Open Mic Friday: Meet Teri, the Relay Enthusiast
Bored with conventional racing? We hope not. But if so, that's why we mixed it up this week and talked about relays, ultras, and triathlons.
Our guest is Teri, a runner who has discovered the thrill of runnng relays and all the fun that goes along with these events. In addition to her own personal running blog, she operates a hugely comprehensive blog dedicated soley to relays, keeping so much useful event information and links to race sites. It also contains training and racing tips, forums, and all things relays related. The only thing that exceeds the data is her passion for running relays.
We know that every time we're in contact with Teri, she re-ignites our interest in forming a team, finding a relay and planning a fun team relay adventure. If you feel the excitement deep down for running a relay, connect with Teri, she'll guide you, help you find one, or probably help you create a relay in your community.
Tell us how you got involved in relays.
My very first relay was the 1997 Hood to Coast. I was invited to be on a team by a co-worker, and I was in love with the idea from the moment I saw my first decorated van. I had been running road races for about a year at that point, but I knew then that relays were something else entirely. I loved everything about it - the camaraderie, the sleep deprivation, the crazy team names, the night running. The next year I was trying to get pregnant, so I captained a corporate walking team and repeated the feat the year after, this time with a six week old in tow. That's right; I took my daughter with me in the van for the relay six weeks after a c-section. Did I mention that I really love relays?!!!
Four years ago I joined one of the best organized teams ever (they've taught me everything I know), and just last year, I started up with running relays again after running the Cascade Lakes Relay with some friends. Now that I've seen how many cool relays are out there, I've got a bunch on my "to-do" list!
What is so special about relays? Why all the enthusiasm?
Relays are all about the team. In a regular road race, you focus on yourself - your performance, your pace, your aches and pains. In a relay, it's about your teammates. You cheer, you laugh, you tell stories, you enjoy inside jokes. You suffer together; you triumph together. Even the most dysfunctional team comes together as it crosses the finish line; after the first beer in the beer garden, you’re already planning for next year. It's much more than just a race. It's an experience.
Beyond your team, you genuinely encourage the other people you encounter on the course, and it's normal to make new friends with the teams around you. When you see each the same teams at exchange after exchange, you can't help but get to know each other. I’m always amazed by how friendly and supportive the vast majority of people are. It’s pretty amazing. We have teams that we look for year after year; they are long lost friends (and rivals!). My current running group is made up of individuals from two separate teams who met at a relay many years ago. This just doesn't happen at a regular race, where each person comes in for an hour or two and then goes back to their lives. Even when you go to an event with friends, you are running your own race. In a relay, you run your own race, and then you cheer for your friend's race. It's the ultimate way to support each other.
I would tell them that a relay race is unlike anything they've ever done before, and for that quality alone, it is worth trying. I have never met a runner who has regretted the relay experience, and I have met so many who make it a point to do a relay race every year. There is a sense of camaraderie that touches everyone who participates, and I don't mean just the runners.
My parents love to volunteer for the relay races because they get to feel like they are a part of something special. They get a kick out of meeting new people and cheering on those that pass by their volunteer station. If a volunteer can have so much fun that they want to return year after year, just imagine what it is like to be one of the runners or walkers!
So does traditional racing as an individual runner seem boring to you now? Not at all. It's just different. I have my individual races on my race schedule, and I am excited to do those to see how I can improve my performance. I still have dreams in that department - I'd really love to qualify for Boston - but I think about my relays differently. I want to run well for my relays, but that's not my focus. It’s really just about getting together with my friends and having a really fun weekend. It’s a vacation, basically – a vacation full of sleep deprivation, running until I’m exhausted, Porta-Potties, and laughing until my sides hurt – how awesome is that!!
Van decorations and team names are huge. I've seen teams racewalk in full disco outfits and Superman outfits. I've seen running pirates and wenches. My own team has a huge latte cup on the top of our van, complete with lights that make the latte foam glow at night.
Last year, I witnessed a blind team competing in the Portland to Coast (they used companion walkers). That was awesome. The first year I ran Hood to Coast, I saw a woman doing it solo. That was pretty cool too. That same year, Mary Decker Slaney's team was stuck in traffic, and she was stuck at the same exchange I was at. How often do you get to run the same race as an Olympian?
So if you were going to assemble a virtual relay team, who would you include?
You know, with a relay, it's all about attitude. If you are going to put a relay team together, you've got to be sure that you pick people who are going in to it for the experience itself, who really want to be there. At the Ragnar New York Relay this spring, the 6 Sloths of the Apocalypse team was one that met online. They had never met in person before, but all the runners wanted to share the experience of a relay race. They had the right attitude, and from all accounts, they had a great time. I would just love to see some enthusiastic bloggers get together for a relay to see what happens and to read their race reports.
What is one unique thing about you that most people don't know?
I have this crazy idea that has been starting to brew within me lately. My oldest daughter was diagnosed with Crohn's Disease at the age of 7, and we have been coming to terms with this diagnosis for a couple of years now. I would like for my running to be meaningful, so I have been thinking of raising money for the Crohn's & Colitis Foundation.
But here's the thing. They have a couple of 1/2 marathons that they have runners raise money for, but for me at this point in my running, a 1/2 marathon is easy for me to achieve. I want to do something really hard for me, since what my daughter is dealing with is really hard for her. So I learned that there is a triple marathon at Lake Tahoe in September (full marathons run on three consecutive days up at Lake Tahoe); I'm thinking about tackling that in 2010, and calling it "Nuts or Guts?". Of course, as I was in about mile 24 of the Eugene marathon this past May, I was sincerely questioning my ability to pull it off. Hence the "Nuts or Guts?" name, I guess.
At the moment, I'm training for my Cascade Lakes Relay. This one is a challenging 216 mile relay through the high desert and gorgeous lake country of Central Oregon. It looks like I'll be running 22 - 23 miles in 3 legs over a 32 hour period. I'm running about 40 miles per week right now, and on Tuesdays, I do a "triple" - morning run, evening run, and then a 3rd run Wednesday morning. But that’s just the level of running I’m comfortable with – I would be running that much if I didn’t have a relay.
I'm also thinking about a fall 1/2 marathon - trying to break a 1:45, and then maybe another spring marathon. There are a couple of shorter relays in Oregon that I'm considering. My plans are always changing depending on what fun races come up in the interim.
Best running advice you've ever been given?
This comes from a relay friend and Portland Marathon pacer. It's simple really - "6 days, 6 weeks or 6 months." It refers to our choices when dealing with injury. If we are feeling something - a pain in our hip or shin, tightness in our Achilles, throbbing ankles - we can make the smart choice, and rest for 6 days (or whatever it takes until it feels better). If we choose to push through the pain for some time, we stretch that recovery out to 6 weeks. And if we keep on pushing through the pain, we can end up with injury that lasts 6 months or longer. It's so important to listen to your body and to give it rest when it is asking for it.
Anything else you want to share?
I think that the key to running longevity is fun. What you are doing has to be fun. Now whether that fun comes in the form of marathons, or 5ks, or relay races, that doesn't matter. But if you are laughing and enjoying yourself, if you've got events that you look forward to all year, that's what matters. That's what keeps you going through the dark miles of the winter or injury. For me, that fun comes from my relay races. That's my chance to just enjoy the fact that I can go out and be active with my good friends. If your running is fun, you'll keep with it. And in the end, that's all that matters.