So where were we? Boom Boom Pow has distracted me.
At this point, it's starting to get late. We were now on the legs that required lights, blinkies, and reflector belts, so there weren't anymore pictures for awhile. Which is really a bummer because ASS-MAN CHANGED INTO A G-STRING. And let me tell you....the spray tan was pretty even.
At Exchange 16 we switched up the vans a bit. 4 of our runners would go to a high school in Wallis, take showers, get coffee, and rest up a bit before meeting back up with us at Exchange 22, where the rest of us would then have our turn at showers, etc. Last year I got to be in the first van to hit the showers...not so lucky this year.
My next leg was Leg 20, which means when I was done we'd be halfway through our journey. It was about 11pm at this point and we were more than 12 hours into the relay. I was feeling really great, but didn't want to jinx myself so I started off my leg pretty slow. I told Erica (who was ready to take the hand off and run leg 21) that I'd probably complete the 4.57 mile leg in about 42 minutes. That gave me an opportunity to take it easy for the first mile and then build up to a strong finish. This was an interesting leg through Eagle Lake....nothing like running by bars with drunk guys hanging out in their trucks. No whistle calls, but I admittedly was a bit frightened. There were a few runners in my sights so I wasn't alone. I liked the fact, however, that the leg wasn't just a straight shot down a highway as was my first leg. Once I made my final turn at 3.9 miles I just went for it and ran a very strong final 2/3 of a mile to hit my target time exactly. 9:09 average pace on my second leg made me very, very happy. I was still the slowest member of our team, but if we have our slowest at a sub-9 minute average pace I'd say we were doing pretty darn well.
It was Erica's turn again, now her third leg, and no one expected her to keep pulling 7:20's. She did it again, however....6.76 miles at 7:24 pace. The woman is ridiculous.
Remember how I mentioned that Jeff has eaten a hamburger bun earlier in the day? Yeah, it had now come back to haunt him. He was scheduled to run a 5 mile leg 22, but things were not looking pretty. He was in some serious discomfort - stomach pain, nausea, the intense feeling of needing to barf. It was like last year's pizza was rearing it's ugly head again (yes, the pizza from 2010 TIR made many of us sick). Before Erica has started her leg she offered to run both and then just be done, giving Jeff her last leg Sunday morning. And then I figured I might have to run it, giving myself only about a 50 minute break between two legs. I could do it since I felt really great, but I was a bit frightened by the thought. However, Jeff was determined so he started out on the leg with instructions to check on him a mile up the road. He was moving along pretty well and waved us off when we checked in. He finished the leg in just under 45 minutes....9 minute miles while dry heaving. NICE, JEFF. Do us a favor next year....stop being a food sissy!
One more leg and then it was time to hit the showers. I turned to Erica and said "Let's go get naked," and of course that was a pretty exciting thing for the guys in the van to hear. Typical guys. Oh, those showers were AWESOME. To get out of gross clothes, wash the sweat out of our hair was the wake up we needed to push through the middle of the night. As soon as we were finished, I grabbed a cup of coffee and we headed back to the vans. Rather than camp out on the gym floor we planned to just rest in the van at Exchange 27, where we would meet up with the rest of the team. I would be the first one from our van to have to run again, on leg 28.
Unfortunately, Erica and I couldn't sleep. The boys, on the other hand, had absolutely no problem sleeping and snoring. Tony was smart and camped outside on the grass in his sleeping bag If I hadn't been too lazy to set up my sleeping bag I probably would have joined him. I had well over an hour before I needed to run again, so a short cat nap would've been good for me. Instead I ate. I was getting pretty hungry and it was hard to find food that would fill me up at this point. Luckily my next leg was only 3.6 miles, so even on an seemingly empty stomach I knew I could push through it. I planned to drink my recovery drink following the run to try to replenish, especially since I'd only have a 4 leg break between my 3rd and final runs.
Leg 28 was just awesome. It's through Cinco Ranch in Katy and it's a very nice neighborhood. There were a couple turns that broke up the monotony. About a half mile into the run another team's runner passed me at a pretty decent pace. I would have paced off her but it was a bit early for me to speed up that much, but I wanted to keep her in my sights for later in the leg. My legs felt awesome, but my lower back was definitely tightening up, which I think was preventing me from moving too much faster. I did manage to keep up with her better than I expected, however, and actually started having thoughts of catching her. I got pretty close, but she was speeding up at a similar rate to me, so instead I just maintained a short distance behind her. My stupid back just wasn't loosening up very much. I think she finished the leg only a few seconds ahead of me....I was glad she was there to push me to be a bit faster than expected. I finished the 3.6 mile leg in about 32 minutes, so I was pleased. At this point in the relay, I was at an 8:58 overall average pace with only one leg left to run. And I really did feel great. Tired, but my legs weren't fatigued at all. I really think I could have run that leg closer to 30 minutes if my back hadn't been so tight.
When I ran into exchange 28 I fully expected to see a couple of the guys cheering for me. At every exchange there has been at least a couple team members, in addition to the person about to run, to cheer us on. Karen (who was running leg 29) was the only one there. As she took the wrist band from me she yelled out "I think we're the only ones left, Steph".....sure enough, no one was there to greet me. I have to be honest...it kinda hurt. I knew we were all so tired and it was likely many of them were still trying to sleep and I tried not to begrudge them that. I made my way back to the vans and ran into Tony (who was in my van). He knew that he needed to get to Exchange 29 quickly to start his leg since leg 29 was only 2.3 miles and Karen was burning it up. So in order for me to take a moment to recover he sent me to the other van...I think he felt kind of bad about it. Dammit....I wanted my recovery drink (or anything for that matter!) which was in MY van. But off I trekked and woke up the folks in the other van. The bright point was that Dan was getting some free breakfast tacos at Luke's Locker and he kindly shared a few bites. Oh, my gosh, those were so good. I made the van head straight to Exchange 29, however, because I still really needed my drink.
Once I got some nutrition back into me and got over the fact that I felt pretty lonely there for a few moments, I started feeling better. Karen was now done with all her legs and I knew she was going to be our cheerleader. She always makes me feel better. I can't remember who drove our van from Exchange 29 to Exchange 30 but I did say that I wanted to at least try to nap for a bit while Tony was running. That was kinda short lived because as soon as he was done he banged on the van's windows and all the rowdiness started up again. It looked like everyone was going to be awake for the duration. We had 10 legs left to run....wow, we were cruising right along. The sun was coming up. It's amazing how once that sun rises again how everyone's moods are instantly lifted. It's tough to get through some of the night runs and find our way through our exhausted fog. I know my mood was definitely getting pretty low...I was just so darn tired. But the excitement of it being Sunday morning will quickly make you snap out of it.
Howard was due to run leg 31 and I felt pretty bad for him. This guy is strong and an awesome sprinter, but leg 31 was 6.8 miles long....and this was after he'd already run 3 other 4+ mile legs, way more running than what he was used to. I just hoped he was going to be able to push through and not want to totally kill us when he finished. He did push through in 64 minutes - so awesome! And now he was done with running...probably for his entire life, I'm sure!
Only one more leg (Brandon's) before it was my turn for the last time. I was getting to run leg 33 just like last year and I was pretty happy about it. It's 4.48 miles along Briar Forest and Memorial Drives through a very VERY nice part of Houston. The houses are just spectacular and it's a great mood lifter before the ghettos runs start. Tony is good to me....he doesn't ever give me ghetto runs.
This leg was pretty amusing. Almost right from the start a dude on another team passed me at probably about a 9 minute pace (I was probably running 9:45 pace). He was going to be the one I kept my eye on, but it was still a bit early for me to push to 9 minute pace. Funny enough, he started walking about a mile into the run. So for the next couple miles we went back and forth, with him running past me, walking, and me catching up. About halfway through this run my fatigue started catching up to me. I really wanted to be done and I still had over two miles left to run. The dude hanging with me was keeping me motivated, however. I figured if he kept this up I would certainly beat him to the exchange. Yes, nearly 24 hours into the relay I was still being super competitive. I think at about the 3 mile mark of the leg he just gave it up and hung behind me and paced off me. At this point I was running at more of a 9:10 pace and he realized I wasn't going to give up the lead to him anymore. Rather than trying to kill himself and continue to have to walk, he figured he'd just let me do the pacing. Fine by me. With a half mile left I planned to drop him for good (I did).
I finished my leg strong, with a good sprint to the finish, with an overall pace of 9:26 for that leg. I probably could have gone closer to 9 minute pace, but it was nice to hold back just a bit and try to enjoy the run. I knew we were very far ahead (well over an hour) of our expected time, so to have a couple legs run at a more comfortable pace wasn't going to be a big deal.
There was a Starbucks the finish of this leg and I put in my order to my guys before I ran. Hmmm....there was no Starbucks waiting for me. TEAM FAIL. First they all abandon me and then they don't even get me Starbucks? Sheesh, what's the world coming to when the Team Mom is dissed like that?
(Thanks to John for getting me a recovery drink at CVS, however - yay!).
7 more legs to go.....stay tuned for the finish in part 3...