The GWTC racing team started the month of May by capturing a second place team finish in Pensacola at the Fiesta 10 k. The GWTC combined team time was 3:06:10. GWTC was also the only 5 person team ever to win an award at this event. Previous award winners used the familiar scoring format of two males and two females. This year, GWTC used times from Tim Unger (36:19), Mike Lilly (37:38), Tatsuko Lilly (56:13), and Lisa Unger (56:00), plus our fifth competitor, Lilly Unger in the stroller, to capture the runners up team award. The Fiesta event had to drastically change the traditional course due to damage from Hurricane Ivan. Instead of the point to point race with a 5k bail-out option at the half way point, this year’s event was staged on a 5k course that was repeated to make the 10k distance. There were many folks who declined the second climb up Palafax Street to complete the 10k. The longer event had almost 200 fewer finishers than normal as many took an early exit to the beer line by crossing the 5k finish line. The 5k finishers actually doubled previous results with over 700 finishing the 5k, and over 1200 total runners and walkers finishing one of the events. The post race party was once again exceptional with a live band and plenty of food. This is the only known event to offer wine as well as beer and soft drinks.
The second team event in late May had GWTC defending a hard earned 2004 team championship at the Gate to Gate 4.4 mile run held on Memorial Day at Eglin Air Force Base. GWTC had an eight year string of team awards on the line and we sent a very strong group to represent us. This was an event I was almost too worn out to run because of all the unusual security scrutiny due to the U.S. war on terrorism. We arrived a day early so we could take care of the obligations with the North West Florida Track Club to host a post race party on Eglin’s famous Post L Point beach.
Our Base host, Jim Frazier, had arranged a camping area for us, and purchased our party supplies at the base Commissary, which was an event all by itself. We had dodged rain clouds most of the day, but the evening came up growling with thunder and lightning. My sons Justin and Tyler were along looking forward to a night of camping at the Post L Point Beach front campground situated less than a mile from the race finish line. Meanwhile, Lisa and Lilly were glad they chose to stay at the Frazier residence as our nice camping evening turned into a lesson in beach front survival camping that we will not soon forget. We were able to huddle in the center of the 12 by 16 tent successfully enough for the first couple of squall lines of rain that fell and have a little camping fun, but around midnight the storms turned ugly and sent lightning bolts crashing all around us.
We emerged from our hiding hole after 1 A.M. to find most of the other campers bailing out due to the six to eight inches of standing water in their tents. We were lucky that we had found some high ground and we were in good shape. Mother Nature was not done with us yet though and we could see the next round of thunder storms brewing in the Gulf. We had already survived a direct hit and figured we could make it though the last few hours of the night. We crawled back into our sleeping/converted trash bags to try to sleep a little when the end of our camping evening arrived in the form of thirty to fifty knot winds blowing across the bay and slamming our tent into a pile of fiberglass poles and twisted sheets of nylon. OUCH! We were done camping with 5 hours to go before race time. We bagged the camp, left our wet party equipment on the beach and headed back to Frazier’s around 2 A.M. I was still feeling pretty abused and ornery when the 5:30 A.M. wake up call came. At least I did not have enough sleep time to get stiff!
The well organized running event was going to start much later than normal due to the security, weather, and transportation problems that came up. Despite the fact that the race promoters had canceled off base advertising this year a larger than expected crowd of 1500 had shown up to do battle on the base. Justin Dickieson was happy everything was running late as he had arrived almost an hour later than expected. Justin got off the last bus to arrive at the start line. The event had started without him under overcast skies at about 8:00. Justin’s 4th place age group award was earned the hardest way possible; he had to pass the entire race to arrive in the 30th overall finishing position in 26:57. Justin missed the military celebration that preceded the race and set a somber Memorial Day mood. The national anthem was sung, then a slow, deliberate and solemn color guard presentation was performed to honor Memorial Day. Finally, a military chaplain gave us a prayer before turning the race over to the officials for the race start. A wind pushed us gently along on this quiet point to point course. A bagpipe band was playing a beautiful melody in a familiar spot at the war memorial built on the base at about the 1.5 mile mark to honor fallen soldiers.
The FSU/GWTC connection was evident immediately as the FSU assistant coach, Joey Zins (Springtime 10k winner), and FSU graduate, Vicky Gill, charged into the lead and never looked back. Zins posted a great 21:54 (4:59 per mile average) to win the event and Vicky turned up fifth overall in 23:56 (5:27) to win the women’s side. Sarah D. Williams came in second overall in the women’s division running a tremendous 25:50 (5:50). Mike Lilly and I hung together for most of the race to finish eighth and ninth overall in 25:05 (5:42) and 25:11 (5:44). This event sadly marked the Lilly’s last Florida event due to their Air Force re-assignment out of the U.S. GWTC will miss the Lilly family here as well as at the team events where we have become accustomed to meeting. I was extremely honored to have won my second Masters title in this 20th annual Memorial Day event. When the team scorers all finish in the top 11 there is really nothing else to say except, “See ya’ll next year when we try to three-peat our over-all team victory “. The beautiful eagle trophy we earned for this team victory has the names of all the participants listed from this year’s event attached. The other GWTC team finishers, some of whom also earned some well deserved personal awards were:
Bill McGuire – 26:18-(5:59) -1st Grand Master
David Yon – 26:35-(6:03) -2nd age group
Jerry Ongley – 27:58-(6:22) -2nd age group
Gary Cato – 31:51-(7:15)
Lisa Unger – 36:45-(8:21)
Bob Keller – 41:05- (9:21) -3rd age group
Linda Ongley – 50:53 (11:34)
The post race party sponsored by the 96th Services Squadron on the base was an outstanding mix of live race results and video from Cox Communications, live entertainment, Subway sandwiches, Red beans and rice, Buffalo wings and plenty of drinks. The weather had improved to near perfect beach weather for our 3rd annual Post L point beach party after the race party. The “100 Brats and beers” grilling party was so popular we had soldiers stopping by during the afternoon to join in our fun. I would like to thank members from the following organizations for helping make this team race one of the best events we go to annually: Capt’n Fun Runners, Dothan Runners, New Orleans Track Club & Hashers, Pensacola Runners Association, Results Event Timing, and the NWFTC. We are already looking forward to defending our team title in 2006.