Friday, May 30, 2014

Run Now Relay: Get Your Big Boy Pants On And Run

By this point, I think our team was finished with our leg and looking for our accommodations somewhere in New Jersey.

"Accommodations" for this journey ranged everywhere from actual hotels to the floor of a church to the bunk beds inside the giant transfer trailer truck that traveled almost the entire time with us and served as our Command Center. (I say almost the entire time because the truck ended up breaking down a few different places and it took a week for it to finally make it back to Tennessee. #dedication)

And it didn't matter a whole lot where you were sleeping anyway because you would likely only have about 4 hours to do so before rolling out again. There was many times our members would check in and check out of a hotel the same day, sometimes passing their keys off to the flights that came in behind them.

(But the hotels' staff were so awesome and many times they'd clean the room in between flights and serve us food even at our odd hours. I love nice people!)

But back to the group messages.

Since the relay is vehicles leap frogging each other, you really didn't even see a lot of the teams in person. We'd see group messages like this:

Or you'd see what other teammates posted on Facebook or see them on some news station. We'd be in Jersey and see photos from another flight in Philly, or we'd be trying to sleep while the group texts would go off between the flights out on the route. It was a constant, confusing churn of Relayers all over the East Coast. You'd see simultaneous posts from various flights like these:

And occasionally you'd get real-time videos of running conditions or sarcastic remarks (all in good fun) from runners who ended up running in sleet, or right next to semi-trucks:

Or both, like Corey:
"Oh look! There goes one now! What an inspiration!"

 (I wish I could post the whole video but hopefully you get the gist from the GIF above.This was Corey musing about how "inspirational" it was for him to be running in the middle of the night in freezing temps on a busy highway with no shoulder. Here you see him turn his head around just in time to witness yet another semi nearly mowing him down.)

And just when Corey thought he'd seen it all....he ended up running DOWN THE MIDDLE OF THE JERSEY TURNPIKE. Below is part of his video which shows you his position in the middle of raging traffic, while reminding us all "Safety first guys!" Of course we think it's hilarious...you know, now that we know he didn't perish....

At some point, one of the vehicles broke down right as their runner was being questioned by police as to why they were trying to run on an interstate. That runner's cell phone battery died right at that exact moment, and I'm not even sure how they ended up rescuing him. Meanwhile, other flights were planning where they'd eat lunch....

We'd get messages about runners switching vans, or progress updates on where the iPad was that our van passed around. (We borrowed it from the flight before us and the only way to get it back to them was to pass it to the next flight, who would pass it to the next, until the thing made it's way all the way back around. And it worked. Just another crazy part of the logistical adventure this was!)

At some point Matt R. had posted something about being sleep deprived because he slept on a tiny couch or something so Matt C. in another flight decided to mock him for whining. The problem was, it was the middle of the night and Matt C.'s flight was trying to sleep, so the resulting "message" ended up being a text of a video of Matt C.'s voice whispering in pitch black and all I can remember hearing was him telling Matt R. to:

"Get your big boy pants on and run!"

Which is really what we all had to tell ourselves at some point or another.

Whether it was temps: 
I snapped this in Delaware, but some of the team had to run in 80 degrees as well

Lack of sleep:
Another ridiculous time I had to set my alarm for

dreaded night runs:

Or run-ins with the police:

This team definitely had it's share of obstacles that required Big Boy Pants to overcome.

It was also during this disorienting journey that I came to realize why celebrities start using cocaine...

On top of all the route tracking, running, and sleep/food off-scheduleness, the team was constantly churning out media interviews to get the word out as much as possible about our cause. So you'd get done with a sweaty run, or just wake up from a 2 hour night's sleep, to find a group message asking who was able to run downstairs or run downtown to be interviewed. I can't imagine what it's like for famous rock stars who live that kind of schedule every day, but I can say I'm not surprised that they start using hard drugs to stay awake. Wow.

So back to us in New Jersey. After finding our hotel, we do a quick interview with a local channel -
My first slow -motion run on television. Eat your heart out, Baywatch.
Then get ready for a little sleep. But I had been trying to get another shirt since mine were sweaty by then, and the shirts were all in the "Command Center" (our tractor trailer) which I'd yet to see. Finally the truck gets to our hotel and we are in the same place at the same time, so I take the opportunity to get the shirt. Here's my first view of this thing:

Looks real friendly in the dark, abandoned parking lot, right?

I open the door and start to climb my way into the trailer right when the driver - who I'd never met - comes up behind me.

And that's when I peed my pants.

Just kidding! But it did scare me, and probably him too.

But someone else on the team did pee her pants, which earned her the nickname "PeeWee." Find out why I was nearly nicknamed "Stalker Bait" in the next post...

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Run Now Relay: What day is it and where am I?

I'm back!
Long story short, the thing that I found out about in between running down the National Mall with the Relay team Wednesday afternoon, and jumping into one of their vans that evening was: a giant tumor in my lower abdomen.

Awesome. I'm about to go on a crazy, physically challenging adventure, and this doctor is telling me I'm basically 5 months pregnant with a muscle mass. Never a dull moment!

I didn't tell the relay folks the whole story so they had no idea what was going on, but I did make sure I was cleared to run and the doctors and nurses even rushed around in order to get me out the door in time to leave with my "flight" because they thought the relay sounded awesome. But they did inform me I'd need surgery when I got back. (really? but doesn't everyone want to go around 5 months pregnant all the time?) 

That surgery is now complete and praise the Lord, there were no complications and the tumor was benign (and I now have an awesome scar that I'm totally going to tell people came from a prison knife fight). But that's another story.

Back to the Relay. We left off with Race Horse getting ready to run. But what I forgot to mention was that right before that, as we were leaving Baltimore at three in the morning, we stop by a gas station where there is a ...unique... group of people inside. 

Race Horse is a quiet, extremely kind and earnest person, so he is unnassumedly looking for food in the mini mart when he is complimented on his "outfit" by one of the male members of the group who apparently really appreciates lycra running gear. I imagine Race Horse turned red when he politely informed the guy that he was simply going for a run, not that he normally walks around in skin-tight "outifts" at 3:00a.m. in the inner city.  

Guys hit on in the van: 1
Girls: 0

Back to the road. Right as Johnny got GPSy, our driver tells me "you are about to see something amazing..." And we all stop and watch in awe as The Race Horse easily glided away from us. 

It really is beautiful to watch. It's like he's sprinting, but he holds the pace for 26 miles, looking effortless. We'd call him during runs to check in and he sounded like he was sitting on a couch somewhere, just hanging out.

You'd totally hate him if he wasn't so darn nice.

So we successfully launched the first runner of our flight that day, after a crazy day prior, and little sleep. From then on, the whole journey felt very similar to Ragnar: disorienting. You never know who's running, which van's next, how much time you have before you need to run, what state you are in, what time it is, what meal you should be eating, etc. 

At some point during that day, the entire relay team gets a group text from Matt C. that simply says, "anyone know what day it is?"

And we all laughed in my van...but then realized we didn't actually know. And I had only been with them 24 hours.

It was even crazier for those in the van who were following the map and the runners. 

Remember, no one had seen the course in person, only maps and GPS images. So Matt R. in our van was constantly staying up with when our van needed to get GPSy, as well as what route we needed to be driving. He joked that he was on the phone with Duane, the leader of the flight in front of us, more than he was his wife. An admission that was made evident one night when Matt received a late night text from Duane that ended with "Miss you. Love you."

(Turns out, the text was actually from Matt's wife but it took Matt a very confused second to realize that.)

All in all, we had: regular texting and phone calls; flight group-texts - a group set up on our phones of only those in our vehicle; a giant group text for everyone in the relay; and then everyone's social media posts, because the buzz around this thing was being driven by that.

Talk about sensory overload. But it was often very humorous overload.

Each vehicle developed their own group personalities, and we also had some strong individual personalities, which all resulted in hilarious, sleep-deprived messages. Former Green Beret Robert began taking selfies with anyone who fell asleep in his van, in what he termed as photos from "The 'Z' Monster":

And our driver, Fred, was doing Selfies before Selfie was a word. But he called them Frotos (Fred Photo) and it morphed into videos for "WFROTO," the fake Froto news station. I ended up in one WFROTO live report when Fred and I ran a few miles together, while singing "The Battle of New Orleans" in between breaths, because why wouldn't you do that during a run?

I wish I could figure out how to post the whole video. It was special.

He occasionally did FROTO reports while driving, nearly running over the Race Horse, Leader Matt, and myself. Eh, just adding to the adventure.

Here's Fred wearing not one, but two pairs of glasses, and his up-turned hat, while driving and checking his phone. Welcome to our van.

That WFROTO report above documented my very first leg with the team. I honestly can't even remember what state we were in by that time, but I do remember getting my first ever debilitating calf cramp.


I had to jump back in the van for a bit before jumping back out to try to hobble to the end of my 6 mile leg. I had 12 hours to get this thing fixed before my next leg. By the time we stopped to eat, I could barely walk. This is starting out so well!

We finally turned GPSy over to the next flight, but not before they saw Nikki - the other female runner in my van - being chased towards them by what they believed was a homeless man.

It was Fred again. 

Fred shown here in his running get-up, complete with the dead squirrel he PICKED UP along the way...

Have I mentioned I love these people? More adventures in the next post. 

Saturday, May 10, 2014

Short Hiatus

I'm having surgery to fix the issue that I discovered when I left for the Run Now Relay. I'll tell you all about it when I'm back!

Monday, May 5, 2014

The Run Now Relay: D.C. to Baltimore

Back to The Race Horse.

The Race Horse's actual name is Johnny. AKA "Johnny Marathon." He ran a marathon a day for 6 days, BEFORE he ran Boston in less than half the time it took me to finish my marathon. He literally ran across the entire state of Delaware for us. He is a machine.

So when I started to pre-apologize for being slow when I joined my van, the driver waves me off with "we've got a horse in here so fast, that it won't make a difference how slow you are."

And it turns out, I didn't have to run too far, either, thanks to the Race Horse. If you do math better than I do, you'll figure out that if each flight needs to complete 30 miles a leg, and Johnny runs 26 miles a leg -- there are not many miles left for the other 4 runners in our van.

Granted, different flights started shuffling mileage around to spare anyone needing a rest, so I did end up being able to contribute miles along the route. But not doing anything too crazy was fine with me, because the day we left, I found out I had a 4-6 pound benign tumor in my abdomen that would need to be taken care of fairly quickly. Perfect timing! Thankfully, I was still cleared to run, but I felt sluggish and slower than ever. I was basically 6 months pregnant, in the words of my doctor. Excellent timing for an endurance challenge! 

But I'm getting ahead of myself again. Let's start in D.C. 

The "flights" rolled in one by one to join the big group "fun run" I organized with local running groups and the local Tennessee State Society. Me and the relay runners that I knew were all bouncing around excitedly, as they told me a little of the trip thus far. We do the fun run, take some photos in front of the Capitol, then the runner who had the next leg (Former Green Beret Robert from my Ragnar) took off to continue our trek to Boston.

Since my van didn't have legs for several hours, they took off in search of food, while I:

went to get medical tests done.

Exactly what you want to do right before joining a crazy road trip with lots of running involved!

So yeah, I was definitely having issues but like I said - I was cleared for running. In fact, my doctors were all rooting for my trip so they scurried around to get me all fixed up in time to jump in my van as it drove past my house. I was told "yeah, we'll need to schedule surgery when you get back..." as I raced out of the doctor's and back home to grab my things, texting ETAs the whole time to Matt who had no idea what was going on. All he knew was that our van needed to head north, with or without me in it.

I raced out of my apartment and literally stood on the corner of the street, bags in tow, fleece sleeping bag unfurled and thrown over my shoulder like I was Linus from Charlie Brown on my way to summer camp. I might as well have been sucking my thumb when my flight pulled up and whisked me away to Baltimore, where our hotel was awaiting us.

This was about 5:30p.m.

Yes. We were going to sleep. Because the relay team was already on the erratic schedule of "if there's a bed, we should sleep, because who knows when we can do that again." So I had to force my body to jump into that rhythm as well, because I was now officially one of the runners on the route.

How did we have a route? An engineer on the team had painstakingly mapped it. From Cleveland, Tennessee all the way to the finish line of the Boston Marathon. Many of the runners had never even seen some of the cities we'd go through. 

Which made me nervous. Having lived in D.C., I know there are parts of large cities where some emergency response folks won't even go. And you don't know that info unless you live there. So not that I didn't have faith in the planners, but I was a bit nervous about this team running day and night through Baltimore, Philly, New York... 

Not to mention traffic. Our hope was that the vehicles could stay right with the runner, but if you've ever been on a major highway on the east coast, or on one-way streets in suburbia, you know that can't always happen.

We ended up having runners on the Jersey Turnpike, people. But more on that later.

As my van leaves DC, we drive up to a police scene right off the bat. We see cops standing around a man down on the ground, hand behind his back. As Matt starts to take a photo, one of the police officers notices us and starts to lift his arms. Just as I think he's going to gesture to Matt to put the camera away, he puts his arms up in a "yeah, I'm cuffing a perpetrator on the ground, woot woot!" pose. Welcome to Maryland!

We arrive at a hotel in Baltimore and I set my alarm for this: 

Yep, I'm officially on the route for sure.  

I wake up, shower (since I wasn't able to between the fun run, the doctor, and jumping in the van) and I go to dry my hair:

and the hotel hairdryer explodes in my hands.

Like, starts smoking, looks like it's on the edge of spewing a fireball into my face, kind of explosion. 

RIP, thing that tried to singe my hair.

Well, looks like Murphy's Law jumped into my luggage! This will be fun, van teammates!

We all meet in the lobby and throw our stuff back in the van, and get ready to get "Gypsy"

GPSy is our GPS. She is tracking the team's progress for those following along back home, though occasionally she gets dropped, taken by the wrong people (which is why my boss texted me at one point and asked if we were inside an IKEA....), or killed, like when the team's first GPS was dropped to the point of no return, earning one of our teammates their nickname "Assassin." (My nickname was nearly "Stalker Bait," and ended up being "Wedge." Both of which, I'll explain later....)

So GPSy was with the flight before us -- Flight 2, the "Blue Boomerangs." I never learned where they got that name, but they were considered the "Middle Schoolers" on the trip because they were so bubbly and usually were yelling and blaring music whenever they rolled up. I heart them.

The flights stay in order, so we were always right after the Boomerangs and right before flight 4, the Green Machine. (each flight had a number and a color. We were the Mellow Yellow Submarines.) 

The Green Machine held my friend Matt C. who nearly made my nickname "Hoss," for the sole reason that when he called a guy that, I informed him that he should never refer to me -or any female ever - that way. So of course he immediately started referring to me that way.
Back to the road. We met up with Flight 2 around 3:00am-

And made the hand-off of GPSy to The Race Horse.

The team doing a quick interview with our travelling
documentary team, as The Race Horse prepares in the background
More in the next post.