IM Louiville

IM Louiville
Bikes racked at Ironman Louisville 2010

Monday, June 11, 2007

Great Midwest Relay

I had mixed feelings when I found out that the Salt Creek Pirates needed to call me up from the reserved ranks to round out the 2007 team. I have done this relay before, and yes, it was a lot of fun, but it would also mean missing some of the other things I had planned. But as I told the Cap'n early on, if you need me, I will be there for you. After all, what good is an alternate if, when called for duty, you don't show up or the task? With just about 7 hours until the team headed out to Madison, it started to sink in that I would be doing the GMR relay this weekend.

The Saint dropped me off at the Cap'n's house (late, of course) and we were off to pick up the final Pirate, Heather. Heather was the only unknown of the group. With an event such as this relay, you need to have the right combination of personalities to make it a fun event. I was quite sure the rest of the van (6 team members) was going to be fine, but who was this newcomer and would she fit in?

The drive up to Madison was nice and uneventful. We got Heather talking and she seemed quite comfortable with the group almost immediately. I thought she had a lot of guts to do an event like this without ever meeting any of us before. She must really love running. We met our other van (the other 6 Pirates) at the packet pick-up. Then all 12 of us headed out for our pasta dinner. We found an excellent little Italian place in downtown Madison almost by accident. Everyone was pretty much buzzing with anxiety for our upcoming race.

We checked into the hotel and another team must've recognized the Pirates because they went crazy in the lobby, acting like they were our best friends. The kid behind the desk in the hotel lobby had to ask them to keep it down. It seems they were already celebrating before we even started the event! I quickly hopped in the elevator and pressed the "Close Door" button about 10 times. I needed to get away from these people!

In the morning, we were able to go down as a team and have a nice, relaxed breakfast. Each of us had been given our Pirate shirt the night before and most of us were wearing it for the start of the race. I think everyone had their Pirate name on the back except for me. Since I was a last-minute addition, there wasn't time to get a name printed on for me.

The start line was in the parking lot of some bar just off John Nolen Drive. Start times were staggered based on predicted finish time. The Pirates started at 7am last year, but this year, we "graduated" to the 9am start. Deb would be our first Pirate on the course.
The teams starting at this time are the groups in it for fun. Everyone was friendly, cheerful and out there just to have a good time. With just a few announcements, the gun sounded!

Immediately, the teams dispersed and we were off in our vans. Since I was in van #2, we had to wait for all the runners in Van #1 to run their leg before we even needed to start thinking about running. We headed out for some coffee (yes, I had pre-packed some Diet Coke for myself!), did some shopping at a Nike outlet, then went to the local Wal-Mart to pick up some markers to write on the van windows.

We got to the first van transition and Cap'n and Matey Mark did a nice little job of decorating our van. Our van then drops off our first runner and moves ahead to the next transition area. Sometimes, we need to move quickly. If our runner only has a 3 mile leg and we're not following along directly, since the first section of the run was on a trail, we didn't have much time to get to the next stop and get the next runner prepared to go.

Things moved along smoothly and soon it was my turn to run. The first leg I had to do was 5.8 miles. Since it was on trail, I knew I'd find a mile marker and would start to watch what my pace was like. Thankfully, when I got the wrist-baton slapped on and started to run, I had 2 runners, both teams from Algonquin, in my sights. They provided nice motivation for me to run faster to catch them. As I ran past, I gave them the Pirate cheer, "ARGH!" and kept on going. I kept glancing at my watch at the mile markers and I was cruising along. The weather was perfect for me and the trail was just beautiful. I had a great first run, though I was happy to pass the baton to Peg Leg at the end of my stretch.

At each transition, we'd roll down the van windows and play our Theme Song - "Yo ho, yo ho, I Pirate's Life for Me!" Most teams smiled and cheered us on and we did get quite a bit of attention. We waved "the hook" as we drove by runners on the road or anyone who gave us a second look. Our van laughed, joked and encouraged each other the whole time. There was a little bit of frustration when we couldn't find a decent place to eat dinner. "Eagle-Eyes" Matey Mark spotted a Chauncey's tucked behind a building and it ended up being a great meal for all of us. We were getting sick of eating granola bars, Combos, and the fancy-pants food (black licorice, some toffee bars, some seaweed wraps, etc.) we had packed in the van. (No worries, the fancy-pants food was excellent! We just needed "real" food).

Each of us had to run the next leg in the dark. Every runner was required to wear a reflective vest, have a blinking light on the back and we all had some form of head light. It was getting quite cool out and I was upset with myself for not bringing a long-sleeved shirt. I only had short sleeves, a hooded sweatshirt and a jacket. The problem with running with the jacket would be that I'd get it all sweaty and once I finished, I'd have nothing warm and dry to wear. This stressed me out for about 2.5 hours. At the last minute, I decided I'd "tough" it out by wearing just the short sleeves. I shivered as I waited to receive the baton from J. Sparrow. Then I was off, starting my 6.9 mile leg at about 1:50am. This run was on all streets and the first mile or so was quite well-lit and I was able to pass 2 women. I talked to each of them on my way by and they were both very friendly. Then it got dark. REAL dark. I questioned the sanity of running in the middle of the night alone. Oh sure, there were other relay runners coming through, but no one nearby. I heard footsteps behind me and a guy ran right by without saying a word. "NICE JOB!" I yelled to him. He did say nice job back to me, but I don't think he meant it. There was a van that kept pulling up in front of me, waited for me to run by, then would pull up again. I wondered if they knew I wasn't their teammate. Then I thought their runner must be just behind me and they are trying to use the headlights from their van to light the way for their runner. But as I made ground on that runner, the fan fell back and I lost any light from their headlight beams. I only had the light from the headlamp I had strapped over my hat. Spooky! I felt like I was running at a good pace and the end came near. I realized that I was not cold at all during that run and all my stressing about not having a long-sleeved shirt was just a waste!

Now it was time to get some sleep. Last time I did this race, we slept outside. This time, we were able to go into a church. However, we slept on the floor and it was just a slab of concrete with a thin, cheap layer of commercial carpet laid down. Five us us grabbed a room and J. Sparrow was lucky enough to find a chair to curl up in. She was in a different section of the church and I actually think she thought we might forget about her! The night was rough, Matey snores a bit and we all stank. I had to get up to go to the bathroom and when I walked back in the room, it was funkified! I think we slept a total of maybe 3 hours, then we got up to head toward Chicago. It was nice to have a sink to brush our teeth in this year.

The sun came up and the temperature started to rise as we prepared for our final legs of the relay. I was pleased that the members in our van were still in good spirits and getting along quite well. This is a very long time to spend with a bunch of people in such close proximity. As I prepared for my last leg, the volunteer at the transition area warned me to bring my map or memorize the turns. He said there were some sections that were not marked. Only problem was, my map had about 16 turns on it and there was no way I was going to memorize all that! I folded up the map and stuck it in my pocket, but I knew that after a mile or 2 of running, that map would be soaking wet and useless. I got the baton slapped on and started to run. My plan was to follow the runner ahead of me.

Lots more trail for this run. Hot. Somewhat shady. No cicadas. Really hot. Gaining on the runner in front of me. LOTS of people on the trail. Bikers, roller bladers, other runners, walkers, kids, old people, bird watchers, you name it, they were out on this trail! One lady walking her dog asked me how many miles the run was. I think she almost passed out when I yelled back "180". Well, I didn't have time to explain it to her!

I lost the guy in front of me when the trail curved. Then I came to a section with no arrow. I knew at some point, I needed to get off the trail and onto the streets. Was this it? I turned around in a full circle to try and spot an arrow. I see nothing! A little panic sets in and I wonder if I'm already off course. I do another full circle, slower this time and see way off to my left, an arrow that belonged to the relay. As I took this route, I spotted the guy I had been following the whole time...but he didn't take this route. He went straight and I wondered if he was going to get lost or if he was taking a shortcut and would gain more time on me. Either way, I needed to follow the arrows. Most of you know how directionally challenged I am, and I know my team was stressing out about me getting lost out there. They, too, had been warned about the lack of markings on this section.

I was passed by a skinny dude wearing a singlet. I tried to pick up my pace to catch him, but it was no use, he was too fast. Now we're back on the trail, zig zagging around the many people who have come out to use the trail today. Man, I'm sweating! I was happy to have a sweat rag wrapped around my wrist for this leg! Now we're going off the trail again. Again, I can't find the marking. Another runner and I stopped and both started looking around for where to go. I was happy that I wasn't the only one who was having trouble. Then I spotted the arrow and sprinted off. I tried to run faster to make up for all the time I spent looking for the stupid arrows!

Now I was on shaded streets and there was a bit of a breeze. I was much more comfortable and I picked up the pace a bit more. I passed a guy who looked like his van had just dropped him off! I wondered if they had just stopped to give him water or if they had driven him to this spot!! Ah, whatever, just need to get away from his heavy breathing right now! He was struggling and he told me they were doing this relay with only 8 runners. No wonder why he's tired!

I felt smooth and...oh...looky here - skinny singlet dude is on his cell phone, probably asking his team if he's going the right way. I stayed on the left-hand side of the street and he was over on the right, up on the sidewalk. Maybe I can just scoot right by him without even knowing. But game on, dude, I'm takin' you down! A turn came up and I had to get over so now I knew he'd see me. I said nothing as I passed by....he didn't say anything to me when he passed before, so I just kept quiet. And then I could see the transition and could see Peg Leg waiting for me to pass the baton to him for the final leg of the relay! I left skinny singlet guy far behind and was happy about that little feat for about 5 minutes!

Time to put the Pirate shirt back on and wait for Peg Leg to run 'er home. The Pirate music was blasting as we pulled into the lot at Montrose Harbor. Our other van was already there with a cooler full of beverages for the celebration. The Saint also was cool enough to hook us up with another cooler of beverages. Once we spotted Peg Leg, we all were ready to run in together! We looked hilarious with our little Pirate masks, but I don't think any other team had quite as much fun as we did. Another successful GMR. Now there is some talk about doing it as an ultra (meaning 6 runners) next year. Hmmm....

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Screw GMR-do RAAM next year.