The day started early. The night before Scott, mom, and I drove to Decatur to stay with our team captain, David. He lives just five minutes from the park that the race was taking place at, so it was nice and convenient for us. David was one of our coaches in the marathon group we completed last December; he’s an incredible athlete (a member of both the Fleet Feet Racing team and Triathalon Team), and just a fun and wonderful person in general. After a hearty breakfast of steel cut oats with almonds, raisins, and coconut, we loaded up all of our supplies in our cars and headed over to the park around 5:30am. The race was scheduled to begin at 6am, and David was our first runner.
The race took place at Delano park in Decatur, AL. The course consisted of a flat 1 mile loop on a crushed gravel path. The temperature was in the low 40s, and forecast to climb into the 70s as the day wore on. We set up our table of food, chairs, and bundled up as we waited for the race to begin.
There were four races taking place: the 12 hour run, a 50k, a 50 miler, and the 12 hour relay. It was fun to chat with all the other runners to see what their goal was. The trash talk between the relay teams started early, but it was all in good fun. Soon enough 6am rolled around, and the runners were off! Our plan was to start with 5 miles each, and then gradually decrease the miles as the hours went by. As mentioned before, David took the first turn, and he BLAZED through his first 5 miles. Next was mom, then Scott took his turn, and I was last. David and Scott were holding steady 7ish minute miles on each of their turns, while mom and I were running 10ish minute miles. While the idea of running a 1 mile loop over and over might sound like torture, it was actually really enjoyable. The loop had several twists and turns, giving enough variation so it didn’t seem too monotonous. Also, running a small loop meant 1. getting to see and cheer for/be cheered on by your friends that were running/watching, and 2. plenty of aid station and bathroom opportunity!
Each time we ran, we would change into fresh clothes. Having dry stuff to wear definitely made everything more enjoyable, even though we were made fun of by some of the other relay-ers for having so many outfit changes, ha. A few hours into the race, the temperature had risen significantly. We went from wearing long pants and sleeves, to shorts and tank tops. After each of us taking two 5 mile turns, we lessened the mileage to 4 on each turn. Although our aid area was stocked up with some of the best stuff (beer, Gatorade, water, pretzels, PB&J, Oreos, potato chips… we seriously had it all), the one thing we DIDN’T have was a tent to sit under. Before I knew it, I was sunburned. I lathered up with some industrial strength sun screen, but not before I was already pretty roasted.
In the heat of the day we all started to feel a little fatigued– I was feeling over heated and had absolutely no appetite. Surprisingly my body felt okay, a few twinges here and there, but nothing major. I stayed pretty diligent with my stretching and foam rolling after each turn, and that helped me to stay fairly pain free the whole day. My biggest issue was dealing with a lack of appetite. After my 4 mile turn, Scott realized that I had only eaten a few bites of a peanut butter and jelly sandwich since breakfast, and forced me to eat a slice of cheese pizza while I stretched.
After each of us had finished our 4 miles, David headed out to supposedly run another 4. Mom, Scott, and I were sitting in a circle and each admitted to wanting to go down to 3 miles. “Should we tell David, or just let him run 4…?” We all pondered. Just as we decided we should probably let him know, so he didn’t end up running two 4 mile turns when we were all planning to go down to 3 the next time, David ran by our area and called out, “We are changing to 3 miles this time, guys!” It was like he read our minds! We all burst into laughter and said things like, “If you say so! But only because you’re too tired! Not because we are!”
After David finished his turn, mom took off for hers. We were reviewing the current results, and realized that if we got our runs just right, we could surpass the team that had been ahead of us by a couple miles all day. Scott and David began to strategize excitedly, and David told me to run my upcoming 3 miles as if they were going to be the last ones I did today. Scott’s turn came, and he blazed through his 3 miles in 23 minutes– if it was a 5k race that would have been a PR for him!! He tagged me, and I took off, trying to run as hard as I could. I pushed hard for three laps, and then tagged David. Our strategy was now this: run single miles as fast as you possibly can. We were only few miles down from surpassing the other team, and had about 50 minutes on the clock.
(All photos with the We Run Huntsville watermark credited to the oh-so-wonderful Gregg Gelmis)
David ran two miles in at a blazing 7:10 pace, and then it was mom’s turn again. She ran 1 mile in 9:30 and tagged Scott, who ran his in 6:56. 6:56!!! How that is even possible after nearly 12 hours of off and on running I have no idea, but it was a personal best mile time for him. Next it was my turn to run a mile. As I ran, I willed my legs to move as quickly as possible. Knowing that you have a team relying on you is one of the best motivators EVER, y’all. I was hot, tired, sun burned, and dehydrated, but knowing they were there cheering me on helped me to dig deep and run fast (well, fast for someone with 17 miles on their legs, anyway). Near the end of my mile my abdomen seized in pain– it was like the strongest side cramp I had in my entire life; my legs felt like jelly and I started to feel slight dizzy. I was pretty sure I was going to either barf or just collapse when I crossed the timing mat, but thankfully neither happened. I finished in 9:39, and tagged David one last time. David and Scott each ran a crazy fast 7 minute mile, and that left us with 10 minutes on the clock.
Scott took the final lap, running at a leisurely 9 minute pace. At this point we had surpassed the team we were trying to beat, and as Scott ran the rest of us were in celebration mode. We cracked open some beers and gathered around the finish area with everyone to watch as the final racers came in– folks finishing their 12 hour run and 50 milers. Scotty crossed the finish line with a giant smile on his face and a minute to spare.
And that was it! The relay was over! We did it!
While we were running our final miles, mom’s fiance, Alvin, had been grilling out burgers and bratwurst. As is his typical fashion, he prepared WAY more than necessary, so we invited some of the other remaining runners over to our area to enjoy the food. Alvin basically became an instant celebrity– enjoying those burgers after a long, hot day felt like the best thing in the world!
Before the race I heard that people from all over the country come to Decatur, AL to participate in this small town event. At first, I was surprised to hear that, but after witnessing it for myself, I totally understand why. The Delano 12 Hour Run may be small, but it is first class as far as races go– extremely organized, wonderful volunteers, great swag, awesome race director… I could go on, but you get the picture. It was one of the most fun things I have ever participated in, and I definitely plan on returning next year! I am so thankful that David asked mom, Scott, and me to be on a team with him; he has always believed in us 100% and I feel so thankful to have him as a friend and running mentor. We all had such a good time together, and all day long I kept thinking about how blessed I am to be a part of such a great running community.
In total, team Wraths of Khan ended up with 79 miles, and we were 4th overall in the relay category. I ran 18 of those miles, all of them at a 10:something minute pace or faster. Not to shabby basically a 12 hour day of speed work! Two days later, I’m still sore… and full of gratitude for the experience. 🙂