Tuesday, September 8, 2009

This 208-mile race? It's a team effort

You keep company with enough runners around the Charlotte region for an extended period of time, and eventually, as summer draws to a close, you're likely to hear three little words. (And no, they're not "marathon training plan" -- you hear those three words all summer long.)

It's the annual Blue Ridge Relay (or BRR, as it's affectionately called), which takes this Friday and Saturday. As you can probably guess, it's set largely in the Blue Ridge Mountains, and as you can probably guess, it's a relay race -- in fact, it's one of the longest-running relay races in the country. The 208-mile event actually starts in the Black Mountains of Virginia, and features 100 teams ranging from a minimum of six to a maximum of 12 runners. A typical 12-member team has each runner covering three legs, spaced roughly six hours apart.

The BRR requires quite a bit of training and advance planning. It features thousands of feet of ups and downs, so participants can often be found doing hill workouts. Action continues through the night on unfamiliar roads, so runners have been known to share tips on where to buy headlamps (and which ones work best). Also, the race is looooooooong -- most teams will take in excess of 24 hours to complete it -- so snacks and meal planning are a hot topic of discussion.

Unfortunately, it's too late for full teams to get in on the fun this year because registration has been filled for awhile now. But given the size of the teams and the complicated race logistics, there are occasionally dropouts that turn into opportunities for alternates to jump in at the last minute. In fact, if you can skip work on Friday and are able to run a total of about 15.5 miles over the course of 30 hours, you might be in luck: One local team lost a runner to another commitment last week and is trying to find a replacement.

Truth be told, I didn't originally set out here to net this team a 12th man or woman. All I wanted to do was give a quick snapshot of a typical bunch of Charlotte-area athletes who have banded together to take on this unique challenge. Why are they doing this? What has training been like? And where will they draw inspiration from as they traverse their winding, rolling, interstate route?

Anyway, here's "Governor Sanford's Search Team":

Q. Who are you people? Back row: Gen Mezinskis, Joanna Dougherty, Lynne Collins, Shashi Bathula, Scott Lundgren, Alyson Vaughan. Front row: Charlie Haltiwanger, James Rivenbark, Jason Drake (not running), Amy Cobb. Not pictured: Maggie Dougherty and Chris Murray (see their photos below). [As I mentioned, they're looking to add either a sixth man or seventh woman ... because Drake had to drop out.] We will be competing in the Mixed Division.

Q. How'd you guys come up with team name? Scott made a joke and it stuck.

Q. How do you all know each other? We know each other from various places -- the gym, work, friends of friends, etc.

Q. What are your team goals? 1. Avoid death; 2. Finish in 30 hours; 3. No heart attacks; 4. Lots of laughter; 5. Complete a documentary video on the crazy race; 6. No injuries.

And here's a quick rundown of the team's 11 members:

Shashi Bathula
Age: 39 (soon to be a masters runner).
City of residence: Gastonia.
Number of miles running: 18.4/three legs.
Why are you doing this? The idea of paying money for the suffering of running in the mountains on no sleep is too good to pass up. Also, someone said that these relays are like road trips for adults, which I find to be true.
How is training going? So far so good. Just some runner's little aches and pains. Averaging about 35 miles per week.
"I run because ...": My young kids. Want to be able to run around with them in 10-15 years.

Amy Cobb
Age: 36.
City of residence: Charlotte.
Number of miles running: 5.15, 4.9, 7.2 ... total: 17.55 miles.
Why are you doing this? Insanity.
How is training going? It is going well.
"I run because ...": Mental health, the sense of accomplishment, and physical challenge.

Lynne Collins
Age: 36.
City of residence: Charlotte.
Number of miles running: Leg 12 (9.1 miles), Leg 24 (3.2 miles), Leg 36 (6.8 miles).
Why are you doing this? For fun! Oh, and for fitness.
How is training going? Training is going well. During the last eight weeks I've run hills, several 9-11 milers and a couple three-a-days. It is great to train with a friend because we keep each other motivated. Thanks, Gen!
"I run because ...": I run to stay healthy. I also enjoy the physical and mental challenges of running. Every completed run provides a sense of accomplishment.

Maggie Dougherty
Age: 35.
City of residence: Charlotte.
Number of miles running: 12.6.
Why are you doing this? A friend asked me. I thought it would be a fun adventure, and I was glad to see the run supports the Habitat for Humanity.
How is training going? Good so far. I'm a trail runner, so it has been a challenge to train on the road.
"In run because ...": I can. I am so grateful to be able to run.

Joanna Dougherty
Age: 34 when we start, 35 when we finish.
City of residence: Charlotte.
Number of miles running: 15.7 (Runner No. 11).
Why are you doing this? Three years ago, I had never run a 5K. Now I’ve run countless 5Ks, a few half marathons, and a number of sprint triathlons. This is just the next step in proving I can do anything I set my mind to. Plus, this will be my 35th event and falls on my 35th birthday!
How is training going? Except for having pneumonia in July, awesome! I don’t think I’d ever really feel prepared for this kind of race, so I’m as ready as I’ll ever be.
"I run because ...": I run for my physical and mental health.

Charlie Haltiwanger
Age: 38.
City of residence: Charlotte.
Number of miles running: 18.6 miles; legs 10, 22, 34.
Why are you doing this? It sounds like a "one-of-a-kind" experience.
How is training going? Distance preparation went well, but I am not sure much prepares you to run at 3 in the morning.
"I run because ...": I run because … “one day I won’t be able to, and that will not be a good day.”

Scott Lundgren
Age: 33.
City of residence: Charlotte.
Number of miles running: 12.8 miles (Legs 9, 21, 33).
Why are you doing this? My girlfriend's friend told us to do it.
How is training going? I'll be fine for the race, but I could have been in better shape if not for the two weeks of severe poison ivy.
"I run because ...": I run to stay healthy and avoid the mistakes of generations before me. A good trail run at the U.S. National Whitewater Center at the end of the day will clear your head really well of all stresses.

Gen Mezinskis
Age: 36.
City of residence: Charlotte.
Number of miles running: 5.4/4.3/6.5 ... total: 16.2.
Why are you doing this? I ran my first half marathon in December and figured this was a next good goal to tackle.
How is training going? The longer training runs are a little rough, but the training has definitely helped my shorter runs. I had a PR at the Greek Fest 5K on 8/29!
"I run because ...": I have diabetes, so not only do I run to stay in shape, but consistent running is a huge help in managing the disease.

Chris Murray
Age: 41.
City of residence: Charlotte.
Number of miles running: 22 miles.
Why are you doing this? Life can be boring without challenges. And this will provide some good training for the upcoming Richmond Marathon that I’ll be running in November.
How is training going? Real good. However, I can’t get used to a 4:45 a.m. alarm every morning to wake me up for a seven-mile run.
"I run because ...": Health. It’s a time to think and problem-solve. I’ve been running since 1984, and can’t stop at this point."

James Rivenbark
Age: 27.
City of residence: Matthews.
Number of miles running: 18.2 miles!
Why are you doing this? I run to stay in shape. We are all running this race because we have lost our minds!
How is training going? It was going well until yesterday. I started having some pain in one of my knees, but it will be fine come 9/11.
"I run because ...": If I run enough I can drink a few beers and eat ice cream on the weekend!

Alyson Vaughan
Age: 27.
City of residence: Charlotte.
Number of miles running: In the eighth position, running Legs 8 (4.8 miles), 20 (7.5 miles), and 32 (9.4 miles) for a total of 21.7 miles.
Why are you doing this? Honestly, because Amy [Cobb] asked me! I had heard of the race before, but hadn’t really thought about trying to join a team. It sounds like a unique and memorable experience, and I love new challenges, so I had to say yes.
How is training going? I’m currently training for my first marathon (Thunder Road). Training for the relay has fit in nicely with my marathon training plan.
"I run because ...": I run for the physical and mental challenge, and for the sense of accomplishment that comes from reaching a new goal (a PR, a new distance, etc.).

* * *

If you missed out this year, plan ahead for 2010. Registration for next year's Blue Ridge Relay should open on Jan. 1. The official BRR site is here.


Anonymous said...

We found a 12th runner to sub in this afternoon, so Team Governer Sanford's Search Party is ready to roll!

scopulsky said...

I ran the MC-200 back in June, from Madison, Wisconsin to Chicago. It took our team of 9 about 33-1/2 hours to complete the 203 miles. My share consisted of 4 legs totaling 23 miles, including a 4 mile run at 3AM. They've got great greenways in Wisconsin and Illinois and most of the miles were on the greenway trails. Tiring, but fun!

Anonymous said...

We take that back we still need a 12th runner! We lost another team mate to sudden illness today and need a last minute replacement by first thing Friday morning. Any takers???

Jack said...

Seems like a great endeavor. Best of luck to you and your team. For some inspiration and perspective, I have two short videos for you to check out. The first -- ahamoment.com/pg/moments/view/4910 -- is about the beneficiary of your hard work, Habitat for Humanity, and tells of the "aha moment" of one Habitat volunteer and her passion for staying involved. The other -- ahamoment.com/pg/moments/view/7216 -- is about one man's "aha moment" experienced during a 104 mile race and how it changed his perspective on life. I hope you enjoy them and again, best of luck to you all.


sweetwater said...

Hi Jack, I watched your aha moments. Thanks! I wanted to let you know that we did it! We finished the race!

Cheerful Regards,