Monday, June 13, 2016

United Relay of America -- My Blue Route Adventures

Disclaimer: I received entry to United Relay as part of being a BibRave Pro. Learn more about becoming a BibRave Pro (ambassador), and check out to review find and write race reviews!

The United Relay of America is a new relay across the country raising money for various charities.  There was actually 3 routes, red, white and blue.  There were individual stages and group stages.  The distances ranged from 5K to maybe 10 miles (I'm not totally sure of that but that's the average).  I joined the Blue Route since that was the one coming closest to me.  There was no one signed up for any of the legs in this neck of the woods, so I agreed to do 3 of them which added up was about 22 miles.  My only issue was that my first leg was supposed to start at 2:00am so Emir wouldn't be able to support me or drop me off.  The RD of the relay assured me that the blue support team would either give me a ride back to my car or drive my car to the finish for me.  AWESOME, problem solved!

Blue team crew.  Two of them had been supporting the Blue route by themselves until this day I met up with them when two others had arrived to help with the end.

My legs of the relay were actually only a day before the grand finale finish, 5K in Brooklyn with Alysha Keys.  So I got to see lots of my fellow Bibrave friends pics online and talk to them about their experiences.  I also followed the FB, IG and twitter accounts of the relay to see where all the routes were at each day.  It was fun and exciting to follow along. 

At some point, I receieved an email from the RD saying that there were still a lot of legs of the relay unfilled.  I think being a brand new event, word had just not yet spread how they hoped it would.  He was asking if people could pick up more legs even if they wanted to bike them.  At first, I thought there was no way I could do more but about a week or so later I was browsing the relay site.  I saw that there was still no one for the leg just before my 3 that I was signed up for.  I realized that it started by the Exton Mall which is only about a 25-30 minute drive from my house so it wasn't nearly as far as I had originally thought.  For some reason I thought that leg was at least an hour away which with work, Una's 3 year old preschool performance and needing to get myself together, I just didn't think was practical.  But now realizing it wasn't that far away and that if I did all 4 legs, it would be a 50K.  So naturally, it made me want to do all 4 legs now that it would be an ultra in the middle of the night!  Fun!  I was pretty excited. 
I went from this..... this.  Pretty cool

Now that it was getting close to my legs, I needed to figure out my route.  It was up to the leader of each stage to determine the route and since I was the only one running, that was me!   The first 12 or so miles of my legs was on the Chester Valley Trail so that was easy, just follow that until I get to King of Prussia.  And the last 18-19 miles were on the SRT so that part was easy as well.  However, the getting from the CVT to the SRT was a bit of a dilemna and since the United Relay people were from England, they didn't have any insight to help.  I did my best with map my run and google maps.  I figured out how to get from one to the other but being that it was all through King of Prussia, I knew some parts might be dicey as far as no sidewalks, small shoulders and extremely busy roads.  I printed out the directions and kept it in my pack.  I also mapped my route on my new Suunto Ambit 3 (love it!).  But I didn't realize I could do this until the day of my run.  So I spent about 30-45 minutes after work & Una's school performance mapping my route and loading it onto my watch.  So I had mapped it out about 100 times the couple of weeks leading up to my stages and it always said 31.5-32 miles.  Now, when I mapped it on Movescount, it said 36.7, woah!  But it was less than an hour from when I needed to head out the door, so oh well, it was going to be whatever it was going to be. 
King of Prussia!
The Blue Route support team arrived just a few minutes after me at my starting point in Exton on the CVT.  They were so nice and they didn't make me carry the heavy ass baton, thank goodness!   I was disappointed though to find out that no one would be spending any time with me on my route.  They promised to check in once in a while but no actual support on my journey.  Myself, personally, I am not bothered by things even when I should be so I was like "oh ok, no problem."  But I started running at 8:30pm and did not finish until after 3:30am.  In reality, it was not a safe situation for me to be running all those miles at those hours of the night alone.  I do not blame the blue route support people at all as their job was SO HARD.  The two of them had been supporting the blue route for about 26 days since Santa Monica, CA.  There's no way they could give good support that whole time.  Definitely, I recommend for next year that there are more people on the support team so they can take turns being off and on for sleep purposes so that they can physically support the runners and bikers better.  They definitely cared a lot and were very supportive of what I was doing, they just couldn't physically provide the type of support that is needed for this type of thing. 
It was still a little light out when I started
So off I went.  Everything was pretty uneventful the first 12-13 miles.  Then I arrived in KOP.  It was after 11 at night.  I had my little paper out so I knew which road to get off the trail at.  Unfortunately, that road was an overpass OVER the trail so I couldn't get on it.  I went further and at the next road, I turned there.  I got out my phone and plugged in SRT into it so that I would have a map to follow.  I was able to make my way back to the road I was supposed to be on.  The first couple of roads/miles were great.  Big, roomy sidewalks, well lit.  It was perfect.  I just spent some time waiting at traffic lights but no big deal.  Then I had to make a turn and the road had no sidewalks and no shoulders.  It was also SO BUSY!  Ugh.  I decided not to turn and then went to another road.  That road wasn't any better but I needed to get to the SRT.  I won't go into all the details but I did some crazy stuff and eventually I made it to the road that leads to the SRT.  It also took me way longer because I had to keep stopping to figure out what to do.
I was moving WAY Faster than the traffic on 422, HA HA!!

  Then I made it to the pedestrian bridge that is part is 422 that leads to the SRT and huge sign that said "TRAIL DETOUR, TRAIL CLOSED"  I was like "NOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!!!!!!!!!"  The entrance wasn't completely closed off and I couldn't see anything completely hazardous so I squeeze through and went for it.  There were all these construction vehicles and dudes all up on 422 so I was worried I would get yelled at but no one seemed to notice me.  There were more signs when I got down off the bridge but just squeezed through.  Phew!  Finally I made it to SRT!  Even though I had never been this far down on the trail, I knew I just stayed on here all the way to the finish at the Art Musuem steps in Philly. 
honestly, I have no idea where this is! 
I was at about 17 miles.  I took a few minutes here to put new batteries in my headlamp, eat some chomps, pee and just recover from the stress of trying to figure out the best way to get to this point.   When I started back again, I saw lots of eyes glowing in my headlamp, so creepy!  Over the course of my journey, I saw deer, groundhogs, cats, skunks, chipmunks, squirrels, geese and foxes.  I also saw lots of drunk people stumbling home from the bars in Manyunk.  Around mile 22 or so I knew my water supply was not so great.  Since I had no support, I carried as much water and fuel as I could.  I did my best to conserve, just taking a sip every once in a while.  I ran out completely around mile 32 but I was close to Kelly Drive where I knew I could fill up at the new water station.  I reached the Art Musuem steps at 37.2  miles, a little less than 7.5 hours and 3 something AM.  It felt good to have accomplished that.  The Blue Route team took my picture and drove me around to my car.  I wished them well and we went our separate ways. 
Happy to have reached my final destination!
I've never been a part of one of this big relays across the country before so I didn't know really what to expect.  I really liked being a part of something  really big and that it's sole purpose is to help people who need it.  There was a sign up fee but that money went to the charities and you could also choose to fund raise in addition to this fee.  After signing up, the charity I chose, War Child actually reached out to me and offered assistance as far as the fundraising.  United Relay also set up a page for each participant which you were able to customize.  I thought this was really great because that is definitely one of the biggest barriers to people fundraising.
Philly Art Museum

I hope the United Relay had a good first year and will be back for more.  I think it was a great first effort and just some little things here and there and it will be something many people will want to be a part of. 

1 comment:

  1. I love how you are just like...yeah oh well it's now 37 miles! You are a rockstar my friend!!!