Blue Shoe Creeper – Shandon – 10/26/22

Anyone who knows my training regimen knows my headless chicken Saturday morning efforts are the product of relentless daily afternoon slog jogs through the Soda City. I am continually amazed by those of you that throw down tempos and speed sessions during the week, while I’m out there loping along to mid 90s alternarock getting passed by hobby joggers. 

But there’s one exception… Strava segments.

Like little invisible dangling carrots, segments stoke my raging competitive narcissism and I can’t help but throw down every now and then to get on the leaderboard. I too am the author of a few segments, including the infamous MOUNT LYNHAVEN , which gets my vote for worst hill in the Columbia area (with consideration for Henderson St as well). But what about a segment named after me?

A couple of months ago, I was so eager to check out Drew and Tracy’s potential new house on Heyward St that I decided to run over there from the Y and take a look. It was already under contract though they were having work done on it. Somehow that led me to believe that it was unoccupied. I was wrong. A sweaty Sasquatch made his way all the way to the backyard before seeing a car and some kid’s toys. Total panic. My mind immediately filled with images of being the next perp on OPLive, with 250 lb muscle-beast Deputy Garo Brown tackling me in the middle of Shandon for trespassing. I feel like that would be hard to explain to the SC medical board. In any event, Tracy decided to christen the two blocks (0.18 miles) in front of the new house as the “BLUE SHOE CREEPER” segment.

And if you’re going to have a segment named after you, then you should probably be its champion, right? One problem. Strava segment leaderboards automatically populate with previous runs. A certain Eric Westog, who crushed the Run for the Saints 5k in 4:50 something pace, held the Creeper record – an even 1:00. I tried twice to take it down in the late summer heat, after a few miles. No dice. Like 1:03, 1:04. So close,  yet so far away. I made it my mission to take down the record, and the Blue Shoes SUB 1 (minute) project was born.

After a few weeks of my empty promises to race it, Tracy and Drew moved in and agreed to stage an official photodocumented attempt. I would come down there, in my VAPORS, fresh legs, cooler weather, with traffic control (yeah, we’ll get back to that) and of course plenty of pics and a celebratory beer. I guess it was time to get off the pot.

I showed up around 4 and was ridiculously nervous for something that absolutely, positively, had no bearing on anything whatsoever. Somehow I had worked this thing up to be a metaphor of my total value as a runner. Seems logical, right? I warmed up for about 2 miles around Shandon and felt like trash. This was going to suck. 

Finally we set it up. Simple straight route on Heyward from Woodrow to Queen. Tracy at the finish for pics and Drew at King Street to avoid me getting T boned at the intersection. I strolled down to Woodrow, and figured I’d give myself about 10 meters for the Blue shoes bus to get rolling into the start. I waited for the light to turn green and just blasted out of the gate. My first sensation, other than my hat wanting to fly off my head, was that I was most certainly every bit of 47 years old. All achy from my slog jog miles and not used to ever approaching this kind of speed, not even on race day. First block seemed OK. Drew was there filming at King Street and no cars were there. Unfortunately I had a sense I was being tailed by one but I don’t dare look back at sprint speed, since I’d probably end up eating pavement. Second block was another story. First, my legs started bathing in the lactic acid of the first 200 meters. Second, there was a car waiting to pull out of the Heyward St United Methodist church. I have run past that church perhaps hundreds of times in the past decade plus. Number of cars pulling out: ZERO. But this woman picked this particular moment to potentially destroy the dream of the SUB 1. Perhaps it was the car behind me, but more likely the absolutely terrifying scene of a runaway freight train of a man that gave her pause. As I blasted by her, three teens were mocking me on the sidewalk, Drew and Tracy were screaming at me, and there were possibly other cars involved too. It was a complete scene, probably going to end up on the Shandon Nextdoor site. The last ten meters were pretty much torture, the legs turning to stone and my pace plummeting. I crashed through the “finish” as hard as I could and ran over a bit to make sure it captured the segment. Legs and lungs were absolutely on fire. I immediately saved the run and it seemingly took forever to upload to Garmin/Strava. Please…please..please… BEEP . I saw the run pop up with a golden crown and 57 SECONDS. Wooooooooooo! PROJECT SUB 1 COMPLETE.

I was pathetically happy with this. I’m embarrassed to say it made my week. It may be broken by the time you read this, but for now, I am the BLUE SHOE CREEPER CHAMPION. Thanks so much to Tracy and Drew for the support, photodocumentation and of course the celebratory beer.


Ray Tanner 5k – Columbia, SC – 10/15/22

The Ray Tanner Home Run 5k/12k has been a staple of the Columbia area racing scene since 2005, initially held at the old Sarge Frye field and later migrating to its current spot at Founders Field. Tanner was the architect of the Gamecocks College World Series championships  in 2010 and 2011, and he now serves as USC’s athletic director.The race goes to fund his foundation, which helps economically and medically disadvantaged kids and their families in Columbia. 

But let’s focus on the real issue here: CRC POINTS. As a diehard CRCer and trophy hunter, I pride myself on using my encyclopedic knowledge of the Columbia road racing scene for the past 15 years to do the mental calculus to maximize my points. This, however, was an epic fail. 

I chose the 5k, as it is definitely the “undercard” and the winning time in the past has been as high as 20 minutes. The 12k has historically been brutally competitive, with elites from all over the state throwing down some blazing times. That’s why we gave the race double points during the McDonald administration. Even with the double pointed 12k, I figured my chances at top 10 were not great. I placed 6th or something last year but I figured it was just the smaller crowds post covid. Sounds logical, right? 

However, I’ve always done the 12k in the past because the course is cool (designed by our own Ken Lowden, also former Ray Tanner race director) , the distance unique,  and it’s one of Columbia’s signature races. So I waited and agonized over the choice, but finally just pulled the trigger on the 5k. Contrary to the tough 12k route, the 5k looked pretty “flat and fast”.  My inside sources told me Dimery and Giovannini were signed up, but hopefully I could finish not too far behind Dr. G. 

I showed up my customary hour early and did my typical nuclear destruction of the parking lot portapotties. I can’t deal with the performance pressure of the more popular inside bathrooms. I didn’t see an official race photographer so I decided to Sweaty Iphone the 12k start. The 12k has a one mile lap at the start so you can see the very beginning and about ¾ of a mile in. I didn’t really notice the field until the second time they came around. Shrum was out in front, and then a whole pack of the top women, and then Roy and Ed. DAMMIT. Not that the Prez and Fast Eddie aren’t fast, but they are mere mortals like myself. No Kenyans, no elites outside of Shrum. So many missed points. Oh well.

Lining up for the 5k got me even more depressed. Regan and Branham were on board and there was even a rare Jeff Brandenburg appearance. I was already catastrophizing about getting beat by all these guys. And these were the known factors. Some super fast looking kid was at the line as well. Also, some team of little kids in neon orange showed up and all of them crowded the start line. Luckily their coach had them step to the side a bit, but between 15 elementary schoolers and Jeff’s dog, this start was going to be nuts. Sure enough, as soon as honorary starter Aliyah Boston said the word, everyone took off like a bat out of hell. I stiff armed some little dude, jumped off to the side and found a seam like Marcus Lattimore circa 2010. 

After blasting out of the start to avoid trampling schoolkids, we settled down as we crossed the Blossom st bridge. At this time you start weaving into the midpack 12k field, so it can get a little dicey. Luckily it was fairly thinned out so not too much dodging. Dimery and the fast kid were already in a different area code. Regan and G were about 10 meters ahead and Branham was riding my shoulder. Crossing the bridge to State Street is the main incline of the 5k course, which is barely a bump compared to the brutal B avenue and overpass climbs of the 12k route. We basically maintained this position through the mile 1 mark, which is just after you turn on State,  6:11 split. State Street features the Inspiration Station, which now honors both Leona Lavallee (a big part of the Columbia running community who passed away in 2009) and the late legendary Patti Lowden. It’s always nice to see the band and cheering at the station, even more when you get to bypass the B avenue mountain!  Chris is still on my back like an oversized monkey at this point, and I can see Regan jabbering away at Giovannini up ahead, exacting his psychological torture. We hit the Gervais st bridge just over the halfway point and now it’s mostly just us and what appears to be Ivanka from the 12k on the course. I’m finally able to drop Branham at this point, though I’m not confident I won’t see him again. And of course I’m deathly afraid of getting Brandenburged. I try and just maintain pace and hit mile 2 at the end of the bridge in a 6:06 split. Mile 3 has the other hill, which essentially is a little bump on Gist street and another rise on Huger. I knew it’s all downhill and flat from there to the finish in the stadium. As I start the Gist hill, I see blood in the water. Regan has started to fade. It’s probably too early to really kick it  but I at least throw down a bit harder on the incline. Sure enough, I manage to pull alongside Regan on Huger and he says he’s gassed. I want to believe him but I’m not sure. As I start the plunge down Huger I can see Dr.G not too far ahead. I try and ramp it up but the Regan pass on the incline has taken its toll. G kicks it in and I can tell I’m not going to catch him. As I blast into the stadium, I can make out mid 18s on the clock. It’s going to be close. One more headless chicken effort to home plate and I don’t even look at the clock, doing a semi HYC style collapse into the artificial turf. I know Strictly tends to round up their times if it’s even a touch over the second recorded, so I have no idea if I got a sub 19. I get my ticket printed out and it’s official: 18:58.98 YESS. 4th overall. So not happy missing out on the 12k pointapalooza, but I am happy with the 5k time and place. 

I should note the 12k was an unexpected trophy hunt for the MEN ONLY. The women’s field was definitely stacked. Sara Ashton took the women’s win in 46:57, followed by Jen Davis and Lauren Strothers. Mike Shrum crushed the field in 44:12 for the overall win followed by Ed Aufuldish and Michael Nance. The YERG Rob Yerger and Ivanka Tolan were masters winners. Mario Alvarez took home grandmasters. Ruth-Marie Embler was the female grandmasters winner, clocking an incredible 57:39/7:44 pace at age 65, a pending state record. 

12k age groupers :Lindsey McIntosh, Sally Davidson and Mara Argyriou were tops in a super competitive 25-29 women’s group. Kara Stevens and Lindsey Hendren were top 2 in the 30-34. Jennifer Lybrand and “nonfacebook” Jenna Teer were 1-2 in the 35-39 women, while Andy Mikula was 2nd among the men. Justin “eyedocrunner” Campbell and Tristan Neville were 1-3 in the 40-44 men and Nikki Barthelemy was tops among the women. Drew Dickerson and Julie McKinnon were champs of the 45-49. Heather Hawn was 2nd in the 50-54. Barbara Brandenburg, Kay Ornelas and Sherry Fadel won the 55-59 women, while Clay Ham, Robert Ornelas and Joe Robinson won among the men. Pete O’Boyle and Carol Wallace both won the 65-69.  Bill Iskrzak was 2nd in the 70-74 men, while Lynn Grimes was the champ among the women with an 8:56 pace!

Other 12k notable finishers: Jim Fadel, Michael Jensen, Patrick Hall, Allison Sweeney, Rebekah Robertson, Nancy Alvarez, Julia Ghering, Kurt Hamm, Gretchen Lambert, Son Nguyen, Jenny Nance, Sheila Bolin, Bridgette Honor, Hou-Yin Chang, and Greta Dobe.

The 5k was won by 19 year old Henry Wood in a blazing 16:11, followed by Dimery with a 16:41 – not too shabby for a 40 year old. David Giovannini was 3rd in 18:43. Gabby Jourdain was tops among the women, followed by a pair of 11 year olds –  Paisley Hinkle and Delilah Williams. “Consolation” masters went to the Albino Sasquatch thanks to Dimery placing in the overall. Coleen Strasburger is too fast for grandmasters and won female masters in 24:26. Jeff Brandenburg and Janine Nimmons were grandmaster champs.

5k age groupers: Quentin and Sabine McGrievy both placed 2nd in the 14-16. Regan Freeman won the 25-29. Chris Branham won the 40-44. Chirs Fawver and Brie McGrievy were the 45-49 champs. Johnathan Kirkwood and Michael Sakara were 2-3 in the 50-54, while Kimberly Holliday won among the women. Mark Bedenbaugh took the 55-59 win. Phil Smith was champ of the 60-64. Marc Embler (1981 Cooper river bridge 10k winner)  and Ron Lipe were 1-2 in the 65-69. Helene Lipe took 3rd among the women. Pete Poore was 3rd and Nonie Hudnall 1st in  the 70-74. Ken Lowden was champ of the 75+.

Other 5k notable finishers include: Melinda Waldrop, Kat Hudgins, Dorothy Collins, Sandra Manning, and racing machine Margie Shelburg, completing race #32 for the year!