Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Dude, where's Jason's van?

Well, if I had to guess, I'd say it's the same place as Leah's van. But that's just a guess.

So Leah's already covered the details of the GMR, which only leaves me my legs to talk about. Well, they're about three feet long, normal amount of hair, rippling with muscles...ha, I kid, of course. They're a bit longer than three feet.

But before I get to the legs of the race (see what I did there?), let me just say that the GMR was one of the most fun things I've ever done. It was like a combination of a race, a road trip, and one of those character building high school trips (except without all the high school idiots). I'm really annoyed it won't happen again for another year and we all might just have to find another relay before the year is out. Van one, unite!

Other than the actual running, here are some notes the GMR:
  • Driving a 12 person van is super fun and I'm convinced we had the Cadillac of 12 person vans. It was really powerful and handled like a dream. I would argue that it cornered as if it were on rails, although apparently the people in the back seemed to think the turns were a bit dicey. That's not my fault. Blame inertia. Anyway, once we have kids, I'm totally getting one of these babies.
  • It is in no way annoying when people sing the same song over and over again. Really. Even if they only repeat the same four words. Really.
  • I miss Toby.
Okay, onto the race. Here's how it shook out:

Leg 1

I was pretty super nervous while waiting for Josh to complete his five miles. When we got to the transition point, we had plenty of time but I wasn't really sure where we were supposed to transition or what was supposed to happen with the transition. Luckily the volunteers gave pretty explicit instructions (which were: "get over here") and so it was pretty easy. After getting situated, I just had to wait for Josh and then run. Run. All by myself. Without anyone to pace me. Guh. To top it all of, my loop had a billion turns and I'm rather terrible with directions. Awesome.

But you know what, it ended up okay. The course was extremely well marked and there were a few course marshalls to help out. I noticed on my map that the first turn was 1.02 miles into the run, so I figured I'd use that to gauge my pace. After getting the baton (slap bracelet) from Josh, I took off after all the runners in front of me, matching their pace. I thought I was going sort of fast but I wasn't really sure. I knew I didn't want to pass them because I figured I would carp out and then get re-passed right away, resulting in utter humiliation (which I oppose), so I just kept matching them until the one mile point. And my pace was...7:30. Oops. Okay, so that's a bit fast. Still, it was only 6.3 miles, so I figured I'd maintain my pace and see how it would go. I was breathing kind of hard, but was keeping it under control. I didn't want to pass these people, but in the end I didn't have any choice. It seems that I'm not the only one that doesn't know how to pace myself and these women I was following started to fade. So, on the first hill I came to, they slowed and I passed them (note: first, but not last, hill). Then, since I was still maintaining my pace, I figured I'd go ahead and keep passing people. I was pretty fun.

There were lots of hills throughout but, despite my Chicago training, they didn't bother me too much. I'm sure it was just race day magic, but I was keeping a very strong pace and passed about a dozen people. Then I came to the next to last mile. And it was all uphill. Yes, that's right, it was uphill for a mile (well, I didn't have a Garmin, but I really think it was a mile). I had my time on my watch, so I knew I was almost done, so I just kept kicking it. The hill killed a bunch more runners, so I was able to pass a few more people and then, after the endless hill, a volunteer shouted that we had about a mile to go. Thank god. The last mile was entirely downhill and I was able to cruising into the finish. This was my best run of the day, coming in at 48:50 for the 6.3 miles for a 7:45 pace. Definitely better than I expected and a good start to the day.

Leg 2:

As Leah mentioned in her race report, we vegged a bit between legs and tried to get some rest. I didn't sleep (I think only Mike and Dawn got any sleep), but I did close my eyes for a bit which helped. I was pretty excited for my next run since it was only 3.5 miles and I knew I would be able to run it fast since, well, why not? It was such a short distance that I knew there wouldn't be any reason to slow down.

This leg was just a straight shot down a bike trail, so I wasn't worried about getting lost. Josh came barrelling well ahead of schedule and, motivated by his super-fast pace, I took the baton and left at a dead sprint. As you might guess, this was a bad idea. I was instantly sucking wind and my breathing was really ragged. Luckily there was no one around to hear this as I was hardly in good runner form. Still, it was a really short run, so I didn't want to slow down too much. Frankly, I just wanted to get it over with. So I kept running...and then my phone rang. This is actually Leah's phone and I knew the special ring that was going off. It was here Dad calling from the Dominican Republic, so I figured I'd better answer it. I'm sure it was a surreal call for him as I was sucking wind trying to talk to him and he couldn't stop laughing at the situation. I told him to call back in about an hour and half and hung up, but not before finding out that the Cubs were up 2-0 (they'd go on to win 9-1, but that's neither here nor there). After that rather odd exchange, I continued on. The little phone conversation really threw me off, but I had less than a mile left. I reached the local college, which is where I knew I was finishing, so I kicked it into gear...and then reached a hill. A hill like no other. It was 10 miles if it was a foot. 90 degrees straight up. And so I slowed. I really tried to keep going fast. Really. But my tired legs kept slowing down. But there was the finish! Thank god. Off went the baton to Leah and I finally was able to stop, vomit my lungs out onto the ground, and relax. I had finished with a nice time, although I was *way* overexerted myself. Definitely not a pretty run. Still. 26:30 for 3.47 miles is a 7:38 pace which is really pretty nice. I couldn't have gone another foot, though.

So we took off and headed to the next exchange. Hey, there's Leah! (honk honk, cheer, cheer) Whee, drive drive drive. And then Mike's phone rings. It's Leah. My stomach drops as I know this can't be good. She's unlikely to just be calling to chat. Mike answers and I can see that things aren't great. He looks a bit confused and then just slowly hands the phone to me. I understand why as I take the phone and Leah's somewhat worked up. I'm pretty good as sorting these things out, so I managed to figure out that she's lost. At first it sounds like she's on the bike trail but hasn't seen a sign or another runner, so I figure she's just panicking because they only put signs at turns. Then the call is disconnected. This really pissed me off as I figured we were losing signal and so I called back. We talked again and then I was disconnected again. This was really frustrating. After the last disconnect, I realized that Leah was hanging up on me, which was totally understandable given that she was trying to run. Had I realized, I would never have called back the first time, but I thought I was dealing with cell phone problems. So, what to do. I wanted to go find her, but I didn't know how this was going to happen. She didn't have any cross streets since she was first on some random grassy trail and then on train tracks. We drove to the train tracks and stood on them looking both directions, trying to see here. I really didn't understand how we were going to find her and felt pretty helpless. Thankfully, she called and said that she had found the trail, so we headed to the transition. Eventually she arrived and, although there was a bit of trauma, seemed intact. Still, a pretty scary situation.

Leg 3

I was pretty excited about Leg 3. Actually, I was completely terrified of leg 3 giving how raggedly I'd been breathing in the first two legs and now I had to go 7.16 miles. I was really worried that I would go out too fast and then have a crappy run. But then I discovered that I'd be running by the lake at dawn and I was excited again. I just figured I'd take it slow and get through the run and enjoy the scenery.

Holy crap was that a good choice.

This was possibly the most beautiful run I've been on. Ever. I took off from the exchange in the dark and headed towards the lake. I didn't see any red arrows, but I figured that they would use the bike path for the run so I went that way. It was right along the lake and the sky was starting the grow light just as I began my run. The horizon was blue, pink, and purple and I could see the pre-sunrise though the masts of the boats on the harbor. Of course, to do this, I had to keep looking over my shoulder since I was running north, which made the run pretty slow. I was okay with that. In fact, I was wondering how slow I could justify going at that point and not be totally ridiculous. I knew if I was slow enough I could see the sun peak over the horizon, but I also needed to get the run over with. In the end, I had to just give up on the sun and move on. I'd already been passed by two (super speedy) runners and didn't want to get passed by any more than I had to. So I picked up the pace slightly and got on getting on. And then I realized why the bike path wasn't chosen for the run as it dead ended. The guy who had just passed me informed me of this and suggested we head over the bridge to get back on path. This seemed like a good idea, so I headed that way. I found a red arrow again and I was all set. Right after I figured out my mistake, the van called to let me know which was good, but I was luckily all set anyway. I saw the van at mile 1 (or thereabouts) and handed off my headlamp to them since it was light enough and, free of that restriction, continued my run.

After (sadly) turning away from the water to head west, I encountered a few runners. I run behind them for awhile, matching their pace and taking my time. At some point around downtown Racine, I was passed by another runner who didn't seem that fast. At this point I decided that I wanted to catch that guy who passed me and so I took off. I passed the guy who had been pacing me and said hi to him. He seemed surprised and said that I was the first person to say hi to him during this relay. We both agreed that people took this thing too seriously and I moved on. I could see the guy ahead of me I wanted to catch and so I started really running. I was half way done so I wasn't worried about turning it on as I felt really good. For the last three miles I slowly gained on him, although he picked up the pace when he turned and saw he behind him. I never caught him (and wasn't every withing more than a tenth of a mile, if that) but it was good motivation to run faster. I didn't have a final time since I apparently didn't start my watch when I thought I did, but I ended up at somewhere around a 9 min/mile pace. Given my strong second half, that means my first half was around a 10 minute mile. Good thing I picked up the pace.

Seriously, I really, really lucked out with this run. After two pretty mediocre runs as far as scenery goes, I scored big time with the most beautiful run of the whole trip. Just awesome.

So, in the end, I was really, really happy with the paces of my first two runs and didn't care that my last run was a bit slow. It's really hard to not run your ass off when the runner before you kicks ass and you know you are being followed by a super strong runner. You don't want to let your team down. I think that's why everyone on the team exceeded their expectations and we maintained such great paces. It's an awesome team event and I can't wait to do another.

Dude, Where's my Van? You rock.


E-Speed said...

I loved yours and Leah's reports! I seriously wish there was a way for van one and two to mingle more in these events. I feel like I missed out on a lot of fun in van one!

Hopefully you guys will have me back again next year.

Anonymous said...

Glad you got to experience the sunrise or at least the sky brightening at day break along the lakefront. It is an amazing moment.

So did you also get a little lost but you just said it differently?

I'd do the smiley face thing but forgot how.

Sailor Sue

Full Metal Lunchbox said...

You were absolutely amazing out there--especially that first leg.  I can't believe you maintained that kind of pace for that kind of distance on unfamiliar terrain!

I want to be like you when I grow up.

Van Man said...

It's so cool, it sounds great from your description! I should also try it one day

man with a van said...

I see that GMR is amazing from your description. You are really lucky to attend this event. Most of all I like the part with driving a van. It seems so cool!

Van Sales said...

I like such events very much! So many people are together and from your description I imagined such a picture. Unfortunately I couldn't see it my own eyes.