Dam Run to Irmo 10k – Lexington, SC – 9/19/15


The Dam Run to Irmo 10k is one of the oldest races in the Columbia area, now in its 29th year. It holds the distinction as being the only true point-to-point race in the area and it has a net downhill, making it a pretty fast race. It also offers sweet prize money to the winners, so it typically brings out all the beasts. Not exactly a trophy hunt.

But Irmo is my childhood home (Irmo High class of ’93 – Go yellow jackets!) so I do feel some sort of allegiance to doing this race. You can’t beat the scenic views on the dam or the net downhill either.

My original plan was to have some sort of impulse control and “just” do this race this weekend. Unfortunately I fell off the wagon again and ended up racing Tunnel to Towers the night before. Doubling up is tough enough, but doing a 10k as the second race is pretty much a recipe for disaster, especially one with a brutally competitive field. But my eternal optimism (aka supreme egomania) said I could do it and still compete for awards. Hey, it was better race prep than late night concerts in Charlotte and/or beerapaloozas.

Or maybe not. Race morning had me waking up with a headful of doubt, cursing my computer indiscretions on Strictly Running’s website. Legs were cinder block-esque  after last night’s all-out summit of Mt. Gervais St. At least the Hawaii toe has been feeling better. I’ve been wearing size 11.5 shoes for the last couple of years, but I got size 12’s when I saw a random cheap pair of my old blues on ebay. Sadly, I think I’ve been a size 12 all this time. It feels amazing to be able to move my toes around again. Common sense has never been my forte.

I showed up late for the race because a 7:30 start and 30 minutes away don’t work out well with the delicate ballet of coffee-making, cereal-pouring, ibuprofen-popping and bathroom destroying involved in my race morning routine. Did a couple of miles with TUS teammate Julia Early, Trophy and Tommy Kahaly. Trophy suggested I go slumming with him and do his pace. I thought about it but realized there’s no way I could resist giving Trophy a beatdown. Plus, who knew where Trophy was on the fitness scale. Dude fluctuates from 20-22 minutes in the 5k depending on who he’s dating or his  weekly buffalo wing consumption. I had been calling him “Blackjack” (21 minutes) again to motivate him to get faster , but now he’s about to earn “Double Deuce” (22).

Stepping up to the start and its flush with SC running celebrities. TUS coach Justin Bishop, Eric Ashton, Ryan Plexico and OJ “Rashad” Striggles are representing Columbia’s finest, along with Matt Shock from Greenville. On the women’s side, Shawanna White is the favorite, along with Erin Miller and the return of Sara Powell. I recognize Caitlin Batten, fresh off her national Beer Mile championship, along with new husband Irv , both running beasts from Charleston.  MC Cox and Jennifer Lybrand are also representing from team Strictly Running. A ton of the usual Columbia scene is on hand for this one: Greta Dobe, Randy “the H is silent” Hrechko, Pete O’ Boyle, Howie Phan, Matt Pollard, Kenny Culbertson, Francisco Mora, Marian Nanney (also doubling up from T2T) , Ramesh Tippabhatla, Lorikay Keinzle (TUS),  David Russell (TUS), Larry Bates, Michael Jensen, Jim Williams (TUS), Barb Brandenburg (SR), Art Lambert, Jennifer Glass, Wade Bauer (TUS), Sheila Bolin (TUS) , Mackenzie Wilson (TUS), Tom Tanner, Mario Tudor, and Rocky Soderberg.

Not a whole lot of planning on this one – I thought run one mile at what felt like 10k effort and see what the Garmin gave me. The first mile and a half is completely pancake flat over the dam (after an initial little downhill) so it would be a good place to see how the legs and lungs are functioning. I knew mile 2 to be the roughest with some nasty hills in a neighborhood loop. Mile 3 and 4 would be rolling, and the last 2 miles mostly flat. Despite the net downhill, this race has never produced great times for me, probably because of it being right after summer. I ran a 45:05 for my first 10k ever, and then a 42:11 and a 42:08 the other two times.  The 10k has always been my worst distance.


The start, as predicted with the beast factor, is super fast. My legs still feel like crap despite the 2 mile warmup. Turns out 10 minute pace without any strides does not prepare you for race pace. Go figure. I am getting my butt passed left and right as I mentally struggle not to get sucked in by all these guys treating it like a 400 meter sprint. About a half mile in, the dam gets real quiet as the pack starts to thin out. Being an expert level race results stalker, I spot Francisco Mora, Jennifer Lybrand, Pete O’Boyle and Randy Hrechko all in front of me. Quick nerd calculations suggest a 42ish minute pace.  When I’m in good shape I should be just ahead of these guys, but who knows with my current conditioning and last night’s abuse.

I hit mile 1 in 6:49 and felt OK, so I tried to hold it. No need to be a hero this early. Off the dam is a nice downhill which helps you catch your breath. At some point I passed J-Lybrand and Francisco and now targeted Pete and Randy. Pete appeared to be picking it up some and passed Randy. Mile 2 in 6:47. After the first water stop is the Nasty Neighborhood Loop. I’m sure the people are nice there – in fact quite a few were spectating and cheering. It’s just their hills suck.  It’s a pretty short loop and as I enter, Ashton, Shock,  Striggles and Justin are already coming out. Ashton is crushing it. Right away we get treated to a sharp uphill, which hurts but always gains me against the field. Thus is the Sasquatchian Paradox: I’ve got 30-50 pounds on my peers but climb hills better. On the flipside, I suck on the downhills, with gravity seemingly on my side. One of the great questions of mankind.

Speaking of downhills, we get a plunge down one only to set us up for climb number 2, which is even longer and steeper. I again use my quads of steel to shame a kid on the way up.  Coming out of the nasty neighborhood loop is a long stretch on Bush River Rd. Slowly but surely I gain on Randy and pull even with him. He claims to be done when I pass him but I know better. Mile 3 in 6:45. I am actually starting to feel better at this point. I think I’ve washed out the soreness and I’m moving more fluidly. The field is now way spread out and its only me and O’Boyle up ahead in our little section. Must win the battle of Irish paleness! I hit mile 4 (6:44) just before the second neighborhood loop, which I know is much flatter. I’ve got some gas in the tank so I decide to kick it up a notch. I pull up alongside Pete and pass him, but he latches on my back and starts breathing down my neck. It seems no one likes to be Sasquatched. We drop down a hill and we hit a nice flat and straight stretch. I start striding out and O’Boyle fades a bit behind. There’s a long stretch where the sun hits you right in the face every year, but of course this is the one race in ages where I’ve forgotten my sunglasses. I run out into the sun pretty much blind and start to ramp it up for the finish, picking off another couple of guys that are unknown to me. Mile 5 comes back in 6:31, and I’m definitely starting to feel the extra effort. One last little incline after the 5 mile water stop and then down the hill to Saluda Shoals park. It’s almost a mile in the park, so I try not to get too caught up in the moment. I died a thousand deaths in the park in 2011 and ended up getting “white shoed” by Tigs and feeling like I could barely finish (this was the year I thought 6:18 was a good pace to start) . I’m starting to feel the pain this year too, with the toll of a couple of 5kish miles in the bank since passing Randy. But there’s a girl up ahead and I slowly start reeling her in. Matt Pollard is ahead of her, but I don’t see another Ray Tanner blue shoe possible with his lead. Suddenly Justin appears, presumably having finished and gone to get breakfast by now. He shouts I have about a quarter mile to go and 90 seconds to break 42 minutes. Damn, that’s 6 minute flat pace. And I’m on fumes. But give me a carrot on a string and I will do just about anything. I start sprinting, or perhaps lumbering like a rabid grizzly, down the entrance road of the park. The girl is pretty far ahead and the finish line always feels like it’s right around the corner. You can hear it from way far out. Finally I catch a glimpse of the red numbers, around  41:40ish, and rip into the hardest kick I can manage. The time is ticking away and its going to be really close. Girl gets passed with about 50 meters to go and she’s probably still wondering what that white blur was. In full sprint I hit the line and slap the Garmin, and do an ugly flop onto the grass. After having an extended make out session with the finish line grass, I see my Garmin at 42 flat. Damn! But wait…lets check the results. BOOM. 41:59. Awesome.


OK, so still way short of the 40:38 PR, and even that is my slowest personal best in relation to distance. But its a step towards the springtime Blue Shoes, so I will take it. I also got 6.31 miles on my distance, so I probably ran the certified course pretty poorly. Either way, I got smoked in the age group. 5th. 21st overall. To rub salt in my wounds, Trophy came in almost 3 minutes behind me and got…FIRST in age group. WTF? He’s 6 months younger and wins the 35-39 since Striggles claimed 3rd overall. Oh well, Trophy turns 40 tomorrow so he’ll have to man up soon enough.

Winning the overall was Eric Ashton, 7 years my senior and still crushing a 33 flat. Wow. Matt Shock claimed second in a strong 33:30. Striggles was third in 34:22. The women’s race was apparently an epic showdown between Shawanna White and Sara Powell. They ran most of the race together before Shana threw down a vicious kick to take the win in 37:11, 2 seconds ahead of Sara. I would liked to have seen that, but I was barely in the park by then. Erin Miller got a PR 37:34 for third.

Age group honor roll: David Russell and Matt Pollard went 1-2 in the 25-29. Jennifer Lybrand won the women’s 25-29 with Rachel Carter 3rd.  The 30-34 was insanely fast with regular overall winners Justin Bishop and Ryan Plexico taking the top 2 spots. Caitlin Batten took 4th overall and 1st in the women’s 30-34 with a 38:22. Tammy Putt was the unfortunate Blue Shoe victim, taking home 2nd in the 30-34 AG.  The ladies 35-39 was also brutal with MC Cox breaking 40 minutes for the win (39:51) and Marian Nanney 2nd after winning T2T last night. Tracy McKinnon claimed 1st in my age group with Toby Selix coming back with a 39:41 for third after taking the summer off from racing. Randy Hrechko mounted a strong kick to overtake Pete in the park and finished 1st in the 45-49. Barb Brandenburg and Julia Early went 2-3 in the 45-49. I don’t know Laura Stepp, but her 1st place with a 44:54 was impressive. In the 50-54, Howie Phan crushed a sub 40 in 39:49 and took 1st by 5 minutes, Francisco Mora and Phil Togneri were 2nd and 3rd. Larry Bates won the tightly contested 55-59, with Tommy Kahaly 3rd, all within 44 minutes. The women’s 55-59 was also brutal, with Lorikay Keinzle, Carol Wallace and Alsena Edwards sweeping the category. Pete took the 60-64 by a landslide, running 43:09 for the win by 7 minutes. John Houser claimed 2nd in the 65-69 just a few weeks after his half marathon in the Blue Ridge.  Brigitte Smith won 3rd among the women. The eternally positive Rocky Soderberg took 2nd in the 70+.





Tunnel to Towers 5k – Columbia, SC – 9/18/15


The Tunnel to Towers 5k is one of a series of 5ks across the country put on by the Steven Siller Tunnel to Towers Foundation, which goes to benefit firemen, police, other first responders, and the military. Steven Siller was a firefighter who lost his life on September 11 at the World Trade Center, after he ran through the Battery tunnel back to the towers (hence the foundation’s name).

I got a chance to see this race in its first year in 2013, when I was still beat up from my Hawaii cliff dive and had to spectate. It’s a really cool event – the road race really pales in comparison to the hundreds of military and other first responders who show up to run/march in unison. I made it a point to come back and actually run it when I wasn’t nursing multiple broken bones. I think I was out of town last year for the race, but when we added it to the Tour de Columbia in 2015, I was in.

Or… kind of. This race is held on a Friday night, with the Dam Run to Irmo 10k the next morning. I told everyone I was going to do one or the other for the past few weeks, I just needed time to decide. Then I had a momentary Stella-Artois- induced lapse of judgement in front of the computer and went all in for both of them. I know, I need help.

Fast forward to Friday night and I’m already regretting my decision. The first blast of fall we had earlier in the week gave way to a last hurrah sucker punch from the 400 pound gorilla of a Columbia summer, pushing temps back into the mid 80’s. I was sweating on my way to the car. This was going to be brutal. Got there about 45 minutes early with the Code, pulling photo duty once again. The place was packed – looked to be over 1000 people. Not a whole lot of recognizable runners though, which bade well for my unquenchable thirst for trophies. I didn’t see too many big-name elites, presumably because all the studs were going to be doing the Dam Run (I was proven quite correct the next morning). Sarah and Eric Allers, the Yerg, Brad Marlow and family, Mike Wainscott, Teresa Harrington, Lois Leaburn, Mario and Jennifer Tudor, Peter Mugglestone, Rocky, Henry and Margaret  Holt, Alex Ponomarev, Mike and Pam Griffin, Marian Nanney, Pam Inman, Dawndy Mercer-Plank, Marlena Crovatt-Bagwell, Cheryl and Tommy Outlaw, Kate Ferlauto, Ron Hagell, Sharon Cole and John Zemp were a few of the familiar faces.  I didn’t see any of my usual age group archrivals, though clearly Eric (now 45)  was going to block my masters hopes.

I didnt get a chance to run the course, but it looked to be a simple Connecticut-shaped deformed rectangle, going across the Blossom street bridge and coming back on Gervais, similar to parts of Ray Tanner.


The start felt like a big-city marathon – I lined up first row in front of thousands of people, with all kind of photographers and news cameras on the scene. Perfect for my oversized ego. I was a little afraid of getting trampled though, and there was a construction bottleneck about a quarter mile in that made a fast start imperative.  I’m sweating like a pig, 84 degrees at race time by the Garmin. After a long wait, there was a gunblast from somewhere way back and we all started in full-on stampede mode.  Being slightly less svelte than the high school kids and singlet wearers around me, I had to pull a few third down short yardage fullback up-the-middle moves to get ahead. When they see a giant pale bus coming through, the skinny people get out of the way.  Once we take the first turn onto Blossom, I’m a little confused. Tigs, who had rode my butt at the Dry Run and cursed me for taking her out too fast, was pretty far ahead of me barely a half mile in. Marian Nanney was even in front of her. And I am not going out for a jog either – it feels like I’m taking it pretty hard out of the gates. My ego is bruised but I try to focus on myself – it’s feeling pretty rough in the heat and I know the finish is a  pretty tough climb. Tigs and Marian have put even more distance on me once we clear the Blossom St railroad overpass, which is the first kick to the chest on this course.

I hit mile 1 just as we start the trek across the Blossom St bridge. I swear my garmin spit out a 7 something split but I must have been delirious. Recheck of the data says 6:12, which feels about right. Micah Simonsen, a previous 35-39 age group rival, comes up and briefly passes me, throwing out some trash talk. Damn him for taking me by 2 seconds on the quarry crusher. Between him passing me and Tigs/Marian way ahead, I am at a loss. Oh well, I am going at it pretty hard so I can’t go much faster without completely bonking. A nasty little incline after the bridge lets me re-pass Micah though, and I’m suddenly making up all the ground against Tigs in a hurry. I catch Tigs right at the turn to Alexander drive and we mercifully get a little downhill after the long, slow incline of Knox Abbott (Blossom turns into Knox Abbott in Cayce). I pass one of my coworkers, Naoma, on the next turn, who is cheering like I’m winning the Boston Marathon, so that was a nice boost. Alexander dr is pretty flat the rest of the way to Gervais so I was able to catch my breath a little.  Mile 2 in 6:31. I pass a couple of more young punks who aren’t too happy about getting master Sasquatched. Finally we turn on to Gervais towards home. I knew Gervais was uphill but it looks like a damn mountain from the bridge. The Ray Tanner course lets you off right after the bridge, but this one makes you climb all the way into the Vista. I conveniently forgot about the rise before Huger too. Wow, this was going to be a whole world of suck. And it was. The 80 degree heat started making its presence felt in a major way, and the incline was basically unrelenting. I was able to catch Marian finally near Huger, and I was trying to kick it in with about a half mile to go. Yeah.. not so much. I was all by myself, arms pumping, begging for that finish turn that seemed to never get there.  Even being cheered by hot drunken USC girls wasn’t helping – I was too distracted breathing (and probably looking) like a wounded elephant. Finally, I make the last turn on Lincoln and damned if it hasn’t already has flipped over to 20 minutes. I try to make my form a little less headless chicken for the pics but the heat and wind suckage is like a kick to the face. I flop across in 20:31.


Shockingly, a good finish pic

Garmin gave me  ugly 6:12/6:31/6:46 splits  with a 6:06 0.17 mile kick. Probably a mix of going out too hard and then having to run my semi-bonk up a mountain. Totally shocked when I get to the results tent though – 6th overall and 1st masters. It turns out Eric ran so fast (18:23) he got 3rd overall and bumped me up to the masters “win”.  To add insult to injury, he got a small medal while I got a big ass plaque. Sometimes it pays to be slow.

This race had a really nice post-race set up with a band, food (burgers and dogs) and drinks. Sadly, no beer. A kid I’ve never seen race before (20 year old John Kaminski) took home the win in 18:00, followed by David Adams, a firefighter from Bluffton who ran in full fire gear. Insane. My Google stalking him showed me the reason – he holds the high school state cross country record with like a 14:37 in 1999. Eric’s 18:23 for third is really impressive, especially considering the course and conditions.

In the women’s overall, Marian held on for the win in 20:54 and Tigs got second in 21:11. I would love to see the garmin splits on their first mile – had to be under 6. Darby Graham got 21:39 for third. Amanda Cusaac won female masters – I’ve never seen her race either- her 21:57 was very strong.

Age groupers – Sabine McGrievy had a tough day but brought home some bling, finishing 3rd in the 1-9.  Taylor Marlow is a chip off the old block (Brad’s son) and trounced me in 19:59 to take 1st in the 10-14 (5th overall). Kortni Miller and Natalia Rozhkova finished 2nd and 3rd in the 20-29. The Yerg crushed the 30-39 with a 19:42. My Labor Day 5 miler nemesis John Gibbons won the 40-49. among the women, Sharon Cole and Shelley Hinson took the top two 40-49 spots. Chantal Faure won the 50-59. Jack Kuenzie and Alex Ponomarev went 2-3 in a tough 60-69 category, with Marie Queen winning the 60-69 women. Margaret Holt is newly 70 and won the 70+females, while husband Henry finished 2nd in the 70+ males at age 79. Peter Mugglestone won the division, with Ron Hagell 3rd.









Dry Run 5k – Shandon- Columbia, SC – 9/12/15


The Dry Run is a 5k in the Shandon neighborhood put on by Faces and Voices of Recovery, a substance abuse recovery group. It’s been held about 10 years now, and it’s been a regular stop on the Blue Shoes race calendar since my first year of my obsession in 2009.

It’s always been one of my favorites for a number of reasons. One, if you live in Columbia, you learn to suffer through the oven-like months of June, July and August in exchange for pretty awesome weather the rest of the year. The Dry Run is usually on the first cool weekend of the fall and feels amazing – such a relief. Two, they used to have ironic age group awards with pint glasses to the winners. Now , I can see that people in recovery might frown on this (though the one’s I’ve heard from thought it was funny) but there was nothing I liked better than drinking a beer in my new age group award while watching the Gamecocks play later that day.  Alas, they have gone to plastic crystal discs now.  Three, it was the site of my first 5k since almost dying in Hawaii. I ran a 26:05 on a very gimpy toe and was never happier. I missed out on an age group award of course, but Geary gave me his in a symbolic gesture and I still keep it in my car as a reminder. Thanks, dude.

Also, it doesn’t hurt that it’s a flat rectangle in Shandon and very PR friendly. I typically post one of my better times in months with the cooler temps and good competition. Always the trophy hunter. Lastly, Mike Hedgecock is the race director for this one and always does a great job. You can always tell when a race director is a runner themselves.

Unfortunately the weather didn’t quite cooperate this year. The first cold front of fall missed us by a matter of hours, leaving Saturday morning still high 70’s and humid. Definitely less than ideal. Also less than ideal was my “race prep” on Friday night. This time it wasn’t beer, late night concerts or San Jose’s (or all three) but deciding to do the Run for Our Troops 5k on a whim. Temps were 80+ that night and the course involved crazy trail switchbacks and lots of twists and turns on the riverwalk. I told myself the Dry Run was the target and this could just be for fun. Yeah, I got into a total pissing match with some ripped triathlon dude age grouper and outsprinted him in the last half mile. My “easy run” left me gasping for breath on the grass near the amphitheater. Nice job, hero.

So yeah, I got to the Dry Run super early to try and jog out some of the soreness from that little escapade. Mike , along with fellow 621 ninjas Steven Johnson, Luke Godwin and Matt Buffum, were helping at packet pickup. Always good to see them, especially when you know these beasts won’t be trying to steal your coveted trophies. Logged a beautiful 11 minute warm up mile. Right glute still wants to be all tight but it helps some to warm it up. I did a loop back and picked up Joyce, Mike Compton, and the Code, who still isn’t released for racing yet. At least he’s good for taking pics though.

I’m regretting last night’s ego trip by the time the start rolls around. Fairly typical crowd, less than 100 but lots of strong competition. Jonathan Kinsey won the Run for Our Troops Friday night and was also coming back for more, along with Strictly teammate Jennifer Lybrand. Eric and Sarah Allers do a lot of out-of-town racing with Reckless, but they’ve raced this fairly often, especially with the masters cash awards in play. Team Utopia teammates Joyce and Mike Compton were toeing the line along with Tour de Columbia racing regulars Brigitte Smith, Peter Mugglestone, Rocky Soderberg, Henry Holt, Pete Poore, Jennifer Reeves, Leeds Barroll, Sue Porter, Alex Ponomarev, Angel Manuel, Alex Wilcox and Sabine McGrievy (paced by dad Matt). It was good to meet Marion and Shelley Hinson as well.

No real strategy on this one other than shoot for low 20 minutes. A month ago I had run a 20:40 all out at the Springdale 5k after the injury layoff, so just taking some baby steps toward getting back under 19 again would be great. Course is simple – a big rectangle of Duncan-Queen-Heyward-Bonham, then a little half mile small rectangle of Monroe-Ravenel-Duncan-Bonham to the finish. Running the small rectangle sucks because there’s an small incline on Duncan that sucks all the life out of you right before the finish. All in all though, the course is one of the flatter routes in Columbia.

dry run

The start was predictably fast with all the regular racers on board. J-Lybrand was doing her 5:30 pace in the early going but settled down quicker than usual. A quarter mile in I notice a new growth on my shoulder. It has about 2 percent body fat, wearing a Reckless outfit and looks a lot like Sarah “Tigs” Allers. Oh no, here we go again. Somehow we’re always going at it, both brutally competitive, one former national level elite masters runner and one former couch surfer of wings and beer. I’ll let you figure that one out. Anyway, Tigs is on my back like white on rice. She’s been training for the mile recently so I have no idea what she might run in the 5k. I am still fearful of the death spiral of my Springdale race so after I throw a few surges in with no luck losing my shadow, I just settle into what I hope is goal pace. We hit mile 1 right before the turn onto Queen at 6:24, which is just about right.  Finally, Tigs relents a little and falls behind me, though I’m used to people drafting behind my considerable wake. Leaving Queen for Heyward there’s a long straightaway – I can even see the lead car in the distance. Angel has me by about 50 meters and I can still make out Eric and some kid up ahead of Angel. There’s a slight downhill so I try to coast a little, though I’m starting to feel the effects of last night’s Blue Shoeing. It doesn’t help that the air is like a wet blanket. By the time mile 2 rolls around, I’m starting to hate life pretty bad, but the Garmin spits back a 6:25.  Having spent a good year and a half of my life in 2009-10 to conquering the sub 20, I know I’m almost right on it. Actually just under it. If I can just hold on…

But man it’s starting to hurt. My mind is telling me to mail it in – Eric is going to take Masters, I’ve got my age group. No reason to push it. But then I see Angel is getting slowly reeled in. And the race monster is again awakened. By the time I reach the end of Heyward, Angel is maybe 20 meters ahead. It’s only ten by the time we hit the start of the small rectangle of pain. Must. track. him. down. He takes a couple of steps off course on Ravenel and I’m sure he can hear the asthmatic yeti behind him. He misses the turn on Duncan too initially – I yell at him with what little air I have left and start throwing down a Blue Shoe kick as hard as I can go. He veers back on course and I fly by in a fury of wind suckage and paleness. One last hill on Duncan is like a kick to the stomach but I can see the finish line turn. I am praying for the release of death by the time I hit that last corner, but I hear Luke or maybe Coach B shouting to “go get that sub 20”. I fly around the corner and see those precious 19’s. It’s going to be close. I sprint towards the line on fumes and do a victory yell that probably sounds like the death of an elephant. 19:54!

So happy to back in the land of the 19’s again. Sucked wind on the curb for about a minute before I could breathe again, like usual. 4th overall, 1st in age group!

Jonathan Kinsey had a walk in the park for his win and still was clear of the field by a minute and a half in 17:17. Eric Allers stole my masters money and finished 2nd overall to boot, showing 3rd place teen Brady Rafanan that we old men can still run. Tigs  ran one of her strongest times in recent months to skip over masters and take the overall win. Jennifer Lybrand finished 2nd while newest Columbia Running Club member Natalia Rozhkova took 3rd. Joyce Welch took the women’s masters win since Tigs won the overall. I’m disappointed you couldn’t do the same, Eric.

Age group honor roll (only did 1st with the small field) : Sabine McGrievy looked super psyched to win the girls 2-14. Alex Wilcox and Jennifer Lybrand were champs of the 25-29. Angel took the 35-39…only three more months before he joins me in the 40’s.  Shelley Hinson won the 45-49, while Sue Porter took the 55-59. Mike Compton and Alex POnamarev claimed the 60-64 and 65-69 men. Brigitte Smith won the women’s 65-69. Peter Mugglestone was champion of the 70+ in 26:05.






Labor Day 5 miler – Columbia, SC – 9/7/15


The Labor Day 5 miler is the newest Strictly Running race, first put on a few years ago to complement the longstanding Cold Winter’s Day and Hot Summer’s night events. Strictly’s races are always well done, and always bring out the beasts. They usually put out time bounties for anyone able to break course records or break some ridiculous, super-human time. The Kenyans and studs in Blowing Rock, NC will make a run for it though, and its cool to race against some real elites, even if they’re gone in the first quarter mile.

This race, a relatively flat 5 miler through 5 points and Shandon, had money for sub 24:30 and sub 24 minutes. That’s like 4:45-4:55 pace. The cash was as good as mine.

Well, it might have been if I was 70 pounds lighter and born in Nairobi, but alas,  I am saddled with the physique of the Albino Sasquatch. And a tired one at that. I usually double up on Labor Day weekend with the Saturday Crooked Creek 5k and the relay in this one. This year I decided I would actually run the whole 5 miles. But hey, why don’t I also mix things up and do the Palmetto Cross Country 5k at CIU on Saturday instead of Crooked Creek. Well, only 8 people showed up to that one, but since Yerg and Geary were 2 of them, it turned into a 110 percent effort through incredibly hilly and muddy trails. I about died. I decided to follow this up with a 9 mile “cool down” with Rob at Harbison forest, then biked/weights/swam on Sunday, a few hours with the boys at the pool, then a couple hours of singles tennis. When 5 am rolled around this morning (5 miler started at 7:30) a lot of voices screamed to sit this one out. I hadn’t even registered, so it was still an option…

For a sane person. No way was I going to be able to function knowing a race was going on. Not with some other  40 year old freak stealing my glory. I was in.

I get there over an hour early, in the dark, and sore just about everywhere. Code is the first person I see, and he wasn’t even racing. Our running nerdery knows no bounds. I asked if he wanted to relay it last second, but he is under strict Eric Ashton orders not to race. I could barely see the registration paper in the dark and kept wondering why I do this to myself. Did a couple of miles warmup with the Code, OG, Mario Alvarez, Geary and Joyce. Legs felt like I had been beaten with a stick. Kept praying to the Ibuprofen gods to work their magic.


The start. Some egomaniac posturing in the second row.

As expected, this was anything but a trophy hunt. Beasts everywhere. The 60 year age group alone had Mike Compton, Pete O’Boyle and the OG. Pete Poore would have his work cut out for him today. This was an official Team Utopia South target event, so lots of black and gold. I’ jumped in halfway into their training cycle. Ike Davis and Ivanka Tolan have been making me work for it on the track, and they would be good pacers today. Coach Bishop, Lorikay, David, Carol, Joyce, Compton, Mike Nance, Kelbie, and Wade were also there for TUS. Strictly Running was fielding some beast relay teams with Coach B and Erin Miller in the coed division and Linn Hall and MC Cox for the ladies.  J-Lybrand, Jonathan Kinsey and Matt Buffum were representing the Red Storm in the full race. Other familiar faces included Ron Hagell, Shirley Smith, Greta Dobe, Jennifer Glass, Wayne Shuler, Michael Jensen, Brigitte Smith, Henry Holt, Peter Mugglestone, Jim and Sheri Fadel, Alex Ponomarev, Pam Griffin,  and Jennifer Reeves.


I basically knew the course from last year, when I ran the relay with my 11 year old son (Alex V, Blue Shoes, Jr.). You do a flat loop similar to the start of Strictly Running’s pizza run ,  return to Devine Street  before flying down a cliff for a lap around MLK park. Quick tour through 5 points on Harden, then up the “Get to the Green” hill on Blossom and King. Once you’re at Hand Middle in Shandon (just over 2.5 miles in)  its a big, relatively flat rectangle in Shandon with a long straightaway finish on Devine.

I again had no idea how to pace, since I was coming back from injury and having decided to wreck myself with activity over the weekend. My 5 mile PR is right around 6:20ish pace, so I figured 6:45 would be a reasonable goal for my current fitness, or lack thereof. I usually toe the line at the start but made sure to back off this time with all the beasts. The start predictably felt like crap. Legs thought they were done with racing this weekend and were not enjoying the extra helping of abuse. I was trying to find the goal pace but it felt like I was getting an epic beatdown since this race was so top heavy with fast peeps. At least the pizza run loop was flat. I’m used to J-Lybrand starting like a bat out of hell, but Ivanka and Ike were also leaving me in the dust too. What the hell? I kept screaming to myself to “run your own race” but the oversized ego residing in my melon head was taking a serious shot by getting such a heavy dose of whoop-ass. Despite all this internal turmoil, I was pleased that they had a race clock at mile 1 that gave me about a 6:48 split, so all was still ok. Just past the mile mark is the sharp descent into MLK park. I still don’t trust sharp drops (see July 2013) so despite my gravitational advantage over my peers, I was tiptoeing down the hill and got chicked in the process. Still felt pretty bad with the MLK loop, dreading the Blossom st hill. For some reason we crossed over the median on Harden halfway through, which was probably adding distance. I wasn’t sure if it was the official route or we were just all following the blazing fast Kenyan who was crushing the field. Thanks,  Kimutai . Jeez.

A turn onto Blossom with a similar 6:41 split for mile 2. I finally pass Jen, who probably ran a 6 flat first mile. Blossom street hill is pretty brutal, not for being overly steep, just really long. Paradoxically, I’m pretty good at uphills so I manage to pass a few people of the way up. The relay exchange at 2.5 miles had me just over 17 minutes. The course doesnt really level out until Hand Middle on King St and by then I’m commencing with some pretty bad wind suckage. Mile 3 was an ugly 6:58 or something, but I was too afraid to pick it up, not knowing my race endurance at this point. Long stretch on Heyward, which I’ve run a million times. Finally I start to gain some ground on Ivanka and pass her about 3.5 miles in. She isn’t backing down much though, and I have to throw in a  surge to keep her off my back.  I can now see Ike up ahead and make him my next target. He isn’t giving in much either and I think it was just before the 4 mile mark that I finally overtook him. Mile 4 in 6:46. I start thinking about kicking it in but I hold off at first. With the turn onto Devine I decide it’s time to throw down. There’s a green shirt kid at the corner though, and he is not taking to kindly getting passed by a pasty Clydesdale twice his age. He surges and rides my shoulder for awhile. Oh dude, it’s on like Donkey Kong. The pace goes from luke warm to scalding hot in a hurry. Green shirt surges again just ahead of me but the race monster has been awakened like a green-eyed David Banner. I ramp it up again, plunging into 5 something pace and pulling alongside him again.  The finish line is drawing closer – you can see it the whole time on Devine. My lungs are blasting into overdrive, but no way is this kid breaking me. I’m half aware that I’m passing what appears to be an age grouper pretty close to the finish, and Justin is there calling out its only 400 meters. And then I decide to go all in, pushing the chips on the table and charging like a deranged white Incredible Hulk towards the finish. Green shirt finally gives in and I start pulling closer to another guy as the finish line looms in the next block. I’m giving about 1000 percent effort when I can see some gray flecks in the hair of the guy ahead. AGGH another age grouper! But I’ve run out of real estate, crashing through the finish in 33:38 (6:44 overall pace) and making sweet, sweet love to the Devine street asphalt.


The Headless Chicken

After about 30 seconds of breathing like a jackrabbit on crack, Ike pulls me off the street and Ivanka is right behind, both crushing awesome times. I figure I’m probably out of the age group chances but at the results tent I’m shocked to see I got 2nd. So glad to be out of the 35-39! Of course, the dude in front of me was 44 and got me by 4 seconds. Well played, John Gibbons. The epic finish was necessary though, as 3rd place was indeed the guy I passed on Devine, finishing 9 seconds behind me. You are now in my radar, Andrew Ortaglia.  I suppose I should also give props to 25 year old Wilson “green shirt” Harvey, who paced my 6:18 final mile and got 2nd in AG to boot.

In the overall, the aforementioned Kenyan Kimutai Cheruiyot ran an incredible 23:56, taking home like 2000 dollars. 4:48 pace. Wow. Adam Freudenthal took 2nd in 25:20, a lowly 5:04 pace. Slacker. SR’s Jonathan Kinsey placed 3rd in 26:53.

In the women’s race, another Chapel Hill Kenyan athlete, Susan Jerotich, took the win in 26:58. Caitlin Bullock rocked a 29:12 for second, and Sara Powell clocked a 31:12 for third.

Age group glory: TUS’ David Russell won the 25-29, with SR’s Jennifer Lybrand winning among the women. TUS coach Justin Bishop claimed first in the 30-34, with Ike Davis 2nd. TUS’ Ivanka Tolan claimed 1st in the 35-39 with Marian Nanney 2nd. TUS’ Michael Nance placed 2nd in the brutal 35-39 men. Jennifer Glass ran a 45:36 to claim 2nd in the 40-44. SR’s Matt Buffum claimed the 45-49, with Wayne Shuler 3rd.  Joyce Welch (TUS) took the female 45-49, with Sherry Fadel 2nd.  Greta Dobe (TUS) finished 3rd in the 50-54 women, with Mario Alvarez winning among the men.  Geary McAlister claimed the 55-59, while Lorikay Keinzle (TUS) and Carol Wallace (TUS) went 1-2 among the women. Robbie McLendon, Pete O’ Boyle and Mike COmpton (TUS) swept one of the fastest 60-64 divisions ever (all sub 37 minutes) .  Alex POnamarev and Brigitte Smith were champs of the 65-69. Arnold Floyd, Peter Mugglestone and Ron Hagell swept the 70-74. Henry Holt and Jesse Smarr went 1-2 in the 75+.

In the relays, the Benedict men dominated, taking the top 3 spots. Strictly Running claimed the coed division with Coach B and Erin Miller blazing a 30:04. Strictly also took the women’s relay title, with Linn Hall and MC Cox running a 31:54.






Stomp the Swamp 5k – River Bluff High School – Lexington, SC – 8/29/15


Photo credit: Wendy Hart

Stomp the Swamp is a 5k course run entirely on the River Bluff High School campus and goes to benefit their high school cross country teams. It’s put on by Derek Gomez, their coach, who also has a part-time gig beating the crap out of me in road races and triathlons. Not to mention making everybody else around him feel very unfit. But at least he’s nice while he’s doing it. First year was a success in 2014, so Gomez was hoping for even bigger this time around.

The race is hard to categorize, but would probably be closest to the Crooked 5k in Chapin – a high school cross country style course that is actually mostly paved.  Start and finish are really cool in the River Bluff football stadium, which would make most small colleges proud. I mean it has a swank press box, gigantic video scoreboard and a posh looking area over the endzone, which I can only assume is for elite donors or something. Pretty nice.

The course is pretty tough but definitely unique. I somehow survived joy rides on Corley Mill rd back in high school, when it was a narrow roller coaster of death through the woods. Now I’d have to be running this thing. First mile is flat out of the stadium then a climb out to the entrance road. You then get to hike up a paved mountain (the announcer was calling this the “calf crusher”) only to circle around a cone and plummet back down to the entrance road.  For mile 2, you then go across a parking lot, over a covered bridge and slight incline to a second entrance road. Then there’s a twisting paved trail that hides the fact you are going straight up a hill. Dont worry, your quads will remind you. Once you reach the top of the paved trail hill (about 1.75 miles) the rest is almost all downhill and flat. You careen down the trail hill, out into a parking lot, pass the 2 mile mark, and a long downhill . A very short uptick near the front of the stadium, before cruising downhill again and onto the football field for the finish. In short, lots of climbing in the first 2 miles with a very fast 3rd.

I knew this one would be tough for me, but I’ve been able to start speedwork with Team Utopia South again, albeit a lot slower after all the injury downtime. I ran last year’s race in decent shape and still didnt break 20 minutes, not to mention getting brutally chicked by Bri Hartley and Anna Jenkins. Shame has new meaning when you get smoked by girls born in the 21st century.  So I figured anything south of 21 minutes would be acceptable.

The only problem to my race strategy was the Social Distortion show in Charlotte on Friday night. My friend going with me even asked me months ago – “won’t you be running a race that next morning??” “I’ll be fine” I said. To quoth Social D, “I was wrong”.  There  was dinner at a Charlotte bar, 2 opening acts, a long show, a 1:30 am arrival time back in Columbia, and a very thirsty Sasquatch throughout. I woke up at 5:30 feeling like my head fell off another cliff and my mouth stuffed with cotton balls. Nice work, hero.  I’m forty years old but apparently my 19 year old brain still hasn’t gotten the memo.

Most people would probably bail at this point, but my race obsession knows no bounds. I was shotgunning Gatorade, Tylenol, Ibuprofen and coffee the whole way to Lexington, cursing my poor beer mathematics throughout. Showed up late, looking like death warmed over. Got my packet, finished another round of toilet destruction and did a snail’s pace mile and a half. This was  going to suck.

Which is too bad, because it was an absolutely perfect morning. Unbelievably cool for an August morning, like mid 60’s and low humidity. There was a pretty big crowd on hand. I couldn’t scope out the competition too well , since F3 and FiA had huge groups doing a pre-race workout as part of a double down event associated with the race. A lot of these guys looked pretty fit, but difficult to tell if they could run. I was sure there had to be a few of the stealth superfit soccer dads that trash my trophy  hunts on a regular basis.  No clear elites in this race. Avery Johnson (last year’s winner) and the Dutch Fork team had a meet elsewhere and I didnt see Plex, Ashton or Justin. Team Utopia South fielded Michael Nance, the Yerg, Joyce, Julia, Mike Compton and myself. I decided to not disgrace the black and gold this morning. Robbie “OG” McClendon and Nicole came all the way from Bishopville, which was cool. Ty Thomas was on hand, hoping for another pic showdown like our battle at Lexington Race Against Hunger. I told him there was no chance of that. Arnold Floyd, Peter Mugglestone,  Rocky Soderberg, Henry Holt, Leeds Barroll, Pete Poore, Brigitte Smith, Eric Bopp, Devon Shirley and Jennifer Conrick were some familiar faces. The Code and Wendy Hart showed up to spectate and help take pics.

I was feeling marginally better at the start, as some of my hangover concoction started kicking in. I lined up pretty much on the first row and got passed by a ton of people before we even left the stadium. The first quarter mile gives you some flat before the pain begins. Nance and some other guy already were separating from the field. I saw Rob and Ty up ahead, and damned if Compton wasn’t crushing it out of the gate too. I had no idea how to pace under my current conditioning and decidedly poor “race prep” so I was flying blind. I was definitely not going to push it though – no need to end the no-puke streak. Brief climb to the entrance road then up the “calf crusher”. I heard the stadium announcer talking about the “leaders heading into the parking lot” but it turns out it was just Wendy and the Code trying to haul ass to get a better vantage point for pics. Nice speed work guys.  The calf crusher sucked as expected. Ty was already mocking me for being so slow when he saw me on his way back down. He’s known for his psychological torture tactics. I made the turn and gimpily ran down the mountain, fearful of reinviting the shin splint and plantar fasciitis combo back into my life.  The crusher dumped you back into a parking lot for  mile 1 – 6:58. Through the covered breezeway, then up onto road number 2 and the start of the paved trail. I had briefly pulled ahead of Compton but he passed me again on the road. On the paved trail we were shoulder-to-shoulder, breathing like an industrial machine, total Geary McAlister style. I tried to drop him but he was riding me like a monkey and my grizzly bear agility wasn’t helping me with all the twists and turns. Finally I broke free a little as we reached the summit of the trail hill and started the downhill section. I was basically flopping all over the place on the way down, trying not to slip and fall, which I’m really good at (see July 2013).  The trail dumped out into another parking lot and it was great to have some flat, straight pavement again (Dean Schuster and Rick Stroud shudder in unison). Mile 2 in 6:58 again. I felt pretty good, probably because I had finally cleared out last night’s toxins and probably because some part of me realized I was doing something north of my old half marathon pace. Time to pull an Emeril and kick it up a notch. It helped there was a nice slight downhill by this point. A muscular looking F3 dude was ahead of me and I got close enough to see some slight flecks of gray in his hair. AGE GROUPER! Must take him down. I took a tentative step into the pain cave and started ramping up a kick, though there was at least a half mile to go. We went plunging down a hill and I managed to pass F3 guy with the slight incline in front of the stadium. I looked up ahead and was surprised to see the Yerg. I knew he was up near the leaders at the beginning, so he must be fading. I start spelunking the pain cave even further as I pass another guy and blast into full on blue shoe mode. I’m sucking wind like there’s no tomorrow on the road outside the stadium but I get a jolt of adrenaline once I hit the artificial turf of the football field. One lap in the stadium and my lungs are begging for mercy. But the Yerg is in my sights with blood in the water. I’m starting to draw near on the first turn, and then try to pull a ricky bobby inside pass . The only problem is Rob also hugs the corner and we collide at the shoulder. I’m briefly stunned but given our huge mass differential, I can only think the Yerg got the worse end of the deal.  I then launch into an all-out headless chicken to the finish, crossing in 20:37. 7th overall, 1st in AG.


Ok, so I would not have predicted a few months ago that Rob and I would be racing for a mid 20 minute 5k time. But I’ll take it at this point, especially with the way I was feeling at the start. The last mile had to be close to 6 flat, so that’s a good feeling, even if it was downhill. Still beat my terrible Springdale 5k from 3 weeks ago on a lot harder course.

In the overall, Nance scored his first overall win in recent times, staying with Daryl Hammond at the beginning and crushing the last mile for 18:34. Daryl won male masters at 51 years old in 18:52 – very strong. John Henis took 3rd at 49 years old, so it was apparently an all star masters race.  Devon Shirley had the easy win for the women. Female masters went to Jennifer Conrick. All the overall winners scored awesome gator head trophies, of which I was exceedingly jealous.

Age group honor roll: Yerg captured second in age group after our “epic” showdown to finish 2 minutes slower than our PRs. Anthony Hernandez was the age grouper mentioned above, and sure enough was in the 40-44, taking 2nd place. Ty Thomas broke 20 minutes on this tough course and still finished 2nd in a brutal 45-49. Mike Compton was a monkey on my back and rode it to a grandmasters PR for him in 21:12.  OG, Pete Poore and Leeds Barroll made up the rest of the 60-64 top 4. Alex Ponomarev was back and scored 1st in the 65-69. Arnold Floyd, Peter Mugglestone, Henry Holt and Rocky Soderberg were tops in a super competitive 70+. Henry is back running low 28’s despite being 6 years clear of the other youngsters.

Among the women,  Derek’s daughter Madelyn Gomez scorched the course in 24:43 at age 10. Wow. Team Gomez also scored with wife/mom Jamie , taking 2nd in the 35-39. Heather Mullenax took 1st in the 40-44. Joyce Welch and Julia Early had a battle for the ages, running together the whole race. Joyce took it by a step, though I’m thinking Julia may have let up. Aren’t these ladies competitive? I would give up half a lung to beat the Code (and have, on occasion). Joyce and Julia took the top 2 in the 45-49. Brigitte Smith came up from Aiken once again to claim the 65-69.


Click to access swamp-results.pdf