[This article was submitted by Ryan Munoz]
Go inside “A Runner’s Mind.”
A Summary of the 2013 Golden Gate Relay and team ARMed and Dangerous
The Golden Gate Relay (GGR) is labeled as “California’s Longest Party.” From Napa to Santa Cruz, 12 member teams run 36 legs through 36 cities across the Golden Gate Bridge in support of Organs R Us. I participated in The Relay last year but, I did not have a team this year. I did not plan on running the event this year until I was invited to join team ARMed and Dangerous, a team formed by the Burlingame running boutique, A Runner’s Mind. A new running adventure begins.
An event like this takes a lot of planning. Last year, my team took 5 months to plan, coordinate and strategize the days ahead. When I ran with team Lost in Pace I knew what expect. I knew my team; their running strengths, their personalities, their quirks. I ran the plan “get along to get along” strategy .This year, team ARMed and Dangerous formed late and had less time to prepare. It was their first time running The Relay, and I was not sure what they were in for. Due to my knowledge of the race, I went from complete stranger to team captain in a hurry.
I was happy to share my knowledge and experience to the group. I saved all my documents, spread sheets and team meeting notes from the prior year. However, I did feel a bit pressure being the captain. I only knew two people, kind of knew one another, and the rest were strangers. I did not know their personalities, or how they would react to me. I did not even their 10K time, (which is a requirement for wave start,) let alone if they were fit. Also, I did not want to come across and a micro-manager or OCD or my way or the highway type of person. With the assistance of A Runner’s Mind shop owner Jennifer and Todd Keleher, they made my job easier.
The day before the race, we decorated our vans. Since the Golden Gate Relay is on May 4th, Star Wars Day, (May the 4th be with you) we, (Ok just me because no one disagreed with me,) went with a Star Wars theme. We created “tags,” (a mark you leave on other team vans) with R2D2, C3PO, Luke, Leia and Yoda. Our van also incorporated a tribute to the tragedy in Boston. I still had my tribute bib LMJS member; Todd Gleiden created, and placed it on our van noting, “The Force is strong with Boston.” We packed the non-essentials, and ready to “Run like a Bossk.”(Bossk is the name of the lizard looking bounty hunter who had 6 seconds of screen time in the Empire Strikes Back.)
Race day, the team decided to drive up early to experience the festivities. It did not take long to get in to the spirit of The Relay. While driving up Highway 29 towards the start we noticed another team, “A Brush with Death.” They were four vehicles ahead of our and the light to turn green was really long. I told my team if the light is long again, I will run out and “tag,” their van. A mile down the road at another stoplight, I opened the sliding van door, jumped out, sprinted to the other van and placed our tag in the back door panel and sprinted back. The Brushed with Death did not really know what was going on. We followed their van all the way to the start line but parked on the other side of the lot. Once their team walked to the back of van and saw our tag, they cheered. The games have begun!
Our team arrived at 11:00AM, to check in and to pick up our bibs #243. The temperature was already close to 80 degrees and it was going to get warmer. Our start time would not be until 12:30PM and I am already concerned about my team’s hydration. Van 1, (our first 6 runners,) would be feeling most of the heat. They would be on the road during the temperature would hit its peak at 92 degrees. I reminded them to stay cool, and hydrate, hydrate, hydrate. 12:15PM, our first runner Christine, would line up with teams such as, Moons over My Hammies, Led Light System, Running on a Deficit (Haas School of Business), This is the Race That Dozen End, Scotchoberfest and the Jerks and Snatches CrossFit team. Finally, 12:30 came along and it was our turn to run.
(Christine, second from left at the start.)
Our van tried to stay relaxed, but that is kind of hard to do waiting 5 hours for your team’s first legs to finish. Since we were in wine country, going to vineyards seems like the obvious choice to pass the time. With the temperature rising and with our legs still to come, it was best to fuel up and find a place to eat. We had lunch at Azteca Taqueria, (seemed like a good idea) in which I had 6 tacos, (Greg noted that was one taco per mile I was about to run) then headed to the first major exchange at the Crosswalk Church in Napa. Our team tried to take naps but the gymnasium at the Crosswalk Church was loud and stuffy. Outside was hot and sticky, so we rested as much as we can and tried to stay hydrated. 5:12PM, van 1 arrived at the first major exchange. They were about 35 minutes behind our projected schedule. At this moment time was not important; because of the heat I was concerned about safety. Everyone checked in safe and injury free. The heat did take its toll on Van 1 and they were ready to mark their first legs as done. (Representing LMJS on my first run. Quack!)
I was just starting. The temperature started to cool so I knew we can make up some time. Sesa, runner 6 from van 1, sprinted towards the exchange to hand off to me. I was ready to go, (Arcade Fire was the first song on my playlist.) My first leg was classified as “moderate” 4.4 mile run. Once I received the bracelet baton from Sesa, I took off sprinting. I got as far as across the street, then stopped and waited. I was on a major intersection and it took two minutes for the light to turn green. By that time I crossed the street, I was already road kill. The first mile the adrenaline kicked in. I was in a little bit of a panic because I was stuck at the light and already road kill. I had that feeling the tacos for lunch now doesn’t seem it was a good idea,( maybe I miscalculated the taco per mile ratio?) I finally settled in, focusing on my breathing and my stride. Mile two was a 200 foot climb. I went slow and steady until I hit the summit at mile 3. Then it was a bit rolling with a larger climb than decent. The last 1.4 miles was a recovery decent in which I tried to push towards a threshold but my stomach was telling me no. I kicked in the last 400 meters and handed off to my teammate Betty. Leg 7
Our van was doing well. We were able to make up some time because the temperature has gotten cooler. There was a dead snake on leg 8, but that did not worry us. Leg 9 is where Greg made up some time. Leg 10 Leslie got lost had to go back to get her. She over ran the exchange by a mile and was met by a coyote. Leg 11, Lucy was so concerned that she would get lost too, and was a bit tentative the first half of her run. By the second half Lucy was flying and made up some lost time. Finally, it was our anchor leg, Chris’ turn to run. We had to wake him from his nap, because he has been waiting all day and after a 5 hour delay. We finally arrived to our second major exchange point at the Marin French Cheese Company in Petaluma.
Our teammates from van 1 met us at the exchange point. I handed off our official time sheet and waited for our last runner to come in. At the exchange, we witnessed another team argue about being late three minutes for hand off. They held their team an additional five minutes arguing why the runner had a late exchange. Chris came in about 10:00PM, and our shift was done and we can rest for the next four hours. However at the exchange we too were missing our next runner, Christine and no one knew where she was. After witnessing the last team’s implosion, we were more civil searching for runner and started shouting out her name, like searching for a lost puppy. Finally, in less than three minutes, Christine arrived after getting stuck in the food line. Van 1 was off again and Van2 was heading to our resting point in Burlingame.
Our van arrived to our resting point at Burlingame after a long detour through San Francisco. It was 12:30 AM and everyone was exhausted at this point and there were two more legs left. I found my sleeping spot, set my alarm and crashed. I woke up an hour later because I was paranoid about over sleeping. Five minutes later I received a post that our third runner was on the course. Ten minutes later, I received a text that our 6 runner was on the course and we had to be at the exchange. We thought we had at least another hour of rest, but that was not the case. Our team quietly packed up, went out the door and was on the road to the next exchange in less than 5 minutes. Betty, the van driver at the time, did her best Jimmy Johnson impersonation, and got us to the exchange with 5 minutes to spare. (Ryan at Golden Gate Bridge toll booth, ready to conquer hills.)
3:30AM and it was my turn to run again, Leg 19. This leg has miles 7-10 (the hill portion) and miles 23-26 on the Great Highway of the Nike Women’s Marathon. I was not looking forward to this leg because what it reminds of. I ran the NWM last year and the hill climbs they were congested, runners did not yield to the faster runner, passing lanes were blocked I wasted a lot of unnecessary energy getting over those hills. Even now when the road is empty, I am still reminded of my bad Nike experience. It makes me angry. I must have embraced the dark side of the force because I used that anger to attack these hills.
Leg 19 was my longest run of The Relay, 7miles. At mile 1 I was just settling into climb. It was pitch black over Lincoln. I could see a red blinking light up a head, and made it target or at least something to guide me. When I veered onto the trail of El Camino Del Mar, I almost tripped on a root. A faster runner was behind me, but maybe he thought the trial was dangerous too at night and we ran it together climbing to the Legion of Honor around the two and half mile mark. The runner behind me took off, I was road kill again, but I kept pushing trying to keep up. The fog started to roll in. It was black and I can only see the mist across my headlamp and a blinking red light 200 meters ahead from the runner who just passed me. After turn on Clement Street it was on to the downhill. I picked up speed when I saw the Cliff House and headed on to the Great Highway. I thought the rest of the run would be a nice flat 3 mile straight away to the exchange. No one said there would be a 20MPH head wind with sand blowing in my face. The last three miles were a struggle to say the least. I was getting dehydrated, but if drank water sand would get in my mouth. Sand was getting into my eyes and I did not have clear lens glasses. The flat was worse than the hills. When I finally crossed by exchange point, the runner just barely ahead of me agreed, “That leg sucked!” I finished leg two in 1 hour 18 minutes. I checked my splits and I was faster on the hill portion of the leg then the flats. It was a frustrating run in which the elements dictated my run. Leg 19
My second leg was over and I was mad. I was angry about my time, the weather conditions and the lack of sleep. I am glad it was over. I handed off to our next runner Betty. Her leg had her run to Pacifica, but she missed a turn and got lost. A runner from team Mountain Hardware did as well, with navigation help from our Team on the phone, both back were on course in no time. Our first “Road Save”. Greg ran leg 21 like beast and Leslie ran her leg 22 through a heavy headwind. Lucy was upset that leg 23 was cut in half due to construction she took it out on the course. She ran her leg like it was Tuesday track day at A Runner’s Mind, and showed no mercy to the road kill she dropped. Leg 24, Chris’ family was there to greet him. That visit must have re-energized him because he flew through his leg. We checked in to our second major exchange Sunday Morning ten minutes past 8. Our team has been on the road for 19 hours so far.
(The 2x2x2 at Bucks)
We arrived at Canada College in Redwood City; with 4 hours between legs we had two options. One: sleep, gain additional downtime minutes and feel rested. Or sit down and eat, fuel up for our last leg, knowing we are cutting into valuable sleep time. We decided to eat at Bucks, to load up on some proteins and carbs. There was even extra bacon, (which did not last). After breakfast, we decided to rest up at the college, tried to get some sleep. Meanwhile van 1 was running their final legs which were relativity easy except the last two legs. Each had a 1000 foot elevation climb up the Santa Cruz Mountains. They arrived to the last check point looking relieved their legs are over. We were happy to see them. It was our turn to take over and bring this baby home.
The end was near. Leg 31 was my last run of the race and it was mostly downhill. Up to this point I have been disappointed in my times. I wanted to finish strong but I was unsure how punishment my body can take. My strategy for the last leg was to find a rhythm the first mile, then run at threshold for the next 5 and max out the last point 2. This was my last leg, and if I am going to crash and burn, this is the time to do it. No turning back. Once I received the handoff from Sesa, I took off. A runner from another team took off a minute ahead I was determined to catch up with him. The first mile I was trying to find a comfortable running rhythm. I looked down at my Garmin and my pace was 7:38/ mile for the first 800 meters. That was way too fast for me and wanted to pull back just a little because I knew I could not keep the current pace.
Within the first mile, I passed the runner who started before me but I looked at my Garmin again and the first mile was 9:26. The time was too slow for the course so I quickened my turnover and shortened my stride. I felt comfortable, my breathing felt good and I was cruising towards Santa Cruz. The start of mile three, I saw another runner ahead. I started to push harder. The other runner must have seen me around the bend because he started to go faster too. The road was windy and slightly sloped to the left. I was trying to find the fastest running line without going to the middle of the road. By this time, I ignored my watch and started focusing on the runner. I felt Galen Rupp fast, and I hear in back of my mind Alberto Salazar barking about faster turnovers. Miles were dropping but I did not know how far I had left. Elevation was dropping quickly and the roads were getting more twisted. I saw him in my sites but it was too late. He was 100 meters ahead of me and already close to the exchange. Leg 31
When my run was finished I was on an emotional high. I felt I redeemed myself to my teammates. My first two runs were horrible. My first leg started off bad to worse. From the slow start at the crossing light to the hill climbs in the heat. My second leg with the hills and fog in the first half then the head wind and sand storms the second half. I over came the elements but I wanted to finish my Relay with one great run. My third leg I transcended from my usually run of comfortable to pushing my physical limits and go all out. In the end it was one of the best runs I have done all year. Checking my splits, Mile one 9:26, Mile 2 9:24, Mile 3 9:00, Mile 4 8:33, Mile 5 8:25, Mile 6 7:33. I could not believe I ran negative splits. (Leslie conquering the hills of leg 34)
My run maybe over but our journey to the finish line is not. We had to make our way through the mountains before heading towards the beach. Lucy traded legs with Betty, and she tagged 5 road kill. There were three runners drafting off each other going up the hill and Lucy just switched to anther gear. Greg’s last leg was his longest but an easy 6.7 miles. Leslie’s last leg is known as the leg of death and arguably the toughest legs of the race. It starts as a rolling flat course for 2 miles. The last 3.8 is all hill, the first climb is a straight 50 foot climb for 800 meters. Then flattens out for 400 meters until you continuously climb for 2.8 miles with a 500 foot elevation change along the way. We witnessed a runner from another team have an emotional break down after her exchange. Leslie was a beast through the hills and conquered them all. It was all downhill from here. Betty had an incorrectly labeled easy 3.4 mile leg. Then Chris brought us home against a strong headwind. But since we could not find a parking spot close to the finish, our van missed our runner cross the finish line. We were fortunate Van 1 was waiting and they crossed the line together. We tried to reenact the finish but it was too windy and cold, and we were very tired. I think we hit that point that we all wanted to go home.
In the end team ARMed and Dangerous finished with the official time of 28 hours, 17 minutes and 4 seconds. We finished 77th overall; and 19th in our division with 113 combine road kill. We raised $1,025 for Organs R Us. It was one wild ride but it was worth the hurt, (TM SF Marathon.) I would like to thank my team from last year, Lost in Pace, the experience made it easier to run this year’s team. Tristen Davis for the supplier of Vito Coconut Water and FRS Energy drinks. Also my teammates, Van 1: Christine Ramirez, Frank McAuly, Julie Wu, Adam Jost, Anna Jost, Sessa Pabalan. Van 2 Betty Taylor, Greg Sam, Leslie Montgomery, Lucy Palasek, and Chris Padilla. Finally, I would like to give a special thanks to Jennifer and Todd Keleher of A Runner’s Mind in Burlingame who sponsored both vans and provided the team shirts and opened their home during The Relay. They graciously hosted us, spending time as volunteers, coordinating vans and being all around great! It was a great running adventure and I hope to do it again next year.