What are your runner credentials?
I’ve been active since I was a kid. I played football for 10 years and soccer for five, and was co-captain for each during my senior year of high school. I went into the Air Force immediately after high school, got into running and met some older runners who had done marathons. I ran my first marathon at age 20 (the 2003 Country Music Marathon) and was hooked. As an undergrad at Virginia Commonwealth University in Richmond, I coached several groups of runners at an athletic training facility called Acceleration Richmond, and until I started grad school last year, I was a certified Health and Fitness Specialist through the American College of Sports Medicine. I’ve run nine marathons with two victories and several top-five finishes. I’ve also run a 50-miler and a 50K, with victories in each.
What kind of beer are you into?
I’ve been fortunate to have access to really good local breweries. In Richmond I lived a couple of miles away from Legends Brewery, and my hometown of Abingdon, Virginia, is home of up-and-coming Wolf Hills Brewing. I’m currently attending graduate school at school at Temple University School of Medicine in Philadelphia, and I commute from Wilmington, Delaware, with Dogfish Head, Victory, Yards, and plenty of other breweries nearby. When traveling, there is no better way to sample the local culture than having the local beer. The Finger Lakes Fifties, which I’ve run the last two years, is close to Ithaca Beer Co. and Rooster Fish Brewing (which is also a sponsor of the race). I’m also an active homebrewer, and in my PhD program, a few other students and one of the professors are brewers as well, so we will sometimes swap ideas and have tastings.
How did you get so fast? Is it because of beer?
Perhaps. It’s worth noting that I started running road/trail races and drinking beer at around the same time, and as time has gone on, my beer tastes have gotten better concurrently with my getting faster. I’ve always had pretty good speed. I ran the 400m in high school and was running back on the football team. Also, in recent months, I’ve been focusing more on speed, which will hopefully manifest itself in a solid performance at the Philadelphia Marathon on November 18th. I’d like to run in the 2:25-2:28 range, but we’ll see. My ultimate goal is to qualify for the Olympic Trials Marathon with a 2:19. I think it’s doable within the next couple of years. The important things are to keep progressing steadily and to not get injured. I used to get injured frequently, and I started running in minimalist footwear in 2007 (I’m currently wearing Saucony Kinvara III). Since then, I haven’t had to take more than a week off at a time, and the small injuries I do get occur less than once a year.
How did you get into homebrewing?
When I was an undergrad, I was in the Air Force Reserve and working at other jobs a lot. I finished with the Air Force last April and started grad school full-time in August, and I get to have weekends off. Once I had the time to brew, I just went for it. My current brew was inspired while running. It was starting to feel like Fall, and I thought that it would be nice to make a Fall brew. However, I thought the pumpkin thing was being done by so many people (not that I’m complaining, I love the pumpkin brews!), and I wanted to do something different. I took an imperial nut brown recipe I’d made before, and I infused it with apple juice before pitching the yeast. It pretty much finished maturing in the bottle this past weekend, and it is great! My girlfriend Jeannine says it’s my best yet. I also just really enjoy the camaraderie that comes with talking to other brewers.
Do you have a favorite race that features beer or has a strong beer culture?
I ran the Dogfish Dash for the first time, and it is now easily my second favorite race (after the Blue Ridge Relay, which I’ve done five times and will do every time I possibly can). I lucked into being able to even register for the Dogfish Dash because someone had posted something about it online the day that race registration opened, and I just signed up for it immediately. The Blue Ridge Relay ends in Asheville, NC, which has a great beer culture. Every year after the race, my team gets dinner at the Mellow Mushroom, a great pizza place that always has a ton of local beer on tap. We’ll get pitchers of several different kinds and sip on them while swapping war stories from the race. The Finger Lakes Fifties has Rooster Fish Brewing as a sponsor, and the winners each get a growler of their pale ale. Few things are more satisfying than drinking local beer out of a half-gallon jug after winning an ultra.
Did you get any special perks for winning this year’s Dogfish Dash?
I got a pretty sweet mug, out of which I drank my post-race shower beer. I also got my picture taken with the brewmaster and the governor of Delaware. All participants get three beer tickets, which, after running a 10k and before 10 am, is plenty. The proceeds go to the Delaware chapter of the Nature Conservancy, which I think is cool. I definitely plan on running the race again next year.
Do you think there is something to the connection between those who love beer and running and have beards?
I think it’s quite real. My beard is largely the result of my time in the Air Force, when I was not allowed to have a beard. I told everyone that as soon as I got out, I was going to grow a beard. I feel like going back to a beardless existence would be like going back to Bud Light.
Do you have a special beer that you allow yourself for PRs or winning races?
I do have a few go-to beers that I consider special indulgences. They are not necessarily reserved for wins or PR’s, but they definitely taste better after a win and/or PR. I love Victory’s Golden Monkey, Ommegang’s Three Philosophers, and Dogfish Head’s India Brown Ale (which they had at the race!). I also like having a good homebrew. One of the few things more satisfying than a post-victory beer is a post-victory beer that you actually made yourself. It’s also preferable if the beer can be enjoyed in the shower. There’s nothing like post-race shower beer.
What advice do you have for others who are starting off with home brewing or running?
I want to assure them that the time and effort involved are worth it. Starting out running or brewing involves a certain amount of being out of your comfort zone (sometimes physically!). When things might seem difficult early on, it’s easy to question whether or not it’s really worth the exertion, and it certainly is. My decisions to start running and to start homebrewing were two of the best decisions I have ever made. For me, it adds a couple of extra layers of enrichment to my life. When I think of where my life will be in a few years, it doesn’t just involve things like career and family. I also wonder what races I’ll be running and what brews I’ll be concocting.
Anything else to add?
Here is my race report from last year’s Finger Lakes 50 mile. I also play the piano, and I have a standing offer with my good friends that if they get married, I will play the music at their wedding, and they can pay me in beer. A few of them have taken me up on this. I’m running the Virginia Creeper Marathon for the third time on March 24th, probably as a training run for the Delaware Marathon in May. I’ll let you know how the Philadelphia Marathon goes in November.