This is part three of my 2010 Blue Ridge Relay race report. Click here if you missed part one or two.
3. Rotation for Van1
The third rotation in relays tend to be the ones, when things fall apart. People run on a couple of hours of sleep, a generally a little under-fueled and have already several miles in their legs. But you just have to keep on plucking along... Despite the odor levels in the van which one of my team mates tried to cure with a royal pine air freshener. That thing smelled so intense, it made me feel queasy. Fortunately, that was enough to convince my van mates to take that thing down.
Back to the running:
When Alex took over from van 2 at the Bakerville Fire Department... Where I skipped the baked potatoes... Not the pancakes as stated in the last report. Moving on. Alex took over and had to run 4.3 moderate mile. The run starts out with rolling downhills, only to have a nasty 7% grade climb in the last mile. I never ran this leg, but drove it twice by now and I personally think that leg stinks. It's a along one of the busier roads (but better at night) and it's just spooky!
Alex passed the wrist band to Christina and with this, we had the first runner in the van that was done! That's good for the runner and everyone else just looks at them in envy... Changing into... regular clothes... gasp! Moving on... Christina had 4.5 moderate miles on tap next. Again, it was a fairly busy roads and on top of that, her leg also had a fair bit of turns... Oh and did I mention the fog? Spooky.
I was waiting for Christina at the next exchange zone and I just looked at my watch saying something in the lines of "according to schedule, she should be here any minute" and there she was and I was on for my longest leg.... 9 hard miles starting with a 2 mile downhill and then rolling uphills for the remainders of the leg. Maybe 30 seconds before I started running, a runner from another team took off and I saw his blinky lights ahead of me, which makes you feel not as alone in the dark. I made him my rabbit and wanted to make sure to at least keep him in sight. The first two miles ticked by fast, but my quads sure weren't happy with more downhill running. Once I hit the bottom of the hill, it really felt like the wheels came off a little. But then I saw that my rabbit was gaining on another runner and eventually passed him, which gave me the drive to keep pushing. I passed that runner maybe at mile 2.5 and we chatted a little. My crappy fueling started to catch up with me. The turkey sandwich in the middle of the night just didn't hold me over and since I passed on the baked potato, I kinda got a little in trouble. Fortunately, I packed some Powerbar gel blasts and started eating those, when feeling hungry. I also drank a ton of water. My team was passing me around the half way point and they topped off my water bottle. Shortly after that, I passed a girl on one of those rolling uphills that she hiked up, while I ran/jogged/shuffled up the hills. It was the same girl, I passed during my night leg! In the meantime, it finally dawned... Nothing better than hearing a rooster crow when you are sick and tired of running in the dark. My rabbit was still in front of me, but he started fading on the rollers. I finally passed him around mile 7 on a hill, only to get passed back on the downhill... But I held on to my consistent pace and on the next hill I passed him for good. The remainders of the leg was pretty uneventful. Oh yes and of course I got passed by runners... 4 in total. The last one passed me in the last quarter mile of the leg. All of the runners that passed me, basically just zipped by me, I hardly ever knew somebody was there until they were right next to me. Oh well.
Jeff was off for his last leg. 7.4 hard miles that are basically all uphill. Yikes! What sticks out in my mind about this leg was, that you turn on Highway 19 and there is a parking lot to your left that may look like an exchange zone at the first glance. Only to find out that you have another 0.7 miles to run. But once again, Jeff clocked an awesome time for his leg and was done as well.
Our van really had some long legs in the last rotation. Once Jeff handed off to Ken, he was on the road for a 7.5 hard miles that had some juicy rollers going on. The first mile he was running through the town of Burnsville. When we passed him in the van we handed him his water bottle that he forgot to take and this way also had the chance to help him out with some equipment issues... That needed a little more attention later on, but after that, he was ready to roll.
Right about then, I also started to take pictures again.
For example of Joel, waiting to finally get on the road... Ready to get it done!
And the fog that I mentioned earlier was still there when our last runner (of van1) hit the road, but by the time he was done, there wasn't a cloud in the sky.
After Ken handed over to Joel, he and van1 were only 4.4 easy miles from being done. 4.4 miles with no turn, along a river with beautiful scenery. But all of a sudden, it also started to get back hot. But Mr. Joel brought it home for van1 in a great time!
Resting and waiting to cross the Finish Line
Van1 did a little happy dance and then left the transition area to head to Asheville NC for pizza and beer! We did drive the Mountain Goat leg, so that Ken could see what all the fuss is about when we talk about that particular part.
Once we parked and got some food (and beer) into us, it was time to relax and rest at the finish line.
It was pretty warm outside, so after a while we headed into a bar/restaurant right next to the finish line... for more food (and beer) until van2 arrived!
Over 33 hours and 207 miles after we started in the Grayson Highlands State Park, our last runner crossed the finish line in downtown Asheville NC.
I honestly have to say, that the more relays I do (this was number 3), the more I think that it is about the journey and not about the finish line. Relay finish lines, just seem very anti-climatic... Everybody is just tired and ready to be done with it and go home. For me it's all about the team meetings before and after, the smack talk e-mail going back and forth between team members, the actual time traveling and running and reminiscing about how your run was... Basically the whole social aspect of the experience. Of course it's also a physical challenge and I am always amazed to see what our bodies are capable of, even after you sleep deprived them and didn't fuel them properly!