Our training consisted of long walks every other weekend, starting at 10 miles and building up to a 22 miler. The lady putting together the team
My friend/coworker/training buddy and I carpooled to the event Saturday morning and upon looking at the course route and information knew that we hadn't been given totally accurate information. The "fairly substantial hill" was a 9% grade.
For those of you that don't live in mountainous/hilly areas - that's a big ass hill! And it continued on forever.
Or at least a mile.
The other hills were in the 5% range, which is still nothing to sneeze at! While conventional wisdom says that for every up hill there is a down hill, sometimes it just doesn't feel that way.
During the training walks we split up into two groups; it was just too difficult to find a time where 5 adult women with busy lives could set apart 3+ hours of their weekend. My friend/coworker/training buddy and I did most of the walks together and for several of the walks we chose hikes instead.
The 12 miler was our first/only group walk together, and she and I led the pack. We worried, once we got by ourselves, that we would have to adjust our pace down significantly to accomodate the group.
Turns out we were only partially right.
I would say that I'm at a fairly high fitness level, but for some reason I strugged on the hills. The few flat spots I had no trouble keeping a brisk pace, and on the down hills my legs prefered to jog. But for whatever reason (weak quads?) my legs were slow in carrying me uphill.
My friend & the team leader had no such problem (even though the team leader complained of our brisk pace on the 12 mile walk) and went off ahead of the rest of the group several times.
Another girl in my group welcomed my slower pace. While the rest of us had completed our final long walk 2 weeks before the event, she hadn't been able to make it to the walks so the team leader insisted on walking 22 miles with her the weekend before.
Poor thing started the walk with blisters on the balls of her feet. Its a long convoluted story about how and why she had the blisters, and I don't want to point my finger at any one. (They aren't reading this any way so what good would it do?)
It basically boils down to the event not being well thought through from a team stand point.
About a hour and a half in our team broke apart, and two of the walkers went headed. At about the 12 mile point (at the base of the monster hill) they waited on us to catch up, but the hill was steep and long and eventually they got ahead of us again and waited at the top.
Finally, at the half way point, they decide to just go on.
To be honest it sort of annoyed the rest of us. Okay I can't speak for the third girl, but me and blister girl were annoyed. The whole point of doing it as a team - we thought at least - was to stick together and be a team. To not get bored over the course of the hours that walking 26.2 miles takes. Being a military event with their 'no man left behind' creed - crossing the finishline 20 seconds before or after your team results in immediate disqualification.
What's the point of going ahead if you can't be done with it?
I'll have to say there were points in the last portion where I was bored out of my mind. Girl #3 is naturally quite, blister girl was hurting and didn't want to chit chat, which left me to walk for hours without saying more than a few sentences.
Chatter box that I am, I'm just not cut out for that. When soldiers would catch up with us, I'd chat with them for a bit, then I'd notice I was too far head of the group and fall back so that at least the 3 of us could stay together. I desperately wanted to put in my earphones and listen to music but I didn't want to be rude.
For the last mile, our other two team members doubled back and rejoined us. They had unofficially finished the walk in 6 hours and 50 minutes by incorporating jogs on all the down hill portions.
Our official team time was 8:18:38 (by my watch at least). We came in 3rd place in the civilian team category out of 3 teams.
You know what? I'm okay with that. One team that beat us was a group of cop types that our team leader knew. They didn't train much for it, but their over all fitness level is pretty high. The other team that beat us had group t-shirts made. On the front was a soldiers name and picture and on the back a phrase "It can't always be someone else's son."
Trust me, I'm much more okay with losing the race than dealing with the kind of loss that team had experienced.
There were many times through out the race where I was inspired by our military. Some didn't make it the entire way, and had to be picked up. Around the 15 mile mark we saw a soldier on the side of the road with his 40 pound pack on the ground. He had his cell phone in his hand starring at it. You could see the question in his eyes - time to call it quits or no. Later we saw him continuing on, although we're still not sure if he made it he whole way.
I'm relying on my team members for pictures, and they haven't gotten them to me yet. I'll be sure to share when they do.