This past Saturday morning at 4:30AM, I woke up to the sound of Baby Key crying. Normally, this would be a non-issue in my house, as that is his normal waking time, but this day was different. My alarm was not scheduled to go off until 5:15AM and Saturday, of all days, was a day that I would need every single second of extra sleep.
My team, Girls On The Geaux, was preparing to set out on a 24-hour ultramarathon relay adventure called the Rouge-Orleans! Our wave started at 8:00AM, but we had everyone picked up and at the start of the race by 7:00AM. Team captains had to be there an hour early in order to have our safety gear (headlamps, flashlights, safety vests, etc.) checked by the race director. After we got all checked in, we spent the next hour decorating our van. On Saturday morning, the temperature was about 40 degrees and there was pretty heavy wind. Oh, if we had only known what was to come!
Meet our van, Rapunzel.
Check out our sheVANigans at...#GirlsOnTheGeaux!
Me, Kristyn, Lindsey, Jenn, Erin, and Heather
Leg 1 of the 8:00AM wave got started promptly with a firing of the canon from the USS Kidd
. The race website had mentioned this, but somehow I had forgotten. When it went off, I swear I almost peed my pants. Good thing I didn’t though…that would have been a looooooong day in pee-pants.
Our 6-person relay team went like this…Kristyn –> Erin –> Heather –> Lindsey –> Katie –> Jenn. God bless my sweet friend Jenn for being the anchor leg. Seriously, that was some tough mileage.
Legs 1 – 6 (Mileage: 27.45 miles)
Time: 8:00AM Saturday – 1:12PM Saturday
As expected, this was the happiest round for us. As soon as the race got started, the fun began. The sun was out and it was shaping up to be a gorgeous day! Though still cold and windy, the weather was tolerable because there was not a cloud in the sky and we were running on the scenic Mississippi River Levee. At this point, all of us were still bouncing off the walls and excited to be there! At each exchange, we chatted with other runners, crews, and teams…discussing training, strategy, and, of course, food.
Doing what we do best...ninja-style!
Highlights of Round 1: Our van got gnomed by Team Rolling with My Gnomies! They gave us the cutest antenna topper ever! We started tracking all of the other teams on Twitter by using the #RO12 hashtag! Watching their progress was really fun and a great interactive way to stay connected to other teams.
Lindsey coming in for the hand-off!
Best hand-off face EVER, Jenn!
Legs 7 – 12 (Mileage: 27.50 miles)
We got GNOMED!
Time: 1:12PM Saturday – 6:19PM Saturday
As we moved into the second half of the day, we were still having a ball! Once we figured out how much time we really needed at each exchange, we fell into a comfortable groove of getting to the next exchange, tagging our runner, and refueling with our Nuun and sandwiches. The temperatures crept up in the early part of the afternoon, and at one point we were even able to peel off some layers! After my leg of this round was done, I distinctly remember saying, “Man, I got hot out there.” (That would be the last time I would say that.) In this round, Erin had her longest run at 7.3 miles. On this leg, she passed the Carville Leper Colony
…which was the site of the only hospital that treated leprosy in the United States. CRA-ZAY!
She also passed a creepy cemetery and I am disappointed to report that she saw no ghosts. Bummer!
Add to that the fact that on this leg the road diverts far away from the levee so we couldn’t even watch her run. Oh, and add to THAT the fact that she got chased by dogs about 0.6 miles into her leg, causing her to tire much too early in her run. Pushing the tiredness and overall creepiness of this leg aside, Erin finished like a champ! On Jenn’s run, the last leg of this round, the sun started going down and we had to break out the safety gear! C’mon, who doesn’t love a headlamp!
We all posted good times on Round 2 and going into Round 3, we were about 30 minutes ahead of our anticipated pace.
Highlights of Round 2: We got to meet the awesome crew for Meredith Dolhare. Seriously, if you have a chance, check out her website and how badass she is! Also on these legs, we encountered lots of wildlife on the levee. Heather was fully prepared to handle any livestock she encountered by making sure she ran with her 1 million volt Tazer. No really, she did. That girl wasn’t messin’ around! At one of the exchanges, we got to meet the super fly girls from Team Hippie and A Ginger! Very cool girls! Oh, and Kristyn ran her fastest 2 miles ever!!
Waiting to see Kristyn!
A gorgeous afternoon!
"Imma Taze me a cow!" ~ Heather
Finishing up Leg 2! Sun starting to set!
Runners on the levee at sunset!
Legs 13 – 18 (Mileage: 24.86 miles)
Jenn ready to take it from day to night!
Time: 6:19PM Saturday – 11:55PM Saturday
Well, this is where all the fun stuff sort of ends. *sigh* It was on round 3 that things went from good to bad. As nightfall settled in, the temperatures quickly dropped from the 40’s down into the low 20’s. Considering the 20mph winds up on the levee, the “real feel” temperature was in the upper teens. In all honesty, it was awful. I mean, really, really terrible. Let’s put it this way, since I moved back to Louisiana in December 2010, this was the coldest overnight low it had been since then. IT. WAS. PAINFULLY. FRIGID.
Once the sun went down, our plan was to run and then when your leg was done, you hop on the bike and pace the next runner. During daylight hours, running on the levee is quiet and relaxing. At night, when you can’t see anyone in front of your or behind you, the dark can be extremely disorienting…making every tenth of a mile feel like half a mile. We planned to have someone on the bike to assist the runner to help keep the runner motivated and moving along. This was a really, really bad idea. Going from running to riding really did a number on our legs. While running, we were able to keep our bodies warm. However, getting on the bike allowed the cold to sink deep into our bodies. Riding at the runner’s pace was not fast enough to keep the rider warm. By the time each of us got back in the van from our running leg, we were exhausted. It took each of us about an hour and a half to warm back up…which meant that right as we were warming up, it was almost time to get back out there again. These Louisiana and Mississippi girls were NOT built to handle these temperatures. Give me 100 degree weather with 90% humidity over cold and windy any day!
Really not a good look.
On a personal note, this is the leg where my cold-weather asthma really took a toll on me. Sadly, I forgot my inhaler. I wheezed and coughed the entire leg. When it was my turn to hand off to Jenn, I had an extremely hard time getting going on the bike. The helmet was too small and the bike seat was too high. My fingers were numb up to the second knuckle so adjusting both proved to be nearly impossible. I ran down the levee to the van and begged my teammates to loosen the helmet and help me lower the seat. Of course, my girls were there for me. However, by the time I finally got going on the van, Jenn had already started running and was well into her leg. I had to pedal overtime in order to catch up with her. By the time I got to her, I realized that hypothermia/asthma attack was taking over. When I caught up to her I wanted to ask her how many more miles she had to go before we could get back to the van. In my head, this questions was coming out of my mouth. In reality, I couldn’t the lower half of my face. My lips were literally freezing and my tongue felt thick and solid. The only words I could really get out were “mileage” and “I need help.” When Jenn saw what bad shape I was in, we stopped. I got off the bike and pushed my face into my shoulder, desperately trying to breath warmer, humid air. Jenn, seeing how bad off I was, said she would call the van to come and get me. I refused to leave my friend out there, on the levee, in the middle of the night. Thankfully, we were only about a 1.5 miles to the end of the leg. The whole situation was so scary and I have never felt anything like that before. I was seriously happy to see the van at the next exchange.
Lowlights of Round 3: Cold temperatures + Fatigue = VERY quiet Girls On The Geaux van. We tried our best to stay positive despite the cold, but quite frankly, there were A LOT of curse words thrown around the van during these miles. The question, “Wait, WHY did we want to do this again?” was said A LOT. Unfortunately, all the good pacing we had earlier in the day caught up to us. The nighttime cold meant we moved slower and breathed harder. It was rough.
Legs 19 – 24 (Mileage: 22.37 miles)
Cold. Quiet. Dark. Still.
Time: 11:55PM Saturday – 5:30AM Sunday
Round 4 was DIRTY. Team Girls On The Geaux was cold and tired and we fought for every single mile. The van stayed pretty quiet during these hours in hopes of giving some of us a chance to catch at least a few winks.
Lowlights of Round 4: Unable to find the port-a-potties in the dark, several members of the team may or may not have bare-butted it and peed right on the side of the levee. Just sayin’. Around 3:30AM, we had to make an executive decision. The cold was really doing a number on us and we felt that it was almost dangerous for us to be out there. We were having such a hard time warming up and knew that we needed a break. Although it was our goal to finish in 25 hours, we made the decision to stop and rest for an hour. We had to. It was either rest and let everyone warm up, or risk not finishing at all. We had come to far not to cross that finish line, so rest we did. I wish we would not have had to but it was the smart thing for us to do.
Legs 25 – 30 (Mileage: 24.19 miles)
Time: 5:30AM Sunday – 10:55AM Sunday
Round 5 brought better spirits to the van! As the sun came up, we all perked up a little, but it would be the understatement of the century to just say that we were ready to be done. We were all so close to the finish line and we were fighting tooth and nail to get there. This round brought lots of tears and a lot of walking. I am so proud of each of my teammates for getting back out there and fighting through to the end. Jenn’s IT band started to act up but she pushed through her entire last leg. The race ended in Audobon Park and as soon as we saw that big, blue inflatable finish line, we knew victory was ours.
I have LOTS of advice about what worked for our team, what did not work for our team, what we brought and did not need, items we wished we had, etc. That is an entire post in itself. I will get to all that this weekend, so be on the lookout!
Again, a massive huge epic THANK YOU to all of our sponsors. Without you, we would not have gotten this far.
To 110% Play Harder,
After Round 3 of running, there is nothing that felt better than pulling on my perfectly snug calf sleeves. Not only did they provide an extra layer of warmth while out on my run, but they also helped keep my calves feeling fresh and energized. I’m proud to say that after the event, I did not experience one iota of calf soreness! SUCCESS!
To Brooks Running,
The Cascadia 7s were the most perfect shoe for running this terrain. Normally I wear a more minimal shoe, but on the rocks and uneven levee, the Cascadias provided the ideal amount of support and cushion. The Cascadias are an amazing shoe!
To GO Sport ID,
Thank you for keeping us safe. I had no idea how scary it would be up on that levee, out in the middle of nowhere, all alone. Our ID bands gave us the peace of mind to know that should anything happen to us, that our loved ones would be able to notified quickly.
Thank you for keeping Team Girls On The Geaux hydrated. With the freezing temperatures, it was often hard to convince ourselves to keep hydrating but the tasty fizziness of Nuun made drinking freezing cold water much more palatable. By the end of the race, several teams were calling us the Nuun Girls!
To Running Skirts,
Thank you for the awesome purple plaid running skirts! When undertaking an adventure such as this, it is always easier when you are doing it in STYLE! We tried our best to put a running skirt on our van, which we appropriately named Rapunzel! The running skirt was super comfortable and the fabric, design, and fit are excellent. Thank you!
To Drink Chia!,
Thank you for the awesome chia drinks! After a couple of the legs, I was not really interested in eating heavy food, but the chia drinks helped give me much-needed calories and nutrition without making me feel too weighed down. The texture took a little getting used to, but the drinks were delicious!
To Barber & Mann, 1st Choice Real Estate, and Good Shepherd Christian Academy,
Thank you so much for your financial support of Team Girls On The Geaux. With your contributions, Team Girls On The Geaux was able to contribute $550 to the Girls On The Run of Greater Baton Rouge. GOTR provides incredible programs to the girls in our communities and we appreciate you helping us help them!
Thank you so much for all of the bars! The Old School PB&J is the best and was super tasty around 2:30AM! We were able to share with some of the runners in other vans and every said how delicious they were! Thank you for keeping our tummies full and our bodies fueled!
To Icelandic Glacial,
Thank you for all the water!! Runners could not do what we do without water and Icelandic Glacial tastes awesome! After leg 10, my teammate Lindsey took a swig and looked at me and said, “Man, this is REALLY good water!” It made me smile!
Thank you for the GIGANTIC Econoline van! It was massive and FANTASTIC! Even though we overpacked big time, we still had plenty enough room for all of us, our food, water, and medical gear. We even had enough room left on the seats to stretch out our legs and nap a little between legs. And, surprisingly, it was really great on gas too! Way better than I expected!
To Giraphic Prints,
Thank you for the most awesome team tech shirts! Having matching shirts made us feel like a real team and we were so proud to be able to display all of our sponsors on it! You did a great job!!
To my fellow Girls On The Geaux,
Thank you for this incredible experience. We laughed, we cried, we danced, and we ran. Boy, oh boy, did we run! We shared stories, we helped each other, we got aggravated with each other, and we hugged. I could not have imagined tackling this adventure with a better group of girls. We only barely knew each other when this trip began, but I feel like we are running buddies for life! Who knows what fun things might bring Team Girls On The Geaux later this year and into 2013!! Keep on running, ladies!
Photo Credits: Erin Parker Skinner, Krisytn Gunter, Heather Montgomery, Jenn Macha-Hebert, Lindsey deBlieux, and Evin Beck.