Palmetto 200 – Santee State Park to Awendaw, SC – 3/19/21-3/20/21

In 2009, in what seemingly was the prehistoric days of social media, I was a regular on the “SUB 22 minute 5k” message board of Runner’s World magazine. We used to trade race reports back and forth, and for me, that eventually became Tour de Blue Shoes. One of the other regulars, a “MrSig”, started talking about a new relay race in South Carolina, going from Columbia to Folly Beach and wanted to know if anyone was interested. Although the board had people from all over the world, it turns out MrSig and I were actually living in the same city. Fortunately, “Mr Sig” was actually Brian Clyburn and not some crazed Chris Hansen/dateline type creeper, and team Van on the Run was born. 

We started (2010) as a hodge podge group of 12 randoms thrown together. All noobs to running, and definitely to relays. We committed just about all the dumb mistakes you can make in the early years, doing stuff like having a driver (robbing your van of precious space), booking a hotel room (80 bucks out the window and hotel water poisoning), and not eating regular food (hallucinations and the walksies for me at 3 am in Huger, SC).  But by trial and error and Brian’s relentless recruiting, we were honed into a team of relay beasts, culminating in the 2015 and 2016 back-to-back Palmetto 200 overall wins. Since that time, people noticed our trophy hunt and there’s been some teams way faster than us. But we still have our trophies and the legacy of one of the few remaining (maybe only?) teams that have been there every year. Even in the COVID year of 2020, Brian had us go out and run our legs virtually. I’ll never forget my half marathon’s worth of relay legs on the USC track and Shandon. Good times. We did technically get the overall win in that one too.

In 2019, the last time the relay was actually held, I made the egregious mistake of joining the Van on the Run Ultra team, with only 6 people. Somewhere on my 6th leg, I think I made the vow never to do one of these again . But I signed on again with our full team (12) with the thought that we were fielding another low stress, easygoing version that ran alongside the ultra version in 2019. Yeah, that was a big nope. Brian had reshuffled the deck and produced a lineup of all 40+ age group beasts that was going to go after the masters title. Doh.

As mentioned in previous blog posts, Brian’s P200 spreadsheet is the stuff of legend. It has exact expected paces, time leaving each exchange zone and time coming in to the next one. Previous Blue ridge relay versions even had quotients of difficulty figured in. While an amazing work of art and math, the subtext of this document is definitely: WE WILL KNOW WHEN YOU SUCK i.e not hitting your pace.

And so, on the heels of an epic suckage of a marathon the previous Saturday, Brian let me know that the roughly 18 miles of relay that I would be doing the following Friday would be at 6:50 pace. While most people recommend a few weeks off after a marathon, I was going to be running a 9 , 6 and 3 miler at sub 7 pace in less than 24 hours on virtually no sleep. Again, good times. I half considered bailing, but pulling out of a relay is like jabbing 11 other people in the heart, not to mention raising the ire of our captain. Believe me, I’ve been there. My 2012 Blue Ridge relay recruit bailed at the last second, and I had to do a fourth leg in the mountains of NC with little food and no sleep. I couldn’t do it to these guys.

Due to COVID, they cut down the number of teams this year, and they had to make do with way fewer volunteers. Some of the exchange zones weren’t available, so they modified the course to start at Santee State Park (near Elloree and Santee). Basically we would do a loop up towards Columbia before turning back towards Charleston. 

As mentioned, Brian figured our best chance at trophy hunting was to field an all masters (40+) team. Brian and Joel joined myself as the sole individuals with the poor decision making skills to have run in all 11 previous P200s. Brian’s wife Jen was on board as our only female. She claimed to be off her training, but I witnessed her gut out a sub 8 seven miler after vomiting all night in 2010, so her toughness and speed are not to be questioned. Harbison trail runners Bill Seibers (who suffered along with me in the 2019 ultra debacle) , Dean Schuster (my trail running doppelganger nemesis) and Matt Stanek were on board. In Van 2, the “kids” van:  Darrell THE CODE Brown, prone to erratic van driving, Tourette’s like obscenities and lots of complaining; Dan Carter, master of the four miler and who has yet to ever run a mile over 8 minutes and Rob THE YERG Yerger , whose superpower is sleeping under any conditions. We also had two new recruits, Nate and Paul, guys from the F3 community in Lexington. They were no relay noobs though, having done several P200s between the two of them. Also their assigned 6:40ish pace left no doubt they were some seriously fast guys. My only concern was how they would put up with our increasingly childish behavior as the night wore on. 

Joel starting us off

We got on site at Santee about 11 am for our noon start time. The P200 has a staggered start with the slowest teams first (5:30 am) and fastest last. You start with other teams of a similar projected pace. From the get-go, we saw that it was us and 2 other teams in the next to last slot, but there was some insanely fast team starting at 3 pm. That basically meant our only overall placement shot was for 2nd.  Masters appeared to be ours to lose, with the next fastest team starting at 10 am. We were up against two high schoolish teams, ones that seemed to have a mix of cross-country kids and their coaches, one from Augusta and the other from Lexington. Weather was ridiculously cold for this relay, just over 50 degrees and windy. 

We got underway with Joel leading us off. Immediately, Augusta teen dude takes off at like 5:30 pace. Uh, I unless this is just a show, I guess we’re fighting for third. Luckily Lexington had several guys who actually weren’t in high school so maybe we could hang with them. With van 1 off and running, we had about 4 and a half hours to kill. Such is the pain of Van 2. You get all jacked up to sit around and wait. I was in the 12th slot, so I would be lucky to start before 7 pm. We decided to have a regular sit-down meal at our go-to stop in Santee, the Cracker Barrel, which Code so lovingly refers to as the Crack Whore. I’m all for eating regular food on these relays, so I ended up ordering what I thought was a small pot pie. It turns out the potpies in Santee are as big as your face. I showed my usual self-control and mowed through it like the pie-eating contest in Stand by Me. I’m so ashamed. Afterward we cruised by the Subway to get our fuel for dinner, since trying to find anything in the backwoods of Orangeburg county late at night is next to impossible. Apparently we reached the Subway at the exact worst time, and we had to wait an eternity while getting to observe the most random people gathered at a sub shop ever. Such is a rest stop on 1-95. After waiting 20 minutes, my sandwich artist misinterpreted my no mayo order as LETS DUMP THE ENTIRE BOTTLE ON HIS SANDWICH. At this point, I just went with it.

We made our way to the exchange zone for the start of our van, Jericho Methodist church, just outside of Elloree. With hours to kill, we all set out to try and maybe nap a little. I had my hammock, but had to go traipsing through the woods to find two suitable trees, right next to the adjacent cemetery. I tried to sleep put the cold wind and creepy trees and graves probably didn’t help. The ladies manning this zone were super nice, and perhaps most importantly, let us use the ACTUAL BATHROOMS at the church. When you’re facing the unique olfactory and immunologic terror zone of portapotties for 24 hours, real running water is like a gift from God. We were at a church I guess. I ran into CRC alum Matt Gregory, who had moved to Greenville, but was back to run with the Lexington team “Fast Times at Lexington High”. He said he was off his training due to the new baby but would be doing his best. Good to see a familiar face and that his team was at least half dudes that were actually of legal drinking age. 

Lexington cruised into our zone first. They had a few minutes on us, but Brian had texted that Van 1 was already beating the spreadsheet. Before long Nate took off, followed by Dan. By the time Code was scheduled to leave from the Elloree exchange, our two fastest had made significant gains on the Lexington team. Their next guy was dressed like it was 30 degrees out, so I told Code he was primed to take him down and record our first roadkill. Our next zone was actually back at Santee State Park, having completed the Columbia loop. Awaiting me there was Andy Richards with his ceremonial Blue Shoes toilet paper. He’s been doing it every year since he saved me from a paperless portapotty back in 2016. And I am eternally grateful. 

The Yerg took us to Lone Star BBQ, followed by Paul’s leg back through the home of the Mayonnaise Subway and the Mega pot pie. I was actually very nervous about my leg, an 8.84 miler straight shot down highway 15. Not only was I assigned the 6:50 pace, but I had no idea how I would hold up with my post marathon legs. I even brought out the VAPORS because I was going to need every bit of help I could get. I finally get the baton (slap bracelet) around 7 pm and thankfully it’s still light out. Nothing’s worse than a totally dark straight leg on the side of a 55 mph highway. Of course, I’m not more than a quarter mile from the zone when some young Lexington dude is headed back the other way towards where I just left. Doh. That means I’m maybe a half mile ahead of their team, tops. I try to go as fast as I dare, knowing that this is a beast of a long leg. First mile comes back in 6:55 and everything feels pretty good. I figure this is good enough, especially given that it’s virtually 9 miles. Things loosen up significantly in the next few miles and I actually reel off a few 6:40’s to bring me a touch under pace. Vapors were definitely a good decision. I’m so grateful for the daylight since I actually have something to look at, though it’s mainly just fields. There is one tricky 5 way intersection that I had scoped out the night before. What the map didn’t tell me was the giant Cujo-esque albino pit bull staking out the yard of a huge haunted looking house at that intersection. I definitely picked up the pace as he barked at me like the hound of hell. I looked down and thought I saw 6.66 miles and briefly thought I had entered some portal to Hades before realizing it was only 5.66. The next few miles felt great and I was super happy about my pace, keeping it around 6:50. Super happy, at least, until I start hearing footsteps around mile 7. Surely no one is catching me, surely. It must be my bib or my shoelaces. NOPE. I turn around and there’s Jeremy Lewis, local HS XC coach, dropping low 6 pace. Sonofabitch. He passes me and I figure he is leaving me for dead. I can’t calculate the math at the time , but he must’ve been absolutely crushing it to make up the half mile. And it seems maybe it took a lot out of him, because he only slowly creeps away from me in the final miles. I did throw down a 6:30ish in the last mile just to keep the gap from getting too big. Finished 8.84 miles in a shade under an hour, 59:49 /6:47 pace. I actually felt pretty good, and it was awesome to get half my mileage done early.

Shutter left on ten seconds to get this much light

With Van 1 now in motion, we made our way to our next start, the Hatchery Waterfowl management boat landing. By this time it was dark, and wow, this boat landing had like zero light. The second we got the landing, the other dudes in the van were immediately ready to sleep. Then I realized the punishment for arriving last to the van that morning. While the other guys had places to crash, I had about 12 inches of space, sharing my seat with our gargantuan cooler that could easily store a dead body. Fortunately, I had brought my sleeping bag and pillow. After finally changing into some clean clothes, my body finally realized it was 9 pm and I hadn’t eaten dinner. I attacked my sub like there was no tomorrow, looking like a total maniac with the EXTRA MAYO everywhere. It was not a glamorous moment. Following my moment of gluttony, I realized it was in the mid 40’s and windy outside. I went into full boy scout camping mode, wrapping up in so many layers like the kid from the Christmas Story. I couldn’t move my arms either. It was insanely dark, but I did make note of a lone picnic table by the water’s edge as we were driving in. That would be my Sealy Posturepedic for the night. I throw down my camping pad and sleeping bag on the table and try to get comfortable. Not exactly the Four Seasons but not too terrible. The only problem is the intermittent splashing I keep hearing that I pray to God are fish. My mind starts thinking I could very well be some enormous homewrecker style burrito for a hungry crocodile from Lake Moultrie. A giant fishing boat comes roaring through and of course there are near constant van lights. I think there is zero chance I’ll get any sleep, but suddenly Code is tapping me on the shoulder and saying we are about 15 minutes from our next start. Somehow I guess I drifted off. Believe me, getting any sleep in the relay is pure, unadulterated gold, so I feel like a million bucks heading back to the van. 

Jacked up on a solid 90 minutes of shuteye, I’m ready to go…and wait another 5 hours. Such is the life of the last runner. I feel like Brian has been underselling his Van 1 speed because these guys are taking down the spreadsheet with a vengeance. We are a good 25 minutes ahead of pace going into round 2, though the upcoming legs at o’ dark thirty always suck. I felt bad for Dan, Nate and the Yerg, because each had a super long leg in the middle of the night. Code was driving and complaining as usual. We had to do a spooky scary search at the Witherbee Ranger Station for the portapotties before Code started. It took several minutes in an unmanned zone, but we finally made out the pale blue rectangles in our Blair Witch Project like lighting. Poor Yerg drew the walksie/hallucination leg from my 2010 debacle. I had chills even driving the route. Although we didn’t make any headway on the spreadsheet, we were still maintaining the pace and, perhaps more importantly, had been holding off Lexington. By the time we arrived for my second leg it was 4:20 in the morning and the rest of my van was already crashing out. I got out and discovered it was freaking freezing, high 30s. I waited in the van until the last possible moment. John Richards was at the zone so it was good to see him volunteering in his second position of the relay. The whole Richards clan volunteers, gave us donuts and some beer (for afterwards) , not to mention my toilet paper. They are amazing.

Paul killed his leg and I wasn’t out in the cold more than 5 minutes before he comes rolling into the zone. I take off like a man possessed, half to go fast and half to get warm. I’m so stiff it feels like I’m running on stilts the first half mile. I finally get into a groove and manage a 6:45 or something. My leg is a straight shot down Hwy 17 with a little turnoff at the end, 5.94 miles. The middle miles actually feel amazing in the cold, and there are a few blinky lights in the distance to chase down, as well as their vans, so it broke up the monotony of a very flat and straight route. I catch up to the other runners pretty fast and get a little afraid since garmin is spitting back 6:30s, which is only about 10 seconds off my 10k PR pace.  The last three miles are sort of a blur, just kept looking for that turnoff road. I memorized it was Darrell Creek, like the Code, so that helped. Luckily the turn was well marked and I blast it out to the finish. Jesse Harmon comes rolling by in his van so I try to look strong and not absolutely gassed like I really am. Finished in 38:18 /6:38 pace so well under the spreadsheet. I was running scared the whole time that Jeremy would catch me again. Char Richards was at the finish, so it seemed the Richards family was singlehandedly supporting this relay. Van 1 was there to see my finish, but where the hell were my guys?? I looked through the entire complex of Carolina Park elementary school until I finally saw what looked like a dead Darrell passed out in the front seat of the last van I checked. Van support is definitely lacking at 5 am, though I’ve been on the other side too and I definitely understand. 

We then rolled on to the start of our third legs, upon which the rest of my van immediately went back to sleep. I was of course still jacked on leg 2 adrenaline and really couldn’t rest. I couldn’t bear to become a human burrito again and head out into the cold, plus I didn’t see any quality picnic furniture to sleep on. Instead, I made sweet sweet love to the gigantic cooler, contorted and twisted in a “head down on the desk at school” sleep mode. It wasn’t pretty but it would have to suffice. It wasn’t long before the sun came up and that made it difficult to really crash out anyway. Except for Rob – the Yerg can sleep like the dead. We were parked directly across from the portapotties and were highly entertained by the fact that two of them were very poorly balanced, creating a violent wobbly effect anytime someone entered. With less than two hours of sleep, this is utterly hilarious. I’m sure the other vans thought we were insane, cheering for someone to pick the rocking toilets. 

Seeing daylight again is always nice, and since Van 1 had all their short legs last, we were back in action super fast.  Poor Dan and Paul had their longest legs last, which is just brutal. Van 1 had technically completed the run to Charleston, with Seibers touching foot on the peninsula after running over the Ravenel bridge. We were now headed to the finish in Awendaw, but not before Nate’s super long leg into Sullivan’s Island over the IOP connector and Dan’s run back the other way. I feel there should be a plaque at the IOP side of the connector, as this was the site of the inaugural Blue Shoes 5k, a 27:05 all out effort in October 2007. All I know is that my body was crashing quickly. I mowed through my running breakfast of choice, Pepperidge Farm cinnamon raisin bread, but then entered into a post meal coma where I just wanted to nap. I can deal with the soreness and fatigue of the running, but I hate the “sleepy tired” feeling of not getting adequate rest from my burrito nap on the gator plate near Lake Moultrie. I made Code make a pit stop at the Circle K and I got a large cup of the heaviest brew they had. I downed it like a maniac and instantly I was jacked up again. But Paul still had his 7 miler to go, so I’d have to stew in my caffeine induced mania for a while. As we pulled out of the “Dollar General field” (a grassy area behind the store), I heard the worst sound. Suddenly the van was spinning tires. OH NO NOT AGAIN. I had images of the 2012 Blue Ridge relay where it took like 12 people pushing and gunning the gas to unstick our van. After a tense couple of minutes and with everyone out and pushing, we finally were finally able to free our vehicle from the muck. WHEW. I was in an all out panic, thinking I might need to call Brian to come get us emergently. 

By the time of my third leg, we knew that we had Lexington beat and the Masters crown should be in the bag. The only variable was if we could break the 24 hour mark. Great, there still has to be pressure. The Circle K brew apparently was spiked with amphetamines because between that and the van/mud debacle I was really revved up. I think I hit the portapotty like 5 times and kept pacing in the cold. The rest of Van 2 was enjoying a beauty nap, I assume. Suddenly Paul comes tearing into the last exchange screaming like a banshee. I wasn’t entirely sure of what time he came in, so I take off like a man possessed. I only had a 5k to go, but I was still afraid of catastrophic walksies or getting lost or something. Legs were like WTF are we doing but I was willing to thrash them into oblivion to throw down a good time. It felt like I was doing a sub 6, but trashed legs gave me a 6:30 for mile 1. Hey, good enough though. Fortunately, my leg was just a simple straight route with one turn at the end into the park for the finish line. I bled a little time in mile 2 to 6:36, but then the adrenaline took over when I could make out the park entrance. I blasted into the park and was praying it wasn’t too far from the finish. Luckily around the first bend you have a long straightaway with the finish arch in sight. I swear it felt like forever, but I finally made it to the home stretch, where the whole team created a little tunnel to go through before hitting the finish. 20:27/6:29 for the 3.15 last leg, and more importantly way under 24 hours as a team, official time of 23 hours and 47 minutes/ 7:02 pace. FIRST MASTERS and actually 3rd overall too. Finish line area was great with New Belgium brews and Moe’s tacos. Lots of familiar faces at the finish including fellow Skidaway vets / TUS teammates/ CRC members Ashley Holman, Brittany Jones and Christa Collins, whose team won first female. Dan “feeling the streets” Bliesner from our early teams was on hand, along with Simon Froese from the Dam to Dam relay. Julia and Pat Norcia were there to support Kyle and his Clemson team. Darrell has stated he is retired after this year, and I always threaten to as well, but I’ll keep my options open. Just hope I get a better sleep next year, and of course, hold the mayo.

Skidaway Marathon- Skidaway Island/Savannah, GA – 3/13/21

It should be noted that the marathon and I have had a very rocky relationship. When you’re built like a greyhound bus, you tend to suck more at longer distances, and this undoubtedly true for me. But if you are runner, you eventually do 26.2, and the holy grail of all that is running is qualifying and competing in the Boston Marathon. The seed for that dream started in 2010 when I tried my hand at running my first attempt at the distance at Richmond. That was a disaster of a bonk with a shredded IT band, electric shock like cramping and a death march to a 3:52 after being on 3:30 pace through 18 miles. I came back a year later and did Jacksonville and managed a much better 3:20, then Richmond again in 2012 in 3:22, though still way off from the Boston standard. My cliff dive in Hawaii destroyed 2013, but I finally buckled down in ’14, following Justin Bishop’s brutal training regimen and notching a 3:11 at Kiawah to punch my BQ ticket. After doing a celebratory and slow Boston in 2016, I wasn’t really motivated to do the distance again. But after the 2018 half at Kiawah, and 3 IPAs deep, I signed up for the 2019 Kiawah full to try and get back to Beantown, this time hopefully to run a good time.

Yeah, so that didn’t work out. My wonky Achilles acted up in mile 10 and I had to take a DNF for the first time in my racing life. UGH, it sucked. I regrouped and trained for 2020 Wilmington in March. Silent H trained with me and qualified at Myrtle Beach, and then COVID hit a week later and canceled my race. I decided just to train though 2020 with high mileage and try for next year. There weren’t any races, so what else was I going to do? I was hitting 50, 60 then 70 miles a week. No speedwork. I finally got a chance to race at Cold Winter’s Day 5k in December and shocked myself with an 18:34. This must be working. I continued throughout January when BAM , both Wilmington and Myrtle were postponed. Desperate, and again a few beers deep (do I sense a pattern?)  I found the Skidaway Marathon. It was small, near Savannah, and still being held as far as I could tell. Time to finally put all this work into action.

So, as race week approached, I was pretty confident. All I needed, in my advanced age (now 46) was to run a 3:20, but let’s say around 3:15 to be safe. My 5k times suggested I could flirt with 3 hours flat, but hey, let’s just make this easy. Course seemed pretty flat. It looked like it might be a little warm, but hopefully I’d be done before the worst heat of the day. I tapered down to about 30 miles on race week, no injuries, everything was perfect. I debated the idea of bringing the VAPORS (Nike vaporflys) but decided that the risk of blisters was too great and my goal should be “easy” enough to run in my regular trainers. 

I show up on race morning super early and I’m pretty anxious to get this thing going. There was a sizable Columbia/CRC contingent on hand – Ed Aulfuldish, Christa Collins, Colleen Quarles, Ashley Holman, Brittany Jones, Tracy McKinnon, Ken Hinely, Larry Jourdain, Linn Hall, Erin Miller, Brad Marlow, MC Cox, Westley McKinney, and Bridgette Honor were all on hand. Nice to see so many familiar faces this far away from home. 

Pretty soon we were off. My biggest fear in the early going was honing in on the goal pace. 3:15 is about 7:26 per mile. I figured 7:20 would be golden, banking some time. I hit mile one in 7:30, then picked it up a notch with a few 7:17 ish miles to try and average it out. Perfect. I was feeling great. Weather was about 60 degrees, legs felt fresh, wasn’t breathing hard. This was going to be easier than I thought. There were some winding parts of this course onto bike and cart paths and it seemed, for better or for worse, that this was almost identical to Kiawah. There were more scenic views of the marsh but the homes, streets and golf course felt the same. I had planned to start taking my shot blox around 6 miles, but I was feeling good and just took in some water instead. I was fearful that eating anything might bring on the menace of my long runs, the poopsies. So far so good, though I got a twinge in the ol’ belly in mile 7 and started to get a little panicky. Thankfully it subsided, though it was replaced with my first sense that all was not well. It seemed like my hamstrings were getting a little tight and I was no longer moving as smoothly as I had. I dropped back to 7:30 in mile 8 and that caused me to correct again back to 7:13, then a few miles of 7:20ish. I took some shot blox in mile 10 in the hope that maybe I wasn’t fueling or hydrating right. But as the halfway point started rolling around, I knew I was in trouble. Something wasn’t right. It made no sense to me but I van only describe it as just feeling “off” and not being able to fully extend my tight hamstrings. Some random girl came up beside me and said, “Christa and Ed said to say hello. They said you could probably do 3:10 pace. I’m doing 7:10 pace if you join”. While running with attractive female twentysomethings sounded nice, I knew that was a recipe for disaster with how I was feeling.

At the half, I was somewhere in the neighborhood of 1:34, so still ahead of pace. But I was pretty much devastated because I knew the wheels were starting to fall off. At some point there was a photo spot, where I tried to look like I had energy. Then some videographer starts running alongside of me and films me for like 15 seconds. I tried to act like I was having a good time, but if I did, it was an Oscar caliber performance. I was dying. Shortly after was the only hill of any kind on the course, some sort of overpass/bridge. Going uphill I realized that maybe this was at least part of the issue. Climbing stretched out the hammies and used some different muscles, and I felt a lot better for a brief moment. But that hill was gone in a flash and I was back to pounding flat pavement. Mile 15 is when my body really started overriding my brain’s attempt to veto their decision. I was trying to increase effort to maintain the same pace, but my legs were just toast, on the verge of cramping. I started bleeding time – first a 7:46, then 7:56 and an 8:09 for mile 17. I found a portapotty right after the mile marker. Half to pee, half to just stop. I knew I my race was trashed and I was so, so pissed. The homeowner’s association of Skidaway is probably going to have complaints of Tourette’s style F bombs being tossed as I walked for probably 30 seconds. In my mind it felt like 10 minutes. Screw this, I’m dropping out of this thing. However, I was absolutely in the middle of nowhere. I lurched to a jog in mile 18 when Christa comes bounding toward me like she just started the race. “I’M GOING TO RUN WITH YOU NOW”. I quickly told her that I was unequivocally done and that she needs to just go. Pretty soon Ed came by as well and I had to tell him the same. Getting passed and facing 8 more miles was just awful. A few more people flew by me in my death slog jog, and Ashley scared the hell out of me at about mile 19. Everyone but me seemed to be having a banner day.

I knew there was an out and back around mile 20 or so. I had been running with the thought of bailing on that loop to get back to the finish faster. But as I approached the turn, more F bombs were released and I realized it was still going to have to run more than a 5k if I dropped. I was going to finish this damn thing. Although I had caught some more walksies, I set out trying to remain running in this loop. Of course, the sun was out by now and it was probably at least 70 degrees. Tracy was already on his way back, proclaiming this the loop from hell. Well now I’m super motivated! But hell, it was hard to envision a more miserable time than I was already having. I hit the turnaround and hoped maybe I could make it all the way to the finish without stopping. Nope, another case of the walksies. At the end of the loop, the 3:30 pace guys finally caught up to me, though apparently they were guiding nobody but themselves. I clocked a blazing 11:19 mile 23. More obscenities. By mile 24 I promised myself no more walksies. I think I didn’t, though honestly the last 2.2 is pretty much a blur. Beyond avoiding a marathon stroll, I hoped to fend off that 3:45 pace pack I saw on the out-and-back section. I recall the countdown number signs they had near the finish line as I was driving in that morning. I thought they were kind of silly at the time, but now I was mentally hanging on by a thread, and each number gave me a goal. Starting at 10, they were probably only 100-200 meters apart but it felt like a mile. Finally, the finish rolled into view and I tried to pick it up. By pick it up, I mean under 10 minute pace. Not exactly the blue shoe finish I had hoped for. In the last stretch I saw the 3:39 on the clock and amped it up to a stiff legged semi-sprint in the last quarter mile to get in just a shade under 3:40. SO glad to be done.

Someone wake me when this is over.

So yeah, this race was pretty much a disaster for me. I am glad I finished, because the DNF about killed me at Kiawah. And no, I don’t think 3:39 is a bad time for anybody, just really disappointing for what I think I can do. I’m still not entirely sure what happened in this race. My best guess is a mix of poor hydration/fueling with the heat, not getting in enough marathon pace practice and the relentless flatness of the course (all of my long run training is over the crazy hills of Columbia).  Any who, back to the drawing board. I have the Palmetto 200 coming up this week, so I guess I need to recover fast. Wilmington is April 19, so maybe a chance for redemption there. We will see.

Columbia area results: 

Half: Larry Jourdain 1:30:12 at age 58. Wow.  MC Cox in 1:33, Linn Hall in 1:37, Matthew Ulcak 1:51, Colleen Towery 1:53, Savannah Ulcak 1:59, Tyler Jones 2:10, Joanna Neal 2:10, Simeon Roberts 2:17, Colleen Wracker 2:17 , Phyillis Hughes2:19, Sarah Holcomb 2:47, Angela Brewbaker 2:54

Full: Tracy McKinnon in 3:09/BQ, Christa Collins in 3:17, first marathon, first masters and a BQ! Westley McKinney in 3:20, Ed Aulfuldish 3:24 and a PR/BQ, Ashley Holman 3:25 PR/BQ, Brad Marlow 3:26 BQ, Ken Hinely 3:51, Colleen Quarles 3:55, Brittany Jones 3:56, Sara Hartsell 4:46, Bridgette Honor 4:52 first marathon. Kristin Collins 5:30, Mary Sumter 6:19.

Lucky Leprechaun 5k – Camden, SC – 3/6/21

A few years ago, someone asked me to reconsider doing the two looped hillfest misery of the Columbia Marathon and do a 5k in Camden. It would be Irish-themed, the course was flat, it would involve post-race beer, and it would be held on my birthday. With a personalized cake. As it turns out, it doesn’t take much arm-twisting to get me to change my plans with that kind of deal. And just like that, the Lucky Leprechaun race became an annual part of the Tour de Blue Shoes. Fifty Camdenites are still wondering to this day why they had to sing “Happy Birthday” to one random guy in 2018.

But one thing was missing, where was the leprechaun?? The first year, Erin Roof (race director and author of the above deal I couldn’t refuse) made her own son wear shamrock boxers to be the character to chase. A year later I told her I couldn’t bear this child abuse and that I would step up for the humiliation. As you may know, I basically don’t need much of a reason to dress up in a ridiculous costume. But my last foray into Irish boxers on race day almost led to a most tragic wardrobe malfunction at the Get to the Green. If we are doing cosplay, I was going all out. Luckily Party City had a full giant green suit costume with velour leggings and knee high socks that were great for running. Perfect. And so for the last two years, the race now has an official 7 foot leprechaun mascot with blue shoes.

My first year I struggled a bit with the costume but managed to clock like a 20:30 or something, but 2020 proved a banner year for cosplay 5k, with a 19:30ish costume PR.

This year was going to be more subdued with all the COVID restrictions in place, with the most devastating effect being the nixing of the beer. But hey, I was just glad they were going to put on a live race.Race day was pretty close to perfect. Chilly and clear. I knew the course was very fast, basically a rectangle in Camden with a slow, gradual climb in the first half and a blazing second part on the way down. I’ve been running some of my best times recently with all the marathon mileage, so I wanted to take down that costume PR. I got there super early as it turns out Camden is essentially the same distance as Columbia from the Northeast. Plenty of time to do a quick warm up jog with my archnemesis Sean “EFFING” Higgins in my regular running gear and do one last portapotty destruction before donning the costume (believe me a cosplay poop is not pleasant). Slipping on the green velour actually felt great since it was so cold. Pretty good CRC/Columbia contingent with Roy “PREZ” Shelley, (also a birthday boy this week), VP JEDI RUNNER Tracy Tisdale, Ivanka THE BULGARIAN BULLET Tolanand husband Eliere, Jim Williams, Stephanie Greenway,Leeds Barroll, Tom and Lisa Hart, Ken Lowden, Pete Poore, Jennifer and Jason Norris. 127 were registered, even with March for Meals competing in town.

With the start, we all blast out onto the main drag of Camden , Dekalb Street. With this being only the 3rd race in three months, I’m still having trouble pacing, especially with the newfound marathon training speed. I let Ivanka and Higgins lead the way, and figure just behind them would be a good place to start. I’m pretty much content with laying back a bit in the first quarter mile, when suddenly this younger dude in a Clemson shirt completely cuts me off at a corner and almost plows into me. OH SNAP IT IS ABSOLUTELY FREAKING ON NOW. Dude pulls ahead but I open up a little bit of leprechaun kick ass and pull up next to him for a bit. He’s breathing hard, so I wait until the next few spectators appear before I execute the cosplay pass of shame. EAT IT DUDE. There are few things I enjoy more than giving someone a good beatdown, particularly with a green vest, top hat and knee highs. OK, perhaps that could be worded better.

Mile one comes back in 6:21 so I’ve been lollygagging way too much in the first part. I thought it was faster, but I guess Higgins and Ivanka are going out slower than I’d hoped. Mile 2 seems to last forever. I keep hoping for the turnaround but the road just keeps going and going. It’s a slight incline, just enough to feel it but not too terrible. Finally I see Ivanka, who is in the lead, turn right, with Higgins just behind. Native Camdenite Whitney Keen is near the turnaround, and tells me this (presumably the giant lucky charms mascot in vapors) is exactly why he’s not running. The turnaround is only a block and suddenly we are careening down the other side. The road is wide open and just meant for crushing it. Mile 2 is 6:12. With a mile to go, I hit the afterburners. I think for second that Clemson dude is tracking me but it’s just me lucky green tails on my suit. Sean suddenly passes Ivanka up ahead and just starts crushing it. I’m going full tilt when I realize that I’ve misjudged the finish and that Dekalb is still another 2 blocks. DOH. Oh well, the chips are already pushed in. Finally we turn back on to Dekalb with a just a few blocks left. I’ve managed to narrow the gap on Ivanka. But sadly, it was not enough real estate to catch her. As we hit the last turn, I suddenly realize that there are still 18’s on the clock. WTH? This kills me since I was just trying to beat the 19:30 costume PR and didn’t know I was this close to 19 minutes. I try to manage an all out kick but I can tell I’m going to be just a touch short of the sub 19. Finish time is 19:03. 3rd overall, 2nd male. I’m pretty happy with the time. Turns out the downhill blast in mile 3 was a 5:53 split with a 5:29 kicker. The vapors and 190 pounds of leprechaun sasquatch rolling down a hill make for fast times, I suppose.

Speaking of fast times, Higgins absolutely destroyed the final mile in a hair over 5:40and won with an 18:30. Ivanka notched an 18:52 for the women’s win over Elise Barronand Jill Surface. Third place guy was Mr. Clemson in 20:32.Masters/Age group honor roll: Roy smoked a new PR in 21:20 for first place masters. Tony Yarborough was 3rd. Tracy scored 3rd masters with Stephanie Greenway 1st. Jason Norris may have walked but he still got first in AG. Hey, everyone loves a good trophy hunt. Mark Chickering was 2nd in 50-54, while Eliere tolan was 2nd in the 55-59. Jim Williams and Tom Hart were 1-2 in the 60-64. Leeds Barroll was tops in the 65-69. Ken Lowden was second in the 70+.
Thanks to Erin Roof / GRIT for putting on another great race! Her next event will be at the True to the Brew 10k on March 27.