Lake Murray Dam Run 10k – Irmo, SC – 9/16/17


The 10k is my nemesis.

Twice the length of a 5k and roughly half a half marathon, I’ve never been comfortable with the distance. And in case you needed any proof, you can just look at my 10k times. Granted, there aren’t many of them, since I’m always trophy hunting in the 5k undercard, but the ones that do exist mostly suck.

My first 6.2 miler was the Dam Run 10k in 2009, where I ran just a shade over 45 minutes, which wasn’t too bad at the time.

I followed it up with the Habitat for Humanity 10k, known for its nightmarish hills, and caught my first case of race walksies en route to 52 minutes. Did the Lexington Race against Hunger and managed an uninspired 43 minutes. At some point in 2010, I wrote down some running goals, including a sub 19 5k, sub 1:30 half, BQ marathon and a sub 40 10k. My first attempt at the sub 40 was again at the 2010 Dam Run, where I tried to keep up with Amy McDonough and Megan Weis in the first mile (6:18)  and suffered an epic bonk for the ages. Just look at that surrender cobra:


I think the 42:11 was still a PR but nowhere near what I should have been doing by all the running calculators. Plus, I got blue shoed in the home stretch by Tigs and the Yerg. After that I think I was too scared to even try and push it in a 10k. I’ve run a bunch of 41-42 minute races, with my best a 40:38 at my only Cooper River Bridge run in 2013. My reward was falling off a cliff 3 months later. In the meantime, all of the above goals were met years ago. For some reason I just couldn’t it make it happen in the 10k. My 12k PR actually was right at 40 min 10k pace, and technically the last 6.2 miles were 39 something, but that doesn’t count.

So when I filled out my Team Utopia South goals this year, there was really only one: get that 39:59.

First try: A crushing repeat of another 42:11 at the Get in the Pink. This was becoming my personal white whale. And I wasn’t even in the same zipcode as Moby Dick.

So that leads me back to try number 2.

A return to my first 10k, the Dam Run to Irmo, now in its 31st year. It’s obviously been around forever, and I even used to own a 1990 Dam Run shirt from high school. I think I volunteered or something because I sure as hell didn’t run it. The cool thing leading up to this race was a major course change. Instead of 2 hilly neighborhood loops, the new course simply leads you across the dam, onto Bush River Rd, and then into Saluda Shoals park, with the finish in the new part of the park at the St Andrews Rd entrance.

I came into this race feeling pretty decent about my fitness, and the Labor Day 5 miler felt like I could have gone the extra 1.2 to at least PR the 10k. So my plan was to basically go all in and chase the white whale from the start. No negative splits like I usually do, just go out in 6:20 and change and keep it below the magical 6:26 the whole time. This was undoubtedly going to hurt.

I got to the finish line super early since they were actually busing us to the start this time instead of the reverse. Having ridden several of those hotbox stinkfests at the finish in the past, this was definitely an upgrade. They also were offering a timed but awardless 5k this year, and they didn’t have to catch the early bus ride (out and back loop in the park). I was already wondering if a trophy hunt in the undercard would have been a better idea. But hey, you cant have a trophy hunt without a trophy.

Got to the Lexington dam about a half hour before the start time and the place was crawling with beasts. Michael Banks, Ricky Flynn, Striggles, Ashton, Plex, Trackstar Eddie – this was not going to be slow. Women’s field had Shawanna, Caitlin Batten  Joy Miller, Erin Miller and MC Cox, so plenty of fast ladies as well. Outside of Striggles, I didn’t see any of my usual age group foes. No Angel, no Gomez, no Code, no Toby Selix. Nance was still on the DL from his separated shoulder and Drew Williams was exactly 39 years and 364 days old, so it looked pretty good as long as OJ could snag a masters podium. Still, so many fit and fast people were milling about that I couldn’t rule out a random soccer dad trying to show me up.



Good TUS turnout with Chris Fawver, Mario Alvarez, Carol Wallace, Sam Hilliard, Roy Shelley, Tug Quarles, Sara Bonner, and Sean Marden on hand. Justin was sitting this one out with Tunnels to Towers the night before. Strictly had Erin, MC, Jen Lybrand, Banks, Drew, Plex and Matt Pollard.  Jesse Harmon, Kristin Cattieu, Pete O’Boyle, Brigitte Smith, Jeannette Farr, Peter Mugglestone, Henry Holt, Kerry Stubbs and Jessalyn Smith were some other familiar faces. Rocky, Gasque and Johnathan Kirkwood were undercarding it in the 5k.


The start, as you might expect, was blazing. But at least you can’t beat the dam for being flat. I had planned for a 6:20 something first mile, but it was really hard to judge with so many blazing fast people ahead of me. I had MC right in front of me, so I figured that might be a decent marker for pace. It felt pretty rough right off the bat, but I figured it would have to feel that way to be fast enough. Mile 1 is still on the dam and comes through in 6:21, which I guessed was pretty ideal. Didn’t give me much leeway though.

The latter part of the dam drifts slowly downhill and I could see the cop car way up ahead – the lead guys had to be doing way under 5 minute pace. For quite a while I break free of my pack until I start catching up with a younger guy at the turn onto Bush River. Just when I catch up to him I start hearing footsteps and Jesse Harmon comes up beside us. We all pass through the two mile mark together, my split at 6:23. The course starts rolling at this point, but I feel surprisingly good now that I’m actually adequately warmed up. Gotta stop doing my 1 mile hobby jog as my pre-race routine.

dam run usatf course map

Jesse appears to be trying to drop me but I latch on like an oversized albino monkey. The other dude drops off when we hit one of the hills. Having just suffered through the mountains of the Blue Ridge, these bumps hardly qualify as hills anymore. Plus the course is a net downhill, so plenty of recovery on the flip side of these inclines. I’m feeling it now and I start to apply a little gas. Mile 3 comes back in 6:16, and I start to wonder if my giant ego is starting to get the best of me. I can’t calculate exactly, but I figure I’ve just run about a 19:40ish 5k. Now I just have to do another one. Great.

The 4th mile is basically a carbon copy of the 3rd. Rolling hills on Bush River. Jesse and I are attached at the hip. Plex told me mile 4 is right at the Saluda Shoals entrance, and sure enough the Garmin goes off at 6:18 right near the sign. Somehow I’ve just set a 4 mile PR and passed Erin Miller at the same time, so clearly I’m either in the midst of the race of my life or about to implode.

It sure feels like the latter as we enter the park. Going up an incline past the entrance booth, the sun hits you in your face and the good feeling from Bush River rd has definitely left the building. We hit a mass of cones that seem to make no sense, which I eventually surmise is the 5k turnaround. Suddenly we take a turn into the woods, with roots and dirt, and I’m desperately trying to navigate without busting my ass. We then empty out onto a concrete paved trail which I recognize from running the Sweet Baby O 5k a few weeks ago.

And damn it is starting to hurt big time. Legs are beginning to feel a little Jello-ish and lungs are wanting to come out of my chest. The pain train has officially been boarded, and I’m not sure if I like its destination at his point. Mile 5 in 6:29 (also a 5 mile PR of 31:50) but I freak out because its over pace. Jesse is still riding me and pulls a step ahead. I fight like hell to try and stay in his draft, though unless William Schmitz comes back to Columbia, no one is an adequate draft for my Sasquatch physique.

But its 1.2 miles to go, and as Tenacious J is wont to say, how hard could it be? Very, as it turns out. As we weave through the winding turns of the park trail, I keep begging for it to open up to the finishing stretch. I am desperately hoping that the course isn’t the same as Sweet Baby O. That finish takes you away from the finish and drops you down a hill only to make you climb straight back up…on gravel.

I am really running on fumes at this point but I finally see an opening up ahead. We pass another guy who I swear is age grouper Anthony Ortaglia, and it freaks me out again (turns out it was just a race hallucination) . As I near the open space, I also make out an arrow. Pointing down the damn hill. %#*!! I flop down the gravel road basically with Jesse still on my shoulder. Once we make the turn though, I pull a David Banner green-eyed transition to an albino Hulk and go completely nuts.  I ignore the mile split, knowing its ugly, (bleeding time with a 6:37) and throw down whatever I have. I see Nance spectating and he looks scared at what he’s witnessing. The finish is pure uphill but I’m flopping about in full sprint towards the finish. I can make out the clock as the gravel turns to pavement. My heart sinks as I swear I can see it at 39:50 or something. As I come closer though, I realize it’s a 38! I am fixated on those red numbers and take a few more steps deeper into the pain cave, blasting through in 39:26. YESSSSSS!

It takes me almost a minute to be able to stand up again after my typical ugly race-face crash out collapse over the line. But I’m as giddy as a schoolgirl. Seven years after my first try, at my “hometown” 10k. PR’d by a minute and 12 seconds, and most importantly, a 39 at the front of that time. Pretty sweet.

In the overall, Ricky Flynn and Michael Banks had a battle royale for the title, with Flynn edging Banks 30:25 to 30:42, both under 5 minute pace. Smokin! Flynn has been tearing up the tri circuit with a bunch of sub 15 5k times off the bike and a 1:11 half at the 70.3 worlds in Chattanooga. Banks is the 12k state record holder and just came off a 7 month layoff, so both of these guys will probably get even faster. Frank Devar took 3rd in 32:17.

Shawanna White crushed a new PR and won the women’s race again, running 36:04. Her friend Joy Miller finished just behind her, also with a PR in 36:21. Julie Weimerslage placed third in 37:14.



Age group: Ediberto “trackstar Eddie” Crisanto took 2nd in the 20-24. Sean Marden took 3rd in an unbelievably competitive 25-29 with a sub 6 pace 36:53. Plex won the 35-39 in 35:34. Jen Lybrand posted a post-baby PR in 43:57 and took 3rd in the 30-34. Caitlin Batten was 1st in 37:58. Drew Williams and Jesse Harmon took the top 2 in the 35-39, while Kristin Cattieu and Sara Bonner did the same among the women. Striggles won the 40-44 men, with the Sasquatch 2nd. Erin Miller and MC Cox went 1-2 among the 40-44 women. Jeannette Farr and Heather Hawn placed the top two in the 45-49 women. Ashton took tops in the 45-49 men, with Anthony Hernandez 2nd and fellow psychiatrist-runner Biemann Otherson third. Phil togneri, Roy Shelley and Tom Lance filled the podium in the 50-54 men. Cynthia Arrowwood from Hartsville ran a blazing 46:37 in the 50-54 women, good enough for the age group win by over 12 minutes, would have also placed 2nd among the same age men. Mario Alvarez and Tug Quarles took the top spots in the 55-59 men. Pete O’Boyle crushed the 60-64 competition by 13 minutes by registering a 43:34. Not to be outdone, Carol Wallace destroyed the women’s 60-64 by 19 minutes with a 50:48. Peter Mugglestone and Henry Holt took top honors in the 65-98 men, while Brigitte Smith won 2nd in the 65-98 women. I really think they need to have age groups through 75, by the way.

Lets not forget the 5k. They didn’t offer awards in this race, which I think is kinda lame, but at least it was timed. FYI, these guys will get tour de Columbia points. Advanced level trophy hunter Johnathan Kirkwood was 2nd overall in 21:16. John Gasque was 2nd in the 55-59. Ron Lipe won the 60-64. Pete Poore was 2nd in the 65-69, while Rocky sprinted his finishing kick to place 1st in the 75+ age group.




Blue Ridge Relay – Grayson Highlands, Va to Asheville, NC – 9/8-9/9/17 – Part II


After we handed off to Van 2, we had several hours to kill, which ended up being fortunate since the place we went to in Boone for lunch took like an hour and a half to eat. The rest of my van apparently isn’t keen on hipster brewpubs like myself, so my choice was not a popular one. Especially when they left Julie waiting for a pizza 15 minutes after the rest of us were served. Damn you, Lost Province Brewery. At least Geary got to see his daughter who had just started at App State.

We were still able to make it to the start of Leg 12 in plenty of time for our second set of legs. Kim came rolling in all of a sudden, blasting out what looked like a sub 6 pace kick at the end of her 8.4 miles. Geary took off on a leg mostly on the parkway, so we had to skip ahead to the next exchange zone (Vans aren’t allowed on the parkway except for the last leg). The next exchange zone is one of the big van turnover sites, at least for regular teams with 12 members. It was cool to see almost all of the faster teams at one site. Lots of totally ripped beasts milling about making me feel particularly Sasquatchy. Speaking of beasts, local elite Shawanna White was running with JITMO, a mixed team out of Charlotte. She apparently ran a few miles off track on her first leg so she was none too happy about that. Her team was still in the race for the mixed lead though.


Geary tore up his leg and handed off to Dan for what is my favorite part of the relay, which is now Leg 13. It was Leg 12 when I had my fabled pale chested reflective vest mansierre run of 2011. Hurts like seven hells getting up a huge mountain, but the views on the parkway at sunset are amazing.  The sun set during his 9.3 “very hard” leg, setting me up for my second run, a 6.2 miler labeled as hard. Start was in Blowing Rock, which is cool since we go there every fall to see the colors, and I had actually run part of my leg last time we were there. What was not cool was the no-portapotty, only small public bathroom exchange zone which had ridiculous lines. I ended up going super early to make sure I had a toilet opportunity.  When Dan came rolling in, I started up what looked like a mile and a half climb, and I was all jacked up because I saw a lot of potential roadkill leaving the zone just before me. I last about 60 seconds before I realize my premature pee didn’t do the trick. I debate for awhile and finally succumb to pulling a power piss on the side of the road, desperately afraid that some car would come by and flash by naughty bits to all of Blowing Rock.  Luckily for everyone involved, that didn’t happen. I took off on the long climb and managed to pick off my first roadkills of the relay, 3 or 4 ten minute pacers. After cresting the main hill I took off like a champ aiming for this dude carrying a flashlight that I thought I’d easily overtake. Turns out he was bringing it, too, especially on the downhills. I ended up blasting out a few sub 7 miles and breaking my pact not to stray too far from my marathon pace. But my pride wouldnt let flashlight guy get away without getting blue shoed. Finally, almost 6 miles in, I empty the tank to pass him. I should note this was completely unnecessary and meant absolutely nothing, but apparently my competitiveness knows no bounds, or logic. I come flying into the exchange with the Code around 9 pm and I’m starving. Luckily my exchange zone is the Grandfather Mountain store, and they are serving burgers with homemade baked beans. Sweet baby Jesus those beans were good. And probably setting up a GI detonation later, but so worth it.

Darrell’s next leg sucked with a capital S. Ten and a half miles, in the dark, straight up Grandfather Mountain, with just about no flat or downhill. Code kept calling it Grandpa mountain, so I guess he had already bonded with his friend. I think old gramps was about to make him his bitch, unfortunately. Code looked pretty strong early on, though he did admit to catching a brief case of the walksies near the top. None of us cared – we were just so glad it wasn’t us. Julie then had one of the few easy legs, a 5k right down the mountain. It probably would have been easier if she wasn’t totally attacked by a dog, though. Apparently an FBI agent kick to its head made it realize Julie does not play.

With the handoff to Jay, we were off for a several hours, projected until 3 am. This was prime sleep time, so we made our way to Geary’s next exchange zone to hopefully catch some Z’s. Of course when we got there, it was a freaking mardi gras atmosphere of vans at an Ingles grocery store. Geary managed to squeeze our van around the back and it was dead quiet there. The others slept in the van while I pulled out my sleeping bag and made love to the sweet green grass in the field nearby. It was pretty chilly but my 30 degree sleeping bag gave me a cocoon of warmth. I was briefly awakened by a rustling in the woods which I prayed wasn’t a snake or Julie’s Cujo coming back for vengeance. I was so tired that the next thing I know Geary is waking me up. Must have been close to 2 hours later, which is like an eternity of sleep for a relay.  Unfortunately our Van 2 teammates were crushing it on their legs, and we were ahead of schedule for our 3rd set.

Geary and then Dan took off on their 3rd runs,  a couple of moderately rated legs which were relatively easy compared to their others. Mine too was also not too bad – a 4.3 miler that was also rated “moderate”. Apparently it would be easy except for a half mile plus of brutal 7% climb at the end. As I was preparing for Leg 3, the abuse of the first two legs had officially caught up with me. Sore as hell, like someone had taken hammers to both sides of my legs. It was also like 45 degrees, so I stood freezing my ass off at the exchange zone even with my CRC hoodie on for warmth. Did I mention it was 3:45 am? Times like these make you wonder why anyone would voluntarily subject themselves to this “for fun”.  I saw Dan come around the last turn and I desperately try and throw off the hoodie without taking off my headlamp and everything else at the same time. Zero points for style. Launching into Leg 3 feels like complete death. I’m trying to run fast but the legs are exercising their veto powers. First mile was in 7:58 on fairly flat terrain. But hey, everybody else is feeling the pain too, so roadkill is still plenty. A group of four F3 guys had all started off together a few minutes before me, so I was on a mission to track these guys down. We had already labeled our van the F4 team – the fourth one being whatever variation of the F bomb you should choose. This leg’s F was F$%& tired and cold. Thankfully the middle miles of this run were downhill. There was a loud train somewhere right next to the road, adding F$%^g deaf to the whole equation. It was so F%$%^ dark though I couldn’t see it. I finally spotted the F3 foursome just as the hill from hell began. I was actually somewhat warm by then and ramped up the pace to pass them, nearly blinded by the assortment of blinkies and headlamps. Just as the course leveled out , they throw in one more quad busting hill before the exchange zone and I hand off to Darrell.

Things got a little tenuous during Code’s leg since Julie was having serious doubts about her 9 miler. Between feeling generally pukey and operating on very little distance training, she was not sure if she could finish it. But with Code already running and the other three of us having a 4th leg to go, there wasn’t much of an option. At this point I didn’t care how much she walked. Julie was a trooper, however, and took off with a good faith effort. About 90 minutes later, with some pukesies and walksies ,she managed to power through, and she (and Darrell) were officially done. I apparently spent that hour and a half mostly in a coma. At some point I saw Dan W and Rob at my window, which I think was reality, but I can’t be entirely sure.  Geary said I was making weird noises, probably cursing the blue ridge mountains in my sleep.

With the handoff to Van 2, we knew we then had a very long layover to the last three legs. The Legs 28-33 are just brutally long, with two labeled as MOUNTAIN GOAT HARD. It took 45 minutes in the van with Geary “done-with-this s$%” driving just to get to our next zone.

At this point we were all pretty much done. Our black, undecorated van was fairly appopriate for our team spirit at this time, and the fourth F was evoked many a time. We also had additional cursing due to Darrell. Code had group texted us all before the relay that he would be staying in Asheville the rest of the weekend after we finished. Unfortunately for him, his iPhone autocorrected Asheville into “asshole”, and a whole weekend in asshole seemed like a very long time to me. I made sure Code know that we were almost in asshole now, and that my last leg was a steep drop into asshole.

Sure enough we were at the Van exchange forever, and unfortunately none of us could really sleep since it was daytime again. Luckily I had procured a jimmy john’s sub near our ill-fated brewpub stop in Boone, and though it was half-soaked from melted ice, I’ve hardly had a  better breakfast before or since. Dan got a good chance to relax in his new 12 dollar Deerfoam slippers, quite the score from the Boone Big Lots store.

Finally around noon, Kim finished her mountain goat leg in a flurry of all out sprint with awesome spandex jorts pants. Geary was off on my leg from 2011 where I collapsed at the finish. To his credit, he didn’t even seem tired at the end. Total machine. Dan had leg 35. This leg was only 4.2 miles and labeled as “hard”, but that is just ridiculous. It has alomst 2 miles of 10%+ grade, and since its going to be your last leg, I can’t think of any part more deserving of the mountain goat label. I have yet to hear of anyone not walking a little of that leg. Just brutal even to drive up.

So here I was for leg 36, the last hurrah, the glory leg into Ass..I mean Asheville. I had this one on 2012, and I was not prepared for it at all. I thought at the time we were on top of the mountain after all that leg 35 climb. Wrong answer. The final leg features another 1.5 miles of pretty much straight climb. Not as bad as 35, but brutal nonetheless. When I got the relay bracelet I charged up the hill, only to be a reduced to a relative crawl about a half mile in. My 8:40 split for mile 1 was about as hard as I could go. Fortunately, the next 4+ miles are gloriously downhill with a few flat stretches to recover the legs. I got jacked up on pure adrenaline and used my full Sasquatch powers to fly down the mountain as hard as I could. A bunch of 6:50 miles followed by a 6:30 as I plunged down a ten percent grade with a turn onto a bridge into the city, taking down some more roadkill.  Seeing the whole Asheville skyline was such an adrenaline rush.  Thankfully the traffic was light as I came across and I was able to go over the bridge without any problem. I hit a very busy intersection as the crossing timer was dwindling down and I sprinted across just in time. One more turn and BAM there was the finish line. I was going mach 5 at the time, so I think I took my team by surprise. No chance for a together finish. Thankfully, Geary had a cold IPA in hand for me the second I crossed the line, and Van 2 had gotten a ton of Mellow Mushroom pizzas. Impromptu tailgate party in the parking lot as we all had different plans for the weekend. Especially Darrell.


Overall a great result for the Rock Hill Striders – 16th overall in 26 hours and 19 minutes. Not too shabby in this crazy competitive relay. Top finishers Asheville Running Collective and Charlotte Running Club both went under the previous record in 19 hours and change, well under 6 minute pace. Insane. This race always kills me, but I’m sure I’ll be back again.


Blue Ridge Relay Part I – Grayson Highlands, VA to Asheville, NC -9/8 to 9/9/17


I’m pretty sure I swore off this race back in 2012, the last year I ran it. As anyone will tell you, I am a hardcore relay addict. I get jacked up every spring for the Palmetto 200 like its the damn Super Bowl, eight years running. But the Blue Ridge Relay (BRR) is a whole other animal. You think you’re tired doing that flat run at 4 am down in the Lowcountry? Try doing it in the cold, up a freaking 8-10% grade mountain for a couple of miles, against a bunch of studs with zero percent body fat tracking you down.

Read: the BRR is brutal. They start you off with some tough climbs, but lure you into the false sense that this is not so bad. They save the worst for the last few legs when you’re dead tired and can’t believe that roads this steep actually exist. They give you topographic maps of the elevation changes in each leg, and even rate the legs from easy all the way to MOUNTAIN GOAT HARD. Believe me, they are not kidding.

My first foray into the BRR was in 2011 with my Palmetto 200 team, Van on the Run.  I did everything wrong. We camped the night before and I got very little sleep thanks to the cold and possible mountain lion roars. My coworker that I recruited bailed at the last minute, which gave me 4 legs and over 20 miles. I ran the first careening downhill leg at 6 flat pace and pulverized my quads into hamburger. I ran off course down a very dark and isolated driveway, fearing gun shots all the way back. I had a cheap headlamp that gave me a 5 foot window of vision into the pitch black. I ran out of food. My last leg featured a bonk so epic it registered on the Richter scale, and I almost passed out on a mountain side. Good times.  Apparently I’m a masochist at heart because I did it again in 2012 with the 621 ninja team. I learned from the previous encounter, though the heat that year sucked, we got our van stuck not once but twice, once requiring a tow truck. Not to mention my shirtless reflective vest mansierre run on the parkway and getting ruthlessly chicked and grandmastered on the final leg into Asheville.

Did I say grandmastered? The 50 something in question that whipped my tail was the Rock Hill Striders’ Jay Abraham, the only person to have done the BRR since its inaugural year in 2003. I guess its only fitting that Geary McAlister, another grandmaster beast, recruited me over to Jay’ s team for 2017, making me an honorary Rock Hill Strider for a day. If you can’t beat ’em, join ’em, I guess. In addition to myself, Jay and Geary were able to sway Van on the Run alumni Dan Carter, Rob Gannett, Julie Yelk and of course Darrell “the Code” Brown. As it turned out, this team was kind of cursed from the start. We had people drop out, come back in, and Jay scrambled to put out leg assignments each time. Finally we had a good set up and 12 healthy members by the week of the relay. Of course, then hurricane Irma decided to pay an unwelcome visit at the last second, and one of the Striders now living in Orlando couldn’t make it. We were at 11 once again less than 48 hours out. Sure enough, the last iteration of the leg assignments featured lucky 4th leg recipients Geary McAlister, Dan Carter and THIS GUY. Damn, this was going to suck, again.

While most of the Rock Hill crew sensibly left on Thursday night and stayed near the start, the Columbia contingent decided to leave at the crack of dark thirty on Friday morning. Because, why not double your sleepless nights, right? Between a wreck and tons of Florida evacuees, we got stuck in traffic and showed up less than an hour before our start time of 11 am. We finally got a brief moment to meet our Van 2 teammates Jay, Dan W, Kim, Jeff and Dave (Rob was also joining their van) just before our start, but we were finally there after 50 emails, a ton of injuries and a roulette wheel of leg assignments.

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Geary was first up for our van, and he got a chance to run my Leg 1 from 2011. The crazy fast four mile freefall. I was hopeful that Geary might set a tone for low expectations (I distinctly remember texting my 4 leg plan to be “slow AF” for this years relay), but unfortunately he had to smoke a lot of kids on the way down the mountain in low 6 pace and show these guys how 60 is done. Dan struck out on his first leg like a man on a mission, so I was like damn I’m going to have to actually try.  My first leg was number 3, labeled as “moderate” in difficulty. This meant there was actually a bit of flat before a nice mile long jaunt up an 8 percent grade gravel road. At least the last 3 miles (5.2 total) were downhill. I took off like a champ, since the weather was nice and cool and I was a ball of nervous energy. A ball that apparently forgot to tie his shoelace. Nice job, cool guy. I stop almost a mile in to tie it and there’s already some dude tracking my ass down. Really?? Alright, he’s going to get smoked on this brutal hill. Yeah, I don’t even make it to the mountain before this guy gives me the beatdown and tells me “good job”. Oh the shame. I can count on one hand the number of guys passing me in the P200 in 8 years and I’ve lasted all of 7 minutes out here. I hit mile 1 around my net projected pace of 7:10-7:20. I figured I had 22 miles scheduled so I might as well stick to my Kiawah marathon BQ pace. It turns out Kiawah doesn’t have 8% grade mountains. I blast away at the relentless incline for the whole mile and get all of 8:30 in return. Flopping over the top is like pure heaven though, because I know its all downhill from there. I ramp up the pace back to 7 minutes flat and I’m generally feeling pretty good until dammit, here come footsteps again. Sure enough, some singlet wearing kid from “THE LEATHER PRESIDENTS” team blasts right by me like I’m standing still. My sasquatch ass registers a 6:58 mile and this guy whips by like I’m a soccer mom out for a sweatpants stroll. Double shamed already. I just bury my pride though, because killing yourself in leg 1 is a recipe for disaster. I rumble in to the exchange zone, averaging about 7:23 for the leg, and handoff to the Code.

Code and then Julie rock out two legs with crazy climbs at the end, with Julie having to navigate the town of West Jefferson. We meet back up with Van 2 at our van flip site just outside the town limits. Apparently our meet and greet  with the Striders wasn’t quite long enough because Jay and Julie don’t recognize each other at the zone. After a brief moment of utter confusion, the handoff was executed and Van 2 was off for a few hours.


Part II to follow



Springdale at Sunrise 5k – Camden, SC – 8/19/17

The Springdale at Sunrise is a 5k now in its 9th year, held at the Springdale horsetrack in Camden and going to benefit the United Way of Kershaw. My participation in this race dates back to its inaugural year of 2009, also my rookie year in road racing – the dark pre-blue shoes era. The race originally appealed to me because it was held completely on the dirt and grass horsetrack, promised to be completely flat, and perhaps most importantly, had beer at the end. It was originally known as the “Springdale at Sunset”.
I got there for the first race expecting a potential PR with the nice course. What I was met with was A) 94-degree race time temps with high humidity and B) Ankle high long grass almost the entirety of the course. I still went out fast, likening myself to a local thoroughbred but perhaps more Clydesdalish in my actual physique. I died a thousand deaths in the heat and thought I might catch a case of the walksies only a half mile from the finish. That was when Betsy Long’s husband Chad came along and blue shoed me, and my fragile ego couldn’t take it. Sadly, Strictly Running deleted those 2009 photos long ago, but somewhere there may still exist the frightening 8 photo montage of one of the ugliest and most hilarious blue shoes race faces as I clipped Chad at the line. Something just under 24 minutes and of absolutely no consequence at all. So proud.
I think I was traumatized by that race, and my only other attendance when it was an evening race was in 2011.  I threw a bunch of Yeunglings in the trunk of my old Saturn and spectated, red solo cup in hand. So classy.
Since that time, they have moved the race to the morning and the course to the nearby neighborhood roads. While the event has lost some of its uniqueness, the actual race is considerably more pleasant to run when you’re not high stepping through thick grass and getting punched in the face with the famously hot SC summer evening heat. Sadly, my return to the event 2 years ago featured me vastly overestimating my fitness post-injury and dying a slow death en route to one of my slowest 5k’s in years.
This is primarily due to the course. It lures you in like Daenerys Targaryen in the first half, seducing you with a mile and a half of downhill and flat, like a dragon’s back. The second half is more Cersei Lannister, cruelly torturing you for going out way too fast, making you suffer up an endless hill, and perhaps subjecting you to a walk of shame. Knowing the course from try #1, I did considerably better in 2016 and even won masters. I was hoping to repeat this year.
Those odds were longer this year as soon as I saw Whitney Keen and Mark Bedenbaugh show up. Mark has been dealing with injury a lot recently, but when he’s healthy he can certainly open up a can of whupass on me. Not to mention his history of clocking low 4 minute miles and 15 minute 5ks. Whitney is a running latecomer like myself but has gotten super-fast in a short period of time. I didn’t know what to expect from him. Luckily no Brandenburg sightings to try and steal my glory. I hear he was too afraid.
Ryan Plexico, Jim Williams, Brigitte Smith, Arnold Floyd, Betsy Long, Martie McCallum, Kara Clyburn, Heather Costello, Andrew Lipps, Parker and Joe Roof, and Jennifer Reeves were some of the familiar faces. Pretty nice crowd at the start – over 200 registered.
With the gun, the front end separates pretty quickly. Lightning Plex surges to the front, like Tony Danza, showing a bunch of high school xc kids who’s the boss. As soon as we hit the first turn, the team of Keen and Costello blast ahead and start leaving me in the dust. Coach B and myself are hanging back, and I’m trying not to let Whitney run away with my precious masters oversized horseshoe. As advertised, the first mile is super easy, downhill for about 1200 meters and the last quarter flat.
I have an aversion to warmups unfortunately, and I admit to not adequately doing one this time, so even trying to go slower feels rough. Since I rarely go under 8:30 miles in my routine training (outside of Team Utopia practices), pulling low 6 feels like death. Probably would be good not to warm up by flapping my gums and enjoying the air conditioned portapotty they have. It doesn’t help it feels like we’re running through a Louisiana swamp with a blanket over my face. Mile 1, which I had hoped would be 6:10, comes back in 6:22. I’ve managed to gain some ground on Heather but Whitney is still way ahead. Mark seems to be right behind me.
Mile 2 is pretty nondescript through an unfamiliar neighborhood and I have no idea where we are going. While the beginning is pretty flat, we start hitting some incline on the second half. Somewhere I end up passing Heather, and I finally start making up some ground on Whitney when the incline starts. I usually suck at mile 2 in 5ks since I lose concentration and I’m too afraid to kick it in that far out. Sure enough, mile 2 comes back in 6:24 and I’d better hurry if I’m going to break 20.
Fortunately, even though the lungs would rather I stop and curl in the fetal position, my legs have finally woken up. Mile 3 is pure misery – not super steep but just unrelenting slow climb. This is when I hope my Tyrien Lannisteresque master race strategy will pay off. Sure enough, I catch Whitney about a quarter mile in, but he’s still going pretty hard. Once I’m ahead, I get super paranoid he’s going to pass me back. Oh well, I’ve already pushed my chips all in, so here we go. I manage to track down a high school kid about a half mile from the finish, and I can tell he’s toast. They should put warnings on high school cross country summer training emails – you may get Sasquatched by a huge white chunky old dude if you don’t practice! Shame.
The rest of the race is pretty much a blur. Severe wind suckage , head flopping and wishes of a painless death were involved. Every step I hear the ghost of Whitney Keen or Mark B creeping on me, and I mistake every turn for the finish in the last half mile. MUST PROTECT THE MASTERS HORSESHOE. Finally, I can hear the announcer and see the last cross street before the finish. I tried to headless chicken it but you can pretty much stick a fork in me. Just a feeble kick to the line to hit 19:41 , 6th overall, first male master!  Somehow managed a 6:13 last mile, mostly on pure adrenaline and ego grandiosity. Maybe I should actually warm up next time. Time is slower than last year, but with the weather and slacker start, I will take it. Awesome horseshoe awards were to be had, and there were free waffles at the finish – sweet! (literally)

In the overall, Plexico trounced the kids en route to a 17:27 . I hear Irmo and Francis Marion are lobbying to give home some more years of eligibility. Samuel Messinides and Garrett Lawson placed 2nd and 3rd. The women’s race had a podium of well-known names with Heather Costello taking the win in 21:15, Whitney’s daughter Julia Keen 2nd and Martie McCallum 3rd. Male masters had Whitney and Mark 2nd and 3rd . Women’s masters saw Diana Gillam take the win with Lisa Huggins and Kara Clyburn also on the podium.


Age group honor roll: Kara’s nephew Daniel Clyburn won the male 11-14. Parker Roof avoided the Sasquatch and won the 15-19. SR’s Justin Jones won the 30-34 in 18:35. Martie’s husband Mac won 3rd in a tough 40-44 category. Race to Read RD Betsy Long was champion of the women’s 40-44. Joe Roof took a close 2nd in the 50-54. Team Utopia South’s Jim Williams eked out an 11 minute victory in the 55-59. Brigitte Smith had some surprising competition in the 65-69 and took 2nd.  Arnold Floyd, looking more buff than most 20 year olds, took the 70 and over category again. And although Jennifer Reeves missed out on an age group award, she managed to complete an epic double dip weekend, doing the Homestead 50k (10 x 5k) on Sunday. Congrats, J-Reeves!

Sweet Baby O 5k – Saluda Shoals Park – Columbia, SC – 8/5/17

The Sweet Baby O 5k is a race in its 4th year, going to benefit Hands of Hope, an organization to help support children with life-limiting medical conditions and their families. It is specifically held to honor the life of Lexington’s Owen Walker Caldwell (the “O” in the title).
Hundreds of races in, you’d think I’d have run every event in Columbia, but somehow this one escaped me until now. I usually try to do the Hot Summer’s Night race in the evening, but due to the service for my wife’s father that afternoon, that race was clearly off the schedule. So here I was on a Saturday morning, still brutally jet lagged from the 20+ hours of travel from Brussels on Thursday, with nothing to do (I know, my first world struggle is real). Sounds like a good time to throw yourself into 20 minutes of pain.
Of course my race prep was pretty much nil for this one. I had hardly run in the nine days in Europe, though my legs were either blasting out 25000 steps walking all over the place or cramped up in a train or plane. On top of this, I hadn’t raced since the July 4 two mile relay, which, if you know me, is an absolute eternity.  At least I had made it back for a couple of Team Utopia practices to sharpen the speed.
The course this year was in Saluda Shoals, which is one of my favorite race venues. Not only the site of the CRC annual banquet and my chance to wear my totally money Vegas blazer, it was where I ran my fastest 5k in the past year – a 19:03 at the Sleigh Bell Trot in November. It’s amazing what the fear of losing to a 10 year old (Connor Forche) will do for your speed.
This course was slightly different, an out and back route that I believe is the same as the Trail to the Ale 5k a few weeks back. The only problem with this, I surmised, was the nice downhill start of Sleigh Bell would make for a nasty climb at the finish, a la the Healthy Capital 5k at Columbia High.
Getting there my customary hour early, the Columbia summer decided to remind me it’s still here. I had gotten too used to mid 60’s and breezy in the UK and Belgium, and it was a mid 70’s sauna already. A couple of solo miles for a warmup. I figured most of the competitive crowd would be doing HSN, and I was wishfully thinking of a potential overall trophy hunt with this one. Those hopes came crashing down in the span of like 5 minutes when Plex and Mike Nance both show up. Miles Fowler and a couple of fit looking teens pretty much secure the fact that an aging Sasquatch is not going to bring home any podium glory. Not a huge CRC contingent, but the hardcore gang of Gasque, Rocky, Pete Poore, and  Leeds Barroll (where are you Ponomarev??) were representing. Sue and Rich Weaver, Jessalyn Smith, Steven Johnson and son, Josh Sadler, and Brigitte Smith were also on hand.
With the start, Plex and Miles rocket out to the front while all the rest of us run way too fast down the opening hill. Intermingled in the mob is a whole bunch of little kids, which is always a potential hazard when my 18 wheeler body comes rumbling through a sea of Priuses. Especially when about 90 percent of those Priuses will break down and stop a quarter mile in. Sure enough, I start juking and doing tailback moves as kids start bailing all around. Nance gets blindsided by an errant 8 year old and momentarily runs off the road on the first turn. A half mile in the road levels out some and the kids have been weeded out. I see Plex and Miles locked in a battle way up ahead, with Mike and two unknowns in another mini pack. My pack is me, myself and I. Like no one around. Feels like I’m out for a training run and I forgot my iPod.  There’s one big hill towards the end of mile 1, where they have the 12 days of Christmas lights at Sleigh Bell, followed by corresponding drop on the other side. I catch a glimpse of the clay mountain from Climb the Clay on the right and I’m so thankful I don’t have to suffer up that today. Mile 1 was 6:16, which probably means I was I was doing 5:45 on the first half. Nice job, hero.
Second mile is pretty flat, though there’s a slight rise as you approach the turnaround at the dog park. Nance is surprised to see me at the turn because he thought the big dude breathing down his neck behind him was a grandiose Blue Shoes. As I make the turn I see a pretty nice gap between me and 7th place. There’s a brief folding back on the course followed by a dirt detour through the woods onto the paved sidewalk walking trail. This is pretty straight and flat, and feels like I’m flying since the only traffic is some random walkers. At some point in this tunnel through the forest I hit mile 2 in like 6:28, though I thought it was much faster. That’s the problem with running completely solo. I’m starting to hurt as I finally make out the opening back onto the gravel road. I see Nance as I emerge and realize I have to go back down a bit , pull a tight turn in the gravel, and then head all the way up. Any sense of feeling good gets drained pretty quickly as I hadn’t planned on this entire half mile ending being uphill. Fortunately there’s no one behind me, and more importantly, no random graying superfit soccer dads to challenge the masters/age group. I still have one whole more week before Nance turns 40.
I can see the finish forever, and it feels like it takes about that long to reach it with the incline. Garmin spits back a 6:32, which is completely against the Blue Shoes ethos of bringing it in the last mile. But I’m pretty much gassed. I do a mini kick to make sure I’m not too close to 20 minutes, crossing the line in 19:43. Not super thrilled about the time, but considering the jet lag, heat/humidity and no one to pace against, I guess it’s OK.  I had one of the River Bluff high guys call me sir and explain he was out of shape (his excuse for getting beat by a chubby old man). Good enough for 6th overall, 1st in the 40-44.
In the overall, Miles and Plex had a battle, with Miles edging out the win 18:04 to 18:07. Nance kicked it in and just missed 3rd, running 18:40 to Ryan Strickler’s 18:39. Among the women, Jessica Johnson took the win in 21:22, followed by Celeste Schnabel and Vicki Allen.
Age group honor roll: Lily Sadler took home the girls’ under 14, Agnes Barroll won the 20-24. Sue Weaver was champion of the 50-54, while Brigitte Smith continues to dominate the 65-69. Nance won the 35-39 with Josh Sadler 2nd. Greg Fowler took the 45-49, while Tour Director John Gasque conquered the 55-59. Leeds Barroll won the 65-69 with Pete Poore 2nd. Rocky Soderberg  and Rich Weaver were 1-2 in the 70+. 

Move for the Music 5k – Lexington, SC – 6/10/17


The Move for the Music 5k is a new event this year put on by White Knoll High School to benefit their music program. To be honest, I had forgotten about this one. I was content after last week’s Sweat it Out to have a few weeks off from racing, maybe enjoy my Saturday and not wake up super early for the privilege of serial portapotty destructions and torturing myself for almost 20 minutes. But then I realized there was this race on the Tour schedule, and if there’s an opportunity for a golden trinket to be had, my mind will not rest unless I get my hands on the precious.

I went into this race a little skeptical of what I would get. It had apparently been cancelled and rescheduled twice since fall of last year. The course looked like a simple out and back but wasn’t certified as far as I could tell. Certainly seemed like a small time, mom and pop style race. And while some avoid these type of events, it sets my trophy hunting sense a-tingling. Some people use their talent and speed to compete, while I rely on scouring race calendars and doing by best to contend against the grandmas and hobby joggers. Sasquatches don’t come by holy grails (the overall win) easily. 2016 proved to be a banner year for holy grailing with 3 under my belt, culminating in the 7-minute win over 27 other runners at the Destiny Johanna 5k. I have zero shame when it comes to the podium.

So the grail was definitely in the back of my mind upon showing up at White Knoll that morning. I mistakenly pulled into the wrong parking lot where they appeared to have the entire Lexington police force out to monitor the race route. I was having flashbacks to my 5-star Grand Theft Auto standoff last night so I made sure to high tail it out of there to the actual lot down the road. Looked like a small turnout but lots of CRCers. Susan and Rich Weaver, Tour director John Gasque, Pete “suns out, guns out” Poore, Henry “I’m twice your age and can still give you a beatdown” Holt, Leeds Barroll, Jennifer Lybrand, Jim Williams, Shelley Hinson, Ron and Helene Lipe, Reese and Bob Petruzzi, Brigitte Smith, Jessalyn Smith, John Houser, Kerry Stubbs and Michael Lambert were some familiar faces. Oh, and lest I forget, Ryan Plexico. After kindly taking last year off and letting me bask in the CRC overall glory, Lightning Plex is back with a vengeance, crushing trophy dreams everywhere. To be fair, though, there looked to be a few high school dudes that could lay a whooping on an aging pale Clydesdale with delusions of grandiosity.

I had a pre-race panic that there were no bathrooms (this has happened before with first time races) but luckily they had a distant school building open for me to turn into a haz mat zone. Plus, the half mile potty jog got my warm up in to boot. Score.


With the start, Plex jumps out to the early lead trailed by a bunch of teenage kids, one of whom I realize is Zander Jeffcoat, the 13-year-old beast who runs 17ish 5ks. Plex was going to have a challenge on his hands. I had taken 2 days off leading up to the race since I had been feeling beat down of late. I thought I’d be fresh but cranking out 5k pace when its almost 80 degrees and humid is never going to be pleasant. Plus, I couldn’t find my Garmin that morning so I was flying completely blind. No idea about pace/distance, and a completely unknown course. Naked and afraid. We start out with a nice long downhill and eventually make our way to a traffic light, where I see Plex and Zander veer off to the right. There was a police car in the middle of the road so I thought maybe they changed the course or I read it wrong. Luckily these guys are way faster than me so as I approach the intersection I see both of them frantically headed back to the main road. Not sure what happened, but I guess they assumed a turn with the car in their path. Fortunately, I see it in time and just head straight. My reward is then an interminable low grade hill that seems to last freaking forever. I keep looking at my bare wrist to see how badly I’m hemorrhaging time, but apparently my Garmin works better on my body than hidden in the toe of my other pair of shoes. It’s probably best I don’t know because I am dying at the top anyway. At least I pass a guy wearing Beats headphones. I can’t lose to a guy wearing those things. How do people run with these things? –  the sheer volume of sasquatch head sweat would render any electronics useless. A brief downhill ensues with the turnaround into the lot at a middle school, and we are headed back. I’m in my typical no-man’s land of 5ks, about 5-10th place and no one around, so it’s nice to see the other runners on this pure out-and-back route. I try to give some encouragement to my fellow CRCers but Mt. White Knoll has largely deprived my brain of oxygen and it’s hard to speak. The mountain, however, is much nicer going down so I try to push the pace a bit. Not really happening, as Mr. Piriformis wants me to know he was not properly stretched this morning. Sorry, dude, the colon is going to beat you every time. Once we hit Plex’s wrong way traffic light I figure about a half mile to the finish. A half mile, as it turns out, that now is almost completely uphill. Any momentum from careening down Mt White Knoll is shot immediately, while my legs decide to settle in to a hot tub of lactic acid. I have hallucinations of Beats trying to Blue Shoe me but I realize it’s just my own oversize feet and shoestrings. Finally, I hit the turn into the parking lot and can make out 19:35 ish on the clock. My boundless ego can’t deal with going over 20, so headless chicken/race face mode goes into full effect. I manage to beat the red numbers by a mere 3 seconds, clocking a 19:57. Whew. Good enough for 5th place and 1st in the 40-44 and masters. Not pretty, but I will take it on this mountainous course. Jim Williams got 3.10 miles on his Garmin, so the uncertified course is probably pretty close to legit. Hopefully, they will make it official next year.

In a race that went down to the last stretch, Zander Jeffcoat bested the Plex by 6 seconds, 18:09 to 18:15. White Knoll’s Nathaniel Wilburn took 3rd in 18:58. Turns out I didn’t get my Holy Grail, but CRC’er Shelley Hinson notched her first overall win, with a 24:05. Congrats, Shelley! Jen Lybrand took 2nd with Wilson in tow, while Nicole Rybar was 3rd.

Age group glory: The race only went one deep for medals, though CRC points are always 5 deep for 5 year groups (10,7,5,3,1). Reese Petruzzi won the 2-14 with a sub 28 finish, while Jessalyn Smith was the champion of the 35-39 women. RWB’s Kerry Stubbs took home first in the 40-44. Susan Weaver must be reaping the rewards of all those riverfront miles, as she took 1st in the 50-54. Jim Williams looked strong in capturing the 55-59 men. Helene Lipe won the 60-64 women, while Leeds Barroll won the 65-69 men. No surprise that Brigitte Smith and Henry Holt were champs of the 65-69 women and 70+ men.

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.