Tri the Midlands – Lake Carolina – Columbia, SC – 6/20/15


Tri the Midlands is a sprint tri (500 m open water swim, 14 mi bike, 3.1 mi run) put on by Set Up Events in the Lake Carolina neighborhood.

First, it should be known that I am not a triathlete. But racing options start drying up in the summer and somehow I get the ridiculous, grandiose idea that I can wing a tri and still do well. You’d think I’d have learned. The Downtown triathlon in 2012, my maiden attempt at a swim-bike-run event, was such an epic failure that I still get crap about it. I’m pretty sure Brandenburg and Wes Spratt have my T1 shame photo as the background on their computer screen. For the uninitiated, here it is:




That’s me, sitting down, more exhausted than I’ve ever been at any athletic event before or since. This after a “brutal” 500 meter pool swim. I use the term “swim” loosely, since I pool walked about 75 percent of it. Somehow  I thought I could swim with absolutely zero training. A word of advice: I wouldn’t recommend it.

That same year, I decided to try and earn back a shred of triathlon dignity by jumping into this event. I trained for the swim like a man possessed, because this being an open water swim, I’m pretty sure I couldn’t walk it. That time I plowed ahead as hard as I could go…towards the wrong buoy. I almost panicked and had to be rescued (ask Diesel for his story) but I managed to correct and finish the swim. I even placed 2nd novice and Blue Shoed Trophy after he passed me on the bike. I can’t thank Greg Howell enough for capturing that moment for posterity:


But all of that was 3 years and one major trauma ago. I did do the Tom Hoskins duathlon last year, and some beer fueled night a couple of months ago I decided to go all in for the tri this time. That’s in July. And I guess some other equally beer influenced decision 2 weeks ago, I decided to jump into Tri the Midlands again to see how my “training” was going. Apparently I need to stay away from computers while drinking. Training needs air quotes too, since I had officially done 4 bike rides in June, only one over 10 miles. My swimming amounted to about 5 times in the pool, topping out at about 42 lengths (about 1000m).  But hey, my grandiosity knows no bounds, so I was going to crush this, right? Plus, I finally made the plunge and procured myself a 58 cm bike (Felt Z95) that actually fit (my old one was a 54 cm) – thanks to Henry Mandrell at Summit cycles. I was surely going to be Craig Alexander in no time.

I showed up to Lake Carolina about an hour ahead of time. I had originally planned to be 90 minutes early, but I kept forgetting stuff and generally being a total noob. I ripped the laces out of my blue shoes to replace them with elastic ones, only to break the elastic laces and be totally screwed. I brought my huge orange hokas as an emergency backup. The Code was already on site to spectate presumably because my tri attempts are such high comedy. The parking is like a half mile from the set up area so I had to go over everything in my mind several times to make sure I didn’t leave anything. Darrell offered to help with the gear transport – I think they call this a “sherpa” in tri speak, but I just prefer “bucket bitch”, so that was his new title.

The transition area was pretty packed. Of course, thanks to both of us signing up last second yesterday, the Pale Beast and I got side by side set up areeas. The battle of the Paleness was on. I had toyed with the idea of signing up as novice again (this is my third tri and first since 2012) or even better “masters clydesdale” but I figured the former was kind of weak and I couldn’t fudge 25 pounds to be 220 (running races usually do 200). So age group it was, complete with a periwinkle blue swim cap. So manly.

There were a fair amount of familiar faces. Trophy was on hand to photodocument all the whiteness. I saw Laura and Greg Howell for the first time in forever, which was nice. Ken Lowden and the Howells were helping man the boat/SUP/kayak brigade meant to keep us clueless swimming noobs safe. Eternally grateful for that. J Reeves, Erika Burgess and Pam Griffin were volunteering. Both Brandenburgs, Rob Weber, George Smith, Ilia, Paul Laymon, Wendy Hart, Missy Caughman, Healther Alexander, Keith Sikes, Les Boan, Tenacious J Hill, Patti Lowden, Sandra Ricciuto, April Hutto, Pat Norcia, Kristin Cattieu and the Vokatys were some familiar faces. Aubrey Johnson and Angel were doing the relay. Wes Spratt had called me out about not registering and Tom Beattie was thinking I might be able to beat him, though Tom is unaware of how bad I suck in the swim-bike area. I would have to be less than 5 minutes behind at the start of the run to catch him. Hey, maybe I can do that?

THE SWIM-500 meters

We all line up for the start on the shore and I’m nervous as hell. Damn that buoy looks far off. I squirm up to the front to see the whole course and make  ABSOLUTELY SURE I don’t sight towards the wrong buoy this time. Set Up starts playing what seems to be their anthem, Eminem’s “Lose Yourself”. I think it’s supposed to make you fired up but all it does is about send me into a panic. Open athletes go first, followed by the under 40 men’s age groups 3 minutes later. All the “old men” are next, which now includes me, complete with periwinkle swim cap crushing my oversized brain. The water is disgustingly warm. Total bathtub, and murky as hell. I look around and there are a lot of people. Novice had like 15 in 2012, there’s got to be 30+ in the age group wave. The start is complete mayhem. I was dumb for being right in the center, and suddenly I’m getting beat up left and right. First a hand to my head, a couple of kicks, then some dude slides right over me. WTF?? Lots of warm masters man on man action. Not exactly my thing, but at least I know why Brandenburg loves this stuff.  I’m having trouble trying to get into any rhythm, and it turns out Lake Carolina doesnt have lane markers and a black stripe on the bottom. I’m sucking in a lot of wonderful bacteria-free Lake Carolina  water and having to dog paddle at times to not grab feet or go off course. About halfway to buoy 1 I abandon any hope of my usual swim pattern and just breathe with every stroke. It actually gets me free of the pack and I plow ahead through the warm murk.  Suddenly I look up and I’ve managed to get right at the buoy, mostly by blind luck. It’s pretty scary to be out this far, remembering my downtown tri nightmare and definitely violating everything that early 80’s Sallie McDonald ever told me about water safety. I’m still breathing too hard but at least I’m free of the Marquis de Sade bathtub scene from earlier. Somehow I hit the tangent of the 2nd buoy and I start picking up the pace towards home. I’m actually catching some of the royal blue young dudes. Geez, these guys must be really slow. One of my fellow periwinkle caps has adopted some power breaststroke just ahead to my left. I stop sighting and just follow him, since I figure he sees the shore, and my noodle armed freestyle isn’t much faster. I’m totally euphoric when I take a stroke and hit mud. The great white whale has been beached!  I spring towards the shore and all these guys are freaking walking. Dudes, this is a race isn’t it? I break free and do my best spandexed pants barefoot jog about 50 meters to the transition area. Trophy and Julia Early make sure to capture all the paleness for posterity. I’m just glad to have survived, though Trophy informs me the Beast is just ahead. (Swim split 12:14 )

Sure enough, Ken is power fumbling through the swim-bike transition and I join him in the chaos. I throw on a shirt to avoid blinding passers-by and do a thoroughly awkward and slow shoe change. I throw the megamind helmet on and do my stiff bike-cleat jog out of T1. At least I can stand upright next to my bike now instead of hunched over. (2:06)

THE BIKE – 14 miles

Thanks to not doing an extra 100 meters of swim this time and having a bike that fits, I tear out onto the bike course like a man possessed. Oh yeah, these suckers are going down. This lasts maybe one mile until our first incline, when it suddenly dawns on me that I havent even done 50 miles of total bike training in a year’s time. Jeff does more than that on a bad DAY. A couple of miles in I manage to pass some people and I;m feeling pretty good. Pretty good, until Kristin comes whizzing by like I’m standing still. WTF? I guess it pays to actually train on the bike. On Kelly Mill road, I can actually see the Pale Beast up ahead, so maybe I can catch him. No matter that he’s been bike training while being run-injured and left me and Trophy for dead on our last group ride. I can take him! Or not. A big incline on Addams rd (see Blythewood labor day 5k 2012) sucks some energy and I realize I maybe got a little too frisky out of the gate. Langford road has some nice flats and downhills, but I know what is to come. Sure enough, the Langford section ends with 2 nasty inclines that I’m probably barely doing 10 mph on. I do manage to pass a Clydesdalish guy and a woman that had both passed me earlier. Twenty five mile creek rd is awesomely downhill so I start crushing it in the big ring pretty hard. Oh yeah, I am the man. And then I get re-passed by Clydesdale guy, and then an Athena-ish woman… 2 of them actually. And Ken is no longer visible. So much for pride. 25 mile creek ends with a brutal wall like hill and I reclaim a small sliver of dignity by passing Mr. Clydesdale yet again. Not the two Athenas though – those girls have destroyed me. Back on Kelly Mill, I know I’m only a couple of miles from the bike finish. One problem – stick a fork in me, because I’m done. The heat has come out with a vengeance (80’s) and I start hating life pretty quick. There’s a long slow incline on Kelly Mill and my legs are complete jello. I contemplate small ringing it on this really weak hill but my pride wont let me. What’s worse is that I have yet to develop the cyclist’s iron crotch, and my nether regions are crying out for me to stop the torture. I’m standing up in the saddle to get some blood flow back to the naughty bits and moaning like a shot elephant trying to power through the last few inclines in Lake Carolina. Thankfully no one passes me during this ugly display. Maybe they were just scared.

I’m eternally grateful to be done with the bike pulling into T2. Vowles has already  left the building. I throw on my Hokas, which are easy to lace up. I neglected to think about the fact they weigh twice as much as my racers. Between the fidlding around and taking my Garmin off the bike, I transition like somebody’s grandma.

THE RUN 3.1 miles

I hit the run course the same time as April Hutto, and I try to impart some encouraging words, but then I realize we are treading on the surface of the sun. Or an oven, or whatever extremely hot metaphor you want to use. It’s probably 85 degrees, but the internal furnace I built up by overextending myself on the bike has left me dangerously close to a meltdown. I run by my friend’s Ryan’s house and scare the hell out of his 4 year old son who is wondering what freak out there knows his name. I’ve likened the run to bike transition as jogging while 2 cobras bite you simultaneously on each ass cheek. Thankfully, the new bike has made this considerably better, maybe just vipers or some other lower grade snake. Still, I am just trotting. Here I am, finally at the part I’m supposed to be good at, and I’m royally sucking. The heat has me totally paralyzed, and here we go up another hill out of Harborside (see Harborside Lights 5k 2013).  The Code and Colleen are there trying to be supportive, shouting out encouraging words while giving me “what the hell is wrong with him?” looks. A finisher is being announced as I start my 5k slog and I ‘ve never wanted to be “Michael Frassica from Irmo”so bad. But hey, even my power jog is letting me pass people because it is a total war zone out there. No shade, sun beating down like satan’s anus. Lots of walksies even a half mile into this. After the climb out of Harborside, there’s a nice long downhill. Erika is there at the water stop and I take hers and another cup and do a double chug. I’m maybe doing 7:30 pace on the downhill – between the furnace-like conditions and my general lack of motivation (i.e. no trophies) I just can’t fathom going any faster. I even get chicked by a woman in green and can’t respond.  I see Angel coming back towards home and then Kristin, who not only has killed me on the bike but is doing the same on the run. Kudos to her. The worst part of this course is Mt. Carolina – a towering hill right smack in the middle of the 3.1 that is annually the leading cause of walksies in the Columbia area. I start the miserable slog up this mountain and the walksie voices are really screaming, made worse by seeing Vowles trundling downhill and being completely uncatchable at this point. Damn that Beast.  I finally reach the summit of this monster pulling like 10 minute pace, but I can’t walk now with J Reeves herself managing the water station (who I constantly rag about 5 k walking). I let gravity take over on the way down, just doing nothing but falling down this hill. I’m really good at that, trust me. That nice long downhill after Harborside is now that not-so-nice climb back up. The heat is out of control. I manage to pass Barb Brandenburg on the hill less than a mile to the finish. I feel really good about this pass until I realize she started three minutes behind me. I finally hit Harborside again and I give it all I can in the last quarter mile or so, which is probably the only time I went under 7 minute pace for the whole run. I see the clock heading towards 1:33 and I put the jets on to cross in 1:32:51, or 1:26:51 corrected for my wave. 6th in age group.

OK, so triathlons are definitely a humbling experience. I’m happy with improving my swim time by a minute and bike by two minutes (from the 2012 event) with minimal training. The only problem is that the effort to do that produced a world of suckage on the run (3 minutes slower). I have this sneaking suspicion it might help to swim and bike more. Novel concept. Oh, and I desperately need to transition better. That’s probably because I use them more as rest zones and go about them like a grandpa changing into his slippers to go get the Sunday paper.

I don’t know a lot of tri peeps but here are some of the names I recognize. Brandenburg was a beast of course and won 1st male masters and 3rd overall. 34 minutes on the bike, jeezus H.  60 year old Jeff Allums placed 5th overall and won the 60-64. Wow. Michael Frassica placed 3rd male masters. Jennifer Kryzanowski placed 2nd open female and Janice Addison took home first in female masters. Kristin ran 21 minutes and change for the 6th fastest run time overall and had the 2nd fastest women’s total time, winning the 35-39. Wendy Hart took 3rd in the 40-44, while Barb Brandenburg won the 45-49 and yes, beat me by over 2 minutes. Lisa Powell took 1st in the 50-54 and Paul Laymon took 2nd on the men’s side. I did manage to beat Wes Spratt by 5 minutes on the run, though perhaps that just underscores his blue shoe destruction on the swim/bike, beating me by almost 6 minutes overall. He took 2nd in the 55-59 for his efforts. Patti Lowden and Shawn Chillag were champions of the 65-69. Ilia finished 2nd overall Athena and Pat Norcia won the aquabike, overtaking Tom Syfert with a blazing 38 minute bike split.




Sweat it Out 5k – Columbia, SC – 6/6/15


The Sweat it Out 5k is a new event this year that goes to benefit the National Foundation of Ectodermal Dysplasias, genetic conditions that, among other problems, make those afflicted unable to sweat. A local family, the Dukes, have a son, Nicholas, with Hypohydriotic Ectodermal Dysplasia. He was the inspiration behind the event and actually designed the race shirt. One of our own, Shannon Iriel, was race directing, so I was definitely in to help support a fellow runner and a good cause.

I came in to this race with pretty much zero confidence. Ever since I tweaked my back about a month ago, I’ve been riding the injury train and have probably put in half the miles I usually do. Run Red Bank was my first race in a few weeks, and even that wasn’t at full effort.

But I decided to give it a go this time. I have been pain free for a couple of weeks, and I was back to at least about 70 percent of my usual 40-45 miles per week. It would probably help to start back with the morning training routine, but I haven’t been able to drag my butt out of bed recently. My punishment: afternoon runs in the Columbia summer inferno. Famously hot, indeed.

Speaking of getting up early, this race was at 7 am to avoid the heat. I got there about 45 minutes ahead of time and its impressive how many people showed up for this first time race. It was great to see so many Columbia Running Club peeps out to support one of their own. Of course, CRC peeps are inversely proportional to the degree of trophy hunting. This place was crawling with beasts. Kenzie Riddle, MC Cox, Heather Brumbach, Anna Jenkins and Linn Hall made for one of the strongest female fields I have seen in a while. The Yerg, Angel, Jeff Godby, and Adam Bernthal meant there’d be a big pack in the 18-19 minute range. Larry Bates,  Wayne Shuler, Leeds Barroll, Rocky, Henry Holt, Ponomarev, Lisa and Jonathan King, Mike Compton, Michael Jensen, Tom Beattie, Arnold Floyd, Colleen Vowles, Gasque, Pete, Jessica Workman, Peter Mugglestone, Ken Lowden, Hou Yin Chang and the Tanner family (minus Ray) were some of the familiar faces. The CODE was out for support but can’t race yet. Tom tried to fool me into a Brandenburg sighting, but mercifully tri season has begun and he was nowhere to be found.

I had no idea about this course. Ken and Tom were telling me it was fairly flat with a hill near mile 2. The only race I ever ran in this neighborhood (near Hammond Academy behind the VA) was the 2009 Strides for Health at the med school, which was almost all flat, so I had my fingers crossed. I was going to run this pretty hard, but I also needed to factor in the heat and being off my training.


Little Nicholas did the start, and we were off. With all the beasts, it was blazing. Some unknown kid took off like a maniac and I never saw him again. There were a bunch of other younger kids tearing out of the gate like it was an Olympic 100m. Of course they stopped a quarter mile in and  almost got run over by a pale, 40 year old bus. Although the cardio involved in running 5k pace was like a kick to the chest, the legs were actually loving the speed. I swear I get injured more often doing my slow runs. Godby is on my back like a monkey, and I figure we are pretty even with him in the middle of marathon training (Grandma’s marathon in Duluth, MN). He was weakened, however, by having to deal with what I sweat out in the bathroom pre-race. Must fight him off for masters! Speaking of masters, a 40ish dude comes into the picture in mile 1 and passes both of us. I’m not sure who he is, but 12 year old Adam Bernthal told me he was on a quest to beat his dad today, so this is probably him. I point him out to Godby to make sure we are aware of a fellow old dude in our midst. First mile is pretty much flat, Garmin spits out a 6:12, which is about where I want to be.  I’m running in a pack with Heather Brumbach, Adam and Godby. The senior Bernthal, Angel, MC and Yerg are just up ahead. In the next half mile I manage to surge ahead basically maintaining the same pace. Feels OK – the heat/humidity are definitely a factor, but I feel way better than my battle with Brandenburg at the JROTC 5k a month ago, where I went out in 5:50 something and wanted to die the rest of the way. We finish an out and back loop and head back out on the road (Galway) we were on earlier. With my 5k race brain, I see some larger buildings up ahead and I figure its the last out and back before we turn around to head back home. Um, not so much. Turns out it was Hammond Academy, which I’ve known about most of my life but never seen in person. The first feelings of death start to creep in as I see we are heading out again on the last out-and-back loop to the right on Saye Cut. Code is out there spectating, probably rooting for people to take me down.

On the way out I can tell we are going slightly downhill, so I guess we will be climbing this on the way back. It’s really nothing – about what amounts to a hill in Shandon.  As we near the turnaround I am surprised to be closing in fast on Yerger. Dude ran a PR 18:12 on the track last week so I guess he’s not feeling it. I pass him and Adam as we hit the turnaround cone. Mile 2 comes back with an identical 6:12. I see Godby, Linn and Heather right behind me as I start the trek back home. I’m trying to kick it in some but the slight uphill and heat/humidity are taking their toll. Code pops up again and is talking trash. I can’t really respond because the wind suckage has begun in earnest.  Finally turning back on Galway is a relief because I know we’re getting closer to the finish. I had done a warmup before the race and knew I could unleash the hounds as soon as I reached Meadowfield Elementary. It seemed to take forever, and plus there is a fairly significant incline right before the school that I somehow totally missed. Surprisingly, Angel and MC are right ahead and I can even still see Kenzie. I motor up the hill to Meadowfield, take a couple of deep breaths and fire up the blue shoes. I’m closing in fast on Angel, who I can tell is not kicking it in. Oh well, I’ll take what I can get. I blast it into overdrive as we turn on to Olde Knight and I catch Angel right at the parking lot for the park. MC has matched my kick and I cant quite catch her. This is the second time she returned the favor for Bunny Hop. I see the clock and I’m surprised to see it already at 19:10 or so – I had thought faster. I crash through the finish in typical ugly race face fashion in 19:29. 6th overall, 4th male, 1st in age group. I technically won masters too, though it was a hollow victory with a 49 year old (Bob Daley) taking 3rd overall and bumping me up. I got a nice plate though, so a trophy hunt success! I’m pretty happy with the time – Garmin had 3.15 (certified course) and there’s always the Columbia famously hot heat index slowing you down in June.

Taking the win was 15 year old Bennett Egan. I don’t know him, but I would guess he’s a high school cross country guy.  Second was Rick Southard, another guy I’ve never seen before. Bob Daley (3rd)  is supposedly the guy who raced with the Pale Beast at the Richland R.U.N.S. 5k  but I havent seen him since. I guess he’s gotten faster with the 18:55.

The women’s race was super competitive for a first year event, with Kenzie taking the win, MC second and Heather Brumbach 3rd. Heather had to lean at the tape to edge out Dutch Fork’s Anna Jenkins. Anna, age 13, is going to be an absolute beast when she gets older. She already blue shoed me last year at Run Red Bank. In masters, I got the consolation prize win with Jeff Godby and Matt Bernthal taking 2nd and 3rd in another photo finish in 19:55. In fact, Anna, Heather, Jeff and Matt all crossed the line almost simultaneously in 19:54-19:55.  In women’s masters, Linn Hall took the win followed by Colleen “Don’t call me Mrs. Beast” Vowles and Lisa King.

Age group honor roll: Adam Bernthal crushed a 19:38 and beat his old man en route to a win in the 11-14. Anna Jenkins took the win on the girls side for a double sub 20 11-14 age group. Wow.  Angel and the Yerg went 1-2 in the 35-39. Marian Nanney crushed a 20:31 to take the women’s 35-39 with Jessica Workman 3rd. Michael Jensen won the 40-44. Wayne Shuler ran a very strong 21:25 to take first in the 45-49. Jonathan King edged out William Brown in the 50-54, with Tom Beattie 3rd. Larry Bates crshed a 21:19 to take the 55-59, with Tour director John Gasque 2nd.  It was a CRC sweep in the 60-64, with MIke Compton, Pete Poore and Leeds Barroll. Leeds demonstrated his brutal sprint kick that is very Blue shoesesque. I was so proud. Alex Ponomarev and Ken Lowden went 1-2 in a very competitive 65-69. Likewise with the 70+, won by Arnold Floyd, Peter Mugglestone and Henry Holt.




Run Red Bank 5k and 10k – Lexington, SC – 5/30/15


Run Red Bank is in its 5th year and this marks my 3rd time doing the race. I think the race was put on by a dental practice its first year (weird), but then was picked up by the YMCA and Erin Roof, which is how I started running it. As it has been thoroughly documented in this blog, Erin’s races are exceedingly swagtastic, so despite the long odds they are always worth a trophy hunt.

That being said, let”s not sugarcoat this. This race is tough. It was held at White Knoll high school and that course was brutal. The race had a change of venue to the Lexington YMCA in 2014, which I naturally assumed was done to make the course flatter. Um…not so much. I went charging out in the 5k last year like a maniac and died a thousand deaths climbing up a mountain for the first mile and a quarter. It didn’t help it was 80 degrees and humid either. The second half was mostly downhill but I was already toast. I got chicked by a 12 year old in the last half mile and ran my slowest 5k in 5 years (20:40 something).

So I wasn’t stoked to go back again initially, but Erin told me the 10k registration was pretty low, and apparently my lust for trophies outweighs any rational thought. Because what’s better than a humid, hilly sufferfest?… doing it twice, of course. I really need to stay away from Strictly Running’s website after a couple of beers.

Oh yeah, and I was coming back from injury too. After a tweaked back nixed by Get in the Pink race, my Hawaii toe acted up and made my shin feel all tight and sore. I was panicking about shin splints and stress fractures, but some rest and avoiding the hard runs seemed to have helped. I even skipped Jailbreak too, which about killed me. I mean, the header on this page is from that race. I wanted to cry.

Since this would be the first race in a few weeks, I figured I needed to take this one easy. Actually, let me clarify. I mean not maniacally, insanely hard. Once I get a bib on, you can forget easy. But at least maybe I could rein it in some. Yeah, impulse control is not my strong suit.

Lexington is a bit of a drive for me, but I managed to make it out there about 45 minutes early. Pretty sizable crowd was there already, helped by a huge group from Run for God. About as humid as last year, maybe a touch cooler. Orinthal Striggles, Shawanna and Ryan Plexico are like the first people I see, and my immediate thought is Mrs. Roof has tricked me with the false lure of a trophy hunt. Roy Shelley, James Hicks, JOhn Gasque, Pete Poore, Craig Wlaschin, Eric McMichael, Lucia and Jeff Smith, Cheryl and Tommy Outlaw, Tom Beattie, Andy Mikula and Barb Brandenburg are some of the other familiar faces. Most surprising is the absence of Barb’s evil husband, so despite all the fast peeps, the masters trophy hunt is looking better than most. It’s tough to tell who is running what race, but a quick analysis at the start says that I can take the 10k masters if I can hold off Joe Roof. Oh, and not die on the mountains. There’s always that.


With the start I keep telling myself to run this like a tempo. No one’s going to set any  PR’s on this course, and I need to protect the gimp shin. I figure if I can do 7 minute pace I should be OK.  No problems reining it in -the first mile is a killer. After a very brief plunge down, the next mile and a quarter is mostly an uphill slog all the way to Two Notch. The humidity is like a wet blanket. Luckily the legs are fairly fresh from reducing my miles most of May. Unfortunately it’s my brain that is hurting – it seems to have having trouble comprehending why in the bloody hell did I decide to do the 10k??. Especially when you climb 2 brutal hills then look out on a half mile mountain to climb after that. Apparently Shawanna and Angel are also taking it easy because they aren’t that far in front at the mile mark, which I hit in about 7:10. Another quarter mile and I’m finally at the summit for the first climb. I’m pretty gassed already. Two  young teenage kids, who are doing the 5k, keep trying to pass me. They would surge ahead, get tired, then apparently face unbearable shame by having a ghostly white Clydesdalish 40 year old  pass them again. Eventually the Albino Sasquatch broke their spirit. The next mile or so is pretty glorious. One long gradual downhill that lets you get rid of the lactic acid bath that your legs take at the start. I think I kind of zoned out at this point and just let gravity be my friend. Mile 2 came back in 6:50ish. At the bottom of the hill you hit a dirt stretch and I hit a low point mentally when I see the 4 mile marker. Low, because the heat and humidity is getting nasty really fast, I’m facing having to climb that damn mountain again, and I still wont even be near done when I get back down again and pass this 4 mile mark for real. Once the 10k  course splits off for my second lap I realize Erin wasnt lying about the registration being weak for the longer race. Suddenly everybody’s gone, and I realize I’m probably like 5th or 6th overall in the race despite taking it relatively easy.  I can still see Angel, Shawanna and Craig pretty far ahead, and I know OJ must be in another zip code by now. Loop 2 of the mountain is similar to the Double Quarry Crusher – it actually is about the same or slightly easier the second time around since your legs are warmed up. Mile 3 is 7:07. It’s nice to get near the top since I start hitting the back of the 5k pack and there’s people to see again. My biggest demotivator is not having people to try and catch. Conversely, I will fight to the death to keep someone from passing me. And it’s at the bottom of lap 2 that I start hearing quick footsteps behind me. At first I think it’s a 5ker suddenly kicking it in but then I realize its some super fit young guy doing the 10k trying to assert his dominance. He uses me as a windscreen for a while (smart choice)  then pulls ahead as we hit the dirt stretch. Oh hells no. I decide to stay just behind as we near the split point again. Suddenly he goes right at the split up the mountain again. Apparently he loved the hill so much he wanted to do it a third time. I hear some of the volunteers yell and I tell the rest to go get him. No one deserves to climb that thing 3 times. I break off to the left and head out into a short out and back in a neighborhood, which is yet another hill. Good times. This out and back is shared by the end of the 5k course and there’s plenty of traffic, but its pretty short. At the turnaround I see superfit is pretty close behind but maybe fading a bit. I decide to put some pep in my step on the downhill as the 10k course takes one more out and back that I’ve never seen before. I remember it looking not too bad on the course map but sure enough it starts with, you guessed it, another hill. The course takes a right turn and goes up a little more, and I keep telling myself the turnaround has got to be coming up pretty close. Then suddenly OJ appears. Oh dear God. I thought OJ had already completed the loop, and he’s easily 6-7 minutes faster than me when I’m going all out in a 10k. And here he his still coming back from this “short” out and back. Sure enough another expanse opens up and there is neither a turnaround or anyone else to be seen.  My brain reminds me how stupid I was for doing the 10k. Plus, any clouds or coolness from the morning is now burned off and it is getting hot in a hurry. After what seems like an eternity,  a teenager (Brady Rafanan), Shawanna and Angel  finally show up on their way back, and I can finally see the turnaround.

Heading back towards home I see mr. wrong way is still pretty close behind so I ramp up the pace a little bit – 1) to put some distance on him and 2) to get this thing done quicker. Andy Mikula is next in line behind, and then Joe Roof a couple of minutes back. I just need to make it home in one piece to sew up the masters win. More hills on the way back.  Fun. The heat and the course have taken their toll and a few cases of the walksies have broken out around me. I don’t blame them. Finally I crest a hill near the end of the 10k out-and-back and I realize it’s all downhill until right before the finish. I ramp it up pretty close to 5k pace to make sure the dude behind me doesn’t get any bright ideas. The 40 minute 5k crowd is fully traumatized by hearing a rabid bear approaching behind them, so I make sure I give them plenty of room when I pass. I finally make out the finish clock turning over to 44, and I sprint out the last little bit to cross in 44:16, 6th overall and 1st master!  I’ll take it since the goal was to do 7 minute pace – 7:08 by official results, though 6:58 / 6.35 miles by Garmin. Erin and the YMCA did not disappoint with a ceramic tile, 10 dollar Dick’s gift certificate and 50 bucks cash! Awesome.

Orinthal Striggles easily won the 10k overall with a 36:44. Aiken’s Brady Rafanan (40:33) placed 2nd and Harbison Trail Runner Craig Wlaschin  (41:27) took third. Among the ladies, Shawanna White went out for a jog (41:20) and still claimed the win, followed by Gina Campbell (49:29)  and Erin Thompson (52:36) .  Monica Wright won female masters.

In the age groups,  it turns out Luke Fang was the guy chasing me – he took 1st in the 25-29 ahead of Palmetto Runners’ Andy Mikula. Thomas Outlaw, the younger, claimed 2nd in the 30-34.  Angel won the 35-39 with James Hicks 3rd. Lucia Smith took 2nd in the 35-39 women. Roy Shelley easily claimed the 45-49. Joe Roof won the 50-54 , with pastor and TDBS reader James Laurence second. Tommy Outlaw, the slightly more mature, won the 55-59. Cheryl Outlaw completed the Outlaw sweep by placing 2nd in the women’s 55-59. Racing machine Brigitte Smith won the 65-69.

In the 5k, it was a good day for  Strictly Running with Ryan Plexico and Jordan Lybrand going 1-2 in the overall men and Erin Suttman and Barbara Brandenburg finishing 1st and 3rd among the women. Parker Roof finished 3rd male and Whitney Craft 2nd female. Masters winners included Lisa King and Palmetto Runners’ Eric McMichael.

Age groupers included: Team Utopia South’s Michael Jensen and Todd Whalen going 1-2 in the 40-44. Stephanie Dukes won on the women’s side with Lucia’s sister Aura Sinescu placing 2nd. Tom Beattie placed 2nd in the 50-54. Tour director John Gasque crushed the 55-59 by 5 minutes to take the win. Alsena Edwards and Sue Porter went 1-2 in the women’s 55-59. Pete Poore and Leeds Barroll took 2nd and 3rd in the 60-64, while ALex Ponomarev claimed the 65-69.  Peter Mugglestone, Henry Holt and Rocky Soderberg once again swept the 70+.