Monday, January 2, 2017

USATF 2016 National Club Cross Country Championships

Todd Callaghan planted the seed in August. “We have to get a team down to XC Nationals.” Six masters runners from the Central Mass Striders including myself committed to the December 10th race in Tallahassee, FL. Todd, Joe Shairs, Greg Putnam, and I touched down in Tallahassee the day before the race. Arthur Besse was already in Florida with his family in Jacksonville. Tim Van Orden was on his way via Planes, Trains, and Automobiles. Our hotel shuttle driver, a local student, hit it off real well with us tipping us what to check out and what to avoid in terms of pub and grub.  We got a little history of the local academia (Florida State University, Florida Community College, Florida A&M University).

Voted best burgers in town?
We checked into the Four Points, welcomed by the USATF race promotion and schedule of events in the lobby. We got a shuttle in a five passenger golf cart up to the race HQ hotel about a mile away to get our race numbers. The driver smiled when I asked he ever had the thing on two wheels before? Once we were back at our hotel, we hit up Birds Aphrodisiac OysterShack next door, because it was steps away and our shuttle driver claimed the best burgers in town. Oysters mean burgers in Tallahassee…..dozens of Oysters were followed by burgers or Grouper sandwiches. Tim arrived after dinner after a 2.5 hour drive from Jacksonville.

Greg up front in the Golf Cart limmo yelling at the snow birds driving in Tallahassee
Joe questioning the "texting while driving permission" golf cart law in Florida
The following day arrived. A light breakfast of coffee and oatmeal fueled the morning. The Apalachee Regional Park Cross Country course was a 20 minute drive away. Tim drove us over and we settled our bags into a huge party tent about a half mile from the start. It was chilly but the temperatures got up to the high 40’s by the time our 10K race started.  We were unable to warm up on the course so we ran back and forth along the start and finish areas while watching the masters women 6K and masters men 8K (60+) races.

Raw Oysters before a race is always a good idea

It was thrilling to watch John Barbour (GLRR) duke it out stride for stride, sharing the lead with Brian Pilcher from California. John would come up short by a few strides in the end. His age grade effort was the best of the day for the 8K. We checked in as team and got onto the course minutes before our 9:45 start. Just enough time to do a few strides and our Jameis Winston crab leg chant.
The race took off, down a good wide stretch that was sure to thin out the mass of 190 runners.

Hats and gloves in Tallahassee
CMS masters team: Todd Callaghan, Jim Pawlicki, Tim Van Orden, Joe Shairs, Arthur Besse, Greg Putnam

We had four loops waiting with something called “the wall.” It was a two stage hill with the 2nd being a steeper stride breaker. I glued onto Arthur Besse as soon as I could for company. The course rolled and swung us past the finish line area several times making this a great course for photographers and spectators.

I hung with Arthur for about 3.25 miles before fading like a Florida Oak tree. The 5K split was around 17:45. Arthur kept pace and passed several over the next few miles. I battled out with a few other guys in fade mode. One guy with a backwards facing hat got some cheer support. “Red,” Matthew Whitis’ presence and local pace kept me going in an otherwise dismal wrap up. Read about Matthew and his second chance.  I finished up in 74th place (6th man on the team) with a time of 36:28 (5:53 pace per mile). Arthur finished in 35:50 and 64th place.

Several loops at Apalachee resemble a whale

The team placed 7th out of 16 teams, just 3 behind Cal Coast and 7 behind Bull City TC. In order: Tim Van Orden, Greg Putnam, Todd Callaghan, Joe Shairs, Arthur Besse, & I.

40+ team results

Tim reaching for an Orange
We ran a cool down in some loops away from the course and then came back to watch the end of the women’s and men’s open races where Melissa Donais and Nate Jenkins represented CMS well. The rest of the day consisted of hanging out with the team at the hotel pool, round number two at Bird’s (yes more Oysters!), and then shuttled downtown for the after party in College Town. We bumped elbows with teams and runners from our USATF New England Region as well as from other USATF regions. Get ready for 2017 in Kentucky!

Please check out Greg Putnam’s recap of the end to end CMS trip to Tallahassee on LevelRenner. 

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