“We’re going to run 200 miles” was something that was first said in the gym back in the early months of 2015. At first it appeared to be a horrible idea, but after some explanation sounded pretty neat. Twelve people divided between two vehicles take turns running legs of the 200+ mile course. Much better than 200 miles straight. Out went the feelers to see who would be joining us. I quickly snatched up the shortest legs, because well I have short legs and I thought that’s how you do it.
We quickly had 12 runners and a few drivers, it looked like this was going to happen. As we got closer we started adding in night runs, multiple runs and a few hill runs to help simulate the rolling terrain of Eastern Minnesota. Throughout the course of prepping for the race we had a few people have to step down, but like any good Aspire client we had a lot step up to the challenge. Nothing was going to stop this.
The day arrived, we departed for Winona, Minnesota for the race start. We had a mishmash of vehicles head down but the two important one’s would be the giant Suburbans that would be our homes for the next 36 hours. A quick dinner and we went to bed to rest up for the early start.
Perspective from Van 1
Bzzzzzz…. alarms started going off well before the sun came up. Off we went to our pre-race safety meeting. Thankfully the race was sponsored by Monster Energy, and if you walk in like you have a purpose you can easily grab a flat of Monsters. Nikki had the privilege of laying down the first bit of mileage. There we were 13 crazies cheering on another crazy person. Once her feet hit the pavement we were off to do a quick grocery shop and quickly meet her at the first exchange. The fun part with a race of this volume is you have to eat foods very rich in calories, so lots of candy and junk food. Not ideal but when you’re stuck in a SUV for well over a full day you don’t have the luxuries of a stove or fridge. A quick exchange and Sonja was off. When asked how it was Nikki’s response a simple “It’s really hot out”. And it sure was the temperature readout on the SUV read a nice 32c. Yikes and the forecast was supposed to stay at those temperatures.
Some laughs and lots of water later we were off to the third exchange. This was now my turn to run. As we got to the exchange and I exited the vehicle I remember being punched in the face with a blast of heat. This was going to be a fun 5 miles. And then we saw Sonja near the transition a quick slap of our bracelet and I was off. For about the first 3 miles I was enjoying the view, there is a lot to see on a highway that you don’t always catch while driving, but after 3 miles the temperature started to catch up to me. It was hot, like really hot. All I could picture was sitting in a cold vehicle and drinking water. Keep pushing almost there. Ignore the heat waves coming off the blacktop. After day dreaming about jumping into a pool of ice water for a while I started to hear from noise that almost sounded like a party. And soon the noise was accompanied by the sight of my lovely team members. A victorious slap of the bracelet and Jeff was on his way.
Wowzers I was sweaty, a couple of minutes to catch my breath and grab some water and we’d be off again. First I had to wring out my shirt ,which was as McKenzie described “The grossest thing ever”. The truth is it was gross and since it was a technical shirt I still don’t know how it could hold that much sweat. Well we were off to support Jeff. As we were getting Jeff some water along the side of the road, McKenzie mentioned that Jeff was less than two miles till his transition. This proved to be very wrong. It was closer to 3.5 miles. And when you’re hot and running uphill 1.5 miles is a lot. As we waited at the transition for him we could really start to feel the heat, we were now midday and had the sun directly above us. Then we saw Jeff approach. A quick exchange and Sherri was off for a long leg. Finally we could sit back and relax instead of chasing down runners and helping.
Scott our incredible driver suggested that we go for a dip. And since the only body of water near us was the Mississippi, we thought for a moment and made the decision to ignore the gross factor of the river and get our feet wet. It was one of the greatest feelings ever. Going from non-stop sweat to feeling refreshed was amazing. Just was extra mindful not to swallow any of the water. So there we were a car full of crazy Canadians in the Mississippi river. Finally we were done splashing around and it was time to go catch up to Sherri. We finally caught up to her, that girl runs pretty fast you know, a quick splash of water and she was back to her smiley self. At her exchange I let it slip that we went swimming, turns out Sherri was very jealous. Probably because at this point in the day it was 42c with the humidex. But regardless we had a race to run. Now it was McKenzie’s turn to take on the heat. After a couple of miles we caught up to her and got her some water, I very clearly remember her saying “This is the shitiest thing I’ve ever done”. Now to have a grumpy McKenzie is a tough thing to handle. So in an attempt to preserve the peace we doused her in water and let her carry on. Soon we met up with our 2nd van it was here that we would part ways again for a while, go grab lunch and meet up again at exchange 13. Some chit chatting with our van and their van and then McKenzie came into view. Grumpy. But we fed her some candy and she was all smiles once again.
Now that we had about 6 hours to ourselves what would we do. Well lunch sounds like a great idea. It was nice to sit down somewhere other than a car seat. So we scarfed down some food, went for a walk around town. I have no idea what town we were in at this point, but it was nice and it had an ice cream shop that we indulged in. Why would you run if you can’t eat crappy food after right?
Next came the first major screw up. Having gone to wrong checkpoint we were waiting for Barb, Nikki anxiously looking to get running. Then we got the text, “Where are you guys, we’re here”. Oh oh, I quickly asked a race official what checkpoint we were at, we were at 14 and should have been at 13. A quick drive down the road and we found a van full of people who were not super happy with us. Oops, Van 1 was now in the dog house. But we continued on, now running through the night, headlamps and blinkers on full blast. We were lucky enough to run in the most unbreathable safety vests known to man. We all kept trucking along to get through our mileage, I do remember one very clear moment running at around 2am along the highway. As I worked through the heat, trying to not get blinded by oncoming headlights, I remember bats swooping down in front of me. Well this is going to be one of those types of things. I finally got to the transfer station, barely surviving my batman like run. It was here that McKenzie had to redefine the grossest thing ever. I wrang out my safety vest into an incredible puddle. I never even thought that would be possible. But on the plus side, Scott had found himself a fine looking meatball sub.
As we started to work our way to the backhalf of our runners we started to get into a fun little rhythm. We would get a runner off on their way while hydrating the runner who just finished. We would quickly get on the road and stop about every mile and a half to get them water or ice. We kept doing this leap frog style till the transition. It kept our runners cool and gave us something to do. It was around 330a that we pulled into a high school which was to be our next exchange with Van 2. It appeared to go seemless, there weren’t as many people cheering on their runner but we didn’t notice.
We continued on towards our next exchange with the other van, and then the phone call came in “We need your help, we don’t know where our team is and you need to come pick up Brooke for the 2nd leg and go support Jaclyn”. So we quickly turned around made our way back to the high school picked up Brooke who informed us of the snafu. No big deal we can deal with this. We got Brooke to the exchange with Jaclyn, filled with emotion Jaclyn handed off the bracelet and Brooke was on her way. Van 2 was quickly behind us. Disaster averted and now Van 2 was in the dog house, phew! So back on our way to the exchange where we would be sleeping. Another high school.
We rolled in around 4am. To find a school who’s fields, courts, pretty much anything that was flat, covered with people sprawled out sleeping. I remember seeing the best looking spot only about 5 feet away from the vehicle, I passed out very quickly. But was up at 5am, I guess old habits die hard. The sun started to show its beautiful face, this is when I discovered that the reason I was so comfortable was that I was laying on a pile of grass clippings. Now fully covered in grass I made my way into the school to clean myself up. Got all cleaned up and the idea hit me… McDonald’s breakfast will get everyone started on the right foot today. I don’t normally enjoy breakfast let alone a McBreakfast but something about having a warm meal was incredible. So there we all sat munching away at our McMuffins slowly starting to come back to life. We were 2/3rds done we were so close to finishing. I think the idea of calling it a day was the only thing that got some of us moving. We patiently waited for Van 2 to come around. As they did we saw everyone running in with Barb… now that’s team work.
We started our 3rd legs with a plan and a purpose. We were going to ensure we stopped often for our runners, get them water, douse them with sponges full of water and cheer them on as loud as we could. It worked, we finished our legs slightly less pissed off than before. As we all started to put the triumphant check marks on the side of the Suburban a feeling of pride and accomplishment started to fill the vehicle. McKenzie’s last leg marked the end of Van 1’s run, McKenzie sparked by the urge to finish as fast as possible was motoring. Almost to a point where we had trouble spacing out our support stops. But she pressed on, pushing herself to the limits. A few support breaks and our finish line was there in sight. She handed off to Jaclyn and off they went. Van 2 was now about to experience the same feelings we had just gone through.
We started to make our way to downtown Minneapolis but hunger showed it’s ugly face, a quick stop at Subway. At that point any food would have tasted amazing. To the hotel. An amazing shower and then off to the finish line to see the other 7 of our team. As Barb came up to the end she through her shoes to the ground (I think just for the dramatic effect) and we all ran in across the finish line together. Twelve Runners and Two drivers all connected by an unimaginable 36 hours.
In the beer gardens we shared stories from each other’s vehicles. Everyone just excited to have finished and to have survived. I can wholeheartedly say that this race brought the aspect I have always felt was missing from running and that’s team work into running. I’ve never been one for individual sports, which is maybe why running is lost on me. This race brought that into the mix, like any other team we relied on our teammates to pick us up when we fell down, to lend a helping hand when we struggle and to cheer us on when we succeed. It was an experience I will hold dear to my heart for many years to come.
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