Tuesday, August 2, 2016

downeast sunrise trail relay

way back at some point earlier in the year... when running on the treadmill was my only option (im a winter running wimp) and i longed for warm races outside with friends other than youtube and my cat... i was somehow roped into an all night/mid summer relay from an eastern part of maine to the very very farthest eastern most point of the whole united states in the middle of the woods on some sort of trail, kicking and screaming until i pressed submit and my credit card was charged. then i was informed about the potential hazards of said relay which were not fully explained to me before... that i would be carrying bear mace and had to sign some sort of "your life is in high danger" waiver. seriously, thats totally how it happened. #ormaybenot

im getting old, my memory isnt that great. 

but yeah, ok, so maybe i actually really might have invited myself onto a team that i convinced needed a mediocre female runner. it just so happened that i was the slowest of all the other runners, so im certain they all looked at their captain with a "wtf dude?" type look... but i promised cookies and fun selfie opportunities and of course my mad singing skillz. so i guess that helped?  (although the team denied my celine dion request. theyre all bound to hate me). as time got closer for the race, i got more and more nervous. i let everyone in my small circle of life know that i might not make it out alive. i did pack my pepper spray, got a better headlamp than i currently owned, and made sure i had every piece of neon and reflective gear i owned all packed up and ready for use (i also suggested we go and sign our wills, but that did not happen. so i couldnt die! thats how it works, right?). bring it on downeast sunrise trail! (this early am road runner city girl still wasnt quite sure what she was getting herself into...)

but, ready or not, the weekend finally arrived. lucky for us, a team composed of almost all really fast runners (minus the new girl), we got the very last start for the relay. 11:30. PM. seriously, have you ever started a race at 11:30pm? it might be the worst. when do you eat? hi, my bedtime is before the sun goes down. friday was gonna be a long day (night)... #nosleeptileastport

of course i woke up super early friday morning (thanks hen!). coffee was bound to be my friend for the next few days (of which i actually had very little). i had obviously been packed since wednesday, so i headed out mid morning to spend the day in ellsworth, hopefully finding a nice place to nap (i did!) and get something to eat (also did, a few times!). i met up with aaron (team captain who approved of inviting the slow chick, blame him!) to get some last minute snacks at hannaford and gu from cadillac mountain sports, then headed to another team members house where we watched some running movies, got some more snacks, discussed team strategy (run, dont be scared, dont poop in the van), then headed out for the start line at 11pm for our check in with gary and mary, the race directors. #crowathletics

team US Dept of Minimal Effort

had a bit of a "survivor" feeling

last three teams starting the race

tracy started off for our team. we headed out to the 1st transition site and met up with another team there who were just getting ready to transition off on their second leg. for the first few transitions it was just our three teams (who had started together) until we started to catch up with some of the other teams. i noticed right away once i got out of the van and took a look down the trail in either direction... we werent in westbrook anymore, toto. also, the trail was dark. luckily the thunderstorms that had been forecast looked like they were going to miss us (i had packed 4 pairs of shoes though just incase...ya know, for my 2 runs...), and we had a very bright, almost full moon with a cloudless sky to help guide us. i was still pretty nervous for what was to come though, and it didnt help that gary had also told us before we started that there had been a bear sighting along the 2nd leg of the relay. luckily i had not been switched to that leg (as we had discussed prior to the start)... nice knowing ya, leg 2 runners! #runrealfast

tracy came flying into leg 2 transition and handed off to aaron and off he went to chase down the bears team ahead of us. we drove on to the next transition, which was when i would soon start running. as i waited for aaron to come in, i went off along the trail to pee quite a few times. the nerves were slowly leaving me and i was actually getting excited. i havent run a night relay since early 2012... if you have never done one, its quite an experience. i missed this fun, sleepless, team atmosphere. we had only been out on the road/trails for under 2 hours and we had already been having so much fun. (and i wasnt going to let my team down, so i had to get psyched up to run at lightning speed!)

one of the coolest things about this race was how far ahead of time you could see your runner (or a runner anyway) coming up the trail. at some points almost over half a mile or more! we would all yell "runner!" when we would see a light coming up the trail, and then we would wait. and wait. and wait some more. most of the time you would know who was coming, but there were times when the lead change mid leg made us unsure who to cheer for. the team just ahead of us came in and their runner took off, so we knew the next runner would be aaron. we started to see his light and i got myself ready. reflective vest, check. head lamp (on), check. back blinky light (on), check. lets do this. #omgfreakingoutalittlebit

it was f-ing dark. start of leg 3, 1:15am

i took off like i was racing the mile with a pack of crazy wolves chasing me. whoooooa slow down (oh hey 6:18 pace. barf). the first mile was interesting to say the least... i couldnt figure out my footing on the trail. part of it was soft gravel and part was semi packed down, i felt like i was weaving all over the place just to find some sort of groove (which never really came). i finally just shortened my stride and tried to just run. i kept looking around me with the flashlight i brought (i actually kept my pepper spray in my handheld pocket, i wasnt that scared) and saw a bunch of frogs and piles of (likely) bear poop. lovely. it had been projected that i would run around 7:30 for this leg (7.6 miles, a slight uphill then a long downhill), and i was roughly close to that other than mile 4 when i felt like dying and my legs didnt want to move at all. suck it up legs. also, were not dying out here so lets get movin.

after the awful feeling mile, i got my footing semi figured out and decided to push it and just get this run over with. the whole run actually felt like it went by fairly fast. before i knew it i started seeing a few lights ahead of me and i booked it. eventually i could hear my team cheering for me and i saw chris ahead of me, slapped his hand and he was off. yay, my middle of the night, scary run was done! and i lived to tell about it! and i didnt see any snakes! #hotsweatymess

took the first (and sadly only) sweat seat selfie
next year there will be a not so top secret selfie stick

12 seconds off pace. sorry team, ill try harder next run

although that looks like a sharp downhill, it was so hard to tell what the hell you were running out there in the dark. i never felt like i was running downhill, but i guess maybe being able to speed up on the last few miles was an indication (or i just wanted to be done running). i was really glad i had brought my handheld (with tailwind) but wished i had brought salt pills too. it was humid and i was sweating a lot, but i also feared drinking too much. i didnt want to get bloated or end up puking... i needed to be the tough girl if i wasnt going to be the fast girl! roar! #sotough

we drove on to the next transition and didnt have a lot of time as chris's run wasnt very long. there were a few more teams at the next spot (we were running fairly fast and on schedule for what we had expected, but i dont think we expected to be catching up to teams this early on). i changed out of my sweaty clothes (it was actually getting quite cool, but was still humid) and put on more bug spray (the flies were so bad). there was also a very stinky yet welcoming porta potty at this transition. #runnerspoopsomuch

chris came in and handed off to jen who took off for a 10k or so. the team ahead of us (pace cadets) werent too far, and jen ended up passing them along that leg. jen passed off to stephen who then passed off to tobin. this was where things got.... fun. we really started catching up to more and more teams. fun little get togethers at each transition site. a little after 4am the sky started developing some color. my (now stinky) van mates (all who had been on the team last year) started discussing how they felt they were ahead of where they were last year at this time, they hadnt remembered seeing this many teams before the sun came up, etc. we were all in great spirits, laughing and joking and just all around having a good time. and with some great music to boot. #playlist

tobin had just under 4 miles to run so we took off right after he left the transition area. and somehow, US DoME got lost. #UnitedStatesDepartmentofFail. and im not talking just a little lost... we were really, really lost. we went down one road for awhile, figured it wasnt the right one, turned around and went back a ways. then we decided it really was the right road, so we turned around and went down it again. and again, we decided it was wrong so we turned around. of course the cell service was shit out there so no one could figure out where we were or where we were supposed to be going, where we went wrong, etc. someone tried calling another member of a team we knew would be at the next transition to tell tobin what was going on, but those calls kept getting dropped. it was a mess. tracy was driving the 15 passenger van like a boss (in hindsight we should have likely worn seatbelts), i finally got some sort of gps to work on my phone, and we got back to rt 1. where we were supposed to be only needing to go 1.6 miles, we now had to go 16 miles. like i said, we were a bit off track... #sofreakinglost

someone was able to relay to tobin that we had gotten off course and they sent him on along the next leg of the relay instead of having him wait for us. so after killing his 4 miles, he now had 8 to run, unprepared. oof. 

sorry man. #assholeteammates

sarah was likely equally pissed that he was running what should have been her first leg (she had yet to run and was getting antsy). from the back of the van (and running on no sleep) i saw an animal up ahead in the road and got so super excited that i was finally going to see my first out in the wild moose, and i yelled so loud "MOOSE!". to which i likely scared tracy, and everyone else, and it ended up being a very small deer. oops. but yay wildlife? #citygirl

after what seemed like hours of driving, we finally got to the next transition and sarah got out and started running back on the trail to find and support tobin. i had to start getting myself ready to run again, but i also had been thinking about going to the bathroom. everyone kept talking about a dunkin donuts (which i was so excited about, of course) but sadly that was not until my run was over. oh well. the sunrise was gorgeous and i was happy i wasnt going to have to run my 2nd leg in the dark. i was also happy i could use my music, as i felt like i could really push myself this last bit and try to gain some of our lead back (the pace cadets came in before tobin did, they had caught up to him on this last leg while our team was out exploring the backroads somewhere in lost land).

start of leg 9, 5:30am

nothing says breakfast of champions quite like a chocolate gu

up to this point i hadnt really eaten much (shocking). an apple. pretzels and peanut butter. a cookie, maybe 2 (or 5). some twizzlers. i wasnt entirely sure what a fast almost 4 miler was gonna look like on no sleep, a fairly fast previous 7 miler, and iffy nutrition, but i was about to find out. tobin and sarah came around the corner (i was nervous about what tobin was going to yell at our team as he came in, but he was pretty quiet). we high fived and i was off. christa, from the pace cadets, had left shortly before tobin came around so i knew i had some work to do, and i didnt care that i started off fast. i was gonna catch her. starting pace, 5:59. boom. #competitive

as i approached mile 2, i caught up to her. she also had her music on and i had been trying to call up to her so that i didnt scare her. we discussed the difficulty of the terrain/trail for a few seconds and then i took off. kety perry and 30 seconds to mars blared in my headphones throughout this entire leg, pushing me as hard as my tired, hungry legs would carry me. this leg was over before i knew it, and i handed off to chris again. then i almost barfed.

faster than expected! youre welcome team!

i sadly didnt get any dunkin donuts after my run (i made up for it the next day with 2 stops) and we headed to the next transition to wait for chris. we met up with a few more teams and i was able to change and organize my stuff. i also got some granola and a small cup of lukewarm coffee from barbara (on another team). now that the sun was coming out it was starting to get pretty warm and i was secretly so happy that i was done running. (and sarah still hadnt run yet. weird). this was a shorter relay than i had ever done (minus mdi marathon as a relay) so just running twice was a different feeling in itself. the terrain and scenery of this relay was amazing though (better than running through the streets and worrying about cars... here you just have to worry about wild animals that want to eat you. no big deal). 

chris came running in and handed off to sarah and she was ready to flyyyyyyy. apparently she had this same leg last year and it was certainly not known for bring all full of rainbows and butterflies, but she was determined to kick some ass and off she went. we waited around a little bit and then headed to the next transition, aaron started to warm up and we fought off deer flies for the next half hour or so. they. were. awful. #goawaystupidflies

there were quite a few teams at this transition and we all swapped war stories from our overnight runs (im pretty sure we were the only jerks to get lost and force our teammate thru near death runs). yay DoME! #werule

sarah came bounding in to the transition, handed off to aaron, and she promptly bitched about how awful that leg was and swore she would never run it again. the air was definitely thick and the not packed down trail made running feel like a chore for sure. but her blazing speed helped us to keep our lead at about 10 minutes ahead of the pace cadets, and aaron wasnt about to let them catch up to him (despite leah frost, olympic marathon trials hero, asking who he was and exclaiming "im gonna try to catch him!" as she does... but she didnt).

we had some time to kill while aaron was out on his leg (i think this was the longest of all the relay legs). there was a real bathroom (and a real long line) but we made the best of it, found some fun pins and candy, and enjoyed the company of the other teams. the bugs had finally departed but it was hot hot hot. the scenery was gorgeous and it was a good place to rest for a bit. tracy was ready to blast her run and she took off like a bullet when aaron arrived. he didnt allow the pace cadets (or leah) to catch up with him, but that long leg (without aid or shade) did a number on him. #sweatymess

tracy showed us all her true beast mode and busted out a crazy run for her leg. she handed off to stephen and we headed to the next transition, seeing more teams along the way. steven handed off to jen for what was said to be the toughest leg of the relay (and it was sunny and hot now). we waited for her to come out off the trail and onto the road to give her some water, and she trucked along until she got to the final transition to hand off to sarah. lets do this! #DoME

jen handing off to sarah for the last leg

welcome to eastport

we played leap frog with sarah along her last leg, allowing her to dump water on her head and neck and keep herself hydrated. the last leg goes through downtown eastport in a loop before heading into the campground, so with about a mile left we drove up ahead to park and get ready to run in with sarah to the finish line. we didnt have to wait long. #superspeedy

coming in to the finish

we all went and jumped into the ocean to cool off, then took showers at the campground and went to clean up the van before heading to the lobster/chicken cookout and awards ceremony.

US DoME- 1st place!

winner winner lobster and chicken dinner
with a side of cold beer and a downpour
(thankfully after the race was over)

DEST was a truly unique relay race, full of fun, friends, and food. im in no way apprehensive in saying that i am excited to do it all again next year (if my team will have me back!)... at least i wasnt driving when we got lost (hehe, sorry tracy!)