Friday, September 23, 2011

Blue Ridge Relay Recap- Part 8- Of Legends and Melting Shoes

Captain passes on to Bob, a legend about to be born

After mutual congratulations between Scott and I and vows that we would make sure we wouldn't see each others faces in a race again any time soon, I hauled myself into van 1 and we set off to see how Bob was doing. Van 2 had already sped ahead to put Chris into position for leg 33. Van 1 was about to witness running of mythical proportions...

Barely 5 minutes had passed since I had handed the wristband to Bob but already he had retaken the lead for CRC. He was a mile into the 9.4 mile stage back down the mountain I had just run up and was simply flying. As we passed him we checked the speedometer of the van- 15 mph, his cadence a blur, dust swirling around his ankles. We were stopping the van periodically to witness the mayhem but soon having to jump back in as he was past us before we knew it. As the terrain flattened out and turned from dusty trail to tarmac the worry was that Bob's quads were just going to say "no more!" but if they were hurting, they didn't show it. 9.4 miles and 47:19 later (an average pace of 5:02) Bob had reopened the lead to two minutes for CRC. Chris headed off towards the infamous 'Nipple', Asheville waited for their man to come in, Bob collapsed in a heap by the side of the road....

Bob clearly hadn't tried hard enough....

Asheville's captain was up next and his intelligent grind up the simply ridiculous 13% grades of leg 33 cut back into CRC's lead again. Chris had done his utmost over his three legs and poured all his effort into this leg in particular. Over three legs he had ceded just 2 and a half minutes to Asheville's leader despite being self-confessedly out of his usual shape. There were three runners left and the lead was 41 seconds in CRC's favor. Having seen how gifted Asheville's closing threesome were over their previous legs, things looked ominous for Charlotte as both Aarons set off on leg 34.

On a side note it should be mentioned that the two teams now had company again! Having passed every other team in the race a good couple of hours back, one team had obstinately remained up ahead. The remarkable Carolina Godivas Masters team that had started 1.5 hours ahead of CRC and Asheville had held on until two legs from the finish to get passed. They were noticeably enthralled to be witness to the race that was about to unfold past them and themselves went on to smash the previous Masters team record. Great stuff!

Meanwhile we were waiting at exchange zone 34/35 for the two Aarons to come in. 'El Presidente' Linz was doing "uno mas" for the CRC team, Kolk was running a barnstormer. It was later revealed that the Asheville Aaron had torn a muscle during his first leg but battled through it. If that was the case then his run on this leg was remarkable. He handed over to David with a 41 second lead and Asheville looked like they were about to seal the deal. Credit where credit's due to both men who had brushed off their middle of the night misadventures and performed to the utmost for their teams.

Leg 35 started off at the base of yet another monster climb. CRC's hope was that their own mountain goat Josh could lay it all on the line for his team and cut back into Asheville's lead. As he sprung off in pursuit of David it certainly looked for a while that he might just be able to do that. He was bounding up the hill like a man possessed and as our van passed the Asheville runner his cadence and facial expression showed signs that he may be cracking. We drove on to the last exchange zone with hope in our hearts again. Rocky got out of the van and prepared himself for the final showdown, Jubbs was prowling around ready to get unleashed one final time. All of a sudden Asheville's voices rose. Their man was on his way in! Showing that our impressions as we had passed him had simply been wishful thinking, David bounded into the exchange zone having completed the ridiculousy hard stage at a 6:18 pace! The band was passed on to Jubbs and he was off like a greyhound after a rabbit. 41 seconds later and Josh came flying in too! He couldn't believe he hadn't got closer to his counterpart having run at 4:48 pace for the last mile of his leg but we were proud of him! If we hadn't known this guy before the race then we certainly did now!!

Rocky flying towards the finish

Rocky set off and CRC still clutched on to the hope of a miracle. The 4 vans headed off towards Asheville and bemused tourists and cyclists wondered what on earth was going on as two very fast guys were sprinting down the mountain on the wrong side of the busy road heading towards the town center! As we passed both Rocky and Jubbs it was clear that the Asheville man was running like a man possessed and looked unstoppable. We headed into Asheville resigned to defeat but oh so proud of our team. We parked up the vans and headed up to the finishing line. Sure enough Jubbs was soon in view and the Asheville Running Collective joined him in the traditional Blue Ridge Relay fashion of running over the finishing line with the last member of your team. It was later discovered that Jubbs' shoes had literally melted during his 5:02 pace final leg. That's what it had taken to hold CRC off but all the same, what a closer Asheville had had!

Just 2 minutes and 15 seconds later and in came Rocky and we proudly joined him in crossing the finishing line ourselves. The generous and respectful applause we had given the Asheville team as they had finished the race was replicated by the winning team as CRC finished. Mutual congratulations were given and Asheville were able to bask in the glow of victory safe in the knowledge that they had been given the most intense fight possible. Both teams had simply given their all and in the end the best team had won the most exciting and by far the fastest race in BRR history.

A proud CRC team cross the line with Rocky

The deserved victors

The gallant runners up

Mutual respect

As tales were told and legends began to be created as we scoffed down slice after slice of Mellow Mushroom pizza after the race, thoughts were already turning towards next year's race.....

Thanks for reading.....

And if the tale I have told is not enough to give you a sense of the race, here is the link to Asheville's own video take on the action....

1 comment:

  1. Great series. Very happy you decided to post it after all. Last year's recap is what got me interested for this year. Quite the race you all had. I think I finished leg 19 right before you all blew past us.