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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. 


  1. Your times are impressive! Glad your magic shoes helped carry you through! It's a lot of logistics to manage, especially with a breast feeding baby!

  2. This sounds like a blast. It's so cool that you literally started a race from your front door and that you had so much support for your legs. It's interesting your description of the shoes- I did not find them that magical-- I didn't run any faster than what my training predicted. So I think you need to give yourself more credit for that sub-6:00 pace! WOW.