Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Texas Independence Relay 2011 - 203 miles of Blood, Sweat, and BEERS...Installment 1

When my friends and I began our marathon training back in August 2010, we secretly knew we were doing it to not REALLY prepare for the two marathons we planned to run, but to get ourselves ready for the experience that is the Texas Independence Relay. Many of us had run together on a team (Blood, Sweat, and Beers!!) in 2010 and it was by far the absolute best race experience we'd had.  40 legs, 203 miles, non-stop, from Gonzales to San Jacinto Monument following the Texas Independence Trail. To say we were excited about 2011 was putting it mildly.

FINALLY it was time for our adventure to begin, so 8 out of our 11 team members met up in Taylor on Friday to begin our journey to Gonzales, TX, for the start of the relay Saturday morning.  Unfortunately due to a family emergency we lost one team member, so we were down to 10.  Our other two members would meet up with us before the race began.  We weren't too worried about four of us having to add an extra leg - it was a much bigger disappointment for Andrew to not be joining us and I know it saddened him as well.

We were sure to stop for dinner in Moulton to make sure we were nice and well fueled with beer and wine before our 28 hour journey began, and it was a blast.  We saw another team there and quickly began the smack talk - all in good fun, of course.  We were seriously pumped up! I think I might make a pre-race glass of wine my tradition.

After hitting up the tent party with other teams and seeing far more debauchery than I really wanted to...Catholic school girls and Mullets are a scary combination....we headed to a nearby college to sleep on the common room floor. 

At first this seemed like a decent idea. We had slept on the floor in sleeping bags the year before and got a decent amount of sleep and it really is part of the experience.  But for some reason this year it really pretty much sucked. No one got anything near a good enough amount of sleep.  I don't remember who said it first when the bright lights were turned on at 5am but we all agreed - NEXT YEAR WE'RE GETTING HOTEL ROOMS!  I think part of the problem is that our start time this year was 10:34 as opposed to last year's 7:50 start.  No reason for us to be forced to get up at 5am.  HOTELS NEXT YEAR, DAMMIT!  I'm pretty sure Captain Tony is already booking them as we speak.

We had hours to kill, so we got ourselves ready and headed out to eat breakfast, pick up last minute supplies, and tag our vans. 

Have I mentioned the wind yet?  Yeah, the wind....25-35 mph winds that were in no hurry to die down anytime soon.  And they were coming from the north.  There are four legs in the beginning of the race that are due north - including mine.  I was freaked. And I was seriously pissing off Tony with my constant comments about not expecting my times to be faster than last year on that leg. I just needed to shut up, suck it up, put on my big girl panties, and DEAL.

When Karen showed up with my box of wine I knew the weekend would be spectacular! 


Just as last year, we started the race off with a bang (or a gong, I suppose)....everyone was just killing it on their legs.  I feel bad for poor Howard and Red, who's "expected" times were probably freaking them out.  I tried to remind them not to look at what the time sheet said since mine and Karen's were definitely way over what we were planning on running.  But I know they wanted to do their very best regardless.  I personally think they were phenomenal!  After the first 8 legs we had to have been at least 20 minutes ahead of our expected time.  We were just killing it!

On a side note, I have to mention our stop in Moulton to pick up some food for some of the guys.  They were craving burgers were grubbed.   Jeff, Mr. Paleo Diet Boy, mentioned to me that he ate the bun on the hamburger. This is our dude who doesn't eat wheat anymore.  I'm pretty sure I let my mouth hang open after that.  I had a bad bad feeling that this boneheaded decision was going to come back to haunt him in a few hours. Yes, Jeff, I think I just called you a bonehead.  Stay tuned for how that all turned out....

My first leg was #9, leading us into Flatonia.  The wind totally sucked.....I know it was bugged the crap out of Red and Tony, and as Karen was running #8 to hand off to me I'm sure she was swearing under her breath.  It's simply not easy to run directly into such strong winds, and Tony told me that it was brutal to try to breathe.  In addition to the wind, I had to contend with what was probably the most technically difficult (although thankfully short, at only 3.86 miles) legs on the course....6 hills that seem to just keep coming.  My plan was to do my best on the uphills and use the downhills to my advantage.  I'm actually a very strong runner in hills and I was trying to remember that as I got pumped up for the leg.

Okay, so I kinda did great.  It may have been the slowest leg of the day so far but I knew that would be the case.  I was in the company of some very strong runners.  There was a girl from another team who started the leg about 2 or 3 minutes ahead of me and my words to my teammates was something like this...."I'm gonna get her, just watch"  I could see her about a quarter mile ahead of me when Karen handed off to me.

About a mile into the leg I hadn't caught her yet, but I was definitely closing the gap.  Then the girl STARTED WALKING.  Really?  On a 3.86 mile leg?  Yes, that's me being a racing snob, but really she shouldn't have WALKED. Did she really want me to catch her?  As soon as I saw that I sped up.  I was gonna get her, no doubt.  I had already had two guys pass me and I needed to even the score (and thanks so much to my teammates for capturing one of the kills on camera - really nice, guys). 

The wind was incredibly irritating but it was moving from north winds to northwest winds, so I used that to my advantage and sped up when I could.  At about a mile to go the girl in front of me started walking again and was screwing around with her phone for some reason (why she had her phone is beyond me....).  That was the only thing I needed to see and I pushed myself to finally catch her and move right on by.  I did ask if she was okay since I'm not a total meanie - yes I am - and braced myself for the final hill.  Oh my, that hill was awful.  The wind came at me in a massive gust just as I was trying to crest the hill and just about stopped me in my tracks.  Thankfully as soon as I crested it the wind shifted and I turned on my afterburners.  Only about 3/4 of a mile to go and I knew I could maintain a much faster pace at this point.  I realized that I had every capability of beating last year's time on that leg. 

When I handed off to Brandon at Exchange 9 and stopped my watch I was truly shocked that I had beat last year by 7 seconds.  I felt like I had contributed to the team.  My expected time on that leg was in the 36 minute range and I did it in 33:43, an 8:44 pace....all in 20+ mph headwinds and on a hilly stretch.  To say my confidence was boosted was an understatement!

What was even more exciting was that we got to now see what Brandon could do out on the course.  He's our strongest and craziest runner.  What he can accomplish when he sets his mind to it is just phenomenal.  My teammates had told me that while I was running my leg one other team had smack-talked about their runner, saying she was a 6:30 miler and that Brandon wasn't going to pass her. Yeah, dudes...well Brandon runs 6 minute we'll see how that leg was going to pan out.  After we got back into the vans and cruised down Hwy 90 on Brandon's leg we were so excited when we spied him about to catch up to this supposedly fast girl.

I managed to get the whole kill right on film and Brandon had a big ol' smile on his face as he was passing her.  Just priceless. 

Of course, later we come to see that this girl ended up running 3 legs back to back for a total of about 16 miles.  But Brandon still killed her.

So now we're up to Leg 11, Erica's second leg.  Erica ran her first leg at a ridiculous, envy-inducing 7:21 pace. 

See....she's fast

She's a strong runner, but even that pace shocked the crap out of us.  Erica wasn't on our 2010 team, but many of our runners already knew her from marathon training so they knew she was strong, but still....a 7:21 pace run?  She definitely outdid herself on that one!  Leg 11 was a longer leg than her first one so we certainly didn't expect something quite that fast, which was fine since we were absolutely blowing our expected times out of the water.  What a nice surprise for us to see Team Boom Boom Pow on this leg.  They have a very freaking hot special runner on their team who favors underwear, a cowboy hat, and spray tan.  The ladies on the team were not complaining about this.  As a matter of fact, I made sure I leaned over Tony (who was driving!) to get plenty of pictures of this perfect creature runner. 

After he passed by Erica and showed off his undies to her, it sure kept her motivated to keep him in her sights.  The result?  A 7:22 pace run.  SWEET.  Thanks, sexy cowboy!!

And there's the first installment on my race report....stay tuned for tomorrow's installment #2!!


  1. You are actually making me laugh out loud. Ass Man is hysterical...loving it! Well done, once again, my friend!

  2. Whoo Whoo! Go Texas! Steph, you just made my evening! And man, I think I need to find a relay team. I've never done that before. Looks FUN!

  3. You are so funny! I wonder if ESPN hires people to commentate running events... you could try out! :)