Sunday, June 8, 2008

Reno-Tahoe Odyssey

Mike tagging Ross at the 7th exchange

Trying to stay awake in the van

Cap'n John


I was a last minute addition to the Battle Born Racing Team, as i'd been trying to get a library team together when I was first approached to join this team. We never got close to having 12 people, not to mention 3 volunteers (as every "local" team needed to provide). When the Battle Born team captain, John, still needed a 12th runner a month later, i joined . We had a team meeting at our sponsor's house about a month ago, and dished out leg assignments. I'd be running the 10th, 22nd, and 34th (out of 36) legs. About half the team was the same as the 2006 team, which set the current long course record of 18:33 for the 178 miles (the course was a third shorter last year do to wild fires). Our goal was to break the record by 33 minutes or more, which would require just a hair over 6 minutes per mile pace. My legs were pretty flat, but were the second longest in distance. I was particularly worried about running multiple legs. My body is no longer accustomed to running two-a-days, or hard workouts on consecutive days. Usually I'm getting pretty sore a few hours after a race, not to mention the next morning, so this was going to be interesting.

I was in van #2 (with half the team in each). John thought it would be funny to leave a couple dirty magazines in the van, so after a couple teammates tried to contribute to the delinquency of a minor by trying to pawn off the magazines on 17-year-old Brandon, we hid them in another teammates bag (for his wife to find later?). We drove to Hirshdale Road (a few miles east of Truckee) to start legs 7-12. It was really weird seeing how many teams were still in front of us in the early miles of the race. While we'd started at 4 p.m. as the defending champs (along with 3 other teams), teams had been running since early Friday morning, and most of them were still in front of us at 7:15 p.m., when our van started our Odyssey. The course was varied enough in distance and terrain that it was inpossible to gauge who was running the best, but the six runners in our van all seemed to run pretty stinkin' strong accross the board. We'd warm-up for a few minutes before our leg, and then go anywhere from 3.1-7.6 miles, and then run a short cooldown after our legs, before the van would pick us up and drive to the next exchange. We'd usually pass our runner about a mile into their run, after seeing them take off, and then at the end. Based on that, Brandon seemed to be haulin' ass during his legs, as I heard more than one runner say something to the extent of "I can't even sprint that fast downhill!" when he'd take off or finish. I'd run my first leg at just before 9 p.m., a 5 miler from Truckee to Squaw Valley in just over 28 minutes, or about 5:40 per mile. I was glad to see a 28 when i looked at my watch at the end, as i did not feel good at all during my leg. I felt like i took off a little to fast, forgetting that this was at over 6,000 feet elevation, and paid for it a little. I'd also have some stomach issues, which unfortunately would stick with me for the rest of the race. It was pretty neat running this stretch of road as it was getting dark, though. I passed two runners about 17 minutes in, who i'd been tracking by the red blinking lights on the back of their vests. After that, it was pretty dark to the end, as I didn't bring the headlamp on my first leg. I handed off to Drew Casselberry, who is a former Incline HS and Weber State CC and track runner, and probably the fastest guy in our van. We'd had about a 10 minute lead after the first 6 legs, which i'm sure we'd been adding to, but we wouldn't know again, until the results were in, how much of a lead we had. We were just trying to stay as close to 6 minute pace as possible. After our 12th runner handed off to the first, we drove from Homewood to Stateline, where we'd start our second set of runs. Some of the guys tried to sleep on the freezing cold pavement in their sleeping bags, while others tried to catch a few winks in the van, as it was definitely warmer in there. I made a couple port-a-potty pit stops, and watched a few other teams at the exchange. All of us were also trying to get by on runner food-cliff bars, gu's, gatorade, water, etc... I'd have a GU half an hour before each run, a Muscle Milk after each, and some other carb based, easy to digest stuff in-between.

Our second set (legs 19-24) would be in the middle of the night. I'd run 5.8 miles from the base of Kingbury Grade through the town of Genoa, just past Walley's Hot Springs. I got the feeling that this would be a great run if you could see where you were going. As it was, it was, surprisingly, my best and most enjoyable run. I'd struggle with side/stomach cramps again, but they were never too bad, and my legs weren't dead...yet. We'd taken to calling the runners bogies that we'd spot on the course while driving, and i'd pass 9 of them on my second run, and fall just short of catching a 10th at the end, running 33 & change, or about 5:40 again. Drew passed another 8 on the next leg, although he was still warming up when I finished, and it seemed as though we'd pass more teams in the middle of the race than we did at the beginning or end. This was putting us in a good position to be the first team accross the line. Although it didn't matter to the official results if we beat the teams that started before us or not, this was another goal of ours.

One of the perks of sponsorship was a hotel room for each van, to recharge before running our third and final leg. The first 6 runners had been staying in Carson City for a couple hours as we did our second leg. Apparently our captain had turned off his phone to conserve power (for what i don't know as we couldn't get a hold of him when we needed to), and they either didn't set an alarm or slept through it. We finished the 24th leg with van #1 nowhere to be found. Nick (runner #1's) wife was there, and she'd gotten a hold of him a half hour before we showed, but apparently he fell back asleep. By the time we'd gotten a hold of them, we'd lost almost 14 minutes, and were just a little pissed after running so well in the middle of the night. We'd discussed at the last van exchange that we expected to be there around 4 a.m., and we were there at 4:02, so phone or no phone, we thought they'd be there by 4. We weren't sure, with a third of our running left, if this would affect our cances for a course record, but we were pretty sure we wouldn't be able to break 18 hours at this point. The mishap had taken a little of the wind out of our sails as well. We'd go to our Virginia City hotel for a couple hours. I'd take a HOT shower, to aid my stiffening legs, but would not be able to get any sleep. It did feel great to stretch out for 45 minutes, though. We'd head to dowtown Virginia City for the grand finale, and were all glad to see sun. We'd all grown tired of the cold, and the warmer weather after daylight was very welcome.

Maybe it was in my head, but I seemed to be fading more than the other guys toward the end. Ross (leg 27) ran an awesome short but hilly leg from Virginia City, and Brandon (after a little climbing) and Patrick split the downhill back to south Reno. I'd run my longest leg last. 7.5 miles as flat as a pancake (but I was not so secretly wishing for a shorter, downhill leg). I was feeling none too great, even dry heaving Tums during my warm-up. Good times! I carried the map of this leg with me, directionally challenged as I am. There were about a half dozen turns, and the official at the exchange said a couple of the teams still ahead of us had gotten temporarily lost. Less than a mile in, I'd find out why. The first turn was about a quarter mile after a hand written 8x10 paper with "Odyssey/right" on it. I knew the name of the street that I was supposed to turn on. This "street" looked more like an alley, and there was no street sign or any other indication. Due to the sign i'd seen a minute before, I turned just in case, and hollered over to an older couple in their yard. "Is this Western Skies Drive?" You'll like this...even though I was ON Western Skies (the street this couple lived on), they told me they think it's the next street up, in the direction I just came from. I knew they were wrong about that, but figured they knew their own street name, so as I ran back to the 341 again, I waved down our passing van. Ross knew the roads, despite the lack of signage, and told me to go back to the street I'd just come from! I only lost a minute or so, but mentally and physically, I was just about done, so running 7.7 miles instead of 7.5 was not a cheerful thought. Anywho, I fought through almost every step of leg 34, fighting stomach cramps, and tight/tired legs, and a pissed off heel. There were a couple sections where I'd fade briefly to significantly higher than 6 flat place, only to use a turn to pick it back up. I'd run the 7.5 in 44:05 (45 & change for it all), or about 5:53 per mile. For as bad as I felt, i was really happy with this one, even though it was my slowest, and it was a great relief to be done. As Drew finished his own 7.5 mile leg, we realized we still had a shot at 18 hours. Fred would have to run 6.1 miles in 38:00...a peice of cake for him when he's fresh, but he'd already run twice, and may or may not have to wait for a couple traffic lights a mile before the end while running along the river through downtown. We drove ahead to the end, where no early teams had crossed the line yet. By the time we saw Fred around the corner, we were just over our goal, and would finish 32 minutes ahead of the old course record, and an hour and a half in front of the second place team, in a new record 18:01:26. That 13 minutes sure would have come in handy in breaking 18!!

We stuck around for pictures, refreshments, etc... Hannah and Abby met me there, so we stayed at Idlewild Park for a couple hours playing with everyone's dog, and tiring out the kid. Formal awards were that afternoon, after the rest of the teams finished, but I don't think any teammates were there past noon. We do have free entry into next year's event, which is technically worth $1,000...even though it's a cost the sponsors would cover anyway. I managed to jog (and I mean jog) 41 minutes this morning before soaking the legs in the river. Next week is the Tahoe Relay with the Lubbersziziz, Turi, and Amber. Should be much easier, although a bit hillier for me...and I promise the write-up will be shorter. Just think of it in terms or words per mile (178)!

Happy Running,

Chris

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