I’ve checked another one off my list, not that there ever was a list mind you, but I’m a veteran of three relay races now having added the P200 to drawer of t-shirts serving as Dad’s accomplishments. Having recently completed a half-marathon, you’d think I’m turning into a runner of some sorts but to me, it’s more about facing a challenge and kicking it’s tale a few times. Will I do another one of these things? Most definitely, it will require a bit of negotiating with my M though – so don’t put my name down just yet. At least with the 2019 Palmetto 200, I knew what I was getting myself into and was better prepared for the mileage I agreed to run, the lack of sleep, the inadequate food, all the normal things about this experience. What I was not prepared for was the hurricane that got our van all twisted and thrown around. Hurricane you say? Sure did, so why don’t you climb on my knee and let me share a story or two.
The P200, part Deux once again had 24 men register meaning Freight and Broke divided the teams near equal for experience and ability. They did a fantastic job even with the later substitutions. GasHouse Team Dos as we were aptly named was comprised of our captain Broke, JJ, Moses, Roundup, Allen Tate, and myself as the runners and Huckleberry as the driver, only he didn’t get to drive that much. Tate apparently gets car sick unless he is driving, so off we went on Thursday evening, headed to Columbia in a steady rain so we could gain a few extra hours of sleep before the 6:00 am start. We allowed Sparky and Def Leppard to tag along even though they were team Uno. Their intelligence would clearly aid their effort for the event with the extra sleep. The Quality Inn was a few letter grades better than the bed bug inn Sargento stashed us in Kentucky but the smoke detector battery began beeping at 4 am in my room, getting us up before we really wanted. We arrived at the starting line to meet the other members of Team Uno. Sparky gathered us for a quick prayer. All men of our F3 Region have talents, some apparent and some hidden. I’m not saying Sparky missed his calling but I enjoy the opportunities when he shares a blessing, it just makes me feel extra good – thanks for the good word Sparky.
The good Lord was smiling on us as we were about to experience the first non-rainy Friday since October. I’d say this was the first great weather weekend of the year. We began the chilly morning with a good start having JJ lead our team. Uno and Dos split into our respective vehicles and headed off to the first drop zone. I’m not sure Allen Tate stretched anything more than is jaws or his mind. He was our 2nd runner, unintentionally paired with Oompa Loompa. JJ smoked his first 6 mile leg and Tate took off for 5 miles. Due to some health issues, he hadn’t trained much at all. There was reasonable concern for Pledge Tate as he called 4 different guys only a few hours before we left, asking what he needed to pack for this event. For those familiar with this relay, we do our best to estimate arrivals and have the next runner ready. Broke began getting loose about 7:30 anticipating an 7:42-ish arrival. Runners began rolling in for other teams. We surmised the Chief of Folsom may be struggling in his virgin run. Then Oompa rolled in. Team Uno crowed that Oompa got a kill on AT, but Oompa confessed he didn’t see our boy on the route. Oompa said there was a turn hidden by school bus boarding kids before sunrise he initially missed but was alerted by another runner to correct the mistake, maybe Allen Tate did the same. A quick phone call to our teammate assured that he was fine and had missed a turn. Something about his watch alerting him at mile 6 he figured we had messed with him and told him it was only 5. Broke got a pass to take off given the circumstance. Another van was kind enough to return our lost sheep. Of course Huck was ready to jab the needles. “Man, I don’t know where I missed the turn, I should’a looked at that map,” he began. “I kept thinking this sure was a long 5 miles.” Apparently Tate traveled 6.8 total miles. He was most proud that he didn’t walk until after he’d traveled the required 5 miles. Missed turns are common in these events – most all teams have tripped over this obstacle at one point or another – this was par for the course.
While the runners managed to navigate the remainder of the course, our driver/navigator (Chief Allen Tate) had a few more stumbles in the van. True he was out of his comfort zone in Dallas and some of the places we traveled on this trip could be listed in the definition of BFE, but the relay notebook and GPS on our phones (except for Huck’s Boost phone) kept us on track. After my navigation fiasco at the Bourbon Chase last fall, I remained in the second row, happy to defer directions to JJ or Broke. My only fear occurred prior to my middle leg because we missed a left turn to which Tate suggested we “drive a little ways and we’ll probably see it…” I reminded the van Roundup was near sprinting his short 3.5 mile leg and could beat us to the spot if we didn’t hurry. Luckily Huck got us back on the trail with time to spare.
Like all of these relay experiences, eating and sleeping are as big of challenges as the running can be. Van 1 started at 6 am and finished the first leg before noon, where we opted for a Cracker Barrel to carb load with the other team. At the next exchange zone, couch pouches and other gear were spread into a field for as much R&R as we could steal until we were back on the clock at 4 pm. Circuit 2 offered some of the shorter legs for JJ, AT, Roundup and myself. Brok and Moses each covered nearly 7 miles on their routes. The good news is Tate didn’t get lost and that was a positive sign. My goal was to avoid getting killed by Dr. Seuss who blistered a 7:15 pace on his first run and passed me at mile 6. The guys ahead of me thankfully had padded a lead but once the sun went down, any headlamp I saw from behind caused me to run faster as my pride couldn’t afford another hit, even if it was from one of the nicest men in our region. My legs and stamina listened as I ran my PR of 5:22 for 5.3 miles. We wished our Van 2 teams good luck as they had nearly 42 miles to cover in their portion. As I noted, we’re in the middle of nowhere in SC so at 8 pm on a Friday, our dining options were limited. We settled on a Wendys, which is #22 on Yelp’s list in Santee, SC, slightly edged by the Taco Bell and Bojangles (Gastonia doesn’t look to bad in comparison now does it?). From here it was on to the Hatchery Waterfowl Management Boat Landing for attempted sleep. Huck found a spot at the tree line above the water which we all agreed was a good spot away from other vans. We were blessed to have a clear night that allowed us to sleep outside or maybe just to lie down. I learned from past experience, the van benches are not comfortable, so I left them to Roundup, Tate and Huck. JJ opted for the asphalt and somehow slept on it. Moses and Broke settled in their couch pouches. I managed to sleep hard for 4 hours on the pine needles and missed the boat that woke most everyone else trying to get on a trailer. Once other vans came to the Exchange Zone, some were opposed to sleep and kept others up. Since JJ and I slept pretty good, we missed the message Dolph was on the course and would arrive a little after 2:00 am – this we learned at 1:55. Think of when your parents arrive home unexpectedly and your subconscious takes over – this was JJ as he got his gear ready and was at the start to get the baton. Most guys would have bagged that run in that state of mind but JJ ran another sub-8:30 – pretty strong work.
Delirium was beginning to set for us as Allen Tate solicited financial rewards to run his final 3.7 miles. I offered to walk it for $1200 while Roundup contemplated $75. Only thing was – Allen Tate wasn’t willing to bid for Roundup’s 7.8 mile leg. Which by the way, Roundup said his foot was sore and he’d probably only run an 8:15 pace for his final leg. He cruised in at 7:37 – strong work. Once I handed off to Roscoe a final time, we opted for a McDonalds breakfast and then to the final spot to await the teams. The good thing about being one of the first vans to arrive was to break the seal on the porta-jons.
Moleskin – I’ve had the pleasure to post a few Saturday’s at Folsom and be among a great group of guys. But never with Allen Tate…sorry, Chief Allen Tate. I’d heard rumors and read a few backblasts but until the Christmas party never been exposed to the legend, he myth and the character that makes the man. For those at the Christmas party, we got a glimpse of AT but having spent over 30 hours in a van with him, well, I couldn’t begin to capture all that was said and learned but more enjoyably, laughed at. Damn near brought to tears on a few occasions. Netflix could get a three year run with the Chief as the lead for their next production. So Hurricane Allen Tate circled through us and it was entertaining, as these relays always are. Before F3, I didn’t know any of the guys in my van which is a great reason for you to jump onboard the next one that comes along (thanks to Freight and Broke for leading). It’s a trip where you get an opportunity to interact and learn more about our F3 brothers, their lives and families. This isn’t the military by any stretch but throwing guys into close quarters with the spirit of competition being the thread that pulls them along – you fight for each other, even when it’s your other brothers in the other van as your closest competition. We don’t want to let our teammates down so we push a little harder and overcome being tired, cold, or irritable. It was impressive to witness JJ run all three legs under 8:30 – whether it was an intentional goal or something he achieved, it came from hard work and running with faster guys. He credits being the Pub Q as a factor (btw – he’s looking for a replacement site Q who wants to step up?). Moses has been training for a half marathon and ran each of his legs with dogged intensity; head down, plowing through. After one of Allen Tate’s police stories, we shared that Moses was really on the trip for surveillance on his fellow law enforcement officer. Roundup gets an honest work ethic from his father Hacksaw, that is clear having spent time with both of them. He quietly goes about his business. He enjoyed the trip and is ready for another one – be sure to give him a tough leg – he won’t let you down. We had two birthday boys with us on Friday. Huck and Broke said they were happy to spend their birthdays with us. In hindsight, we should have got them a cake. I got Huck a 6-pack of IPA’s thinking he’d be our driver – so maybe that counts a little. Which I learned that Huck is a snob – who’d have thought that? No, it’s not people – Huck loves almost everyone but he does hate wheat beer. Nothing was more clear than Saturday assortment drinks of IPAs, Captain Morgan, moscato, and other stuff. Needless to say he enjoyed the weekend and did a great job when Allen Tate allowed him to drive. Broke treated himself to a steak Saturday night maybe for his birthday or maybe for the effort he put on the course. I knew he could churn the legs and he did that consistently. His final leg was under three miles and he attacked it with a sub-8 mile to finish his turn. Broke and I have been on the same relays but this is the first time as van-mates so that was a bonus for me.
Moleskin – The Finale – This is my third relay event and the first P200 as well as my first time in van 1. I couldn’t begin to give you an order of preference as each one has their unique attributes that make it memorable. They all bring memories and stories to be shared for the future. More than one mention was made of my blow up at the T200 over the wrong biscuit being in my bag – good times…more were made on this trip circa the Legend in Chief Allen Tate and the others. I heard the P200 2017 attempt at multi-teams didn’t go so well. While in the 2019 version we jockeyed positions a few times, it was like an intra-squad scrimmage. We’ve done this at many a bootcamp. We say it’s a “you vs. you” but our competitive nature has to draw a target from somewhere. Sometimes it just happens to be the guy a few minutes behind or running just ahead. Maybe it’s the guy waiting on you to take the next leg or the guys at the finish. What made my P200 memorable are the fact we had two teams worth of runners and drivers to enjoy the weekend, and what a weekend it was.