I have returned home, 36 hours after I left, having run 20.8 miles of the 174 Colorado Outward Bound Relay; having slept a grand total of 30 minutes; donning a sprained ankle; running leg 13 and 23 guided by headlamp and the Big Dipper; eating horribly, if at all; finishing well ahead of all my predicted finish times; making new friends; car looking like waste dump...and smelling like one too. Finish time: 23 hours 39 minutes. Good enough for 2nd place in division (mixed co-ed) and 11th overall (120 teams).
But more importantly, I had the time of my life!!!
So much has happened, where to begin:
I've never done a continuous relay for that long of a period on such a diversity of terrain and with many people I have never met. A group I run with from time to time have run this relay for many years. Their name is the Picked Prostates because they are an all male team over the age of 40 (team 1). A great name!! Many in the group, me included, wanted to run the relay so captain of team 1 formed team 2 (team name: Somewhat Pickled. I love the name!!) with those that run in the group. As the weeks went by, this person or that person couldn't do the relay and having exhausted all running group members, we were grasping at straws to get people on our team. Jeff, captain of team 1, got the cycling instructor at the downtown Y. Not sure if he runs but hey, he volunteered! Also grabbed someone he saw run once at a race ran. The night before the relay, about 8:00, we heard that one of our teammates fell on his bike during a bike time trail and crashed hard, landing himself in the hospital and was out of the relay (he's okay. A lot of bruises and a cracked rib, I think). Scrambling, we called all we knew who ran and I even posted on FB, as a joke, and got a bite from one of the RW Loopers bloggers!! She was flying in to pace her friends who were also doing the relay and offered to be our new member. Unfortunately, her flight was arriving too late and she was going to miss her first leg. Rules say for us to be a mixed co-ed team, the same member must run each of their legs - no substitutions. I tried to see her during the race but we never we able to hook up. Bummer.
Our team started at 9:30a.m. and I was leg #3, 13, and 23. There were 30 legs, 10 teammates, so we each did 3 legs. Perfect weather!! Throughout the entire race! I started my first leg, appropriately called 'Lung Buster' with 5.13 miles at an elevation gain of 957'. Owie. I was sooo incredibly nervous; I didn't want to let my teammates down and everyone was there watching. I was predicted to run it in 54:25 - I ran it in 50:24. The terrain was a rocky trail so I wore my trail running shoes and I was glad because I had a lot of ankle turning. The climb was tough but I hung in there and tried to just keep moving up. I saw two runners, I think, on this entire section. Matt was cheering for me with a few yards left, which pumped my legs just a little faster. I slapped the hand of teammate, Nicole, and off she went to her 1000' vertical climb in less than a mile and then the same route down. She loved it - she rocks!
Second leg was 8.98 miles with an elevation drop of 1848' and named 'Quad Work.' Yeah, that best describes it all right!! I was a little freaked about this leg: I've never run with a headlamp before; I was worried about how "downhill" it was; I had a lot of turns and was afraid I'd get off the trail somehow and get lost; the thought of being alone out there was just kinda freaky; and honestly, I had no idea how I'd run so late in the evening after just pushing a hard run earlier. I don't remember even eating anything after 3:00 that day! I had a teammate quiz me on my leg assignment so I'd know where I was to turn at what mileage. It was about 10:15pm when I started this leg .. and it was pitch dark. I was in the bathroom, for about the 4th time in 10 minutes (evident by high nerves) and thought I had enough time before teammate, Denise, to come in but she was there waiting for me at the stop of the stairs. Opps. I quickly slapped her hand and took off across the parking lot to get on the bike path trail but before I could even exit the parking lot, while trying go fix my headlamp, I twisted my ankle in a pot hole. I couldn't believe it. And it was bad; I had to hobble around for a bit and then sort of do a limp/run for awhile. I really had no choice but to run, it's not like we have any substitutes at this point and to quit would forfeit the entire team. A couple miles in, the pain released itself and I ran a very hard almost 9 miles, finishing in 1:08.22 where I was predicted to finish in 1:15:10. I averaged about 7:30's on the last few miles -Yes! It took awhile to get used to the headlamp and I hated the glow it formed around your eyes, almost seemed like you had glasses on. The stars were incredible, though; it was a clear, crisp evening and there must have been billions in view. My entire run was guided by the Big Dipper.
Denise and her husband found me after this leg and though I was suppose to ride in the car with them to get Nicole and head back to the condo, they took me back right away to get ice on my ankle. I was really freaked -- it was not good. I had to walk on my tippy toe just to move and I had no earthly idea how I was going to run the last leg. I grabbed some ice, a piece of pizza (minus the cheese...I couldn't even stomach it - I was having some pretty bad GI problems. ugghhhh) and selfishly took a long hot bath with my foot plopped up on the end of the tub with a bag of ice on it. It was 12:30 when I finally excited tub and tried to lay on the couch and sleep. I could not. I laid there for well over an hour and I may have dozed off some when, at 2:15, Denise announced that the 20th leg just left, had 6 miles to run, and we needed to get Matt, leg 21, to the the exchange point before Andy, leg 20, got there. We were about 45 minutes away. And nothing packed in the car. A little (okay, a lot) of panic here and Matt was sick and running a slight fever. Nicole having intestinal problems and me, too, and of course my swollen ankle. Abbey was having some female issues. Yeah...fun fun fun!! We got to Matt's start fine, though shaken, and drove off to the end of Matt's finish where he slid into the exchange chute and nearly killed himself. It was about 4:00a.m. Everyone wanted coffee (but me, ick!) and none was around. Everyone was grouchy. But in a good way!My third leg was causing me great concern how I could run on my ankle. When it was time for my leg to roll around, about 5:30am, it was really cold and my ankle was throbbing. I ran a bit in the parking lot to test it out but I just didn't now how it would work. I also realized I had not eaten hardly anything since like 5:00 the previous evening and had run once since last meal so I grabbed a banana and a cupcake someone had brought - hoping that the sugar would fuel my overly-tired state and pump my blood flowing for the 6.10 miles (which turned out to be 6.80 miles) of about 100' elevation loss along the gorgeous Glenwood Canyon. Of course, it's dark and I had to wear that dumb headlamp again but I've been on this bike path this summer with my boys biking and knew the trail well so was not so nervous about being lost like the last leg. I sat in my car because it was soooo cold and I looked out the back window for my teammate to come in - that's how lame and un-spirited we had become that late in the evening. We were all so tired and lethargic. I saw Denise come in and I jumped out of the car and met her at the exchange and took off. I was a little freaked at the ankle (lack of sleep certainly fuels the freak level up several notches!) and at first it was hurting but eventually, it just gave in and I was able to run an incredible leg, even clocking the last two miles around a 7:45 pace. Maybe it was the cupcake consumed prior, I'm not sure, but I felt better on that leg then I did my previous two...which, for the amount I had already run and the fact I was having intestinal problems from the diet and the lack of sleep and, of course the ankle, I was pretty stoked! My predicted time was 57:51 and I ran 54:54. I'm not sure where the energy came but as the sun came up about 6:00 over the canyon walls, I felt energized and I just took off.
I guess we could chalk up our totally screwing up and getting lost out of Glenwood Springs (if I ever see that town again, it will be too soon. Ha) on how blatantly tired we were but we totally rushed to get to Carbondale to all cross the finish line together. It was really one of those very emotional times in my life that I felt truly blessed to be where I was at that moment.
I could write a novel about the race and the experience I endured and how it changed my life, literally, but I will stop and just say that this race was, by far, one of the most memorable I have ever done strictly because of my teammates. We all pulled together and rooted for each other and were compassionate and understanding no matter what. I loved this most. We were all united with the same purpose and even though we didn't all know one another at the beginning, we were tied together at the end by persevering whatever obstacles we had and finishing strong. I made some new friends along the way and learned that I am truly blessed, to the point of overflowing, to be living a dream of being a runner!!!
I now enter the Portland taper, my least favorite part of the marathon training. The taper....the fleeting time when your homework is done, you are as fit as you are, and the final goal remains to eat well, rest well, avoid germs and fluke injuries, and stay in the zone. It’s about getting the mind to accept what you’re about to do. The taper to me is more about getting the spirit aligned with the body, and ideally they merge right before or on race day. I never like the taper because I always struggle trying to get my body in that proper mental alignment.
But after the relay, I am ready for taper week …. ready to see where I land in Portland. As one teammate, Matt, said to me when I was all whiny and didn't really want to go out and run my last leg on my sprained ankle: do the best you can do and that’s all you can do . Yes, I will go to Portland and do what I can do .... and hope I do well.
Remind me that I need to go on more adventures just before the taper.
Me handing off to Nicole on my first leg
Teammates: Bob, Denise, Nicole, Me, Matt, Andy - completion of my first leg at Loveland Ski Area.Bob running leg #9
And we're done: Abbey, Denise, Nicole, Matt, Me, Bob, Diann, Andy, Kern, Craig M.