I was really looking forward to the 2020 edition of the P200 but COVID had other ideas. F3 Gastonia was once again planning to send 2 teams of HIMs down to the Palmetto State push rocks from Columbia to Charleston. Weeks before the race, lockdowns were put in place, the race was cancelled and our registrations were pushed out for future Malak races. It was disappointing, but we move forward. After some back and forth, we decided to field one team this year (those who signed up for the 2020 race and did not run this year still have a spot on a team in a Malak race later this year or the 2022 P200). Incredibly, there were no injuries or illnesses that caused any runners to drop out. Honestly, I’m pretty amazed at that and I’m really thankful that everyone was able to run as planned!
This is the story of F3 Gastonia Fartsackers Van 1.
The Runners: Blart, Montross, Freight, Pockets, Broke, Dr. Seuss
The Driver: Ashhhh Pond
Van 1 met at the Romminger Family Compound at 4:30 a.m. and departed soon after. The team soon realized the Sprinter van was going to take this race to a new level. Guys were laid back in their leather chairs and relaxing to the hum of tires across the asphalt. That lasted about 5 minutes until we established the Driver Feedback Board. Since we didn’t have an actual board, this feedback was simply noted and shared verbally. Often. Sometimes, shared multiple times. Item 1: The Sprinter van shakes when drafting behind a semi-truck. Don’t follow too closely to large trucks. Item 2: That Honda is going slower than we are. Use the big pedal on the left. Item 3: This curve is a loop, we won’t make it at this speed. Remember, use the big pedal on the left. Bless him, Ash Pond was in for a verbal beating on this one! Despite a few adventures at the gas station (Item 4: Diesel goes in on the driver’s side. Item 5: Pockets is behind the van with the doors open) it was a pretty smooth ride. A few guys may have caught a quick nap along the way but we were sure to keep the driver alert and focused.
As we were standing around the starting line, we asked a guy to take a team picture. It was 10 minutes before the start of the race and he told us he couldn’t because he was the first runner on his team and needed to focus. Bro, it isn’t that competitive out here. (I am pleased to report Blart killed him on leg 1) His teammate stepped in and took it, proving he could both walk and chew gum at the same time. Blart smoked 8.2 miles like it was nothing. Note: Though the van window acts like a one-way mirror if you pee beside the van. I (Montross) knocked out 7.2 miles (which, by the way, I haven’t run over 6 since mid-2020). Freight crushed 5.3 miles. Pockets and Broke got some short runs in with 2.25 and 2.5 miles, respectively. Dr Seuss finished things up with a STRONG 8.07 miles, where he average 6:59/mile. 6s on a long run has been a goal of Seuss for a while so it was awesome to see him hit that milestone! He also broke a sweat, which is pretty amazing in itself. The first set of legs went well and were rewarded for our hard work with a stretching clinic right in front of our van. If you need a demo, talk to Freight. I’ll leave it at that.
Van 1 took off for Cracker Barrell for some vittles and banter. Rest assured more driver feedback was given. “Sorry guys” in a somber and defeated voice became a thing. We got some nice rest one of the 13,287 AME churches in South Carolina as we waited for Van 2 to arrive. I think it was at that point Broke realized he had not washed his sleeping bag from last year. It was great rest as hunting dogs howled, porta-potty doors were slammed, and the wind picked up. Seuss looked he had the worlds most comfortable blanket in the back of the van as snuggled with the window.
As the second round of legs began, the wind never seemed to let up. Though it pales in comparison to the challenges facing the Mortimer teams (running trails through rivers in the dark and such..read the backblast), it was not ideal. Blart went 7.4 miles which was very impressive after just running over 8 earlier. Those two legs back to back are pretty darn impressive and I heard Rip Van Leppard commenting on it later. Along the way, we discovered the Holly Hill Airport…errr…Airstrip. We parked at the very end of the runway and were talking about how cool it would be if a plan flew over us and landed and, sure enough, about 2 minutes later, a plane buzzed over and landed. Crazy timing! Blart got a kill 15 feet from the starting line and handed off as I ran my short leg at 2.45 miles with a disappointing pace (I’m blaming the wind). Freight followed with a blistering 9.68 mile run that may have include some bad execution by the fan. Clearly we do not know what Adidas is or where it’s located, right Freight? As we proceeded to the next stop, someone asked if we should stop and give Freight one more water opportunity. “He’ll be aight” was the answer and we rolled to the exchange zone. He was not ‘aight’ and he let us know about it, but he made it to the exchange zone anyway and handed off to Pockets for a 3.77 mosey. Broke knocked out a blistering 9.73 miles including 6 kills. I was so pumped as I was standing among 5 or so other teams, eagerly awaiting their runner to come into the exchange zone, only to see Broke emerge from the darkness ahead of all of them. Nice run! Despite Ash Pond taking off and not realizing Seuss was changing clothes in the back of the van earlier, Seuss was unrattled and knocked out 9.2 miles in typical Seuss fashion in the low 7s after setting the milestone earlier. After handing off to van 2, we grabbed some Wendys. Item 6: The air conditioning unit sits on top of the van and is 11 feet tall. Double-check the height of the van before driving under a drive-thru. (Side note: I later found out van 2 had the air conditioning knocked off during a previous rental and that caused it to leak. Fortunately, van 1 narrowly avoided the same problem!). A few greasy burgers and chicken sandwiches later, van 1 arrived at the exchange zone for some much needed rest. Most everyone except the driver was dozing off during this 40 minute ride. Big shout-out to Ash Pond for staying alert and pushing through.
Some decent rest was had as we waited for van 2. Freight decided to sleep just behind the van. It probably seemed like a great way to block the wind. It got sorta cold though so imagine his surprise as Ash Pond fired up the van to get the heat going. I believe his response was ‘Thank goodness for clean diesel.’ Props to Slaw for showing Ash Pond and I how to lean back the front seats of the van at the last exchange zone! Pockets and Broke also decided to sleep outside, but further away from the tail pipe.
Van 2 arrived as expected and Blart took off for his final leg – a 2.24 stroll through a small neighborhood. It was cold & windy and I have never been as jealous of Blart as I was when he handed the baton for my final run. He was done and I had a 6 mile stroll down Hwy 17. I believe the term “He’ll be aight” was used again as the van headed to the exchange zone and I gritted it out as I finished up my leg. Freight was obviously excited to be running as he as still approaching the exchange zone as I finished. Ash Pond noted that one of Freight’s turned looked sorta sketchy and asked if we should wait. My response: “He’ll be aight”. Fast Ricky proceeded to turn 3.94 miles into about 5 as he missed that turn. Despite what he says, I know he really appreciated those extra miles. Pockets took the baton and proceeded to run 5.37 miles across the Cooper River Bridge and back. There was nothing stopping the wind as he made his final run. I know it was brutal. Fortunately, he found an invisible bathroom at the top of the bridge and did his part to warm the waters below. ‘What else do you when you get to the top of a bridge like that?’ Touche Pockets, touche. Broke took the handoff just after 7:30 am (meaning no more lights) and ran his last 3.13 miles. He also nearly missed his turn as well but real men learn from previous mistakes and we waited for him to make sure he didn’t miss. Seuss finished our runs off with a quick 2.94 mile run and handed off to van 2. We were done and it felt great!
The power of Blart’s moustache was not quite enough as our plan to shower at the local KOA fell thru. He was expecting to sweet-talk a chunky chick but wound up talking to a dude. The Nantan came thru and talked us into some showers at Planet Fitness. No judgement here fellas. The feeling of a shower after a relay is one of life’s greatest treasures and made our 50 minute wait for breakfast a bit more easy. We gathered at “park” and knocked down a few beverages before joining Slaw and van 2 for a short jaunt across the finish line! Another P200 is in the books! Much fun and merriment was had as both vans celebrated, grabbed some dinner and just hung out at the hotel. We were all beat and I believe the lobby cleared out around 10.
All of the guys in Van 1 did a heck of a job in the relay and got a little better. There’s no doubt in my mind that every guy in our van gave 100%. As Freight told me before my first P200, the journey is really the best part of a relay. That’s truth, for sure. The comradery on these relays is incredible. That time in the van is a way to enjoy fellowship with a few guys you know and get to know the ones you don’t know a little better. Every man needs a little time away with his buddies and I’m so glad to get to spend the weekend with these guys!
As I wrap it up, I want to give a special thanks to Ash Pond! We gave him a hard time along the way but he did an absolutely awesome job driving the van. He was paying attention when we were not. He was the one who gave us an opportunity to rest and prepare. He was out there encouraging us and was truly part of the team. I have only met him a few times so I personally enjoyed getting to know him better. Awesome guy and top tier driver! We could not have done it without Ashhhhh Pond!
I sure hope Sister Act can qualify for next year’s P200.
‘Til the next one….