|Another cool T-Shirt design, courtesy of John G.|
When it was all said and done, we had spent a total of 31 hours, 27 minutes and 54 seconds out there, setting the ultra division record, which wasn't too difficult since we were the only ultra team that competed this year. While most teams had 12 runners to complete the distance, we had 6. Who is we, you ask? That would be crew chief #1 and team volunteer James Duncan, crew chief #2 and driver Ryan Ezell, and runners Mike Trice, Richard Trice, Ed Johnson, Dan Brooks, Jay Naves, and yours truly, team captain and instigator of this adventure. Together we formed team "I Lost My Sock In Huntsville". We were the only team from North Alabama as well as the only entry in the ultra division of the inaugural Dixie200, a 200 mile relay race from Atlanta, Georgia to Birmingham, Alabama.
All eight participating teams started Saturday morning at 7AM just outside Atlanta, Georgia at the Silver Comet Trailhead. We would continue to run the entire length of the Silver Comet Trail before continuing on the Chief Ladiga trail once we crossed the Georgia/Alabama state line. Once we reached the end of the Chief Ladiga Trail, runners would continue to run on open roads along a preset course and with some assistance from local police on busier roads (especially during the night). However, for the most part, runners were responsible for their own safety and following the rules of the road once we left the trails.
Team "ILMSIH" had arrived in Atlanta the night before the race via van, courtesy of a friend of Ryan's (thanks again). I had picked up the van at Ryan's friend's house and driven it to the predetermined meeting spot at a local office at Research Park. Mike was still slaving away while Rich, Jay, Dan, Ed and I were already loading up the van with out gear. James had already driven down to Atlanta to recon the course and to camp out near one of his volunteer stations along the course. James had volunteered for the race in order to save our team 100 bucks off the registration fee (thanks so much). As it turned out, fewer teams than expected meant more volunteer duties than initially expected, so James ended up having to work at two exchange points rather than just one. In the end, I don't think he minded too much. He still had enough energy to continue to crew for us once his volunteer duties were completed (thanks yet again;-).
We took off from Huntsville just after 3PM in order to make it to Atlanta in time to pick up Ryan from the airport. He had volunteered as our crew and driver, but a work assignment had him travel out of town the week of the race. But instead of stepping down as our crew and driver, Ryan just rerouted his return flight to Atlanta, so he could still crew and drive for us. What a trooper! I'm not sure he would have done so had he known what to expect. A bunch of sweaty, stinky and sleep deprived runners cooped up in a van for 33 hours with no access to showers or clean clothes (I'm referring to you, Richard;-). At the end, Ryan had to me more sleep deprived than anyone else. After all, he had to drive the entire time, while some of us managed to squeeze in a few minutes (or hours, if your name is Jay;-) of shuteye.
We arrived at Atlanta airport with a slight delay due to a stop at a Greek-Italian restaurant for dinner, or was it Italian-Greek? Sorry, Ryan, I know we told you the poor weather conditions delayed us, but it was really just our need to eat and drink beer. What made it worse was the fact that Ryan had just ordered food and was about to eat his own dinner when we pulled up at the airport, giving him no time to eat nor to grab his food to go. I know I would have been grumpy as @W#!$, not Ryan though. After traveling all day, he just had a big smile, introducing himself to everyone and stating how excited he was about the adventure we were about to embark on. Little did he know...
Dan had arranged two hotel rooms for us near the race start and we finally made it there around 9PM the night before the race (thanks, buddy). We split up in two groups and decided to hit the sack as soon as possible, knowing that we wouldn't get much sleep over the next 36 hours. I remember talking to Rich, wondering how much of the course James had already surveyed and when he would share his intel with us. I also remember worrying about James. We did hit some severe weather as we were arriving in Atlanta and I was certain that his camping spot would be hit as well. In the end, my worries appeared to be unfounded and James made it through the night just fine.
Our alarm clocks (e.g. Blackberrys, iPhones and Androids) went off at 5:30AM, allowing us time for a quick breakfast before heading to the race start. We wouldn't meet up with James until we would make it to his first volunteer station and exchange point. By 6:30AM, we had arrived at the trailhead, ready to check in and ready to get our first runner Richard on his way. With only 8 teams toeing the starting line, the race start was a little anticlimactic in a funny sorta way. We all yelled and screamed and before the runners had even covered 10 yards, one of the 8 runners took a wrong turn. Thankfully, it wasn't Richard. This should be fun...
The race was broken down into 36 legs, each leg ranging anywhere from 3-10 miles. Because we had opted to start in the ultra division, we only had six runners. In addition, only 4 of us were actual ultra runners, which meant we would assign more legs to the 4 ultra runners. We would also assign the longest legs to the ultra runners. This ended up working reasonably well. We would need to make some adjustments along the way , but that was to be expected from an event like this one. Being one of the ultra runners, I was assigned 7 legs ranging from 5 to 7 miles each for a total of just over 40 miles.
My first leg would the the fourth leg at just under 7 miles to start just after 9AM. And what did I do? I missed the arrival of my teammate and ended up sprinting to the exchange point to take over for him and chase down the guy ahead of me. Of course, you don't really want to sprint the first mile of a relay race when you will be running over 40 miles. I paid the price for a 6 minute mile soon after, but I was able to maintain a pace of just under 7:30 minutes per mile for the entire leg.
|Team "I Lost My Sock In Huntsville" at the finish of the inaugural Dixie 200.|