Winter Challenge Triathlon – Springfield, SC – 2/17/18


For the last couple of years, I’ve made a point of trying to race some different events that are unique or challenge me in some other way than my standard weekly road race.  A couple of years ago, Columbia Running Club legend Lisa Smarr talked up this event  – something she and her husband (former 2:20ish marathoner and tri beast) Paul Laymon  had done for several years. It was a triathlon not of the typical swim/road bike/road run but of a 7 mile trail run, 6 mile kayak and 10 mile mountain bike. I balked initially at the idea, since I didn’t have a mountain bike and had never kayaked in my life. Ever since the atomic bonk of the 2012 downtown tri (i.e. the one I thought I could wing the swim on zero training and ride a borrowed mountain bike in a hilly road course) I have been seriously gun shy about doing any tri I for which I wasn’t thoroughly prepared.  But time passes. I end up meeting one of the Winter Challenge race directors (I think Chris Williams)  at the 2016 Heathwood Deck the Hall race and I finally bought an old used mountain bike to schlep the trails out at Sesqui. He and Lisa assured me I could just rent a kayak from Nature Adventures, who provided them to all the noobs wanting to race. I guess I didn’t have an excuse now. I think I saw the event on facebook a few months back, and in typical Blue Shoes two-beered mode, decided to take the plunge.

But that was months ago, and with the Columbia Running Club annual banquet to plan and my typical obsessive running/racing/tennis/kids activities schedule, it got put on the back burner. I did manage to get on the Bill Clinton era cannondale a few times out in Sesqui, once with fellow psychiatrist Michael Ferlauto and another with fellow psychiatrist and certifiably insane Jeff Brandenburg.  JB decided to put me through a Tour de Torture on the sandy hell of Sesqui,  where I ended up wiping out at least 4 times on a 10 miler. I think the bike got shelved since then.

So Winter Challenge weekend rolls around, and my “training” involved a few 50 mile running weeks culminating in last week’s leg-annihilating triple dip, 2 mountain bike rides, and absolutely zero paddling/kayaking. But hey, I paddled the Tyger river with my 11 year old last year in a canoe, so totally the same, right?

I had planned to join in on the Winter Challenge party atmosphere and camp out at the Dome Farms site in Springfield on Friday, but my suburban dad duties went a-calling and I had to take my son Jack to his baseball practice while the wife had a girls night. I had planned to follow up the Winter Challenge with a trip to the World beer festival with Drew, Mike Nance and McGrievy, but Jack’s boy scouts had camping at Sesqui that Saturday also. I figured showing up daydrunk with my 9 year old (who also wanted to come)  amongst the Boy Scouts would be poor form, so I had to nix the beering. The sacrifices I make for my children.

With the race at 10 am and the site at least an hour away, I left at 7 to make sure I got everything squared away well ahead of time. Yeahhh, we’ll get back to that. On the way, I blew by some truck with kayaks, so I figured I was going to the right way. A couple of seconds later JB calls me and wonders if I’m the jack hole hauling ass down 321 like its a Nascar track. Yep, he was recruited by Paul to run the 7 mile trail run for his relay team since Paul had an injury and couldn’t run.  After forever and several 30 mph speed traps through Gaston, Swansea and Springfield, we finally get to Dome Farm. Well, I should say JB and Paul did, since I decided to turn the wrong way at the sign and head towards Red Bank/Pelion oblivion before JB called and got me back on course.

I got there about 2 hours ahead of time and picked up my packet and got set up by Nature Adventures. The guy was kind enough to give me some kayaking tips and fit me into something suitable for my Sasquatch frame. Got my bike racked in the transition, all set. Lots of Columbia people on hand for this one. Lois Leaburn, Teresa Harrington, Mike Wainscott, Ken Lowden, Patti Lowden, Winston Holliday, Alfred Baquiran, Renee and Patrick McCormick and Chesson Merritt were on hand, in addition to Paul and JB. Michael and Kate Ferlauto were on relay teams with Kate’s brother Will and his wife Lorien. Sadly, Lisa Smarr was sick this week and had to pull the plug on this year’s event. Word has it she might have been weakened by being sucked into a triple dip last weekend by some idiot. Just rumors, I’m sure.

JB and I decided to do a brief 2-ish mile run warmup and it was still well before 9:30. We then decided to go out on the bike and see some of the combined run/bike course. Everything was fine until JB looks concerned about 2.5 miles in, and he says we should have finished one of the loops by now. So we decide to turn around. At some point we come back to the EXACT SAME SPOT and realize we have gone around in a big circle. Minor panic ensues. JB accesses the “return to home” feature on his Garmin and we try to go back. Nope. Meanwhile, the time is ticking and its already past 9:40. The pace gets quicker as more panic sets in. 9:50 and we still don’t know where the hell we are. Finally, about 9:55 we realize we’re in the right place and haul ass through the forest at mach 5 , arriving at the transition area at 9:58 with the pre-race briefing in progress. I rack my bike like a headless chicken, run at 400m pace to my car, throw on my ankle strap timing chip, pound whatever water and coffee I have in the car, and sprint back to the start. I usually hate late starts at races, but I’ve never been more thankful for this one. With my heart rate probably at 160, I hear they will get underway in 10 minutes. I’m exhausted but at least I have a second to relax. I am sweating and puffing away like I just finished half the tri already. I ran into Winston again at the start and he said he was doing the duathlon this year after doing the tri before. When I asked him if the kayak was really that bad, the look he gave me spoke volumes. Ruh roh.

PART I – 7-ish mile trail run

With the start, I try and lay back a little, not trying to jack up my heart rate again after the terrifying “warm-up”.  First 2.5 miles are a loop on the other side of the lake, not the 5-ish mile loop that me and JB already extensively toured.  I’m definitely warmed up, so the 7:30ish miles are not too bad. JB has left me for dead since he is just doing the run. After the slowish start, I pick it up some after finish the first loop. The other loop is decidedly more technical, so I’m making decent gains on the field by just maintaining pace. At some point I hit a 5 mile marker at 4.46 miles by Garmin. I just hope I’m not getting lost again.  A little later I catch a guy with  a 2015 era Harbison trail shirt (the SCROTUM edition) and he says he knows Rick, though I haven’t seen him on the roads. Six miles in and I start to really throw the hammer down, figuring I might need to have a substantial lead on the field going into disciplines I never do. I catch some guy who tells me to trash talk his nephew up ahead. I catch the nephew near the 7 mile mark, but there’s clearly more distance to go. I make sure and tell him his uncle is getting ready to kick his ass and then Blue Shoe him in the process. I hit the mat around 56 minutes for about 7.3 miles. Fairly wiped from the effort over the last mile but not too bad.


JB heckling me and the ambulance ready to take me

Part II – 6 mile kayak

So I jump in my rented kayak, in the first corral based on the run pace I submitted, and go to own. I hear Ken Lowden shout that I’m a natural. I plow ahead for a  few minutes and realize one thing: my whole upper body hates me. While my 11 year old son and I could fly down the Tyger river in a canoe, this was a completely still lake and I was embarrassingly slow. I knew there were 3 laps of this thing, and I wasn’t even halfway done with the first lap before I knew I was in a world of trouble. As it turns out, about half the loop was clear sailing and the other half involved navigating around trees and stumps and whatever the hell else was out there in this Dagobah like environment. In addition to being painfully slow, I was taking all the wrong lines and coming incredibly close to capsizing or crashing. I got hung up on a log once but somehow managed to free myself. I should note I was probably in the top 10 in the run, so I was getting passed by seemingly EVERYBODY. First relatively fit guys, then average Joes, older women, basically anyone with any kayaking ability whatsoever. After navigating the swampy part, I was so glad to finally hit the open water again. Of course, this is where people with actual paddling strength just fly by me like I’m sitting still, which I basically am. I remember the day before the race seeing Lisa Smarr in a paddling picture wearing gloves. I was so proud of being prepared and bringing gloves too. Those gloves were currently sittingin the middle of my passenger seat of my 2005 Honda pilot. I suddenly recalled this due to my hands screaming for relief from the multiple blisters forming. Awesome. I started gripping the paddle like an animal without opposable thumbs, desperately trying to save the area between my thumb and forefinger already rubbed raw. Of course this was even less efficient.  For those without small children, there is a character called Robee on the show “Yo Gabba Gabba”.

robeeBrobee has long, limp, lifeless arms. All I could think of on Lap 2 was that I was Brobee in a boat. My arms and shoulders were so wrecked that they were almost numb. Plus my core was wiped from stabilizing and steering the boat. Oh, and the legs were real thrilled to be crammed into a half sit-half dump taking position for an hour, after blasting a seven miler.  By the start of Lap 3 I was half delirious and just glad I wasn’t Lois, who managed to find herself in the weeds on the bank. At least there was another noob on the course. I hardly recall lap 3, other than I could barely turn the boat and I had to stop a few times and completely redirect the boat. Towards the end of lap 3 I started wailing away once I hit open water, just trying to get this misery over. In my last gasp effort I finally caught up with Podium Patti Lowden. By the time I drifted into the finish, I was just destroyed. I could hardly walk and my arms were just dead weights by my side. Results said 1:17 on the paddle, one of the slowest times out there. I later realized I was actually ahead of the eventual overall winners initially, but got smoked by them and probably 15 other people in the water.


PART III – 10 mile mountain bike ride

Ok, so I was in no condition to do anything but crash on the couch and have a beer after my embarrassing display on the water. But I still had 10 miles on my 1990’s cannondale with a sketchy gear shifter to go. I entered the transition area in a slow walk. Fifty two seconds just to put a helmet on and grab my bike. I basically chugged whatever was left in my one water bottle I brought to the race. Jumping on my bike, I knew this was going to be an epic struggle. There was no part of my body that wasn’t sore and exhausted. At least there was a big Columbia cheering section at the transition. The start was the same 2.5 mile loop from the run. Thankfully not too technical with some decent flat, open stretches. That didn’t save me from getting passed again by people presumably with biking skills and/or any energy whatsoever. After the 2.5 mile loop I was dying for some water, so I actually stopped and chugged multiple shots of HEED and water which I think was actually for the run course. Brandenburg was heckling me the whole time and telling me how bad I sucked. Dude, I know.  Some random girl in a lounge chair even told him to go easy on me. The next 3 plus miles were on the trails that JB and I had already gotten to know from our ridiculously frenetic warm up. Some flats but more single track and some tight muddy areas. I had a couple of near wipe outs and  I basically wrecked when my left handle bar hit a tree and sent me catapulting forward. Luckily I was so damn slow that I was able to catch myself before I fell. Five miles in the course suddenly crosses over highway 39. I’m hoping there may be a road stretch but its only a crossing, and I’m thrown back in the woods. My only solace is that there is a nice long open stretch leading into the next loop. Great! Maybe I’m done with the technical stuff? Wrong. Dead wrong. Suddenly I’m navigating the narrowest, hilliest area of the whole course. No way my legs can power through this – basically have to hop off and power walk my bike like a third grader through any time I hit anything remotely difficult.  Seven miles in, some kids are giving out more of the shot glasses of HEED/water. They are also offering, in a much more enthusiastic way, “DO YOU WANT WATER SPLASHED IN YOUR FACE!!??”. Being half delirious, I tell them no and grab their larger “face splashing” cup and chug it like a champ. They implied that cup may be less than hygienic, but damned if I cared at that point.  At nine miles, I am dead man biking but I suddenly hit the flat stretch again heading back towards the highway and hopefully, the finish. I instinctively gear up to the big wheel, and it appears my millennial aged bike has had enough I hear a crunch and my floppy chain jumps off the drivetrain. Between the crazy warm February day (70’s) and my dehydrated, exhausted self, putting the chain back on is a freaking feat of strength. I’ve faded so far back in the field by now I actually don’t get passed in my bike repair session. The last mile is a total blur – just going as hard as I can on the flat open stretch to home.  The bike feels a little off but I can’t tell whether its the wonky machine or the even wonkier person riding it. Finally I see the finish and roll on in in 3:24,  a 1:09 split for the bike, slower than I run 10 miles on the road. 34th place. But sweet baby Jesus I am glad to be done. I have not been that physically destroyed in a long time. I think the only thing close was the BQ marathon in Kiawah. So freaking weak.


What definitely was not weak was the post race spread. Awesome BBQ, hash, rice, rolls and apple pie. And a keg of Mama’s Little Yellow Pils. These guys know how to do a race right. JB introduced me to Brian Curran from Outspokin’ Bicycles in Columbia who was really nice to fix my chain and do a quick tune up on the gears of my geriatric bike. Thanks, Brian! I had to leave early to go camping but they had a bunch of swag to give away as well.  I will be back!

Thanks to Bryan Leaburn, Teresa Harrington and Ken Lowden for the pics!







Triple Dip 2018 – Race for the Place/Lagniappe 5k/Cupid’s Chase 5k – Columbia,SC – 2/10/18


The triple dip. Like a runner’s solar eclipse, the perfect storm of three races being geographically and temporally arranged to complete them all in one morning is an exceedlingly rare event. In the annals of Columbia Running Club lore, the only known triple dip occurred on March 2, 2013. That triple was completed by John Gasque, Cheryl and Tommy Outlaw, James Hicks and myself. That triple was made immensely more difficult since the old March for Meals course at the zoo was delayed by a train by 15 minutes, and had all the triplers get to the second race less than 10 minutes from the start. And of course there was the beauty of the secondary challenge of that day, Tyler “Trophy” McGaha seeking a rare Blue Shoe win by taking me on in the last race of the day. Let’s just say victory is sweet.


Triple Dip 2013

I should say that the triple, to be properly done, should be as close to 5k race effort as possible. Most regular runners are not going to have any problem running 9.3 miles (presuming all are 5ks). It’s the intensity of the 5k effort that is the challenge. Just one 5k, if raced at full effort, is brutal. Doing it 3 times in a row should hurt like hell.

This year, everything fell into place again, though very late. The webmaster or somebody put up an 8:00 am start for the Lagniappe 5k originally, but the sleuthery of Roy Shelley resulted in the realization that this was an error, and 9 am was the actual start. So, 2 weeks before the event, we now had the Race for the Place 5k in Shandon at 8, the Lagniappe 5k at City Roots/Owens Field Park at 9 and Cupid’s Chase at Maxcy Gregg Park at 10. The perfect storm had arrived.

I advertised this fact on the Columbia Running Club facebook site and even made an impassioned plea during our awards banquet for any possible triplers out there. I thought I was probably on my own. I don’t know why people balk at the idea of blowing 90 bucks to submit themselves to a morning of psychological and physical torture . Jeez.



As an expert level double dipper, I planned everything in advance. I was very thankful Strictly Running had early packet pickup for the last 2 races, so that would cut down on time. Jordan Lybrand prepared a route where I could actually run between all three. While actually possible, the logistics of navigating 14+ miles and potential for rain made me wuss out on that option. Next time, Jordan, next time. My race strategy was to go balls out in the Race for the Place, and then survive the last two. While I didn’t think three sub 20’s were likely, I wanted to at least get close. “B” goal was to definitely go faster than my 15k PR of 1:01:50. Hopefully place in age group in all 3. Knowing RFTP was the most competitive, this is the reason for the all out effort in race one.

Race prep included not sleeping a whole lot on Thursday post-CRC banquet and beer/pizza at Upper Crust on Friday night. I showed up to my getaway spot in front of St Joe’s church about an hour early and warmed up with the Silent H. Of course, my legs feel like crap and I’m cursing my decision to do a 6 miler on Friday afternoon. Plenty of fast peeps are already there and I’m already not liking my masters/age group chances. Eric Allers is still bitter over the Cold Winter’s blue shoeing and Mike Nance is going to kick my ass age group-wise. Both will probably beat me for masters glory. I’m interested who will win this race as Blythewood high/CRC beast Alan Deogracias has some serious competition with #triathalonAF Adam Feigh and brand new CRC member Mike Schrum toeing the line. Justin was hunting for the top team pizza party prize and there was a big TUS contingent with myself, Justin, Sean Marden, Nance, Sara Bonner, Sheila Bolin, and Mario Alvarez. Joyce was also there with huge Team Utopia Youth representation, including newly turned 9 year old phenom Kendra Miles going for the 5k state record. Randy would be facing off with his “identical twin” nemesis Johnathan Kirkwood. Other familiar faces included Sarah Allers, Pamela Knapp, Ken Lowden, Kat Hudgins, Tammy Carter, Marie Demetriades, Kimberly Taylor, Derek Gomez and his daughter Madelyn, Reese and Melinda Petruzzi, Alsena Edwards, Mario Tudor, Jennifer Tudor, Arnold Floyd, Sandy Smith, Leeds Barroll, Lois Leaburn, Teresa Harrington, Dave Hale, Brigitte Smith, Sharon Sherbourne and Mickie Ishizue.


Ryan Plexico and Lisa Smarr showed up a little later and they both said they “might” triple. Missy Caughman is an awesome race director and apparently ran the race as well.

With the gun, the start was predictably fast with all the beasts in attendance, especially because the opening stretch is slightly downhill. My whole body is immediately screaming for this insanity to stop, since I’ve been lazy about speedwork and just logging a metric crap-ton of slow miles recently. I even get mocked on Strava for my 9ish training pace sometimes, but again, it builds up the can of whupass to be unleashed on Saturday mornings. Take that , Strava bullies. By the time we reach the long stretch on Heyward street, the pack has completely thinned out and I am left all alone. I am just close enough to the Allers/Nance/Marden minipack ahead to have them to gauge pace. Mile 1 comes through in a pretty brisk 6:11. Mile 2 is just tough mentally. We’re still heading away from the start and every time I push it a little, the little debbie downer voices start reminding me that there’s 2 more of these to go.  I’m pretty miserable by the time we reach Queen street, the far end of this rectangle course, but its nice to start heading somewhat back towards the finish. It’s really hard to muster up much of an effort because I desperately need someone to push me. Finally mile 2 comes through in 6:36 or something and I realize I’ve really fallen off pace. I start kicking it in,  and I can feel the minipack start to drift ever so slowly back to me. Sean just hiked 400+ miles of Palmetto Trail so he’s falling behind Nance and Allers. I’m really struggling with wanting to make a headless chicken attempt at Sean but I realize the only points/position gain I could get is by catching Allers or Nance, and that just isn’t happening.  Apparently I make a living out of tracking down faster dudes when they’re hurt or recovering, like a giant white vulture feeding on the wounded. But Marden kicks it in enough to avoid the endless shame that poor Allers and Nance have had to endure previously,  and I mount a half-inspired kick to cross in 19:27.  Tracy, who is making sure to photodocument the triple dip, catches some absolutely beautiful finish line pics. I had been complaining of my lack of decent racefaces recently. I will complain no more.


In the overall, Adam Feigh crushed it for the win in 16:25, followed by Shrum and Deogracias. Justin also broke 17 minutes for 4th.  The ladies’ race was quite the showdown between youth and “experience”, as 12 year old Madelyn Gomez ran a blazing 20:55, followed quickly by 57 year old Sarah Allers in 20:57 and then 9 year old Kendra Miles in 20:59. Kendra’s time is a new state record by at least a minute and a half I believe. But most importantly, TUS won the pizza party. Gotta have your priorities.


I walked around a bit but realized I needed to head over to the Owens Field area for race number 2. The hard effort at RFTP left my legs pretty wrecked and I was super not looking forward to the Lagniappe. I got confused when I got there and almost parked in Owens Field park but then realized the start was at City Roots. I pulled in with about 15 minutes to spare so all was OK. Unfortunately, I realized the start was about a half mile from the finish, so I would have to factor this in for the triple logistics.

Strictly running had picked this as their preferred event and Brandenburg, Coach B, Drew Williams, Jordan Lybrand, Jennifer Lybrand, Plex and Justin Jones were representing the red and white. It was good to see Kimberly Hardin back racing, and she brought a cheering contingent including fellow runner Teresa Shelton. Columbia Running Club’s royal family, the Weavers, were all on hand as well.  Reese and Melinda Petruzzi were there to complete their double dip, with Bob and Alex joining them as well this time.  Arnold Floyd was also doubling up. Tracy Tisdale was racing , so briefly putting down her camera to actually run. She did manage to steal my iPhone to take most of the start line pics (minus the giant headed self-aggrandizing selfies of course).  Laurie’s son Cotes was also on hand. Eme Crawford  and CRC award winners Kayce Singletary, Rocky Soderberg, and Chesson Merritt, were in attendance.


The start on this one felt like death. I ran Lagniappe last year on a modified course due to construction, and they were going back to the old one this year. I thought we were being spared the hill on the crawdaddy course by turning left immediately on holt st, but it turned out it was just drawing out the hill on a more gradual plane. This would be fine normally but my legs had gotten super tight and my stomach was grumbling for some eggs and toast, not another gut wrenching 5k effort. It was tough to see Brandenburg and Coach B pull away since I usually hang right with these guys. Ian Loughlin was riding me like a circus monkey early on, but fell off some once we turned on to Waccamaw and got another dose of hill. I finally turned on to Rosewood and my Garmin spat out a 7 minute flat split, and I was deathly afraid my triple was already coming undone. Thankfully the course is basically all flat and downhill from there. I plowed ahead and finally got a little more comfortable after my legs finally realized they were going to be tortured again. I was able to make up a little ground on Coach B and JB, with an unknown girl just behind them.  The long stretch on Holly was thankfully a gradual downhill, and mile 2 came back in a more 10kish 6:28.  Mile 3 dropped us all the way back down to City Roots again and then headed towards Owens Field park with a long lap around the soccer fields. I entered the park with coach B and JB a little closer, thanks to JB wanting to take the scenic route near the old memorial stadium. I wasn’t sure how long the lap was in the park, but I could see the leader still hadn’t finished yet, so I guess the answer was LONG. The course was all on gravel road from here and for whatever reason I had a wild hair that I could maybe catch the guys. As I rounded the far turn, I blasted into full-on headless chicken. I could tell there was probably not enough real estate to get Coach B but unknown girl was about to get caught. I pulled alongside her and she was having none of it, surging ahead. Of course this triggered david banner green-eyed mode in myself, and I ratcheted it up about 4 unknown adrenaline gears into a ridiculous display that must have scared any nearby women and children.  Garmin recorded a 4:40ish pace over the last 0.12 after a 6:10 last mile. Crashed into the finish in 20:14 just behind Coach B in a whirl of fury and pain. Turns out the “unknown girl” was actually Mackenzie Jordan from SR, who took the overall women’s win. Hopefully her victory photos aren’t ruined by an maniacal sasqatchian 42 year old. Good enough for 1st in AG.


Justin Jones took the overall win in 17:18, with Jordan Lybrand in 2nd in 17:34. Plex completed part 2 of his triple in 18:26. Behind Mackenzie was Jen Lybrand, who ran 23:14 with Wilson. Third went to Kim Hardin in 24 minutes and change – pretty strong for not racing in close to a year.  Drew Williams and Gay Petrey won masters. Age group honors: Cotes Royson was the champ of the 11-14, with Reese and Alex Petruzzi also claiming the podium. Jessie Weaver won the 20-24 with Ian Loughlin  taking 2nd on the men’s side. CRC’s Lauren Mojkowski placed 3rd in the 25-29. Eme Crawford was 3rd in the 35-39. Tracy Tisdale won the 45-49 by a full three minutes. JB squeaked by with the 50-54 win in 13 minutes. Susan Weaver won among the women. Mark Bedenbaugh was champ of the 55-59. The 55-59 featured a double Lisa with Lisa Smarr and Lisa King crossing the finish line together. Harry Strick and Bob Petruzzi claimed the 60-64 men. In the 70+,  Arnold Floyd, Rocky Soderberg and a hoodied Rich Weaver claimed the podium.

Of course my headless chicken finish left me even more wrecked after race #2 . I headed over to the River Rat truck and claimed my post race “breakfast stout” beer, with a bonus extra shot of lager when the keg wouldn’t work. Nothing like double fisting at 9:30 in the morning. I can only imagine what I looked like power walking down Jim Hamilton blvd, soaked in sweat and pounding a beer. I eventually had to do the most blasphemous act of pouring out half the beer since I was running out of time.  When I got to my car they had me barricaded in for the Mardi Gras festival, so luckily some guys helped me out and I tore out of there. I pulled into the lot at the Lourie center (site of my original 2013 CRC banquet as prez) and had to high tail it to the start of Cupid’s Chase with Plex doing the same.

I strolled up to the start and they were already announcing t-minus 6 minutes to the gun. Whew, a close one. Didn’t have a lot of time to gauge my competition, but Nate Carrasco was on hand to give Plex a run for his money. Plex told me he felt like death, and I was right there with him, though it was great to be ready to finish. It was good to see the OG Robbie McLendon and Nicole after a long time. Matt Gregory and Alex Ponomarev were also on hand.   Sandy Smith, Brigitte Smith and Dave Hale were completing a double with RFTP. Lisa Smarr actually registered and walked up to the line less than a minute before the gun. Hardcore.


At the start, Nate takes off like a man possessed and gaps the field immediately. The first mile starts at Maxcy Gregg and mirrors the first mile of Get to the Green all the way up the hill to the King/Blossom intersection.  My legs are complaining again but I try and force them to cooperate and keep up with Matt. The hill is brutal but it helps me against the field. In my delirium, I see Ken Lowden cheering about my 2nd 5k, which I think I screamed “THIRD!!!” at him in a maniacal frenzy. Sorry, Ken! Despite my efforts, mile 1 is again slower than my half marathon pace in 6:57. But luckily the rest of the course is also flat and downhill like Lagniappe. I had forgotten how long the course stays on Blossom, and I’m practically begging for us to turn right and come back. Finally we hit the turn on Amherst and come back on Wheat. With the long flat stretch and heading back home, I launch into an extended kick well before mile 2. Just so ready to get this done.  I pass Matt and just pray the rest of the way in that he doesn’t blue shoe me in the end. Form is probably going all to hell my now, basically feels like I’m falling forward and trying not to wipe out. Mario Alvarez suddenly appears at Wheat and King and catches some pics of my flopping around. Mile 2 in 6:25. The whole last mile is pretty much a blur. If I can smell the finish, I will give up a lung and my sanity to reach those red numbers. The finish is awesome to this race – flying down Blossom in a reverse of that early climb. There’s a guy in front of me and I can’t tell how old he is, looks vaguely age grouper. With all these bearded millennials , I cant tell the real old from the faux old guys.  To his credit, he kicks it in pretty good, and once we reach 5 points, my gas tank is pegged on E. One half hearted flop towards the finish and I cross in 20:15, 6:05 last mile with a 5:49 kicker. SO glad to be done! Thankfully the age grouper guy was in the 35-39, so I was lucky to get 1st in AG again, especially with the one-deep awards.  The reason for the one-deep is that the swag is crazy good – I got a “love bug” stuffed animal and a 20 dollar gift certificate to BJ’s brewhouse. Pretty nice for an AG award!


Beauty and the Beast

Overall win in this race went to Nate in 18:39, which I think may be his first win. He’s gotten insanely fast really quickly. Major props to him. Dustin Cook took 2nd and a beatdown Plex still was good enough for 3rd.  I believe Jennifer Newman took the women’s win, as a guy named Joey accidentally got keyed in as a woman. Angela Titus was 2nd and Katy Mayhew 3rd.  In the age groups, Matt Gregory took the 30-34, and Sandy Smith won the 55-59. Robbie McClendon won the 60-64, while Alex Ponomarev and Brigitte Smith were champs of the 65-69.

I want to send a big shout out to all the Columbia Running Club people supporting me in this ridiculous endeavor, especially Tracy Tisdale for taking all the pics and my fellow triple dippers Lisa Smarr and Ryan Plexico. I didn’t do a triple sub 20, though I did calculate my total time as 59:57  – A 19:59 average.  Plus my last mile of my last 5k was the fastest, so I’m pretty pleased with the effort.  It was a blast!








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



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!


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.


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!


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.


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.








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


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:



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.


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.


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.


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.






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


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.

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…

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+.


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


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.


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.


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.


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


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.



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+.