I have always wanted to run a relay race. Not a regular relay race, but a long distance relay race. There are several good ones out there: Hood to Coast, Ragnar, Independence Relay and others. While I have had the desire to run one, I have never been able to fit it in my schedule as they are usually two day events and require travel, large logistical planning and a few other crazy people to run with you.
For the last two years, I have almost jumped on a team, but it fell apart and I didn’t go. Then earlier this year, my Rogue running group asked if I wanted do Capital to Coast. I looked at the schedule and it was open, so I committed and an adventure was born.
We quickly chose a captain (not me) and started planning our relay. This trip would require twelve runners, two vans, hotel rooms and a lot of personal runner items.
The goal of the relay is to have everyone finish the race close to 6pm in Corpus Christi. This means that different speed teams would stagger the start time. Generally the teams were twelve people with 3 running legs per athlete. There was an option to have less people with each runner running additional legs.
The day prior to race start, the race’s facebook page showed a guy who was staring at 5am trying to do the entire race solo. I couldn’t fathom that journey but by 1pm Thursday, he was 50 miles in.
Race day arrived. We had two vans with six people in each. Van one showed up at the Capital of Texas in downtown Austin for a 4am start time. The basic race layout is that one van is on and the other van is off. So since the start was with van one, van two (my van) didn’t have to start until the van one had competed. This worked out beautifully for me, it allowed me to sleep in and meet out group in Cedar Park at 8am. We met, threw our stuff in the van and headed for exchange 7. We got there right before 10 am. I got out, got my gear on and waited for Angel, runner 6, to come in. She came in, handed me the wrist strap with the timing chip and I was off.
It was pretty warm for a fall day with the temperature hovering around 90 degrees. I started the run on a gentle incline. The heat quickly started to take its toll. My heart rate was up, but I just went by perceived exertion. I tried to hold a solid pace, but it was slowly than I had desired, but as fast as I could go. At 3.5 miles in, there was a decent climb that put my heart rate through the roof. It stayed high and I just held on as best I could through the remainder of the leg. I finished my leg at exactly my estimated pace, handed the wrist strap to Charles and kneeled down for recovery. The next several runners cycled through there runs. Everyone discussed the heat slowing us down (where were the 70 degree days we had earlier this week?). Several of the runners had to take some walk breaks just to cool off. Overall a first great shift in the bag. We finished our first legs and turned the chip over to van 1 around 5pm.
We turned back around and headed to Seguin for some food since we started at 10am and ran until 5pm, we hadn’t had lunch. We were mostly snacking throughout the day.
We found a restaurant and ate dinner outside. We had the regular runners “small talk” then decided to head to Karnes City. Since I would begin my run 7 miles outside of town and Karnes City high school has recruited volunteers to help us out, they opened the school, let us shower and sleep in the gym for $15. It was greatly appreciated by many of the runners. Since I was all about the sleep, I passed on this opportunity and layed down in the back of the van. I got about 30 minutes of sleep. I woke up and just hung out in the van until the rest of the crew got back.
Van two headed back to get our second leg started. We got there and Van one handed us the strap right on time again. This run was on the sketchy side. I actually ran down the main country highway leading into town. It was dark and although I had close to a full moon, I was only watching the 18-wheelers come by at highway speeds. It kept me focused. I made sure to keep my head up to keep my light facing the oncoming traffic. Except for the trucks and cars, my run was very pleasant. It was steamy and was mostly a gentle incline the whole way and I felt great. For the record, I usually am asleep every night by 10pm at the latest, so beginning a run at 10:15pm made me a little nervous. Not to worry, I did fine. The run was very enjoyable. I passed a lady within the last mile and spoke to her. She just looked at me like I was crazy. I then figured out her breathing was rather labored and she was running as fast as she could. Apparently she disliked the climb more than me. I told our van to go on to the next pickup because I felt so good. When I go to next stop, I handed the strap off and Charles took off. I got back in the van and we headed down the road. Most runners did great in the night. We ran through some dark areas, but our team did great. During our third runners portion, I laid down and somehow fell asleep missing his leg and the next leg. I woke up for our final runners second leg briefly before falling back asleep. I must have been a like a hibernating bear because we got our last runner in the van and parked at a local Mcdonald’s for breakfast and I didn’t even realize it until they all got out. I quickly grabbed some food and we left to refuel the van. After we fueled, we noticed a hotel next door and another team’s van parked out front. We decided to park and let everyone sleep before the final leg. We got a few minutes of sleep before heading towards the last leg. We went to our final transition from van one to van two and found a great place to hang out. While some slept and some played on their phones, I decided to watch another episode of Narcos. [It’s so good, by the way.] Just before we took off, we decided to head to a convenience store to refill our water and Gatorade stock. We did that and returned to our location for my leg to begin. The temps were on the rise again. We knew today would be worse than the day before because we were getting a later start.
Around 11:40am Angel came in, I took the strap and headed towards Sinton to run downtown. The first 3 miles were brutal. I was doing my best to hold pace, but it was tough. About 3 miles in, I had to walk trying to bring my heart rate down. I started doing fartleks more or less and would run as soon as I felt any recovery. About 3.5 miles in the van found me and helped me cool down by pouring cold water over my head. It hurt and felt great at the same time. The second half of this run was my hardest of the whole event. I felt like I was letting my team down every time I walked, but I was doing as much as I could. I had another team pass me on the right and felt a little discouraged, but knew I was doing what I could. The lady got about 20 yards ahead of me and started walking. My first thought was I have to overtake her. It jump started my brain. I would run/walk but was closing down the walking time. I finally passed her with the transition in site and ran as hard as I could to it. It felt like I was going at a 5k pace but realistically I was going an easy pace. I felt super accomplished that I hadn’t let the woman overtake me, until I found out she was on an ultra-team and was on her 6th leg to my 3rd. I was quickly humbled by her endurance. I was never so happy to get back in the van. I passed along my advice to my teammates to guard the pace and not to go out to hard because we were dealing with heat, a brutal sun and exhaustion.
The final leg was tough on everyone. We made our way back towards Corpus Christi slowly but surely. Jason had the final leg which was running across the bridge getting into Corpus Christi. We couldn’t support him much and he knew he couldn’t melt down. We stayed with him for the first mile and he looked great. We then left and headed towards the finish line. He came in looking great and we all took off with him the last 1/8 mile or so. We went through the finish line and took a picture, then the team jumped into the bay for a cool off. We were done. 37 hours and 26 seconds from Austin to Corpus Christi. This was an average pace of 9:57 per mile for 223 miles. Not too shabby. We stayed around for a few minutes looking at the other teams and just savoring the finish. We then headed back to the hotel for a shower. I could not have been more ready. We took showers and I was so happy about the time I realized I was starving. I remembered that I hadn’t eaten lunch and I was tired of snacking. We wanted our team to hang out and called a place to try to seat 12. An hour and a half was to long. I figured Mexican food was our best bet. I Yelped a place close and gave them a call. They said for 12 people 1-15 minutes. I told them we were on our way. We got there and were quickly served. I enjoyed a drink with my fajitas. Some people in the group were talking about going out for a drink. They invited me and I quickly declined. My body wanted sleep. We went back to the hotel and I headed straight for the room. I thought I need some TV for some unwind. I was wrong. I got in bed and was probably asleep 3 minutes later. I slept like a baby. I woke up at 5am and was like NO, go back to sleep. I did. I woke again at 6:15am and felt like it was time. My roommates were asleep so I headed down stairs for breakfast. The rest of my team started coming down around 7am and everyone was there at 8am. We decided to load up and head home. We left but turned around, because Sonia insisted on Starbucks. We left a second time and made the journey home with only one stop at Bucees. We dropped everyone off and unloaded the rest of the van.
The overall experience was great. I was asked by several if I would do it again. The answer is maybe. I loved the van experience, the running, the comrade and the humor. I strongly disliked running in the heat. It was really tough for me, but that was the only downside. If you have ever thought you would like to try it, I say go for it! Epic adventures require a certain level of risk and I think you will have fun.
I would like to thank my teammates: Jennifer and Crystal (two random runners from Brownwood), Jason, Angel, Charles, Greg, Sonia, Becky, Elda, Kathryn and Frank. A special thanks to Frank for handling all the planning and organization of the entire trip. These guys and gals helped each other and myself push to a new level. That’s one of the most awesome things about runners is that we are encouragers. So cool.
Oh, and that one guy , Jacob, who thought it was a good idea to run solo, he came in at 64 hours and 12 minutes. I can’t really think of an adjective to describe his performance. #likeaboss
Now off to the next journey.