Sunday, September 20, 2009

CVS Downtown 5k 9/20/09

We had over 50 Brown Running Club members signed up for the CVS Downtown 5k, and the morning of the race about a dozen of us met at the Science Library and ran downtown to the race start. We had picked up our race packets the previous day, and I was a little sad that the adults' race bags had sort of boring stuff -- over-the-counter medicines, chapstick. Last year I got the kids' race bag and it was full of candy and office supplies, fun stuff!

We took a team photo and then Erin and I warmed up. She recognized the Oregon Track Club warming up on the other side of the road, runners who are about as close to famous as you can get in distance running. On the starting line, I stood with running club boys near the front of the pack (some people took up to 7 minutes just to get to the starting line after the gun went off!) and introduced them to each other so they might find someone to run with. I also ran into Neal and Dan on the starting line. My goal was 19 minutes, and I thought some of these guys (Nick, Will, Anthony) might be around my speed.

At the gun, I tried to run conservatively but yet 6-minute pace. I ran in a river of men around the turns and curbs, and was successful in hitting just under 6 minutes for the first mile. I kept an even effort and was shocked to see the two-mile sign earlier than I expected -- but I went past this sign in just 10:40, and after the race everyone agreed that it was placed at about 1.8 miles. So I didn't know how fast I was running.

At this point I passed Will, and noticed Jamie running alongside the course (not in the race). I could see Evan up ahead of me, about 50 feet ahead but with the gap staying constant. Shortly after I passed Will, I caught up to Nick, and we traded places several times -- me following him, then I put in a surge and he was behind me, then he passed me again. During this time, Evan stopped by the side of the course and stood by the canal. I called out to him, but he could not run again; he ended up finishing the race but plagued by a stomach cramp. Nick and I traded back and forth a few more times, but then I passed him convincingly. We made the final turn up the hill towards the finish line and he came swooping past me out of nowhere, so we raced up the hill. I passed the 3 mile sign in about 18:25, so I knew I would be close to my goal. I kicked up the hill and just barely missed seeing 19:00 on the clock before I crossed the line.

In the end, I ran 19:02 gun time and 18:58 chip time. Though Nick beat me, he started ahead of me, so my time was faster. We actually had a lot of running club people right around 19:00, but only Nick and I actually ran together. I was the running club's eighth finisher and first female, and I was 50th American female overall.

Individual results, team results.

After the race, Will, Erin and I waited around for the awards ceremony to accept our wonderful trophy. We chatted with Matt Tegenkamp and had our picture taken with him and Amy Yoder-Begley, who won the individual titles. I also chatted with Neal, whose team had won money in the USATF team (rather than college team) division. It was a pretty good day.

Tuesday, September 01, 2009

100 on 100, August 15, 2009

100 on 100 is a 100-mile relay (actually 98.8 miles) on Route 100 from north to south in Vermont. Becca, Owen and I did it two years ago, and this year it was Alan, Tyler and me. It is similar to the Reach the Beach and Hood to Coast relays, in that the number of people on the team is a multiple of three, the number of legs in the race is a multiple of three, and the runner circulates -- in our case, runner A, then runner B, then runner C, then runner A, then runner B, then runner C... until the race is over.

For 100 on 100, a regular team has six people who each run three legs of about five to six miles each. So each person ends up running about 16 or 17 miles. We had an "ultra" team, so we had three people, each running six legs theoretically of five to six miles each (actually from 2.5 to 7.3 miles each). Since there were three of us, we had six legs total among us, and we each had to run six legs, so our team name was Six Legs. Very clever.

Alan, Tyler and I drove up to Vermont on Friday night and stayed in Alan's friends' guest house. It was very comfortable. Since our team was supposed to be wicked fast (based on our five-mile race paces), we didn't have to start the race until 10:00 am, so we left at a leisurely 8:00 am and drove up Route 100 to the start at the Trapp Family Lodge. As we drove along Route 100, we saw the mile markers and transition area signs that we would encounter later that day. As we got within 15 miles of the Lodge, we started seeing runners.

"Runners already 15 miles ahead of you? 15 miles is a lot!" you cry. Not to worry. It was about 9 am, and the first teams started at 6 am. So it had taken them three hours to get that far. Alan calculated that we would pass teams running 10-minute pace who started at 6 am by the 60-mile mark. This was reassuring.

We were shocked to see a barefoot runner, which we surmised meant that there was a barefoot team -- and we were later even more shocked to learn that this barefoot team was an ultra team. Over 30 miles apiece in the heat is crazy enough, but to do it barefoot? Gosh. At least they were all male.

So, we got to the Trapp Family Lodge, checked in, took armfulls of the fruit and an entire box of granola bars, took our case of water and a few extras that someone else left behind, and started changing into our race attire. We decided that we were not going to use the snap bracelet provided as a "baton," because having other people's sweat running down your arm is disgusting. I went to the women's bathroom and found that a man was already in there cleaning it -- all the other teams with women were long gone.

Here is Tyler returning from the bathroom.

I distributed PEA attire so as to take a nice picture for the Exeter Bulletin. I was nearly unable to do this because, unbeknownst to us, they gave us a talk before the race started about rules, directions, safety, and so on. We were sad to learn at this meeting that the Boreal Boys, another ultra team, with three middle-aged marathoning men from Canada, had dropped out due to an injury. Just before the race started, someone was nice enough to take a picture of the three of us, which you will hopefully see in the next issue of the alumni magazine:

Then Alan took off the shirt and headed for the starting line. The official race time was more than two minutes faster than regular time, so I reset my watch to match it. I would use this official time on my watch all day to take accurate times at each transfer so that we could calculate paces for each leg. There were three runners on the starting line: us (Six Legs), a team from Delaware, and a team of alums from Saint Lawrence University.

When the race clock said 10:00:00, the man said "go," and the race began.

Leg #1: Alan (1), 2.5 miles cross country, 15:14 (6:06).
Alan's specialty is the 5k, so he could have thrown down the hammer on this leg, but he was smart and decided that, with 30 miles ahead, it was best not to. He even chatted with the other two runners and discovered that they had mutual friends. The Delaware guy was wearing cutoff jeans because it was such a short leg.

While Alan was running, Tyler went to pin on his number. Where had Alan put the bag of pins? We looked for it all over the car. It was nowhere to be found. So Tyler went running (no! don't run, you have plenty of time, no extra running today!) back to the registration table to get a new baggie of pins. Crisis averted.

Alan decided that he was not going to be beaten, even by a little bit on his first leg of six, by a guy wearing cutoffs. He beat him by a comfortable margin, and handed off to Tyler in first place.

Leg #2, Tyler (1), 6.4 miles downhill, 36:36 (5:43).
Tyler immediately descended a very steep dirt road. It was so steep that it could do serious damage to one's quads this early in the race, so Tyler held back some, and let the other two guys pass him on the downhill. Alan and I got in the car to drive to the next point, but we ended up having to shadow the runners down the hill because we were behind a state police vehicle that refused to drive past the runners. The mile marker occurred at only 0.9 miles, making Tyler think for a moment, perhaps, that he was running 4:30 pace. It was fast, but not quite that fast.

At the bottom of the hill, the runners bunched up again for the road run to the next transition area.

Tyler opted to wear a shirt on this leg, the only leg during which any member of our team would wear one. It was only late morning, but it was quickly becoming hot. Water stops would be a critical and repeated theme during the day, and the first one was about halfway through Tyler's leg. Hand off the bottle, wait for the person to drink the water and drop the bottle, pick up the bottle, and drive on. Oh, and take a picture of the event!

Alan and I drove to the next transition area and put on sunscreen. Alan did not think it was entirely necessary, but I slathered it on his back anyway and then covered myself in the stuff. It turned out that the spots we missed (the fronts of Alan's quads, my neck) got burned, so it was a smart idea, even though it led to lots of sweating.

Leg #3: Diana (1), 7.0 miles rolling, 49:38 (7:05).
As Tyler approached, I could see that he had about a one-stride lead on the Saint Lawrence guy (the Delaware guy had passed him, and we wouldn't see them again). Wanting to preserve this small advantage, I positioned myself behind the transition area cones, and accelerated as Tyler approached so that I would be up to speed at the cones and we would have a perfect handoff, just as in a track race. It worked perfectly -- he touched my hand and I went. I heard a scuffle behind me but did not turn around. I was surprised that the Saint Lawrence guy didn't pass me right away, but maybe 15 seconds later. No matter; he passed me and quickly faded into the distance. Tyler later told me that the Saint Lawrence runner actually fell on the handoff, hence the scuffle and the delay. Gosh.

After the Saint Lawrence guy passed me, I was the very last runner in a string of 99 runners spread out along Route 100. As soon as I left, the volunteers packed up the transition areas. I was all alone, with no one behind me and no one in sight ahead of me, 98 runners beyond the horizon that I was trying to catch. This was a 7-mile leg, my longest of the day, and my goal was to run 7-minute pace but not tire myself out.

At one point, I ran under a highway bridge, with two elevated roads supported by lots of concrete and steel, cars whooshing by overhead. I was disturbed to see large signs on both sides of the road, under each elevated structure: CAUTION: FALLING CONCRETE. Really inspires confidence. Alan and Tyler gave me water halfway through, which I drank though I didn't feel I really needed it. I was more concerned about our last-place position and the knowledge that the two runners ahead of me were only increasing the gap. But I drank it -- "money in the bank."

There was a right-hand turn across a road when I neared the school that was the transition area. A volunteer was stationed at this difficult intersection. "Last one!" I exclaimed, as I crossed without assistance when there was no traffic. Yup, I was still the 99th runner on the course.

As I handed off to Alan, I said, "I love you, Alan" and decided that I would say it at all six handoffs that day.

Leg #4, Alan (2), 5.5 miles rolling, 34:02 (6:11).
Alan took the handoff in last place and went about catching the 98 runners ahead of us. I got in the car with Tyler and we drove along the course to find a good place to hand him water. Note that the shirts have come off.

We stopped the car in a driveway that had a yard with a shade tree. We sat under the tree and waited for Alan to approach. A man with a big beard came out of the house.

"Is it okay if we sit here?" I asked.
"I don't know; are you part of the group who came by here at two in the morning yelling and screaming and..."
"No, we're with a running race that didn't start until 6 am, just running."
"Well, all right. Where are you from, anyway?" (looks at NH license plate on car) "Oh, you're not from around here. You need to ask before you sit on someone's lawn."
"I did, as soon as you came out of the house!"
"Yeah, exactly. If I hadn't been in such a cheerful mood..."

He went back in and Alan appeared behind the trees at the top of a hill. Tyler crossed the road with the water bottle and I prepared the camera.

When Alan looked at these pictures, he said, "I was so mad at you then, for making me do this race and all this running." But he doesn't look too mad. Imagine, he walked a little in order to drink, and he still averaged 6:11!

Leg #5: Tyler (2), 5.2 miles, 30:20 (5:50)
During this leg, Tyler ran past a scenic cornfield. We passed him and shouted encouragement, but did not stop because he had only been running about a mile. Then just a little further ahead, we had to stop at one of those stop lights on a one-lane section of road when you're in the middle of nowhere, with a bunch of cars waiting on one side and the green light on the other. Tyler actually passed us and ran across the one-lane section and it was a while until we caught up to him again. Alan was getting frustrated partly by the unnecessary red light, and partly because he was trying to call Sean and his phone kept cutting out. You can see all three of these elements (Tyler, cornfield, phone) in this picture.

We stopped a little down the road, about halfway through the 5.5 miles, and gave Tyler some water. At this point it was past noon and seriously hot.

Leg #6: Diana (2), 5.8 miles uphill, 47:20 (8:10).
Before I started running, Alan had counseled me that I should go as slow as I needed to. "It's okay if you walk," he said. I asked if he was joking. "If we finish the race, we'll do well," he said, "I want to make sure we finish." He advised me to aim for 8:15 pace, since my leg was up, up, uphill. I was determined not to walk, but I would go at an intelligent pace.

I took the handoff just ahead of two other teams. Of course, the runners taking the handoffs were two men, so they each passed me soon after we started running. "Nice job," I said to the first one. "How good are you at running hills?" he asked. "Not as good as you," I replied. "I don't know about that," he said, or something similar.

"Nice job," I said to the second one as he passed me. "Oh, you'll see me again," he told me, and ran off ahead. Here is a picture of me and (the guy who turned out to be) Jamie.

The course turned off the main road and went across a covered bridge. As I stepped onto the bridge, I looked down into the river and saw dozens of people on colorful inner tubes, bobbing and enjoying the sunny day. I was reminded of Dick Beardsley's comment to Bill Rodgers in the first 10 miles of the epic "Duel in the Sun" Boston Marathon, when Dick pointed to a couple out boating on the river, and remarked, "wouldn't you rather be out there?"

The course soon went uphill. I could see the two men ahead of me, slowly jogging up the hill, as I was. Soon after the two-mile mark, Alan and Tyler came by in the car. "Good job!" they said. "Don't be afraid to go slow," Alan told me. "My second mile was 8:30," I told him. "That's fine, just keep going." They gave me water and I kept going.

Soon one of the men ahead of me began to walk. It was the guy from Saint Lawrence, whom I would later learn was named Jamie. If he was walking, then I was going to catch him; it was only a matter of time. As I approached, he heard me behind him and started running again, keeping our gap consistent. No matter. He started walking again and I passed him. "Good job," I said. "See, I told you that you'd see me again!" he reminded me. I agreed that he was right, and jogged on up the hill.

I did not expect Alan and Tyler to stop for me again, twice in one leg, but they did! It was in the middle of something the race handbook called the "saddle," where we banged down one steep hill only to crawl back up the other side of it again. Alan and Tyler parked at the bottom of the saddle and gave me water. You can see Jamie behind me.

Soon the next man in front of me also began to walk. I caught him, too. We were within a mile of the end of the leg. I passed him, but he started to run and began to pass me. I felt bad for him and decided to help him out: conversation. "Hi, what's your name?" I asked. He told me, but I have forgotten, so we will call him Dave. "Dave." "I'm Diana." We chatted a bit and soon the "transition area ahead" sign appeared.

"Look," I said to Dave, "I know your team is up ahead, so if you have to out-kick me at the end, it's okay. I'm not going to kick, because I have 20 more miles to run, but if you want to because your team is watching, it's fine with me."
"I might have to do that," he admitted.
When the transition area came into view, he kicked ahead and handed off with a good margin on me. I told Alan I loved him, touched his hand, and finally stopped running uphill.

Leg #7: Alan (3), 6.6 miles, 38:58 (5:54).

Alan's third leg was relatively long, giving him plenty of time to start catching teams. He immediately caught the guy Dave had handed off to, and ran off in pursuit of however many people he could get.

The afternoon was getting hot, and it was all we could do to take in enough water. When I stopped running, I grabbed a quart bottle of water and a nutri-grain bar and ate and drank as much as I wanted. I then ate another nutri-grain bar or one of these lovely chocolate-covered granola bars that Alan had, before my next leg. In fact, I would grab a full quart bottle, drink all but about one inch in the bottom, and then use that to hand to Alan when Tyler stopped the car. We sure drank a lot of water that day.

This handoff occurred at a pull-off area on the highway, just a strip of pavement, really, but it was next to a nice brook. After handing off, Alan took off his socks and shoes and soaked his feet in the cool stream. But first, I took a picture of Alan halfway done with his running:

I also did a costume change in this transition area, changing 100% of my clothing (keeping only the same shoes). It was a hot day, and everything was soaking wet. The new theme was Williams, or purple.

Leg #8: Tyler (3), 7.1 miles, 42:44 (6:01).
This was Tyler's first of two epic 7+ mile legs in the heat. The handbook described this as "one of the most spiritual legs," but it was really a demanding piece of running.

I did not photograph Tyler during this leg, because Alan's friend Sean showed up on his bike. We had all stayed in Sean's guest house the night before, and now Sean was out on the course to hang out with us and support our team. We had a good chat with him. The transition area was actually right near their house, so after Tyler handed off to me, Sean was able to just cycle on home.

Leg #9: Diana (3), 4.7 miles flat and fast, 33:38 (7:09).
When we were deciding who should run which sets of legs, it was clear that Tyler should run the 3n+2 legs, but it was unclear which set Alan and I should run, respectively. Alan's set (3n+1)adds up to 31.2 miles, while my set (3n) adds up to 32.1 miles. Of course, we'd want the faster person to run the longer distance! But as it turns out, my set of legs has all the hard parts at the beginning, and the last four legs are really not so bad. Case in point, my third and fourth legs were both flat and fast.

We were now deep into the other teams, passing lots of runners on each leg. (In the photo above, you can see a guy in black whom I have just passed.) Most of the other teams were running slower than we were, in particular slower than I was, so once we spotted someone ahead, it was a matter of time before we would have reeled them in.

However, some runners were not so easy to pass. A runner in pink appeared ahead of me, passing other runners. She would pass them, then I would pass them, but she stayed ahead of me. How could this be? No female was allowed to be faster than me! Fortunately, I was running just a bit faster than her, so I was able to slowly reel her in and then pass her. "Good job," I said to her, as I did to each person I passed.

Just about then, we ran past a group of teammates giving out water. As I ran past, a woman cried out, "you a Williams girl with those shorts?"
"Yes!" I shouted, then called behind me, "class of '07."
"Go Ephs!" she called after me.

Would you have recognized the Williams connection if you had seen this person running down the road? I think it takes a dedicated alum to do that:

When we got to the transition and I stopped running, I met up with the woman in pink whom I had passed. She introduced herself as a Williams alum from the '90s (I forget which year -- '95?) who had been a swimmer in college. "You passed me!" she said, "but it's okay, because you're a Williams alum."

Leg #10: Alan (4), 4.2 miles flat and fast, 24:36 (5:51).

As I handed off to Alan, he asked me what my time was. I was using just the official race time, rather than starting a watch, and just calculating my mile splits based on that. So when he asked, all I could tell him was the time -- "uh, 28:30?" because the time (of day) was 14:28:30. "What??" he asked confusedly, and ran off. By the time I handed him water, though, I could tell him that my time was 33:38.

At this point, we were catching as many people as we could. I think Alan caught 12 people on his leg. Get it done, hand off to the next person, and then rest. Here is Tyler preparing for his next leg while Alan runs #10:

We sat down as much as possible during the time between our legs. After we handed water to the runner for the last time, we would drive to the next transition area and then sit in the shade. When we saw the runner coming, we would continue sitting in the shade until they were about 50 meters away. Then we would get up, walk to the transition cones, and start jogging just as the person was about to come through. We really had to conserve as much energy as possible for our difficult task.

Leg #11: Tyler (4), 7.3 miles, 49:36 (6:48).

For those of you keeping track, you'll notice that Tyler ran 7.1 miles on his third leg, then rested for just under an hour (34.5 minutes for Diana's leg and 24.5 for Alan's), and then headed out to do another 7.3 miles in the sun and heat. Before running his leg, he looks fine and happy:

But the running was very difficult. As you can see, Tyler's speed was slower on this leg than on any of his others, though it was still probably faster than at least 95 of the other teams. After he finished running, he nearly passed out. But while he was running, he looked good:

I also took some artsy reflection photos of Tyler:

This transition occurred at a car dealership. It was a strange transition, where the runners actually changed direction like a shuttle relay for hurdles in track -- Tyler and I faced each other when we handed off.

Leg #12: Diana (4), 5.3 miles, 39:27 (7:37).

The barefoot ultra team handed off just before Tyler arrived. (Remember, they started four hours before we did.) Unfortunately for them, this leg headed right into a construction zone, with a couple hundred meters of gravel instead of pavement. Ouch! The poor guy. When I passed him, I shouted, "ultra team pride!" and tried to give him a fist pound. But he was tiptoeing over on the very edge of the road, and would not pound my fist. We did not see them again (though we did see their van -- they were running for a charity and their van had its symbols on it.)

Very shortly after the leg started, the guy from Saint Lawrence passed me again -- the same guy who had passed me at the beginning of the uphill leg. I accelerated.

"I'm not going to let you get away from me so easily this time!" I told him.
"But you caught me the last time, on the hill," he protested.
"Yeah, but you just ran away from me at the beginning of the leg. I'm not going to let you get away like that this time."
"All right," he said, "I'll pull you for a while, and then you pull me." I agreed.

He told me his name was Jamie, and I told him mine, and he explained that he hadn't been able to get in the miles this summer, which was why he wasn't as fast on the hills. He had just graduated from law school and was studying for the bar exam, which is why he couldn't train so much. He said he went to law school at Albany, so I told him I went to college nearby.

"Williams College, in the northwest corner of Massachusetts."
"Williams? Jeez, I couldn't get in there in a million years!"
"Oh. Uh, well..."
"You're fast and you're smart!"
"And I'm female."

Just about this time, we passed the one-mile mark. In 6:35. "Aaah!" I shouted, "you took me through the mile in 6:30! I have to run 30 miles today!" I told Jamie that I was sorry, but I would have to slow down. He gradually slipped ahead.

But only a little bit. He never got more than about 50 feet ahead of me, and then I was running the same speed as him, our gap staying constant. He looked back to see where I was. The gap was constant. Then he started to walk. As I approached him, he turned to look at me. "Here I am!" I said. He started to jog. I caught up to him. "My heart rate is getting too high," Jamie explained, and walked again. "Stick with me," I said, "slow and steady." But he slipped further back.

Soon after this, Tyler and Alan stopped to give me water. Behind me, Jamie was throwing up on the road.

I kept running, passing a few more people before handing off to Alan again. I really had to go to the bathroom, but I wanted to see when Jamie finished. But I had to go to the bathroom, so I did. After I got out of the porta-potty, I saw Jamie finish, almost exactly three minutes behind me. Victory was mine.

Leg #13: Alan (5), 6.2 miles uphill, 41:08 (6:38).

Two years ago, I ran the set of legs that Alan ran this year. I complained about the fifth leg every time I discussed 100 on 100 for the intervening two years. See, back in 2007, we didn't have the water routine down, the way that we had it down this year. My teammates actually did not stop for me a single time on any of my first five legs. On the fifth leg, 6.2 miles uphill, I was thirsty and I wanted water and my teammates just drove by, shouting encouragement out the window on the way to the next transition area. Luckily, I was running with a woman from another team, and her teammates shared their water with me. (This year, in 2009, other teams offered me water nearly every leg, but I had enough from my own team.) So I definitely appreciated the difficulty Alan was getting into on his fifth leg.

Alan had told Tyler he wanted water three times during the 6.2 miles. Unfortunately, we were running out of water -- we only had about two quart bottles left. There was a bar next to where we were parked, so I suggested to Tyler that we see if they would fill up our empty bottles. After all, we were only 2/3 of the way done, and we were almost out of water.

Tyler and I walked into the bar with two empties apiece, wearing only shorts (Tyler) and shorts and a sports bra (me). "Hi, we're running this relay race, and we're almost out of water, and I was wondering if you'd be willing to fill these up for us," I asked.
"Okay, but you need to leave, because you're not wearing a shirt, by the Board of Health."
"Oh, sure," I said, and Tyler and I rushed out the door.
"Wait! You can stay; you're wearing a shirt!" the man called after me. I find this amusing, that a sports bra is considered a shirt. I have encountered this at the Brown indoor track as well, when we are doing a track workout with shirts off, and the man comes down and yells at the boys for not wearing shirts, but tells me that my sports bra is fine. Go figure. Fine by me.

So I returned, in my sports bra, and chatted with the men (two behind the bar, two in front) while they filled the bottles. I readily agreed to their assessment that we were crazy for running 100 miles in a day, and they cheerfully gave me the four quarts of icy cold water. I gave two to Tyler and we rushed back to the car, afraid that Alan had covered more than 1/4 of the distance already, and that we would not be able to give him water three times.

Not to worry. The first part of the leg was relatively flat, and Alan did not need water. We managed to give him all the water he needed on this leg, and he passed about 15 people. In fact, he walked several times during this leg, and still managed to pass all those people AND nearly equal my 10k PR. What a guy.

Leg #14: Tyler (5), 4.5 miles steep uphill, 34:58 (7:46).

At this point in the race, competitors wonder why the heck it goes off of Route 100 just to climb to the top of Killington ski resort. Is such masochism really necessary? Tyler's leg started off gradual uphill, and proceeded to being very steep uphill. Look at how steep this is!

Many people walked up this hill. We got to this point of the hill well before Tyler did, so we were able to view many people's different hill-climbing strategies. Some walked. Some jogged slowly. Most stopped to drink the water that their team handed them. "It's all downhill from here!" Alan joked to them. Of course, they knew that it was assuredly not all downhill, was in fact all uphill until the very end of the leg.

The best was a guy who was power-walking up the hill. "I'm walking with authority!" he proclaimed. To watch him, it was true -- that was a perfect description of what he was doing. He walked with authority out of our sight up the hill.

Tyler was running up the hill, only the second person we had seen who was not walking. He didn't even stop to drink the water Alan handed him. What a warrior.

Alan reminded Tyler that he didn't have to go fast, just survive the leg, walk whenever he needed to. But Tyler did not walk! Here he is finishing the leg in a parking lot, the only flat portion of the whole thing:

Leg #15, Diana (5), 4.5 miles steep downhill, 33:48 (7:31).

Here is Tyler handing off to me. It looks almost like we're dancing!

Alan and Tyler ran up the hill; I ran down the hill. All three of these legs (13, 14, 15) were rated double black diamonds on the course descriptions. This leg began with running under an underpass, through a parking lot, taking a right at a purple (!) building, and then running uphill. Grrr, uphill. I did pass one guy on the uphill.

Then the downhill began. Right away, the Saint Lawrence guy passed me. I gave a feeble attempt to stay with him, but he was just too fast; he disappeared around the turns ahead of me. This was really turning out to be a race between us and them, so I was running the tangents of the roads, crossing the double yellow lines to get the shortest path between me and the finish line.

The Saint Lawrence van was stopping periodically for their runner, and they waited for me to pass. "Go Diana!" they all shouted, and variants thereof, and they offered me water. Jamie had apparently told them my name, and they cheered for me at least twice along the course of this leg.

Soon the road started descending steeply. I had talked to Alan about how I should run it, and we decided that I should run the downhills fast, but not fast enough to ruin my quads. Well, when I got there, I just ran them. I was not surprised to pass people on the downhills, but I was surprised to pass people who were walking on the downhills.

"Good job!" I told one guy as I flew down the hill past him. "Finish strong," he replied. It took me about 100 meters to realize that he didn't mean to finish the leg strong; he meant to finish the day strong -- assuming that this was my third leg of three. "Not done yet!" I shouted back over my shoulder, about 30 seconds too late and not convinced that he would get my meaning.

I was hoping that my time down the hill would be really fast -- under 7:00? maybe under 6:00 for one of the steep downhill miles! -- but it was not that fast. My downhill mile was about 6:30, and my average pace was 7:31, only a little faster than Tyler's steep uphill leg (7:46). So it goes.

Leg #16: Alan (6), 6.2 miles rolling, 40:09 (6:28).

Alan's last leg! When I handed off to him, the Saint Lawrence team had about a 2:40 lead on us. Alan ran off down the road. Tyler and I drove along and parked in a nice grassy spot to give him water. I worried for the 20th time today about sitting on grass that might be laced with poison ivy. We noticed that the Saint Lawrence guy was about 50 meters ahead of Alan.

"Do you think we should tell him?" we asked each other. "We don't want to stress him out." We decided to tell him.
"Alan, that guy up there is from Saint Lawrence." Alan perked up and passed the guy easily. He kicked in to the end and finished 1:20 in front of Saint Lawrence, which means that he had run 6.2 miles a full four minutes faster than the other guy had. Pretty impressive! This is what Alan looked like after running 31.2 miles:

We had to wear safety equipment for the last leg: reflective vest, white headlamp on the forehead, red flashing light on the back. Alan wore my reflective vest so that Tyler could wear his own. The downside of this was that the vest he is holding in the above photo is sopping wet with sweat. I was not looking forward to putting it on. So we put it in the car window so that it flapped in the breeze as we drove, which did dry it off somewhat.

Leg #17: Tyler (6), 5.0 miles, 31:40 (6:20).

Tyler started off with a lead of 1:20, but we knew the lead was tenuous, as the Saint Lawrence runner who did Tyler's second and fourth legs was faster than him. (All bets would have been off, of course, if Tyler had only been running three legs rather than six.) Tyler ran fast and valiantly, but around mile four of the leg, the gap closed down and then the two runners were together for a moment, and then the Saint Lawrence runner ran ahead.

Alan and I were there, driving by in the car, when the change occurred. Alan reminded Tyler out the window -- "don't worry about it, you're doing great, just run your own race, don't worry about this guy; we'll get him."

By this time it was getting quite dark. Alan and I drove ahead to the transition area to wait for Tyler's handoff. I put on the damp reflective vest, the larger of our two headlamps, and a red flasher. I shivered, because it was dark, after 8 pm, and I was still only wearing a sports bra and shorts under the vest. I also shivered with nervousness because now it was up to me to beat Saint Lawrence, and even though I would be racing Jamie -- who had walked on both of his previous legs, and thrown up on the second one -- he had only run 11 miles while I had run 27, including banging down the long downhill leg against Jamie's faster teammate. Nothing would be easy or taken for granted.

I ran into one of the Saint Lawrence guys. "What do you think?" he asked.
"It's on," I said.
"We heard."

I didn't realize that, just after Alan had passed the Saint Lawrence guy on his sixth leg, he had shouted to the van of Saint Lawrence teammates -- "It's on." Clearly, it was on.

A girl took the handoff from her team. She disappeared almost immediately into the dark road. Jamie and I stood together near the transition cones. Jamie was still shirtless under his reflective vest. He was looking nervous, focused, not slow. The Saint Lawrence runner approached. Alan's finger was ready on his stopwatch. Jamie took the handoff and sprinted off into the dark.

Tyler approached. He tapped my hand and I took off in pursuit. 25 seconds had elapsed on the stopwatch, and Jamie was far enough ahead that I could not see him at all in the dark. I just ran, fast.

Leg #18: Diana (6), 4.8 miles, 34:15 (7:08).

Alan and Tyler decided that, since they didn't have to run again, they might as well stop as many times as possible during this, the last leg of the day. I hadn't run far at all when the familiar sound of the car came up behind me and they shouted encouragement out the window. They drove up ahead of Jamie to measure the time gap.

"25 seconds!" Alan shouted. So Jamie and I were running the same speed. Great. The Saint Lawrence team cheered for me by name -- "Go Diana!" as their van passed me, and also when I passed their stopped van.

Up ahead, I saw Jamie pass the girl. I quickly caught her and passed her. We were the seventh team to leave the last transition area; now we were in the sixth position. It didn't matter, though, since all the other teams except two had started earlier than ours. One of those two was Jamie, up ahead. That was all that mattered.

I passed the mile marker and glanced at my watch. Economizing on energy, I only exerted enough brain power to note that my speed was about 6:40. No time for exact calculations; I had a race to run.

Alan and Tyler parked again, and Alan stood on the side of the road to exchange my bulky headlamp for the small one Tyler had been wearing. I took off the bulky one and exchanged it for his as I ran past.

"26 seconds!" Alan shouted. As I tried to put on the headlamp, I dropped it, and had to stop and stoop down to pick it up. The last thing I needed!

"28 seconds!" Alan shouted after me, jokingly.

I put on the headlamp -- which did not illuminate anything -- and kept pursuing Jamie. I could see him ahead of me, vaguely, just the spot of light on the pavement made by his headlamp. I can tell when I'm reeling someone in, and as much as I tried to convince myself that I was reeling him in, I had to acknowledge that the gap was staying the same. I was running nearly 10k pace, and I was not catching him. Inconceivable!

Then, slowly, I realized that it seemed like I might be getting a little closer. And then it was incontrovertible -- the spot of light was bigger. But how much bigger?

Alan and Tyler had parked again.

"16 seconds!" Alan shouted. I might actually catch him! The pursuit was on.

I passed the two-mile mark. I had run another approximately 6:40 mile. Two back-to-back 6:40 miles, and Jamie was still ahead of me. What the heck!

Alan and Tyler sped past me in the dark and calculated the gap again.

"12 seconds!" Alan reported. At that point, I knew I would catch Jamie; it was just a matter of time.

The time came. I neared Jamie.

"You are RIDICULOUS!" he shouted back towards me.

"You're ridiculous!" I replied, not knowing how to respond to such a comment. "It took me over two miles to catch you!"

Before I started running, Alan had told me that when (not if! he had such faith) I caught Jamie, I should just run with him, and then maybe out-kick him at the end. So I ran next to Jamie. It was almost completely pitch dark. Up ahead, some women were cheering for us next to their car, offering us water. "No, thank you," I shouted ahead, because I had a race to run.

Just then, Jamie and I were approaching a side road that entered Route 100 from the left -- the same side we were running on. A huge silver pickup truck came barreling towards us on it, towards Route 100. The reflective vests, headlamps, red flashers -- none of our safety equipment would matter if the driver was planning to make a rolling stop and speed on through the turn and onto 100. I didn't want to lose any time against Jamie, but I really didn't want to die. I cut a sharp left to go behind the truck, as Jamie swerved to the right to go in front of it. All of us -- the women with the water, Jamie and I -- were yelling at the truck driver through his windows.

Jamie didn't die, and I didn't lose any time, having sprinted around the back end of the truck. But I was mad; that was unnecessary. I was amenable to the idea of running with Jamie, so I did, but after a minute or so, I felt that he was running a little slower than me, and I was comfortable running just a little faster than him, so slowly, I pulled away...

Jamie was close enough behind me when he started dry-heaving that I could still see the circle of light from his headlamp. I quickly accelerated -- no way was I going to risk getting hit! I heard him dry heave again, a little further behind me, and then he started throwing up. I ran away.

The Saint Lawrence van was there, the teammates cheering for me a little less enthusiastically than before. "Go, Diana."

A few minutes later, Alan and Tyler were parked by the side of the road again. I couldn't hear Jamie throwing up anymore. "Is he close?" I asked Tyler. "I can't see him," was all Tyler had to offer. "Whooo!" we celebrated, briefly.

So I knew I had it. I was alone -- no one anywhere in sight ahead, no one anywhere in sight behind. All I had to do was get to the end. I slackened off the pace a little bit, and between the mile 3 and 4 markers I apparently ran a 8:30 mile. I got to mile 4 a little after 8:51 pm. I had less than nine minutes to cover 0.8 miles -- if the mile markers were accurate -- in order to beat 11 hours. I remembered two years ago, when Becca had tried to run fast enough over this last leg to beat 13 hours, and ended up finishing in 13:02. So, off I ran in pursuit of Okemo.

The end of the race was extremely frustrating for me. It was dark, and there were no signs telling me where to go. The race handbook simply said, "follow signs and volunteers' instructions." Route 100 was approaching a T at a traffic light. Left or right? I had no idea. Alan and Tyler came up at that moment in the car. I asked them. "Left" said Alan, so I stayed on the left. Then we saw the sign, across the intersection, with a right arrow. I crossed in front of Alan's car and headed off to the right.

Far ahead of me, I saw blue flashing lights. So that was probably the next turn. But which way was I going to turn -- left or right? The blue flashing lights were on the left side of the road, so I crossed when there was no traffic. I approached the police car. "Left or right?" I shouted ahead of me. He didn't answer. I got closer. "Left or right?" I asked again. He pointed to my left and said, "up the hill."

Great, a hill. I felt like at least five or six of my nine minutes had already passed. Okemo better be right there. It was not; the hill was dark, and winding, and long. Alan and Tyler caught up to me on the hill. I expressed my frustration to them. "Is this the right way? How long is this stupid hill? Where the heck do I go?" Alan said something reassuring and drove on ahead into the dark.

I saw lights ahead. A volunteer had one of those light-saber traffic-controller illuminated sticks and was waving it back and forth in repeated arcs. Not helpful -- did that mean left, or did it mean right?"

"Left or right?" I shouted ahead of me. No response. "Left or right? Left or right?" I was running straight at the volunteer. "Right," he said finally. Great! A helpful volunteer! "Which way is the next turn?" I asked, now that I knew he was helpful. "Just follow the volunteer when you get there," he called after me.

100 more feet of running and I was at another volunteer. I was trying to kick in the end of my race and beat 9:00 pm, but I was being confounded by not knowing where I was going. How can you make a series of 90-degree turns at a high speed if you can't anticipate any of them?

I was running straight towards three volunteers. "Left or right?" I shouted to them. Not one of the three said anything. "LEFT? OR RIGHT?" I shouted. I was not happy. "Left!" one of them said, finally. I hugged the left side of the road in anticipation of the turn. Just then, the line of trees on the right side ended, and I saw a line of fire torches lining the road -- TO THE RIGHT.

Three volunteers, and they had all told me the wrong direction. Their left, my right. I had had too many frustrating encounters with volunteers in the past three minutes, and after an entire day of running, I was not in a conciliatory mood. I shouted an expletive. "Right, guys, it's right." I curved over to the right, and ran along the torches into the brightly-lit building.

I sprinted the last 30 meters on the concrete floor and squinted up at the red official time clock. Did I beat nine o'clock??? To my extreme surprise, it read 20:58:03, 20:58:04, ... two minutes to spare! I kicked it in and we finished at 20:58:07, for a time of 10:58:07.

Whew! The announcer with a microphone came over to me. I don't think anyone was listening, but he interviewed me for all 15 people in the cavernous room. "Where's the rest of your team?" he asked. I told him they were in the parking lot, parking the car. Later, as the rest of the teams came in with five people jogging behind the one in the reflective vest and headlamp, I would realize that most teams parked the car and waited along the line of torches for their last runner.

A man handed me a medal. Only one. I realized that I better not let him know there were only three people on our team, or else we would not get six medals. I asked if I could have all six now, and he readily agreed. You can see in the pictures that we each have two. I made sure they were face out:

Tyler and Alan came in and we got our pictures taken. Jamie came in about three minutes after I did. We shook hands with the whole Saint Lawrence team. Our times differed by three minutes, or 180 seconds -- an average of less than two seconds per mile.

Tyler's dad was there too, and he shared dinner with us. There was plenty of dinner, and we put fruit and granola bars in our bag for later. Finally the results appeared, and we were third overall! Only two six-person teams beat us. The first-place team beat us by over an hour, the second-place by only six minutes. Saint Lawrence was three minutes behind us in fourth place. And we had won the ultra (three-person) division! Now to wait for the awards ceremony.

Because it was very hot, some people had gone to the hospital, and the guy in charge was out helping with that, so the awards ceremony was delayed by an hour. Tyler and his dad left. Alan and I stayed and took free sporks from the Merrell shoes booth. We chatted with some Canadians.

Finally, the awards ceremony, at 10:30 pm. We won three (one for each of us) $110 coupons for Merrell shoes, for winning the ultra division. As it turned out, all of the (two) other ultra teams had dropped out, so we were the only ultra team. No matter! We emerged victorious. Alan and I drove to Concord and went to sleep a little after midnight.

Summary statistics:

We each drank about 1.5 gallons of water. When we weighed ourselves the next morning, I had lost 3 pounds and Alan had lost 12 pounds. He has gained most of it back.

Our team average pace was 6:42. Alan's was 6:19 (31.2 miles), Tyler's 6:21 (35.5 miles), mine 7:27 (32.1 miles).

For times for each leg and over all, see here.
For all the race results, see here.