Rising to the Occasion
On Sunday morning, newbie race director Charlie Johnson was being tempered by the fire of his first “event-in-charge.” To complicate the experience, it was a duathlon: a rejuvenated St. Marks Duathlon. Competitors began by pounding out a 5K run (3.1 miles) (some mixed in a little walking), and then transitioned to a bike for a 20K (12.4 miles) ride, before finishing up with a 2.5K (1.6 miles) run. Yes, two events add mightily to the stress level of a race director. A move back to standard time from daylight savings time early Sunday morning meant a lot more of the preparation would have to be done in the dark. But be assured the “team,” including Charlie and past Gulf Winds Tri-Club president Ron Harrison, were there early and ready.
The staging area for the event was the big unpaved parking lot on your left as you are driving to Ft. San Marcos de Apalache Historic State Park and boat ramp. Cars were parked so as to avoid interfering with the race and the staging and transition zone was set up in the parking lot. Vince Molosky led the men after the run section completing the 5K in 16:45, almost 1:30 ahead of second place, Thomas Howell. Howell however made up 40 seconds in the transition as Vince took 49 seconds while Thomas took a mere 9 seconds. For most, the transition zone was quite challenging. Runners had to grab their bikes, put their biking shoes on and then jog 100-150 meters through the dirt and grass parking lot. They were not permitted to mount their bikes until they reached the paved road. Jillian Heddaeus (another first-time race director at this year’s GWTC 30K) was the first woman in, running the 5K in 20:46. Jamila Allen was not far behind in a time of 21:55. Sandy Johnson seemed out of contention entering the transition zone at 23:19, 2:33 seconds behind. Jillian lost a little time to both of them in the transition zone, but the bike was almost her undoing as Sandy rode for 34:31 seconds catching up to Jillian who rode 36:50. For the men, Thomas Powell was almost 2 minutes faster than Vince Molosky, more than enough to take the lead from Vince and to hold it through the final run. Their times were 1:00:38 and 1:01:53. Jillian had the clear advantage on the run and pulled away from Sandy 1:09:42 to 1:10:45.
I am often writing about how GWTC rejuvenates itself; it has a deep roster of quality volunteers that rise to the task time and time again. That group includes the Gulf Winds Triathletes who were the moving force behind Saturday’s duathlon. In 2012 the first incarnation of the St. Marks Duathlon was won by Charlie Johnson, GWTC’s Triathlete of the Year in 2010. I cannot find results for 2013, but Charlie did win that year and was there to win the Duathlon again in 2014. After that, the event lost its energy and faded away. Never large, it had 73 participants in 2012 and 81 in 2014. Sometimes it takes a bit before someone gets the courage to step forward and take a key volunteer role like race director, but when they do, they learn what it means to be a part of community. It has been tremendous fun watching Charlie Johnson walk, run, ride, and swim the path from shy new member, to very strong competitor, to president of the Tri-Club and now, to finding the joy of giving back as a race director. The first time his name popped up in my search was in 1996 when the 16 year old kid finished the Palace in 18:09. His PR would drop way below that over the next several years and after taking up the triathlon in 2009 he quickly zoomed to national competitor level. Now the jump to race director!
There were 106 finishers on Sunday in the St. Marks Duathlon, more than any of the years in its first life. It appears that Mr. Johnson is stepping up to his new role with great skill. Other than a missing portable restroom and toilet paper shortage things seemed to run very smoothly Sunday. Tallahassee continues to have a vibrant running community because people like Charlie Johnson don’t take it for granted. They step up to do their part to make it that way. Thanks Charlie and all of the other great volunteers who helped bring the St. Marks Duathlon back.