Sunday, September 26, 2010

2010 Blue Ridge Relay Race Report - Part 1

This is my perspective being a runner in Van #2 for Team DNR (Do Not Resuscitate). We have two vans that leapfrog each other every 6 legs. 12 runners total doing 36 legs. Started in Grayson Highlands State Park, VA and ended in Asheville, NC 207.1 miles and 30+ hours later.
Part 1: Pre-Race

Joel, Jeff, Chris and Kerrie (laying down the law)

Misc shot of NC

Van 2 met up at 4pm Thursday and headed up to our hotel in Blowing Rock, NC. Pretty uneventful ride. Caught up on each other's lives and races, commented on the construction that slowed us last year, had our Subway dinner and arrived around 8:30? (Oh, we did drive a bit of the Blue Ridge Parkway, the reverse direction of which I and Kelly would be running). Got our rooms straightened out and just hung out.

The Todd, Kathrin, Alex & Kelly

 Stayed up too late for no real reason, but we slept in - skipping the start line and the beginning of Van 1's legs. Todd saw Van 1 off at 6:30am and didn't really sleep after that. We ate, mingled with other teams, and got antsy enough to leave at 9:30am for the 10 minute drive to our starting location. Didn't do much there. Kept track of van 1's progress and watched the cloudy sky eventually turn into sunshine.

Part 2: Our 1st legs

The 1st Exchange Zone
Dave finishing his 1st leg

Dave was our first runner (Runner 7 on Leg 7) getting the hand off from Joel at 12:42pm. (On these handoffs - they can be tricky. Many occasions to lose valuable seconds if you are actually racing. We dropped them, over-ran them, some teams weren't ready for the handoff and had to wait for their next runner).
We still use our handy-dandy spreadsheet that shows each leg, elev change, predicted and actual start/finish times, and some general notes on each leg. His leg was 5.4 moderate miles, with some decent climbing (594' down/367' up). He made excellent time as usual (being one of our fastest/strongest runners).


Kerrie got the handoff and set off for her 4.6mi easy run. 361' down/148' up.
Runner 8 on Leg 8. We noticed on the drive to the next exchange zone that the course was slightly different. We ended up at the same little store in Todd, but arrived from a different road. It was already getting warm out (can't possibly call it hot after surviving the Palmetto 200 this year). Will have to remember in future years that the New River the run goes along has an access point by the store (across the field). Kerrie came in not feeling the best (She'd been having injury issues for a while now) and we soon realized we'd have to adjust our plans on the fly.

Our ever-positive captain (Chris)

Chris left on his scenic 5.2 mile easy run. 85' down/226' up. The climbs seem bad even when driving them. We parked at Green Valley Community Park (very nice, real bathrooms, covered shelter with picnic tables) and waited for Chris. He came in at 3:15pm quite warm (mid-to-upper 80's I'd say), but feeling good.

Leg 10 (for runner 10) was next - the longest and hardest ("Very Hard" according to the race directors' guide) so far at 8.2 miles, 417' down/551' up. This was Todd's leg that started out by the river and eventually crossed a highway and ended just short of the Blue Ridge Parkway. We typically give  the runner some time to get down the road, so if they need anything as we pass, we can help them out. It's also a good idea to have water bottles available for other runners needing assistance. We learned alot from the Palmetto 200! Todd did just fine, no surprise there.

Todd looking strong
Just before Kelly's run on the Parkway

Leg 11, runner 11 = Kelly. She ran the BRR last year for another team as runner 8 and we needed a replacement for Mike. She fit in perfectly. Todd sent her off on her way, onto the Blue Ridge Parkway (BRP) for a very scenic hard 6.3miles. 407' down/551' up. Finally I was seeing the alternate driving section for this leg I ran in 2009. She cruised as we knew she would and I got the handoff after her final uphill.

Leg 12, Runner 12. 7.9 very hard miles with 482' down/663' up. Back to the BRP, there were a number of runners behind me. I was not going to give it my all on this first leg knowing my last leg was going to be tough. Some may say it is playing it smart, but I felt kind of bad resigning myself to walking quite a bit of the hills so early. I'd do a walk/run thing with the lines in the pavement while 4 people passed me on this leg. I could tell I did not fuel enough as I took a Gu 25 minutes into my run. Not sure what it is, but I usually do not get side stitches. Here I do though (even last year). Can't explain it, but not even 3 miles running and there it was. I am thankful it went away. The views were wonderful, especially with the moon just over the mountains. 
Won't forget that sight for a while. I borrowed Dave's handheld bottle holder for a 2nd bottle of water and I was glad I did as the sun was up and warm. Calves were a little tight, but otherwise felt ok. I must have made decent time as the exit for the parkway came up quicker than I was expecting. I actually thought the mileage was short as my time was about 1:12. I passed two people in the last stretch coming into the Tanger Outlets. I just kept thinking about the burgers I had there last year. Yum! I overran Alex but got him the wrist band and Van 1 could now rest. It was 6:34pm and we had about 5-1/2 hours to rest and be ready for our 2nd legs. 1st stop - Food!

New River, near community of Todd
View over the Blue Ridge Parkway

Part 3: Rest #1

After a nice meal, some light stretching for me and a change of clothes, we got in the van and headed to the next Transition Zone. We didn't get lost this time and got there pretty quickly. Parked and tried to sleep, Dave and I headed outside for a grassy area where others had set up "camp". Grass was wet, but we managed with that minor inconvenience. Our other teammates got some rest in the van. Being outside had it's problems. Headlights of the vans coming in and going out would hit you in the face depending on which way you faced. It eventually got pretty cold out for some (I was fine with a fleece blanket over my jogging suit. Longer socks would have helped). The volunteers helping park the vans had walkie-talkies, so I heard all of their conversations as we were close to the entry. Van horns kept going off too. The worst part of being outside was the noise from other teams. So much for the rules of having Quiet Hours. Teams would cheer loudly every time a runner came in. I heard about this one girl who ran her fastest 5k pace ever and this was closer to a 10k distance for her. I was happy for her and could appreciate her excitement. However, I decided that our team was now virtually in first place as every other team there was "Disqualified" for noise violations. After an hour of lying there, we gave up.
(No photos during our night legs)

8/12's of our team! (Van #1 + Kerrie/Chris)

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