Tuesday, September 13, 2016

Blue Ridge Relay

The Blue Ridge Relay is a 200+ mile running relay that starts in Virginia and finishes in Asheville, NC. My friend Carrie has put together a team for something like 8 years and she talked me into joining in for this year. She had enough interest that she actually put together two teams: RunningJustAsFastAsWeCan and RunningJustAsFastAsWeCan2.  Everyone submitted a time to her and she divided us up so that hopefully we could stay somewhat near each other. This relay can be comprised of relay teams with as little as 4 people (completely insane) up to 12 people (wussies).  We had two teams of 9.  A good compromise.  When it was all said and done, I had run 23.7 miles over 4 different legs.

Leaving Raleigh, snacking on a cookie

It's super ugly in western North Carolina

A few things:
I can't believe I'm saying this, but it was SO FUN!!! Talk about out of my comfort zone - 23.7 miles?? The scenery was gorgeous and our teams were beyond awesome. We weren't fast, but we were fun and the camaraderie was great. It's also nice to be a part of something so logistically challenging where I literally didn't have to do anything but show up. So huge thank you's to our team captain (Carrie) who made sure everything was set and ready to go and our driver (Andrew) who drove every step of the way unless he was running (also Ryan, the other van's driver who did the same thing).  The Blue Ridge Relay has continued to grow and this year there were 191 teams. Start times range from 5:00am until 1:30pm (slowest to fastest) based on submitted times. 10-15 teams start together in 30min increments. I was the 3rd of 9 runners on our team and my legs looked like this:
  1. 5.2 miles, difficulty level: medium (levels are easy, medium, hard, very hard and mountain goat). I started around 9am so it hadn't gotten too hot yet, although it was quite humid. It was unusually hot this weekend for the mountains, unfortunately. This run had one fairly large hill in the first 2 miles but then was mostly flat/downhill to the exchange.
    Getting the baton (slap bracelet) to start run number 1
  2. 6.1 miles, difficulty level: hard.  I knew this run - it was on the Blue Ridge Parkway right where we ride our bikes for Boone Camp. Spectacular views and long grinding hills. I started around 4pm and it was HOT. Although the name of this relay might lead you to believe that it's mostly run on the Blue Ridge Parkway, only 3 of the 36 legs are run here. And it's a good thing because it's really not great for running. No shoulder and lots of tourists out not paying attention. For that reason, even thought it's the middle of the day, you are required to wear a reflective vest if you're on it.
    Finishing up a gnarly little hill
  3. 8.0 miles, difficulty level: very hard.  After my 2nd run, we went to Chik fil A and I stuffed myself with a chicken sandwich and a medium fry. The timing was perfect as I wasn't going to be running again until after midnight. I was still wide awake for this one, which surprised me, but I guess that's the adrenaline. I was all lit up with blinkies and a headlamp for this run, which was on a desolate winding, hilly road.  It was dark and could be pretty unnerving under normal situations. I passed a handful of people but everyone is really strung out so there are long stretches of times where you are completely by yourself in the pitch black.  The occasional van from other teams will drive by but it's pretty surreal. I was holding a good pace on this very challenging run. The uphills were hard, but this is where the downhills really started to hurt.
  4. 4.4 miles, difficulty level: easy. I finished after 1am and a little while later I hit the brick wall. I couldn't keep my eyes open so went to the far back of the van to 'sleep' which never really happened but I did rest I suppose.  Then before you know it it's morning and you catch a second wind.  My last run was mostly flat with the slightest grade which was good on my legs since any downhill was excruciating.  I wasn't even sure I was going to be able to run! But once I got going my legs loosened a tiny bit. They still hurt, but at this point 4.4 miles is a drop in the bucket. I finished and had a pancake breakfast at the church the exchange zone was at.  The best pancakes I had ever tasted, it seemed like.  The bottled butter you squeezed out made them oh so delicious.
It was nice to be done early and be able to cheer on the rest of my team and eat whatever I wanted.  We finished just 15min back of our other team which is really pretty amazing when it's all said and done.  We started at 7:30am on Friday and finished at 2:45 on Saturday. It's amazing how fast it really goes, but you're either running, cheering, eating or driving and the time flies by.

We went to Mellow Mushroom after the finish then took a quick very well needed shower before checking out Green Man Brewery. I finally went to sleep at 9pm Saturday night, making that the longest ever stretch of awake time in my entire life (5am Friday to 9pm Saturday!). I can't wait to do it again next year :)

Waiting for runners in Blowing Rock, stuffing my face with Chik fil a

Making a tunnel for Charles on Railroad Grade in Todd, NC

Typical exchange zone with tons of 15 passenger vans

Carrie finishing her first leg

Sweaty girls

Waiting for Michael on his very hot 2nd leg

RunningJustAsFastAsWeCan finishing all together
Our team's post race picture
Our awesome t-shirts Captain Carrie made for our respective teams

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