Tuesday, June 10, 2008

The house of the holy chainsaws... (aka Madison-Chicago 200 Mile Relay 2008) PART 2

P6066192After the hand off to Debbie, we able to catch a glimpse of our team in action as the path now ran parallel to the road. So we pulled over gave Debbie a cheer before heading on to the next TA where van #1 would pick up the rotation.

As we waited for Debbie, van #1 pulled up next to us, fresh off their first rest break. P6066203The smell of Culvers burgers made me anxious for our turn to grab some lunch. The day was now warm and sticky with some wind gusts, but seemingly otherwise a decent day for running. P6066202However, as we waited, the TA operator announced the course had gone "yellow" -- which meant severe weather was in the area. Within 5 minutes, the status was changed to "red" and all runners would be held at their current TA. P6066197This gave us time to review the first leg of the race with the other van, download pictures and otherwise relax.

P6066205After 30 minutes our van took off to grab some much-needed lunch. Emily, our navigation system, found us a nearby Subway so off we went. Shortly after finishing lunch we received word the race was back on after a 1.5 hour weather relay.

P6066210After lunch we headed off to the next TA where we would take over in the rotation. It was almost 3 hours before we were up next, so we took advantage of the warm sun to stretch out and relax.

I was still feeling rather "unclean" from my run and was anxious about having to run again. Usually the night before a run I rarely sleep, so any attempt at rest was nothing more than a time to stretch out and relax as best I could without actually sleeping.

P6066213As van #1 progressed, we received updates via cell phone. As they got closer I woke up the team. Matt started getting prepared as the rest of us tried to shake off our morning grogginess.

Someone suggested going for coffee...so I checked with Emily who came up with a Starbucks a mere 2.5 miles away.

P6066215It was getting late enough that a round trip for coffee might mean Matt would miss the incoming runner. So we wished him well and promised we'd see him at the next TA, and the remaining four us headed off for a late night latte.

P6066214As we pulled through the drive-through I asked the barista if I could take a picture. He asked where we were from (assuming we were tourists, I suppose) and I told him about the relay in which he responded with an unenthusiastic "oh".

P6066222We made it back in time to see the other van arrive and before Matt had left. Feeling a bit rejuvenated by the java, one again we chatted with our teammates, cheering on the incoming runners and waited for Brian. Matt runs a lap around the Milkwaukee MileSoon the exchange was made, Matt was off and we were, once again, chasing TAs.

Matt's leg ended at the Milwaukee Mile raceway with his final mile being a lap around the track. P6066244After watching him complete half a lap, we made our way over the the TA cones and assisted Eric in getting ready. It was now officially nighttime with sunlight quickly fading.

Eric seemed to have drawn the short straw as this leg was almost entirely uphill. The race was also starting to draw attention from the locals as a steady stream of runners was now headed down the street and the last mile was almost entirely residential.

P6066250The next TA was in a forest preserve parking lot with very little light. Any flash of light caught everyone's attention as a potential runner headed in.

By now the van was starting to become a bit disorganized. So we used our spare time to throw out a few bags of trash that had accumulated (yes, 2 trash bags in 12 hours) and get everyone's gear bag back in place.

Eric came in, and Dawn was off. We followed Dawn as best we could through the residential area. After turning on to the main streets it became difficult to do anything but follow the flow of the traffic. Our well-painted van attracted the attention of several motorists who wanted to know what was going on. One particular elderly couple rolled down their window and, after we explained the relay, the old man started giggling like a school girl. The incident kept us entertained for some time.

P6066252The next TA brought us to a school which had opened up their facilities for the relay. P6066255The night had become nice and cool and several groups decided to sleep outside. The gymnasium was open for sleeping, the locker rooms were open for showers, and the P6066254cafeteria open for food.

The though of food and a shower sounded inviting, but I was due to run next and didn't want to be caught in the shower when Dawn arrived.


It was 10pm or so with a few minutes to spare, so I chatted with my wife back home and was able to study my map. The map for this leg had a warning on it: NOTE: The segment from Grange to Loomis is an unlit section of street.

The segment from Grange to Loomis was almost 3 miles long. But I had a headlamp, a reflective vest, and flashing light. How bad could it be?

Dawn had managed to work her way to the front of the pack and was the first (I think) runner into the TA.

P6066259I have 0.5 mile of well lit roads before turning onto Root River Parkway where I began 2.5 miles of unlit forest preserve.

Often times when running at night I turn off my headlamp and my eyes adjust accordingly. The crushed limestone paths I frequently run on glow with any amount of ambient light. A headlamp constricts your eyes accordingly and can limit your visual range (or so I've found).

But this was no limestone path, it was 2 lane black asphalt road. The small crescent moon was still low in the horizon, well hidden by the trees and provided no light.  I tried for sometime to allow my eyes to adjust without the headlamp, but I straining to see the road under my feet.

P6066262I flipped the headlamp on which severely limited my peripheral vision, but at least allowed me to see the road ahead of me.

The other sensation I experience when night running is hearing footsteps nearby. I know I'm not alone as a few of my other early-morning running partners have the same problem. We hear footsteps off in the distance that follow us the entire route. We've never been able to determine if it's the sound of our own footsteps echoing off the trees, or just a trick our mind plays on us, but we still flip the light on and scan the area.

This was no exception. This area was more open than my usual night running path, so I actually felt more comfortable with the phantom feet following me.

However, what I did not get used to is the eery sensation of being watched the whole time. Nearly every step of the way I encountered glowing eyes staring back at me.

I was able to identify at least one owl, what I believe to be a fox, and several deer--but dozens of other pairs of eyes went un-identified.

A well-lit road was off in the distance and I felt the 2.5 miles had gone quickly and I was sure I was making good time. But the arrows pointed me across the road for one last section of unlit territory.

Another road was ahead and arrows guided me through a few intersections. I was glad to be out of the 100-acre woods--the fact that I was now running through a cemetery was actually a comfort to me.

I had to consult the map a few times as the sidewalk turned, but the road continued straight ahead. The course brought me out and running alongside a 6 lane highway for a 2 mile stretch. Again I consulted the map as it was now getting difficult to keep track of time and distance and I wanted to make sure I hadn't missed my turn.

At the next intersection I made my final turn towards the TA. There were no sidewalks and only a small shoulder to run on. Any car on the road sent me into someone's yard until they passed where I made my way back to the road.

The TA was visible from some distance away. I handed off to Debbie and took some time to cool down. I was now tired. I'd run two 10k in the last 12 hours and have been up since 5am with only one serious meal all day long. I needed something to eat--and a shower would be nice too. But it was 11:30pm and only one runner to go before the other van took over.

Debbie, lite up like a Christmas treeNo one was up to pacing Debbie on this late-night leg, so instead we followed her in the van, pulling ahead 1/2 mile, letter her pass, and them leap-frog her again. With the headlamp, reflective vest, and flashing lights, she could be seen from some distance away.

After a few miles we again pulled ahead and off to the side of the road and waited for Debbie to pass. Conveniently enough we were parked right in front of a Wendy's. Half the team headed to the road to wait for Debbie while the rest of us head into Wendy's. The dining room was closed so had to pull into the drive through to order. It must have been closing time as it seemed they really didn't want to go through the effort of selling food. The conversation at the intercom went something like this:

us: We'd like 4 grilled chicken sandwiches

them: The 99 cent value meal fried chicken ?

us: No. The grilled chicken sandwiches

them: We'll have to make them.

us: Ok

them: It will take 10 minutes

us: Ok, you better get started.

them: So, you want the grilled chicken sandwiches?

us: Yes, four of them.

After placing the order, we waited our 10 minutes and came near to missing our runner at the next TA, but we did manage to make it in time. Van #1 was already there and fresh off dinner, shower, and a rest.

It was a perfect night for running. The wind had died down and the skies were clear. But I was glad to be done for the evening and more than willing to let van #1 take the midnight to 4am shift.

We headed out to TA #23 at St Andrew's Lutheran Church. The church was open for sleeping and food so we thought we'd take advantage of the services offered.

There were no showers at the church, but I grabbed a change of clothes and bag of baby-wipes. It wasn't quite as good as a real shower, but I was smelling fresh.

The church youth group was there to help everyone out. Most of the building was dark as most people where there to sleep. Our group was lead into the sanctuary where I grabbed a spot on the floor. A beech towel served as my blanket and that was all I needed. It was dark and quiet and I quickly fell asleep -- at least for a short while.

P6076271When we arrived we there was only a handful of people, but over the next few hours, more and more runners arrived. Many of them came and went and I never knew they were there.

Others insisted on dragging chairs across the floor, rearranging them into a make-shift bed.

The chair-dragging seemed to go on forever. As soon as one person got their chairs arranged just right, another would start.

I was happy with my spot on the floor. Then the chain-saws began...

I realize it's genetic. I realize it can be a serious medical condition. I know not everyone may have wanted to bring their splints along for the relay weekend. I also realize that the lack of sleep during the weekend may be to blame. But there we were, trying to sleep in the church sanctuary and we were being kept awake by people snoring (and it wasn't even Sunday).

After almost an hour, I grabbed my gear and moved to the gym where I could something to eat and drink. With the lights on in the gym, people moving around and talking, and finishing off a cup of coffee, I promptly dozed off at the table for another 30 minutes. Go figure.

I called the other van to check on their progress and estimated the time we need to meet them.

P6076273As we got within one hour, I began hunting around the church sanctuary for my teammates. Most of them were awake already. We sat down for food and beverage provided by the church youth group.

Van #1 would be passing through this TA soon, so we headed outside to cheer them on. Once they passed we packed up and headed on our way where we would begin the final segment of our relay.


"You only ever grow as a human being if you're outside your comfort zone."

-- Percy Cerutty

1 comment:

Chad and Sheila said...

I truly enjoyed your post. I, too, participated in the relay...fourth year for my team (cheyenne running club). It was fun to relive the race through your blog. A couple of comments...1. I wonder if you got "a little something extra" with your grilled chix sandwiches :) 2. reading about the snoring at the church was like reliving it! It was quiet for a few mintues in the sanctuary, then a group came in with sleep mats that they kept slamming on the floor. Then the snoring started promptly after that. I went out to our van to try to sleep. The van was hot, and I didn't want to open the windows b/c the mosquitos were quite bad that night, so I still didn't get much sleep. But I have to give Kudos to the church. It was extremely nice that they opened their doors to a bunch of sweaty runners. They were extremely gracious hosts and very much appreciated. Hope to see you at the MC200 next year! Sheila