Saturday, September 6, 2008

2008 Blue Ridge Relay 208 - Eric

2008 Blue Ridge Relay 208
September 5-6, 2008

The Blue Ridge Relay. Something I had never even heard of two weeks before September 5. When asked by Jason and Jane to fill out there 5 person relay team and make it a full 6, I was immediately interested. This is just the crazy type of thing around running that I am totally into. Once we worked out the logistics, we were on our way.

I had to work in Boston on Wednesday, so I hopped a plane to Knoxville on Thursday morning at 6am, which was where Jason and Jane picked me up at the airport in the LR3. From there we drove to Boone, NC to spend the night. That would cut the drive down on race day to just over an hour, if our driver and navigator could find their way through the mountain passes.

Fri Sept 5, 2008 9:00AM

We arrived at the start and then we started to get excited. Up until now it didn’t seem like I was about to run an ultra marathon. Then we saw the runners, the teammates and the white passenger vans decorated with all kinds of crazy sayings. 78 teams composed of 900 runners were about to embark on a great journey that would take us 208 miles from Grayson Highlands, VA to Asheville, NC using paved and gravel roads, passing over mountains with breathtaking views.

The start of the relay. The wait was finally over as David took off down the hill. We talked for a few minutes amongst the rest of the team and then took off, making our way down the hill. This would turn out to be the most painful part of the entire trip as we arrived at the start of leg 4 and just had to wait for Kandi to arrive. This was tough because we could only speculate as to the times that David, Kristi and Kandi would post. We had a false alarm one time when a Kandi look-a-like ran in, but shortly thereafter she showed up and we made our first transition from team 1 to team 2. After Jason started off, Jane and I hopped in the car and sped off to the starting point of leg 5 where Jane would start.

Jane was a little nervous before her first leg but she managed to calm down before Jason got there. I too had a few pre-race butterflies, which was weird because this wasn't like a real race yet; we hadn't started and despite of the atmosphere of racing and the people hanging out at the 1st and 2nd transitions, I just wasn't into it.

Jason showed up and handed off to Jane. After cooling down, Jason and I drove down to the gas station to fill up. The local-yocal station capped us at $50. When buying lots of premium gas for an SUV, this doesn't go very far. Jane ran by and we snapped a quick picture before heading out to wait for her at the start of leg 6.

Fri Sept 5, 2008 1:40PM
Leg 6 - 0:35:56 5.2 miles = 7:29 pace

This was my first leg of the relay. I did some brief warm up but there were hills in both directions so I kept it short. Jason did a little cool down with me. This was the last cool down of the entire race as we realized later that saving miles was resting the legs and maximizing downtime. Jason really pushed hard on his leg and I realized that the game was on now. I would have to push the limits of my abilities on each leg to try to match effort. The first mile after the hand off was uphill; really uphill. The climb was 400' over a mile for a 7.5% grade. This was tough as I was pushing hard on fresh legs. By the time I crested the top, I was at 3500' and the roller coaster was starting. The drop was 500' over the next mile for a grade of 9.5% grade. I raced this downhill, passing a few runners down the gravel road. About at the bottom where the gravel turned to blacktop again, Jane and Jason passed me in the truck. At that point, I felt pretty good. That would quickly end.

Starting at mile 2.2 began another crushing climb. This time I would ascend 600' over 2.75 miles up a long and winding road. I was running too fast too early and stopped to walk 4x before reaching the summit. In the early stages I was running sub 7 but with this long climb I had fallen to a high 7. This was until the peak of the second hill where I quickly recovered and was able to run out the rest of the leg very fast on the downhill. I sped through the exchange zone and handed to David and his read shirt, which would become a recurring theme. I think that I passed 6 people on this stretch.

I ran 30 meters past the exchange as I was really moving when I came in. As I stopped and walked over to Jason, I said, "That was the hardest thing I have ever done.' I am not sure what I was thinking as this would be cake compared to what lied ahead.

Kristi had a great idea to take a picture with a certain color Popsicle after each leg so that we could capture how we looked and felt. This was the last time that our Popsicles would remain frozen. After this they melted and became bags of sugar water with sticks.

Fri Sept 5, 2008 2:06PM

This was the start of the first rest cycle. I changed clothes and we all hopped in the car to drive off to the start of leg 10 where Jason would start again. We had a nice little chunk of time to rest and relax at this park situated on top of a nice and sunny hill. Jane and I had more time than Jason so we tried to catch some rest. This wasn't sleep but just felt good to lay down. Jane was smarter than me and laid in the shade. I positioned myself on top of a rock with my towel and pillow and proceeded to get a little sunburn in the 10 minutes I laid there in the 75+ degree heat.

The van finally showed up with Kristi, her mom, brother and David. They indicated that Kandi wasn't far behind so we knew that it wouldn't be long before Jason would be running again. When she finally came in, Jason took the snap bracelet and started running downhill at race.

Jane and I drove along the route to the drop point just across a major highway. We stopped along the way to take a picture of a road named Dink's Way. I thought that this was pretty funny. This leg was unbelievable hard as it just kept climbing up and up. Little did I know that my leg would be something similar. The next two legs for Jane and I would mean partly running on the Blue Ridge Parkway so we would have to wear our reflective vests. This meant that I would have to wear a singlet underneath to avoid nipple rub. It would be hot by the time I would start so this was a little concerning.

Jason came running in and handed off to Jane. Jason had hammered another leg. He even had someone come up to him and tell him that he had never heard of anyone run that hard of a section in such little time. Most runners were well over an hour and Jason went well below an hour. After his quick cool down we got in the car and drove along the Parkway to the next drop. This was one of the sections where we were not permitted to drive along the course.

Fri Sept 5, 2008 6:12PM
Leg 12 - 1:04:19 9.2 miles = 7:09 pace

We got to the next drop, which was a church near Boone, NC. This is near where we spent the night on Thursday before driving up to VA. Honestly I was never quite sure which state we were in until the very end when I knew it was NC.

Jane had a slight hill coming into the change so I had a great view of her coming in. I was pretty loose muscle-wise but was having some minor stomach issues. I had gone to the bathroom 2x before starting this leg. She ran in and I ran out, sprinting down a hill. I went out a little too hard but I was very pumped up and excited to run again. This section was supposed to be 7.2 miles but was rerouted to 9.2 miles and would be my longest run. I knew that it would climb for the majority of the run, but I wasn't sure because the elevation profile was not updated.

The first 3/4 mile was just a warm up and then the hills started. For some reason I was able to stride up this hill with ease and it almost seemed like the grade was matched for my stride rate. It is hard to explain but I was able to run sub 7:20 pace on the entire climb. I was again carrying a water bottle and was using it as it was warm, especially toward the top as the vistas really opened up over the valleys.

It seemed like I ran uphill forever and after finishing, I realized that it was a 10k climb going up 700'. That doesn't seem like a lot, but as it went up, it would also roll a little and climb again, making this the toughest of my sections overall. But as I ran uphill, I actually ran faster and faster. I had picked off 10 runners by the summit and then I really started to run fast. The last 1.8 miles of the run would be downhill, sharply. This would be my 3rd pounding downhill section in just the first two legs.

I started to sprint downhill and passed runner after runner. I would sneak up on them and then blow past as fast as I could. The runners really had no chance to stay with me. I would go on to run 13 minutes for the last two miles of this long 9.2 mile section. I passed the last runner just before the turn into the parking lot as I sprinted in. I got the luxury of running the major change legs where larger groups of 12 had to meet their groups of 6 together. So I got the benefit of a large audience at every finish. I came in at 7:09 pace and had passed a total of 14 runners. I was on top of the world after this leg.

I have to say that my inspiration for running so hard on this leg was having heard the guy at the end of Jason's last leg rave about how fast he had run compared to others in that section. I used that as my motivation to hammer this 9.2 mile leg and try to set a pace that no one, rested or not, could touch amongst any of the teams.

After a quick cool down and change of clothes, we packed up and hit the nearby gas station. We needed ice and I wanted some chocolate milk for recovery.

Fri Sept 5, 2008 7:17PM

Jason, Jane and I started to make our way through the outskirts of Boone and then up and over Grandfather Mountain. This would be the longest leg of the relay, as Kristi would have a 10-mile climb to the highest point on the course. It took us a very long time to ascend the mountain, so her run would probably be much slower than previous legs.

At about half way up, we saw a beautiful waterfall that we had to stop at. I was hoping that the water would be icy again like the river from earlier in the day so that I could soak my calves. They were burning slightly after that hill climb. When we stopped and got in, we found that it was sooooo cold and I could barely stand in it. Jason toughed it out, but I had to bail quickly. We did pose for some pictures.

We hit the leg stop just before dark and were one the of the first crews to this location. There were 4-5 people in sleeping bags next to the port-a-poddie in the small patch of grass. Once again, Jason had no time to rest but Jane and I were able to relax. We each laid out our towels and blankets and rested, but did not sleep. We had worrisome thoughts of the rest of our team climbing up and over Grandfather Mountain. We had estimates of when Kandi would arrive, but they were too aggressive. Later would we find out by Kristi had gotten ill, and she needed help with companion runners to make it through her leg. Luckily it was past 7:30pm and this was permissible. We were really starting to get nervous because there were a ton of groups to come and go. We had gone from being somewhere in the top 10 or so (speculation) to further down in the pack. As I told Jason, this is about the time when the runners with fresh legs would start to catch up with us and make up lots of time.

Jason was going to run his section and then continue on in the dark with Jane. As Kandi finally arrived (just after the Van) she handed off to Jason and we were off to the next stop at a school.

Jane and I arrived at the next stop and she got ready. This was her first night run and I think that she was really glad that Jason was running with her. She was not used to the headlamp and running out in the country was a little scary because it was dark. Not like cave dark, but like no city lights and just starlight dark. We spoke with a few runners at this stop and even one other ultra group as we patiently waited for Jason. This was his shortest leg so we figured he would be flying along in record time. I was a little nervous myself as I had to navigate to the next stop on my own and in the dark.

Jason came in, handed off to Jane and then they ran off together. I immediately got in the truck and drove to the start of my next leg.

Fri Sept 5, 2008 11:16PM
Leg 18 - 0:46:58 5.9 miles = 8:04 pace

I arrived at the start of leg 18 and waited for the twosome to arrive. I made some small chat with a runner wearing a Boston Marathon shirt from this past year. We talked about the temperature swings and how it affected our race day in the spring. He was very nice and shared some insight on the relay, having done it before.

I was now wearing a short sleeve shirt, along with my vest and a visor. It had cooled down to the mid 60's, but was slightly humid by the time I started this run. It had been dark for a couple of hours now and my body had adjusted to it.

Jason and Jane came up the hill together and I took the snap bracelet. This run would drop 900' over 3.6 miles. Once again, another quad busting downhill. This was the first time that I really started to feel the fatigue and lack of rest. On the last leg I had really pounded the downhill, but this time I just didn't have it. It was a case of bad run, good run, bad run with my first 3 legs. I had to stop within 1/4 mile of starting to catch my breathe on the downhill. I was running about 7:45 pace, which was much slower than my previous too legs. I am convinced that it was not the night running, as I have done this before. I think that my quads finally decided to rebel against me. I walked again at 1.5 miles and had a fast runner blow by me at about the same speed I ran by others in my second left. It would have been a nice run otherwise, as there was a babbling brook alongside the road that kept me company. I took me nearly 27 minutes to run 3.25 miles. I was now net -1, having passed 1 and been passed by one. Jason and Jane passed me just before the bottom of the hill. I wasn't sure how I looked, but I knew how I felt. I had a horrible side stitch that I just could not work out. I never, ever get them so I don’t know why this was the time to get one, but it hurt fiercely and the only thing that helped was to slow the speed down.

At the bottom, we made a sharp left and started to climb back out. We crossed the stream and started up. I laughed to myself as I actually enjoyed the change from down to uphill. Who looks forward to a hill climb? Me when you've got some much downhill already in the bank. From 3.6 to 4.1 we climbed from 3000 to 3400' for a 15% average grade. Let me say that again, after a 4.7% decline for 3.6 miles to turn it over immediately to a 15% incline was crushing. I walked twice on the climb, albeit each time for only seconds. This was when I was passed for the second and final time of the relay for my legs. This was utterly demoralizing to be crawling up a hill and being passed by another runner, even if he did have strong form.

How could this leg have gotten any better? How about another quad busting downhill to finish it off? Yes, a 7.1% negative grade slope over the last 1.6 miles. I did manage to regain my speed again this time though, running the last portion at a low 7 pace. When I ran up the last small hill and handed to David I was done. I had very little to nothing left. To tell you the truth, I am not even sure I remember much about changing or getting into the car to drive to the next stop. It is all kind of a blur. I know that I must have handed off to David but that was all I remember.

Sat Sept 6, 2008 12:00PM

We now had gone several hours into the dark, with each of us having completed a run in the dark, with Jason doubling up on one of Jane's sections. Jason asked me if I would run with Jane on her next section and I quickly agreed. I knew that it would mean a shortened rest period for me, but the joys of having the second longest section (9.2 miles) came with having the shortest section with 1.9 miles next. I figured that it was the least I could do was to run with her for 5+ miles before my 1.9 mile downhill. This section was fairly winding to get to our next rest stop. It took a little longer than I had thought to get there. I drove, I think? Maybe it was Jason, We were all totally wiped out. We finally made it to the rest area, which was in the parking lot of a grocery store. I thought maybe it was a good idea to get out and go in, but it was about 1am. I don't know what I would have bought, but it seemed like a good idea. I chose sleep instead.

We had about an hour to wait, based on our estimates before Kandi would arrive and Jason would have to take off. Jason must have driven, since he was in the driver seat? Yep. Jane was in the passenger seat, now asleep. I sort of laid out across the first row of the back seat, with my legs up on the seat to increase blood flow and speed recovery. We slept for maybe 30 minutes

As Jason started to get ready, I too changed clothes and put on what I would wear on my next run, since I figured that we would not have much time once we made the transition, as I would be running with Jane.

We started to worry that Kandi was lost or wasn't going to make it when the van finally pulled up and they said that they didn't see her on the way through. It was dark and most runners look the same, so we figured that they must have just driven right past her and not even known. Too Funny! Well, now it's funny. At the time, we were a combination of worried about her safety primarily, and worried that we were losing time secondarily. As for us, we really had no choice but to wait for her to arrive. The van headed back out and looked for her, returning shortly indicating that she was just beyond the last hill coming into whatever city we were in. Jason got revved up to run and as she came in, they made the transition.

As for Jane and I, we assumed the role of pilot/co-pilot and grabbed the directions to our next stop, hitting the road fairly quickly. We passed Jason on our way out and he was hauling a$$ as usual! It took us a little while, but finally we arrived at a little church where the next transition would be. We had been jamming to disco music, then some bad 90's dance music and now were rocking out to some hardcore rap with Eminem. Jane said that she wanted to get fired up, so I played 'Till I collapse' by Eminem and 50 Cent. As 50 says in this song, 'I'm gonna rip some sh!t, till my bone(s) collapse'. This was just the pump that we needed as we prepared to run in the dark again.

We got our gear ready, reflective vests on and our headlamps where donned. I was wearing my 'Pre' Fleet Feet XC shirt and snapped some pictures while Jane updated the Tortoises and Hares Blog online. This was one of the few cell phone reception spots on the course.

Sat Sept 6, 2008 2:00AM
Leg 24 = 0:58:16 5.6 miles = 10:20 pace

Once again Jason surprised us on the fast end, as he showed up easily 5 minutes before we expected him. With the doors to the Rover still open and Beastie Boys still playing on the stereo, we scrambled away. Jane had been running her sections as consistently under 10 minute miles, but this was a tough section, with plenty of elevation change. We would drop from the start, climb steeply before dropping just as fast and finish with another long climb over the last couple of miles.

Jane and I ran together pretty silently. Normally I would pass along words of encouragement, tell stories, etc but I just didn't have much in the tank mentally. I had enough to periodically check to make sure that she was doing well, but that was about it. We ran on a gravel road on the first downhill section, which Jane was not crazy about since she does not trail run that often, but for me it was like running on a marshmallow bed of puffy clouds as we dropped several hundreds of feet. We ran alongside a girl for a while, and despite trying to make some small talk, she had less to say that I had to Jane! She hung with us until the start of the climb. I was 'half-stepping' Jane on the climb, running just ahead of her. I thought by doing this, she would try to keep up as I ran steady up the hill. Plus my Diamond headlamp dwarfed what she was wearing, so if she didn't stay close, she lost the illumination. We slowly pulled away from the girl and then even passed a guy on the climb. We were running very strong.

The road that we were on changed back from gravel to pavement as it started winding down another valley. We talked a little more here, as it was less demanding. Being in the dark, I had us running as many of the tangents as possible to cut distance. I never said anything to Jane about it, but she sort of figured out what I was doing as we would run on one side of the road, and then in the middle as we made our way to the other side before the next corner. I tried to look ahead as much as possible to know the shortest line to run. A few times I think that I bumped her arm as she was just in the zone as we climbed the last hill.

Despite the rigors of the climb, we actually were running around 10 minute miles together and it was starting to make me tired. At one point I said, "You know, there is no shame in walking", to which she immediately replied, "No I'm ok." I laughed and said. "No I was talking to myself!" This provided us with a little humor as we still had a mile to climb in the 5.2 mile section.

As we approached the final intersection, I glanced over to the left in order to see the BRR directional arrow sign. The arrow head (point) was very small, so you nearly had to be on top of the sign to see which way to turn if you were not familiar with the course. We took the left and made our way, though I was wondering if we had made the correct turns, as we were already at 5.2 miles. So far I had been able to run each leg at or below the distance by running the tangents. With a course this long, I assume that they measure it by car, so it would be possible to run it 'short'. By the time we saw the transition, we had logged 5.6 miles. We stopped for just a moment to change the bracelet from Jane to myself. In this brief moment, I also stopped and reset my GPS to accurately capture the distance, time and elevation.

Sat Sept 6, 2008 2:58AM
Leg 24 = 0:13:28 1.9 miles = 7:26 pace

As I mentioned, this was my (and the team's) shortest leg of the entire relay. In trying to make it an even 36 transition spots and have them be at convenient locations like parks, churches, schools, etc, some legs were going to be short. This one was 1.9 miles and mostly downhill. I had thoughts of putting my Saucony Fastwitch flats on for this section, but since I was with Jane on the leg before, I kept my Mizuno's on.

I raced downhill and felt like I was really flying, yet as I looked at my GPS, I was only running a low 7. This was a little disheartening, but like the great mirage, with the darkness and fatigue, it felt like I was running at race pace.

There really isn't much to remember and share when you are only running for 13 1/2 minutes. I mean how much can you really feel, or anguish over or can you even contemplate in such a short period of time?

I think that I was +2 or +3 in this section, as I passed the last guy just before a left hand turn near the end. I made the turn and then could see the lights at the transition. There was one more fast left and then the transition was upon me and their David was! I had the bracelet opened up and carrying it in my right hand, then passing it off to David and his red shirt.

The transition area was pretty large and spread out over a field. We walked to the very back and I changed before we left. I was fatigued and tired, but elected to drive to the next transition. Since we had some time before we needed to be at the next stop, I changed fully and did a quick stretch routine before hopping in the car.

Sat Sept 6, 2008 3:11AM

Part of the way to the next stop, Jane was already crashed out in the back seat. We arrived at the stop and pulled up onto the grass under a large oak tree. It was in the wee hours of the morning now and we had a good 90 minutes before Jason would have to run again. I grabbed my blanket and pillow and leaned against the window and fell asleep. I can only assume that Jane and Jason slept just as long as I had.

The alarm went off about an hour later. After 1 snooze, Jason had to start getting ready to run. He drank another Red Bull and 4 more bags (but only 1.5 serving sizes) of candy corn. What a diet! Candy Corn and Red Bull! I woke up with a Starbucks Double Shot cold espresso drink, knowing that the sleep that I just enjoyed would be my last. I would do my best to stay awake for the rest of the relay, especially since it would be light out again near the end of Jason's run, if not during Jane's run.

We had again speculated as to how long it would take the other three runners to get to the checkpoint. We thought that by 6am they would be at the truck and that the van would arrive sometime before head giving us some advance warning.

We were surprised when there was a knock on the window and Kandi had arrived. Jason bolted out quickly and we were once again on our way.

Jane and I drove to the next stop, which was near a local high school. On a funny note, we hit the bathrooms, where I saw a red flashing light blinking in the bottom amongst the…, well, you know. It was enough to make me laugh.

Jane changed and warmed up. She would start before 7:30 am eastern, which meant that she would still have to wear her reflective vest.

I was a little cold and had grabbed my Flivver blanket. I handed two corners of the blanket to her and indicated that I needed help folding it up. She must not have heard this, because she thought I was wrapping her up to keep her warm. This really was a much better idea and more gentlemanly in general, so I went with it. This is probably the time she will find out that I was actually being selfish☺

Jason came in shortly thereafter and Jane took off. Jane had a longer section with two long climbs and it would take her quite a while to get to the next drop point. We took our time for Jason to change before we drove to the next drop. In driving up the climbs, I felt bad for Jane in what she had in front of her.

We arrived at the leg 29/30 change point which was situated next to a river. I probably should have soaked my calves, but I was already cold and was afraid that I wouldn’t be able to warm up.

Jane arrived and handed off to me and I went out chasing a gal that had left just before me.

Sat Sept 6, 2008 8:23AM
Leg 30 - 0:34:57 4.4 miles = 7:56 pace

This was supposed to be an easy 4.4 mile section that was very flat and running along the river. As with my first four legs, I was alternating bad, good, bad and good. This was no exception as I would struggle for a little more than a half an hour on this section.

I was plugging along but it wasn’t very fast. I passed a gal and talked with her for a second, but had difficulty in staying consistently ahead of her.

I had to walk at ½ mile, 1.8 miles and just past 3.1 miles. Despite this, I was still able to hold sub 8 minute miles. I an not sure what it was, but I just didn’t have it. This was supposed to be a fast run. Maybe it was the fact that it was very flat and not climb or descent like the other legs had been. In the end, I wasn’t able to ever figure it out. IT was probably the lack of sleep and everything else.

Just before the last walk break, I passed a woman who was having a hard time. She said that she was ready to throw up. I told her that I felt the same. When the run was over and I was back at the truck, she walked by and we laughed about it.

Sat Sept 6, 2008 8:58AM

Driving to the next stop was again, uneventful. Jason drove and Jane slept in the front seat while I sat in the back. I thought about sleeping, but never truly did. We had to stop part of the way up the Mountain Goat climb because I couldn’t remember where my GPS was at. It was in the back on the shelf so that put my mind at ease. This section for David would be his toughest, maybe the toughest of the relay, as it was switchbacks up the entire way.

At the top, the road turned to gravel and this is where Kristi would take over. It was just as sharp of a down as the up was for David. Knowing that she had been throwing up and hadn’t eaten anything for hours meant that she wasn’t working on much fuel. We figured that she would struggle.

Waiting at the last transition was more painful than waiting at the first transition. It seemed like forever and a day waiting for them to arrive. We were nearly the first to arrive at the church and witnessed so many people come and go while we waited. I waded through a stream, which helped my calves pump out some of the built up acid.

We were just so ready to run our last sections that maybe we under estimated the time that it would take for the van to arrive. We figured that we would need 2:30 for our three legs to break 30 hours. That was best case scenario.

When the van arrived, they said that Kandi was just a few minutes behind. Knowing that Jason’s leg was just a few miles long, Jane and I packed up and took off, leaving Jason to wait for Kandi.

We drove ahead to the next waiting area, which sat on a small incline. This was the incline where Jane’s amazing hill climb would start.

When Jason came through, he was flying. I could tell that he had given everything that he had.

At the start of this leg I was very nervous. As I mentioned, we had done the math and knew exactly what each of us had to do for our part in the last 3 legs to hit our sub 30-hour goal. Jason had already done his part and I waited with a nervous stomach and dead legs waiting to see what time I would have to work with in my section. I was thinking that I would need nearly an hour for my 6.8 mile section, given the elevation profile. Or more accurately, if the leg measured long and was 7 miles, if I could hold onto 8-minute miles, the net would be 56 minutes. I told Jane, 2:04, 2:04, 2:04, meaning that was the last minute that she could hit the transition area and hand me the bracelet. That was worse case... So I stood patiently in a place that I will never forget; I was in the transition area, which was positioned in a parking area where a side road split off the Blue Ridge Parkway, waiting with others looking for their other runners. I waited what seemed like forever, but was really only minutes. Jason had made his way down the road a bit, as he had done 4 or 5 other times over the previous day, waiting to give me the signal that he saw her coming and to get me ready. And in the blink of an eye, I could see Jason in the distance waiving his arms and then I saw Jane come around the corner in her white and green singlet and mean sunglasses, giving her attitude. I was utterly amazed at what she had accomplished. She had given me more time than I needed and crushed our estimates of what she would run, given the incredible hill climb. Now the pressure was passed onto me. She followed Jason's lead and taken her leg by the throat and squeezed extra time out of it. Jane handed me the bracelet and said for the second time in a the last 6 hours, "Take it, I don't want it anymore!" And like that, I was off...

Sat Sept 6, 2008 1:59PM
Leg 36 - 0:49:05 6.8 miles = 7:16 pace

The next 49 minutes was like something out of a movie. It was very surreal in that with each step I was closer to the end of our long journey. To be honest, the entire time my mantra was what I would do when I approached and crossed the finish line. That kept me moving, stride after stride. My plan was to push hard on the up hill section and then re-evaluate where I was for the final 5 miles. Plus I had thought that there would be another runner starting just after me and I thought I heard footsteps, to which it was just my imagination, but it still motivated me. For the first mile, I climbed from 3100' to 3500' for an elevation grade of 7.5%. I ran this at 7:32 pace on legs that had already run 50km and were about to give out, knowing that I was about to pound them for 5 straight miles of downhill, dropping 1400' into Asheville. I was again running in my favorite Nike Swift shorts in color blue, with no shirt to go with my own sunglasses giving me that killer look along with my visor to block the sun and my good luck yellow Mizuno Elixrs. I carried my bottle with me this leg for a little refreshment as well as for a cooling effect since the temps were again in the low 80's.

I really had to focus on everything in this run. I had to remember to strike my feet properly, to swing my arms, to breathe at the correct intervals, etc. The fatigue had taken the normal running after-thought functions and made them a chore onto themselves. I had already gone to the well one too many times and I'd had dug deep and done so many other metaphors for finding the strength to keep going that you could possibly imagine. The only way I can describe the way I felt is relating to a 'Pre' quote, "I hope that it comes down to a guts race at the end, because then I am the only one who can win.! I was working on pure guts and would carry that with me to the end.

Running the downhill switching was not only strenuous on the quads, but a safety risk as well. I couldn't really run the tangents or the left side of the road because the road had no shoulder and was banked, with a blind corner on every corner. I was nearly hit twice by speeding cars coming up the hill. I wasn't really mentally right, having to focus so much on the form and sub 7:30 miles that I hoped that I would make it down the hill without being hit.

After 5 miles into the run, I started to get excited, very excited. I had not been this amped up since the 2006 Cellcom Marathon, in which I was cruising after 20 miles, knowing that I felt great and would qualify for Boston with plenty of cushion. I started to run faster and faster. I dropped a 7:04, followed by a 1.2 mile split at 6:26 pace.

I was now sprinting up hill knowing that the end was so close. When I looked down I was running a pace in the 5’s. I was fleet of foot.

Finally I could see the banners and the people near the finish line. I made the final turn and headed for home, making one last push. I had nothing left after my 3rd run so I don’t know where I found the strength to push so hard so late, but I did it.

I was once again in oxygen debt as when I crossed I had to take a dozen breathes before being right again. After regaining consiousness again, we stood under the banner and had our team picture taken again, 29 hours and 49 minutes after the last time.

Somehow Jason, Jane and I had managed to not only make up the 10 minutes that we had ‘lost’ based on our estimates of time for the last three legs, but also gained another 11 minutes in the process. So we had managed to cut 21 minutes off. Amazing.

Now that I look back on this, I consider it one of the great adventures of my life. When I had nothing left, I found the will to go on and do it amazingly fast.

Unofficially I ran 39 miles in 5:03:55 for an average of 7:46 pace (including running with Jane.)

Officially I ran 33.43 miles in 4:05:48 for an average of 7:21 pace.