So waking up at 5am isn’t easy huh? Let’s just say that I had woken up at 4:15 am and really couldn’t go to bed at all because of this relay. I don’t know if I was nervous or just plain excited, but I usually can not sleep or get these huge anxiety attaches before a major race…not like this was huge or anything, but this was my first relay race. It was like playing in the minors and getting called up to play in the major leagues…I had great respect for my teammates and I look up to them.
So we picked up our van, and off we went to pick up the rest of the flyer team along the way…When we arrived at the starting point, we could see that our other two Flyer teams had already been there for quite a while. There were many teams taking team photos of each other and people warming up.
Our first flyer team headed out at 8:25 am, where everyone just said their hello’s, chatted and seemed more like a social gathering rather than a race. I guess our 3 teams had the advantage, since we had a team of 27 people or more there to say hello to and chat amongst ourselves. As our first flyer team started out, each of our 2 remaining teams started to get anxious to start. The next flyer team started about 10 minutes later at 8:35 am and we were the last to go in the final heat of the wave starts.
As our van left, we said our good lucks to the first leg our captain, Pat Duffy, who had done the same leg as the year before. So we really had quite the advantage in him knowing the course and the steam incline hill of 450 feet in the 3rd mile of 8 miles. I was to go next to what seemed to be a very mountainous trail leg. I had done cross country in high school and had assured my teammates that I was the right man for this leg. I had been honored to run with them, and would do the best that I could ever do in this 7.5 miler. We had seen the first team come through and were on their way to leaving the area, the second team’s leg came in and they had stayed knowing that our Pat Duffy would arrive soon after. I had put on my “game face,” just before the race. Those who know me know that I can go from silliness, to seriousness in the matter of milliseconds. People can see it as funny or as very scary, where seriousness can only mean that I would be focused. Not many of my teammates have seen me in my marathons or start near me at Road Runner races. They had never seen this side of me before, where all eyes would be on me, as I awaited to get started…after fumbling the sweaty strap from Pat at the exchange area, I was on my way…
Little did I know that the elevation chart had been quite true of these steep inclines and declines. The course was VERY ROCKY, the beginning 4 miles of trail running, steam incline hills and steep decline hills, exposed roots of trees, and rocks…did I mention the ROCKS? See the trick with trail running is running at the points where you are not running on rocks, you want to run on the sides, where the path is mostly less traveled. You constantly want to keep your eyes in front of you and always peering toward the ground, but add hills to the mix and you have a different story. Also add not knowing where you are running and trying to concentrate at the orange and blue signs, you end up have quite the interesting race leg. AND yes, ROCKS…
What made this leg most challenging was the trails, steepness of the hills, steepness of the decline of hills, smaller pathways, footing of rocks, roots and every step you take was not a full stride, but rather a shorter stride of your regular run. You just seem to be quite exhausted after all the hills and inclines, then the declines hit in the trails and you are zooming and need to still keep focus and slow yourself down because you don’t want to lose your footing, sprain or break your ankle or even lose your way completely. At mile 1.5 on the inclines, I was cooked, done! I had wondered why I had done this race, why I was competing. If it wasn’t for the expectations of my team, I would have stopped running to catch my breath. I had been exhausted! My legs were done (after training and doing a marathon 2 weeks before…doing inclines and declines of a very hilly, trail running leg…I was done!) But in my heart, I never walk during races! (it’s like that saying, “there is no crying in baseball”) I had signed up for this race for the team aspect and I couldn’t let down my teammates. I had gone at a slower pace to keep myself in balance with what my capabilities. I had sped past a marker leading up to a fork. RIGHT OR LEFT? I chose left, but then in no time reacted and went back, where another runner was coming up behind me. I glanced, saw the arrow was point right and sped off again. He was right behind me, telling me that he would tell me which way to turn or if I had missed another turn, he would tell me. What a nice guy! By this time, it was not about deception, it was about skill and it was about safety. We both wanted to beat each other, but we would act as a team to get each other through these dreaded rocky trails. I had led for a while, then let him lead to draft and let him go ahead of me. I had been pooped! My heart monitor had told me that I had exceeded my 200 beats per minute mark and my pace fluctuated from a 8-9 minute mile pace. As we finally started to get the feeling of literally, “getting out of the woods”, I had felt assured that my legs would respond to the road. Boy was I wrong! Literally, I needed my sunglasses when I peered out of the trail running and onto the roads. It was a cloudy overcastted day and it was going from darkness to brightness.
My legs felt as though they had been demolished by the short strides, intense muscle tightening from the steep inclines and declines, but the most important part, was that I was out of the trails and onto the roads. I had seen ahead of me my fellow team member Richard, said hello, barked “GO Flyer!” and quickly ran along. I tried so hard to regain my running stride. All I can feel within my legs were the constant pull of my hamstrings as through they had been tied down or resisting. It was frustrating, but I was on my turf. I quickly picked off the guy that had helped me in the woods and had been going for another strong runner just ahead. SHE, had been running really strong and was quite the runner on roads as well. As we slowly entered an area of falls, or falling water from the dam, little did I know that the next exchange area was about a mile away. I am afraid of heights and the road across the falls was large enough, I was tired, ran in the middle and slowly puttered away. Then we entered woods again. Uh! I hate trails! As I had seen other runners run up the hill, I knew the end was near. I adjusted my gear and turned it up another notch, hearing the cheering I caught the lady ahead at the exchange, swiped the band and in some confusion didn’t see my teammate ahead of me. Nicole was next and she was screaming at me as I hurried along to give her the band. I may have over ran her as well in the confusion. I was done!
After catching my breath, I could see a huge crowd of Flyers there. Everyone was asking me questions of whom I had passed, if so and so were there and how was the course. I clearly stated that this leg had been a smooshed up marathon into 7.5 miles. My legs were shot as though I had just ran a marathon. As my teammates were rushing to leave, I could remember seeing Jamie who had ran the first leg on the first team that had left…Everyone had been asking about the three flyers who ran the leg, (John Ward (1st team, Richard (2nd team) – who I had passed, and Paul (who was on another team). I was like, why are they asking me all these questions. Richard was still on the course, and John I had not seen (assuming he was ahead of me and was already done). I finally got it when they told me that they were still out on the course and that I had been the first flyer done with that leg. I was the last flyer to start the leg.
As the day continued, each leg getting shorter, longer and runners nervously awaited for their leg to start. I had been done, and went in and out of the car. Picking up the previous runner and dropping off the runner at their leg. Cheering with our teammates and meeting up with our other team. But after a while we would slowly catch up with the other teams that had started way ahead of the pack. Teams that had started with us, dashed ahead of the other runners and soon we had become the lonesome teams that awaited in the beginning of the stages. But in the end, we became the 2nd co-ed team and 4th overall team to finish out of 117 teams. It was quite the achievement, but it was a long, exhausting day.
Congratulations to all the Flyers out there who did this...We had a good time!