Last week was the 2009 edition of the Reno-Tahoe Odyssey. This is that crazy 178-mile running race that I did last year, and I enjoyed so much that I signed myself up for to do again – and probably will do again next year. The RGJ has a decent article on it, which even includes a small interview with my team’s captain, Joe Dito.
This year, I was runner number 5 (out of 12). The course is divided in 36 legs, so each runner gets to run 3 legs of about 5 miles, on average. My leg assignments added up to 13.4 miles, and here’s the breakdown of how it all went.
- Leg 5: 5.8 miles – Moderate rating.
The weather was great. Overcast skies, and the wind that an hour earlier was making me concerned was now a gentle breeze. I don’t think I’d ever ran such a long distance (even in my training!), but I was ready for it. My goals were to finish it in less than an hour, to never stop to walk and to avoid getting passed by someone running behind me.
I accomplished all of my goals, and ran this bad boy in 48 minutes, putting me at a pace of a mile in 8 minutes and 16 seconds.
Since this was such a long haul, and there were a few hills to climb, I brought along some Luna Moons for a little energy boost. They’re designed marketed for women, but I got them in my goodie bag for the race, and I was sure I’d put them to good use… and I did. I’m not sure how much they helped in my actual performance, but they certainly took my mind off of the task at hand when I had to go up a steep grade. The flavor was good, but the best part was that they’re so chewy that they got stuck to my teeth and gums, and I was too busy trying to clean up the mess inside my mouth with my tongue to wallow in the effort I was putting in.
For the last couple of miles, I had a horrible side ache (aka Side Stitch). I wanted to walk it off, but I also wanted to perform well, so I exercised a little bit of focus, controlled my breath a bit more, and kept on pushing.
Soon enough, my leg was over, and I was finally able to catch my breath and rest up. I was dead tired, but as soon as I found out that I beat my goal by 12 minutes, a feeling of accomplishment overwhelmed me, and I wasn’t in pain anymore. Or at least, I didn’t feel it.
- Leg 17: 4.2 miles – Easy rating.
I thought this was going to be my strongest leg, but I feel like it was my weakest of the three. It was a pretty flat course, without much traffic. My goals were the same as before, and I was shooting for 25 minutes.
I finished in 30 minutes, but I didn’t get passed, didn’t walk, and I also didn’t get eaten by a bear… which was a concern while running through the woods by South Lake Tahoe, at midnight.
Maybe I was going fast (after all, I was doing a 7:08 – mile pace), but I felt like I was just cruising along. I blame the beautiful starry night and the silence, the feeling of being so small when you’re running in the darkness with a tiny headlamp lighting up only 20 feet in front of you, the lack of sleep and the fatigue from the earlier undertaking.
The temperature was around 50 degrees, but I once again finished my leg nice and sweaty. No side ache this time, which added to my feeling that I didn’t push it hard enough to make my goal. Oh well.
- Leg 29: 3.4 miles – More Challenging rating.
Saturday. We woke up at 4AM, south of Carson City. Our Odyssey was almost over, but we still had quite a few miles to go.
I was nauseous, sleepy and starting to feel tightness in my muscles. One by one, the runners in my van did their legs, and my turn was coming up.
My leg was going to be the toughest one yet, going up from Highway US 50, into Silver City. A whole lot of uphill. And even though it wasn’t even 7am when I started running, my shirt came off less than a mile into it, thanks to the sun and the toughness of the road in front of me.
I was tired. I was going very slowly, yet I never walked. I just kept on going, hoping to finally pass someone. I hadn’t been passed by anyone, but I hadn’t gotten any “roadkill”, and some of my teammates had gotten to pass more than a handful of people.
Halfway there, a lady in her late 30s (I guessed at the time) ran right past me. Holy smokes, she had energy, and she was going at least 2 mph faster than me. I try to go a bit faster, and I see her passing someone else, not too far ahead from me. I think to myself that I might not catch the lady that passed me, but I made it my goal to catch up, and pass, the other person that she’d just passed as well. At least to break even with the roadkills: get passed once, pass someone once.
On the steepest part of my leg, I caught up to this other person. It was another lady, with a tattoo of a maple leaf on the right calf. I was right behind her for a good 5 minutes, slowly but surly closing in, and feeling like if I kept up the effort, I’d pass her.
Sure enough, I passed her. Damn, I felt good. But I also noticed how tired I was right after I passed her. I wanted to give her a high five, say “good game” and walk the rest of my leg. But to hell with that, I kept on pushing, making sure she wouldn’t catch me. If I maintained my gain, I would finish the race proud of my performance, and that was my motivation to not give up.
Less than half a mile to go, my teammates are cheering me on. They’re telling me I’m almost there.
Eric hands me some water and tells me that if I really push it, I’m going to pass a guy right before finishing. And then, he starts running next to me, even though he’s dead tired and he’s all done with his assigned legs.
I turn up the effort to “balls deep” and I see the guy. Eric tells me that right after a curve about 100 yards away, I’m done. I think I can give it my all, but I’m really hoping that he’s not lying so that I turn up the heat, because I’m really running out of juice.
Turns out, he wasn’t lying. I’m doing my best impression of a sprint after going 3 miles uphill, and I pass the guy. In less than a hundred strides, I’m also done. Once again, covered in sweat. But also, with a huge smile on my face, feeling like I truly did give it my best shot.
I ask what my time was, and they tell me that I finished my leg in 32 minutes. Slow, but I didn’t care, because I really didn’t feel like I could have gone any faster. I also don’t care because I’m done, the race is over for me. And I finished with a positive roadkill ratio, 2 to 1!
However, it wasn’t just about me. A big part of the fun of this race is the teamwork, the encouraging of your teammates as they run for miles and miles. I was very lucky to have an awesome crew, which definitely enhances the experience.
I’m not a hardcore runner, I do this kind of stuff for fun. I can’t imagine being in a team where everyone is dead serious the whole time, and I’m very thankful that that wasn’t the case.
Josh, Eric, Karin, Bryan and Amy: Thank you for making the Reno-Tahoe Odyssey about a lot more than just running. You are all wonderful people on top of being speedy runners.
Nevertheless, this was a race. Sure, we had fun. In fact, we had a lot of fun. But we also kicked ass. Our team, Venetian Skunk, ended up placing 7th overall, and there were 110 teams signed up. Oh yeah, we kicked a lot of ass.
Now, I leave you with a picture of me at the finish line, after having taken a shower and a quick 20 minute nap. If you click on it, you can get to the album with the rest of the pictures that I took.