So far this race has been my toughest one. I think.
I think I’m suffering from the same phenomenon that happens after you give birth. While you are in the middle of it, you say things like “I will never do this again!” which I didn’t say, but thought many times during the race. I even remember telling my friends that it was harder than a marathon. Now that it’s been over a week I’m thinking, “that wasn’t so bad”. But I know it was. Wasn’t it? I’ll let you decide.
Race day started with me being dropped off at the van at 5:30 a.m. on Friday morning. My first race mistake was to stay up until 2 the night before (morning of?) to pack and load music onto my shuffle. For some reason I thought I would be sleeping quite a bit in between running, so I didn’t worry too much about the lack of sleep. It was a three hour drive to Wickenburg from our house, but only because it was rush hour in Phoenix. Our van driver got lost once, but we still made it to the starting line by 9 a.m. I did not sleep in the van…
By the time our van pulled into the race parking lot we were all very excited and a little loopy. We had our music blaring (we have a theme song) and our driver almost took out a band that was playing and the stage they were on. I am not kidding. We sure made a grand entrance anyway. We got a few dirty looks from some of the other runners and of course all of the band members and race officials, but everyone else seemed amused. At least we are entertaining.
Our first runner was starting at 10, so we had time to change and stretch and enjoy a restroom with flushing toilets. As I was getting out of the van I took a quick look around at our competition. Everyone seemed to have walked right out of a Gold’s Gym. Instead of the bulked up body-builder types, these were more of the long, lean, walk off the front page of Runner’s World-type. This would be the part where I feel a little intimidated. Most of them were already in their matching team gear, looking very serious, and we stepped out in these:
Yeah. . . I don’t think we had to worry about striking fear in any of the other teams. You have to keep in mind, most of my team members including myself haven’t seen the inside of a gym for a few many years. In fact, 10 of the 12 runners have all had at least one baby in the last 3 years. I personally think that should count for at least a 10 hour handicap, but that’s just my opinion.
There were 147 teams competing, and starting times were assigned according to each runner’s calculated paces. The slowest teams start first at 9 a.m. with the fastest teams starting as late as 6 p.m. and maybe even later. Some of these teams have only 6 runners (ultra) and they still kick most everyone else’s butts. I’m in total awe of these runners as they get even less sleep and are running more miles than a marathon. I was pleased that we didn’t start with the very first group. Even though our start time was only an hour later, it meant that we weren’t projected to be the slowest.
We cheered on our first runner as she crossed the starting line and officially began this incredible adventure for us. It was especially hot today, even for Arizona. It had to be about 75 degrees by 10 a.m., and we were all worried about our ‘legs’ that were coming up and how hot it would get. This was the first weekend where temperatures were going to be in the 80’s. Of course, just our luck.
After each runner completed their designated leg, they would run through a checkpoint where the next runner would be waiting for them. We had an orange slap-bracelet (you know, like these?), that we would pass to the next runner at each exchange. I wonder who ended up with that anyway?…
Here’s a picture of me getting ready for my first leg of the race. I was about to do a ‘moderate’ 5.5 miles and it was about 80 degrees by then. My friend ‘C’ is assuring me that I’m not going to die pumping me up and assuring me that the van will stop every mile or two to make sure that I’m running fast enough well hydrated.
Those ribbons in my hair didn’t last one mile. My section was along the Bush Highway and the wind was blowing right in my face the entire time. It wasn’t that it was that windy, but with motorists passing you every few seconds, going 65 mph, it gets pretty rough. I debated about carrying my bottle holder because of the extra weight but when I dumped the water on my head on mile 4 I was very pleased that I had.
I did pass one runner, but got passed by one as well. For the conditions, I felt good about my first leg. The one worry I had was that this moderate leg was actually quite difficult. There were more hills than my little graph showed and my next two legs were labeled ‘hard’ and ‘very hard’. Yikes.
I had to throw this picture in to show how green the desert is this year. We had such a rainy winter and now the desert is covered in a layer of green. My team laughed at all my picture taking, but hey, that’s how I roll. I took this picture on the side of the highway as we stopped to give water to the last runner from our van. After she passed us, we drove ahead and met her at our first “major” checkpoint where we finally got to see the rest of our team in van 2.
This checkpoint looked like an RV camp. It was just a parking lot with some picnic tables, bathrooms (with showers) and many other 15 passenger vans. I thought that we would be following van 2’s runners and cheering them on, but reality set in when I realized that I had exactly 6 hours before we would start all over again with runner 1. This meant that I had to shower, wait for 5 other people to shower, drive to the next major exchange, eat and try to get some sleep all before 10:30 p.m. I was too tired and too hot to feel bad about not watching the other runners as I took my sweaty self and headed right for the showers praying that they were warm. . . and available.
More to come…