I ran a relay today.
A 78 mile relay. With seven other crazy runners. On my team, anyway. There were thousands of people involved.
It started at 4:30 this morning. With thunder, lightning, pouring rain, and the long drive to the starting line. The weather was supposed to keep up that way the whole day. But, somehow we lucked out and the rain let up right around the time we sent our first runner off.
I didn't run until the seventh leg, so I had plenty of time to chill. And talk and talk and talk. Mostly me. And one of my friends. I only really knew two of the other people on my team. I'd briefly met one other, but the remaining four were complete strangers to me.
Which made it not at all awkward when I pulled out my breast pump. And turned it on. And used it.
Good thing I had such awesome teammates. They even helped me out when I couldn't decide which shoes to wear--Vibrams: tried and true, but little protection on gravely roads; or New Balance sneakers: cushion-y, but old and clunky.
I went with the New Balance for the first leg. Got a slight blister, but was grateful to not have to worry about stepping on some of the bigger rocks, or getting stuck in the mud. But, I'm getting ahead of myself.
At each of the exchange points, there was a nice (well, not always nice) spacious parking lot for us to park the van in. And plenty of time to sit and wait, or get out and wait, or pump some milk, or do whatever until the runner came in and the next one went out. Until mine! Then we were stuck in this big long line of over-sized vehicles with nowhere to park. Until we finally found a place to park. With only a few minutes to spare.
And I hadn't yet used the port-a-potty. It's something I have to do before I run.
So, I hopped out, ran to the back of the line, and realized I probably wasn't going to make it. So, I began explaining to those in front of me the predicament I was in until they had all ushered me on to the front of the line. And, I kid you not, I literally ran out of the port-a-potty and there was my teammate. Don't worry, the p-o-p came equipped with hand sanitizer.
And I was off!
Except, I had been so caught up in the bathroom issue, I hadn't paid any attention to which way I was supposed to be going. And because of the way the race went, there weren't very many other people at that point. So, I spent the first little while frantically asking every volunteer I passed, "Is this the right way?!"
And then, I realized that I was going way too fast (my watch tells me my pace!). So, I tried to slow down, but the adrenaline was just pumping too intense. And then at 1.6 miles in, when I tried yet again to drop it down to at least 8:30 min/mile, my watch went crazy. It died. And then tried to restart. And died. And tried to restart. Repeat. Every 30 seconds. Bada-Beep. Bada-Beep. Bada-Beep.
I thought about tossing it into the cornfield. But, then thought better of it, fiscally speaking. So, I ran faster to try and get it over with.
And then I was about 3 miles in and I felt like I was going to throw up. Too much information? Sorry. It was a memorable day for me.
So, I slowed it down for the last mile and a half. But, I made it in. And still felt good about things. And my team was delighted to listen to my watch. Bada-Beep. Bada-Beep. Bada-Beep. Every 30 seconds. For hours and miles. Between my non-stop talking, my breast pumping, and my watch I was rapidly moving into the Favorite Teammate slot.
But, at some point, it stopped beeping without any of us realizing it. Until it was time for my next run. I pulled it out. It was on. I wrapped a clean sock around my wrist and placed the watch over it and headed off again. And it was a success. Turns out it was my sweat that's been disrupting my watch function. This leg was only 3 miles and was my last, so I let it rip. I did it in just under 24 minutes. Not my fastest ever, but pretty good since having a baby four months ago. I even had a sprint finish and just barely came in before the girl who had been ahead of me. I felt good.
I walked back to the van, sat down, and didn't move for a couple more exchange points. My muscles tightened and cramped. I knew it wasn't the best idea, but I was just SO tired! And it didn't matter because I was done.
Half of the team still had a third leg to run, however. So, I sat in the back and kept on chatting away as we continued the race. Somewhere along the way, one of my friends began feeling unwell. And it just kept getting worse. And worse. And she had to run the very last leg. Poor thing! We stopped at one exchange point and my other friend and I got out to use the lovely p-o-p's. On the walk over, we were discussing concern for our other friend. I remarked that I'd volunteer to switch, but I was way too tired to manage another 4.1 miles.
Then, we climbed back in the van and I did just that. "Hey, if you want, I can run that for you." What?! But, she was so instantly grateful, I couldn't take it back.
Fortunately, there was another leg in between, so I had a little time to get out, walk around, and try to stretch out my supertight muscles. And then it was time to go! I felt pretty good for the first mile. My right knee and hip started hurting from my tight muscles, but I knew they'd be okay after I got home and stretched everything out. I was keeping up a pretty good pace still, but then my left arch suddenly seized up. With every step it felt like it was going to tear. It hurt so bad! My old friend, Plantar Fascitis. But, I still had a couple miles to go. I contemplated dropping out. But, I was pretty sure my friend would feel awful if I came up lame after switching spots with her.
So, I stopped and stretched things out a bit. I said a very fervent prayer. And I kept going. For a couple steps. Then I had to stop and stretch it out again because of the pain. And I got passed by a couple people who encouraged me onward, assuming I was stopped because I was tired.
Odd side story: One of them happened to be the guy who sold me a new pair of Vibrams two nights before at the sporting goods store. How weird is that? I wasn't wearing my new shoes because I'd decided not to keep them. After trying on all of the different shoes and deciding which pair I wanted to keep, as I was headed to the check out, he awkwardly says, "Hey, I really like your jacket." Weird. And being the awkward person I am, I responded with, "Um, thanks? I got it at Target. On clearance!" I never know when to stop sharing information. Or how to just leave it at "Thanks."
Back to the relay. After Shoe Salesman passed me and told me to keep going, I got back on the trail and passed him back. And kept going. In the grass. If I ran in the grass the pain was tolerable. But, it slowed me down. It wasn't the pace I'd been keeping, but I still managed to finish it in under 34 minutes. My goal had been 35, so I was happy.
And finally, the end was in sight. The entire team was supposed to be waiting for me at the end of my 4.1 miles, so we could run the remaining 0.26 miles in together. As I neared the meeting point, I saw plenty of other teams cheering on their running teammate.
But not mine.
I got a little nervous, but then they were there. And we ran it in more or less together. They were in no rush, while I just desperately needed to finish, so I just kept going. One friend came and joined me at my pace, thankfully.
Aaaahhhhh...Then it was finally over.
And we met up with families at a local pizza joint. Unsurprisingly, Baby B instantly threw himself on the floor in a crying mess when he saw me. Punishment for not being with him all day? But Darling A was just all smiles and sweetness. It was so great to see her (and everyone else!) again. HH had done a great job taking over for a day and they'd all had a great day. The kids had a run a race of their own with the schools and had both done a great job.
A good running day. I'm so glad I got to run that extra leg. I really thought I was done after the first two. Blowing way past where I thought my limits were = Awesome.
After a nice warm shower, relaxing on the couch with HH to watch a movie (I think I only made it about 20 minutes in before I was falling asleep) was such a great feeling.