This unexpected journey began months ago when I decided to join a group of fellow Rogue runners in the 2013 Texas Independent Relay (TIR) the weekend of March 23 & 24th. We didn’t finalize our team until the last minute but on Friday night, March 22nd, these nine women–Alexa (team captain); Bethany; Jaclyn; Melinda; Tory; Christina; Jenna; Molly; and myself–set out in two cars for Gonzales, TX.
TIR put on a pre-race kick off party to welcome all runners to the town that would serve as the start of 200 miles of glorious running! The kick-off party was hilarious and had elements of “Footloose” and a high school dance, all in one. We had a few beers, danced a little, and met some of the other runners who signed up for this crazy relay race. I wish I had pictures of team “Mullet” because they took the costumes and energy of this race to another level.
Gonzales was pretty much what I imagined, a super small Texas town that offered $1.75 breakfast tacos at 10:00pm.
We didn’t plan ahead much with where we were going to stay. We abandoned the idea of sleeping in the H.S. gym down the street that the race organizers had set-up. Instead, we ended up staying at the Carefree Inn, which is about as scary of a hotel that I’ve ever stayed in. But, it gave shelter to the 9 of us, no one was abducted and no one broke into our room in the middle of the night. Winning.
Our start time was just before 10:00am on Saturday the 23rd. We arrived in our super cute “Roguettes” team tank tops and took-in all that was happening at the starting line. The other teams’ vans lined the streets, each team’s theme song played as they left the starting line, everyone was taking pictures and feeling the energy of the adventure that lied ahead. Texas was clearly a focus of this shin-dig, as the race follows and honors much of Texas state history. After living in Texas for almost 5 years, I’ve learned that these people LOVE big Texas state flags. This flag was so big and it was so windy that teams had to take turns holding it down from becoming unreachable due to the wind. This is the biggest Texas flag I’ve seen yet.
The Roguettes took off through the lingering smoke of the cannon that was fired off for the start of each team. We ran as a team for about 1 mile until Bethany set out solo to complete the first leg. There were 40 legs total, divided by 9 runners on our team (each team could have between 7-14 runners). Each leg was between 3-7 miles long. Sadly, Jaclyn suffered a bad knee injury and had to sit-out from running after her first leg. She was a trouper, team player and was really helpful even though she couldn’t run. I know she was really bummed about this and she handled it with grace. Without her running abilities, it meant that we were all about to take on roughly 25 miles of running and VERY little sleep for the next 30 hours.
What I loved about this entire experience was running for each and every person on my team. This was not a solo marathon. This was about being there for each other as a teammate, runner, cheerleader, water girl, whatever was needed. Each time a runner approached the exchange point to pass the baton, you knew that she was running for the Roguettes and doing the best she could.
The bulk of the first day of running was in sweltering heat, travelling on dirt paths through cow pastures or running on the highway connecting tiny Texas towns, most of which seemed abandoned. It was amazing. We ran with joy and with a commitment to “come and take it” with each mile our body would allow us to run. We cheered each other on, setting the tone for the rest of the running that had yet to take place.
The evening legs were unexpectedly my favorite. I didn’t realize we’d be running on highways in the middle of the night, so there was a fear factor of safety and getting lost. But, we all had tons of reflective gear on with maps to show us the way. The van stopped every mile or so to make sure that the runner was safe and doing ok. My experience running in the dead of night was one that I’ve never had before. Most of the night running was by myself, with the occasional runner passing me or me passing someone else. We were not allowed to run with music, so I was left with the silence of running. My mental chatter was quiet, my mind was clear, and I was amazed at how much energy I had with no sleep and several miles already under my belt from earlier in the day.
The second day of running included massive winds and chilly temperatures. We handled it like all Rogues do, taking on whatever mother nature handed us. The team’s energy was not as high as it was the first day, but we were still cheering and supporting one another. The lack of sleep and nutrition was starting to impact all of us and delirium was beginning to set in. Towards the end of the relay we experienced one logistic mess-up with losing Molly for a short while, but she was a trouper and figured out how to contact us through Bobby, our running coach (thank you!!).
I had the honor of running the team’s last leg to the San Jacinto monument in Houston. This was awesome and the most memorable of the 5 legs. I ran part of the way with Tory and the rest of the way with Alexa. We managed the insane head wind, and felt the motivation of our team waiting to run us in. We could see the monument high above the other structures, welcoming us to the finish line. The final road was a long straight path, lined with other team’s vans. The monument became closer and closer to us with every step. The Roguettes ran the final tenth of a mile with us and we celebrated running through that finish line with so much joy, pride, and friendship. 30 hours and 45 minutes later we completed 200 miles. Done.
I am honored to have run with this incredible group of women. I love that we displayed strength and power, balanced with love and compassion. I believe this is what women do best. We were there to compete and to have an amazing joy-filled experience.
Would I do this race again? Yes, in a heartbeat. The tough parts were the lack of sleep, managing stomach issues while also needing to eat, and the fact that when we weren’t running we were sitting (un-showered and smelly) in a mini-van with all of our sweaty used clothes and shoes. But, all of those not-so-great parts of the experience are barely a part of this narrative. What stands out is the joy of running, being a part of this incredible Austin running community, friendship, the outdoors, a sense of adventure, and memories.
Thank you to Rogue Running for being such a huge supporter of our experience. Thank you to our coach, Bobby, for making sure we found Molly and for building such a supportive running community in Austin, which brought us together in the first place. Thank you to the ladies on team Roguettes for being incredible human beings who contribute to this world. Last of all, I thank my mind and body for allowing me to run as much as I do and for saying “yes” to wild and crazy experiences like TIR.