Recap: My team of six incredible women are running 126.2 miles of the Mississippi River levee from Baton Rouge to New Orleans during Rouge Orleans 2012. Running during daylight is an awesome, amazing, can’t top this experience, but it turns out that February 11 is the coldest night of this winter. Temperatures drop into the 20s and the wind chill is in the teens. That night, we were cold, miserable and starting to develop some injuries. We have just completed four of five rounds of running, with just the final 24 miles to go to Audubon Park and the finish line.
Returning from the Girls on the Geaux gas station detour, we found the next exchange and… sat there. It was about 4:00 a.m. at this point and I tried to nap in the driver’s seat of the van. It was dark, cold and quiet, until the sun started to rise right around 6:00 a.m. With the sun came no relief from the temperatures; it was still in the 20s. Kristyn bundled up again and headed back up the levee for her last run. Honestly, some of this part of the race is hazy for me. I was so tired and dreading the long run I had in front of me.
We drove along the levee slowly, checking on Kristyn one mile in. Our decision, each of us would do our final leg to the best of our ability. Kristyn, like a champ, finished her leg, definitely emotional at what she had just accomplished. It was Erin’s turn. Again, she finished every bit of her leg. It was during this portion that we started seeing friends on other teams arrive at check points and move forward. After Erin, Heather headed out.
This final segment, more so than the night legs, was the hardest part of the race for me. The long break and waiting for three runners to do their thing nearly broke me. I was so tired and wanted more than anything to get warm and go to sleep. While Erin and Heather were on the levee, I called Josh to let him know what was going on. He was heading to New Orleans that morning to see us finish and bring me and Jenn back to Baton Rouge. At that point, I couldn’t tell him when we would arrive at Audubon Park or what shape he’d find us in. Cold wasn’t the only problem plaguing the Girls on the Geaux. Injuries and exhaustion were definitely taking their toll. Physically, I felt fine, just completely and totally wiped out. I started to tear up as I talked to Josh and waited for Heather.
Finally, I hauled myself out of the warm van and back up to the top of the levee. I wanted nothing but for it to be over as soon as possible. But I had 6.5 miles in front of me. The sun was fully up, but the temperature still hovered way below freezing.
Heather arrived with a buddy – Ryan, a member of a three man team who was halfway into his final leg. I basically took up where Heather left off. At 8:25 I started my GPS and Ryan and I went forward, chatting and even attempting to run a little bit. We encountered a few soloists who looked rough. Initially, I told my team to check on my after a mile. My final leg took me away from River Road so there would be a time when it would be hard for my team to get to me. After 1.5 miles, I texted Erin to let them know I was going to try the whole 6.5 miles I had ahead of me.
And then the pain started. Every step on my left foot sent a shock of pain up my leg. I tried to go forward, but about a mile after that I just couldn’t do it. If I hadn’t been exhausted, I would have pushed through. But all I had in me was to give up. This is really hard to write, so pardon the lack of detail. I left my buddy to finish his miles and headed down the levee into a neighborhood where the van would be able to get to me. I finally got a hold of the team and told them where I was. They were on their way. In all, I finished four miles of my final 6.5. Although I still feel guilt today about not completing my final leg, I did complete as many miles as my teammates, which I’m proud of.
Finally back in the van, more near tears as I called Josh to update him on our progress. We found the next exchange and out went Jenn to finish us off. The rest of us headed to the race parking lot to begin cleaning out the van and getting ready to take off as quickly as possible after the race. Josh met us there and the actual tears came as soon as I saw him person. A very long hug later and I had it together enough to start pulling stuff out of the van. We finished up and headed to Audubon Park. The race wasn’t quite over yet.
As Jenn came powerwalking through right around 10:55 a.m. (all her IT band would let her do at this point), we joined her for the last short segment of the race and jogged through the finish arch. I have never felt like I earned a medal as much as I did that one. In the end, the Girls on the Geaux conquered Rouge Orleans in just short of 27 hours.
A very short celebration and photos, and we piled in the car. Josh stopped at Burger King so Jenn and I could get some hot food and we hit the highway back to Baton Rouge. I think it took me about three minutes after I finished eating (Whopper meal of some sort, I think?) to fall asleep. But I kept waking up, wondering who was running, where the exchange was and when it would be my turn. Ugh!
Back in Baton Rouge, we dropped off Jenn and headed to my house. Josh, it turned out, had a raging sinus infection and since I would be no company for anyone for hours, he headed home. I hit the showers, put on the comfiest pajama pants and most over sized sweatshirt I own and celebrated NOT wearing running clothes for the first time in about 28 hours. And then I went to bed.
I woke up about five hours later famished. That large, thin crust pizza I had Papa John’s deliver tasted like manna from heaven and I finished about three quarters of it in one sitting. After some internal conversation about simply going back to bed, I stretched and foam rolled and indulged in a hot bath. And then went back to bed. I had smartly arranged to take Monday off, which mostly consisted of eating large amounts of food and taking several naps. By Tuesday, I felt like myself again.
I’m so proud of my teammates, only one of whom I knew before we signed up for this insanity. We earned our medals with the early legs we ran with ease and every tortured step we took as we pushed our bodies past the point of good sense and the brink of collapse. I wouldn’t take back any of it (although I would raise the temperature 20 degrees if I could) and I’m so glad I was part of Rouge Orleans 2012.
On February 11th, you couldn’t have paid any member of our team to do an ultra marathon relay again. However, by the 12th, we were already talking about our next one. Nothing actually planned yet. I would love to do a Ragnar relay, which seems a little easier on the body. With 12 member teams, you get about 6 hours in which no one from your van is running, so a lot more time for real rest and food. During Rouge Orleans, I think I slept a total of one hour, in two 30 minute power naps, from 5:30 Saturday morning when I woke up to be at the start line at 7:00 and noon on Sunday, when I finally fell asleep in the car on the way back to Baton Rouge.
My total miles:
Leg 1, 10:24 am: 5.61 mi
Leg 2, 3:32 pm: 3.13 mi
Leg 3, 8:43 pm: 5.16 mi
Leg 4, 2:27 am: 3.38 mi
Leg 5, 8:25 am: 4.00 mi
Total: 21.28 mi
My teammate’s Rouge Orleans recaps:
- Heather – Running With Sass
- Katie – KatieRUNSthis
- Kristyn – Life In Running Shoes
- Jenn Macha
- Erin – Erin Parker Photography
- Erin- The Speckled Palate