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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Someone wake me when this is over.

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

Columbia area results: 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sweat it Out VIRTUAL 5k – Columbia, SC – 5/16/20



The Sweat it Out 5k has been part of the Tour de Columbia for the past 6 years, and a regular on the Blue Shoes calendar as well. It’s put on by Jamie Duke in support of her son Nick, who has a rare condition, Hypohidrotic Ectodermal Dysplasia, that makes him unable to sweat. In turn, the race is held in June so that runners will do plenty of the sweating “for” him. It’s a really cool event, initially assisted by Shannon Godby and now directed by the swagmaster herself, Erin Roof (GRIT endurance). In addition to a huge breakfast spread, the race is known for its hand painted awards, made by local artist Ernest “Chicken Man” Lee. Mr. Lee even painted a physique-appropriate award for me one year:  Gotta watch the beer intake.

Credit: Jedi Runner Photography

Of course, all races have been toast in the wake of the COVID pandemic. After the one last hurrah at LRAH on March 14, the entire spring and likely summer schedule have been wiped out. What is a hardcore race addict to do??

As it turns out, virtual races. That used to mean these online things that sent you a medal and took your word for it that you ran a particular distance, inviting the overwhelming elitist scorn of the Sasquatch. But when you’re a hopeless race fiend like myself, you take what you can get.

So I signed up for three virtuals, starting with the Columbia Running Club’s own “CoRUNavirus” 5k. I picked out the flattest course I could (Race for the Place) and threw down with Silent H one random Saturday morning. Without any trinkets to win and nobody to catch, it kinda sucked. Thankfully, I very narrowly avoided getting H’ed, with  Randy’s clomping size fourteens just behind me giving me just enough motivation. I finished in 19:43 (Randy 19:50). Two weeks later I did the Race the Rabbit virtual Half Marathon, the registration for which must have been fueled by one too many quarantine IPAs. All I can say is, running 13.1 by yourself with 4+ loops of a 5k course is not something I recommend. I had Shawanna and Jen K pace the first lap, but then I went rogue and just suffered the next hour plus by myself. I did a 1:32, about 3-4 minutes off my race time.

With Sweat it Out though, I had a couple weeks to rest and I was planning to try and throw down a good time. The course is pretty favorable, so Randy and I decided to give it a go on the actual route (virtuals can be run anywhere). But I figured I needed someone to catch. Enter one Sean Higgins. After winning the 2006 Tour de Columbia and living all over the world with the military, Higgins came back with a vengeance in 2019 and threw a wrench into an already brutal Columbia masters racing scene. Poor H is in his age group, so he had only one nickname for Sean, using one of his favorite vulgar terms of endearment. Jen K bailed on racing, but at least I now had, presumably with Sean just ahead and H just behind, a mini pack to try and draw out a good pace. Pete O’Boyle caught wind of our shenanigans on Facebook and decided to join the crowd. Little did the Meadowfield community know that a bunch of old men would be terrorizing their neighborhood Saturday morning.

“Race” morning of May 16 turned out to be pretty ideal. Unseasonably cool and about 60 degrees. At the usual race parking lot, they had taken away the critical permanent portapotty. When I got there Randy was looking like a lost toddler looking for a place to dump. I guess the feeling passed though. We did a warm up trot of the whole course to assure Randy and I that we knew the course. Sean just felt more confused, so it sounded like he might rely on some breathless direction calling to make sure he was headed the right way. We all went back to the cars after the warmup, and sure enough all three of us had brought out the aqua and orange colored “Dan Marino” Vapor Flys. It was about to get real. Wooooo!

With no official timer, I became the starter. Basically just did a on-your-mark-set-go and hit the Garmin. I was determined not to run a crap race again this time, so I took off like a wild banshee, blasting out onto Olde Knight and making the first turn on Queens Way just hoping no cars were coming. The SIO course basically has 3 loops going off the backbone of Galway and Olde Knight Rds. I took the first loop at a pretty good clip though I could hear Higgins right behind me. We passed Meadowfield elementary and entered loop number 2, the “M” rectangle bounded by Mason and Merrill St. I just had to make sure I remembered the cross street connecting them was Winston Rd, so my highly visual memory conjured up beast grandmaster runner Winston Holliday when we hit the loop. I know, the Blue Shoes mind is deeply warped. JI see Janice Compton out for a walk, and I’m sure she’s wondering what the hell is going on.  I feel pretty decent at the one mile mark and figure I’m probably around my typical 6:15-6:20 opening split. Garmin spits back: 6:03. Sweet baby Jesus I’m setting myself up to hurt. But I don’t know how to purposely slow down in a race, so  I figure this bed has been made. I hit US attorney Winston St. and make a left , then turn back on Merrill. I feel surprisingly OK, and it feels like I might be gapping Higgins even. Back onto Galway, I know there’s just loop 3 to go, an out and back squiggle on Saye Cut , right before the Hammond school of perpetual educational debt. OK maybe not that last part. Hitting the turnaround on Saye Cut, I still feel pretty good and BLEEP 6:04 comes back for mile 2. Holy crap, I’m on sub 19 (which is 6:06) pace. JUST. HOLD. ON. At the turnaround I can see I have a pretty good lead on Higgins and H, and Pete is not too far behind.  I got this…


Or maybe not. It’s relieving to get back on Galway and headed for home, but the Blue Shoes physiologic CHECK ENGINE light has just turned on. It turns out there’s an acute oxygen deficiency coupled with lactic acid buildup. What’s worse is that the only hill of any sort is just ahead. I throw myself into the incline and though it hurts like hell, its over surprisingly quick. I make the turn back on Olde Knight and I can literally see the finish, just over a quarter mile away. I am all aboard the pain train at this point, and I try to kick it in,  but the RPM is already in the red and I’m not really going any faster. I am within about 200 meters of the finish, eyes focused on that little bundle of yard trash we signaled as the line, when I suddenly hear something. I get race hallucinations all the time, usually just the noise of my shoestrings or general air turbulence from my bus-like physique moving through space. But this is not that. It’s the sound of Vapor Flys moving at a higher cadence than my own. And all of a sudden here comes Sean buzzing the tower like Goose and Maverick and blowing by me like I’m sitting still. DAMN YOU HIGGINS!! But I got nothin’. Wasted like GTA V. I blow into the yard trash finish line like a semi and hit my Garmin, and do my classic crumple to the ground. 19:04. AGH, so close to the eighteens.  “Official” results were Sean 19:00, Blue Shoes 19:04, H 19:44, Pete 22:36.

You can still sign up for Sweat it Out virtual through 6/30.

Results so far:



Lucky Leprechaun 5k – Camden, SC -3/7/20

The Lucky Leprechaun 5k is now in its 3rd year, associated with the Irish Fest, a St Patrick ’s Day style party, in Camden. I originally balked at the idea of this race back in 2018, but race director extraordinaire and GRIT endurance CEO Erin Roof mentioned free beer, an Irish theme, a flat course..and did I mention free beer? To “sweeten” the deal she promised that there would be a special cake, since the inaugural event happened to be on March 3, my birthday. I thought she was kidding, but she really had a cookie cake and made the crowd sing. My giant head grew three sizes that day. Since it was held in Camden, about 90 percent of the people were like who the eff is this dude, and is he really that much of an egomaniac? Of course the answer to this question is “yes”, and I’ve come back every year since. Drew Williams is still bitter about the 2018 event, because when you get the overall win, you don’t expect a 5th place Sasquatch to get all the glory.

In year two, as a way of paying it forward, I agreed to come back and be the official Lucky Leprechaun. This saved Erin’s son Parker from the shame of replaying the role in shamrock boxers like the first year. He’s going to have a lot to process in therapy. I managed to find the most ridiculous costume I could find on Amazon that was still remotely runnable, complete with top hat and faux three piece green suit. What they didn’t mention in the description were the revealing, free-flowing green velour knickers. I still shudder at some of those action photos. Yikes.

But with some extra spandex this year, I was back as the Leprechaun part II in 2020. Last year I managed to run a 20:30 and place 5th, but this time I was going to make a run at a costumed sub 20. My only other success in this department was a 19:36 in the rabbit onesie at Bunny Hop. I’m still crushed I couldn’t find an extra gear to run down Brandenburg at that event. Sadly, he wasn’t coming to LL and was chasing free Chick Fil A for a year at the Run Hard 5k.

The moment I show up in Camden on race day, I realize the masters deck is stacked against me. Drew Williams is on hand to try and reclaim his 2018 glory, plus Sean Higgins is already there as well. Higgins and I have gone back and forth, but I’m pretty damn sure he’s not going to let me catch him in this outfit.  At least I’ve finally crossed over to the 45-49 this past week, where I get a brief respite from Drew, Yerg, Nance, Angel, Code, Phil Midden, Derek Gomez and whatever other superfit middle aged dad who decides to race on a whim.  The 40-44 is just brutal.

To maximize my speed with the increased weight of the costume, I bring out the Nike Next percents. With their bizarro heel fin and angular shape, they oddly fit the leprechaun aesthetic. I did half the course with Higgins to show him the route. Basically a rectangle in Camden, where the first half is a slow, gradual climb and the reverse in the second half. Makes for a fast finish and pretty fast course in general. No major hills.

Back at the start, I have to negotiate a Leprechaun portapotty visit, which is a bit of a challenge. While in line, two little kids stared at me with fear in their eyes, wondering what depraved 6’3” beast of a man would wear a costume meant for a little person. Some cross country kid was asking me about why I was wearing the Nikes. I forgot what I told him, though it was some politically correct version of TO BEAT YOUR ASS. I don’t know why he wouldn’t take an oversized middle aged man in green velour seriously.

Since the race is in Camden, and with the two competing races (Run Hard and March for Meals), there were not a ton of familiar faces, but a big crowd nonetheless. Pete Poore was back on the recovery trail after his brutal 2019 Justin Pepper 5k injuries laid him out for months. Will and Amanda Rowan, Kana Rahman, Martie McCallum, Ron Hagell, Patti and Ken Lowden, Shelley Hinson, Jennifer Norris, Mark Chickering, Jim Williams, Megan Buddin, Arnold Floyd, Michael Beaudet, Clara Nance, Tom and Lisa Hart, and Sharon Sherbourne were all in attendance.

With the start, there is a big group blasting out from the beginning, and I’m already finding myself behind 10-20 people in the first quarter mile as we make our way on East Dekalb St. We suddenly take a left on Fair and enter the rectangle on Hampton Park Rd. Suddenly, quite a few kids drop off the pack.  I pass them, making sure to “buzz the tower” while blowing past portapotty line teen. Yes, I’m that petty. Making the right turn on Lyttleton , all you can see is endless straight road, with the turnaround far out of sight. I focus on keeping Higgins at least in shouting distance, though he is gapping me ever so slightly. Up above I see Drew in a knock-down drag-out battle with some dude in sweatpants?  WTF? Sweatpants dude appears to have the lead though. My mile 1 comes back in 6:24. Not too bad, especially with the uphill and my tendency to negative split. Sub 20 is sub 6:27 pace.


The long uphill is starting to kill me slowly, so I’m super relieved when I see Sweatpants take the right turn up ahead. I sense there’s another runner on the sidewalk nearby, and suddenly I see Whitney Keen. It takes me a second to realize he isn’t racing but running around his hometown, which is a relief since he’s still in my new age group. There’s a one block turnaround and I’m still close enough to Higgins to be in the that block, but only barely. There’s another cross country kid just behind him, so I’m sitting 5th. The second half of the race is all very slow, gradual decline. I’m pretty gassed but at least I can use my gravitational advantage to blast away downhill. Mile 2 in 6:21, so still below goal pace. With a mile to go, I can barely make out the turn back on Dekalb St, so it gives me motivation to try and kick it in. But Higgins only seems to be crushing it even more. Cross country kid is holding his own. I’ve lost sight of the Drew-Sweatpants battle. Luckily it’s a fairly cold morning, because there is some serious heat building up in this damn costume. Finally we hit the turn back on Dekalb. The kid is just ahead, but it turns out my tank is on E. Mile 3 in 6:05. I forgo a complete headless chicken attempt to get 4th place, crashing through the finish in 19:30, 5th overall. Pretty happy with the result, as it’s a full minute faster than last year. Plus, with three deep overall, I got promoted from 3rd to 1st masters.  The old dudes are brutal in this town!

The afterparty is very nice with this race, with free green beer. I’m guessing it’s Bud Light, but do you really want to drink an artisanal oatmeal stout after a road race? Kershaw health offered free massages/PT though I decided no one wanted to touch me after the amount of heat burning up in the undercarriage of that costume. Speaking of which, I lost out to a Viking Irish couple in the costume contest but still took home some Texas roadhouse swag. Awesome overall wooden shamrock overall plaques and beer mug age group awards. Great race, Erin!


Results: In the overall Aaron “Sweatpants” Vogel held off a charge from Drew to take the win 18:18 to 18:26. Higgins got third in 19:02. Martie McCallum took home the women’s win in 21:42 ahead of Rachel Simmons and Saskia Munn. Female masters winner was Shelley Hinson. Fifty nine year old Tony Yarborough was 2nd male masters.

Age groups:

 Women: Megan Buddin was 3rd in the 35-39. Fellow leprechaun Clara Nance was 3rd in the 45-49. Sharon Sherbourne was champion of the 65-69, while Podium Patti Lowden lived up to her name with a 1st place in the 70+.

Men: Dennis McAllister was 3rd in the 35-39. Go Pro Guy Will Rowan took 2nd in the 45-49, while Mark Chickering won the 50-54. Tom Hart was 2nd in the 55-59. Jim Williams was the champ of the 60-64, while ageless Arnold Floyd won the 70+.


Red Shoe Run 5k – Shandon – Columbia, SC – 1/18/20

The Red Shoe Run is one of the longer lasting races in the area, dating back at least 11 years. I know this as I picked this as my 2nd race in Columbia back in 2009, only a few weeks removed from my Cold Winter’s Day race where I misjudged the finish and died a thousand deaths en route to a 23:59. I was convinced at the time that the Red Shoe Run (then the Red Nose Run) would be my vindication and would surely be a PR. Unfortunately for me, the old course was a) a brutal slog from the Colonial Center up Pendleton St a la the current Turkey Day 5k route and b) It was the coldest morning in Columbia in over 25 years, with race time temps hovering around 10 degrees. I ran in a full sweatsuit, borrowing my wife’s powder blue hat that barely covered by oversized cranium, along with one of my munchkins’ Spider Man gloves that barely fit over my bear paws. Though I was probably about 205 lbs,  the whole ensemble made me look like I was pushing 250. No points for style whatsoever.



Definitely “fearing the vest” in 2009

The net result was something north of 25 minutes and probably a worse feeling than CWD. Somehow I stumbled into an age group win at my next race (March for Meals) , won a trophy,  and my addiction began.

Fast forward 11 years later and I decided to give it another whirl this year. They have since moved the race to Shandon  and use what is essentially the Hot Summers Night course. Pretty flat but definitely a little roll. I am very against a) 10ks in general and b) two loop courses, so I opted for the one loop 5k. Plus, it fit the Blue Shoes undercard event trophy hunting criterion.

I was modestly hopeful of a decent race this time coming off the 19:39 from last week at SCOA. The Achilles was feeling OK, but I was nervous about some plantar fasciitis wanting to flare up instead. When you’re about to hit 45, apparently your body hates you. At least when you abuse it on all fronts on a daily basis.

I show up to the race an hour early to begin the now very extended race day stretch machinations of my tortured lower extremities. The place is already hopping, and while the crowd isn’t huge, the field is looking stacked. Angel, Jen Kay, Ed Aulfuldish, Eric and Sarah Allers, Silent H.  Thank God these guys all opted for the 10k. Drew Williams is the only person I know doing the 5k, which of course sucks because he’s in my age group. Hand Middle bathrooms are packed but I get a sweet tip from the janitor and end up doing my colonic gymnastics in the staff restroom which is huge and set up like a refuge from madness, inspirational quotes and all kinds of toiletries and stuff. More power to you if you’re a middle school teacher. Just the thought sends shivers down my spine. Sorry, Kristen.

I get to the 5k start and see that Tracy / JEDI runner photography is out there taking pics, so Sweaty Iphone photography will not have to leap into action today.  All my non-runner Facebook friends will be happy, especially the wife, who somehow sees my 500+ running photo dump as 500 individual posts on her FB feed. If we get divorced, I’m blaming Mark Zuckerberg.


After the 10k start I run back to the car to take a final swig of coffee and water before the 5k gun 15 minutes later. I’m literally locking the car when the tummy says it’s ready for a second round. REALLY??? It’s fricking 8:08. I sprint back to a nearly empty Hand Middle and make a B-line for the middle school teacher spa and do unspeakable horrors in record time. I dash out and basically do a half mile interval all the way to the start line, strolling in with just over 2 minutes to spare. Damn you, Tazza tacos.  Unfortunately, Joe Pinner , the usual starter, isn’t here, so there is no delay whatsoever. Before I even get my gloves back on, there’s a GO! and we’re off.

With the pretty flat start I try and blast it out hard from the gun. About a quarter mile in, I realize I’m in a bizzaro pack of 11 year old Kendra Miles, 9 year old Dorothy Hutchins and Sean Higgins. Basically two 6’3 stocky guys and 2 tiny girls. I ramp it up a bit to try and get some space and damned if Kendra isn’t running shoulder to shoulder (or should I say shoulder to hip) with me. Oh no, I ‘m now in danger of getting a beatdown by a sixth grade girl.  We approach the mile marker when all of a sudden Drew, in his new Nike Next percent 250+ dollar shoes, is bailing out to the side. Despite the cost, apparently they were not made with an automatic shoe tie-er.  As he scrambles to tie his shoes, I pass him and I’m suddenly in 2nd place. First place is some kid who has left us all for dead. I blast ahead thinking I’m crushing low 6 pace, but my Garmin comes back in 6:23. WTH? It felt much faster but maybe its my tights and shorts combo and the cold holding me back. I plow ahead down Monroe St but 1st place kid just isn’t turning left. I’m almost thinking he’s led us off course before I see the cop directing him down Prospect St, just one block from kilbourne.  Just as I approach the turnaround I hear what sounds like damn elephant stampede behind me, and I know it’s Drew before I even see him. Oh well. But I’m still 3rd though.

Rounding the turn end up on Wilmot and the Garmin spits out a 6:29. Man, I never have positive splits. So I make a charge and try to ramp it up. Who knows if Higgins is back there ready to pay me back for last week. I start to hit the back of the 10k race after mile 2, which makes me feel faster but also puts innocent racers at risk from getting hit by a sweaty 6’3″ bus. Drew is actually not too far ahead, probably not feeling it after donating a minute of time to his shoelaces. We do a painful loop away from the finish on Wheat and I am officially starting to suck wind. Once we get back on Duncan, I can see the finish in the distance, which helps me kick it in. With all the 10kers around I hear noises and I’m super afraid of Higgins, or even worse, an elementary schoolgirl, kicking my arse. Headless chicken commences about three blocks out, Garmin spits a 6:10. I can see the clock well into the 19’s, so I ramp i up to make sure I get under 20, blasting through in 19:46. Ugh, that hurt. And well off the 19:15 from last year. But hey, still 3rd overall and lots of CRC points, so I’ll take it.


The 10k was weird with frontrunner Marc Truesdale bailing at some point. Jen Kay ended up beating all the boys and everyone else to take the win in 39:35. Ivanka Tolan crushed a PR in 41 flat for 2nd, MC Cox was 3rd.  Jordan Lybrand took the mens win with Angel Manuel and Eric Allers also on the podium.

10k age groupers: Joyce’s TUY kid Laurel Walls crushed a 43:33 to take the 2-14.  My coworker Levi Beck ran a 51:05 to take 2nd in the 25-29. Nicole Rybar was the champ of the 25-29 women. Jen Lybrand won the 30-34 with Wilson in tow, while Trey McCain was 2nd in the 30-34 men.  John Baker won the 35-39 men while Kristen Hernandez strollered to 2nd among the women. Steve Greer was champ of the 40-44, while Ivery Baldwin was 3rd in the 45-49. Colleen Quarles and Angie Thames were 1-2 in the 45-49 women. Ed “FAST EDDIE” Aufuldish was tops in the 50-54 with Randy “SILENT H” Hrechko 2nd.  Janice Addison was champ of the 55-59 women by a half an hour.  Alsena Edwards and Geary McAlister were tops in the 60-64. Chap John Houser and Peter Mugglestone were 2-3 in t he 70+.

In the 5k , Erin Miller’s son Max took the win at age 13 in 18:27, ahead of the old men Drew and the Sasquatch.  Kendra ended up the women’s winner in a shade under 21, with Sarah Allers second and Rachel Simmons 3rd .

5k age groupers: Dorothy was tops in the 2-14 at age 9. Regan Freeman was champ of the 20-24, while Jessica Weaver was 2nd among the women. Andy Mikula won the 30-34. New CRC member Jared Franklin was tops in the 35-39. Catherine Lipe was 2nd among the women. Michael Beaudet won the 45-49 men while Julia Norcia was 2nd and Jeannette Farr 3rd among the women.  Shelley Hinson won the 50-54, with Sean Higgins and Johnathan Kirkwood  1-2 among the men. Dave Hale was 2nd in the 55-59. Jim Williams and Patrick McCormick went 2-3 in the 60-64.  Leeds Barroll and Lynn Grimes were 65-69 champs.  “Podium” Patti Lowden lived up to her name, taking the 70+ with Brigitte Smith 2nd.  Albert Anderson and Alex Ponomarev placed 2-3 among the men.

Other notable finishers: Kristen Loughlin,  Shenequa Coles, Kara Blaisure, Stephanie Dukes, Marcy Utheim, Dawn Galloway-Hale, Kana Rahman, Jessalyn Smith, Helene Lipe, Susan Weaver, Ron Lipe, Amanda Rowan, Will Rowan, Joey and Gabriella Swearingen, Anthony Hernandez, Sam Hilliard (first race back from hip surgery), Rusty Painter, Gretchen Lambert, Hou-Yin Chang, Heather Herndon.



SCOA Ring the Bell 5k – Saluda Shoals Park – Columbia, SC – 1/11/20


Having raced almost every weekend in Columbia since 2009, there aren’t many events that I haven’t already done. So when I see a new race with a new course, I usually jump at the chance. The SCOA Ring the Bell 5k is a completely new race, put on by South Carolina Oncology Associates (a group of physicians specializing in cancer ) to benefit the SCOA Cares Foundation, which goes to help fund patients with the cost of care. “Ringing the Bell” is a symbolic ritual for people finishing their treatment.

The 5k course was originally going to be near the SCOA Cares building, which is on Stoneridge Drive near Greystone Blvd. I was excited about the idea of a completely new course, but a quick look at the proposed route had me worried.  In a previous pre-Blue Shoe life, a 23-year-old Alex resided at Stone Ridge apartments just down the road. I was definitely not a runner in 1998, but I distinctly remember living on a hillside, and nearly throwing out my back carrying a 100 pound Gateway computer monitor (this was before the flat screen days, kids)  from the apartment office building down to my unit. Back then my bad choices included paying for a state-of-the-art 1 gig hard drive $2000 computer completely on credit instead of signing up for ill-advised races.  But apparently I had to have my AOL dial-up, napster and yahoo chat.  Oh, the good old days.

Anyway, they ended up scrapping the mountainous 5k course and just going with Saluda Shoals. While lacking in excitement, it probably was a lot easier than diverting zoo, Embassy Suites and Platinum Plus traffic during the race.  But for anyone that has had to dodge cars while going all out 5k pace, it’s not so bad to be in the friendly confines of a park.  I was familiar with the course, shared by a number of other local 5ks and the end of the now defunct (sob) Dam Run 10k. A simple out and back, mostly paved. A couple of hills and a tough gravel road climb at the very end.

With JEDI photography on the sidelines with family obligations, I (aka SWEATY IPHONE PHOTOGRAPHY) agreed to step in for photo duties. They offered me a free entry  in exchange for my photography services, which involve:

a) Melon headed selfies and random pre-race crowd shots

b) Running the race at a million percent effort and missing the first few runners and a couple after me as I recover in a sweaty mess on the ground

c) Taking the iphone from my spibelt (an attempt at  a cool fanny pack) and taking a million pics of greatly varying quality , looking like a random creeper dude to all who don’t know me (and perhaps some that do).

d) Dumping said pics into a massive race photo album on facebook. Complete with duplicates, horrific race faces and/or random error shots like my shoes.

But hey, my price (free) is right so they were ok with it. Sara Bonner was acting as a co-race director so she agreed to fill in the gap and take pics of the people who beat me.

I showed up an hour early and started my long pre-race warm up, because I never know what my Achilles has in store for me on any given day. Lately it’s been good. I hadn’t raced a 5k since Lugoff in early December. Given my training pattern of all 9 minute plus pace miles, I never know what’s in the 5k box of chocolates until I let the demons out of the cage. Between all the 1988 crystal light aerobics stretches and slog jogging, I see a pretty sizeable crowd. Looks like the first year event is a success. Temps are ridiculously warm, humid and 60’s in early January.

Trackstar Eddie and Plexico are out there, so any trophy hunt delusions I might have had are quickly quashed. I know they had some cash awards for overall and masters. I also run into masters beasts Brian Kistner and Sean Higgins, both of whom can usually give me a beat down. It’s not looking good for me. At least Kistner is only one week out from the Harbison 50k. I figure Higgins would love to exact some revenge from the Famously Hot pink 5k, where he and the leaders missed the turn into the stadium and gave me the hollow victory. (Still pretty cool though, not going to lie.)

Chap, John Baker, Tim and Tori Pearson,  and Will Rowan are few of the familiar faces at the start. Nine year old phenom Dorothy Hutchins is toeing the line with her game face on. Oh please don’t let me get beat by a fourth grader. 

The start is a mad rush as we get released down a hill  from the east entrance of Saluda Shoals. I’m trying not to get too crazy as the Achilles doesn’t like sudden starts. Everything feels ok on the initial quarter mile to the first turn, so I settle into a race pace. It’s pretty difficult to judge with a month’s worth of slog jogs, so I just try to rely on he memory bank of 400 some odd 5ks to guide me. The guiding principle being that if it doesn’t feel like death, you’re probably not going fast enough. I catch up to Kistner and still have enough breath to make fun of his Clemson outfit, though it’s not if Gamecock fans have anything to talk about right now. I’m guessing he still cashed from the 50k or just taking it easy. We wind through some flat road before hitting the “12 days of Christmas” hill, so named for the lights there during the Sleigh Bell Trot. They’ve taken them down by now but it’s still no fun climbing up this thing. Summit is about 0.75 miles in, with the horrific clay mountain from the  now defunct Climb the Clay (sob) race off to your right. The field has separated out by this point, though Higgins is about 20 meters ahead.  Surprisingly, Regan Freeman is still out in front of me. I know he runs 21ish minutes, so either he’s been training or setting himself up to die. Eddie, Plex and the other 2-3 leaders have gapped the rest of the field by a good bit. My first mile, which I expected would be 6:30ish given my conservative start, comes back in 6:14.  Wow – guess having some pacers helped with the speed. We go up another incline to the turn around near the dog park. Eddie is in the lead with Plex not too far behind. I don’t recognize the other guys, though one looks age grouperish. But surely there isn’t another 40ish dude in Columbia that can run sub 19’s, right? We’ll get back to that.

Coming back down the turnaround incline, Regan starts to realize his 6:05 first mile wasn’t perhaps the best idea and I manage to pass him near the bottom. I’m surprised to see Michael Beaudet right behind  Michael Ferlauto, who typically does 22 minutes. Guess this race is full of fast starts. At the bottom of the hill we suddenly turn right and encounter a tiny bit of connector trail which deposits you on a paved walkway. This part is always tough. It probably would be scenic with the overhanging tree canopy and all , if it weren’t for my entire body crying out to stop the torture. But hey, there are trinkets to be won and Higgins is actually not too far ahead. The paved nature path has no definable markers so it seems to take forever. I’m able to glance to my left occasionally to judge where I would be on the road. Luckily the path does not go up the 12 days of Christmas hill on the way back. Mile 2 comes back at some point in 6:23, so keeping up the sub 20. The mile 2 beep is usually my signal to go all in like James Holzhauer on a Daily Double, but with a month off from racing I’m not sure how big the chip stack is.  But, I gotta go get Higgins. Slowly, painfully, I start to reel him in. Finally,  just before the course dumps out onto the gravel road, I pull up beside him. Oh well, with my cover now blown,  it’s time to put up or shut up.  I try to coast down the hill to the turnaround point, knowing I will need every bit of fumes I have left to carry me back up this thing. I hit the turnaround and Higgins is right behind me, with Kistner already on the road too. Damn it. Going to have to headless chicken it. Up the hill I go, scared to death I will get passed back at any second. I’m basically running completely on adrenaline because my legs are pretty much bathing in lactic acid by this point.  Thankfully I make it to the paved road again still in the masters lead and I just focus on those red numbers. I had a couple of Higgins hallucinations on the final stretch but somehow he never materializes. I blast through the finish in 19:39, 6th overall/1st masters. Not too shabby for the gimp. I should say “masters” with air quotes though, since it turns out 41 year old Matt Lafave placed 3rd overall in 18:33. Somehow there are still unknown superfit dads out there ready to take my trophies. Thankfully he must have edged out the 28 year old 4th finisher by a nose (they have the same finishing time), which bumped me up to the masters win. Nice job, dude.


After a quick pavement make out session, I jumped up to take pics. It sucked that it was drizzling at times but definitely helped to have Sara Bonner help me with hydration , both of the hops and non-hops variety.  Post race spread was awesome with three breweries (Hunter Gatherer, Steel Hands and Columbia Craft) handing out samples and music from WXRY.  Awards were some really nice pint glasses and cash awards for top 3 overall and first masters.

The overall women’s race was one of the most exciting finishes I’ve seen in a while. Nine year old Dorothy Hutchins had a slight lead coming up the home stretch with 39 year old Kelli Roof right on her tail. The two sprinted side-by-side to towards the finish chute with Kelli leaning in to get the win. Before anyone criticizes Kelli for that, 1) I’m sure Dorothy would want any competitor to give it their all and 2) I WOULD HAVE DONE THE EXACT SAME THING. I know Dorothy must have been disappointed but it was really fun to watch.


Ediberto “Trackstar Eddie” Crisanto got the male win in 18:02, with Plex second and the aforementioned Matt Lafave 3rd. Lindsay Hendren took 3rd for the ladies. First masters female was Jennifer Cooke in 23:59.

Age group honor roll: Matthew Kistner won the 15-19. Regan Freeman was 2nd in the 20-24 behind Little Mountain 5k winner Noe Hernandez. Seth and Lauren Lapic both were champions of the 30-34. John Baker took the 35-39. Will “that GoPro guy” Rowan won the 40-44 with camera in hand. Brian Kistner and Michael Ferlauto were 1-2 in the 45-49, while Amanda Charlton was 2nd and Jeannette Farr 3rd among the women. Missy Caughman was 2nd in the 50-54 women. Sean Higgins was right behind me in 19:48 with Joey Swearingen 2nd in the 50-54 men. Cliff Corley was tops in the 55-59 while the indestructible Dave Hale was 3rd. Lisa Powell was tops in the 55-59 women. Sue Porter and Dawn Galloway-Hale were 2-3 in the 60-64,  while Jim Williams was 2nd among the men. Leeds Barroll was the champ of the 65-69 while Lynn Grimes was 2nd among the women. The 70-74 were clean sweeps for the CRC with “Podium Patti” lowden and Brigitte Smith placing for the women, and Peter Mugglestone,  John Houser and Ken Lowden winning for the men.  Rocky Soderberg was tops in the 75+ .

Other familiar names in the 300+ finishers included: Amanda Rowan, Shenequa Coles,  Clara Nance, Dianne Steadman, Kerry Stubbs, Gabriella Swearingen, Stephanie Dukes, Gretchen Lambert, Stephanie Miller, Hou-Yin Chang, Samantha Horsely, Tony Clarement, Erin Kallio, Louis Krause, and Laura Howell












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