Revolutionary Run Half Marathon – Camden, SC – 9/23/17


So I’m definitely a short track kind of racer. I’ll take 20 (or hopefully less) minutes of lung busting frenzy in a 5k any day over a long slog like the marathon. That being said, I do have a special place in my heart for the half. It’s long enough to make it a challenge, knowing you can’t go all out, but short enough to race without feeling like the rest of the weekend is toast. Racing a half is tough but always feels infinitely better than the torture I put myself through in the shorter distances.

My goal race is usually just whatever is next weekend, but since I signed up for the Kiawah Half Marathon way in advance, I guess that technically makes it the goal for the fall. Looking at our Tour de Columbia for the fall (, we have a half every month in Sept/Oct/Nov, so I figured what better way to help me train than 3 dress rehearsals for the real thing in Kiawah in December.

First up: the Revolutionary Run Half in Camden. It’s a first year event, though Eggplant and Erin Roof were involved, so I knew this would be well done. I’ve done a few long runs in Camden, the last being in 2012 training for the Richmond marathon, so I knew I it to be pretty flat. That was good, since it’s super early in my half training, and September in SC is never cold. What was best for me is that it was free. I agreed to help promote the Get to the Green 5k in a very early morning live spot on WIS TV in March, so Erin agreed to give me a free registration to an Eggplant event in exchange. Of course, my ego gets fed by any media coverage, so that was probably unnecessary. Still, 4:30 am is rough even for grandiose attention whores, and I think registration was 65 bucks, so I took it.

Waking up Saturday morning I usually question many of my race decisions, but jumping into a half with minimal training with an early 7:30 start in Camden really had me cursing myself. Not to mention my decision to eat wings and drink beer with Trophy the night before. Why not just drop a grenade in my colon.

I got to Camden at about 6:45 and it’s still dark outside, and I’m still in a fog from my 5 am wake up call and being lulled into a stupor by the ride. Pulled the pin on the colonic grenade and then got a chance to actually look at the course. Holy turns, Batman. There was no way I was going to remember this thing. I was half-nervous about this potentially turning into a trophy hunt. Eric and Sarah Allers and Angel Manuel were the competition I spotted early on, but didn’t see anybody else that could clearly take the win. At some point in time, though, Plexico made an appearance. My only hope was Ryan taking one of his classic road trips off the course, but nobody wants to win like that (well, unless you’re Wesley Spratt) .

The Camden -Lugoff contingent had a good turnout with Heather Costello, Whitney Keen, Andrew Lipps, Mark Chickering, Melinda Cashion, Amanda Holland, Betsy Long, Kaye Sostak, and Nancy McKnight. Angel, Terrell Burch, Jeryl Graham and Yvonne Murray-Bowles were representing Montkemba/Palmetto Runners. RWB had Michael Beaudet, Matthew Berube, Teresa Shelton, Carrie Miller and Kerry Stubbs among others. Pace running from Greenville had David Spark, Denise Bryson and Chris Ferland. Other CRC/familiar faces included Michael Jensen, Jim Williams, Carol Wallace, Tommy and Thomas and Cheryl Outlaw, Ron Hagell, Jennifer Reeves, Shenequa Coles, Bill Iskrzak, Geary McAlister, and Larry Bates.


I wasn’t sure what my strategy would be in this race. I had originally planned on a sub 1:30. However, my post Dam Run 10k runs had felt like death, and it didn’t help my little disease vectors, I mean children, were passing around a low grade bug all week. Temps were already in the mid 60’s my race time, with highs predicted in the high 80’s.

But hey, my melon head had grown 3 sizes since the sub 40 10k , so 1:29 would be a cake walk., right?


Start was like a jolt since they fired one of the revolutionary musket replicas. Plex took off and left the field pretty much immediately. I settled back and figured I’d target 6:50 something to get started (1:30 is 6:52 pace). A lot of people jumped out ahead but I told myself I was going to be smart and not kill myself right off the bat. I ran along with Whitney Keen, who was doing his first half. He had told me a 1:35 goal but I figured he would do way under that. I’m talking him most of the first mile when my Garmin split pops up for mile 1. 7:15. DAMN IT. I’m only a mile in and I’m way, way off pace. I look ahead and see Heather Costello, Angel and Eric about 50 meters ahead. Yep, that’s where I’m supposed to be. Crap. I try picking up the pace some. It initially feels OK, but I’m not making a whole lot of ground on the pack ahead. Mile 2 comes back in 7:05. Way to blaze it, hero. Already going 35 seconds into debt against my goal. Ramp it up a little more. Mile 2-3 is straight on 601/Broad St right through the center of Camden. I thought it was dead flat. My lungs and legs now inform me that it is actually a long, slow incline. I may be headed north but things seem to be going south in a hurry. Just not feeling it. Mile 3 seems to take forever and it’s still over pace at 7:00. Not much closer to the pack, but at least I’m not losing time to them. A guy and Costello have fallen off a bit, while Angel is still in sight. Eric has gone on ahead. We finally turn off Broad near mile 4 (another 7:00). There seem to be some pretty historic homes and stuff, but I’m just focused on trying to keep this race from imploding. We end up on a long stretch on some gravel road at some point soon thereafter and we finally get some downhill for a bit. I manage to click off a couple of 6:52 miles for 5 and 6, my first on-pace splits. But there is definitely not going to be a heroic, fast finish. In fact, everything feels terrible. The heat is definitely a factor, but the legs also have no spring. I had seriously thought about bailing around mile 4, but the eject button felt even closer 6 and a half miles in and realizing you’re not even half done. There is a little loop starting right at mile 7 near Kendall lake, and before I can even get there, Plex comes flying towards me the other way. Dude is killing it. Nobody anywhere near him. The loop has a couple of nasty little hills and by the time I get out myself I’m a little afraid that I might have to pull the plug again – head feels like a good pass out on the side of the road might be nice. But I can’t bail on the corner where Whitney’s wife Caroline and daughter Julia is cheering, plus I don’t want Whitney himself beating me. Fortunately for me, everyone else is not having the best time either.  I hit a long straightaway  near mile 8 and I finally catch the dude from the back of the Costello/angel/eric pack. Heather is right ahead and I just try to keep up with her. Miles 8 and 9 were 7:16 and 7:21, just trying to finish at this point. After the mile 9 marker is a long, slight decline mirroring the reverse of the 601 climb. For the first time since mile 2, I start to feel OK again. Not great, but well enough to feel like maybe I’ll finish. At some point, Heather can’t take the giant Sasquatch huffing and puffing behind her and I pull ahead, no one really in sight at this point.

Just as I pass Heather though, I hear heavy footsteps and I just know Whitney is about to kick my ass. I look to the side and some random guy has decided he’s going to kick it in like right then. I tell him to go get it, figuring he may fizzle out, since its not even mile 10, but he just destroys me on the straightaway. Mile 10 and 11 are both around 7:06, and by the 11 mile mark I can see Angel and some kid running side by side. I’m slowly making up the gap, but they are pretty far ahead. With the end near, I try to ramp up the effort a little, but not too much, lest I decide to wander into pass out mode again. Mile 12 comes back in 7 flat and I can see all we have left is a little bit of road followed by a loop in Revolutionary Park. Some part of me wants to mail in the last mile and stroll across the line. The other part sees Angel and the kid ripe for  a good blue shoeing. If you know me or read this blog, you know which side won out.

As soon as we hit the park, I start shifting into overdrive. Angel may sense a Sasquatch  in his midst since he leaves the kid and surges ahead. I overtake the kid pretty quickly, then he passes me back as we all three fly down a hill in the dirt. As soon as we hit the bottom of the hill, the course starts looping back and the sand content of the trail suddenly seems to increase 10 fold. Feels like I’m out with the kids on the playground. Its miserable as we start the trudge back towards the finish, but Angel is not more then 10 meters ahead. Time to go all in . Chips get pushed on the table and out comes the headless chicken. I catch Angel and give it everything I have up the hill. Suddenly I feel like Lando Calrissian being sucked in by the sand monster.


Feels like I’m running in place while my lungs struggle to free themselves from my chest. Where’s Han with his blaster??  By the time I hit the road I’m pretty much toast, but I’m deathly afraid of Angel or the kid catching me back. About 200 meters of road to the finish. Near the last block or so, I can see the clock in the 1:31’s. One last surge and I manage to the get just under 1:32 with a 1:31:53.



OK, so far from my best effort, but on this day its about as good as I could have hoped for, especially with seriously debating dropping out several times. Good enough for second master behind Eric Allers, who did a 1:30:27.  Not a lot of fast times with the heat. Whitney did kill his goal with a 1:32:54 for his first half – very nice. I felt terrible for all the runners coming over 2 hours because I swear it was 10+ degrees hotter not more than a half hour after I finished. I was taking pics at the top of sand monster and got dehydrated just standing there. Luckily they had beer at the finish, which aided with my “recovery”. I look very classy clutching a trophy and a bud light with my official race photo.


Credit: Johnny Deal photography

In the overall, Ryan Plexico torched the field for the win in 1:20:40, followed by Mark Truesdale and Robert Wiley. In the women’s race, Heather Costello easy took the win in 1:33:56, with Suzanna Hall and Lesley Lavasser also placing.  In female masters, Sarah Allers won by over 9 minutes, with Laura Pratt 2nd and Khamphiou Boualapha 3rd. Eric Allers won male masters in 1:30 and change, with me and Angel filling out the podium.

Age group honors: Grant Maree from Camden high was the kid in my showdown with Angel in the park – he took 1st in the 15-19. Thomas Outlaw was 2nd in the 30-34 men, while Jeryl Graham placed 3rd among the women. Whitney Keen was 1st in the 45-49 in his first HM. Terrell Burch and Mark Chickering took the top 2 50-54 men, while Melinda Cashion was 2nd among the women. Larry Bates crushed the 55-59. Geary McAlister  won the 60-64 by a half hour.  Carol Wallace won the women’s 60-64 by over 10 minutes. David Spark rocked a 1:37 at age 68, has to be the best age-graded time of the day.  Bill Iskrzak placed 2nd. Lynn Grimes won the women’s 65-69 only by an hour and 17 minutes. Close one! Ron Hagell was champ of the 70+.  Special props to Kaye Sostak  and Nancy McKnight, who double dipped with another half on Sunday in Charlotte. Hardcore!

Lake Murray Dam Run 10k – Irmo, SC – 9/16/17


The 10k is my nemesis.

Twice the length of a 5k and roughly half a half marathon, I’ve never been comfortable with the distance. And in case you needed any proof, you can just look at my 10k times. Granted, there aren’t many of them, since I’m always trophy hunting in the 5k undercard, but the ones that do exist mostly suck.

My first 6.2 miler was the Dam Run 10k in 2009, where I ran just a shade over 45 minutes, which wasn’t too bad at the time.

I followed it up with the Habitat for Humanity 10k, known for its nightmarish hills, and caught my first case of race walksies en route to 52 minutes. Did the Lexington Race against Hunger and managed an uninspired 43 minutes. At some point in 2010, I wrote down some running goals, including a sub 19 5k, sub 1:30 half, BQ marathon and a sub 40 10k. My first attempt at the sub 40 was again at the 2010 Dam Run, where I tried to keep up with Amy McDonough and Megan Weis in the first mile (6:18)  and suffered an epic bonk for the ages. Just look at that surrender cobra:


I think the 42:11 was still a PR but nowhere near what I should have been doing by all the running calculators. Plus, I got blue shoed in the home stretch by Tigs and the Yerg. After that I think I was too scared to even try and push it in a 10k. I’ve run a bunch of 41-42 minute races, with my best a 40:38 at my only Cooper River Bridge run in 2013. My reward was falling off a cliff 3 months later. In the meantime, all of the above goals were met years ago. For some reason I just couldn’t it make it happen in the 10k. My 12k PR actually was right at 40 min 10k pace, and technically the last 6.2 miles were 39 something, but that doesn’t count.

So when I filled out my Team Utopia South goals this year, there was really only one: get that 39:59.

First try: A crushing repeat of another 42:11 at the Get in the Pink. This was becoming my personal white whale. And I wasn’t even in the same zipcode as Moby Dick.

So that leads me back to try number 2.

A return to my first 10k, the Dam Run to Irmo, now in its 31st year. It’s obviously been around forever, and I even used to own a 1990 Dam Run shirt from high school. I think I volunteered or something because I sure as hell didn’t run it. The cool thing leading up to this race was a major course change. Instead of 2 hilly neighborhood loops, the new course simply leads you across the dam, onto Bush River Rd, and then into Saluda Shoals park, with the finish in the new part of the park at the St Andrews Rd entrance.

I came into this race feeling pretty decent about my fitness, and the Labor Day 5 miler felt like I could have gone the extra 1.2 to at least PR the 10k. So my plan was to basically go all in and chase the white whale from the start. No negative splits like I usually do, just go out in 6:20 and change and keep it below the magical 6:26 the whole time. This was undoubtedly going to hurt.

I got to the finish line super early since they were actually busing us to the start this time instead of the reverse. Having ridden several of those hotbox stinkfests at the finish in the past, this was definitely an upgrade. They also were offering a timed but awardless 5k this year, and they didn’t have to catch the early bus ride (out and back loop in the park). I was already wondering if a trophy hunt in the undercard would have been a better idea. But hey, you cant have a trophy hunt without a trophy.

Got to the Lexington dam about a half hour before the start time and the place was crawling with beasts. Michael Banks, Ricky Flynn, Striggles, Ashton, Plex, Trackstar Eddie – this was not going to be slow. Women’s field had Shawanna, Caitlin Batten  Joy Miller, Erin Miller and MC Cox, so plenty of fast ladies as well. Outside of Striggles, I didn’t see any of my usual age group foes. No Angel, no Gomez, no Code, no Toby Selix. Nance was still on the DL from his separated shoulder and Drew Williams was exactly 39 years and 364 days old, so it looked pretty good as long as OJ could snag a masters podium. Still, so many fit and fast people were milling about that I couldn’t rule out a random soccer dad trying to show me up.



Good TUS turnout with Chris Fawver, Mario Alvarez, Carol Wallace, Sam Hilliard, Roy Shelley, Tug Quarles, Sara Bonner, and Sean Marden on hand. Justin was sitting this one out with Tunnels to Towers the night before. Strictly had Erin, MC, Jen Lybrand, Banks, Drew, Plex and Matt Pollard.  Jesse Harmon, Kristin Cattieu, Pete O’Boyle, Brigitte Smith, Jeannette Farr, Peter Mugglestone, Henry Holt, Kerry Stubbs and Jessalyn Smith were some other familiar faces. Rocky, Gasque and Johnathan Kirkwood were undercarding it in the 5k.


The start, as you might expect, was blazing. But at least you can’t beat the dam for being flat. I had planned for a 6:20 something first mile, but it was really hard to judge with so many blazing fast people ahead of me. I had MC right in front of me, so I figured that might be a decent marker for pace. It felt pretty rough right off the bat, but I figured it would have to feel that way to be fast enough. Mile 1 is still on the dam and comes through in 6:21, which I guessed was pretty ideal. Didn’t give me much leeway though.

The latter part of the dam drifts slowly downhill and I could see the cop car way up ahead – the lead guys had to be doing way under 5 minute pace. For quite a while I break free of my pack until I start catching up with a younger guy at the turn onto Bush River. Just when I catch up to him I start hearing footsteps and Jesse Harmon comes up beside us. We all pass through the two mile mark together, my split at 6:23. The course starts rolling at this point, but I feel surprisingly good now that I’m actually adequately warmed up. Gotta stop doing my 1 mile hobby jog as my pre-race routine.

dam run usatf course map

Jesse appears to be trying to drop me but I latch on like an oversized albino monkey. The other dude drops off when we hit one of the hills. Having just suffered through the mountains of the Blue Ridge, these bumps hardly qualify as hills anymore. Plus the course is a net downhill, so plenty of recovery on the flip side of these inclines. I’m feeling it now and I start to apply a little gas. Mile 3 comes back in 6:16, and I start to wonder if my giant ego is starting to get the best of me. I can’t calculate exactly, but I figure I’ve just run about a 19:40ish 5k. Now I just have to do another one. Great.

The 4th mile is basically a carbon copy of the 3rd. Rolling hills on Bush River. Jesse and I are attached at the hip. Plex told me mile 4 is right at the Saluda Shoals entrance, and sure enough the Garmin goes off at 6:18 right near the sign. Somehow I’ve just set a 4 mile PR and passed Erin Miller at the same time, so clearly I’m either in the midst of the race of my life or about to implode.

It sure feels like the latter as we enter the park. Going up an incline past the entrance booth, the sun hits you in your face and the good feeling from Bush River rd has definitely left the building. We hit a mass of cones that seem to make no sense, which I eventually surmise is the 5k turnaround. Suddenly we take a turn into the woods, with roots and dirt, and I’m desperately trying to navigate without busting my ass. We then empty out onto a concrete paved trail which I recognize from running the Sweet Baby O 5k a few weeks ago.

And damn it is starting to hurt big time. Legs are beginning to feel a little Jello-ish and lungs are wanting to come out of my chest. The pain train has officially been boarded, and I’m not sure if I like its destination at his point. Mile 5 in 6:29 (also a 5 mile PR of 31:50) but I freak out because its over pace. Jesse is still riding me and pulls a step ahead. I fight like hell to try and stay in his draft, though unless William Schmitz comes back to Columbia, no one is an adequate draft for my Sasquatch physique.

But its 1.2 miles to go, and as Tenacious J is wont to say, how hard could it be? Very, as it turns out. As we weave through the winding turns of the park trail, I keep begging for it to open up to the finishing stretch. I am desperately hoping that the course isn’t the same as Sweet Baby O. That finish takes you away from the finish and drops you down a hill only to make you climb straight back up…on gravel.

I am really running on fumes at this point but I finally see an opening up ahead. We pass another guy who I swear is age grouper Anthony Ortaglia, and it freaks me out again (turns out it was just a race hallucination) . As I near the open space, I also make out an arrow. Pointing down the damn hill. %#*!! I flop down the gravel road basically with Jesse still on my shoulder. Once we make the turn though, I pull a David Banner green-eyed transition to an albino Hulk and go completely nuts.  I ignore the mile split, knowing its ugly, (bleeding time with a 6:37) and throw down whatever I have. I see Nance spectating and he looks scared at what he’s witnessing. The finish is pure uphill but I’m flopping about in full sprint towards the finish. I can make out the clock as the gravel turns to pavement. My heart sinks as I swear I can see it at 39:50 or something. As I come closer though, I realize it’s a 38! I am fixated on those red numbers and take a few more steps deeper into the pain cave, blasting through in 39:26. YESSSSSS!

It takes me almost a minute to be able to stand up again after my typical ugly race-face crash out collapse over the line. But I’m as giddy as a schoolgirl. Seven years after my first try, at my “hometown” 10k. PR’d by a minute and 12 seconds, and most importantly, a 39 at the front of that time. Pretty sweet.

In the overall, Ricky Flynn and Michael Banks had a battle royale for the title, with Flynn edging Banks 30:25 to 30:42, both under 5 minute pace. Smokin! Flynn has been tearing up the tri circuit with a bunch of sub 15 5k times off the bike and a 1:11 half at the 70.3 worlds in Chattanooga. Banks is the 12k state record holder and just came off a 7 month layoff, so both of these guys will probably get even faster. Frank Devar took 3rd in 32:17.

Shawanna White crushed a new PR and won the women’s race again, running 36:04. Her friend Joy Miller finished just behind her, also with a PR in 36:21. Julie Weimerslage placed third in 37:14.



Age group: Ediberto “trackstar Eddie” Crisanto took 2nd in the 20-24. Sean Marden took 3rd in an unbelievably competitive 25-29 with a sub 6 pace 36:53. Plex won the 35-39 in 35:34. Jen Lybrand posted a post-baby PR in 43:57 and took 3rd in the 30-34. Caitlin Batten was 1st in 37:58. Drew Williams and Jesse Harmon took the top 2 in the 35-39, while Kristin Cattieu and Sara Bonner did the same among the women. Striggles won the 40-44 men, with the Sasquatch 2nd. Erin Miller and MC Cox went 1-2 among the 40-44 women. Jeannette Farr and Heather Hawn placed the top two in the 45-49 women. Ashton took tops in the 45-49 men, with Anthony Hernandez 2nd and fellow psychiatrist-runner Biemann Otherson third. Phil togneri, Roy Shelley and Tom Lance filled the podium in the 50-54 men. Cynthia Arrowwood from Hartsville ran a blazing 46:37 in the 50-54 women, good enough for the age group win by over 12 minutes, would have also placed 2nd among the same age men. Mario Alvarez and Tug Quarles took the top spots in the 55-59 men. Pete O’Boyle crushed the 60-64 competition by 13 minutes by registering a 43:34. Not to be outdone, Carol Wallace destroyed the women’s 60-64 by 19 minutes with a 50:48. Peter Mugglestone and Henry Holt took top honors in the 65-98 men, while Brigitte Smith won 2nd in the 65-98 women. I really think they need to have age groups through 75, by the way.

Lets not forget the 5k. They didn’t offer awards in this race, which I think is kinda lame, but at least it was timed. FYI, these guys will get tour de Columbia points. Advanced level trophy hunter Johnathan Kirkwood was 2nd overall in 21:16. John Gasque was 2nd in the 55-59. Ron Lipe won the 60-64. Pete Poore was 2nd in the 65-69, while Rocky sprinted his finishing kick to place 1st in the 75+ age group.



Blue Ridge Relay – Grayson Highlands, Va to Asheville, NC – 9/8-9/9/17 – Part II


After we handed off to Van 2, we had several hours to kill, which ended up being fortunate since the place we went to in Boone for lunch took like an hour and a half to eat. The rest of my van apparently isn’t keen on hipster brewpubs like myself, so my choice was not a popular one. Especially when they left Julie waiting for a pizza 15 minutes after the rest of us were served. Damn you, Lost Province Brewery. At least Geary got to see his daughter who had just started at App State.

We were still able to make it to the start of Leg 12 in plenty of time for our second set of legs. Kim came rolling in all of a sudden, blasting out what looked like a sub 6 pace kick at the end of her 8.4 miles. Geary took off on a leg mostly on the parkway, so we had to skip ahead to the next exchange zone (Vans aren’t allowed on the parkway except for the last leg). The next exchange zone is one of the big van turnover sites, at least for regular teams with 12 members. It was cool to see almost all of the faster teams at one site. Lots of totally ripped beasts milling about making me feel particularly Sasquatchy. Speaking of beasts, local elite Shawanna White was running with JITMO, a mixed team out of Charlotte. She apparently ran a few miles off track on her first leg so she was none too happy about that. Her team was still in the race for the mixed lead though.


Geary tore up his leg and handed off to Dan for what is my favorite part of the relay, which is now Leg 13. It was Leg 12 when I had my fabled pale chested reflective vest mansierre run of 2011. Hurts like seven hells getting up a huge mountain, but the views on the parkway at sunset are amazing.  The sun set during his 9.3 “very hard” leg, setting me up for my second run, a 6.2 miler labeled as hard. Start was in Blowing Rock, which is cool since we go there every fall to see the colors, and I had actually run part of my leg last time we were there. What was not cool was the no-portapotty, only small public bathroom exchange zone which had ridiculous lines. I ended up going super early to make sure I had a toilet opportunity.  When Dan came rolling in, I started up what looked like a mile and a half climb, and I was all jacked up because I saw a lot of potential roadkill leaving the zone just before me. I last about 60 seconds before I realize my premature pee didn’t do the trick. I debate for awhile and finally succumb to pulling a power piss on the side of the road, desperately afraid that some car would come by and flash by naughty bits to all of Blowing Rock.  Luckily for everyone involved, that didn’t happen. I took off on the long climb and managed to pick off my first roadkills of the relay, 3 or 4 ten minute pacers. After cresting the main hill I took off like a champ aiming for this dude carrying a flashlight that I thought I’d easily overtake. Turns out he was bringing it, too, especially on the downhills. I ended up blasting out a few sub 7 miles and breaking my pact not to stray too far from my marathon pace. But my pride wouldnt let flashlight guy get away without getting blue shoed. Finally, almost 6 miles in, I empty the tank to pass him. I should note this was completely unnecessary and meant absolutely nothing, but apparently my competitiveness knows no bounds, or logic. I come flying into the exchange with the Code around 9 pm and I’m starving. Luckily my exchange zone is the Grandfather Mountain store, and they are serving burgers with homemade baked beans. Sweet baby Jesus those beans were good. And probably setting up a GI detonation later, but so worth it.

Darrell’s next leg sucked with a capital S. Ten and a half miles, in the dark, straight up Grandfather Mountain, with just about no flat or downhill. Code kept calling it Grandpa mountain, so I guess he had already bonded with his friend. I think old gramps was about to make him his bitch, unfortunately. Code looked pretty strong early on, though he did admit to catching a brief case of the walksies near the top. None of us cared – we were just so glad it wasn’t us. Julie then had one of the few easy legs, a 5k right down the mountain. It probably would have been easier if she wasn’t totally attacked by a dog, though. Apparently an FBI agent kick to its head made it realize Julie does not play.

With the handoff to Jay, we were off for a several hours, projected until 3 am. This was prime sleep time, so we made our way to Geary’s next exchange zone to hopefully catch some Z’s. Of course when we got there, it was a freaking mardi gras atmosphere of vans at an Ingles grocery store. Geary managed to squeeze our van around the back and it was dead quiet there. The others slept in the van while I pulled out my sleeping bag and made love to the sweet green grass in the field nearby. It was pretty chilly but my 30 degree sleeping bag gave me a cocoon of warmth. I was briefly awakened by a rustling in the woods which I prayed wasn’t a snake or Julie’s Cujo coming back for vengeance. I was so tired that the next thing I know Geary is waking me up. Must have been close to 2 hours later, which is like an eternity of sleep for a relay.  Unfortunately our Van 2 teammates were crushing it on their legs, and we were ahead of schedule for our 3rd set.

Geary and then Dan took off on their 3rd runs,  a couple of moderately rated legs which were relatively easy compared to their others. Mine too was also not too bad – a 4.3 miler that was also rated “moderate”. Apparently it would be easy except for a half mile plus of brutal 7% climb at the end. As I was preparing for Leg 3, the abuse of the first two legs had officially caught up with me. Sore as hell, like someone had taken hammers to both sides of my legs. It was also like 45 degrees, so I stood freezing my ass off at the exchange zone even with my CRC hoodie on for warmth. Did I mention it was 3:45 am? Times like these make you wonder why anyone would voluntarily subject themselves to this “for fun”.  I saw Dan come around the last turn and I desperately try and throw off the hoodie without taking off my headlamp and everything else at the same time. Zero points for style. Launching into Leg 3 feels like complete death. I’m trying to run fast but the legs are exercising their veto powers. First mile was in 7:58 on fairly flat terrain. But hey, everybody else is feeling the pain too, so roadkill is still plenty. A group of four F3 guys had all started off together a few minutes before me, so I was on a mission to track these guys down. We had already labeled our van the F4 team – the fourth one being whatever variation of the F bomb you should choose. This leg’s F was F$%& tired and cold. Thankfully the middle miles of this run were downhill. There was a loud train somewhere right next to the road, adding F$%^g deaf to the whole equation. It was so F%$%^ dark though I couldn’t see it. I finally spotted the F3 foursome just as the hill from hell began. I was actually somewhat warm by then and ramped up the pace to pass them, nearly blinded by the assortment of blinkies and headlamps. Just as the course leveled out , they throw in one more quad busting hill before the exchange zone and I hand off to Darrell.

Things got a little tenuous during Code’s leg since Julie was having serious doubts about her 9 miler. Between feeling generally pukey and operating on very little distance training, she was not sure if she could finish it. But with Code already running and the other three of us having a 4th leg to go, there wasn’t much of an option. At this point I didn’t care how much she walked. Julie was a trooper, however, and took off with a good faith effort. About 90 minutes later, with some pukesies and walksies ,she managed to power through, and she (and Darrell) were officially done. I apparently spent that hour and a half mostly in a coma. At some point I saw Dan W and Rob at my window, which I think was reality, but I can’t be entirely sure.  Geary said I was making weird noises, probably cursing the blue ridge mountains in my sleep.

With the handoff to Van 2, we knew we then had a very long layover to the last three legs. The Legs 28-33 are just brutally long, with two labeled as MOUNTAIN GOAT HARD. It took 45 minutes in the van with Geary “done-with-this s$%” driving just to get to our next zone.

At this point we were all pretty much done. Our black, undecorated van was fairly appopriate for our team spirit at this time, and the fourth F was evoked many a time. We also had additional cursing due to Darrell. Code had group texted us all before the relay that he would be staying in Asheville the rest of the weekend after we finished. Unfortunately for him, his iPhone autocorrected Asheville into “asshole”, and a whole weekend in asshole seemed like a very long time to me. I made sure Code know that we were almost in asshole now, and that my last leg was a steep drop into asshole.

Sure enough we were at the Van exchange forever, and unfortunately none of us could really sleep since it was daytime again. Luckily I had procured a jimmy john’s sub near our ill-fated brewpub stop in Boone, and though it was half-soaked from melted ice, I’ve hardly had a  better breakfast before or since. Dan got a good chance to relax in his new 12 dollar Deerfoam slippers, quite the score from the Boone Big Lots store.

Finally around noon, Kim finished her mountain goat leg in a flurry of all out sprint with awesome spandex jorts pants. Geary was off on my leg from 2011 where I collapsed at the finish. To his credit, he didn’t even seem tired at the end. Total machine. Dan had leg 35. This leg was only 4.2 miles and labeled as “hard”, but that is just ridiculous. It has alomst 2 miles of 10%+ grade, and since its going to be your last leg, I can’t think of any part more deserving of the mountain goat label. I have yet to hear of anyone not walking a little of that leg. Just brutal even to drive up.

So here I was for leg 36, the last hurrah, the glory leg into Ass..I mean Asheville. I had this one on 2012, and I was not prepared for it at all. I thought at the time we were on top of the mountain after all that leg 35 climb. Wrong answer. The final leg features another 1.5 miles of pretty much straight climb. Not as bad as 35, but brutal nonetheless. When I got the relay bracelet I charged up the hill, only to be a reduced to a relative crawl about a half mile in. My 8:40 split for mile 1 was about as hard as I could go. Fortunately, the next 4+ miles are gloriously downhill with a few flat stretches to recover the legs. I got jacked up on pure adrenaline and used my full Sasquatch powers to fly down the mountain as hard as I could. A bunch of 6:50 miles followed by a 6:30 as I plunged down a ten percent grade with a turn onto a bridge into the city, taking down some more roadkill.  Seeing the whole Asheville skyline was such an adrenaline rush.  Thankfully the traffic was light as I came across and I was able to go over the bridge without any problem. I hit a very busy intersection as the crossing timer was dwindling down and I sprinted across just in time. One more turn and BAM there was the finish line. I was going mach 5 at the time, so I think I took my team by surprise. No chance for a together finish. Thankfully, Geary had a cold IPA in hand for me the second I crossed the line, and Van 2 had gotten a ton of Mellow Mushroom pizzas. Impromptu tailgate party in the parking lot as we all had different plans for the weekend. Especially Darrell.


Overall a great result for the Rock Hill Striders – 16th overall in 26 hours and 19 minutes. Not too shabby in this crazy competitive relay. Top finishers Asheville Running Collective and Charlotte Running Club both went under the previous record in 19 hours and change, well under 6 minute pace. Insane. This race always kills me, but I’m sure I’ll be back again.


Blue Ridge Relay Part I – Grayson Highlands, VA to Asheville, NC -9/8 to 9/9/17


I’m pretty sure I swore off this race back in 2012, the last year I ran it. As anyone will tell you, I am a hardcore relay addict. I get jacked up every spring for the Palmetto 200 like its the damn Super Bowl, eight years running. But the Blue Ridge Relay (BRR) is a whole other animal. You think you’re tired doing that flat run at 4 am down in the Lowcountry? Try doing it in the cold, up a freaking 8-10% grade mountain for a couple of miles, against a bunch of studs with zero percent body fat tracking you down.

Read: the BRR is brutal. They start you off with some tough climbs, but lure you into the false sense that this is not so bad. They save the worst for the last few legs when you’re dead tired and can’t believe that roads this steep actually exist. They give you topographic maps of the elevation changes in each leg, and even rate the legs from easy all the way to MOUNTAIN GOAT HARD. Believe me, they are not kidding.

My first foray into the BRR was in 2011 with my Palmetto 200 team, Van on the Run.  I did everything wrong. We camped the night before and I got very little sleep thanks to the cold and possible mountain lion roars. My coworker that I recruited bailed at the last minute, which gave me 4 legs and over 20 miles. I ran the first careening downhill leg at 6 flat pace and pulverized my quads into hamburger. I ran off course down a very dark and isolated driveway, fearing gun shots all the way back. I had a cheap headlamp that gave me a 5 foot window of vision into the pitch black. I ran out of food. My last leg featured a bonk so epic it registered on the Richter scale, and I almost passed out on a mountain side. Good times.  Apparently I’m a masochist at heart because I did it again in 2012 with the 621 ninja team. I learned from the previous encounter, though the heat that year sucked, we got our van stuck not once but twice, once requiring a tow truck. Not to mention my shirtless reflective vest mansierre run on the parkway and getting ruthlessly chicked and grandmastered on the final leg into Asheville.

Did I say grandmastered? The 50 something in question that whipped my tail was the Rock Hill Striders’ Jay Abraham, the only person to have done the BRR since its inaugural year in 2003. I guess its only fitting that Geary McAlister, another grandmaster beast, recruited me over to Jay’ s team for 2017, making me an honorary Rock Hill Strider for a day. If you can’t beat ’em, join ’em, I guess. In addition to myself, Jay and Geary were able to sway Van on the Run alumni Dan Carter, Rob Gannett, Julie Yelk and of course Darrell “the Code” Brown. As it turned out, this team was kind of cursed from the start. We had people drop out, come back in, and Jay scrambled to put out leg assignments each time. Finally we had a good set up and 12 healthy members by the week of the relay. Of course, then hurricane Irma decided to pay an unwelcome visit at the last second, and one of the Striders now living in Orlando couldn’t make it. We were at 11 once again less than 48 hours out. Sure enough, the last iteration of the leg assignments featured lucky 4th leg recipients Geary McAlister, Dan Carter and THIS GUY. Damn, this was going to suck, again.

While most of the Rock Hill crew sensibly left on Thursday night and stayed near the start, the Columbia contingent decided to leave at the crack of dark thirty on Friday morning. Because, why not double your sleepless nights, right? Between a wreck and tons of Florida evacuees, we got stuck in traffic and showed up less than an hour before our start time of 11 am. We finally got a brief moment to meet our Van 2 teammates Jay, Dan W, Kim, Jeff and Dave (Rob was also joining their van) just before our start, but we were finally there after 50 emails, a ton of injuries and a roulette wheel of leg assignments.

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Geary was first up for our van, and he got a chance to run my Leg 1 from 2011. The crazy fast four mile freefall. I was hopeful that Geary might set a tone for low expectations (I distinctly remember texting my 4 leg plan to be “slow AF” for this years relay), but unfortunately he had to smoke a lot of kids on the way down the mountain in low 6 pace and show these guys how 60 is done. Dan struck out on his first leg like a man on a mission, so I was like damn I’m going to have to actually try.  My first leg was number 3, labeled as “moderate” in difficulty. This meant there was actually a bit of flat before a nice mile long jaunt up an 8 percent grade gravel road. At least the last 3 miles (5.2 total) were downhill. I took off like a champ, since the weather was nice and cool and I was a ball of nervous energy. A ball that apparently forgot to tie his shoelace. Nice job, cool guy. I stop almost a mile in to tie it and there’s already some dude tracking my ass down. Really?? Alright, he’s going to get smoked on this brutal hill. Yeah, I don’t even make it to the mountain before this guy gives me the beatdown and tells me “good job”. Oh the shame. I can count on one hand the number of guys passing me in the P200 in 8 years and I’ve lasted all of 7 minutes out here. I hit mile 1 around my net projected pace of 7:10-7:20. I figured I had 22 miles scheduled so I might as well stick to my Kiawah marathon BQ pace. It turns out Kiawah doesn’t have 8% grade mountains. I blast away at the relentless incline for the whole mile and get all of 8:30 in return. Flopping over the top is like pure heaven though, because I know its all downhill from there. I ramp up the pace back to 7 minutes flat and I’m generally feeling pretty good until dammit, here come footsteps again. Sure enough, some singlet wearing kid from “THE LEATHER PRESIDENTS” team blasts right by me like I’m standing still. My sasquatch ass registers a 6:58 mile and this guy whips by like I’m a soccer mom out for a sweatpants stroll. Double shamed already. I just bury my pride though, because killing yourself in leg 1 is a recipe for disaster. I rumble in to the exchange zone, averaging about 7:23 for the leg, and handoff to the Code.

Code and then Julie rock out two legs with crazy climbs at the end, with Julie having to navigate the town of West Jefferson. We meet back up with Van 2 at our van flip site just outside the town limits. Apparently our meet and greet  with the Striders wasn’t quite long enough because Jay and Julie don’t recognize each other at the zone. After a brief moment of utter confusion, the handoff was executed and Van 2 was off for a few hours.


Part II to follow