American Odyssey Relay Recap #teamblogginjoggin

Last Friday and Saturday I got the opportunity to link arms with 11 other bloggers and run a 200 mile relay race called the American Odyssey Relay from Gettysburg, PA to Washington DC.  I have done one other similar race like this called The Bourbon Chase about 6 years ago.  It is an intense race.  You run 3 legs over the course of about 30-36 hours with about 2-3 hours of sleep.  Did I mention you spend the rest of the time in a vehicle together?

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Bloggers: Left to right Paula, Jessica, Alexis, Vidya, Sarah, Megan, Jessica, Heather, Cassie, Chaney, me and Karah).

Over the course of 2 days you become REAL close with your van mates.  Inside jokes are the norm, getting slap happy, and at times, sticking your foot in your mouth.  So are you crazy enough to do this?  Oh and did I mention I had only met one of the other runners briefly at a blogging conference? So in addition to me running 17.6 miles over the course of 3 legs I am sharing this experience with total strangers in a GMC Denali.  And yes I signed up for this without a gun to my head. On top of all that craziness you run at least one of your legs in the pitch black.  More on that later.

So here is my experience. I drove to Cassie from Primitive and Proper’s house on Thursday afternoon (not before I made a pit stop at IKEA in Pittsburgh – duh!). That evening we drove to Gettysburg to stay in a hotel – thank you Hometalk for providing those for us! I had been fighting off a wicked cold and a double ear infection the week before and I felt terrible upon arrival.  While the rest of the team went out for dinner I crashed at 7PM.  I was reaalllly nervous about how I would be able to run 17.6 miles over the next two days but I committed to it and I didn’t want to let my team down.

6:15 a.m. rolled around and I woke up still feeling very tired.  I tossed and turned a couple of hours in the night.  Did I mention I am not a morning person?  At this point I am still coughing and blowing my nose.  Yikes.  So we get in the van and our first runner is off at 7:15 a.m.  So we drive to the next point and I was runner #2.  Here I am grabbing the baton (aka a “slap bracelet”) from Jessica to start my first run.

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I got the very surreal experience of running through the Gettysburg Battlefield.  It was so peaceful and quiet.  And knowing I was running on a piece of history was sobering.

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The weather was perfect for running– overcast and like 55.  I ran 6.5 miles for my first leg.  My goal was a 9:30 – 10:00 pace for each leg.  I did 1:00:57 so a 9:29 pace.  You are running with other teams but it isn’t uncommon to not see any other runners on your leg.  I passed one runner and was passed by one runner on that leg.

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I felt so much more confident after my first leg.  I actually didn’t cough the entire run.  Since I was sick the week before I hadn’t run in 12 days.  So I was nervous I would be dying.  But it actually felt good to get out there and get my heart rate up.  I passed the bracelet to Jessica from Dear Emmeline and she was off.

After the 6 runners in our van were all done running their first leg we relaxed and grabbed lunch.  Our next runs weren’t until the evening.

(Van 1 Left to right: Heather, me, Karah, Cassie, Jessica and Jessica)

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I ended up running leg 2 at 7:54 p.m .  I started that run out with a little daylight left.  By the end it was pitch black so I had to wear a headlamp and reflector vest. 

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However it was on a road so I wasn’t nervous or anything.  I finished that 4.2 mile run in 39:40 minutes at a 9:22 minute pace.  Here is my “I am done with leg 2” picture.

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After our van was done with leg 2 we got about 2.5 hours of sleep at Cassie’s house. I was so anxious for my next run I felt like I was in a twilight sleep most of the time.  Then waking in the middle of the night with the thought of running my final and longest leg (6.9 miles) was brutal.  I felt exhausted and my legs felt like noodles.

Timeout: So I reached out to Roll Recovery to send me one of their rollers.  And I can’t say enough about how vital this was to our entire team.  It hurts to roll out your legs at first, but it reduces inflammation and really helps the blood flow to your legs and made a world of difference in how my legs felt.  I was sore after the race itself but not “I want to die” kinda sore.  Roll Recovery played a HUUUGGGE part in this.  Thank you RR!  If you are a runner or lifter I HIGHLY recommend the Roll Recovery.

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So my last and final run started at 5:13 a.m.  At this point I was thinking a 10:00 minute pace would be unattainable.  Can I just say the first 3.5 miles of my running was in the pitch black?  It was petrifying.  I ran along the Potomac River on a trail path.  I was scared to death of tripping on a tree root or an animal scurrying along at my feet.  I had to pray myself through those first miles to calm myself.  I was running with a headlamp and knuckle lights the entire time. I definitely ran slower because I didn’t want to take a step until I scanned in front of me with my headlamp and knuckle lights.  At this point it is all mental.  Sure my legs are tired but my brain was my biggest hurdle to overcome.

Once the sun came up it was beautiful.  The river was raging and made such a sweet sound and the birds were chirping.  On this run I passed one person and then I met Rob at mile 5.5.  He was REEEALLLY struggling and was kind of limp jogging/walking when I saw him.  Honestly, I wanted to pass him but there was a stirring in my soul I couldn’t resist.  So I stopped and walked with him for a mile trying to distract him to keep his mind off the pain he was feeling.  I heard all about his family and the wife he adored and how he lost 190 lbs.  OMG!  How inspiring!!  So that mile took me 13:45 minutes.  But in the end I kept reminding myself that people are more important than pace. I felt Rob was going to make the last mile, he was in good spirits when I left him.  So I ran the last mile or so by myself.  I ended with an 10:46 minute mile.  Overall I felt great about what I contributed to the team. 

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It was an exhilarating experience.  You feel such a huge sense of accomplishment when you are done.  I couldn’t have done it without the amazing support of my team and the incredible sponsors who paid for us to have this opportunity.

Will I do it again?  Probably.  Who wants to join me next year?

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You sponsors rocks my world:

Purebond, Kreg Tool, DLawless Hardware, Design Your Wall, Hometalk, GMC, Sweet Clover, Milestone Pod, Southern Landscapes, Modern Masters, Rehab Associates, Annie Sloan Unfolded, HomeRight, Muscles and Lungs Crossfit Aruba, Bailey Sign, Health Warrior, SIX:02, Frogtape