Texas Independence Relay Recap (3/29-3/30/2014)
Hi all, I apologize for taking a while to get the recap in, but it took me literally a week to recover from the Festivities. Last weekend, my teammates and I (aka, 11 other crazy runners) embarked on an overnight journey of 203 miles from Gonzales, Texas into the San Jacinto Monument in Houston, Texas. The relay was about celebrating Texas, celebrating our love of running, and above all, celebrating the true meaning of team work and friendship.
The route: http://texasindependencerelay.com/
History in the Making
The route follows the same trail that the Texas Independence Revolution has taken place back in 1836. In running this race, I am also making a little history. This is my first overnight team relays. My last long relay was done in 2009 in the beautiful Kanaskasis in Alberta (aka the K-100). I have to admit that I get intimated by long relays. A lot of planning and work goes into these race. Everything has to be organized: Vans, routes, who does what legs, overnight snacking schedules, when to sleep, etc. Thank goodness to Francois and Rozell for organizing our teams. In doing so, all I had to focus on is to have fun and run my best.
We are named the Run Dynasty: Camp Gladiator and BON Racing Team #1. Yes. It was a mouthful. Our team comprised of awesome runners – 75% of our team has a 10k pace of sub 6:30 min/mile. To be truthful, I went into the race having the complex that I was the slowest runner on the team. We have 8 male and 4 females on the team, making us a strong contender on the Mixed Category (to be eligible to be a mixed team, the team must have at least 3 ladies). The reality of how awesome our team hits when the organizer announced our start-time. The organizers seeded the teams based on anticipated finishing time. The faster you are, the later you start. We were the 4th last team to start on Saturday.
Based on the anticipated time, we knew that we are going for 3rd or 4th overall. The fastest two teams were the Dollz and Towel Boys (last year’s Champion) and the H-Town Runners (comprised of members who were on the winning team a few years a go). Our goal was just to see how long it would take for these two teams to pass us. Our true “competition” was the SWT Silence Warriors from San Antonio. So after a little bit of persuasion, we started hand-in-hand with the SWT team. They were a speedy bunch (however, they only had 2 ladies on the team, so they are not in the mix for the Mixed category).
How does this work? There are 203 legs, each runners run the ceremonial prologue and epilogue (at Gonzales’s monument and in Houston’s monument). Then the 203 miles are broken up into 40 legs. Each leg is about roughly over 3 miles and slightly over 6 miles long. The race starts Saturday and finishes on Sunday. Each member would be guaranteed to be running at odd hours at some point of the race. A member cannot run more than 1 leg more than his/her teammates. So this is about strategy, about teamwork. Each team is allowed a max of 2 vans. The support van is not allowed to drive side by side by the runners. So the strategy is to arrange to meet the runner at certain point for water/fuel. And of course, getting the next runner to the proper exchange point.
So our team met in Houston to get on the two vans at about 9:30am. We were on the road by 10:30am, and we got to Gonzales around 12:30. At 1:48pm, the race was on!
Our team had two vans. So 5 other runners and a driver was in my van. So in my van, I had: Jimmy (driver), Rachael, Sunny, Michael (not my fiance), Bo, and Robert. Amazingly we got along very well. Although I am not a big van of rap, we did have a good mix of motivational music along the way. And thank goodness to Jimmy and Sunny’s good direction, we were able to get to even the trickiest exchange points!
The race started off with Van #1 in the middle of the day. So it was very hot. Brutally hot because first few legs were right on the highway with not much shade. Here’s an example.
Yet one by one, Van #1 teammates proved to be invincible. Everyone pretty much exceeded their predicted pace (despite the heat).
The good thing about being in Van 2 is that we didn’t start till late afternoon. So my legs were in the evening. I had the fortune to start of with leg #10 at about 7pm along highway 90 in a small town called Schulenburg. While it was relatively “flatter” than most of the earlier legs, it is still not flat. There were several small rolling hills. And sadly, my garmin couldn’t find signal, so I had to start my leg by feel. I went out as fast as I could. Yet there was something serene and calming about running along side of a quiet highway at sunset.
My van met me halfway at 1.8 miles for water. With their support, I went on and aimed for the exchange station. I booked into the end of my leg with an average pace of 6:53. YAY!
The Night Shift
As the night come, we concluded our first shift. It was Van #1 job to play catch up, while we fueled up. So we went to a local subway (middle of nowhere) for dinner. Weird enough, the runners must have overwhelmed the local Subway, because as we walked in, the two helpless teenage employees shared the bad news with us: “We are out of bread, we only have flat bread left.” Oh well, flat bread it was. After a not so exciting dinner/snack, we went back to our van and napped while Jimmy drove us to the next exchange point.
I have also noticed that as we progressed in this race, the porta potty progressive gets better. During the first few legs (since we were the last few teams to start), we had to bring our own toilet paper. As we started at night, not only were the porta potties well stocked with toilet paper, but the conditions also improved!
By the time it was my turn to run again, it was 2am in the morning. Here’s a history making moment – first time in my life I ran in the middle of the night. I donned on my reflective vest and headlamp and went off my merry ways on Highway 36. Again, I was blessed with a VERY FLAT leg. The only challenge about this leg was the darkness. Thank goodness to headlamps. This leg was also my favorite leg because we got to catch up to the teams that started earlier than us. So over the course of the 5.4 miles, I was able to pass 12 people (12 teams)!!!! Perhaps, I should have run faster. I ended up finishing this leg with an average pace of 7:07. (my garmin miraculously worked again).
Honestly, I don’t remember much of the night, because as soon as I was done with my leg, I caught a few hours of shut eyes on the van. I remembered cheering on my teammates. But that was about it!
ON to the next day…
When our van finished, it was about 3 am in the morning. So we drove into Houston to catch a snack and find the next exchange. The Challenge: what would be open at 3am in the morning? Our answer: IHOP. so we went into the IHOP and oddly enough, we were not the only customers there. We were surrounded by very interesting characters (my guess was, partiers who just finished their parties and heading to bed). Our waiter was dumbfounded when we told him that we were in the middle of a 200 miles relay. Anyways, the food was not memorable. I pretty much went on autopilot: food in, water in. chew. We were at the restaurant for maybe 1 hour, then Jimmy took us to the next exchange while again, I napped on the van.
Fast Forward to sunrise. Our portion of the relay is starting at memorial park to get us close to the east side of town. I unfortunately got the leg near the “not-so-glamorous” (aka “hood like”) part of running near Barnett Stadium. I started my leg close to 9am. Thank goodness, because I would be slightly frightened to run in that neighborhood. I ran as fast as I could until I saw what looked like a dog lying on the speed bump. At first I thought the dog wasn’t alive. As I approached the dog, it started moving, so I quickly stopped, quickly tip-toed around him, and went on my merry way. Thank goodness he didn’t chase me! My leg ended with crossing a concrete pedestrian bridge and into the Track Stadium (ironically, this will be the same stadium that I would be running in in 2 months for the the corporate track meet).
Are we there yet?
The last few legs of the relay are near Deer Park/Pasadena. I was elated. I had to tell my teammates the 8 years of my life I have spent in the Chemical Plant. I guess I was the only one impressed with the flares, furnaces, distillation columns and of course, the tank farms. The last leg of the relay started in Deer Park and took us through the Battleground road into the Monument. It was a beautiful day. Driving in the monument brought back so many memories (many days of community service, my first time riding a bike, all took place there).
Anyways, Michael Trejo took us to victory. We were to join him 0.1 miles before the finish and participated in the “epilogue” together. Of course there were flags, Texas Flags and the Texas Independence Relay Flags. We took pictures. We got our medals. And we celebrated!!
Besides witnessing the beauty of Texas (the Blue Bonnets were in bloom), I have learned quite a bit this weekend. Running is known to be a solo sports. Running can often be viewed as a “selfish” sports. Many times we focus on PR, getting faster, and achieving our own goals. By embarking on this trip, I witnessed first hand, the team aspect of the sports. I got to know my teammates better. I got to see runners supporting each other along the way. Life is made of moments like this. For that brief 21 hours 45 minutes, I was celebrating life. I was celebrating the love of running with my teammates. It did not matter that I am not a 6 min/mile runner. That day, I was part of the team. As we laughed and run, we made strides towards the finish. For that brief 21 hours and 45 minutes, I left work behind. This trip was about doing something that I haven’t done before. By stretching my comfort zone, I have gained new confidence. It was liberating – quite fitting as this relay is about independence.
So….you must ask…how did we do?
Instead of writing it, I am going to show it in the picture here (scroll down) Afterwards, we have learned that the Dollz and Towel boys did not win the overall win because they have lost one of the teammates in one of the legs for 30 minutes. You can read the post here: http://texasindependencerelay.us1.list-manage.com/track/click?u=8d45eda6e0abd571027f276d4&id=6cf94d2b12&e=6cbe880170
I resonated with the post. As much as we are competitive, there are more important things than “winning” the title. I am grateful for the opportunity to enjoy a beautiful weekend with my friends safely. And yes, we will have stories to share for years to come.
Have you done any run relays?