True to the Brew 10k -Pomaria to Peak, SC – 4/2/21

As it turns out, like the chance of me ordering an IPA, I will reliably and predictably show up for any event that involves beer and racing. Some may argue that drinking in the morning sounds weird and gross, but I assure you they are very wrong, especially when you’ve just thrown down your hardest effort for a few miles.

So when Erin and GRIT endurance started hosting the True to the Brew race in 2018, I was most certainly in. Nice time of year, flat course and music/beer/food at the finish. What’s not to love? The race goes to benefit the Palmetto Conservation Foundation and the Palmetto Trail, so even better. This is a trail race, but the flat and open point-to-point route make it pretty accessible to diehard roadies like myself. Don’t get me wrong, I love the trails, but my Sasquatchian frame is not known for the cat-like agility that fast technical trail racing demands. 

This race is so flat I even considered bringing out the VAPORS. But like a small puppy, I treat my 200 dollar precious nikes with the gentlest of kid gloves. The thought of possibly damaging these babies on some rocks was too traumatic to bear, so I opted for my standard blues. 

I was glad the TTTB was actually live this year (with a virtual option as well), but there were obviously some COVID restrictions. Since the race is point to point and has vans bringing you back to the start, they had to make sure there wasn’t a huge bottleneck of people at the finish. The solution was doing waves every 15 minutes instead of the 5-10 seconds we’ve seen at most COVID era events. This definitely led to better spacing.  I signed up for the race months ago, so I’m not sure how the corrals were divided, though the first one was supposed to be for under 7:30pace I believe. I’m sure Erin recognized my ELITE STATUS and put me in the first wave. 

I would say I was well trained for this race, but to be honest, my legs finally decided to pay me back for the abuse inflicted them in recent weekends. The whole past week was a bit of a struggle just doing my daily slog jogs around downtown Columbia. I’m sure “The Sweaty Sasquatch” will be on the next Soda City tourist brochure for local characters. It turns out that following a marathon with a 200 mile relay and sleeping on a picnic bench in the cold do not bode well for a 46 year old’s body. Go figure. 

So I arrived at race day in perhaps less than optimal condition. But hey, I was there super early and I was going to make sure that the epic pooptastrophe known as “TRUE TO THE POO” from 2019 would not happen again. My colon still quivers every time I run the Palmetto Trail’s bridges. I’m not there very long before I see Drew Williams AND John Charlton, essentially blowing my masters chances out of the water from the get-go. Lots of CRC people in the first couple of waves. Tracy Tisdale was there to race, sans Jedi camera, thus ensuring that the Facebook masses would be subjected to the harsh eye of the sweaty iPhone. My Palmetto 200 “El Capitan” Brian Clyburn and wife Jen were there with both dogs. Nancy McKnight , Mario Alvarez, Whitney and Caroline KeenThe Yerg and MelindaEric Gilfus, Ed “FAST EDDIE” Aulfuldish, Prez Roy Shelley, Sara Wilcox, Colleen Quarles andJoey Swearingen were some familiar faces at the first start.

The first wave took off at 7:30 am, and Drew blasts out to the front immediately, followed by Charlton. Oh hell, I’m letting these guys go. My legs loosen up some as I try to approximate somewhere between 6:30 and 6:40 pace. As has been well documented, I’m terrible at pacing a good 10k. I either go out too fast and die (see 2012 Dam 10k 6:18 first mile), or underperform by not going hard enough. I feel like I’m moving pretty well, but damned if two “kids” pass me in sequence about a half mile in. Being an aging Xer, “kid” now refers to anyone under 40. Well at least they weren’t trying to compete for my extremely elite third masters position. Not too far after I get my first split – 6:53. Damn, not even close. Yeah, looks like the legs and my cardio are on different wavelengths today. The course is dead straight so I fight drifting off into race daydreaming mode, almost wishing I had some music to keep me company. My coworkers have expressed disbelief that I don’t listen to music while I race, especially given my autistic spectrum like pop music knowledge of the last 40 years. But then again , they don’t know the dark and twisty things of the sasquatchian mind that I have to process on a daily basis. 

Dark and twisty, like choosing my hello fresh meal for the day and which hazy IPA the irmo craft and draft may have on tap. Yeah, I’m totally goth like that. I am concerned about the ghost of Ed Aulfuldish and Rob Yerger, because I keep hearing things. But it’s always either a squirrel or the rampaging elephant sound of my own body hurtling through space. At some points I try and throw down some bursts of speed, at least to keep Drew, John and the kids in sight, but my legs are quickly shooting down making any moves. I rattle off some more 6:50s and hit the Hope Ferry Rd 5k point in 21 something. By this time I can see that the two kids have actually gotten in front of the masters battle, which is kind of surprising since neither of those dudes seemed familiar. Being a 5k specialist, maybe I can throw down a decent finish here. I give a little more effort for a mile and get back a 6:47. Doh. So much for a big negative split. Over the next mile there’s an ever so slight closing of the gap between me and the other old guys, but not really enough to give me that David banner/incredible hulk adrenaline boost that produced my 5k PR in December. 

But at least I’m not getting caught. I figured Yerg would be cashed from his 70 mile mid-week solo ultra he threw down on Wednesday, but there’s always FAST EDDIE, and he already shamed me at Skidaway 2 weeks earlier. Luckily I was able to hold off anyone over the last two miles, basically phoned in couple more 6:50s and did a weak blue shoe kick on the bridge to finish in 43:10. Since this is a trail course and bound by the confines of the bridge and the Wilson’s store parking lot, it’s really more in the 6.3  to 6.4mile range. I’ll take it on my cinder block legs. There were some timing headaches with the staggered starts but it looks like they were able to iron them out. There was a great band at the finish and while there couldn’t be beer on site this year, you got a craft and draft free brew coupon (later cashed in at the Irmo location , SHOCKINGLY for an IPA).  I ended up 6th overall and 2nd masters, with John Charlton claiming 3rd overall to bump me up a notch on the masters podium. Strangely, some dude in the second wave beat me for the 5th place I thought I took. Damn you,Grier Sponenberg. You’re going down next time!

In the overall, the “kids” Kyle Logue and David Giovannini battled it out for first, with Kyle edging out David by a second. I believe David was my medical student at some point, so I ‘m going to seek out a retroactive failing grade for disrespecting his elders. As mentioned, John Charlton was the pride of the old dudes, claiming third overall. Drew won masters, with me and Jeff Padgett 2ndand 3rd.  

Among the women, Martha Beahm won first, with Wendy Hart and Rachel Simmonscompleting the podium. Female masters was super close, with Jodi McFarland, Julia Norcia and Jen Clyburn all finishing in 51 minutes.

Age groupers: WOMEN: Sabine McGrievyclaimed 1st in the 12-14 in a nice time of 1:04. Nikki Barthelemy was first in the 40-44. The 45-49 was swept by Colleen Quarles, Amanda CharltonJulie McKinnon and Caroline Keen. Tracy “JEDI RUNNER” Tisdale took 1st in the 50-54, ahead of Sara Wilcox and Renata McFaddenTeresa Harrington claimed third in the 60-64, while. Cheryl Outlaw and Janice Compton went 1-2 in the 65-69.

MEN:  Quentin McGrievy harnessed his track team speed to take first in the 12-14. Eric “HORN STAR” Gilfus won the 30-34 by 2 minutes. Dr. John Baker, master of the 4 am training run, finished 3rd in the 35-39. Brian Clyburn won 1st in the 45-49 with his 2 insanely hyperactive dogs. Whitney Keenand Roy Shelley placed 1st and 3rd in the 50-54, with Frank Seier 4th. The 55-59 was a CRC sweep with Ed Aulfuldish, Mario Alvarez and Joey Swearingen claiming the podium. Jim Manning took 2nd in the 60-64 with Lorand Batten 4thMike Compton was 2ndin the 65-69 with counselor Leeds Barrolllaying down the law in 3rd. Chap John Houser crushed his 1st place in the 70+ by over half an hour, en route to a week where he hit his 300th straight day at the gym – congrats, Chap!

Lots of familiar faces in the results – Mark Chickering, Renee McCormick, Matt Havens, Michael Beaudet, Clara Nance, Lisa Powell, Phyllis Hughes, Darby Shinn, Lois Leaburn, Bryan Leaburn, Craig Campbell, Gretchen Lambert, Matt and Brie McGrievy, Tommy Outlaw, Gabby Swearingen, Tonya Stamey, Jessalyn Smith, Marlena Crovatt-Bagwell, Missy Caughman, Kara Blaisure, Kim La, Kana Rahman, Heather Herndon, Patrick McCormick, and Maria Pray were all finishers. 

Virtual completers included Charles Seastrunk, Naomi Rabon , Rocky Soderberg and Amanda Rowan.

Thanks to Erin Roof and family and Mary Roe from the Palmetto Conservation Foundation for another great race!

Make My Day 12k – Harbison State Forest – Columbia,SC – 2/14/15


Make my Day is a trail  5k and 12k, now in its 6th year, run in Harbison State Forest. It’s run by Half Moon Outfitters and proceeds go directly to benefit the park. Being a trail race, I didnt give it a try at first, but between the awesome shirts, pistol awards and major race swag, I finally gave it a go in 2013. I don’t remember a whole lot about that race, other than it being brutal and getting a beatdown by Charley and his dog Winston. Last year it was snowy and I was still recovering from the cliff dive, so I opted for the 5k. For some reason, the 5k became an epic cluster and people were running anywhere from 2 to 7 miles. I was upset since I thought I’d finally secured my age group pistol. Alas, they scrapped all the awards and I went home grumpy again. Never get between the Sasquatch and his shiny trinkets.

But I’m back to my pre-cliff self now, so I was going to give it another try, this time back in the 12k. Its one of the more competitive trail races, so I’d have my work cut out for me.

Trails and I have a love/hate  relationship. I live a half mile from Sesquicentennial State Park, aka Jeff Brandenburg’s backyard. I do the trails there all the time, enjoying the soft mountain bike route and brutalizing myself on the mountain of the entrance road there. So training off-road has never been a problem. Racing, on the other hand, has been a whole ball of suck. I’m like twice the size of runners with similar ability. Put me on some winding single track and it’s more like an elephant stampede through the jungle. Also, I’m a faller, in case you didnt realize. You dont have to throw a 20 foot Hawaiian cliff in front of me – I busted my ass 2 weekends ago over the rugged terrain of a Devine Street sidewalk.  Get me on the Harbison trails and you can pretty much bet I’ll be crashing down at some point. But at least I’m not like the Vowles clan. Ken (i.e. the Pale Beast, aka the Pointsmaster)  and Colleen have both been bloodied by Harbison, and their son Kenneth had to go to the ER after an epic wipeout at Xterra last year. Yikes.

So it was not without trepidation that I showed up at Harbison for my first trail race since Climb the Clay last May. Like the Long Run, it is cold as balls again. Around thirty degrees, though at least its sunny. Its been pretty dry recently so the trails are in great condition. Warmed up about a half mile with James Hicks. All the trail beasts are on board, i.e. the Harbison Trail Runners. Rick Stroud has brought all his South Carolina Runners of Trails and Ultra Marathons (SCROTUM, the best running group name ever) to this thing, and they look ready to claim the home team advantage. Brian “El Capitan” Clyburn and wife Jen, Eric Bopp, Craig Wlaschin, Jay Hammond, Yerg, Drew Williams, Bill Siebers, Dean Schuster, Winston Holliday were out wearing the gray “Blood Chit” shirts and representing. CRC brought out our trail warriors with Geary McAlister, Larry Bates and Dina Mauldin from last year’s trail series championship. Other familiar faces included Micah Simonsen, Jason Thompson, Jeremy Becraft, Lorand Batten, Pete O’ Boyle, David Johnson, Joe and Luke Naylor, Sandra Ricciuto, Mark/Sherry/Alex Robertson, Teresa Harrington, Lois Leaburn, Greta Dobe, Sheila Subbarao and Paige Tyler in the 12k. In the 5k, Meg Weis appeared to have the easy win. Ian Clawson, James Hicks, Jennifer Conrick. Heath/Brady Ward, Arnold Floyd, and Stephanie “Stevie Dee” Dukes were also on hand.

With the start I apparently had too much caffeine because I took off like a bat out of hell. I think somehow I had a completely ridiculous thought I would run this at 6:30ish pace like a flat road 12k. Um, wrong answer. The race starts on an incline and then splits the 5k and 12k at the top.  Entering the first section of trail, I am rudely awakened to the fact that a) this is definitely not like the roads and b) this sure as hell isn’t Sesqui. Roots, switchbacks, sudden inclines, crevices, logs – I feel completely out of control rumbling through this course and I’m firing all kinds of muscles I never use. I’m not more than a half mile in before Clyburn and his dog start what will be a virtual conga line of people passing me.  After the Clyburn pass, I try and speed up but I feel like there’s a rabid bear chasing me down every step. Turns out this rabid bear is named Drew Williams, who passes me like I’m standing still. Man this sucks. I can feel the lactic acid and feeling of impending bonktastrophe overcoming me already.  Here comes Bill, Bopp, Dean and Winston leapfrogging over me over the course of the next mile or so as I start entering full on Debbie Downer mode.

I have no sense of where I am, despite the number of times I’ve run Harbison, because in racing the course I’ve spent almost all my time looking at the ground, desperately trying not to fall. Not that I haven’t tried, as I’d already had 2 near wipeouts by the time I’ve reached the Midlands Mountain trail.  At least I’m keeping up with the back of the 5 person Dean train ahead of me.

Midlands Mountain is aptly named. My legs, already burning from the abuse of the first few miles, trudge up a hellacious climb and I’m reduced to nearly a walk. Luckily everybody else is dying too. We pass a group from Kore fitness with Jenny Prather and David Nance, with Jenny telling me “Looking good!”. I didn’t know she was capable of such lies. I’m just about cashed – I had momentarily caught Winston when he stopped for water, but he’s passed and dropped me again. Another nasty incline with switchbacks, and my caboose to this train is about off the tracks. I’m losing sight of the guys in front of me, and my brain is begging me to just mail in the rest.

But all of a sudden we start hitting some flat stretches. Gloriously flat and straight. My legs, fried from all the lateral movement and climbing, can finally stride out. I wouldn’t say I felt good again, but at least I wasnt crumpled over in pain. I start making some serious headway on the guys in front of me and I eventually catch up to Winston and a younger guy. My Garmin suddenly beeps and I realize I’ve been ignoring it the whole time. I look down for my 4 mile split and it gives me like a 7:50, which is probably useless with all the hills and forest. But just as I put my arm down the split time goes away and I do a double take…holy crap its for five miles. Somehow with all the shoegazing I mentally missed a whole mile. Sweet – lets get this thing done.

A long slightly uphill, but straight, stretch opens up. Winston passes the other dude and I follow suit. Dean’s about 50 meters ahead. I start recognizing some of the finishing stretch of Rudolphs rampage and Xterra, so I know we are getting close. And thats enough to start throwing down. Knowing Dean probably could navigate Harbison in the dark, I take aim at him and start chasing. One problem, he’s speeding up too. Over a couple of logs, then a short water crossing. Like a steeplechase from hell.  I’m redlining it pretty bad and not making a lot of headway, sort of a slow creep. I know there’s one brutal hill to go, and I’ve drawn pretty close as it comes into view.

I attack the hill as hard as I can go, figuring this is my chance. I can’t fly gracefully over technical singletrack, but I can get my sasquatch ass up a hill. My neighborhood is a freaking mountain range and I make Jeff Brandenburg’s Sesqui sand hell part of my weekly routine. About three quarters up I finally catch Dean. I’d like to say it was a triumphant pass. But it was decidedly less so with both of us barely moving and sucking wind like two grandmas out for a mall walk.  As soon as I reach the top I headless chicken it. Hard as I can go. I keep worrying that I’m at very high risk for falling now, but I’m dead set on getting this thing done. I know Yerg hasnt passed me, so I think I might have an outside chance at some age group glory. Finally I hit the last stretch and almost catch a kid as I flop over the line in 56 minutes and change. I barely turn around and Dean finishes just a couple seconds behind me. Good thing I didn’t look back!

56:47 officially, and 2nd in age group! First time I’ve placed in this race, though technically 1st (Tim Gibbons) and 2nd (Jeremy Becraft) are in my AG too, so I’ll claim all of 4th place and 3 points on the Tour de Columbia on this one. It was a good trail effort for me, and I’m very happy to finish even in the middle of the pack of Harbison runners. I was initially disappointed they scrapped the awesome pistol awards this year (it was their signature),  but the sponsors went nuts on the swag. Besides the medal, 2nd place got me a pair of 65 dollar shoes from Half Moon. Very nice. Drew got first and got a 100 dollar gift card and a hat. Pretty sweet for an overall, much less an age group.

Speaking of overall 12k, Tim Gibbons won in 50:13, followed by Jeremy Becraft and Christopher Powell. In the women’s race, Jani Linde took the win in 1:00:36, followed by Emily Morrow and Shamia Thompson. 12k AG honor roll: Luke Naylor took home the 1-12 win, with Alex Robertson claiming 2nd in the 13-19. Micah Simonsen finished about 30 seconds behind me to claim 3rd in my AG, with Jason Thompson right behind him. I better watch my back. The 40-49 group was just insane with all 3 under 56 minutes: Eric Bopp, Brian Clyburn and John Gibbons.  The 50-59 wasn’t much easier with Jay Hammond winning over Geary McAlister and Larry Bates – all three under an hour. Harry Strick took the 60+.

Jen “She Hulk” Clyburn won the 30-39 women. She doubled up with the Polar Bear challenge at Lake Murray later. #hardcore status earned. CRC’s Lana Morrison took 2nd in the 40-44, with tri beast Lisa Powell winning the 50-59. Brigitte Smith was champion of the 60+.

In the 5k, Brian Carrington took home the win in 21:34 followed by Chris Hill and Ryan Gadow. As predicted, Meg Weis easily took the women’s win followed by Sarah French and Jennifer Conrick. In the age groups, Brady “Junior Diesel” Ward placed 2nd and Tyler Robertson 3rd in the 1-12. Ian Clawson claimed 2nd in the 13-19. James Hicks trophy hunted well in the 30-39, taking 1st. CRC went 1-2 in the 40-44 women with Stephanie Dukes and Tracy Tisdale-Williams taking home some swag. Roy Shelley placed 3rd in the brutal men’s 40-49. Arnold Floyd had a tough competitior (Donald Cline) in the 60+ but held him off for the win.