On Thursday Oct 16th, 20 runners from the Waxahachie area headed down to Austin, TX to run the Capital to Coast Relay. Overall there were 51 teams participating and a course time limit of 40 hours to complete the race. http://www.capitaltocoastrelay.com/
So how did I get in this mess? Well it started when a friend of mine mentioned putting an Ultra six man team together. He was not able to work out a team, so I signed up with the local WRC (Waxahachie Running Club) team. I was still intrigued to run the race as if I were on a six-man team, so I decided to run two of the 12 legs!
There were two teams from WRC and we had four vans. My team van had five runners. One runner was the oldest race participant at 69 years young – Henry Frare. One runner had been running for about 14 months and had completed a marathon – Andrew White. The other two runners were not marathon runners but had a solid running base of 1-2 years – Andra Moore and Kristi Slate.
|Team One – Look at the innocent smiles!|
For me the event was very exciting! Overall I thought “How hard could it be to run about three half marathons for a total of 38 miles?” I did run back-to-back marathons for 52.4 miles in two days almost nine month ago. What I did not expect were the challenges of sleep deprivation, the hot and humid temps, and the overall stress of the race venue – it is an endurance event, right?
The first day started with about three hours of sleep. Having four guys in the same hotel room sleeping in full size beds was not very conducive to a solid night of rest, plus we had to get up at 2:45 for a 4 AM race start.
The race started in downtown Austin just south of the capital at 4 AM. There were 51 teams ready to go! I did hear that a few teams started later. I guess they were fast enough to make up time with their faster pace!
My first 13 miles went fine, it was a lot of sidewalks and small hills as we headed south of Austin. The vans would leapfrog their runners and meet them at 1-2 mile increments. We seemed to be the only people around town with lots of yelling and excitement for all! I passed the first exchange point and kept going. Here is where the road got a little lonelier as the runners started to spread out. As we got closer to the 2nd exchange point, the road quickly turned dark and narrow with several hills to climb. Luckily there wasn’t much traffic to deal with along the way.
After the handoff I got in the van and tried to get some rest. During the run itself I had nothing but water. Prior to the start I had a banana and a little bit of coffee - this was my regular pre-run routine. My plan was to keep it simple and light for the race. The next four runners ran their legs and then we got a bit of a break.
Afterwards we headed down to our next handoff. The road I was to run for the next 11 or so miles was called Knockenut road. We had a lot of laughs about the name of this road and I heard that while I was running the jokes in the van got more creative.
We tried sleeping for a bit before my leg began but the sun was very hot, the side of the road was full of bugs and ants, and we also struggled to get a cell signal.
Once van #2 approached, it was time for me to run again. It was a blacktop road and the thermometer read 93 degrees! There was little-to-no shade along the way, so it was time to just grind it out. At one point about five miles into the run, the road turned rough and rocky, and it became very dusty as the vans passed by.
This is where I had to dig deep and just finish my leg of the run. I got a little hope when the road turned back to blacktop; however, that lasted about a tenth of a mile as it turned back on to Knockenut and the rocks and dust returned. Luckily I had a great crew and they were cheering me on and handing me water as I needed it. At this point I took a few salt sticks for electrolytes and lots of water.
Once I finished my leg the other runners ran their portion of the race. I laid back in the van trying to rest and the day turned into evening as we continued on. I had an apple and a cliff bar for dinner.
We finished our leg of the race and drove about 30 miles to Karnes Middle school where we could take a shower, rest and get a bite to eat. At this point I had no interest in eating, so I took my shower and sought refuge on the gym floor around 11:30. I did not have any sleeping gear, so I grabbed two Spiderman blankets and a State Farm pillow wrap and attempted to get a little rest. The challenge was all the noise! I could hear every word spoken in the gym, every rustle of a bag, the commotion of runners entering or leaving the gym. We got up about 2:45 AM and drove another 36 miles to the next exchange.
We stopped for coffee and gas along the way and then parked for about an hour or so as we waited for the next runner. We then realized that we were one exchange point too far away, we made a mistake and had to backtrack! This really created a sense of urgency as we flew back up the road to the correct exchange point.
Here I was, running the 3rd and final leg of my race - 14 miles! It was about 5 AM, very dark and not much to see on the road until I made it back into town. I passed the next exchange point and kept on going. Along the way I had a near mishap as I hit something in the sidewalk. I never saw what it was, but I went stumbling forward as I attempted to stay upright and not face-plant into the concrete! I survived, I did not fall, but my heart was now racing and I was wondered if anyone had seen me! That day the running gods were with me and I was able to keep going.
As I got to the last four miles or so I really started to wear down….I went from a steady run to a run/walk blend just to keep moving forward. I tried a Honey Stinger for some quick energy, but I wasn’t really hungry. I was awake, but the legs just did not want to move. My only thought was how I could move forward faster to end this punishment. Looking back, it wasn’t that bad, I wasn’t injured or anything, I just had nothing left in the tank at that moment! The endurance part of the event was made real to me, and I was at the point of pushing beyond my limits and seeing this thought through to the end. I think this was “the wall” many talk about in a marathon but I had never personally experienced it.
Andra was the next runner up. I told her if she wanted to go ahead and make the exchange a bit early she could, we were losing a lot of time with my current pace. She did this when I had about ¾ of a mile to go; however, I was not quitting. I told her to go on and I was going to finish my leg no matter what. I had 38 miles to run and I was planning on making it through all of them!
Once I got back in the van I was spent. I wanted nothing more than to sleep; however, this is when the fun began!
Andra sprained her foot four miles into her run, so Kristi set out to take her place. She went about four miles and was done so with three legs left, we were down to our last two runners! Henry ran the next leg, he was solid for sure and even passed a runner. Next up was Andrew - he started out with a solid pace and tore down the highway at a good clip. There was a slight change in the course because of a road closure and there was a lot of confusion at the new turn. Andrew finished the 11th leg and ran about half of the 12th leg when the next van took over to finish the race.
Our team had completed our portion of the race. Now it was time to head down to Corpus and wait for the last runner to complete the race. We made our way down about 35 miles and drove through some hard rain. Apparently this hit the runners for about 30 minutes as well.
We stopped for a late lunch and we were just glad to be done. We checked into the hotel and received regular updates on both teams as they made their way to the coast. Our team completed the race in 38 ½ hours! The second team came in 27 minutes later just beating the cut off time!
Sleep is vitally important in these types of events. Plan ahead, make sure to have sufficient gear to sleep when you can, either at the checkpoints or on the side of the road along the way.
Running Fuel - we ran out of bananas on day two and - because we were on the same road as a few hundred other runners - all the stores were sold out.
We even stopped at McDonalds but they would not sell us any!
Be sure you understand your exchange points! We could have really fallen behind if we had not quickly backtracked when we were at the wrong one.
Finally – make sure you know your team. One or two of the wrong personalities can make it a miserable experience for the other runners on the team. Luckily we got along very well. One other factor to keep in mind is you have to be flexible – when we had to change up the runners due to exhaustion and injury, we had to be flexible enough to just jump in and run when we needed to.
|Both WRC Teams at the Finish Line|
|Me and my medal!|
|Team 1, Van 1|