I woke up on Saturday morning to the sound of chirping birds and the tires of passing cars on wet pavement. I took a quick shower (because I wouldn’t be taking one for over a day), brushed my teeth, got dressed, and loaded up the van before heading to the start of the Green Mountain Relay. We had a start time of 10:00am, so we were going to be one of the last teams to start the race. This also meant that the pressure was on because we were expected to be one of the faster teams competing. Not really sure how that happened, but awesome.
We got to the start with plenty of time to spare, and we prepped our van with our high-tech “Caution: Runner on Road” sign I made from cardboard and a sharpie. A few teams took off at 9:30am, and so it was only a matter of time before it would be our turn to start the GMR. My teammates and I were growing anxious, partly because we wanted to simply start the race and partly because we were nervous about what we were really getting ourselves into. 200 miles between six people over the course of a day. The reality of it all was starting to set in.
As our team name was “Our Legs Will Go On” in honor of Celine Dion’s “Our Hearts Will Go On” (don’t ask), SM convinced the GMR volunteer announcing the start to put on Celine’s “Taking Chances” as SW started the race (thanks to the volunteer for the hook-up!). There was a countdown from 10, and next thing we knew SW took off into the distance. The rest of us hopped into the van and drove off to the first exchange, then it was SW to SM, SM to WW. By now it was starting to get hotter out. Really hot, and really humid. Thankfully we packed multiple cases of water and Gatorade for this thing because we were really going to need them today.
After the first couple of legs we realized we were off to a great start, and as we talked about our times we began thinking we could possibly catch up to several teams that were ahead of us by exchange eight or so. Knowing my buddies and myself, we were going to seriously push ourselves to accomplish this (we’re very competitive people at heart). Eventually it came time for my first leg, and as it was around 80 degrees out and sunny I decided to run this leg sans shirt (sun’s out, guns out). I also busted out my CW-X shorts to help prevent my legs from becoming fatigued over the course of the next twenty-four hours (kinda dorky looking but they work and are worth every penny). JP handed off our baton (a Livestrong bracelet) to me and I was off. Down the street, around the corner, up the hill, down the path, and through the field. I noticed it suddenly got darker out in a matter of minutes, and then I heard the crack of thunder and felt the first few drops hit my head. Great, just what we all needed. As I approached the exchange to hand it off to SW, it poured. And I mean poured. SW told me to give the guys a special message, and that message was, “@#$% YOU!” I jogged over to our van and jumped in, soaking wet of course, as it poured and poured. We drove (slowly) with our windshield wipers on fast-as-all-hell, and then it started hailing. Don’t believe me? Check out a little video here. SW must have been so pissed. But at least we were done with our first set of legs, and our first 37.0 miles.
Despite the rain, our second set of legs was off to a great start. We started seeing a lot of unfamiliar faces at the exchanges, which meant we were catching up to the teams that started before us (holler). With the sun once again blazing in the midday sky, it was getting extremely hot and, now that the storm had cleared, it was getting extremely humid. But we pushed on. Once again JP tapped out as I tapped in. This time instead of worrying about the rain and lightning I was able to take in the beautiful scenery that Vermont had to offer. I passed waterfalls and a gorgeous farm with grazing cows and horses (don’t ask why but I love cows). Even in the distance I could hear sheep baa-ing. I finished the leg and passed it off to SW yet again. Second set of legs: complete. We were a third of the way done. Since I carbo-loaded really well, I knew I needed just a little bit of carbs in the form of a Cinnamon Toast Crunch cereal bar and a bagel with peanut butter to stay energized and a small whey protein shake to help keep up with muscle recovery. I also decided to take a little extra prednisone to help control my Crohn’s because I knew the toll running (and eating) like this would take on my gut.
As we started the third set of legs dusk began to set in, and so we broke out the reflective vests, headlamps, and blinking red lights. Running in the complete darkness was beginning to become a reality, although since we had all done crew while at BC, we had run in the pitch black of early morning (and complete exhaustion) down to practice countless times. However, I also knew that this was going to be particularly challenging for me because as most of the other guys’ legs were getting shorter and easier in terms of overall difficulty, mine were only getting more challenging as the relay progressed (easy, moderate, moderate, hard, hard, hard). This also meant that my rest time between legs was getting shorter. Awesome.
I started my third leg sometime around 10:00pm, and into the darkness I went. About a quarter-mile in and all I could think was, “This is wild.” The stars were shining brilliantly against the night sky, and the only light in the area was from the moon. But it was just wild being out in the middle of nowhere, alone, in silence where the only light guiding you was from your headlamp. Wild doesn’t even begin to describe the experience of running through Vermont at night, but I know I’ll never forget it. I finished my leg and we had completed the first three legs of the relay covering 106.8 miles. We were all pleased we had gotten this far, although our bodies were starting to feel the effects of repeatedly running several miles and then sitting in a van immediately after. The leg I had just completed had a steep downhill, which sounds easy but it just beat the crap out of my knees. I (and everyone else) was starting to hurt, but that didn’t matter because we sucked it up and pressed on.
When SW came in after finishing his fourth leg, we greeted him for his twenty-fifth birthday with a surprise cookie cake and song. Everyone else at the exchange joined in with us. This is one reason why I love the running community. Everyone is out there, doing their own thing, pushing their own limits, and everyone respects that. Even though we were teams competing against each other, we were all out there to prove to ourselves that we could do something crazy like the GMR. And that’s all that mattered.
We were all getting tired, and I decided to lay down for a bit and try to grab some sleep (although I wouldn’t catch a minute of sleep all night) and rest my legs. Luckily my next leg was short at 4.3 miles, although again it had a lengthy severely steep downhill so it was going to be hard on my body. Then after that it would just be two more “hard” legs, each with a 2-mile section of incline.
And be sure to hit up my Flickr for full-sized pictures seen here and others from the GMR.