After getting my first taste of a relay race, by competing in the Tuna 200 in 2016, I couldn’t wait to take on my next relay. The ground work was laid at the conclusion of the Tuna 200, that we wanted to try and do another relay together. If you are unfamiliar with these relays, the teams usually consist of 12 runners(or 6 for ultra) that race across the state for 200+ miles.
The relay was touch and go for a while because we couldn’t seem to get 12 runners to commit. The back and forth continued and we ultimately ended up with 9 runners left to tackle the 205.6 mile trek. I took on the responsibility of tackling the highest total miles of 26.5 miles over 4 legs. Of the 9 runners, 3 would be newbies to the relay experience and the remaining 6 runners were runners from the Tuna 200 team.
Unlike the Tuna 200, the Palmetto Relay would take us on a 200 mile trek from Columbia, SC to Charleston, SC. We decided we would meet up and drive down to Columbia the thursday before the race started. We ventured to pick up the rental vans and loaded up. 5 runners in Van B, 4 runners in Van A. I was in Van B, and we started out with only 4 runners. We had to pick up our 5th runner in Florence, SC where she was leaving her dog with her in-laws. There was no sleeping on the way to Florence, as everyone was trying to get to know each other. 1 guy was a newbie so he was asking a lot of questions about what to expect and learning about how everyone got started running. When arrived in Florence to get our 5th, and just like that, our team was complete. I sent a message to the other van, letting them know that we had come together like Voltron BUT iPhone autocorrected it and was sent as “Vontron”. We liked it so, we tweeted it slightly and begin to call our van Vantron. We arrived in Columbia about 10 minutes after Van A, and we all checked into our hotel. After check-in we set out to find some carbs, first choice was Olive Garden. We arrived at about 7:30 and was told that it would be a 2 hour wait. NO DICE. We searched and found a Carraba’s about 10 minutes away with no wait. We got our pasta and discussed gameplan for the race start first thing friday morning. As we were leaving, a tricky curb almost brought our runner total down to 8. She was a tough nugget, outside a little scrap, she was fine. Another running joke in my van was that one of the new guys looked like Peta from “Hunger Games”. We kept telling him not to eat any berries and we didn’t want to hear any cannons going off while he was running. Once the lil lady took a tumble, I started calling her Katniss and the three finger tribute was born.
Friday morning, Van A would start us off beginning at 7am, while Van B got to sleep a little later. We didn’t have to meet up to tag off with Van at till 11:30am, so we got small breakfast at the hotel, started decorating the van and even made a quick stop at Wally World for few things Van A requested. We picked up our items and headed to the church for the exchange point. We get there and there was no one there. After further investigation we learned that there were several churches with the same name. The one we needed was another 10 minutes away. We get to this location and see all the teams. We finished decorating Vantron while we waited for Van A to arrive. Shortly we get a text from Van A saying there were at the exchange point, but we didn’t see them. We were supposed to be at leg 7 exchange, and we found out we were at exchange zone 8. Back into the van we went and drove the next 6 miles to the correct zone. Our runner arrived 5 minutes before we arrived, so since i had the first leg for our van, I didn’t have much time to get ready. I jumped out, grabbed my bib and off i went on leg #1 of 8.56 miles. One thing i wasn’t expecting in South Carolina was all the hills. My first leg was brutal with all the up and down hills I encountered. It was great to see other team’s vans stopped on the side of the road cheering all the runners on and making sure they didn’t need water or anything. I pushed through leg #1 and handed off to one of our newbies. The warm weather had be sweaty, so it was good everyone decided to bring plenty of ziplock bags and clothes for each leg. We pushed through our first 6 legs before handing back off to Van A. That gave us a little time to go try to find a little food to replenish before time for our 2nd runs. The guys chose to go to Wendy’s, while the ladies opted for Subway. We ate then headed to our next exchange point, where we would begin our legs around 11:30pm.
We arrived early, so we decided to try to get in a little sleep. Sleeping in vans isn’t great but every little bit of sleep helps. Some of us got between 30 min to hour worth of sleep. I awoke and began to put on my equipment for my night run; reflective skin, light up vest, blinky lights and headlamp. I don’t have a problem with night runs, so I was kind of looking forward to my 9.75 miles. I headed out and the roads were lonely. Once again many vans were stopping along the route to cheer on the runners and to keep them company in the dark. Running the the backroads of SC is such an adventure, we were appreciative of the police presence. I finished up leg #2 and prepared for my 3rd leg, that was due to start around 3am.
Leg #3 was tough, because your body is used to sleep and you are running on lack of sleep. i pushed through and was happy to be done for a few hours. I needed to try to rest up because my last leg would be the bridge run. If you have ever been to Charleston, you have gone across that beast of a bridge. It measures 2.5 miles but the incline was ridiculous, almost a 45 degree angle. As the my teammates finished their last legs 1 by 1, the time had come for me to finish it up. I got the handoff and off i went. I immediately saw a runner ahead of me, so that was motivation to pass them. Before I could get to her, I ran into a red light.(no, they don’t hold traffic for us) After waiting for what felt like an eternity, I got back to it. After about a quarter of a mile I hit the base of the bridge and started the incline. Training in NC helped because although the bridge was a MONSTER, I pushed through it. Once i hit the downhill, I felt myself getting stronger. I passed a runner on the way down. At the bottom of the bridge, I still had about another mile to go. As i rounded the last curve, I could see one of my teammates. He turned and begin to run with me, before being joined by the remainder of the team. They all ran with me as I crossed the finish line. We were given our medals and treated to a taco bar and free beer.