Sunday, July 24, 2011

Red Eye Relay: Race Report

Wow, what a concept.  Put a team of runners together and run 100 miles in some of the most rural and desolate parts of southern the middle of the night.  Red Eye Relay was challenging but very fun.  Here is the report:

The way this relay works is that you start your team at a time which will allow them to finish by around 9 a.m. the next morning.  So some teams started as early as 4:00 pm, while others started as late as 8:00 pm.  My team was scheduled to start at 7:00.  I ran 6 miles the morning of the race so that I could get a total of 20 for the day.  I ended up regretting that.

I was part of a BARA--Bloomington Area Runners Association--Team.  These were organized by Ben Bartley, owner of Indiana Running Company.  He had a bunch of teams in the race.  So we were paired with another team.  This made the car pooling much easier.  I would be in a car with one of my teammates (Emily!) and two teammates from the team with which we were paired.  I don't know if that makes sense, but I don't know how else to describe it.

Tim and Rowan went with me to drop my stuff off at Indiana Running Company, which served as our "base camp."  We hung out in the basement.  I put my sleeping bag, air mattress, and very heavy gym bag in the basement and saved a spot for Emily next to me.  She arrived soon after (with our awesome team shirts) and before long we headed to the track.

My car included Emily and, from the other team, Jon and Madeline. I've known Jon for years (he's from Bedford), but this was my first time meeting Madeline.  She is a very talented runner from New Orleans.  Well, she's from Virginia but she ran at Loyola in N.O.  She would be my running partner.  We were told to run together during our legs...and we handed off to Jon and Emily each time.

The race started on the track, and Madeline and I had the first leg.  We lined up with a bunch of high school boys.  We knew they'd take off in a dead sprint, so our plan was to pass them around 200 meters.

Take off sprinting they did.  We stayed close to them.  On the final straight, Madeline passed one and I held off another.  We exited the track to Fee Lane and headed toward Griffy.  Madeline was ahead of me and I was really pressing to keep up with her.  She is very fast but made it look effortless.  We were moving around a 6:35 pace and then....we got stopped at the light on the bypass.  If you're familiar with Bloomington, you know this is the longest red light EVER.  I timed it to be about one minute and 16 seconds that we lost.  Oh, well. 

So the chase was on to catch the boys in front of us.  While this leg was a net downhill, there were a few ups. Madeline was still about 50 feet ahead of me.  I would gain on her on the ups, but then lose her again on the downs.  Suddenly, we saw one of the high school boys up ahead.  Madeline told me she was going to try to pass him.

And she did.  Authoritatively.  Then I passed him.  He was totally cooked.  TOTALLY.  He even stopped at the top of one of the hills.  From there, it was all downhill to Lake Griffy.  I knew we were close to finishing so I laid it on and finished within about 5 seconds of Madeline.  Our total time was just over 14 minutes for 2.2 miles.  We ran hard.

Then we had to take over the car.  Jon's car.  I drove, and we followed Jon and Emily to the next exchange point.  Their leg was very tough.  But they finished right at a 7:45 pace, which is impressive for the hills they were on. 

Then we had to wait.  Emily and Jon had handed off to other members of our team, and they would be running for 2+ hours.  We went back to the running store.  We were all starving.  But we couldn't eat because we had to run soon.  We decided to go to Max's Place to buy sandwiches that we would devour after we finished running our last legs.

Jon, Emily, and I walked to Max's Place--a place I've never been.  It's, um, not a place I'd fit in.  But they had sandwiches.  Though it took us a while to get our food, we were glad to have actual food waiting on us at the end.  Soon, it was time to head to the next check point.

Madeline and I were up next.  We changed clothes, got in the car, and Jon drove us to the next check point.  We got a nice surprise there--we saw Wes, Scott, Jim, and the rest of the ultra runners.  We chatted with them and laughed about how they weren't messing with the spreadsheet.

We waited a long time.  I think we arrived early and that our team lost some time.  I'm not exactly sure what happened, but we got behind.  Finally, it was our turn.  Now that it was dark, we had to wear head lamps, reflective vests, and blinking tail lights.  Annoying.

Madeline and I took off for our 7.85 mile leg.  This leg was around Lake Lemon.  I had warned her that we were going to be in for some tough terrain.  But the first few miles are deceiving.  They are totally flat around the lake.  We were moving at around a 7:00-7:10 pace around the lake.  She was about 15 feet in front of me.  I didn't want to run quite that hard yet because I knew what was coming--I've run there before.

I don't know what mile it was into our leg, but we were running downhill at a pretty good clip, and Madeline was still in front of me.  The next thing I knew, I saw her collapse to the ground--hard.  It scared the crap out of me.  She had told me that the day before, while running, she blacked out.  So I thought that was what had happened.  I changed from runner mode to nurse mode and quickly assessed her.  She had not blacked out.  Rather, she had run full speed into a massive pot hole that she couldn't see because we were going downhill.  The headlamp only shows you certain angles.  I couldn't really see how badly she was hurt, but I knew she hadn't hit her head.  I asked her if she was okay, and she quickly stood up and said yes she was fine.

But she wasn't.  She was bleeding badly from both arms and knees.  She had also hurt her ankle.  But she kept going.  I can't imagine how much she was hurting.  I continually asked her if she was okay, and she kept telling me yes.  We returned to our prior pace, and she ran as though the hard fall had never happened.  Madeline is tough.

Then came the hills.  The darkness was a blessing--we were climbing blindly.  I've run a lot of hills, and so I actually felt pretty strong on them (the early ones, anyway).  Madeline was hurting, though.  She started asking me how much further.  I know that feeling--when someone asks that, he/she is ready for this to be over.  I told her a mile and a half, because I thought that's how far it was.

But it was longer than that.  I pulled Madeline along and up one final huge, long hill.  We were extremely glad to finish that leg.  We finally were able to assess Madeline's wounds.  They were bad...and full of rocks.  Luckily, another team had a first aid kit.  She got bandaged up and we were out to follow Jon and Emily.  They ran another extremely hilly leg, and then it was back to the running store for some sleep.

When Emily woke me up, I was in a daze.  I SO wanted to go back to sleep.  But we had to go.  Madeline and I had one more leg.  It was only about 3.85 miles, and most of it was downhill.  But still--I really didn't want to run.  I wanted to SLEEP.

We arrived at the exchange point and both Madeline and I had to use the bathroom.  However, before we knew it, here came our teammates...ready to exchange.  No time to pee.  We were off.  This was our last leg, and I knew Madeline was going to run it fast.  I was going to do my best to stay with her.

Despite this leg being mostly down hill, I was hurting.  I was cursing myself for running that 6 miles before the race.  I just kept trying to stay with Madeline.  She pulled me along.  She started telling me what a good job I was doing and that we were almost done--to think about my sandwich.  She looked really strong, and it was all I could do to stay with her. 

I had no idea what pace we were going, but when it clicked to the second mile I saw that it was a 6:28 mile.  We were moving.  But my goal was still just to stick with Madeline.  If she hadn't been there, I wouldn't have gone nearly as fast.  This reminded me how beneficial it is to train with someone who's a bit faster than you are.  Someone who can push you.  She was pushing me, and I was hanging in.

When we hit 3 miles, Madeline said something like "Yay!" because we were almost done.  That mile was 6:34.  That may not seem fast, especially since it was down hill, but we had a ton of miles on our legs, were sleep-deprived, and running on gravel in the dark.  We really picked it up the last .85.  Suddenly, we could see the finish.  It was one of those, though, that looks closer than it is.

The last half mile or so, I was red lining it.  I was right on Madeline's shoulder.  I was not racing her.  I just wanted to stick with her.  I kept telling my legs to turn over...and finally we finished.  The pace for the last .85?  5:55.  No wonder I felt like I was about to die!  Props to Madeline for getting me through that leg.

And we were done.  Hallelujah.  We followed Emily and Jon on their last leg.  They were doing incredibly well--moving very fast--until they got to the base of the biggest hill I've ever seen.  Jon stopped to walk, and shortly after Emily did too.  It was then that I could see that something was wrong with Emily's right leg.  I knew what had happened--her right IT band had locked up.  She has been fighting that stupid thing for a long time.  She tried jogging a bit, and she was limping.  They kept walking, and she kept limping.  I began to worry about her.  Emily is tough as nails, and I didn't want her to hurt herself.

They made it to the top of the hill and started running again.  Emily's stride was way off, but she kept going.  They finished, and we were done.  Emily was very upset about her knee--she's training for a 100 miler.  I tried to reassure her that we can fix it.

We went back to the running store.  We hardly had an appetite for our sandwiches we were so tired.  I was so tired I accidentally ate Jon's sandwich instead of mine (sorry Jon!).  We decided to take a nap and then head to the track to see our teams finish.  Emily set her alarm and we all fell asleep.

I vaguely remember my phone ringing and knowing that Tim was on the phone, though I didn't remember anything about the conversation.  The next thing I knew, I heard Emily saying that we were late.  We were.  It was 8:55.  We had overslept.

We got our stuff together and headed to the track...missing our teams finishing by about 10 minutes.  That sucked.  Jon, Emily, and I are in none of the finishing pictures because we were passed out in the basement of the running store.  Oh, well.

Tim was there with Rowan...and they had Starbucks.  We got our medals and it was time to go home.  My team was second in the women's division--by only 5 minutes.  That's not much at all in a 100 mile race.

I came home and slept about 3 hours.  Then I debated about running again.  The relay messed up my schedule.  I needed 13 more miles to hit my 60 miles this week.  But should I run after that hard effort?

Well, even if I shouldn't have...I did.  I ran 13 miles tonight.  It was very, very hard.  My legs were dead.  I am very glad tomorrow is a rest day.

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