Thursday, March 10, 2011

Reflections on TIR

So it's been a couple of days since we got home from this crazy three-day adventure that was Texas Independence Relay. I didn't really know what I was getting into except that I would be running about 20 miles over two days.  Considering I've been working on doubling up long runs on weekends (with varying degrees of success) and hitting about 25-26 miles total on weekends, I knew I could do the mileage.  But the other factors, like sitting in the van in between legs, not sleeping like usual, and not necessarily being able to refuel as I would normally, were unknowns.

Downtown square in Flatonia, where I started my first leg.
Libby did a great job of dividing up the legs according to the rules, which dictated that no runner on the team could run more than one leg more than any other runner.  We were short one teammate, so we had only 11 runners for the 40 legs, which meant that 7 of us had four legs and 4 had three legs to run. We each totaled between 15 and 21 miles, just depending on our different legs. My assignments and recap for each leg, along with the description from the interactive course map, were as follows: 

Leg 10 is the first of 2 legs that are nearly perfect 10Ks.  Flatonia itself is very flat (which makes you question if it really was named for a guy named Flato).  Because this leg is always gradually rising and descending, and because it will likely be run in the afternoon, this leg is tougher than it looks via the elevation profile.

Yep - this was hard. It was nearly 2:00 pm when I started, and while the morning was blustery and cold, by that time it was hot and windy. Although I have to say that I was lucky that I was running mostly east by then, so I didn't have to go directly into the wind and instead had it at my side cooling me off.  I got passed by two speedy runners early on, but I also set my sights on a runner in front of me in an orange shirt and was bound and determined to catch him if possible. I have to say that I was very glad that as the leg went on, past farmhouses and country roads and open pastures, I started to feel stronger and stronger.  Remember, this is the first run I had done since Cowtown, so I wasn't sure what I had in the legs. I was very pleased that the legs were in good shape and I was able to keep to a perfect 10:00/mile pace for the whole route, even with the rolling inclines.  I was especially glad to not only pass the guy in orange with about a mile to go, but also that another runner was NOT able to pass me.  His team kept passing us in their van, and at one point they stopped and yelled at him, "You BETTER pass that tutu!!"  And I could feel him on my back for the last couple of miles but he wasn't able to pass me. I love the pic of Libby and his team waiting at transition, with his teammate yelling at him to turn it up. And I pulled it out and didn't get road-killed by him. Ha!! Tutu power!!!

Total Miles: 6.17 miles
Total Time: 1:01:42
Pace: 10:00

Guy in blue on left was screaming at his teammate to pass the tutu!! ha!
Leg 20 - Welcome back to civilization (for a second)!  This leg shoots through downtown Eagle Lake, with the exchange on Eagle Lake's far east side. Eagle Lake is known for its abundant wildlife.  Keep your eyes open for any "animals" that may have stayed up late to come out and see you.  Can your team negative-split the race?  Ha - we doubt it!

After our afternoon leg, we caught up with the other van at exchange 13, where I was able to meet up with my friend Cassie, who was volunteering at the exchange, as well as chat with our teammates coming off their "rest" period.  Then we had a chance to have a relaxed dinner and wait for our night-time legs.  My start time was 11:03, so we definitely needed our headlamps, blinky light and reflector for the country roads I was on for most of the route.  We also had the benefit of blinky rings provided by one of our teammates, so we were able to pick out our teammates among the other runners in the dark.

From a performance standpoint, I had a headache earlier in the day from the heat on the first leg, and had tried to rest before this segment, but really wasn't able to do much more than lie quietly for a while upright in the drivers' seat of the van. So I wasn't feeling my best before I started, but once I got going, I felt pretty good.  It was very cool to be out at that time of the evening, especially in the wide open countryside.  You could see the stars above, and hear strange noises in the brush along the road (CHUPA??).  There wasn't a lot of traffic besides the vans supporting the other runners, but even those were few and far in between. At the end of the leg, I got caught and passed by a runner right before we turned into the relay exchange, so I got road-killed, but overall, I was happy with how I was able to maintain a 10:28 pace in the dark, especially when I wasn't feeling 100 percent. Toward the end, after I went through a deserted Eagle Lake downtown and was so close to the bright light at the transition, I was only thinking of the shower and bed waiting for us in Sealy!!

Total Miles: 4.57 miles
Total Time: 47:50
Pace: 10:28

Leg 29 - After exchange 28, you'll perhaps be returning to a more familiar early Sunday morning run. This leg employs curvy sidewalks that run along a golf course, past suburban communities, and across a few commercial intersections.  This is the shortest leg.

This leg started in front of Luke's Locker, and I was looking forward to a nice easy little shake-out. The two hours in the hotel bed had been glorious but all too short. We had been back on the active van since about 4:00 AM, so even though it was only about 6:30 when I took off, I had been up for a while!! The scenery here was pretty good, running through nice neighborhoods and in the near-dawn light. Temps were nice, and I ran far enough to get loose but not so far that a breakfast taco provided by the Luke's Locker aid station revived me at the end.

Total Miles: 2.3 miles
Total Time: 23.42
Pace: 10:18

After this leg, I crawled into the back of the van for a nap. It was about the most glorious 45 minutes of my life!! We had a little bit of a scare as our runner Elizabeth was about 20 minutes late coming into transition for our last leg before our next rest period, and she was in that section where we couldn't drive the course. Turns out she had a couple of vomiting episodes early on in her leg and was feeling pretty miserable, but still managed to run it out and finish strongly. I can't even imagine. What a beast! The good news is that she had three legs on Saturday so she was done for the day after that and had a chance to rest for good once she completed that awful leg. Our next runner was in full park areas where we couldn't shadow her at all, so we had a chance to hit a Starbucks and get real food in the form of their yummy oatmeal.  That and the breakfast taco really set me up fuel-wise for the rest of the day.

When we retrieved our last runner from the Bayou and turned over to the other van, we had a nice little rest period before our last segments of the race. We had time to park the van and relax, as well as hit Whataburger for Shannon and CVS for me to get some tape for my right knee.  Two days of running and being in the cramped van were taking a toll and the knee was definitely making it's presence  known.  We met up with the other van in  Memorial Park and had a chance for more partial team pics before we took over for our final legs.

Our van in downtown waiting on Libby to finish her Captain's Leg.

Leg 38 - This one may feel longer than 6.45m.  Not only is it near the end, but it also has the most turns of any leg as it navigates through Pasadena.*

Dang, this one was hard. It was hot. No, really, HOT. I had eaten pretty well earlier in the day, and knew I had to fuel before this leg, but I was also conscious of the fact that I don't typically run at 2:00 in the afternoon, so it was going to be tricky. I ended up having a Clif Crunch bar (thanks, Shannon, for being Snack Mom & getting all the goodies for us!!) that was just the right amount of fuel. I decided to bring my Camelback as I had on my previous legs, except the 2 miler, so that I could have my hands free.  I had written down directions on a little piece of paper, as the maps had warned there were a lot of turns - I wanted to be sure I didn't miss a turn and get lost!! Turns out I didn't really need them, as there were well-placed cones along the way. But it was also way too hot to have my Camelback on, as I just started to sweat on my back the minute I took off. The van was waiting for me about every 1.5 miles along the route, since we didn't need to get another runner ready, and that was wonderful.  I ended up handing them my Camelback and instead going with a hand-held Powerade bottle that was refilled with ice-cold water every time I saw them. That was wonderful!!

There I go! This was the most scenic this leg got... 
I knew I was going to be slower on this leg than on previous, and I had set my interval timer for 9 minutes, so I would walk and drink at each interval.  That helped to ensure I drank regularly, but it didn't keep me from developing a side stitch about 4 miles in. Boo. It was just tough to balance drinking enough to stay hydrated in the heat and direct sunlight with drinking too much and getting sloshy. What the interval timer helped with was the mental part, though, as I could tell myself that I only had 3 more intervals before I was done, only 2 more, only 1 more.  Having that many turns was helpful too, as the last 3 miles were broken up into shorter segments and it mentally helped it go quickly.  It was so great to turn the corner before the exchange and see both vans and all my teammates cheering on the side of the road. So much fun to have all the girls there AND to be DONE!!

Total Miles: 5.99 miles
Total Time: 1:05:08
Pace: 10:52

Coming into the exchange for the last time.
This was the only shade for MILES!!
After this, it was time to head to one last transition point, where I got to see my friend Cassie again (yay for volunteers!!) and then finally on to the San Jacinto monument, 203 miles away from the starting line we'd left 36 hours in Gonzales.  What an amazing ride. So much fun! 

A few more observations, some of which may mean nothing to you if you weren't in the van: 
  • Some words sound exactly alike if your mouth is full of Pringles. 
  • Oreos rock. Black, white, whatever. Can't be beat. 
  • Blue snuggies are appropriate for any establishment at 7:00 am. 
  • As are pink tutus. 
  • You get an awful lot of attention while wearing pink tutus. Especially to dinner at a Mexican restaurant.
  • Somewhere on the internet is a photo of me and Elaine with a white-tuxedoed Mullet with his hands under our tutus.... Yeah, I know. 
  • There was another team with tutus on. They also had leg-warmers on. I think our boas were cooler. They were faster than we were. Whatever, we rocked!
  • Tagging vans is fun. It was way cool to pull into a parking lot and see that most of the vans already had little pink wigs on the back windows. 
  • I hope nobody needed to rent a white 15-passenger van in Texas last week. They were all accounted for. 
  • I hope nobody needed to rent a white 15-passenger van in Texas this week. They were all funky from having stinky runners stuffed into them for 2 days straight.
  • The medal is about the coolest thing I've seen - a small-scale replica of the San Jacinto Monument. Heavy, too!! 
  • How have I lived my whole life as a card-carrying Texan and never been to the San Jacinto Monument before now? For shame. 
  • Small Texas towns, with their central town squares and railroad tracks and such? Pretty much rock my world. I love Texas!!

So there you go. If it sounds like fun, that's because it was.  If it sounds exhausting, that's because it was. I may still not be recovered from the sleep deprivation!! If it sounds like something you think would be cool to do, let me know.  We are going to try to get two teams together for next year - a women's only team and a co-ed team. More fun for everyone. Serious fun. Join us!!

4 comments:

Michelle K said...

You know, it is cool to read your account to see what the other van was up to! I will be writing my report soon, mostly likely once spring break begins, so you can see what we were up to. I LOVED TIR and can't wait to do it again. How cool were those night legs? Crossing the Brazos River at 2:30 am??? AMAZING!! Way to go, you were an awesome teammate--glad I could share this adventure with you.

Elaine Hillis said...

LOVE this report. Yes, somewhere a girl is upload a picture of our butts being groped! Ha! And yes, a blue snuggle/slanket is proper attire for those suffering from sleep deprivation.

You rock Corina!!

L Finch said...

Rock, rock on!!!! Reading about this makes ME want to do one!!! Seriously! You've inspired me!
AND you have a new follower! Cheers!!

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