This past weekend I participated in a race unlike any other I’d ever run in before.

The Palmetto 200 is a race that began seven years ago, starting in Columbia, South Carolina and ending in Mt. Pleasant, South Carolina. (Yes, you read that right.) What makes this race different is that it is a team relay. Each team consists of either 6 or 12 people. 36 “legs” comprise the entire 205 miles, with each leg split between the team members. A “full team” is 12 people, each person running 3 legs. An “ultra” team is 6 people, each person running 6 legs. A “full” team member might run anywhere from 14-21 miles total, an “ultra” team member would about double that. The race begins at 5:30 Friday morning and runs straight through until Saturday afternoon. No one gets much sleep.

What you do get is quite an adventure, LOTS of pictures, and many hilarious comments spoken through a megaphone.

WHERE’S OUR BIKES? HAS ANYONE SEEN OUR BIKES?

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Our team consisted of a group of female triathletes. After some thought, a few funny (and a few inappropriate) suggestions, we decided our team name was going to be “Tri-ing to find our bikes.” To give you an idea of whats involved in this 36-48 hour event, here is a (non complete) list of things that were thrown into 2 15 passenger vans:

Decorations, a megaphone, shoes, socks, changes of clothes, snacks, blankets, pillows, hats, reflective vests, headlamps, Powerade, water, paper towels, wipes, ziplock bags, fuel belts, electrolyte water, phones, chargers, towels.

And that’s just the beginning.

Thursday

The plan was for the group to meet at a local bank that evening, load up the vans and drive to Columbia where we’d stay at a hotel as a group before heading to the start. Unfortunately, I woke up Thursday morning after fighting a head cold and cough for a few days feeling less than stellar. I took my temperature – it was 99.1. I took it again and it was 98.8. I took it about 15 times over the course of the next several hours and got a reading anywhere from 98.6 – 99.3. I *felt* icky though, so I wouldn’t have been surprised if I had a low grade fever. I drove to work that morning crying because I was so bummed that it was looking like I’d have to miss the race. After talking with a few teammates, I decided to spend the night at home. Fortunately, my leg of the race wasn’t scheduled to start until lunchtime, and my parents agreed to drive me to the start spot if I was feeling better in the morning. I took a couple ibuprofen and went to bed early, hoping I’d wake up fever free. I went ahead and scheduled a doc appt for first thing Friday morning, figuring I’d ask for some steroids to kick the cough and phlegm I’d been dealing with for a few days.

Friday

I woke feeling better (phew!) – not 100% but well enough and without a fever. While the rest of the group headed to the start, I drove myself to the doctors office, where I found out it wasn’t my asthma acting up, I actually had bronchitis. The doc thinks that the insane amount of pollen coupled with my congestion from my head cold ended up not clearing from my lungs, causing an infection.

Well, that explains it.

Our start time was at 6am, so I missed the first 6 legs of the race, including the send off.

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Luckily, my teammates kept me informed and sent me pictures while I sat in the docs office, and later while I rode in the back seat of my parents car.

While each runner in the van runs, the remainder of the team follows close by. You aren’t allowed to drive behind the runner for traffic reasons, but are allowed to pull a mile or so ahead and wait for your runner so you can offer food/water or encouragement. Usually about a mile or so before the exchange, the van pulls ahead so the next runner can get ready to go. The waiting runner “checks in” with the volunteers and continues once the first runner slaps the bracelet (yes! slap bracelets!) on his/her wrist.

The non running van does things like eat, sleep, and goof off.

I made it to my exchange point with about 45 minutes to spare. I was immediately greeted with the megaphone. THERESA POWERS – WE ARE NEXT TO THE CHURCH! I loaded my stuff into the van and got ready. My first leg was 8.2 miles through St. Matthews, with what I was told was a “monster hill”. I promised myself, for the sake of my lungs, that I would run easy so was thankful our team was running for run and not competing. It was also mid afternoon, sunny and 75 degrees, so that would have slowed me down anyway.

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The newness and experience of it all made me completely forget that I had even felt sick the day before, though the interesting looks on my face in the exchange pictures might make it seem otherwise.

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I had absolutely no idea how I was going to feel running so I was good about taking it easy for the first couple miles.There were a few rolling hills but nothing too terrible, so I was able to pick the pace up a little for the next couple of miles. My van stopped to check on me a couple of times, and the entertainment was nothing short of hilarious. In fact, often I could HEAR them (megaphone) before I could see them, and by the time I approached it, everyone was out with the music blasting and dancing.

Or, they were forming a “power bridge”

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Somewhere around Mile 3 I caught up and ran together with a girl, where we discussed what this monster hill might look like. Well, we knew it when we saw it, and its description was accurate. I looked it up later, and it was a nearly 200 foot hill. Determined to power through it, I put my head down (don’t look up!) and jogged upward. I made it to the top without stopping, only to discover that it wasn’t the top. So, I swore and walked for a bit. That hill took quite a lot of energy out of me, and that coupled with the heat and ZERO shade meant the last half of the run was slower than the first, but all things considered, I was happy with how it went.

It took awhile to cool down, but by about the halfway point of the next leg I was changed and joining in the festivities, offering water, cheers and power bridges. We danced to a variety of songs of all genres and offered some amazing dance moves such as The Q-Tip, The Macarena, and The Sprinkler:

As we drove from spot to spot, we made excellent use of the megaphone, announcing things like “great job spectating!” and asking “where’s our bikes? has anyone seen our bikes?” Twice a FedEx guy drove by so of course we had to tell him “nice package”.

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Our vans’ group of legs ended at the Santee Park, where we met up with the first van once again. They had made awesome use of their free time.

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After sending Van 1’s first runner off (and the cycle starts again), we set off in search of  food. We decided on a Shoney’s, where we waited FOREVER and this sucked because we were all hangry (hungry and angry for those who don’t know). It was getting dark by the time we left so we headed towards the next exchange where we would meet our first van and start again. This exchange was at a church in the middle of nowhere, so no one had any cell signal. We tried to sleep some, but were largely unsuccessful – at least those of us in the van were. Between the volunteers, other runners and vans, you couldn’t go more than a few seconds without hearing a shout, a horn, or some random guy yelling something like “I’m gonna eat all of your food!”. After threatening (just to those in the van with me) to punch him in the face, I gave up and went inside the church to grab some coffee. Since cell service sucked I knew I wouldn’t be able to sleep even if I could since I was the next runner up and didn’t want to miss the exchange. This apparently happened to another team as a volunteer sprinted into the church asking for bib number 42, and I didn’t want to be “the girl who was peeing during her exchange”.

It was close to midnight when we got word that the final runner in van 1 was approaching, so I put on enough lights and reflective gear to scare a deer and waited for my middle of the night leg.

To Be Continued……

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