Race Report: Green Mountain Relay (Part 3)

In our last installment, I had showered and passed out with my two female vanmates in a cheap motel somewhere in Vermont at around 1:30 in the morning. I had my trusty Lunesta with me, but was hesitant about taking it. The stuff has a half life of about 4 hours, usually. But my internal clock was now so messed up that I wondered if it would compound my cumulative exhaustion the following morning. Yet, despite being tired, I realized while stepping out of the shower that my brain was still going. I took my chances and swallowed the blue pill.

About two hours later, the alarm went off. Wow. Was it hard to get up off that bed. Even more difficult was getting my head around the reality that I would be racing again in two hours. In the dead of night, we shoved ourselves back into the van and off we went to the next transfer point.

I don’t even remember what our start area looked like or any of the interactions with the other van’s team. My memory of those two hours is totally gone, if it was ever recorded. I must have eaten something, but I don’t remember what. In fact, I don’t even remember starting my last leg. My recollection of that race starts at about the .25 mile mark, when I felt some raindrops and thought, rather dimwittedly, “Oh, that’s nice. A little sprinkle to cool me off.”

Rainy days and Sundays always speed me up.

Three minutes later I was running through a downpour. But it was great. My leg was “easy” and under 3 miles. I raced that fucker, rain or no rain. It turned out to be my strongest leg of the three. I had been smart enough to pack my flats with the drainage holes. So the water poured right out as fast as it came in.

In the above photo you see me approaching the one person I would pass in this entire race. That’s The Captain’s hand on the steering wheel. My vanmates would stop to help the guy in front of me (traitors) — he was running with an iPod in the pocket of his basketball shorts and found it uncomfortable. (What is this, the local turkey trot?)

As they pulled away with his iPod, entrusted to return it to him at the next transfer point, they honked and he waved at them. What he didn’t know is that they were honking at me as I approached from behind. He was surprised to see me. We smiled at each other and I said, “I hope you like running in the rain.”

Drying off after 24 hours of racing on fumes.

The rain lasted until I hit the mile 2 mark, after which it quickly eased off to a drizzle. At that point, it was all downhill, less than a mile to go. I managed a 6:55 pace for that one. How delightful. Stats: 2.92 miles in 22:03 (7:33 pace), 94% effort. Thanks, Lunesta!

With that I was done. All that remained was to get changed out of my soaking clothes and wait for food. I needed food. I was starving.

But first, again, our team had two more legs to run. Then we needed to engage in our final transfer of timekeeping accessories and wristband to Van 2. This part is also something of a blur. I vaguely remember talking to Robert and having him tell me that he puked several times while racing the night before. That was also where we saw The Amber Van with Ambers done up in full bird of paradisery.

I also groggily posted a few Facebook updates, since we’d been in a total digital access dead zone for much of the previous day. I can’t use my iPod’s onscreen keyboard with any adeptness normally. This morning, I was a complete spastic. As a result, I ended up accepting one of Apple’s auto-completed words and posted an update that moments later completely mystified me.

“Pikers?” What did I mean by that? I’ve seen Snatch, but that wasn’t what I meant. For over 20 minutes, I wracked my addled, rusty brain. What had I been trying to say?

Teammate Amy finally figured it out, although she was laughing so hard that she could barely get the word out. “Pukers! Pukers!”

Lots of pikers, but not me.

A few moments later, teammate Matt removed his second layer and revealed a very interesting tee shirt. We were, um, impressed.

I remember breakfast because it was probably the best breakfast I’ve ever eaten. I knew what I wanted: protein, carbs and salt. And caffeine. Sure, I had to request a meal with a ridiculous name — the “Cock-A-Doodle-Doo” — a name that didn’t even really make sense, since it was poached eggs over sourdough with lox (later on I realized there was a joke in there: the “Cock-A-Doodle-Jew”), with a side of hash browns. I practically ate my plate.

What a total dick.

Since we were done and our Van 2 teammates were still racing, we had a leisurely breakfast. Once sufficiently stuffed, we waddled back out to the van and made our way to the finish.

I have to say that the finish was a bit anticlimactic. For one thing, it was really hot again. So we sought out shade and loafed, waiting for Van 2 to come in. They arrived around 11:30 (we were over 40 minutes under our predicted time). We all ran to the finish line together and it was time to eat again.

Now, here’s my one criticism of the race organizers (I’m sure there were other lapses, but I was too tired to notice them) — if you’ve got people coming to you for lunch after running for 24-36 hours, you’d damn well better have enough food. There were ultra guys — teams of six (that’s around 35 miles of racing apiece) — coming in.

We lined up for food and I was surprised at how little there was. Worse (but I suppose this was a good thing), we were sternly instructed to only take one item: a burger or a piece of chicken, and one potato, etc. This was just crazy. I’ve seen more food available at the finish of 10 mile races.

We collapsed on the grass, ate our parsimonious portions, and tried to ignore the live bluegrass band. I think everyone had pretty much had it, because we made haste to the vans in order to start the journey home. After a quick transfer of foodstuffs and borrowed equipment, there were hugs all around and we piled back into the van — at least for me, it was with an odd mixture of eagerness and reluctance. Eagerness to get home. Reluctance to get back into the van. Eagerness to get out of the heat. Reluctance to end this crazy trip.

My vanmates

I would be remiss if I didn’t present a portrait of my vanmates.

“The Captain” (who wishes to remain completely anonymous, I suspect because he has a real job) is a still-waters-run-deep kind of guy. I initially thought he was standoffish. Then I revised my assessment to shy. Eventually, I realized he’s just quiet, observant and reflective. He lent a dimension of calm to a group that was otherwise fairly high-energy, verging on hysteria at times. I was glad he was half of the team in charge.

The infamously (and somewhat disturbingly) monkey-armed “Tennille” is Pigtails Flying. I’d met TK a couple of times previously and I knew her to be extremely extroverted and approachable. I’ll even go so far as to say fun loving. TK was a delight to be with and she had a sense of humor about her own tendency to randomly go all Control Freak on us. She is a natural leader and, as with The Captain, I was likewise happy to have her co-running the show. She also sent me (and presumably the other runners) a thank you note — I think she got this backwards — it seems within seconds of returning home. Her mamma raised a girl with manners.

Mike and Matt are identical twins. I found it difficult to tell them apart at times, although I finally figured out that their eyes are slightly different in shape. But I was able to distinguish them primarily by their voices. Mike was also the chattier of the two. I knew Matt already as host of the Dump Runners Club podcast. They frequently talked over each other and were engaged in a constant, seamless comedic exchange that would often crescendo into something that was so funny that it approached a total transcendence of space, time and dreariness.

Finally, there was Amy (“The Flying Finn”), a twentysomething runner, triathlete, soccer goddess and photographer extraordinaire (thanks for the blog snaps). Amy and I met at our GMR drinks meetup last month. I had thought at the time that she was reserved, verging on staid. But I quickly learned that, once put into an environment in which she a) could be heard and b) could be appreciated for her intelligence and wit, she was Ms. Personality (this reminds me of someone I’ve known all my life, but her name escapes me). She does a mean (and I do mean “mean”) Canadian accent and out-raunched and out-snarked all of us. She was also an excellent bedmate.

23 Responses

  1. […] Race Report: Green Mountain Relay (Part 3) […]

  2. Excellent bedmate has left me hanging out for Part 4.

    Sounds like it was a memorable weekend (even the bits you didn’t remember). Glad you solved the mystery of the piking pukers and showed the Ambers how to race a road relay.

  3. Julie I am very disappointed you didn’t mention my monkey-arms in my bio paragraph. Didn’t you notice that there was a monkey on the notecard I sent you? There’s a theme there. coughCONTROL FREAK!cough

    Oh and dear readers… only the members of Van 1 know how far down into his pants Matt tucked that, um, tee-shirt.

    • Heh heh. You said “members.”

      You have now been fully credited with having monkey arms of note. Amy has also been given a photo credit after similarly fragile-egoed whinings were received this morning. Jesus, you two are high maintenance…

  4. you’d damn well better have enough food

    Forget having enough…how about something that’s actually GOOD? That was even more pathetic and unpalatable than last year. Cold, tasteless veggie burger, stale bun, no condiments/toppings other than ketchup and mustard, boring pasta salad, and a mass produced brownie…no thanks. Give me some REAL food. I love the GMR, but the post-race BBQ SUCKS.

    I’m surprised you made a distinction between Matt and Mike based on the volume of chattering. I didn’t think either of them ever stopped talking. :)

    • Yeah, the food sucked as well. But I was so hungry I would have eaten a shoe if it had been barbequed.

      Matt sometimes paused to breathe. I think Mike has extra nostrils hidden behind his ears. Or maybe gills.

    • As a team, we could decide to go out for lunch instead of participating in the GMR post-race buffet. that way we can have beers, too. It’s an option, something The Captain and I will throw into the mix when planning 2011.

  5. I wanted to respond to your feedback on the food at the finish. First, many relay races, in fact most, do not have a meal at the finish. And they charge the same or more for their race the I do for this one. Second, we had to control the amounts distributed because last year, the privilege was abused. Runners came back for seconds, thirds, grabbed handfuls of food not eaten, and decided it was ok to take their families, kids, grandparents through the food line. I felt bad for the catering company as they had to keep going back and getting more food that they had not budgeted, not to mention the teams that finished later had less of a selection. So I asked them to serve the food so they wouldn’t lose their shorts again.

    Remember, it is a running race, not a buffet. I don’t have ANY cash sponsors so I do what I can.

    Paul – Race Director

    • Thanks for your thoughtful comment, Paul. I understand the challenges of mounting an event of the complexity of GMR. I, for one, would gladly pay a higher entry fee in exchange for better grub at the end. You’ve got a loyal following — I think you could probably do so without losing registrants, especially if you promised a better spread in exchange. Just my two cents. :)

      I’ll be back next year in any case. I wasn’t there for the food!

  6. Watch out for those pikers!

  7. Just finished all three installments – AWESOME job! Makes me a little bummed that I didn’t decide to run it (I was asked to join the ARE’s 6 person team). However, the food situation is a bit off-putting. Seems like there must be a way to provide adequate food without feeding runners’ friends and families – why not just have the food area roped off so only runners can go in and no food can be brought out?

    Did you get to meet/make fun of the ARE team? :)

    Also, I didn’t realize you got to sleep in a hotel… for some reason I just thought you were stuck in the van the entire time. I don’t mind sleeping in a car at all, but that makes it more palatable to me because then you can shower!

    • Not every team gets hotels. Some camp, and some stay in the van the whole time. When you race with my team, we treat you right.

    • We did rope off the area, and we had meal tickets after last year’s grab-fest. The portions were adequate (you had a choice of a hamburger, hot dog, veggie burger, or chicken breast, a baked potato, macaroni or potato salad, cookie/brownie, and a cold drink, but it wasn’t an “all you can eat” situation which is just like any other race I’ve ever done. Anyone was welcome to purchase another meal ticket if they wanted to eat more, or go out to eat at near by restaurants. Remember, with any race, the food is a supplement to the race and a race director lives by a budget just like any other business. And the folks that finished later had a right to have the same selection of food to eat.

      And I’ll repeat, there are relay races that charge the same or more that have NOTHING at the finish line or you have to purchase it.

      Paul
      Race Director

      • Reach-the-Beach also uses the one-ticket-to-a-runner approach and you have to choose what you want.

      • Correct Joe. And when you jam 350 teams into a course, and have cash sponsors, your fixed cost per runner is MUCH less than when you only have 52 teams (the GMR is capped at 100; 52 is the most we’ve had, one more team than last year). So you can afford to be more generous with food and other amenities.

    • Laura, there’s a good chance that if the ARE team was within our field of vision, we made fun of them. We’re really very nice people. We just don’t seem that way.

      If you run this, I highly recommend reserving a motel for Saturday night. Even two hours of sleep did wonders for my recovery for the third leg. The shower was a bonus.

  8. The dynamic for a road relay differs among teams in which everyone knows everyone else, when they kinda know the others, and when there are strangers. When I’ve done them, it was an all-club endeavor (although that club has since had to import folks), which made things a bit easier. We also spent an extra night (RTB is Friday-Saturday) and had an all-hands dinner after the race was done.

    As to other teams, some you hate, some you love. I recall a team that started ahead of us one year. The back of its shirts read “You’ve Just Been Passed By” whatever not-quite-as-clever-as-you-think name the team had and I so wanted to catch up to them but, alas, it was not to be.

    Of course, I don’t know if one gets the full experience unless forced to sleep, showerless (except insofar as one has been caught in a downpout), on the ground in a parking lot or in a school hallway.

    BTW, TK, Paul, and I were on a RunnersRoundTable on the topic of road relay.

  9. I’m glad to hear that you enjoyed your first relay racing adventure. I think we had a really good team this year. I hope that a bunch of us are able to return in 2011.

  10. So fun.

    And I think your Facebook friends may have already mentioned this once or twice, but, coughcoughtoldyousocoughcough.

  11. I’m so down with this. Hood to Coast team? ;-)

    Ok, I’m only about 22% joking – need teammates for next year?

    • Andrea, the captains will start assembling a list in the late fall. They typically come up with a list of core names + 12 or more alternates. Remind me around Thanksgiving, if you’re still interested.

  12. Nice read Julie. This brings back so many memories of my first relay experience last year, also in Vermont. The 100 on 100 relay is only 6 person, so much easier to get a team together. We are running again this August 28th for Cody’s Crew.org.
    The food at the end of this one is fit for a king, even if you are almost DFL, (missed it by one team). I guess that would make us DNTFL!

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