JROTC Amazing 5k – Blythewood, SC – 4/25/15


The JROTC Amazing 5k is a first year event put on to support the Blythewood High program and to celebrate the 99th anniversary of JROTC nationwide. It seems they were also trying to get as many participants as possible in order to qualify for a world record – the most people starting a 5k at one time. Obviously its held in conjunction with many other event sites around the country. I think they were aiming for 105,000. The event was also free if you didn’t want a shirt, in order to get the most people possible. That’s definitely a first.

In order to start everyone at the same time, they were holding the race at noon, which set up perfectly for a double dip…if you had two X chromosomes. Sadly, the morning race was the Women’s Lexmed Heart and Sole, so no way I could sneak into that one. I’m not known for my delicate feminine features. I did get to go take some pics from that race and enjoy the fact I didn’t have to slog up the Gervais Street hill in the rain. That looked brutal…at least from what I could tell sipping on my coffee under an umbrella. Congrats to Shawanna White and Kenzie Riddle placing in the top5 5, Shannon Iriel taking masters and Janice Addison winning grandmasters!

There was supposed to be absolutely awful weather for this thing. Ben Tanner had a giant splotch of red moving over the radar at noon. I was wondering if the race would even go on, since there might be a tornado watch or something. But when I got there it was actually perfect. Cloudy, no rain, and 50ish degrees. Almost a little cold. You can’t beat that for late April in Columbia.

With it being a first year event, I have to admit there was at least an inkling of a trophy hunt involved. Of course, this came crashing down pretty quick with my stalker Jeff Brandenburg showing up and then Plexico deciding to double dip the JROTC after the Imagine a Difference race in Winnsboro that morning.  It being a high school based race, there were also a bunch of  teenage kids there who might be cross country guys.

There was a decent crowd for a first year event – results have a 100 people.  A pretty good CRC contingent – JB, myself, Paul Laymon, Mike Compton, Matt and Brie McGrievy,  Janice Addison  , Arnold Floyd, Rocky Soderberg, Alex Ponamarev, Jim Williams, Tom Beattie, Jennifer and Mario Tudor,  Tom Tanner, Lisa Smarr, Leeds Barroll, and Brigitte Smith were all on hand. Paul, a 2:20ish marathoner back in the day, was making his first 5k appearance in a couple of years. Matt McGrievy was also getting back in the saddle after a very long layoff due to a bum Achilles.  Janice, Lisa, Brigitte and Jennifer were our double dipping ladies. Erin  Roof (YMCA/Rose Festival) and Jaime Lomas (Eggplant Events/Crawdaddy Dash), our RD’s for next week’s Tour de Columbia events (along with the Able Club’s Race to the Press Box) were volunteering.

The course was a big question mark.  It’s a new certified course, starting and ending at Blythewood High. I knew the stretch on Blythewood’s main street was relatively flat, since Ken Calcutt, Diesel, Trophy and I used to run that as part of our Sunday long run. I  had no idea about the far part of the loop beyond the Langford Rd. intersection.


Like any race with a lot of kids, the start was super fast. I lined up front row and got passed by about 15 teenagers right off the bat, only to pass back all but a few by the quarter mile mark. Some kid jumped out to the early lead, with Lightning Plex striking right behind him. JB went out super fast too. I was just going to let him go, but I tried to make myself at least keep him in range. Paul was wisely using me as a giant wind shield and was breathing down my neck. After taking a left out of the school is a slow, gradual incline. Most of the kids fell by the wayside on this hill and surprisingly I was closing in on Brandenburg. Is he trying to take it easy on me? He usually likes  to crush my spirit from the get-go.  All of a sudden he’s right in front of me and we fall into a mini pack. It’s us overzealous masters psychiatrists and a tall kid who is inexplicably wearing some kind of cleats, clickety clacking along at high volume.

After the Langford intersection, the course becomes pancakeishly flat, and surprisingly remains that way the rest of the race. We hit mile 1 and I realize why JB isn’t way ahead…5:58. Whoopsie. I guess restraint was not in the cards today. I’m usually fine with 6:10-6:15. This was going to hurt. Still, I guess all the Team Utopia track torture on Mondays must be paying dividends, because I was pretty OK at this point. The next mile led us through Doko farms and into a neighborhood on the other side of Main st. I had no idea where we were. The only thing I could remember was that the mile 2 marker was somewhere on a curve on Boney Rd. Things start sucking about a mile and a half in, when I start paying for that sub six first mile. But JB was still there, and I’ll be damned if I’m going to let him go now. We hit Bethel Hanberry School and the Garmin spits back a 6:12. One part of me accepts this as a reasonable slow down from a too-fast start. Another side, the dark maniacally competitive beast within, says its time to get that sub 19 again. I surge ahead and get in front of JB, who then tucks into my sizable wake. Time to push all the chips in. I’m surging, riding an adrenaline wave when I blast out onto McNulty St, heading for home. One problem…it’s the wrong way.  The volunteer, as well as a very sportsmanlike JB yell at me to get back on course, and luckily I correct before going completely off-track.  The extra distance lets JB get back ahead and all that adrenaline goes out the window fast.  My spirit was broken. Almost. I fight to stay with JB on McNulty St and I can see Main just up ahead. JUST. HANG. ON. I’m not sure what happened but all of a sudden a kid comes down main st and passes JB at the intersection with Mcnulty. Not sure if he totally went the wrong way or he’s some guy that decided to cut the course. I think its the former, since he jets out to  lead over JB. I am just behind wishing I could crawl in the fetal position and cry for my mommy. Everything hurts and the finish cant seem to come fast enough. I’m painfully close to JB and the kid, but the body is revolting against a kick attempt. It’s hard to push it when you’re already past redline. Finally we hit the school entrance road and even this last quarter mile feels like pure torture. As I turn the last corner I can make out the clock – 18:20’s??!  Somehow I find another gear and about donate a lung and breakfast flopping across the line. 18:39. Holy crap.  4th overall, 1st in AG.

So my PR is 18:46, so I instantly start scrutinizing everything. It is a certified course, and the start/finish is exactly where it should be. The 3.06 on my Garmin is irritating me, but Plex had 3.14, and an informal survey had everyone right around 3.10. I’ll take it. In any event, it’s way under 19 minutes, and my first dip under that barrier since a fateful hike in Hawaii back in July 2013. Feels pretty damn good.

Plex won this race easily, clocking a 17:14. William Beacham was the 15 year old kid that I guess took the wrong turn and placed 2nd. JB finished in 18:31 and got 3rd. At least I made him earn it this time.  On the ladies’ side, Janice Addison crushed a 21:56 after winning grandmasters at the  Heart and Sole 5 miler. Not bad for a day’s work, and pretty incredible for 55. Stephanie Roberts and Michaela Brown finished 2nd and 3rd . Lisa Smarr and myself got consolation masters wins, since our competition was good enough to place in  the overall. In the age groups,  it was a good day for the McGrievys with a win the 35-39 for Brie and 40-44 for Matt. Matt’s 21:53 is especially impressive given his 2 year lay off. Brie almost broke 26 as well.  Jennifer Tudor captured 1st in the 40-44, also double dipping. Beth Tanner won the 45-49. Paul Laymon and Tom Beattie went 1-2 in the 50-54, with Paul sneaking in under the 20 minute barrier in 19:54. Jim Williams crushed the competition in the 55-59. Mike Compton won the 60-64 with his best time since 1995 – 21:41. Leeds Barroll took 2nd with a blazing Blue Shoe style kick. I was so proud.  Double CRC wins in the 65-69 with Brigitte Smith (double dip) and Alex Ponamarev. Arnold Floyd and Rocky Soderberg claimed the 70+.








Quarry Crusher Run – Olympia – Columbia, SC – 4/18/15


The Quarry Crusher is back again for its 4th year in 2015, and this is also my 4th time doing the race. I entered this event on a whim in its first year and I keep coming back because its one of the most unique and fun events in Columbia. The concept is simple: run about a third of a mile on a road, then plunge into the center of the earth via a mile-and- a -half -long -ten -percent- grade gravel-laden -corkscrew- of- death. Oh yeah, then haul your butt back up to the surface for the finish. Total distance about 3.8  miles. My first year I went out like a headless chicken  with the leaders, doing a 5:40 first mile. On my climb out I was reduced to a gimpy soccer mom on a mall walk, trudging up at like 14 minute pace and setting a new world record for F bombs in a race. It wasn’t pretty.

Since that time I’ve managed to do better, maintaining at least a slow jog on the way up, but I’m still on the fence as to the best race strategy. I’ve seen people do OK with the walk-run method too. The mile and a half incline is merciless and unrelenting.

Of course, what could be better than trashing your legs on a 400 foot drop into a pit and crawling your way out? Doing it twice. This year they decided to add the “Double Crusher” which was exactly that. Frequent racers such as myself possess a sick, twisted kind of masochism which makes this sort of thing seem appealing. Of course I was in for the double. Duh! Bonus: the quarry keeps getting dug deeper every year, so the race gets even longer. Awesome.

With the new double crusher in play, I was pretty psyched about this race. I showed up almost an hour early and I could tell this event is continuing to grow in popularity. Already a big crowd.  Derek Gomez had told me he would be there for a warm up. Race day was also his 40th birthday, so my brief respite from the beasts of the 35-39 was quickly coming to an end. He was doing the single crusher, so my trophy hunt was still in play. A quick look online at the registrants for both races showed hundreds in the single but maybe only 70 in the double, so the “undercard” strategy was working for me in the shiny metal trinket department.

Speaking of 35-39 beasts, my Team Utopia teammates Michael Nance. Drew Williams and the Yerg were already there. Apparently kicking my ass on the track every Monday wasn’t enough. It should be noted that the Yerg kills this race. Dude is already fast, but something about him being super light and doing all that Mount Mitchell training makes him a total quarry stud. Speaking of Mt Mitchell veterans, there was a large Harbison Trail Runner contingent on board, ready to crush the spirits of all us wussy road racers. Fearless leaders Rick Stroud and Dean Schuster were there along with  Winston Holliday, Craig Wlaschlin, Jay Hammond, Kenny Standley, Bill Siebers, Alfie Hipps, Marian Nanney and Rick Gibbons.  Other familiar faces/CRCers on site included Steve Rudnicki, James Hicks, Greta Dobe, Mario and Jennifer Tudor, Henry Holt, Rocky Soderberg, Micah Simonsen, Wes Spratt, sisters Milly and Connie Hough, Robyn Culberson, Brigitte Smith, Emily Richbourg, Harry Strick, Pam Boggs, Makenzie Wilson, John Richards, Hou-Yin Chang,  Shiela Subbarao and  Jen Reeves. Milly and Robyn had mentioned something on facebook about trying to complete the single before I finished my double. Challenge: accepted! J-Reeves asked about the option of upgrading to the double the night before, and was emailed back that they already switched her. Time to man up JR.


This being my fourth crusher, I was actually pretty familiar with the course and racing strategy. You start off with a relatively flat third of a mile or so on paved road. The first little bit in the quarry gives you a false sense of security that it isn’t going to be that bad. A soft decline and even a water stop at the half mile mark (which actually I think is for the way back up). Once you pass the water stop there is a sharp decline, then a 90 degree turn to the left and another sharp decline. I call these the upper mountains. Once you reach the bottom of the second mountain, you reach a plateau I call Oh S$^%! corner. It’s a flat area with  another water stop, and you get your first look at the corkscrew down into the seventh circle of hell. Hence the Oh S@#$#.  The rest of the course is the Corkscrew of Death, finishing with virtually no rest before you have to go right back up. For the double crusher, you have a turnaround at the quarry gates to repeat all the fun.

My race strategy was to stick with the “just keep going” plan I’d done since the second race. If I start walking, I lose all motivation, so I planned to avoid it if I could. I had no idea if that was going to be possible the second time around.  Competition-wise, if I could hang with in the middle of the Harbison guys (like Make my Day)  I’d  be happy. I dont make it out to Harbison much, but I train on Mount Sesqui all the time, so maybe that would help with the off road climbing.

At the start, I realize I haven’t hydrated well because I’m actually thirsty before I even take a step. It’s on the warm side and super humid. This was going to be rough. I had lined up about 3 rows back, but with the start I’m getting passed left and right right off the bat. It was OK, I had a strong feeling I would be seeing them again. Rob, Drew, Derek and Nance dropped me immediately, and I let them go. Drew and Gomez were doing the single, so I knew they would be hauling. Nance and Yerg were going to crush me in the double. I decide to latch on to Micah as a pacer. A half mile in I plunder the first water stop, double fisting the cups like I’ve just done a marathon, chugging like its a beer mile. At least I’ve got the dehydration thing taken care of. I am getting passed left and right on the Upper mountains. It’s the Sasquatchian Paradox: all this weight and can’t go fast on downhills.  Rapid acceleration down walls of rock has never been a good thing for me either. I take another chug at Oh Sh@##$ corner and proceed to the Corkscrew of Death. I hit mile 1 in like 6:40, which I guess is OK, considering the double.  I’m experimenting with all kinds of form on the way down, trying to get the most speed without turning my quads into hamburger meat. It’s not working very well. Between all the pounding I start hearing vague echoes from below, like some kind of ghostly hallucination. Before I start questioning my sanity, I see they’ve actually got a band down at the bottom. It’s weird because you can’t hear them at all at the top. Appropriately they are playing ” (I am) My Own Worst Enemy” by Lit when I get there. #truth. This year the bottom is a big loop, and damned if Gomez, Yerg and Nance are already completing the loop and going up again by the time I drag my butt down. I finally hit “rock bottom” and start the slog up. Somehow I always forget how much the climb sucks. It does…very much. I try very hard not to think of how long it is to the top. Micah and Craig are up ahead doing some walk running pretty much immediately. I just chug along, blazing a ten minute pace. I do seem to be passing quite a few people, though Simonsen is keeping the gap up with the run intervals.  The walksie voices start screaming pretty loudly near the top of the Corkscrew but Oh S@#%$ corner gives me a brief respite to flush out some lactic acid. Irish handcuffs again with the water. The Upper Mountains really suck but you can see the top on the second climb, so that briefly distracts me from the burning, quivering masses that used to be called my legs. Reaching the top is usually euphoric but I can already see the leaders coming back from the turnaround ahead.  The double crusher is suddenly seeming much less attractive.  But actually the way back down is much nicer. My legs are so grateful for the climbing break, I swear I’m going faster on the second trip down. It’s nice to be able to see a bunch of familiar faces, especially when you’re freefalling and they are in an epic struggle. Yes, I am a terrible person. I am still latched on to Micah, who by now is probably REALLY getting sick of having a rabid bear chasing him. Sorry for the nightmares, dude. At Oh S@#$ corner I realize my shoelaces are coming untied. Unfreakingbelievable. A couple hundred races in and I still can’t get basic stuff right (that and being able to pin a bib on straight – I really suck at that). I realize this is probably a hazard flying down a 10 percent decline, but, as has been thoroughly documented, I am not known for my sound racing decisions. I manage to make it all the way down the corkscrew with laces flying, when I finally come to my senses and stop to tie them. It about kills me because I can see Micah leaving me behind, and then Winston passes me too. It’s not fair! At least that’s what my inner 5 year old says. He actually guides much of my other behavior too, apparently. Starting up again is tough, since I’ve decided to come to a dead stop at the bottom with a mile and a half of torture to go. I launch into my power jog once again, which may have even been under 11 minute pace. Blazing. Band is playing “Inside Out” by Eve 6 and I wonder how many race/quarry related songs these guys know.  I was impressed. One thing I notice on the slog back up – its not actually any harder. It still sucks royally, but I guess your legs get used to the abuse at some point. I keep drawing near Winston, Micah and Craig when they walk but as soon as I get close they take off again. Damn them! Women’s leader Marian Nanney passes me on the run then I pass her back with my relentless shuffle on the Upper Mountains. As we near the summit of the second lap, I can see everybody start to quicken the pace, and I slowly start to fire up the engines. We reach the gate area and we’re only a third of a mile on the road to the finish.  Micah and Craig seem out of reach, but Winston has fallen off the back a bit and what’s this?? It’s a pink Ray Tanner shirt! Must be Milly or Robyn. And then the beast is awoken. It feels like I’m taking a twitchy stick shift out for a ride, but I quickly switch about 5 gears up to 5k pace, and then all out headless chicken mode. With about 50 meters to go I pass Winston and then Robyn, who I think said something unprintable on my way by. In an all out sprint, I try to take down Micah, but he finishes a step ahead and narrowly avoids being run over by the Sasquatch bus. I cross the line in 51:19, 12th overall in the Double, and inexplicably, 1st in age group! Apparently it pays to be 40 this time – i would have been 4th in the 35-39.  Awesome ginormous race bling for the age group winners – bigger than a lot of marathon finisher medals.



In the Double, Brad Popple won the overall by like 5 minutes. Dude looked like a pro and was running up the quarry looking like my 5k pace. Harbison trail runner Marian Nanney took the women’s win. They only did 1st in AG for the double, I guess because of the small field. In the 30-34, Sheila Subbarao beat out a host of elite 30-34ers to take the win, with Craig Wlaschin winning among the men. Bill Siebers took the men’s 45-49 and Catherine Harris took the women’s title in a pink tutu. Stole my idea. Kenny Standley ran an amazing 44:49 to take 2nd overall and win the 50-54. I am not worthy. Wes Spratt won the 55-59 but paid for it with one of the best finshing photos of all time. Dr. Shawn Chillag took the 65-69.

In the Single, Derek Gomez celebrated his 40th in style by taking the overall win, edging out Trent Morrow and Jeremy Becraft. Strong work, dude! Jennifer Oblinger took the women’s win. Ryan Sacko placed 3rd in the 30-34.  Drew Williams technically took 3rd in the 35-39, though they used chip time on age group awards instead of gun time, so he was left out. Rick Gibbons won the 55-59, and Jack Kuenzie took the 60-64. Brigitte Smith won the 65-69, while Henry Holt and Rocky Soderberg went 1-2 in the 70+.








Bunny Hop 5k – Columbia, SC – 4/4/15



The Bunny Hop 5k is a relatively new race in the YMCA series, first held in 2013. For whatever reason, the stars aligned that year and somehow I took home the first male overall prize. I’d like to say I won the race, but as it turned out, Amy McDonaugh thoroughly chicked me and actually crossed the finish line first. Amy came rolling in to the finish looking all athletic and strong, to a huge ovation. The poor bystanders then had to see me completely headless chicken it , about ready to puke, in an effort to break 19.  No cheers for the Sasquatch,  but I got my 18:59. Beautiful. There was an award for first male overall, and I wasn’t about to turn down a hundred bucks, despite the shame.

With a female overall winner and an Albino Sasquatch male champ, you can be sure that fellow trophy hunters will take notice. And notice they did. The race grew significantly last year and exploded to 300+ in 2015. I didn’t get to defend my “title” in 2014 with the Palmetto 200 coinciding, but I think Justin Bishop came out and crushed the field for the win.

Speaking of defending titles, I certainly don’t get a chance to do that very often, but this was also Resurrection Run weekend. Resurrection was the site of the epic battle of whiteness last year, a brutal battle of the pigmentally challenged. I edged out the Pale Beast and basked in the afterglow of my first post-cliff victory. We won’t mention the fact there were like 40 people in the race and half of them walkers. A win is a win, baby.

But since I had missed a few YMCA races last year, and my Resurrection victory surely bringing in people that were actually fast, I opted for the Bunny Hop. It was definitely not a wise trophy hunting maneuver, and I was pretty sure Brandenburg was going to make me pay for it. However, perhaps I could make up for it with a double dip. The rebranded race Judicata, now the “WIL (USC women in law) to run” was going on at 10:30. With the Bunny Hop relatively nearby and 2 hours between start times, this would be a pretty easy one. I decided to make it a last second decision – I would wait to see how Bunny Hop went and then pull the trigger if I was up to it.

When I got to the Columbia YMCA that morning, I could tell this was the mother of all bad trophy hunting decisions. The place was crawling with blazing fast people.  Right off the bat I saw Ashton, Striggles, Bishop, Jason Dimery, Angel, the Yerg, Michael Nance, Parker Roof, Shawanna, and Eric and Sarah Allers.  It was like Cold Winter’s Day in April.  I did a q short warmup with Jeff Godby, who I suddenly realized was now back in my age group with me aging up to 40. At least I didnt have to deal with Rob, Angel, OJ and Nance. When Trophy got there a little later with Jamey, I promptly informed him he would be good to place in the top 10 of the 35-39. I’m always a good friend like that.  Lots of CRC/TeamUtopia/Palmetto/Strictly peeps on board – Ivanka and Eliere Tolan, Ashley Horton, Kana Rahman, Brittany Robbins, Carol Wallace, Israel, Coleen Strasburger, J-Lybrand, J-Reeves, Luci Velicu, Hrechko, Talkington, Cait Costello, Laurin Long,  Will Brumbach, Joe Roof were just a few of the people I remember seeing at the start.

Let me clue you in to my finely tuned 5k strategy… run like hell until you want to puke. Yep, there is no saving up for the second race. Once the bib is pinned, it is on like Donkey Kong. And this course sets up nicely for a fast time. Basically an out and back course with 2 track-like loops at the end. About as flat as you can imagine in downtown Columbia, starting and ending at the Columbia YMCA. The loops are probably the most challenging, since you have to maneuver through the back of the pack on the second lap. For my agile physique, this is akin to plowing a speeding bus through a crowd without running over anybody.

I actually eschewed my usual grandiose practice of toeing the line to let people who were actually talented start in front. With the gun, we all took off WAY TOO FAST. With all the blazing people around, it was hard not to get caught up in the cattle stampede. The first quarter is pretty much flat, followed by a left turn with a very slight decline all the way to the loop area. People were totally getting it. I was trying to throw down hard, but damned if  Jennifer Lybrand wasn’t killing me in the first half mile, Sarah Allers was breathing down my neck and Will Brumbach had firmly attached himself to my hip. Angel and Talkington were leaving me for dead. I was really confused by the pace – with all the people around I assumed I was going slower than usual. Maybe even 6:30?? We hit the first part of loop 1 near the mile marker, where I distinctly remember telling Parker Roof that he was going too fast in 2013. My, have times have changed. Anyway, mile 1 comes back in 6:08, so apparently either everyone is going sub 19 or there was a lot of coffee drinking this morning. The outer part of the loop has a couple of subtle inclines that make the wind suckage commence. Still a long way to go for that. I catch up to Angel and pass him, which means he’s either sick or not racing. Rounding the last corner of the loop I finally catch Talkington, who is still coming back from some time off. Dude decided to run like a 6 flat first mile, so I guess he was a little excited about racing again. Second lap is all about the juking and jiving. Walkers first then the back of the pack runners. The walkers are always tougher because they are prone to sudden movements and not paying attention, but luckily everyone is staying in their place. I assume Eric, Justin and Striggles blowing by them at 5 minute pace probably caught their attention earlier. I am able to find some good seams but the corners are a little tricky. I see MC Cox and Rob up ahead so I try to stay within their ballpark. Mile 2 is like 6:07 and I’m suddenly aware of the sub 19 possibility.  I am hurting pretty bad but give me a time goal and some people to track down, and I will spelunk the pain cave to new depths. Suddenly I’ve caught up to Rob and MC and pass them, which is highly unusual. I haven’t beaten Rob in years and MC usually takes me down too. Once we leave the track loops and head back to the Y, I throw down as hard as I can. It’s a long way, and Yerger’s ghost is riding me the whole way. I ‘m also afraid Brumbach is going to come back and spank me like the Crit and the Wild Run. I turn the last corner and hope for the 18’s, though I realize my Garmin has beeped mile 3 pretty early. I see the clock turn over to 19:00 as I hit the final stretch.  I’m on fumes, but I do a little headless chicken and hit the tape at 19:14.  Dang. A good time for me but a big disappointment after the first 2 miles. My Garmin has 3.16, though course is certified. Looks like I’ll need to practice my Adrian Peterson moves a little better on lap 2 next year.


Awards were at 9:30, so I hung around to see if I got anything. The whole time I had decided to forget the double dip. Thanks to my new found old age, I was able to slip into third in the 40-44. I knew I’d lose to Eric Allers, but damned if Toby Selix hadn’t slipped in all stealth-like and took 2nd place. Oh well, this being a YMCA/Erin Roof race, swag was great as always with a Bunny Hop coffee travel mug. Sure beats another medal.

In the overall, Eric Ashton had some competition this time, but was able to beat out Striggles (2nd) and Justin (3rd) in 16 minutes flat. I would have liked to see those guys throw down, but I was in another zip code.  Among the ladies, Shawanna White crushed the field and nearly took down Eric Allers in 18:06 for the win. I believe this was a post hip surgery PR for the “Peachrunner”.  Well done. Shana! Caroline Peyton took 2nd in 18:20 with MC Cox taking third in 19:25.

Age group honor roll: Nine year old Madelyn Gomez, with dad Derek in tow, crushed a 26:26 to take first in the 8-10.  Sophia Bilbao, running with dad Israel, won 2nd in the 11-13. Parker Roof is done with Sasquatch pacing and ran  18:11 to take the 14-16. Alex Robertson placed 3rd. Brittany Robbins (TUS)  eked out a win in the 14-16 girls by like 5 minutes. TUS’ David Russell and Sr’s Jen Lybrand were the class of the 25-29. Jason Dimery rocked a sub 18 to win the 30-34. Ashley Sears and Katie rose went 1-2 in the ladies’ 30-34. In the 35-39 men, TUS’ Michael Nance and the Yerg took the top two spots, with 621 ninja Will Brumbach 3rd. Ivanka Tolan (TUS) and Lucia Velicu (Palmetto) won on the ladies side. In the 40-44 women, Shannon Iriel started her comeback from a long bout with plantar with a strong 20:35. Healthy Cap race director Shenequa Coles took 2nd.  Randy Hrechko blue shoed J-Lybrand and the Trophy in the final stretch and won the 45-49. Barb “Blandenburg” (why couldn’t they have done that to Jeff) , Pam Inman (Palmetto) and Sandra Riccuito swept the 45-49 women. The 50-54 women were blazing, with Sarah Allers (Reckless) taking the win over Lisa King and Coleen Strasburger. Eliere Tolan (TUS) outpaced Joe Roof and Phil Togneri in the 50-54 men. Carol Wallace was once again the 55-59 champ, viciously outkicking pal Coleen. Sue Porter and Lisa Smarr (with bunny ears) placed 2nd and 3rd. Tommy Kahaly and Rick Gibbons just aged up and rocked the 55-59 men. Mike Compton and Pete Poore took 1st and 3rd in the 60-64.  Ken Lowden threw down a 27:42 and took 2nd in the 65-69, with Ron Hagell 3rd. Patti Lowden won the ladies’ 65-69, and ageless Henry Holt took the 70+.

And as I strolled back to my car, the double dip temptation proved too much to bear. I was in.


Climb the Clay 5k – Saluda Shoals Park – Columbia, SC – 3/28/15


Climb the Clay was previously known as the Earth Fair 8k for several years – a trail race through Saluda Shoals Park in Irmo. A couple of years ago, they scrapped the Earth Fair (this was a festival at the park, not the crunchy supermarket, that’s Earth FARE) and that left the race all by itself. Luckily, Smith Harden, the race director and a Saluda Shoals ranger, kept the race afloat and renamed it “Climb the Clay”.  “The Clay” in question is a miserable mountain of slippery red mud in the middle of the park. It happens in the first mile of the race and sucks every bit of life out of you right away. But hey, there’s no mistaking it’s there, so might as well advertise it.

I really like this race. Its small, has no chip timing and usually draws the same people every year. Held during the Cooper River Bridge weekend, it’s that race’s polar opposite. Yes, I love the little mom-and-pop races for trophy hunting purposes, but I also like the personal feel of small, local, non-corporate events like this one. No zumba warmups, no gimmicks, no generic running-themed songs blasting out of a start line loudspeaker. Just a bunch of people who actually enjoy running and racing by itself. I know…novel concept.

I do need to mention it is a trail race, which is a huge handicap for me. My lack of agility and grace on singletrack switchbacks has been well documented elsewhere. Little short and light dudes can scamper all over the forest.  I am more elephant stampede through the jungle. Still, I have had a couple of overall podium finishes here. Most notable was an epic throwdown between myself and the Code in 2013, where I just missed out catching a dying Darrell as he bonked into the win. Our battle was set up by David He, who so graciously decided to take himself out by running (in the lead) the wrong way with headphones, impervious to our screams to right him. At least we tried.

I showed up about 45 minutes to showtime, and damn it was cold for late March. Mid 30’s. Those bridge runners must have been hating life waiting out in the corrals. As soon as I  finish my registration at the table, I turn around and I’m temporarily blinded by the sun. Approaching is the shadow of an all-too familiar silohuette, my masters nemesis, Brandenburg. In an all-out war of Columbia area running psychiatrists, JB has made it his mission to crush any chance I have at winning masters on the Tour de Columbia. He’s now in the triple digits. I have 3 points thanks to my March birthday and my epic fail at Get to the Green. I really need him to start missing races, so I can pull off the Blue Shoes special: quantity over quality. Oh well, still 8 months left. Bring it.

Also on board for this race is JB’s neighbor and fellow Wes Spratt abuser Tom Beattie. Wife Barb is also there to pick up a perennial podium spot. Dina Mauldin, Melinda Petruzzi, Rocky, Stephanie “Stevie Dee” Dukes, Pete Poore, Henry Holt, Brigitte Smith, Mario and Jennifer Tudor, Joe Naylor and Sue Porter are there to represent the Columbia Running Club. About 50 total signed up.

The course, typically an 8k, has been shortened to a 5k because of construction. I’m not totally sure, but I think the Silver Fox 5k course was mostly used – that race and CTC have a lot of overlap anyway.

With the start, Brandenburg and quite a few kids blast out in front of me as we make our way down the power line cut towards the eponymous mountain ahead. The course is as expected – it rained a ton the night before and there is a lot of puddle/mud dodging right away. I try not to get too carried away early on, and I let JB go..for now. Sure enough, the clay monster rears its ugly head just a half mile into the race and all those speedy kids suddenly arent so speedy. I power up the clay wall with the freak quads and do well for a while. Unfortunately the last little bit sent me into oxygen debt overdrive and I’m panting like an overheated grizzly by the top. The Clay has taken its toll – only JB and a high schoolish girl are ahead of me.

After a brief open stretch at the top, we plunge into the forest for the first time. I hit mile 1 soon after but I didnt bother to look at the Garmin. The first half of mile 2 is all rolling, winding single track. There are a couple of screaming downhill stretches and one sudden, near 180 degree turn that brings me to a virtual stop. I feel sorry for the girl in front of me. The whole time she must hear some giant dude breathing down her neck and matching her every step. But she isnt giving in a bit. My 19ish 5k times typically has me racing high school cross country girls all the time. And they are brutal. Elbows flying they will cut you off and leave you for dead if they can. Just evil. I still have nightmares of the Bythewood 5k a few years back when Dutch Fork’s Hope Whisman, all of like 14 years old,  mowed me down in the last half mile. Not a proud moment. I also got the beat down by DF’s Anna Jenkins and Bri Hartley a couple of times last year. Epically chicked.

At about 1.5 miles the course spits you back out at the bottom of the clay mountain and makes you do another hairpin turn, which I’m sure I executed ever so gracefully. Or not. More sloppy but open trail, then a beautifully straight and paved section. Brandenburg is visible but way up ahead. I’m still riding this poor high school girl’s back like an overgrown monkey. Finally we hit the 2 mile mark and the girl either tires some or just cant take the emotional trauma of being stalked by an Albino Sasquatch.  Daria Yoder, I am forever sorry for your nightmares.

With a mile to go, I start ramping up the pace and trying to track down JB. Unfortunately he has a monster lead but I can feel him reeling back in some. The course winds some through the woods but has more open stretches. There’s two crazy mini-ravines where I nearly bust my ass. We hit a straight section at about 2.5 miles in and I see I’ve made up some pretty nice ground on Brandenburg. I’m sucking some pretty serious wind by now but I try to throw down the best I can. Forget the puddle dodging now – I’m plowing straight through the mud – trail blue shoes be damned. Apparently the volunteer temporarily led JB in the wrong direction because when I hit a road area he’s pretty close. Unfortunately I suddenly recognize where we are, near the entrance guard shack, and I know I have no chance. Sure enough, I turn the corner just in time to see Jeff cross the finish, defending his 2014 title.

I cross the line about 20 seconds later in 21:26, 2nd overall. Anytime I end up on the overall podium I’m happy, though seeing JB claiming another victory isn’t much fun. Kind of like getting a Ken Vowles beat down.

Daria Yoder did claim 1st female, despite never being able to enter the forest again without rabid grizzy bear flashbacks. Not entirely sure on the age groups or other overall winners, since only names on the results. I think Jennifer Conrick won female masters. Melinda Petruzzi, Mario and Jennifer Tudor, Rocky, Henry, Joe Naylor, Tom Beattie, Barb, Stevie Dee, Pete and Sue Porter all won AG awards as I recall. Awesome pint glass awards again this year. Thanks to Smith Harden for putting on this cool race. He goes out and paints every root and marks every turn, so major props go out to him for all his hard work!

Click to access final-times.pdf