American Odyssey Pre-Relay Thoughts
I’m an American Odyssey Relay veteran. 2014 is my 3rd consecutive year running this relay and each year keeps improving. For new readers, AOR is a 200 mile relay from Gettysburg to Washington, DC that is completed by 12 runners. Being a vet, there are no worries whatsoever going into it. I don’t worry whether I’ll be able to finish the legs, get lost on the course, meet up at transition points, or wonder what it’s like being in a van for 30 hours. With all of this behind me, the goal becomes to have fun.
This year we had the same van as last year except that my brother replaced Bob. There’s a comfort level to knowing the people in your van which is both good and bad. In one sense you know what you are getting which takes away the fun of meeting new people. However, because you know each other so well, you can completely be yourself and that leads to a different atmosphere. Either way, you spend almost 2 full days together so it’s important to make sure you get along.
To the Starting Line
Our team had a 10:15am start time. We woke up early to watch Nikkii decorate the van because she is the only one with any type of artistic ability. I tried to help in the creation of what to write and some how steered us in a direction towards cows instead of bulls and that lead to confusion. Technically we are the Ambler Stampede and even horses can stampede as Nathan accurately pointed out. Either way, the van got decorated and we killed some time before heading to the starting line.
Before we got to the start, we stopped in Walmart to buy an AUX cord so we could listen to some tunes. Can we get this cord subsidized 24 ways? Once ready to jam we saw Maureen off and our set of legs were set to begin. We had some hours to kill and had our traditional Perkins breakfast. Discussion at the table is always humorous.
Our plan was to drive the set of legs that Van 1 was running to get a feel for the course. I abruptly decided that I needed to charge my phone and plugged in a monster converter that blew the fuse. This send a shiver of panic over our van because without power to charge the phones, we had no GPS. We backtracked to where we started and picked up a conveniently 24 packed set of 20 amp fuses. Once replaced, we were back on track.
Our First Legs
We knew the weather called for rain but didn’t know when. Wouldn’t you know that as soon as we got the the transition point, it started pouring. The weather was warm though so we had that going for us. Lisa started off leg 7 for us and we were off. At this point, Nikkii had been demoted from driver after telling us she “had it up to here (pointing to about the van ceiling)” about us pointing out the nuances of her driving and comments to passing runners. Let’s not forget the almost Corvette incident 20 hours earlier.
Lisa completed her run as she always does and David got a taste of what CK4 had to experience last year, a long incline followed by a serpentine of downhill that extends miles. David finished and passed off to Sam who popped his AOR cherry. By this time the weather stopped raining but it was starting to get cold. Sam handed to Nikkii who went on a delightful run through the woods. She emerged somewhere and finished her run handing off to me.
Because this is my blog, you get to read about what goes through my mind while I run. I was feeling pretty good along my 7+ mile leg to start. I caught up to Nathan and took my favorite picture of the relay. The environment along the Mason-Dixon line is incredible. It’s a panorama of farm land. I always keep my eyes out for slate roofs and there were two awesome structures along my path which I wish I had a camera to take a picture of. At about my 5 mile mark I was caught by another runner which has never happened before. This guy was moving pretty good and I wasn’t necessarily taking it easy but I had some gas left in the tank. I went with him as he passed me and stayed with him for a long period of time. With about a half mile left, I made a move to the finish line only to be denied and then owned by about 15 meters. Fun nonetheless.
I gave the baton to CK4 and he completed our first set of legs. Since the vans were at different points, we decided to get some food on our own. We couldn’t remember if we ate in Boonsboro last year and decided on a different course. We found a beer store and an Cracker Barrel for some food. At this point we all had a few bullets and were having some fun messing around. We arrived at Boonsboro at around 10pm and had a bit of time to kill. I brushed my teeth which was a revitalizing factor. Nikkii also saw the stick of my deoderant head fall on the street as I nonchalantly put it back in and used it. The life of a runner.
2nd Set of Legs
I started this set of legs taking the Browns to the Super Bowl in a lonesome porta-a-potty. It was completely dark inside and I crossed my fingers it was less used because it was in such a remote area. Everything went fine and David started this next set. The second set of legs is a bit shorter and David went out a touch to hard which was evident by his minute slow down from 1st to 3rd mile. He handed off to Lisa who took down the hardest leg on the course BY FAR. This leg was crushing runners left and right and it was no surprise that it manhandled CK4 last year only to sideline him for his last leg. Some sarcasm is being use here but Lisa completed the leg efficiently. During this transition, some drama occurred.
While I was driving, I jokingly said that I saw some little child on the side of the road. This FREAKED Nikkii out. Discussion lead to a chupacabra and Nikkii was breaking down about doing her night run. Sam’s quick moving light through the night sky handed the bracelet off to Nikkii and she was set out in the abyss. We met up with her half way and running had overcome the fears of the devil. She finished her run and I had a short 3+ mile run.
My run started through the Gettysburg battlefields and after a few moments I was completely by myself. My headlamp was weak and I had to look down to see straight every time. It was pitch black and after our ghost comments, I had that going on in my head that I was completely vulnerable to any 2am attacker in the battlefields. At one point these lights flashed across the road and my heart skipped a beat. I was certain I was getting abducted by aliens but it turned out to only be the lights of a van behind me. I finished my leg and handed off to CK4. CK4 also successfully finished his night run and we were on to the 3rd set of legs. We passed on the $7 dollar boy scout buffet and headed off to John Poole High School.
3rd Set of Legs
Most of van 2’s 3rd set of legs runs along the Potomac which is quite the scenery. The start begins at a middle school in Poolesville, MD. It’s a bit over an hour drive from Sheppardsville, WV to Poolsville and David manhandled the driving with me sitting shotgun and giving uncertain directions. We listened to some Pink Floyd and other classic rock artists while making the trek at 4am. We got there at 5, parked the van, and tried to get some shut eye. I bundled up in a sleeping bag outside because the van gets a bit crowded and lord knows how much oxygen is trapped in that van with 5 other people breathing.
I woke at 6:15 after about an hour of sleep to see they had opened the school. I bought a bagel and the kid told me there was cream cheese and a cutter over on the other table. I wasn’t familiar with a cutter and used a knife to split it. The woman there looked at me like I was special and told me that I could have used the bagel cutter and that she couldn’t give me any advice on how to use the toaster. After I punched her in the face, I went outside and slept an hour more.
I’ll bypass the running along the Potomac but each leg is beautiful with little hills and the weather was perfect. The only episode occurred when I handed off the stick to CK4 and his phone was dimmed. He stamped his foot down and wasn’t moving which isn’t a good look during a relay where running is encouraged. After a minute, he took off and I was put in charge of directions to the finish line. My GPS wasn’t working right and I was using Nikki’s. This was a mistake because I veered from the AOR directions and used a device that I wasn’t familiar with. We missed a turn and it sent us into touristville DC and we crawled along. We arrived in time to see Chad finish and our running journey came to an end.
AOR Finish Line
We finished the run in a bit over 29 hours which was good for 50th place out of 200. This relay isn’t about winning and a good time was had by all. The after party held in the wharf was not a great experience. The beer being poured was atrocious and a line was building because pouring wasn’t handled properly. The food was average but free is free. A short episode about bedbugs in the hotel sent everyone packing. We had a nice team meal in College Park, MD and then headed home. I was running on 2 hours of sleep and pretty tired. Lisa, Nikkii, and I chatted it up along the ride back but it seemed to drag on. We arrived safely and I was dropped off before I had to deal with van issues which was nice for me. My drive back can be read about here but once my head hit the pillow, it was lights out.
The overall experience was positive. You hang out with different people and spend time running which is both healthy and fun. We made sure to crush some bullets along the way try to stink as little as possible. Knowing how to prepare for a relay like this is half the battle to success. Major thanks to Nathan Relles for organizing everything because without him we would be all over the place. Another thanks to everyone who participated because there is no AOR without a team. If you’ve read this far in this post, you enjoy running too much. Until next time.