Grandfurther 25k – Grandfather Mountain, NC – 8/25/18

It’s hard to remember, but sometime last winter, Mike Nance had talked up this crazy race that involved 15 miles up, down and back again on Grandfather Mountain. The Yerg verified that he had done the race, the inaugural Grandfurther 25k in 2017, and kept saying it was “15 miles that runs like a 50k”. I’ve always been a big fan of the Blue Ridge in general, and I’ve been many times to the Grandfather mountain park. The park is up a long winding road and you get out near the summit to take pics on the “mile high swinging bridge” which traverses a steep dropoff and causes panic in acrophobes everywhere. Sadistic as it seems, I was always jealous of the people who would go on the apparently treacherous trail to the actual summit. The wife and kids vetoed this idea, so I never got the opportunity. Plus: bad track record with rocky drop-offs. But hey, why not do a brutal 25k to get the chance to scale my favorite mountain in the blue ridge? I was in.
Or so I hoped. The race had a cap and apparently was anticipated to sell out almost immediately. The week prior to signup we recruited Drew Williams with the thought of making this a beertastic running weekend. I set my alarm and sat on the computer at 8 am way back in February and managed to sign up after a few tense minutes when the tanawha adventures website got crushed. Fortunately we all got in, but I think the race sold out in a matter of a couple of hours. Dean Schuster found out a little late and ended up getting wait listed. With the race in August, we had a whole six months to prepare for it.

Which of course I didn’t really do. My running usually involves slogging a bunch of miles every day with a weekly race or random team utopia workout as my speedwork. The only thing I did that might approximate a hilly trail run was the Vertical Mile 18 miler in June. True, I did the Xterra half at Harbison too, but I think even the Spider Woman was nothing to Old Grandpa.

Flash forward six months later and we were on our way to the Blue ridge. Packet pickup was at Appalachian Brewery in Boone, so we figured that was a good a place as any to start the beering. They have a really nice IPA and blonde but stay away from the brutally cucumberish sour called the Bad Motherpucker (Chosen, of course, primarily for the name). I swear I was burping cucumber all weekend. Linn Hall was nice enough to let us use her mountain condo at Sugar Mountain, so we had a sweet set up for the weekend. Beautiful views of the mountains, plus it was I the low 50’s when we arrived. After a brutally famously hot summer in Columbia, you forget how amazing cool air feels.
The next morning we had a short 2 mile drive to the Lowe’s foods parking lot where the race began, near the new Profile trailhead. Pretty much perfect weather with temps in the 50’s. We met up with Dean and Columbia Beer Mile race director Bobby Scott, who both got in off the wait list. Everyone had to bring an emergency blanket, poncho/rain shell and a whistle as part of the mandatory gear. This was a little scary, but I guess it was better to be safe than sorry. It’s not like the summit of Grandfather is an easy medical evac. Probably harder than being half carried up a Cliffside by two giant Polynesian guys in Kauai. Or so I hear.
I lined up in the first wave. Not by choice, but apparently they did bibs by ultrasignup ranking. I had done one ultrasignup race in the past year, a 2nd place in a total trophy hunt at the Harbison 25k ( undercard to the 50k ultra) in January. With this small sample size, it gave me a ranking of 88 percent and within the top 10 of the 200 something participants. With my “elite” number 12, I strode up to the line with all the zero body fat mountain goats. Luckily it was top 50 so I hid back a few rows.

With the gun we were off. First mile or 2 is pretty decent. I ran along at a pretty easy pace, around 9 minutes, knowing that this would certainly get brutal quickly and knowing the only awards were for overall top 3 male and female. I was fairly certain that wouldn’t be me. Dean and Bobby caught up with me from the next wave and we ran for a little bit but then BAM. Walksies engage hard core. I know the mountain goats likely jogged up the rest of this ascent, but mere mortals are reduced to a brisk stroll, if that. Just unrelenting steepness. On top of a neverending ascending trail, it was a rock garden out there that made spider woman seem like a fun run. I kept trying to put some pep in my step , but I was either slipping or just trying to find a place to put my foot for a good stretch on the initial climb.I think my third mile came back in 20 and change. There something disheartening about “running” a mile slower than your road 5k. This was going to take a while. At some point there were less rocks on the trail and more big boulders around you as we neared the summit. The temperature definitely dropped and some areas smelled like Christmas trees with all the little pines. Suddenly things got a little crowded as we hit the first of a couple of ladders. I tried to focus on what was ahead of me because I had the distinct impression there were some serious drop-offs on either side. Finally we stepped into a brief open patch that I later figured out was the summit. I was still in gung-ho racer mode at the time so I barely looked. Such is the grueling and important battle for 50th place.


Then started the downhill on the backside. I thought this is where I could really run and make up some time from all that slogging on the initial climb. Yeah, that’s going to be a no from me, dawg. One, we had a brief conga line section in which we were all stopped to climb down multiple ladders, one was like 20 feet high. Following the ladder section was an even scarier rock face with limited footholds that I basically had to take on my rear end. I’m sure it was a thing of grace and beauty. Once through with this little section, Dean took off like the downhill maniac he is, along with Bobby. Me, not so much. I have the grace of a baby elephant, so my traipsing down the decline was ridiculously slow. I was getting passed left and right, Old women, chunky dudes, basically anyone with any degree of agility was kicking my ass. It was truly sad. Not really running so much as controlling my fall. Quads were getting wrecked into submission pulling a blazing 15 minute pace. But at least I wasn’t falling. There was a lot of that going on. Plenty of blood. My main injuries where on my hands from trying to grab trees so I wouldn’t face plant. Near the bottom things leveled out a little as the trail merged onto the tanawha trail near the Blue ridge parkway. Mike, Drew, Dean and Bobby passed me on their way back up, so I hoped the turnaround wasn’t too far off. I latched on to a hot Asian girl because apparently that’s what motivates me. I followed her like a creeper all the way to the turnaround, where she dropped me like a bad habit. I was pretty wrecked at the aid station so I shoved some chips and a cup of coke in me, along with a mountainside bathroom break. My Garmin only had like 7 miles but GPS is pretty worthless out in that remote area. Legs were destroyed on both sides, but I had to get back someway so back up the mountain I went. I tried to do some jogging but hit mall walking soccer mom mode pretty fast. I saw a bunch of the field early on, but it soon got pretty sparse a few miles in. I ran into a nice dude named Walker from Asheville, and told him he had a great name for this race. It was good to distract myself with Walker’s predictions for the SEC east this year until I finally got a little frisky and started to run. Around this time I realized that not using my hydration pack in my vest was a very, very bad idea. Started getting really thirsty and a little loopy, just in time to hit the rock face and ladder section. Things were a little fuzzy around this point. All I remember is total jello legs, briefly catching hot Asian again, and taking some really ugly selfies at the summit. I was really happy to be heading down towards the finish, but the dehydration issue was getting worse. I kept hoping for that aid station but apparently I had a really bad memory of where it was. I started hitting a bunch of hikers who were surprisingly gracious and supportive despite us racers probably messing up their experience. The rock garden area on the way down was ridiculously slow between my gimp legs and fuzzy water deprived brain. Random girls started shouting GOOD JOB RUNNER – LOOKING GOOD. Every word of which was a complete lie. I even got a raucous cheer from a whole troop of boy scouts. I tried to limit my Tourette’s –like outbursts of F bombs at that time, since I was screaming every 5 minutes when my toe would hit a root. Somehow I stayed upright. Finally the aid station came and I was half delirious. I handed one of the guys one of my empty water bottles and chugged like 4 bottles worth of Gatorade. I usually hate blue Gatorade but this tasted like nectar of the gods. I shoved more potato chips in my mouth and swore I heard “1.5 miles to go” as I left. This was probably a hallucination but I seemed to believe it at the time. With a belly filled with chip particles in an ocean of blue Gatorade, I staretd off again. More gimpy stepping trying not to fall on the steep decline. At one point some dude said “I seem to be cramping less than you, I’ll be on your left”. Oh hells no. A few hundred meters later the trail actually broke into some single track, that, get this, was runnable. It was wonderful being able to stretch out the legs, and I might have even dipped below 9 minute pace. By this time I was over 3 and a half hours in, so I focused on trying to break four. I started hauling ass, especially when I saw left passing cramp guy, who got a taste of some trail blue shoeing. I managed to refrain from any of multiple potential snarky comments on the pass. The last couple of miles is pretty much a blur – I hit some areas of the old Profile trail so I had a basic idea where I was, which was definitely not 1.5 miles from that aid station. I was all in by then though, so I kept up the pace. I was about out of gas when finally I saw the finish at the Old Profile trailhead parking area. I mini-kicked it and managed just a shade under 3:56.

Wow. That was nuts. Fifteen miles on the road I can churn out in 1:45 but it took me more than twice that with this insanely hard course. I just wish I was fit enough to be able to actually run more of it. Tanawha puts on a great event and this was an awesome experience, so I highly recommend it.
For the Columbia contingent, Mike Nance was the winner in 3:34, Drew turned in a 3:41:06 with Dean hot on his heels at 3:41:07 (though Dean’s 30 second start delay wasn’t added in – controversy!) . Bobby Scott ran a 3:44. So yeah, I was dead last.
In the overall, Luke Paulson was the winner and course record holder at 2:22:41. I was barely past the turnaround when he finished. Amanda Morris was the female winner in 2:54, also a course record. These are mind-boggling results for a road guy like myself. Trail running ability like that is a mix of amazing cardio and incredible technique. Bravo to them.
https://ultrasignup.com/results_event.aspx?did=55989

https://connect.garmin.com/modern/activity/2961958659

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811 Run 5k – Columbia, SC – 8/11/18

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The 811 run 5k is now in its 4th year, and basically serves as a promotion by SCE&G to call their 811 number before you start digging up your yard, lest you decide to break one of their gas or electric lines. Since I’m not fond of electrocution or gas explosions, sounds like a win-win situation to call the number. Also a win is their promotional pricing, only 8 dollars and eleven cents for early bird registration and 18.11 late. Of course, despite being married for 20 years, I am a serious commitment-phobe when it comes to races. It came down to a recent Silent H injury and a beer-fueled plea for his bib that scored me an entry to this race.
The 811 actually started at Saluda Shoals, then transitioned to Rosewood for the last two years. I only ran the race once before, having picked the 811 for my son Alex, since he had to run-train for the Spring Valley swim team. We did couch to 5k. I knew it was an actually, non delusional Selwyn “flat and fast” course, and Blue Shoes Jr threw down a killer kick for a PR in 33 minutes. I was so proud, despite a few cases of 13 year old walksies.
This year we missed out on the training, so I was ready to go solo. Unfortunately there was some construction around the old course in Rosewood, so the 811 would relocate to a new course near Broad River Rd, near the relic of 80’s mall awesomeness, Dutch Square. I meant to check out the course ahead of time but the whole pesky work thing got in the way, so 5k course scouting gave way to stomping out mental illness. Oh well. I did google map it in between patients and became afraid this course would be a total freaking nightmare. But maybe the images distorted the hills? We would see.
With the race time at 8:11 am, a friendly colon, and the site a mere 20 minutes away, I was actually able to make it to the race in a timely manner. Drew Williams showed up early and we were able to get in a full course preview. Dear God. This was going to be brutal. The course starts off harmlessly enough with a big plunge downhill followed by a nasty hill, but then a smooth decline all the way to the 1 mile mark. Second mile was born from the fiery pits of hell since you basically climb most of the way up the far side of a rectangle. Third mile pretty much continues the suckage with the piece de resistance being the reverse of that mile 1 downhill plunge. Good times.
The course was uncertified, though my Garmin came through right at 3.11 miles for my warmup lap. Pretty big crowd, full of CRCers at the start. The entire CRC royal family, aka the Weavers, were on hand with King Rich and Queen Susan, along with princesses Jessie and Kristin. Prince in waiting Ian Loughin was also there, the whole crew in full CRC singlet attire. Also on hand was the Bald Blythewood Beast Alan Deogracias III, aka ADIII. He was looking for an overall win, though would have competition with current Tour de Columbia number 2 Mike Schrum. Power couple Coach O Striggles and Shawanna White were on hand to surely take the masters and women’s wins. Darrell “the code” Brown and longtime Blue Shoe friend/nemesis was back in action after an extended hiatus. Isaac Homer, Whitney/Caroline/Julia Keen, Andrew Ortaglia, Johnathan Kirkwood, Pete Poore, Rocky Soderberg, Leeds Barroll, Micah Simonsen, Arnold Floyd, Brigitte Smith, Andy Mikula, Geary McAlister, Cotes Royson, Ivery Baldwin, Eric Gilfus, Lauren and Seth Lapic, Will Rowan, Mario and Jennifer Tudor, Tammy Carter, Henry Holt, RWB flagbearer Matthew Berube, Ron and Helene Lipe, Sandy Smith, Dina Mauldin, Pete O’ Boyle (pacing grandson), Michael Lambert , Ed Aufuldish, Ginger Catoe and Kerry Stubbs were some of the familiar faces.

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Lining up, I tried not to be a negative nancy but I think I was bemoaning the course the whole time before the start. With the gun, a bunch of people took off like a bat out of hell and immediately slowed down, so I had to do my best old school Barry Sanders impersonation and juked to find a seam to avoid any sasquatch tramplings.
As mentioned earlier, first mile is a total roller coaster, plummeting down then making you climb a big hill halfway, with more freefalling on the other side. I don’t handle downhills well despite my gravitational advantage, aka fatness. The Code and Whitney, who are the two most similar to my 5k times, left me for dead. Even after the big climb, they both have a sizable lead on me, and I start into full on Debbie Downer mode. Like Tyler Mcgaha on a day over 60 degrees, I start internally moaning about the heat and the hills, and whatever else I can think to complain about. I hit the mile mark in about 6:27, which is pretty slow for me given the mostly downhill course to that point. I’m doing ok from a cardio standpoint but legs are hating all the abuse. We descend further, finally bottoming out near the extremely scenic bush river rd/I-26 exit. Then you turn to tackle the monster. Fairhaven drive just sucks. Long, gradual and steady incline for most of the next mile. I’m hating life, but apparently so is everybody else -,especially anyone who took the first mile hard. I finally catch up with Whitney somewhere near the halfway point, but the whole stretch is just a complete slog. But wait, there’s more. There’s a turn onto Gale Dr that parallels I -20 , and manages to ramp up the suck factor further with a relatively short but steep incline that continues even as you turn back towards home on the aptly named morninghill dr.

I’ve drawn a little closer to the Code but he is still thoroughly kicking my ass. Mile 2 rolls by in like 6:30 something, which is to be expected with the mountain climbing. Another decline ensues before we start back on the mile 1 roller coaster. But wait, there’s more. In case you were thinking of running directly back to the start, you get led on a little side loop that throws you down then up again in the span of a quarter mile. Code has just about broken my spirit by this time and I’m already thinking of how he’s going to give me hell about this. But, he’s always complaining about his keto diet giving him no endurance. Not to worry, I’ve got a whole belt of adipose energy to tap into. One last plunge down and you get the joy of reversing that opening freefall, a sharp kinda long slog back up to Dutch Square Blvd. I’m plowing ahead just trying to get this thing over with. But hold the phone…Code is getting reeled back in. But he’s too far away…no wait ..he’s in range. ENGAGE BEAST MODE. With blood in the water, I get a shot of adrenaline and power up the Hercules legs. I’m gasping like a wounded elephant seal but if I have a chance at Blue Shoeing the code its worth blowing up the lungs or donating Honey Bunches of O’s in the process apparently. With a final surge up the hill, I catch Darrell right before the final stretch on Dutch Square blvd. A dark demigorgon living deep within Darrell’s soul yells out at me YOU BETTER F%$#%G RUN!! Oh hell. Mile 3 chimes in at 6:16 and I hit the home stretch like a jackrabbit on cocaine. Form is going all to hell as headless chicken mode is engaged. I keep thinking about how ugly Tracy’s finishing pics are going to look, but hopefully they will have a demonically possessed keto-depleted Code in the background. One last sprint into the parking lot and I manage to get in under 20 in 19:43. 13th overall, technically 3rd in AG with coach O taken out with the overall. I’ll take it for this course, since I figure you’re donating 30-45 seconds to the brutal mountain range.

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In the overall, ADIII crushed the field with a 16:40. Mike Schrum was second in 17:12 with Coach O third in 17:27. Shawanna White was the class of the ladies’ field in 18:37 with Liv Paxton 2nd and Melissa Stansbury 3rd. They didn’t do masters – c’mon guys!
In the age groups; Andy Mikula finished 3rd in the 30-34. Drew apparently finished 2nd in AG in the 40-44 behind Mike Kilbourne, whom I’ve never seen run before. Damn these superfit soccer dads. Amanda Lyons was tops in the female 40-44. Whitney keen, Andrew Ortaglia and Johnathan Kirkwood swept the 45-49. Ed Aufuldish was 2nd in the 50-54. Sandy Smith was third in the 55-59. Geary McAlister won the 60-64, with Helene Lipe finishing 2nd among the women. Brigitte Smith won the 65-69, while Leeds Barroll and Pete Poore went 1-2 among the men. In the 70-74, King Rich Weaver won with Michael Lambert 2nd. Arnold Floyd, Rocky Soderberg and Henry Holt swept the 75+

https://www.strictlyrunning.com/json/Index_JS_C4.asp?uRaceId=2882

https://connect.garmin.com/modern/activity/2923600341

Special thanks to Tracy Tisdale / Jedi Running Photography for all the great pics!

 

Little Mountain Reunion 5k/10k – Little Mountain, SC – 8/4/18

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When do you know you’re a hardcore race addict with a serious problem? Hard to tell, but squeezing an early morning trophy hunt that’s an hour and a half round trip just before a family vacation probably meets the criteria.

I’ve only run this race once before, in 2014. Reading the post from then proves that I apparently never change . I went looking for trophies then too, stepping into the 10k and getting destroyed by Plex, Lybrand and even the Code. Total fail. Plus, the course was brutal and I ended up slogging 44 minutes. But, I distinctly recall them announcing the 5k winning time as like 20:40 something. What?? I could do a tempo run and win?? I was totally going to come back and try to capture the holy grail. Plus, the 5k course was different from the brutal 10k, so maybe it was easier for the shorter distance. Yeah….we will get to that.

https://www.strictlyrunning.com/RESULTS/14LITTLEMOUNTAIN.TXT

https://tourdeblueshoes.com/2014/08/22/little-mountain-5k10k-little-mountain-sc-822014/

So as mentioned, the fam was all about going to Folly Beach this weekend, so I occasionally need to be a dad and husband, even though I was crushed not to be able to do Hot Summer’s Night.  We weren’t leaving until late morning though, opening up the morning races. The Sweet Baby O 5k was a lot closer in Saluda Shoals, but I knew fellow age grouper/Carebeer Drew Williams was doing that one, and the temptation for a holy grail was too great. I was going to make the 40 plus minute trek out to Little Mountain in search of glory.

I ended up getting there way later than I usually do for races,  an effect of snooze button hitting and bathroom chernobylizing.  The first thing I see is Mike Nance and David Russell sporting the TUS black and gold, and I’m instantly afraid of my trophy hunting chance is also going down the toilet. Luckily they were in for the 10k, along with Sara Bonner. Ted and Anna Hewitt, Jeannette Farr, Andy Mikula,  Leeds Barroll, Ivery Baldwin and Lynn Grimes were also some familiar faces. I was asking around if anyone knew the 5k course, and Leeds basically tells me its a complete and total nightmare. As it turns out, the 5k skips the fun of the 10k course and just takes you straight up the eponymous Little Mountain and back. He apparently knows the area from hanging out at the little mountain towers in the 70’s and driving the course just before.  Dayum. This was no fun run undercard like I thought.

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The 10k has a pretty sparse field and they went off at 7:00. I was too lazy to do much of a warm up so I just jogged around a bit and tried to survey the remaining 5kers. My trophy senses were tingling because I didn’t recognize any potential threats, and no lean singlet types. Technically I was wearing the CRC singlet but no one has mistaken me for lean. As we line up for the 5k it basically starts to pour rain out of nowhere.  It had been really hot and humid, so at least it would cool things down some. My last scan of the crowd looks pretty promising and we all take off with the gun. Suddenly, some small superfit dude pops out of the side of the crowd, total Jason Dimery style, and leaves us all for dead right from the get go. I swear it looks like the same dude who ran it back in 2014. (it was – Carlos Hernandez).  First part is downhill , cruelly tempting you to go too fast before an abrupt turn onto the miserable Jacob Shealy Rd. hill.  The poor 10kers have to take on this monster twice. I manage to get myself good and winded right away but luckily the Hercules legs can power up the inclines pretty well despite all the extra weight they carry. I end up in 4th place at the top of the hill after briefly getting chicked by the teen female leader.  Carlos is in another zip code by now but two other kids aren’t too far ahead.  You turn right at the top of Mt Shealy and head back towards the town center, but not before dropping you down half the elevation you just climbed and bringing you up again. Just as we reach the town, I manage to pass the two kids and surge into 2nd place.  First mile was like 6:45, mostly because of the giant hill but maybe me not having done true speedwork in over a month. The flat feels pretty good but is very  short lived as we suddenly take a right turn. There’s a long downhill after this, which feels good at the time but has a sense of forboding since I’ll be doing this in reverse in a few minutes on the way back.  As I approach the bottom of the hill, I’m about to go straight but the cop directs me to this little old road to the right called “Mountain road”. Ruh roh. As soon as I veer off it starts to suck real bad, real quick. First a long gradual incline but then just unrelenting climb. Everytime I think I must be nearing the turnaround at the top it just keeps on going. My lungs and legs are screaming at me and the walksie voices keep getting louder. What’s worse is that I know Carlos has a huge lead on me and I still haven’t seen him on the way back down. Finally I see him flying down the hill. I wait for him to pass then I’m forced to take a brief walk of shame. Of course, as soon as I take a few steps, I finally see the turnaround area under the Little mountain tower. I force myself to go back into my power jog and I’m half delirious by the turnaround. I swear I was having hallucinations of  a long haired Leeds in bellbottoms but I manage to round the cone and start plummeting back down. The road is super rough  and my legs are jello, so I’m trying not to get too crazy on the decline. I don’t do well with falls down rocks.  The out and back course at least gets me to survey the rest of the field. I have a pretty comfortable lead on 3rd place but its hard to stay motivated with only second to fight for.  I haven’t even bothered to check the Garmin split because I know it’s ugly. After destroying my quads on the whole return trip down the mountain, you get that fun opportunity to climb up that downhill you just ran to get to Mountain Rd. I can actually see Carlos again, so he has definitely slowed a lot, but I still have no chance of catching him. Especially since my legs are pretty much toast at this point. One more left turn and its a flat and downhill to the finish. I pick up the pace a little but definitely not the typical Blue Shoe kick . I end up with 21:31 and 2nd overall.

So, not too happy with running 2+ minutes slower than normal, but given this monster of a course it’s not too bad. The only comparable 5k course I can think of is the Hogpen Hill Climb 5k in Helen, GA, which will also take about 2-3 minutes off your standard road 5k times. And yeah, its definitely harder than the 10k course, which is no joke either.

Despite the course brutality, this is a really cool race since its held in conjunction with the Little Mountain reunion festival. There’s a parade , barbeque, beer, classic cars and lots of craft vendors. I took a wrong turn and somehow ended up almost leading off the parade. I had to slow down and do my pageant wave. Luckily the cops were nice and got my inflated ego off the route.  Plus, cash prizes for the overall winners! I got 30 bucks for 2nd place so ended up breaking even. Sweet.

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In the 10k, Jim Brophy ruined Nance’s trophy hunt too, taking first in 40:07. Nance took second in 41:44 and David Russell was third in 43:02. Sarah Bonner was the CRC’s top trophy hunter for the day, taking home the holy grail with a win in 48:11. Denise Knight and Ashley Holman were 2nd and 3rd, Denise just 9 seconds back.

In the 5k, Carlos Hernandez won in 19:23, with the Albino Sasquatch 2nd and Noe Hernandez 3rd. In the age groups, Andy Mikula won the 30-34, while Leeds Barroll and Lynn Grimes dominated the 65-69.

 

https://connect.garmin.com/modern/activity/2906079211

https://www.strictlyrunning.com/json/Index_JS_C4.asp?uYear=2018&uRaceId=2895&uEvent=5k