Running a 10k at night, on a gravel road, in the middle of no where sounds pretty boring, lonely, and a little scary. If you do it alone. Fortunately, for me I only had to run the first 1.5 miles alone. That was a very lonely stretch. There were no red flashing lights ahead to spur me on and no vans around to make me think I was on the right track.
At one point I did see a flashing red light. Perfect someone to catch and score my first “kill” of the relay. The light kept getting closer and closer and closer. It was only a Ragnar sign indicating a turn. Bummer. Last year I passed quite a few people on the night leg and the steady stream of flashing red lights was a great encouragement to keep pushing.
This sign indicated a turn onto a gravel road which was a pretty pleasant idea for the legs – not so much for the lungs as the vans stirred up quite a dust storm. I had taken the pace out much easier for this leg, remembering what happened on the previous day (this run started at 12:15am) and knowing that I had a 7 miler looming later in the day I was happy to start out pretty relaxed and to just go with the flow. I did want some road kill numbers though.
Our van was nicely lit up with flashing christmas tree lights making it easy to spot. I saw it up ahead and I as I approached I shouted, “Where are all my road kills at?” Two seconds later some girl passed me (effectively making me a road kill). How embarrassing. I had been passed by plenty of women in my first run – so I think it was my just uttered arrogant comment that spurred me to shift gears and lock-in behind her.
Once I got into the rhythm of the stride it wasn’t too bad. I never did dare to look at my Garmin to see what pace we were at, but I knew she was pushing me hard. I had no idea how long I could stay with her, but knew that at least mentally I had to try. We ran stride for stride for the next 3-4 miles. Mainly her pushing me to dig deep and keeping me on my toes. I wasn’t at a conversational pace so we didn’t talk much, but I think she had run competitively. She effortlessly used the variation in terrain to try and drop me. But I hung on as we proceeded to climb almost 1000 feet during the 10k distance.
We battled, I never really took the lead not wanting to actually get ahead of her since it is easier when someone else is setting the pace. Sometime after 5 miles I was struggling and let her go. I never lost sight of her but was starting to give up hope of reeling her back in. Then we got a road kill. Success!
The terrain leveled out a bit as we neared the finish and I started trying to work on picking her back off. I started picking the pace back up and within a half mile of the finish some random dude came out of no where and flew past us. WTF. I shifted gears again and gave it everything I had. So did the girl. It was a super battle to see who had a kick – brought me back to the college days. In the process we picked up another road kill right as we passed the spotters. Poor spotters. 4 runners in the dark all yelling out our team numbers!
I passed the girl for good, the guy was long gone, and I was absolutely spent. So much for saving anything for my last leg! Even though I was spent it was much different than after the hot 8 miler. This was a great feeling of giving 100%, digging deep, and beating the competition.
I thanked the girl for helping me push the pace and for getting through an all uphill leg that could easily have become a negative suffer fest – instead of the positive suffer fest we enjoyed!! She thanked me for helping push her and that was that. She ended up being from team 105 – Better than Bond Girls: Dirty Martinis. They ended up beating us by 14 minutes after all 36 legs.
I stretched quickly and then we loaded up to cheer on Aaron and to head to the Van Exchange. We passed the figurative baton (a slap bracelet) and drove to Hudson WI for breakfast at Denny’s before driving to Stillwater to get a few needed hours of sleep!
Here is the map/elevation chart (almost 1000 feet gain):
Here is my pace chart with elevation throw in for comparison: