Monday, June 04, 2012

My Reno-Tahoe Odyssey Adventure - Part I

When I heard about the Reno Tahoe Odyssey (RTO), my first thought was you gotta be crazy to sign up for this event.  It’s a long distance running relay between 249 teams of (typically) twelve runners per team on a course that’s 178 miles long and loops from downtown Reno around Lake Tahoe through the Sierra Nevada to the beautiful high desert of Carson City and back to Reno ending with a festival.  Running the course can take a team anywhere between 18 hours to 33 hours to complete. The Odyssey is not so much a race as it is an adventure, and it's one I'll never forget because (call me crazy) I signed up and my team finished the relay this past weekend.
Team #161 - The Slackers
Our 12-person team was divided into two groups of six runners (including me) in Van 1 and the remaining in Van 2 (oddly enough, we were in a Honda Odyssey). Van 1 was the first to start (pictured above with the exception of Adam in the yellow shirt) from the Wingfield (whitewater) Park in downtown Reno at 11:15 a.m.  So that all of the teams could finish around the same time when the festivities begin, the less competitive teams start at 7 a.m. Friday morning and the most competitive teams take off from the start line at 4 p.m. the same afternoon. 

The course was broken up into 36 sections, called "legs" so that each runner will have three legs to cover (my share of the course are legs #6, #17, and #29).  Van 1 with the six runners would take the first six legs to where Van 2 with the other six runners would meet and take on the next six legs and so forth, leapfrogging from one van exchange point to the next.  While the runners in one van are putting on the miles by foot, the group in the other van have a few hours to eat and rest.
Reno-Tahoe Odyssey course (click for larger view)
Our team captain, Adam, was the first of our team to start.  Since it was a hot day, we checked in with him along the course to offer water and support.  In these photos, he's in for a surprise!
Our group in Van 1 ran their leg faster than anticipated.  We almost didn't make it in time to the baton exchange point and one time, my teammate Joan (in purple) had to keep running past the exchange point.  I chased after her to get the baton which set my pace to a strong start.

My first leg was #6, which passed the Boca Reservoir which I had not known has some interesting history dating back to the 1800's. There was once a town which started as a work camp for the transcontinental railroad thrived, a commercial ice cutting trade succeeded in the area, and a brewery that made one of the most popular beers called Boca Beer started.

It was a gorgeously clear but very warm day and other runners appreciated a squirt from the water guns that we had.
This runner may have been part of a bridal party of a couple in the relay who got married at the Bucket of Blood Saloon.
One lady was so exhausted, as she passed by our van she flung herself onto the seats inside and laid there for a while, resting until she was ready to continue.  We gave her a bottle of cold water to keep her hydrated for the rest of her run.

Soon after it was my turn!  Fresh with adrenaline, I ran the 4.7 miles at a pace that surprised me for my level of experience and fitness; I've only been running for five months. 8:27 min/mile pace for the first mile, 9:31 min/mile pace for the second mile, 9:41 min/mile pace for the third mile, 8:59 min/mile pace for the fourth mile, and then I ran as hard as I could at 8:02 min/mile pace for the remaining miles.  I felt strong when I crossed the finish line until I bent over and vomited the bite of pizza I ate shortly before my run.
Luke cooling off my head and Joan stands ready with water.
The exchange point was where my teammates in Van 2 awaited.  John had been following me during the last mile on the course with ice cold water for me to drink and cool off.  I felt awesome when I passed on the baton.

Our team drove to the next van exchange point, stopping along the course to cheer on our teammates in Van 2.

Throughout the day I felt the joy and thrill ricocheting from team to team. Many teams decorated their vans and the runners wore costumes of adding to the fun of the event.

 But the day wasn't over for us yet.  Our van still had one more leg to run just as the sun started to set.
We put on our head lamps and safety vests and ran into the night.  Many places along the shores of Lake Tahoe have no street lights so it's pitch dark and super quiet except for the glow of the moon illuminating the surrounding mountains.  It was eerie and majestic at the same time. The runners with the beams from their head lamps bouncing off the road and what light illuminated their safety vests reminded me of Tron.

My leg (17) went from the Tahoe Keys are to the Lake Tahoe Community College so it was pretty much on the urban streets. Even with headlamps and street lights, it was tough to see the ground moving underneath me. I really had to be careful of uneven surfaces and potholes.  For the most part, I ran alone in silence.  As I caught people I had their company for a while, long enough to exchange words of encouragements. "Good job!" "Keep it up!" before I continued on.  The average pace of my first leg was 9:03 min/mile and I finished the second leg at 9:08 min/mile.  I felt good about my run, despite being nauseous at the end.  Normally I run a pace of 10:00 min/mile on the treadmill and slower on the road so it must be the encouragement of my teammates and not wanting to let them down.
By the time Joan and I were done with our run, it was almost 1 a.m.  Our group waited at the Wal-Mart where Van 2 would meet us after completing their six legs of the course.  With 3 to 4 hours until the exchange, it was the perfect opportunity for us to get some shut eye.  Some folks slept on the asphalt in between a shopping cart corral.  We preferred the bed of gravel near the Lawn and Garden area which had more give.

I unrolled my sleeping bag and crawled in.  Laying there on the ground, I had the most intimate view of a bush and sidewalk overlooking the Wal-Mart parking lot, a perspective I thought I'd never see. With a smile on my face, I closed my eyes...and slept like a rock (no pun intended).  One more leg to go in just a few hours!

Here are more photos from the AWESOME day - you don't want to miss these!!

1 comment:

John said...

Holy cow, what a write up. Now I know why you were up until midnight last night. Great job running honey! You are pretty amazing.