lowden won the 65-69 women.

Overall, a great event and amazing it was put together in so short a time. Hope it will continue!


March for Meals 5k and Race Judicata 5k – Columbia,SC – 3/1/14


So this is one of the few weekends a year where the stars and races align to produce a double dip opportunity (i.e. 2 races in the same morning).  Last year was an even rarer occurrence, with 3 races perfectly spaced for a triple dip, culminating in an epic beatdown of the Trophy in race number 3. It was sweet. This year the Colorectal 5k  didn’t happen, so we were down to two. Is it a coincidence this confluence of excessive racing occurs on my birthday weekend? I think not.

I actually was thinking of just doing March for Meals earlier this week. March for Meals, after all, is the site of my first age group win and the spark that ignited the racing obsession. Judicata was also of Blue Shoe significance though, as the first official blue shoed race and first sub 20 5k. Recent years at Judicata had met with some disastrous misdirects and 20 year age groups, so my initial decision was to pass. However, Gasque told me they had really low registration this year and it was iffy a while back if the race would continue.  I’d like to say I then signed up to support the race, the cause and the Tour de Columbia. I wouldn’t be telling the truth. Whenever I hear low registration, my dark passenger wakes up and all I can think is…TROPHY HUNT.

I mean, you can revel in the honor of competing against the top competition in your city and regale in stories of valiant efforts against worthy opponents. Or…you can clean up some easy age group and overall points against 30 newbies who just finished the couch to 5k. I know – shameless.

Race#1 – March for Meals

The March for Meals is a 5k at Riverbanks Zoo, which, for those of us with multiple small children know, is almost completely flat. This would all be well and fine if we were running through the animal exhibits. What they don’t make fully clear is that the course runs around the outskirts of the exhibits and then crosses over the river into the botanical gardens. My first time running the race I had never been to the botanical gardens. FYI, the botanical gardens are on the TOP OF A FREAKING MOUNTAIN. Really. Like single track paved trail with switchbacks and STEPS. Just brutal. But at least miles 1 and 3 are flat.

I get there maybe 40 minutes early because I cant drag myself out of bed early enough for the 7:30 start across town. I made sure to park outside of the race area, which is an important double dip concept. If you get trapped in, you cant make a clean getaway for race #2. This was critical last year, when a train delayed the start and the 2nd race was only an hour later. Luckily there were no cops on Huger street that morning.

I get a little concerned at the packet pickup because some elementary school team leader is having a breakdown because they couldn’t find their packets. Seriously, I thought I was going to have to order some Haldol and Ativan. Luckily, I got out of there quickly because the line started backing up. Did a couple of laps around the huge parking lot as a warmup. There is a nice crowd, but my trophy hunting sense feels there isnt much competition. I dont recognize hardly anybody.  Pete and Gasque are there to double dip. Plexico has won this race like every year for the past decade so he was there. Diesel, Jen , Brady and Brooke were representing for Team Ward. Joe and Luke Naylor, Crystal Cordoba and Team Robertson is one board. Dave Hale is in full Velocity Distance Project regalia and is also double dipping.  And who strolls up the last second…Ken “damnit dont call me vowels” Vowles. Vowles has made it his mission this year to take full advantage of my gimp status and deprive me of age group points, and I unfortunately have been unable to stop him. Both he and Trophy destroyed me at a disastrous LRAH 10k last weekend. Did you notice no blog entry? Yeah too depressed and traumatized to recount.

We all gather at the start, and they have the PA system set up about 200 meters from the line. I can hear some of the speakers but figure someone will come up and fire the gun from the start. I’m turned around talking when I see Plexico say “I think they said go” and he takes off. I can barely turn around and almost get trampled because sure enough, somebody did. Most abrupt start ever. Fortunately Plex is the fastest and knows where to go, because the parking lot loop, which is usually coned off,  isnt really marked at all. Its over a half mile in the lot as we loop back towards the finish and head into the zoo. The large crowd has a very thin top end, as I expected, but I can already hear Vowles breathing down my neck like an oversized rabid monkey. Between Plex and our mini pack of pasty white 38 year olds, there appears to be only a few unknown guys in their early 20’s.  Things stay pretty static as we cross the bridge over to the botanical gardens. I would know my mile 1 split, but apparently I neglected to hit the start button on the Garmin in my haste not to die by stampede. I felt it important to educate Vowles about Mount Riverbanks, pointing to the ominous shadow of the mountain as we entered the trail portion. Total psychological warfare, Billy tisdale style. As soon as we start hitting the twists and stairs portion I blow past two of the 20 somethings, who probably were unaware of this hidden torturefest.  It starts out OK but the relentless climb starts killing me about 3/4 of the way up, and I get reduced to quarry crusher pace. Vowles uses this opportunity to climb down off my back and pass me. I am determined to keep him reined in. In reality though, I am crushed, because hills are where my gimp toe is the least noticeable. I have always been terrible at downhills, but especially post cliff. Vowles and I come out on the summit of Mt Riverbanks basically together and he suddenly turns off course. For a millisecond my dark passenger begs to let him go, but then I yell at him to go the other way. The mountain has one more little incline just to burn your legs one last time, before you fall off the other side. While the climb up is winding and gradual, the downhill is a complete freefall. I’m all legs and arms and trying desperately to not overstress my newly healed achilles. Vowles flies down the hill and puts a nice gap in between us. As soon as I’m back on the bridge I pick up the pace. Mile 2 is around this area by my memory but with no marker and no Garmin, I’m guessing. the next half mile is on the outskirts of the other side of the zoo. This is also what I call the elephant poop part of the course. Just when youre sucking wind on the last mile of a 5k, you get to get to inhale the eau de colon of 6 elephants. Fortunately I’m not one to hurl in races, but this area always gets to me. The elephant poop distracts me momentarily when I realize I’m tracking that Vowles kid down again. Oooh, I am totally going to pay him back for last week. I turn on the jets, but then we break out into the parking lot again and he just flat out dusts me. I’ve used that last half mile in the lot to blow by plenty of roadkill the last few years, but now I’m getting left for dead. I keep ramping it up to see if I can step a little further in the pain cave, but its not helping. Vowles almost catches the next two in front of us while I’m left to straggle behind by myself. I finish in 21:24 I think. Results aren’t up yet (i.e. this is not a Strictly timed race). I’m pretty sure I finished top 10 and 2nd in AG, but I guess we’ll see. I do know this is a lot slower than my 19:46 from last year, with just as hard of an effort.

Plex easily won the race despite going off course. He says he did about 18:30. Not sure on everyone’s times/finish without results, but Dave Hale wasnt that far behind me. Brady Ward crushed a sub 25 on this brutal course, so I’m sure he’ll PR on his next flat course. I stay to see most of the field finish before I take off for Judicata. Nice to have a 1.5 hour cushion this year instead of the 40 minutes or so from 2013.

Race#2 Race Judicata

Judicata has been around for at least a decade and is put on by the USC women in law, to benefit sexual trauma services of the midlands and the women’s shelter. This race is always a bit of a wild card. The race director changes every year and most graduate students dont have time to be regular runners/racers or race organizers, so there have definitely been some problems in the past. Last year it was a misdirect resulting in a 2.8 mile course. In 2009 we ran all the way to Rosewood and had to turn around for a 6k. And years past have featured 20 year age groups and a “50 plus” category that made our grandmasters level runners none too pleased.  But this years director, Michele Baxter, had reached out to myself and Gasque, and seemed genuinely interested in correcting the previous problems. So I had some hope things would be better. Whenever I get too critical of the law students, I think of the now defunct USC med school (my alma mater) race Strides for Strength, where the race ended after the director gave himself heat stroke in running his own race. Oh, and despite its problems Judicata has always had great swag – gift certificates to local restaurants.

I get to the race about 30 minutes prior to the start, but I can tell almost instantly that my trophy hunt has been sabotaged. For one, Vowles, basking in the endorphin glow of another victory, decides he cant get enough of beating down the blue shoes, and registers on site. Angel Manuel comes bounding in a moment later. Plex is back to defend his title and complete his double dip. Brandenburg suddenly is back racing again. Randall Hrechko, new CRC member Alex Wilcox, Arnold Floyd, Stephanie Dukes, Gasque and Poore are all on board to make this a very CRC and age group winner dense crowd. There is definitely a small crowd, but at least six of the above names and 2 of the 35-39ers could beat me. So much for phoning it in for an easy age group win.

The start was a touch late but I’m glad the race has gone to an official certified course, using the Hot Summer’s Night route. The start feels predictably rough. An hour or so is plenty of time to get tight and the 40 degree temps with wind don’t help. Still, I’ve found the second race of double dips to not be as bad as they might seem. I’ve actually run the 2nd race faster on most occasions. About a half mile in and I’m feeling pretty good. Vowles is close behind me. Ken’s wife Colleen is at one of the corners, offers me some lukewarm words of encouragement before laying into Ken about being behind me. I hear Ken saying he’s “pacing himself”.  Great.  The course has some long straightaways and a mile in I can still see the lead car. An African looking guy actually is giving Plex the beatdown, whcih I’m sure he wasnt prepared for. Behind him is another guy I dont know, then Brandenburg. Hrechko and Alex Wilcox are locked into an epic battle, running virtually side by side. And then there’s me, trying to maintain a sense of pace. The toe is slightly tighter this go around but not too bad.  For awhile I sense some distance between me and Vowles, but at the turnaround just before mile 2 I can hear him again.  I am trying really hard by now, but my lack of endurance is starting to catch up to me again. I’m glad to see the course marked well this time, so at least this will be a legit distance. The rabid elephant behind me is getting closer and making grunting noises. I remember the last turn as being 0.39 miles from the finish, because I am an incredibly obsessive running nerd, and because this is where I usually kick it in. Unfortunately, Ken uses this turn to burn past me. NOT AGAIN. I hang with him most of the way there, but I’m running on fumes and his kick is too good. Colleen has come back to watch the finish. I look over and she she gives me a sheepish look and says “Sorry”. Oh, the shame. I finish in 20:38, 4 seconds behind Vowles, 3rd in AG and 9th overall.

OK, so I guess this is payback from last years triple dip and my shaming of the Trophy on facebook and this blog afterward. I now feel your pain, Trophy. On the bright side, this is my second road race back from my achilles nightmare of January, and at least I didnt reinjure myself. All this shaming is providing me some motivation to get back to my old form too.

Sango Assante was the winner over Plexico. He’s from Moncks Corner but I’m pretty sure I’ve seen his name before – I think the Runway Run where he battled Eric Ashton. I’ll have to check this. Plex still ran a 17:44 on double dip legs. Third pace went to Rick Southard, whom I’ve never seen race before. On the women’s side, it remained a trophy hunt. 49 year old Karla Cummings won in 23:16, followed by Kathryn Ryan and Allison Truitt.  Masters went to JB and Meredith Mona. In the age groups, Alex Wilcox easily took the 25-29.  Angel won my age group, followed by Ken. Stephanie Dukes won the 40-44 and is poised to break 30. Hrechko barely edged out the 45-49 competition by a mere 9 minutes. Dave Hale broke 22 minutes en route to winning the 50-54 and claiming the double dip. Alex Ponamarev and Pete Poore finished 1st and 3rd in the 60-64, while Arnold Floyd ran a 23:31 at age 71 to win his age group. John Gasque completed his double dip but somehow got squeezed out of the AG, as I almost did.  Double dippers included Plex, Ken, Dave,  Albino Sasquatch, John and Pete. Very happy with the changes Michele made this year to the race, hopefully this will help Judicata grow again.