Coach Spencer Runs in the Woods

Coach Spencer Runs in the Woods

Friday, September 30, 2011

Blue Ridge Relay 4 Person Team

Just realized I hadn't posted about BRR. Out of the blue, I was contacted by some friends of friends about running the 208 mile Blue Ridge Relay as part of a 4 person team... Thomas Eggar, Matt Jaskot & Chris Causebrook (who I knew as the boys XC coach at Charlotte Catholic). Sounded like fun. I was in.

I'd run BRR as part of a 10 person team in 2006 & ran 4 legs. It was hard. I remember thinking at the time, "Running what equates to 4 hard 10Ks is much harder than a marathon." How would I handle running what equated to 9 x 10Ks? Sounded challenging. It was. Blue Ridge Relay is divided into 36 sections and teams must rotate in order. It's designed for 12 person teams but smaller teams must also rotate, so it's not like we could each run 52 miles straight. 52 straight seems a lot easier than dividing it up & running 9 times, but I'm positive our time was way faster running 9 times and I think in the end, I actually prefered it. The breaks gave your body time to get sore but you'd be sore towards the end of a 52 mile mountain run anyway. Everyone on our team had major cramping problems in the van between runs.
So, if you're running nine 10Ks (really, the legs range from 2-10 miles but average about 6 miles) in a little over 24 hours, you're going to pace yourself, right? I ran the first downhill leg in 5:33/mile pace. Guess I decided not to go easy. Next 3 legs were mostly uphill or up & down and I averaged about 6:50 pace. Way way way too fast I knew. The guys on my team are young, really competitive & I'm probably the slowest of the 4. I felt a lot of pressure to do my best. I think I held my own and while I slowed down some, the wheels never fell off. In fact, all of us started off fast and no one died. I was impressed. I did feel like dying a couple of times. I ate some potato chips after a leg. With no gall bladder anymore, my body has a hard time digesting fats. The next leg was... umm... problematic, but I was OK after that. Collapsed at the end of a leg and came close to passing out, but that leg was fine & I was strong for the next one. 

I ran legs 1, 5, 9, 13, 17, 21, 25, 29 & 33. My toughest leg was my last one. An incredible 13% grade! 13%! Yowza! I ran the entire way on each leg, including this one. A guy 100m ahead of me walked the whole way up the mile long hill. I ran & he walked & I swear I didn't catch him until the very top. It was STEEP! I actually felt really good on this leg. Running down the mountain was more painful than running up. Legs were shot.
So, all in all, it was a fun time, tough challenge & rewarding experience. We finished in 27:11 (7:51/mile pace for the entire race), which was good enough for 23rd place out of 120 teams... not bad considering most teams were 12 person teams. We were the only 4 person team this year & only the 3rd every to try it with 4. We beat the previous 4 person record by nearly 3 hours. We were 3rd out of 19 ultra teams this year (All other ultra teams were 6 person teams.). Good stuff.

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