Blue Ridge Relay - 208 miles of fun

I lean slightly backwards reaching for the slap bracelet that serves as the torch for our challenge. A hand extends towards me and the exchange has been made. Thirty-five minutes after the race has begun, it is my turn to run. I am gone only ten or fifteen seconds and suddenly, it is too late to offer up excuses as to why I am not prepared or to share my anxiety over the mountains that are called hills in the course profile. I am running at a measured pace, anticipating the 22 miles to come, recognizing that 2,500-4,500 feet of elevation lowers the number of oxygen molecules per breath and again that the hills are steeper and longer than anything I have trained on.

Looking around, I start to get my bearings. I feel the downhill pulling me and I let gravity help, but I keep one foot slightly on the brake. I cannot run too fast now and risk a slow death on another leg. Two runners ahead of me seem to be holding a steady distance from me and so I am obviously under control. I take a quick glance at my GPS and it clearly shows that I have just crossed .5 miles at a 6:30 pace – way too fast for me – faster than my 5K pace. I am obviously not under control and I pull back more. It is still downhill and I am full of adrenaline. For a couple of months, I have been anticipating this day and wondering what level of performance my body would give.

Leg Two overall and the first for me is rated as HARD and covers 7.5 miles. That is about the same distance as my daily run and the start time is about the same as usual, so I feel very comfortable. My plan is to enjoy this run on mountain roads and take in the great fall scenery and weather. My only real concern is leaving a little in the tank for my next run.

The runner ahead of me has made up his gap on the other of the two runners in my sight and they make the first turn as one, out of the park and onto an empty rural highway. I am several hundred yards back and I follow them when I get to the corner. I see my first directional sign, but I pay it little heed since it is obvious where we are headed. The race covers 208 miles and the routing includes big roads, back roads and gravel roads. A profile for each leg has been distributed and some people carry a laminated card with the directions for their portion. But most runners rely on trying to follow the small signs and, this early in the race, following other runners. That’s what I am doing. However I lose sight of the two runners that I am tracking as we head around a big swooping curve. Then I see a sign. Though it isn’t clear to me whether it is directing me to follow the left curve in the road ahead or to turn left off of the road onto a gravel road. The sign is placed about 20 feet before the turn and I am at the corner and turning before my brain processes the info. I go another 20 feet thinking about the possibility of being off course this early, running a few extra miles, and losing a huge chunk of time for the team. Where are they? I double back, using precious time, and take a look at the street sign. I recognize the name and continue on my way. It is a half of a mile later when a team vehicle passes me and confirms that I am on the right trail. Wow, that feels better.

The temperature is nice and the mountain air refreshing. Dew glistens on the grass in the pastures and the sun starts peeking through the early fall foliage. This is a great day and place for a fun run or to be a tourist, but this is a race and I constantly evaluate and reevaluate my pace. Is it fast enough given the terrain? Is it too fast given what lies ahead? As mile three starts, not marked but on my GPS worn specifically for that reason, the downhill and flat terrain abruptly bids me farewell and I am greeted by one of those backwoods hills that are graded according to the climb rather than gradually to accommodate cars. There is no indication as to the length of the climb other than the few switchbacks I can see. As if a lumbering semi, I downshift into a lower gear: shortening my stride, leaning slightly forward, and reducing my speed. These hills attack you in two ways: muscularly and aerobically. Since this is my first run of the day, I feel that my fresh legs can power up this hill. In fact that is my problem. My limiting factor on these types of inclines is lactic acid brought on by running for too long at or near my maximum heart rate. I choose a faster pace than I can maintain and do well for a short period and then I feel my heart rate climbing. Generally, I slow down once, and then again, but it is all to no avail as I reach a tipping point and the weight of the hill and the waste in my bloodstream come crashing down and force me to stop. That is what I want to avoid here and I pull way back immediately and force myself to run at what seems a snail’s pace.

Time moves slowly and I wonder if I am allowing the gap between me and the other runners ahead to increase, and if a runner farther back has set his/her sights on me. Still I stay the course, climbing at a disciplined rate and it feels good. There is no pain. There is no shortage of air. I have found a pace that works and I start to push it just a little without crossing any thresholds. The hill goes on with the benefit of some nice views and a bucolic setting. The only noise out here is the thumping of my shoes, the splash of my drink, and the pounding of my heart. I feel strong and confident even as the hill lessens but continues to climb. I check my GPS for my distance and average pace. I am still ahead of projected at 5 miles when my teammates start screaming cheers and support as they finally pass by. I had expected them to pass me in the first mile, but they had made the navigational error, not me. They edge on ahead, leaving me with a smile as only other runners can. I dig in for more ups and downs, but aware that in 2.5 miles, I will be taking a break. That makes it easy to find a constant stride and my adrenaline is still providing extra energy.

On most of the straight-aways, I still see one of the runners at almost the same distance ahead of me. The other has moved on farther ahead and dropped the two of us. I keep looking at my GPS and thinking that I have run stronger and faster than expected, and yet I am losing ground. The only conclusion is that there are some good runners in this race and we had better bring our A game to avoid bringing up the rear.

My two goals for the Relay are to run strong on my legs and to have fun with the group. This relay consists of 36 legs and our team has the maximum 12 members, each running 3 legs always in order. My legs will be 2, 14 and 26. The same runner will always be ahead of me and another runner will always take my handoff. The runner that waits only knows that it is his/her turn once the preceding runner arrives, so it is important to have a good guess as to the runner’s pace in order to establish a window for the exchange. That depends on variables such as speed, elevation gained and loss, how tired the runner is and the heat of the day.

As I reach mile 7.2, almost at the exchange zone, the road flattens and may even roll downward a bit. Or it could be my excitement pushing me hard those last few hundred yards. In any case, I pick up the pace and I feel like a locomotive rolling towards the finish. I yell out our team name to alert the waiting teammate. I hear a response and keep barreling towards the small crowd near the monitoring officials. As I come in, I see a few teammates and hear them lauding my run, but I don’t see the next runner. Then I learn that he isn’t ready and why and my immediate reaction is a big laugh and I realize that we will be combining effort with fun for the next 24 hours. I am totally relaxed as I have finished a fun run and reconfirm that we are here for fun.

The next runner had been all prepared to make a quick relay handoff, but had discovered at the last moment that he had forgotten to attach his number to his shirt and had to go find it. Another teammate helped by pinning it on him without any puncture wounds. Then he was ready and grabbed the bracelet and headed off for a 5-mile run. He was reasonably new to running and most of us were new to relays, so with this excitement combined with the adrenaline already pumping and the lost time, he tore down the road like a jackrabbit. There is nothing like excitement.

Most of the running at a relay is done alone or in brief moments with a stranger from another team. The social side of the relay is the time spent not running, but hustling from one start to another and talking about the upcoming run or the one you just did. There is also quite a bit of camaraderie with other teams of similar pacing as you see the same faces over and over as each team awaits its runner. The topic of choice of course is running: legs, pace, weather, logistics, teammates.

Each leg is a different length and takes a different amount of time. The basic logistics of a twelve-member team is that the runners with the first six legs ride together and the runners with legs seven to twelve share another vehicle. At our relay, about 80% of the vehicles are white 15-passenger vans and are decorated with slogans and names and graffiti. The van and the teammates deliver the runner to the start and help coordinate the bracelet pass off with scouting, cheering and encouragement. But once that happens, it is time to move on down the road and let the next runner prepare for the next leg. So the other five runners pile into the van and head off down the same course as the runner, following the signs to the next exchange zone. The van passes runners all along the course and our members (and those of most teams) are positive and seek to offer encouragement to all runners. However, the real eruption of sound and support occurs when we pass our own teammate. It is a fleeting moment as we don’t stay there long – neither the rules nor most runners encourage shadowing. On down the road we go, with our speed constrained by the bumps, curves, avoidance of runners and our unfamiliarity driving such a large vehicle. It always takes what seems like a long time and this reinforces the distance that the runner must cover. Once parked at the next zone, there is usually a 20-40 minute period before the runner arrives and each person has their own agenda: the next runner is getting ready, someone is eating, someone needs the port-o-john and the last runner is still toweling off, washing with baby towlettes and changing clothes. Their next run is 9-10 hours away.

Ten hours is a lot of time. After our sixth runner finishes, everyone has a certain buzz. We jump from story to story as we leap ahead to the transition zone where we can rest until leg 13 starts. This transition is fun, as almost every team will overlap here for several hours. Experienced relayers have prepared and the parking lot at this outlet mall has sleeping bags and lounge chairs spread in the grassy areas amidst a sea of white 15-passenger vans. It is early afternoon and I have no interest in sleeping nor the ability at that hour. I wander around meeting new people and getting their takes on the Relay so far, learning about their legs, discussing their home running scene and generally enjoying the openness of the running society at this point. Most people are confident but not egotistical at this juncture. We all know that the first leg occurs when we are all well rested and that the more legs we run, the heavier our running legs will feel.

I am having fun, but I am anxious. My first leg was rated HARD. My second leg is rated VERY HARD and consists of a 10-mile run on a constant uphill to the entrance for Grandfather’s Mountain. I have heard that it has a steep incline in the first few miles and then continues gradually rising until finishing with another steep mile. This is the tough part of my run and I have fought off fear for the past month. Will I conquer this mountain or will it humble me? I am so ready to start, but I can only wait patiently as the hours slowly slip away.

It is always a good idea to be in good shape for an event like this and specific training for the event is highly recommended. Specific training would involve distance and hills. As far as distance goes, the primary decision is whether to train with one single long run equal to the approximate total distance or whether to double up and run multiple times on the same day. There are plusses to both. My personal preference would be to run the total distance in a single long run. Unfortunately, the heat prevents me from doing long runs in the summer, so ten miles had been my normal long run this summer and my legs totaled 22.1 miles. Two weeks before the Relay, the morning temperatures broke lower and I managed a 13 and a 15-miler – with a rest day before and after each. Nevertheless, I would have felt okay about the distance if it had been a flat course. But it isn’t. It is the Blue Ridge Mountains and the course profile resembles a stock market graph.

The afternoon continues to creep away and then we are joined in the parking lot by the runners from the other van – a sure sign that their last runner is on the way. Runner One for us prepares to start: Glidestick, food, liquid, and given the time of day, the full set of night gear. The race is run on a number of public roads and there are few signs warning traffic about us and the normal potholes and narrow shoulders. Each runner wears a reflective vest, a blinking bike light on the front and back and a coal miner’s headlamp to be a light unto your path. All that, supplemented by a GPS to track your mileage and a bottle of liquid, and you are no longer the light agile runner that you know and love.

The exchange is made and the level of excitement jumps noticeably. We have some quick conversations to congratulate the runners in the other van and to find out about their runs and just feed off their raw energy. I have a bit of that raw energy myself. The other runners now know that they are in line to run, but they also know that both the runner out now and I both have a lot of miles to do, so there is plenty of time for them to get ready. We hop in the van and head to our next transition zone for leg 13. We will see the people in the other van again at Exchange 18.

Given the difficulty of the current runner’s leg, I have about a 25-minute range in my estimated start time. Still, I want to start. I change into my running gear, lubricate, hydrate, dehydrate, dehydrate again, check my lights, and given the cool mountain air, I throw on a long sleeve shirt. I wait for a few minutes and then I dehydrate again. Familiar faces are leaving and I switch on all my lights and look like an alien out for a run. The darkness makes it difficult to identify a runner, but soon we hear a familiar female voice calling out the team name. It is my turn. Friendly words and encouragement are exchanged as well as the slap bracelet. It is just one more item I throw on the body of a simple runner that normally eschews a watch.

I turn and start running up – or down – the road. I can’t tell if I am going up or if the road is flat. The spotlight shines straight ahead and can light up things over 10 meters away, but I can’t see far enough ahead to visually judge the incline. I have again started slow because the course profile shows a major climb in the first 2 miles. I can tell that it isn’t downhill and my pace seems slow, but the GPS reports that I am running my everyday run pace. Some runners can feel their pace and run it anywhere. I generally run a consistent pace, but tonight I need to correctly judge my effort to make sure that I don’t crash and burn.

One thing is for sure: this is fun. The darkness focuses my mind and I can feel the road as I push off – the left side several inches below the right side. I can see the trees as their shadows further darken an already dark area. The air that chilled me as I waited feels fresh, but my internal combustion has ignited and the sweat has begun to accumulate. Some people talk of spookiness or wild animals or some general fear of the dark, but the darkness calmed me and I feel totally in control of the run and my body.

Around a mile, I pass the Eastern Continental Divide and assume that it is the highest point around. I am wrong. For some reason it seems to sit at the base of a hill. As I ran the second mile I see and feel more evidence of the advertised elevation gain, but it still feels reasonable. My pace is only a tad slower and nowhere near what I feared. I begin to dream of maintaining it – usually a sure indication of troubles ahead. The van passes me and a few Woohoos head my way. As I pass mile two, confidence begins to flow through my veins. I am going to be able to do this: the question now is time. I keep pushing and feel great. At 2.75 miles, my teammates have pulled over to check my progress and will me up this hill. That was fun and I wave and breeze past them. Less than a tenth of a mile later, my legs suddenly turn to lead and I struggle to put on a brave face as the team passes me again en route to the next exchange. So there is a hill somewhere here in this darkness. I slow down and my legs recover – no real problem, just a statement by them to remind me that I am not the boss.

The middle of the run is a small but constant climb and a solitary nighttime run becomes a social setting. In the next few miles, I am passed 6 times by runners, some so fast that I feel like I am standing still. The first passes me slowly and my pace naturally quickens as I seek to maintain contact. And I do for about 2 minutes until I remember that I have a plan that I should stick to and run my race, not his. Zoom, he leaves me behind to my own thoughts. During this same stretch, I pick off 4 runners. I have a conversation with each one and attempt to pass as quickly as possible – without changing my pace – so that I don’t infringe on their great night run.

Most of the traffic on the road consists of vans passing by, and they are careful and supportive. But around mile 4, I find myself playing chicken with a driver that does not want to shift from his lane. I decide that I am the chicken and I step off the road into the rain gulley a couple of feet down. The car passes me as if I were invisible. I feel like I made the smart move and make a mental note to show all of my lights excessively from now on. I reach down and squeeze a few ounces of sweat from my T-shirt. Man, is it fun out here tonight. I feel alive.

Mile 5 seems longer. The strangeness of the night, the newness of the headlamp, the realization that I am not yet halfway all make me more aware of each step. I start to notice the incline of the road more – there would be a raging runoff in a rain. I see a huge boulder on the side of the road. The runners that pass me and the ones I am coming up on provide a temporary look at the route ahead and I can better gauge upcoming inclines for their elevation gain, but not for their distance away.

As I cross mile 5, I know that I am halfway and all I have to do is run that last part of my normal ten milers. Supposedly, this is the feeling at mile 20 in a marathon, but it feels much easier tonight as I run in the dark by myself. I am there. This leg is mine. I have succeeded at the Relay. I still have another leg and it will be demanding, but this is the leg that loomed hardest. Now back to the business of running this one.

Given my elation at claiming victory so early, I step up the pace just to emphasize to the mountain my power. In what seems just a few minutes, I look at my GPS and see that I now have run 6.67 miles. The last 1.67 have just flown by – in fact, I wonder if that much distance has really been covered. I look back at the GPS, this time with the full luminosity of my headlamp, and see that in fact I had covered only 5.67. Fortunately, I accept it without any psychological damage and keep shuffling my feet. The next mile brings my calmness back and I run without thinking.

I am wearing my GPS to help me gauge where I am in the run. Once in a while I just look at it, but usually there is a stimulus: a turn, or getting passed, or as at mile 6.7, a change in topography. I feel it subconsciously just before it bubbles into my reality. Boom, my pace drops and my heart rate inches up. I shorten my stride again and lower my center of gravity. I feel the exertion and the cumulative fatigue at the top of my hamstrings and my lower glutes. From this point forward, I am doing simple math: 10 minus my number of miles equals my remaining mileage. Now it is 3.3 and I know that if I keep a steady pace, I can gut this out with no problem. The night keeps getting cooler, but I keep squeezing sweat from my shirt. I am generating heat.

The biggest issue for me is that I don’t know what lies ahead. I had examined the course profile a hundred times and I didn’t expect this big challenge until mile 8. I can only assume that the climb will extend until the end. There is nothing to do but to stick to my strategy of making sure that I don’t attack too aggressively, but now I try to combine that with one of running as fast as possible so that I don’t arrive at the exchange with any extra energy that could have made me faster. It is a fine and constantly changing line to which I continually adjust. I want a constant level of exertion to yield a varying performance based on the conditions. I seek distraction to take my mind off of the challenge at hand and there is plenty of newness in the situation: the moon now helps silhouette the surrounding trees as a light breeze causes the leaves to stir. I hear a small stream or waterfall off to the right, a small gravel road descends sharply in total darkness to the left, my headlamp is bright and positioned so that it is hard to see the stars in the clear sky, sweat pours down my face onto my drenched face and I draw imaginary letters on the road ahead with my headlamp. It isn’t enough. The reality of the climb communicates directly with my legs and my lungs causing me to be hyperaware of every step and exertion. It isn’t pain but life is passing at real time.

Suddenly, at mile 8, for the first time I can’t see but I can truly feel a major elevation change – I am running downhill. Plop, plop, my feet are moving fast. I stretch out my stride as best I can and ponder how much to resist gravity’s pull. This is a welcome respite from the uphill and my heart rate plummets. I am reenergized and I know that I can take advantage of this section to reduce my average pace for the segment and I accept the speed. This is not on the charts and I have no idea how long it will last, but it feels good and I hope that the major climbs are over. Ah, but it lasts for about half a mile and then I do get the expected climb to the finish, I have no doubt that it will go on till the exchange zone is in site and I just give it all that I have. My heart rate is 5 -10 beats higher than earlier and approaching a danger zone and that is where I try to hold it. Others have noticed the hill and I pass two more people. I mumble words of encouragement related to the short distance remaining as I try to create a gap before I risk decelerating and joining them. I hold off checking my GPS as long as I can, because each time I see that I have only moved another tenth of a mile ahead. Well that is 10 minus another tenth and the end must be close – at least mathematically.

There are lights ahead and it looks as if I am running towards a small festival or a Christmas tree sales lot. The road flattens enough that I pick up the pace and the effort to give the illusion of strength. I yell my team name out twice and I hear my name echo back. Coarse excitement reenters my bloodstream and I rocket towards the line, grabbing my team bracelet and preparing for the handoff. It is done. The next runner instantly disappears into the night and Scott steers me quickly around the crowd and toward the hill where the car is parked. I balk at walking up this very steep hill until I recover just a bit, but he keeps me moving past the officials so that the van can come to me. That is not only thoughtful, but also practical. I am tired and expended, but the current leg is only 2 miles and a steep downhill. We need to drive the next runner (Scott) to the exchange zone and have him ready and toeing the line within 14 minutes from the already-forgotten handoff. We drive down the hill and it is like a Pinewood Derby with runners setting their own personal bests. Once there, Scott is getting ready and I am walking around still sweating and catching my breath. Before I can do that, the next leg is underway and the runner that just finished is sharing his enthusiasm. This is fun. Next exchange is now less than 30 minutes away. I hop back on a towel in the van – I will wash off and change at the next area.

Much of the experience of a relay is from the life within a van and a 15-passenger van should more than adequately hold 6 passengers – particularly if one is actually running instead of riding. But like everyone that lives out of a suitcase, relay runners start spreading their things out and reducing the available space. Food, drinks, chairs, sleeping bags and clothing all fill the space before the runs start. But once the run starts, each runner has a wet sweaty towel, a set of running clothes that are dripping with sweat and looking for an opportunity to smell, and of course there are shoes everywhere. I and everyone else had a clean pair for nonrunning and at least 2 pairs for running. Once they get wet, there is nowhere to put them to dry and they are too bulky to put back in the travel bag. When packing, I had packed three plastic grocery bags with my clothes for each particular leg. My solution to wet clothes was to create a single larger bag to hold all of my wet clothes and to use a small grocery bag to hold my shoes. Did it work? Partially. The big wet towel never really dried and started getting the seats damp and smelly. The headlamp strap was wet like a sweatband and there was no real way to change that and I had to put it back on later. For the time being, darkness hid our messiness.

After my second run, although the total team has completed only 14 out of 36 legs, I feel like the relay is almost complete. One short but interesting run remains for me, but I feel relieved of any pressure to perform. I sit back, cheering and supporting my teammates as we finish the rotation for our van. Sometime around midnight we hand off the magic bracelet to van 2 and have a sandwich with other runners just finishing their legs. Then we shift to the area where the next major transition for us occurs – a fire station. Lots of people have arrived before us and the firehouse is full of people chowing down on baked potatoes - prepared by firemen and some volunteers - with all of the fixings. The gravel parking lot is not only full of large white vans; many of the parking spots have barely visible runners under the open sky attempting to get some sleep. We agree that we will set our alarms for 3:45 AM with the expectation of a start for our first runner at 4:15 AM or later. I pop out my contacts and claim a seat in the van – 3 people are there and 3 are outside in the foggy night. I toss and turn and a couple of short hours later, it is time to pop the contacts back in and load up the van. The parking lot has noticeably fewer vans and precariously placed bodies, and we scurry around to try to learn when our runner will arrive. Mobile phone coverage out here is spotty and batteries are dead on the phones of the primary contacts, but eventually we receive word that the runner is about 30 minutes out. Fifteen minutes later, our runner comes running up to the finish line – before his van arrives. This seems like an interesting puzzle, but our job is to get runner number one on the road again and that is what we do. It is 4:30 AM and I am glad that I have just a bit more time to wake up before my run. We follow her and strategically locate ourselves at a turn marker - so that she will not miss it – and we cheer like a bunch of crazy runners that haven’t really slept. There are a few houses around, but no lights turn on and no shotguns or dogs appear.

I feel good as my run approaches. To me, this is an easy 4.5-mile run without pressure. I have learned to run with the headlamp, reflective vest, and blinking lights. My water bottle is only half full, since it is cool and the distance is short. This is the third time the handoff has been made from runner one to me and it goes smoothly. I stay just long enough to give her a quick congratulatory hug and then I bolt out. My breathing finds a regular rhythm almost instantly. I can feel some aches in my legs, but those fade quickly. I can feel the downhill and I welcome the speed and ease that come with it. I feel faster than in the earlier legs and I unfearingly maintain my pace. I hadn’t really noticed any runners at the exchange, but I now spot the lights of two ahead and they seem to be falling back towards me. They are obviously saving some for the mandatory hill ahead. Other runners provide great comfort that you are in fact on the course and I use their lights to make my first turns. But then I become the leader and responsible for nighttime navigation. This is the spooky time of night to run – is it still night or is it morning? The simplest way to answer that is that the only people on the road are locals that have not been to bed yet. Have they been drinking? Will they know the roads and hug the lines on the curves? I don’t learn the answer to that, but I do know that the road belongs to cars – a pickup truck flies towards me and swerves in front of me to make a turn. The tires squeal but the driver really never puts me in danger; he just makes me remember to pay attention.

At about two miles I come upon a decision point and I don’t see a sign. I stop and walk back and look around and once again make a decision to go ahead; this time on the straighter path. No other runners are in sight and no vans appear. The road begins a gentle and then a not-so-gentle climb and still no confirmation. I really don’t want to have to backtrack. Then, through the trees and around a switchback, almost on a different level, I spot the blinking red light indicating another runner. That allows me to shift all of my mental energy to the task at hand – this pesky and persistent hill. I had a big hill on leg one. I had two big hills and a steady climb on leg two. But this hill has more steepness and distance than any of those. I know I can run it. It just requires me to locate that drawer with my remaining energy and my mental toughness. Seriously, I should have looked at the profile for this revised leg. Oh well… left, right, left.

As I make a grand sweeping curve and head up a 200-yard stretch to the next switchback, the other runner comes into view – and she is walking. This hill could make us all walk on our third run, but I have fortunately evaded that fate today and I wondered what to say as I pass. She is obviously suffering but there is no avoiding another relay runner at 5 AM on a lonely dark stretch. I decide to just say “ Just another mile and a half.” Hoping that the distance will sound short for a good runner and after today’s runs. Her response is “Really?” But the inflection didn’t let me distinguish whether I had encouraged or discouraged her. Was I a jerk? It is no fun to struggle physically while having negative thoughts and I drift off to other thoughts. What is my pace? Are there more people ahead? Isn’t it fantastic running out here in the foggy, dark night with mountains and hills, streams and pastures, and the cool fall air?

Soon enough, but none too soon, I see the exchange zone and I realize that this is the end of the running for me. All of my reserve energy is summoned to speed towards my finish line and I arrive calling out our team name. There is no response and so I yell out into the dark the next runner’s name and he is standing 15 yards away not expecting me for a few minutes. He snaps his lights on, grabs the bracelet, and heads out for what will be his most spectacular run ever.

Scott is next and we review my run and then I ask more about his. I had seen the charts and heard the description, but the only legs that really stick in your head are your own. Finally, I translate his leg from the descriptive HARD to a distance and hills. It looks hard but no worries since I have a lot of confidence in him – and I am finished!

Relays are often compared to the marathon and many train the same way. I can only say that I would never have attempted a marathon with the training that I had. I had the miles, but not the long runs. I can also say that although some marathons have steep climbs, I have never encountered hills like these at a marathon and I am not sure what I would do if I did. That brings me back to the question of how to train for a relay. I don’t think that it is necessary to run twice in the same day in training as long as you run the normal distance on a regular basis. I would recommend the occasional long run equal to about 150% of the longest leg and I definitely recommend hill training for a relay like this.

My two goals for the Relay were to run strong on my legs and to have fun with the group. Both happened. I left feeling like a strong runner even though I have no trophy. As for ensuring fun with the group, that is tricky. It only takes one disgruntled runner with a bad attitude to spoil it all for everyone, and with six runners in a van, the odds of that are pretty high. Everyone in our van had a good attitude, so some other van must have had 2 bad apples.

Driving home, I commented that I could have run one more leg and that maybe 9 runners would be the right number so that we could all do 4 legs. The following morning when I climbed out of bed, my legs begged to differ.

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