Sunday, June 8, 2008

Electric Boogaloo: MC200 Overall Champions

This weekend I competed in the MC200 relay race. It was an absolute blast.

The 200mile race begins in Madison, WI, travels east to Milwaukee, and then heads south to Chicago. The course is divided into 36 legs and teams are allowed to have up to 12 members. Runners on a team must stay in the same order through-out the race. Teams are given maps of the entire course along with directions. The course is marked (but sometimes difficult to follow, especially at night) and there are HAM radio operators that monitor checkpoints between each leg.

The approximately 120 competing teams use a staggered start based on their predicted finishing time. This means the slower teams started early on Friday (7am), average teams started throughout the day, and the last wave started at 4pm. We were a part of 8 teams that started in the last leg. We had two goals. First, and most important was to win the overall competition with the fastest net-time, and the second was to pass every single team in the race (even those starting at 7 am).

Our team, Electric Boogaloo, was composed of 9 runners, 1 bad-ass driver, 1 bad-ass 12 passenger van, and one sissy Chevrolet HHR. This meant we each ran 4 legs (with total mileage ranging from 19-27 miles each) from start to finish. We are all pretty similar in ability, but we matched our toughest legs with our strongest runners. Here's a look at our team.

Arik Anderson - Showed up wearing a leisure suit and purposely let every team beat him off the starting line so we could have the possibility of saying we passed every team. World-Class Ass-Slapper.

Lance Caldwell - Representing Running Away he proved to each of us that Martineau has friends away from Fleet Feet.

Ken Fandel (on right, in blue) - An amazing photographer, artist and teacher at the Art Institute who can also run with the best of them.  He took almost every photo you are looking at.

Ben Geletka - Ricky Bobby couldn't hold his jock when it comes to driving. Ben stayed behind the wheel for over 27 hours without a nap. He also happens to be a great runner.

Phlip Kepler (driver's side) - It's hard to find this father not smiling. He sometimes dispenses some really sage advice, but that usually comes out in the middle of about 19 jokes that he's simultaneously telling. He enjoys trying to give tool booth operators the wrong amount of change.

Mike Martineau - One of the monsters on our team who churned out really fast miles in high heat on at least two of his legs. One of the lawyers on R Kelly's defense team.

Dan McDowell - I ate a lot of beef jerky.

Jason Ream - Our anchor. A real speed demon that humors me by running by my side now and then. Poster boy for the Cleveland Marathon.

Robert Wiegand - Famed instructor of Rabbit Abs. Friend of Jimmy John. Fast. Not related to Charles.

Chris Woods - The number 1 ranked Hi-Guy impersonator in all of Chicago. A model of speed and efficiency.

At the end of the first leg Arik rolled in about 20 seconds after the leader. He handed the slap bracelet (instead of a baton) to me and I began to chase. The first legs were in the city of Madison and had a lot of turns and busy street crossings. I was so nervous about getting lost that I ran with a map folded up in my hand. The heat and sun got to me and I felt slow. I suffered as I watched the lead open up in front of me.

After reaching the end of my first run I handed off to Robert. As we drove in the van to the next checkpoint was watch Robert obliterate the leading team's man. He caught him very quickly and left him baking in the hot sun. Our teams would continue to trade the lead for the next few legs. However, by the time we had gone through one cycle of our runners we had built a substantial lead. The main team we were racing against had 11 runners. We knew (or were almost certain) this meant that they had their 3 fastest runners going first, as they would be doing 4 legs while the others only did 3.

Nightfall brought great relief as temperatures dropped and running became a lot more comfortable (minus the bugs). During our second cycle through our roster we began to catch teams from earlier starting times. All runners during the night must wear head lamps, glowing vests, and blinking back lights. It makes for a goofy looking spectacle.

My second leg was perfectly straight. It ran along a railway that had been converted to a trail. The scenery was completely rural as I saw no artificial light save for the one on my head. I felt much faster than in my first leg and not worrying about taking a wrong turn made for a very pleasant experience. I ran through some thick tree cover and occasionally ran over some long wooden bridges that covered vast boggy openings. It was a beautiful night with lots of visibility. I saw my first roadkill ahead in the distance and enjoyed closing the gap with each step as I went in for the kill. By the time I handed off to Robert I was positive I had made the right decision in being a part of the race.

Our lead continued to grow throughout the night. There was no way to be sure how big it was. The only way we could measure it was to see how long after our vehicles reached a transition area it would take for our opponent's wheels to arrive. Eventually we were packing up our arriving runner, and heading off to the next transition before the 2nd place team's car even arrived. We knew this was a great psychological advantage.

By the time my third leg arrived it was around 3 a.m. The map called for a 7+ mile jaunt through southern Milwaukee. At this point we were surrounded by a majority of the teams in the race. Most of which had started at least 4 hours before us. If my memory serves me correctly I passed 11 teams along the route. The speed came easy despite the weird hour and location. Running in the middle of a random city street in darkness and calm air gave me an odd adrenaline rush. I could see many slower runners lined up ahead of me, their blinking lights a beacon for my carnivorous desire to pass. A few times during the leg the huge white whale driven by Ben and covered in our decoration rolled by to deliver water and gatorade. The hooting and hollering from inside the van made it easy to roll the legs even faster. A few of my miles were clocked under 6 minutes (which wouldn't normally be something to write home about, but at that hour after being up for almost 24 hours I was extremely happy).

As the sun rose our entire team seemed to be feeling pretty tired. But, the view along lake Michigan in southern Wisconsin was pretty spectacular. Some of us laid sleeping bags out on the ground and tried to catch a little sleep. Meanwhile, Ben continued to drive, navigate, and cheer us on as if it was the easiest job in the world. By this time the van almost always had someone taking a nap in it. The doors were also covered in tally marks as we kept record of every team we passed.

Lost in my recap of this event is the fact that Chris, Mike, Robert and Jason were all really flying. Without a doubt, they were the reason we were turning this race into a blowout. As we cycled through our last legs, Chris had a 8+ miler that put him in some high heat. There were still 3 teams ahead of us from the earlier start times. We hoped he could wrangle one of them is as we wanted to be the very first team across the line at Montrose Beach in Chicago. We had seen no sight of them as Chris left on his run. But, by the time he made it to the end of his leg, they were all left in the dust, wondering what the blur was that had blazed past.

In the last few legs we had managed to piss off a lot of teams. Lots of teams and their fans were waiting quietly in a park for the teams to begin arriving. Ken's Dad even greeted us and watched Ken take his turn. Who were those loud, cocky, sprinters waking us from our naps as they flew through the transition station? Electric Boogaloo, duh! And let 'em know who it is with a little extra honk of the horn big Ben!

By the time we all reached Evanston the beginning of our final leg I was running on empty. All I wanted to was to sleep in my bed. But, for Jason, he still needed to keep himself loose and ready for the final run. On the opposite end of the spectrum, Arik had been done for hours and had to keep himself awake while he waited for everyone to get done. He did so in spectacular fashion with lots of cheering and grab ass.

After Jason raced off to cover the last miles we raced in the two cars along Lakeshore Drive to try to beat him to the finish. We managed to find parking spots and then all gathered 50 meters before the finish line. We ran across the line together and began to celebrate with friends, family, beer, and laughter. It was great to see Ashley again as she met up with me just after we crossed the line. Robert somehow managed to fall on an orange cone as we crossed the line which was quite the contrast to his incredible speed in the first leg. Phlip came through as he always does with some excellent Bell's hand delivered by his Wife all the way from Michigan. Lance's wife gave me an incredibly nice lift back to Logan Square where I managed to nap for a while before the after party at Emmit's later that night.

In the end, we won by over an hour and 13 minutes, passed every team in the race, and had a great time the entire way. I can't say enough about how well everyone got along and how many times we all had to laugh at the fun and absurdity of what were doing. Dong ask. Dong tell.