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Posts Tagged ‘Green Mountain Relay’

GMR: A Photo

Runner #11, JD, took this cool photo of me as a little pink dot trucking up the hill at the end of my first leg of the Green Mountain Relay. I love this photo because it gives you a sense of how much of the relay we ran alone. Even though this leg had an out and back that allowed me to wave to many runners who were coming towards me on the opposite side of the street, most of my nearly 3 hours on the road were spent without company.

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It could have been a disaster: 12 strangers, 2 vans, 200 miles to conquer, 28 hours of running, 2 hours of sleep, 36 sweaty batches of clothes, and about a thousand little carbo snacks. Although I admit to having my concerns, I actually had more faith in the essential coolness of runners than I had concerns. And this time, oh me of little faith in most other things, found my faith to be well-founded.

Because the Green Mountain Relay was awesome, and my teammates were stars. Grown-up stars, who always made a joke when they could have complained. Who always rallied when they could have slept, or phoned in their third leg. I realize this isn’t quite the usual start to a race report, but I am kind of in love with my teammates right now. You see: a relay is all about the team. This may seem obvious, but while I would have acknowledged the statement before the GMR, now I actually know it.

We convened on the Upper West Side at 9 AM on Friday to collect our humongous passenger vans and start the journey north. We’d pick up two runners from Boston in Bennington, spend the night in Burlington, and then head to the school grounds for our 9 AM start on Saturday. Even though I was set to ride during the race with Van 2, I volunteered to ride up with Van 1 as they needed someone from the second van at the registration. It meant I got a little less rest Friday night/Saturday morning, but I was glad to ride up with Van 1 as it gave me a whole day to bond with the other half of the team, who I would otherwise only see at the transfer points for runners 6 to 7 and 12 to 1. Also, I got to see the start of the race, which was fantastically mellow and goofy. We started with an ultra team (and we thought we were crazy), a team of hashers (our friendly rivals), and a team called Free Candy Van (hipster runners, now I’ve seen it all).

(As an aside, some of you will remember I was worried that my teammates would frown upon my Thursday night maragarita-drinking and quesadilla-eating. I wasn’t in the van 10 minutes before I realized they were hashers, and regularly ran to an end point specifically for an intoxicating beverage.  Clearly, I was worried for nada, amigos.)

And, we were off. Van 1 leapfrogged the course, always staying ahead of our runner, pulling over to cheer him or her on, hand over water or Gatorade. We honked and cheered from the van as we passed other racers, which wasn’t too often, as the start had been staggered. I started to get seriously antsy, all nervous & keyed up, waiting for my turn to run. On later legs, I would be glad to be the first runner out of the van as I had none of that waiting that runners 10, 11 and 12 suffered through. I also was nervous because I hadn’t met my vanmates yet, but would be relying on them to bring me Gatorade in the middle of my first leg.

Once again, no reason to worry! I ran my first leg, graded Easy and basically a 6.1-mile flat with just one uphill at the end, in 53:30 (8:46 pace). Van 2 met me with Gatorade, and a few miles later I passed the Livestrong bracelet (our “baton”) off to M amidst lively cheers from the rest of us. And so we incrementally proceeded. I got to see every exchange of the day, which I enjoyed, and quickly came to appreciate how well all the personalities in our van blended together into a perfect balance that even a novelist couldn’t have dreamed up.

We had a great mix of runners, evenly split between men and women, with our times ranging between 10:04 pace and 7:02 pace. I was in awe, in fact, of the other runners. They ran the gamut from talented, gritty, strong, experienced, stubborn, graceful, and studiously nonchalant. Turns out, the team average pace was 8:32, and my average pace was 8:33!  I can’t believe I pulled that pace out for 18.1 miles total. Honestly? I pushed myself as hard as I could for my teammates. It’s a cliche, but I sincerely didn’t want to let them down. I knew everyone else was running as best they could, too. 

We had a friendly rivalry going with the NYC Hash House Harriers, since some of us knew them, and we were pretty evenly matched. It added a little bit of spice to the event, and our two teams switched leads numerous times over the 200 miles, and I think we pushed each other to run a little bit harder. I know the hasher who ran my legs definitely spurred me on, especially in Leg 19, when I ran 8:21’s. (Thank you TR.)

There were some very scenic moments, with verdant hills that swooped and swelled.  We passed over several covered bridges, by a waterfall, countless charming barns, pastures dotted with sulking livestock, and New England-style houses straight out of an 18-month wall calendar. Here is a picture courtesy of JMK, one of the hashers.

I particularly liked running at night. Not only did I get to feel tough and intrepid, but I felt cocooned by the darkness, by my heavy breathing, as if there wasn’t much world outside the weak beam of my headlamp and rear-end blinky light. I wore my Nana’s reflective vest in her honor. Hasher TR passed me, but then I passed a runner from some other team, and that was the extent of my contact with another living thing during my 6.6-mile mostly-downhill run, which began at 1:20 AM on Sunday June 22nd and ended at 2:00. That kind of darkness — I can find in in the Poconos — but I’ll never get it in the city.

On we went, ticking through racer after racer.  At some point we had dinner in Killington. Van 2 became smellier and smellier (M. dubbed the van Old Man Ass, as apparently it stunk from the second they got it from the rental agency). The Sweat Seat (where we all sat after our leg to cool down and change our clothes) got wetter and wetter.  Our supplies of Wheat Thins, Clif Bars, apples, granola bars, Gatorade, water, and trail mix began to dwindle. I wondered if I was ever going to poo again; I ate more Aleve; I used my roller stick. Sometime around 5:30 AM we ended up at a motel where we crashed for a couple of hours. I showered, but couldn’t exactly achieve what you’d call sleep.

At 9:27 AM, it was time for my third and final leg. I ran a warm up lap across the parking lot and my heart rate shot up, my breathing went berserk, and I got lightheaded. Oh well–no time to freak out this time, as here came MZ. My legs felt like they were filled with pudding; my stomach like it was filled with sour vapors. And yet: at mile two, my teammates showed up with Gatorade, which perked me up. The serious downhill got my legs churning.  All I did for 5 miles was look for the “One Mile to Go” sign, which should have showed up at 4.4M. I kept looking at my watch — 37 minutes; 40 minutes; 43 minutes — where was this sign? was I really running that slowly? Then: relief. I saw the exchange point in a dip in the road ahead, a motley assortment of vans, brightly-clad runners, and GMR volunteers in orange highway-worker vests. 5.4 miles, graded “Hard,” in 46:13 thankyouverymuch.

It had started to drizzle for the last mile of my run, which felt so refreshing. By the time M. was a mile in to her last leg, it was cats & dogs. She finished drenched. BO finished drenched. The thunder and lightening were so close & scary when N. was running that we drove along side her and finally pulled her into the van until the center of the storm had gone by. JD finished drenched.  Runner 12, TW, got drenched, but by the time he came victoriously charging up the hill to the finish line, the rain had stopped. We were all there to trot over the line with him, hooting and hollering, stinking like Old Man Ass and rainstorm. Boy, was that a great moment.  We’d come 200 miles together, we made it! Not quite as exhilarating as when I finish a marathon (I get the weepies, ok?), but a proud moment. We’d banded together, been kind, thoughful, patient and funny with each other. Heck, we laughed a lot. We’d brought out the best in each other. We respected each other. We beat the hashers.  (Oops, was that my outside voice?)

It’s not like we’re all BFF’s now, I realize that. But I’ll always be happy to see them, and hope as many of us as possible reunite for GMR 2009. I’m in. Are you? 

LINKS: JD’s photos, Finish Line photos, Manchester Journal, course flyover on YouTube, Randolph (VT) Herald on the high school ultra team

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Don’t Tell

my teammates that I’ve been up this late packing for my relay.  Don’t tell them I had three margaritas and mini plates of fried Mexican food (plantanos son riccos) this evening. Don’t tell them I can’t find my sunglasses. And definitely don’t tell them my knees hurt.

I get pre-race knee pain like brides-to-be get the jitters. It happens, it passes, it means nothing.

But you can tell them I packed my deodorant.

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My final day of running before the Green Mountain Relay this week, and I decide to order up a double.

This morning, up at 5:15 for a 4-miler. Gosh, it was so nice and cool out. There was the teeniest chill to the air, I felt like I got lucky. Plus, I knew I had the Extra Mile Podcast to listen to, so I was looking forward to that. My 4-milers around Sunnyside are two laps of the same 2-mile loop. The first one took me nearly 22 minutes, the second took me just under 20.  When I run my morning runs, I always need to readjust my speed goals, and running negative splits is one way I measure the success of the workout. Total time: 41:48.

Then I got to the office and worked like a fiend until 5:30. I think I got up from my desk once, to get a plastic fork. 

At 5:40 I left the office in my running gear, decked out in my company shirt (a nice sleeveless technical tee, with a zippered hip pocket in which I could stash a Gu, or an ipod, or a Reese’s Peanut Butter Cup) since I signed up to run the J.P. Morgan Chase Corporate Challenge as part of my employer’s team. Dashed uptown to Urban Athletics to buy a new pair of Nike Zoom Elites, except I was reading the article about Gabe Jennings in this month’s Runner’s World and got on the downtown train. Righted myself at 42nd Street and was at UA by 6:20. Ran into an old TNT friend, who is now training for the Ironman in Panama City, FL, as well as two of my old coaches who I lurve. Made it to Bethesda Fountain for the 7 PM start in my new kicks with seven minutes to spare — which meant I started WAY behind most of the walkers in the lineup. Dude, there were 15,000 office drones running this race. And another 15,000 slated to run it tomorrow. I didn’t cross the start until 7 minutes after the gun, and my clock time makes me shudder.  My watch time was 33 minutes.  Not bad, considering I had to bob and weave past every big-butted secretary in the city the first mile and a half.  I ran the last 2 miles in under 18 minutes, just because I felt like it.  I know, I know, it’s the corporate challenge for chrissakes, I should just let it go, but my competitive juices kick in and I just want to make my time! and beat that skinny chick!  This race marked a first for me: I raced listening to my ipod. But, I had to finish up the Extra Mile ‘cast, and I knew it would keep me calmer amidst all the people walking three abreast and talking with their hands. I can’t say I’d want to run with my ipod in during a real, NYRR, timing-chip race; I still need to concentrate for those.

Oh. Did I mention it rained the entire time we were racing? As soon as I got back to my company’s table for post-race snacks, the rain stopped. Luckily my fahncy technical clothing was half-dry by the time I made it onto the subway, which the MTA chills to meat locker temps, so I don’t think I’ve caught a cold.

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Yesterday I was supposed to have material for a JJ post. Supposed to, except that at my scheduled time for my run home, the heavens opened up and it started raining so hard I risked concussion by venturing forth beneath those drops. Since I skipped my run on Sunday, opting to get rest over getting miles (but nevertheless kicking myself for missing out on such a perfect weather day), I was really itching to bust out of the office, preferably at breakneck speeds (which, in my case, would have been like break-little-finger speed). Nope, no dice, the weather dashed those plans. I changed back into my work clothes and commuted home like any other donut-eating mortal, except without the pleasure of having had my donut.

So today, come hell or high water, I was running home. 31:58 fo the 3.5 miles over the bridge. It was gorgeous–a light breeze, a soft light filtering through the evening sky. I saw a lot of runners out; there was almost a collision with a mess of bikers on the way over the bridge. I ran in my orthodics for the first time, felt kind of weird, I may need to get the next size up in my sneaker, but all in all I think they’ll work out for me. It was, as my British boss would say, “absolutely brilliant” to be out there.

I was starting to get anxious about the Green Mountain Relay this weekend, but being out there on a familiar route with a consistent time put me a little bit at ease.  I think once I get all packed up tomorrow, I’ll feel more prepared and won’t be as preoccupied with the event.  On second thought, I’ll just state my two main fears right now in the hopes of banishing them.

  1. I’m afraid of injuring myself just as I’m about to start training for NYC.
  2. I’m afraid of letting my teammates down by being slow and/or cranky.

More on this relay later, but I’m going to try and blog from the van, if at all possible. At the very least I’ll be taking notes for later; I’m also hoping to bring a Flip camera and a digital recorder. Having never met my teammates before (yes, I am that crazy), we’ll see how well those devices go over once we’ve all ran two legs of our circuits and haven’t slept or showered in 24 hours.

A cool thing I’d like to point out (to those of you who have read this far down in my post, thankyouverymuch), is that my first ever audio file submission as been included in the most recent episode of The Extra Mile Podcast. It’s kind of long — like six minutes — but I basically give a guided tour of my run home from work, past the landmarks, tourist attractions, over the bridge and into my neighborhood. Click here to read about TEM #24, and download it for free to your itunes, computer, or MP3 player.

Another podcast, RT Radio, usually has great interviews with elite runners, masters runners, and well-known coaches. However, I haven’t listened in a while since the feed to my itunes was somehow broken. In trying to get it fixed, I emailed their webmaster, and who replied back to me, but Katie Wolpert. Okay am sure this name means not much to most of you, but I knew it right away. Katie wrote a fabulous race report in the most recent Running Times, about the Momument Avenue 10k in Richmond, VA. (I would link to it except it’s not up on their site yet. You can click here to hear the related podcast, which I can’t download.) I was totally psyched to hear from her; it almost made up for missing out on a few episodes of The Lear Chronicles.

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You may have noticed that I’m running the Green Mountain Relay this Summer Solstice. My relay team consists of, I think, wide range of talent. I know that our team captain is extremely organized and detail-oriented; I know that the driver of the second van is faster than most of us (when he signed up to join us he modestly said, “I can run solid sevens”); and I know that I will probably be willing to pay upwards of a thousand dollars for a shower by the time this whole escapade wraps up. However, apart from that, I know very little. I haven’t met any of my teammates yet, as I’ve had to back out of the past two team socials for various obligations. I haven’t thought much about packing, since June 20th is still two weekends away. Oh wait: I know I’m Runner #7, and that we’re running in Vermont.

So when Solid Sevens emailed us all several days ago with some tips on how to train for one of these relays, it was a revelation (a relay-vation?). Dulcet choral tunes and a bright light came out of my monitor when I read, “Thou Shalt Run Doubles. Thou Shalt Run Doubles Once a Week, for Six Weeks Leading Up to Your Summer Solstice Race Through the Green Mountains.”

It sucks when you finally see the light, only to immediately realize you’re behind the eight ball. As in, missed-three-weeks-of-proscribed-doubles behind the eight ball.

Better late than never (I’m not sure I agree with this but since I’m leaning heavily on the clichés for this post let’s just go with it). Having chosen Option A, “late,” I’m left with three weeks in which to run doubles (6/2, 6/9, and 6/16). My exact opportunities within those weeks: 6/4, 6/12, and 6/18, since I’ve races scheduled for each of those dates (look right for my event schedule).

I have to admit, as a Doubles Virgin, I was a little nervous for my first time. I had a lot of questions. For example:

  • What if my body wasn’t feeling up to the evening double?
  • Would it be okay to say No and stop halfway through?
  • Would I be judged for wearing the same shorts twice in one day, or would I be able to just feel natural in my technical gear?
  • What would happen the day after?

Luckily for me, everyone I solicited for advice had either run doubles before and were completely blasé, or they had no experience with them at all and thought I was Wonder Woman for even entertaining the notion. This left me feeling alternatively unconcerned and superfly.

The first part of my doubles workout I’ve already posted, as it was the NYRR 50th Anniversary 5-mile race. Since I ran a PR (in the rain), I felt I could in good conscience run an easy 3.5 miler home, as a recovery run. I had felt fantastic all day at work, energetic, strong and–since I’d taken the time to stretch well before I showered off–relatively limber.

The evening leg of my doubles went well. Except for the tightness in my hips, it was as if it was my first run of the day. I ran easy ten-minute miles and listened to the most recent The Dump Runners Club podcasts. Total distance for the day: 8.5 miles.

I didn’t get stopped by the fashion police, I wasn’t pulled over by nurses authorized to bring me in to the looney bin for examination, and I didn’t injure myself. I took Thursday off altogether. I definitely feel more tired than usual, but I’ve also gotten about an hour and a half less sleep per night than usual this week. All in all, a great way to pop my doubles cherry. (Hhmm that particular cliché doesn’t quite work…)

For my two other doublesm I’ll put the easy run in the morning, as I’ve got races in the evening and know I won’t be able to stop myself from running them hard. As luck would have it, I was able to read a great article in this month’s Running Times about doubling up the day before I tried it for myself. Check it out if you want more professional tips on adding doubles to your training; I can’t find it on their site yet which is why I haven’t linked to it.

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I haven’t run in Central Park since the Manhattan Half-Marathon over a month ago, so it was a real treat to dash up there after work to meet one of my friends from my first TNT season for a social run.

It’s a perfect plan, really.  Work until 6:15, do the quick-change in my office as if I was running home, run up 5th Avenue to 61st Street, and bingo! Not a minute after I arrive my friend DR crosses 5th Avenue towards me.  I of course am in shorts and a long-sleeved tee-shirt, while she has on a hat, shirt, sweatshirt and running tights. But, at least we matched with our blue eyes and brown hair.

As we are deciding how far we’re going to run, D starts fiddling with this massive fob on her wrist.  A Garmin 350.  Curiosity!  I’ve never seen one this up-close before.  It’s extremely large, I suppose to accomodate its extremely large brain.  In any event, 36:08 minutes later, it tells us we’ve run 3.4 miles, which is about .4 miles than D was hoping to run.

We ran up from 62nd Street along the east side of the park.  I know that side of the park so well, and this time it was a pleasure to be out with the packs (and there were a lot of runners on the footpath).  Sometimes, after too many runs in the park, I take its hills personally.  But, tonight I was content to run the familiar road, and enjoy D’s conversation. At one point our old coach from TNT passed us, but I didn’t recognize anyone else out there. We ended our run deciding to make Thursday evening a standing date at the park;  I hope it holds.

Didn’t get any running in earlier this week; work has been extremely time-consuming lately.  I did, however, lock in my preferred Runner slot for the Green Mountain Relay — I’m runner #7.  Over the three legs, I’ll be running 17.3 miles, which are mostly downhill (net elevation change -1,179). And, I plan to run home from work tomorrow, and then take a long run on Sunday (I am not sure if I’ll have a chance to run on Saturday, since I want to watch Alan Webb and Dathan Ritzenheim battle it out in the USA Men’s 8k Championships).

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Am sure you haven’t noticed that I added two races to my roster on the right, inserted neatly between the Brooklyn and Queens Half-Marathons.

Hoping that two in a row makes it a tradition, I’ve signed up for the Mother’s Day Title9k, to run with my sister-in-law, in Boulder, CO.  Even though their clothes are too matchy-matchy for me, and proportion of workout gear vs street clothes is getting bloated towards the latter, I still think Title9 is (in theory) a great catalog.  In support of their empowering attitude, I am happy to participate in an event they sponsor, especially as it’s a women-only event.  Also, I’ll jump on any excuse to head out to visit Brother, SiL, Niece, and new Nephew.  While there, I could do some skulking about in the hopes of crossing paths with the likes of Alan Culpepper, Constantina Tomescu-Dita, and Matt of the Dump Runenrs Club podcast.  And of course, I think we all can agree how tempting it is to sign up for the same race year after year, in the attemps to best our PR for the course.

Every since my friend AN told me about a relay race she ran with her friends up and down the California coast several years ago, I’ve been jonesing to participate in one myself.  There’s something about the notion of relay that brings me back to high school gym–the few times I actually enjoyed myself, that is.  You see, as a bookworm, there was nothing more joyous in gym class than the moment when I actually passed the baton and got to stop running. And, the older I get the more I surrender to the idea that doing things with a team, or in a group, can in fact be great fun, rather than a trial.  Originally the plan was to form my own team to race the Green Mountain Relay, but the thought of recruiting eleven other runners, renting cars, getting hotels, fronting the registration fees, etc., was enough to make my head pop off.  I organize and lead every waking moment of my life; this time, I’m happy to merely join in. Our team is called “NYC Running Chicks & A Few Dudes” (ain’t it always the way?)* and I’m runner #7 (so I’m running every seventh leg).  this is going to be hard, and exhilirating, and insane, but that’s just the way I like it, after all.  After our bathroom renovation, this Vermont relay race is about the closest I’m going to get to an adventure in 2008, I think.

*Our team still needs four runners. If you’re interested in joining us, let me know!

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