200 miles. 12 people. 3 mini vans. 1 great cause: supporting organ donations.
When I received an email from a colleague, inviting a few people to join his Golden Gate Relay team, “Urine my Heart”, to run from Napa Valley to Santa Cruz, my initial reaction was “I’m free that weekend…”
One 8 mile run later, I concluded my “one and done” training prep. On Saturday, with no idea what to expect, I hopped into the limousine of vans, a Chrysler blah blah, with 2 old friends and 4 new ones, and so began our epic 36 hour running journey.
We land in Petaluma at 4pm, after the first van has completed 14 legs of running (each leg between 3-7 miles with differing levels of difficulty). Our first team member, Suet-fei, begins a 5.5 mile run and we drive to the start location of the next leg, where a church is reportedly making large bowls of chili for runners. We are so far ahead of all other teams, the volunteers have not even shown up to begin prepping the food. We’re so far ahead, the race organizers have asked Nick (our fearless team lead) for us to slow down. “Not to worry”, I tell Nick, “I’m about to start running”. #9minmiles.
At ~6:30pm, I begin my first leg, where my biggest concern is navigating the 6 turns (we all know I have the navigational skills of a pigeon).
At 9pm, our team has made it to the Golden Gate Bridge, where we all join in to run the most iconic part of the route together. Best part is the hot tomato soup awaiting us after the GGB, where my eagerness to nourish myself results in a very burnt tongue.
After passing the GGB, our ultra-marathoner, Yohann, straps on his reflective vest and water bottles and begins his 4 legs totaling 22 miles, through San Francisco and down the peninsula. See video here.
I psych myself up to join Yohann’s 6.5 mile run at midnight by intermediately lunging and stretching through a grocery store. As Yohann arrives at the exchange (aka fake baton pass), I join him and we spend the next hour chatting as we run under the moonlight. Except there was no moonlight. It was pitch black.
See video here.
As we’re jogging along, I think to myself, “This is easy! I can do this for hours. I should be an ultra marathoner too!”. Within hours, the running gods have shot that idea down, along with a “Let me show you why you’ll never be a long distance runner” …#shinsplints.
At 3am, our van utilizes our 4 hour break to shower and nap at Johnson’s parents’ house which is conveniently located a few miles from our last leg. As none of us can sleep, we decide to watch Lord of the Rings at 5am. We’re all asleep within 15 minutes of the intro battle scene. Almost immediately after falling asleep, it’s time to wake up and complete our 2nd round of legs!
We drive to Santa Cruz where Nick ‘the Machine’ Shelton arrives in the nick of time (#punny) to make a 7 mile climb straight up the Santa Cruz mountains. Yohann and I hop out of the car to join, thinking it is the “Easy, 3.5 mile” leg. As soon as we hear it’s the 7 mile, we slap Nick on the shoulder with a “Have fun, man! We’re out!”.
Once Nick finishes the insane climb, Yohann and I exchange with him and begin the “Easy, 3.5 mile run”. Lies. So many lies. The run starts with a ~6% incline and I quickly find myself hopping on one leg up the hill as my shin splints make me feel like I am 80 years old. I hop for another 5 minutes, and notice Yohann is walking next to me at the same pace as my jog/hop. I admit defeat to my future ultra marathon career, and let Yohann continue the rest of the leg without me.
2 legs and 10 miles later, our team crosses the finish line, in 3rd place behind Team Google (what?? I thought we were Team Google!) and Team Stanford. We nap in the sand, eat hamburgers and hot dogs and then head to the Caltrain to make it back in the city with just enough time to sleep for 11 hours.