Wow … the entire Blue Ridge Relay experience took “crazy, pain, and delirium” to another level. Our team, "Shaving Time" finished the 211-mile Blue Ridge Relay course in approximately 23 hours, 15 minutes. This involved nonstop running (alternating runners), constant food consumption and sleep deprevation. When it was all said and done, I have to say, “I loved it and crave more.”
It all began with six runners in racing order: Chris, Ethan, Brian, Bob, Nick, and Adam. In addition to us, we had an ace driver, the “top gun” of them all, C.A. So there we were, all converged with mustaches intact in southern Virginia to begin our journey. Logistically, we had a 15-passenger van, which made life so much easier than the minivan we had at the Hood 2 Coast relay: more room to stretch out, store bags, food, etc. Speaking of food, we went shopping the night before the race to get the usual goodies: Red Bull and Monster energy drinks (more on Monster later), six bags of beef jerky, PB&J, bananas, bagels, apple sauce, and many gallons of water. We also had to pack a mustache (picture above: My handle bar, fu-manchu mustache). We also ensured we properly documented the event and kept our fans updated as we set up a Facebook group page and Twitter account. Our FB page garnered 100 fans and we had many twitter followers. This motivated us along the way knowing we had a bunch of people watching us.
Race day: At the starting line (Grayson Highlands State Park in the southwest corner of Virginia) we prepared the van for the journey: attaching the mustache on the front bumper (Picture above: The van's sweet bumper mustache), mullet cape blowing in the breeze on the back, window art, and pictures of famous people with “sweet staches,” like Hulk Hogan, Borat, Ned Flanders, Ron Burgundy, Burt Reynolds, and Pre.
We began at 12 p.m. We all started out racing strong, but knew we needed to also save energy early so we could shave time later. We kept a spreadsheet with all our split times for each leg that I have included below. As you can see (if you click on the image to enlarge) I averaged a 6:07 pace over all 37 miles I ran (six legs at different distance and difficulty levels).
Along the way, our driver ensured, “Highway to the Danger Zone” or song of choice was blasting every time she passed one of us. This was very motivating, especially when we had not seen anybody during the run because there were only 100 teams running the event. We were "killing teams," the term used when you pass a team that started before you, sporatically early on since they started teams every 30 minutes, as we were one of the last starting waves. We kept a positive attitude the entire race (picture to the right: I'm running along the course on my 8.4-mile second leg (10th leg overal),, even though there is one blunder that we ran into that was discouraging to say the least. We are on the 11th leg of the race, and Nick is running. It is the first leg of the race that goes on the Blue Ridge Parkway, and for some reason, they are not allowing team vans to drive on it. This meant that the runner was on his own to ensure he goes the right way. Anyways, there is a tricky section, where you leave the Parkway for one mile to reach an exchange zone and then the next runner runs to the exact same intersection and continues on the Parkway. Well Nick missed the turn because he saw a bunch of runners continuing on the Parkway, which we never knew happened. We noticed he was late to the exchange and sent the van to search for him, while some of us stayed behind. Well they never found him and when they returned, it was already an hour over when he was supposed to be there. We needed to find him quickly because it was getting dark outside, so we decided to drive on ahead and check to see if he did run ahead and low and behold, he was there and had been waiting for us for 30 minutes. We picked up where we left off and determined we lost about 30 minutes based on some of the slower teams who were back in front of us again that we had passed awhile back.
Some of the most impressive runs to note were Ethan’s, 1 hour and 2 minute run up Grandfather mountain, which was a 6:20 pace, followed by Brian’s sub 5-minute pace the leg down the other side. When we were halfway through our fifth legs, the sun was starting to rise and we found out we were only 31 minutes behind the other fast ultra team (really 1 minute behind because they began 30-minutes in front of us). That gave us an extra jolt of energy and we began our last legs of the journey. Unfortunately, some of our team had run out of juice and couldn’t make up any more time. I was juiced up on Monster before my last leg (which I did before my last three legs actually) and was ready to rock my last one. I ended up running the 4.4 mile section in 25:52 (5:56 pace), which was my fastest run of the day. (picture to the right: I'm walking back to the van after my final run) It was weird because before I ran that last leg, my legs felt amazing. There was no soreness, fatigue, (which I felt after all my other runs) and my knee felt great. I think my body finally gave in to the fact that I was not going to listen to it and run every 2 ½ hours no matter what. I made up 3 minutes on the other team on that leg, and Nick made up another five minutes on his next leg, but the damage had already been done, and we came up short by 12 minutes. Everyone was positive after the race and we know that we would have had it if it were not for our 30-minute setback. But that is part of the relay and you have to live with it. I have to give props to the other ultra team because they ended up with three runners having to drop out near the end and the other three had to run 7th and maybe 8th running legs to finish.
This event gave each ultra runner a new perspective of who he is. I heard some runners on the winning ultra team say that they would never do this again. On the other hand, many of my team members enjoyed pushing their bodies to the limit and want to do it again next year. I am not sure who all will be on the team next year, but I will definitely go back and do it again. There is a new ultra record to be beat.
From left to right: Chris, Brian, Adam, Ethan, Nick, Bob, and C.A. at the finish line of the Blue Ridge Relay in Asheville, N.C.
Side Note: The race director wrote us today and said he was going to have to penalize us an extra hour on top of our finish time (which included our extra 30 minutes already) for not having our runner run back and run the mile he didn't run. So we do not really care what time it shows for us on the Web site. We know what we did and we are proud of the way we battled throughout the race.