Palmetto 200 – Columbia to Charleston – 3/20-3/21/15



Relay time! The Palmetto 200 has become a fixture on the Blue Shoes racing calendar since I first got involved with the relay in its first year of existence in 2010. Although I died a thousand deaths in that first year, complete with walksies, f-bombs and hallucinations, I came back, and the rest is history. 2015 marks my 6th consecutive year with Team Van on The Run (VOTR) in our never-ending pursuit of relay glory.

For the uninitiated, the Palmetto 200 is a 200 mile, 36 leg relay starting in Columbia and ending in Charleston. The full team is 12 people running 3 legs apiece, but they also have ultra teams with as few as 4 people. Dan Hartley even did a 2 person team a few years back, which in my professional opinion, is completely batshit insane. It should be known that 90 percent of the teams involved are totally in it for the experience, and God forbid …for fun.  They share reflective vests, stroll up to the line, head off in a jog, etc, etc. Not VOTR. We like to spike our fun with some maniacally competitive , balls-to-the-wall adrenaline.  We have 4×100 style relay exchanges and full-on race face, grab your knees, gasping for breath finishes. Are we elite? Hells no. Are we local age groupers hell bent on overachieving? You bet.

The master of our relay world is our fearless leader, Brian “EL CAPITAN” Clyburn. His masterpiece is the multi-page, color-coded, individually-paced spreadsheet. The thing is a sight to behold. If everything goes to plan, you can predict down to the minute when each runner will arrive at each exchange zone. He even has done corrective factors for heat and humidity in previous incarnations, though luckily temperature was not a factor at the new, earlier relay date.

Did I mention individually paced? Last year I was still in post-cliff recovery and Brian gave me a 7:30 pace,  actually the slowest on the team. While appropriate given my extended recovery, my giant noggin doesnt deal well with ego blows, and I spent the entire 2014 relay making sure to blow the spreadsheet all to hell giving a 1000 percent effort to match my old 7:05 pace. My reward for 2015 – 6:45. And 18 miles. Well, no sandbagging for me this year. This was going to be rough.


Keep in mind…this is only page one of five.


On top of that, we were the walking wounded. Enterprise gave us a black van for Van 2 this year, and we immediately named it ‘The Hearse”. David “D-Mac” McNiece was nursing a nasty ankle injury , Brian had a gimp knee following a marathon DNF, and Joel had a tweaked hamstring. Oh, and Julie was in the ER with possible appendicitis less than a week earlier. And they kept it in. I told her my surgical skills were a little suspect this far out from medical school, especially with a headlamp and a pocket knife. But hey, girl’s gotta have priorities.  Jen Clyburn was less than 3 weeks out from her BQ 3:28 marathon and perennial ringer Andy McNiece was supposedly not in the peak of shape either. Van 1 was praying to the relay gods that one of our gimpy brethren would not drop out and make us run a dreaded 4th leg.

I was in Van 1 this year again, with all the supposedly healthy dudes. Darrell “The Code” Brown, who is perhaps the only person with more relay enthusiasm than me, was sadly out with an injury. Replacing him was grandmaster beast of the local racing circuit, Geary McAlister. Back for a second year was Ty Thomas, fresh off a PR at Lexington Race Against Hunger and a brutal blue shoeing of the Sasquatch himself. Ty enlisted new recruit Dan Carter, who I apparently bashed as one of the “superfit soccer dads” that terrorize my old 35-39 age group at Ray Tanner.  He was definitely our fastest. Brandon and Conner were also back for what has to be their 3rd or 4th time as well.

The relay start was moved this year from the Old speedway in West Columbia to the much more picturesque Coble Plaza behind Edventure on the river.  We were given the last start time at 12:00 noon on Friday, which they assign to the teams with the fastest projected pace. The idea is to have all the teams finish around the same time in Charleston on Saturday afternoon, this time at Patriots Point in Mt. Pleasant. The slowest teams leave at 5:30 am, because you always want to go into 36 hours of no sleep a little tired.  Being in the last group, thoughts of trophies start to enter into our grandiose heads. We won the coed full team division in 2013 and managed the top full team in 2014, though we were bested once again by the Clemson Thundercats ( a bunch of college kids) ultra team. The Thundercats fielded a slower team this year, so we were up against  Paul Reardon’s Sole Asylum (full), The Banditos (full) , 50 shades of fast (ultra) and Make it Hurt (ultra).  After some requisite van decorating we went down to the start line. I had to replace Code Brown for his annual toilet picture – to which he wanted to make clear he was “not dead”.


With the start, Geary comes tearing out of the gates in the lead and we have to high tail it to the first exchange zone, where I’m up for my first leg, a 6.05 miler. This is the dreaded poop zone, next to the water treatment plant. What’s worse is that everybody and their mom has already gone through and committed unholy sins in the 2 provided porta potties. Those images still scar my mind. Thanks to Barefoot John’s family (wife Char and dad Andy) for providing some emergency TP and being a race volunteer. The girl from 50 shades comes through first out of the forest and some lanky 20 something in neon orange blasts out of the zone. About 20-30 seconds later here comes Geary in a full sprint and off I go.

The 6 miles is mostly on the dirt Old State Rd.  It is obviously close to Columbia but feels like its in the middle of nowhere. The road is blocked off from vehicles so its just me, the mud, and neon dude in the distance. It rained a lot in the hours leading up to the race, so it’s hard to lock into a pace with all the puddle jumping. You do not want to get wet shoes and get a case of swampfoot brewing for 24 hours in an enclosed van. That was  last year. I was trying to hit 6:45 but getting all excitable in the beginning led to a 6:20 something. I’d better rein in in if I’m doing 18 miles. The next few miles kind of suck – it’s dead quiet and neon dude is slowly leaving me for dead. At least its mostly flat.  In a weird coincidence I suddenly find myself on the 5k course for the March for Meals. Makes me think about Brandenburg inevitably upping his masters lead on the TDC this weekend. Four miles in I have to do a complete stop to do some rural parkour over a concrete barrier  blocking the path and its tough to get going again, but at least I’m back on concrete. I do peek over my shoulder and there’s one guy way off in the distance. Mile 5 is on asphalt but has a painful overpass of I-26 which about kills me. Of course my van gets to see me dying on the hill, my form already going to hell. One last turn just past the 5 mile mark, and I’m pretty close to 6:45 pace. I suddenly get scared the dude behind me may be some beast and tracking me down, so I throw down pretty hard. The last stretch is on Charleston highway, filled with huge trucks and lots of traffic, so I’m dodging onto the shoulder every chance I get. Finally I get a break in the traffic so I can cross over, and I’m sure these people are convinced the Sasquatch myth is real. I’m sucking wind pretty bad but I gotta look strong in the exchange zone. Yeah, not so much. I give Brandon the bracelet at the Kangaroo zone and I’m pretty much toast. Six miles in 40:06, 6:41 pace. Man these other legs are going to be rough.


Luckily we have about an hour to kill since Brandon has a miserable 9 miler that about took my life in 2010. I get a ginormous loaded sub at Subway and wolf it down on the way to the next zone. I used to be a crackers and GU relayer, but that is a recipe for disaster – you need calories for staying up all night and racing each leg hard. Thankfully it’s cloudy out because Leg 3 is deadly in the heat with all the exposed road. Brandon got tracked down by some freakishly fast guy but crushed his leg well below spreadsheet pace. Conner then drew the dreaded 2.6. This is the leg that Trophy complained about the whole time in 2012. Although I mocked him endlessly for his bitching and moaning, I got a vicious karmic payback by having to do it last year. I about died – the last mile is 100 percent up a brutal mountain. You will definitely not feel fly after this two-six. Sure enough Conner looks like he’s about to go into cardiac arrest at the exchange zone but again in sub-spreadsheet pace. Dan took the bracelet from there and proceeded to just destroy whatever lead the other teams had, roadkilling everybody on a hilly 10k in like 38 minutes. Nice recruit, Ty. I like him better when he’s not stealing my trophies at Ray Tanner. Speaking of Ty, he was the most unlucky to get Leg 6, probably the worst in the whole relay. Eight total miles, with about 4-5 miles of rolling hills before hitting one of the most unholy of mountains in the midlands. I have yet to see a picture that does it justice. It basically disappears beyond your line of sight into the sky. It brings almost everyone to a walk, and Ty was no exception. I think its probably best to catch some walksies on  the steepest section anyway. Ty was all mad when he finished, cursing  the fact he didnt meet his time on the sheet. Believe me, there wasn’t anyone complaining about his pace – we were just thanking El Capitan for not bestowing us with that misery. Ty passed off to Joel in van 2 and we in van 1 were off for several hours.

At the van turnover zone, Sole Asylum was waiting. They had a couple of minutes on us at this point, as Lee Moore, one of the fastest Fitness World runners, had torched leg 6. These guys were going to be tough. Paul himself is a 17 minute 5ker and ex-Francis Marion beast in the lineage of Mark Bedenbaugh and Ryan Plexico. Besides Lee and Paul, they recruited Angel Manuel, terror of my age group and always good for kicking my ass in just about any distance. I think they had other beasts like Gene Grimsley and Mario Alvarez too. And, they were riding in style in church buses with beds and a TV. We were praying that maybe some of their others were considerably slower because they would crush us with their top end.


We headed to Cracker Barrel in Santee, SC for “dinner” though I don’t even think it was 5 o’clock. Somehow I ate some chicken fingers too. I think I was trying to gain weight on this relay. We spent the rest of the downtime laid out in Santee State park , the site of the next van turnover. It was pretty crowded with all the teams starting to come together. We all tried to sleep some but I don’t think any of us really crashed out. Ty brought an awesome portable hammock that I must have before next year. There was a Jim Lichty and Jason Lockhart sighting, straight out of Moore dorm 1993. They were part of the huge F3 contingent this year – must have been like 20 teams.

The Hearse came rolling into the station after dark when most of the earlier teams had cleared out. They were all hurting but had apparently kept up our sub-spreadsheet pace (team pace was 7:22 projected). Sole Asylum was right on our heels, a couple of minutes behind. Banditos and the two ultra teams had faded a bit. Brandon took leg 13, a straight but steady incline up to Lone Star BBQ, site of the best mid-relay meal I ever had a couple of years ago.  Geary followed with the leg I’ve done twice before, a route right through the middle of Santee with tons of traffic and sidewalks. All the locals look at you like you’re totally insane. And they’d be right.

My leg is next, from Lake Marion High school on Tee Vee Rd. The location is difficult to pinpoint, but I like to refer to it as the epicenter of nowhere. Pitch black and hardly a soul around….save for a few dozen white vans and about a 100 caffeinated relayers. Our volunteer, Miranda, is there keeping track of it all with 3 kids in tow. For that, and taking 200 bucks off our entry fee, I am eternally grateful. My kids would be staging a revolt over being out of wifi range.

Geary hands off to me again and I’m off on my 8.8 miler. Dead flat, dead straight, dark as can be. It’s tough – outside of  the halo of my headlamp you can’t see crap. The complete darkness is broken up every few minutes by a car, usually with high beams, going about 55 mph ,and being 10 pm on a Friday night – of questionable sobriety. Luckily I’m lit up like Times Square with my multiple red blinkies and a petzl headlamp that can be seen from outer space. Still, I’m dodging into the grass every time. I’ve met my major trauma quota for this decade, thank you. I am eternally thankful I hit 6:44 on mile 1, since all I need to do now is hold this. It’s actually not too hard since it is totally pancake-sque out here. After a few miles I finally encounter a few other runners and take down three of them. I’m paranoid the whole time of Sole Asylum catching me. It feels like the ghost of Paul Reardon is chasing me into Holly Hill. I hear Angel with their bus at one point, though I can barely see them. Angel feeds into my fear, telling me they are right on my tail. I’m bleeding a few seconds here and there, hitting mostly around 6:50 miles. The I-95 overpass is cool, thinking about how much distance we’ve covered, though the accompanying hill isn’t any fun. Pacing is so difficult when the only stimuli are your breathing, the lights bouncing on your vest and the mind-numbing glow of your headlamp. Finally I hit mile 8 and decide I have to ramp it up to get back some seconds. I pick it up a bit and throw down the last bit, hitting a 6:32 split and 6:46 overall. Almost perfect. I’ll take it.


And surprisingly I feel OK. Not jumping for joy for a 3.7 miler at O dark thirty, but a lot better than in previous years. Especially after using the Target AME church facilities. I don’t know what church activities they do, but apparently a pimped out lounge room bathroom is necessary. Hey, I loved it.  Conner took the next leg straight through Holly Hill, the site of my Subway denial last year. He then passed off to Ty, who attacked his 2.7 miler with a vengeance, pouring all his angst from leg 6 into like a 6:30 pace. He was rewarded for his efforts with a whole bounty of roadkill. Nice work. Dan then headed off on a most miserable 9.67 miler that was like a longer version of mine. We had started catching up with all the other teams at this point and Dan must have blown by these guys like they were standing still, crushing low 6 pace. The long leg gave us a chance to have an extended layover at the next van turnover zone at St Paul’s United. They were selling do it yourself sandwiches, chips and a drink for 6 bucks. This may seem like a lot, but Cross, SC is not exactly crawling with dining opportunities at midnight. Works for me. It was awesome.

Dan rocked out his leg and with everyone else (save for my 8 second overage) crushing the spreadsheet, we were like 18 minutes ahead of pace. Geary has a thing about hot food, so we headed to Waffle House immediately thereafter in Moncks Corner. Apparently it is the place to be in the MC, because it was freaking packed at 2 am. I zonked out in the van or awhile since I think I had met my 4000 calories for the day. After that we journeyed to the final van turnover at Witherbee Ranger Station in Francis Marion state forest. It had drizzled a little but I wasnt about to sleep in the van again like my misery from last year. I crashed under a tree with about 10 other people all laid out like Jonestown under a tree. It was surprisingly comfortable with my pillow and sleeping bag and I got probably an hour or so of hardcore sleep, which is absolutely golden in these relays.

I wake up ahead of schedule and start moseying my way to the portapotty. When I get out, a frantic Brandon is already in full gear and says we have to get ready NOW. Damn, I thought those Van 2ers were all gimps! Sure enough, they are 20+ minutes ahead of schedule and Brandon takes off while I’m still getting ready. Suddenly I’m pounding a Starbucks Double Shot, throwing back some ibuprofen and trying desperately to get my body to ignore the fact its 4:30 am. We journey to the next exchange zone which is like Grand Central Station. Its the old “House of Horrors” zone, but people are just forgoing the Blair witch project bathroom area and parking on the side of the road for like a quarter mile. They must have read the blog from years past. I do a brief warmup in the dirt parking lot but I barely have a chance to stride up to the exchange area when Brandon is shouting Van on the Run and cruising into the zone at Mach 5.  I take off like a man possessed, ready to get this miserable third leg behind me. Leg 26 is 3.7 miles, of which I swear is almost all uphill.

Uphill or not, I basically empty the tank on this one, giving close to 5k effort. Between the uphill, 4:30 time and 15 miles under my belt, I’m only getting 6:30ish in return, but it feels like about 30 seconds faster. Roadkill is in very ample supply by now, and I’m sure all of these guys are having nightmares of the crazed grizzly sprinting past them gasping and moaning.  Like leg 2, you cant see a damn thing. I keep thinking there’s a downhill finish, having done this leg at least once before, but it never comes. I hold steady at 6:30 and I realize at the last second that the end is not over the next hill, but right in front of me. So much for the blue shoe kick I had planned to throw down. Still got 6:31 pace for the 3.7 and  a couple of minutes chopped off the spreadsheet.

Nothing feels more awesome than getting that leg 3 under your belt and being done. True, the van one legs are 2/3 in the dark in the middle of nowhere, but the upside is being able to relax for 5+ hours at the end. Maybe it’s endorphins, but I actually don’t feel too wrecked. Geary took the next 7.47 miler, which gave me vague PTSD from my 2010 P200, where I was hallucinating and walking on that leg. I still dont know how I recovered to finish that leg. Conner followed with the second of the twin 7.47’s cruising through the last of Francis Marion forest and hitting Highway 17. The Seewee outpost is my favorite exchange zone, with its coffee and to-die-for sausage biscuits (usually by this time the McDonald long run scale has left the Scarlett Johanssen zone and is firmly in the sausage biscuit area).  It also means you have left Deliverance-esque woods and have finally hit the outskirts of Charleston. I love me the Seewee. Dan takes it from Conner and has a straight shot down Hwy 17, just killing it. The next zone is a torture chamber of mosquitoes and gnats but Ty figures you can avoid them if you run fast enough. He has my final leg from 2014, which I ran in a blinding monsoon and screaming out at God’s wrath for torturing me so. OK, so I tend to be a touch overdramatic. Ty has it considerably easier, cruising through Mt. P neighborhoods and taking down what little roadkill is left. By the time he hands off to the Capitan, we are sitting almost a half hour ahead of schedule, and about 45 minutes clear of Sole Asylum. After a careful check to make sure no 11 am team has done some astronomic sandbagging, we realize we are on the verge of the overall win.

But it hardly feels in the bag – Van 2 started out hurting and now is running on fumes. David’s got like a grapefruit for an ankle and Brian was limping. Thankfully Julie has held on to her internal organs. Joel’s hamstring is a wreck.  We are already debating who might have to bite the bullet for a leg 4. Of course, we pretty much wreck our ability to do so with an epic IHOP trip. I think my french toast/sausage/eggs/hashbrown combo was the lightest among my group. Dan partook in the Colorado omelet, which looks like it could feed a family of six.

When we finally head to the finish line at Patriots Point, its a complete ghost town. Nothing is set up, save for some beautiful virgin portapotties. I fear that we may not get an official time for beating the race organizers there, but luckily the finish line area goes up within a half hour. We actually are not the first to finish, as a 9 am start team rolls in around 11ish, along with another early start team soon after. We are ever so thankful to hear from the other van that everyone made it through, and that only our last runner, Andy, was out on the course. Sure enough, 23 hours and 53 minutes after our start, Andy comes tearing into the park and we cross the finish line together: 2015 Palmetto 200 overall champs!


Clock is 6.5 hours ahead, starting at 5:30 am Friday


Sixth time’s a charm! The finish line setup was awesome with tons of beer and tacos. Capitan was able to get our victory glasses from the organizers, give one of his patented speeches, then we drank from the awards and ate from Julie’s 30th birthday cake. Pretty sweet. Lucky number 7 in 2016!





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


Get to the Green has been around about 10 years, starting as a smaller road race and growing into one of the biggest in the state. It’s tied into the St Patty’s Day festival in Five Points, one of the mid 90’s-Blue Shoes favorite events of the year. Somehow I’ve made it out to this race every year since 2009, despite the fact that its super competitive and one of the least likely trophy opportunities of my racing schedule. They did start offering a 10k a few years ago, which created the undercard factor. The 5k event has still been the main race, though the 10k seems to be gaining traction among the elites.

Things started off well for me in this race. In 2009, I was still a pre-blue shoes running noob, and I was thrilled with my new 22:27 PR. I about died doing it, and one of my early race faces was captured:


Yeah that’s me on the far right, not wearing a stitch of green and looking like I’m doing some sleepwalking slow dance. I do notice my giant clodhopper stability shoes are blue. Good choice. See also Jeanna Moffett running in long pants and a jacket. I think it was 40 degres and rainy. I recognized a guy who finished just in front of me from high school, barely breaking 22 minutes. His name: Tyler McGaha, aka Trophy. FYI, it would be his last Blue Shoes 5k victory until I fell off a cliff.

2010 was also a banner year. One race removed from my first sub 20 (19:58) in the maiden blue shoes performance, I clocked a 19:31 and chopped 27 seconds off my PR, and I would never race in another color shoe again.  My finish photos from that race were diminished somewhat by the OG absolutely crushing me in the last 50 meters. See below:



Also note Barrett Boozer in the old school 621 ninjas shirt and Geary kicking it in. 2011 was 19:20ish but sadly, no pics survive. In 2012 I did about the same and managed to score my first age group trophy, though only because they decided to go 5 deep. Pic with Sarah Allers and Greg Howell:



The suckage started in 2013, when I tweaked my back and foolishly decided to race anyway, barely clearing 20 minutes in 19:56. In 2014 I was still in post cliff recovery and for some reason chose my personal demon, the 10k. I had an epic battle for the ages with Ted Hewitt in the final stretch, and just edged him to get 42:52. Also a bonus, super ugly race face and a very poor decision to wear 10 year old Irish boxers.



Which brings us to the present. I decided to do the 10k again, as I’ve made the sub 40 my goal for 2015. I was disappointed in a less than stellar performance at the Lexington Race Against Hunger, but I still got a 40:56 on a crazy hilly course. Surely I could flirt with a low 40 on the much flatter Get to the Green, and maybe even the elusive 39:59. Yeah…we’ll get back to that.

Things have been rough this week. My disease vectors, I mean lovely children, have been playing hot potato with some virulent Polo road elementary respiratory bug, and I’ve been battling the snot wars at home. I did two runs this week in the 80 degree heat and felt like complete death, so I just bagged it on Thursday and Friday. I decided to go to Henry’s with the fam on Friday and the draft beers were calling my name a little too loudly, so its always good to wake up at 4 am all dehydrated and cotton-mouthed. Apparently its not 1996 anymore.

Which reminded me – this is my first masters race. After years of battling the most brutal 35-39 group in history, I do get a few months of reprieve before the rest of my 1975 brethren come back to haunt me.

This year’s weather was about as bad as 2009. I woke up the sound of raindrops, and by the time I jumped in my car it was pouring. I was running late, and apparently the same train that ruined the 2012 Fallen Heroes race decided to roll in and park on the tracks. Luckily I know the roads of Columbia like the back of my hand, because I had to fly down Rosewood and Assembly to get over to the other side where the start was in Maxcy Gregg park. By the time I got my packet and Chernobylized a portapotty, I was racing back to my car so I wouldn’t miss the start. I guess that counted as my “warm up”. I forgot my oh-so-cool spibelt fanny pack and decided to just hold my iPhone.

The 10k start (7:30) was 30 minutes ahead of the 5k. The front was crawling with elite studs. Bishop was on hand with Eric Ashton and a bunch of lean singlet types. I got there so late I couldn’t fully scope the competition, but Chris Fawver shows up and tells me my new nemesis Toby Selix just turned 40 today. Damn, I can’t catch a break. Eric Allers is also there to make sure I don’t think about masters wins, though I completely forgot Ashton had that in the bag already. Trophy, Jamey, Luke Godwin, Angel, Ron Hagell, Barrett, Randy and Matt Pollard are some of the familiar faces.

Click to access 10k-2015.pdf

The start is a mob scene due to all the fast peeps. About a quarter mile in, I’m in a loose pack of Luke Godwin, Barrett,  Sarah Allers and a few randoms. I’m also acutely aware that there is something very, very wrong. I feel horrible and there’s zero energy. Not the best way to feel with 6 miles to go, but I hang in there thinking that it will pass. Blossom is straight and flat at first and then becomes a long incline up to King St. Not fun, but not too bad. Once you’re on King Street, you’ve entered into the Shandon rectangle that is 2 laps for the 10k, 1 for the 5. Mile 1 seems like forever, and I hit it at 6:35. I figure this is pretty good, given the hill. Still haven’t shaken the bad feeling though. There’s a long stretch on Heyward and I can already feel the wheels falling off. I feel like death but I keep hoping things will get better. Somebody is riding me like monkey on my back, which is pretty common since I make an excellent wind barrier. Finally Howie Phan has had enough of my dawdling and leaves me.  I actually hit mile 2 in 6:38, but I am just toast. I am actually still trying to go race pace, but I’m getting nothing in return. Barrett and Howie have left me for dead and I can feel my pace start to slow.

When I hit mile 3 in 6:56, I realize I’m running slower than half marathon pace and I have some serious thoughts about dropping out. The finish line is right there, and it kills me to have to go back and do another lap. It’s tempting – I’m dead man running and dropping out will save me from getting passed by everyone on the second lap, maybe even Trophied. But then I think about Hawaii, and how it killed me not to run for months, and how glorious it felt to cross that first post cliff 5k finish line, even if it was seven minutes slower. F@# it – I’m finishing this thing.

Of course my newfound resolve takes another hit right away when Tigs catches me just as we start lap 2. Oh, I’m going to have to hear about this for years. I at least try to keep her in sight. Lap 2 is mostly a blur – for whatever reason, I cant muster over 6:50ish pace but I’m still trying hard. I try to focus on just maintaining this pace and somehow stop the bleeding. It seems to work. I can still plug along, pretty close to my Kiawah pace but at least I’ve lost the queasy, delirious feeling of the first few miles. I remember seeing Jen Lybrand, Carol Wallace and Coleen Strasburger cheering me on. I didn’t realize how much that helped when you are in a full-on death march. Thanks, guys. Around mile 5, Matt Buffum passes me and asks me if he’s having a career day or I’m just sucking. I hated to inform him it was the latter. I’ve never been so glad to get to Devine Street again – just a long flat stretch to the finish. Matt Pollard catches me with about 1200 meters to go and asks if I’m going to pull the Blue Shoe on him I pulled in Ray Tanner (he’s the significantly better looking dude in the photo below)


I inform him there is little chance of that. Still, I kick it in a little bit, just to make sure he earns it, but mostly to get this thing over with. I have to give Tigs credit – I thought I might be able to catch her when he hit Devine, but she kicked it in and gave me no chance. I crossed the line in 42:22, 30th place, 4th in AG.

So, this is probably my worst race since the 2012 Wildewood Fitness Fest, and probably top 5 of all time, but I am glad I finished. And hey, still better than last year’s time. I’ll take it. Now to endure a few years of grief from Tigs and Brandenburg!

In the 10k overall, Ricky Flynn took the win in 31:42. Wow – 5:06 pace. Eric Ashton was our top local finisher, male masters champ and 4th overall in  33:45, with Justin Bishop 5th in 34:21. Among the women, team EA’s Alyssa Bloomquist and Heather Costello went 1-2, with Catherine Herring 3rd. Female masters went to Sarah Allers, rocking a very nice 41:37.

10k age group honor roll: Matthew Pollard took 2nd in the 25-29. Luke Godwin crushed a sub 40 in 39:43 and took 1st in the 35-39, followed by age group regulars Phil Midden and Angel Manuel. Ivanka Tolan won the women’s 35-39. Eric Allers and Toby Selix took the top 2 in the 40-44, with Jennifer Glass taking 2nd among the ladies. Matt Buffum won the 45-49 with Randy “Body Pump” Hrechko. Howie Phan came out of the Sasquatch shadow and took first in the 50-54. Donna freeman placed 3rd in the 55-59 with RUI’s John Ramage taking 2nd among the men. Pete Poore took 2nd in the 60-64 behind Rob Kriegshaber. Peter Mugglestone, Shawn Chillag and Ken Lowden swept the 65-69. Patti Lowden and Brigitte Smith both placed among the women.

In the 5k, Trent Binford-Walsh won in 15:53, with Greenville’s Matt Shock 2nd and Pat Burns 3rd. Kenzie Riddle won the women’s overall in 18:49 just ahead of Michelle Zeigler. Kathryn Cavanaugh placed 3rd. Male masters once again went to Jeff Brandenburg, with Chantal Faure winning among the women.

5k age groupers: Emma Charlton won the 11-14 in a sub 24 performance. Parker Roof took 2nd in the 15-19 in 18:14. Jordan Lybrand won the 25-29 in a blazing 17:06. Orinthal Striggles and Drew Williams went 1-2 in the 35-39. Whitney Keen took the 40-44. Barbara Brandenburg placed 2nd in the 45-49. Joe Roof and Travis Cowan topped a tough 50-54. Birgit Spann was all upset about her “slow” 5k but still got 1st in the 50-54 by a couple of minutes. Geary McAlister and Pete O’Boyle went 1-2 in the 55-59, with Lisa Smarr winning among the women. Bill Iskrzak and Alex Ponamarev were 1st and 3rd in a very close 65-69.


Run Hard Marathon Relay – Columbia, SC – 3/7/15




The Run Hard Marathon is in its second year,  having been miraculously thrown together last year by Jesse Harmon and company to rescue the Columbia Marathon, which itself had been resurrected in 2012. The original Columbia Marathon ran from the 80’s through about 2000 if my sources are correct. Apparently we have trouble keeping these things going in the Capital City.

Perhaps one reason is our location. Columbia was strategically built on a HILL, in an area called the SandHILLS, so you might get the idea that this race is not flat. And you’d be right. It’s unapologetically brutal, and a double looper to boot, so you get to experience it all twice. To be fair, the race embraces its hilliness and makes no bones about it being challenging. I saw they were using “Gervais : come hill or high water” as a promo slogan on their training shirts. #truth.

For me, I think its important to support our city’s marathon, so I always participate. But not in the full. I pretty much hate marathons. True, one of my greatest running achievements happened at Kiawah last year, but I had to walk in the shadow of the valley of death to do it. You have to do insane mileage to train, carefully plan out hydration and nutrition, taper accordingly, etc. I’ll take a  good 19 minute all out headless-chicken 5k any day over all of that.

So I do the relay. It started in 2013, when I got Angel Manuel, Derek Gomez , Darrell “the Code” Brown and myself together to form a supergroup of Columbia runners born in 1975. We went head to head with the fastest girls in Columbia (Shannon Iriel, Amy McDonough, Theresa Penney and Kenzie Riddle) and narrowly pulled out the victory. In 2014,  we came back with Ken “the Pale Beast” Vowles,  Tyler “Trophy” McGaha and Spence “the Young Buck” Griffin in a slightly slower but fabulously nicknamed version of Team Blue Shoes. We were still all set to be repeat champs until Randy Finn called Coach B at the Expo and fielded a thrown-together all-beast team (with Mike Hedgecock  and Steven Johnson) who promptly whipped our tails the next day. Working the CRC table at the expo, I saw all of this unfold right in front of my eyes. Like taking candy from a baby. It was tragic.

This year, there was talk of even more competition. I lost Trophy and Code, and even Ken was iffy with his gimp ankle. We decided to regroup under Team Utopia , picking up Drew Williams and our ultimate ringer, Justin Bishop. Strictly was at it again, this time under the masterminding of Larry Jourdain. He had not one but 2 teams entered, one that was all grandmaster beasts  (the old plow mules) and one that was a bunch of young guys that he was being secretive about. Ruh roh. There was a last second scratch on the plow mule team, so spring chicken Jeff Brandenburg took the spot. He was doing the oddest of double dips – finishing the 5k in time to do leg 3 of the relay. All of this to secure yet more masters points. As a restatement of the inherently obvious, he is one sick bastard.

Although I think registration was down some from last year, I was pleased to see most of the Columbia running community out for this one – either racing, pacing or volunteering. It was pretty cold (30’s) but clear and with little wind, so pretty close to ideal conditions. I did a mini warmup with Trophy and Jamey and I was ready to go . For some reason, I get way more nervous before relays than individual races. Its one thing when you suck and its all on you, and another having to share the suckage with three other people. Being the team organizer,  and resident attention whore, I gave myself the first leg – 5 miles from the state house to Brennan Elementary.

So I went out hard. Way hard… apparently taking the race name a little too seriously. The first half mile is a nice little tour around the state house and main street past Hunter Gatherer, Sandy’s and whatever resort-like dorm they put up in place of my beloved freshman towers (kids these days). Pretty flat. I’m a little confused because I don’t see anyone else with a relay baton. All I do see are super fit dudes with singlets that appear perplexed by this Clydesdalian Sasquatch in their midst. They are already chatting about sub 2:50 marathons while I’m panting like a rabid gorilla in heat beside them.  Ok , this is good, lets shoot for that 6:20ish pace you had planned. We then take a left and down the Blossom Street hill that is the bane of every Gov Cup racer’s existence. It feels great to just let gravity work and ride on down. Mile one comes back at Maxcy Gregg Park – 5:59. Oopsie. Too much coffee, I guess. This is going to hurt.

Sure enough,  1.25 miles in and we hit 5 points and turn right on Saluda. Saluda is the first of the many mountains on this course and man does it suck.  You think you are doing OK until the last little bit at the top, where every last molecule of oxygen gets wrung out of your lungs and you’re gasping for dear life. Even singlet guys drop back on this one. I hit mile 2 at the summit in 6:40 and I’m actually relieved, because it felt like I was barely moving. There’s a sharp downhill right away on Heyward, which doesn’t help me catch my breath since I’m trying to keep from flopping all over the place on the way down. What’s worse is a sharp incline right away after you pass Harden St, which beats you down a little more. I don’t think I caught my breath again until about King Street, and I try to settle in and keep up with Jason Dimery. Jason is way faster than me, but I figure he’s at least doing the half or maybe the full, and I’ve only got another 2.5 miles. Things roll pretty steadily through Shandon. I didn’t look at my splits, but mile 3 and 4 were both in the 6:20’s, my actual target pace.

I started noticing that me and this older guy in a red singlet kept going back and forth. I wondered if he might be a relayer, since I think he had a Strictly singlet, but I didn’t him carrying one. Having run many a relay, I do know some people hide the batons, but the thing I was carrying seemed to big to stuff anywhere.  At least I hoped.  A few times I thought I lost him, but then he would pass me on a downhill, my inexplicable weakness. Finally we hit Kilbourne and I hear the mile 4 beep on my Garmin. Time for the gloves to come off.

Unfortunately we were so far from Devine St that Kilbourne actually has a nasty rise to climb first, which didn’t time well with my sudden surge. Oh well, this was going to hurt – I knew I was going to pay for that sub 6 mile eventually. While downhills may be my weakness, spelunking the dark cavernous recesses of the pain cave is my absolute specialty. Especially when it may involve relay roadkill. By the time I get to Devine St I am pretty much striding out and sucking wind like its no tomorrow, betting all my chips I can coast down the long home stretch on Devereaux.  I pull up beside Toby Selix, i.e. the new 35-39 party crasher, and absolute beast. He’s cruising along at low 6 pace and making conversation, while I’m blowing snot and feeling the grip of imminent death. We hit Devereaux and I start redlining it. Selix is doing the half but still rides along in my wake the whole way down.  I cross Beltline and take another few pain cave steps just to take down Dimery in the last 100 meters. But I dont see Drew…WTF??? I almost stop to look for him but luckily someone yells at me to turn the corner and thank God he’s there. I hit the relay area a few seconds over 32 minutes – Garmin had 5.1 miles and 6:07 last full mile. I barely have a chance to catch my breath before red singlet guy comes blasting in behind me and somehow removes a baton from some unseen orifice to hand off to their No. 2. Man, these plow mules are crafty. Larry is there at the zone to confirm that was his team.

Relays are always somewhat mysterious, since you never get to see the whole race unfold. From what I heard, the Strictly open team was just ridiculous and came through at like 28 minutes at the first exchange. They even wore “elite” jerseys and had a cakewalk of a win in 2:29. Drew, our number 2, was fighting a toe injury and was in some serious pain the last 5 miles (he had the first  8 mile leg) but soldiered through. The Plow Mules overtook the lead somewhere in leg 2. A fresh Pale Beast  and a post 5k Brandenburg probably was a wash, and then Bishop was too strong in the last 8 miles, overtaking Larry in the anchor leg.  We finished 2nd in 2:47, with the Old Plow Mules in 3rd in 2:53. Fourth place was 3:40ish and the women’s win was over 4 hours, so definitely a trophy hunt opportunity for the coed or womens teams next year.

Be sure to check out  the “Triathlon Joe” facebook site for his recap of the full. Joe paced with me and kept me entertained in the first half of Kiawah and is an ex-Columbian living in the Atlanta area.

Results from the CRC newsletter:

In the marathon, the top local finisher was Michael Nance, rocking a 3:04 BQ time on this brutal course. Former Olympian Zola (Budd) Pieterse took home the win. Local winners in the masters categories included our own Joyce Welch taking 2nd, with Jason Gibson winning 2nd among the men. Marathon age groupers: Jamey Wilson placed first overall and a huge PR (3:48) to win the 30-34, with Tricia Roland taking third. Kris Litman-Koon took 2nd place in the 30-34 men. Ty Thomas clocked a 3:12 and a BQ to win the 45-49. Half marathon: Ryan Plexico was the top SC finisher in 1:19, with Heather Hunt talking top local female in 1:24. Masters winners included Howie Phan and Jeff Godby going 2-3 among the men. Mary Howk won masters with an incredible 1:45 at age 63. Wow. HM age groupers: Brittany Robbins won 2nd in the 15-19. Matt Pollard took 3rd in the 25-29. Jason Dimery took 2nd in the 30- 34, with Carly Jackson 3rd among the women. Toby Selix won the 35-39 in an impressive 1:27. Wendy Hart won the 40-44. Jim Fadel took the 45-49. In the 50-54 women, Lisa Powell and Coleen Strasburger went 1-2, with Phil Togneri winning among the men. Pete O’Boyle and Larry Bates finished 1st and 2nd in a close 55-59 battle. Carol Wallace won among the 55-59 women. Rob Kriegshaber, Mike Compton and Neil Derrick swept a tough 60-64 division. Shawn Chillag and Peter Mugglestone finished 2- 3 in the 65-69. Jesse Smarr took 3rd in the 70+. 5k: Parker Roof won first overall with Travis Moran just behind. Jennifer Lybrand captured the women’s win , with Barbara Brandenburg 3rd. Jeff Brandenburg continued his brutal masters run, taking 1st, with Geary McAlister and Joe Roof also placing. Pam Inman won 2nd among the women, and Sue Porter 3rd. 5k age groupers: Ian Clawson placed 3rd in a tough 11-14. Ashley Horton also took third in the 25-29. Angel Manuel and Brian Talkington went 1-2 for Palmetto Runners in the 35-39. Jennifer Hill won 3rd in the 40-44. Roy Shelley won the 45-49, with Chris Vokaty 3rd. Tracy Tisdale-Williams captured third in the 45-49 women. Tom Beattie won the 50-54., with John Gasque placing 3rd in the 55-59. Leeds Barroll won the 60-64. Albert Anderson, Alex Ponamarev and Ron Hagell swept a brutal 65-69. Brigitte Smith claimed the 65-69 women, with Henry Holt taking the 70+ men.






Lexington Race Against Hunger 10k – Lexington, SC – 2/28/15


The Lexington Race Against Hunger, or LRAH, is now in its 15th year and has been a staple of the Tour de Columbia for most of its existence. While late February has given the race some tough weather at times, there is usually a large and brutally competitive crowd. I’ve run the race every year since 2009 and I think I may have one 3rd in AG to show for it. I think I must have placed 4th about 5 times, because my photo library of the race is full of me looking dejected and holding up the number 4. Usually next to Drew, Scott Flicker, Code or some other 35-39 beast.


This race has some fast times, but it is purely because of the competition. The course is tough with a capital T. It is in Lexington, after all – a place seemingly on some prehistoric fault line with mountains popping up out of nowhere. Speaking of mountains, this race has one. Mount Main Street. For the uninitiated, the course lulls you into a nice warm feeling of safety in the first 1.5 miles – you go down a mostly flat stretch on 378 before descending into a net downhill, rolling stretch in a neighborhood (Dreher and Harmon Rd). You will then take a right turn and drop an expletive of your choosing.  Mount Main Street is probably only a little over a quarter mile, but will suck your will to live. But, while Mt Main Street may get all the attention, once you’ve climbed her summit, the 2 climbs on Church street will have you praying for mercy. (I’m so proud of that one.) So essentially how you manage the uphill miles 1.5-3.5 will determine your race. There’s a bump at 4.5  and the 5 mile mark, but you’re home free in the last 1.2 back on 378.

My goal is to go sub 40 in a 10k this year. This is not the race to do it, of course. My course record is 41:51 back in 2013. This was when I was throwing down sub 19 5ks, and when my left toe was fully functioning. My epic suckitude at the 10k has been extensively documented previously. In some warp of space and time, my 12k PR pace (6:27) is faster than my 10k PR (6:31). Go figure.

For some reason I assumed an 8 am start for this race. Showing up at 7 am the place was a ghost town, and I soon realized it was actually an 8:20 start. Hundreds of races in and I still make stupid mistakes . Did a couple miles with my CRC presidential predecessor Rick Gibbons, who has dedicated his post administration career to becoming a 50 stater marathoner. Twenty-six down after last weekend – look for him in the 4:15 Run Hard pace group next week.

By the time we get back its about 20 minutes to start. There seems to be fewer people than usual, and most importantly, a gaping hole in the 35-39. No Code. No Steven Johnson. No Gomez (he was volunteering). No Micah. No Luke. No Trophy. Angel showed up to enroll Jenn Covington in Palmetto Runners but wasn’t running himself. Drew was up in Greenville running the GHS half. Things were looking up for some AG glory.

With Justin, David, Tracy,  and Drew in Greenville, the Team Utopia crew was limited.  However Chris , Eliere, Michael Jensen,  Ivanka, Ilia and Julia were on hand along with myself.  Palmetto Runners fielded new member Jenn Covington, Jennifer “JR” Reeves, Luci and Jeff. Strictly only had Drohomirecky and Plexico, though with no other local elites, this race was going to be a cake walk for the Lightning.  Brigitte Smith, Pam and Mike Griffin, Kristin, Ty Thomas, David He, Scott Flicker, Devon Shirley, Pete O’ Boyle, Barb Brandenburg, Alfred Baquiran, Scott Brewer, Thomas Beattie, Alex Ponamarev, John Gasque, Lisa and Jesse Smarr, Brady/Diesel Ward, Wes and Rhea Spratt, Paul Drohomirecky, and  Matt Buffum were some of the familiar faces. Oh wait, dont forget Brandenburg. He’s still hitting every race he can before I turn 40, on his campaign to defeat the Blue Shoes 2015 Masters run. Although I’m like 80 points down, at least I can take solace in the fact my ghost is haunting his dreams.

With the start Plexico left us all for dead immediately and the pack  separated out quickly with the less competitive field.  Ty Thomas  latches on to my side and starts his psychological warfare: the constant narrative. He tries to barter his Palmetto 200 relay legs (he’s on my team “Van on the Run”) and I  shot him down – I drew the short last leg and no one’s taking that from me! I separate from him on a little incline then he’s right back in my ear, shaming me for running so slow. He then ups the ante and proceeds to pass me, just as we hit the mile marker with the turn onto Dreher St. Split was 6:27, basically right on 40 minute pace, though this (and mile 6) are the flattest miles on the course by far. Ty starts shouting at Brandenburg, who is about 50 meters ahead. Well at least its not me anymore. I try to tell myself to keep up with these guys. Running 200+ races over the past 5 years I have stalked so many race results and people in my ability level that I recognize the two right in front of me without ever seeing or talking to them outside of a race. One is a tall guy with a PR or ER shirt that I know must be Robert Taylor – a beast of a triathlete who runs almost exactly my times in 5ks and 10ks. The other is a shorter guy in all black that looks younger than he is, which must mean he’s Tracy McKinnon, a guy that always runs this race and always beats me for AG glory. He’s in my 2011 LRAH finish photo and shares the exact name of a girl I went to elementary school with. Do not question the bizarre and sick brain that resides within the melon headed skull. In any event, these guys are right ahead of me and I stick with them for the next several miles. Ty, who suddenly gapped me by over 25 meters, gets reeled in as we start to climb Mt. Main Street. We hit mile 2 halfway up this monster in 6:15, which is way too freaking fast and explains why I’m hurting so bad.

I’m pretty gassed by the top of the mountain but regain some of my composure on the ensuing flatness of Maiden Ln. Gomez is there at the water stop telling me to go get my sub 40. I’m probably still on pace except I feel like absolute death. By the turn onto Church St, I’m again fighting the psychological battle of still having 3.5 miles to go and feeling like I’m dead last. Our pack has separated from everyone behind and they are letting cars go behind me. By the top of the second hill on Church I know I’ve definitely slowed down, so I stop looking at my Garmin. The turn on Roberts is the beginning of the Jailbreak finish and is still a slight incline, which kills me. They had a time caller at mile 3, who gave me like a 19:33. It’s hard to do math with an oxygen-deprived brain, but I figured this translated to almost exactly a 20 minute 5k. That was great and all, but I was already 3 steps into the pain cave, so I knew it would be really tough to pull out a 39:59.

Mercifully, the course levels out as Roberts merges onto Gibson. I’m finally able to stride out again and flush out some of this lactic acid leg bath I’ve been drowning in. By this point I’m basically all alone, with Robert, Tracy and Ty about 20 meters ahead. There’s a right turn on Hendrix, which starts a long flat and downhill stretch. I usually try to ramp it up here to make up time lost in the mountain climbing, but all of a sudden the wind kicks in. Wind is not my friend. Little 140 pound singlet wearing guys can tuck in and fight a headwind, but my Sasquatch physique is about as aerodynamic as the Titanic. Its completely flat but damned if it isn’t as hard as hill climbing. Feels like I’m barely moving. I didn’t look at mile 4, which was halfway through this stretch. With 2 miles and change to go, I figure I need to start ramping up the pace. Hendrix takes a nice downhill and I fight to keep my form, which usually starts to go all to hell as I get tired, especially on declines. We turn back on Church and another hill climb to the Main st intersection – still all by myself. One last quad crusher of a hill before 378, and the mile 5 time caller gives me a 33:07.  Yeah, doing a sub 7 1.2 miles would be tough completely fresh, much less in my wind-sucking , head-flopping condition.

Once I get up to 378, I realize that Hendrix just had a cross breeze. Now this was a full-on headwind. Son of a bitch. I was banking on being able to throw down hard in the flat last mile, but it feels more like I’m running in place. Oh well, I guess the sub 40 was out the window.  That doesn’t stop me from  kicking it in. I catch Robert early on and set my sights on Ty and what looks like David He ahead. We start hitting the tail end of the 5k, mostly walkers. For some reason Ty and David are dodging in between the walkers. I ride the yellow line free and clear of the crowd. At about 400 meters out I push in all the chips and go for it. I catch Ty and David about 100 meters from the finish and I am in full headless chicken mode. You guys are getting BLUE SHOED! But wait… I feel a presence. All of a sudden Ty blasts by on my right and I have zero reserve to respond. Noooooooo! Just as my ego gets crushed, here comes David on my left and he gets me too right before the line. OMG. I see high 40 on the clock but I’m still in absolute shock from this brutal double dose of my own medicine. I cross in 40:56. The three of us are all sucking wind like there’s no tomorrow, and Ty is laid out like a dead man on the pavement. Well, at least I made them earn it.  I’m still depressed about getting smoked like that, but I have to give them both credit – they kicked my ass at my own game. My consolation – first in age group! Toby Selix, who “stole” my AG award at the Long Run, finished 3rd overall, and Tracy apparently has turned 40, so I finally got a first place plaque. A bit of a hollow victory, for sure, but I’m never one to turn down trophies. Also, I can’t be too upset about breaking my course record by a minute.

In the overall, Plexico enjoyed his walk in the park and won in 36:03, 3 minutes and 16 seconds clear of the field. Colin Spangler finished second with Toby Selix 3rd.  Although I was too slow to see it, I give major props to Brent Shealy for outgunning Brandenburg at the finish line to get first masters. Robert Taylor and Norm Ferris went 1-2 in a brutally competitive grandmasters. Alsena Edwards captured 2nd in ladies grandmasters.

Age groups: Brady Ward took 3rd in 2-14 with Diesel hiding in his shadow. David He won 1st in the 25-29 and also took my pride. Ivanka Tolan captured 1st in the 35-39. Tracy McKinnon, Scott Flicker and Scott Brewer swept a very talented 40-44. Julia Early won 1st on the ladies side. Ty Thomas and Matt Buffum went 1-2 in the 45-49. Barb Brandenburg and Jenn Covington did the same among the women. Lisa Smarrtook 2nd in the 55-59 and broke an hour for the first time in many years. Pete O’Boyle took 1st among the men. Lynn Grimes won the 60-64 and Alex Ponomarev took the 65-69. Brigitte Smith won among the women. Jesse Smarr was champion of the 75+ and would have won the 70-74 as well.