Monday, July 18, 2011
Back on My Feet 20in24 Relay Challenge 2011
At 6pm we all headed to the start and cheered our first runner off! We figured she'd take about 63 minutes, so the next runner got ready, we chilled for a bit, and then soon it was ready for her. I would run third. I was excited but ready! I knew it would be getting dark mid-way through my run, and I was nervous about certain parts of the route being dark and secluded. I carried my little flashlight and wore my reflective belt and waited for my teammate. We got the announcement that our runner was 2 miles out and soon I was off!
That first run was solid -- the weather was great -- and I held a pretty consistent and steady 8 minute pace the whole way. I felt like I could go a little quicker, but I knew I'd have another 8.5 miles to race in just 4ish short hours. I stayed fast but somewhat comfortable. I took water on the go at two stops, and I giggled at everyone who commented on my socks. I wished the runners well, and I took note of the darkening path. As I came through the checkpoint two miles out where they noted your team number to call ahead for your next runner, I felt good about finishing this leg strong.
I came into the finish, passed off to my next teammate, and then went into recovery mode. Drank well, changed into dry clothes, put on my compression socks, and stretched out and rolled on the foam roller. I took a migraine pill to ward off the as-of-late-inevitable headaches I've been getting after hard/long runs, ate a soft pretzel, and I relaxed at camp. Every so often we'd see some Lone Ranger friends come thru (that's the ultra race) and chat with them as they checked in for that lap. So far, so good!
For each teammate, we'd make our way over to the start/finish, cheer each other on, and then wait. Too much adrenaline to get any naps in between legs! I realized pretty quickly there'd be no sleep tonight. The later runs became more to think about. It was DARK on the backside of the loop, and to be honest, I was a little nervous. There definitely was not enough light on this loop, but I hoped the volunteers on bikes would be out in full force to keep an eye on things.
By 1:30am, I was getting ready for my next leg. Put my singlet and fun socks back on, got my light and reflector stuff and put my phone in my spibelt. Walking to the start, I was nervous about running through the city park in the middle of the night, but I pushed that aside. I was noticing my legs feeling a little worked, but felt I'd be ok. In came my teammate, and off I went.
This run would be a bit more interesting than the first. Within the first mile, I noticed someone off my back right shoulder. He was running about 2-3 steps behind me, and staying there. I tried to speed up, he stayed. I tried to slow down, he slowed. I couldn't shake him. I knew he wasn't an ultra runner because they weren't running a 7:40 pace like I was this long into their run. I wondered if I should be nervous as I headed to the darker, back side of the loop. I peeked back a couple times to let him know I could feel him off my shoulder, and I ran fast. By mile 2 I decided to say something. I wanted to know if I should worry about this the whole way, or if I could find comfort in a fellow racer to run with at 2:15am. I looked back and asked what relay he was doing.
"The platinum," he answered. "Sorry for trailing you."
Ok, while I wasn't totally comforted, I at least felt like I didn't need to be consumed with anxiety that he was going to jump me in one of the dark, desolate areas. When I came into the first aid station, I slowed, took a cup, and let him pass by. He did, and I let some space come between us. By now I was aware that I'd started this leg fast and wondered how long I could hold this sub-8 pace. My desire to get done this mid-night run was the catalyst for me to run as fast as my legs would allow, for as long as I could. While I was enjoying the fun and thrill of this relay race, and the oddity of running through Philly in the middle of the night, I'd be lying if I said I wasn't freaked. I definitely was uncomfortable about it. There just weren't enough volunteers and lighting to make this safe and comfortable for the racers. I told the officials about this later.
But back to the run... I made it up and over Falls Bridge (about the halfway mark of the leg) and headed back up the river to the finish. I was glad my legs were strong enough to run fast and keep a solid pace, and I looked forward to that 2-miles-out checkpoint. There weren't a lot of people on the course at this point in the race -- even the aid stations were unmanned at times -- and I knew I'd see a friendly face there. I yelled out my team number and was excited to know I had less than 2 to go. By now, my legs were tightening up and I was hoping to keep my pace to the finish. I knew our first two racers had slowed in their second legs and I was psyched to think I'd actually have a faster run for mine! I willed my hamstrings -- mainly my left one -- to hold up, and I smiled as I approached boathouse row. Less than half a mile to go!
As I came into the start/finish and my teammate took off, I noted my time: 40 seconds faster on this leg than my first! WooHoo! I grabbed a cold towel, water, and a pretzel, and headed back to camp. Changed into dry clothes and woke my teammate that was to run the last, our next, leg. The drama began. She had been vomiting since her first run. Wha??? From what? It wasn't that hot, she was a good runner, and her pace was solid, but nothing extreme. Whatever the cause, her body shut down. I took her to the med tent and found out our 4th runner, the one out on the course now, would be running two loops to cover for the sick teammate. Uh, oh. 17 miles straight after an 8.5 miler just a few hours before? None of us were prepared for that. But since we were in the lead, we didn't want to quit and we didn't want to be disqualified. We worked it out.
Since I had just run (fast!) and CM was with one of our ultra-runner friends, I'd stay with C in the med tent while L and A did the last loop. I felt bad about not doing that last loop with the other girls, but we didn't want to leave C alone. Eventually, her boyfriend came to accompany her to the hospital (she'd eventually be ok -- dehydration?) and CM and I started packing up the campsite. As the sun came up, we planted ourselves at the finish and bubbled about the fun experience and the fact that we'd actually win this thing!
When L and A arrived, we knew we'd done it. We hadn't slept, we'd had some drama, but all of us were (relatively) safe and that's what mattered. We'd raised money for a great cause and we'd fostered new friendships. Awesome.
I drove home, took about a 45 minute power nap, showered and picked up CM, and headed to the awards ceremony. C was still not well, so she missed the post-race picture and celebration as we were awarded our prize.