Sunday, June 21, 2009

Fireflies at Night

My weekend of adventure is drawing to a close. The 2009 Green Mountain Relay is over. My team finished in 26 hours and 29 minutes with an 8:03 average pace. All of us are incredibly dirty and tired. I'm on my way back to New York, looking forward to a hot shower, a beer (or two) and a good night's rest of more than 2 hours.

My second leg late last night was one of the most interesting runs I have ever done. I started around 9:40 pm after the sun was down and it was completely dark. We were required to wear a headlamp, and it was absolutely necessary, because I was out in the middle of nowhere and there were no lights anywhere. Dust (pollen?) and bugs swirled in the beam of light in front of my head. I started out quickly; my first mile was 7:59. I was feeling more energetic than I was for my first leg ten hours earlier.

I was out on a dark rural road, with nothing but the sound of my breathing, footsteps, and a softly rushing stream to keep me company. My world had narrowed to what was illuminated in the square of light 20 feet in front of me. I heard the occasional critter rustling in the underbrush, and the solo peep of a solitary frog. Then I noticed the fireflies. They twinkled and danced above the fields I knew were on my right (to my left was a sheer rock wall) and glittered in the trees on the hillsides. It was beautiful and extraordinary. I felt so fortunate to see it, to experience this on such a wonderful summer night, the longest night of the year.

I maintained a low-eight-minute mile pace for the rest of my 5.1-mile run, spurred on as much by my high energy level as by the sensation of the dark pressing in around me. I ran as if there was an unknown entity on my heels. I finished my leg in 42 minutes and slapped the hand of my teammate to send him on his way.

The rest of the night passed in a blur; around 12:30 am we met the other van at a major exchange and subsequently went off duty. We grabbed a couple of hours' worth of napping at a motel close to the exchange where we would commence our final morning legs. Two hours wasn't nearly enough. Disoriented and tired, we waited in the growing predawn light for the graveyard shift runners to finish. By the time I set off on my final leg at 5:53, the sun was up (albeit behind clouds) and the birds were singing. I finally got to see the gorgeous countryside which had been obscured on my night leg. My route followed a river for a long way, a gentle descent which turned away at mile 3.2 to ascend a mile-long hill all the way to the finish, reminiscent of my grueling first leg of the previous day. I churned my way to the finish at 4.4 miles, completing the leg in 36:52 (8:41 pace). I handed off to my teammate and my part in the relay was done.

After the other van went active, we got breakfast and then drove to the finish line in Bennington, where we waited for a couple of hours while the other van completed their legs. When the final runner on our team approached the finish line, we all joined him for the final 50 or so meters before the end. We all crossed together, a team until the very end.

This was my first experience with relay racing...and I don't want it to be the last. I'm so glad I did it. See you guys next year!
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Carolina John said...

sounds like a blast babe! glad you had fun. i've never tried a relay but they sure do seem interesting.

Anonymous said...

I am so glad you had such a great experience. You guys all did an amazing job. Hope you were able to get some well deserved sleep!

raulgonemobile said...

That seems like a great time! Glad you had a good crew to roll with and that the experience went well

Glaven Q. Heisenberg said...

Nice job, Sarah! Those are some killer paces you posted there.

I can see why you want to do it again!

Anonymous said...

I agree with you about how great it is to be part of a team; I love my solo races but once a year I value getting out there and banding together.

M2Marathon said...

I was so glad to read this...I have my first relay coming up in a couple weeks (Wild West Relay, Ft. Collins to Steamboat, CO), and I am excited but nervous and not really sure what to expect...sounds like it is very similar to GMR. Thanks for sharing the account of your relay experience!