Friday, September 23, 2011

Blue Ridge Relay Recap- Unabridged version

2011 saw a record breaking Blue Ridge Relay and the closest race in its history. The previous overall course record was smashed by both the winners and the runners up and the previous Womens' and Masters' records were also consigned to the history books. I was a member of the Charlotte Running Club/Try Sports team that took part in the race and was one of the two teams that broke the previous course record. SPOILER ALERT!! For those who don't the outcome yet, I'll refrain from saying where we finished until you find out at the end of the recap!

For a brief overview, the Blue Ridge Relay sees teams of up to 12 runners running 36 legs along a 208 mile route through the Blue Ridge Mountains of North Carolina. Charlotte Running Club was sending its strongest team ever up to the event in an attempt to bring the title back to the Queen City for the first time. At the same time, a team from Asheville had been created that would prove to be more than worthy adversaries. In the weeks leading up to the event, while the final running orders of both teams were being finalized after the usual inevitable late withdrawals and replacements, excitement was building as both camps expected a close fought, fast race. Little did they know about what was actually going to unfold....

To set the scene a little more I will introduce you to our team (in running order) and for some perspective include my estimation of what sort of 5k shape I personally feel each runner was in (I hope I don't offend anyone with this (!) but these are my best estimates and hope they add some perspective to the story)

Van 1

Richard Harris- BRR debutant, recent Greek Fest 5k winner in 16:21

John Compton- 2nd year BRR. Ran same legs last year. CRC's strongest runner and possibly the strongest runner in the race. 15:00

Ben Hovis- 2nd year BRR. Team Captain. Returning from injuries and short of fitness but healthy and ready to compete in his favorite event. 16:20

Billy Shue- 2nd year BRR. 16:30

Mike Beigay- 2nd year BRR. 16:25

Greg Isaacs- BRR debutant. 16:40

Van 2

Paul Mainwaring- 2nd year BRR. 16:10

Bob Marchinko- BRR debutant. One of two 'Masters' on team. 16:10

Chris Lamperski- BRR veteran. Returning from injury. 17:00

Aaron Linz- BRR debutant. Deep into Toronto Marathon training. 16:20

Josh Baker- BRR debutant. Only runner on team that regularly trains on the sort of hilly terrain the race would cover. 15:30

Rocky Falcone- BRR debutant. Oldest member of team but one of the fastest. 15:40

Left to right- Ben,John,Bob,Aaron,Mike,Richard,Billy,Me,Chris,Josh,Greg,Rocky

Race report

We were due to start racing at 1:30pm alongside the Asheville Running Collective. All the other teams in the race would already have started. We arranged to meet at the Dowd YMCA to get on the road in our vans by 8:30. The race taking place three hours away had already started....

Ben picked me up at 7 so we could go and pick up the vans in good time. The first thing I noticed was that each runner had been made a personalized goodie bag of edible treats to get us through the anticipated 20 hour race, thanks Carolyn, Megan, Meghan and Kelly! Jordan who had had to pull out at the last minute due to injury had provided a big supply of Nuun hydration tablets for the coolers of water we were taking. We certainly wouldn't be lacking for fuel and hydration!

One by one the team arrived at the Y and got into their vans. Most of us were meeting Josh for the first time. He looked skinny and fast and had a smile on his face, that will do! We would be picking Bob up en route. First little 'issue' of the race. One of the vans had the 'low tire pressure' gauge flashing and we found a screw lodged in one of the tires. Back to the rental company. No way we were taking the risk of having to change a tire during the race! No problem there was another van in the lot and we had plenty of time to get to the start. We picked up Bob at Walmart in Mooresville and purchased some pens to decorate the van with. Mike had put a folder in each van with the route for each leg printed off so everyone familiarized themselves with their legs and generally just chilled out getting ready for the task ahead.

We stopped for gas and then at a Subway for some sustenance. As we pulled off 77 and hit the country roads we were reminded about the hilly terrain we would soon be running over. We pulled into the start area about an hour before the race start. Amazingly, and in an ominous sign of things to come, Asheville's van pulled into the Park at exactly the same time, coming from completely the other direction. Both teams got out of their vans to sign in and pick up race numbers, etc. Two or three members of the two teams knew each other so both teams briefly mingled and exchanged pleasantries before finishing off van decoration, etc. The mood was relaxed and anticipatory of a good battle ahead. We wrote on one of our vans "This year we left the women at home" in reference to the fact that last year CRC had entered a mixed team (that had smashed the course mixed record and come third overall after a close battle with another Asheville team), in response Asheville wrote on theirs' "We'll tell your women you're on your way". The fiercely competitive but friendly and respectful mood was set.

I caught up with fellow Brit Stu Moran who, unfortunately for him and Asheville but fortunately for us, was no longer running due to injury but would be driving one of their vans and providing vital course information and support to his team. Stu had studied the two line ups and was expecting a nip and tuck battle to the end! I also spoke to Asheville's captain Frankie who I had ironically gone head to head with last year during the race and also Scott who I knew from a couple of runs in Charlotte and who would be running the same legs as me later in the day. A 2:39 marathoner and expert hill runner, I expected Scott to prove a tough competitor for me. Little did I know how right I was going to be!

All the talking was over, the action was about to begin.....

The battle commences

Richard and Trent get matters underway

Richard was getting ready to start off our journey. Quiet and unassuming but confident and in great form, Richard had joined the team after Jordan’s late withdrawal and was looking forward to stamping his mark on his first BRR. Ben had had a few quiet words with him, he was good to go and an ideal starter for the team. The first stage was literally all downhill for 4 miles. Many a competitor’s race at BRR has been scuppered by running too hard on this leg over the years. A solid, efficient effort was called for and achieved by both teams as they came in less than 20 minutes later separated by just a few seconds, Richard in the lead.

Over to John now. The Mixed Team’s star performer the year before, even more was expected off of him this year with the prior knowledge he had gained of his legs and the form he had shown all year to date. And he didn’t disappoint. The Asheville runner briefly caught up to John at the start of the leg but by the middle of the leg John was rolling and had pulled about a two minute lead out by the time he handed over to the captain. This wasn’t unexpected but it was good to know that our ‘star man’ was on form, we needed everyone to perform to their maximum if we were going to have any chance at all of winning the race.

John rolling on Leg 2- that gap soon became 2 minutes

Worth explaining at this point how the vans worked. Once a runner had completed his leg the ‘on’ van (in this case van 1) would drive straight ahead to the next exchange zone so that the next runner up could get a brief warm up in before his leg. The other van, whose occupants wouldn’t be running until later, would pick up the runner who had just finished and support the guy who had just started his leg. As we passed our runner we would give him plenty of encouragement and then find a suitable place along the route to stop and get out so we could watch and cheer from outside the van and also get a sense of what the distance was between him and the competition. It was during such a stop in the middle of leg 4 that the first real drama of the race unfolded. Ben was running solidly as we saw him pass. He didn’t look particularly happy with life but seemed to be in a good rhythm. Not unexpectedly, however, the Asheville guy Daniel was clearly gaining some time back. Then all of a sudden as we were just about to get back in the van Daniel pulled over to the side of the road to stretch his calf out. As we passed him he had gingerly started running again but things were not looking good for him.

I had mixed emotions at this point. The competitive side of me was happy as our rival was in trouble and we had a chance to really put the hammer down early in the race. On the other hand a wave of disappointment came over me as we had been looking forward to a hard race and didn’t want to win it early on because of someone getting hurt and having to pull out. As it was, Daniel recovered well to finish the leg and would go on to be able to complete the race. Unexpectedly though, our lead had increased slightly on leg 4. The definite early advantage had gone to CRC.

Ben and Billy negotiate an interesting handover

Over the next couple of hours it was pretty much status quo as Billy, Mike and Greg got their first legs out of the way. Greg was particularly impressive on his Blue Ridge debut putting some time into his opponent.

Greg enjoying his first BRR performance

Van 1 had done its job now it was Van 2’s turn to shine. First up in Van 2 was good old moi. Like John I had been given the same legs as last year (7, 19 and 31). I was happy with this as I knew I wouldn’t have any problems getting lost and could use last year’s experience to my advantage with regard to pacing and route management. There was no doubt that I was in better shape for last year’s race (deep into training for Richmond Marathon) but I was hoping my relative lack of fitness in the current year would be fully compensated by the advantage of having run here before.

Leg 7 is 2 miles downhill, 1 nasty mile of uphills, 1 more nice downhill with an absolute beast of a mile in mile 5 followed by a ‘sprint’ to the next exchange zone. You know when the course handbook describes a hill in this race as a ‘monster’ that it’s going to be bad and so it proved again for me. By the time I got to the top of the hill I had been cursing aloud and wishing I was somewhere else. However, I did manage to put an extra 40 seconds into Asheville on this leg and had run faster than last year. Pleasing.

The Captain gets going

I'm down there somewhere, cursing, loudly

Bob looked up for the fight as he put a little more time in the bank (we weren’t expecting anything else from definitely the fiercest competitor I have known since moving over here), Chris lost a little time to Asheville’s captain and then Aaron discovered he was up against one of their better runners as more time was taken away from our lead. Both had run great and in line with expectations but Asheville were definitely up for the battle and the strength of their second van was coming to light already. After 10 legs and with dusk approaching, less than 2 minutes separated the teams. With 4 of the fastest runners in the race set to run the next two legs the battle was well and truly on!

First rotation comes to an end

Up to this point it had felt like us and Asheville were the only two teams in the race! We had started an hour and a half after the previous starters and hours behind the other 100 plus teams that were competing. As we pulled into exchange zone 10/11, however, we came across the first few of all other vans that we would pass. I bumped into fellow blogger Dave and his team and we exchanged tales of the race so far. Their team seemed genuinely interested in how the race was panning out between us and Asheville and it appeared that word had got around that there was a highly competitive duel going on at the ‘back’ of the race. As it was just getting dark now it was time to get out the reflective vests and headlamps and start getting ready for the night ahead.

Legs 11 and 12 did not disappoint as the 4 speedsters got to work and laid their respective markers down. By the time Rocky Falcone handed over to Richard at the Tangier Outlet in Blowing Rock and Van 1 set off for its second shift, less than a minute separated the teams, CRC with the slight advantage. By now of course everyone had run and we could start to get a feel for how the race may develope further down the line. It was clear that both teams were definitely pretty evenly matched. Our Van 1 had edged Asheville’s but mainly due to the problems they had encountered on leg 3. If Daniel was sufficiently recovered for the rest of the race that would clearly make a significant difference to the outcome. With regard to Van 2, meanwhile, Asheville appeared to have the upper hand overall and their last four runners looked capable of doing significant damage given even a merest sniff of the lead.

A third of the race had been completed, honors even....

Josh finishing off Leg 11

Rocky sets off towards Blowing Rock. Jubbs, Asheville's potent closer, lurking menacingly in the background

The sun sets on rotation 1 of the competition

Night racing

It was now just after 8:15 on Friday evening and darkness had set in. Both teams had shown their cards and every runner had raced. After 71.6 miles and 6 hours and 47 minutes of racing (that’s an average of 5:41 pace per mile just to put it into perspective!), 29 seconds separated the two teams!! If the other teams’ runners saw a blur of a headlamp, blinky lights and reflective panels coming past them now it was likely a runner from one of these two protagonists!

Richard carried on where he had left off from his first leg, putting a further minute into his rival. Then it was over to John and Keith to duke it out on the longest and toughest stage of the race, the Grandfather Mountain ten miler. Rumor had it that John was going to have a crack at breaking the hour barrier on this leg, a feat rarely achieved in years past. Van 2 had the pleasure of stopping every 10 minutes or so to watch John’s relentless charge across the mountain. Road kill is the term used to describe overtaking another runner in this race. This was more like road genocide. 1 hour and 27 seconds after starting his leg John handed over to Billy. Credit where credit is due though. John’s Asheville counterpart Keith refused to buckle under his charge, himself clocking a remarkable 1:01:48.

John jumped in our van and we set off to see how Billy was doing on the shortest and fastest leg of the race, 2.4 miles downhill. As we approached him from behind we could see he was running well. He was weaving in and out of road kill, ticking them off one by one. We whooped and hollered as we passed him to pump him up even more. He clearly didn’t need much pumping as he shouted after us, a la Bruce Willis, “Yippie Ki Yay Mother F*ck*rs!!”. Not sure that was in keeping with the “Please talk in hushed voices between the hours of 7:30pm and 7:30am” rule, but we let him off as he was flying. Bearing in mind that Billy’s mile PR leading into this race was 5:09, his average pace of 4:34 for this leg was scarcely credible! Amazingly, though, CRC actually lost time on this leg as Kevin Lisska ran 10:06 for the 2.4 miles, an average pace of 4:23!!! The lead was now 2:30.

Over the next 4 legs that lead was whittled down to 46 seconds as Asheville chipped away leg by leg. At the halfway point, just over ten hours into the race, we were still no closer to discovering our victor

When things start to get a bit hazy

It was time for the Captain to pull on his racing flats again. In a remarkably similar situation to the one I found myself in at the same time of last year's race, I was just about to be handed the wristband very closely followed by our nearest rival. This leg was the easy one of my three, a slightly downhill 4.3 miler with few turns. And, just like last year, I ran a solid enough leg but felt I could have run faster. In fact I ran 1 whole second faster than last year! More importantly, it was 8 seconds faster than Scott. The overall lead was creeping back up to a minute and Bob was up next. He clearly had his counterpart's number and after a brute of a 7.5 mile leg at 1 o'clock in the morning, two more minutes were gained. Chris protected the lead, then things were about to get very interesting....

We were now nearly 12 hours into the race and everyone was starting to get a bit tired. The middle of the night hours were beginning to take hold and the in van banter was reduced as runners tried to grab the odd moment of shut eye. Aaron set off on his second leg. Shortly afterwards our van overtook him and called out the usual encouraging words as we passed. Soon we were approaching a key intersection but there were no signs indicating that the runners had to turn. Usually no sign meant carry straight on. We were confused, a van in front of us was clearly confused as well as it was crawling along at 10 mph. We followed that van across the intersection not entirely sure we were going the right way. Driving along we were looking out for the tell tale flashing lights of other runners. There were none....

We were trying to keep calm in the van but were now clearly lost and the maps weren't really much use. Our new worry was that we weren't going to get Josh to the next exchange zone in time to get the wrist band from Aaron. We did a u turn and headed back the way we had come, this time at about 70 mph! Other vans were around, it was clear that we weren't the only ones lost. After eventually getting back on the right route we still weren't sure whether Aaron had got lost himself. As we hadn't passed him again we presumed he had and as we approached the next exchange zone, the other van was finally able to get through to us on the phone. Aaron had indeed gone the wrong way but they had found him and pointed him back in the right direction. Apparently, Asheville's Aaron had also gone off course but he too was back on the right route. Two very pissed Aarons were heading towards exchange zone 23 having both run a couple of additional unwanted miles.

It soon transpired that Asheville had suffered more than CRC. When the dust settled CRC had expended their lead from 2:30 to just over 5 minutes. Based on how the two Aarons had matched up on their first leg, Asheville could probably have counted on their guy cutting the lead in half on this leg. Instead they found themselves further behind. How would they respond?

Asheville respond

As the dust settled on the leg number 22 that everyone wanted to forget about, it was time for the race to carry on in earnest. It was 2:30 in the morning, and 125 miles of the 208 miles had been covered. Charlotte were now just over 5 minutes ahead, the largest lead of the race so far and almost a mile for these speedsters! An angry Asheville team was in hot pursuit, adrenaline pumping, and Charlotte were going to have to respond if their lead wasn’t going to disappear quickly.

Status quo on the next leg but that was not unexpected. Josh and David, who ended up being two of the fastest runners in the race, were separated by just 2 seconds over their three legs when the race was over! David won their first head to head by 3 seconds, Josh this one by 2 seconds and David the 3rd leg later by 1 second. They ended up running 16.1 miles in 1:33:26 and 1:33:28 (5:48 pace). Unbelievable stuff.

Leg 24 saw the first stirrings of a comeback though. In spite of covering his 3.2 mile leg in 16:14, Rocky ended up losing a minute of the lead on this leg with Jubbs covering the same ground in an unbelievable 15:15 (this leg was longer than a 5k remember- at 3am!). Both vans had now run twice, 4 minutes was the gap.

With their second legs out of the way it was time for van 2 to think about grabbing some sleep while van 1 got back to work and finished off their races. As such we were unable to provide the support that we had previously been giving to van 1 while they ran. We drove ahead to exchange zone 30/31 where I would next be taking the wristband up the notorious mountain goat stage.

I navigated our van to the changeover spot, so had had literally no sleep since the start of the race. I didn't feel that tired anyway as I was buzzing off all the adrenaline from the race. It was 4:30 am and I was due to run at about 6 so I figured it would probably be a good idea to try and get some sleep. I headed into the hall that people were sleeping in, set my alarm for 5:30 and laid myself out on the floor. My legs were sore from the previous two stages and I generally just felt pretty crappy but it was nice to be able to stretch out on the floor and rest my eyes. Needless to say I didn't get any sleep at all, I just tossed and turned and stretched for an hour, constantly checking my watch to see what time it was.

At 5:30 I headed back to the van and rooted around in the dark for my third running outfit of the race and all the other required night time paraphenalia. Everyone else was still dozing. Behind me down the road I figured Mike was probably finishing off leg 29 and Greg would be getting ready to tackle leg 30. We had no idea at this stage what had been happening in the race the past couple of hours. I tried to jog up and down the street a few times to loosen up my legs and get ready for the task ahead but must admit I wasn't feeling great at this point. My legs were sore, my body was tired and I knew what lay in store, having tackled this leg the year before. The prospect of running 5 miles straight up a mountain was not exactly enticing. I was cursing to myself (and Ben!) thinking I never want to do this thing again! I had to get my shit together though. The team needed me to do a job and I couldn't let them down, everyone else was giving 110% and I needed to do the same.

Josh woke at this point and immediately tried to get in contact with Ben to get an update on proceedings. Well apparently we had missed out on some pretty exciting stuff! Richard had lost a bit of time, John had caught it back and added some to the lead (no surprises there) but on leg 27 Asheville had made their first significant move on the longest stage of the night, 9 miles. In spite of a great run from Billy who covered the leg in 57 minutes, Kevin Lisska had taken nearly 3 minutes out of the lead. As Billy handed over to the captain the lead was down to 2 minutes. Daniel set off after Ben in earnest and was soon cutting into the lead. Yet more drama though as his curse of the calf struck again to slow him downand Ben was able to regain the time that had been whittled away. The gap was still 2 minutes as the captain finished off his legs. A great effort indeed by Ben, who two weeks earlier wasn't even sure he was going to run!!

Then, it happened. After 28 legs, 159 miles and 15 hours of racing, Asheville grabbed the lead for the first time in the race. A relentless 7.5 mile charge at 5:39 pace (his third run in 15 hours remember!) from Seth had seen him pass Mike and hand over to Dave with just over a 1 minute lead. CRC weren't done yet though and with Greg up next against an opponent that he had just had the edge over so far, anything could happen!

So Josh communicated the news that Asheville had taken the lead and that the 2 guys were about 15 minutes away. I made my way over to the starting area and reacquainted myself with Scott. We both confessed that this was all getting far too stressful and nervously took it in turns to do some cursory strides while we waited. The latest news was that Greg had gained the time lost back and was running neck and neck with Dave. The Mountain Goat leg awaited....

Of Mountain Goats

Scott and I were bouncing up and down on the spot, trying to at least look as if we were excited about running the upcoming leg. We didn't even know whose headlamp was going to show up first as we looked back into the darkness. As it was it was Greg's voice we heard first. What a run from the debutante! Hold on though, there's another flashing light right behind. Yes, it's Dave and yes after 30 legs of racing the teams were almost neck and neck, one van rotation and some very tough stages to go!

I headed off into the darkness with the shouts of my teammates ringing in my ears. The first mile and a half of this leg is pancake flat as you run along the bottom of the valley. You feel how a Tour de France rider must feel as he rides along the valley floor in the Pyrenees preparing himself for the inevitable and relentless climb ahead. I knew Scott was just seconds behind so I just tried to relax into a good tempo and wait for him to inevitably pull alongside me. Misery loves company, right! We hit the base of the hill neck and neck. Two dogs scurried out of the undergrowth towards us and gave us brief pause for thought before they sensibly decided that they had no need to be running up a mountain at 6:30 in the morning. The climb started, Scott and I just focussing on the road ahead, the only sounds the patter of our shoes on the road and the gradually increasing breaths being exhaled. My Garmin beeped as we knocked off another mile. I looked down and it read 6:50 pace for the last mile. That was a pretty similar pace as I had run for the leg last year in breaking the previous course record. I was feeling pretty good but still couldn't imagine running 3 and a half more miles up this darned hill!!

Scott had got a step on me now but I focussed and dug in and clung to his tail. I figured that if I could keep close to him on this leg I would be handing over to Bob in a good position and we all knew what he was capable of. All 4 vans passed us and cheered us on. I heard Asheville shouting for Scott to show the Charlotte guy how Asheville got it done. I was determined to not let that happen. Halfway up the hill and we were still stride for stride. I would occasionally take the lead myself just to show Scott that I still had some gas and this is how almost the whole climb played out. The top of this beast is the worst part! The grade steepens and it becomes switchback after switchback. Still we were alongside each other, no quarter given or asked. About a quarter mile from the end of the stage Scott finally put some hurt on me and grabbed a 19 second lead but I was pleased with my effort. What a run from Scott who had beaten my leg record from last year by 6 seconds. I couldn't have given any more myself- I now have the second and third fastest times on ths notorious leg and had given Bob something to work with....

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....

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