Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Keys 100 Relay Recap

The email came out in mid-January. It was a request for runners to join the Coast Guard's "Run to Remember" team. The concept: each runner would run as part of a 6 person relay team in the Keys 100 mile relay, in memory of a Coastie who had died while on duty. My husband, who is usually not a fan of paying race entry fees, encouraged me to do the run. I signed up without too much thought.

As race day approached, the butterflies grew. This was not the normal pre-race anxiety for me. This was "I'm going to vomit if I even think about the race" anxiety. Despite the fact that I was going in a little undertrained, the major source of my fear came from the idea of having to spend about 12 hours in a van with 5 complete strangers. I knew they would turn out to be perfectly nice people; I just didn't know them. Now, if you don't know me well, you wouldn't know about my totally obnoxious, absolutely illogical social anxiety. I simply do not like social situations (to put it mildly). The thought of going to a party, where I will meet and make small talk with new people, makes my tummy do outrageous acrobatics. So, I was pretty much a mess in the days leading up to the race. I was riding down to Key Largo from Ft. Lauderdale in a van full of strangers, spending Friday night in a hotel room with strangers, and then, of course, there was the 100 miles of traveling in another van with strangers.  I was beginning to think running the full 100 miles by myself would be less stressful.

I successfully survived the trip down to Key Largo and even the stay in the hotel. It was exciting gathering with all the other runners at the packet pick-up and the team meeting. I began to forget about the social challenge and became caught up in the normal pre-race jitters. 

At the starting line with my team
Dark and early on Saturday, May 19, we gathered in the parking lot of Divers' Direct in Key Largo. There were approximately 90 men and women from the Coast Guard, all running in memory of someone who had made the ultimate sacrifice. After a pep talk from the Admiral, we loaded in the van and headed 3 miles down the road, in place to make our first hand off. And so the day went, after 3- 3 mile legs, we began switching runners every 2 miles. It was a slap of a drippy, sweaty slap-strap bracelet at each runner exchange. I really was not prepared for the overwhelming smell of... er... victory inside the van, nor the enormous amount of fun that I would have.
We made our own seat covers to protect the cloth seats (and each other) from sweat.
I have never experienced anything so encouraging. At each change of runner, the whole team would get out of the van, not just for fresh air, but to yell out cheers of "You're almost there!" "Finish strong!" and "Great job!" The feeling of camaraderie was incredible. As the miles progressed and my own mile count grew higher, I pressed on through dead, exhausted legs for my team. I thought about the sacrifice made by and prayed for my Coastie's family. I reminded myself that the pain in my legs was nothing compared to the pain of the loss that the family had felt upon news of their loved one's death. The ache in my legs was nothing when I thought about the ache in their hearts.

Fourteen hours and forty-five minutes after our start, we arrived at the finish line. I crossed the line with my team, proud of my accomplishment, but even more proud of what we had accomplished together as a team.
At the finish with our bling!
I'm really looking forward to next years' Keys 100 Relay.




1 comment:

  1. I am so proud of you Amy! You truly know "Why you race?" You inspire me :) Tina

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