S2S – Update #1
Mt. Spokane to Sandpoint Relay Race – Update #1 (RACE RESULTS!) Team Iron Legs, 11th Place out of 56!!!
Well it was a fun event and a lot of work, and one of the most memorable creative times I’ve ever had partly due the effect of time compression and a great deal to do with my teammates.
I was on a team called “Iron Legs” and was runner #5 which includes 5.1, 5.2 & 7.1 for a total of 17.4 miles of sometimes hot and most times beautiful runs between Spokane, Wa. and Sandpoint Idaho.
Now, I had never been on a relay race, and although I understand how a relay race is supposed to work, just like anything else, if you’ve never done it before, you really can’t “know” how it works. And just like all of my races in the past, I had worked through what I thought was going to happen and had prepared for it mentally and physically the best that I knew how, and had a game plan, which I tried to follow.
My game plan was of course to finish, that’s always #1, and #2 was to finished without injury. I know that seems pretty basic but as you get older and realize that it takes longer to heal, #2 gets more important than when you’re 22. The other part of the game plan was to try and do all my legs at a sub 8 minute mile pace. I really didn’t think that I would have a pace issue with the shorter distances, but I was a little concerned about the 7.1 distance. Mainly because I’m having some soreness of my left Achilles / heal area since I finished Troika (Half Ironman) two weekends ago. Every run since Troika I’ve experienced some pain during and mostly after the run, so I was concerned about injuring myself, but I also didn’t want to let down my teammates by quitting during this event.
So generally, he’s how a relay race works: Get a group of twelve runners together, gather up two vans. The course is comprised of 36 legs. Each runner races 3 legs varying in distances from 3-8 miles. The race is continuous; therefore we run through day and night, hot & cold, hill and flat…..with very little (or in my case) no sleep! (Click here for more detailed info on this particular race)
I was in Van #1 with some of the greatest people I’ve ever met! I had never met any of these folks before and only had talked with two of them via email prior to the event, so I was somewhat nervous about spending over 24 hours straight in a vehicle with them, and I’m sure they felt somewhat the same way about me! But without going on & on about the Newby family, Vern (Dad), Kris (Mom), Gina (Daughter #2), Mindy (Daughter #3) and “Big Red” (Older Dodge Ram Van, just like the one we used to have back in Pocatello) suffice to say that they are one of the most charming, athletic and fun families I’ve ever met! AND the father, 2 daughters and son Travis have done the Coeur d’Alene Ironman numerous times! They are a very out going and an accommodating family (They housed, showered, feed, and gave us a place to sleep in their home during our 3.5 hour rest) and were just a blast to be with! Thanks guys for allowing me to share this awesome event!!)
Also in the van was a family friend of the Newby’s, Monica and a last minute addition from Oregon, Dell (Yes, like the computer.) Dell’s team sort of fell apart so rather than not running, he and the remaining two members traveled to Spokane and were farmed out to teams that needed other runners. Team Iron Legs was all set but two days prior to the event one of the members broke their knee cap (OUCH!) while rollerblading and both she and her husband had to bail.
Gosh, there’s just SOOOO many memories jammed into 27 hours I just don’t know where to begin! So I’ll just jot down the basics:
Van #1: The Newby’s; (Vern, Kris, Gina), Monica, Dell & Me, & “Big Red”
Van #2: Mindy Newby, Jerry (Sponsor), Patrick, Ryan, Alyssa, & Shawn, and “Little Blue” (Newer Dodge mini-van)
Van #1 picked me up at Krispy Kreme on Sullivan where I decided it was important to do some last minute carbo loading. Mmmmm donuts! So at precisely 7:30 AM this 19 year old VAN with “Eyeballs” painted on the front and black spots (Electrical Tape) all over the sides, (Vern’s idea of Lady bugs…..?) rolled up and out fly’s two gals and the only word I heard was BATHROOM!. I walked over and shook hands with Vern and Gina, said good bye to my wife, and off we drove to the start.
We started off at 9:30 AM at the Bear Creek Lodge at the base of Mt. Spokane. On the way to the start we passed numerous runners already on the road who had earlier starts based on the teams guess on how long it would take them to complete 190 miles. Actually it was based on the overall team averaged 10K times, but I don’t know how that worked out other than some teams started at 5:30 and we started at 9:30 and the last teams (Last meaning they were VERY FAST and would take less time to finish the course and would finish well ahead of the rest of us) started at 11:30.
We arrived at the starting line just after the 8:30 group started and the air was buzzing with energy as those teams had just launched their 1st runner and all the decorated support vehicles chased after them down the hill. I can’t begin to describe all the creativity that went into decorating some of these vans. There was one that was called the “Cabana Van” that looked like it was made out of bamboo. Another van had a pirate theme complete with skeletons and a treasure chest. Amazing!
We hurried over to the packet pickup area and on the way Chris was handing out mini chocolate bars to all the other contestants. (See, I told you these guys were great! No, there was no magic “slow pill” in any of the candy!) When we got there we were told that our substitute runner was already assigned to a different team, so we all looked at each other to try and figure out how many of us were going to have to run extra legs to fill in the gap. A few minutes later, one of the race directors came by and somehow corrected the mistake and that’s how we met Dell. Whew! Good thing!
The atmosphere around the start line was exciting and full of fun as teams were getting their pictures taken under the start line, the music was blaring great tunes and best of all, there were no lines at the porta potties, yes!!!!!! There was even a pancake feed going on, but I had already done my carbo loading earlier. (Mmmmm donuts!) I saw a bunch of people I knew who were on other teams and it was great to wish them well even though we were competitors. (Okay..so I’m a little competitive). Just before 9:30 all the 1st leg runners lined up under the starting line to prepare for the start. Travis, (my running bud from our Saturday morning running group) got down in the sprinting position like he was in starter blocks and as the gun went off, he took off in slow motion as he started down the hill. HAA!! What a kook! He was on team “Fun, Friends n Fitness” and along with team “Happy Feet” we sort of leaped frogged each other the entire 190 miles and were some of our favorite teams as we cheered and even help hydrate each other along the way.
The 1st leg was down hill entirely and one might think that going down hill is easy, and yes, for a short time it can be, but after 5 miles of down hill pounding, your quads get very tired. Gina was our 1st runner and flew down the hill. As we passed her she had a huge smile on her face and was cruising along with no problems through a tree lined course where shade was abundant and support teams yelled and cheered not only their runners but every runner and even each other. Life was good, and running was great!
As Gina ate up the miles quickly we positioned our next runner, Vern, at the exchange spot. He was getting warmed up and ready to run an 8 mile leg and was outfitted with a belt full of water bottles and gel’s. As Gina came through the exchange cones, she slapped the metal flexible arm band on Vern’s outstretched arm and he took off like he was shot out of a beebe gun. (Sorry, I have to use the “cannon” metaphor somewhere else in the story….gosh!) After we cheered Vern on, we piled back into “Big Red” and flew down the road making sure to cheer on Vern and EVERY runner we saw. We would look for good places to pull off after a mile or so, climb out of the van and setup our cheering/watering check point as we awaited Vern’s arrival. As other runners came by we cheered and asked them if they needed anything and if they wanted to be sprayed by water. Most all the runners really enjoyed not only the attention but the cooling effect of the spray, especially later. Soon enough Vern came into view and we cheer and spray him as he continues along his 8 mile journey. We hop back into the van and begin to make our way to the next stop when we see a sign that says, “One more mile to go”. What? We thought this was an 8 mile leg? We check the race handbook and sure enough it shows 8 miles. I check my copy that I had printed off two days ago it shows that it’s only a 3.1 mile leg! YIKES! We pull back onto the road and head down to the exchange area in order to get our next runner, Dell, ready for the next leg. I then recall that they had to change the starting point due to the spring melt which washed out the road above the current starting point. Vern was a little supprised when he came around the corner and saw the sign but I think was relieved as by this time it was starting to get very hot. Next runner…Dell!
Unfortunately for Dell, he got the 3rd leg during a really hot part of the day and running 7.8 miles in no shade, with lots of hills and elevation gain is not easy! Throw in being on a team with people you never met before and wanting to prove yourself a good teammate that put a lot of pressure on him. But he did a good job considering the conditions and on his 2nd and 3rd legs proved to be an excellent runner as well as a great teammate through out the 27 hours we were together. (Side note: We talked with Ben the race director afterwards and he said he had to “clean up” the course on his way to the finish line and because many people got sick on that particular leg due to the heat and the distance. Ugh!)
Leg 4 was a 6.1 mile downhill run with a 250′ elevation loss that provided Monica with an opportunity to run down a good friend of hers, (Susan, a good friend from nursing school) who at the start of the race realized that she and Monica would be doing the same legs together and said, “Don’t you pass me!!” Well that’s all the challenge Monica needed and the race was on! At the start of this leg Monica was about 4 or 5 minutes behind Susan and it seemed as though passing her was out of the question, but being the competitive passing machine that she is, Monica determined to catch her and flew down the hills in record time! This was a very hot time of the day yet the burning desire inside Monica to pass Susan was even hotter, so she pushed on even more! Every mile or so we stopped to make sure Monica was doing okay in the heat and to give her water and encouragement, but encouragement she did not need….her burning desire was all she needed as she set her sights on passing her friend. On and on she churned, running down one runner after another…”Road Kills what we call that”, said Monica, “and that’s what she’s going to be! HAHAHAHA!!” (Evil Laugh) At the last stop before the next exchange I saw Susan run by and she seemed nervous like she knew Monica was hunting her down. When Monica came by I told her Susan looked nervous and tired from the heat and I saw that she even walked a few steps when she took some water. Monica turned to me and with a gleam in her eye said, “I’ve got her now” and took off like she was shot out of a cannon! We all hustled back into the van and barely beat them to the exchange area. I had just hopped out of the van to positioned myself in the exchange area when I looked up and in slow motion saw what Monica had seen all along, “Showdown at exchange #4”. Just before Susan rounded the turn into the road where the exchange area was located, Monica pulled up next to her and said, “Gotcha”, and blasted by her like she was standing still! An evil laugh could be heard through out the land which sent chills down all of our spines! As Monica passed through the exchange area and handed me the wrist strap I realized that perhaps Monica was just a little more competitive that I am…..good thing we’re on the same team…whew!
(Disclaimer: Some editorial liberties “may” have been taken during this part of the race story.)
End of Update #1 – This will be continued on Update #2