The Odyssey

July 20, 2012 at 10:57 am 3 comments

I continue to practice my chi walking and yoga, but there’s not much to report today. The walking is coming along and this weekend I plan to start running a bit more. I’ll be sure to write about that progress but in the meantime I thought I would take some time to write a little bit about why I began running in the first place. Three words: Reno-Tahoe Odyssey.

The RTO is a 178 mile relay race that starts in Reno, goes around Lake Tahoe via Truckee and back to Reno via Carson City and Virginia City.

Each team typically has 12 people in 2 vans that leapfrog each other. Van 1 runs and Van 2 chills out/tries to sleep and vice-verse. Each person runs 3 times and in the same order. So if you run 5th on the 1st leg you run 5th on the 2nd and 3rd legs. It can take teams anywhere from 20-30 hours to run, although three teams finished under 20 hours this year. Crazy.

I signed up in February and the race was June 1st. I thought it would be plenty of time to be ready but I was ignoring my history of chronic shin splints and disregarding the fact that I’m not nor have I ever, EVER, considered myself a runner. But I wanted to face the challenge and have a training goal. I began training but once my mileage got above 3 miles I could only run a few times a week because my shins hurt so badly. I tried everything–new shoes, compression sleeves, ace bandage wraps, ice, rest, epsom baths, more rest, trail running, running lessons to improve my form–and nothing really worked. I did intense circuit strength training at my gym twice a week to get stronger. I did yoga sporadically.

About three weeks before the race I contacted a teammate to switch legs. I had picked three legs that were relatively flat but all pretty long distances–5-6 miles–and I was sure that by my third leg I would be in too much pain to finish. My new legs were shorter–3-5 miles–but included some uphill and downhill runs, and also at higher elevations that I had been training. I decided that the tradeoff in distance was worth the terrain and elevation challenges. When race day came I knew I could have been more prepared but there wasn’t anything else I could do. Here’s our team, The Couch Potatoes, before.

It was extremely hot in Reno the days of the race, which became a big factor for almost every team. Our team started at 10:45 in the morning and as the 8th runner, I started my leg around 5pm in  Truckee.

It was way harder than I thought it was going to be. The deceiving elevation gain, the HEAT, no shade on the run, and the blisters I got almost immediately all added up to a challenging run. Here I am handing off at the end.

I finished the 4.7 miles in about 52 minutes, so basically an 11 minute mile pace. I had been shooting for a 10 minute mile pace but I just couldn’t do it. I regrouped, rested, ate some pizza, got about two hours of sleep and then ran again at 2 in the morning. This was my second leg:

I actually ran this leg at an 8 1/2 minute mile pace, but I would pay for that the next day. I had barely done any downhill training and I didn’t know what I was doing, but my knees did not bother me, which was my fear originally. After I finished this run I started to relax–I was two thirds of the way done and I was feeling okay. I was tight from sitting in the van so much and my shins were starting to ache but I knew I could do it. Some benefits of the RTO were things like the sunrise in Jacks Valley and the views.

My third leg was the climb and descent out of Virginia City and I ran that at about 11 am on June 2nd. It was already a hot day and with no shade, but this run felt the best. I was able to maintain my pace up the hill and ended up finishing the whole leg in 35 minutes.

After this I was technically done but because it was such a hot day and we were all so fatigued and sore we took turns finishing the last few legs (but don’t tell the race people that!). So I ended up running two more miles in hot, flat Reno before our team finished at 3:30pm. I ran a total of almost 15 miles in 24 hours. After we crossed the finish line I was so relieved to be done, and tired, and hungry and delirious that I literally started crying shortly after this picture was taken. You can see I was wearing my compression sleeves and had wrapped my shins because at that point I was in so much pain.

Despite all the challenges of the race, it was so much fun. I don’t know why it was fun, but something about the camaraderie and the adrenaline and the pride of achievement made the whole experience so worthwhile. I was crazy sore for about 4 days though, and it took a good week to start feeling normal again. The downhill running did a number on my quads and hips and my shins were beyond sore. In fact, I still have a spot on my right leg that is still tight from the whole race.

Despite all that, I’ve signed up to do it again. Our team is already locked in for next year and I’m slated to run Leg 2. These will be my legs.

They are going to be hard legs, especially my second run, which will happen sometime around midnight. But since my training started, like, yesterday, I think I will do just fine.

p.s. sorry for the poor picture quality. I don’t know what I’m doing.


Entry filed under: Running. Tags: , , , , , , .

Workshoppin Dry Pond Hike

3 Comments Add your own

  • 1. Finding my Ch'i  |  October 19, 2012 at 4:00 am

    […] about nutrition, doing cross fit and yoga, and trying my hand at running by participating in the Reno-Tahoe Odyssey, a 178 mile relay race. I completed the race but was in so much pain—I’ve always battled […]

  • 2. You Might Be A Runner If… « Ch'I Journey  |  August 30, 2012 at 9:12 am

    […] felt this morning and it was so weird! Awesome, but weird. Last spring when I was training for the RTO, sometimes I looked forward to my runs, but there was such a cloud of training anxiety hanging over […]

  • 3. runnersinlaw  |  July 21, 2012 at 4:50 am

    Congratulations to you, and thank you for the motivation! I do not consider myself a runner either, yet in an “out of my mind” moment, I agreed to do a half marathon with my daughter-in-law in December. My friend, Sharon, has introduced me to Chi Running, and I’m hopeful that will help me avoid pain in my knees. Excellent blog!


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