200 miles May 1st, 2011
This weekend we ran the American Odyssey Relay Run, which involved 12 teammates, 2 rented mini-vans, about 27 hours, and a 200 mile relay run from Gettysburg, PA to The Wharf in DC. An adventure it was!!! You certainly learn a lot about yourself by cramming into a smelly van with people you’ve just met, trying to navigate the back-roads of PA, MD, DC, and WV, running on trails you’ve never been on, sustaining on mostly Clif Bars and Gatorade, and all this on about 2 hours of total sleep.
We left early Friday morning from SW DC, and made it within 2 miles of the start in Gettysburg when Matt was pulled over by the po-lice doing 79 in a 65. Ouch We were waiting for them to write paperwork when suddenly the cop ran up, threw all our documents back in the car window, saying “It’s your lucky day. We gotta go.” Score!!! Thank goodness for whoever was robbing the nearby 7-11 (or whatever the call may have been), but that sure started us off feeling lucky. So we finally made it to the start line, no speeding tickets in hand, and met our 6 other running teammates. We had just enough time to decorate our van windows with paint markers, spelling out The Wharf (team name) and some other clever running sayings. Go team spirit. At 10:30am, our first runner left the start line with our slap-bracelet baton, beginning the first of 36 legs to the finish.
From there, we did what you do at the the start of every good race: look up directions to the nearest diner. Perkins it was! Since the other van comprised the first 6 legs of the race, we had about 4 hours until we were on. I somehow passed on the bacon lovers breakfasts and had some chicken noodle soup and an english muffin to fuel me up. Nice, delicious start to the race.
After breakfast, we went to race transition 3, which happened to be a fireworks mega store parking lot, to cheer for our team. All the transitions were going fairly smoothly so far, and it was a beautiful, cool morning. We then drove from leg to leg of the race enjoying the scenery of rural PA and our not-yet-smelly van.
Around 2:00pm Friday, I ran my first leg of the race- Leg 8, rated Hard, 4.9 miles. From the course handbook: “This is a beautiful run on a rugged dirt road through Michaux State Forest. Trail shoes are strongly suggested. It’s almost all uphill and then all downhill. No flat terrain to speak of. Virtually everyone will get to this leg during daylight hours. However, if you do get here after dark, the van must accompany you and should stay approximately 50-100 yards behind you to help illuminate the way. This leg is named after our running partner, Gary Faigen. I have no idea why.” …It was a BEAUTIFUL run. It was different than most legs, in that the vans didn’t follow the runner, so I only saw one other runner (I was passed, or “roadkilled” as we called it) in the 50 minutes that it took me to complete. What a nice chance to clear my head, enjoy the nature of the woods, and occasionally talk to myself. I was feeling good. Matt always ran directly after me, so it was great to toss him the slap-bracelet and then cool down before hopping in the van to meet him at the end of his leg.
So this process repeated itself, all 6 of our runners finished their legs, then we had some “off” time while the other van ran their 6 legs. This off time consisted of eating some bad cafeteria food and then “sleeping” on the gym floor of Boonsboro High School. We took over for our second shift around 1:30am. Pitch black night. Battlefields and corn fields of Antietam. THIS WAS CREEPY, but exhilarating. Can you think of any other way to run by monuments of Civil War heros in the middle of the night, wearing a construction vest with blinking lights and a headlamp, and not get arrested by park police? I don’t think so. It was definitely a rush. My mantra during this run was “Just keeping swimming, just keep swimming…” (thank you, Finding Nemo), while praying that no one jumped out of the bushes to steal me, and all the while trying not to hear the banjos from Deliverance.
Following the night legs of the race, we were all extremely sore and convinced we would never be able to make our third round in the morning. But, we re-fueled once again at the Bavarian Inn in Shepherdstown, WV with some pancake and bagels breakfasts prepared for us, for $6, by the local Boy-Scout troop. This was a very crucial part of the whole ordeal, in terms of team morale. Coffee works wonders. Feeling slightly refreshed, we drove an hour from there to Poolesville, MD, where we would take over the final 6 legs of the race. We all slept, in the van, for about 2 hours as the sun came up. If you haven’t yet pictured 6 adults trying to sleep comfortably in a mini-van, please don’t, it wasn’t pretty nor comfortable.
At 9am-ish, I ran my last leg, leg 32, rated Medium, 4.8 miles from Sycamore Landing to Riley’s Lock along the C&O canal. Finally! we were making our way towards DC. This run, for me, was a bit of a magical experience. Once again, I was mostly alone, only passing one other runner in our race (YAY! one roadkill for me!) and several other people from a walking group that were headed the other direction on their way to Harper’s Ferry. Passing people on a trail in the woods is quite pleasant, lots of “hi’s” and “hello’s” and “glad you’re running and I’m walking’s”… I can’t think of too many places where people just hi to be polite anymore. And I’m not sure if it was delirium and lack of sleep, the relief of nearly being done, or just the peace of an early morning run through the woods, before the heat of the day, along a familiar stretch of woods, with the sun reflecting off the water on my right, but boy, it was an amazing run. Maybe it was all those things, but it sure felt great to be alone with my thoughts once again, not afraid of the boogymen, and feeling the finish line getting closer. As I got to the end to cross the bridge where the transition was, I heard one of the course volunteers tell me “Almost there, Twizzlers up ahead!” Music to my ears. I passed the slap-bracelet off to Matt and I was done!! Only 4 more legs for the rest of our teammates until we were DONE DONE.
Around 2:30pm Saturday, our last runner brought it home for the team. All 12 of us ran in (sprinted, rather) for the last .1 miles until we ended at The Wharf at 7th and Maine, SE. There were smoked sausages, sweet potatoes, grilled chicken, and beers awaiting us, and victory tasted great!!
Though I’m still sore a day later, I’d definitely say I would do it again. It was a crazy day+ of straight driving and running, little sleep and weird food, cheering for people you don’t know, headlamps, battlefields, random pit stops at Wal-Mart, high schools, churches, fields and rivers, Sparklers and 80s music on Sirius radio, lots of port-o-potties, and did I mention… 200 MILES!!!
Surely makes you appreciate your own bed and a hot shower… When do we sign up for next year??
Team wharf, ready to roll.
tags: DC, running, southwest waterfront
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