All righty, we left off at the end of Van 1’s first legs. We finished up that round right about lunch time. We conferred with the map to figure out the location of the our next transition zone (transition zones are where vans trade off, exchange zones are where runners trade off). We headed towards it and googled around for a nearby restaurant. I say “we” and I mean Karen. Karen ran the roster/time sheets, googling and navigation for our fearless driver, Rachel. I farted around on Facebook and ate Twizzlers.
We eventually settled on a barbeque place in Blowing Rock. I actually had to go google to figure out where all that went down. I really never had any idea where we were or what time it was while the relay was happening. After a lunch packed full of hush puppies, we motored on down to the next transition zone at the Tanger Outlets, also in Blowing Rock.
Let me rewind to the relay for a second. While your van is actively on the course things are busy. I had assumed it would be boring and slow, recall I even brought magazines to fill time. Drop a runner off, drive a few miles and then wait around for a while for the runner to arrive, how hard can it be? And that is basically what is happening but it goes by in a crazy blur most of the time.
It goes like this and it goes fast:
- Get to the exchange and find parking
- Get runner #2 geared up, to the potty, etc and to the roadside to wait for runner #1
- Runner #1 arrives, hands off bracelet, both runners yell bib #’s to race official, rest of team yell/cheers for both runners
- Runner #2 runs off
- Runner #1 throws up (if she’s Jaime) or cusses somebody out (if she’s Maddie) or apologizes for being a slow ass loser (if she’s me)
- Runner #1 is forgiven and ushered quickly to the van
- Everyone jumps straight into the van, including the still nasty, sweaty runner #1
- Drive to next exchange and park
- Runner #3 geared up and pottied, most teammates head to roadside with runner #3
- Runner #1 stays behind and performs quick shower pill bath and clothing change
- Runner #2 arrives, runner #3 leaves
- Everyone back in van to next exchange
- Lather, rinse, repeat
Running that routine from 6:30am to about 11:30am leaves a van load of girls awful tired. We were definitely ready for some downtime. When we got to the Tanger Outlet center it was pretty quiet. Just a handful of vans milling about. People were staking out spots on the grassy ; medians, rolling out sleeping bags and installing hammocks. We followed suit.
Because I am a class A psycho about neatness and order, I used the first hour of rest time to reorganize the van. I was super concerned that we’d be rifling through a giant mess in the back of the van in the dark of night. We hauled everything out, set out sneakers and towels to dry in the sun and then put everything back in neatly. And then I could breathe again.
Jaime and Rebecca practiced activating their glutes. It was a busy time for us all.
A couple hours later, this parking lot was a full blown gypsy caravan city of white vans. Only these gypsies were decked out in gajillions of dollars in compression gear. There were people running around sneakily tagging vans with their team logos. People playing football. People shopping and eating fudge. Or maybe that was just me.
Eventually van #2 showed up which alerted us to the fact that we would soon be back on the clock. Rebecca got ready and in rolled Chris. Here’s Chris now! Handing off to Rebecca.
Now let’s talk about Chris a second. Just a few days before the race we lost a runner and Van 2’s driver suggested his friend, Chris. Chris is a boy, ya’ll. The team’s name was Sole Sisters. We were an all girl crew. Luckily he is a very brave boy that didn’t mind joining a team of 11 sweaty, spandex clad women in the close confines of a van on an overnight trip.
Wait a second…what the? Chris! You sly dog! Anyway, Chris had done this race 5 times in the past and still took a chance on a rag tag group of rookie girls. We were so lucky to have him. He was super pumped up and immediately became our mentor. He sent us motivational videos and helpful hints in the days leading up the race. So the Sole Sisters took a Mister and boy, are we glad we did!
And now Rebecca takes Van 1 back on course while Van 2 is off for some dinner and rest time.
Rebecca’s leg here was 7 or 9 miles and it was all a steady uphill. We drove past her on our way up and she was looking good, working hard. We parked at the transition. I got geared up to run and we waited. At some point a runner comes walking up the line of parked vans calling out for the Sole Sisters. Turns out Rebecca had flagged him down on the road and asked him to let us know she was injured and didn’t think she could make it. Oh. Shit.
We started scrambling on what to do, consulted the rules, etc. If runner #1 cannot finish her leg then runner #2 runs down to her, takes the bracelet and runs it back to the exchange where runner #3 slides down and takes on what would have been runner #2’s leg. The rest of the roster moves down in succession. On our second legs this was going to drastically alter the mileage for several people. Before setting that into motion, we decided that a couple of us would drive down to her and assess while the rest of us waited at the top for a phone call.
God love Rebecca. She was hurting but she knew immediately that we needed her to finish if possible. Girlfriend took a Motrin and said she’d limp/walk it in as best she could to spare the leg switches. So there we are hanging out at the exchange figuring we have a good amount of wait time when I suddenly hear some serious hooting and hollering in the crowd. I looked up and here comes Rebecca. She is not limp/walking. She is limp/running and good god did it look like it hurt but she was doing it. I’m not a crier, certainly not a public crier, but I saw her and instantly teared up. Her IT band had gone to complete shit, she was in serious pain and she would not let us down. It was the proudest moment. We all started screaming, I threw my phone at somebody and ran for the exchange. She handed off the bracelet, I didn’t want to be a pansy ass wimp so I just told her she was awesome and ran off.
I’d been sweating this leg all day. No actually I’d been sweating it since the day I saw it as one of my assigned legs. This leg was my “very hard” rated leg, 10 miles entirely uphill. Remember that team meeting I missed? That was the one where they picked who was running what legs. Rebecca was my proxy and picked these for me. Apparently I’ve wronged her in a past life or owe her money or something.
I think it was kind of good that I’d been distracted for the last little bit of time before heading out. As soon as I started running I was immediately into self pep talk mode. “This isn’t so bad yet. Just enjoy it til it gets bad. One step at a time. Wait, isn’t that for alcoholics? Damn is it getting dark? And steeper? You can do this. Its only 10 miles. Shit. TEN MILES.”
My Garmin would not come on for this leg so I have no real reference points. I can tell you it was dark within the first 10-20 minutes. Like pitch black dark. Oddly, this made it more fun. Just me, my headlamp, a shit ton of noisy bugs, some bats (First bats I’ve ever seen!) and the dark, dark, dark road in the middle of nowhere. The dark made it hard to see the incline coming until I was right up on it so I didn’t get a chance to look ahead and freak out about it. I really enjoyed the peace and quiet and solitude of the dark.
The hill, though. The hill. was. relentless. It wasn’t ever super steep. It was just never ending and medium steep. I did some walking. I chatted with some passing runners. I stopped counting how many people passed me when it got past 12. One guy came up on me as I started to walk a second. He slowed and told me to get moving. Said he’d run with me a while and he hung out with me for about a mile. Runners were like that all day. Really made the experience all the more fun. (My teammates are reading this and thinking,”Bitch was at cruising pace enough to chat/run with people?! She’s not all that friendly just standing around in the exchange but she can go all social butterfly on the run!?”)
I finally made it to the exchange at the top and I was so relieved!
Maddie in her night gear glory. Probably taken during leg 2.
And that concludes the pics I have for leg 2 because it was dark and things moved super fast. The remaining teammates’ legs were shorter and had some good downhill. Those girls went full on Olympic sprinter on them to take advantage of the terrain and pick up some time for us. I was seriously impressed. I rolled in from my cruising, parade-like mountain climb and the girls took my pic and tossed me in the van because we barely had time to make it to the next exchange zone before Jaime and her sub 7’s rolled in! The next three were similar breakneck speeds. These girls had busy roads AND darkness to contend with and they still kept the hammer down. Pure craziness.
We met up with van 2 around 11pm (correct me if I’m way off, Karen), Maddie handed off to Laurel and van 1 signed off to go find someplace to eat and sleep.