Archive for September, 2010


September 26, 2010

Well, first off: I apologize for not putting together any last minute blogs about the training and count down to the race itself. I could make all kinds of excuses… some legitimate, some maybe not-so-much… but the point is, I didn’t write any updates. The short story is that I ran a lot in the final weeks of training: I ran the Hartwood 10 miler with several of the Ragnar team mates, I ran some hills to try and prep myself for the relay race, and we raised a lot of money for the OIF.

Race “day” was Friday and Saturday the 24th and 25th. So today’s update is all about the race itself and the success story of what we’ve managed to raise for the OIF. A word about that first: I am extremely grateful to ALL my race team mates who put in all this hard effort of training and then running the event itself. We took on a cause for charity this year that is obviously very personal to myself and I feel that my team mates have done me a huge favor by supporting the cause. Jen, Todd, Brian, Jen, Dave, Andy, Sandy, Karena, Chris, Al, and Jeff: Thank you!

We managed to raise $6134 for the foundation, which for an organization as small as the OIF is rather significant! We named our team to coincide with the cause: we named ourselves B.O.N.E. (Bunch O’ Nuts Exercising). Thanks to everyone who ran, everyone who volunteered (the Grossweilers), those who lent us vans, and those who donated to the cause.

If, for those who don’t know the details of the Ragnar Relay, there are 12 runners who split up 201 miles of running. We split into two vans of six runners each. The race is divided into 36 legs, and each van will tackle 6 legs at a time. To be clear, the legs are not balanced, either in terms of length or difficulty. The race started in Cumberland, MD and ended at the National Harbor outside of Washington, DC. The race is non-stop, so one member of the team is always running at any given hour.

Our trek began on Thursday afternoon from our rallying point at Chris Reinhardt’s house in Fredericksburg. Chris has been diligent about finding people willing to lend us two 15-passenger vans. While I don’t know these people, I am very grateful to them as well, and to Chris for taking the effort to find them. 11 of us (everyone but Brian) met up there, loaded the vans with our stuff, and left northbound. We stopped in Marshall, VA where Brian Verhoeven met up with us at a pizza joint for dinner. This was one of the few points where all 12 of us would manage to be together. From there we drove north to Cumberland, MD and stayed in a hotel near-ish to the start line.

On Friday morning, we checked out of the hotel and headed off to the start line at Rocky Gap State Park in western Maryland. Those of us in van #1 arrived an hour ahead of the start time for a safety briefing and general check in procedures. Van #2 arrived shortly thereafter to see Jen DeLecce off as runner #1. The starting whistle was at 8:30 am. Not all 240-some teams started at the same time, but there were probably about 20 or so teams that were in the same start time as us. Jen ran 4.8 miles in a large loop before passing the baton (a snap bracelet) to Todd. So on the plus side, the two vans could stay put in the park and wait for the first exchange. After Todd took the baton, we had to drive to exchange #2, and really wouldn’t see van #2 people again until the first major exchange (#6). So while it’s a team event, there are really two sub-teams. More on that later.

Todd took his first run of 5.1 miles through some tough terrain with a large mountain at the front end, but managed a pretty good pace. His “hill” was a little over 2 miles long and up about 600 feet – that’s about a 5% slope for a really long time. The slope was probably greater than that at some points, because he even had a short down-hill run in that two mile stretch. We pulled the van over along his route up the hill to cheer him on. We were in some country areas where there really wasn’t much room to pull over, but I think the simple cheering (and a little bit of water!) was helpful. We still had paved roads at this point too. Then poor Todd had to run down the hill. Don’t let anyone ever tell you that that’s easy! That will tire out your legs just as much, but completely different muscles.

At exchange #2, Todd passed the baton to Brian. Brian had two pretty bad hills; the first one arguably being easier. His run was 6.9 miles. We met up with Brian at the top of his second hill. That hill was 5.5% slope for 2.75 miles… and the roads were no longer paved. Pretty brutal. When Brian saw us at the top of the hill, I could tell he was relieved, and he was looking to pass of the baton. What was really unfortunate, was this was “only” about 5 miles into his leg… he still had 2 miles to go! I actually felt a little guilty stopping to cheer, because it lulled him into a false sense of relief. Kudos to Brian to keep on trucking!

At exchange #3, we met Brian where he passed the baton to Jen Siess. Jen took off on her 4.6 mile run the last mile and half with a pretty steep run. Probably in the neighborhood of 4.5% at some points. But again, the roads were not paved. At this point, the gnats and other bugs were also pretty brutal out in the wilderness-y area of Green Ridge State Park. We met Jen with some water as she got to the steepest parts of her run with about a mile to go.

At exchange #4 it was my turn. My leg was short, only 3.9 miles, but very steep (7-7.5% slope at the end). I ran on gravel the whole way, got passed twice, but passed two other people. What frustrated me was that I got passed on the flat 3/4 mile at the first part of my run. At 1.5 miles into it, I had to take on my hill for a mile and a half. There was a water station managed by volunteers of the race near-ish the bottom of the hill. At that point they told me it was only a mile to the top. It was encouraging to hear, but they were liars!! The van waited for me at the top to give me some water, which was good. The downhill part for the last mile or so was very hard: it was steep down, lots of switchbacks, and lots of gravel. There were one or two points were I was sure I’d lose control and seriously hurt myself. At least at this point I was able to gain some speed and make up for some lost time.

At exchange #5 I passed the baton to Dave who ran his 6.2 mile leg over some very uneven terrain. As I stated earlier, don’t let anyone telly you that downhill runs are easy. His leg was generally sloping downhill, but making any estimates of slope don’t make a lot of sense because the terrain was so uneven. Dave made some good time and we met up with him at the Little Orleans camp ground.

At exchange #6, we met up with van #2 where Andy would be the first runner from that van (#7, overall). We didn’t really have much time to mingle with van #2, because they had to move on to the next exchange to get the baton from Andy. So, for us in van 1, the first set of legs took about 4.5 hours, and we passed off the baton at about 1pm (I think). Obviously, cell phones and a sense of how long your run would take was critical to coordinating with the other van. Since we were at the camp ground, and the race organizers were pretty well organized this year, we were able to use the camp ground’s showers and bathrooms. Not luxurious by any stretch, but at least we were able to shower!

We had some off-time to eat, drink, and relax a bit before we had to meet up with van #2 at dusk-time. I would guess it was about 5 hours or so, but I can say that it when Jen had to run again, she had to wear her night vest, so it was certainly after 6pm. Obviously, my memory and sense of time were not so good at this point. But in the time that van #1 (i.e. us) had ‘off’, the folks in van #2 ran 37.6 miles. Since I saw so little of them, I don’t know a lot about the difficulties and lengths of each person’s leg. I know Al had the longest leg of the race as runner #11… he ran 9.8 miles. Andy had a pretty tough leg as runner #7 with some serious hills and pretty long distance. But I would hope if anyone from the other van were reading this blog, they might put some comments here about their respective runs!

We met them, as I said sometime after 6pm – maybe even later – for our second set of legs at Clear Spring High School. The high school had some places for people to sleep (in the gym) and allegedly had showers and spaghetti dinners for a low price. Apparently they were out of spaghetti by the time our van #2 team mates tried to eat 😦

A comment here about the discrepancy between vans 1 and 2. Van 2 I think had it worst: they ran in the afternoon heat both days, had the worst night time hours, and apparently had some tough times at the exchanges. I think they did indeed have a tougher time of the race.

I won’t comment on everyone’s remaining legs in the interest of this being already a lengthy description of the race. But van #1 ran our night-time legs through some more rural areas of western Maryland and met up with van #2 again after midnight in Boonesboro, MD. The exchange was at a large church that was selling some dinner items that were less than optimal for a race like this. They had things such as chili dogs and sloppy joes. What I think we more important that the church gave us, was a wide open field… to sleep in. I think Jen Siess managed to get a picture of this make-shift campground. But it was quite a sight: people were literally just sprawled out in the wide open on blankets and sleeping bags, just sleeping wherever they could! We stayed there until about 3:30 am (so a little less than 3 hours sleep). We were actually awoken by the only 5 minutes or rain we had during the entire race, but it was very timely.

We met van #2 around 5:30 am (I think??) in a very, very, very crowded exchange at Absolute Auto in Dickerson, MD. We really did not see van #2 at all due to the crowd. They were also VERY tired and went off somewhere to get some sleep.

We (van #1) ran our last set of legs, totaling 32.7 miles through suburban Maryland. I actually ran through Gaithersburg, MD around 9am on Saturday morning, which is where the OIF has it’s national headquarters. I never saw it or anything, and it certainly wasn’t planned, but that was an interesting piece of trivia.

We passed the baton to van #2 around 10:30 am at Parkland Middle School in Rockville, MD. Jen Siess was unfortunately not feeling well at this point due to some dehydration and just overall tough physical exertion. After passing the baton, we took some time for all of use to recover, drink some water, and rest a bit.

We in van one were done! At this point we capitalized on having Brian in the van and went to his house to shower up. I think I literally passed out in the van when we drove to his house. When we arrived at Brian’s, we met up with my wife Mary and son Matthew. Matthew was busy pretending he didn’t have OI and was cruising around and playing at the bottom of the steps. I’m always encouraged when I see him standing!

We headed off to the Gaylord hotel at the National Harbor to wait for Jeff to cross the finish line. We arrived at about 1pm for some lunch first. (I remember working on the traffic plan for National Harbor when I worked at Wells 7+ years ago!!) Van #2 arrived (without Jeff, obviously) shortly before 3pm. We mingled a little bit and enjoyed some of the snacks and ice cream laid out, some free, some for sale. The team got to see Matthew a little bit who was already becoming cranky from no naps.

I’m glad Jeff got the honor to cross the finish line. He’s been our team captain, and he’s done a lot of work to get everyone in order for the race. When he arrived, we all ran across the line with him for the last 50 yards or so. While we’re still waiting on official results, the big clock at the finish line raid 3:52 pm… meaning it took 31 hours and 22 minutes. I for one am happy with that. It means that we averaged 9:20 / mile over some tough terrain, through the night, and everywhere else.

In all, I of course had a lot of fun. In our “after action” e-mails, it seems like others were pretty happy, too! I’m thrilled to have raised a significant amount of money for the cause. I got to spend some time with friends. Oh yeah, I got some exercise too!

Thanks everyone!

Team mates! Feel free to post pictures and links in the comments below!