Last weekend I ran a crazy 200-mile relay through the mountains of Vermont. The Green Mountain Relay was one of the hardest running events I’ve ever done in my short running career: 12 people, 2 vans, 36 legs, and a weekend of absurdity.
Each runner was numbered 1 through 12 and ran 3 assigned legs. Based on the assigned legs, each runner position was ranked in difficulty — based on the hills in the assigned legs — on a scale from 1 to 12, 12 being the most difficult. I was Runner #5, difficulty 12.
Going into the race, I thought, “I’m sure it’s not going to be that difficult. I mean, I run hills all the time.”
Wow, was I ever wrong.
The difference is that I train on hills, not mountains. And this was called the Green Mountain Relay.
Taken individually, each leg was among the hardest races I’ve ever run.
My first leg was 8.2 miles nearly all up hill with an insanely fast couple miles downhill. My pace varied from about 12:30 in the steepest sections up to as fast as a 5-minute pace flying down the mountain. Incredibly, my average pace in that first leg — my best of the weekend — was 7:48/mile. Of course, I really went all out on that first leg, not really leaving anything left for the other two (wrongly thinking that 12 or so hours and a tall Guinness would help me recover).
My second leg (no Garmin data since it couldn’t locate satellites) was the worst and possibly the best run of my life: It was 6.7 miles straight up hill in the middle of the night. It was just me, an orange vest, and a headlamp in the pitch dark in the middle of nowhere around 11pm for more than an hour. I also made the mistake of eating too much, so running was, shall we say, not very comfortable.
My third and final leg on Sunday morning, after sleeping for 3 hours in a sleeping bag in a field in the middle of Vermont, was supposed to be 4.4 miles — also straight up hill — but ended up being 5.4 miles after the team van and I both missed a poorly marked turn on the course.
When you put it all together — the insanely tough 20.3 miles of mountain runs, the shuffling between exchange points for 29 hours, living in a van with 6 people for 2 days, getting no sleep, spending way too much time in porta-potties — it added up to a really big challenge. And also tons of fun and really memorable. I was exhausted for days afterward.
During the experience — running up hill with that headlamp, sleeping in a field, having to use a porta-potty again — I was cursing it and hating it. As soon as I was home and showered, though, I began considering the possibility of doing it again next year, though maybe not taking on the most difficult legs.
As I shouted to my teammates between breaths at the top of of the hardest hill of my first leg, “I think they mis-labeled the difficulty as Very Hard. It should be called You’ve got to be fucking kidding me.
That about sums up the experience. My finisher’s medal was well earned and hangs proudly alongside my two marathon finisher’s medals since the experience was as tough as a marathon.
Finally, Jen was kind enough to wake up before 5am on Sunday and head to Bennington to camp out at the final exchange (#35) for about 5 hours as a volunteer. Seeing her after a long and dreary couple days was a nice treat. After hanging out with her for the final stretch of her volunteer time, we then danced at the finish line as we waited for our final runner to cross the finish line.
Official results: 28:59:28. Average pace for the team: 8:48. Place: 32nd of 50 overall.