"And above all, watch with glittering eyes the whole world around you because the greatest secrets are always hidden in the most unlikely places." Roald Dahl

Monday, February 29, 2016

2015 Blue Ridge Relay Recap (The Finish)

The last part of the Blue Ridge Relay takes you down the Blue Ridge Parkway and then veers off into Asheville, NC.  The finish was located a few blocks from downtown and it was so good to see! 

We all ran in together, posed for a picture, and promptly headed for the necessities.  Not showers.  Why would you think that?  We went to Mellow Mushroom for pizza and beer! 

Let me tell you, it is amazing how tipsy you can get off of one beer after 36 hours of running and no sleep.  Try it sometime, I dare you!! 

After that we found our hotel, showered, passed out, and all slept for about 12 hours. It was glorious.  The shower and the sleep. 

The next morning we meandered downstairs for breakfast and wondered if the past 48 hours had actually happened, or if it was just a dream.  

One of my favorite experiences, ever.  For real.  There are no words.  I can't wait to do it again. 

Tips learned the hard way: 

best food = TBD, hopefully I can get this nailed down next year; definitely experiment ahead of time as much as possible 
best hydration = alternate 2 waters, and 1 watered-down gatorade  
best recovery drink = nuun 
best headlamp tip = wear it with a baseball cap to keep it from digging in to your forehead 
best fix for blisters = duck tape

Thursday, February 25, 2016

2015 Blue Ridge Relay Recap (Part 3)

Back to the Blue Ridge Relay.  Last time we were just finishing leg 2 and heading into the dark of night...

Everyone in our van wrapped up our second legs around 10pm and we headed to get some sleep.  Sleep, during the BRR comes whenever and wherever you can get it.  Needless to say, some of us slept and some of us didn't.  I have never been a good sleeper and this was no different.  I tossed and turned for a bit, but that was it. 

We started to rise (without much shine) around 2:30am and headed towards our next check-point to meet up with the rest of the team.  

Seeing as our third legs started in the wee hours of the morning, we were running in darkness and luck would have it, rain.  Lots and lots of rain.  Lucky for us, we didn't care.  When you're smelly, sweaty, and overall disgusting, a little rain is by far the least of your worries.  

Cold brew coffee, on the other hand, can make you smile for hours!   Coffee is not easy to come by in a van driving through the mountains. 

I will say that by this time, my stomach was in rough shape and I was not exactly looking forward to this third, eight-mile long leg.  Eating out of a cooler in a van for over 24 hours while running intermittently is not a fun thing to do.  It is something you should train for on its own (and next year, I will).  I was starting to feel a bit dizzy and I couldn't tell if it was from lack of sleep, dehydration, or overall exhaustion.  Either way, I knew I had to finish.  I was not about to give up!  

I started leg 3 really slow and really tired.  I had 8.5 miles to go of fairly flat terrain.  There were a few rolling hills, but that seemed like nothing compared to what I had already seen.  The rain was coming down hard, and I welcomed the noise.  I started my leg at 4:15 way before the sun was coming up.  The noise made me think less about each rustle of the trees that could be a bear hurtling towards me.  Isn't my imagination fun?!  

Once I settled in, the run actually wasn't that bad.   I finished just as the sun was about to come up and felt nothing short of elated.  I was ready to eat all the food, drink all the water and sleep all day long!  Weirdly though, I was so excited I couldn't do any of those things. 

So I took pictures :) 

And we found our sleeping teammates.  They were much more creative in their sleeping quarters than we were.  I actually slept...

And the runs continued!! Right about 9am there was a huge pancake breakfast.  I have never been so happy to eat real food before in my life! And the runs continued... 

And they took us right onto the Blue Ridge Parkway (the actual road!).  We stopped to cheer and take ridiculously cheesy pictures at an overlook.  We were pretty giddy by this point and having way too much fun taking selfies. 

From there, the finish came pretty quickly.  Or maybe it just seems like that because I had been awake for far too long. More to come on the finish soon! 

Thursday, February 18, 2016

2015 Blue Ridge Relay Recap (Part 2)

It's difficult to split this event up into days, or even legs, because it was just one long thing that just kept on going... When I last left off I had just told you about my first and most difficult leg of the race... 
That leg was tough, but fun and I was able to finish strong at the pass-off point where I handed the "snap bracelet" to runner #5.  Yes, you read that right, our baton that each person carried was a good, old fashioned snap bracelet.  Just like the 80's.  It was amazing. 

 When we weren't running, we spent a lot of time hanging around at pass-off points, cheering for each other, and talking.  All while looking at the most beautiful landscape in the world.  

We also watched the runners come in and made sure to show our team spirit! 

My second leg started at the top of Grandfather Mountain...Before I tell you about my leg, I need to give kudos to the girl who ran 10 miles up Grandfather Mountain.  At 8:15 pace.  Wow!  It was an inspiration to watch and she slayed it!  

Serious face before the serious leg up the mountain.

We stopped to give some motivation (and food/water) along the way!  She was bookin' it! 

Anyway, back to my second leg... Like I was saying ... I started at the top of Grandfather Mountain and it was just about dusk.  Due to the time of day, I had my headlamp on, flashers on, and a reflective vest.  I feld like a total pro with all that gear.  The plan was to start out by going down the mountain for 3 miles, then back up for two miles.  

For a few weeks leading up to the race the whole team had been joking because, true to form, one of my biggest worries about the race was not about the actual run, but about the critters or animals that I might encounter while running in the middle of nowhere western North Carolina. They ceased my worrying by telling me that we would be running on streets, there would be people around, etc. and I shouldn't worry.   

Right before my runner came in, I noticed that people were in fact, not continuing on the road, but instead, veering off onto a path that lead into the woods ... y'all, my worst fears were coming true!  After asking a kind race volunteer, I learned that my second leg would, in fact, take place on a path down the mountain, with no vans, lights, people or houses to guide me.  

Luckily, I had no time to dwell on this new info, my runner was in and I was off.  I started with a tiny bit of light, but as the sun dropped, I immediately started thinking about all of the panthers that could be stalking me ready to pounce or the bears that I might run into (forget foxes and skunks - I was worried about the big things!).  I took out my headphones - to hear the animals coming - and ran three miles down the mountain in utter peace... while chanting Hail Mary's to myself on repeat.  

I am such a wuss.  It was a beautiful trail and I promise I'll pay better attention, should I get another chance.   I did get a chance to snap a picture of the sunset though.

Once the path bottomed out, I was spit out onto a country road and I began to breath easy.  For a few minutes, at least.  Then I started going up again.  It's an interesting sensation to go downhill for 3 miles and then uphill for 2.  I tell ya, try it sometime!  My pace was a tad slower than I wanted it to be, but the view was serene and it was a fun finish to the leg. 

All of my fears seem really silly in hindsight.  On a high from my second leg, we kept the adrenaline going throughout the night, with our van of 6 runners finishing our second legs around 11pm.  We were beat and ready for some sleep - 15 passenger vans are the new Ritz, didn't ya know?

...more to come soon on Leg 3 and the aftermath...

Tuesday, February 16, 2016

Way Overdue: 2015 Blue Ridge Relay Recap (Part 1)

Hi Friends!  
I've taken a bit of a hiatus from the blog, but I will be diving back in shortly...  

When I do dive back in my focus will be on: 
Healthy Eating + Running + Workouts 
Travel + Photography

2016 is sure to be a good year! 


Before I jump back in, I wanted to finally deliver and give you my Blue Ridge Recap!  
It was such an amazing experience and I can't believe I've left y'all hanging for this long. 
... here we go... 

There are very few experiences that we can have as an adult where you feel utterly and completely bonded with a group of other adults.  This was one of them for me.  In adolescence, high school, and college, these experiences are widely unappreciated because we are too young to realize their impact and because they are such a norm!  Until I spent an amazing three days bonding, crying, laughing, and  being encouraged by this group, I didn't realize how much I had missed it.  

Maybe it's my history as an athlete, but I hadn't felt this sort of a high in years.  I find it really hard to bond with people when they are looking their best and breezing through life.  I normally create my strongest friendships during tough times, when it gets ugly and you can still depend on each other.  This experience definitely got ugly, but I walked away from it with some amazing friendships. 

I liked it so much, I have already committed to doing it again next year.  Yikes! I better get ready :) 
Now on to the re-cap...

Because I entered the race with a bunch of work friends, we all met at the office in Durham, North Carolina the Thursday before the race and packed up the vans!  By early afternoon we were on our way to Highland Mountains, Virginia in vans bumping with Bieber and Tswift tunes and loaded to the gills with running gear, head lamps, bananas, and countless coolers of food and liquids. 

A lovely map of the actual race... all 209 miles of it

We stayed at a hotel about 30 miles away from the start of the race on Thursday night (it is really difficult to find anything closer - this is back woods, y'all!) and that meant we had a 3:30am wake-up call on Friday morning for our start time of 5:30am (the first wave!).  Good thing we had a bunch of morning people in the gang!

The start!  

Each wave includes 12 different teams and each team has one runner that starts them off.  In case you are curious about the pitched black-ness (I was!), official race rules state that from 7pm - 7am every runner is required to have a head lamp, as well as two flashers (one on the front and one on the back) to ensure their safety.  

It's actually kind of fun and feels really hardcore to run with a headlamp. 

It's a relay, so starting on Friday morning we always had one member of the team running.  The other 11 members of the team quickly dispersed after the start... One van went to get the second runner ready for the pass-off and the the other van went in search of - you guessed it - COFFEE!

Along the way, no matter what time of day or location, the scenery was absolutely breathtaking.  It almost made me forget I was running up a mountain.  Almost.

The perk of putting our fastest runner first meant that our team was actually leading for a whole 45 minutes of the race!  Wahoo!  That win was short-lived, however, because runner #2 discovered a "tree-down" on the path and the race was temporarily paused to find an alternative route.   The alternative route added on about 2 miles, but within a half hour, we were quickly underway again.  They did, however, start all 12 runners at the same time, so we sadly lost our lead, never to find it again... 

A few stops down the line (runner 2 was passing to runner 3), we had some breakfast and enjoyed each other's company ... before the leg cramps, stomach cramps, and stench set in ...

Eventually, it was my turn. Runner #3 coming in...

...Runner #4... Ready to go.  That picture isn't creepy at all, is it?

And I was off!

I was runner #4 and while it has some grueling legs, I think it's my favorite spot.  I'm clearly biased because it's the only one I've ever done, but I will request it again next year.  I've conquered it and now I want to do it better. 

My first leg was 7.5 miles long and had a 3.5 mile stretch up a sloping mountain (it wasn't the steepest mountain I saw that weekend, but it wasn't fun either).  In the picture below I was still cruising, 2 miles in, and just about to start the incline.  Basically, I was in heaven and had no idea what was in store for me.

Each runner has three legs when you have a 12 person team.  This was my first and probably the hardest.  About 50 yards before the hand-off point I passed someone who was dry-heaving in the middle of the road.  Not a great way to end your first of three big runs in a 36 hour period.  But it did add a healthy dose of perspective for me - I was feeling way better than "that guy." After offering him help and/or water, which he quickly declined (stubborn runners), I passed him.  Road kill #1.  Man, I'm mean. 

*Roadkill is the term our team used to describe people you pass on your legs.  I can't take credit for coining it - we learned it from another team.  
To use it in context: "Man, that was a great leg, I got four road kills!"  
(Don't get confused, I was giving an example. I never got as many as four road kills, but in my first leg, I did get one!)

More to come in the next few days! I promise I won't disappear again.