• DEST Relay 2022

    Teamwork is everything!

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Become a Patron! 2022 Finish Line

Another July, another Down East Sunrise Trail Relay with my team, DEST from the West. When I say that I have the best teammates, I mean that the love and support for each other begins far before the starting line, Although Bea Q. is our captain in the eyes of the RD, I split the leadership duties with her. She's brilliant at logistics and her spreadsheets keep us pointed in the right direction, arriving at the right place in the right time. My role is more about athlete management--making sure everyone has the right gear and information, but also the subtler stuff like knowing where the potential medical, training and injury problems might crop up. 

Our roles overlap when we assign legs to team members. Bea keeps it organized and I troubleshoot dynamics while we construct the schedule. It usually takes us 45 minutes to make the race plan, but this year took almost a week. We had folks drop from injuries, folks coming back from injuries, and everyone contributing as many miles as they could reasonably run, which was going to leave us with no Plan B if someone had to drop mid-race. Especially tough was assigning the last leg: it's the only road run in the relay, with brutal hills, full midday sun, and an overweighted feeling of responsibility to close strong for the team. Bea had done it the past two times, and it wasn't her turn anymore, so I assigned it to myself on the draft schedule. Bea objected to the total mileage it was going to give me, plus I'm notoriously uncomfortable in midday heat, so she assigned it to herself. We went back and forth on this, both of us unwilling to ask another team member (especially our newbie!) to take this on, until a miracle occurred. Joie de Vivre, who eats heat for breakfast and hills for lunch, became available to join the team. It gave everyone a mileage cushion and ensured that the right runner took the final leg.

My run was wildly different from past year. I'm usually the overnight specialist, running the most remote legs of the race in the dark. This year, I only put in a handful of miles after sunset. It made more sense to stagger my miles, thus staggering other teammates miles and balancing some folks' efforts and recovery more reasonably. Because of an early AF start time, I ran a favorite remote leg as the sun set, seeing this section of trail for the first time. 

The sun set as I approached Unionville Crossing and set of on my second leg of a double. Another team, Sally's Trailblazers, was initially worried when they saw me approach the exchange, a runner without a team waiting to meet her. I assured them that this was the normal plan, my running a double to eliminate a long, stressful drive to this remote exchange, giving the rest of the team more time to chill while I enjoyed doing what I like best. They cheered me onward and offered anything I might need. I was on track with my self-support, but I don't doubt that they'd have given me anything I might have needed. That's part of what makes DEST so special: teamwork transcends teams. 

I actually got some sleep in the overnight, which has not really been my experience on the course. I put in the rest of my miles at sunrise, taking in a new part of the course for me and covering the longest leg for the team. I ended my run at the Dennysville Snowmobile club, who was hosting a pancake breakfast for us. It's pretty luxurious, being done your miles at this point in the race. You can eat for your recovery without having to strategize what your stomach can process before your next leg. I housed an astonishing volume of scrambled eggs, but I had neither next-day soreness nor a moment of regret.

And how did Joie handle the last leg? Like the total badass she is. Temps climbed quickly into the 90's, causing heat problems for us in preceding legs. At least we had road access to Joie, so we could exchange water bottles, offer ice towels, and support her in whatever way necessary. She put on an absolute clinic about how to run in the heat and humidity. What amazed me more was her attitude. She was focused, but her focus was so cheerful. I can't comprehend having a good time on that leg and I'm more than a little grateful that she took the burden for the rest of us. 

The relay is designed so that all teams can converge at the finish, prioritizing the post-race vibe over a mass-start. We ate swath across Eastport before making our goodbyes with teammates who had to speed home. The rest of us enjoyed a night's sleep at a seaside campground, breakfast at the WaCo Diner, and a long ride home. I'm already starting to think about how to divide the relay legs for next year.



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