As a first-timer, I have been both dreading and looking forward to the Palmetto 200 relay ever since I committed to running. “What a way to push myself!” “Why did I sign up for this?” “This is going to be a great time with some good friends.” “This is going to be terrible!” All of these are statements I have uttered the past 3 months.
Hacksaw, Oompa, Blart, Montross, Seuss, met up at Pocket’s garage like vandals in the night, plotting an attack and loaded up the van at Oh-so-dark-thirty minus our two spies (Def Leppard & Sparky), who had previously infiltrated into the enemy camp. During the ride down, you could feel the excitement in the air. Blart shared stories of competing brothers, boat shoes, cargo shorts, and polos. Oompa was oddly quiet, presumably soaking in the situation and resting his jawls for future verbal thrashings. Dr. Seuss wanted coffee which, as we all learned, is the cornerstone of his diet. Hacksaw was already on his job and behind the wheel, cannon-balling down 77 Southbound making sure we were on time. YHC was right in the middle of conversation, making sure everyone knew about the RunGo app, and feeling really anxious about this first leg which, BTW, was mine.
We arrive a little after 5 after a quick pit stop with plenty of time to get settled, pickup Sparky and Def, and spend some time with the F3GashouseDos Van 1, with whom we would both battle and encourage for the next 29+ hours. Before we knew it, the relay was on and so was the adventure. Here are a few highlights for each member of Van 1.
— Montross — YHC came out strong on leg 1 and set a PR pace for a distance over 5 miles. I was shocked and felt great. I was at a 100 on the confidence meter. My 2nd run humbled me…I came out faster than I meant to, the sun wore me down, and it was all I could do to push on and not puke for the past 1.5 miles…but push on I did! JJ did not get that elusive kill! By the 3rd run, I really just wanted to finish my goal of not walking at all…I slowed the pace down, and just ran the smoothest, calmest 5.6 miles I’ve ever ran. I enjoyed the moon, soaked in the moment and tried to enjoy my final leg, picking up a kill along the way. As I approached the exchange zone, I dug in for one last charge. I was the first one from our van to be finished and that was a great feeling! From a physical standpoint, I learned 2 things on this trip. First, get out and walk around a lot…I did and this helped me stay loose as well as let me interact a lot with Team Dos. Second, get some afternoon runs in…I was not really prepared to run in the sun on leg 2. It beat me up pretty good and cost me some time on my 3rd leg!
— Oompa Loompa — (these words are from the Ol’ Marine himself!) – Met up with Team Two at start. Two always comes in second in numbering sequence. Our giraffe was kicking the walls of the starting stall with anticipation of starting. 3, 2, 1, Go! Covering 8 meters with every bound he quickly left our sight. We hopped back into the Team 1 Van 1 and speed over to the exchange zone. In comes JJ from Team 2 (Booooo!) who passes baton to Allen Tate. Where is our young giraffe?
Here he comes bounding and running like lions are chasing him on the Savannah. Quick baton switch to Oompa and away the ancient marine waddles trying to keep AT within sight. About halfway through our 5 mile route, a school bus was sitting at a red light blocking his view of the directional sign. AT, being a rock pusher runs right past the sign, as he is more interested in out running Oompa than staying on course.
The bus moves, and voila, there is the sign informing me “left turn Clyde”. I follow the directions and watch Chief rapidly increasing the distance between us as he goes off the reservation. Eventually Oompa gets to the exchange zone before Allen Tate. All are surprised that Oompa got there way before Allen Tate. Legend has it that he is still lost in the hinterlands of South Cackalacky.
The rest of the P200 was a delirious victory party. Did you hear about the time Oompa beat Allen Tate to the exchange zone? Ran second leg later that afternoon. Gave last leg to Hacksaw so he could share the running experience with Round Up.
— Blart— While in the gloom, you may think of Blart as a guy who doesn’t usually say a lot and, when he does, it’s always hilarious. I’ve also come to see Blart as a listener. He’s always paying attention and listening. Blart was down on himself after his first leg. FWIW, most of us would have been more than pleased with his time, but he was showing that competitive fire! From his stories with Ash Pond and Slaw to his one-liners, Blart brought a special piece to our van…not to mention he took the sandbags off and ran very well. While he was disappointed with his first leg, he crushed his second leg in the heat that he is all-so-familiar with from Midoriyama and was in rare form as he blistered his final 3-ish mile leg. I’ll take the big guy on my relay team any day of the week!
— Sparky — Of all the guys in the van, I feel like I know the “ultimate sandbagger” the best. Sparky is something else…one of the most devoted God-fearing (and loving) men I know, while still maintaining that sneaky streak to stir the pot a bit. He had fire in his eyes as he chased after Moses on leg 4. While he didn’t quite overcome the heads-start, he was flirting with a 7-minute mile pace. I told y’all he is a sandbagger! Sparky just went out and did work for all 3 legs. I will point this out though….we saw this girl running during he relay who kicked her left leg out every time she stepped…just the left leg. We started calling her Side Straddle Hops! She ended up running leg 16 into Santee Park with Sparky…he ran her down and got the kill as he approached the end of the leg, but she got the revenge kill moments later. In other words, Sparky was killed by the girl with the limp! Sparky came away from that leg looking to jump in the lake…he just wanted to cool down from the blazing sun but changed his mind after realizing it was a 10 foot cliff into the lake! Way to step in at the last minute as a runner and, not only run, but run well.
— Def Leppard — The Silver Fox is no rookie when it comes to relays. Leppard is held in high regard by all around F3 Gastonia and I was more than happy to see he was going to be in my van. Leppard got the shortest end of the straw when it come to our van’s running legs. Leg 5 was just terrible. He ran about 1.5 miles down a sandy dirt road that looked more like Daytona Beach than an actual road…..but it was uphill! Leppard plotted along though, just as you’d expect.
I thought he may beat the van on his second leg to Lonestar BBQ, but Seuss arrived at the starting line at the same exact time Leppard did! Leppard was hitting the wall as we approached his last run though. As Def looked forward to an 8 mile run, Sparky sang a song title “2.78”, clearly in reference to the 2.78 miles he was getting ready to run! The fact that Hacksaw spent an hour of sleep time slamming doors on the van (more on that later) probably didn’t help! I could see his spirits rise as Sparky was running…it’s like Leppard got his mind set and he was ready to go when it was his time. He knocked those 8 miles out to finish his runs, despite nearly depositing his dinner on the side of the road and breathing smoke for 3 miles.
— Dr Seuss — This was the one guy I didn’t really know well going into this trip. I had heard through Sparky and several others that Seuss is just a great man who loves the Lord! Well, that was just evident. Such a nice humble man. There were some things I learned during this trip as well. First off, he has a little competitive streak! As runner 6, he was the last to hit the course and he had some pent-up angst when he left. Just about the time he took to the course, we see some young 20-something jumping around, doing burpees, taking his shirt off, etc and talking junk. I think the words he used were something like ‘no Respect is going to catch me’. Well, Seuss was after his tail pushing to a 7:06 pace on his first leg. He did not catch that young buck but he most definitely outran him. The lead was closed considerably!
Something else I learned, he lives off coffee. If you ever can’t find Seuss, start by looking at Starbucks. We think that is the key to his speed.
The coolest thing I learned about Seuss though is he is always looking to pray for others. As Seuss was racking up kills, we were joking about how polite he probably was as he passes people. “Excuse me”. “Pardon me”. (note – rumor is Quiche says “You just got Quiched!” when getting a kill, does Bret say “You got Seussed?”) As were discussing this though, Spark mentioned how Seuss likes to pray for people and he is always looking for ways to pray for us all as he is running and posting with us! Dr. Seuss is a real HIM!
— Hacksaw — “Our Time was well spent , I watched, learned and took a little bit from each one of you thank everyone of you for taking time for me and Oompa thank you for letting me run, one more men let’s pray that the Lord speaks through us in a way that other men will want to follow , Hacksaw !!!! ”
Hacksaw is the Wildman of Folsom. He’s wired differently than most! He is as competitive and driven as anyone I know. He also cares for others as much as anyone I know..the sincerity and love with which he treats the wrestlers he coaches (and other kids) is impressive. He does it for the right reasons! It’s also so amazing to see the relationship he and Roundup have as Father and Son! From a P200 perspective, I appreciate him signing up to drive and be a part of the team. Hacksaw got us there quickly and was sure to check the pressure on each tire of the van on a regular basis (by rubbing those tires against the curbs!).
Leading up to the event though, it was clear he wanted to run. He’s been battling injuries and clearly he wasn’t in position to run 15-20 miles but he made it clear he would pick up a leg if anyone needed him. Well, sometime late Friday, Oompa decided to let Hacksaw pick up his final leg (#26 for those tracking at home). From that point forward, Hacksaw was an animal. He was rocking back and forth in the seat. Pacing at stops. He spent half of our break time unloading and re-packing the van and keeping people up. He was jacked! As I finished up leg 25, Hacksaw was in the road getting in 50 Merkins to get ready to run! Animal. As I handed the baton, Hacksaw came out like a bulldozer with his head down and rollin! Thanks for stepping in to run Hacksaw but most importantly, just thanks for being you and being a part of our team!
— Best Idea of the Trip —
Once Van 1 finished up, it was off to IHOP for some grub. Not sure who to credit with this, but we found our way to the KOA campground for showers after breakfast. Solid idea guys! That hot shower on Saturday morning was A-M-A-Z-I-N-G! Refreshed and revived, we hit the road for the finish line and we saw some runners on the side of 17. We knew we’d finished our legs about 30 minutes behind team Dos and figured we’d end up finishing the event just a bit behind our fellow Gashouse HIMs.
— The Story of the Dark Angel —
As we looked at the runners, we recognized Breaker Breaker chugging along down 17. We beeped and cheered for him and then, about 1/4 mile down the road, we saw Bedpan! In the lead, giving it all he had, and looking exhausted! Our van’s energy instantly went to 10! I yelled ‘pull over, let’s give Bedpan some water!!!”. I jumped out of the van with a bottle of water in hand a bit ahead of Bedpan. I walked to him in my black F3 shirt, dark hat, and dark pants. Bedpan didn’t recognize me at first. I yelled something at him and he was like ‘Montross!!!!’ I ran alongside him as he took a few gulps, encouraging him. He said ‘I couldn’t tell who you were, you were like a mirage! You were like an angel in the dark! You’re a Dark Angel!’ I just told him ‘you’re getting it done Bedpan, we’re winning, keep doing what you’re doing and finish strong’ and I gave him a big slap on the butt for good measure. I heard him yell as he kept on rolling to the exchange zone.
The team had already gotten some water for Breaker as well so we headed out, telling Freight BP had a small lead. Freight’s response. “That’s not enough.” Freight needed help from above. He needed support so we decided to stop in and lay hands on ol’ Freight!!! Freight left the final exchange zone in a Frenzy with a small headstart.
— The Ballad of Fast Ricky —
First off, I want to say Freight probably helped and encouraged me as much as anyone as I started P200 training. He ran with me, he talked about his experiences…he (as well as Def Leppard) really helped me get going on my preparation and I appreciate that! I like to mess with him by calling him Fat Ricky and Golden Rekeever, but I have utmost respect and appreciation for him. Freight is a real leader and a HIM. Props to both Freight and Broke for heading up the teams!
That being said, Freight dashed out of the final exchange zone with a small lead of just over 2 minutes. We look back to see Dolph, in all his masculine glory, moving around and getting psyched. He was like a race horse in the gates, about to be unleashed! As Dolph explodes from the exchange zone, we all hop in the van and off to the finish line.
The math was close. Some said Dolph would pass Freight. Some said there wasn’t enough time. No one knew what was coming as both Gashouse teams waited with excitement! We saw a guy come around the corner in black that looked a little like Freight. Then, to our dismay it was a runner from another team. Then we see another black shirt. Was this Freight? We couldn’t tell!!!! Then a runner in grey…no mistaking, that WAS Dolph….and another runner in black behind Dolph! Oh my, it was intense! About 2/3 down the length of the pond we realized what we were seeing…Fast Ricky had done it he had held off Dolph! Freight was laying it all out on the line as he came down the final stretch of what turned out to be a TRUE Glory Leg. F3GashouseUno crossed the line together! Incredibly, after 205 miles and just over 29 hours, both teams crossed the finish line within about 30 seconds of each other.
Just as impressive though, while that was exciting, that was quickly pushed aside and the friendships and brotherhood of F3 Gastonia rose as both teams congratulated each other. Competing and finishing together was the best result we could have asked for. I’ve heard people say you can’t plan it like that…teams tried to stay together and it never worked out. It was amazing that we finished that closely!
In the end, it was a great experience for F3GashouseUno Van 1, as I’m sure it was for all the other vans. The soreness wears away but the memories stay! I appreciate all you guys for pushing me and I hope I helped push you as well. It was a great experience. Guys are already thinking about ‘next time’ and so am I.
- Montross (with an assist from Oompa)