*Short and manageable until you read the elevation map
Our team was made up of friends, friends of friends, and replacement friends of friends. Who knew how hard it could be to nail down six runners! At the last minute we were down another runner, and Kerri was kind enough to join in the madness. I was pretty psyched about this since now I had another friendly face in the team. A couple weeks ago we all met up for a pre-relay fun run so we could get a chance to meet each other. That definitely helped break the ice and we got a glimpse of the size of some of the hills we would be facing on the relay. Yikes!
The Tornado Alley Relay was put on by Back of the Pack Productions. It's a 57 mile relay course from Monson, MA to Charlton, covering much of the terrain that was destroyed in the tornado from one year ago. Teams consist of six runners, with each runner doing 3 legs, a total of anywhere from 6 to 12 miles.
The Team: "Vortex Vixens"
Team Captain: Diana "hostess with the mostest"
Jodie: Triathlete and Master Tweeter
Joanna: Team contortionist and official "woo hoo'er"
Kerri: The Ninja
Missy: "I'm game!"
Jill: "You can fix anything with a foam roller"
Friday night Kerri and I headed out to Sturbridge to join our teammates in the pre-race pasta dinner at the Sturbridge Coffee House. We had a nice meal with Diana, Jodie, and Jodie's husband John. Much of the conversation centered on stories of the tornado, and it was the first time I had heard anyone's first hand account of that day. After dinner we headed back to Diana's house to spend the night. On the agenda: arts and crafts! Diana came up with the idea to have matching team shirts and socks, with the shirts each having one letter on the back. When we all stand side-by-side, the shirts spell TORNADO. Cool, right?
|Kerri took control of the shirts|
|The finished product|
As we were just finishing up the ironing (and by "we" I mean Kerri), I casually mentioned how I liked being "O2" ("2" is for my runner number). Then we said, who's T1? Wait a minute, I don't remember seeing a T. Did anyone cut out a T? And with that we realized Jodie's shirt accidentally had a big fat O ironed into it instead of a T! And since we couldn't very well end the relay spelling OORNADO, we needed quick damage control. We tried everything to lift the letter back off the shirt without luck, and finally at 9:30 at night, Joanna ran out to get another shirt. She saved the day! It made for a whole lot of laughs, and we spent the rest of the night chatting over some wine and relaxing before bed.
Race day - The weather
I woke up at 5am, after an outstanding night's sleep, to the sound of rain pelting the roof. I hoped that it just sounded worse than it was since I was sleeping on the top floor. But no, one look out the window confirmed what I feared: It was POURING. This wasn't just a little mist. This was mother nature making up big time for the drought over the last couple months, dumping out torrents of rain and soaking everything. It stayed like this all day, except for occasionally when it rained even harder.
Captain Diana, the hostess with the mostest, was able to secure her mother's Suburban, which offered us a roomy mode of transportation. Her amazingly patient and very Irish husband spent the entire day as our "escort", driving six soggy women around in the big rig. His duties included reading maps, driving the course, stopping repeatedly, jumping out to offer someone water, and a whole lot of honking and turning around... and around... and around. If I had a nickel for every time someone said, "Brian can you put it in park so I can open the hatch?" He was a saint to us! All of our gear was stored in the far back of the Suburban. Luckily all of us prepared well with plenty of extra sets of clothing and gear to keep dry. This meant three of everything, multiplied by six. It was bag upon bag, and by the end of the day there were so many sopping wet clothes scattered about, it was like a tornado went through the truck!
We piled into the Vixen Van and headed to Monson, to the start of the relay. It was pouring so hard it was actually tough finding the race! We signed in, listened to the safety briefing, and got good and pumped up for the relay. One concern all of us had was finding enough toilet facilities on course, so we all took the opportunity to stop in the ladies room before heading to the start of the relay. Well, make that 5 of the 6 of us. We all left the ladies room and looked for Jodie, runner #1, only to find that the race already started and she was hightailing it down Main Street! Doh! Well so much for cheering on our runner! We completely flubbed up the start of the relay! We jumped into the Vixen Van and took off after her. Finally we passed her with honking horns, windows down and lots of screaming and cheering. She was bundled up with her raincoat on and a reflective vest, marching solidly into the pouring rain.
|Jodie, are you under there somewhere?|
Transition 1 (Don't worry, I won't detail all 18 of the transitions!)
I hopped out of the van and waited for Jodie to arrive, hunkering down under an umbrella to stay dry. (Ha!!)
|7:15am, the last time I would be wearing all dry clothes for the next 9 hours|
|Jodie runs so fast she blurs|
|Am I reading this right? And, does anyone have a hair dryer?|
|I can't be sure, but I think Joanna was doing the moonwalk while waiting for me|
|Lucky duck had a flat to downhill 5 mile course! (this luck wouldn't last, she discovered)|
Diana must have somehow drawn the short straw when the assignments were handed out, because she got stuck with a monster of a hill. This hill was almost an impossible climb at a run, but sure enough when we passed her she was smiling!
Quick question, what do you get when you cross one of the Village People with Gene Simmons, while listening to Thriller? Answer:
|Missy in Warrior Pose as she heads out on her first run|
|Kerri finishing strong|
|Kerri transitioning to Jodie to start the 2nd wave. Jodie shed some layers.|
|This used to be a forest, across from what used to be an auto garage in Brimfield, MA|
My second segment was a nice, flat 5.6 miles. I was really looking forward to it since my quads took a beating on the hills the first time around. When I started running, my legs gave me some serious attitude. The "I already worked today" attitude. As much as I wanted to run faster, my heavy, rubber legs wouldn't cooperate. Still, I managed a good time of 48 minutes, at an 8:38 pace. Not bad for tired legs!
|Peace out, yo!|
The best part of this segment was when I heard footsteps behind me. I knew I was being passed and I was relatively certain it was by a guy. That was confirmed when I heard a male voice behind me say, "hey, your socks match my skirt!" Huh? Sure enough, a guy in a hot pink tutu ran past me, a perfect match to my hot pink Zensah calf sleeves. Always a joy getting passed by a guy in a tutu! Oh, and did I mention how hard it was raining?
|Absolutely, positively, soaked|
Kerri once again ninja'd her rival, who once again looked defeated. We all cheered! I definitely started hitting the wall while waiting for my next run. I was exhausted, and losing any interest in running again. The one thing I wish I had packed was coffee or Coke. I could have really used a caffeine kick, and my stomach was craving sugar.
And finally, we were on our 3rd wave. Jodie finished her last run strong, with her husband John cheering her on. I hopped out of the van and the cold rain helped to wake me up. I took off, a quick 1.2 miler around the Southbridge Airport. I ran a brisk pace and didn't give my legs time to realize how tired they were, and finished in an 8:14 pace. Relief! What a sense of relief knowing my run was done, and I had no more hills to climb!
Joanna finished her 3rd leg strong, but surprised at how long it felt. The hills from earlier caught up with Diana, and no amount of Aleve, stretching or foam rolling gave her any relief from the hip pain she felt. She came in limping after her last run. Missy achieved rock star status on her last run, hammering through a 2 miler in under 16 minutes. Rock star! And then finally, Kerri headed off for the final leg of the journey. While she was running we all changed into our Vixen gear so that we would all match at the finish line. Kerri was just finishing a long climb, and who was in front of her but that same rival! "Ninja!" we all shouted out the window. And she ninja'd. Our Vixen Van slowly rolled past the rival. He took one look at us and exclaimed, "are you kidding me?? Shit!" We all laughed, and within seconds Kerri was passing him. He gave her a big high-five and she took off.
Just before the finish, all of the matching Vortex Vixens pulled in behind Kerri to run across the finish together. And fitting with the theme of the day, the finish line was a mud puddle. This might be my favorite picture of the day.
|Kerri leading the Vixen charge across the puddle/finish line|
|All I can say is, thank you Diana for not choosing white shirts|
At the end of the race, all of us were freezing, soaked, and famished. We devoured the post-race food, which included pizza, potato salad, and orzo salad. The food was good and filling, but we were too cold to stick around and socialize. Kerri formally introduced herself to her rival and he gave her a hug. You've got to love the relay sportsmanship!
And when I mentioned Captain Diana, hostess with the mostest who thought of everything... I mean, everything. What other team had a tray of specialized mini-cakes?
|Eat your heart out|