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Sunday, September 9, 2012

Blue Ridge Relay – Team Sad Panda




     208 Mile Blue Ridge Relay (could be up to 212 miles this year due the course changes) which is one of the longest running relay races in the United States, takes place in the picturesque Blue Ridge and Black Mountains of Virginia and North Carolina. The BRR208 consists of maximum 12 person teams that rotate through 36 transition areas as they cover the 208-mile distance of the race. Each relay team member runs 3 legs of varying lengths and difficulty and will cover an average total distance of ~16.6 miles. The runners rotate in a set order once the race begins and will be obligated to follow this rotation until the final runner finishes in Asheville, North Carolina!

     The BRR208 starts at Grayson Highlands State Park, Grayson County, VA, which is near the base of Mount Rogers (5729'), the highest peak in Virginia. The course primarily follows scenic, country roads as it winds its way through North Carolina's High Country to the finish in Asheville. The course features some of the region's most spectacular scenery including the bald of Grayson Highlands State Park, the New River, the Blue Ridge Parkway, Grandfather Mountain (5964'), and Mount Mitchell (6684'), the highest peak east of the Mississippi River.

Team Members

Van 1
Jonathon Faryadi
Angela Merrill
Jarrett Willis
Jason Browning
Shashi Bathula
D LeVar Moore

Van 2

My self
Andy Bruner
Beckie Calvert
Patrick Green
Amy Stone
Richard Abernathy

     Over the past month I have been having a hard time with training runs leading up to this. Maxing out at 30 miles a week, so I was looking forward to hanging with everyone but not running. The weekend before the event I was running with Drew Walker and talking about the problems I have been having he said that I might be drinking too much water. I thought well we will see hoping he was right.


    We all reached the camp site where we were staying the night before the event and had some fun times trying to get the fire going. Once we all got sleepy we went to sleep like people often do. I had a good buzz going so it was easy to pass out. After 2 hours I woke up and could not go back to sleep so I started playing with trees.



 




The morning came for everyone and Patrick made food for everyone and we hit the starting line 
“GO TIME BITCHES!!!!!!!!!”


     We were off and running well by “we” I mean Angela and Van 1. Van 2 went back and cleaned up the campsite and put funny Panda stuff on our Van. We drove to the Van exchange and met some of the other teams and joked around about out team name with them. There was one woman that was not happy AT ALL with the name and called the RD. as we took over with our legs we got a call from the RD telling us that we had to strip our van or he would have to DQ us because 1 (one) runner was offended by it. When I say we were pissed that is an understatement, but we did as told and moved on with it. The other teams were a bit upset as well that we had to do that condensing some of the team names were a bit more over the top than ours. 

Leg 10 - My 1st leg.


     My turn to run BOOOOOOOOO I was not excited about it, but I took off as hard as I could and felt great. Drew was right I was drinking too much water. I was moving really well and passed 2 of the 3 runners that were ahead of me and really closed the gap between me and the lead runner.  As I was running up the mountain there was a man on a bike that stopped and told me I looked like a machine firing on all cylinders and that I was almost to the top. That made me feel so good the fact I did not look like I was dying and that I was almost at the top. WELL I was not at the top. (Lying bastard) is all I thought. I got to the top of the road and it turned right and just went up more and more.

     I got to the top and passed off to Amy and jumped back in the van. It was a hard climb that just would not stop the chart does not give it justice none of them do. This relay is no joke. While we were waiting for Amy to change over with Rich; Andy and I raced up a hill for some stupid reason. He got there 1st but only by a step. In one min of running we went up 5 stories. Yea this whole event was like that. 

     When we got to the relay change to pass back off to Van 1 we looked over Rich’s leg and remembered that they added close to 2 miles to it. “O HELL!!!” We were not sure if he remembered that or not so Andy grabbed some water and started running backwards to him. If I was running and thought I was almost done then there was no end I would start freaking out thinking I was lost and as hard as we all were pushing it we did not want him to run out of water either. He came across the finish just fine and the small part Andy that ran back to him looked NASTY on the elevation chart.

     Van 1 took back over and we went to go get some food. Shashi told us that we were 40 min behind what our time should be and at lunch we started talking. “There is no way” we all were running a lot faster that the projected times we had, but decided the math must be right so we’ll just push it harder if we can. Like I said these mountains are no joke. The first leg I ran was a lot harder than the PM 20k and they promote it as the hardest 20k on the east coast.

     Well time to get back to work. Hit the next team change to take back over. This being at night we had to wear all kinds’ lights and blinking crap. Again everyone killed their legs. Amy and Rich both finished before the Mizuno team.

Leg 22 - My 2nd leg


     
     There were lots of up and downs. With the big climbs and the fact I was still all tired and stuff from my first leg we were thinking it would take me about 1 hour and 15min or so to finish. I started running as hard as I could. Every time a car would drive by I would just see them going up Up UP and UP!!!!!! Really messed up the whole I’m glad I can’t see the climb felling. When I came to the left and hit the dirt road I was not feeling like going up that last climb. With the team vans driving by it was kicking up all the dust and making it impossible to see. I just pushed it harder, picked my legs up higher, and hoped I would not fall on my face. I knew that there would be a right coming up soon but thinks to someone stealing the BRR turn sign I missed it, but I was in luck right when I passed it a truck pulled up and said wrong way and put out little lights to mark the turn. When I hit the top and passed off to Amy I was finally able to look at my Garmin and lost it. 45 min for that leg??? What the heck??? I crushed it and did not even know it. Then I walked over to the van and puked. The van next to me asked if I was ok. Andy made a remark to them that made me start laughing and I puked again. I don’t remember what he said due to the fact I was feeling like crap at that moment but I remember it was funny as hell and the other van started laughing their butts off.

     We hit the next van exchange and were able to take a break in a church that was selling baked potatoes and coffee. This was a lot of fun. There were so many teams around and we chilled at a table with some members from team Stache and Dash (were like facebook friends and stuff now) we had a lot of fun just joking and talking about how much the hills (mountains) sucked. I was all like “dude when do we start going down?” Allen (team Stache) was all like “when you get home” or something funny like that. P.S. he had a sweet fu manchu mustache he grew just for the run.  

     We all packed up and headed to the next van exchange. I was able to get a little more than an hour of sleep. The new church we were at had pancakes, fruit, and drinks for all the runners.

     As our van took back the run we drove to get to the next runner exchange and Patrick had a battle in front of him. Switch backs that went up forever. When he got to the top we had to hurry up and get on the move. The next leg was straight down for 9 miles. Andy ran that mug in 51min.  
Andy's Supper Man Run
When we got to him he was moving so fast it was crazy. We slowed him down trying to pass no joke. He almost ran into the back of the van at 15 miles an hour. Yea he was running 15 miles an hour. 5:30 average pace. This was all of our last legs and would bring our team to the finish. Again we all killed our legs.

Leg 34 - My 3rd leg

     It was a much easier leg but after all that I had run and how my legs felt it killed me. I took off trying to chase another runner. I was hoping to pass him. I was running a 5:40 for the 1st mile I was getting closer to him and feeling good, but then he kicked. What I mean by kicked I mean he freaking took off like Bolt in the 100meater. Pushing me to a 3:54 pace and I realized it was not going to happen and I backed down to a 7 min mile. When I hit the hill I started crashing. My last mile I fell apart (BAD) and started creeping at a 10 min mile. I was so happy to finally hit the end of this leg.

     Once we hit the last runner exchange we took off to the finish to meet up with Van 1 and see Rich bring it home for us. Seeing him coming across the finish was great. Knowing we all gave it everything we had was one hell of a feeling.

    

 Sad Panda finished the Blue Ridge Relay 209 (210) (212) miles of Endurance Race!! 31 hours 16 minutes! Again with the changes we are not sure what the true mileage was.





Some things I will take away from this:

All the people I met, endless memories of my team and how hard each one of us pushed ourselves, I wish I could have been at every runner change so I could have see my teammates in Van 1 but I got to hear their stories at the Van exchanges. This is something I’ll never forget and am so happy to have been a part of. I gained a lot of confidence back in my own running thanks to my team’s encouragement. 

I had no real issues wile on the run which is something that I am extremely happy with considering that has not been the case in about a month. 





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