Top - back of the race shirt;
Center left - the medal; center right - Ricky Bobby himself;
Bottom left - our team shirt; bottom right - front of race shirt.
On Saturday, most of my fellow Renegades and I embarked on an epic adventure. We went to Ft. Worth to run an overnight relay race at Texas Motor Speedway. When I first heard of this race, called Texadega Nights (and yes, it was modeled after the movie Talladega Nights starring my future second husband Will Ferrell), I was IN...and it didn't take long for the rest of our group to hop on board - we are a group who likes to have fun, and this certainly fit the bill! Plus, there has been talk among our group about possibly doing a bigger relay race someday (like the 200 mile Texas Independence Relay) so this was a good way to see how well we did with running all night and traveling together in close quarters.
We rented a 15 passenger van, and except for CC and Loretta, who had to be home earlier than the rest of us and therefore drove their own car, we all rode together. Everyone came to our house to load up:
It is nice to have a driveway long enough that everyone could park their vehicles on it while we were gone.
And off we went! We immediately realized that we hadn't taken a group shot, so we made Jeff pause before leaving our subdivision to get the first picture of the trip:
Cristy and Cary, Julia and me, Karen and Jimmymeow, Jeff and Brian. Jimmy got a new name when he downloaded some sort of road app and registered for it - his suggested log-in was "Jimmymeow 4" and of course we couldn't let go of that all night!
We hit the halfway point in Waco, so we decided to eat dinner there. After a couple of false starts, we ended up at Dave's Burger Barn:
Burgers were good but the fries were heavily seasoned with sugar, which was weird.
As soon as we finished eating, we realized that we weren't too far from the little town of West, which is famous for their Czech Bakery right off of the interstate. Funny, all the times Jeff and I drove this way to visit our kids when they were in college, we never stopped there. Not sure if that was a blessing or a curse, as now I know just how tasty their treats are:
Julia got a mini pecan pie and what I love about her is that she makes no bones about enjoying her food! I got kolaches - peach on the left, and mixed berry with cream cheese on the right. They were ridiculously good.
Back on the road, we had another hour and a half until we arrived at Texas Motor Speedway, where we drove in through a narrow tunnel that went under the track (which was a little unnerving in such a large vehicle), and parked on the infield. How crazy is that?? I have never been to a racing event, but I imagine that it's fairly unusual to be able to park there:
Here's a picture of the race area - we were parked in the red area.
There wasn't a lot of signage for the race, but we were there about an hour earlier than packet pickup was to begin, so we just went about figuring out where to set up our tent camp. We also found the restrooms in a garage, but the lights weren't on, so that was a little creepy. Thankfully our smart phones all have a flashlight on them, which really comes in handy on occasions like that. The gates to the pit area on the parking lot side weren't open, so rather than haul all of our stuff around to where there was an opening (near the green area on the map), we just squeezed everything through the small opening in the gate and/or lifted it over the fence. We were supposed to set up in the pit area, and by golly, we were actually IN the pit area, right where the cars drive in! We took up one space, which was plenty big for us, but it was hard to fathom how a race car manages to zip in during a race when there are other cars around it. I have to say, we were pretty proud of our little set up:
I bought the checkered flag pennant banner, and Jimmy brought his vintage Marlboro sign, a retro Evel Kinevel helmet, and Karen's old license plate that says FST ENF (fast enough). CC brought her helmet, and everything came together so nicely!
Jimmy wore a retro jacket that originally belonged to Karen's brother. It was so fun to have such cool race items for our camp!
We brought all kinds of healthy food, like strawberries, grapes, watermelon, bananas, pineapple, and Cuties, water, and some less-healthy snacks. Turns out, despite our good intentions, when it comes to staying up all night, we wanted junk food and hardly any of the fruit was consumed. Hey, we tried to be healthy, but it wasn't happening. The weather was perfect for running - in the high 50s, with very little humidity, but it was windy and when we weren't running, we got cold. Even though we had sweatshirts and blankets and beach towels, that wasn't enough; lesson learned...pack more warm clothes. Although who knows, if it had been warmer, we might have been more inclined to eat the refreshing fruit.
We wandered over to the packet pickup, which was in a garage where a lot of race cars were stored. I had to snap a picture of the pure Texas Whataburger car:
Aren't our team shirts cool?! Cary put these together - you can see a close up of the design in the collage at the top of this post. Not trying to brag (much), but our shirts and our tent set up were the best at the race, by far. In fact, just after we'd finished with the set up, a race official drove by us, then whipped a U-turn and came back. We all thought we'd done something wrong, but he just wanted to take a picture - said our tent was very cool. Yeah, we know.
Julia and I - poor thing was suffering from allergies that got worse as the night went on, so I was especially glad that we were only running 3 laps each. Once we were finished, she sacked out on a portable hammock and got some rest.
Renegade Run Club - Team Shake & Bake, ready to RUN!
I can't stress enough how interesting it was to be right on the race track. It felt surreal to be allowed somewhere that I've only seen on TV. And yet there we were, climbing over the pit wall just like the real pit crew does! Here's a few more pictures:
Cary and I, with the leaderboard pole behind us, as well as the grandstands, where normally we'd be (if we actually went to a NASCAR race), instead of on the track!
The garage with the creepy dark restrooms is in the background to the right.
There were four distances you could register for - 30, 21, 9, or 6 miles, and you could run as an individual or as part of a relay team. We all decided to do teams, with Jeff, Brian, and Cristy doing the 30 mile relay, CC, Cary, and Karen doing the 21 mile relay, and Julia and I doing the 9 mile relay. Each team had to run a certain number of laps around the racetrack; the 30 milers ran 7 laps each, 21 milers ran 5 laps each, and the 9 milers ran 3 laps each. The runner for each team wore an ankle bracelet that housed a timing chip, and whenever we switched out, we just unvelcroed the bracelet and handed it off to the next runner.
They staggered the race starts according to distance, with the 30 miler group beginning first, at 11:20 am. We all walked out to the track to cheer on each of our runners as they began - Cristy was the first to start:
I was particularly happy to realize that I'd gotten a shot with "jumpy guy" mid-jump when I took Cristy's picture...this guy was not only bouncing around like crazy before the race, but also when he wasn't running his laps, he was running circles on the part of the track where we weren't racing. That was way too much energy to have, especially after midnight!
CC getting ready to start.
Julia lining up with the other 9 milers...as the distances got shorter, more and more people were at the start line.
This was the 6 mile group start, which was the biggest group by far. We'd gone back to our tent in the pit area by then, so you can see a different perspective with this shot.
How this worked is that the race started and finished on the track that was across from the pit row area; once the runners were past the grass/end of pit row, the rest of it was on the mostly level part of the track, except for one section that was banked, and that was hard to run on. We all felt aches and pains in our legs from that section, but when the track was level, it was really quite pleasant. They routed the runners into pit row (and over a timing mat) after the start, which was fun because you were running right by all of the teams. If you were going to change runners, this was when you'd stop and switch out the ankle bracelet; otherwise, you'd just wave to your team and keep going. I will say that pit row, from start to finish, is pretty long, and although I did my 2:1 intervals on the rest of the track, when I was in the pit area I kept running - no way was I going to walk in front of everyone! Our tent was positioned at the very end, and we'd keep a watch out for our runners, but you couldn't even see them until they got pretty close, unless you were standing up and out on the track, just to give you an idea of how long that section was.
Julia started out and ran two laps; then she came in and we switched the ankle bracelet and I was off and running! There were signs placed on the track throughout the race with pictures of Ricky Bobby and some of his more famous quotes, along with a few cheer squads, a couple of DJ's playing music, and a live band in the pit area. Because of the staggered start and the relay runners, I never felt like I was in a crowd of runners, but I will admit that I kept getting startled because I'd see a shadow coming up on my left and I'd turn to give that runner room, only to realize it was MY shadow. One lap was just under 1.5 miles, and like I said, except for the one section that was banked (I think it was about half of one of the turns), it was an easy run.
There was one water station when you first entered the pit row section, which was all you needed since we passed it each lap. This was the first time this race was held, and while I think the race organizers had good intentions about it being an all-night party, it wasn't all that. They did have a pancake booth, but no one from our group partook. I think if they have more participants next year, it might have much more of a party atmosphere. I suspect just doing an overnight race is challenging in that aspect, but I'd come back and do this race again.
I wondered how it would feel to do laps on a track for a race, but I think that because it was such a big track, and maybe also because it was a little dark, it didn't seem endless. Of course, had I been doing one of longer distances by myself, that might have been a different story! At one point while I was running, I heard the DJ say something like "did you ever think you'd be running a race at 1:00 in the morning?" and it struck me that I wasn't really tired, even though we'd been up all day and into the night.
Julia met me when I crossed the finish line and we got our medals.
All bundled up and still freezing!
Before Brian, our last runner, got on the track for his last three laps, we asked him if he would mind if we started breaking down the camp while he was out there, and he was fine with that, so we pretty much had everything down by the time he was done. Honestly, we were so cold that we wanted to be able to hop into the warm van as soon as we could! By then so many runners/teams had left that we were able to drive the van around to the back of pit row, so loading it was much easier than unloading.
Hot coffee never tasted so good.
It was about 4:30 am when we left the race. Cary found a place on Yelp that was open 24 hours, so we stopped at the Ol' South Pancake House, arriving just before 5:00 am. Let me just say, you see an interesting cross-section of society at that time of the morning. My breakfast was good - I had what must have been their specialty, a Dutch-baby pancake (the waitress sat it on the edge of the table and walked away without saying a word - Julia was just handing it over to me when she returned with a dish holding a fresh lemon, cut in half, that had been microwaved...she proceeded to squeeze out the juice onto the pancake, which was liberally covered with powdered sugar and butter, mixed it all together, and then flipped and folded the pancake together and THEN handed me the plate - oh, so that's how it works! It tasted really good - fresh, sweet, and tart). Pretty much everyone else was not impressed with their breakfasts, but hey - you never know, and although we could have found an IHOP, it's more interesting to try some place new.
Jeff nodded off during breakfast, so Brian wisely offered to drive for a while. We made it home at 8:30 am, unloaded the van, and just like that, our epic running adventure was over!