Marathon #8 September 9th & 10th, 2011… TheBlue Ridge Relay! 208 miles, 12 people, 2 vans, no sleep and running mountain after mountain mostly in the dark! Ahh… The Blue Ridge Relay only the strong survive and only the dumb attempt it.
It was my second time running one of my favorite events and I was very much looking forward to it. Even though I had just run a marathon two weeks before, and knew this would be a challenge, I couldn’t wait to get started! I couldn’t complain about being tired when three of my teammates had run a full Ironman two weeks before! So needless to say everyone was wondering what 28 hours of constant movement was going to bring.
If you don’t know what the Blue Ridge Relay is, it starts at the top of Mount Rodgers, VAand finishes 208 miles away in downtown Asheville, NC. Each team can have 4 to 12 members and must alternate runners throughout the race. You must stay in the same order you started in, so if you are the first runner you ride in the van until your number comes up again. The smaller the team, the less rest you get. You and the team continue this alternating running until you reach Asheville, or someone dies. Our team finished 45th out of 120 and in 28hrs. Finishing is winning!
My first leg was supposed to be straight down hill with a mediocre climb, a 7.5 mile run that looked to be fast. Well, we started straight down hill and just kept going as fast as your legs could take us. After beating our legs to pieces we then had that “mediocre climb” before another decent to the finish. I will tell you that climb was one of the hardest I have ever had! It was straight up and the fact that I had nothing left in my legs didn’t help…this climb was brutal! But that wasn’t the big story of this leg in the race. As I climbed this mountain I heard someone approaching quickly from behind, I turned to see a pretty young lady coming to give me a good old fashioned butt whippin’…this girl was awesome! She was attacking this hill like she was running on flat land. As she passed me she simply said “have a good run” with a friendly smile. She might as well have just said Hey old man you suck I’m going to kick your butt now and leave you to choke and die in my dust! And the bad part is that she was so good, she could have said that and I would have thanked her. I tried to keep up for 20 or 30 seconds before I realized how fast this girl was! So I just watched as these chiseled, strong legs churned on around the bend and easily put lots of space between us. “The gifted one” is what she is known as now… her team name was “The crazy hot legs”. It was a pleasure to have my running ego deflated, and stomped on by “The gifted one”.
My next leg was good old GrandfatherMountain. This would be the 3rd time in one year that I ran up this mountain, and the second time that I had to do it in the dark! 10 miles, all up hill, in the dark. It was around 8:30pm and here came Howard around the corner, it was my turn again. So, off I went with my headlight and reflective vest on, and the full, bright moon high in the night sky. After ¼ of a mile it became as quite as I can remember. The trees and mountain blocked any cheers from the crowd at the exchange zone. That’s when you realize that you are one of very few out in the middle of the woods running up this mountain…in the dark….very eerie. To add a little excitement, I was trying to step out of the way of an oncoming car and turned my ankle on a broken part of the pavement. I thought that was it for any racing, but after a couple of minutes limping up the hill I managed to work out the pain. I was lucky! So on I went, climbing to the top where the wind was blowing and the temperature had dropped! It was cold! But no time to complain, I handed off to Michele and had to jump into the van so that we could beat her down the mountain and get Lisa ready for her leg. Meantime, I had to get ready for my next leg which was a 7 miler running with Katrina in the dark…again! I had to add another leg to this race so that I could run a full marathon (26.2 miles), and Katrina hates to run at night by herself, in the middle of nowhere. I don’t understand why!? Anyway, we started this run at around 11:30. It was described as a 7 mile moderate run with a small ascent around the halfway point. Moderate my butt! My legs were like jelly, we have been working on almost no sleep, and every time Katrina saw a blinking red light ahead she pushed it even more to try and catch the person in front of us! Road kill is what that’s called. The only thing that slowed her down so that I could keep up was when a local pulled up beside us and said” Ya’ll aren’t from around here is ya?” Our answer was of course “no”!? She then proceeded to say “Well… we was driving here last night when a BEAR came across the road just down yonder. Just givin’ ya’ a warnin’!” That’s when Katrina stopped in her tracks. My thought was, “thank god I can rest”…her thought was “let’s go back”! Anyway, no bear showed up and we finished that leg in good time.
After a whole two hours of sleep in a church parking lot somewhere in the mountains, it was my turn again. My last leg was of course in the dark. The good thing was that it was only 4.5 miles and I wouldn’t have to run again unless it was to the bar for another round at the finish line! Howard handed off to me, and I was off. To be honest with you I remember very little about that last run due to the fact I was tired, it was dark, and cold, and I was ready to be done! So I ran as fast as I could, which wasn’t very fast. I do remember handing off and hearing “Tim you’re done!” Thank god! Done! I ended up running 29 miles in all, and only had 7.5 of those in the daylight. But what an adventure!
I know it doesn’t sound like a lot of fun but I have to tell you, if you have the right group of people this is one of the best races you will ever get to be a part of. I have, by far, the best teammates of anyone else out there. We are all in it for the adventure and camaraderie! The support for, and from, everyone is amazing! It is a race that I will not miss if at all possible. As long as I am with the same Waxhaw Express team! TheBlue RidgeRelay… I dare you to try!