5.5 miles. 3:30 pm. Easy, downhill course. Despite the heat and the fact that my feet felt bizarre, my energy was high and my excitement pushed me through each mile. The team stopped and cheered along the way and I felt strong as I cruised down toward the next hand-off. In the back of my mind, I worried about how my feet would fare for the next 2 legs, but I tried to drown it out by singing out loud and encouraging other runners. Oh, did I mention we weren't allowed to listen to music for this event?
8.9 miles. 2:30 am. Very difficult trek up and down multiple, large, hills. At this point, I had gotten 30 minutes of sleep in a sleeping bag on the grass by our van at the last transition area. I was not bright eyed and bushy tailed when my teammate passed me the bracelet. But, off I went, wearing a neon vest, flashing lights on my back and a head lamp. I expected this to be the most difficult leg to get through, particularly without music, but as I started to get into a groove, I had a sort of out of body experience where I was able to transcend my exhaustion and just take in the moment. And it was truly incredible. The stars were out in full force, it was dead quiet except for the crickets and all I could see were the other runners' lights dancing in front of me as the miles passed. It was totally surreal and one of the most exhilarating runs I've had in my life. Could I do it again? Maybe. Maybe not.
4.4 miles. 11:30 am (I think) Moderately difficult with a couple of steady climbs. My teammates and I had been able to grab three hours of sleep as well as a cup of coffee between our second and third legs, so I felt like a new person and was fired up to finish. My feet felt bruised and swollen after running on new insoles, but I knew I only had this last bit to go, so I tried not to think about it. It was hot again, and I was insanely tired, but I was ready to be done...we all were. So, off I went using every ounce of energy I had to complete this short, but challenging run. When I handed off the bracelet for the last time, I limped to the van and had a celebratory moment where I took of my shoes, which felt like torture devices at this point, and just sat there. My teammate made sure to video tape this moment as my feet had become a steady topic of conversation over the past 24 hours.
That said, I was done. The moment was bittersweet as I was both happy to be done and sad that it was over.
So, that's it in a very small nutshell. It was an unbelievable journey including several hilarious and insane moments. It was like nothing I've ever done before and one of the most rewarding experiences I've ever had as a runner. A couple lessons learned:
1. Don't go to a concert two nights before a 200 mile relay race (though I don't regret it for a second).
2. Double and triple check your gear the night before and then have a friend or family member do it with you again.
3. Always carry a toothbrush and deodorant with you when traveling with multiple people.
4. And, something I don't do enough, but will make every effort to do in the future; always be willing to try something new and to dive in head first when you do it. Life is too short not to.
Listen to this:
NOTHING - I wasn't aloud to listen for this race, so I'm suggesting a day off. Just one.