I have been struggling with how exactly to put into words my Anerican Odyssey relay experience as team captain for Bloggin’ & Joggin. Although a “crazy, inspiring, and sleepless adventure”, it was so much more. How does one capture the experience of a life time in one simple blog post? One doesn’t, that’s how. So while I can’t put into words every incredible feeling and moment of last weekend’s experience, I will do my best to tell you all about it, and inspire you to challenge yourself.
Finishing my last leg of the relay (photo by Paula)
Last year, as many of you know, my neighbor asked me to be on her American Odyssey relay team, and before I could think of every excuse and reason to say no (I can’t run far enough, I am not in good enough shape, I am not fast enough), I said yes. It was such a great eye-opening experience for me and showed me that in fact I am “enough”. When I put my mind to it, I am stronger, faster, and so much more than I think I am. With that self-realization comes a feeling of utter empowerment, and it’s such a high.
I wanted to pass that feeling on, because we all deserve to feel incredible, and we should all be made aware that we are in fact so much more capable than we ever dream we are. Because I wanted to inspire others, I reached out to other bloggers and formed a team, Bloggin’ & Joggin’ (and I have to give credit here to Chaney for coming up with our great name!).
Now, before I go further I should explain just how this relay works…. Each team has two vans, or in our case, two gorgeous GMC Denalis. (I drove ours every time I wasn’t running, and let me tell you it was divine… it had a hot spot, USB’s for all in the car, room for 7 passengers, DVD player if we wanted it, satellite radio, navigation, and so much more….. we were riding in luxury! I was sad to see them go back to the dealership!)
The team consists of 12 runners who run a cumulative total of 200 miles from Gettysburg to DC. Van 1 (which was my van) kicks it off, and then when the last of their 6 runners runs (which was me!), van 2 picks up and their 6 runners start. Each vans runners run 3 legs, for a total of 36 legs over about 24-36 hours depending on the speed of the team. Each runner runs a total of anywhere from 13-19 miles. At the end of the race, we all wait near the finish line for our last runner to approach so that we can cross that finish line as a victorious team! (In a race like this, the victory is not in winning, but in doing!).
So now that you understand the process, I can truly tell my story.
We all met up at my house on Thursday so that everyone could drop off sleeping gear. I had given my family and dogs the boot for Friday night so that the team could use the house for what little sleep we would get. While we waited for everyone to arrive we all chatted nervously. Karah had arrived the day before, which allowed for us to run around Thursday morning and get all the van needs and get all of the coolers and gear set up. Once everyone arrived, we headed up to Gettysburg, where the race would kick off Friday morning. We stayed at the Courtyard Marriot (and thank you to Hometalk for providing our home away from home for this event!), which was next to the start line. That evening we hung out and got to know each other more before we were about to take on this huge challenge together.
I was so excited to be in van 1 because although we were legitimately the van that got less hours to sleep and had to be up early to start the race, we got to kick it off, and that was so awesome!
Jessica from Pace of Me was our first runner, and took off at the start! She is a “true runner” and is even a running coach! (I’ll be using her starting in June so that I can keep improving myself.)
Note: There were 115 teams, but they start in waves which is why there aren’t a ton of teams starting).
Jessica finished her first leg and passed it onto Beckie from Infarrantly Creative. Beckie had been sick for a couple of weeks and was nervous about her run, but had trained so hard that she didn’t want to give up. She ended up killing it all three legs! Here she is headed off on her first leg which took her through Gettysburg battlefield.
Next up was Jessica from Dear Emmeline. I am SOOOO proud of this girl. She is a sweet mom to 3, and had never done anything like this race before. She worked so hard. Her first leg was her longest, and Karah and I both almost cried because we were just so emotional seeing her conquer it.
Once Jessica completed her first leg, it was time for Karah from The Space Between to take off. She had the most beautiful take off under a covered bridge. The run ahead of her was long and hilly, and in fact, she went so much faster than she thought that we weren’t even quite ready for her! This girl is a beast!
Heather from The Heathered Nest ran out of the van so fast, hair not even in a pony tail, so she could meet Karah at the transition. I’ve met Heather before but this was my first time really spending time with her, and this girl is freaking hilarious! She also ran this was basically no training, so I have tons of respect for someone who can just jump up and run!
So after Heather it was my turn, and let me give you some background on my first leg… Through this whole process, I was so grateful as captain to have Karah and Megan helping me with so much of the behind the scenes organization. Early on in the planning, the three of us also decided we would go ahead and take the hardest running positions, and I somehow volunteered for the hardest slot which included a first leg that was 6.5 miles, which isn’t bad, but 4 of that was uphill and my total ascent was over 1200 feet!!!
I was honestly the most nervous about that one leg, and grateful it was my first so that I could get it out of the way. I spent the past couple of months training for that leg specifically, running up hills; I am not going to lie…. the training was hard, and I didn’t think I could do it. Self doubt crept in, but I knew I had 11 women on my team who believed in me and a family at home who believed in me. I brushed off the doubts and made my way up that hill. I reminded myself of who I am- I am someone who goes for my dreams and works hard for them in all aspects of life. I am not someone who says “I can’t”. I didn’t set any records or anything and I had to walk some here and there, but I made it up with a pace just over 11:00/mile, so I was extremely proud of myself!
At the top of the mountain, waiting for me, was Sarah, my business partner and one of my best friends. It was so amazing to be able to pass the slap bracelet (which is used like a baton) to her! I love this photo because she’s taking off, and I just have a look of “oh thank goodness that is over, your turn!”
Photo taken by Megan
Runner 6 is also rewarded with a lovely American Odyssey beer glass and a set of mardi gras beads as a gift for completing the hardest leg. I was grateful to bring it home to my beer-drinking husband and thank him for letting us all crash here while he and the kids vacated.
Once I was finished with that leg, it was time for our van to have some lunch and downtime. We ate at a local restaurant, and just relaxed for a bit.
I absolutely adore this group of women…. we had so many laughs over the course of two days. But you know what I say? What happens in Van 1 stays in Van 1! Plus, I am sure that everything is much funnier than it really should be when you are running on little sleep, and hanging out in a car for 2 days!
After our bit of down time, we were back at it from about 7 pm to midnight. At midnight we headed to my house which was only 15 minutes away, and slept for just two hours before my alarm sounded and it was time to get moving again to meet van 2 at 4 am in Shepherdstown. We began the last of our legs at 4 am and finished when I finished my longest run, 8.1 miles, at 11:15 am.
By the last leg, my own legs were so tired, but thanks to my van for staying nearby and tossing me water when I needed it, I made it through! And thanks so much to Six:02 for providing me with this outfit which helped keep me cool in the morning sun. It also helped keep me noticed…. I do love my neon!
After that we were able to rest a bit before heading to the finish to meet the rest of the team.
Van 2 always took off where we left off, and we repeated that cycle over the course of the race until we reached our final destination, Washington, DC. I wasn’t in that van to tell you all about the fun that they had, but I stole some of their photos to share their crew with you. I am going to skip around from leg to leg here and just give you a quick rundown of van 2 rather than going over every single leg with you. (This post is already pretty wordy!)
Of course there was my business partner, Sarah, who kicked off their van. Sarah was not a runner before I asked her to do this, so I am so proud of her!
Sarah passed to Paula, who is a muscle machine! She is totally impressive and could kick my booty any day! But with a sweet smile. 🙂
Now, after Paula would have been Megan. Unfortunately just a couple weeks before the race, Megan injured her ankle very badly and was walking with a limp. (As it turns out, she has a stress fracture). However, she came along, and kept a great attitude and was the van 2 driver. And now she has much more motivation to do it again next year so she can really conquer it!
After Megan ran, Chaney was off! Chaney killed her times and ended up running a sub 8:30 minute mile average! What a rock star! She has such a great attitude and is so positive- I love this girl! Here she is running through beautiful PA countryside!
After Chaney came Alexis. Alexis volunteered to be on our team when she knew no one, so already I knew this was going to be someone I would like… she’s not afraid to take chances! I didn’t get to hang out with her much, but from what I saw, I love her happy go lucky manner.
And finally, the last runner to run on our team, the one to carry us into DC and across the finish line, was Vidya. Vidya had not been a runner before training for this relay, and I have to say I think the most moving moment for me was seeing her approach the finish with her husband and kids anxiously awaiting, and her husband snapping pictures, beaming at his wife the entire time. He was so proud of her, and so was I!
So triumphantly, I say, we did it! We ran up mountains, along rivers, across train tracks, through woods and farmland, from dawn to dusk and through the night and from dawn to almost dusk again. WE DID IT!
It was such a crazy two days, and I couldn’t have shared it with a better group of women. We all worked hard as a team, supported one another, lifted each other up, made each other laugh, and kept each other going.
I would also like to thank our sponsors, because this team wouldn’t have been possible without their support.