NW YMCA Pumpkin Run 5k – Irmo, SC – 10/29/16


The YMCA Pumpkin run 5k celebrate d its 10th year in 2016. Although I haven’t done the race every year, it holds a special place in my heart for being one of the surviving races of my “rookie season” in 2009. Supporting evidence exists from Halloween of that year, where I helped contain the power of a young, very hot and cranky  jedi master in my old-school Pumpkin run shirt.


I had no idea about the course that year. I was a young punk high on the intoxicating scent of age group trophies and PRs, so I went out trying to go sub 21 for the first time. I suffered a very, very rude awakening. The first mile of this course is totally fine and non-threatening, but it hides the pure evil of a straight up 2nd mile that will slowly exorcise your will to live.  I almost caught my first case of walksies in that race but managed to trot to the turnaround and pull a 22 and change overall. The course is certified but always measures around 3.17 by Garmin, so definitely not a PR worthy route. Still, the YMCA always makes up for it with awesome shirts and swag, plus a costume contest.

In 2013 I was still in Hawaii recovery mode, so I dragged little Alex out for his first, untrained 5k. I think he cursed my name a few times on that mile 2 mountain, but at least he managed a feeble finishing sprint  to outgun a few Southern Strutt girls who passed him near the end.  Its important to pass down the most precious family values, like not getting chicked. The 2015 marked my first attempt at a costume. The Hulk mask was great at the Strictly Running costume run, but proved less than ideal when pulling 5k race pace.  I ended up yanking it off a quarter mile in when I realized I was either going to pull ten minute pace or suffocate. Death via Hulk mask didn’t seem like a cool way to go.  Angel ended up catching me just after the 2 mile mark, and we waged an epic battle the rest of the way in. I surged too far from the finish and got caught on the last incline – giving up pride, the masters money, and nearly my breakfast in the process. Our finish pics are definitely classic though:


Since having a costume appeals to my attention-whore streak, I was more than ready to do a repeat performance in 2016. I was already seasoned by my Bunny Hop 5k race, where I learned that nothing beats blue shoeing someone like blue shoeing someone in a GIANT ASS BUNNY SUIT. The 21:13 currently stands as the state 5k masters costume record, or at least in my mind.  I was just about to check out at Party City with an admittedly kinda lame Captain America outfit when my wife brought up the Egyptian Pharaoh. This seemed to be the perfect mix of being ridiculously attention seeking while still allowing you to run reasonably fast.  I didn’t realize until later that it also meant eyeliner and a skirt, making me look half Egyptian royalty, half aging drag queen. But at least I now have more appreciation for how long it takes women to get ready to go out.


Again, I had a test run with the Strictly Halloween run (Columbia Running Club sponsored!) and it  went pretty well. No mask this time, though the 6 foot staff of power might require some delicate maneuvering in close quarters.

When I showed up on race day, I was a little nervous, since I was expecting another knock-down drag-out fight with Angel for masters. But then I see OJ Striggles, who probably wonders why I look all disappointed every time I see him.  Bye bye overall, masters and age group, at least by CRC points. Oh well, as it turns out Eric Ashton showed up last second as well, so “trophy hunt” was definitely not in the cards today. The hardcore CRC contingent was all there – Tour director John Gasque, Pete Poore, Alex Ponamarev, Leeds Barroll, Henry Holt, Rocky  Soderberg, Peter Mugglestone,. Probably 5000 races in our little group at the start line, ten minutes early.  Shawanna White was there to surely  take the women’s win. I’m not sure we have another woman in Columbia that can challenge her in the 5k anyway. Maybe Erin Miller?  Jonathan Kirkwood and Nate Carrasco would probably be in my vicinity.  Andy Mikula,  Adam Bernthal, TUS’ Sara Bonner, Robbie “OG” McClendon, Wayne Shuler, CRC webmaster emeritus Jim Selbee, Deirdre Maldonado and son Louis, Lisa Smarr,  Jessica Weaver and mom Susan, Melinda and Reese Petruzzi, Janette and Joe Robinson, Makenzie Wilson , Tommy and Cheryl Outlaw , Brigitte Smith , David and Dawn Hale, Hou-Yin Chang and Ken Sekley were some familiar faces.

Just like Famously Hot last week, I am just standing around when someone shouts GO! and we all take off. The first quarter mile I’m trying to keep the staff from impaling  anyone as the crowd starts to thin. Exiting the parking lot, a woman is encouraging two kids, in a very serious manner, to keep up with the pharaoh. I start laughing but I swear they were still around at the mile mark. Of course, OJ and Eric have left everybody for dead and Shawanna isn’t too far behind. Nate has blasted off like it’s an 800 meter track race, and Bernthal is close to him with another cross country kid. I’m running with Sekley for awhile, though I have no idea what his current fitness is since I haven’t seen him race in a year.  I’d like to say I always run my own race,  but my ADHD race brain and oversized ego often veer me off track to whomever is “beating me” a half mile in. As mentioned before, mile 1 is pretty easy, mostly flat and downhill to the marker. My Garmin gives me the split in 6:28 . This isn’t as fast as I want, but better to save some for what’s to come. Plus, one must consider my oversized relay baton and the inferno-like heat production of a shiny Egyptian headdress.  A strong looking dude with close cut hair passes me close to the mile marker and I’m pretty sure its that Ortaglia guy. The same guy that “stole” my age group win at the 9-11 race.  Time to exact my revenge – in eyeliner and a dress.

Mile 2 just sucks. A mountain of hill that just keeps going and going. I train on hills constantly, but damned if this monster isn’t sucking all the wind out of me. Short and steep inclines are fine for me, but these gradual unrelenting beasts are just killer.  Ashton and Strriggles eventually  come into view, so at least there’s some hope for a  turnaround at some point. By the time I reach the summit, I’ve managed to put a few steps on Sekley and I’m right next to Ortaglia.  Just when you are ready for the downhill mile, they make you come up over the top, go down a steep decline and turn on a dime around a traffic cone. Like the Darlington 500, Ortaglia makes the turn wide and I pass on the inside, chugging back up the mini hill to get some momentum down the ski slope ahead. I see Kirkwood and a host of others not too far behind, so I make an effort to throw down a little to create some separation. It helps that I have a significant “gravitational advantage” on most of my 5k peers. The return home feels glorious, and you get to see everybody in the race on the way back down, which is nice. What’s not so nice is the 6:52 split for mile 2 near the top. Holy half marathon pace in a 5k, Batman!


I’m gunning it on the way down when I see Carrasco getting reeled in pretty fast. He fell victim to the same thing at the Dry Run. I try to encourage him as I pass, but then he jumps on my back and rides the wake of my Greyhound bus almost all the way down. Eventually he pulls back very suddenly and we’ve finally hit the valley of the mountain. Just a couple of short inclines to go – unfortunately they are the same ones that stuck a fork in me last year in my battle with Angel. And who knows if Ortaglia is lurking back there? With this in mind I decide to empty the tank just as I turn onto Kennerly road. Arms pumping, headdress flying, maybe makeup running, I throw down the kick. About half way up the hill, I hear a THWACK! and there goes the top of my staff. It seems Party City plastic sticks are not safety tested for the torque of a Blue Shoe 5k kick. Oh well, damned if I’m picking it up – my trophy mind has already processed that Eric and OJ will take top 2, leaving me my coveted masters win, even if it’s a consolation prize. Of course it won’t matter if some other old dude catches me, so I throw down as hard as I can. Mile 3 is at 6:06 and comes up pretty far from the finish. I can see the 19’s flip over  to 20 on the last stretch in the parking lot, and I cross in 20:17.  6th overall, 1st masters.


I never like going over 20, but I’ll take this with the hard course and the costume. The staff probably slowed me a little, and the heat from the headdress and the wrist covers was surprisingly bad, even in the cool weather.

In the overall, Eric took the win in 16:42 with OJ second in 17:16. Adam Bernthal clocked a 19:44 for third at age 14. Sadly, my days of beating Adam are probably done. As expected, Shawanna easily took the women’s win in a blazing 18:22, an amazing time for this course. Fourteen year old Allison Spirek placed second in 22:10, with TEN YEAR OLD Abigail White third in 22:17. This was the girl running with me at the beginning – extremely impressive.  Looks like Chapin XC has some good years in its future.  Allison Henry won female masters.

Age group glory: Nate Carrasco won the 20-24  men. Makenzie Wilson took 3rd in the 25-29. Andy Mikula won the 30-34 by a measly 7 minutes. Sara Bonner and Deirdre Maldonado  went 1-2 in the 35-39. Triathete Mike Frassica won the 40-44.  Ortaglia, Kirkwood and Wayne Shuler swept a fast 45-49.  Heather Hawn took the 45-49 women. Phil Togneri and Jim Selbee went 1-2 in the 50-54. Ken Sekley won the 55-59 men with John Gasque 3rd. Lisa Smarr was champ of the 55-59 women with Dawn Galloway-Hale 2nd. Robbie McClendon, Leeds Barroll and Tommy Outlaw won the 60-64, while Cheryl was first on the women’s side. Alex Ponomarev and John Houser went 1-2 in the 65-69 men. Brigitte Smith won among the women. Jan Hardwick, Peter Mugglestone and Henry Holt claimed the podium in a very competitive 70+.

Oh, and Dorothy and her cowardly lion dog won the costume contest in an election dominated by some very screamy southern strut girls. I did manage 2nd place, though. Always love a double trophy hunt. The gingerbread girl themed Weavers took home 3rd .



One comment on “NW YMCA Pumpkin Run 5k – Irmo, SC – 10/29/16

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