Desflurane's Romaniacs Blog

Chronicle of My Participation in the World's Toughest Enduro Rally – Again…

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The Odyssey (Reno – Tahoe Odyssey, that is…)

Posted by desflurane on June 2, 2013

I mentioned that I had been training to participate in the Reno-Tahoe Odyssey. This is a 178 mile relay race starting in Reno, tracking through the mountains up to Lake Tahoe then back down to Reno via Genoa and Carson City.

I decided to participate because A) it sounded fun and B) I assumed that it would be a good motivator to get out and increase my fitness. These were only partially correct.

The Odyssey was fun. But mostly it was painful, stressful and exhausting. I did get into a pretty good training routine and ran more than I have ever done in my life. This was cut short when I suddenly developed anserine bursitis (painful inflammation just below my right knee) two weeks before the event. It became too painful to run at all and my ability to do other activities was significantly limited – not what I had in mind.

I took it easy and the bursitis was beginning to resolve – until the actual race. But I’m getting ahead of myself.

Teams competing in the event consist (usually) of twelve runners divided into groups of six. Each group has their own support van that delivers runners to the start of their assigned legs of the journey, supports them along the way (food, water, encouragement, etc.) then picks them up and drops off the next runner when the leg is competed. After six legs, the runners in the other van take over while those in the first van get a few hours of recovery time. This whole process repeats itself three times over the course of two days. Most teams take somewhere around eighteen to twenty-four hours to complete the entire course.

It sounds reasonable enough, but it actually ends up being a rather miserable experience.

First off, I’m really not a runner. I never have been, and now I’m pretty sure I never will be. 

I offered to take the rotation that starts with what is arguably the most difficult leg of the entire course. It is eight miles long, ascends 1500 feet over an unpaved mountain road, and due to the terrain, has to be completed without the aid of the support van. On the plus side, this is Dog Valley road which I have ridden many, many times on the dirt bike, it runs through some very beautiful scenery and I knock out the hardest leg right off, then everything should be easy – right?

Well, no.

Due to manpower shortage at work, I had to take Labor and Delivery call Thursday night in order to have Friday off to run the race. In perfect form, I was kept up working almost the entire night, and arrived bleary and yawning at the starting line.

Once the adrenalin got flowing everything was fine, and in fact this leg went quite well for me. I completed it in reasonable time and with minimal pain or discomfort. I handed off the “baton” (actually a bracelet) and jumped into the support van.

This is where things start to get ugly. We follow along as the other runners in the van complete their legs and then travel up to a campsite we reserved. Here we had about four hours to kill while the other van-ful of runners complete their legs. So five or six hours elapse before we climb back into the van and start it all over. During this time muscles and tendons have begun to tighten up and become painful and everybody is just kind of tired despite trying to catch a nap during the lazy afternoon.

I didn’t start running my second leg until around 10:00pm. It was dark and the fresh mountain air was getting quite cold. I covered the first two of my assigned 3.5 miles with ease before the bursitis came on with a vengeance. By the time I arrived at the exchange point I was slowed almost to walking speed. As soon as I stopped running the pain and stiffness seemed to increase exponentially. But since we have to continue supporting the next runner, there is no time to do some stretching and “walk it off.” I hobbled into the van and away we drove. A few hours later (a bit past midnight) the other van took over and we headed for a strategically placed trailer in which to rest up before our final series of legs. By this time I could hardly lever myself out of the van, let alone walk due to the pain and stiffness in my right leg. Things were looking grim for my final, five-miler.

I took a handful of Ibuprofen and Acetaminophen before finally getting to sleep at about 2am. Less than two hours later we were up again, getting dressed and lacing shoes onto our sore feet. Remember –  I’ve had very little sleep over the past thirty or forty hours, which was doing no favors for my level of enthusiasm. On the other hand, the meds had helped my knee quite a bit and I stretched my hamstrings out as often as possible while the first three runners knocked their legs out. By the time my turn came up, I felt like I just might be able to pull it off. It wouldn’t be the fastest five miles ever run, but I could probably do it.

My final run consisted of 2.5 miles of uphill followed by 2.5 miles of downhill. I figured that as soon as I reached the summit I was home free, I would just coast in to the exchange point with gravity footing the bill. Unfortunately for me, it turned out that gravity was not my ally in this instance. Running downhill seemed to exacerbate the bursitis in a particularly effective way, and by mile four I was walking along with a pronounced limp. It was really demoralizing to be passed again and again and again, while I staggered on.

At long, merciful last, I arrived at the exchange point and flopped into the van – painful, smelly and exhausted. But at least I was done with the whole affair. My wife and I agreed that we had NO desire whatsoever to participate in the Odyssey again. EVER!

But the mind is an incomprehensible organ whose machinations are truly beyond understanding. Barely twenty-four hours have elapsed since the end of my suffering, and already another attempt at this wretched event doesn’t sound like such a bad idea… We will see… We will see…

For the time being I’m going to focus on my final preparations for Romania – and getting my knee healed up. I’ve got a month to do it in.

 

 

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