Firebreak 10k and Half Marathon – Harbison State Forest – 4/29/17



The Firebreak 10k and Half Marathon has been around a number of years, put on by Cycle Center and ColaNuts productions. The 10k has been the consistent event, though the half marathon was added for those so given towards masochism. It’s held at Harbison State Forest and features a 6.5-ish mile loop on the firebreak, connector and stewardship trails, one for the 10k and 2 for the half. Being a trail race, distances are not exact.

With the White Knoll Move for the Music 5k postponed to June, I had no excuse not to jump into one of my relatively rare excursions into the woods. Although one might think Sasquatches would be at home in the forest, I am notoriously bad at trail racing. Don’t get me wrong, I’m out in Sesqui several times a week trudging up the brutal entrance road and the even worse sandy trail that parallels said road, i.e Sand Hell. What’s worse it’s also a portal into a den of unspeakable depravity, Jeff Brandenburg’s backyard. But hey, I love the outdoors and it sure beats being nearly run over by texting SUV driving soccer moms in Wildewood. But this is talking about my daily hobby jogging that tries to pass for training. What I’m really bad at is trail RACING.

Trail racing basically comes down to flying through the forest as fast as humanly possible, preferably without busting your ass. I have proven not so good about that last bit, often hitting a spare root when I start getting tired, and filling the air with explosive F bombs. As noted in previous posts, elite trail racers tend to be small, agile little dudes with catlike reflexes. In case you haven’t seen me in person, none of these adjectives have ever been used to describe me. Think stampeding elephant through the jungle.

So for some unknown reason, I thought it a great idea to do Firebreak, and hey, lets do the half just for S’s and G’s. I think it came down to a misguided trophy hunt and perhaps a couple of Yuenglings. I figured I could at least get my long run done on Saturday for once.

I carpooled to Harbison with the Code, who wisely chose the 10k. First thing I notice, basically one step out the door, is that it is ridiculously hot and humid. Felt more like a June morning than late April. GREAT HILLY TRAIL HALF MARATHON weather. Or maybe not. Upon arriving, I’m glad to see the race has gone to regular chip/electronic timing, as it previously was very old school, rip off the bottom of your bib style. Roy Shelley was on hand putting on the Friends of Harbison State Forest Harbison Showcase. I signed up for Friends, because I apparently can’t resist Dina Mauldin hard selling me with a T shirt and a bumper sticker to add to my already prodigious collection on the ’05 Honda Pilot.

Brian Clyburn is there with his dog Tuff, and I’m already having fears of getting the beatdown by someone’s pet (other than JB’s weims of course). Fortunately, he did the Boston and Blue Ridge marathons in the past 10 days, and is taking it easy in the 10k. Dean Schuster is doing the half, though, and I can only expect another epic showdown. Given he is better at the long stuff, on the trails, and on his “home course”, he definitely has the leg up, but probably a good pacer for a while. John Houser, Brigitte Smith, Harry Strick, Micah Simonsen, Henry Holt, Matt Gregory, Ken Bolin, Jim wiliams, Chip Lupo, Quentin and Brie McGrievy, Alsena Edwards, Marion Hinson are some familiar faces at the start. Micah bestowed upon me a 32 oz Reissdorf Kolsch (i.e. my favorite beer of all time) growler can from Green’s and I will forever be in his debt. Something just got added to my post-race hydration plans.



About 2 minutes after the 10k, the Half starts. Up the hill on the gravel road and into the forest we go. There are maybe 40 people in the half, so a pretty small field. A couple of unknown dudes lead the way with Dean and myself a ways back. I stay with Dean for much of the first mile (around 8 20 something) but then have to let him go. Man it is freaking hot. I start getting scared and having flashbacks to my 2012 Xterra half debacle, marked by a shirtless delirium, extended walk of shame and 2:15 finish. So I back down a bit to hopefully save myself from that fate. Almost immediately we start hitting the 10kers since two minutes isn’t much, especially in a 80 degree technical trail race. A lot of dodging and jumping ensue as I try to navigate my beast-like physique not so nimbly around 20-30 10kers. Sorry for the trauma I may have inflicted. Eventually I level out to a comfortable pace and hit some open patches. Water stop at around 3 miles is blasting early 80’s cheesy rock, Toto’s “Africa”, like my favorite song from 1982, i.e. second grade. Awesome. There is actually a good half mile on a trail road that allows us me to stretch out and actually run. Not exactly blazing with around 9 minutes per mile, but I keep reminding myself this is nothing like the roads. The first half of the loop isn’t too bad, but once Stewardship starts, here comes the climbs and nasty switchbacks. At some point I pass the sign for the Spider Woman trail and I’m ever so thankful we don’t have to go through that rocky torture chamber. A couple more miles and I start recognizing the trails near the finish area. Of course, for me, this is just the first loop. There’s a nasty, nasty hill just before the home stretch, and I catch a glimpse of Dean way up ahead. I’d like to push and try to stay with him, but the combo of the hill, the oppressive heat and the psychological misery of knowing you’re barely half done is too much. I hit the finish area for lap 1, and I must look like absolute hell because Code and Ken Bolin are shoving water in my face. I check the time and it’s 58 minutes and change. I made a bet with fellow runner/baseball parent Donna Chen the night before that I would finish under 2 hours, so there was a whole PBR riding on that. Plus, I could never make fun of her instagrammed hashtagged selfies and 14 minute pace runs any more if I failed. It was going to be close.

I head out into lap 2 and I have officially boarded the struggle bus. I can’t push it at all without the engine starting to overheat. I don’t know if it’s worse or better, but I am completely alone. No idea of my position in the race. I’m thinking close to the top, though I’m pretty sure there are a couple of dudes ahead of Dean. No one seems to be behind me. I plow ahead in summer sasquatch mode, shirt pulled over my head and probably looking like a complete maniac. I get a couple of breezes going and I’m able to cool down some from overheating it at the lap 1 finish. Certainly helps to be at least halfway done too. Pace is pretty steady in the low 9’s, but the Garmin has gone completely haywire. It logged an 11-minute mile at some point and now was a good half mile behind the mile markers on the course. Oh well, at least I was now familiar with the loop. I felt significantly better at the mile 3 stop, this time being serenaded by Bonnie Tyler’s Total Eclipse of the Heart.

The next few miles I kind of zone out, since there’s no one around. Mind starts wandering and I’m trying not to heed Bonnie’s plea to TURN AROUND, BRIGHT EYES. The miles start reeling off and I’m focused on just maintaining pace and hopefully hitting that sub 2. Just don’t Xterra bonk. I get a jolt of adrenaline as I hit the mile 5/Mile 11.5 mark and I start to slowly press the acceleration pedal. Not too much further I hit the hill, and it’s rough. Walksie voices are screaming but I manage to keep trudging. When I hit the top, I take a few moments so that my lungs don’t break out of my chest wall, and start the kick. It’s definitely not a classic 5k blue shoe surge, but its all I have, and I really want to make sure I don’t go over 2 hours. I can’t trust my Garmin, which at this point has had a complete mental breakdown trying to find satellites.

A little over a quarter mile from the finish, there’s a switchback on an open road, and I see a flash of pale flesh. DEAN. My phone-it-in half-hearted kick now becomes an all-out Usain Bolt sprint. Unfortunately, me coming through the woods at full tilt is not exactly stealth, and I catch Schuster glancing to the side in abject horror. He starts kicking it in hard, having suffered the ignominy of being blue shoed, not once, but twice at the Make My Day 12k, each time by about five seconds. This unit of measure among the Harbison trail runners is now known as a McDonald. But Dean is not having it this time. A normally very laid back dude, he is pulling a Blue shoe style all-out headless chicken. Between his surge and the short amount of real estate to the finish, I don’t have a chance. As I break out onto the finish field, I see him cross the line – a full 3.4 McDonalds (18 seconds) ahead. To complete the McDonald act, Dean sprawls out on the grass at the finish, joined shortly by myself at 1:56:01.  Good enough for 4th overall, and thanks to Dean, 2nd in the 40-49 ten-year age groups. I’m used to feeling pretty good after a half, but between the heat and trails, this thing beat me down like a red headed stepchild. I was napping like a three-year-old later that afternoon. A three-year-old with a cold 32 oz Reissdorf Kolsch in their belly.



In the 10k, Gabriel Kenne and Brett Knowles took the top 2 slots. Brian “El Capitan” Clyburn surged past a walksie-afflicted Code to take 3rd with dog Tuff in tow. Good prep for next week’s See Spot run. Amber Sherill won for the women, with Alsena Edwards taking 2nd. Maureen Cooper was third. In the age groups, Reese Petruzzi and Quentin McGrievy were top 2 in the 14 and under. Matt Gregory won the 30-39. Micah Simonsen was 3rd in the 40-49, while Ken Bolin and Jim Williams were 1st and 3rd in the 50-59. In the very wide 60-99 group, Mike Compton, Henry Holt and Harry Strick swept the male category while Brigitte Smith was tops among the women.


In the Half, David Haron and Troy Lee took the top 2 slots, with Dean third. Ashlyn McConnell missed the start by 20 minutes but won anyway among the women (though by chip time). Kendra Harden and Sara Campbell were 2nd and 3rd.  In the age groups, Russel Grant was 3rd in the 20-29 and Marion Hinson was 3rd in the 40-49.


Palmetto 200 Relay – Columbia to Charleston, SC – 3/24/17 -3/25/17


P200 time again! Everyone who knows me through running knows my deep affection for relays, and this event is the pinnacle of them all. What started as Brian Clyburn’s crazy idea on the Runner’s World message forums in 2009 morphed into 8 consecutive years of relay awesomeness, culminating in back to back overall P200 championships the last two years.

For those of you unfamiliar, the Palmetto 200 is a (roughly) 200 mile relay starting in Columbia and finishing in Charleston, with its first year in 2010.  A full team has twelve people running relay legs of 2-10 miles, usually in 2 separate vans. Total distance per person is in the 12-24 mile range for the full team. There are also ultra teams with  fewer people, even an occasional 2 person squad that is completely nuts. They stagger the starting times by projected pace so that everyone arrives in Charleston on Saturday afternoon.

It’s amazing to me that my team, Van on the Run, is still doing this thing after our initial year in 2010. Back then the relay was from April 30-May 1 and was brutally hot. We actually got a hotel room to spend all of 2 hours in at the midpoint. Brian’s wife, Jen, got sick off dirty hotel water. I about went to the ER on a 80 degree 8 miler , then caught the walksies and had visual hallucinations on a pitch black road in Huger, SC at 5 in the morning. I swore a thousand times I’d never do it again.

But here we were for relay number eight. We’ve had a number of dropouts over the years, so the only original gangstas are myself, Bryan, Joel Pierstorrf and David McNiece. Once the workhorses of the 2010 team, we have slowly gotten knocked down the speed totem pole even though we ourselves have gotten faster. That’s because our sensei, Brian “El Capitan” Clyburn, is also a master recuiter, in addition to his stellar relay spreadsheet skills. Every time we lose someone, Brian comes back with some absolute beast to replace them. We had Brandon drop off the team this year only to be replaced with ultra distance machine Brian Kistner. Julie had to work, so CRC racing legend Geary McAlister rejoined the group. VOTR  doesn’t recruit, we just reload.

Also on our team : Tracy McKinnon – strong road racer turned into ultramarathoner mileage-junkie beast , Kevin Selinsky – who did the brutal Columbia Marathon in just over 3 hours on a whim after no one could handle the 3:15 pace group on the first half,  Jen Clyburn – Brian’s wife and routine overall and masters winner in local races. She can also do the fastest 7 miler you can imagine after vomiting all night on nasty hotel water.  Dan Carter – whose garmin connect daily workouts look like my races. He ran a sub 18 hilly as hell 5k (See Spot Run) with Brian’s dog taking multiple water stops. Rob Gannett – who blazed Kiawah 2016 in 3 :01 to BQ once again, and lets not forget Darrell “Code Brown” Brown – longtime friend/nemesis and destroyer of portapotties across the state.


I was thankful to be back in Van 1 again this year. Van 1 starts first, has 2 legs during quasi-normal waking hours, and finishes up early on Saturday. Joining me was the Code, Rob, Dan, Geary and Kistner. Brian had asked me to do 6:50 pace. I thought I could do faster, but  I didn’t dare let on. Letting down El Capitan on the spreadsheet feels like the worst kind of failure. Everytime I miss my pace I feel like a kindergartener facing their kind, but secretly disapproving , dad. Plus, what sounds like a good plan with a beer on the couch is something completely different at 4:30 am on the roads.

The biggest change for me leading up to this year was Capitan switching up my original 10.5 mile first leg and giving it to Kistner. Hmm, replacing your sasquatchean 5k specialist with a leaner and faster ultra guy on a hilly 10 miler?? Good call, dude.

After last year’s showdown with the Clemson Thundercats,  I knew it could get crazy and stressful again, and sure enough we were the only two teams at the latest start time: 12:30. Unless there was some serious sandbagging in the 11:00 group, it would be just the two of us battling it out again for the win. It’s an odd matchup for sure: A bunch of mostly 40+ Carolina grads ruled by an OCD-exact relay spreadsheet in gleaming big vans going up against Clemson students packed into several minivans and cars making it up as they go along. Our biggest fear: “Thunderthighs”. The kid with super hero-esque jacked quads with the intensity of Darrell on cocaine that  throws down sub 5:30 pace. We could match up against most of the kids, but there was no answer for him. His real name is Mike, but where’s the fun in that? Anyway, he was back again. Ruh -roh.

The start this year was again in Red Bank Arena in the Lexington area. Code Brown drew the unlucky straw of going first. With just 2 teams, it was basically a one-on-one footrace for the first 6.76 miles with everyone watching. A brutally hilly 6.76 miler I might add, with a blazing sun and unseasonably warm 70-something degrees. Code took the early lead but Clemson’s guy turned it on the second half to give them about a 2 minute advantage.It was good to see Char Richards (Barefoot John’s wife) at the first exchange zone, who presented me with a present of toilet paper from John’s dad. Two years ago John’s dad, Andy, saved me from a portapotty nightmare with some emergency TP. I am still forever grateful. Char was doing 2 volunteer shifts and would probably be up from 4:30 am past midnight. I wondered what my wife would say if I asked her to do that. Probably something involving the letter “F” and the word “NO”.  Kistner then launched into leg 2, the aforementioned 10.5 miler. With hills, dirt roads, vicious ankle-biting dogs and zero shade, I’ve never been so appreciative of El Capitan giving this opportunity to Kistner instead. Sweet baby J that looked awful. He still rocked it out in under 6:45 pace, and handed off to Dan for his shortest leg, a 3.3 miler. After Kistner, Dan and Rob, our three fastest guys in Van 1, we had made up the gap on Clemson and had actually taken a small lead. Dan passed their fastest girl (Double Braids, aka Sydney) on his leg, and Rob had actually fended off the Thunderthighs, who luckily (for us) got caught in traffic for a bit. The heat seemed to be getting worse and the sun was killer. The first cycle of legs is always toughest with the hills of the midlands, but this seemed even worse than previous years. Geary had his longest leg for number 5, a 7.6 miler. Clemson girl “Strawberry Blonde” was not far behind and kept closing the gap early on. She was only 20 seconds or so behind when we gave him water with 3 miles to go. Well , at least I would have someone to chase. Or not! As I stood ready to attack my 6.25 miler, Geary surprises me by rounding the corner first. As I took the relay bracelet, I saw Clemson’s girl round the corner as well. Oh no, PLEASE DONT LET ME GET CHICKED.

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With the brutal heat, I pushed all vanity aside and got out my black and gold Team Utopia singlet for extra ventilation. They say you need to wear a reflective vest for safety in this relay, but my alabaster guns hadn’t seen the light of day since August, so I figured they would suffice in the reflective department. In some bizarre karmic twist, the girl I was going up against was also wearing a black and gold singlet, from the Irmo High Cross Country team, my alma mater. I wasn’t sure, but I’d place a good bet she graduated SLIGHTLY after me.

I told myself to take it easy because this leg actually had a warning about a mountain in the second half. But the first half was downhill, I had an unheard-of three days of rest, and I was jacked up on coffee, coke and relay excitement. 6:36 out of the gate. Nice job, hero. Some rolling hills ensued and I was starting to feel the heat. Dialed it back to my 6:50 target. About 2.5 miles in I started to freak – looming in the distance was Mt. Sandy Run, a seemingly never-ending peak of misery. What’s worse, I thought I could hear blonde haired Irmo footsteps behind me. Catastrophic thoughts of getting chicked and catching the walksies filled my over-sized head. Got some much needed water at the base of the mountain and attacked it the best I could. Felt like a punch to the lungs and my quads started drawing up a lactic acid bath. I would say I was bleeding seconds off my pace but this was more like a traumatic hemorrhage. 7:20, 7:52. Just crawling up 2 miles of fairly continuous incline. Even the Thundercats looked concerned about this powder-white gorilla hyperventilating up the road. Miraculously though, Irmo girl was fading. I passed the Clemson van waiting for their runner and I couldn’t even hear her come through behind me. Thankfully the last 1.2 miles are fairly flat and I managed to jack the pace back up a little. Tracy took the bracelet and Van 1 was officially done for the first cycle around 4 pm.

While I had been spared the 10.5 miler , the reshuffling left me with only about  a 4 1/2 hour rest between my first (leg 6) and second (leg 13) legs. I was pretty much toast after the traumatic mountain climbing of Leg 1, so I went to full emergency recovery mode. We made a pit stop at Cracker Barrel and got some chicken fingers, green beans and mashed potatoes. The big reason for my uber bonk of the initial 2010 relay was not eating regular food. You can’t sustain race pace for three distance runs with little sleep on crackers and GU. Some of the other guys had some gorgefest called Uncle Hershel’s Special. Uncle Hershel must weigh 400 pounds. We went to Santee State Park for the next van exchange and I managed to crash a bit in my ENO hammock, a very nice trick learned from previous teammate Ty Thomas. Apparently everyone else caught on because it was a hammock city in that place.



Between trying to watch the Gamecocks sweet sixteen game against Baylor on a cell phone, we got news that Van 2 was crushing it and that Clemson had gotten delayed by going off course. We still had a decent lead by the time Bryan came cruising in to Santee a little after 9 pm. My 4.2 miler (Santee State Park to Lone Star BBQ – Leg 13) was considerably nicer than the first leg. A little bit of incline but a lot flatter and probably 20 degrees cooler. Legs were pretty trashed so I tried to ease into mile 1 and missed the 6:50 by ten seconds. After sending a few F bombs into the abyss of the jet black forest, I kicked it up a notch. Luckily we had started catching up to earlier teams, so I was able to start chasing blinky lights to help my motivation. The early teams are just out for fun (imagine that) and are usually pretty nice, even to sweaty huffing and puffing albino freight trains passing them in the night. A guy at the Leg 13 Santee park exchange didn’t even seem mad when his teammates weren’t there to make the baton pass (they were still eating at Lone Star). That would be an offense punishable by death on our team.


I managed to loosen up the sore as hell hammies after the first mile and reel off some 6:40’s and 6:30’s to come in right at 6:47 pace before the handoff to the Code. It wasn’t pretty, but I’ll take it for a 10 mile double dip less than 5 hours apart. Code’s leg ran through Santee, though this year they diverted the course around the main traffic center. Fortunately we still got to sample the local scenery such as the one-stop erotica duo of Fantasy Land adult shop and the Gentlemen’s Club. Two for one DVDs! Code was surely tempted but managed to avoid his baser instincts and power through a very dark and lonely stretch. As we waited for Darrell, Clemson’s van drove up and I could tell they were getting ready to unleash Double Braids and Thunderthighs upon us again. Damn, this was going to be rough. Fortunately we had 2 of our best going with Dan and Kistner. Dan crushed 8.83 miles at his goal pace and I thought that would give us a nice lead, but damned if Double Braids comes gliding in less than 4 minutes later. Thunderthighs, who had been warming up with Mach 3 sprints in the parking lot for  seemingly 30 minutes, takes off like his life depends on it. He was then renamed as “T-1000”, the human cyborg. Things looked grim. Sure enough, 7.44 miles later, going up against Kistner doing 6:20ish pace with a few minutes head start, T-1000 rolls in like 4 minutes ahead. Like I said, the kid is not human. I think we calculated like 5:15 pace for that leg for him. Geary then threw down a nice 2.43 mile sprint. Then Rob pulled a miserably dark 9.6 miler into the middle of nowhere, fending off the after effects of Uncle Hershel’s Favorite from the Cracker Barrel. He took down a lot of roadkill but we were still a few minutes behind Clemson with the handoff to Jen and Van 2, about 1 am.

With four hours between now and the third cycle of legs starting at 5 am, we headed to the next van turnover site. Geary made his plea for some awful Waffle, but his quest for the scattered, smothered and covered was vetoed by the possibility of some sleep. Sleep is like relay gold, if you can get an hour or two it is pure heaven. By this time we had caught up with everyone and it was pretty chaotic at the turnover site. A sea of white vans, tents and sleeping bags. It was nice that they displaced the actual exchange zone from where most of the vans were, since most of my attempts at relay sleep are quashed by screaming and incoming runners’ endorphin-fueled loud talkeritis. This place was a graveyard though – dead quiet. I usually try the sleeping bag but it gotten into the 40’s and it was either freeze or be cramped in the van. I spent about 30 minutes trying to sleep, though our van makers had positioned the seat belt just so it made unwanted sexual advances everytime I moved. Eventually I must have gotten used to spooning with the randy seatbelt because I lost about an hour and a half of time. I would have slept longer, but Code was already pregaming for his next leg and making a crap ton of noise. At some time I heard what sounded like the ghost of barefoot John Richards but apparently he did actually make an appearance at our van.

I’d like to say my power nap was refreshing but it took me a good hour to enter the world of the living again. I tried to choke down some Coke but the brain was desperate for some coffee, and there’s little to be had at 5 am in the middle of nowhere. Somehow we had regained a small lead on Clemson but it was pretty tight. Code had a super short leg for his last one (2.43 miles – leg 25) and rocked out a 6:30 something pace, but said he got Blue Shoed by the same Clemson guy who beat him in leg 1. Geary also rocked out a 3.76 miler and kept us close. Next up was the Huger fire station leg, the same leg that about killed me in 2010. We ran into 2016 Tour de Columbia champion Shawanna White at the exchange zone – she was running with an FiA team (Chain of Fools) with Pamela Knapp and some other fast Cola town ladies, competing for the female crown. Yeah, I’m pretty sure that wasn’t close. Clemson sent off Double Braids while Rob took off like a maniac for us only a couple of minutes behind. I was starting to wake up by now and Rob looked really strong into a 7.47 mile leg. We were hoping Dan might have a few minute lead to hold off T-1000 for a while, but somehow Double Braids came rolling into the exchange zone first. Rob  was close behind, but this girl was damn fast to hold off “Ricky Bobby”‘s 6:20ish shake and bake pace. Dan then had an 8 miler through the Francis Marion swamp. Although probably our strongest runner, no way was he going to pull down the 5:20’s needed just to match Clemson’s cyborg. Plus, Dan was also logging the last of his 20+ miles. While I awaited Dan’s arrival for my leg, I was so thankful to be at my favorite exchange zone, the Sewee Outpost. Though I normally go for their heavenly sausage biscuits, I didn’t think that was a wise pre-run idea. Instead I crushed a 12 oz of one of their leaded coffees and felt instantly better.

I got to the exchange zone area pretty early, which was just early enough to see the handoff to Clemson’s strawberry blonde. I thought I could potentially catch her, but she ended up having about a 5 minute head start into a 4.6 miler. I took off into my  last leg on a mission. Legs were sore as crap, but I had to at least give our last runners a chance, and as VOTR veteran Dan Bliesner always said  “the quicker you go the quicker its over”. I had a van following me for awhile at the start and thought I was being hunted down until I realized it was Jesse Harmon from the Run Hard races, competing with his Hebrews: 12 team. Lots of Columbia runners in the P200 this year! Last leg (Leg 29) was about as simple as you can get – 4.6 miles straight down Highway 17, basically flat. I managed to take down the three teams in between us and Clemson in the first 2 miles, and started getting grandiose delusions of taking down Strawberry Blonde as well. But it was not going to happen. I was going 100 percent 8k pace and only getting 6:40’s in return. I rolled into the exchange zone at Mach 5 and found out I had maybe cut only a minute off the deficit. These kids were not fooling around this time. However, I was most certainly done, and few things feel better than finishing your last leg.


Or were we done? We were already started on some serious calorie replacement at our traditional stop at the Mt Pleasant IHOP when Dan got a call from El Capitan. Tracy had just obliterated an 8 miler over the IOP connector and had turned an 8 minute deficit into like a three minute advantage. Apparently one of Clemson’s dudes had bonked super hard and had to be replaced, but not before Tracy had left him in the dust. With only a few legs left, the possibility of a last minute switch with one of the Van 1 studs came into play. Fortunately for me, I was not one of those studs, had about a 1000 calories of eggs and sausage in my gullet, and would just as gladly be stabbed in the eye than run anymore. This was not the case for Dan, Rob and Kistner, who could potentially  shave some valuable minutes off our time. The IHOP gorgefest got cut short for our top three, though Code was noted to set a Kobeyashi-esque feat of breakfast indulgence with his strawberry topped cheesecake pancakes.


We showed up at the exchange zone after the Ben Sawyer bridge to catch the action, where I ran into Maria Huff volunteering. CRC representing everywhere! The race was tight again. Van 2 had done some late switching like we did last year. Kevin had agreed to take the 2.97 mile leg on Sullivan’s Island originally assigned to Joel, while Joel took Jen’s 4.2 miler across the Ben Sullivan bridge. Taking four legs or a longer third leg definitely qualifies both for HERO status. We saw Brian off for his 3 something miler, but Clemson was hot on his tail only a couple of minutes behind. We sped down to the Ravenel bridge after  this. After some discussion, it was decided for David to take his leg, since he had low mileage under his belt and all our Van 1 beasts were sitting at 20+. The IHOP breakfast could now settle. Kevin would take his originally assigned, now 4th, leg for the last 4 plus miles into the finish at Patriot Park. The Leg 35 start was nuts. We see Clemson’s guy rolling into the last stretch with Brian just a few steps behind. With the handoff, Clemson had maybe 10 seconds, with one of their female runners. David is a strong runner, but he admitted his training has been low mileage recently, so I didn’t know what to think . Plus, leg 35 starts with a brutal climb over the Ravenel Bridge and into Charleston (with leg 36 back over the bridge into Patriot Park). Since everyone was headed back our way eventually, we left the zone and headed straight over to the Patriot Park finish. I was so nervous, I had to consume 2 beers to wash down my breakfast. Very important. Van 2 texted us as our last runners took off on the final leg. David had managed to pass the Clemson girl, but a mere 20 seconds separated our teams. Kevin had over 20 miles already, and they had one of their strong guys running. It was going to be close. Both teams waited nervously at the finish, though Van 2 mentioned the Clemson guy was killing it up the bridge and in the lead. Still, Kevin is a machine, so there was still hope. Finally, our hearts sank when Clemson pulled into the last turn and they all crossed the line for the win. Kevin appeared just over a minute later, and we all crossed with him a mere 102 seconds behind the Thundercats – 23:05 to 23:07. Put another way, about 82800 seconds  to 82698. Pretty nuts. Well, at least you can’t ask for much more drama. I half expected a sprint to the finish on a 23 hour relay.  A big congrats to the Thundercats on their win – guess there will be another Battle Royale in 2018!







March for Meals 5k – Timmerman Trail – Columbia, Sc- 3/11/17


This week posed a difficult choice between two races that have been around awhile, both having been regular stops on the nascent Tour de Blue Shoes 2009-2012. I had hoped they would be double dippable, but sadly the Healthy Capital was at 8:30 and March for Meals at 9:00. As fast as I think I am, there’s no way I could get from Columbia High to Timmerman Trail in ten minutes, even when factoring in my advanced level Grand Theft Auto driving skills. While Healthy Cap was my first second overall ( a crushing defeat to a then-unknown Mike Hedgecock), MFM is the race that started the obsession.

Rewind to 2009, all of five races under my slightly larger belt. MFM was then held at Riverbanks Zoo. Being the parent of a 6, 4 and 1 year old at the time, I was well acquainted with the zoo and what I thought was its gloriously flat terrain. I came into that race hungry for a PR and hopeful of breaking the 23 minute barrier. I didn’t know a soul in the running community at the time so I was glad one of my coworkers (Michael Ferlauto) agreed to come with me to race. With that race, I charged out from the start knowing I could coast on flat ground if I started to bonk at the end. I was pretty winded when I hit that first mile, when someone said WATCH OUT FOR YOUR FOOTING ON THE HILL. Uh…what hill??? Suddenly we were directed across the river on a bridge and then up the face of what can only be termed a mountain (later the infamous Mt Riverbanks). I died a thousand deaths up that thing and about wiped out flopping down. I eventually crashed across the finish line in 23:27  and tasted asphalt for at least 5 minutes. Exhausted, we left the race as soon as we were done. A few hours later, I looked up my result and was blown away. Inexplicably I had won the 30-34 age group. Driving down to Senior Resources (the race sponsor) the next day I picked up a shiny golden running man trophy. Like my first hit of some very good drug, I was hooked instantly. And the rest was history…

2009 results:


Drew likes the 2010 trophy


There’s been more drama along the way. In 2012 the race was postponed by an early morning tornado. In 2013 it was the first step of the historic triple dip which was almost waylaid by a stalled train blocking our entrance into the zoo. I think it was 2014 where Ken Vowles gave me an epic beat down in race one of his double destruction of yours truly (got crushed at Race Judicata an hour later). By 2015 the race had moved to Timmerman trail, where I again got double whupped by Brandenburg, first at Race for the Place then MFM.

I missed the race in 2015, but I was eager to race what was a new revised course, this time actually on fresh legs. I made sure to avoid the Friday MUV fitness squats which had derailed me at the Lagniappe 5k two weeks earlier.

With two actual rest days in a row, I felt pretty good rolling into the tennis center out in Cayce for the race. I thought Code might show up, but he was not to be found. No other 40-44 age groupers seemed to be around, though I quickly found out Brandenburg and Coach B were on hand to make a masters win highly unlikely. My only solace was that Mark was coming off an injury and JB had been furiously trying to get back his bike fitness after being a full time runner in prep for January’s Charleston Marathon. Wilson Harvey, Rocky Soderberg, Peter Mugglestone, Kimberly Hardin, Dina Mauldin, the OG Robbie McLendon, Jim Williams, JB’s better half Barb, Sue and Lee Porter were some of the CRC familiar faces at the start.

With the gun, I jump out to the front like a maniac and start to go straight, thinking of the old course. I get quickly redirected by some cones and we veer off to the left for a very long straightaway on the road outside the Timmerman Trail area. Wilson takes his rightful place in the front and I latch on to the back of the masters beast pack of JB and Coach B. There’s another fit looking younger dude and some kid with beats headphones keeping pace nearby. As we close in on the turn into the forest, the kid starts actually jostling up against me and cutting me off, then spits over his shoulder just missing me. It takes every ounce of restraint not to toss this little guy into the ground, so I make sure he gets an earful of F bombs loud enough to blast through his oversized headphones. I guess that was enough to get him jump started because he pulled ahead after that. After Wilson and the beats brat, JB enters the forest first, with me and B conga lining behind him. First mile was about 6:12. Mile 2 is all Timmerman trail, a winding paved route with a few bridges, all pretty flat. JB surges and I latch on to him like an oversized circus monkey. He maintains a pretty hard pace, and throws in a few more surges. It’s killing me but I manage to keep up. A few times he appears to slow just a bit, but as soon as the elephant tries to stampede past him, he closes the seam and pulls ahead again. We hit the mile 2 marker, but the Garmin is all wonky out in the sticks and with all the turns.  I don’t get a mile 2 split until forever after the mark and its like 6:53. No way we are going that slow.

By this time, I sense Mark has faded behind me, but its difficult to really notice anything when you are going full out and an inch from JB’s head. At this point I drop the pass plan and push in all my chips on Plan B: wait until the final stretch. JB may have just a touch less body fat than me, but he’s a fairly effective wind blocker, and if he’s dead set on being in front, then I guess I’ll take the draft. Mile 2 seems to drag on forever. I keep seeing faux finishes, but its just a break in the trees each time. We can see the kid up ahead and he just keeps winding through the forest. I’m sucking a fair amount of wind by now, but chasing someone is at least a distraction from all the respiratory distress. Finally, finally, we hit the wide open area with the finish maybe a quarter mile away. JB starts to mount a kick but this is what I’ve been waiting for. I may not be built for distance, but I’ll take just about anybody against me for 400 meters. Out comes the headless chicken. I give JB about a 3 foot berth to make sure he doesn’t C-Block the Blue Shoeing about to commence. JB tells me he doesn’t have anything left, but I don’t trust him. I flail to the finish at sub 5 pace like my life depends on it, crashing through the Strictly Running arch in 19:18. 3rd overall, first master and AG.  Any victory over JB and Coach B is extremely rare, even with them off their training, so I will most definitely take it. Garmin has 2.99, so I’m not sure about the course. I don’t know if its certified. They had unique spoon medals for awards so that was pretty cool.

In the overall, Wilson Harvey took the win in 18:39 with my “little friend” second in 19:09. Would have really liked to have found those 9 seconds. First female was 13 year old Lexie Vandervelde, with Kimberly Hardin 2nd and Barb Brandenburg 3rd.

Age group honor roll: The guy in our pack in the first mile was Colby Hanson, taking 1st in the 25-29 in 20:54. CRCer Kathryn Livingston won the 35-39. JB and Mark competed in the most brutal 50-54 group ever and of course took the top 2 slots. Third place Kenneth Bohan in 21:16 was no slouch either. Jim Williams won the 55-59 by almost 5 minutes. Robbie Mclendon easily won the 60-64 as well. Sue Porter took the women’s 60-64. Peter Mugglestone and Rocky Soderberg took top honors in the 70+.

Start video


Run for the Saints 5k and D5 Be a Fan 5k double dip – Columbia and Irmo, SC – 1/28/17


I hadn’t planned on racing this Saturday. I had double dipped in the mountains at the Hogpen Hill Climb (5k and 18k , two weeks ago and was pretty wrecked for the week following that ill-advised decision. I had missed the 2017 Tour de Columbia opener at MLK , so I wanted to get back as soon as possible at the Red Shoe 10k the following week. The results were predictably bad – I ran 6.2 miles on an almost flat course, full effort, and managed about what should be my 20 mile pace. It felt awful . The only positive was some awesome pics with my most deranged family member, Ronald. In the week after that disaster, I caught a nagging cold and I was almost sure I would pull the plug on both races this weekend.

But the addict cannot resist the drug. I got up early thinking I would do CRC picture duty since our expert photog, Tracy, was working. But by the time I had some super strong Starbucks homebrew coursing through my veins, I decided to run Saints.

Run for the Saints is a 2nd year 5k put on by Strictly Running team member MC Cox, going to benefit St Joseph’s Catholic School. Like most events put on by runners, MC’s race was a big success last year and she was quick to bring it back to the Tour in 2017. It drew a pretty competitive field last year and had the added bonus of attendance by the giant headed St Joseph’s cardinal mascot. I was in.

The course is a very fast Shandon rectangle, basically the Race for the Place course backwards. St Joes to Queen st via Blossom and Wheat, then Heyward all the way back to Bonham, finish behind the church on Blossom.

I got there super early, always bothering the registration table before they are even set up. It was cold as balls. Sixty degrees last Saturday and barely over 30 this weekend. I’ll take cold all day over hot though. Did a couple of miles with the Code and Sara Bonner. Code hadn’t raced since his spontaneous combustion at Kiawah.

Lots of beasts out there to support MC. Striggles and John Charlton looked like early favorites for the men. Women’s side was more elite than usual with Shawanna, Erin Miller and Linn. Eric and Sarah Allers would be likely to take masters. With overall and masters off my radar, it looked like me and the Code would be fighting it out for 2nd and 3rd, with Phil Midden likely taking the win (and assuming Striggles in the overall – damn the 40-44 is brutal)  Thankfully, Drew Williams and Luke Godwin are still a shade too young. Larry Jourdain was making a rare appearance. Geary , the OG, Henry Holt, Mike Compton, Arnold Floyd, and Alex Ponomarev were also on board from a quick scan of the start line.


The start was pretty brisk with all the competition. My legs hadn’t tasted real 5k pace since Cold Winters Day and they were none too happy. The newly healed gimpy hamstring was definitely giving me a WTF are you doing?? twinge. Code was riding my shoulder like a hairy yellow albino monkey and Luke was also in our vicinity. Drew was crushing it like usual out of the blocks and Linn was up ahead as well.  Mr. Hammy warmed up and the twinge went away, and I settled into a groove, pretty much lock step with the Code. I felt like I was motoring pretty well, but Luke dropped us near the mile mark. I was pretty sure we were pulling 6:05ish pace. Maybe I can back it off a touch in mile 2 since we’re going so hard. NOPE. Garmin spit out a 6:24. Hopefully there werent any children out on Wheat St, because there was some serious F bombage and other Debbie Downer grumblings.

It felt good to hit the turnaround on Queen, since I get a boost from knowing I’m no longer running away from where I’m trying to go. I use the turn on Queen to kick it up a notch, leaving the Code in a mid-race funk and passing Luke in the process. Turning back on Heyward, I’m pretty much on my own. Just my sasquatch feet pounding the pavement and my wind suckage to keep me company. Coming over a rise on Heyward, I’m surprised I can still see the lead police car. By the time mile 2 nears, I’ve reeled in Drew and Linn a bit, split came back at 6:16.

I was hurting pretty bad by this point, but I think my oxygen deprived brain promised my legs I could skip the Dutch Fork race if I threw down in mile 3. Plus, Linn and Drew kept inching closer. Beast mode was engaged. Heyward has a little climb right before it does a little squiggle over Ott street. I hit the incline hard and got within about 10 meters of the Hall/Williams combo. Unfortunately for me, I think they were locked into a bit of a pissing match. My favorite tactic is to stealth pass an unsuspecting solo runner – but these guys were both blasting away against each other. I think Brad Marlow blew my cover at the Heyward/Bonham corner anyway. At least I couldn’t hear anyone behind me. The final half mile on Bonham is actually a gradual incline, but I had already pushed in all the kick chips. The last 800 meters was pretty much a blur – just all out headless chicken, running on fumes. I was almost sure I would overtake at least Drew, but damned if they werent flying too. I missed the mile 3 split (5:50 per Garmin – holy crap) and turned the last corner as the clock flipped to the 19’s. One last blast to the finish, just steps away from Drew and Linn, 19:23.  I will take it. My second 5k in a row where I started too slow and had to throw a sub 6 down to get back my usual 19:10-19:30 range. Good enough for 1st in AG though OJ and Midden took 1st and 3rd overall since Charlton got hampered by an injury.

As mentioned, Striggles cruised to the victory a step ahead of Shawanna in the first part of their double dip. Eric Allers snagged second with Midden third. Erin Miller and Linn Hall finished out the ladies’ podium on a good day for the SR team.  John Charlton still won male masters despite the bum hamstring. Sarah went sub 21 en route to the female masters win. Larry Jourdain crushed a sub 19 at age 54 for the male grandmasters win. Mary Naligan won among the women.

Age group glory: MC’s son Chaplin Cox took 1st in the 7-8, with daughter Olivia winning 2nd in the 9-10. Linn’s daughter Ellie won 2nd in the 11-12. New Columbia college track recruit Brittany Robbins claimed the 15-19, followed by 2nd generation CRCers Katy Hall and Katie Weber. Drew Williams and Luke Godwin went 1-2 in the 35-39. Jennifer Glass took 2nd in the 40-44, with Code second among the men. Heather Hawn was 2nd in the 45-49. Lisa King won the 50-54 women. Geary McAlister, John Bradley and Tug Quarles swept the 55-59. Robbie McLendon, Mike Compton and Ron Lipe won the 60-64. Helene Lipe won the 60-64 women. Alex Ponomarev placed 2nd in the 65-69 men, while Leeds Barroll took third, apparently while playing football with his son half the time. Not sure I could pull that off. Brigitte Smith notched another 65-69 win in the first of her double dip. Arnold Floyd, Peter Mugglestone and Henry Holt placed in an uber competitive 70+ group. Hou Yin Chang, John Houser, MC’s husband Trey Cox, Chaplain John Houser, Michael Sakara, Wendy Robbins,  Sweat it Out 5k founder Jamie Duke, and RWB’s Kerry Stubbs were other notable finishers.



After I got my mascot fix in with both the St. Joe’s Cardinal and the Chick Fil A cow, I was off to Dutch Fork. With 2 hours in between races, there wasn’t much urgency, and I still got there 45+ minutes early. Since I was already “warmed up”, I broke my mile 3 promise to myself and signed up to race this one too. I gotta lay off the caffeine. Scanning the crowd,  it looked good for my age group – didn’t see any of the usual suspects. But, I wasn’t sure if they had masters or masters money, and damned if Johnathan Kirkwood didn’t show up. He was going to make me work for it. This being a high school race, there were a ton of teens there. Not sure how many were XC though.

I was glad to see this race back on tour this year. I heard the RD for 2017 had some health issues, so original RD Kimberly Taylor stepped in with help from Frances O’Toole and some other parents. The race goes to  benefit the Special Education Departments at Dutch Fork Middle, Dutch Fork High and Spring Hill High Schools.

There was a decent crowd at the start – Roy Shelley, Shelley Hinson, Harry Strick, Pete Poore, Brie and Quentin McGrievy, Jennifer Reeves, and Rocky Soderberg  were all on hand.  Brigitte, myself, OJ and Shawanna were the few double dippers.

This race has an interesting course almost completely on the campuses of Dutch Fork high and middle school. They took out a bunch of parking lot loops last year for a much nicer out and back on Old Tamah rd. The first two miles are pretty flat, but the last mile has two nasty “hill repeats” to add on distance, and a climb into the stadium. Finish is 3/4 of a lap on the track and a run onto the football field, similar to Stomp the Swamp.


The start line was cool because they had Foxy, the Dutch Fork mascot, and another Chick Fil A cow. It’s not often you get to quadruple dip on mascot selfies.

The start was crazy  with a downhill in the first 100 meters in the parking lot and a ton of high school kids, similar to the Healthy Capital 5k at Columbia High. Temps were 15 degrees warmer for this race, and with the Saints 5k already in my legs, the start was a lot smoother. They take you out of the parking lot just to bring you back for a lap before heading out on Old Tamah. As soon as I left the parking lot, a couple of teens were shocked to see a pasty old man sasquatch leaving them for dead. That is what I live for. What I don’t live for is hitting this “flat and fast” stretch with a 10 mph headwind in my face. Not prepared for that. Plus, with my physique, you get the same wind resistance as an 18 wheeler. With all the wind and turns in the parking lot, I’m actually pleased with the 6:32 split for mile 1 , which is still on the way out.

The turnaround is just a painted circle but plenty of volunteers around it. The field has already separated out by this time. I count OJ, Shawanna and two high schoolish kids ahead of me. Turning around , I see Kirkwood not too far behind. The way back is considerably easier with a tailwind and an ever so slight downgrade. Rocky verifies my 5th place on the way back. Suddenly the course turns at Dutch Fork middle.  I pull a left hand turn into the campus, across the back of the pack , similar to my Grand Theft Auto skills. Luckily no one got hit by the Sasquatch bus. There’s a glorious downhill but I know the pain to follow. First a small uphill climb into a small bus loop. Not fun but its pretty short. I see Kirkwood entering just as I leave. Mile 2 in 6:23. The next hill is pretty much torture – a long slog all the way back to Old Tamah only to turn right back around and plunge back down the mountain. Thankfully my mountain climbing in Georgia two weeks ago has paid dividends, because now I’m tracking down a teen guy in a red shirt with early 90’s era Chris Cornell hair. Dude can probably hear the albino elephant stampede behind him, so he is not giving up his position easily. He looks pretty relaxed, so probably some 17 minute xc kid toying with the old man. Up one last hill to the track. My legs are officially toast, screaming from all the morning’s abuse. Actually worse than all the wind suckage, though my lungs are putting on quite the performance as well. We hit the track and I am right on Cornell’s butt. I’m pretty much going 1000 percent by now but I just cant seem to find a seam to pass this guy. Rounding the corner onto the football field, I’m in a full sprint. But But Becky with the good hair is holding me off, we hit the line and I’m a half step behind. Dammit. 19:44.


In my oxygen-deprived brain, I thought my fight with the kid on the track was for a meaningless 4th place. I forgot that Shawanna was one of those places ahead of me. The kid got third male and the 25 bucks. However, somehow the  timers were entranced by Revon Landranea’s flowing locks and labeled him as a girl. They initially gave me the cash and 3rd place, but then corrected to give it to Revon. Revon then had to give up the cash since he’s a high school athlete. In a classy move, he gave me the prize money, but I donated it back to the race.



In the overall, OJ and Shawanna made out with some serious cash and CRC points by winning both races. Nelson Addison took 2nd with Revon Landranea taking 3rd among the guys. High schoolers Pippa Richter (I think someone said AC Flora) and Anna Jenkins (Dutch Fork) were 2nd and 3rd female.

Age group honors: Mary O’ Toole placed 3rd in the 14-16. Brie McGrievy was 2nd in the 40-44. Shelley Hinson was champion of the 45-49. Brigitte Smith was 2nd in the 65-69. Joe Greene was 3rd in the 40-44. Johnathan Kirkwood was 1st in the 45-49 with Roy Shelley 2nd. Pete Poore and Harry Strick went 1-2 in the 60-64. Rocky Soderberg won the 70+.  Other notable finishers included Jennifer Reeves, Alfred Baquiran, and Jessalyn Smith.

Hogpen Hill Climb 5k and 18k – Helen,GA – 1/14/17


The story of Hogpen started at last year’s Palmetto 200. Our fearless leader, Brian Clyburn, kept talking about some ridiculously hard race he did in Georgia that ran 11 miles up a mountain. I think I may have promised to go the next year – I’ve been known to make less than wise decisions in the half delirium of a 200 mile relay. I think this promise eventually got its way to Rick Stroud, leader of the Harbison Trail runners, who I believe got Brian to drink the Hogpen Kool-aid. He was organizing a trip to the 2017 edition and asked if I wanted to come along. I was wary, knowing how much the HTR’s love to suffer. I mean  these are the guys that love to do the Mount Mitchell challenge (40 miles) and the Lookout Mountain 50 miler, not to mention the ridiculously brutal Harbison 50k last week. However, I also know they like to drink plenty of beer before/after running, so I eventually agreed. Also, I’ve been racing the same events in Columbia for 8 years, so I wanted to try some new things this year.

The Hogpen Hill Climb is a roughly 18k course that covers over 2000 feet of elevation change and bills itself as “One of the toughest races in America” Starts in Unicoi State Park in Georgia and climbs to the top of Hogpen Gap. Rick also made sure to mention there is a 5k , called the “Piglet” that starts an hour and a half before the main event. What? A trophy hunting undercard and a built in double dip opportunity? Anyone that knows me even remotely knows I chose to do both. Hell, I was driving 3.5 hours so I was going to get my 55 dollars worth. There may have also been beer involved when I registered. #RUI (registering under the influence) as Amy “the Tiny Terror” would say.

Most of the HTR’s were “just” doing the 18k so they could actually make it a day trip, since the race doesn’t start until 11 am. Rob Yerger was the only other one insane enough to do both races, so we headed up  to Helen, GA the night before. Helen is one bizarre place. You travel through miles of rural Northern Georgia, where the cultural highlight is Babyland General Hospital, “birthplace” of Cabbage Patch Kids. A bunch of little non-descript towns and remote two lane highway, when all of a sudden…you’re in the middle of a faux German alpine village. The Heidi motel, windmills, Oktoberfest , Weiner Schitzel – all done up in a kitschy Myrtle Beach style.


Helen, GA


Nope, not even close

I had heard it’s a big tourist place, but apparently mostly for daytrippers. It was pretty dead when we got there at 7:30 pm on a Friday night. My dream of large chested beer wenches serving me overflowing beer steins amidst a live traditional German band was not quite met. We had dinner at the Hofbrau with 2 other tables occupied in the whole place. To compensate, Rob and I felt obligated to go with the 25 dollar 1 liter beer boot glass to wash down our meal. I’m sure my wife will be thrilled to add this beautiful giant piece of glassware to our already packed cupboard.


When we got back to the hotel , the Yerg was dead asleep by 8:30. I was out pretty soon after. Yeah, we party hard.

With the 5k starting at 9:30 am, it made for a leisurely morning, which I spent aggressively rehydrating from the havoc wreaked by chugging the boot. Pretty sparse crowd for the 5k. I could find no description of the Piglet course anywhere, so this could range anywhere from totally flat to a mini version of the 18k. We did a mile warmup and realized it was probably more like the latter. Oh dear God, what have I gotten myself into.

Lining up for the 5k start, we quickly realized this was most certainly a trophy hunt. Maybe 40ish people, most of whom looked like they were just out to support a family member in the main event. But you never know with an unfamiliar crowd. Sometimes those slightly thick beer guzzling old dudes can run pretty fast. So I hear. It was a surprise to see “barefoot” John Richards there. He hadn’t planned on coming, but he and his wife Char were vacationing in nearby Hiawassee, and he couldn’t pass it up. We are definitely kindred spirits.


The start to the 5k is, of course, up a hill. After initially dodging a kid aggressively cutting me off in the first turn (10 year olds are so cutthroat these days), it was pretty clear sailing. A quarter mile in Yerg surges ahead and a teenager follows suit right on his shoulder. Pretty soon after, we hit a prolonged stretch of screaming downhill. This is great, except the race director informed us this is an out-and-back course. Yeah, we were going to be crawling  up this thing at 2.5 miles in. Awesome. Of course, my whole sense of time, pace and distance was completely off. My Garmin was working fine, and it usually gets a signal OK in the mountains, but it generally works better on my wrist and not ON MY KITCHEN TABLE 205 MILES AWAY. I can’t tell you how devastated I was to find this little fact out in my hotel room. Literally woke me up as I started to drift off. Yerg was probably wondering what the random late night F bomb was all about. Anyway, I was using Map my Run on my iPhone as a backup. This is great for about 15 seconds, when the phone goes to the lock screen. It turns out trying to sweatily put in your passcode in at 5k pace is a touch difficult, not to mention carrying the damn thing. I just bailed on the phone and tried to keep Yerg and the teen in shouting distance. The course seemed to go on forever, rolling up big hills and down. I kept begging to see the turnaround. Finally we hit a long downhill and I see the cone. Rob and the teenager have a pretty good lead on me, and I’m afraid that maybe one of the randoms might be tracking me down, maybe that aggro-kid from the first corner. I make the turn and you can see a quarter mile behind you. No one.

I never completely bail out on a race, but I have to admit I did phone in a bit of the way back. It was highly unlikely I could catch either of the top 2, and I’d have to stop and walk for 3 minutes for 4th place to catch me. Plus, there was that whole “one of the toughest races in America” thing coming up in an hour. The last hill was definitely no fun but after you crest it you are home free down to the finish. I was surprised to see Rick and Dean at the finish line already as I threw down a mini-kick to sail in under 22 minutes. 21:56, 3rd overall. The kid outkicked the Yerg at the finish, so he took 2nd. Barefoot John took 10th and did me proud by “Blue Shoeing (footing?)” a kid to ensure the top ten finish.



The 5k elevation map

The hour wait in between races was pretty rough. Just long enough to get good and tight. They stage the race later in the morning to allow people to travel up from Atlanta and elsewhere, and presumably to help with the cold. Strangely, it was almost 60 degrees and perfectly comfortable in shorts up in the mountains in January. Rick, Dean Schuster, his wife Angie, Laura Stepp, and Bill Siebers had made the trip down from Columbia that morning. There were plenty of excuses going around to use for those of us ho would be beaten. Rick and Dean were definitely using the Harbison 50k from last week, though Stroud was also including the brutally cramped middle seat in the back of the Murano. Yerg probably took the cake though, having done the Lookout Mountain 50 miler in December, the snowy Harbison 50k,  long hours on his feet in the graveyard shift as a Kroger grocery  manager, a boot of beer and almost winning the 5k. Plus he had to work at Kroger at midnight that night. #hardcore indeed.


Making our way to the 18k start, I was definitely not feeling it. Running a mountainous 5k with little warmup was wreaking havoc on my gimp hamstring. Uh oh, excuses already. This race is definitely old school – no chips, just index cards and bibs. We basically just strolled up to an approximate start line, waited for a break in the traffic, and we were sent on our way. The first 2 miles of this course, as Rick had said, were a total freefall. Basically following the road out of Unicoi state park, everyone was flying. Yerg, Rick and Dean jumped out way ahead from the get go, as Bill and I held back. I’m terrible on steep downhills anyway, and I was just trying not to get my quads too beat up before all the climbing. As soon as we hit a flat section, I surged ahead, trying to close in on the huge gap between me and the other three blue shirted HTRs. Pretty close to 2 miles in , there’s a turn off the highway and you know the pain is about to commence. A mountain towers above you and forboding signs appear like SCORPION HOLLOW (unincorporated) appear. First two miles 6:45, 7:02.


Miles 3 and 4 start to get a little rough, some tough hills but a few flats and downhills to recover from the climbs. I manage to catch up to Rob, who has fallen off the back of the HTR peloton. I can tell he is already hurting, though we run together for about a half mile. Pace starts bleeding upward, 7:50, 7:58. The hill climbing is still broken up quite a bit, so there’s that sense of pushing through the struggle to get a relief at the top. As it turns out, that was about to change in a hurry. Mile 5 hits at a respectable 8 minutes, but the grade is getting steadily steeper. Despite my Sasquatchian physique, I am actually pretty good at hills. Carrying almost 200 pounds all the time makes my legs freakishly strong, so I start powering up/attacking the inclines like I usually do. After chasing them for miles, I finally catch Dean and Rick. I would say “pass” but we are all chugging up mile 6 in slow motion. Either way, my oversized ego thinks once I overtake someone I will never see them again. I’m OK, I’m powering up this hill, and hey, it looks like it flattens out up there just ahead. Lets surge up to the top! WRONG ANSWER. It just keeps going, and going. Several more false hilltops ensue, slowly draining my will to live. I still have a lead on the HTR’s but Dean’s running commentary tells me they are not far behind. Mile 6 in 9:06.

Finally, we crest a ridge and I’ve never been so glad to see a downhill in all my life. My joy is short-lived though, as Dean and Rick blow by me. WTF guys?? I make sure to keep them in range, but damned if they aren’t flying down this stretch at sub 7 pace. Maybe the next stretch isn’t as bad as Rick said. Maybe he was just playing tricks on the noob road racer. WRONG ANSWER. Just as the freefall ends, we turn a corner and dear sweet baby Jesus. A killer stretch of quarry crusher-esque grade. I start my hill attack mode but the quads and hammies immediately veto that decision. Everything starts burning in a lactic acid inferno. And then here come the voices. Those voices. THE WALKSIE VOICES. No, no, just make it to the crest of this hill, it will level out some…NOPE. Didn’t even get to the top before I’m power striding like the senior women’s group from Wildewood.

Walksies set off an inner panic in my oversized cranium that is hard to describe. My whole being is based on plowing through pain and sprinting as hard as I can go. Here I am strolling on a mountain side with a LONG way to go. My only solace is that Dean is riding that same struggle bus up ahead. Rick is leaving all for dead though, keeping that same steady pace, the one where I so confidently passed him 3 miles ago.

When I started running, I read about 70’s Olympian and coach Jeff Galloway, who advocates a walk/run method even with high level racing. Well, all of a sudden I was a hardcore Galloway disciple. As soon as I reached the top of that first killer incline, there was just another equally as bad stretch. I used signs on the road – ran hard to the sign, then walked, picked another sign and did the same thing. Dean was walking too but he was still gapping me. Legs were beyond toast. Mile 8 blew up to a 10:43, and the grade got even steeper in mile 9. Some older guy passed me at some point, and I knew there was a woman behind me that spectators were saying was the 3rd place female. I could pick up whole conversations since I was barely moving even if I was <air quotes>running</air quotes>.

Mile 9 of this race is the most unholy stretch of all the races I’ve done. There is zero negative elevation change. Over 300 feet straight up. I went from using signs to using the reflectors in the road, which are maybe 10 feet apart. I started alternating run/walking each reflector interval then running one and walking two. Just completely beat down. I can only imagine how sad I must have looked. The girl wasn’t too far behind me, but she wasn’t making any progress either. Mile 9 was a blistering 13:28. A 13:28 at absolute maximum effort.

It’s difficult to remember in my haze of panic and delirium, but around 10 miles (split 10:45) there was a slight break in the incline and then a stretch of downhill. I got a jolt of adrenaline thinking maybe the finish would be all flat or downhill. I start pushing the pace hard. Surely we were at the top of this damn mountain. THINK AGAIN, HERO. Another corner and bam, Mr. Power Strider was back. I could faintly make out a guy way ahead, but at least I had lost the girl with my “speed” interval. By this time I was really ready for this thing to be over. I had thought the 18k distance to be a little over 11 miles (11.18), but when I finally reached the 11 mile mark (10:04)  there was no finish line in sight. I rounded the corner and was met with another brutal incline. My spirit was about broken, but then I saw a person up ahead. PLEASE BE THE FINISH. I powered up a bit, but then walksies attacked yet again. Finally, I could hear voices, which I hoped were real and not some kind of Hogpen-induced psychosis. Sure enough I rounded the corner and saw the red numbers. I started charging up ahead, with Rick and Dean screaming at me to outpace a car , which had decided to tail me at the last second. With one final burst of adrenaline, I outkicked the car and crossed in 1:44, 9:11 total pace.



Rarely have I ever been so glad to finish a race. Shockingly, even with all the power walking, I managed 2nd in age group. I’m guessing I wasn’t the only one ready to join the senior women’s group on mile 9. I still got destroyed by Rick, who managed zero walking en route to a 1:39, and Dean, who was also several minutes ahead of me. Rick got 2nd in AG, Dean 3rd. Bill Seibers finished a couple of minutes later, followed by Laura, who took 1st masters. The Yerg struggled mightily but still came in at 1:54. John had predicted 2:30 for him but he was well under that. I have new respect for Clyburn’s 1:34 from last year. The conventional wisdom is that you’d run the 11+ miles in your flat half marathon time, but I think most of us were way worse than that. This race had amazing hot chicken soup at the top, a bag drop service (it’s a lot colder when you stop running) and transport back down the mountain. Super nice volunteers. Definitely one to mark on the calendar for next year.








Soda City Crit 5k and Destiny Johanna 5k double dip – Columbia, SC – 12/17/16

Although it may seem inconceivable to the non-road racing obsessed, I actually felt like a slacker with this double dip. Why? Like a total eclipse , a TRIPLE dip opportunity only comes along once in a very good while. As has been well documented in this blog, my triple dip in 2013 was my personal masterpiece: an epic trophy hunting, Tour de Columbia points grabbing run through the morning of my 38th birthday weekend. I shouldn’t mention the trouncing Tyler Mcgaha received in the third race after trash talking all week. Ooops..there I go again.


Anyway, this weekend was set up for another possible triple. The rescheduled Destiny Johanna 5k was at 7:30, Soda City Crit 5k at 8:30 and the Arthritis Foundation Jingle Bell 5k at 9:30. It was a little tight but definitely doable. However , Soda City has an elite 5k at 9:30  separate from the main race, where the top two women were going to make a run at the 5k state record (16:30) – I couldn’t miss that.

So double it was. The original Destiny Johanna 5k was scheduled during the Hurricane Matthew weekend in early October, and with the busy fall racing schedule it had to be postponed all the way until now. It’s a first time event, put on to benefit the Destiny Johanna Foundation, a group which assists with parents dealing with the loss of a newborn. Looks like a good cause.

Surprisingly, this first time event not only had a certified course but a unique one that went through the streets of Rosewood, starting and ending at Memorial stadium. I had already pegged this race as a trophy hunt given its limited publicity, competition with a bigger race (Soda City) and rescheduled status. My trophy senses were tingling even more when I showed up kind of late and there was hardly anyone there. The organizers probably thought I was some complete nut job parking and re-parking my car to find the optimal getaway position for the double dip. Kristen Brumbaugh was working the table and said she was a TDBS reader, so always good to have the ridiculous ego fed first thing in the morning.

It was brutally cold, getting late, and I was being lazy, so my “warm-up” consisted of a half mile jog around the area. When I got back there was still only a handful of people there. We had good Columbia Running Club representation with Jennifer Tudor, Stephanie Dukes, Rocky Soderberg, Reese and Melinda Petruzzi, Pete Poore and Gretchen Lambert. I looked around and didn’t recognize anyone else. None of my typical age group peeps, no elites. They had 70 registered but only 27 at the starting line. Jordan Lybrand looked at me and we both realized the obvious: this was going to be a run for the holy grail of trophy hunting: the overall win.


There was one fit looking dude that I was slightly worried about, but he seemed overdressed to be racing. After getting directions to make sure I could navigate the parking lot loops, we were off. The first loop goes through the parking lot and a short out and back around the bathroom house near the field, maybe a quarter mile tops. As I turn back on the road out of the stadium complex, I already have a 100 meter lead on the field. Fit dude is walking with his family. Um , this is not going to be close. Circling back onto Holly Street, I hit mile 1 in 6:23, and there’s no one in sight. Now, I love a good trophy hunt but this just seems ridiculous. My hamstring is complaining since I didn’t warm it up enough, and my mind is already drifted to the fact I have to do another one of these in less than an hour.

The pace gets backed down and suddenly I’m getting a police-escorted tempo run through Rosewood. The total Adam Feigh/Eric Ashton experience -only 2 minutes per mile slower and a lot fatter. I’m kind of confused by the course but the police guy seems to know where he’s going. Slightly hillier than I thought but not too bad. Lots of police monitoring the intersections – sometimes “my ” cop car would pull ahead and say something to the other guys. Probably “How did I get Sasquatch babysitting duty??” Mile 2 was like 6:55, slower than Kiawah pace. This makes me pick it up a little, because I am forever mocking Trophy McGaha about his “blackjack” 5ks. Heaven forbid the crap I would get for going over 21 myself.

I finally make it back to Bonham St after a mile or so loop, and it looks like a good third of  the field is actually just walking. The finish is a long gradual hill up Bonham and Holly St, the same as the old Rosewood Eagles 5k. I turn the last corner into the parking lot, and the clock is already in the 20’s. I do a mini kick and cross in 20:40. It wasn’t pretty but a first overall is always cool. I took a few pics and met Destiny’s mom, Joy, who was super nice. I feel bad about the turnout, but glad to see they had 70+ registered. Hopefully they can have better luck with the weather next year.



I then had to jump into my car and haul tail to the Crit. Start was at 8:30 and I had 8:03 on the watch when I left.  As I was pulling out I saw Gretchen taking 1st female and 2nd to cross the line. Looking at the results, Pete Poore took 2nd  male, with Stephanie Dukes and Jennifer Tudor taking 2nd and 3rd female. Awesome! Rocky , Melinda and Reese Petruzzi all won their age groups.

After a million traffic lights and not finding any parking, I jumped out of my car on Assembly street and sprinted over to the Soda City packet pickup. You’re supposed to do early pickup for double dips, but I figured my kids wouldn’t take to kindly to missing Star Wars: Rogue One so daddy could feed his freaky addiction. I made it to the table with ten minutes to spare. Luckily it was still super cold so I just threw the race shirt on instead of going back to the car.

The Soda City crit is another iteration of what was the Main Street Crit. This race started as a nighttime November race, then a nighttime December race, then a New Year’s Eve afternoon race, then not happening at all last year. I personally like the nighttime December race the best, but I was just glad to see it come back again. Steven Johnson and some of the 621 ninjas put this event on. It is done criterium style (Crit) where you essentially use 2 city blocks as a rectangular track. Its a great event for spectators since you get to see people come back through the same area 6 times. My favorite part is the separate elite race , where the pros and local beasts battle it out for cash.


Ken Lowden course with Blue Shoes notations


I had to throw my bib on and high tail it to the start, which is about a quarter mile from the finish line/packet pickup. Everybody was lining up already. Looked like a decent crowd – Sarah and Eric Allers, Randy Hrechko, Zach De Moya, Ian Clawson, Drew Williams, Will Brumbach, Wilson Harvey, Matt/Brie/Sabine/Quentin McGrievy, Winston Holliday, Kyle Addy, Anita Recchio were all I could see with a quick scan near the front. Oh, and Joyce brought all her Team Utopia Youth minions with her. Oh noes. Here I am weakened from the previous 5k and the Forche family is going to come beat me down. Connor informs me he’s sick, but dad Jason informs me that little bro Camden is going to try for the 8 year old state record, 19:45. Great – there is a legit chance that I’m going to get third gradered and his dad is going to age group me. Awesome!


Photo credit: Tracy Tisdale-Williams

The start feels like death as the cold and sitting has frozen up my legs and the slightly gimp hamstring. The Forches, Randy and Sarah jump ahead of me instantly as I try to get the engine fired back up as quickly as possible. Tigs gives me a quick “gluteal massage” on her pass. Oh, she’ll pay for that. The first corner is the heckler/smoker bus station corner – always good to pull a wide turn around these guys. The second turn onto main st features the awesome 90’s band, which seems to have a playlist completely from the Blue Shoes college CD rack. Nice downhill on main all the way to the finish mat/lap counter. By the first lap, I’ve passed the Forches but Tigs and Brumbach are in a mini pack up ahead. Finally the legs are a little warmed up and I surge ahead, making sure to throw a little elbow and verbal harassment Tigs’ way, drawing a rare British F bomb. I am so proud!  The first couple of laps feel OK, mile split in 6:19, though its hard to trust the garmin signal among the downtown buildings. Around the third lap things start turning a little south – legs are hating the abuse and I can feel Brumbach just behind me. By this time, people are getting lapped so you have to do a little tailback maneuvering and find your seam. A few times, people almost step out in front of the albino bus but I’m able to avoid any significant impacts. I don’t hear the mile 2 split, and I’m really just going by Coach B’s lap signs anyway. With two laps to go, some teenage kid cuts me off and starts blocking. OK dude, its on.These xc kids are ruthless. I start trying to kick it in but the legs are  just toast. Wide turn around the hecklers, a little Nirvana on the turn and blast down the straightaway with one lap to go. My eyes of death meet Joyce and Darrell, both of which I’m sure are rooting for me to get the smackdown from Camden. No way. The last lap is just brutal – the brain is spending all of its energy trying to override the veto of the legs and lungs. I basically throw everything into the  heckler/band curve, hoping to slingshot into the downhill finishing straight. I don’t dare look back. I still see 19’s as I make out the clock with a block to go. One last sprint into the chute and I cross around 19:50. The official time is 19:46, which matches my Garmin. Good enough for 1st in AG, though only 14th overall. I’ll take it for a double dip.


Photo credit: Tracy Tisdale-Williams

In the elite race, Michael Banks, running for Strictly, crushed a 14:35 for the win. Adam Freudenthal ran shoulder to shouder with Banks for most of the race and finished 2nd in 14:41. Brandon Hudgens placed third in 14:48. The women’s race was also close with Victoria Hammersmith and Esther Atkins battling it out side by side all the way into the chute, with Hammersmith taking the win 16:51 to 16:53. Michele Ziegler used a punishing finishing lap kick to edge Shawanna White for third. Adam Feigh had a huge PR with a 15:50. Other Columbia finishers included Eric Ashton in 16:20 and OJ Striggles in 17:01.

In the mere mortals race, Christian Acker clocked a 16:51 for the win over Hunter McGahee and Alex Dahlstrom. Sarah Allers recovered from Blue Shoe harassment to take the women’s win. Even with all the elites, the only state record taken down at the Crit was 2nd place female Kendra Miles. All of 7 years old, Kendra rocked a 21:51 for a PR and an obliteration of the 22:30 record she tied last weekend. Amazing. Ten year old Rylee Matthews ran an impressive 22:50 for third overall. Joyce, what are you feeding these kids?

Age groups: Camden came up a little short in the record attempt but still got 2nd in the 2-14 age group with  a  20:32. Alan Deogracias placed 2nd in the 15-19, with Ian Clawson 3rd.  Zach Demoya ran an impressive 17:53 but only needed to show up to win hs 20-24 age group.Wilson Harvey continues his sub 19 streak with a 2nd in AG in the 25-29. Drew Williams and Will Brumbach  went 1-2 in the 35-39. Eme Crawford took 3rd in the 35-39 women. Rebecca West, Amanda Wardlaw and Brie Mcgrievy won the 40-44 women while Jason Forche and Matt McGrievy finished 2-3 among the men.  Eric Allers, Randy Hrechko and Winston Holliday swept the 45-49 men. Anita Recchio eked out a 50-54 win by a mere 17 minutes. Kyle Addy took the 55-59 men. SC racing legend Catherine Lempesis was champ of the 65-69 women in an impressive 24:34, with Peter Mugglestone winning the 70+.

Soda City results:

Destiny Johanna results:

Adam Feigh’s blog from the elite race:


Kiawah Half and Marathon – Kiawah Island, SC – 12/10/16


The Kiawah half and full marathon are in their 39th year, having been a mainstay of the winter marathon season since the late 70’s. Normally a somewhat snooty gated community, the whole island opens up once a year to let a few thousand people come and trash the place for a few hours.

I hadn’t planned on coming back so soon. True, the 2014 marathon was the crown jewel in my running career – a 3:11 Boston qualifier that I trained like a beast for under the wing of TUS coach Justin Bishop. However, my hydration/nutrition plan, along with a few overzealous sub-7 pace miles, nearly sabotaged the whole thing. The last 5k of the race is easily the worst I’ve felt in any event before or since. It’s a minor miracle I didn’t run over one of the 3 hour half finishers taking selfies and/or cover them with a shower of projectile GU puke. It was rough.

But my vice president Joyce scored some sketchy deal on the race in the fall, and somehow I got sucked into doing the race again. Thankfully, I had the foresight to realize I was in no mood to train for a marathon again. I’m a 5k guy. Nothing kills my soul more than Sunday 20 milers and 5 mile intervals. But I am fond of the half, so I was in. Unfortunately, my training ended up totally sucking for distance. I was doing a lot of 5k specific stuff to compete in the fall races, but just not putting in the long runs. I did a few leading up to the Famously Hot Race in late October and managed a 1:31 on a brutal course. And that was pretty much it.  No runs over 8-9 miles in the last 6 weeks before Kiawah. This could get ugly.

As it turned out, half of the Columbia running community showed up for this one. We had a sizable Team Utopia group going, two condos worth. I was rooming with Joyce, Code Brown and Israel, and I somehow managed to coax my wife “first lady” Mary into coming. Mary is not fond of running, or talking about running, so she was hesitant to go. She did hear that her Boston drinking buddy Sheila was there, so apparently that was enough. Both have an affinity for mixed drinks and F bombs, so the connection was clear.


Speaking of F bombs, I dropped more than a few on the way down to Kiawah. Highway 526 was jacked up for some unknown reason and it took us an hour to go like 3 miles. I lived in this mess for 2 years in 2006-2008, and the traffic is something I definitely don’t miss. Actually the whole reason I got into running was avoiding Charleston traffic and hitting the treadmill at o’ dark thirty in the morning. And the rest was history. Anyway, it took us forever and I was super afraid of missing the 8:30 curfew for the expo.

When I get there I get a jokey volunteer who asks me if McDonald has a farm. Yeah, I might have heard that before. That and “run, Forrest, run”. He then stops, pauses, and smiles. WTH?? Grabbing a piece of paper off the back of my bib, he turns around and yells “LADIES AND GENTLEMEN, WE HAVE A HIGH PERFORMANCE ATHLETE!!!” And all the volunteers give me a round of applause. As I acknowledge my “fans”, Mary’s eye roll behind me is palpable. The ego continues to grow out of control. It’s pretty late by the time we get out of the expo and I’m starting to get panic-level hangry. Luckily Sheila calls and tells us they still have food left from dinner, since Justin was running even later.  Since it was close to 9 pm and I was running on fumes, I’ve never had a finer dining experience than spaghetti with potato chips, washed down with a Miller Lite. I like to keep it classy.

Race morning was pretty much perfect racing weather. Super cold for Kiawah, probably low 30’s. Thankfully, Mary was a saint and agreed to do Sherpa duties, which made things way easier. For the uninitiated, “Sherpa” = someone to carry around all your race s#$% and extra clothing, and take pics. She definitely earns her self-proclaimed “Best Wife Ever” status. I got to stroll into the guarded “HIGH PERFORMANCE CORRAL” due to my “A” number, melon head ready to explode. I thought it was “A” for first place, though Mary felt “A” stood for something else that I won’t print here.  Drew Williams, Ivanka Tolan, Justin Bishop, MC Cox, Joyce  and Linn Hall are some of the other familiar faces in my corral.


The start was ridiculously fast. Although legitimately in the corral (sub 1:30 documented half), I felt like a whale swimming among the marlins. Not too many other Sasquatches in the land of singlets and zero percent body fat. MC and Linn form a tandem, and I try to pace off them for a while, but they are flying and I back off. Code catches me about a half mile in , having done some crazy speed from the corral behind (10-15 seconds back). He didn’t put in his half time when he registered. We cruise through mile 1 in 6:46. Not too bad. I knew a PR (1:28:27) would pretty much be out of the question with the crap training, but I was still hanging on to the sub 1:30 goal, 6:52 pace.  Code and I are pacing together by now – he had planned to do around 6:50 for a few miles as warm up before ramping it up faster.  We catch Ivanka over 1.5 miles in – she must have crushed the start. I start chasing down Drew Williams for the better part of a mile, but it turns out its a pseudo-Drew in a similar blue singlet. Damn it. Pseudo Drew gets blue shoed around mile 3.  Somewhere in there is the bridge that provides a few feet of incline in an otherwise pancake course. By mile 4 I start feeling a little like crap. When the split comes back at 6:44 I realize I’ve been pulling like 1:27-1:28 half pace the whole time, instead of my planned negative splits. Apparently the gigantic head got carried away with all the “high performance” stuff. I consciously try to back it down a notch because we’ve got a long way to go. Code then leaves me like a red headed stepchild and pushes on the gas. Fine – be that way!

Next few miles are more of the same, mostly generic condos and shady streets with a few marsh views thrown in. The course is so flat, I’m trying to change my gait at times to use different muscles. I start getting passed by a few people, notably a pack of college kids from Berry College. I don’t know where Berry is, but I’m pretty sure its not Division I if these guys are pacing with the Albino Sasquatch. To their credit, they surge ahead, but I keep them in sight.  Around 6 miles the course splits off from the marathon and I get a lift that we are at least headed back in the general direction of the finish. 6.5 mile mat reads 44:30.  Pretty soon after, some skinny tall dude pulls up alongside, and damned if it isn’t Brandenburg. I’m so glad JB traveled 200 miles only to shame me once again. He leaves me in the dust as I start entering Debbie Downer mode.

The next few miles provide some nice change in scenery, with a few trips on the golf course cart path and, for a glorious 50 meters, an actual view of the ocean. Imagine that. The turns and twists feel like crap, though, and my pace starts to bleed into the 7:05 range. I’m realizing exactly what hard 5k training will do for you in a half – I’m not breathing hard at all but my legs feel like absolute lead. I’m beginning to feel like the wheels may be coming off soon – it feels a lot warmer, the stomach feels like giving back the little bit of GU I could choke down, and there’s not much motivation. But then I see it…the Code is getting reeled in. After the Sanctuary hotel grounds we’re back near the start line, and I get a boost from my hot Sherpa cheering me on. Off (literally) come the gloves, and it’s time to go catch some Code. It doesn’t take long because dude is definitely hurting – starts moaning about the course being boring, how he’s going to throw up, etc. etc. Sounds like he’s taking a page from the Tyler McGaha book of lamentations.  It’s always nice to pass the Code, but I could probably use a good puke too. Mile 10 comes back at 7:04 and it just pisses me off. OK – just a 5k to go, about 21.5 minutes to break 1:30. I start methodically pushing in all my chips, ramping up the pace. I’m going much harder effort-wise than the start but only getting the same 6:40’s in return. Once mile 12 hits, it’s time to Blue Shoe it.  I finally pass an older guy who I talked to at the start aiming for a 1:29. I’m hurting pretty bad, but then some young guy flies past me, offering some words of encouragement. Oh hellz no. I ride his tail for a while and I see JB and now MC Cox up ahead. Having some new carrots on a string helps me push it even harder, but the legs are really protesting about the abuse now. Finally I hear the announcer and see the last turn ahead. Headless chicken mode is engaged as I round the turn with the American flags, which I remember so well from the ’14 race.  With 100 meters to go, I pull a total Leeds Barroll meets Usain Bolt sprint. Unfortunately, the announcer takes off the stealth mode from my attack on MC and she ramps it up 1000 percent. I pass a couple of Berry college kids, and with one ridiculous sub 4 surge nip the guy who passed me a half mile ago, at the line. Mr. Nobile, I’m sorry/not sorry for ruining your finish pics. Official time of 1:29:21 /6:49 pace. About as good as I could have hoped for in this (air quotes) training (/air quotes) cycle. What’s even better – 5 deep masters and 5 deep age groups yielded me a 3rd in the 40-44. No coveted pelican trophy (overall, masters and grandmasters) but the age group awards are really nice wood plaques.

In the half, Chris Bailey rocked a 1:11 to take the overall win. He barely edged me out for the 2015 Rose Fest double down win. Barely.  Erin Miller crushed a 1:23 en route to a 4th overall. Columbia was well represented in the masters women with Linn Hall 1st, MC Cox 3rd and Ivanka Tolan 5th. PR’s for both Linn (1:27) and Ivanka (1:32), I believe. Brandenburg took 3rd as a newly minted grandmaster. Justin Bishop was 4th in a brutally competitive 35-39. Mario Alvarez PR’d with a 1:36 for 4th in the 50-54. Sue Porter captured 4th in the women’s 60-64, while Pete O’Boyle did the same among the men. Jesse Smarr rocked a 5th in the 75-99.

In the marathon, my Palmetto 200 teammate Rob Gannett killed it with a 3:01, good for a BQ and 2nd in the 35-39. Noel Schuch took 2nd in the 40-44.

Lots of Columbians in the 2800+ runners:

Half: Drew Williams, Darrell Brown, Julia Norcia, John Bradley, Ken and Sheila Bolin, Derek and Jamie Gomez, Michael and Kate Ferlauto, Israel Bilbao, Jason Lockhart, Kelly Ghent, Alan Humphries, Teresa Harrington, Mkie Wainscott, Brent Shealy, Mark Stout, Sam Hilliard, Dawn and Dave Hale, Lisa and Jesse Smarr, Paul Laymon, Lauren Holliday, Peter Mugglestone, Sandra Riccuito, James Dubose, Kim La, Kana Rahman, Krystal McManus, Anthony Hernandez.

Full: Hal Ray, Winston and Kimberly Holliday, Alecia Milling, Mike Griffin, Michael Jensen and Jason Thompson. Special shout out to my original running partner Emily Granberry and husband Michael – Emily finished her first full while training as a mom with 3 kids under 5!

Sorry if I missed anyone – let me know!