This year was my second year running the Texas Independence Relay, a 200 mile relay that runs from Gonzales, TX to the San Jacinto Monument in Houston, TX. For all you non-Texans (sorry), here is an abbreviated history of the events behind the race. If you haven’t done a relay of this sort of epicness before, the basic gist is that everyone piles into vans and takes turns running legs of various distances until they all die of exhaustion or finally arrive at their destination.
Being that this was my second year, I pretty much knew what I was in for. I also did the 223 mile Capital to Coast relay (Austin, TX to Corpus Christi) last year as well, so while I wouldn’t call myself a veteran, I would say I definitely know what’s up when it comes to absurdly long Texan relays at this point. Honestly though – it doesn’t really matter at all how mentally prepared you are going into it, because when you get exhausted all mental preparation goes out the window. People get cranky. Hangry. Whiny. Sleepy. Legs refuse to move. You have to wear a tiara. (Side note: the wife of one runner brought a tiara along, and anyone who was being excessively bitchy had to wear it. If I had a dollar for every time I heard “Do you want to wear the tiara?!” I could pay back my race entry.)
Doing a 200 mile relay is definitely what is classified as “type 2 fun”. While you do have fun during, eventually it gets dark and you get sleep deprived and everyone starts to point the blame at me for making them join the team and telling them it was fun or something. (Whatever!) During the race you cheer on your runners, tag other vans, drink beers and have fun in whatever way you possibly can. Through all the crap parts – the sleep deprivation, the heat, the getting lost – there’s a lot of meeting and hanging with rad people, seeing the Texas countryside, and some more drinking beers. Some running, too. Where we were very unfortunate in our fate of being the van to run during the heat of the day – and it got HOT as hell – we were very fortunate that Texas blessed us with some amazing wildflowers and some beautiful country.
My last two legs were slogs if I have ever had them – the third was right after our van’s break in running and our short nap, which I feel like just intensified my exhaustion by that point. It was about four or five in the morning, and the entire leg was set up in such a way that the van could provide no support for the entire leg. As we got into Houston, all the big obvious signs pointing us in the right direction were replaced by small flags stuck in the ground that were barely visible in the pitch-dark of the early morning. I got lost a few times. My legs felt like they were made of stone, and protested every single step I took. It’s those moments in the dark where you start to get a little bit loopy – things start to make less sense, you start to feel like you’re probably going to be running forever in the dark because though you’re relatively sure you’re not lost, you can’t help but think maybe you are. We found out later in the day (well into the afternoon) that a lot of the flags as we came into Houston had been stolen by passerby and as a result many people got lost. One of our runners whose leg was in the thick of downtown Houston called us several times at one point because he was completely lost and without direction.
These things suck. They suck a lot. It’s so cheesy to say these kinds of things bring you together as a team – the suffering, the confusion, the exhaustion – but it’s completely true. When you cross that finish line and everyone runs through to the San Jacinto Monument, you realize how completely INSANE what you’ve just done was and no matter how much you might have thought it sucked at one point, it’s completely awesome afterwards. And if you’re a team that has to return 200 miles west to get back home afterwards, once you start making that drive home you start to realize “Oh shit, we ran all of this…” Mind blown. Also the assholes who blamed me for their suffering (“THIS WAS YOUR IDEAAA UGH”) say they had a lot of fun and want to do it next year. BOOM!
It’s made a million times more awesome to be able to do it with Team RWB. The opportunity to go and represent this amazing organization and spread the word about our mission is a huge blessing!
For the record, I ran in my Brooks Pure Connect 2s ($40 for last year’s model…how could I pass that up?). I don’t own very many road shoes (aka I only own one very thin-soled pair of Merrell’s), so I was admittedly a bit neurotic about finding the “right” shoe for the job. I had to take the insoles out for them to feel right, but in the end they worked out perfectly for me! I fueled the entire weekend with Tailwind Nutrition and was dealing it out like crack to my vanmates before their runs as well. All in all, with the many things that could possibly go wrong on a 200 mile relay, I feel like everything more or less worked out to our benefit. 😀