TIR: Aftermath

The following is an actual email exchange. Names have been changed to protect the innocent.

From: John Doe
To: Fixx Line
cc: Jane Doe
Subject: 15 Pass Van odor !

Thanks !

John Doe
Facilities Manager

From: Jane Doe
To: Chris
Cc: Fixx Line
Date: 03/10/2009 01:35 PM
Subject: Fw: 15 Pass Van odor !

Hi Chris,
We are trying to solve a mystery and are hoping you can help us since you were the last person we show using the large van.  There is a horrible smell in the van and wondered if you might know what the smell could be coming from?  Did anything get spilled maybe?  Just need to know so we can better determine how to get the smell out.

Thanks for your help!

Jane Doe
Facilities Department

From: Chris
To: Jane Doe
Date: 03/10/2009 02:18 PM
Subject: Re: Fw: 15 Pass Van odor !

We had an NI team do a running relay this past weekend, which is what we used the van for.  We covered all of the seats with towels and had somebody who wasn’t with us do a “smell test” after we were back, but clearly this wasn’t effective.
I’ll be more than happy to come in tonight and clean the seats thoroughly (this is most likely where the problem would be).  Let me know if this works for you.

Sorry for the inconvenience,


From: Jane Doe
To: Chris
Date: 03/10/2009 03:17 PM
Subject: Re: Fw: 15 Pass Van odor !

I appreciate that…but it is okay.  After reading your email below I think all we need to do is just air it out and spray some Febreeze or Odo Ban. We just wanted to make sure food or liquid hadn’t been spilt which would entail taking it to be professionally cleaned.  All is good and I appreciate you responding, was a huge help! 🙂

Jane Doe
Facilities Department

TIR: Lonestar Finish

The end is in sight, for both the race and the story. I had finished up my third leg around 7 AM and after some breakfast I felt pretty good. Not that I had any trouble waking up thanks to my cold shower that morning. But now it was time to zip around Houston in the active van while my teammates ran. Because of the staggered start times we had caught up to a lot of teams so there was a lot more going on at the transition points. The governors team couldn’t have been too far behind us because I actually saw him at one stop. He seemed in pretty good spirits and was happily taking pictures with a lot of people. While walking around at that stop, I ran into the wife of one of my teammates whom I had met a couple of days prior. She was running on another team so we chatted a little bit about how the race was going. Then she asked, “Do you have some BodyGlide I can borrow?” Now, I don’t expect you to know what BodyGlide is because I didn’t before preping for this race, but basically it is a anti-chafing balm that looks like a stick of deodorant. I responded, “Errh, sure <nervous smile>” and I tried to figure out the socially acceptable thing to do as we walked to the van. Luckily, there were some other people at the van. Instead of grabbing my BodyGlide, which I knew exactly were it was, I asked if anyone had some that she could borrow. Another male teammate, who knew her much better than I did stepped out from behind the van door. “You want to borrow BodyGlide?” he said with a bewildered look. “Yeah”, she responded. Then he asked the question that I couldn’t bring myself to ask. “You know where I use it, right?” I stood there awkwardly. “Yeah” she replied again. He looked at her as he tried to make sense of her response. “No, you know where I use it, right?” he asked again, to which she replied, “Yes.” You could see the wheels in his head trying to logically explain how she could answer yes and really know where he meant. At this point she, showed us her inner thigh which was raw and close to the point of out right bleeding. It looked really painful and I could then at least begin to understand her request. Fortunately, our one female teammate had joined us by that point and volunteered her stick and ended the awkward drama.

The rest of the morning was relaxed and enjoyable. I think there was one more transition to the rest van, but there was no point in trying to sleep at this point. I was excited about my last leg, which was 3.3 miles. I had run pretty hard on my first three legs and the previous one hurt, but I was planning on really dropping the hammer on this last one. 3.3 miles? That’s a warm up for a guy like me. As Matt came into sight, I got into position to run with him the last 20 yards to the exchange to make for a smooth transition. And by “getting into position”, I mean jumping out of the porta-potty like Superman flew out of a phone booth. Apparently the lady moderating this exchange point took her job very seriously and yelled at me as we ran through the “official” transition area of about 3 feet marked off in sidewalk chalk. We did hand off in the “official” zone, so I didn’t look back. It was about noon by now and it was sunny and hot. I hadn’t worn a shirt for any of my runs and on this one I could really feel the sun. I felt good though and I blazed through the first mile at an aggressive pace. There weren’t any runners around at this point and it was just a suburban neighborhood so there wasn’t much to it other than just running. The second mile hurt. I started to realize this wasn’t going to plan. Usually when I’m tired I check my watch a lot, but I didn’t need my GPS watch to tell me how slow I was going at this point. With about 3/4 mile out from the transition my teammate Rich was standing on the side and he asked me how it was going. All I could muster was, “bad”. I don’t know if he knew how bad I meant. I was beaten. Physically and mentally. If I would have been out there on my own, I wouldn’t have been walking; I would have been sitting. Luckily this was a team event, because Rich hopped out in front of me and paced me in. I know it was all mental, but it totally worked and I finished it. A few dry heaves as I walked to the van indicated that I had pushed it hard enough. In the end my average time was pretty close to my other legs.

4th Leg complete. Distance: 3.3 miles. Time: 25:31. Pace 7:45.

However, that wasn’t the end of the race. There was still one leg left, but there was no pressure. We were all just doing it for fun. Except that in the last few legs we knew that we would be close to finishing in under 24 hours. Luckily the anchor leg was assigned to the only Ironman on the team, Noel. Yes, she was the only female in this group of sweaty stinky guys and yes, she is an Ironman. Needless to say she pulled it off with 9 minutes to spare.

Total time: 23:51    Total Distance: 203.2 miles

So we did break the 24 hour mark and we ended up finishing 7th overall. Yeah, overall. The average pace was 7:03 per mile! Did I mention these guys were fast? And in case you were wondering, we beat the governor’s team by about an hour and a half.

The finish was at the San Jacinto Battleground State Historic Site. They had a pizza, soda, and sports drinks for us which we took over and ate by the reflecting pool as we reflected on the race. Our rest van crew had a surprise for us which was a cooler full of beverages. They had some high end selections, however feeling like I just earned my Texas citizenship I opted for the 16 oz. can of the “National Beer of Texas“.

Finally. The end of the story. Or is it?

TIR: Early Morning Shower

So the story picks back up at about 1 AM and I had just slapped the bracelet on Noel. We drove up to the next transition point where I attempted to clean up. I had just finished running two 10K races with 6 hours rest in between, so I was feeling a little “ripe”. So I took what I call a “porta-potty baby wipe shower”. You see, during the night most of the transition points were out in the country. So there was no running water and no bathrooms; just porta-potties and barely any light. However, I did find that with enough baby wipes one can emerge from a porta-potty feeling quite refreshed and clean. I had taken my time in “the shower” and by the time I got done, we knew something was wrong because Noel hadn’t shown up yet. Just then we heard reports from other teams that there was a runner off the course. What? Really? You knew there was a runner off the course and you just left them running the wrong way? Seriously? So we jumped back in the van and went out to find Noel. Remember that it is 1 AM and it is dark. It was windy that weekend and frequently the course signs were blown off, but on this leg it turns out that they neglected to even mark the final turn with a sign. Later someone from the race said that the directions clearly stated to turn at the flashing yellow light. Thanks, I’m sure the cost savings of one sign over a 200 mile course was worth it. Anyway, we soon found Noel and she was headed back to the course. We whipped around pulled up next to her. I was riding shotgun and waved her in and yelled for her to jump in. In typical Noel fashion, she waved me off, yelled something about not wanting to get us disqualified, and then proceeded to attempt to out run the van. Finally, we convinced her that it would be OK to take her back to where she left the course. Even though she ended up running about three extra miles she still made good time. I learned later that one our other runners took detour earlier as well by following some other runners. Trying to cover 200+ miles certainly has its logistical challenges and we had trouble staying on the course in the vans with maps.

Soon it was time to switch back to the rest van. Luckily they were at the right transition. Originally they had gone one too far but luckily figured it out. We hoped in the rest van and headed off to the next rest stop in Houston. Ed had setup the GPS for us so that we could go straight there instead of following the running course. I was driving and everything was going well until we got to the interstate and things weren’t really clear. I ended up getting on the interstate going what we were pretty sure was the wrong way. Laud, my navigator, went to consult the GPS and right as he touched it, the screen went black. Sweet. We turned around anyway and hoped for the best. Eventually we figured out that instead of turning off, the GPS hadn’t realized we were going the wrong way and just thought it would go to sleep since we had 20 miles to go on the interstate. The GPS ended up taking right where we needed to go. The transition point was at Luke’s Locker, a sporting good retailer and the main sponsor. They were open so I decided to go check them out. There were two young ladies serving free breakfast taco type stuff (yeah, I always want Tex-Mex in between runs). Anyway, I was astonished to find out that the two gals had no idea what was going on. They were amazed at all the people showing up. Apparently, when their boss asked them to work at 3 AM on Sunday morning, they didn’t ask any questions. That was enough for me, so I went out to find a place to sack out. When I got back to the van and got my stuff out, I saw everyone laying on the concrete in front of the strip mall store fronts. Then I turned and looked at the beautifully manicured lawn. I admit it. As I rolled out my sleeping bag on the soft green grass, I did have a prideful moment thinking about how smart I was for thinking of this as I quickly fell asleep. Who wouldn’t pick to sleep on grass over concrete?

After about an hour, I was violently awaken. Something was in my face. It was… water? Lots of it. And COLD! Oh, then it came again. It took me a minute to realize what was attacking me. Remember that this is Texas and grass isn’t naturally green here, its brown. Yes, there was a sprinkler system. And not one of those sissy ones that just mists; this baby had the big guns with oscillating heads that pop up and I had camped out right in front of one so that it shot me directly in the face and down into my bag. I was also close enough to the edge that it doubled back and got me twice before I could escape. So there I was soaking wet and cold. I hated to do it but I had to open up the van, which woke up Noel who was sleeping inside. She found it funny enough that she didn’t seem to mind. Next time I’ll try exercise a little more humility when I think I’m so smart.

6 AM and it was time to run again. Noel was up first with a short 2.3 mile run so it was a rush to get out in front of her so I would be ready next. This time it was a 5.6 miles leg including a trail through George Bush park. The run was pretty uneventful. It seemed like there were a lot of people walking which was pretty de-motivating. I pushed through to the end looking forward to my last leg being a mere 3.3 miles which I was planning on hitting hard.

3rd Leg complete. Distance: 5.6 miles. Time: 43:47. Pace 7:50.

Stay tuned for the Lone Star finish and the aftermath.

TIR: Midnight Run

In order to keep my mind off my latest running predicament, I figured I’d finish up my report on my last adventure. I left off last time right after I had finished my first of four legs which had gone really well. My leg was the last one before I switched back to the rest van so I had time to take a nice cool-down jog. I jumped in the van and we headed up four legs to Columbus, Texas where we were supposed to try to catch some rest. By that time it was completely dark. On the way there I cracked open my Livy’s princess lunch box and snarfed down a PB&J sandwich which I washed down with some Gatorade. Livy insisted that I take her princess lunch box for good luck but it also helped to make sure my lunch box didn’t get confused with anyone else’s.

When we got to Columbus we found that the transition was right next to the county court house. It reminded me of the small county seat towns in Nebraska with an old court house with big trees and nice lawns. It felt like it might rain so I broke out my el cheapo tarp, rolled out my fleece sleeping bag liner, and pulled the tarp over the top. I was just about a sleep when I heard a big crash which sounded like cymbal falling over. That happened about every 5 minutes. Later I figured out that it was a road closed sign that kept blowing over. No problem though, I just pulled out my ear-plugs which I had made sure to keep handy. After about an hour or so of rest, not sleep, it was time to start it up again. It had sprinkled a little bit but thankfully no real rain. It was about 10 PM at this point so I called Jenny to check in on the girls while I walked around the court house square. That’s when I spotted Governor Perry’s “entourage” (a black Lincoln towncar, and three black Suburbans complete with security detail). No he wasn’t waiting for the court house to open (the next day was Sunday remember). He was actually running on a team. OK, so I never actually saw him running but there is evidence. His team had started about 30 minutes before us so we were anxious to see if we could pass them. The Governor is no slouch if he can complete this race, but his team did have some ringers on it so it made things interesting. I walked past the Govenor’s entourage and got a “What’s up?” and some suspicious looks. I didn’t take offense since I was actually mildly worried about one member of our team who was obsessed with getting his home-made iron-on t-shirts with funny comments seen by the Governor. The only reason I worried was if he got arrested, I’d have to pick up more miles. But our runner came in before the Governor’s team so it was back into the active van.

My second leg was #19, a flat 5.5 mile leg at about midnight. I can’t say that I’ve ever run at night before and man was it different. Everyone had blinking red lights on their backs so you could see if someone was in front of you. We also had headlamps so you could see if someone was behind you, but I honestly never looked back. This was open country so you could see for a long way, or at least you could have if it was daytime. I could see three or four light blinking up ahead, but the darkness really messed up my sense of distance and speed. Until you got close it was hard to tell if you are catching up. And in the darkness, the miles seemed really long. I probably would have been better off without my GPS watch at that point. I was able to pass a few people which lifted my spirits, but about half way I got smoked by some guy who was really hauling. Soon I could see the transition point which was well light with type of lights you see on road construction sites. Almost there, I thought. Not quite, yeah, you could see it from a long ways out and the last mile really drug out. But I finished well and my team was ready and waiting. Oh, yeah, remember that guy who smoked me? It turns out his team wasn’t there. We don’t know what happened but I was glad it wasn’t me.

2nd Leg complete. Distance: 5.5 miles. Time: 42:23. Pace 7:42.

Stay tuned to hear just how smart I am and how I managed to get a shower.

TIR: Fresh Legs

So the story picks back up when the active van arrives at the transition point. At that point, I’ve only run 1 mile, ate some food, took a nap; I’m having a great time. I switched from the rest van to the active van as Ed took off running his leg and we headed toward the next transition point. This is where I realized that it was going to be challenging to keep up with everything logistically. One challenge was figuring out where to go as we couldn’t just follow the course because on this leg it took a path over some railroad tracks and then a foot bridge across a creek. With it being a 2.5 mile leg, that only gave us 15 minutes to be in place and ready. Did I mention these guys were really fast? Anyway, we made it to the foot bridge and weren’t confident we’d make it to the transition, so we kicked Matt out half a mile early and told him to “warm up” the rest of the way. In the end we made it in time, barely. Most of the legs were about 5 miles, so our usual strategy was to let the guy who just ran cool down for about 5 minutes. Then catch the current runner half way and give him some water. And then to the transition point to let the next guy warm up. And then repeat. All of that was really non-stop action. There was definitely no resting in the active van.

I was the last one to run a leg and while Noel was running leg 9, Matt started crunching some numbers. Remember this is a bunch of engineers. It turns out that everyone was running much faster than their predicted “conservative” 10 K pace and by his calculations we had a chance of breaking 24 hours. Everyone was quick to point out that we were just doing it for fun but we’re also all pretty competitive. My first leg was started in Flatonia. I thought Flatonia sounded like a nice place to start; better than Hillonia. It actually was a nice little town. The fire department had set up some showers using PVC pipe and tarps behind the theater which everyone except me got to enjoy. But I was focused on my run, leg 10 which was 6.1 miles, just short of a 10K. It was about 6:30 PM by then so I was also the first one to have to wear the night gear. That included a headlamp, a reflective belt, and a clip-on blinking bike light. It was still pretty light out, though, so I didn’t have to use the headlamp. I was concerned about what pace to run since I had no idea what it would be like to run another 10K six hours later. My “conservative” 10K pace was an 8:30 min/mile. I knew I could do all of my miles at that pace because it would be my fast marathon pace, but I wasn’t sure what would happen if I ran faster.

Noel came running in and slapped the bracelet which was used as the relay “baton” on me. No really, it was a slap bracelet. Yes admit it, you remember it from the 1980’s. Anyway, I took off running and felt really good. Amazingly good from what my GPS watch was telling me since my pace was wicked fast. Then I realized that I hadn’t reset my watch from the Prologue and it was averaging in that 7 minute mile. After I fixed that my pace actually made sense, and was still good. The leg was somewhat scenic, some small rolling hills through the Texas countryside. About half way there was a sign for the town of Praha (which is the Czech spelling of Prague) which made me smile since I’ve been there (both in the Czech Republic and in Nebraska). The team was also there to give me Gatorade to wash down my Gu packet. I felt really good but that doesn’t mean I looked good. I’ve never had a picture of myself running look flattering and I wasn’t going to share this, but since you are still reading… here you go (thanks Rich). But then up ahead I spotted my mark. My first roadkill. No not an armadillo. Roadkill is what it was called when you passed someone or when someone passed you. It was different from other races I’ve run since there was the staggered start due to the diversity of the teams. So it was cool to be able to see someone up ahead and chase them down. Especially at night since everyone had a flashing red light on their back. Slowly I reeled him in and passed him. OK, so he was older than me. Much older, and running almost as fast as me, but I still passed him. Shortly after that some other guy roadkilled me and put me back in my place which was really running to push myself. The 6 miles flew by and before I knew it I was at the transition. It also caught our next runner off guard since I was more than a little early. Luckily he was ready. It was just getting dark when I finished and by the time I cooled down it was dark. I hopped in the rest van and off we went to the next rest stop. Just enough time to try to down some food (which mostly consisted of PB&J, Powerbars, and Cliff bars) and try to rehydrate.

Leg 1 complete. Distance: 6.09 miles. Time: 47:32. Pace 7:48.

Can I keep up this pace for 16 more miles? Stay tuned…

TIR: The Prologue

canonI know all of you were worried about me, so I wanted to let you know that I survived the Texas Independence Relay. Let’s start with the basics. Yes, we finished all 203 .2 miles, but you’ll have to wait to find out how we did. I ran 4 legs totaling 20.5 miles. Btw, 20.5 in a day is a new distance record for me. Since it was a relay I think it is fitting that I write up the experience in a series of posts. OK, and it would be a really long post that I might not ever finish if I tried to do it all at once (notice how long it took me to get just this part out).

A team of 10 people in two vans involves some logistical challenges. Luckily, our team captain, Chris, had run it last year and was all over it and, of course, it was powered by LabVIEW.  Race day came and we loaded up our two vans Saturday morning and headed down to Gonzales. The beginning of the race was kind of anti-climatic. Since there were a wide variety of teams running at different speeds, some teams started as early as 6 AM while we started at about 1 PM. So every once in a while they would fire the canon and a team would take off running. The canon was a replica of the famed “Come and Take It” canon, which was actually quite small. To top it off, when it was our turn to start we didn’t even get the canon. They told our team captain to hit a gong. Then we stood around looking at each other. The wind blew the gong over as we tried to figure out if we had officially “started” and then a photographer told us to run. So we did.

The race started with a 1.1 mile “prologue” which the entire team runs together. Trying to not look too much like the weak link, I kept up with their 7 minute mile pace alright. It was enough to get the heart rate up and a little sweat going, just so that I could jump in the rest van. We left the active van of five people with the runner and the four of us drove ahead four legs where we were supposed to rest. That took us to Shiner, Texas and the transition point was next to the high school track. Laying beside the track on a blanket with a towel over my head reminded me of my high school track days.  Which for the record, my event was the 200 meters, not 200 miles. I was able to rest, but I could tell that getting any sleep over the course of this race was going to be tough.

Coming soon… TIR: Leg 1

Earning My Texan Citizenship

texas_flag_come_and_take_itThe Texas Revolution began in Gonzales, Texas when Mexican soldiers attempted to retrieve a canon previously given to the American colonists who defiantly replied, “Come and take it!” There was some fighting. Sam Houston signed the Texas Declaration of Independence. There was a battle at the Alamo. Texas lost. All the men in the Alamo were executed. General Houston ordered the “Runaway Scrape” where Texans fled east and burned everything behind them. General Santa Anna chased them. Houston ambushed Santa Anna at the Battle of San Jacinto where Texans cried “Remember the Alamo!” Texas won. Hurray!

OK, so you may be wondering why I’m sharing this Texas history with you. Well, in celebration of Texas Independence Day (March 2), I’ll be taking a step towards becoming an official Texas citizen (apparently you can’t become a citizen just by drinking Shiner and Lone Star). I’m going on an exciting journey through some of Texas’ historic sites (including the town of Shiner) by participating in the Texas Independence Relay this Saturday and Sunday. It starts in Gonzales and ends at the battle grounds of San Jacinto. So… What’s that? Relay? Yeah, it’s a relay where a team of 8-12 people take turns running. Uh? Yeah, it is Saturday AND Sunday. How far is it? Well, it is a little over 200 miles. What? Hell no I’m not running the whole thing. Do you think I’m crazy? (Well get to that later.) It’s a relay, remember. There are 10 people on my team so we’re each covering about 20 miles. That’s enough questions for now, I’ll give you a full report when if I survive. OK, so I know you have one last question? Am I crazy? I think the collection of items I’ll be using for the race in this photo answer that.

Race Supplies

Thanks for the Anti-Drozmonkey Butt Powder Mom!