Sunday, June 10, 2007

Dude, Where's Leah's Van?

This past weekend saw Jason and I running in the Great Midwest Relay which starts in Madison, Wisconsin and ends at good old Montrose Harbour in Chicago. This is the first time I had taken part in a race like this and I already can't wait for next year!

Things got off to a bit of a rocky start with long lines at O'hare holding up our van pickup. Meeting for dinner at 6:30 quickly moved to meeting at Mike and Barb's at 8:30pm and an 'eat on your own' policy enforced. We left The Jayhawks pad around 9:20 on Thursday night, got into Madison around 11:30 and after checking into the hotel and going through a team meeting we got to sleep at about midnight (while falling asleep to American Gladiator on ESPN Classic....which in a word of course is awesome).

We decided to all get up early and head over to check in the team. This would probably be done differently next year (yes already talking about next year!). There is no need for everyone to go check the team in, especially for the people in the second van who wouldn't even be running until the afternoon. After checking in we headed back to the hotel, got our stuff together. We also got our race t-shirts and Lisa and noticed that they were a 'little long'. It made a cute '80s dress on Lisa, and I think all she needs is a rad gold belt to complete the 'look',

Quickly enough it was time to head to the start line and for van 1 to head off. The whole team came to see Josh (aka Full Metal Lunchbox) start and soon enough the verbal, "on your marks, get set...go" came on and he was off. Leading the race for the first 100m too! Van 1 headed to the meet up point and Van 2 headed back to the hotel.

My Leg 1
I was the third runner in our van and after Josh handed off to Jason we headed to the next meet up point and I started to get a little nervous. What if I got lost, and what would it be like running alone (Jason and I have trained together for the last 3 years....and if I do run alone it's in Chicago so not much alone time there). Soon enough we see Jason, he hands off to me and we are off. I catch up with the girl in front of me and chat a bit with her. I realize she is a bit behind me so I keep chugging forward. At this point in the race the runners were still close together so I was able to keep my sites on runners in front of me. I caught up with 4-5 runners along the way and as I got close to the end I saw Josh who ran in the last little bit with me...which was *awesome* thanks Josh! This leg was very hilly which was a shock to my flat as a pancake Chicago running that I do, so I was very pleased with my performance. I ended up doing the 4.85 miles in 38:08 (7:51 pace).

I was followed by Mike who had a long 7+ mile run, then Lisa who and ending with our Anchor Dawn. Everyone did better than they had predicted. Nice job van #1!

We traded places with Van #2 and headed towards where the next van exchange would be. Along the way we found a pasta place and got some food. I ended up getting a giant Italian beef sandwich that I thought I was going to regret because it was a big honkin' amount of food. However, the next time we ate was after our last leg so it ended up being a good idea. We headed to the next van exchange point and had about 2.5 hours to spare before the second half of our team made it there. Dawn, who can sleep anywhere, passed out in the van while the rest of us hung out in this large grassy area and read and dozed on and off.

Soon enough the other van was there and it was time to head out for our Leg #2

My Leg 2
Well this is where things got a little hairy for me. I had a 6.2 mile or so run. I felt ok, a little nervous as usual. Jason came up the hill to the exchange and off I headed. The director at the position told me where I was going and that the bike path I was getting on was not right after railroad tracks that the map showed because there weren't any railroad tracks. There were two runners in front of me that I was slowly catching up too, but all of a sudden they disappeared from view. The course had these red arrows at turns and so I was keeping my eye open for that. I had gotten the first three turns done, but I hadn't looked carefully at the map and so I had misunderstood that the bike path was not actually bumped up to the road I was on, but actually at the end of one of the streets that connected, so I should have made a turn. I knew the turn should have been at about one mile in, and although I didn't have Garmin with me, I knew my pace and so when I hit 9 minutes, I knew I had missed it. I *never* get lost, so you can say I'm not cool under fire. I found two women walking and asked them where the bike path was too which they responded, "What bike path? I think you are in the wrong place there is no bike path around here. Maybe head down to Pearl street and you'll see it". So I head back to pearl street, and don't find it, but find two guys and asked them where the bike path was to which they said, "What bike path? Maybe if you go to the end of the block, turn left, you'll see it"

At this point I am *freaking* out. I can't get my breathing under control and I have *no* idea where I am and I don't look to be in the best of neighborhoods. I follow the guys advice, and do find a path...of course I use the word path loosely as it was tall grass that was worn down a little bit where people had walked on it. I think maybe it's mountain bike path and just keep heading on it. I had called my van numerous times in hysterics (so 4 people got to see the Crazy...Jason already knows of it obviously) and suddenly the "path" ends up on a railroad track. With no way off it. I realize that this is the railroad track that is on the map, so that the actual path had to be on the left. But it's a track with no where to go but stay on it. The sides were steep and so I had to run on the ties of the track. I was worried a train was going to come by, but luckily none did.

I got to the next busy road, found the bike path, this time paved and headed onward. At this point, I am still freaking out amid a panic attack and just want to get done but realize I have about 4 miles left to go. As I am running, alone, with no other people around I start to realize that I am watching way way WAY too much Law & Order Special Victims Unit reruns, because I start to freak out that someone is hiding or something ridiculous like that. It always happens that someone is alone on a running path.... My Dad who is in the Dominican Republic ends up calling while I am in the middle of this. The connection is terrible however and so I can't talk to him. and I keep freaking out.

In the end I feel RIDICULOUS because I totally could have been fine if I had understood the map better. If I could have just calmed down in the first place I would have been fine and realized where to make the turn, but I just couldn't get under control. I don't know what my pace was for the run, but it took me an hour to do the whole thing with the extra distance and the stopping and the keeling over from almost getting sick in the middle.

A big thank you to my van for understanding and to my husband for dealing with the Crazy while I was out there. Next year, I'll be reading all the pieces of my map. I also heard that many people got lost on that leg which makes me feel a bit better....although still ridiculous for my behavior.

ANYWAYS. Onward.

During this part of the trip we hit the time where the vests and lights were needed. Lisa and Dawn both had to run with the headlamps and the vests and flashing lights attached. It was super dark out and after Lisa finished she said that we really needed to follow Dawn as it was so dark out. So we did some leapfrogging with her. We would drive ahead, and then let her run past us, then drive ahead.....and let her pass us and so on until we got to Van exchange #2.

All of our legs for our round 2 were shorter than Van #2 was expecting. Jason had a 3 something, Mike and Josh a 4 something, Lisa about 2, I had the 6 miler and Dawn had about 5 miles. When we called van#2 to let them know that Dawn had started and they had about 45 minutes until we got there, we realized they had yet to get some sleep. They didn't look thrilled to be taking the baton, but they went on and we headed to the next van exchange to get as much sleep as possible. There was word that at this van exchange there was a church that opened it's doors to the runners and let people sleep on the floor so we were all excited about that. On the way there however, we got hit with a freight train....a freight train which stopped. The exchange we were trying to get to was on the other side of the train and so we were all a little bit annoyed at this point.

Finally the train moved on as did we. We found the church, got a room to sleep in. Everyone but Jason and I slept in the church, while Jason and I went back to the van to sleep on the benches. The room in the church was small and with us in there it would have been too crowded. Our van was parked right at the runner exchange point however and so every so often we would hear the screaming cheers of teams followed by the runners yelling (right behind our van), "Which way do I go?!?!?!". We slept in the van from about 12:30 to 2:30 or so, but not much all in a row.

At about 2:30 or 2:45 or something I texted Barb to find out where the kids were and found out that their final runner was just about to start. We went into the church to get our teammates moving and suddenly we were all in motion again.Josh started his run in the complete darkness and we leapfrogged him to Jason's exchange. Jason lucked out with his leg because he got to run right along the lake at sunrise. It was so beautiful out and we were all a bit jealous that he got to run this leg.

We headed to the runner exchange and at this point I over heard a guy say, "I heard that there is still a team that started at 9am here...that's crazy". I said, "Yeah we started at 9am" and found out that his team had started at 2pm! Those are some speedsters there! He also asked Mike if he was, "On the team with the 8 women." Which I thought was a little rude but whatever.

My Leg #3
Jason came motoring in and now that the sun was up and it was daylight I didn't need the nighttime equipment. I took off and found a rhythm. This run was just about the opposite of any run that I do. There were no people, it was on a gravel bike path, there were no people, it was quiet....there were no people. Next year....iPod for sure. It got a little quiet and a little lonely out there but yet something about it made it pretty nice. I passed two runner and got passed by one. This was a pretty uneventful stretch for me. Just motored forward. 6.7 miles done in 54:31 which ends up being a 8:08 pace and a nice way to end up my trip.

We got through the other 3 runners, exchanged vans and headed down to Chicago. We had found an IHOP online via Josh's cell phone and decided to go there for breakfast which was *delicious*. We got to Montrose Harbour at about 11:30 am and waited for van #2's last runner to motor in. We had celebratory beers and cleaned out our van and hung up in the shade. We got word that the anchor was on her way and we hoped that the van could find parking in time so we could all run across the line together. Luckily they just made it, and we crossed the finish line about 30 hours after we had started.

After the race Jason and I headed home to relax for a bit before going back out to meet the team at Trader Todd's. I was *so* tired that I was a bit on the dizzy side. I think I fell asleep during the Cubs game, but I kept waking up and it kept on being the first inning. So I didn't sleep much if at all. We headed to Trader Todd's and had a good time laughing with our teammates and all of us attempting to keep our heads from hitting the table from exhaustion.

This was a *fantastic* experience for me and I can't wait to try it again next year. It's a thing that needs to be treated as a running event and not as a road trip event. We had games and snacks and so on and so forth (which were never used)....but no real stuff to help fall asleep or warm clothes or blankets or anything. It's always nice doing something the first time....because you find out all the things you should and should not do the next time you try it. To check out a slew of more pictures check this album out :

GMR 2007

You can also check this album of picture's that Lisa took (she even has one of me running!).

My legs are still sore from the run. I think I probably did my sections a bit harder than I should have. The first leg was very hilly and I still did sub 8's which is probably why I'm feeling the soreness still. Hopefully all will be better tomorrow because it's on to week two of Pfitz. Stay tuned for Jason's report.


Bridgette said...

You did great! It sounds wonderful... not that I'm down for one anytime soon. :)


Laurie said...

Looks like you had tons of fun!

Thanks for the tips on what you will do differently next time. I will be running the Great River Relay (from LaCrosse, WI to St. Paul, MN) in August. I can't wait!

E-Speed said...

this was an awesome report. Sorry I did not get to spend more time with the Van 1 peeps. Maybe if you'll have me next year ;)

Hope the recovery goes well. I am excited to read about your marathon training. I definitely think a BQ is within your reach!

Running Jayhawk said...

Stop looking at my boobs, leah.

Great report though! I love hearing stories from both ends. Next year I think I might want slots 2 or you guys will have to gimmie the skinny so I don't get lost!

Boston Road Runner said...

I'm so jealous of your running adventure! It sounds like you had a great time - regardless of the chaos of your second leg. I can't believe they picked trails that were so misleading. I remember being really paranoid the first year I did RTB that I would get completely lost - but I don't know that anyone actually ever has. I really love the experience of running completely on your own/in the dark - how often do you get a chance to do that?!

Full Metal Lunchbox said...

Great race report.  Made me feel like I was actually there.

LeahC said...

boston road runner-

the way my legs worked themselves out, I didn't get any chance to run in the dark. My last leg was at about 6am, right after the sun rose. Next year I am hoping to be in the other van so should get a chance to do that late night running.

Cuckoo said...

Wow, what a weekend! That race sounds a bit intimidating, but definitely seems like fun too. Great job to you and the rest of your team that participated in the race.

Fran said...

congrats to both of you. It looks like you guys had a ton of fun!

taylor said...

Great pictures! Already looking forward to GMR 2008!

GeekGirl said...

Wow. This looks super fun. I'm dying to do a relay of some sort. Good job on your legs.

Anonymous said...

Sounds like you had a great time. Nice report!

Rae said...

Great job to both of you guys!! It sounds like you had a blast and are ready for next year already!! =)

Anonymous said...

Great relay. And I think the reason why you freeked out is because of the bedtime stories you dad told you when you were a kid. Remember: and there was a little girl in the woods all by herself! Those stories all had happy endings as did your relay. Way to go!

Sailor Sue

Nicole said...

Awesome job! I hope I can join you guys next year because it seems like you had an awesome time.

Danny said...

a little late, but i've meaning to write. wow!! what an awesome sounding race!

i've always wanted to do one of these relay races, and you're report only strengthens that.

good stuff!