Monday, May 3, 2010

Race Report: Inaugural Palmetto200

After having a blast at our first relay experience at the Blue Ridge Relay last year, team "Do Not Resuscitate" was itching to get back out there.

Our first goal relay was the American Odyssey Relay from Gettysburg, PA to Washington, DC, but the we found out about this new relay Palmetto200 that was going to take place in our backyard just a week after the American Odyssey that we were eying already. The decision for the Palmetto200 was easy, because the travel logistics were so much easier and cheaper and the prospects of ending a relay directly on the beach, be there at the inaugural event and get a leg named after our team just was to good to pass.

This is my race report out of the perspective of van #1.

Prepare For Take-Off

With the starting line just being 1.5 hours away from home, we didn't have to travel the night before, instead we took off three hours before our starting spot at 9AM. We also traveled separately from van #2 which made the logistics even easier, because we didn't have to coordinate 12 people between two vans. Speaking of which... After squeezing 12 people plus gear into an Explorer and a Suburban at the BRR last year, we decided to spend the extra money this time and rented two vans. Seriously, there is no going back from the van after having experienced the comfort and the space that a 14 person van gives! The ride down there went smoothly and I think I got a nap in or two on our way to the old Columbia race track were the start was going to be.

Once at the starting line, we picked up the packages and started decorating van #1... Dubbed the "Love Van" due to having the newlyweds (Terry and me - DUH!), newly dating (Christina and Ken) and to finish up our group, there was Joel and Jeff that were a great sport even though they got stuck with the couples. And this was the crew of van #1 and the sequence for the race:

Runner 1: Christina
Runner 2: Kathrin
Runner 3: Terry
Runner 4: Ken
Runner 5: Joel
Runner 6: Jeff

The "Love Van" decorated with team name and L.O.V.E.

Christina modeling the race t-shirt. The girl's version had the light pink inserts at the side and the boy's version had a dark blue insert. Those are technical t-shirts too and the logo is really nice. Bottom line, those are some nice shirts!

9AM start and the first legs for van#1

Van #2 arrived at the starting line with maybe 10 minutes to spare. We took care of giving everyone their race numbers and t-shirts, relayed the information received from the race directors before snapping a couple of pictures in front of the race banner. Then the race directors had some last minute instructions and the race was ON with Christina on the road.

 With the race being in it's first year, there were just 39 teams on the road and the teams took off spaced out based on projected pace between 6AM and 12:30PM. The team pace is always an average, that means only because you start in the same wave doesn't mean that the other runners you start with are your level, but it should mean (if nobody was sandbagging) that after 12 runners, it should balance out and you should be close to the team again that you started with. Well, the other teams must have had their fast runners as their first runners, because Christina was right on pace, but everyone around her was running faster. But she stuck to her guns and did her thing in hot, humid and windy conditions and she send us off good.

I was up next and had a 6 mile leg to do. I was hoping for a fast leg since it was a flat stretch of course. My first mile was under 9 minutes, but it got worse fast. The first mile of the course was still on paved road, but then I got on a dirt run and that sucked bad. The heat and wind and the gravel drained all life out of me and going out so fast certainly didn't help. The first two miles already felt like they were stretching forever and then I didn't hear the beep of the Garmin for mile 3... I just felt really crappy. After the dirt road came a sand road and I just wanted it to be over with and still had over two miles to go. There were also some rough spots with big rocks that I walked... CRAP... That was certainly not how I hoped to start off this race for me AND the team. After crossing a bridge over I-26, I was in a residential area again and things felt a little bit better but the pace kept on dropping. On the last mile I started cramping in the back and from there it was run/walk for me. I finished up the leg in under one hour still... I was hoping for more, but it just didn't happen... There were still two legs more to go, though.

Terry took over from me and quickly got on his way for an 8 mile leg. We were all kinda expecting this race to be pretty flat, but while driving to the next exchange zone, we saw some good rollers out there. On top of it, it has gotten warmer and windier all the time. He set himself the goal to catch some people, but he would have to wait for his later leg to do so. Still, he set a great pace despite terrain and weather conditions and handed over the wrist band to Ken our new edition to the team.

The exchange zone from Terry to Ken was next to a small sandwich shop and several people of van #1 picked up chicken salad sandwiches from there and just loved it. For my part, I felt pretty funny in my stomach after my run (and eating a sub) and that would be a pattern for me for the rest of the relay.

Ken was off for his first run and he later also mentioned that it just felt hard to him due to the conditions. I guess we were all not used to the temperatures being this high, so it just bothered all of us. But he stuck it out, finished his leg with a good time and handed over to Joel for his leg.

The pattern of hot, windy and hilly continued for Joel too and he had a tough time out there. He got some of the meanest hills, but the worst out of all of them was left for Jeff to tackle on his first leg.

Jeff refused to take water with him on his eight mile leg, so we stopped close to his half way point and waited for him with an ice cold water bottle. We also saw some of his competition out there and we saw that he was closing some gaps to the other teams. We offered him the water, but he said he felt fine and didn't need anything , so we took off to meet van #2.

Handing over to van #2 and taking a break in the Santee State Park

We met up with van #2 and Jeff handed off to Brian and this started the race for them too, while we could take a break at the next transition zone at the Santee State Park.

It was nap time and rest time and shower time for some of us. I skipped the shower, because I was just way too lazy to do so and thought that it's just not going to be worth it! ;-)

What is always so fascinating for me is that time flies during these relays. You would think that you would get bored while your teammates are running or while your van is inactive, but really there isn't much down time and before we even knew it, it was time to get ready again and take over the wrist band from van #2.

Second Legs and the BBQ Challenge

By the time we took over, the sun was already setting and it finally cooled down some. Christina had a fairly short leg, so I got ready in Santee already, not to get in any time trouble. Christina was able to close the gap to another runner and when she handed me the wrist band she just told me to go and get him and that was my assignment for the second leg.
I was our first runner lit up like a Christmas tree, because it was going to be dark by the time I would have completed my 6.4 mile leg. The cooler temps felt good, but I was focusing on starting out fairly easy and not repeat my mistake from earlier... So the first mile the runner, I was supposed to catch didn't get that much closer, but by mile two I had passed him. Only to get passed by this kid a couple of miles down the road that zipped by me and was out of sight fast. This leg was kinda scary at times, because it traveled a busy road and there was almost no shoulder. Sometimes, I would just step over into the grass, but sometimes the grass was knee high and I just refused to step into knee high grass, so I gestured oncoming traffic and most of the time, they would react by slowing down or moving over. I still had to step into the grass once or twice. This leg was fun once the congestion around I-95 was over. By the time I handed over to Terry it was pitch dark.

We had to exchange the safety gear too... This year, we were running a little low on that stuff, but it hardly took us any time... As long as I don't have to put on a sweaty safety vest, I am good anyways! ;-) Once I got back into the van, I could smell it before they told me.... They picked up BBQ at the Lone Star BBQ place one exchange earlier. Terry organized some food for me too, but I waited until he was done with his leg to eat it. The food was good, but I passed on the meat except for couple of bites from Terry's plate. After my first leg my stomach was funny and I finally felt better and didn't want to start from scratch again. Even though I hardly ate anything, I felt the BBQ... Not as much as anyone else though! One after the other had their food after finishing up their night runs.It's never fun to run at night, but fortunately, we didn't have any incidents while on the road. Honestly, the remaining night runs are kind of a blur to me, since I was drifting in and out of sleep. Maybe around 11PM we handed over to van #2 again and taking our night break at the next transition zone.

Second Break and Thank Goodness, We rented a Van! 

After reaching the exchange zone, where we would take over again from van #2, everybody got themselves as comfortable as possible, to get a couple of hours of shut-eye. We already enjoyed the advantages of all that space in the van all day, but if you want to get some sleep in, it really counts. Some of my van mates, didn't want to stay inside and opted for some fresh air instead, so half of us were able to stretch out on the benches. We were expecting to take over the wrist band again around 4AM. Once everyone was up, 2/3rds of the van was complaining about stomach stuff... especially the people choosing the sweet over the spicy BBQ-sauce. My stomach was also back to it's angry self, but it was skewed up before, so I really can't blame the BBQ for anything. We also had a couple of rain drops in the early morning hours but nothing to crazy. It was a mild night and the air was humid... We expected it to get really steamy once the sun would come up. Before we even knew it, van #2 was pulling into the parking lot right beside us and we were back on!

Final Stretch for Van #1

Christina took over and she had her longest leg (close to 9 miles) early Saturday morning, in the dark and through the forest with no runners in sight. So we decided to shadow her for her run. She struggled with stomach stuff and since we were around, we were able to assist. For the last couple of miles, Jeff volunteered to be her companion runner and that gave us the chance to go ahead to the exchange zone and gave me the chance to hit the bathroom one more time and battle my own stomach stuff. I took over with the first light of dawn, setting out for another 3.9 miles to finish up my portion of this relay. It was nice and cool out there and fortunately, despite of feeling crappy a lot during this relay, my stomach always felt fine while I was running. Normally it's the other way round for me. Once I did my last turn, I could see this long straight road and a couple of runner's ahead of me... far ahead. I kept my eye on them and waited for them to turn, because I knew that once they turn left, this is were the exchange zone is going to be. Maybe half a mile before I was done, I could hear chatter behind me and turned around and saw some runners. I decided to kick it in high gear and make sure that I wouldn't get passed. Well, one of the runners flew by me in the last 100 yards before the exchange zone and that was a speedy one that I didn't even see when I looked back a couple of minutes before. I was able to hold off the other runner though. On the other hand, next runner up was Terry and he likes to catch people... ;-)

And indeed he was passing some people. Actually, Ken was "complaining" later in his leg that Terry set him up to get passed and he really had a point there. Ken was also the first to hit the swamps and so we knew that we were getting closer to the coast. Once he was out of the forest, he had scenic views over the marsh lands and like he said, he was always on the look-out for the gators! ;-) Ken's leg ended on US-17 where Joel took over for a straight shot down the highway. Terry offered several times to be Joel's companion runner until the later finally broke down and let him go along for the ride. Obviously, my new husband was itching to get some more miles in after he already ran 23 of the relay! ;-) What Terry didn't expect was, that Joel kicked into high gear and that he actually had to work to catch back up with him, since Joel got a couple of minutes of a head start, because Terry had to change first and Joel accepted the companion runner offer seconds before taking off. But once the two were running together, they strategized how to demoralize the competition and they were able to catch several people on that stretch. When Joel handed over to Jeff, the last runner of van #1 was on the last leg for van #1 and Jeff was burning it up! He was predicted a 7:30 pace and that's exactly what he delivered. We almost didn't make it in to the next exchange zone before him! ;-)

Shower and Food! PRONTO!

Once we were on the road again, we punched in the address of our hotel and got going. Everyone just wanted to have a shower, but we called the hotel earlier and they said they couldn't give us our rooms yet because it was so early. Once we were at the hotel, we send out most diplomatic team mate (Terry volunteered) in the lobby and 10 minutes later he had a key to one room. So we took showers, one after the other until all van #1 runners were squeaky clean... The last person wasn't even toweled off properly and we were already in the van again on the quest to find some food. Boy, that was yummy... If it was the food or we just were very hungry.... Who knows.

After lunch, we headed out towards Folly Beach to await the arrival of our team mates from van #2.

The Finish Line

Once van #1 and van #2 were reunited, it was fairly easy to spot who was in which van because half of us were clean and the others weren't.  Van #1 arrived maybe 20 minutes before the others at the finish line and once van #2 arrived they projected another 20 minutes for Kerrie to come in. In all this time, we maybe saw five teams crossing the finish line... Also one four runner team that hobbled over the line. It's amazing what these guys did... And all the other ultra teams out there.
Kerrie came in as projected and we ran the last couple yards together and finished the Palmetto200 in an official time of 30 hours and 24 minutes. Our projected finish time was 30 hours and 15 minutes, so we were spot on when it came to our calculation.

I said it before and I will say it again... This team is an awesome group of people, no matter which van you are talking about. We had two new members compared to the BRR that fit right in. Most of the original team members have already committed to do the BRR in September again including me.

This is the race report, but there will be a review of the race itself in a couple of days to wrap this puppy up.

What a ride! ;-)

No comments:

Post a Comment