Tuesday, June 5, 2012

The Reno-Tahoe Odyssey

In order for anyone to understand how big of a deal this race really was for me, I have to backtrack just a little.  Like 20 years.  In 1991 when my family moved to Indiana, one of the very first people I met, and thus one of my very first friends, was a girl who lived down the road named Angie Boston.  We're the same age, so through jr. high and high school we remained friends.  We were even the two freshman homecoming attendents for basketball in our freshman year of high school.  I wish I could say we had remained close over the years, but as is the case with most people we kind of drifted out of one another's lives for a while. 

That's where facebook has been a blessing really.  It's allowed me to reconnect with people I probably would have lost forever a long time ago.  And when Angie and I reconnected a few years ago it was fun catch up a little and find out where life had taken her after all these years.  Last fall around the time I ran the Red Rock, Angie got in touch with me and told me about the "RTO" as it's affectionately called.  Her friend has been putting together a team for the past four years and she wanted to know if I'd be interested in running it with them.  By now everyone knows that I'm a relay junkie so I didn't even have to think about it.  I said "Yes, sign me up!" right on the spot!

Fast forward to the week before Memorial Day.  Or "The Week From Hell" as I'm now referring to it.  It seemed like everything that could have happened to keep me from going to Reno did happen.  But I knew that after the difficult six months we have been surviving, I desperately needed this trip.  (Don't be surprised if you didn't know there was a lot going on with us.  Some things are common knowledge but much of it I've chosen to keep private. But yeah, so far 2012 has not really been a stellar year for us.  That's okay it can only go up from here... I hope.)

I booked a shuttle ticket down to the airport just 6 hours after the accident when it looked like I wouldn't have a car for the week.  There was nothing going to keep me from this trip.  So on Thursday morning I got up at 4:30 and walked myself down to Shaka's on the corner to catch the shuttle bus.  It was actually nice not having to make the drive to Salt Lake.  I got to sleep a little on the bus and read some.  Very relaxing.  In fact Thursday was in general a very relaxing day.  My flight landed at just after noon and I caught the shuttle over to the hotel, which turned out to be one of the nicer resorts in Reno.  It seriously had everything.  But while my day was spent resting, reading, & relaxing, poor Angie's didn't go quite so well.  She was supposed to have been in Reno by around 2pm so we could spend the day hanging out and catching up since we hadn't seen each other in over 15 years.  Unfortunately, she got stuck in meetings and didn't make it to the hotel until 9:30 that night.  It was alright though.  8 hours alone in a luxury resort is not exactly a bad thing to a mom like me who rarely ever gets a break.  Her husband Brent (who I'd never met) was nice enough to call that evening and invite me to dinner with his parents down in one of the restaurants, so I had a great time meeting and getting to know them a little bit.  They're very, very sweet people.

After Angie finally arrived, we did get to visit a little, but we knew the next day would be crazy busy, so we wanted to get to bed before midnight.  Around 2am Brent's cousin who was running finally made it in and our little group was complete.  Our team's start time was 9am, and although we were in van 2, we drug ourselves out of bed and got to the start line to see the team off.  Then we went and enjoyed a relaxing breakfast and hit the grocery store for water & snacks for the race.

We made it to the first exchange point around 2 and of course that's where the fun begins.  I'd never been to Reno or Lake Tahoe before, so this was all a first for me.  I have to say the scenery was spectacular.  It really is beautiful country up there. 

 In all the relays I've done, this is the first one I've ever seen that served fried chicken at an exchange.  I would have had some if I'd been in van 1 and just finishing my run, but since we were getting ready to take off, it didn't sound that good.  Still it was the usual party atmosphere of a relay exchange.  If you've ever done one of these things, you know how it is.

I was runner 11 of 12, so I didn't actually run until early evening. Around 5 or 6 I think. My first leg was awesome. 5.3 miles on this gorgeous wooded bike path along the Truckee River right to the top of Lake Tahoe. Honestly it was so beautiful it was a little distracting.


 I didn't get many photos of people at all.  In fact this one of Angie running is the only action shot I got during the whole race.  That's Brent bringing her some water.  I guess I was too distracted by the scenery around me to care about getting photos of the people.

After we finished running and handed off to the other van, we got to drive around Lake Tahoe at sunset, which was really gorgeous!  We found a super cute Italian place for dinner that had excellent food.  Then we drove on toward State Line and the next exchange.  It was actually quite warm, so we tried to get a few hours sleep in the parking lot and the van.  But of course, races like this are not really conducive to a decent night's rest.  We took over running again a little after midnight which meant I was running my second leg at 3am.  I didn't mind.  The weather was comfortably mild with a cool breeze and there were millions of stars since we were out in the middle of the dessert.  

We handed back off to the other team a little before 5am in Carson City.  They had managed to book a couple of hotel rooms where they could shower and get some sleep, so we handed them the race & they gave us a couple of room keys.  I've never rented a hotel in the middle of one of these relays before, but then I realized that unlike the others I've done, this one didn't really have any place to shower or sleep.  Most of the others I've done have a school or gym or someplace willing to open their doors to runners and let you get a quick shower and some rest.  It was nice to have the quiet privacy of a hotel room, but I will say it made me hate having to get up a couple of hours later and get ready to go run. 

The final van exchange was in Virginia City.  I took a lot of photos there because it was just a really cool place and it made an awesome background for the race.  I was really wishing we weren't in the middle of the race so we'd have time to walk around and explore a little.  But that's okay, I think I'd like to take my kids back there someday.  I think they'd enjoy it.

 The whole time in Virginia City I just kept hearing the "Bonanza" TV theme run through my head.

As we dropped out of the mountains back down into Reno, things really started to heat up.  The temperature was climbing of course, but things also got interesting when we managed to lock our keys in our car.  We had just sent a runner off for 6 miles in the blazing sun, I was on deck, so I headed back to the van to get my shoes on and start preparing myself when I discovered that the doors were locked and the keys were sitting in plain sight right on the dash.  There were of course, several issues to deal with here, first a runner out there with no water, secondly no way to get me ready and to the next exchange.  We were blessed though because a friend of a couple of our runners had been following along with us on his motorcycle the entire race.  He turned out to be a God Send when we were able to bum a bottle of water off some other runners and send him ahead with it to catch up with our guy.  Then Brent (who had already run his final leg) offered to catch a ride with another team up to the exchange to be there to start running my leg, in the event we couldn't get the car unlocked and get me there in time.  As it turns out though, Triple A came through and got a locksmith there in less than 30 minutes.  Of course it took him all of 2 minutes to jimmy the door open and we were on our way.  While we sped toward the exchange I stuffed my feet into my running shoes & filled my handheld bottle.  We managed to pull into the parking lot as our runner was coming around the corner.  I made it to the exchange just as he was coming up the road.  We literally couldn't have cut it any closer. 

My last leg was definitely the most challenging.  The distance wasn't bad, just 6.2 miles, but the sweltering dry heat & running through the middle of Reno wasn't a great combination.  I did okay the first two miles, but then the headach started and it wasn't long after that the nausea began.  I alternated walking and running for the last four miles, dumped ice down the front of my bra and bathed my neck and back in cold water as often as I could.  It was pretty brutal.  All the while I could feel the sun just frying my poor unprotected skin since I hadn't had a chance to slather on any form of sunscreen before running.  When I finally finished what I'm pretty sure was the slowest 10K of my life, I just collapsed on the ground under a tree and didn't want to move.  Unfortunately we had a runner out, so we had to get up and go pretty quickly.  For the next two hours I was just sick and dizzy and ill.  I laid in the van with my eyes closed and then when we got to the finish line, laid under the shade of a tree barely sipping some water, trying to get my stomach and head to calm down.  Finally I started to feel better. By the time Angie's mother-in-law snapped this picture, I was already starting to feel a lot perkier.
When we got back to the hotel we were all starving.  Our last real meal had been the cute Italian restuarant in Tahoe the night before.  So we showered and got cleaned up enough to go out for a celebratory dinner.  I spoiled myself and ordered a steak & potatoes, just because I could.  Once we had eaten ourselves into a food coma, we headed back to the hotel and collapsed.  I ventured down to the gift shop for some aloe to put on my sunburn (and a chocolate bar), but that's the farthest any of us went.  Saturday night in Reno and every single one of us was asleep by 9:15.  It felt great though to sleep in and recover slowly.  We didn't get up until after 8 & then took our time getting ready and heading down to breakfast.  It was nice to spend the last few hours just visiting and rehashing the events of the weekend.  Once Angie got me to the airport I breezed through check-in and security (it's amazing how much easier it is to travel without kids) only to find that my flight was delayed due to mechanical difficulties.  I wasted time walking around the airport gift shops picking out little presents for my kids.  Still we managed to get to SLC in plenty of time for me to catch the shuttle bus home.  By that time it was after 10pm so although I was missing my babies terribly I knew they were fast asleep at Nana's house and I'd have to wait until in the morning.  Getting away for that short 4 days was just perfect for me.  It left me feeling refreshed and balanced and ready to get back to my normal life.  And of course there was the added bonus of getting to see a new place, run a race & reconnect with an old friend.  All in all, not a bad way to spend a weekend.

PS - For those who are wondering, yes I did gamble while I was in Reno.  But the thing is I'm not much of a gambler.  I hate letting go of hard earned money.  But when in Rome right? I put $5 in a nickel slot machine at one point.  I walked away with $9 and decided to quit while I was ahead. So in one sense I guess you say I almost doubled my money in Reno.

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