Farewell Tour (whatever JH!) #BRR2011 #BlueRidgeRelay

29 hours 48 minutes and 15 seconds after sending Jason M. off down the Grayson Highlands mountaintop start we finished up in Asheville 100% intact with the fanfare that John deserved in his “last Blue Ridge Relay ever!”  If you believe that you will have no problem sending me $1,000,000 so I can help educate the needy in a 3rd world country.  This time was good enough for 64th out of 120 teams, an 8:36 overall pace and 11th out of 18 Ultra (6 or less) teams.

I always put off writing this post every year because there is an odd post-race blues period where you realize it is over and it is likely a year before you get to run an event this cool again.  It is also hard to sit down and write because I find it difficult to organize my thoughts into meaningful compartments – even more so than on a normal day.  Here it goes.

Pre-Race Picture

First, a word about our sponsor:  KT Tape.  This company responded to one of my tweets (which I truly believe is the sign of a company dedicated to their customers) and within days offered to sponsor us with shirts and tape for the race.  Most of us were veteran’s of KT Tape usage largely due to the small ailments that come with age.  The shirts were super cool and looked great at the start, the finish and in between stages where we weren’t too lazy just to be ok sitting around in our old sweaty running clothes from the last leg.  We used both the standard KT Tape which was offered in Purple, Lime Green and Black and was more of a Fabric-based tape.  This stuff worked great as usual.  You put it on and you always tend to wonder: “What’s this going to do for me – I can hardly feel it on me.” Then you stand up and you get it – the skin pulls away a bit from the muscle and it feels like blood flow in that area is enhanced.  We did use the synthetic version of the tape but we all agreed we missed having the pre-cut strips down the center of the tape strip in the event you wanted to apply in different ways.  Without scissors, this made using it for the variety of applications we used it for more difficult.  Oddly, when ripping off a strip from the roll with this tape it tended to not rip cleanly leaving some of the strings hanging.  We also learned that if you don’t apply the tape on clean and alcohol-rubbed body parts the chances of it sticking for a leg of the race were slim.  Baby wipes were not the same as a shower and alcohol application.  We knew this going in and they folks that applied their tape prior to starting any running had tape on 29 hours later.  Those that didn’t often didn’t have tape on at the end of their leg.  Again, we knew this but thought some baby wipes and extra hard rubbing (friction) to get it to stick would overcome.  Great sponsor, company and concept.  BUY THEIR PRODUCTS!

Pictures: There’s a “Bermuda Triangle” occurrence in effect at this race.  In my 6 years at this race I am pretty sure I don’t have a single documented photo from our team between legs 20 and 28.  These legs take place from roughly 10pm and 4am.  A camera is the last thing that we think of I suppose.  In actuality, it is pretty amazing that we don’t have a complete breakdown in van driving at this point.  Simply getting to the next exchange zone is commendable, but I’d love to have more pictures of the amazingness of this race at night.  If you are interested a link to our pictures is at the bottom of this post.

Van Ripeness:  Every time I pick up the van for this event I wonder how they get a relatively used van (31k miles) to smell so new and be so clean?  Every time I turn it in I wonder how will they ever get this god awful dirty shoes, mildewy clothes, burp, fart, sweat, gatorade smell out of this van?  This mystery becomes more amazing to me each year of the event.  The odd part is that it isn’t until the day after the race that I realize how truly bad the smell was.

Nemesis:  For me, Leg 20 from the Green Valley Fire Department to the Mount Carmel Baptist Church.  Sounds innocuous, right?  Wrong. My Garmin shows nearly 1200 feet of climbing just under 4 miles of this 6.7 mile leg.  That’s steep.  I ran it in 69 minutes.  That’s short bus slow.  Let me be clear:  that’s walking nearly the entire set of hills except when a van was passing me – then, and only then, my pride wouldn’t let me walk.  I don’t know what it is about this leg but each year when I reach it I am woefully unprepared.  It is my shortest turnaround from the prior leg (just over 2 hours) but 10 minute miles still do not add up…it makes getting closer to a 7 minute pace for this race a tall order much less the barely sub-8 minute miles I achieved.

Post-Race What-ifs:  I don’t have a lot of remorse for my performance or for the performance of our team.  I would like to run the race from front-to-back without walking during one leg.  I think that’s worth between 5-10 minutes of total time of our race for me alone.  I would like to be more strategic with my eating.  Literally just after finishing my 6th and final leg of the race I read an article in Men’s Health about needing few calories than one would think to complete this race.  Sometimes timing is everything.  This article discussed that a diet lower in solid food and not exceeding your normal daily calorie intake on a high output day is enough for peak performance.  This could be an area of improvement for next year.  Sleep in the first 12 hours of the race is a mandatory improvement for next year.  Being awake for 22 hours straight with the exception of a cat nap around noon was unacceptable and impacted my performance in the early night stages.  Otherwise, I’d bring less food, more salty foods, and drink less Gatorade early into the event.

Pet Peeve Time:  Aside from the normal race chatter which annoys the snot out of me about running events (you know what I mean: “what pace do you plan to run?” or “how you feeling?” or “are you ready for this?” or “tell me about those shoes”) the only minor peeve I can come up with regarding this event is the growing trend for teams to log “Kills” or “Road Kills” on the side of their van with van markers.  These are referring to the numbers of runners they have passed since starting the race.  I don’t care for this.  I think it is poor sportsmanship and is outwardly looking to take something away from others who are achieving great goals too.  Unless you are prepared to take my name off your list when I pass you later (which most teams don’t do) and ask me on the way by whether I’m running in the same category (most teams writing this on their vans are speedy, but also full sized teams which means they get nice breaks between runs, hydration and fuel are not a concern and running 18-24 miles over the course of the event is a good bit different than running every 3 hours or so until you’ve completed the event) then you seem to be rubbing it in my face that you are running faster than me.  In the history of any running race, only one person gets the honor of standing in front of the field and if they choose to, could say they were the best and fastest.   The difference in this is, that one person rarely says anything arrogant or that would take away from the accomplishment of others.  Running is not about the elite, while they are amazing, they aren’t as inspiring as the everyday running person who puts in their best to get a PR or place in their age group.  A little sportsmanship goes a long ways.  Having little sportsmanship doesn’t.

I have vacated my soap box.  I have not vacated my spot on this great team – here’s hoping to no one else does either (ahem John!).  If for nothing else, for the great quotes that come from being stuck in a van for 35 hours with good people (“I don’t know what’s more annoying, Sutton’s endless burps or the fact that Whitney continues to be shocked by it.” -Anonymous 3rd Runner).  Until next year, enjoy the pictures.  I’ll log a follow-up post to capture my food log for this race.

Finished!

Click here for a slideshow of our 2011 BRR race.

Thanks again KT Tape – you were very kind and supportive with your sponsorship of us!

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Food & Energy, Liquids & Hydration Suggestions? #blueridgerelay #brr2011

 The shameless plug-fest continues.  We LOVE KT Tape because they love us!  We get to be early adopters of their new synthetic product…cool to be an early adopter.  Cooler of them to support us!

Let’s talk food and energy and water and hydration.  After 5 runnings in this event I have finally decided it needs more than seat-of-the-pants, night-before planning.  So I am giving it 9 days before planning treatment.  Give me another 5 years of this race and I might even have a plan.  There are many approaches that I have witnessed so far:

1) “The Heiskell” – this is an Army/West Point influenced approach.  Eat at 6:05am, run at 8:05am.  Finish running at 8:55am, immediately drink 14.6 fluid ounces of a protein, electrolyte shake, 2 cans of ravioli-a-ronis, 1 banana, 1 powerbar and 1 bottle of water.  Repeat every 3-4 hours until you have run the 6th leg 30+ hours later.

2) “The Bagel” – if all else fails just always be eating a bagel when you are not running or sleeping.

3) “The Circle K” – only eat when a convenience store presents itself.  This rule can be breached if someone is passing out something homemade for $5 or less.

4) “Bar-licious” – see “The Bagel” but replace “bagle” with “bar”.

5) “The I-Wonder-If-I-Am-Getting-Enough-Calories” plan – this basically means eat a great deal between 6am and 10am and then lose interest in eating the junk you bought.  So instead you pump Gu gels, apples, an occasional Snickers into your body and convince yourself you are well on your way to the 4-5,000 calories the event requires.

Well, this year I plan to insert a 6th and much, much more well planned approach to rival “the Heiskell”.  Here are the gory details:

Friday:

5:30am:  Peanut Butter, Honey, Banana Sandwich, coffee, water

8:30am (Leg 2 done): Peanut Butter, Honey, Banana Sandwich, coffee, water

11:30am:  Oatmeal shake (oats, cinnamon, flax, banana, soy milk, almonds) via magic bullet followed by Gatorade.

2pm (Leg 8 done):  Tuna, Beans, Rice mix with hot sauce with water and a banana.

4:30pm:  Banana, honey, peanut butter, gatorade, water

8:00pm (Leg 14 done):  Quiznos? Bojangles?

9:30pm:  Greek yogurt, honey, powerbar, water

11:30pm:  (Leg 20 done):  Tomato Sandwich from leg 19 with water, chips

2:30am:  Banana and a Gu with water

3:30am:  (Leg 26 done):  Water and baked potato from prior exchange.  Maybe even a coke?

6am:  Coffee, pancakes? Egg Sandwich from a convenience store?

9am:  (Leg 32 done):  none of the food items above!!!

Suggestions?  Any improvements you see that can be made?  I’m all ears!

You Can Set Your Watch By It

It’s August and that means running focus for at least 6 runners I know and likely 120 teams worth of Blue Ridge Relay-entered runners shifts to the 2-state run through the mountains in September.  We return in 2011 with the same exact team as 2010 running the same exact legs (a leg is a stage of the 36-stage relay race).  Creatures of habit?  Nah… We thought about switching it up but the BRR is definitely not a place where familiarity breeds contempt.  More like the opposite as there is something comforting about running some impossible hill in the back woods of a town you’ll likely never drive through in daylight much less run through in the dark outside of this race.  For those wanting to know about one of the fellow teams you will be competing against here is our data:

  • Years of Blue Ridge Relay (BRR) experience:  5 (this is our 6th consecutive run)
  • Average age of our team:  36.8 years of age
  • Average years of BRR experience:  3.7 years
  • # of Vegetarians on the team:  2 (up 1 from last year)
  • Are we sponsored?  Yes – Thanks KT TAPE for your support this year!!!
  • Will we be bringing our Mascot (“Dualie – the 6-wheeled van”)?  That’s the plan!
Our lineup (in leg order with links where available to their runner profiles from last year):
  1. Jason M – Charlotte (6th year of BRR)
  2. Jason S – Fort Mill (6th year of BRR)
  3. John H – Waxhaw (5th year of BRR)
  4. Cindy S – Fort Mill (2nd year of BRR this writer’s better half)
  5. Alex S – Fort Mill (3rd year of BRR)
  6. Whitney T – St. Louis, MO (6th year of BRR)
So, what’s so special about this race and why do we like it so?  Read this.
What do I need to know about the legs and how do they break down for our 6 runners you ask?  Read this.
Tell me more about each leg please – check out our cue sheets.
Are there rules to this race?  What about unwritten rules?  Glad you asked.  Read this.  
In an ideal world I keep regular posts coming in advance of the race.  More to come here.

2010 Maps – Updated by BRR Leads

Short and sweet:  BRR 2010 Race maps with elevation profiles are updated.  The link is here.  Read up!

We will be in hour 26 one week from today!

2010 Leg Cue Sheet

So you say you are prone to take a wrong turn every once in a while, eh?  Fret no more the 2010 BRR Cue Sheet is here! Literally right here. Our great runner #1 is printing directions cards so this page is merely supplemental information but I would feel like a paper captain without dropping the knowledge every now and again (a southern phrase).

This time next week we are an hour and 15 minutes into our drive to Grayson Highlands SP.  Rest up everyone.

2010 Rules, Regs and Other Commentary

Get your rules and regs hot off the presses by clicking the picture/list above.  Spend a few minutes here familiarizing yourself with the governing rules of the 2010 Blue Ridge Relay.  Nothing too crazy here but some basic points to highlight:

  • iPods – leave them in the van.  Lots of time added to your team time if found running with these on.
  • Vests – basically if it is dark out they need to be on. I’ll be keeping it simple and sleeping in mine.
  • Lighting – flashing red lights and a headlamp/flashlight are required in addition to the vest when running at night.  I plan too look like a runway or a Christmas tree out there.
  • Race numbers – get to know your number and the number of the runner following you.  “Runners math” can be tricky (if we manage this right, we will just have to add 1) so spend some time here once we get the numbers in the van.
  • The Blue Ridge Parkway – except for Leg 35 the parkway is for runners only.  No runners will be allowed on the parkway without a vest. Big penalties (like disqualification for these actions).
  • Noise – night noise isn’t cool.  Unnecessary night noise is even less cool.  Enjoy the peace.  Keep the peace too. 7:30pm-7:30am keep it to a dull roar please.

There are many more.  The race director is pretty serious about keeping this race in the good graces of the Blue Ridge people that matter.  Most of these rules are in place to do just that.

Unwritten van rules (you won’t find these in the handbook):

  • Extensive bare feet are not cool.  Cover the dogs.
  • Extensive nakedness isn’t either.
  • It is expected that changing will require nakedness at times – discretion is advised.  Uncovered rumps on the van seats at any time is completely out of line.
  • Ziplocks for funked out running clothes please.
  • The front right hand seat implies you are the navigator – if you find yourself here and unable to navigate, kindly excuse yourself from this seat.
  • Newspaper those shoes please – there isn’t a strong enough air freshener.

I am sure there are others – please comment at will.  The following links have good info to read as interested:

JMart – I couldn’t find the maps nor the handbook from last year…any ideas?

Our Mascot (“Dualie, The Odd-Wheeled Van”) Returns!

Hip Hip, Hooray!  Hip Hip, Hooray!  Dualie’s back!  You know it, the odd-wheeled van will join us for another year of rocking good times on the BRR.  Stable, dependable, peel-outable Dualie is back!  Arrrriiiiight!

Not sure whether it will be the original white on gray combo or a cousin-combo (marroon and gray would be snazzy too) but I know I speak for the team when I say we are excited to have him back.  The insects, small animals and reptiles that hang just off the shoulder of the road may not share this same sentiment.  Nothing says “make room in the Exchange Zone” quite like Dualie does when he rolls in.  And those midnight stares of insane jealousy when we roll in…I’m working on getting either the Mexican Salsa horn sound or the “General Lee” horn sound to accompany the van.  Basically our “we have arrived” and our “we are out” them-song.  Honestly, the only better van I could think of having would be the one from the A-team.  There’s always next year.

Side note for our team members…if you haven’t officially registered via the BlueRidgeRelay.com website we are delinquent.  I think there’s one runner named John who might be in this boat.  Time to call Ken and grovel a bit if you don’t mind.

Let the training commence.