It was the last officially, unofficial relay before covid shut everything down last year and everyone has been ready to get back to pushing the rock on an out of town activity. We’ve trained for months, trying to find as many hills or mountains to run as possible to be ready for the Mortimer 100.
Despite a significant vehicular Q fail the day before the relay, the go date had finally arrived and Team FRC showed up at the Tater Hole on time for our start at 12:00 midnight! The 7 other teams, including Team 1 from F3 Gastonia, were there to receive their race “packet”(a sticker) and instructions for the relay. Breaker Breaker was asked to give the prayer before the festivities. It’s a good thing he prayed for safety because this was one of the most unpredictable and loosely planned events most of us had done before.
YHC led off our team for leg 1, making good time after scooting past the area dogs on the route. Quiche took off for leg 2, ultimately turning in a 7:01 pace, booyow! Pizza Man went uphill for leg 3 which was twice as long and 250 feet higher than the Crowders Mountain training route we’d been practicing on! Virus headed out through the streets of Lenoir, Flintstone left town in his steady as she goes fashion and Buckeye wrapped up the last leg of the six by turning in easy 5.5 mile warmup.
We had taken two cars so the first 3 runners drove ahead to the “exchange” zone. Because we started at midnight, everyone was trying to find rest anytime we could. YHC closed my eyes for what seemed like a few seconds only to be awoken to the notification that Buckeye was 25 minutes into his run. Not being totally aware of what that meant, YHC started getting ready in a somewhat casual manner which wasn’t fast enough because Buckeye showed up fast and everyone waited a few more minutes before YHC headed out. That 10 mile route sucked but not as bad as Quiche’s.
“Quiche’s nightime trail run”
Quiche has battled recurring hamstring strains for several months but has managed and managed the issue well. Unfortunately, his first leg brought back the never-ending pain and this leg was going to be a real challenge. Quiche’s route started with stairs going into the dark woods. Stairs. Into. The. WOODS!!! Keep in mind, it was 5:30 in the morning, literally in the middle of nowhere and very dark. As we were getting ready to head out for the next exchange zone we saw Quiche back at the start, 10 minutes or so after he’d started. Apparently the trail wasn’t marked well at all and he didn’t know where to go. After a few cryptic directions from some guys he headed back into the dark. There was no way for us to follow him and our driving directions didn’t give any guidance on where to go so we followed one of the experienced groups to our next EZ. There is no way we would’ve found it if we weren’t following them because we didn’t have GPS. Upon arriving at the EZ about 6am we figured Quiche would be there within the next 45 minutes or so. We waited and waited and waited. After waiting some more we saw one of the other team’s runners come up beside the creek. Of course he had to cross the creek, getting wet in the process. That guy was alone. About 15 minutes later another dude came out of the woods. We waited some more. At long last, we saw Quiche emerge beside the creek and of course he had to cross, getting wet in the process but he didn’t seem to care. All in all, his leg took him about 3 hours. He fell in the nearly freezing water 4 times, got lost 3 times and ran an extra 2.6 miles on his leg. That Sucks!
Pizza Man headed out for his beast of a leg. Meanwhile Quiche shivered in his car for the next 45 minutes. We caught up with Pizza after driving uphill for about 4 miles. He dominated that hill, though, as expected. We took a pit stop in for breakfast in Linville, a delicious mix of beef jerky, pizza flavored Combos and coffee. Delicious. In rolled Pizza to tag in Virus. He killed his short leg and swapped off for Flintstone whose whole 7 miles was downhill. He may have set a PR for that distance!
Next was Buckeye’s first super steep leg. The first mile wasn’t so bad but the next 2 miles were probably the steepest I’ve ever seen for a paved road. We were so vertical that our bodies pressed into our backrests as the SUV labored up the hill. I’m really glad we had Buckeye to run that leg. New Mountain goat here!
YHC took the casual tag and headed off without GPS connection again. FYI, the Blue Ridge Parkway is very busy at 12:30 on a beautiful spring day, be aware! We skipped the next leg because Quiche got hurt in the woods. I guess that means we’re DQ’ed. We tried finding the next EZ but of course had to try to decipher the awful directions that were given to us. En route we took a detour through Chetola (pronounced Sheet Ola by some) and had the pleasure of being greeted by the smiliest dude you ever did see. We soon realized we couldn’t get to the next spot from there so we turned around and received an exuberant parting wave from smily dude.
We came to a packed parking lot but luckily found a spot in the back. Pizza took off with one of Nantan Slaughter’s team members and we headed to the next EZ at a ski resort. YHC took another nap. Once Virus took off on his run my two car mates were done and needed to get back home so I piled into Buckeye’s M’s ride for the finale. Virus cruised in and Flintstone took off for his run through campus and up to the wind turbine beside the ASU baseball field. Buckeye headed out across the valley to climb up the next steepest leg I’d ever seen. Howard’s Knob is a pointy mountain and Buckeye had to run to the top. Lucky for him we picked up some beers so he could finally relax at the finish. That dude came rolling in like it was nothing at all, beast mode!
We celebrated for a little bit with beers, chatter and pictures. It was a beautiful day for an awful hard relay. I’m glad we had the crew we did. MVP performances by all even if we did get DQ’ed.
As always, I feel like we got to know each other even better than before and were able to share some cool moments. Relay races are such a unique way to push each other and have the kind of long term fellowship that we can let our guard down a little and really get to know each other on a deeper level. This thing sucked but you all pushed through and I’m proud of the preparation we all put in and the final result. I love you guys.
The Mortimer was a free event with the agreement that each team had to give $1000 to charity. Team FRC’s charity was the Bountiful Blessings Food Pantry at Mt. Zion Baptist Church. Their food storage trailer burned and they still kept serving the community. We’re all proud to have been able to give to the cause and thank you all for your contributions too. The PAX contribution was $1400.00 and with a generous match from an upstanding local optometrist the grand total came up to $2400.00!!! Job well done, thank you all!
YHC forgot to mention the EC 2nd F that was had after the relay. We went to Woodlands BBQ in Blowing Rock and consumed copious amounts of meat, sides and beverages. Good times were had by all. The finale (at least for those lucky enough to travel home in Buckeye’s M’s ride) was the impromptu offer for YHC to play some music. You heard that right! I was INVITED to play music of MY choosing! Buckeye explained that he’s happy to drive just so long as he doesn’t have to pick the music. Can you believe that!?! Sounds like Buckeye has a new wing man for driving around purposes.
Sargento (Mixmaster V) out!!!