Ville to Ville Relay – Asheville, NC to Greenville, SC – 4/13/19

Anyone who has read this blog with any regularity knows I love the relay. Ten Palmetto 200’s, Three Blue Ridge Relays, one Ragnar trail relay and one Ville to Ville. I apparently live for reflective vests, lack of sleep and stinky vans. But Ville to Ville knows how to do a relay even better. Let’s get rid of the middle-of-the-night misery, eliminate the dark and lonely runs, and total utter exhaustion. Oh, and let’s make it less than half the standard distance, make it one day, and add a craft beer theme. This thing was tailor made for aging white males working out their mid-life crisis with endurance sports and IPAs. Like this guy.

Ville to Ville number one was a resounding success. Selling out in days before it was even fully formed, this event went off without a hitch in 2018. My team, the Carebeers, had a knock-down, drag-out clash with our other forty-something nemeses, the Redneck Posse, in a battle for the ages. Although we about died in a mid spring heat wave, we managed to take the Male Masters victory. Many post race celebratory beverages were consumed , and with 364 days until V2V 2019 , we were already signed up for a second go-around.

Flash forward 11 months later, and we met to plan out our strategy at Craft and Draft. Basically this involved about 5 minutes of discussion and an hour’s worth of drinking, but it basically came down to me trading legs with Randy. To satisfy my insatiable need to be number 1, I was starting off this time with the opening leg and finishing first with a short 5kish leg 7. In exchange, Randy “SILENT H” Hrechko would get leg 5 and the Delirious 10k up a mountain in leg 11.  No doubt who got the better end of that deal. Our original lineup was back again, which basically was our two beast workhorses, captain Drew Williams and Mike Nance, along with the other 4 supporting actors – me, Matt “THE STACHE” McGrievy, Rob “THE YERG” Yerger and Silent H.  Tracy/JEDI photography got the photo gig at V2V after her pro bono work there last year , and scored us a team discount for 2019.  Sweet. Craft and Draft was awesome enough to sponsor our team shirts – thanks guys!

Although the relay itself was only 75 miles and all on one day, we drove up to Asheville on Friday for what is definitely one of the best packet pickups in road racing. You show up at Highland Brewery in Asheville, which is like a playground for craft beer fans. Free brewery tours, a complimentary first beer, live music, awesome swag and even…ARTISANAL HUMMUS. A virtual paradise for hipster gen Xers. We hit the tour and sampled some Highland Brews , before heading towards our air BNB in Black Mountain. We ran into quite a few Columbia area runners, including Sheila Bolin, Kelly Ghent, Makenzie Wilt and their FiA team, as well as beer mile director Bobby Scott and Sabrina Gandy.

We had dinner at the Trailhead, the mecca of Harbison Trail Runners for Mount Mitchell weekend. Enough brews were consumed that Nance, Yerg and I felt obligated to show the others the site of the most hallowed of HTR traditions, the dead legged Lake Tomahawk relay. Except for Drew and H, we each completed a lap in a warmup for the next day’s event. Nance somehow managed to keep his shirt on this time. Our gracious hosts from last year were out of town, but we still stayed at their place in Black Mountain.  Accommodations were comfortable save for a thoroughly confused rooster nearby who apparently thought the sun was coming up from midnight to 5 am . Doh. Thankfully I slept like the dead and avoided registering under the influence for Table Rock 50k like last year. I would say this was good judgement, except I had already signed up perfectly damn sober this year. I am an idiot.

Waking up for the relay this year, I was seriously worried about the status of my right knee. Having ravaged my body with 38 miles of Mount Mitchell and another 31 at the Palmetto 200 ultra, my running had gone to the toilet over the past month and there were lots of awkwardly moving parts to my gimp stride at the moment. The knee was going to have to suck it up though, because nothing is worse than bailing on a relay and dumping on your teammates. Randy gave me some KT tape to help the knee, though I’m pretty sure a piece of magnetic tape wasn’t going to reverse several months of abuse.

The start was at back at Highland Brewery and we had one of the fastest projected times, so we were in the last group to begin at 8:20 am. We drove up in our newest upgrade, a dedicated team van instead of the SUV train from last year. We had almost struck out at the rental agencies, which were gouging the vans for Masters weekend, but we were able to score a van from a friend of a friend for a cheaper rate. Ours did come with some extra “character” to include a less than detailed interior and some free old tangy BBQ sauce packets. Score.

After stewing in anxiety for awhile and having to put on a mandatory reflective vest , I was ready for leg 1. This was a little daunting, since the race director announced this was the “skinny, fast” group and I’m not sure I meet either of those descriptors. Redneck Posse was back again for showdown #2. Tracy verified they were out for CareBeer blood. Leg 1 was just 6.2 miles, though Randy had described it as the “hardest 10k ever” . The elevation profile seemed to support his claim, looking like a virtual mountain range, with Everest at about 2 miles. With the start, I take off way too fast and hang on to the back of the pack. Having no idea how fast these guys (and 2 girls) were, I tried to check myself as soon as we got out of the brewery area. A couple of young looking dudes and some ripped musclely guy were killing it from the get go. My attention was fixed on the Redneck Posse’s runner. He had gray hair but had the lanky body type of someone who was way faster in their youth. I remember he had an Atlanta track club shirt on from last year, and nobody slow ever ran for them. I hang back with a tall 40ish female in a minipack, with only the other woman behind us.  There’s a significant incline off the bat but then a long downhill. I was fine on the incline but the downhill is definitely no bueno on the gimp knee. I gingerly tread down the mountain with masters girl blazing past me. First mile was 6:55 or so. I had suggested a conservative 6:45 pace for my legs, but I realized that was the beer talking, because ain’t nobody doing close to their 10k pace with this terrain. But hey, the next mile is mostly flat and comes back about the same pace. I’m getting warmed up and things are going ok and maybe I’ll pick up the pace and …WTF IS THIS??? Suddenly, we veer off the road and onto a trail through the woods.  And it’s going up, with stairs. I jog up the first few switchbacks but me and masters girl quickly catch a case of the walksies.  Am I really walking in a competitive relay?? I manage to walk/jog most of the way up an endless trail mountain and then hit a stretch of up and down technical singletrack. 3rd mile is like 9:50. Sweet Jesus in the morning, I suck. More endless trail. Me and the woman basically leapfrog the whole time, me passing on inclines and her passing when I try to go downhill.  Finally at about mile 4 we get dumped out on the blue ridge parkway , followed by a left where we fly down a  road and give up seemingly all the elevation gain. At the bottom, we get to go up again, forever. I pass my running partner again on the mountain climb just before we enter a neighborhood and plummet downward again. There’s a “one mile to go” sign near the bottom, but I know from last year the finish is at the bottom of a decline. Which means we have to really go up. And we do. Basically most of the last mile is some serious grade, but since I was jogging in the woods I’ve got something left in the tank. I push in all the cards and motor up the mountain as hard as I can, finally reaching the top with a sharp left. Another plunge down and I can see the finish. Here comes Redneck Posse’s guy for leg 2, so hopefully I’m not too far behind.  I see another woman running up ahead, then I realize she is from the 8 am group. She gives me grief for blue shoeing her right before the finish, but I’m just trying to stop the bleeding from what feels like an awful leg. Total time was like 47 minutes. About 2.5 minutes behind the Posse.

Yerg took off on Leg 2 which apparently features a 23 percent grade at some point. Dayum. He runs faster than last year but apparently the Posse has seriously front loaded their team and we lose another 2.5 minutes. WTF? McGrievy is always worried about slowing down the team, but in his next leg he actually makes up 30 seconds on our rivals over 7 miles. Must be the porn stache and the mojo built from his 3rd place finish in the beer mile. Up next is Nance. Nance has also gone full stache, and in his words, “full douche”.  Stache, reflective colored sunglasses, and bandanna. LOOKING FIERCE. He hauls ass out of the transition and we wait at Southern Appalachian Brewery in Henderson. We meet up with Sheila, Kelly, Makenzie and Jacki Edenfield as well as Tracy making the photog rounds through the course.

We are hoping Nance makes up some time on the Posse, when all of a sudden Mike comes rounding the turn blazing full douche with no POsse in sight? HOLY CRAP. I about lose my mind. Nance says he saw the Posse guy having a rough time on the side of the road, ends up putting several minutes on those guys. Randy blazes out of the brewery and is still ahead with the pass to Drew at Hillandale elementary.  With one of our two best guys out on the course, I quickly try to loosen up at Tuxedo park for my second and final leg. My leg is a mere 3.5 miles, though it looks like almost the entire thing is uphill. Normally this would suck, but my right knee really doesn’t want any more downhill abuse.

Drew comes flying through the exchange and I’m off on my 5k from hell.  First mile goes by super quick as its actually mostly downhill. Knee is cashed but there’s lots of people out on the course now. The clouds look threatening and I’m hoping to get this in before any potential downpours. After a 6:45 ish first mile, there’s a sudden left turn. Oh dear God. Here it is. Straight up the mountain. I try to maintain 5k pace but yeah, 8 percent grade is not exactly speed inducing. Mile 2 in about 7:30. DAMN IT. With 1.5 to go and no no more legs to go I try and blast it out. I’m pretty cashed at the mountain top with a 7:11 3rd mile and I’m desperately looking for the finish. The Redneck Posse van, a stacked Mercedes WITH A DRIVER, finally passes me so I know we are still far ahead. Suddenly the course drops out and I’m careening downhill. Knee hates it but I can see the exchange zone,  right at the NC/SC state line. I hand off to Yerg and BOOM I’M DONE.

Yerg has an 8.8 miler ahead, mostly downhill but with a killer incline at the end. We fly down in the tangy BBQ van and halfway there the bottom drops out. Starts pouring. And thunder. Suddenly were getting twitter updates that they are closing exchange zones ahead. Sure enough, when we get to the leg 8-leg 9 zone, its a cluster of a few hundred people. Its all good for me, because I’ve shed my funk clothes and I’m in full recovery mode. They even had beer samples of a new England IPA. My favorite! Luckily the storm passed quickly and they start releasing the few dozen stalled teams every ten seconds. Fortunately we missed the delay perfectly and Yerg comes rolling in and passes off to McGrievy without having to stop. We find out that one of the Posse ran off course so we are probably sitting 20+ minutes ahead. All we have to do now is stay on course and hope the tangy BBQ mobile keep going. With McGrievy out on the course, I’ve taken over as driver and we start getting lost on our way to the next exchange. We follow another van then have to turn around. I’ve lost my cell signal and have a brief moment of panic before finally seeing the sea of vans up ahead. Mcgrievy crushes leg 9 as the sun and heat starts coming out big time. Matt executes the stache to stache exchange as Nance heads out on a 6.31 miler. This time I have the trip to the next exchange planned out and we end up at Beechwood farms, home of 2 dollar tamales and the best hot dogs ever. I haven’t eaten lunch so I order up a big ass chili dog and wolf it down in front of Silent H,  karmic payback for what he did to me last year.

The heat is now really intense and close to 80 degrees, also just like last year.  Nance crushes out his 10k despite the brutal conditions in like 42 minutes as Randy takes off on another 6.2 miler. The same leg I had from last year, where I got completely delirious and ran diagonally across a busy Travelers Rest intersection and tempted death. Good memories! We thankfully avoided the mud pit at Beechwood farms with our mystery machine and headed to Swamp Rabbit Brewery for the last exchange. Yerg bought us a round of beers and all was good as we waited for the H. After some tense minutes, we see a tall figure in the distance holding up the relay baton like the Olympic torch. Randy comes tearing into the exchange in full blue shoes-style delirium and just keeps walking like an extra from the Walking Dead. I feel your pain dude. We were able to revive the H with some water as we sped off towards the finish.

The finish area at V2V is pretty awesome. A taco truck , a pizza truck, live band and tons of beer from Quest brewery. No more artisanal hummus though. Despite the killer heat, Drew rocked the final 8.78 miles out in less than an hour, and the rest of us sore, dead-legged and slightly intoxicated teammates escorted him the last 20 meters home. CAREBEERS were masters champions once again!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Soda City Beer Mile – Swamp Cabbage Brewery – Columbia,SC -4/6/19

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For years, everyone has been telling me to do a beer mile. Combining two of my favorite activities, this event is seemingly tailor-made for me. It’s a simple concept – chug a beer and run 400 meters, repeat times four. The 400 meters is probably one of my best events too – the less endurance involved the better for me, one hundred percent blue shoe kick. And theoretically, a nearly 6’3”” 190 pound Irish dude who loves beer should be able to handle 4 beers like it’s nothing, right?

Wrong. As a silly genetic joke, I was bequeathed the alcohol tolerance of a 90 pound freshman sorority girl. One beer = fine, Two beers = fine. Three = OK but probably going to mess up my sleep. Four = headaches and cotton mouth, Five plus = probably praying to the porcelain god. Obviously my therapeutic window for alcohol is ridiculously small, which is only amplified by my 5’3” wife, who can drink me under the table any day of the week. Seriously, she hardly ever drinks but don’t let her near a bottle of moscato on girls night out. On like donkey kong.
So 4 beers in 10 minutes is going to be a stretch for me. And I never chug beers, since I really don’t want to give my pansy ass liver too much to handle.
But hey, why not give it a shot? I was glad Bobby Scott finally got a good venue for this event, since nailing down a good running route and/or sponsors is a difficult thing for beer miles. Last year, I believe he held it on the Cayce block where he lived. The classic beer mile is on a track. But most tracks are at high schools or middle schools, and as it turns out most schools are not ok with a bunch of adults chugging and puking on the premises. Sponsors are not too keen on equating their business with drunken debauchery either. I know – no fun at all. But Swamp Cabbage Brewery was ideal, because, one, they are obviously ok with beer drinking, and two, lots of barely traveled roads nearby to set up a course. Score.
Once I signed up I had some decisions to make. Choice of beer is critical. Rules state that the beer has to be 5 percent alcohol or higher, which pretty much rules out all the light beers. That took out my go-to low gravity brew Amstel Light. They say stouts and porters are less carbonated and thus easier to get down, but I’m not a fan of either, and chugging thick beer sounded like a recipe for the pukes. I love IPAs, but these are mostly higher gravity, and I obviously have a very small margin of error in the alcohol content department. I finally settled on Heineken. Sitting right at 5.0 percent and pretty bland, I figured a Hiney was perfect for the beer mile. I read that you want the beer to be cool but not ice cold, since colder beer apparently has more carbonation. I got the beer out an hour ahead of time and put it in an iceless cooler, and figured that would work.
Thankfully the Code, who doesn’t drink, agreed to be my designated driver. I assured him the entertainment value of watching me suffer would more than pay him back for the job. Stacy also came along to witness the disaster in the making.
Apparently the spectacle that is the beer mile brought out a lot of people. There were 40 registered but probably double that on hand just to watch. I did a quick informal beer survey, looked like a lot of Bud variations, some Heineken, a left hand milk stout, some wicked weed napoleon complex, and some glutton for punishment with an orange chocolate stout. Jeezus.
Conditions were surprisingly hot, but I didn’t dare drink any water to preserve vital stomach space. Half of our Ville to Ville relay team, CAREBEERS, was on hand with Drew Williams looking for the overall win and Matt McGrievy absolutely rocking the porn stache like only he can. Liz Locke looked to be the early favorite on the women’s side, having traded beer mile wins in Columbia and Charleston with last year’s champ Ashley Hrubala, who was sitting this one out. Derek Hutton, last year’s men’s winner, was nursing an injury and was on spectator duty only, so new champions would be crowned that day.beermile1
Other familiar faces among the competitors included Gena and Caleb Ochal, David Nance, Jessica Weaver, Ian “IT’S LOCK-LIN” Loughlin, Chris Beattie and the RD himself Bobby “dare to wear short shorts” Scott. Trackstar Eddie Crisanto signed up late and was talking smack. I told him he was going down. As noted, there was a large spectating contingent with Mario Alvarez, Jim Williams, Pam Nadolski, Kana Rahman, Matt Havens with an appropriately large RUI entourage, Sheila and Ken Bolin, Jay and Joyce Welch, Kristen Loughlin, the newly minted Mrs. Jenny Nance, also newly minted CRC prez Roy Shelley and of course my designated drivers Code and Stacy Ohrin. Rick Gibbons and Sabrina Gandy were volunteering. Tracy Tisdale / Jedi Runner Photography was on hand to document the event.
Set up was basically a 400 meter track squished onto a 200 meter section in front of Swamp Cabbage. The beer table was in the front of the brewery with turnaround cones 100 meters on both sides. You turn right, round the first set of cones, run all the 200m all way to the second cones, turn around and back to the beer table. We lined up a few meters back from the street for the start, first beer in hand, where I nervously awaited my fate. Goal one was not to puke, which gives you a one lap penalty, and goal two was to break ten minutes. My mile time is around 5:20-5:30 but no way was I sprinting with that much liquid on board, or it would be a 1.25 miler for sure.

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BEER ONE:
With the start, I crack open my first Hiney and start chugging away. I’m thirsty, it’s going down fast, and I’m going to crush this thing. But wait…. why is everyone screaming at me, and WHERE IS EVERYBODY?? Turns out my idea of crushing a beer is also about as weak as a 90 lb freshman sorority girl. As I finish off the last bit of foam I am literally the last person out of the gate. WTF?? I run a little harder than I thought just to get to the back of the pack. I’ve barely started and I can see Drew and McGrievy already making the turn. Man, I suck at this. There’s lots of burps, and I’m still stiff as hell from the Healthy Capital 5k (that morning) and from not really warming up much.
BEER TWO:
After putting on the jets a bit I’m still near the back of the pack when I crash into the beer area again. I almost had to stiff arm some people blocking the table. DO NOT BLOCK THE HINEY FROM THE SASQUATCH. Chugging this time, I try changing the angle of the bottle and holding my breath more. Probably a little faster. Still slow. The run definitely sucks this time with a full slosh effect going on in the belly. I slow it down to about 5k-10k pace, and basically spend the entire lap burping. Slowly making up ground on the pack.
BEER THREE:
Probably as an effect of the 2 pounded beers, this one goes down a lot faster, and feels like I just poured it directly into the roiling stew brewing in my gullet. Feels like I’m running with a milk gallon on my waist, but then again, I’m used to carrying excess weight. Nearing the first cones I see Liz, who has taken it out hard, paying the price with a penalty lap in process. Yuck. Rounding the turn I’m staying with 10k pace. I see Jessie Weaver who looks like she is experiencing a cross of extreme pain or sorrow, or perhaps both. Probably appropriate. I’m having a hard time keeping up the burping until I rip an epic one right in front of my presidential predecessor Rick Gibbons, volunteering at the second cones. “THANKS FOR THAT”. Lol.
BEER FOUR:
Mildly buzzed, beer number four goes down pretty smoothly. With one breath in between chugs, I see Drew coming in for the finish but getting epically blue shoed by a guy with a HTR T shirt. Oof, that was rough. Fourth lap looks like a war zone near the beer area with lots of fresh penalty lap material all around. Trying not to look at it. Especially the subway sub one. Jeezus H, what did that guy eat? Running feels better on the last lap because there are no pukesies to be felt and no more Hiney to be had. I feel pretty good until I see McGrievy on the sideline “good jobbing” me. WTF, he’s already done??? Damn, he almost lapped me. One more pass of the second cones, and I see Alex Wilcox, i.e. the younger, better-looking Alex, and I turn on the blue shoe mojo. I crank it up to full sprint, and pass him just before the finish….as he continues on. I guess he had a penalty lap. Oh well, can’t turn down a good blue shoeing.
9:25 official time. 12th overall out of 41. No pukesies. I’ll take it. Better than having to take a troll poop in the woods under a bridge like last week. I thought I’d be wrecked after this, but I guess the liver manned up and actually processed that quart and a half of macrobrewed swill pretty well. Mild buzz and I felt ok afterward.

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As mentioned, the HTR runner Danny Ferriera smoked Mr. Williams at the finish for the win in 7:31. Drew did get 1st male masters and 2nd in 7:32. The surprise for me was McGrievy. His chug skills are apparently frat boy level, and he was first out of the beer zone almost every time according to the spectators. He was apparently in the overall lead until getting passed twice in the last lap, taking 3rd overall. In the women’s race, Liz had the extended pukesies and the surprise winner was Janie Campbell in 9:14. Triathlete Christina McCarthy took on a fourth discipline and claimed 1st female masters/2nd overall in 10:39. Gena Ochal was 3rd in 11:31.
Notable finishers: Eddie apparently deposited his five dollar footlong on the road and had to suffer the shame of getting beat by the Sasquatch due to his penalty lap. I see Tony Morales in the results and I swear the guy was in high school, but apparently he graduated in 2014, so it’s just my dementia setting in. Loughlin was the chocolate stout dude, which was not only 6+ ABV but 16 ounces, I believe. And he had a post-race beer. I can’t compete with that. Jessie Weaver won the race face category en route to a penalty lapped 15:51, probably never to drink a white zombie ever again.

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Overall a really fun event and I hope to be back next year. Great job, Bobby Scott, Swamp Cabbage and all the volunteers in putting this on. All photo credits to Jedi Runner Photography / Tracy Tisdale.

Results: