Over two weeks later and I am finally ready to wrap up the relay posts. Nothing like a little timely blogging 🙂
After slogging through leg #2, I was more than happy to change out of my dripping wet clothes and take a Shower Pill “bath” (by the way, these things are killer for relays – I really feel damn near clean after using it!).
Van 2 made our way through the dark for a couple more legs, until we finally started to see a hint of daylight just before Char took off for her 2nd leg. She was the lucky one who had the coveted sunrise run. The view just as she set off…
The view from the same spot, just as we walked back to the van after she finished. It was stunning.
We rotated drivers for most of the 2nd round of legs. Rhonda, Char and I all did a little driving and took turns navigating for each other. We even got a second wind, blared the radio and had some fun as our runners finished up.
We made it to the next major exchange and had a chance to chat with Van 1 as Lynda finished her leg. This time we were all too tired, in relay exhaustion stupor to get any pictures :). Once our van was finished, we headed out to find breakfast. Once again, our designated Google-expert found us a great little breakfast place. The poor restaurant was clearly overwhelmed by the number of hungry runners piling through their doors, but they were friendly and the food was good.
After breakfast, we did a little hygiene maintenance.
Which fortunately didn’t stop us from thoroughly enjoying our next (impulsive) stop: Sugar Loaf Bakery. If you are ever in the Keys, try it. Trust me. The Red Velvet Whoopie pie is no joke.
We eventually made it to the final major exchange and then chilled in the van for several hours while we waited. The exchange was at a school and I must have gone in to use the rest room 10 times before it was finally time for me to run.
We were well behind our projected time by this point and as the day went on it got hotter and hotter. When I finally walked over to the exchange point to wait for Eli, I was sweating before I even got there. There was just no relief from the sun.
I stood around chatting with the other runners who were waiting, and then when the volunteer called our number to let me know Eli was on his way, I hurried across the street. We had the perfect slap bracelet exchange and at 2:16 p.m. I set off for my final 4.1 miles.
Ideally I wanted to be around an 8:00 pace, but I tried not to go out too fast because I wanted to start conservative and finish strong. Since the stomach cramp came back right away, it certainly wasn’t hard to keep the pace in check. Just like before, I pinched at it, massaged it and grunted (so attractive) as I pushed through, knowing it would go away after 2ish miles. It seemed like a long 2 miles, but right on schedule, it subsided into a dull pain.
I wish I could say that after that I took in the beautiful views over the flat bridges or chased down the runners ahead of me, but I can’t. Really I was just running as hard as I could to get the miles done.
But something changed for me mentally as I went into my final mile. I was so sick of feeling defeated on my runs and I decided that no matter how bad it hurt, I was going to finish this thing strong. I am not sure where this fight came from. I like to think that it is part of who I am as a runner, but for some reason I couldn’t muster it up all weekend.
I surely wasn’t going fast, but I wasn’t getting slower like I had on the first 2 legs. The distance was slightly long (0.25M), but even as I ran past the 4.1 mile mark, I kept pushing. I saw a girl who had passed me walk when she realized the exchange was further up, but I was determined to push until the finish. When I finally handed the bracelet off, I felt light headed and bent over with my hands on my knees, as I often do after a race. My teammates and a volunteer rushed over to make sure I was okay. I was fine. I was done. And I had finally found my fight, so I was proud.
Leg #3: 4.37 miles, 36:44 (8:24 min/mile)
8:09, 8:26, 8:40, 8:27, 8:10 (last .38)
These final legs were pretty short, so we quickly piled back into the van and headed to the next exchange. Everyone (else) really rocked their final runs. People say that the final leg is all heart and my teammates all clearly had it as they had some of their best runs all weekend.
And of course Vishal found his comfort zone after his leg…
Yes. Seriously, this was where the exchange was!
And then finally, after 28ish hours, Team Nuun finally made it to Key West!
We sprinted across the finish line (despite my flip flops) because Rhonda was racing someone for the last couple of miles (and beat him!). We grabbed snacks and eventually found our clean and showered Van 1 teammates so we could take our finisher picture.
Next we headed straight over to the beach party to find beer…
And Megan at the Nuun tent…
We finished our beers, took a few more pictures and Rhonda went for a swim, but we didn’t have much time at the party because we had to get the vans back to Miami. We sadly moped our way out of Key West and rushed back to Miami. Char drove the whole way back and somehow Rhonda and I stayed awake and we chatted the whole time. I find that at the end of relays, despite how tired I am, I never want to sleep because I am always trying to soak up every last minute of the experience before it is over.
We did a rockstar, super quick job of cleaning the outside and inside of the van before turning it in, then Char, Rhonda and I headed to our hotel and ordered pizza before crashing.
It was an awesome weekend. I cannot say enough about how much I love Nuun, the people who work there and having the opportunity to represent the brand in a relay. I am so thankful for everything they did for us to put this relay together last minute and to make it another amazing experience.