Custom Search

Wednesday, September 30, 2020

Vacation to Franklin, TN: Day one

Yeah, no international travel this year for's kind of sad to think that our 2019 trip to Italy might be the last international roaming we do for a while. But David and I both had use-or-lose time, so we decided to take a short trip to Nashville. Did we think it was safe? Nope. We were taking a risk. The Nashville area doesn't have a lot of COVID cases, but airplanes are straight up germ tubes. We decided to go anyway, even though that had implications in other areas of our life - for example, we won't be visiting David's family for two weeks, since his dad has high risk health conditions. We decided on Nashville because flights there were practically free - and then we actually ended up staying in Franklin, TN, instead. 
World's best little flyer

Day one
We flew into Nashville at about 11 am after an easy direct flight from MSY. David and I are pros at cutting flights really close, but with a baby in tow and reduced flight schedules, we didn’t want to risk missing our flight and having no alternatives. So we left ourselves a nice estimated 15 minute buffer. That was a lot of guesswork, though, since we were flying out of the new MSY terminal we have only flown out of it once before) and since these were COVID times. And of course, we ended up racing to our flight, anyway. We planned to use the old USAPark lot by the old terminal, since we have a non-transferable frequent flyer card there, and the website and many billboards blared, “Airline highway location still open!” Yeah, it was closed. So we had to go all the way to the new lot on Veterans anyway, and we arrived at the airport as our flight was boarding. Luckily we have PreCheck, and luckily (sadly) the airport was pretty deserted. The baby’s nap time hit right in the middle of the flight, but I tucked him in in his car seat and explained that he could take his sleep there. So he did. He’s good like that, and stayed asleep until we were ready to get into our rental car.

With a refreshed baby, we hit Nashville and went straight to lunch for a local specialty, the hot chicken sandwich- which was ok. It was really greasy and hard to eat, but I like spicy food, and the side salad was delicious. I ordered the baby a macaroni and cheese side and realized that - now that he is 8 months and a hungry little boy - I would now be ordering for him at restaurants. He eats way too much to share my plate! We walked from the restaurant to the Frist Art Museum. We knew that just a few exhibits were open, but we were ok with that. It ended up being perfect - they checked a stroller out to us to make the visit easier with the baby, and we viewed their two open exhibits. One had a fascinating interactive feature: the words of a letter Ghandi wrote to Hitler imploring peace scrolled past from a huge projector. But actually, the “screen” was a sheet of water vapor called a fog wall. You could walk right through it. It was very impressive. 

After that, we explored downtown Nashville’s music row and waterfront, stopping for homemade ice cream (which was gross, but there is no bad ice cream). Before leaving, I insisted we go to a Honkey Tonk - I mean, when in Rome! Plus, when was the last time we heard live music?! We sat at a table and had a beer and the baby danced and clapped to the music, which totally enthralled the band, who probably hadn’t had such an enthusiastic audience in a while! This baby loves ballads and Latino pop (I don’t know where he gets his taste from, he’s weird, we use to laugh because when I was pregnant he would kick up a storm when he heard Pitbull's "Fireball") and thoroughly enjoyed himself. We finally headed to the car and he got a car nap in right on the brink of meltdown- success!
We stayed in Franklin since we had planned a relaxed, countryside trip, but the drawback was that everything required lots of driving. The other giant drawback was the the suite David booked wasn’t actually two rooms - it was just one big one with a kitchen/office area. That defeated the purpose - we needed the extra room to put the baby in to sleep. So that night, after pizza takeout, we set up an Alexa with white noise, pulled his crib into the tiny entryway, and sat in near total darkness for two hours before going to bed. Slight fail. Our baby is a good sleeper, but at night he likes it to be dark. The configuration had the TV within his view, so we couldn’t watch TV, and I couldn’t even turn on my bedside light until he was soundly asleep because it also flooded the room with light (as a consequence I read much less than I expected on this trip, and watched more sports on the iPad instead!).

Monday, September 21, 2020


 In the early Sunday morning hours, I was really starting to struggle. I had a good break from running, but my stomach was causing problems. Everything I ate or drank went right through me. On a hunch I took a salt tablet - I had been religious with the Gatorade, but if I feel bad when I'm running in the Louisiana summer, I always turn to salt first. It helped a lot, but I couldn't eat any real food. I had coffee and skittles (never want to see another skittle again, by the way), then switched to a coke-and-Gatorade diet for the rest of the race. I also took two more salt tablets. Racing hard in upper 90's weather means dramatic sodium loss; even my Gatorade and salt tablet routine probably wasn't enough. At one point Kenny confessed he felt dizzy and I suggested a salt tablet. He took two, and felt like a new person in minutes. His response reminded me to keep eating salt! 

Setting up camp under the single shade tree

While we set up at the track - the same track where we hold so many workouts - I ran to Starbucks to pick up coffee. It was a bizarre feeling, entering the land of the living for a moment, then diving back into the insanity of the relay. We had divided into two teams, and each team planned to do 9 reps each before trading off to the other team. I was on team two, so by the time I got back with the coffee, team one was already up. My jaw dropped at the easy mid-60s they were dropping off sore and tired legs. The mood was subdued and tired at first, but then our support showed up. Sean with a karaoke set, doing play-by-play; Stephen DJing (he's actually a DJ in real life); high school coaches Drew and Casey handing out encouragement and advice; Wayne and Ivy, who had been there from the get-go. Our mood soared. If there is one thing I learned from this relay, it's how key your support team is. Ours was amazing, and their timeliness and responsiveness took a huge weight off our already burdened shoulders. 

Team one wrapped up their repeats in about an hour, and we cheered - their speed had moved us up several places already. Now team two was up - and so was the sun. Whatever, I was ready! We had under five hours to go! I had the pleasure of taking the handoff from Kenny, who calmly and smoothly ran 67 and under for every single lap. I was nervous about what was left in my legs, but I shocked myself with an 82-second first lap. I didn't feel terrible! And for the first set, I stayed right there: 80, 83, 82. We were just cranking out the 400s - cheering, handing off, grinding. Shockingly, no one fell off pace or slowed. We finished our set and we had moved up another couple of places in the standings!

Cheering Josh on

Jeff hands off to Josh

Jonathan handing off to Paul

Me handing off to Jonathan, who appears to have ditched the shirt by now

Time was winding down, and now the families started to arrive. David and the baby came for a bit, but had to leave for nap time. It didn't matter, anyway. I tried to hold him and had to give him back: I was so weak and tired I thought I would drop him. And I couldn't feed him because I had just pumped, taking advantage of our off time while team one took over again! Poor planning - I didn't know they were planning to come by. Our second set was much like the first: Kenny to me. Me to Jonathan. Jonathan to Paul. Paul to Will. Will to Pou. Repeat. Every time I finished a rep, I'd catch my breath and drink something sugary and try to recover. By the time this set ended, I was starting to limp. My left hamstring has been slowly healing, but my right was now developing a nasty knot and I was afraid it would tear. I honestly thought I might not be able to finish the relay. But I had to - our strategy was working, and we were now in 5th place in our division!

Rich and Kevin

The team cheering me on!

When team one took over again. they planned to do just three rounds of 400s and then hand back to us. We would do three each, too, and then the whole team would just go straight through until time was up. I had enough time during my rest for Jessica, Jonathan's girlfriend, to do some manipulation and work through some of the sticky hamstring muscle fibers (she is a PT). I think she saved the rest of the race for me: I was able to complete every one of my 400s. My stride was tightly restricted, and I was really almost limping, but I could finish. 

Speaking of finish..."FINISH!" is still ringing in my ears from Sunday. Casey came out to cheer and hollered that at each and every one of us at each and every lap as we rounded the 300m mark! We all joked later that we heard "FINISH!" in our dreams that night. As we entered the final hour, we lined up single file on the track and took turn after turn. We saw some amazing laps in those final minutes: Kenny somehow STILL dropping easy 67s, Will powering through, Jonathan running a 400m PR. Pou heard the times around him and decided it was time to break 70 seconds - and did, on his final lap of the day. I heard him tell Paul that, and I decided it was high time I broke 80. Limping, hamstring pull, total exhaustion - those were excuses. Kenny ticked around the oval, shouted Go, and set me on my way of my very last lap. I ran 79. It was the best I could do - but I was under 80! 


It was down to the final minutes, and we realized that Will would probably have the final lap. As he took over, we knew he'd have 10 or 15 seconds left. We made a split-second decision and told Will - who probably ran the finest that weekend - "Keep going!" Poor Will - he ran nearly a 600m final split as we all counted down. 

Done. Thirty-one hours and 15 seconds! We were elated but tired. We knew our times exactly thanks to the spreadsheets we maintained, but the TSP leaderboard was a disaster. We ended up not finding out our official place until Wednesday morning: fifth in the freestyle devision, eighth overall, first team from the USA. I am so incredibly proud of us. We completed this in terrible weather, with a bunch of misfit runners, and a lot of dedication. Every single runner performed beyond their expectations, and our team support was outstanding. And I was thrilled with my own running! I was worried I'd let my team down - instead gave them a tiny boost. My average pace was 46 seconds per mile faster than predicted, and even during the night legs I never ran over 6:40. It was a great team effort from everyone, runners, support, spouses, and the like, and I was proud to be a part of it! 
Back: Jeff, Pou, Rich, Kenny, Paul, Jonathan, me, Josh. 
Front: Will, Kevin
On the ground: Jeremy

Would I do it again? Actually, YES. You'd expect some hesitation so soon after the race, but I would totally do it again. Next time? Top three, baby.

Saturday, September 19, 2020

TSP DIY: The long, long night at the lake

 Let me tell ya, I do NOT like running at night. And deep down inside, I didn't like our strategy. Normally, I am all about distance. But after a summer of training for a mile time trial (that I BOMBED), my legs were full of speed. I was feeling the short, fast stuff a lot more than a five mile tempo. Our team plan was to revert to 5-milers at night, with the idea that we would be able to run long in the cool night. The problem was that it just wasn't happening. It wasn't cool. It's never cool in Louisiana in early September. The temperature dipped below 80F for a few minutes, but the humidity stayed sky high. Even the weird windstorm couldn't drive the humidity away. And people felt like crap. I checked our standings as I got ready to try to sleep, and we were falling off. We were 6th in the early evening, but by night, we were 12th. 

I decided to try to nap in my car, so after my last-of-the-night pumping session (and putting bags of milk on ice, as if they would stay cold in this heat), I pushed the seat back and laid down. With the windows down, and the really stupid wind, it felt kind of like a fan. I was definitely tired enough to sleep. But my car was parked on the route, and the runners and cheering support were keeping me awake! I got back up and wandered back to the house. I'm glad I did: I overheard others talking quietly and realized that they'd been cutting their runs to four miles. The wind had died down a bit, but it was still bad, and no one felt good. The bike support crew had identified an alternate route that avoided some of the worst wind, but it was not quite five miles. I checked the spreadsheet, updated my alarm, and tried to sleep on a bench on the porch. I think I dozed for a bit, but I was ready to run far before the next runner finished. I joined Jimi, our coach, up on the seawall. He was bike support and he told me that the wind was a lot better. Ha! As we waited for Josh, the wind inexplicably picked back up to about 20 mph. I couldn't believe it. Another run into the wind! Because of the seawall separating the below-sea-level neighborhoods from Lake Ponchartrain, we had decided that runners would start at the top of the sea wall and finish at the base, rather than anyone running up the steep hill. So when Josh came down the home stretch, his biker shouted, "Go!" up the hill. I hit start on my Garmin, tucked my head, and pushed into the wind. Man. It was harder the second time. And even when, two miles later, we finally turned off the lakefront, I didn't feel good. My dinner sat obnoxiously in my stomach, and it was dark. Jimi was a great biker - he kept my route as lit as he could, gave me directions, and kept encouraging me. A bad side cramp hit before mile four, and my last mile was slow and painful. I crept back up the street and handed off to Jonathan at the 4.74 mile mark at 6:37 pace. Eek. Getting slower wasn't part of the plan! But I had no time to sulk: my plan was GET SOME SLEEP before my 5:40 leg. 

The front lawn crew

There was a small group of runners and support people sitting on the front lawn as I walked back to the house. I lamented my difficulty as I talked to them and discovered that everyone was likewise suffering. But I got a huge boost when I reported my pace and was met with incredulity: "I don't think I could run that pace right now!" said Will, and he is approximately 90 times faster than I am. I was somewhat mollified by that. 

Showers mid-relay? Heck yes! 

I hopped in the shower in his parents' cute little pool house, threw my pajamas on, and saw Wayne's scrawny, sleepy body on the bench I'd planned to sleep on. I stuck my head into the house and glory be! For one thing, there was A/C. For another thing, there was a beautiful sight: an air mattress on the living room floor. I tossed my blanket and pillow onto the mattress and tried to sleep. 

I think I did get about two hours of sleep in. It wasn't glamorous. I found out later that the air mattress had materialized at the house because Will's uncle had brought it over to throw it in the pool to try to find a leak in it. He never did find it, but I did! About ten minutes into my nap, my butt was touching the floor. I should've known that an unoccupied air mattress was too good to be true. My dozing was cut short when Paul stuck his head in. "Grace, you're in the hole. Josh is up next in a few minutes. You have about half an hour." Half an hour! My alarm wasn't even set to ring until 35 minutes later! While I was sleeping, the team had switched to three mile loops. My turn was up. And if any of you readers have breastfed, you know that before I was running one single step, I had to pump. 

This is so, so, so miserable

I raced to my car, struggled into a jog bra, stuffed the pump into the bra, and turned it on while I rushed to get ready to run. I ran back to the house (with all the people in and out, and the street construction, I was parked two blocks away) to use the bathroom, but it was occupied. I ended up giving up on the bathroom and heading to the transition area. I didn't have enough time to get a full pumping in - I carefully set the full cups of milk and the pump on the side of the road, turned on my GPS, and had just moments to spare. 

I'm sure you can guess how this leg went: it was 5am, I was dehydrated yet still not pumped dry, I hadn't used the bathroom, and I was virtually sleepless. Pat was my biker. He'd been up all night himself, but he didn't let that disrupt his usual smooth demeanor. I followed him on the new three mile loop and was happy to see that the route had the wind as a tailwind along the lake and a headwind in the more sheltered neighborhoods. I still sucked. I felt terrible in every possible way. I stumbled in for 3 miles at 6:37 pace. Ouch. I handed off to Jonathan and saw Kevin standing alongside. He was incredibly cheerful. Apparently Kevin thrives on this kind of stuff and felt great! I collected my milk and trudged back to the house. After putting my milk away, I reviewed the changes to our plan. We had fallen behind overnight to 13th, and that wasn't how we wanted this race to go. We weren't heading back to Audubon Park, and we weren't doing any more five mile or three mile or even two mile legs. We were heading to the practice track at City Park, and we were going to run 400s for the rest of the race. We put our exhausted heads together and created two teams to switch off, allowing the other team to rest for about an hour. We'd trade off for six straight hours of track work. 

Wednesday, September 16, 2020

TSP DIY: Evening, and the first change of plans

 I drove to my first leg, which started at Josh's house, and was in for a surprise when I arrived. The house was dark and quiet. Josh had told me his wife might be late, and texted me the alarm code. But - it didn't work. He either forgot his code or typed it wrong. I had a car full of food for other runners, some of whom would be transitioning here later, and I had to go to the bathroom, and I couldn't get in the house. At first I assumed his wife would come home, because Josh had said it was just a slim chance she would miss me. But as the clock ticked down, I repacked my car (I'd unloaded onto his porch) and got ready to run. Just then, Will and Paul showed up. Will had dropped his bike at the house earlier, and they were back to get it. They had news: plans had changed. The other runners had realized that the exchanges happening at multiple locations was too difficult. We were already having problems getting our runners to the right transition area on time. Will's parents lived near the lake, and we decided to use them as a home base, and just run loops from there all night. Cool! I was much relieved to hear that. But they also had bad news. I couldn't tell from that sheltered neighborhood, but a bizarre windstorm had whipped up. Josh was running in it, and I was about to, too. But before any running - I had to PEE. And I was in the middle of a tightly bunched neighborhood. Oh, well. Sorry kids. I pulled Josh's trash can close to his house and squeezed behind it. It would have to do! 

I saw Josh approaching - looking like death! - and ran alongside Drew, my bike pacer. Drew took my phone and a bottle of Gatorade from me, and things immediately went south. Drew dropped back to discuss logistics of the change, and I didn't know the route. I hit a T-stop and had to double back to grab Drew for directions. And then - then the wind. Oh my word. We were dodging traffic and lights for a bit, so I didn't really register the intensity, but once we got onto the lake, we were being pummeled. Someone had said it would be a tailwind for me and guess what? They lied! It was so windy, and it was a side-headwind off the lake the whole time. I was laboring against the wind. Dirt was blowing in my eyes. It was so windy it was drying out my mouth. It was the first time I felt discouraged. I couldn't get my pace under 6:30. My route was a little over five miles, and by mile four, my stomach was cramping. I lumbered toward the handoff point one was there. Drew's phone rang and I saw Paul just then. Jonathan had gone to the wrong transition point in the confusion of changed plans, but Paul gamely stepped up for an early leg. "Keep running a bit," he directed, as I approached. I ran alongside and realized he was still trying to get Garmin signal. "Got it. You're done," he said, and headed off into the wind. I was beat. And I'd only run 6:33 pace. And my car was five miles away, with all my food and things in it. 

Luckily, Tyler was there for support, and he offered a ride. Ha. I messed that one up big time. For one thing, there was construction on the street, and Tyler had to make a tight U-turn. And he hit some of the barriers. I was dying of embarrassment, because it was my fault he scratched his car, and to make things worse, then I gave him the wrong address for his GPS and lead him miles out of his way! We finally retrieved my car, and I headed back to Will's parent's house. 

That back patio livin'

WOW. It was just what we needed. There big house had a spacious backyard where we could all spread out, a pool, and an outdoor pool bathroom. We could snooze between legs on various bits of patio furniture, and they'd ordered pizza. It's no small feat to pull off hosting eleven runners and half as many support crew in the middle of the night, with no notice, and with pandemic restrictions, but they managed to safely do so. Such hospitality! I grabbed some pizza (yes, more pizza) and, since it was now 9:30, decided to try to get some sleep before my projected midnight-thirty leg. 

So, those projections: Josh had put together an incredible spreadsheet we relied on for the race. Originally, it predicted our leg start times based on the pace we had all told him we expected to run. But when it became clear that we were well ahead of pace, he changed the formula to reflect each runner's current average pace. The way TSP kept up the leaderboard was by following our Strava, which we all synced at the end of each leg, but we also kept our totals up to date for our own tracking purposes via a Google form that we reported to after each leg. It fed into the spreadsheet to calculate our average pace, updating our predicted leg start times as we went. It was a pretty reliable long as the plans didn't change. And of course, they did! 

Friday, September 11, 2020

TSP DIY: Day one, Audubon Park and City Park

 We started the race in front of Audubon park and Jeremy kicked us off with a five-miler that ended up back at my house - our first home base. The guys had been trickling in and had tents, trucks, and coolers set up by the time he handed off to Rich. It was insanely hot. Insane. It hit the 90s before Rich started running, and stayed consistently high 90s for most of the day. The humidity was brutal. But we expected that, so after three legs we switched to 3 mile loops. Team members were out as bike pacers, and we needed them to navigate Saturday traffic to the park. I didn't run until almost nine, so I played hostess and kept the baby. I knew that once I handed him over for my first leg, he'd be all David's responsibility for many hours! 

Prior to my first leg, I did something I've never done before...laced up a pair of VaporFlys. And this was a key move. Not only are the shoes *magic*, they make you think you're magic. There is something about believing that you have magic shoes that makes you perform like you have no limits. And that is what this weekend was all about for me. It has been over a year since I've raced for real, and I wanted no reservations. When I tied those shoes I told myself, "Leave it all out there. Every leg. Don't save anything." Maybe a stupid strategy for a 31-hour relay, but I truly believe it paid off. 

Josh handed off to me in front of my house, and I took off to run the Audubon Park route I've run thousands of times. Tom and Kate paced me on their bikes. It took me about a mile to understand the Vaporfly - there is a lot more underfoot than I'm used to, or than their weight leads you to believe. And I think for that first leg, I didn't really appreciate them. They made much more of a difference later on, when my legs were exhausted. I'm not used to running just three miles, so my leg was done in no time, and I had a moment of panic when I saw 6:24 average pace. Too fast! You'll regret this! The day is still young! But no, that wasn't the plan. Leave it out there! As soon as I finished, I ate some rice and eggs, showered, and put the baby down for a nap. The whole nursing and racing thing was going to be a challenge, but it worked out better than I expected. My next leg would be in City Park, where we transitioned in order to use a 2-mile loop. The baby woke up from his nap just in time for me to feed him before I raced out the door. I had just enough time to park, change back into my racing shoes, and find a satellite before my turn. 

Josh ran up to our tent and I hit go, following Van on his bike around our familiar running loop. We managed the car traffic ok, and I was feeling fresh still. The sun was blazing down, but I shrugged it off. The whole team was running in blazing sun. I could, too. I didn't even pretend to run half marathon pace. It was early in the race, I had new shoes, bystanders were cheering, Van was pulling me forward, and I ran two miles at 6:07 pace. And it didn't hurt. I handed off to Jonathan and immediately ate something. Throughout the race, I would eat as soon as I finished, then drink Gatorade a few minute prior to my next leg. David showed up with the baby, and we hung out under the tent, watching the team go.

 The team was on fire. Every last one of us cranked our legs out with astonishing speed, 97F temperatures and high humidity aside. We were set up under a canopy cheering each other on, and it was an amazing feeling to be a Power Miler. At some point, we modified the route to be two one-mile loops, so we could cheer the runners on at the halfway point. I watched Rich nonchalantly complete two milers in race-worthy times, Jonathan run a 2-mile PR, and Kenny show off his consistency. Tyler showed up with his bike, and then Tarak and Mark showed up with bikes...and speakers! Now our runners had music! 

Me and my bike pacers

For my next two miler, I let the music set the tempo. I let the team's cheer power me. And I ran 5:57 pace. Yeah, 5:57. That is faster than my 2-mile PR. I was riding high, and I kept telling myself, "Let the shoes do the work." The funny thing is, that helped. I was wearing the magic shoes before telling myself that, but after just thinking those words, I could pick up the pace! I finished that leg and reminded myself that I was going to leave it all out there on every leg. I didn't let the fast pace scare me. At that point, our team was averaging 6:11 pace overall, and we were in 8th place on the leaderboards. 




At some point, it hit feeding time for the baby - and I had to pump. I have a conveniently wearable pump, but it was weird as the only girl on the team. I just put it on and threw a T-shirt on (I was most obviously wearing jog bra only for the whole race. It was hot as blazes). But the dehydration that followed was a surprise to me. I know breastfeeding is dehydrating, but I normally just drink enough water to replenish, and it's no big deal. Mid race, when you are running in high 90's temperatures - and also just sitting outside in those temperatures between legs - it makes a huge difference. I felt a little fuzzy-headed and quickly took a salt tablet and guzzled water. My leg was up next. I shrugged off the dizziness and took over for Josh, running alongside Mark, Tarak, and their music selection. The sun scorched my scalp and flashed in my eyes. I dodged oncoming traffic, squeezed by a family on bicycles, and let my legs bounce off the firm pavement on Victory Avenue. 

Freaking hot

"This is a fast surface. You know it from all the workouts you've done here. Take advantage," I told myself. I had a bad turn heading down the homestretch - there was traffic, I waffled, I cut too narrow, and I sort of lost my momentum. But I could see the PMTC flag up ahead, regrouped, and ran it in strong for a 6:02 pace. 

It was my final leg in the park, and we were moving to the lakefront. The plan was to extend the distance of the legs in the evening, so I had enough time to go home, make dinner, and feed the baby before my next leg. If I hurried! 

I rushed home, scooped up my baby, whipped up a homemade pizza, hopped in the shower, and fed the baby. I packed my car with a change of running clothes, food, my cleaned pump, a pillow and blanket, chargers for everything, and pajamas. At the time, my legs were projected to start at 7:45 and 1:45, and the next leg after that would be back at Audubon Park. My plan was to head home after my 1:45 run and sleep in my own bed before a 6:30 run the next day. But just in case, I packed for bed anyway. Honestly, the night plan worried me. I didn't like it at all. I knew from my Hood to Coast experience that night running is really hard. You can't see, you're tired, and your body is sending all kinds of signals that you should be asleep, not running. Nutrition is tough to manage: your body is also not used to taking in food at that time. And the route we had planned worried me, too. We had to leave the parks because they close at night. But our lakefront route had a bunch of different exchange points, and none of my legs started where the last leg left off. So I would need to be ferried from spot to spot. With eleven runners on the team, and limited support crew able to stay awake all night, how would we manage? So with trepidation I set out for Josh's house, my first transition point. 

Wednesday, September 9, 2020

The Speed Project: DIY 31 hour relay

To quickly explain the race, TSP DIY is a relay with few rules. You collect your team's total time via Strava, and you make up your own route and legs. You can have a team of any size, and your legs can be any length. You don't even have to be in the same place: you can virtually hand off (we used this method when changing base locations). You run for 31 hours and 15 minutes, and the team with the highest mileage wins. There are some specific categories, too, but we were in the Freestyle category which is essentially the open division.

 You want me to recap 31 hours of running? Thirty one hours of relay, of working as a team, of making decisions on the fly, of scrambling to meet the competition, of fighting fatigue, storms, heat warnings, and dehydration, of watching some of the finest running I've ever seen? 

It will be a long race report. Let's start from the beginning. 

The cast of characters: The Power Miler Track Club

Rich: Reliable, consistently fast, a 2:28 marathoner with a chronic knee injury and a chipper attitude. Projected pace (our team coach recommended we aim for half marathon or a little slower for the race): 5:45

Will: A duathlete who is very fast and sharp when in shape. He's in shape: he ran a PR mile at our recent time trial. He comes from a large family of runners and his parents live near part of our proposed route. Projected pace: 5:45

Kenny: A masters runner with incredible track speed and a straight up beautiful form. He joined the club last year after being pestered to do so for years; moving into the city from the 'burbs made up his mind. Projected pace: 5:45

Josh: The brains behind our race administration, a Brooks guru, and a runner who has made giant strides since joining the team. Projected pace: 6:30

Kevin: We're never quite sure if it's Kevin or his twin Jason. Kevin is a physical therapist - just graduated! - and incredibly good at grinding out consistent tempos. Projected pace: 6:45

Paul: Pastor Paul is 57, mellow, team oriented, and prepared to suffer silently. In fact, he has a single tattoo that reads, "amor fati". Paul ran a sub-5 mile at age 50, so he's a weapon. Projected pace: 6:20

Mike: How a busy businessman like Mike got away for 31 hours is beyond me, but he managed. He also managed a lot of the delegating and directing for this effort, and his organization was priceless. Mike, or Pou as we call him, is a quietly effective runner and one of the most encouraging people I've ever met. Projected pace: 6:45

Jeremy: Jeremy was the one who got us into this mess. After reading about the relay in Tempo Journal, he proposed a team for 2020. We sputtered initially and couldn't field a team for the original date in March. The pandemic moved the relay to a "do it yourself" format, and suddenly it was more manageable. Jeremy pushed us to put a team together and represent the Power Milers. He also got a professional photographer for the event! Projected pace: 6:45

Jonathan: Jonathan joined the club as easily the slowest member, and I admire that. Because when I joined, that was me! It's a bold move, and it obviously pays off. Jonathan has made giant improvements and has been game for all our workouts, even though he is an ultrarunner: something our workouts don't cater to. I knew his ultra experience would be key. Projected pace: 7:00.

Me: Coming off a disappointing mile time trial, a left hamstring tear, and a threatening right hamstring strain, I was a liability. I think the rest of the team had understandable reservations: I missed a lot of the beginnings of our Zoom planning calls since they started while I was still driving home from work, so I was playing a lot of catch-up. I have a 7-month old who is still breastfeeding. I haven't really raced since Boston 2019, so my fitness was up in the air. BUT I have a secret weapon, and that weapon is that I am very good at suffering. It's like a hobby of mine. I would have made a great nun. Projected pace: 7:00. That pace...when we put together our race plan spreadsheet, I had to think hard about this. I thought my half marathon pace was probably around 6:50 at the time, but then I had to take time off for my hamstring, and we also all took the weather into account. A labor day weekend race in New Orleans was bound to be hot, so I added a few seconds for that, too. If all went well, I hoped to run closer to 6:55.

Our first home base: My street. 

The race and race plan: 

Our plan was to start in Audubon Park, where we had a smooth surface closed to traffic, and do some five mile loops before the sun came up (the race kicked off at 6am). We'd move to 3 mile loops as it warmed up, and then transition to City Park for the afternoon. Our thinking was that City Park might be cooler since Audubon can be extremely humid (lol, like what isn't humid in NOLA?). In the heat of the day, we'd do just 2-mile loops. As the sun set, we would then venture to the shadeless lakefront at night. The lakefront has been closed to traffic during the pandemic to reduce crowds, so it was a safe option at night when both parks are closed. The plan was for 5 mile loops overnight when the temperature dropped, although the low was 79 and humidity was still in the 90s! We'd move back to Audubon for some early morning stuff Sunday, more 3-milers, then finish up at the track back in City Park to crank out as many track 400s as we could. 

Spoiler: that plan totally changed. To be continued!