Happy happy Wednesday! Today’s post will be a departure from the furniture or DIY you usually find over here. I am hoping to inspire some of you as I share my experience running in the American Odyssey Relay this past weekend, which spans 200 miles from Gettysburg to DC, and calls itself a “race through history!”
I was honored and proud to be a member of the Lunachicks! Before I continue I should tell you that I am not a model runner, but I am going to play one in this post. See?
Last August my neighbor approached me and asked me to be a part of her American Odyssey Relay Team. I have never been athletic in my life. I enjoy exercise, but not in a competitive manner, and have never been particularly agile and am definitely NOT speedy. Yes, I like cycling, used to teach spin and weight classes and boot camp; but that doesn’t make me an athlete! My neighbor assured me that I didn’t have to be- she just wanted a team full of fun women. Fun- that I can do! Something in me moved me to answer with a yes! And what was even better? One of my very best friends, friends since the 6th grade, Sandie wanted to join me on this adventure. (She doesn’t live here but came in for the event).
I spent the Fall running a couple times a week to start to prepare, only a few miles each time. I planned to really start training in January. Of course we had the longest and snowiest winter in a long time, so although I trained, much of it was on a treadmill- I was nervous!
The way this relay works is that you have two vans, each carrying 6 runners. The first 6 runners run, then van 2 picks up and its runners run; you cycle through his 3 times so that each runner runs 3 legs. I was runner 10, so I was assigned legs 10, 22, and 34. Sandie and I didn’t know the girls that were in our van, but they were AMAZING- funny, supportive, positive- pretty much everything you could want in a team mate.
These are the van 2 ladies, about to head off to Gettysburg for our first legs of the race Friday. (I am in the middle with the light blue jacket, and Sandie is next to me sporting sunglasses and neon).
When we arrived in Gettysburg, we were due to meet up with Van 1 at the transition. On our way there, we saw their last runner, who happened to be my neighbor, about to make her way up one of the hardest hills in the race. She KILLED it, and ran the entire thing! I am so proud of her.
We each wrote our own inspiring words by our names. I wrote “My kids think I can.” I know my kids believe I can do anything, so for me, imagining their sweet faces and their faith in me motivates me.
I should also mention food… the time that was spent in the van not running was spent bonding, laughing, chatting, and snacking. I packed granola, gummy bears, almonds, and cashews. Sandie brought turkey jerky with her, and we decided to give it a try. A picture speaks a thousand words….
Through all of the snacking, talking, and van time, I learned that van 2 was made up of some of the most determined and incredible women I have ever met. We made each other laugh, and we encouraged one another. Our first runner to go had never even done a 5k, and she smiled every time she ran….
My first leg was in the pouring rain and mostly on a muddy trail. It was 5.7 miles, and I can honestly say I have NO idea what happened, but I made a personal record! When I arrived at the transition my team told me “You kicked butt!” I looked at the time and then looked at my map, certain I must have missed part of it…. but I hadn’t! I ran it in an 8:35 minute mile pace, and I don’t know if I will ever do that again! After I finished that first leg, I was pumped! Here I am, soaking wet, but smiling from ear to ear…
I got to pass the slap bracelet (it’s what you pass from runner to runner in this relay) to Sandie, so she took over in the rain and the wind picked up as well! She had a tough 7.4 miles, but was able to cross the Mason Dixon line which was a highlight! She appears to be saluting me, but she was really just holding her hat in place as it tried to blow away!
After we finished our first round of legs, we headed out to grab some dinner and a little quiet time before our second round.
Our second set of legs were the shortest ones, all around 4 miles. My own was 4.7 and through Antietam, which is the site of America’s bloodiest battle! These were the shortest legs because they were in the middle of the night…. I ran through that battlefield at 2 am!!!! I was so blessed to have a very good friend meet me there to run it with me (you are allowed to have bike escorts or running escorts). Once we completed round 2 we headed to one of the girls’ houses and crashed! We were able to sleep from 4:30 am until 7:30 am and then it was time to get moving again so we could be at our transition, where van 1 would finish their legs completely, and we would head into our last round.
My neighbor who was their last runner had some of the hardest work…. here she is finishing her last leg, 8 miles with several hard hills in the blaring sun. And she rocked it!
My last leg was my longest at 6.8 miles. It was all along the C&O canal, so in my mind it was going to be flat and lovely. Here I am with Sandie waiting to start by the canal.
Let me tell you, that was the hardest leg for me! I was sooooo tired, and my legs didn’t want to move fast. The canal, in theory, is very pretty, but almost 7 miles of the same scenery is pretty exhausting! I walked a good bit of this one, alternating running with walking. But somehow, I managed to finish it in just under a 10 minute mile, so I must have run fast when I did! When I approached the transition, which was near a bridge, I was greeted by several cheering Lunachicks. I have never smiled so big in my life as when I saw them and knew that I was DONE running as soon as I got there! I whooped and hollered all my way to the transition from there!
These are some of the girls in van 1, on that bridge greeting me! (And yes, you can run it pregnant!)
And here I am after that run, done, and feeling very hot and very proud! That face is saying “Well, I did it. I actually did it.”
Finally, we headed into DC where we would cross the finish line with our last runner…
As you can see…. PURE JOY.
There I am, ecstatic to have accomplished this task with such an awesome group of women.
We may have finished 126th out of 128, and 4th out of 5 in our division, but I am so proud! We did it! And I should mention there are TONS of military teams… we are domestic women not quite military trained. :)And I received my first ever medal!
What did I take away from this experience?
Confidence. I feel better about myself than I ever have in my life. I can do hard things, and I can do them while exceeding my own pre-determined expectations.
Friendship. I met so many women I would not have met otherwise. And once you live through something like this together, you are forever bonded.
Health. I am in the best shape I have been in a long time…. I feel energetic, and my attitude is happy, healthy, and positive. I will continue to run because I love how I feel right now, even though I will admit I still don’t love the actual running.
Challenge. I have learned to challenge myself, push my boundaries. Otherwise I may never know what I am really capable of.
Would I do it again?
In a heartbeat. It was one of the best and most satisfying experiences of my life. Actually, I AM planning to do it again next year, and am in the process of creating a team (or more if we have enough interest!) of DIY bloggers! Imagine how many people could be inspired along the way? Who’s in? Email me at firstname.lastname@example.org if you are interested!
What would I do differently?
I would train outside on hills more. I did a lot of hill training, but the winter was hard and I also did a lot on the treadmill. I would run in all weather conditions- I had not run in the pouring rain before, and yet I had to for this race. And I would not bring turkey jerky.