True to the Brew Half Marathon – Croft State Park, Spartanburg, SC – 9/28/19

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After an epic disaster at the True to the Brew 10k in March, which should be renamed True to the POO in my honor, I felt the need to redeem myself at the next race in the series, the TTB Half Marathon in Spartanburg. Columbia has more races than any city its size should, so usually I avoid anything out of town. But if you combine a trail race with beer and Erin Roof/GRIT puts it on, then my arm is easily twisted. I did this race last year, though I was one week post Table Rock 50k and ran it pretty easy. I was hoping I could improve on the 1:56 and 3rd masters performance from 2018.

Of course, given my hatred for early morning wakeups and complicated pre-race hydration and poop regimen, there was no way I was driving up from Columbia at o’dark thirty. Fortunately Drew and the Yerg (with girlfriend and fellow beer connoisseur Melinda) decided to make it very true to the brew on Friday and we hit up 2 of the local Spartanburg breweries. We were eager beaver beer nerds at the opening of Holliday Brewing right at 4 pm and got to talk with the owners. They opened about 6 months ago and have a huge selection of great beers, especially the Turtle Bay IPA. I highly recommend. Unfortunately, with the race the next morning and my paradoxically low tolerance for a large Irish man, I was only able to sample one of the brews at the actual race sponsor, RJ Rockers Brewery. Damn my 18 year old sorority girl liver. They had packet pickup there and a band, along with a free beer. Pretty cool. I even got to take a GRIT endurance spokesmodel photo. So much rugged handsomeness.

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Race morning at the hotel kind of sucked because of the 7:30 gun time and our hotel was 15 minutes away from the start. It didn’t help our Holiday Inn had hidden blackout curtains and I was staring at a brightly lit gas station for most of the restless night. It was a pretty big crowd when Drew and I got to the start, as the race managed to sell out just a few days prior. I got a chance to see an old childhood friend Jason Paddock, who was trying his hand at running/hiking a trail race for the first time. I told him that this course would be pretty brutal, but I knew they had changed some of it, so maybe it would be easier. Yeah, we’ll get to that. Some familiar faces at the start were our esteemed president Roy Shelley, Jim Williams, David Russell, and of course the Yerg and Drew. Apparently Will Rowan, Deana Rennick and Alfred Baquiran were also on hand, but I missed them with all my portapotty jockeying and warmup, which, appropriately, and perhaps with a bit of foreshadowing, ended up being up a giant hill to a cemetery.

Scouting out the field, I figured I probably brought my main masters competition with me from Columbia, but there a fair amount of fit-looking unknowns. I was going to go out harder than last year, but I was a little scared of the unknown course, the still hot/humid conditions, and the distance. The course basically runs from Cedar Springs Baptist church into Croft State Park, and continues in the park for the entirety of the race, finishing near the horse stables and primitive campgrounds. Erin said there was an extra trail section instead of the open field loops we did at the end of last year. Surely it was flat like those loops, right?

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With the gun, I take off and we get to separate a bit on the road before entering the trails about a quarter mile in. It’s still dawn, so the trail is a little dark, and I realize it has been a while since I went trail running. I’m already having to do some root dodging and my less than nimble sasquatch physique is taking a pounding. Yerg, Drew and David have left me for dead immediately, so I tell myself to focus on my own race. A girl is breathing down my neck in the first mile, so I let her pass. I try and keep up with her like a creepy old man, but she’s like a hundred pounds lighter and 20 years younger, so I succumb to the gods of age and fatness. I managed to hit mile one in a shade over 8 minutes, though the next few miles is pretty constant rolling technical trail and I fall into nine minute pace. The first aid station is about 4 miles in, and I make out a red Harbison shirt through the woods. IT’S YERG. I catch up with him and he said he’s having a bad day. We run together for a little bit and I hear somebody behind us say “ARE YOU FROM HARBISON? WELL YOU’RE IN MY HOUSE NOW!” What is this, trail trash talk?? OH HELLS NO. I put some pep in my step and gap Croft Park boy and Yerg a little bit.

At 4 and a half miles, I nearly blow past the turn as the course takes a sudden hairpin backwards in a loop around Lake Johnson, which I think is new. Just past the 5 mile mark I run out onto a field and I start getting severe misdirect anxiety. There are some orange flags on the grass but I’m not sure if they are from the race. I am almost convinced I have gone off track when I hear the siren song of Jon Bon Jovi belting out LIVIN’ ON A PRAYER from a police SUV, and an official race sign. WHEW. Jon is lying about being HALFWAY THERE because we’re not even close. There’s a nice stretch on a paved road here, which is sweet relief for someone who is 90 percent road racer. This relief is short-lived however, as we get dumped into another up and down trail section next to the lake. Here is where I started my series of Tourrette’s like F bombs, when my toe would catch a root and nearly send me tumbling. Somehow I managed to stay upright. Hopefully no children were nearby. Starting in late mile 7 is a glorious stretch of dirt road which is straight, and I was actually able to run freely and recover. Even though it was technically uphill, my road legs were loving not having to turn and root dodge. I ended up passing a guy in this stretch but I was mostly on my own for a long time.

Unfortunately the road ends at 8.5 miles and throws you into a trail section which gets brutally tough at the 9 mile mark. At this point, I realize my CRC jersey is causing some serious chafing and I am hurting pretty bad. I reflexively throw the front of my jersey over my head in a ridiculous half on/half off look that is sure to scare women and children alike. But at least it avoids the cursed bloody nips. There is a killer hill right before the 10 mile mark that brings me to a crawl. I’m panting like a banshee and the kid at the aid station looks a little scared of the sweaty albino monster with the navy blue crop top. After the 10 mile mark was another glorious section of downhill dirt road, which, in my memory, was the decline from the last tough climbing section. I’m done with the climbs! Yay!. Au contrare, you sweaty beast.
So my deluded self turns up the pace a little bit on a long straight stretch almost to the 11 mile mark, where all of a sudden I’m dumped back into some technical trail. My legs are kinda toast at this point so my case of trail Tourette’s comes back with a vengeance. LIFT YOUR F#%$G LEGS, ALEX! I yell out to the trail gods. The course keeps going up and down and at some point I pass a sign proclaiming, “SAFE – NO SHOOTING ZONE” which concerns me that I was potentially wild game up until this point. When I hit mile 12 I start trying to ramp it up for a kick but my legs are vehemently vetoing the brain on that decision. But wait, I can see hot girl who passed me up ahead. There’s few things I like better than taking down people younger, fitter and better looking than me, and this girl definitely had me on all 3 fronts. I almost bust my ass for the 40th time in this race, and she turns around, suddenly fearful of the albino bear chasing her through the forest. At least I had put the jersey back down for potential finish photos. I know we are getting close to the end when we break into a clearing near the lake, though the volunteer tells us “a half mile to go”. The girl has a good 20 meters on me but she makes a turn and I see her make some gesture of anguish. Sure enough, here comes a brutal hill. She suddenly stops halfway up and is gasping. I think I asked her if she was ok, but at this point I was in full Ed Aufuldish elbowing mode and basically going all-in that this hill was the last. Mercifully, I crest over this late course mountain and see the beautiful red numbers and finish arch. One last burst of speed for the cameras and I cross in 1:56:57. Pretty beat down, but I dare not do a collapse for Erin to photo and immediately dispense on all social medias. About the same time as last year, though with a different course. Garmin had 12.6 something miles but there’s no way GPS could accurately track all that trail distance. It was a solid effort and good for 3rd masters again/9th overall , so I will take it.

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In the overall, Radek Mittelbach, a 38 year old from Columbia whom I’ve never seen or met, won the race in 1:40. Two upstate 25 year olds, Erick Martinez and Jacob Baer took 2nd and 3rd.

On the women’s side, 46 year old Rhonda Felder made me feel very inadequate by beating me by over 4 minutes and taking the win. Hannah Giangaspro and Nastasja Rittling finished 2nd and 3rd.

2018 champ Drew Williams finished 4th overall in a shade under 1:43 and first male masters, taking home an awesome swag basket. In the age groups, David Russell squeaked out 1st in the 30-34 by 50 minutes, on his birthday no less. Yerg struggled early but rallied some and still took 1st in the 40-44. Ryan Havens was 2nd. Roy Shelley won 1st in the 50-54. Jim Williams was 3rd in the surprisingly competitive 55-59.

“True to the Brew” half marathon held in Spartanburg Co.

https://runsignup.com/Race/Results/63244/#resultSetId-172396;perpage:10

https://www.strava.com/activities/2746514252

 

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Prosperity Fire Department 5k and True to the Brew 10k double dip – Prosperity/Pomaria/Peak, SC – 3/30/19

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Having died a thousand deaths in the last leg of the Palmetto 200 with the Van on the Run ultra team, I figured I’d take this week easy. I was signed up for the True to the Brew 10k, but at least it was flat, and hopefully I could throw down a decent time without exerting too much effort. Sadly, the Bunny Hop had moved their date to this weekend, so my tenure as the 7 foot rabbit had to take a hiatus. I was halfway into a week of half-hearted slog jogs and too much tennis when Roy Shelley, the newly “elected” dictator president, of the Columbia Running Club, messaged me. He had a double dip challenge for us, with a time window so small it would probably need 2 cars and possibly some executive favors. As it turned out, the Prosperity Fire Department 5k and 10k were starting their races early, with a 7:30 10k and 7:45 5k. True to the Brew started at 8:30. The races were about 15 minutes apart, give or take, so if you could finish the 5k in well under 25 minutes, hop in the car by 8:10ish, there was about a 5-6 minute cushion to make it to TTTB. As probably the most enthusiastic double dipper in the CRC, how could I refuse?? 

Probably by exercising good judgement,  but I digress. Let me say this, Roy puts way more effort in planning things than I do. Dude sends me an agenda, the USATF race routes, road maps. I’m surprised he didn’t get us a police escort. Speaking of executive privilege, one of the hangups  to our plan was the 1 mile shuttle from the parking area to the TTTB start, so we made a plea to Erin Roof for a special parking spot. It seems the Palmetto Conservation Society was being kind of strict, so there was some uncertainty about whether we could get near the start. I figured we would be so late that no one would stop us, but just in case, Pres. Shelley printed out an official “parking pass”. Apparently you can get away with anything if you act like you know what you’re doing.

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We had originally planned to meet at the Pomaria ball fields (official TTTB parking) at 6:45 to drop my car off, but typical of my planning style, I called Roy at 6:25 to change it to Peak. TTTB is a point to point race and requires a shuttle to get back to the start, so I figured we might as well use our 2 cars for some good and enable us to leave TTTB at our leisure.

We got to the Prosperity race about 7:05, and actually had to register on site since our plan was hatched so late. We already had the TTTB bibs from early packet pickup, a critical rule of double dipping strategy. I had half-hoped for a trophy hunt at Prosperity. I figured 4 races on the Tour, and this one had both a 5k and a 10k , and it was way out from Columbia. It fit all the Blue Shoes trophy hunting criteria. One snafu though. Apparently there was prize money, so the first thing I see are two local Kenyan guys, Harrison Kirigwi and Norman Maihathi, who decided to split the races and easily take the cash. DOH! Kenzie Riddle was racing for the first time in 2 years in the 5k, and Joy Miller was running the ten. So we had our overall winners set from the start line. Coach B would be racing with me in the 5k for second place. The whole Pearson clan was on hand with Tim, Edy and Tori representing. Ivery Baldwin, Thomas Outlaw, Gretchen Lambert and Tom Lance were some other familiar faces.

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At the 5k line, I think the RD saw me taking pics and delayed the start for a minute.  Thanks to me, now things were really tight. I took off pretty hard from the gun but my legs were still hating me from the P200.  Harrison leaves us all immediately, and at the first turn onto Main St, Kenzie and Mark pass me. This course is super flat, and I think I’m giving a decent effort, but I have zero spring in my step. The police car is guiding Harrison, so they send out a 4 wheeler to be the lead “car” for the mere mortals, which is nice. Mile 1 is like 6:37, a good 20+ seconds off my typical 5k pace. I try not to think about the 10k in my near future, but it definitely sinks in as we hit a long stretch on highway 76. I keep Kenzie and Mark within about 10-20 meters for most of the race. There’s a turn around near the 2 mile mark, and Roy is not too far behind, so hopefully we can jump in the car ASAP. I briefly flirt with pushing in all the chips to try and catch Coach B, but he’s summoning his own kick and I got nuthin. Kenzie is right ahead and I almost catch her with the small hill up to the finish but end up a second behind her. 20:27.  Ugly time for sure, but good for 3rd male overall in this trophy hunt. I grab 2 waters from the cooler and Roy comes in a shade under 23 minutes. We both head to the car a sweaty mess and take off, right at 8:10 by my watch. There were a couple of ways we could have gotten to Pomaria, but we decide to go by the Google maps quickest version. Yeah, google maps didn’t adjust for morning 5ks with a bunch of walkers. We end up sitting on 76 staring at someone’s boat trailer for what seems like an eternity. Finally we turn off 76 towards Pomaria, but everyone and their mom is also going that way. As far as the rest of the trip, I would give you details, but per my attorney driver, we “proceeded cautiously, obeying all road signs and observing posted speed limits“.  Let’s just say I didn’t need pre-race warmups to get my adrenaline going.

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Roy tears into Pomaria, I mean eases into the town center, and as we randomly park.  I can hear Erin actually counting down to the start. I jump out of the car, hurdle over some grass, narrowly avoid plowing into Joe Roof , and somehow my Garmin miraculously finds a satellite in my 50 meter dash, as I hit the front of the pack just as the countdown hits zero. MADE IT! YAY!

But there was a price to pay. Apparently Thanos has exacted his infinity stone power on my colon because suddenly I don’t feel so good. 

Fifty meters in and I’m already scouting out the woods. Maybe it will pass. Maybe it was just the adrenaline of the start. Maybe if I pick up the pace it will go away. Negative, ghost rider. This was not going to be pretty.  First there’s a stretch of woods with barbed wire, then a swamp. Oh dear God. Then it goes away for a bit…then comes back with a vengeance.  Finally I come up with the bridge idea. I duck under a bridge at about 2 miles, have to climb down with gimp legs, watch for snakes, make 1000 percent sure there are no potential witnesses and sweet Jesus unspeakable horrors were then committed under that bridge. Thankfully there was also a stream there, also of questionable microbiologic content. I can hear everyone tramping on the bridge overhead, oblivious to the haz mat scene just under their feet. Finally, in what seems like ten minutes, but was actually about 4, I emerge like a enormous dazed troll from under the bridge.  And since I have completely blown any TDC points from this race, an enormous, dazed and depressed troll. I feel lighter though definitely with that not so fresh feeling. But there are 4 miles to go and this is not an out and back loop, so I push on. I at least try to maintain around 8 minute pace, because I’m just ready to get this thing done. For those not hampered by a distempered colon, it was a beautiful day on a flat trail through the forest. Just about perfect. I managed to catch up with a bunch of people who were thoroughly confused by my presence. It’s hard to find new ways to politely say I HAD TO TAKE A GIANT DUMP. The last mile or two I started catching some of CRC age groupers, so I picked up the pace to give myself a hell snowball’s chance of age group glory. Of course, I spotted Drew and Nance and Yerg and McGrievy at the start, so these guys were going to have to place and then go three deep masters for me to have a chance. I also forgot that my Garmin was stopped during my off road excursion, so instead of possibly breaking 50 minutes I was closer to 54. Still, there were a couple of middle aged looking dudes in the last mile and I took off , ending in a sprint on the bridge at the finish. Yeah, I should have saved my energy. 53:46, 7th in age group.

 

The finish line was awesome for this race as usual. There was a good band that actually played at a reasonable volume (as opposed to the occasional race DJs who think they’re at South beach at 3 am), subs,  and of course beer,  served up by the Craft and Draft guys. Weather was perfect too -70’s and sunny. There was a huge Columbia running club/Harbison Trail Runners/RWB/RUI contingent on hand with Brie and Matt McGrievy, Tracy Tisdale,  Bobby Scott, Sabrina Gandy, Ed Aufuldish, Pete O’Boyle, Winston Holliday, Naomi Rabon, Julie McKinnon, Ken and Sheila Bolin, Jen Clyburn, Mike and Pam Griffin, Mackenzie Wilt, Mario Alvarez, Matt Havens, Birte and Jeff Fretwell, Jim Williams, Jeff Longway, Lisa Powell, Ronda Sanders, Mike Ferguson, Renee and Patrick McCormick, Will Rowan, Joe and Janette Robinson, Betsy Long, Teresa Shelton, Lorand Batten, Michael Beaudet, Clara Nance, Lois and Bryan Leaburn, Teresa Harrington, Missy Caughman, Kara Clyburn, Bertha Woehl, Ron Hagell, Chesson Merritt, Maria Pray, Mike and Janice Compton, Sharon Sherbourne, Patti Lowden,  Harry Strick, and Shirley Smith. Amazing turnout for a day with so may other races going on.

Prosperity 

Overall 5k winners were Harrison Kirigwi in 15:55, Coach B was second with the Sasquatch 3rd.  Kenzie won the women’s race, with Stacy Willard and Haley Thomason completing the podium.

5k age groupers were President Roy taking first in the 50-54. Tim Pearson took 3rd in the 55-59 with his new bionic knee.

In the 10k, Norman Maihathi took the win in 39 minutes, with Jon Lawson Cope 2nd and Ivery Baldwin getting third. Nice trophy hunt, Ivery!

10k  age groupers: Tori Pearson won the 30-34.  Thomas Outlaw (jr) won the 35-39. Gretchen Lambert took 3rd in the 45-49. Tom Lance won the 50-54. Edy Pearson won the 55-59, while Tommy Outlaw took the 60-64.

In the TTTB:

Mike Nance edged Drew Williams for the win in an epic showdown of Team Carebeers (our Ville to Ville relay team for April 13). Jeff Fretwell was 3rd.

Among the women, Birte Fretwell captured her second True to the Brew title after her half marathon win at Croft State Park last year. Sally Singleton and Jessica Weems were 2nd and 3rd.

Mens masters was won by TUS beast Ed Aufuldish, the YERG and Winston Holliday. Colleen Vowles, Jen Clyburn and Naomi Rabon swept female masters.

Female Age groups: Makenzie Wilt was 3rd in the 30-34.  Julie “2017 Scrotum of the Year” McKinnon and Brie McGrievy went 1-2 in the 40-44. Tracy “Jedi Runner” Tisdale was 3rd in the 45-49. Lisa Powell was 2nd in the 55-59. Lois Leaburn won the 60-64.  Sharon Sherbourne was second in the 65-69. Patti Lowden was tops in the 70+.

Male age groups: Beer mile director Bobby Scott won the 30-34. Matt McGrievy won the 40-44. Ken Bolin and Roy Shelley went 1-2 in the 50-54. Mario Alvarez and Jim Williams took the top 2 spots in the 55-59.  Pete O’Boyle and Jeff Longway were 2nd and 3rd in the 60-64. Mike Compton was 65-69 champ, while Ron Hagell won the 70+.

Prosperity Fire Department 5k/10k: https://www.strictlyrunning.com/json/Index_JS_C4.asp?uRaceId=3067

True to the Brew: Pomaria to Peak 10k

https://runsignup.com/Race/Results/53330?fbclid=IwAR1Nj5aiBSVq0L83zNEpLfJmW_G1VH3au_XhM38J8AJxqf35fNbtqwrbYFw#resultSetId-148027;perpage:10

Alex’s true to the POO 10k: https://www.strava.com/activities/2252364070

Alex’s Prosperity 5k: https://www.strava.com/activities/2252362370