One of the strangest things about running in a relay is that you never really know when you're going to be running. Any other time, you've got a few minutes to get prepared. And while, sure, you can prepare yourself in a relay too, it's a lot more of... "la ti dah, la ti dah, oh it's cold, oh it's cool chatting up my other team mates waiting for runner X to come into the exchange, la ti dah, do I need to hit the porta potty again? I really wish I'd brought my leggings, la ti dah... OH SHIT, here she comes, it's time to run."
This time, I wasn't prepared. Sure, I had my gear on, etc... but I wasn't mentally ready to tackle 4.3 miles in the cold, dark. But, I took off, realizing that I'd forgotten my garmin in the van. The exchange was in a town, and I quickly got out of the town and ran along an enormous 5 line highway (much of this relay is along 4-5 lane highways. MUCH). I started off very stiff in the legs. And cold. My legs were freezing (I didn't pack my leggings), but I kept telling myself the faster I ran, the quicker I'd be done and the quicker I'd warm up.
It was dark out and I kinda started to try and enjoy the darkness and the stillness (except for the cars/trucks whizzing past you at 60 mph). This stretch of the highway was particularly unstable. There were lots of rocks, crumbled asphalt and pot holes along the way. And I did my best to keep my eyes peeled to the 6 inches in front of me, where I had my headlamp lighting the way.
About a mile in, while navigating a some loose rocks, I looked too far ahead and overanticipated a huge chunk of asphalt and found myself quickly face down on the side of the road. That's right folks... I fell. During the freaking relay.
And, this one hurt. I fell on my hands and right knee. I stood up, realized that the fall had knocked off my blinky light, reattached it and started running again while assessing the damage. My palms definitely took the brunt of the fall and they were bleeding, but I was otherwise okay. Shaken up, embarrassed, and not surprised, I tried to focus on the road immediately in front of me and on running faster to get this shitty leg over with.
Another mile in or so, and I started singing Rocky Raccoon again. (seriously, I can never get sick of this song, even though I swear it was written to be a song just to annoy the bejesus out of people by getting stuck in their heads.) And I started noticing some blinky lights ahead. I set my goals on passing at least one of them.
Without my garmin, I felt like I was running really slow. My breath didn't seem that labored, but I felt awfully uncomfortable in general. My right hand had a stream of blood coming wrapping around to my wrist, and I tried to pick up the pace, but resigned myself to the fact that I'd probably be coming out of this leg with a slow-ish time... 9:40-10:00 was my guess. Oh well... we're just having fun out here, right? The blood more than makes up for a disappointing time.
I picked off a couple of runners around the 1 mile to go sign and tried my damnedest to get this shit over with. I pushed and pushed and I felt like I was going nowhere. My legs felt concrete cylinders. To make matters worse, I was freezing. My legs never got warmed up.
I finally saw the exchange and tried to pick it up even more to look good for my team. I handed the bracelet off to April and finally was able to stop.
My second leg was over. Only one more go...
We walked back to the van and I recounted my fall to my van-mates and showed off my battle scars. I also asked what my pace had been (even though deep down I didn't really want to know) and I was pleasantly surprised to hear that I'd ran that leg in 8:37s. Pretty damn fast for me, these days.
I hopped in the van and got bandaged up and we headed to the next exchange.