Shandon Turkey Trot and Burn 5k – Columbia, SC – 11/30/19


The Shandon Turkey Trot is one of the oldest road races in the Midlands, dating back about 30 years. Put on by the Shandon Neighborhood Association, it was a regular on the Blue Shoes calendar in the early part of this decade, when they offered amazing turkey trophies. This era included a brutal blue shoeing of Sarah Allers, who blasted me with a slew of British expletives as I sprinted past her 10 meters from the finish. Sadly, it also was the site of Ken Vowles giving me a dose of my own medicine with a brutal blue shoeing of his own, as well as an ego-crushing double strollering I suffered another year. My interest in the race faded over the years, though, when they nixed the turkeys and started going to the dreaded “winged foot” generic medal. They are like the trophy hunter’s kryptonite. I get too close to a winged foot and I start getting the chills. I think I have a few dozen in my trophy dresser (what, doesn’t everybody have one?) which are completely unidentifiable as to which race they came from.


Billy Tisdale bringing me my 2012 STT trophy

Earlier this year, the road race rumor mill said that this race wasn’t going to happen in 2019. Attendance had gone down, and there was a lot of competition that week with Hairy Bison, Palmetto Half, Sleigh Bell and Turkey Day. But somehow Erin Roof got involved, and like Tyler with the Palmetto Half, another race was resurrected from the dead. She asked me how this race could be better, and as you can tell from the above, bringing back the turkey trophy was paramount. She decided to make the start/finish near Craft and Draft, involve beer discounts, change the distance to 5k, move the race to Black Friday and have a turkey costume contest too. With all of that, I was definitely on board. Somewhere along the line I agreed to go all in with the Turkey costume, which given my predilection towards road race cosplay (see also Bunny Hop bunny, See Spot dog, the Lucky Leprechaun, Pumpkin run pharaoh/Viking/hulk), did not involve a lot of arm twisting.
I got the costume a couple of weeks early and saw that this thing was definitely not built for speed. There was one hole for the legs and it had a giant turkey belly, which rode up like a miniskirt with an overflowing muffin top. And where the hell were the tights for the legs?? Apparently they were an “accessory” that wasn’t included. Add some flappy wings and a huge tail and there was going to be some serious drag. But hey, if there’s anyone good at transporting a non-aerodynamic, heavyweight physique through space, it’s me. And at least it wasn’t a Hairy Bison nude skin suit. Nance and Brooke, you are true cosplay heroes.
I showed up my customary hour ahead of time, which was easy with the 10 am start. Had to get in some solid warmup out of costume so I wouldn’t tweak the Achilles. In a bit of luck, the 2014 Harbison trail Runners shirt matched the Turkey costume color perfectly. There was a big crowd, and Erin mentioned they had almost 400 participants. The zombie race was definitely alive and kicking. She couldn’t have asked for better weather either – sunny and 60 something degrees, fall leaves still in good color. I know Tracy/Jedi Running Photography was glad to finally get good photo conditions after 2 straight weeks of shooting in the cold rain and wind.

Lining up at the start, I tried to do a quick assessment of my trophy possibilities. Of course the major wild card was how well I could actually run in this thing. Drew Williams and Eric Allers were the main masters competitors. I was hoping that one or both of these guys could get the top three overall to give me a chance at a masters trophy (also three deep). The masters and overall trophies are like the original turkey trophy age group awards except with a COLUMN OF FIRE. I must have one. I’m a little wary of Johnathan Kirkwood too since he has been throwing down low 20’s recently, as well as Geary McAlister. Ladies race has a couple of fit looking unknowns (Thanksgiving races always have a few out-of-towners) and Sarah Allers, though she (and Eric) just raced the day before down in Charleston. Other familiar faces at the starting line included John Baker, Ivanka Tolan, Regan Freeman, President Roy Shelley, Tour director John Gasque, Chap Houser, Ken and Sheila Bolin, former social chair now Baton Rougian Sarah Soltau, Stephanie and Lucy Fischer, Patti and Ken Lowden, Ed Aulfuldish (pacing daughter Mary), Eric “Horn Star” Gilfus, Joey and Gabriella Swearingen, Katherine Harris, Go Pro guy Will Rowan, Healthy capital director Shenequa Coles, Kara Clyburn, Michael Beaudet, Clara Nance (also in turkey costume), Gretchen Lambert, Mike/Kat/Sarah Hudgins , Kana Rahman, Leeds Barroll. Lisa Smarr, Paul Laymon, Rocky Soderberg, Shirley Smoth, Ron Hagell, Sharon Sherbourne and Kerry Stubbs.

The course is new but it’s classic Shandon rectangleish, pretty flat and fast, and not in a Selwyn way. I’ve been putting a lot of miles on my legs in my attempt at Kiawah training post Achilles destruction. I was going to go out conservatively and see if I could ramp it up some.
With the start, the 5k speed was like a kick to the chest after all the long distance jogging I’ve been doing. Wings are flapping all around and the gobbler was flying up in my face. But the leg hole at the bottom of my turkey gut is at least not restricting too much. I settle in behind Kirkwood and Tigs and camp out there for the first mile, Woodrow to Heyward St. The Shandonites have actually come out to watch this race, so I get much needed ego stroking attention for my costume. I hit mile one in 6:38ish, which feels kind of rough, to be honest. I debate about giving up the speed and jogging it in, but my enormous ego will not let me do it. I manage to pass Tigs and Kirkwood at about the same time just past the mile mark, possibly with some Brit swear words involved. There’s a squiggle of a turn on Ott and Duncan before the turnaround on Bonham near Sims Park, headed back on Wilmot. There’s a nice decline there, and I try to pick up some speed in the long straightaway. I can see Ivanka , another fast looking woman and a couple of dudes I don’t recognize. I have no idea what Ivanka can do today – she blazed a PR 19:42 the day before but she has to be tired from that, so I work on tracking her down. Mile 2 comes back in the same 6:38, so my costume PR of 19:36 is definitely out of reach. But that was with the bunny rabbit onesie. I finally catch Ivanka after we turn back onto Heyward after a brief stretch on Shandon St. When we finally hit the last stretch, fit girl (who I assume is first female but actually 2nd) is just ahead. With the finish line a long way off, but still visible, I push all the chips in. Gobbler flying, wings a flapping, looking like a hot mess for sure. I catch her and then quickly pull up on one of the random dudes. I think I took him by surprise, because he was like OH HELLS NO and ramps it up and gaps me a bit. I am going pretty hard at this point and consider blasting it out at 1000 percent to catch him back, but the guy has a full head of black hair and not a gray in sight. Surely he can’t be masters. Plus I want to get a good finish pic. So I let him go and start flapping the wings for full effect. Unfortunately, the gobbler flies up and gives me the hallucination of someone about to blue shoe me, so I end up blasting the last few steps to avoid what ends up being a ghost. 20:09 officially. Last mile was 6:19, and who knows what that last kick was, since I forgot to hit stop with all the feathers in the way. But it was definitely balls, I mean gobblers, out. 10th overall, 9th male. I was all excited about masters, especially when Drew told me he placed second overall.


That left Eric and I as top 2 masters, right? NOPE. Turn out one Benny Rodriguez, with his full head of shiny black grayless hair, whom I might have had a chance to nip at the line, was 40 years old. Damn you, Benny. Nice job. I did manage to grab the last COLUMN OF FIRE trophy, 3rd male masters. It now sits proudly on my desk at work.
Post race setup was on point, as is typical with GRIT. Home team BBQ, coffee from Sweetwaters, beer discount at Craft and Draft, free beer at Backstreets Grill and Urban Cookhouse. Instead of bargain hunting I spent the rest of my morning with a daydrinking double dip of C&D and Backstreets. Perfect.
In the overall, 16 year old Jack Stacy took the win in 17:51 with Drew Williams 2nd male in 18:20. Evan Fackler from Oxnard, CA (beware the Thanksgiving out-of-towners!) was 3rd in 18:40. The women’s winner was Liz Wright from State College, PA in 18:13, and second to cross the line. Ivanka Tolan was 2nd, who must have nipped 3rd place Jessa Wigington at the line in 20:21. One can only assume Jessa was psychologically ruined by getting turkeyed and blue shoed in the same final stretch.
In masters, Tigs took first female, followed by Patricia Burt and Casey Cline. Male masters was taken by Eric, followed by the well-coiffed Mr. Rodriguez and some creepy cosplayer.
Age group honor roll:
WOMEN: Mary Aulfuldish took 2nd in the 20-24, PR in 23:17, paced by her dad FAST EDDIE. Stephanie Fischer was 2nd in the 45-49. Katherine Harris was 2nd in the 50-54. Lisa Smarr was 2nd in the 60-64. Sharon Sherbourne was 2nd in the 65-69. “Podium Patti” Lowden was 1st in the 70+. Terry Foody, a USATF masters chair in Kentucky, took 2nd.
MEN: Regan Freeman won the 20-24 male in a PR 21:02. Nice! Tri coach Anthony Brown took first in the 35-39 and barely survived being the next turkey victim in 20:02. Michael Beaudet was 3rd in the 45-49. Kirkwood, Roy Shelley (another PR in 21:52) and Ed Aufuldish swept the 50-54. Ken Bolin was 2nd in the 55-59. Geary McAlister took the 60-64 by a mere 8 minutes. Leeds Barroll was 2nd in the 65-69. Rocky Soderberg and John Houser were 2nd and 3rd in the 70+.
Oh, and let’s not forget the costume contest. After a bitter trash talking battle between myself and 20!20 Vision owner Kelly Hynes Morris for weeks, they awarded the top 3 to myself, Kelly and Clara Nance. Scored a gift card to San Jose’s!
Awesome reboot of this classic race – thanks to Erin, Joe, Sarah, Parker and everyone else involved!;perpage:10


True to the Brew Half Marathon – Croft State Park, Spartanburg, SC – 9/28/19


After an epic disaster at the True to the Brew 10k in March, which should be renamed True to the POO in my honor, I felt the need to redeem myself at the next race in the series, the TTB Half Marathon in Spartanburg. Columbia has more races than any city its size should, so usually I avoid anything out of town. But if you combine a trail race with beer and Erin Roof/GRIT puts it on, then my arm is easily twisted. I did this race last year, though I was one week post Table Rock 50k and ran it pretty easy. I was hoping I could improve on the 1:56 and 3rd masters performance from 2018.

Of course, given my hatred for early morning wakeups and complicated pre-race hydration and poop regimen, there was no way I was driving up from Columbia at o’dark thirty. Fortunately Drew and the Yerg (with girlfriend and fellow beer connoisseur Melinda) decided to make it very true to the brew on Friday and we hit up 2 of the local Spartanburg breweries. We were eager beaver beer nerds at the opening of Holliday Brewing right at 4 pm and got to talk with the owners. They opened about 6 months ago and have a huge selection of great beers, especially the Turtle Bay IPA. I highly recommend. Unfortunately, with the race the next morning and my paradoxically low tolerance for a large Irish man, I was only able to sample one of the brews at the actual race sponsor, RJ Rockers Brewery. Damn my 18 year old sorority girl liver. They had packet pickup there and a band, along with a free beer. Pretty cool. I even got to take a GRIT endurance spokesmodel photo. So much rugged handsomeness.


Race morning at the hotel kind of sucked because of the 7:30 gun time and our hotel was 15 minutes away from the start. It didn’t help our Holiday Inn had hidden blackout curtains and I was staring at a brightly lit gas station for most of the restless night. It was a pretty big crowd when Drew and I got to the start, as the race managed to sell out just a few days prior. I got a chance to see an old childhood friend Jason Paddock, who was trying his hand at running/hiking a trail race for the first time. I told him that this course would be pretty brutal, but I knew they had changed some of it, so maybe it would be easier. Yeah, we’ll get to that. Some familiar faces at the start were our esteemed president Roy Shelley, Jim Williams, David Russell, and of course the Yerg and Drew. Apparently Will Rowan, Deana Rennick and Alfred Baquiran were also on hand, but I missed them with all my portapotty jockeying and warmup, which, appropriately, and perhaps with a bit of foreshadowing, ended up being up a giant hill to a cemetery.

Scouting out the field, I figured I probably brought my main masters competition with me from Columbia, but there a fair amount of fit-looking unknowns. I was going to go out harder than last year, but I was a little scared of the unknown course, the still hot/humid conditions, and the distance. The course basically runs from Cedar Springs Baptist church into Croft State Park, and continues in the park for the entirety of the race, finishing near the horse stables and primitive campgrounds. Erin said there was an extra trail section instead of the open field loops we did at the end of last year. Surely it was flat like those loops, right?


With the gun, I take off and we get to separate a bit on the road before entering the trails about a quarter mile in. It’s still dawn, so the trail is a little dark, and I realize it has been a while since I went trail running. I’m already having to do some root dodging and my less than nimble sasquatch physique is taking a pounding. Yerg, Drew and David have left me for dead immediately, so I tell myself to focus on my own race. A girl is breathing down my neck in the first mile, so I let her pass. I try and keep up with her like a creepy old man, but she’s like a hundred pounds lighter and 20 years younger, so I succumb to the gods of age and fatness. I managed to hit mile one in a shade over 8 minutes, though the next few miles is pretty constant rolling technical trail and I fall into nine minute pace. The first aid station is about 4 miles in, and I make out a red Harbison shirt through the woods. IT’S YERG. I catch up with him and he said he’s having a bad day. We run together for a little bit and I hear somebody behind us say “ARE YOU FROM HARBISON? WELL YOU’RE IN MY HOUSE NOW!” What is this, trail trash talk?? OH HELLS NO. I put some pep in my step and gap Croft Park boy and Yerg a little bit.

At 4 and a half miles, I nearly blow past the turn as the course takes a sudden hairpin backwards in a loop around Lake Johnson, which I think is new. Just past the 5 mile mark I run out onto a field and I start getting severe misdirect anxiety. There are some orange flags on the grass but I’m not sure if they are from the race. I am almost convinced I have gone off track when I hear the siren song of Jon Bon Jovi belting out LIVIN’ ON A PRAYER from a police SUV, and an official race sign. WHEW. Jon is lying about being HALFWAY THERE because we’re not even close. There’s a nice stretch on a paved road here, which is sweet relief for someone who is 90 percent road racer. This relief is short-lived however, as we get dumped into another up and down trail section next to the lake. Here is where I started my series of Tourrette’s like F bombs, when my toe would catch a root and nearly send me tumbling. Somehow I managed to stay upright. Hopefully no children were nearby. Starting in late mile 7 is a glorious stretch of dirt road which is straight, and I was actually able to run freely and recover. Even though it was technically uphill, my road legs were loving not having to turn and root dodge. I ended up passing a guy in this stretch but I was mostly on my own for a long time.

Unfortunately the road ends at 8.5 miles and throws you into a trail section which gets brutally tough at the 9 mile mark. At this point, I realize my CRC jersey is causing some serious chafing and I am hurting pretty bad. I reflexively throw the front of my jersey over my head in a ridiculous half on/half off look that is sure to scare women and children alike. But at least it avoids the cursed bloody nips. There is a killer hill right before the 10 mile mark that brings me to a crawl. I’m panting like a banshee and the kid at the aid station looks a little scared of the sweaty albino monster with the navy blue crop top. After the 10 mile mark was another glorious section of downhill dirt road, which, in my memory, was the decline from the last tough climbing section. I’m done with the climbs! Yay!. Au contrare, you sweaty beast.
So my deluded self turns up the pace a little bit on a long straight stretch almost to the 11 mile mark, where all of a sudden I’m dumped back into some technical trail. My legs are kinda toast at this point so my case of trail Tourette’s comes back with a vengeance. LIFT YOUR F#%$G LEGS, ALEX! I yell out to the trail gods. The course keeps going up and down and at some point I pass a sign proclaiming, “SAFE – NO SHOOTING ZONE” which concerns me that I was potentially wild game up until this point. When I hit mile 12 I start trying to ramp it up for a kick but my legs are vehemently vetoing the brain on that decision. But wait, I can see hot girl who passed me up ahead. There’s few things I like better than taking down people younger, fitter and better looking than me, and this girl definitely had me on all 3 fronts. I almost bust my ass for the 40th time in this race, and she turns around, suddenly fearful of the albino bear chasing her through the forest. At least I had put the jersey back down for potential finish photos. I know we are getting close to the end when we break into a clearing near the lake, though the volunteer tells us “a half mile to go”. The girl has a good 20 meters on me but she makes a turn and I see her make some gesture of anguish. Sure enough, here comes a brutal hill. She suddenly stops halfway up and is gasping. I think I asked her if she was ok, but at this point I was in full Ed Aufuldish elbowing mode and basically going all-in that this hill was the last. Mercifully, I crest over this late course mountain and see the beautiful red numbers and finish arch. One last burst of speed for the cameras and I cross in 1:56:57. Pretty beat down, but I dare not do a collapse for Erin to photo and immediately dispense on all social medias. About the same time as last year, though with a different course. Garmin had 12.6 something miles but there’s no way GPS could accurately track all that trail distance. It was a solid effort and good for 3rd masters again/9th overall , so I will take it.


In the overall, Radek Mittelbach, a 38 year old from Columbia whom I’ve never seen or met, won the race in 1:40. Two upstate 25 year olds, Erick Martinez and Jacob Baer took 2nd and 3rd.

On the women’s side, 46 year old Rhonda Felder made me feel very inadequate by beating me by over 4 minutes and taking the win. Hannah Giangaspro and Nastasja Rittling finished 2nd and 3rd.

2018 champ Drew Williams finished 4th overall in a shade under 1:43 and first male masters, taking home an awesome swag basket. In the age groups, David Russell squeaked out 1st in the 30-34 by 50 minutes, on his birthday no less. Yerg struggled early but rallied some and still took 1st in the 40-44. Ryan Havens was 2nd. Roy Shelley won 1st in the 50-54. Jim Williams was 3rd in the surprisingly competitive 55-59.

“True to the Brew” half marathon held in Spartanburg Co.;perpage:10


Springdale 5k – Camden, SC – 9/7/19


The Springdale 5k is a race now in its 10th year, put on to benefit the New Day Transitional shelter via the United Way of Kershaw County. These days it’s a fairly standard road race, though it was originally an evening 5k completely on the horse racetrack, where you could see the whole race the entire time from the grandstand. This was a great concept, except

that a) it was held in August when it was usually 90+ degrees and humid, and b) there was ankle length grass almost the whole route. This led to some absolutely brutal conditions and ridiculously slow times. But at least they had beer at the first one in 2010.

The race has now evolved to a more traditional morning race on the roads next to the horse track. Erin Roof and her Grit Endurance company has taken over the race in the past couple of years, so she has included her penchant for awesome awards and post-race refreshments. Overall, masters and age groupers all get horseshoe trophies and there are waffles to be had at the finish line.
The course is definitely one you want to know before running it. It lures you in with a mile plus of downhill and flat, just begging you to go out really hard. What’s waiting for you at the mile 2 mark is a long slog up that same incline you plummeted down at the start, sucking the very life from your soul. Or probably something less dramatic if you’re not maniacally competitive – I wouldn’t know.

Although I signed up for this race months ago, I was definitely not feeling it this week. Kiawah training has started and the miles have started ramping up again, leaving me chronically beat down. Faux fall ended and second summer started with 90 degree temps coming back. I finished the summer tennis season with a long match on Tuesday where I tweaked my knee a bit. Then I had to start wearing glasses (which I haven’t done in 20 years) for a couple of weeks before they can set me up for cataract surgery. My wife tells me I act like I’m 20 years old but I swear my body thinks I’m 65. At least.

But hey, can’t waste a perfectly good race registration, right? Knees and eyes be damned. Surveying the competition for this one, I’m relieved not to have another showdown with Yerg, Ed or the Code. Whitney Keen is there but he’s a complete wildcard, running anywhere from low 19 to 21 minutes. He says he’s not in good shape, but, since he’s also in the mental health field, he may be using jedi mind tricks. Plex always comes out for this one and it looks like Camden coach Mark Chickering has brought out some of his high school kids to challenge the old men. CRC overall leader and brand new dad Joseph Kiprotich was there as well. Heather Costello is the only potential female winner I see. Erin’s reputation with the Columbia Running Club is legendary, so lots of CRCers out there. Steve Greer and Naomi Rabon are sporting their new jerseys. TDC legendary veterans Alex Ponomarev, Arnold Floyd, Rocky Soderberg, and Leeds Barroll were on hand. President Roy Shelley, Newsletter editor /JEDI runner photog Tracy Tisdale, Lisa Smarr, Jim Williams, Caroline Keen, Gabe and Ruth Barahona, GoPro guy Will Rowan, Tom and Lisa Hart, Betsy and Chad Long, Hou Yin Chang, Brie /Sabine/Quentin McGrievy, Jennifer and Jason Norris and John “Chap” Houser were representing as well.

I strolled up to the line with pretty low expectations and half-blind, because I wasn’t sure if my cheap glasses were going to stand up to the sweat and fury of a Blue Shoes 5k. I had one contact in my good eye and cataract eye was naked. Awesomely there was an armadillo mascot at the start, so I got a quick selfie, which of course is blurry BECAUSE I COULDN’T SEE. Oh, the tragedy.


Erin announces the start from a police megaphone and it was time to #GETGRITTY. And everybody is killing it off the blocks. I swear I was in maybe 20th place a quarter mile in as we make a right turn and start plummeting down Carter street. The knee is holding up OK but I am afraid to give it too much gas right away, plus, gotta save some for that last mile. Whitney is not leaving me for dead right away, so either he’s being conservative or true to his word about being off his training. Steve Greer is also keeping pace in the first mile and I’m concerned about some additional masters competition since he’s still new to the sport. There’s a long way down to Battleship rd and then it starts to level out a bit. My knee likes flats and uphills way better so I settle into a decent pace. I hit mile 1 at 6:20 with Whitney and Steve still right there. Heather Costello is also nearby battling it out with a girl I don’t recognize. She is shouting out encouragement to Heather. Darrell and I sometimes do this too, but usually there’s F bombs and taunting involved. I suddenly pass everyone in this mini pack just after the mile 1 mark, not sure if I sped up or the rest slowed down. All of a sudden something is about to cross in front of me and I wonder if I’m having a cataract hallucination, but turns out it is actually what I thought it was: a guy on horseback. Only in Camden. At the next turn, Jennifer Ward is out taking pics so I try not to look too bad, though I know this is probably a waste of time. There is no ugly like Blue Shoes racing ugly.

Mile 2 is mostly flat but things start to ramp up near the end. Split in 6:23 or so. I’m OK with this, should get me under 20 easily. Yeaaah, but mile 3 is an absolute beast. Basically unrelenting slow incline. Nothing really steep though. There’s a lot of curves in the road and I keep telling myself the next one is the home stretch. But wait, did that kid up ahead just look back?? THERE”S BLOOD IN THE WATER. Other than giving the Code or any of my masters compatriots a beat down, there’s few things I like better than shaming a cross country kid. I mean, I can’t imagine the shame when you’re a lean fit 16 year old and some pasty ass chunky middle aged guy comes sidling up against you. But sure enough, here comes the albino bus pulling up to the station and there’s nothing he can do about a blind old man with a gimp knee blowing past him. Time to launch into a kick. But damn, where is the $%^ home stretch? So many faux finish turns. Finally I can smell waffles and hear some noise so I must be getting close. One more turn and I see the clock. Dang this is slower than I thought. I crank it up to 11 through the Knights hill road intersection and onto the gravel driveway at 1000 percent effort just to squeak under 20. 19:57 officially. 6th overall, first masters. I thought maybe the course was long but it is a legit 3.12 by Garmin, certified too. Had a 6:33 last split despite all the masters vs. high school xc battling.

In the overall, cross country kid Cameron Hoffman edged THE LIGHTNING Ryan Plexico for the win, with Pasha Ellisor 3rd. Amy Faulkenberry was the one running with Heather and she pulled out the win among the women with a 21:02. Sarah Hannon and Kat Clark were 2nd and 3rd. Female masters went to Heather in 21:33 while Naomi Rabon christened her CRC jersey with a 2nd place. Third went to Belinda Moon. Whitney Keen and Steve Greer took 2nd and 3rd in male masters.
Female age group honor roll: Ruth Barahona was 1st in the 11-14. Brie McGrievy won the 40-44. Caroline Keen and Tracy Tisdale battled it out for 1-2 in the 45-49. Lisa Hart was 2nd in the 50-54. Lisa Smarr was 3rd in the 55-59. Helene Lipe won the 60-64. Judy Meisner ran 26:50 at age 67 and won the overall age grade at 75.5%. Wow.

Male age group honor roll: Gabriel Barahona took 1st in the 11-14 boys in 23:18. Joseph Kiprotich took 1st in the 30-34. Chad Long was 2nd in the 45-49. Roy Shelley, Joey Swearingen and Mark Chickering won the 50-54. Jim Williams and new CRC member Phil Smith went 1-3 in the 55-59. Ron Lipe was 2nd in the 60-64. Leeds Barroll won the 65-69. Alex Ponomarev and Arnold Floyd took the top 2 spots in the 70+.;perpage:5000

Photo credits: Jedi Runner Photography, Springdale 5k facebook page


Little Mountain Reunion 5k/Hot Summer’s Night 5k Double Dip – 8/3/19

I saw a shirt worn by some crossfitter the other day that said “Obsession is what they call our dedication”. Well, I’m pretty sure double dipping road races in August in South Carolina just because you’re in race withdrawal from your family vacation just qualifies as plain obsession. But this was the first time in years a beach trip didn’t interfere with Hot Summer’s Night, and I couldn’t resist the lure of a mom n’ pop style small town trophy hunt like Little Mountain. So I was in for both. Since LM is in the morning and HSN in the evening, you would think this would be an easy double. Au contraire. Twelve hours between races means plenty of time for sasquatch masters runners to get super tight and gimpy. Not to mention trying to navigate the colonic calculus of trying to stay fueled during the day without leading to another True to the Poo episode like this April.
First on the docket, the Little Mountain Reunion 5k and 10k. When doubling, the obvious choice would be to go with the shorter distance, but this race has a secret. The 5k course is a tortured hellish pathway to the top of Little Mountain and back. This merciless monadnock will beat you down and leave you begging for the sweet release of death. Seriously, it is the hardest 5k course I’ve run in the midlands. I did it last year completely ignorant of what I was getting into and had to walk for a little bit. In a 5k. And I still finished second. So my brain says: LETS DO IT AGAIN. Of course.
The Little Mountain Reunion races have been around several years and are tied into the parade and festival, totally awesome small town vibe complete with classic cars and barbeque. The original race director, Glenn Shealy, sadly passed away a few years ago and the festival has continued to hold the races in his honor. Really nice. His intent was to make the races challenging, and he definitely succeeded. The 10k is not as soul crushing, but it’s no joke either.

Little Mountain is a solid 40 minutes from my house. So between the drive time, early 7 and 7:15 am starts and my still resolving jet lag from California, it was a tough coffee-fueled O’dark thirty morning. Decent crowd when I got there. I see Plexico, Pasha Elisor and Joseph Kiprotich and my immediate concern is trophy hunt: crashed. Fortunately all three were doing the 10k. Whew. Shawanna (5k), Jen Lybrand and Sarah Bonner (10k) were all there to make a competitive race on the women’s side. All three were also double dipping with HSN as well. Ivery Baldwin, Dianne Steadman, Harry Strick, Ayden Bazemore, Dorothy Hutchins, John Baker, Jeannette Farr, Cheryl and Tommy Outlaw, Rocky Soderberg, Chaplain John Houser were some familiar faces. The Hernandez brothers, whom I never see except at this race, were both back doing the 5k. Carlos beat me for the Holy Grail (overall win) in 2018.
The 10k went off at 7 am and only had about 20 people, though pretty heavy on the top end with all the beasts. I tried to finagle a bathroom attempt for reassurance in the 15 minute interim between races, but apparently someone was giving birth in there so I was forced to pray for colonic quiet. We all went off on time, screaming downhill for the first quarter mile. I got passed by about 20 people, but unlike many, I knew the hell that awaits. You get your first dose of reality pretty quick with a right turn onto the monster Jacob Shealy rd hill. I do most of my training climbing the hills of downtown Columbia, not to mention a couple of brutal runs in San Francisco last week, so I was able to catch a bunch of people right back on this mountain. Turning right is a bit of a dip and then another gradual incline all the way to highway 76. I managed to pass child prodigy Ayden Bazemore on this stretch who told me he I hate these hills. I said you haven’t seen anything yet. Mile one in 6:46, about 30 seconds off my usual 5k pace but probably appropriate for the course. You get your only flat on Hwy 76 and I’m still sitting probably 7th or 8th place. Looks like the two Hernandezes , Shawanna, and a bunch of high school kids up ahead. I manage to pass one of the guys as I turn right and plummet down a long hill. This was the hill I decided to accelerate down last year only to die a thousand deaths later. I put it in check as the pack of four up ahead gap me a little more. At the bottom of the hill is a right turn on MOUNTAIN RD. It seems harmless and flat at first, but gets real nasty , real fast. All of a sudden a kid starts walking, then another, as the 10 percent grade kicks in. Time to throw in a 1983 Night Ranger Sister Christian style surge. MOTORING! The kids look on in shame as the pale ass 40 something Clydesdale in the dorky blue shoes shirt leaves them for dead. My quads start burning on the incline and the walksie voices start screaming, but I swore I wouldn’t take a mid-race stroll again. Finally I see Shawanna and both Hernandez brothers coming down, so the turnaround can’t be that far. I have one more kid ahead of me. I know I’m sitting fourth right now and they have cash prizes for the top 3. MUST CATCH HIM. He beats me to the top of the mountain but he’s only about 5-10 feet ahead, turns around and takes off. Despite my distinct gravitational advantage, I suck at downhills, so my main goal is to not fall on this torn up old road and keep 3rd place kid in reach. The kid is cruising down the mountain and giving high fives, seems to be a local. He gaps me a little but I manage to keep him within 10-20 meters or so. Finally we hit a bit of a flat stretch at the very bottom and a woman tells him to go faster because someone is on his tail. An old, sweaty, maniacally competitive someone. We turn to the left back up the hill towards to the finish and MOTORING commences again. Time to exact his PRICE FOR FLIGHT. I pass 3rd place kid and launch into full headless chicken. At the top is a left turn to a flat stretch and then another left. The whole time I have this feeling that he’s one of these kids with a good finishing kick, or maybe he was taking it easy, but in either event I am going 1000 percent. I round the final turn in full blast and crash through the finish like it’s an Olympic 100 meter final. 21:31. Exact same time as last year. And the kid I was so sure was on my tail was thirty seconds behind. Third overall scored me 20 bucks and a chance to be in a winners photo that makes me look like Andre the Giant.
5k results: Carlos (18:45) and Noe Hernandez (20:40) took the top two male slots, while Shawanna was first female and second to cross the finish in 19:39. Eight year old phenom Dorothy Hutchins was 2nd female with Jessica Weems third. Age groupers: Ayden won the 2-14. Jeannette Farr took the 40-59 female, while the 60-98 was won by Cheryl Outlaw and Rocky Soderberg.
10k: Pasha Eliisor won the overall in 39:32 in a tight race with Plex (39:47). Joseph was 3rd in 40:46. Jen Lybrand took the women’s win in 46:05. Sara Bonner was ruthlessly blue shoed by Ashley Holman in the battle for 2nd and 3rd. I was teasing her about it which is probably bad karma. YEAH …WE’LL GET TO THAT LATER. Ivery Baldwin won the 40-59 and Tommy outlaw took the 60-98.


OK, fast forward about 9 hours later. Drive back home, short nap, 11 year old birthday party at the house. A wonderful pre-race meal of some chips and a piece of Domino’ s pizza from said birthday party, washed down with some coke to try and wake up some for part 2 of the double.
If Little Mountain is the quintessential small town trophy hunt race, Hot Summer’s Night is anything but. Held for over 25 years, HSN is put on by Strictly Running and brings out all the beasts. The race has been held on a rectangular course in Shandon which was modified this year to start and end at the Strictly Running store on Devine St. Contrary to Selwyn’s assertations about the Cold Winter’s Day course, this race is actually “flat and fast”. This year, Plexico had his foundation sponsored some awesome ginormous trophies for top overall, masters and high school finishers. Tracy Tisdale / Jedi Runner photography was out to document the event along with most of the Strictly team members volunteering. Sarah and Eric Allers were on hand to spectate. Craft and Draft was also doing a dollar off beer special following the race, so that was definitely part of my plan as well. I showed up an hour early and desperately did some warmup jogging to try and shake off some of the lingering effects of my morning beatdown. Things were not great but it definitely helped that the weather was about as good as could be hoped for in August in Columbia. Cloudy and mid 80’s.
As expected, all the fast people were out for this one. Although I lusted for that masters trophy, OJ Striggles was there and you could’ve engraved his name on that thing from the start. With Drew volunteering and Angel now living out of town, and the Code nowhere to be seen, it looked like the Yerg would be my main age group competition. Yerg fought off a vicious blue shoe kick at the Born in the USA 4 miler a month ago to beat me by 2 seconds, though he did fall victim to Ed Aulfuldish last weekend in another near photo finish at Guardians. I figured these guys, along with Ivanka Tolan, would be a good group to help me pace.
I had previewed the new course at the Columbia Running Club/HSN/Craft and Draft event a few weeks ago, so I knew this would be a pretty easy route through Shandon. The only wild card was how my legs would hold up to round 2 of the abuse. My goal was to break 20. Silent H had predicted a 19:45.

With the start, it was pretty nuts and I actually got boxed in with everybody going hard. Before I could even find some open ground, Yerg was blasting it out there like a maniac and leaving me for dead. Ed and Ivanka also were up ahead of me from the beginning. After the start on King Street, you take a left on Duncan and go all the way to Bonham at Sims Park. I was having trouble keeping a rhythm and staying relaxed, a combo of the post-LM stiffness and the 2 shotgunned Cokes from Drew McDonald’s birthday party. With all 3 in my unofficial pace group ahead of me, I figured I was failing miserably in my sub 20 attempt. My Garmin chirped back 6:20 at the 1 mile mark, so I was surprised to be actually well under goal pace (6:27). I guess everybody is just jacked up out of the gates. Yerg apparently took a pre-race hit of cocaine or something because he was at least a block ahead of me at this point. We rounded Sims Park at Bonham and started coming back on Duncan. Typical rolling Shandon roads, nothing too tough. Ed and Ivanka got reeled back in a bit and I was basically right behind them at this point. Definitely sucking some wind but I managed to pull even with Ivanka right around the 2 mile mark, 6:25 split. Still on pace but fearful that I’m bleeding time. It’s going to be close. Yerg has come back a bit but damned if Ed isn’t slowing down. Rounding the turn at Queen Street I feel like its time to throw down. Tank is about on E, but with the lure of the finish nearing, I start firing up the engines anyway. Somewhere between Queen and Devine I finally pass Ed and Jeff Fretwell , and turn onto Devine in an all out sprint.
And then I feel it. Having raced almost weekly since 2009, I can count on one hand the number of times I’ve had a blue shoeing returned to me. Ken Vowles at the 2014 Turkey Trot 8k is the last time I can remember. But sure enough, I can feel someone coming up close on my side. Holy S#$% this can’t be happening. Panic sets in as I try to find another level of sprint in my oxygen deprived brain and legs, but the reactor core is already in meltdown mode and there’s graphite on the roof. Like the Zapruder film, there have been various analysis of eyewitness accounts and video/photo documentation of what happened next. I suspect a desperation elbow may have been extended in the general direction of Ed Aulfuldish. In any event, after a few seconds of furious side-by-side thrashing (mostly on my part), Ed breaks my spirit and takes me down a few feet from the finish. Damn. Wow. Kudos to Ed at beating me at my own game, and he definitely has some wheels! But hey, the side benefit of a brutal all-out duel is crushing my time goal with an official 19:29 and 2nd in AG. I will take that and be happy with it. I hate “losing” but I’d be lying if I don’t live for finishes like that.


In the overall, ex-Dutch fork, ex-Clemson stud Roland Hakes took the win in 16:25 with 15 year old Zander Jeffcoat giving him a run for his money in second with a 16:44. OJ Striggles was third overall and first masters in 16:53. The women’s race was ruled a tie since friends and training partners Shawanna White and Joy Miller crossed the line simultaneously holding hands in a blazing 17:53. This is why women should be world leaders instead of men. Ivanka Tolan was 3rd overall and first masters in 20:01. Grandmasters (50+) was won by Ed and Alsena Edwards. Senior masters (60+) was won by Geary McAlister and my pre-med college advisor Eileen Korpita. The ageless Arnold Floyd and Pamela Bulak took the Veteran Masters (70+) titles.
Age groupers: Ayden Bazemore double dipped to 2nd in the 11-14. Katie weber was 4th in the 15-19. Nate Carrasco was 1st in the 20-24, with Ryan McCormick placing 3rd. Eddy Crisanto placed 3rd in his brutal age group with an 18:02 pushing his son in a stroller after running a 34 minute 10k that morning. Unbelievable. Nicole Rybar won the 25-29 women. Andy Mikula was 1st in the 30-34 men, while a double dipping Jennifer Lybrand won the 30-34 women with Wilson in the stroller. Wilson double dipped the kids race to be like mom. Jeff Fretwell was 2nd in the 5-39 men, while Sara Bonner (double dip) was 2nd among the women. Heather Hawn was 3rd in the 45-49 females. Greta Dobe won the 50-54 women while Presidente Roy Shelley placed 3rd among the men. Renee McCormick won the 55-59 women, with Rich Weiner 2nd in the men. Billy Tisdale won the 60-64 men – good to see him racing again! The 70-74 men was a clean CRC sweep with Peter Mugglestone, Rich Weaver and John Houser taking the podium.
Other familiar finishers/CRCers include Gena Ochal, Sheila Bolin, Will Rowan, Kana Rahman, Pete Poore, Sue Weaver, Nina Brook and sons Dean, Robert, and Ben, Shenequa Coles, Missy Caughman, Teresa Shelton, Hou Yin Chang, Kara Blaisure, Kerry Stubbs, Patrick and Dylan McCormick.

HSN photo credit: Jedi Runner Photography



Sweat it Out 5k – Columbia, SC – 6/1/19


The Sweat it Out 5k is now in it’s fifth year and is put on to benefit the National Foundation of Ectodermal Dysplasia, a group of disorders that includes hypohydrosis, or the inability to sweat. Race founder Jamie Duke goes out of her way to put on a great race for the foundation, meant to support her son Nick, who has been  diagnosed with the condition. Nick plays a big part in the race every year and even designed the T shirt.  Shannon Godby and now Erin Roof have directed, so I’ve always come out to this one. True to form with Erin’s races (now GRIT Endurance, LLC) this race has great swag, including prize money, door prizes, a full breakfast spread and custom Ernest Lee paintings for awards.

So, for the sad few of you that follow my Strava account, you know I’ve been injured for much of the past month. Runner’s knee, probably brought on by piriformis and hamstring tightness. And mostly because I like to run my body into the ground. So after one particularly painful and slow run, I decided to actually not run for awhile. Mind you, I find it impossible to be still, but I wasn’t going to keep wrecking the broken machine. So I’ve found the Peloton bike. Although I hate being indoors and anything resembling a treadmill is miserable to me, Peloton has me figured out. You basically ride a stationary bike that has a video streaming feed of a hot sports bra-wearing instructor, shouting you positive messages and encouraging you. All the while, the “leaderboard” on the side shows you where you stand against everybody else in the virtual room, basically from across the globe. By combining attractive women and stoking a relentless competitive streak, they might as well have a craft beer keg on the side and call it a perfect Blue Shoes workout machine.  But, I have slowly started leaving my Peloton mistress Ally Love recently for the allure of the actual road. Sure it’s been brutally hot, but the knee has tolerated a few slow but steady jogs out on the ovenlike streets of downtown Columbia. I’ve been taking it super easy and have done like 12 miles in each of the last two weeks, down from my obsessive 40-50.

ally love

“You’re my favorite, Blue Shoes!” – Ally Love


I took the triple dip week off, and also had to skip the Gov Cup weekend, but I figured Sweat it Out might be a good chance to get, as 1970’s Steve Tyler once said, back in the saddle again. In a another Alex-centric addition to the race this year, packet pickup was at local craft brewery Cottontown Brew Labs. With a free beer. Awesome.  I met some guy there literally triple fisting beers (i didn’t know this was humanly possible) talking about breaking twenty minutes for the first time in the race tomorrow. Now there is a man after my own heart.  Also ran into Pete O’Boyle, Eliere Tolan, the Lipes, Tom Lance and Harry Strick.  I’ve never been to CBL before but I will definitely be back. Their Tropicarolina IPA is already a local legend. You can even hipster double dip with the War Mouth restaurant next door.

Race time was 7 am to avoid the heat, so it made for an early morning. I had to get up at 5 am to make sure All was Quiet on the Colonic Front. Such are the hazards of your 5th grade graduate deciding on San Jose for the celebratory meal and downing burritos and dos equis at 8 pm.  And I sure as hell didn’t want a repeat of my last GRIT race on the Palmetto trail. Like early 90’s Red Hot Chili Peppers, avoid going “Under the Bridge” when you’re on the peak to prosperity passage. Trust me.

There was a big crowd on hand when I showed up, which was pretty late since I couldn’t fathom getting up before five. Me and Silent H went for a warmup jog and met up with Jordan Lybrand, who was there to spectate the race in his new hood behind the VA. The knee felt pretty good. The post San Jose’s tummy and general lack of conditioning, not so much. This was going to be rough. I had zero idea of what I was capable of. My only hope was that Ally Love had kept up some degree of cardio fitness and that the hulk legs hadn’t atrophied too much. I was definitely not going to blast out like the last month didn’t happen and probably die a thousand deaths in the last mile.

After one last portapotty stop, I strolled up to the line with about 5 minutes to spare. This was the biggest crowd the race had ever had. Ivanka, Leeds, Rich “Mr. Coupon” Weaver, Kirkwood, Jen Lybrand w/ Wilson and a couple of F3 guys were at the front. Eddie Crisanto was there to take the win for sure. Tracy was on hand for JEDI runner photog duty, and the Godbys were out to spectate.  All of a sudden, despite the big crowd, my trophy hunting senses started tingling. Hold the phone… except for Eddie, there were no regular known sub 20ers out there.  Hrechko noticed it too. “I’ll bet you wish you had two good knees”. No doubt, dude.

The start was nice and the girl that sang the national anthem was legit amazing. After they let a kid register and pin on his bib last second, we were off. Although I was toeing the line to get full grandiose exposure in the JEDI Runner photography spread, I made sure to back it off right away. This was my first venture into sub 7 pace in weeks. The knee seemed to be OK. The rest of the legs were awesome. Basically it was a reverse of my usual racing experience of exhausted legs and finely tuned cardio. I was sucking some wind early but it settled down. Maybe Ally Love was whispering encouraging soft nothings in my ear. I settled into a no-mans land about a half mile in.  Absolutely no one around but Silent H, Ivanka, Kirkwood, Triple beer fister and shirtless ripped guy were in a mini pack ahead of me. I was trying to keep my ego in check, which wasn’t helped by Jordan taunting me at the beginning of the first out and back loop “I know you like to kick, but c’mon, THERE’S A GAP FORMING”. Oh hells no. I need to keep these guys in shouting distance at least. Everything felt pretty smooth, which I guessed was like 7 minute pace, but I was shocked to have mile 1 come back in 6:36.  Well I’ll be damned. That’s a lot better than I’d hoped. I tried to focus on keeping that up. Jordan was probably right though because I could feel Ivanka and Silent H start to leave me a little. Pride injury was in progress. The second mile features a straight out and back with a turnaround folding right back into the same street, allowing you to see your competition.  Any cover I had was blown, because Silent H could see me coming now. Triple beer guy seemed to be facing the post beer fallout and I saw him catch a case of the walksies  just before the second mile mark. I feel your pain, dude.  Rounding the turn Jen Lybrand wasn’t too far behind me. Injury or not, I really didn’t want to get strollered. Mile 2 came back in the same mid 6:30’s.


Will Rowan’s course video  –

With a mile to go, I was struggling a bit as Ally Love’s cardio training wasn’t quite the same as weekly 5ks. Legs and the knee felt good though.  I knew the only real hill of the course was at 2.5 miles, and that would be make-or-break time. I had closed the gap on Hrechko some but he and Ivanka looked pretty strong. Kirkwood and a teenager were getting hunted down though.  Time to #getGRITty. As the hill started, I tried to summon the ancient blue shoes kick gods and throw down a bit. Kirkwood and the teen get passed but Silent H and Ivanka hold their own. Once back on flat ground I’ve basically conceded the race to them. But wait..there’s more distance than I remembered. OK, so I’m getting closer but there’s not enough real estate. BUT IS THERE?? Suddenly the dark demon living deep in my soul comes to the surface. TAKE THEM TAKE THEM!!! I round the corner of Meadowfield Elementary  and start emptying the tank. I’m in a world of pain but dammit I’m closing the gap. We hit Meadowfield Park, and with one more blast I pass H and Ivanka. There’s only about 50 meters to the finish, but the tank is just about on E. Knee worries have been completely replaced by ruthless maniacal competitive drive. I think I hear footsteps, so I move into heartrate 3000 mode and blast across the finish in like 20:20ish and do a classic post race flop for the ages. Tracy and Erin are paparazzi’ing the whole thing, sure to be permanently stored on Jeff Brandenburg’s phone soon, but I don’t even care. Second overall and first masters! 20:22 official time. With pre-race thoughts of 22 minutes, I will take that and like it.

First overall was Eddie Crisanto, who even stopped to run Nick across the line. That’s what you do when you’re a super nice guy AND fast enough to trounce the field by 3+ minutes. Silent H took 3rd, though took home 2nd overall prize ($50) when some narcissistic bastard decided to take the first masters money ($75) instead. I don’t know who that could be. Ivanka took the women’s overall in 20:28, with Kelly Engh second and J-Lybrand 3rd.  Kirkwood took 2nd masters and Steve Greer was 3rd.

Female age group honor roll: Jessie Weaver was 2nd in the 20-24. Gretchen Lambert and Missy Caughman were 2-3 in the 45-49. Darby Shinn and Greta Dobe were 1-2 in the 50-54. Helene Lipe was 3rd in the 60-64.

Male age group honor roll: Tom Lance won the 50-54. Eliere Tolan and Jim Williams were 2nd and 3rd in the 55-59. Ron Lipe and Harry Strick were 2-3 in the 60-64. Mike Compton, Walt Cole and Leeds Barroll swept the 65-69, while Peter Mugglestone, Rich Weaver and Ken Lowden took the 70+.

Prizes were awesome with all the award winners getting Ernest Lee paintings, and everybody getting a full breakfast spread. Door prizes were also amazing, as I took home a free round of golf at the Woodlands in addition to all the other swag. I think I already know where I’ll be on 6/6/2020!;perpage:10













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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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











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


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

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

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


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

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