Hogpen Hill Climb 5k/18k – Unicoi State Park, Helen, GA – 1/13/18

 

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I got sucked into the Hogpen last year. Never one to  travel for most races (Columbia has something every weekend practically), El Capitan (Brian Clyburn) of my Palmetto 200 team talked this one up for years as a “must-do”.  Combine this with my internal engine of equal parts narcissism and masochism, a built in double-dip, along with a beer-fueled trip with the Harbison Trail guys, and I was in.  I probably cursed this decision a thousand times in the 11 miles up to Hogpen gap last year, but naturally, I got suckered in again.

The Hogpen is no joke. It bills itself as one of the”toughest races in America”. I don’t know if this is hyperbole or not, but it certainly has to be up there as far as relatively short paved courses go. It has almost 2 miles of downhill  to start, but the rest is insanely hilly, with a stretch after the 7 mile mark that is relentless with some 12-14 percent grade.  Brian told me last year that you should expect your time in the 11ish mile 18k to compare to your typical half marathon times. El Capitan is clearly delusional. My half marathon times are usually 1:28-1:30. My Hogpen 18k was a 1:44. Granted, this was the second race of the day after the 5k, but it was a 100% effort. Lots of walksies. We should also mention the 5k. Nicknamed “the Piglet” , the 5k is a rolling out and back through the mountains that would easily be the toughest 5k course in Columbia. I think it was meant for the friends and family of the 18k racers, but there is actually a double dip option to do both in the registration. The 5k is pretty small, and I’m guessing the actual number of double dippers is even more miniscule. So there’s an undercard 5k, with like maybe 30-40 people. Most runners think “don’t bother”. I think “TROPHY HUNT!!”.   Last year my trophy hunt was quashed by the Yerg, but also some kid who blue shoed him at the end and left us both with only medals. The overall winners, of both the 5k and the 18k, get an awesome mug, custom made by a local potter. This year, I decided the mug must be mine!

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The Yerg and I decided to travel up to Helen, GA the night before. Me, to make the early 5k start time, Rob, to participate in the drinking of DAS BOOT.  Since we paid like 25 bucks for the ridiculous beer boot last year at Haufbrau house, it only makes sense we would go back for seven dollar refills.  For the uninitiated, White county Georgia’s cultural attractions include both the Cabbage Patch “Hospital” were your favorite mid-80’s bizarro fad dolls are made, and the faux alpine village of Helen. Helen is kind of like Sound of Music meets Myrtle Beach. The streets are all in German and the whole town looks like a movie set. I think its main purpose is an excuse to drink beer, which, while not the classiest of motives, is an idea I can still get behind. Our wild “night on the town” consisted of a hop from the Hofbrau Haus to “Bigg Daddy’s”, a restaurant noted for its wide selection of bar cuisine, if not for their spelling.  A zombie pizza (steak, sausage and pepperoni) and another beer later and I was pretty much done. We were back at the hotel at like 7:30 and Yerg was comatose by 8.  No one can hang with partiers like us.

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The next morning I make the Yerg get up super early, eat breakfast and check out of the hotel to get there at 8:20ish for the 9 am start time. I hurriedly get my bib and warm up, fighting the 28 degree cold. On top of this is a stiff wind and the faintest of snow dusting from last night.  At 9 am there’s barely anyone there, and then the timer tells us the 5k is at 9:30.  It’s on the website. And, I’m an idiot. After more miles thrown in just to keep warm, I stroll up to the start and the trophy senses are in full tingle. At least 80 percent of the field is bundled up like their out for a stroll, and I don’t see anyone that looks super fast. I’m a little worried about one teenager though. With the start, I blast out to the front initially, then very quickly get passed by a Latino guy with a soccer player’s build, a kid, and the teenager. Between these guys and my sasquatch self as the lead pack, the Piglet’s less than elite status was getting cemented further.  But soccer guy was not playing around. He surges out to the front on a long, insanely steep downhill, which I knew would suck at the end of this straight out-and-back course. The little bit of flat at the bottom, and its looking like I’ll be lucky to be 4th in this thing. The ensuing long uphill stretch is killer though, and I blast through the kid and teenager who had been running nearly side-by-side. Soccer dude is still crushing it. The remainder of the outward stretch is non-stop hills and I eventually pull up right behind the leader. Suddenly I see the gate up ahead and no turnaround in sight. I distinctly remember the director telling us the turnaround was a little before the gate, and I remember it from last year. Me and soccer guy basically stop and look at each other after the gate. I have like 1.6 something miles on my Garmin, and there’s no signage in sight down the road. We create our own turnaround just after the gate and take off back towards the start. We’ve built a huge gap on the field, so its going to be mano a mano to the finish. Soccer guy has taken the lead and is trying to pull away . I’m stepping a little out of the 5k pace I want to run because I don’t want him gapping me too much. As we roll back towards the finish, soccer dude is officially kicking my ass. I had hoped to win and not have to try that hard, not locked into a brutal duel on what was definitely going to be a long course. My oxygen deprived brain decides to push in all my chips on that soul-crushing incline waiting for us at the end.

Heading into the bottom of the hill, the leader has maybe 10 feet on me. As soon as I hit the mountain, I unleash the dragon. A quarter of the way up I pull even with the guy and he is not having it, surging ahead. I then enter some deep, dark pain cave and the access the reserve rocket fuel tank. I surge ahead and get overtaken by my favorite drug- the pure adrenaline fix of first place. Yes, its first place in the undercard race of 40 some odd people, most of whom are treating this as a fun run, but in my mind it’s a showdown between Mo Farah and Galen Rupp. As I crest the hill, I have no idea where soccer dude is and Rob and the rest of the Harbison Trail Runner contingent are screaming for me to not get beat by the guy behind me. The remaining stretch is downhill and I’m blasting 1000 percent, legs burning and lungs sucking, scared to death of getting passed at the finish. I crash through the line at Mach 5, only to look back and see the other guy like a 100 meters back.  Damn those guys. Still, a win is a win. A shade under 23 minutes for 3.4ish miles. “Soccer guy” was Jose Flores and his son Joe took third place. Super nice people. Jose said he was doing the 18k too and runs around 19 minutes for a typical 5k, so I guess we were well matched. I will cherish my mug!

http://www.coolrunning.com/results/18/ga/Jan13_2018Pi_set1.shtml

 

Of course, now I had just over an hour before a brutal 18k, after giving an unexpected 10000 percent effort in the Piglet. I was going to be absolute toast. I switched over bibs and discovered the Hogpen has the most bizarre swag bag. I am now the proud owner of  not one, but two Cake Boss “spoonulas” and a snow leopard coin purse. I know, don’t be jealous.

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By this time, Rick Stroud, Marion Hinson and Ken Hinely had made their way to the race, opting for a day trip starting at 6 am that morning. Dean reportedly had something he had to do back home, like cowering in anxiety over a possible McDonald beatdown. The HTR guys are pretty laid back, but they definitely get competitive over this thing. Rick has been the beast on this course, clocking a 1:39 last year without walking a step apparently.  I’m so beat I spend half the time between the races heating my ass with my seat warmer and admiring my trophy mug. Suddenly I realize its 10 minutes until the start and I chug  a water and eat 6 month old fig newtons that have been kicking around my bag forever. Best snack ever. I make my way up to the “start” when I realize the 18k starts a third of a mile down the road. My little warm up jog turns into some 7 minute pace, as I hear the timer announcing 3 minute, then 2 minutes warnings. Finally, I come blasting into the start area, pose for one pic with the guys, then 30 seconds later we are off. I’ve already put in 6 miles between all the warmup and the 5.5 k, so my legs are giving me the big eff you when I think about staying with Rob, Rick and Ken. Marion passes me and I hang with him in the first couple of miles. The most important thing about these 2 miles is that they mean jack squat in terms of the whole race. It’s nice to fall downhill for awhile, but basically its a glorified warmup for the hell that awaits. I hit 7:32/7:54 on the opening miles. Felt like death already thanks to the brutal Piglet. This was going to be nasty.  Speaking of nasty, the next few miles have some tough climbs, but they reward you with some downhill so I was able to keep trucking along. Nothing blazing but I was definitely in survival mode. Rick, Ken and Yerg were long gone. Marion and I leap frogged a few times. This was Marion’s virgin Hogpen, though I’m sure Cpl. Stroud had filled him in with all the course data on the drive down. A few high 8/low 9 splits, which I was totally fine with. This is the section from last year wheret I fooled myself into believing I was going to crush this race.  Soon Marion and I hit the mile 5 marker and the course suddenly takes an abrupt turn to the right.

And the misery begins. Mile 5 to mile 6 is like the opening intro to a really bad song that is the rest of this race.  Relentless upward climb. Really steep. I manage to leave Marion and just focus on keeping moving and avoiding the loud walksie voices. Last year I passed Rick and Dean on this mile using my Quarry crusher mountainclimber pace and thought I had them beaten. Yeah… that was a big negative, ghost rider. Thankfully I hit the mile 6 marker still on my feet and somehow managed a sub 10 minute mile, which is positively blazing for that mile. The stretch between mile 6 and 7 is glorious, because its almost all downhill. Easy coasting, feels amazing after that hard slog. How hard could the rest be? Answer: spirit-crushing hard.

Mile 7 in 8:53, and here comes the pain again, falling on my head like a tragedy. I manage to get to the top of the first major incline, only to face another series of hamstring wrenching, heart rate pounding, lung deflating hills. Fighting the walksies becomes a pointless debate, and now its all about how much of this I can actually run. I’m out there swinging my arms like a moms’ mall walking group. I just need a headband and a sweatsuit. I keep leapfrogging this guy who is evidently channeling that ultra running eternally-positive vibe, while I’m trying not to drop F bombs with every stride and every sub 20 degree wind. All this power walking is doubly killer because its making me colder and colder as we approach toward the summit. I take a few glances up and there’s a dark cloud and the mountaintop draped in white. Looks like winter is coming.  Miles 8 and 9 are really pretty comical. All these supposedly fit guys power striding and trying desperately to granny jog any bit they can. Twelve, thirteen minute miles are coming back now. I don’t even want to see my Garmin. Just tell me how many miles are left. Finally, at mile 10, there’s a bit of a reprieve and, hey , with all this walking I’m actually ready to run again. It’s a good thing because I am freezing my ass off. The surrounding woods is now a winter wonderland, and in my near delirium I’m sure a white walker has come to get me around the next turn.  I figure there’s only a little over a mile to go so I start really trying to push it on the next major incline. Nope. Walksies again. My water from the aid station freezes before I can even finish it. Finally I can see what I think is the last incline before the finish. Some guy is up ahead in neon shorts which I instantly recall is my new friend Jose. And yes, I am a total ass, so you can figure out the rest. Red lined the whole last hill, passed Jose about a quarter mile from the finish, which I can now see, and sprinted it home to complete the double blue shoeing. 1:48 and change. 23rd overall. 4th in age group. Wasn’t pretty but I will take it after the effort put forth on the 5k. The finish is pretty cool. Light snow flurries and a couple of inches on the ground. I decided to forgo the chicken soup this year in order to do a quick change into some dry clothes. Thankfully I remembered to bring like four layers of stuff in the drop bag instead of nothing and relying on Dean’s mercy sweatshirt like last year. No picture taking and socializing this year – we all hopped into the shuttle van as quickly as possible. Twenty something degrees with 20 mph winds and snow may have contributed.  Rick crushed the mountain again this year, PR’ing (i believe) on the course with a 1:37. Rob finished just ahead of Ken in 1:44 and 1:45 respectively. Marion claimed his first Hogpen in 1:54.  Not bad all around.  Celebratory beers were had again at Bigg Daddy’s. For some reason Rick had a fascination with knowing my exact birthdate. As my “gift” from the Harbson Trail Runners, I am now apparently signed up for the Vertical Mile Challenge in June. Thanks, Rick…I think.

http://www.coolrunning.com/results/18/ga/Jan13_2018Pi_set1.shtml

http://www.coolrunning.com/results/18/ga/Jan13_39thAn_1_set1.shtml

https://connect.garmin.com/modern/activity/2432641062

https://connect.garmin.com/modern/activity/2432121448

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Cold Winter’s Day 5k – Forest Acres, SC – 12/30/17

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Cold Winters Day has always been my benchmark. In a galaxy a long time ago but not so far away, I burned off some angry energy with a run after watching the Gamecocks lose to Clemson in their 2008 matchup. Sometime during that fateful little slog through the neighborhood, I convinced myself I could come back and try to race again. My brief running career involved signing up for my first 3 races ever in quick succession in Charleston at the end of 2007, and what it earned me was 10 months on the bench with nagging shin splints. But the post Clemson run went OK, so I set my sights on what would be my first race in Columbia, the Cold Winters Day 5k at the end of December. In between my efforts at my first Flying Saucer beer plate, I trained pretty hard. I was sure I was going to best my PR of 25 something minutes. In fact, I was sure I could get it down below 23. Most of the race in 2008 was pretty much a blur, running in a big swarm of people. I thought I knew the course pretty well, having scouted it out the week before. Sure enough, I spotted the yellow arrow sign at the end of a long straightaway that meant the finish line was near, so I sprinted toward it like there was no tomorrow. What I found at the end of my first headless chicken kick was that I was still a half mile from the finish. Devastated and completely in a lactic acid bath, I basically jogged most of the thankfully short way in before another chicken sprint towards the end got me one  second under 24, with one of my ugliest finish photos ever:

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But hey, it was still a PR. Three months later I scored my first trophy at the 2009 March for Meals, and the junkie had found his drug. The rest is history.

So, I always come back to Cold Winter’s Day. It’s been held since at least 2005, put on by Strictly, and usually features some of the fastest people in Columbia bent on going out with a bang in their racing year. Age group bling is a rare commodity in this uber competitive race, but everything aligned back in 2012 and I managed to win 1st in the 35-39 with an 18:52. You could sense the trophy lust in my awards pic. MY PRECIOUS.

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This year I wasn’t sure what I could do. My Kiawah half was a big disappointment, missing my time goal by 2 whole minutes. I did the Arthritis Foundation 5k the week after and generally felt terrible en route to a 19:45. My only glimmer of hope was the 2 weeks of racing rest and that really good race at the Lugoff Jingle Bell – a 19:17 on a 3.18 mile course by Garmin. With no chance at moving in the Tour de Columbia standings (a distant 2nd to the Plex in the overall), I figured this would be a good race just to go for it. It was going to be cold, and hopefully having some competition would help my maniacally competitive self.  I had eaten a steady diet of 50 mile weeks in the last month, though with zero speedwork outside of races. We would see.

My main problem in 5ks is basically being a wuss. I’m too afraid to push it right out of the gate. I set my sights on trying to go out hard in this race, in a plan I called the OPEN UP A CAN OF WHUPASS. I was going to go out fearless, maybe shoot for 6 flat pace in mile 1. Turns out this was easier said than done. Selwyn told me they were staying with the post-flood modified course in 2017. What was once a rolling course in years past was now mostly climb in the first mile and a half. The tradeoff being a blazing fast flat and downhill second half.

I showed up my customary hour early and warmed up with a lap of the course. Naturally, legs felt like crap and I was slogging along at 10+ minute pace. The Fadels and their warm up group, who I thought I’d catch, gapped me even more. Renee McCormick flew by me like I was standing still. Between all of this and the hilly first half, my debbie downer mode was in full effect. Wah wah.

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By the time the start rolled around, I was standing amidst a bunch of beasts. Doing the masters and age group math, it wasn’t looking good. OJ Striggles, Drew Williams, Michael Nance, Angel Manuel. I was looking at 5th in age group at best, maybe worse if one of these lean singlet dudes was one of those stealthy fit 40 something soccer dads. Nothing’s worse for an insanely obsessive racing freak than getting beat down by a casual runner.

It was pretty damn cold at the start, for once matching the race’s name. I even brought out my running tights for the first time, probably showing way too much Sasquatch to the public. For the ladies of Forest Acres, I apologize. With the gun, operation WHUPASS was underway. And wow did it suck. Nothing like doing slog jog miles for weeks and then trying to run a fast 5k. Like a sucker punch to the legs and lungs. Particularly having to do it all uphill.  Drew and Nance left me for dead instantly and Angel politely waited 100 meters before passing me. The first half mile plus is basically a hike up Mount Trenholm road. Not super steep but plenty long, slowly sucking your will to live. I kept telling myself to push, and I was sucking some serious wind by the turn onto Spring Lake. Thankfully the only decline of the first half occurs there, and I used my gravitational advantage among my fitter peers to coast on down, of course getting passed by a few in the process. I saw the mile 1 clock and it just seemed to take forever to get there. OOh maybe I’ll hit 5:55, oh no maybe 6, 6:05? Nope, right at 6:15. So I went out hard, missed by goal by 15 seconds, built up Chapter 11 worthy oxygen debt and now had half a mile plus uphill awaiting me. Fantastic.

Suprisingly though, the 50 mpw legs were strong, and I made up some time on the field as we approached the left to Laurel Springs. Laurel Springs is just a whole lot of suck. Basically you get to climb all the way to the highest part of Trenholm Road, very quickly. Definitely the steepest part of the course. But I knew the top meant you were home free to the finish, albeit a mile and a half away. I powered up Laurel Springs with about everything I had, and just like Mr Miyagi’s paint the fence/wash the car/sand the floor, all those after work climbs up Laurel street downtown finally paid off. Somewhere in that stretch I passed Angel and a big pack of fit looking dudes, presumably shamed by getting beat by a pasty clydesdale in shapely yoga pants.

I hit the top of Trenholm and I actually have some energy. Time to empty the tank because its mostly downhill from here. Mile 2 went off on my Garmin but I didn’t even look, because holy crap I was gaining on Eric Allers and Mike Nance.

Some people race to feel the wind in their hair and strive for their personal best. Some would blue shoe their own child if it meant winning some more tour de columbia points. Anyone that knows me in the slightest knows what category I fit in.

As I hit the top of the last incline I draw even with Eric. Unfortunately Eric is also in that latter category.  And with my less than svelte self pounding down the road at balls-out effort (maybe literally , with those pants), there’s nothing stealth about my approach. Eric guns it and pulls ahead with me, but I now my melon head is amped to 11 on adrenaline and grandiosity, so I blast ahead some more and leave him. It turns out he fell off a roof this week and was less than 100 percent, but my ego has no shame. And with him potentially chasing me down, I launch into a full speed kick down the hill. For a brief moment I’m drawing near Nance, but he can see the finish line too and I can’t go any faster than the 1000 percent effort I’m already putting forth. Justin calls out a 3 mile split at like 18:30 or something and suddenly I realize a return to the elusive sub 19 is in reach. I make out the clock in the 18:40’s and absolutely red line the last bit,  staring at those numbers all the way. I blast through the finish in a blur of black spandex and crash on to the pavement in a display Hou Yin Chang would be proud of. One look at my watch and I was so jacked to still see 18’s! 18:56 officially, my fourth fastest 5k and best time since early 2015. I guess all those half marathons and high mileage weeks paid off after all.

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In the overall, Theo Kahler took the win in a blistering 15:48, followed by CRC’s fastest man 16 yr old Alan Deogracias III in 16:32. Mike Schrum was third in 16:50. In the women’s race, no one could challenge Shawanna White, who won easily with an 18:01. Jennifer Lybrand took 2nd and Ivanka Tolan 3rd, as well as first women’s master.  Orinthal Striggles was kind enough to take male masters in 16:59, letting a lucky mere mortal sneak onto the age group podium.

Age group honors: Katie Weber took 2nd in the 15-19. Nate Carrasco was champion of the 20-24, with Kyle Norcia 2nd. Agnes Barroll placed 3rd among the women. Sean Marden faced the most brutal of age groups and took 3rd in the 25-29 with an 18:14. Justin Jones won the 30-34. Justin Bishop took home top honors in the 35-39, with Omar Armstrong 3rd. Fiona Martin set a new PR in 22:29 and won the women’s 35-39, with Sara Bonner 2nd. Drew, Nance and myself swept the podium in the 40-44, a trio that would  certainly win over all the age groups in beer snobbery. Brie McGrievy was champ of the female 40-44. Beastly Bill Baldwin came down from NC to claim the 45-49 in 17:42, so Eric Allers and Randy “THE H IS SILENT” Hrechko had to battle it out for 2nd and 3rd.  The 45-49 women was claimed by Julia Norcia with Tracy Tisdale 3rd. Renee McCormick, Sherry Fadel and Sherry Blizzard swept the 50-54 women. Jim Fadel was 3rd among the men. Among the 55-59 men, Robert Taylor won 1st with Mario Alvarez 3rd. In the 55-59 women, Sarah Allers, Coleen Strasburger and Donna Freeman claimed the podium. Carol Wallace set a new PR in 23:41 and crushed the 60-64 women. Helene Lipe was 3rd. Geary McAlister was the winner of the 60-64 men with Harry Strick 3rd. Blazing fast Greenville-ite David Spark won the 65-69 in an amazing 21:37, while Alex Ponomarev took 3rd. Lynn Grimes took top honors in the 65-69 women, with Brigitte Smith 3rd. The 70-74 men was won by Peter Mugglestone, while CRC’s top hoodie model Rich Weaver took 3rd. The 75-98 was impressively competitive with whippersnapper Arnold Floyd besting the ageless Henry Holt.

http://www.strictlyrunning.com/json/Index_JS_C4.asp?uRaceId=1989

 

 

 

 

 

Arthritis Foundation Jingle Bell 5k – Cayce, SC – 12/16/17

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The Arthritis Foundation Jingle Bell 5k is a part of a larger series of 5ks across the country going to benefit arthritis research. I think the inaugural event was held in 2011, and I know I raced it at least one time when it used to be held near Moore Orthopedics in Lexington. The old course was the most brutal, sadistic route anyone could have thought up. Total roller coaster with a random out-and-back portion that made you run up a mountain and back just for funsies. I only remember it for being one of my favorite Blue Shoeings of all time – an all out sprint to capture 3rd place overall, break 20 minutes and causing the 20 something kid I passed to puke just a few steps from the finish. So awesome. And yes, I am obviously one sick SOB.

https://tourdeblueshoes.com/2012/12/18/jingle-bell-run-5k-lexingtonsc-121512/

With all the holiday races and Kiawah over the last few years, I missed this race. But I finally got my chance to come back this year. The Arthritis Foundation felt they had enough of their torture-chamber course from hell and decided upon the much nicer Timmerman Trail for the last couple of years. This course has basically zero hills and is on a trail that is almost entirely paved. Sounds pretty fast, but with all the twists and turns it’s hard to gather up speed, particularly if you’re 195 pounds of less-than-agile Sasquatch. Still, this course also held memories of yet another epic blue shoeing, the 2017 March for Meals 5k. Jeff Brandenburg still wakes up in a cold sweat thinking of how a wild albino bear chased him through the woods for 3 miles and left him for dead in the home stretch. Poor Jeff…

http://www.strictlyrunning.com/json/Index_JS_C4.asp?uRaceId=2367

I was a week removed from the Kiawah Half, but with the Wine 10k taking up all the elites and Harborside Lights possibly drawing some people away later that day, my trophy hunting sense tingled a little. This thought was shot down immediately when I saw 14 year old Zander Jeffcoat already there when I showed up. Turns out 28 years and 70 less pounds probably give you an advantage in this running thing. Later, the Plex turned up, and Wilson Harvey came back from Louisiana, in his words, “just to beat you one more time”. Savage.

There was a decent crowd at the start, though many were doing the “untimed” 5k, which sounded like absolute blasphemy to me. Roy Shelley was there to start off his day of double dipping (Harborside). Matt Gregory and Hrechko’s nemesis Johnathan Kirkwood were on hand to make sure I didn’t slack too much. Bionic man Dave Hale was on hand to prove that no health problem will keep this man down. Poor psych resident Seth Lapic had to endure multiple months of narcissistic consult liaison psychiatrist runtalk from both Brandenburg and myself, so he felt compelled to follow in our esteemed footsteps. Nate Carrasco, Shelley Hinson, Leeds Barroll and daughter Agnes, Pete Poore, Sheila Bolin, Amanda Lyons, Chesson Merritt, Tommy and Cheryl Outlaw, Rocky Soderberg, Dawn Galloway-Hale, Alex Ponomarev, Brigitte Smith, Brie, Sabine and Quentin McGrievy were on hand. Henry Holt ran a state record marathon last weekend and still came back to race this week at 82. #hardcore! Speaking of hardcore, Tracy Tisdale came out to take pics and stand in the 30 degree cold for an hour– thanks Tracy!

With the start, there is a long stretch on the open road for almost a mile until you actually enter the forest. Nate Carrasco had a shirt that said something about “it’s a race, its supposed to hurt! Go fly a kite you pansy!”  that I had to stare at the whole 1st mile. The way I was feeling in the early going, kite flying sounded a lot more fun. Surprisingly, Nate didn’t fade and actually left me for dead. Mile one is close to the entrance into the forest and came back like 6:24 or something. The next mile was pretty brutal – totally flat but just unrelenting twists and turns through the forest, and I had no idea where I was on the course. Luckily it was well marked. I tracked down some dude who was getting the full rabid bear chase experience from me. Matt Gregory later said it was him, but this Clydesdale had his blinders on and didn’t dare look back. I hit the mile 2 marker on the course well before the Garmin went off, so I figured the gps would be off track like it does in Harbison and Sesqui. With a mile to go I tried to ramp up a kick, but I just couldn’t get any momentum going without risking a wipeout. I was able to see Wilson up ahead at times but I was too out of gas to mount a chase. I kept having hallucinations of the finish area but the trail just kept going and going. Finally, I hit the open area near the finish, about a quarter mile of straight, though with the only real incline on the whole course. I powered through as hard as I could, though without a Brandenburg to take down, it was decidedly a less impressive kick. Crossed the line in 19:41, good enough for 5th overall and 1st in the ten year 40-49 group. Garmin had a 3.05 distance but everything checked out with the certified course map, and gps is horrible in the woods.

In the overall, we all got smoked by a 14 year old as Zander Jeffcoat coasted to an easy win in 17:16. Plexico and Nate actually had a battle, though Plex pulled through in the end to take 2nd. Nate obviously has been putting in the training – I don’t think he’s beaten me before and he destroyed me here. Among the women, 12 yr old Carly Fuel kept up the “good day for middle schoolers” theme by taking the win in 23:47. Amanda Lyons and Michaela Brown rounded out the podium.

Age groupers: Quentin McGrievy took home top honors in the 12 and under boys while sister Sabine placed second amongst the girls. Seth’s wife Lauren won the 20-29 women, while Agnes Barroll and Chesson Merritt placed 2nd and 3rd. Sheila Bolin won 2nd in the 30-39. Shelley Hinson edged Brie McGrievy for a close 40-49 women’s division. Dawn Galloway-Hale and Cheryl Outlaw claimed top 2 in the 60-69. Brigitte Smith was 4th but would be second in the 65-69 (CRC points always done by traditional 5 year age groups)

Wilson Harvey was 4th overall and won the 20-29 men, Seth Lapic 3rd. Matt Gregory was 2nd in the 30-39. Johnathan Kirkwood took 2nd in the 40-49 with Chris Beattie third..Roy Shelley was 1st in the 50-59, while Dave Hale took 3rd. Alex Ponomarev, Pete Poore, Tommy Outlaw and Leeds Barroll rounded out an all CRC 60-69. Leeds would have taken 2nd in the 65-69, just coming back from injury, too! CRC  legends Rocky Soderberg and Henry Holt were champs of the 70+.

https://www.runhard.org/files/results/2017-jingle-bell-results.pdf

 

Hairy Bison 15/30k – Harbison State Forest – Columbia, SC – 11/18/17

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The Hairy Bison is an event, or in the organizer’s terms, an “anti-race”, put on by the Harbison Trail Runners each year since 2013 on the last Saturday before Thanksgiving. The “race” is masterminded by runners/creative geniuses Rick Stroud and Dean Schuster, who put an incredible amount of effort into this thing for the apparent sole purpose of having a good time. Mission: accomplished.

I had missed out on the first few iterations of the Hairy Bison, mostly because of my unhealthy obsession with chasing down little metal trinkets on the road. But when the Runway Run went extinct and the Shandon Turkey Trot nixed their awesome turkey trophies, I went looking elsewhere. I was set to run the HB last year, but as bad luck would have it, I was having some particularly bad ride of the injury train I’ve been on since the mid 2000 teens, so I had to bail. This year, though, I was primed and ready to lose my Hairy Bison virginity.

I’ve known Rick and Dean for a few years, mainly for engaging in epic battles in the forest for trail supremacy, mostly at the Make my Day 12k. Although Dean fell victim to some of the most brutal blue shoe kicks ever, he finally found his revenge this year with an age group victory over me in the Firebreak Half Marathon. He was comfortably in the lead until the last quarter mile when he saw a sasquatchian figure thrashing in the woods behind him. A deep, dark force arose in the normally super-chill Mr. Schuster that day, as if his home forest’s spirit willed him to a sprint finish to secure the victory. See below.

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They followed it up by enticing me to run the Hogpen Hill Climb in Helen, GA, baiting me with the built in 5k-18k double dip of the race and that it was all on roads, so how hard could it be? Very, as it turned out. The Yerg (Rob Yerger)  and I battled it out in a ridiculously hilly 5k, and then we both proceeded to die a thousand deaths (and get smoked by both Rick and Dean) in an unholy 11 miler straight up a mountain. They were at least gracious in their victory by treating us to craft beer and pizza. There are few things in my life that those two items can’t help.

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Fast forward back to the Hairy Bison, which requires a little explanation. The “anti-race” is “forever free” and features a 15k (1 Harbison loop )and 30k (2 loops) option, is timed, with awards only going to the top male and female overall winners, thereafter known as Mr. and Ms. Hairy Bison. A pre-race briefing/performance starts the race, with the hopeful appearance of the Bison himself, if, as racers are instructed, “your heart is pure”.

Oh and the bibs. Dean and some graphic artists spend what must be an incredible amount of time designing unique themed bibs for the 200 some-odd runners. They really are works of art. You are given a bib when you arrive at the registration table, and as they say, “you do not choose the bib, the bib chooses you”.  When I showed up about an hour early, I was slightly upset as Laura Stepp informed me I had just missed out on a 38 special themed bib (i.e. one of my fav cheesy 80’s bands) and got the 39 “Thor: ragnorak” themed one. Well, with our chiseled jaws and ripped torsos, Chris Hemsworth and I are always being mistaken for one another, so I guess it fits. I also noted it was a 30k bib, so I guess I was doing 18 miles in the forest that day. I wanted to wuss out and do the 15, but one does not disappoint the Bison and his pagan forest spirit. 30k it would be.

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The prerace ritual was even better than advertised, with an ancient Egyptian theme and “Bisonubis” making an impressive entrance to pharaoh Dean Schusterkhamun and anthropologist Rick Stroud. I was told this was the biggest turnout yet , over 200, with some familiar faces including: Larry Jourdain, MC Cox, Derek Hutton, Jennifer Glass, Betsy Long, Jennifer and Mario Tudor, Joyce Welch, Rob Yerger, Roy Shelley, Brian and Jen (and top dog Tuff)  Clyburn, Pam Walker, Lois Leaburn, Teresa Harrington, Sheila and Ken Bolin, Michael Nance, Kenneth and Brooke Ebener, Tracy and Julie McKinnon, Trey McCain, Marian Nanney, Pete O’Boyle, Harry Strick, Jeff Curran, Bill Seibers, Jennifer and Chris Conrick, Darby Shinn, John and dad Andy Richards, Millie and Connie Hough, Robyn Culberson, David Nance, Jenny Prather, Pamela Knapp, Eme Crawford, Greta Dobe, Mackenzie Wilt, Tug Quarles, Mike and Janice Compton, Steve Rudnicki, Kelly Ghent, Wendy Hart, Stevie Dee, Melinda Petruzzi and Michael Beaudet. And I’m sure I’m missing some. Let’s not forget Adam Feigh, Mr. Hairy Bison 2016, who was returning to retain his title and hopefully break the mythical 2 hour barrier for the 30k. It should also be noted that Tracy, Ebener and Nance started at 5:30 to make this an unofficial 45k. Day-um.

By the time the start rolled around I was pretty chilled even with my CRC hoodie, but I made the snap decision in the first 100 meters to ditch it, which was definitely a good choice. As a roadie, and this not being an official race, my primary objective was to arrive at the finish line, preferably with no entry into the “best blood” category. I started off pretty leisurely and formed a peleton of about 10 with Roy Shelley and Darby Shinn going through the forest after everyone spread out. Fortunately I was at the front, because my fragile ego can’t take it, and no one wants a man the size of a bus breathing down their neck. Unfortunately all my pre-race “marathon in the woods” anxiety and hydration led to an early pit stop about 3 miles in. After using nature’s bathroom, I found myself at the tail end of a long conga line. After being a monkey on some dude’s back for about a half mile, I did a full on charge in the leaves to come back to the front. Again, giant untamed ego, but I’ll also blame the short-stepping angering my rogue right piriformis. After that I was loosened up some, so I decided to pick up the pace purely for the sake of limiting the time on my feet out there. Chris Conrick rode my slipstream for awhile before peeling off himself for a pit stop. Midway through was the aid station, complete with buffalo nickels (to prove you ran the loops, Barkley style) and the Bill and ted’s phone booth from Schusterween. Awesome. I caught up with the Yerg, who was operating on 3 hours of sleep from his overnight shift. The Yerg is a beast. We ran together for several miles before I ramped it up some more in the final miles of lap 1. The Bison makes you run the second loop in reverse, which is really nice since you get to see everyone ahead and behind you. Some random guy comes flying by at about my mile 8, which is a surprise since I wholly expected Adam to be on his own. Feigh wasn’t far behind though, and I figured he was just waiting to drop the hammer. All the faster people coming though hurt my pride a little, so I did ramp it up some more, even though I kept telling myself this was “only a training run”.  Mile 8 featured a random 80’s jambox playing “Jessie’s Girl” , and who can’t feel motivated with some rocking Rick Springfield? Finally I make my way to the finish area and Laura is there to remind me where to turn around. My road racing pride can’t take bailing with all the trail people around, so I head back out for loop 2. Jambox selects some “rock me like a hurricane” this time. Scorpions rawk!  I am actually feeling pretty good by this point, which is surprising to me. All these fall halfs must have actually given me some endurance. The next three miles are great because I get to see everyone behind me. My biggest fear on this loop is getting lost, since it looks completely different the other way. Fortunately I noticed on the first loop that a “pink ribbon fairy” had marked the way on a few tricky intersections, despite the proudly stated “no annoying course markings” stated on the website FAQ. I later found his name by chance, but his secret is safe with me. The “getting lost” fear ramped up when I passed the ruckers (hiking with heavy backpacks) around 4 miles in. I figured no one was behind them so I was on my own. And boy, was I . Dead silent for most of the next couple of miles. I did pass a coupls of guys and two mountain bikers, but mostly just me and the forest. This was nice, except the legs were starting to protest all this fun about 13 miles in. I pick up my second nickel and some water at the now abandoned aid station, and briefly think of taking selfies in the phone booth, but then fear of not being able to get going again. I catch up with some ripped looking younger dude who seems to be having a rough time, barely moving at this point. He tried to ramp it up when he saw the old albino sasquatch catching him, but he was toast. After him there was nothing. The last 4 miles got pretty brutal, I just focused on constant steady forward movement. Unfortunately the feet were developing a deep affection for the roots, and I was tripping 3x as much as the first loop. In an unsurprising coincidence, so were the loud F bombs. I did manage to keep the bus upright though, “blazing” down the trail in just under 10 minute pace. I decided I needed to keep this under 3 hours if I could. Near the end I must have been delirious since I ran out into the front parking lot instead of the education center, but I eventually managed to find my way. I rolled into the finish with like 2:50 on the clock , I believe. My Garmin was off since I forgot to restart it after the second nickel pickup. Not bad – I think my longest run by time since 2016 Boston. The finish area was great with what surely is the best soup ever made and chili. Adam took a nasty fall at mile 12 and had a grapefruit ankle at the finish, yet somehow still finished under 2 hours and finished 2nd by less than a minute. #hardcore.

Oh, and the raffle. TONS of great swag from fleet feet, half-moon, conquest beer, british bulldog pub, among others. British bulldog gave us free beer tickets. I won a yeti-like wine glass from Fleet feet and then came home with the huge $100 gift card from fleet feet as well after renewing my “Friends of Harbison State Forest” membership. All of this followed by some awesome beer at the British Bulldog after party, and it was quite a morning. Big thanks to Dean and Rick for putting this on. It is free but I highly recommend throwing them some cash their way to help support the amazing amount of work they put into the HB. I will be back again!

SVPC Bizarre 5 and 5 Race for the Build – Columbia, SC – 11/4/17

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The SVPC Bizarre Race for the Build 5 and 5 (5k and 5 miler) is a race dating back 27 years, and despite its small size, is one of the oldest continuous races in the Midlands. Proceeds go to benefit Habitat for Humanity. Of course, I see “small size” and immediately my trophy hunting sense starts tingling. Plus, the race is literally 5 minutes from my house and is run on the ancient, hallowed Blue Shoes training grounds of the Woodlands neighborhood.

I was yearning to do this race since last year. Although it was in the middle of my college mini-reunion weekend and I ran a hung-overish 20:30 something in the 5k, I saw Randy Hrechko bring home the glory in the 5 miler. I should have known by my own trophy hunting rules – the “add on” distance to an established race is always the best bet for the shiny golden trinkets. Through my completely ridiculously encyclopedic race results brain, I knew this race to be ripe for a holy grail (overall win) attempt. Les Boan ran 22 minutes several years ago in the 5k for the win. Hell, even Wesley Spratt won one year when a course misdirect for the leaders gave him the podium.

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There is only one monkey wrench in the trophy hunting equation for this race, and that is one Dr Jeff Brandenburg. The race is held at his church (Spring Valley Presbyterian), even though it’s hard to fathom that someone whose friends call him “Lucifer” goes to a place of worship. Believe me, the nickname is well-earned. Anyway, with his 47-minute Ray Tanner 12k recently, he’s probably a notch faster than me at the moment. But the race brain was engaged and a quick meta-analysis showed he’s never done anything but the 5k. Between Brandenburgian 5ks and Hrechko’s win last year, the 5 miler it would be.

I got there 45 minutes early and there was not a huge crowd, so the trophy hunt was intact initially. Brandenburg made his arrival and luckily my race memory analysis was correct. He was doing the 5k with Kona (his Weimeraner). Things were looking really good for a while, but then Angel showed up. He’s a total wild card in terms of his fitness, so I never know when he’s going to just crush me or if I have a chance. He’s still hating getting Sasquatched in the Revolution Run Half (at mile 12.5) in September, so the target was definitely on my back. We are all talking about another epic showdown when Ediberto  “Trackstar Eddie” Crisanto shows up to crush the dreams of two old men. This was going to be a battle  for 2nd, not the holy grail.

Jennifer Lybrand + Wilson, Geary McAlister, the whole McGrievy clan (Matt, Brie, Sabine, Quentin), Mario and Jennifer Tudor, Arnold Floyd, Peter Mugglestone, Brigitte Smith, Henry Holt, Chaplain John Houser, Lisa and Jesse Smarr, Kerry Stubbs, Michelle Parnell, Barb Brandenburg, Lisa King, Leeds Barroll, Rocky Soderberg, Kerry Stubbs, Ron and Helene Lipe, Dave Hale were some of the familiar faces. High school/med school friend James McCallum with his two daughters, my Palmetto 200 teammate David McNeice and neighbor Danna Fields were also either volunteering or racing as part of their ties to SVPC.

I wasn’t sure about my strategy for this race, now that the holy grail was off the table. I did the 5 miler once before on a similar trophy hunt in 2015, where Kenneth Vowles showed up and left me for dead. I did take 2nd in around 32 minutes, so I thought I remembered the course as pretty decent. The first 1.5 miles of the 5k and 5 miler are the same, and I knew there were some nasty hills in that initial shared section.

The start to this race is pretty unique. There are actually 2 separate start lines, with the 5k start about 50 meters ahead of the 5 miler. As predicted, the 5  miler field was slim, with only about 30 people. With the start, Eddie takes off like a man possessed and immediately leaves us all. With my trophy dreams crushed, I just try to make an honest effort. Angel is on a mission, however, and blasts pretty hard out of the gate. There’s a little congestion early on as the two fields start to mix, but with a total number of maybe 70 people, navigation really isn’t a problem. The first half mile is pretty flat. There’s a 40ish guy taller than me suddenly running beside me early on who looks pretty fit, so I’m already worried of barely placing in my age group much less the overall win. Turns out the guy is Kristopher Dempster, who I’ve seen many times in the results but never placed the name with the person. I draft off of him or awhile before surging to make sure Angel isn’t too far ahead. The route heads off Valhalla and turns on to Hogan’s Run, which is a semicircle of suck. Sure, you get to plunge down for a nice downhill, but you end up paying for it on the other end with a multi-tiered mountain climb that destroys your will to live almost immediately. I reach the top of Hogan’s hell and I know to go straight this time and not let a confused volunteer lead me back to a 13 minute “5k” , which resulted in the top 10 being  DQ’d and Wesley Spratt’s infamous victory.

Mile 1 was 6:33 or something, which was OK by me. I’m not feeling particularly strong and my heart really isn’t in it. Angel started out pretty fast though, so maybe I can catch him. I‘m also trying to make sure Dempster doesn’t get any ideas about slaying the Sasquatch. A couple of tough hills on Fenrir and Norse Way, and the courses split around 1.5 miles at the front of Woodlands Country Club. Like 2015, after the split I am entirely on my own. There’s a crazy roller coaster downhill on Wotan but then a nice flat and downhill for the next couple of miles. It feels really weird, since I run these roads fairly frequently for training and the only difference is the bib. Pretty tough to maintain pace as Angel has a huge lead by now. Miles 2 and 3 are 6:43, 6:39 and I try not to think I just did a 10k in 6:23 pace 2 months ago. To be fair, though, the Dam Run course is WAY easier than this one.

I don’t fully appreciate this until the 4th mile.  I somehow deluded myself into believing the rest of the course was gently rolling, but this was not the case. Mile 4 greets you with nasty hill that brings you to a crawl pretty quickly. There’s some random jogger on the course and it feels like I’m barely passing her on this lactic acid bath section. I finally get to the top and see I’ve actually made some ground on Angel, though it would probably take a bonk of epic proportions for me to catch him with just over a mile to the finish. Mile 4 slowed to 6:45 with the killer hill. With a well-known, fairly flat stretch to the finish, I try to muster somewhat of a kick. But I don’t sense anyone behind me, and with Angel probably uncatchable, the motivation isn’t quite there. It is nice to meet up again with the 5k course and run with some of the 30ish minute 5kers for a while, a welcome break from my breathless solo “training” run.  As I approach the finish, I see I’m not even going to break 33 minutes, so the spectators were not treated to one of my headless chicken kicks. I cross the line in 33:16, good enough for 3rd place. 2nd in age group/masters behind Angel.  My only solace was that apparently I was taking up residence in Angel’s head the whole time and pushing him to some post race pukage for fear of getting Blue Shoed. You’re welcome, Angel.

There were some results issues with the two races, but apparently a kid named Fernando Castro beat down Brandenburg for the overall win in the 5k with a 19:31. His dad Carlos took 3rd.  Michelle Parnell continues her strong return to racing with the women’s win. Apparently all mental health providers in the Columbia area are prone towards the racing obsession. Multi-time champion Barb Brandenburg settled for 2nd while Brie McGrievy trophy hunted well to take 3rd.  5k age groupers: Sabine McGrievy won the 2-10 girls. Danna Fields was 3rd in the 40-44 women.  Jim Williams and the indestructible Dave Hale took the top 2 in the 55-59, while Lisa King won among the women. Helene and Ron Lipe were champs of the 60-64. Alex Ponomarev and Leeds Barroll claimed the 65-69 podium, while Rocky Soderberg win the 70+.

In the 5 miler, Eddie won in 28:24 with no competition. Angel took 2nd. Jennifer Lybrand may have been pushing Wilson but still won the women’s race by about 6 minutes. Cheryl Monroe and Jane McCallum finished 2nd and 3rd.

5  miler age groupers:  Quentin Mcgrievy claimed the 2-10 boys. Kris Dempster placed 3rd in age group and 4th overall. Don’t tell me my age group isn’t brutal. Just ask 4th place AG/7th OA Matt Mcgrievy.  Jennifer Tudor and Kerry Stubbs took top 2 in the 45-49 women. Lisa Smarr won the 55-59 group with Geary McAlister taking top honors in the 60-64. John Houser and Brigitte Smith were champions of the 65-69. Arnold Floyd and Peter Mugglestone won the 70-74, while Henry Holt and Jesse Smarr claimed the 75+.

 

NW YMCA Pumpkin Run 5k – Irmo, SC – 10/28/17

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The Pumpkin Run has been a fixture on the Tour de Columbia for years, and has usually been a part of my personal race calendar as well. It was actually one of my better 5ks from the rookie year of my obsession, landing me one of my first top 10’s. Granted it was over 22 minutes and a total trophy hunt, but that’s never stopped me from blowing up my own ego before. Over the years, I realized the course was pretty brutal and on the long side of the certified range, so I skipped it. However, Erin Roof lured me back with great race swag, a masters division and a costume contest.

2009 results: http://sc.milesplit.com/meets/63026/results/110365/raw#.Wfh-kVtSyJA

Costumes, of course, play right into my attention whore tendencies. And since I wasn’t going to set any records on this course in regular clothes, why not give it a go in full cosplay mode. Most people would run in a costume for fun, but since I know no other mode than “maniacally competitive”, I have always tried to see how fast I can go. The pinnacle of cosplay speed was definitely the 2017 Bunny Hop, where somehow I pulled a 20:21 in a seven-foot lava-hot rabbit costume. I don’t think I have ever sweated as much before or since. But hey, my usual sense of pride by blue shoeing thin and fit people is magnified 10 fold when they get passed by a chunky Sasquatch…dressed as a giant bunny.

While the bunny costume was a “gift” from Erin, I have tried to actually pick costumes for myself that are at least somewhat more runnable. My first Pumpkin run costume attempt in 2015 was an admittedly lame Hulk outfit that was mostly a mask and an ill-fitting green nylon shirt that was supposed to give me muscles. Since it was like size XXL it mostly looked like a dress. Hulk appeared to be dying of some terminal disease, or had just undergone gastric bypass. I ran like a quarter mile with the mask and had to abort since I couldn’t breathe through the two tiny air holes at mid 6 pace. Go figure. After the mask was gone it was pretty much a regular race. With masters money on the line, I caught Angel about 2.5 miles in, and we had one of the most epic battles ever to the finish. He kicked my arse on the final incline and my blue shoe kick was just not enough. I crossed literally one second behind Angel in 19:57, though I did make sure to “put the mask back on” for the finish photo.

Last year was my Egyptian pharaoh year, and my first, and perhaps my last, attempt at wearing makeup. The race went pretty well – the headdress and arm shields were insanely hot but at least my legs were fine. My golden staff couldn’t handle the arm pumping of the blue shoe kick though and broke in half only a quarter mile from the finish. Still got a rare “double” win of masters and 2nd in the costume contest. It seems I’m definitely at a disadvantage in costume contests with kids and attractive women. That’s probably because adult men in costume are just inherently creepy. And I’m probably not helping that stereotype.

This year I almost went as a gladiator, but was told it was too much like the pharaoh from last year. I was looking for something from Game of Thrones, and the Party City “Viking” was pretty close. With fur leggings (think Olivia Newton john 1982 physical video leg warmers) and fur sleeves, this thing looked cool but was hotter than Hades. But it had the critical shorts/dress like lower half that would make it race worthy. Improbably, the Viking horn headpiece must have been made to fit Andre the Giant because it actually fit my gargantuan cranium, even a little loosely.

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On the way to the race I had a terrible realization. I had left my Viking battleaxe! It’s embarrassing to describe my profound disappointment at this fact. Just crushing firstworld problems. I get to the race about 45 minutes early, and my costume contest dreams were even further crushed almost immediately. One of the female volunteers was directing parking with THE EXACT SAME COSTUME. Oh, the shame. At least she wasn’t running. I tried doing a little warmup in the suit but I was going to have to save the effort for the race, because it got hot in a hurry. Plus, my Korean restaurant/beer/late night Superchunk concert in Charlotte routine the night before was wreaking havoc on me. Luckily I knew the secret bathroom in the Irmo Y (I’ll never tell!). Let’s just say pre-race pooping in full costume requires some delicate maneuvering.

Initially the crowd was looking trophy huntish and I was already second guessing my costume run. Luckily Sean Marden, Joseph Kiprotich, and Trey McCain showed up to make sure I didn’t think the holy grail was up for grabs. Angel showed up last second to try and repeat his 2015 masters win. Sara Bonner, Johnathan Kirkwood, 8-year-old phenom Kendra Miles, Roy Shelley, Tommy, Thomas and Cheryl Outlaw, Alex Ponomarev, Arnold Floyd, Leeds Barroll, Jessalyn Smith, Ronda Sanders, Christina McCarty, Heather Hawn, Stephanie Dukes, Luci and Jeff Smith, Alfred Baquiran, Hou-Yin Chang, Sue and Rich Weaver were some familiar faces.

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The start was pretty fast since there were a ton of kids racing. A lot of these little guys/girls were sporting Storm track team and team Utopia Youth shirts, so I knew they were no joke. There’s a flat stretch in the parking lot, a slight incline to the road above, then a nice flat to downhill stretch almost to the first mile mark. Maybe it was the late night and dehydration but I was not feeling it from the get-go. Ginormous Viking horn helmet was already falling off so I just grabbed it in my hand. I was getting the beat down by a lot of people, including several kids, even as we approached the mile 1 mark. Felt rough, but I felt better when the Garmin gave me a 6:27 split. Being a veteran of probably 6 other Pumpkin runs, I knew the worst was about to come. Sure enough, the misery starts right before the mile mark and seems to last forever. Multiple tiers of unrelenting hill. This is where little Alex cursed my name for getting him to run this in 2013. My pace had gone to crap, but I was making up serious ground on the field. All those trips up Laurel St from Riverfront park in 95 degree heat were starting to pay dividends. Some serious wind  suckage was going on though. I was surprised not to see Trey and Sean coming back down as I neared the top, and I wondered what was going on. Finally I crest the last of the tiers and see why… The turnaround, which is supposed to be just over the top, was all the way down to the next intersection where Firetower rd ends. I’m in a bout of internal cursing as I see the painted white turnaround point for the last 10+ years of this race. Since everybody was doing the incorrect route, and a giant Viking cutting off the course wasn’t going to be subtle, I decided just to go with this new 5.2k.

As I rounded the turn, I had made up some ground on Angel but I knew he was going to torch the downhill. With masters seemingly out of reach I focused on one thing…not getting chicked by someone still in elementary school. Normally this isn’t a problem, but one of the Storm girls was leading the women’s race. She looked like a typical 5th grader except she was effortlessly bounding down the course with some ripped legs, so I knew my pride was definitely going to be threatened. I tried to burn it on the way back down, but staying for the encore in Charlotte and that last craft IPA were also starting to pay dividends. Mile 2 was, as usual, way off pace with a 6 fifty something. I do like out and backs since it lets you see the rest of the field. The costume game this year was way stronger than in years past. My personal favorite was Larry the Dr Pepper guy. Just after the two mile mark I finally pass mini Kara Goucher, but I’m still petrified of getting beat down by someone still trick or treating. I’m dying towards the end, especially when the decline ends and we have to make up the downhill of the opening stretch. I catch some teenage guy who is not liking getting Viking-ed one bit. He surges and repasses me but then dies on the same hill Angel beat me down on in 2015.  Mile 3 goes off at the start of the same hill, so I’m guessing at least 3.25 miles in this one. Angel is still in sight but there’s nothing left in the tank and not enough real estate. I blast out a kick just to make sure the 11 year old girl doesn’t shame me at my own game. Finish is 21:09. Garmin had 3.23 miles and 6:33 pace, so probably around 20:20 for 3.11.  Ended up 2nd in AG behind Angel, though actually 3rd since 40 yo Ross Shealy  nipped Angel at the line by 2 seconds for the masters win. Still got the unofficial “fastest costume” award, though was beat out by Wonder Woman for the best costume prize.

In the overall, Trey McCain held off Sean Marden for the win in 18:42 (again probably more like 18 flat for the 5k). Joseph Kiprotich took 3rd so a good day for Team Utopia South (2nd and 3rd).  Abigail White was the mini Kara Goucher in question and she took 1st female, 21:18 and all of 11 years old. Wow. Mackenzie Johnson was 2nd and Allison Spirek 3rd.

Heather Hawn won female masters along with Shealy’s male win.

Age groupers: Kendra Miles won the 10 and under girls, running 22:34 on the long course. Her brother Tyler won the male division in 21:48. Sara Bonner took the women’s 35-39. Angel won 1st in the 40-44 men, while Christina McCarty won 3rd among the women. Johnathan Kirkwood easily won the 45-49 without his nemesis Randy Hrechko to challenge him. Kevin Potts and Roy Shelley were top 2 in a fast 50-54 group. Sue Weaver was 2nd in the 50-54 women. Jeff Smith won 3rd among the 55-59 men. It was a good day for Team Outlaw, with Tommy and Cheryl both claiming top spots in the 60-64 groups. Alex Ponomarev and Leeds Barroll paced the 65-69 men, while Arnold Floyd, Henry Holt and Rich Weaver provided an all CRC sweep of the 70+. Rich gets extra points for racing in the CRC hoodie for sure.

https://racesonline.com/events/ymca-pumpkin-run-5k/results/2017?utf8=%E2%9C%93&category_id=11792&age_group_id=&gender=&search_term_display=&commit=Search

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Credit: Johnny Deal photography

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

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

https://connect.garmin.com/modern/activity/1995529418

http://racesonline.com/events/revolutionary-run/results/2017/dashboard