I left off part 2 when it started to get dark. When Jennifer came back to finish off round 2 for us, Kristyn started round 3, and Jennifer started the first bike leg.
We drove to the next exchange point to wait for our first bike/run duo to see how it worked out, and we realized the temps were dropping fast. They made it back and the poor girls did not look good. We had some bike issues…the helmet strap was really wonky, and it took forever to get it on and off. Still, we soldiered on, with Erin running the next leg and Kristyn biking next to her. We sent Erin on ahead while Kristyn got going on the bike which seemed to work out well for us.
I started to get nervous knowing I was next. I typically don’t run at night and have never worn a headlamp. When we got to the next exchange, I was outfitted with a headlamp, vest, butt light, and glow sticks and bracelets.
Erin made it back with Kristyn, and I started out on my first night leg. This was my longest leg, at 4.88 miles, which actually ended up being right at 5 miles. I started running as Erin got on the bike, and I got a good 3-4 minutes ahead. Right when she showed up, I decided I REALLY had to pee. No one was around, so I literally squatted a foot off the levee path on the back side and went. Gotta do what you gotta do, right? I felt much better, and I kept going. Erin was SUCH a great bike partner. She talked to me, asked me questions about my family, how Bobby and I met, et. It really helped pass the long dark miles. To be honest, the only thing on me that was cold was my face. The constant motion and tons of layers kept my body pretty warm. I would estimate it was in the upper 30’s at this point.
I was so glad we decided to ride with each other at night, it was very dark and scary up there. We passed some shady areas that backed up to the levee, and a lot of the levee path was not well lit at all. My headlamp was pretty weak, so I literally could only see a foot or two in front of me, so I had to look down pretty much the whole time. About mile 3 I was over it and wanted to be back in the van. That’s when I remembered I still had to get on the bike and ride five miles while Lindsey ran. Oh. my. gosh. I tried not to freak out. At this point I was getting hungry and very tired and started losing it mentally. We passed under some plants (like power, not green living kind) which were interesting but also menacing in their own way. We finally spotted the exchange point up ahead and I thought the worst was over. That’s when Erin mentioned that the bike seat was really small and very painful. I laughed thinking it couldn’t be that bad….boy was I wrong. I asked Erin to get me a tissue and some water from the van when she got off the bike and gave me the helmet. Lindsey took off running, and by time Erin came back I STILL couldn’t get the thing on! My fingers were so numb I couldn’t feel the clasp and neither could Erin. I think we were both about to cry. She held it down and I was finally able to snap it after literally about 6-7 minutes.
I quickly hopped on the bike and IMMEDIATELY knew what Erin meant about the seat. Oh my. It was going to be a long five miles. I pedaled hard trying to catch Limdsey but she was nowhere. I started to panic. At one point I had to get off the bike and drop down off the levee where a plant went across the path. I made it back up, kept going and FINALLY spotted her. I thought for sure we were at mile 2.5 or so. nope…just to mile 1. I didn’t know how I was going to be able to make it. The running had kept my body cold, but being on the bike where only your legs are moving…you get cold VERY quickly. I couldn’t feel my fingers out on the handle bars and wondered if I was even still holding on. I tried to make conversation with lindsey in between chattering teeth. She was in great spirits. We even ended up having another runner catch us and run with us the rest of the leg, so I hung about ten feet behind them. My butt was hurting SO BADLY when they stopped to walk I would hop off the bike to walk too for a break.
I think my lowest point of the whole race was about mile 3.5 or so, when I knew we still had 1.5 to go and I realized how hungry and thirsty I was. I was frozen, it was WINDY, dark, and I had been up since early that morning and already run two legs of the race. I ALMOST cried, but refused to let myself. I just kept praying that God would get me through it. There is a song in High school we would sing before volleyball games, and I kept repeating it over and over to myself on the stupid bike. It goes: “I’ve got confidence, my Lord is going to see me through, no matter what the case may be, my Lord, my Lord is going to fix it for me.” I knew I had to have faith God would get me back to the van or I would mentally break down. I have ever been so happy to see all the vans waiting for us. I got the helmet off, wished Lindsey luck, and hobbled back to the van. I immediately ate an entire plate of pasta salad a sandwich, and drank an entire powerade. Them I laid down in one of the seats, still shivering. It took me about an hour for my body to finally be still. We were pretty miserable.
We continued on like this, running and biking, all the way through round 3. We started round 4, and soon enough it was my turn to run again. Naturally, as soon as I started, I had to pee…again. So I pulled my little levee squat again, and off we went. this leg wasn’t as long, at 4 miles. It was still long…but I had to mentally tell myself it was a mile shorter than my last to make myself feel better. The run was ok, it was slow, and at several points I just wanted to sit down on the side of the levee and cry…but I didn’t. Temperatures were dropping into the low 20’s with wind chill in the teens now. the wind had picked up a lot and a few gusts almost knocked me off my feet. When my run ended I got back on that darn bike to ride about 3.3 miles with Lindsey. It wasn’t as bad (and I think my butt was numb) and I had some food in me. I was still freezing, but knowing it was my last bike leg helped me get through it.
When we got to the exchange point we had a little pow wow. We decided the bike is what was killing us, and so we decided to take a quick nap, then continue on without the bike. Dang it! I wish they would have decided this before I had gotten on it again! We drove to the next exchange and slept for about 1.5 hours. I know it hurt our time but it was necessary for our survival to get warm and get a nap. Dawn broke, and we set out again. I had one leg left, this time about 3.3 miles.
I was trying to get all the vans lined up at the exchange point but got the writing instead. #fail.
It was overcast and still in the low 30’s with crazy winds. I ended up running alongside a guy on a 3 man team who was having a bit of a struggle. I decided to run with him and try to encourage him and keep his mind off of this crazy thing we were doing. It did make the time go by faster, and before I knew it I was DONE! Or so I thought haha. After this hand off, we headed to McDonalds where I got a hot coffee to help warm up. We did the final exchanges and drove in to Audobon park. We had some time before Jennifer got there so we unloaded the van into everyone’s cars and wiped off the shoe polish. Then, me, Erin, and Kristyn went to the corner of Magazine street to wait for Jennifer. We ran in with her to Audobon park where we met up with the rest of our group.
We all ran in together and finished the hardest 26 hours of my life, as a team. One unit, start to finish, accomplishing an amazing goal, and finishing a crazy journey.
Girls on the Geaux, we made it.
I feel like I earned this medal more than any of my other race medals.
126.2 miles. We. did. it.
Stay tuned, I plan to do one more Rouge Orleans post, a follow up of sorts…things I learned along the way…advice for those who want to run a relay.
Not only did we finish (in style might I add) but I am so proud of myself for staying so strong. I didn’t breakdown. I didn’t shed a single tear. For once, I honestly felt strong. Determined. Ready.
Who’s in for 2013?
QOTD: Tell me about your WORST race experience?