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A Quadzilla Report: Part Deux

As you may recall, day one was in the books and we had yet to utter anything to the effect of “what did we get ourselves into” so we were in good shape! We managed to find a delicious Japanese restaurant and sushi bar for dinner on the evening of day one, and we went to bed well fed and ready to tackle the next day.

May 31- Day Two

We began the second day where we left off on the first day, with our official chalk line on the road to mark our “start”. As you recall, we finished up the day before in a nicely shaded park, so we began in that same wooded area. The brief bit of shade was nice, and the temps hadn’t yet climbed all that high, but the humidity was already out in full force so we knew we were going to be in for another steamy day. The day’s route took us through Fredericksburg, across the Rappahannock River, and back out along lightly traveled country roads, ending just north of a small town called Tacketts Mill.

RAUSA-2.5

As luck would have it, Stefan and I began day two running with another amazing member of the core team of runners. Rob Young actually began running a marathon a day or more prior to the start of the Race Across the USA, and was running this event as part of a set of larger goals. He was attempting to set a world record for the most marathons run in a year, and was doing it all to raise money and awareness for vulnerable children. He would go on to win the overall Race Across the USA, and ultimately run 370 marathons in the span of 365 days. On this particular day, Stefan and I had a nice leisurely chat with him about his running experiences, his background in various other sports, including professional cycling, and his plans to break future world records as well. It was clear within 5 minutes just how passionate he is for the sport and the level of commitment and dedication he has to what he is doing, and it was amazing to be a part of that with him. We stuck with him for 5 or 6 miles before we once again realized we were going faster than planned, and we made the decision to pull back and slow our pace. It would appear that we learned our lesson, as it didn’t take us 18 miles to slow down this time around!

RAUSA-2.2

For the most part, the rest of the day involved a nice pleasant run through the country in semi-rural Virginia. Once again, the temps rose and our sweat levels increased, but Jamile was right there to offer us the additional ice and water that we needed to keep moving forward and enjoying the opportunity to be out there running a second marathon in as many days. There was no shortage of hills, and we ended the day with over 2,700 feet of elevation gain and a hair over a marathon in distance. Overall, it was a great day and we even managed to splurge on slurpees when we were done, which obviously made it all worth it!

RAUSA-2.6

RAUSA-2.8

June 1- Day Three

Good morning!”

Good morning, ready to go run another marathon?”

Nah, why don’t we shoot for closer to a 50K? You know, to challenge ourselves! 🙂 ”

“Ok, sounds like a plan. Now hurry up and get your shoes on!”

Our legs were feeling really good after the past two days. We had been rolling them out pretty consistently, and even doing a bit of icing to be on the safe side. That, combined with some good refueling, left us in good shape for the longest of the four days. The day’s route, and the second to the last day of the entire event, was set at a bit over 33 miles. There’s probably a joke in there somewhere considering the timing of this distance, but everyone was tired enough when we started and even more tired when we finished that we no doubt missed it.

RAUSA-2.9

The theme for the entire day was heat and hills, and there were copious amounts of both as the miles ticked by and the sun got higher in the sky. However, the first 18 miles or so flew by pretty quickly and we were both rather surprised at how smoothly the morning had been going, and how well our legs were still holding up. We were moving at a good clip, enjoying the views, and even stopping to take pictures along the way. This was probably the first time that I felt like I could simply keep going indefinitely, and it was a pretty amazing feeling. I’ve indicated before that I’d love to attempt my own trans-continental run at some point in the future, and it was encouraging to get just a small glimmer of the possibility while tackling this experience.

We were now getting closer to the outskirts of D.C. so we were in more populated areas, and were able to take refuge on some sidewalks along busier roads, which was nice. We managed to find some of the biggest hills we had yet to encounter. It had also been more than a day since we had gotten off course, so we were due for a bit of creative route adjustment, and we found it near some road construction. We knew the construction was coming and thought we had the directions correct but we made the mistake of stopping to ask a construction worker, who sent us in the completely wrong direction, and we tacked on about a mile before we found our way back to the course. For some reason, this extra distance, combined with the heat and no doubt a bit of dehydration, hit me really hard and I hit a very hard wall. We only had 5 or 6 miles left, but I was hating life. Luckily, Stefan offered me a flavor of honey stinger gel that I hadn’t had before. For whatever reason, the new flavor rejuvenated me and I was back on track for the remainder of the day. We finished the day by cresting the biggest hill we had yet to find, and the sight of everyone up at the top waiting for us was a welcome relief after 34 miles!

RAUSA-2.7

Once we finished for the day, we actually headed back to Alexandria and Stefan & Jamile’s house, where we would stay the final night since we were so close. We got cleaned up and then hopped in the car to head over to the Pentagon for a tour. As it happens, Stefan works for the National Guard, at the Pentagon, so I had the privilege of receiving a personal tour of this icon fixture of American politics and military influence around the world. It was fascinating to learn more about the history behind the building’s construction, as well as the overall layout and the various offices and personnel housed within those 5 walls. Seeing the 9/11 Memorial was particularly sobering, and an important reminder of how all of the pieces of life fit together.

RAUSA-2.4

After the tour, we headed to another D.C. neighborhood to join the rest of the RAUSA team for a celebratory dinner in honor of the final official race the following day. It was an opportunity to get to know folks a bit better and enjoy a nice meal and fuel up for the final run to D.C. and along the National Mall. It was hard to believe that we had already conquered three days and were now gearing up for our final marathon and we were equal parts excited and tired. Luckily, there was rain and cooler temperatures in the forecast for the last day, so we were excited to end on a more comfortable note.

Stay tuned next time for the exciting conclusion of Stefan and Adam’s Quadzilla adventures! #chasing42 #chasing42reports

A Quadzilla Report: The Race Across Virginia

I hopped in the car and headed out east the Monday after an amazing Market to Market weekend, with 1700 miles separating myself and the critters from the epicurean. I managed to tackle the trip in two days of “quality” time in the car, and we arrived at our new home on the afternoon of May 12th. Mind you, this was a home that we purchased despite my not seeing it in person, as I was unable to travel out with the epicurean to house shop. Luckily, I trust her completely, and she found us a wonderful new home! There was a flurry of unpacking and organizing over the next week (don’t worry…it’s still happening, but more to come on that in a later post), but I managed to stick to my training schedule pretty well and do some initial exploring of the area. I figured out pretty quickly that I wasn’t in the flat lands of Iowa anymore, and the combination of hills and humidity meant I was in for a period of adjustment. So, despite only having been in our new home for a couple of weeks, I decided to register for a significant running challenge in a part of the country I had spent very little time. That’s what everyone does, right?

In all fairness, I had actually registered for this series of races before we made the decision to move, and the move just made the opportunity that much easier to take advantage of and enjoy. Late last year, I read about a group of runners who were planning on embarking on a trans-continental run from Los Angeles to Washington, D.C., beginning in January. I was immediately intrigued, and my interest grew substantially when I found out that the race would be happening in conjunction with a research project to study the long-term impact of running on endurance athletes. The combination of running and research was right up my ally and I quickly explored how I could possibly get involved. In addition to the initial group of 11 core team members, the group was providing the opportunity for runners to join them throughout the country, either for an entire state, a 4-day experience, or a single day. The route involved running roughly a marathon every day consistently, with various rest days as the team crossed into a new state. In total, it meant that the core team members would be running for 140 days and would cover 3,080 miles in total.

Screen Shot 2015-07-03 at 9.48.19 AM

The thought of some day completing my own run across the U.S. has been on my mind for some time, but I’m clearly not at the point in my life where that is a possibility. The team took a southern route, so driving from Iowa wasn’t really an option, and flying didn’t seem necessarily financially responsible when lodging and transportation to each of the starting points was factored in. However, the last 4 days of the race involved running across Virginia and finishing on the White House lawn (or across from it, technically). Luckily, we happen to have two very good friends who live in the D.C. area who also happen to love running, and it didn’t take much work to convince Stefan and Jamile to join me on this adventure.  What’s more, they graciously agreed to pick me up at the airport and organize our transportation. Stefan and I would tackle 4 straight marathons, and Jamile would join us as an amazing support crew, and we’d spend the rest of the time relaxing throughout Virginia when we weren’t running. It was wonderful to see two familiar faces after arriving in Delaware, and I was excited to visit with them and share the adventure!

May 29-Day Zero

One of the most exciting aspects of moving to the east coast for me is the increased access to public transportation. When I lived in NYC, I loved not having to drive anyone and still have access to everything the area had to offer. Thus, I was excited to hop on a train Friday morning for the 90-minute ride to D.C. Stefan and Jamile picked me up at Union Station, and we headed back to their house in Alexandria to get packed up. Our plan was to stay at a hotel in Fredericksburg, VA for the first three nights, and then drive back to stay at their house the final night. This would position us well for fairly easy drives in the morning out to the starting lines. Since the route itself was mainly along public roads, with some trails tossed in when available, the start and finish lines were simply easy access points in the road once the required distance had been met. We made it out to the hotel, got checked in, and then went and did a bit of exploring in town. Although I lived in Virginia for several years, I had never visited the town and it was fun to walk around (with coffee in hand, of course). I had forgotten how much I loved all of the history on the east coast, and this part of Virginia is filled with it, so we had plenty to see, while also taking it easy before our first marathon in the morning.

Exploring historic Fredericksburg...

Exploring historic Fredericksburg…

May 30- Day One

We woke up extra early on Saturday morning for the first race since we were uncertain of how things would play out and we wanted to make sure we weren’t late. The “start” was an intersection out in the country where the group had finished the previous day, so we had GPS directions and found our way out there without any issues, and arrived around 6:30 for the 7:00AM start. We met with the race organizers and received our bibs, shirts, and buffs, and hung out and waited for others to arrive. There were 7 remaining core team runners that had been at it since the beginning, and we had a chance to meet everyone briefly. There were several other folks that were joining us for the remaining 4 days, and 1 other runner was half way through the full 9-day Virginia leg. I was feeling comfortable, well-rested, and excited to get things rolling. I’ve run plenty of long distances and marathons, but this was my first attempt at a Quadzilla (4 back-to-back marathons) and there were still some nerves turning over in my stomach, but I knew I had trained well for it and my body was ready to handle the stress. We could already tell the weather would be a bit more of a challenge, with warm temperatures and high humidity, but the plan was to take it slow and enjoy ourselves. I was treating this set of races like other ultras and slowing my pace while continuing to push forward.

Let's get this party started!

Let’s get this party started!

We began promptly at 7AM and our small group of runners was off, heading down a lonely country road. It was the first of many peaceful country roads we would traverse over the next 4 days. I decided to play it safe and I opted for my Salmon S-Lab 12 pack so I could carry plenty of water, as well as nutrition and other emergency medical supplies. There were aid stations every 6 miles or so, but I knew the heat would lead me to want more than a handheld bottle could carry. This proved to be a smart decision and I was grateful for the extra hydration. This was actually the first time I had worn the pack, as it was a replacement for my S-Lab 5, which I was able to get replaced for free after the zippers rusted shut. I very quickly realized that the minimal added weight was unnoticeable and the extra storage capacity made this an even better pack!

Stefan and I took off at a relatively controlled pace and initially tried to stay around 9:00 min/mile. This seemed reasonable at the time, but I had neglected to factor in the hilly terrain, much like that which I had recently discovered at home. We ended up falling in with one of the core runners, and had a wonderful conversation with him over many miles. We were able to hear some of his stories from the previous few months of constant running, as well as learn more about the research project he was working on in conjunction with the event. The miles just seemed to tick by as we chatted about running research, physiology, and academia in general, along with learning more about his experiences during the event. It wasn’t until we were startled by a rather large snake in the middle of the road that we realized we had missed a turn a few miles back and gone off course. Since it was a small event and the roads weren’t closed, the course wasn’t marked so we were required to follow the directions we had been given to stick to the course. This wouldn’t normally be a problem, but it does mean looking at the directions instead of leaving them in your pocket. We stopped for a photo-op with the snake, and then turned around, while also calling one of the support team members, who was nice enough to come pick us up and bring us back to the course turn we missed. We ended up adding about 3 miles to our already long day, which would come back to bite us later on.

Snakes...why does it always have to be snakes?

Snakes…why does it always have to be snakes?

Around mile 18, the heat and hills were beginning to get to us and we realized it wouldn’t be smart to try and maintain the pace we were hitting so we bid adieu to our new friend as he continued on. I was amazed that after almost 3,000 miles, he was still able to tackle the road so effortlessly, and that proved to be the case for each of the core runners. Our respect was instant, and our amazement continuous! We slowed our pace a bit, and the heat began to get to Stefan a bit so we made sure we were hydrating well, along with taking advantage of ice at the aid stations and Jamile’s wonderful personal aid stations along the way.

The end is in sight!

The end is in sight!

We decided it was in our best interest to take it easy the final 10 miles, so we enjoyed being outside (despite the intense sun!) and took in our surroundings. Near the end of the route, we were sent along a beautiful wooded trail towards a state park for the finish, and the change of scenery and surface provided some much-needed relief from the heat and gave us a chance to enjoy the experience even more. We were by ourselves for this final stretch, aside from Jamile’s timely roadside assistance and the reality that we would be doing it all over again for the following three days began to really sink in. We entered the park and were able to see the “finish line” up in the distance, and the support folks and a few other runners lingering and waiting for everyone to come in for the day. There was no ribbon or formal finish line, no inflatable arch, and no medals at the end, but it didn’t matter. Our sense of accomplishment was all the reward we needed and we were all smiles as we crossed the finish line. What should have been close to marathon distance became almost 30 miles after our detour and we couldn’t have been more happy to reach the end!

Finished!

Finished!

We lingered about for a bit chatting with folks and were able to cheer on a few other runners who weren’t too far behind us. Then we hopped back in the truck and headed back to the hotel to shower and rest a bit. I’ll never get used to just how refreshing and rejuvenating a hot shower can be after a long distance run, and I was feeling much better. The sun had taken its toll, but my legs still felt fresh, and I was sure this was a good sign for the days to come. The rest of the day was spent eating, relaxing, and hanging out. I was reminded yet again that although I love to run because it gives me a chance to push myself and test my abilities, it is ultimately more about the people I’m with, and I couldn’t have been happier to be sharing this experience with two amazing friends. We were all looking forward to the next three days and the laundry list of memories that were just over the horizon!

…to be continued 🙂 #chasing42

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