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.
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2010 Blue Ridge Relay – Post-race Wrap-up (#1?)

Before

After

This entry has been delayed long enough.  It is time to capture the annual post-race wrap-up.  I found myself delaying this post because I think I really don’t want it to be officially over (until next year).  What a fun event we had.  Like hiking, running the Blue Ridge Relay on an ultra team (6 or less runners) is a great opportunity to find what you are made of. A test. An accomplishment. Never did I think we would not finish this race – not even close. But you do have those moments while running where you have to pep talk your way through the pain, high heart rate, impossibly steep hill (truly mountains), stomach problems, fatigue or whatever else might be causing more discomfort than you would feel on a normal 10 mile run.  There is little normal about this event.  36 legs. 208 total miles. Our team of 6 runners ran between 30 and 43 miles per runner averaging 5-7 miles per leg.  The challenge is rarely in the leg distances but in the ability to keep up a regimen in between each leg. Run. Stretch. Hydrate (replenish). Eat. Change Clothes. Rest (ideally sleep). Change Clothes. Hydrate. Repeat.  Somewhere in there you may volunteer or be volunteered to drive the van from exchange zone to exchange zone, go fetch another runner from the exchange zone and escort them back to the van or socialize with other teams.  Each run past the first leg for each runner starts out the same.  Slowly and with some stiffness or soreness.  Slowly your stride returns, your body finds the flow and your mind gets the luxury of wandering in any direction you choose.  Thoughts like “what will I eat when I finish?”, “is that van coming up behind me and will it be our team van?”, “other than the obvious, what cures the ‘sloshing belly’?”, “is that barking dog on a leash?”, “is that a building in the fog or just thicker fog in the shape of a building”?, “did I really just step over beaver roadkill?” are not uncommon.  Honestly, how unlucky are you if you are a beaver and get hit/killed by a car?  Never did I question my reason for being out there running my 20th, 30th or 40th mile but oddly never did I have a great reason for running this event either.  Maybe it is camaraderie?  I would love to know whether others have deep-rooted reasons for running this relay and what they are.

Well, no shock I have digressed a touch.  Let’s talk stats, data and improvement ideas for Team 4tunate:

  • This was our 5th time running the Blue Ridge Relay:
    • 2006: 6-person mixed team: 30 hours 58 minutes (team name was originally “Low Hanging Fruit”)
    • 2007: 4-man team: 32 hours 8 minutes
    • 2008: 4-man team: 32 hours 38 minutes (by the way, the definition of ‘dumb’ in the dictionary is repeating a 208 mile relay with a 4-man team).
    • 2009: 6-person mixed team: 32 hours 01 minute
    • 2010: 6-person mixed team: 30 hours 12 minutes (our best to date!)
  • We have spent these hours in a “Dualie” van for 3 of the 5 races.  Yes, this has become our mascot.
  • Having a great sponsor like Mountain Khakis who equipped us with race leisure wear was too cool!  They make some super quality stuff!
  • Cold Chef Boyardee is the most popular post-run food of choice.  We brought 7 bananas and returned home with 2.  We brought like 80 Chef Boyardees and returned home with 2.
  • Women like to run in clean outfits for every leg run.  Not so much for the men.
  • It takes 2 hours and 25 minutes to reach Grayson Highlands from Uptown Charlotte (I write this so we can officially reference it next year).
  • 3 year old van markers are too old to use.
  • Zero air fresheners were used in our van.  That is too little.
  • Bojangles Mac-n-Cheese tastes better after the end of a long sleep-deprived run.
  • Every year at least 4 blinky lights will be found in the van prior to returning it.
  • Gas for the Dualie costs roughly $110 for the trip.
  • No matter how many bagels are purchased it is always too many.  Same goes for Bananas and Bars.
  • A loaded potato in the middle of the night after running 4 legs is a little bit of heaven.  Next year get 2 of them.
  • 0 race number belts is 1 too few – pinning numbers to clean shirts is a drag.
  • Some runners (think rookie) have requested mace for the night-time legs for the imagined serial killers.
  • 1 Snuggie was 5 Snuggies to few in our van.  Team Snuggies instead of shirts next year?
  • A car AC/DC adapter should be a race requirement.
  • Whitney wears a women’s MEDIUM, not small.  Her tallness made the team shirt look like a belly shirt.
  • Speaking of belly shirts, our van ruled that this attire is not appropriate for any of the men on our team (as a minimum standard).

I am sure there are many other relevant stats and learnings and will be adding to this list as I remember them.

As we emerge from the race we enter an official team “quiet period”.  This means noone can officially opt-in or opt-out of next year’s event.  I know where I sit (IN!) but your brain is not qualified to make a rationale, balanced choice in the days immediately following the race.

I also want to spend some time memorializing my fellow Team 4tunate runners:

  1. JMart – this guy is sneaky fast and crazy sweaty.  I secretly think he’s trying to de-throne John for sweatiest runner I have ever known.  One thing is for sure, he’s never seen a spot not worthy of a bathroom.  He also pulled some monster driving shifts this year in the wee hours of the night.  He is to be heralded.
  2. Jasut – this guy likely talks a bit too much.  He definitely does so too often without thinking.  His ship was loose for most of the trip and rarely could he get into or exit the van without having to ask someone to pass something to him.  If an article has been abandoned somewhere in the van it is his.  He remains married even when doubters thought inviting his wife to join the team might change this fact.  There’s nothing sneaky about this Jason – you can hear him from miles away.
  3. Johnny – John is an efficient speaker. Direct. His running is steady from start to finish and so is his running prep.  The only member of the team to mimic his race legs down to the mile in training. He sleeps with a sheet over his face. Occasionally he will snore.  In violation of our “quiet period” team policy, he proclaims this is his last BRR – we’ll see about that.
  4. Cindy – Rookie. Steady. Strong. Shockingly undisturbed by most of what the newness of this race threw at her.  She changed clothes while her husband held a towel around her (what does she do on a team without me?). She is no longer friends with leg 22.  She wore clean running clothes for each leg.  She needs to embrace the rejuvenating power of baby powder – mocking it will get you nowhere.  She introduced the “Snuggie” to the team.  Jaw-dropping.
  5. Alex – machine-like in his running.  Go fast.  Repeat.   His demeanor is unwaveringly positive and his running is quick.  Alex brings a calm coolness to the team.  He’s never seen a river he won’t wander into.  He’s also a consummate professional competitor.  You need him on that wall.
  6. Whitney – lean, mean running machine! Flow. Funny.  No one likes a good “Repent” sign more.  She runs a tight ship and asks little of anyone.  When she does ask for something people go out of their way to make sure she gets it.  She travels from St. Louis each year for this event – Mississippi Representin’!  Driving the Dualie may not be her thing (in my dreams I heard “stop, stop, stop, now go forward” repeated by JMart several times).

There will be more thoughts to come…until then enjoy this slideshow of pictures and these results!

IT IS ON!!!

With 5.5 hours until we wake, load into the Dualie (it’s officially baaaaccck!) and drive north to VA for a 7:30am start time I am excited to say it is on!  Take the image of me walking down Woodlawn from the Light Rail station in a full suit in 85 degree weather about 4:30pm ET as I approach the Dualie store (Adventure Vans on South Blvd in Charlotte) to bed with you.  Oh yeah, I had my laptop in hand but left the sticker reading “dork” back at the office.

I think the team is ready.  I only wish I would have practiced going to bed at 9:30 at night a bit more.  3am will come very early tomorrow.  Last point before putting down some food items we are bringing – we didn’t get to runner profiles for Runner #5 (“The Animal” Alex) and Runner #6 (“Push it” Whitney).  Will try to get these out there post race as they have good things to say…

Food we are bringing:

  • Peanut Butter/Banana/Honey sandwiches.
  • Processed pasta foods (raviolis, butter noodles, mac-n-cheese)
  • Bananas
  • Tx Pete Hot Sauce
  • Beans, Beans Good for your Heart!
  • Gum – mostly for that horrible Saturday morning van breath
  • Juice
  • G2 – when did Gatorade change its name.
  • Chocolate Milk – poor mans recovery drink.
  • Peanut M&Ms
  • Some water.
  • Peanut Butter
  • Peanuts
  • Starbucks powdered coffee mix (really??)
  • GU Gels

I love this race – looking forward to seeing some of the old faces from the race.  Wishing we had some clever van tactic that we could use with/against/as a game with the other teams (did I mention we do have the Dualie again?) and ready for some 40+ miles of running while we are out there!  Most of all I am looking forward to running out of the exchange zones in the dark of the night following some blinky that by that time and nearing mile 30 is typically shrinking into the dark ahead of me.

By the by – if you haven’t read Born to Run you truly need to do so – inspiring, fun and sick all at the same time.  Good night – until the start!

Runner #4 Profile: Cindy (aka “Rook!”)

"Rook!"

This is Cindy’s first year in the race.  Go easy on her.  We have told her this is an event where hygiene, fresh smells and sleep is as important as the event itself.  With this knowledge she signed up without much of a hesitation.  Truth be told she signed up only after 4 years of hesitation but we finally broke her down with the subtleties of peer pressure.  Welcome to the team Cindy.  You won’t regret it.  So long as you can look past the smell, lack of sleep and Basically as long as you finish what you started and you don’t make John use the words:  “see, I knew this spousal thing wasn’t such a good idea of the BRR – or at least a team with 1 van” then it is a total victory.

1) What makes you want to run BRR this year or what are you most looking forward to in this years race? After my last marathon I was not sure if I really wanted to do another one anytime soon.  I felt like I had maxed out on what I could do time-wise with the kind of training I do.  And if I wanted to better my marathon time I would need to change the way the I train and I am not sure with the ages of my children that I am really in a place I can do that.  I also thought that this race was a different kind of challenge that played to my strengths (i.e, working out on tired legs).  But quite frankly, I was very tired of a certain person moping around the house for weeks lamenting over not having enough runners and not being able to run the BRR this year.

2) How many BRRs have you run? 0

3) What race would you like to run that you never have? I am actually not a fan of races so there are none that I have a strong desire to run.  I really detest all that pre-race chatter at start lines (“How many gu’s are you going to use?”  “What miles are you going to take them at?”  “I only ran a one mile warm-up” Etc.)  Just hush up and run already.  I like running the race, but just not all that pre-race stuff.

4)  Hobbies outside of running? Spending time with friends and family, reading, working out (Other than running), and spending copious amounts of money on things at that “are not really all that necessary” (according to my husband).

5)  Best funny / entertaining running-related story? I highly recommend that if you are going to trip, fall, and bust your face while running do so in front of the Ritz Carlton.  They will be very kind to you.  This happened to me working in Toronto.  They brought me back to my hotel (not the Ritz) and walked me to my room (Jason thought I had been mugged).  I can also remember being a car the night before the Columbus Marathon with a couple of nervous runners (who shall remain nameless) who insisted on driving the race course and making commentary on every uphill and downhill – “there’s a little hill here”,  “ooo – a little downhill here.”  Lots of fun.

6) Favorite leg of BRR?  Least favorite leg?  Or…what leg are you most / least looking forward to? Ignorance is bliss.  (Remember – just hush up and run already)

7)  Best food advice you can give new runners or what food are you most likely to bring on the trip? I will defer to the wisdom of the experienced.

8)  What food will you eat as soon as the race is done? Something salty I hope.

9)  What running shoes will you wear and non-running shoes? Asics 2040s or whatever the latest model they are up to is.  Heiskell style!

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?