Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Reflections on THE RELAY

What is THE RELAY you ask? Well, almost a month ago, about 175 teams of anywhere from 3 to 12 people (the vast majority had 12) started on a 199 mile relay from Calistoga to Santa Cruz. Our team "Fat Kids Always Win at See Saw" was 11 people, as one of the kids got sick right before the run. The rest of us weren't sick until somewhere in the middle of the run...hahahahaha.

So here's how it works: There are 6 people in each of 2 vans. Kid #1 starts running at the start line and van #1 drives to a point ahead of said Kid where it's 'safe' to pull off the road. I say 'safe' because some of the places were a bit of a tight squeeze to fit the van on the side of the road. :-) Van #1 provides support for Kid #1 and then drives to the exchange point to ready Kid #2 for their turn. Kid #1 runs to the exchange point, handing off the baton/bracelet to Kid #2 and the process continues until all 6 Kids in Van #1 have run a leg of the race. While Kid #6 is running, Van #1 meets up with Van #2 at a van exchange point and the next 6 Kids take turns until it's time to do another van exchange. If it sounds complicated, it sounded that way to me too, but it is pretty smooth going once you get the hang of it. Each leg of the race is ranked Easy, Moderate, Hard or Very Hard and ranges in length from 3-8 miles or so.

So because we only had 11 runners, 3 Kids would have to do another leg of the race. Stupidly Tina and I volunteered and she drafted one of her friends, Sean. Even more stupidly I volunteered to do the last leg of the race thinking it would be 'fun.' Yeah, not so much...but more on that in a minute.

So I was Kid #2 and my first leg went pretty well. The most concerning thing was that it was rated E for easy. Hmmm. If they considered this Easy, I wonder how the Hard and Very Hard legs would look. Well, they lived up to their rankings and then some. Luckily I only had a Moderate and 3 Easy legs, for a total of about 18-19 miles.

I think a lot of us were concerned about the night runs, since we were mostly running along the road side out in the middle of nowhere and it was pretty freakin' dark. I had my head lamp and a flashlight, and I knew my trusty Fat Kids were waiting up ahead for me, but that didn't make hearing the howling coyotes any easier. My first thought was "Well, I only need to be faster than one person and then they'll eat that person instead". Luckily no one was eaten in the running of this relay. :-)

I didn't think the short distances of running would be a problem, and for the most part they weren't. It's the sleep deprivation that really got to me. We were able to crash for a while at a local community college in the gym, but I didn't really sleep. It was noisy and I kept thinking "What if we're not at the exchange point on time?". I ran my third leg Sunday morning and knew I was in trouble for the 4th leg at the end of the race. I was exhausted. It didn't help that as the day wore on we were seeing fewer and fewer teams. At one of the exchange points, the volunteer who was keeping track of teams told us there were only about 6 teams behind us. Ugh. Then we found out that teams were leapfrogging their runners. In other words, instead of running a true relay, they would have more than one runner on the course at a time. It didn't take long and we were dead last. Great. The one thing I didn't want, namely being the only person out there running, was going to come true. I was so tired, exhausted, disgusted when I was coming into the finish that my language left a black cloud that I'm sure still hangs over Santa Cruz to this day.

As it turns out we didn't come in last, only second to last. There was a team that finished 45 or 50 minutes ahead of us, but started an hour earlier than we did. I'd have to say one of the most surprising things was the lack of 'for fun, not very fast' teams (like us). Most of the teams that run this thing seem to be quick runners even if they don't look like they're in that great of shape.

Anyway, that's the short version of the story. You can let me know if you want to hear more. Yeah, I know the one question I've heard from everyone....Would I do it again? Wellllllll, it's kind of like any painful but rewarding adventure (IE running a marathon). You remember the accomplishment but forget most of the painful stuff. So, it's possible that I could get my arm twisted into doing it again. You know the saying...."Anything's possible."

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