"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

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. 

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