The Blue Ridge Relay

As most of you know, I am committed to taking a break from marathons for the remainder of the year. However, demonstrating such restraint is apparently not enough to stomp the "stupid" gene out of me. It's the only explanation I have for agreeing to be part of a 12-member team that will tackle the Blue Ridge Relay on September 17th and 18th. 

Did you note there were two dates? That's because this is a 24-hour, 208 mile, 27,000 foot elevation gain race. From the website:

The 208 Mile Blue Ridge Relay (BRR208), which is one of the longest running relay races in the United States, takes place in the picturesque Blue Ridge and Black Mountains of Virginia and North Carolina. The BRR208 consists of maximum 12 person (4 person minimum) teams that rotate through 36 transition areas as they cover the 208-mile distance of the race. Each relay team member runs 3 legs of varying lengths and difficulty and will cover an average total distance of ~16.6 miles. The runners rotate in a set order once the race begins and will be obligated to follow this rotation until the final runner finishes in Asheville, North Carolina!

Photo by Pat ConsidineThe legs of the race are categorized as "Easy," "Moderate," "Hard," "Very Hard" and "MG Hard." (That would be "Mountain Goat Hard" people.) Our team will have two vans, six runners to a van. Lots of bagels and peanut butter, protein bars, Gatorade, Gu, pretzels, and bananas. Not to mention headlamps, GPS watches, reflector vests, mace (at night, for stray dogs and stray rednecks), three changes of running clothes per runner, end-of-race clothes, and who knows that else. I've written before about my poor packing abilities. This race may take that over packing instinct to unprecedented levels. I'll be like Macgyver with a purse - Need a gel? A barf bag? Inflatable pillow? I'm your girl. 

Photo by Pat ConsidineAfter Blair moved past calling the event "that asinine race," he asked why I was running it. I don't know that I can articulate a good reason but, after giving it some thought, this is what I've come up with: 

  • I was feeling a little lost without a race for which to train. This is a good compromise in that I don't need to go hard core training like for a marathon, but it's intimidating enough that I've already gotten my butt outside for hill repeats and some challenging tempo runs. 
  • That being said, I don't feel a lot of pressure for this race. Our team is in it to have fun, not win. (Thank God.)
  • It's a bonding experience. When you undergo an endurance event like this , something unbreakable and intangible forms between you and the people who went through it with you. Blair put this "need" in perspective for me when he pointed out that I don't get those sort of bonding experiences in my day-to-day life. I'm alone in my home office, freelancing. So there is no group "bonding" that comes from getting through a hard project, pulling late nighters, suffering together over a bad boss, etc. Group runs are my way of connecting with others and an event like this just takes it to a new level. 
  • Bragging rights. The race t-shirt says, "The Blue Ridge Relay... Consider all others a warm-up." My ego is healthy enough to want to earn the right to wear that shirt. Always. Every day. 
  • Because I can. That isn't a flippant remark. There is no doubt in my mind that I will suffer during this race. I will have doubts. I will curse my friend Christine who dragged me into this thing. There's a good chance I will cry. But bottom line, I know I am capable of doing this. Which makes me want to get out there and prove it. Photo by Pat Considine

I'm quite excited that a number of my friends (Christine, Josh, Nathan, Andy) are running the race. Plus, I met some of the other team members at our first group meeting and they all strike me as people I wouldn't mind being trapped with in a van for 24 hours, which is a very good thing. There's going to be a lot of laughs on this race. I'm planning on videotaping as much as I can. 

Except the part where I'm running an MG hard hill at 3 AM, crying. No one needs to see that.