Sunday, June 20, 2010

American Odyssey Relay

On April 23rd and 24th, I was part of two teams that ran in a relay race from Gettysburg, PA to Washington, DC. We were the Krybabies and Slackers and we were awesome. Each team consisted of 12 people and the teams ran simultaneously so everyone had someone to run with. I was runner 11 on the Krybaby team. The Slackers didn't have a runner for leg 11 (who we referred to as TBD), so I didn't have a set running partner. But lots of people stepped up and ran extra to run with me. No one runs alone!

Most of the 24 people on the teams knew each other from the Sargeant's Program they do in Rockville. They ran this relay last year, when it was in its first year, and had so much fun they needed to do it again. A few of their team members were not able to do it this year, so they had a few openings. I was brought in through my friend Connie, who was brought in through her friend Dave. Connie and I didn't know anyone (other than her friend Dave) and we both were a little apprehensive. Two days in a van with people you don't know could very well be a nightmare.

We met everyone for the first time about 2 weeks before the relay. All of our doubts were dashed as we really liked everyone. They welcomed us newbies (there were others as well) with open arms (literally) and we felt part of the group from the get-go.

Fast forward 2 weeks. We met in the parking lot of the Rockville Community Center on Thursday night, April 23rd. We loaded our van and headed on to Gettysburg. Though we stopped on the way to pick up a roof-rack storage bag. We made it to Gettysburg and met the rest of the teams for dinner. We all toasted to a fun relay in the days ahead.

The hotel we stayed at, America's Best Value, was exactly as it sounds. It was kind of dumpy with retro style (really, they have really just not redecorated since 1972) but the staff was nice and we were only going to be there for 12 hours, so it didn't matter.

What did matter was the other guests of the hotel. Appently there was a Greyhound dog convention of sorts and this hotel was hosting quite a few attendees. It stank. The dogs barked. And we weren't happy. I'll never look at a Greyhound the same way.

We were up early Friday morning to have a last minute team meeting and load the vans. I was in Van 2 of the Krybaby team. In our van, we had Fabi, Eric, Connie, Dave and me. We had another runner, Purley, who had to drive up on his own and didn't actually come into our van. I don't know how we would have fit him because we took advantage of that extra space. After the vans were packed, we headed to the start.



Because we were certain we'd come in last, or very close to it, we had a 7:00 AM start time on Friday. The race organizers' hopes were that, by staggering the start times and having slower teams start earlier, everyone would finish around the same time. We started with one other team (America the Bootyful...who turned out to be sandbaggers. They totally smoked the field).




After the start, we headed back to the doghouse hotel, checked out, decorated our van and headed to the hand off between our first van and us.

Waiting was really the hardest part for me. So, we started at 7:00AM on Friday but with me being number 11 of 12 runners, I didn't actually until 5:00. I had 2 TBDs for my first leg. The first half I ran with Dee, a chemistry professor up in NJ. And the next half I ran with Keith, who is a lawyer here in Olney. We ran across the Mason and Dixon line from Pennsylvania into Maryland. It was cool crossing the line, which was over a bridge, but then we had run up a gigantic hill. That wasn't cool. But getting to know Keith and Dee was great.


After my leg I really earned my place in the group. This group is an awesome group of wise-cracking, chop-busting, fun people. So, as we were driving to the next spot to pick up our last runner, we passed some women that looked like they could use some water. I had a water bottle and I wasn't sure if one of the girls was coming to the car and there were cars behind us so we couldn't stop. Well, I didn't know what to do so I threw the bottle. I didn't anyone but with this group, by the end of the weekend, I had pegged the girl in the head with a water bottle that had knives coming out of it, she fell into a ditch and had to be retrieved. It was pretty hysterical.

After our team was finished, we camped out at this high school in Smithsburg, MD. Some spouses of runners on our teams met us there and cooked for us. Oh, it was an awesome meal of grilled chicken (yes, they brought their grill) pasta and salad. It was fantastic and other teams were walking by drooling.

It was our van's turn to start running, but not before we were able to get some massages. That's right! Another spouse is a massage therapist and met us and gave us all 15-minute massages. Heavenly. I was able to get a few hours of sleep after that!

Time to run again. Time being 3:28 AM to be exact. My next TBD was Gary and Gary loved hills. Good thing too because we had to run through Antietam National Battleground and cemetary. At 3:30 in the morning. It was misty and eerie and incredibly hilly. But Gary is a riot and we had a good time. He kicked those hills out.

After our last runner finished their second leg, we were lucky enough to camp out at the house of one of our van captain's friends. We were in West Virginia and they had a great lawn that we were able to camp in and a bathroom and shower we could use. A few of us decided to sleep in the van because Eric snored like a chainsaw the whole time. But we got some sleep and enjoyed awesome food and coffee the next morning.

From West Virginia, it was onto Dickerson, MD which is actually not too far from where I live. We were meeting up with our first van and the place was a mad house. The port-o-johns were hideous and it was getting to that point where we just wanted to be done. We devised a plan to have all of our remaining legs running simultaneously so we could finish at a reasonable hour. Because our team captains have a good relationship with the race organizers, and we were in no way in contention for any prize (other than being the slowest team), it didn't matter. So, off we all went to our last legs.

My last leg began in Glen Echo, near Bethesda, along the C & O canal towpath. Nice and flat. The first part of the leg I ran with Kay, who was the other team captian. She was my team's (the Krybabies) captain. Kay is an awesome woman. Great stories and a great outlook on life. My second TBD for my last leg was Jorge. I was glad about this because I hadn't had a chance to talk to him much at all and we had a good talk. He's a cool, funny dude.

We finished in Georgetown, DC and our last runners took off. We all went to the finish and the party started while we were waiting. Lots of beers and dancing. We waited for our last runners and then when we saw them, we all ran together crossing the finish line together. That was awesome.













Really, this was one of the best running experiences I've ever had. I met and became part of a great group of people. I can't wait to do it again!! I felt like I had been a part of the group for years and it was such a wonderful feeling. These people really know how to show a girl a good time!










Me and my TBDs: to my left is Jorge, then Gary, Dee, Kay and Keith. Thanks guys for not leaving me alone out there!

The following days were interesting. I was in a relay fog for probably the week following. I slept most of the following day and took a lot of naps the week after. It took a long time for me to recover! And I was to run the Frederick Marathon the following week but decided after about 2 miles into that it just wasn't going to happen. I was tired and it was so hot and humid that I was already feeling lightheaded and dizzy. Not a good sign. So with major disappointment, I bailed. This is definitely for another post, but I was having major abdominal problems at the time too. I had the beginning of an ulcer and was in a bad way. But that's all under control, and like I said, will be another post shortly.

Anyway, I highly recommend doing a relay. As long as your teammates are fun and you get along well, there's no way you can't have a good time. That's what running is all about, right?

To see more of my pictures, check out my Facebook page.

Happy running!

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