Sunday, March 24, 2013

Run4Kids 100-Mile Relay

There are a lot of runners where I work, and last weekend we participated in a 100-mile relay to benefit the 100-Mile Club, an organization that works with schools to encourage kids to put down their video game controller and get moving.  If your child's school doesn't have this going on, check out their website and then go bug your principal.

The Run4Kids Ultramarathon and Relay is open to extremely fit and/or extremely crazy individuals as well as teams, who must complete 100 miles in 24 hours or less (there is a 4-hour extension for any individual runner who has reached 80 miles by the 24-hour mark).  Our team consisted of twelve runners -- a combination of our school's staff and family members.  We set up "base camp" at about 7AM, preparing for the 8:00 start.  My brother Bobby took the first shift, covering twelve laps around the half-mile track.  We rotated throughout the morning, some of us running three miles, others going a bit longer.  By the early afternoon, we'd run about thirty miles -- well ahead of the pace needed to reach the century mark.

Theresa cruising along.
Through the miracles of modern technology (or in other words, a website), we were able to track live race results throughout the day.  We always knew how many miles we'd run as a team, how many we'd run as individuals, and also -- and this would prove to be very important later -- how many miles OTHER teams had run.  By 2:00, we saw that our team had about a four-mile lead over our nearest competitor.  Not that we're all that competitive (we are . . . or at least some of us are . . . okay, I am), but we had seen the "golden shoe" trophy that would be presented to the team that ran the most miles in 24-hours and we thought it would look really, really awesome in the school office.

The afternoon shifts were a bit of a grind due to the midday heat, especially on the back stretch of the track.  We took shorter turns, about two miles or so each, and made sure to keep hydrated.  It helped that three of our teammates arrived at two o'clock, relieving others who had signed on for the morning shift only.  The "fresher" runners definitely were a factor in extending our lead, which ended up being critical down the road.

Taking my turn on the night shift.
Once the sun went down, and we'd enjoyed a tasty dinner from The Grilled Cheese Truck (check them out . . . simple, but delicious), the miles became somewhat easier, although soreness and fatigue had also come into play.  Almost everyone had logged at least six miles by this point, and some had run as many as twelve or fifteen.  By 8PM we were at the 75-mile mark, so there wasn't much doubt that we were going to reach the 100-mile goal and get our medals, but there was still the Golden Shoe to contend for.  Checking the live results, we saw that our lead had grown to about eight miles over the second-place team.

As a side note, during the mid-afternoon I was preparing to take my turn so I shed my sweatpants.  Naturally, I had my running shorts on under them, but this didn't stop one of our hilarious teachers from making the comment, "Wow.  I bet there aren't too many principals who have taken their pants off in front of four teachers."

Yeah, they're a riot.

Me and Bobby taking a break.
The hours passed, and we just kept plugging away.  Mile after mile, runner after runner, and just before 2AM, we reached 100 miles.  As we'd discussed, when the runner on the track completed the lap that got us to 99.5 miles, we all joined her on the track so we ran the last lap as a team.  When we crossed the start/finish line, we took a short break to receive our medals and pose for pictures.  What an accomplishment . . . 100 miles in 18 hours.

Our primary goal accomplished, it was now time to focus on the Golden Shoe.  With a lead of about eleven miles, it seemed like all we'd have to do was keep a runner on the track and we'd pretty much walk to victory.

And that's when Thomas the Marathon Machine showed up.

I was on the track, cruising along at a comfortable pace, enjoying the soothing sounds of Jack Johnson playing on my iPod when out of nowhere this slim-but-incredibly-fit guy in a red shirt went flying past me like a Serengeti lion in pursuit of a barbecue sauce-slathered gazelle.  When I finished my shift, I asked my wife Theresa, "Who the hell is that guy?"

"Yeah, he's a ringer another team brought in.  We just found out.  He runs ultra-marathons all the time."

Thomas, closing in on us little by little, smiling the whole way.
Great.  Speed, fitness, and fresh legs vs. sore, tired teachers.  Time to find out exactly how safe an eleven-mile lead really is with six hours to protect it.

Keeping a close eye on the live results tracking, we saw that Thomas was closing in by about one mile every hour.  We figured that he had to pass us about twenty times in order to catch up.  From two o'clock to about four, our lead had been cut to eight miles.  But our team fought through the pain, the fatigue, the sleepiness, and kept on giving our all.  It was an impressive display of heart and determination, to say the least.  The focus remained on only one thing . . . "Don't Let Thomas Pass!"

It got to be pretty funny after a while.  To save our energy, we eventually adopted a "one mile per shift" strategy.  One teammate would go as hard as he or she could for two laps, and then the next runner up would take over.  There were only about six of us left at this point, as several members of the early crew had called it a day, including Bobby who departed at about 2:30 in the morning.  I was on the track, going as hard as I could, when Thomas cruised up alongside me.

"This kind of makes it fun, doesn't it?" he asked.

"Easy for you to say," I wheezed back.

"Well, I was hoping I'd be able to make up a few more miles before you guys realized what was going on."

"Oh no, we caught on to it right away.  Hey, since we're just chatting here, how about you let me pass you one time, just so I can say I did?"

"Sure."  He sped up a bit to get about ten yards in front of me, then he backed off.  And I passed him.

"Thanks," I said as I jogged by.

"No problem, talk to you later," said Thomas as he re-passed me and sped off into the night.

Getting our medals at the 100-mile mark.  It was 2:00 in the morning.
An hour or so later, Theresa was coming around the last turn on one of her shifts and she could hear Thomas's footsteps approaching from behind.  As she came down the stretch, she yelled out, "HE'S NOT GONNA PASS ME!"  And he didn't . . . Theresa beat him to the line.

I was up next so I figured I wouldn't even make it to the first turn before Speedy McSpeedster overtook me again, but when I got there, I heard no one coming up on me.  Turn two . . . nothing.  Surely he'd catch me on the back stretch.  But no,  I made it through my two laps with no sign of him.

"Where'd he go?" I asked when I got back to our base camp.

"Right after he crossed the line behind Theresa, he started walking."

"Seriously?  We're wearing him down!  He's human!"  It reminded me of that scene in Rocky IV where Rocky lands a punch to the Russian's head, opening a cut.  "HE'S BLEEDING!  HE'S CUT!  HE'S NOT A MACHINE!  HE'S JUST A MAN!"

The next time around, Thomas walked off the track to get a drink and take a break.  We added two miles back onto our lead during this time.  When he walked by me going back to the track, he fist-bumped me and said, "You guys are wearing me out.  Keep it up!"

He's way nicer than Ivan Drago.

Still not feeling completely safe with our lead (Thomas regained his energy and increased his pace to his Usain Boltish levels in no time), I texted my brother Bobby at about 5:00:


Tired, but victorious, we proudly accept the Golden Shoe.
I had no idea if he'd even get the text, but I had to try.  The rest of us were just about done for.

And sure enough, at 6:30, with an hour an a half left to hold the lead, we saw Bobby walking across the parking lot.  A loud cheer went up from the rest of our team.

Okay, a medium cheer.  We were tired.

Bobby took over from there, and ran six miles in the next hour or so.  More than good enough to seal the victory.  At the final gun, our team had covered 131 miles in 24 hours.  Thomas's team (and to be honest, Thomas was the only member we saw after midnight) finished about ten miles behind.

As tired as we all were, I think our whole team appreciated the dedication and effort we put forth as a team.  Some of us logged a lot of miles, others were fresher during important stretches, and others still gave it their all early in the day when we were able to build a lead.  Every single teammate was a key piece in the overall performance.  That's what teamwork is all about.

I would be remiss if I didn't acknowledge the great work done by Kara and the rest of the 100-Mile Club crew in putting together an incredible event.  The facilities were outstanding, the food was great, even the t-shirts were top quality (and really cool!).  And of course, the medals and trophy were awesome!

We can't wait till next year . . . and of course, we WILL be implementing the 100-Mile Club at our school in the very near future!

Orange County Marathon
Newport Beach, CA
May 5, 2013

1 comment:

  1. This blog has one important thing in common with your old blog - a good story, well told. Congratulations on the victory!

    (Truth be told, my favorite part of it, had I been there, would have been The Grilled Cheese Truck, after I had done my 100 yards.)