Zack’s Korner – Keeping it Local

Zack Scharlepp,

Over the past two weeks I admit I haven’t been the best parent, guilty of watching far too much television. But I have a good excuse, the best athletes in the world have been putting on quite the show. Between spells of entertaining Rhys, our eight-month-old, my wife and I have been glued to the competition unfolding at the IAAF World Championships in London. I am happy to report the USA dominated the event totaling thirty medals, nearly tripling Kenya’s second place total of 11.

While I have enjoyed following the gold medal chase of the likes of Justin Gatlin, Tori Bowie, and Emma Coburn, and watching the greatest sprinter the world has ever seen run his final competitive events, what has inspired me most over the past month are the exploits of one of Gulf Winds Track Clubs very own. On October 14, 2017, Charlie Johnson is set to take on the penultimate race in the sport of triathlon, the Ironman World Championship in Kailua-Kona, Hawaii. On race day Charlie and approximately 2,500 athletes will swim 2.4 miles, cycle 112 miles, and then top it off by running a marathon. Maybe running a standalone marathon isn’t so hard after all.

While Charlie has been running local Tallahassee races for more than twenty years – running an 18:09 at the 1996 Palace Saloon 5k as a wily 16-year-old – Ironman training appears to be paying dividends. Of the seven local races Charlie has competed in this year, he has brought home gold on four occasions, silver on two, and one “off day” with a seventh-place finish at the Tallahassee Half Marathon.

Since June, in the full throes of Ironman training, Charlie has dominated the local circuit. First, on June 17, he lapped the field at the annual Melon Run, running 16:51 and beating his nearest competitor by almost a minute. Did I mention that the win came on the heels of a 20-mile ride to the race that morning? Next, liking the flavor or winning, Charlie followed the Melon Run with a Firecracker 5k victory, running 16:46. A measly 3.1 miles at 5:25 pace wasn’t enough, fifty miles were to follow on the bike.

Devil Take the Hindmost, a grueling race of endurance and strategy, was third. Charlie’s initial plans were to simply pace Barrett DeVeau’s dad for a few laps. Plans quickly changed and fellow competitors found themselves studying Charlie’s backside as he led them around FSU’s track 25 times (6.25 miles). Unfortunately, 25 laps were one too few. Matt McCurdy ran a blistering sub 60 second final 400 meters, leaving Charlie with the unfamiliar taste of defeat. Ultimately the 68-mile morning ride, 3-mile morning run, and 4-8 beers consumed before and during the race proved too much to overcome.
Opting for a few less spins around the track, Charlie returned the favor to McCurdy at GWTC Breakfast on the Track, covering the four laps in 4:32, the sixth fast winning time in the history of the event. There were no superhero feats of distance prior to the mile, those were saved for the following day’s 7-hour workout, comprised of a five-and-a-half-hour ride and hour and forty-minute run.

Unless you were paying attention you’d never know about Charlie’s victories. He certainly isn’t going to be the one to tell you about them. Unlike so many athletes who love to self-promote, Charlie is genuinely more interested in how your race went. When you finally get around to asking how he did all you are likely to get is a “pretty good,” “not bad,” or “I’m happy with the result.” Sorry Charlie, the secret’s out now.

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