(I'll eventually compile these in order in one LONG post!)
So the 2nd Transition Zone was at the Tanger Outlets in Blowing Rock. We pulled in and parked near our Van #1 who I think had been there for hours. Many got some rest on the grassy area and they got some food to tide them over. We still seemed to be going along ok, but food was high on our list. Joel was raring to go for his next leg, had his night wear on (Legs that were running from 7:30pm-7:30am had to wear a reflective vest, a flashing light on both the front and back, and carry a flashlight or headlamp) and was waiting for Terry 30 minutes before his expected finish. I found a little burger place in the outlets (Pat's almost world famous cheeseburger grille) and Me Mike and Todd sat down to eat (Sorry Terry - we didn't wait). Natalie took care of us. She was fairly busy as no one had warned her ~200 vans would be swarming on their parking lot! Kerrie, Kathrin and Terry soon joined in and we chowed down! French Fries were particularly good! Now came the big decision - stay here, curl up on the grassy area and get some well needed sleep or go ahead to the next Transition Zone (Note - I always get Transition Zones and Exchange Zones confused!), sleep there, and wait for our next round of runs. I was inclined to stay there - besides being tired, the grass looked nice and we didn't quite know what the next place would have for us. The drive there (Plumtree Presbyterian Church) was interesting to say the least. Can't tell you how far in miles, but it was a Wonderful thing we didn't choose to do the drive After sleeping. So we drove thru Blowing Rock - a Very cozy town, lots of people out and definitely somewhere I would like to visit again. Mike had found a Plumtree Pres. Church on our Garmin and off we went. We passed many runners and we were all glad we weren't out there. Sun was setting, they were on a major road, going uphill, and there was Lots of traffic barrelling down towards them. We finally realized you couldn't wear enough safety equipment to slow the traffic down. Turns out - when Garmin told us we were there - there was nothing to be found as we were in Minneapolis. We backtracked, turned around, re-backtracked because we hadn't gone far enough and Finally arrived after just using the maps on the Garmin. There's no way we would have made it in time if we had slept first. Whew! So now it was time to rest and have a turkey sandwich if desired thanks to the locals. Everyone stayed in the van except for me who ventured outside with 2 fleeces and tried to get comfy under a playground/picnic canopy. An hour later I was still awake, but the rest must have helped some. Mike was then getting ready for his Leg #194.3 mile easy run. I headed up the road to wait for Alex to warn Mike to get ready. In the darkness, you couldn't tell who Anyone was - even as they passed you - the headlamps hid their face. One guy came in to the exchange zone yelling "Run For Your Life!". That was quite hilarious at 11:30pm. So the exchange was made and we knew we'd have to hustle as Mike is one of the fastest of our group. Not much talk between our vans sadly. We got to the next zone (Green Vally Fire Dept) and Todd prepped for Leg 20 - 7.5 miles Hard. Mike finished in 32 minutes and his first words were "I need ice". Uh oh. His ankle was sore for that whole run and he knew he should have iced it after his first run. The possibility of him Not running his last leg would have had severe consequences - we had been concerned with Kathrin's knee - especially for her last leg, but she held up great. If Mike couldn't run - Todd would have had the Mountain Goat Hard climb after this long, hard leg, Kathrin would have had 9.4 hard miles, we knew Kerrie would be fine, and my run would have been easier, as Terry's would have, but Joel (Runner #1) would have had to at least start the last leg - 6.8 miles Very Hard! Neither him nor Runner 2 Dave felt inclined to run anymore. So we iced mike's ankle and went ahead to the next zone. Todd's route was Tough. There was one Long 2 mile climb toward the end, but he did great in 1 hr 7 minutes. Kathrin was up next with a 2.4 mile downhill run thru the town of Spruce Pine, ending at an Ingles. We didn't have much time there and she flew in 22 minutes later! (Note - all times are approximate as I just used my regular watch to check the times when I remembered. I kept track of everyones starting/finishing times so we could be ready for the next runner coming in). Sorry - no photos from me at night. Kerrie took off and Kathrin was so excited with her time! She also felt good, so we were all quite relieved and happy, now only if Mike was ok. Kerrie had a moderate 6 miler, then I'd be up. We got to the Penland School and did our own thing. I had originally projected Kerrie to be in after 55 minutes, but knew she was a faster runner than that, so I slowly made my way to the start much earlier than planned. It's a good thing, because I wasn't there but a few minutes when she came in on her uphill finish. She handed me a flashlight that I immediately put down and got the wristband and off I went - headlamp going. I had a Moderate 5.2 mile run, quite a bit of it on gravel with a few turns. There was someone a few minutes ahead of me that I felt I would catch at some point. I'd see him a turn or two ahead of me, at least his back flashing light. Then the fog came in. Hard. I could not see. The headlamp made it feel like I was looking thru binoculars. I would have rather been able to see where my feet were landing on the gravel, but I had to concentrate hard just to stay on the road. You couldn't see which way the road would turn - it was not pleasant and about to get worse. I was following the left edge of the road, guy ahead of me nowhere in sight and I seemed to take a very gentle left, then start downhill. I stopped, looked back up and could nothing, wondering if I went the right way. A minute later I realized it was a driveway as I was in a cul-de-sac with a couple of parked pickup trucks and I Knew I had gone the wrong way. Worst thing was that it had been all downhill. So I turned and sprinted back up the hill and upon reaching the road again, another runner came into view. He was faster than I was so I at least had someone to follow for a little bit. That helped tremendously. My van passed and that helped for a few seconds - wish I had told them to slow down! There was one steep incline that I walked up for a minute. Again - disappointed. I eventually made it off the gravel, the fog got better, and I started catching up to the first guy I was following. The last 2.25 miles were all uphill, but I kept moving, caught the guy (Christian, from the NC coast) and we ran the remaining 2 miles or so together. Finished Uphill again, feeling stronger as I went. Passed off to Terry after a 50:17 run. It was ~3:30am. Slowest pace of the event for me - and that was the "easiest" of the legs. Go figure. Terry had a short, easy 3.2 mile run, so we got moving again. It's odd - right now I have no recollection of the next Exchange Zone. Terry finished in no time and Joel was off again in his last run.