As the clock declared 6:25, and the van began to pull out of Myers Park Methodist’s parking, I was handed a 2 inch binder with directions and a laminated card with our split times written on it. It was precisely at that moment that I realized why I love F3…here were 6 men that left early and had logistically prepared for the challenge of running 208 miles within 31 hours, harnessing our type-A, GSD personalities. So began the perfect convergence of everything I love as we heading off for the Blue Ridge Relay.
After a ruckus pre-race dinner at Chili’s, where our table of 6 men 35 years old+ were espousing the benefits of Twitter while a table of high school cheerleaders mocked Twitter next to us, we grabbed our final few hours of sleep before the next 48 hours of running, (not)sleeping, and fellowship began.
At 7:30am, our team arrived at the top of the mountain in Virginia to begin the long journey to downtown Asheville. The basic structure of the BRR is this: 9 runners (or 6/12 depending on your level of sanity) rotate through 36 legs ranging in severity from 2.2 miles downhill to 10.1 uphill. As one person runs, the van with all the other runners sprints ahead to setup the next runner at a transition zone where the just completed smelly, sweaty, and sore runner is thrown into a van to repeat. This occurs over the next 208 miles and 30+ hours.
Out in the early morning, we met other teams who would read that above paragraph and say, “Sign me up and let me pay you $200+ to do this.” Having varied between large marathons and small half-marathon trial races, I have determined there are a “certain” type of men and, especially, women who are drawn to these races.
4 short hours later, my turn arrived.
“If that was moderate, then it’s gonna suck for you mountain goats.”
Distance: 5 miles through West Jefferson.
Having been crammed in the van watching 4 other runners race, I went out of the gates strong…too strong as I blew downhill in a sub 6:30 mile and a quarter. I know that if my HR hits over 180bpm it begins a slow leak; and I accomplished this 184bpm within the first 10 minutes.
As I ran along a shoulder on a four lane highway into West Jefferson, I heard a car approaching behind me and honking. Assuming it was my team cheering me on, I gave them a double fist-pump and F3 approved “AYE!” Only to discover it was a “mountain woman” who skillfully pulled around me while giving me the finger and holding her cigeratte in her claw at the same time.
The final stretch was purely uphill at 7% grade, and as I hit the exchange zone the first gasp out of my mouth was: “If that was moderate, then its gonna suck for you mountain goats.”
And so I have affectionately named each of these legs after the first words my tired body exhaled.
Distance: 10.1 miles to the base of Grandfather Mountain.
Leg 14 was the section I was most excited about. Ten miles uphill to the base of Grandfather mountain. This was a scenic climb passing waterfalls, a dude dressed up as Wonderwoman, overlooks, the BlueRidge Parkway and a van full of “The RealDeal” women stretching their glutes at the crest of ridge. This run was when it moved from light to darkness, which caused a strange sensation as my final two miles were in complete darkness minus the 3 feet illuminated by my head lamp. Within the enveloping darkness my steps seemed shorter. But ultimately I reached the transition zone,
“Did you hear that ghost train”
Leg 23 was the section I was least prepared for…because of the mental challenge of running in the fog, on a dirt road, in the mountains, for 5.6 miles at 2:30am. Huddled up with another F3 group, I knew I was about to get passed by their team, so I took off like a shot into the foggy darkness, only to be passed by Bunny in the first mile. As his blinking light disappeared into the fog in front of me, I came to a crossroads. Convinced that the first turn was a left, I started to sprint off to the left, when a van pulled up and honked…”Runner, Runner…oh its you Agony…wrong way.” At 2:30am in the utter darkness, they quite literally saved me from being a lost, sobbing mess, down some dirt stumbling upon a methlab.
But after setting my feet in the correct direction, they too disappeared into the darkness, leaving me running along a dirt road. Due to the fog I had turned off my headlamp and used a small hand light that illumined 2 feet in front of me. I couldn’t see anything, when suddenly a slow grinding metallic noise started to crescendo. It was such a loud sound of a train–whose lights I could not see–that I swore it was barrelling down upon me. But just as quick as it appeared, it too disappeared leaving my ears ringing.
In the end, I was glad to finish this leg.
Killed: 1 (Bunny)
Distance: 9.6 miles downhill
By 9:00am the next morning, I had re-energized by being around friends and fellow F3ers at the Pancake Church, and was eager to complete my mission. I got to run straight downhill for 9+ miles. This was a glory run as I could open up my legs and haul allowing gravity to do the work. Then just as I hit the flat part of the run, there were other runners within striking distance giving me a mental game to try and pick them off one by one.
Hitting the transition zone and handing off, I stumbled off to my left and into a creekbed. I had run that leg with Snickers bar in my shorts pocket that had melted and then resolified through the coolness of the creek. While simultaneously chomping on that treat, two runners from RockHill blessed me with a Yuengling. Never has there been a more glorious moment than drinking a beer in a mountain creek with a snickers…until Today hollered at me so we could go pick up Silent Bob after his Mountain Goat Hard run.
Distance: 30.1 Miles
Getting to enjoy the scenery and the fellowship with the men of F3 and other teams we came across–like theRealDeals, RedHot Ultra Mamas, Wasson&Brinleys Team–along with pushing my body to a new level of adventure and extreme has made for me the BlueRidge Relay the best time of my life (excluding my wedding, kids birth, and yadayadayada all those other important dates too).