THE 18TH Annual BLUE RIDGE RELAY – “Where to Begin”

THE 18TH Annual BLUE RIDGE RELAY – “Where to Begin”

Workout Date:



Hamburglar, Penelope, Pedro, One Call, Lombari, Kiwi, Baggage, Drifter, Candy Cane, Boxcar, Valvano, Headgear, Bling, Manziel, Fergie, Quaker


Hamburglar, Penelope, Pedro, One Call, Lombari, Kiwi, Baggage, Drifter, Candy Cane, Boxcar, Valvano, Headgear, Bling, Manziel, Fergie, Quaker

The Thang:

For some reason, YHC was nominated to write a BackBlast for F3 GrandStrand’s Blue Ridge Relay (BRR) Team, “Worse Pace Scenario”.

This is a daunting task considering that this CSAUP officially started Thursday at 1pm when 16 Pax converged in the back lot of BombSquad to load 2 Vans with equipment, water, snacks, and a winning attitude and did not end until Saturday at 8pm in the back lot of BombSquad to unload equipment, water, snacks, and a winning gratitude.

Before we met at the vans, however, there were many Pax working behind the scenes to make it all possible. TClaps to Valvano  & Headgear for getting the ball rolling and organizing all the particulars (paying race fee, reserving vans, assigning & re-assigning the run legs, attending captain meetings, reviewing rules, & communicating with the Pax, etc). TClaps to Bling for designing and printing the race shirts (short sleeves & tanktops).  TClaps to Kiwi, Penelope, One Call, and Lombardi for picking up, driving & returning the vans. TClaps to Baggage & Hamburglar for purchasing food & beverages (Everyone was impressed by their shopping expertise with comments such as “what are we gonna do with all this”; “We could get stranded on the road for two weeks and be fine” and the ever so popular “There aren’t even any donuts?”). Tclaps to Manziel for opening up his pool after our runs each Wednesday night (#TrainHardRunHard). Tclaps to Candy Cane & Fergie for organizing runs/pre-runs at BombSquad, Warthog, and The Plank. Tclaps to Drifter for stepping up to fill the gap when a fellow Pax got injured. Tclaps to Boxcar for leading Elevation Runday & hanging tight even though there was a 100% chance of rain during the event!  Tclaps to Pedro for showing up Thursday afternoon after radio silence for 4 ½ months!! None of us could have done it without the others and I am thankful and appreciative of each one of these men!

Its easy to say you’re going to do something, it is much harder to do it. Accountability was essential and before the race our accountability was exemplified through training!! Few, if any, of us knew what to expect. Running mountains (up or down) and breathing in high elevations were mostly theoretical. Stretching/relaxing/sleeping in a 1999 Chevy Econoliner was not even considered. We all just took the Hamburglar approach to running such a relay race: “Get after it when its your turn to run, eat whatever you want, and comfort is for the weak!” 

It was an absolute pleasure training with these men over the last few months. We did pre-runs before Beatdowns; ‘Elevation Runday’ on Monday mornings; ‘Run the Plank’ on Friday mornings; & ‘Run from the Sun’ on Wednesday evenings. We ran for distance, we ran for elevation, we ran for speed, but most importantly, we ran for each other and the opportunity to represent F3GrandStand in the 18th annual BRR.

Over 208 mountain miles from Grayson Highlands State Park, VA to Asheville, NC were covered. The race was divided into 36 legs with varying distances from 2.3 miles to 10.5 miles and elevation changes up to 1400 feet per leg!! The legs were rated as easy, moderate, hard, very hard, and mountain goat, but all were difficult especially considering that the only elevation training we had was up and over the bridges that cross the waterway on International Drive and near the X-Gym (about 72 feet of total elevation).

Besides the inclines, we had to deal with miles of declines, too, which work your muscles differently – calves, gluts, and quads were on fire during the runs and quite literally ‘locked up’ after the runs! When we weren’t running down back roads or gravel trails, we ran along very tight road shoulders with a noticeable (3-4 inch) slope for drainage during rain events and we (except Bling) certainly experienced a rain event during our last legs.

We ran through open country, back woods, small hamlets, college towns, and cities. Each terrain challenged our mettle and pushed our determination to go further and faster than we thought we could. Every leg left a story to tell. It was about the size of that hill or the number of kills (kill=passing another runner) we earned. We talked about how sore are legs were & struggled to get comfortable. We talked about getting lost & being found.  Pax where chased by dogs and field mice (some Pax were overly concerned about wild ponys & their breeding habits). Some Pax were overtaken by silver haired sprinters, and some (no names will be mentioned) were passed by a ladies team who effortlessly glided passed the Pax as if we were standing still (they were so bubbly, nice, & encouraging -“You’re doing great guys!” . . .I hate them! J).  

Before describing each leg in detail, I, on behalf of all the runners, I would like to thank our driver corp consisting of Penelope, Kiwi, One Call, and Lombardi. These 4 HIM stepped up and not only organized the pick-up and return of our vans, they mapped out & drove every twist and turn of the event! Sure, the runners had their stories, but the Drivers had some war stories, too!!

They navigated hair pin turns, switch backs, and byways through the fog & rain. They maneuvered the vans into and out of tight spots at Exchange Zones and took their responsibility of keeping us all safe very seriously. As Lombardi noted, “We’re transporting very valuable cargo and we won’t let the team down.”

The stress level was high for the drivers from the moment Bling ran off into the gloom on the 1st leg of the race and did not end until 31 hours later when Manziel sprinted across the finish line. One Call kept the coffee brewing to help avoid sleeping & when he wasn’t providing coffee he kept everyone awake with his snoring which verberated through the van like a freight train! His snoring became so intense (like grandpa in his Lazyboy after Thanksgiving dinner) he not only woke up Pax outside of the van but woke himself up, too!!

There were many white-knuckle moments for the drivers such as getting run off the road by an oncoming dump-truck , almost backing the van off a cliff, and ‘accidentally’ walking into the women’s shower (right, Lombardi?)!! But nothing was more stressful than finding a huge dent and scratch down the side of Van #1 and believing that it happened on your watch! “There goes a flawless driving record.” “You purchased the extra $10.00 insurance policy, right? . . .” “. . . Negative Ghostrider”

The only thing that could hinder the duty of these four fine drivers was a case of pancreatitis caught by Kiwi no doubt due to stress! Kiwi tried to power through the abdominal pain triggered by the discovery of the dent but in the end he had to be admitted to the hospital! Like YHC said, the stress on this trip was no joke!

When we started this adventure we joked to one another about not getting hurt. The rules of the race state that if a runner can not complete their designated leg, the next runner has to take over the remainder of the leg and each runner there after gets shifted up one leg for the rest of the race. This would have wreaked havoc on our team; Candy Cane, Pedro, & Hamburglar could have been bumped down to run ‘easy’ legs which means someone else would have been tapped to run ‘very hard’ and ‘mountain goat’ legs!! If this happened, there might have been a cascading effect of injuries until only Candy Cane, Pedro, and Hamburglar remained! (On second thought that may not have been such a bad scenario).   

The week leading up to race day we all got very serious about not getting injured and YHC encouraged all teammates to take the week off ‘to ensure that we had fresh legs’ but we never thought that the injury would occur to one of our drivers.  When Kiwi went down around the 1/3 of the way into the race, Penelope had to step up and pull double duty the rest of the way. Plenty of prayers were spoken for each man. (I am happy to report that both Kiwi and Penelope are back home recovering from their ordeals).

Ok, now that I got through some of the preliminary info, its time to tell everyone about the BIKER HOUSE we rented the night before the race.

The ride up to the Biker House sounded a lot like a holiday road trip with the family, “Are we there yet . . . are we there, yet?” This was asked multiple times along the way until the “little ones” fell asleep. Baggage & Headgear were out before we reached Aynor! It probably would have been sooner if we remembered to pack their booster seats!

Also like every family trip, someone has to pee. That somebody was officially Manziel(#Oldguys). “Can you hold it for 15 minutes? Great we have 25 more minutes until we reach the rest stop!” For the record, when we eventually reached the rest stop, everyone was relieved! Not only did we all pee, Hamburglar, who was dressed in a bright orange ’70 style track suit found his doppelganger who was dressed in a bright yellow track suit!! (he & his doppelganger were eventually reunited at the finish line!)

Our next stop was for an Italian dinner somewhere in Winston Salem. Huge plates of pasta were consumed (carb loading for the race!). We would have been to the house right on time but One Call had to make a 20 point turn to get out the parking lot (Visualize Austin Powers in “The Spy Who Shagged Me”). We finally made it to the Biker House at 8:30 pm (30 minutes after the official check-in time).

This place was awesome!! It was nestled in the mountains about 1 hour & 20 minutes east of starting line. It was a 3 story structure consisting of a chopper garage in the basement, a bunk room (no walls, just studs, like us) on the 3rd story and a gaming/party complex sandwiched in between. Our reputation must have preceded us, because when we arrived we noticed that there was multiple references to “Kiwi” throughout the place and a “Drifter Ln” road sign on the bar.

The house was owned by some Aussie Bikers and the décor was straight out of Animal House & Easy Rider!! It was the perfect place to unwind before the race. We played pool & Foosball; watched Thursday Night Football; ate snacks and did shots.

Most Pax were sound asleep by 9:30pm (especially the young ones). We all woke up around 3-3:30 am. As we did our individual morning routines (shower, shave, coffee, etc.), One Call and Pedro headed out to the Vans to do some pre-loading at which time they encountered one of the locals who wanted to give us a hand unloading. You heard that right, U-N-L-O-A-D-I-N-G.

When the local saw Pedro he started speaking backwoods jibberish as banjo music played in the background (#DeliveranceStyle). After a brief introduction to Jethro, he told Pedro that he was admiring the AirBnB not the contents of the vans. Apparently he was conducting some stealth late night real estate shopping (Where was Lombardi & Hamburglar when you need them?).

As soon as One Call saw the exchange, he signaled to Pedro that his concealed carry permit was fully operational. Stepping to the side of the local, Pedro created a clear line of sight for One Call. (“Do you feel lucky punk? Do ya?”) Pedro in his wisdom, however, quickly de-escalated the situation by telling Jethro we needed more room to load the vans & he should move along. Jethro quickly understood the favor he was given and hopped back into his white Oldsmobuick and headed off into the gloom with the banjos blaring.

We then finished loading the vans making sure nothing was left behind, took a group picture, and headed west towards Grayson Highlands State Park. Although we seemingly had plenty of time to get there, the fog and Manziel’s prostate once again slowed our progress. Manziel is almost twice as old as some of the younger runners but is a beast. Baggage noted that Manziel must be drinking from the Fountain of Youth. . . and when you drink that much water, you gotta pee!

The ride for the most part was fairly quite (at least in Van #1) until we reached the starting point.


Preparation for the official start of the race started about 15 minutes before the gun sounded at 6:20 am. After exiting Van#1, Bling hit the port-a-potty and then proceeded to put on his night running gear over his racing shorts and “Worse Case Scenario” Running Tanktop.

The ensemble consisted of:  head lamp, green blinking chest lamp, red blinking tail lamp, & a psychedelic, multicolored, flashing light vest. The man looked like the illegitimate love child of Dan Ankroyd (Spies Like Us), Richard Simmons, & Tron. There was no better way to intimidate the competition!!!

Before Bling took off into the Gloom for the Official Start of the race, he asked the rest of the Pax, “Geez, is there anything else you want me to wear?”

At which time Candy Cane responded, “Yeah, I’d like you to wear the rest of your shorts!!!”

And with this brief but belitting verbal barrage, the tone of the race was established. We would run light, run fast, and we would show no mercy to the competition or to each other.


Leg #1 – Bling – 3.9 miles  – Easy

Bling came out of the gates strong & set the standard for the rest of the team.

Leg #2 – Quaker – 7.5 miles – Hard

“Don’t worry guys, the Bridges back in Myrtle Beach totally prepared us, the mountains are just steeper and go on for miles”

Leg #3 – Baggage – 5.2 miles – moderate

Leg #4 – Candy Cane – 6.9 miles – hard

Leg #5 – Headgear – 4.8 miles – moderate

Leg #6 – Valvano – 6.8 miles – hard

While Van#1 was doing the heavy lifting  – running moderate & hard legs (see above), Van#2 ate breakfast, played Frisbee and got psyched up for multiple easy legs (see below). It was definitely a ‘race mullet’ (business up front & party in the back). #Van2Life

Van #2

Leg #7 – Pedro – 2.3 miles – easy

International man of mystery, hailing from parts unknown . . . fit right in with the crew

Leg #8 – Boxcar – 3.1 miles – easy

Leg #9 – Hamburglar – 4.6 – easy

Hamburlar, with little to do before & after his runs and all the time to do it, created Facebook Live content to keep our fans up to date. He also was an eating & drinking machine! He enjoyed Chocolate pudding on his breakfast biscuits and pounded Mt Dews and Trail Mix. Medicinal gummies may have also been consumed!          

Leg #10 – Fergie – 5.3 easy

Leg #11 – Drifter – 4.4 moderate

Drifter came totally prepared to run, but completely unprepared for everything else: no pillow, no blanket, no hoody, no problem. During his down time, he compiled an extensive list of must have items for the next race. (He already reserved a van for the P200 in March!)

Leg #12 – Manziel – 5.9 moderate

Manziel, a.k.a. ‘Dr. Feelgood’ not only drinks for the Fountain of Youth but also used every supplement and cheat code for running!! He was well stocked with Liquid IV, gummies, pickle juice, and mustard packets.

As Van#2 ran, Van#1 drove all over Boone trying to get Kiwi medical assistance. We went to the Doc in the Box, then walked 2 doors down to Internal Medicine before walking down another 2 doors to the Cardiac Center at which point they told Kiwi he needs to go to the ER! After finally get Kiwi settled in at the ER, Van #1 was more than ready to take a break and get a bite to eat but we couldn’t find Headgear. The last we saw of him was when he left the Van to use the Hospital restroom & “get a cup of coffee.” 30 minutes later as the rest of the Pax patiently waited on Headgear to return so we could have a nice sitdown dinner, Headgear comes strolling out of the Hospital. He apparently was in the Cafeteria all by his lonesome eating mashed potatoes & fried chicken!!

By the time we made it to a restaurant, we barely had enough time to sit down and were forced to order carryout! Tempers may have flared but for the mellowing effect of Bob Ross painting scenic mountain retreats on the Telly. Before Bling could even have one bite of his take out Caesar Salad, he was stepping out the Van to run his next leg.

Van #1

Leg #13 – Bling – 3.9 miles  – Easy

Bling scores an infamous “Kill” as he took down a knee brace wearing elderly man on a handicapped ramp who might not have actually even been partaking in the race. Nice work Bling!!

Leg #14 – Quaker – 7.6 miles – Very Hard

Leg #15 – Baggage – 6.2 miles – Hard

Leg #16– Candy Cane – 10.5 miles – Very Hard

Candy Cane, impressed by Bling’s “Kill”,  smashes this Leg of the race by 12 minutes and bringing home 13 Kills!!.

Leg #17 – Headgear – 6.1 miles – Moderate

Leg #18 – Valvano – 5.0 miles – Moderate

Once again, as Van#1 was running hard, very hard, and hard legs; Van#2 was going the ABC stores, Shopping at the Mall, and Playing rounds of mini-golf. It’s a tough job but somebody has to do it. #Van2Life

Van #2

Leg #19 – Pedro – 5.8 miles – Moderate

Leg #20 – Boxcar – 3.8 miles – Easy

Leg #21 – Hamburglar – 8.0 – Very Hard

Leg #22 – Fergie – 2.6 –  Easy

Leg #23 – Drifter – 4.8 Moderate

Leg #24 – Manziel – 5.8 Moderate

Van #1

Leg #25 – Bling – 4.3 miles  – Moderate


Leg #26 – Quaker – 4.4 miles – Moderate

Leg #27 – Baggage – 9.3 miles – Hard

Baggage duped us. He signed up for the BRR in order to get a free ride out to Asheville to catch a flight to New Jersey. (He was playing chess when the rest of us were playing checkers!). He even relieved Penelope to get us there faster by driving the van like we were on a slick track. #What’sASwitchback?

Leg #28– Candy Cane – 8.4 miles – Hard

Leg #29 – Headgear – 4.1 miles – Easy

Leg #30 – Valvano – 4.3 miles – Moderate

Valvano did it all! He not only ran each of his legs hard, he laminated running directions for each runner and also subbed in for Kiwi as a navigator! As Valvano finished the last leg for Van#1, the baton was passed to Pedro for 6 more easy legs (see below). #Van2Life

Van #2

Leg #31 – Pedro – 6.7 miles – Mountain Goat Hard

Leg #32 – Boxcar – 9.3 miles – Very Hard

Boxcar may have been sandbagging us during training sessions, but he ran wide open during the race. Not even a torrential down pour during a 9 mile very hard leg could slow him down. P.S. he already HC’ed for next year’s BRR!!

Leg #33 – Hamburglar – 5.3 – Mountain Goat Hard

Leg #34 – Fergie – 4.5 –  Moderate

Leg # 35– Drifter – 9.4 Very Hard

Leg #36 – Manziel – 6.3 Hard

As Manziel crossed the finishline as everyone cheered him on. Another group photo was taken as we all unwound and shared some laughs about the race. The rain eased up to a mere drizzle, additional swag was purchased, and the Pax retired to our respective vans. Van#1 head out onto the open road for our trip home, while Van#2 grabbed a well needed shower at the local Gold’s Gym.

As we drove out of Asheville on our way back to Myrtle Beach, Van#1 spotted Fergie (or was it his Doppelganger?) at an intersection waving to his fans & holding a cardboard sign that read, “#Van2Life!”

Memories were made and brotherly bonds strengthened.

The Numbers:

Total Miles: 208;

Total Run Time: 31hr 29minutes 20 seconds

82nd out of 145 Teams

Average Age = 43

Awards: Pedro voted himself MVP b/c he bunked with Bling, ate dinner with Hamburglar, sat with Manziel, and listened to Fergie sleep talk about missing his beard! #DontAskDontTell.


  1. “You keep saying Switchbacks ahead . . . I don’t know what Switchback means” – Baggage as he steps on the gas.
  2. One Call advises, “Use the downhill momentum to carry you through the uphills!”
  3. Penelope emphatically states, “No way I’m driving that van again . . .I can’t believe I’m saying this [but maybe next year] I’ll run it!”
  4. Bling, “ I’m the 1st runner to finish my final leg . . .that means I’m the winner, right??!”
  5. Kiwi, “Finally got moved to a real room . . . out of the ER, yeah . . .”
  6. Drifter, “Candy Cane is going to need his own window to tally [all of his Kills]

NMMS: This was a fantastic CSAUP shared with an incredible group of men! Just like life, it is not to be done alone. Count me in for the next one and I encourage every Pax to do the same!!

Until next time!