It all started months ago when a guy in my race club announced an interest in getting some teams together to run The Relay – a 200 mile relay race that starts in Calistoga and ends in Davenport. It used to end in Santa Cruz which was far more recognizable but the city of Santa Cruz decided that 400 vans full of stinky, exhausted people invading it’s beachy paradise was just no good. Who needs all that revenue anyhow*? But I digress.
The club ended up putting together 4 teams –
– Real Runners Don’t Tri (who put the smack down on the next team)
– Fableux Americains (the triathletes, a.k.a The French as in smack talking French Olympic swimmers who end up not winning)
– Larry’s Lounge Lizards (pretty fast runners out to have fun)
– FoMo MoFo Mamas (12 women of varying talent)
I was (and still am) a MoFo Mama, a title that fits me well.
The race had over 200 teams, each with 2 vans containing 6 runners. That’s a lot of vans and a lot of people so they stagger the start. Our team was the slowest of the 4 so we started at 9:30 and our Van 2 ladies came all the way up to Calistoga so we could be a team at the start line.
It was a nasty, rainy day and the vans made a mud pit out of the field we pulled into. At 9:30 our first runner took off and the Vans took off, too – Van 1 to the next runner exchange and Van 2 headed out for breakfast. 4 hours later it was my turn to take my first run which was 4.85 miles, covered in 44:21 or 9:08 a mile. Unfortunatly the rain had stopped because I could have used a good downpour right about then. That’s a really good pace for me and I was literally cooking. One of the reasons I ran so fast((in addition to the fact that it was a race) was because I knew that I was all the stood between everyone in the van and lunch!
The cool thing about being the last runner in the van is that both vans full of people were at the hand off so I got double the cheers – awesome! That first handoff wasn’t so memorable but lunch was. We went to a restaurant, put in for a table and I headed off to the ladies room to change out of my sweaty clothes. When I came out the group was gone! Abandoned! Except for one woman,and then I found another and then we found the rest of the group and had a really delicious lunch at a BBQ and wine place that was so fabulous I wish I could give you the name but alas…. I forget.
Back into the van and off to the Van exchange spot we went. That turned out to be in the middle of nowhere with no cell reception at all. We had no way of knowing how far out the other van was other than to guess. We slept a little, wandered around a little and were met by The Real Runners at one point who had left at 2:30 and were already passing us up. Nice!
Handoff accomplished we headed off to repeat the process of going to the runner exchange, handing off and moving along. At this point it was dark and we were getting a little punchy and I wasn’t really clear on why this was so much fun. It was fun but it wasn’t the ribald, best time of ever experience I was expecting.
My next leg started in Ross, CA at about 1:30 AM or so. The crowd of runners stood on the sidewalk by an office building being shushed by the volunteer in charge because in Ross they don’t tolerate late night noise even if it is generated by people raising money for cause. Whatever. Off I went, through the center of Sausalito and up, up, up to the Golden Gate Bridge. That part was very cool. The bridge is closed at night and as you approach a volunteer opens an electronic gate. It’s like being let into a prison. The part that was less cool is that the hill getting onto the bridge is long and steep and the damned bridge is uphill-ish until the 2nd tower. I ran every step but it was hard. Finally I saw the toll booth, the bridge started heading down and I started hauling ass. I ran into the crowd and was told – go left! so I headed left and was told go Right! through there! So I headed right, through there and was told – go across the streetf and turn right – almost there! so I ran across the street and was told go right! Almost there. I was really tempted to yell IN A PIGS EYE! but in fact, there was my runner so we high fived (having lost the rubber bracelet hours ago) and off she went. My run was 5.8 miles in 59:40 for a 10:15 pace. Not bad considering it was mostly uphill.
So now it is 2:30 AM or so and we are exhausted. A women on the team is a Marriott employee so we headed off to the Marriott for a shower and a nap. When we got there at 3 AM the lobby was full of inebriated Rugby players and their goofy drunk Rugby Roadies. One of them asked what we were doing so we explained the race and he smiled and said “You guys are awesome” and looked at me and said “can I give you a hug?” This was big, guy with the look of an islander about him and I said, “you don’t want to hug me – I just ran and I’m gross and sweaty”. Rugby guys, especially the drunk ones, don’t care about such things and he insisted so I gave in and lay my tired little head on his chest while he wrapped his big, meaty arms around me. If only someone had had a camera. I could have fallen asleep on my feet in his vodka infused arms but check-in was completed and I was hauled off to our room where I got a shower and a nap – a 2 hour nap. 2 hours.
Next up was the Van exchange at Cañada College where the walls came tumbling down. At this point I was so beat that all I could think of was getting it over and going home. I was not alone. When the Van 2 ladies came in (minus their runner who was out on the course) we told them we were just going to run our last legs and then head home. I went so far as to tell them we wouldn’t mind if they DNF’d. Seriously. This was a disaster. They were angry and hurt and let down and we were polite but defensive. I don’t know how I ended up being the spokesperson but I did a really bad job of it. I kept saying that we just couldn’t handle going to Davenport and waiting in the car for 5 hours or so in the rain. We were tired and we just needed to go home. On that sour note we headed out to swap runners and move along.
My last leg was a killer. I had to run stragiht up hill for 3+ miles. No break – just up, up. up. I ran it, too. The van stopped on the road several times to give e water and I got the driver to take my picture
I managed to run those 3.2 miles in 40 minutes at a 12:30 pace which I thought was pretty reasonable considering the terrain. I only wish it had been raining harder – I could have used more rain.
When I got to the top of the hill there was the whole gang and the other ladies, the ladies of Van 2 were so nice and encouraging and kind and I thought all was well. Off we went in our Van and off they went in theirs to finish the race. We headed out for Mexican food and margaritas. For reasons none of us understood our driver, the one male Mama in the pack, decided to post a picture of us enjoying our meal to Facebook where it was seen moments later by the Van 2 Mamas who were still out in the cold and the rain – just as exhausted as us and who really did NOT appreciate that picture! Damn you iPhone Nation!
Suffice it to say the next couple of days were spent mending fences but the great thing about being in this club and about doing something like that together is that we were able to patch things up and plan a party so the Van 1 ladies and make dinner and margaritas for the Van 2 ladies. Beats the hell out of holding hands, eating s’mores and singing Cumbaya.
The Relay was really fun and I don’t mean to overplay the big blowup but it as fun as the race was I think that episode sort of defined the experience for me and taught me a very important lesson. If you do one of these events do not, under any circumstances or for any reason make decisions 24 hours into the race when you’ve had almost no sleep. That way lies madness.
As I wrote to the very most wounded party of all
If I learned nothing else during The Relay I learned that no one should say anything to anyone at Cañada College other than “holy crap balls am I tired!” or “where’s the food and the sleeping mats?”.
This is particularly true if you are racing in the rain. Had it been a beautiful sunny day we would have thought nothing of heading down to the finish and slapying ourselves out on some blankets in the sun to catch a few winks while we waited for our team but no sleep + cold + rain + prospect of hanging out in car = putting on the cranky pants. I only wish we had left them in the van and just said “Good Morning!”
*In all fairness to Santa Cruz the parking is limited and on a nice day all those vans just cause a nightmare of traffic problems. Not that we had a nice day but you know….