Race Recap: 2012 Rouge-Orleans 126.2 Ultramarathon Relay

16 Feb

This past Saturday morning at 4:30AM, I woke up to the sound of Baby Key crying. Normally, this would be a non-issue in my house, as that is his normal waking time, but this day was different. My alarm was not scheduled to go off until 5:15AM and Saturday, of all days, was a day that I would need every single second of extra sleep.

My team, Girls On The Geaux, was preparing to set out on a 24-hour ultramarathon relay adventure called the Rouge-Orleans! Our wave started at 8:00AM, but we had everyone picked up and at the start of the race by 7:00AM. Team captains had to be there an hour early in order to have our safety gear (headlamps, flashlights, safety vests, etc.) checked by the race director. After we got all checked in, we spent the next hour decorating our van. On Saturday morning, the temperature was about 40 degrees and there was pretty heavy wind. Oh, if we had only known what was to come!

Meet our van, Rapunzel.

Check out our sheVANigans at...#GirlsOnTheGeaux!

Me, Kristyn, Lindsey, Jenn, Erin, and Heather

Leg 1 of the 8:00AM wave got started promptly with a firing of the canon from the USS Kidd. The race website had mentioned this, but somehow I had forgotten. When it went off, I swear I almost peed my pants. Good thing I didn’t though…that would have been a looooooong day in pee-pants. 😀

Our 6-person relay team went like this…Kristyn –> Erin –> Heather –> Lindsey –> Katie –> Jenn. God bless my sweet friend Jenn for being the anchor leg. Seriously, that was some tough mileage.

Legs 1 – 6 (Mileage: 27.45 miles)
Time: 8:00AM Saturday – 1:12PM Saturday

As expected, this was the happiest round for us. As soon as the race got started, the fun began. The sun was out and it was shaping up to be a gorgeous day! Though still cold and windy, the weather was tolerable because there was not a cloud in the sky and we were running on the scenic Mississippi River Levee. At this point, all of us were still bouncing off the walls and excited to be there! At each exchange, we chatted with other runners, crews, and teams…discussing training, strategy, and, of course, food.

Doing what we do best...ninja-style!

Highlights of Round 1: Our van got gnomed by Team Rolling with My Gnomies! They gave us the cutest antenna topper ever! We started tracking all of the other teams on Twitter by using the #RO12 hashtag! Watching their progress was really fun and a great interactive way to stay connected to other teams.

Lindsey coming in for the hand-off!

Best hand-off face EVER, Jenn!

We got GNOMED!

Legs 7 – 12 (Mileage: 27.50 miles)
Time: 1:12PM Saturday – 6:19PM Saturday

As we moved into the second half of the day, we were still having a ball! Once we figured out how much time we really needed at each exchange, we fell into a comfortable groove of getting to the next exchange, tagging our runner, and refueling with our Nuun and sandwiches. The temperatures crept up in the early part of the afternoon, and at one point we were even able to peel off some layers! After my leg of this round was done, I distinctly remember saying, “Man, I got hot out there.” (That would be the last time I would say that.) In this round, Erin had her longest run at 7.3 miles. On this leg, she passed the Carville Leper Colony…which was the site of the only hospital that treated leprosy in the United States. CRA-ZAY! She also passed a creepy cemetery and I am disappointed to report that she saw no ghosts. Bummer! Add to that the fact that on this leg the road diverts far away from the levee so we couldn’t even watch her run. Oh, and add to THAT the fact that she got chased by dogs about 0.6 miles into her leg, causing her to tire much too early in her run. Pushing the tiredness and overall creepiness of this leg aside, Erin finished like a champ! On Jenn’s run, the last leg of this round, the sun started going down and we had to break out the safety gear! C’mon, who doesn’t love a headlamp! We all posted good times on Round 2 and going into Round 3, we were about 30 minutes ahead of our anticipated pace.

Highlights of Round 2: We got to meet the awesome crew for Meredith Dolhare. Seriously, if you have a chance, check out her website and how badass she is! Also on these legs, we encountered lots of wildlife on the levee. Heather was fully prepared to handle any livestock she encountered by making sure she ran with her 1 million volt Tazer. No really, she did. That girl wasn’t messin’ around! At one of the exchanges, we got to meet the super fly girls from Team Hippie and A Ginger! Very cool girls! Oh, and Kristyn ran her fastest 2 miles ever!!

Waiting to see Kristyn!

A gorgeous afternoon!

"Imma Taze me a cow!" ~ Heather

Finishing up Leg 2! Sun starting to set!

Runners on the levee at sunset!

Jenn ready to take it from day to night!

Legs 13 – 18 (Mileage: 24.86 miles)
Time: 6:19PM Saturday – 11:55PM Saturday

Well, this is where all the fun stuff sort of ends. *sigh* It was on round 3 that things went from good to bad. As nightfall settled in, the temperatures quickly dropped from the 40’s down into the low 20’s. Considering the 20mph winds up on the levee, the “real feel” temperature was in the upper teens. In all honesty, it was awful. I mean, really, really terrible. Let’s put it this way, since I moved back to Louisiana in December 2010, this was the coldest overnight low it had been since then. IT. WAS. PAINFULLY. FRIGID. Once the sun went down, our plan was to run and then when your leg was done, you hop on the bike and pace the next runner. During daylight hours, running on the levee is quiet and relaxing. At night, when you can’t see anyone in front of your or behind you, the dark can be extremely disorienting…making every tenth of a mile feel like half a mile. We planned to have someone on the bike to assist the runner to help keep the runner motivated and moving along. This was a really, really bad idea. Going from running to riding really did a number on our legs. While running, we were able to keep our bodies warm. However, getting on the bike allowed the cold to sink deep into our bodies. Riding at the runner’s pace was not fast enough to keep the rider warm. By the time each of us got back in the van from our running leg, we were exhausted. It took each of us about an hour and a half to warm back up…which meant that right as we were warming up, it was almost time to get back out there again. These Louisiana and Mississippi girls were NOT built to handle these temperatures. Give me 100 degree weather with 90% humidity over cold and windy any day!

Really not a good look.

On a personal note, this is the leg where my cold-weather asthma really took a toll on me. Sadly, I forgot my inhaler. I wheezed and coughed the entire leg. When it was my turn to hand off to Jenn, I had an extremely hard time getting going on the bike. The helmet was too small and the bike seat was too high. My fingers were numb up to the second knuckle so adjusting both proved to be nearly impossible. I ran down the levee to the van and begged my teammates to loosen the helmet and help me lower the seat. Of course, my girls were there for me. However, by the time I finally got going on the van, Jenn had already started running and was well into her leg. I had to pedal overtime in order to catch up with her. By the time I got to her, I realized that hypothermia/asthma attack was taking over. When I caught up to her I wanted to ask her how many more miles she had to go before we could get back to the van. In my head, this questions was coming out of my mouth. In reality, I couldn’t the lower half of my face. My lips were literally freezing and my tongue felt thick and solid. The only words I could really get out were “mileage” and “I need help.” When Jenn saw what bad shape I was in, we stopped. I got off the bike and pushed my face into my shoulder, desperately trying to breath warmer, humid air. Jenn, seeing how bad off I was, said she would call the van to come and get me. I refused to leave my friend out there, on the levee, in the middle of the night. Thankfully, we were only about a 1.5 miles to the end of the leg. The whole situation was so scary and I have never felt anything like that before. I was seriously happy to see the van at the next exchange.

Lowlights of Round 3: Cold temperatures + Fatigue = VERY quiet Girls On The Geaux van. We tried our best to stay positive despite the cold, but quite frankly, there were A LOT of curse words thrown around the van during these miles. The question, “Wait, WHY did we want to do this again?” was said A LOT. Unfortunately, all the good pacing we had earlier in the day caught up to us. The nighttime cold meant we moved slower and breathed harder. It was rough.

Cold. Quiet. Dark. Still.

Legs 19 – 24 (Mileage: 22.37 miles)
Time: 11:55PM Saturday – 5:30AM Sunday

Round 4 was DIRTY. Team Girls On The Geaux was cold and tired and we fought for every single mile. The van stayed pretty quiet during these hours in hopes of giving some of us a chance to catch at least a few winks.
Lowlights of Round 4: Unable to find the port-a-potties in the dark, several members of the team may or may not have bare-butted it and peed right on the side of the levee. Just sayin’. Around 3:30AM, we had to make an executive decision. The cold was really doing a number on us and we felt that it was almost dangerous for us to be out there. We were having such a hard time warming up and knew that we needed a break. Although it was our goal to finish in 25 hours, we made the decision to stop and rest for an hour. We had to. It was either rest and let everyone warm up, or risk not finishing at all. We had come to far not to cross that finish line, so rest we did. I wish we would not have had to but it was the smart thing for us to do.

Legs 25 – 30 (Mileage: 24.19 miles)
Time: 5:30AM Sunday – 10:55AM Sunday

Round 5 brought better spirits to the van! As the sun came up, we all perked up a little, but it would be the understatement of the century to just say that we were ready to be done. We were all so close to the finish line and we were fighting tooth and nail to get there. This round brought lots of tears and a lot of walking. I am so proud of each of my teammates for getting back out there and fighting through to the end. Jenn’s IT band started to act up but she pushed through her entire last leg. The race ended in Audobon Park and as soon as we saw that big, blue inflatable finish line, we knew victory was ours.


I have LOTS of advice about what worked for our team, what did not work for our team, what we brought and did not need, items we wished we had, etc. That is an entire post in itself. I will get to all that this weekend, so be on the lookout!

Again, a massive huge epic THANK YOU to all of our sponsors. Without you, we would not have gotten this far.

To 110% Play Harder,
After Round 3 of running, there is nothing that felt better than pulling on my perfectly snug calf sleeves. Not only did they provide an extra layer of warmth while out on my run, but they also helped keep my calves feeling fresh and energized. I’m proud to say that after the event, I did not experience one iota of calf soreness! SUCCESS!

To Brooks Running,
The Cascadia 7s were the most perfect shoe for running this terrain. Normally I wear a more minimal shoe, but on the rocks and uneven levee, the Cascadias provided the ideal amount of support and cushion. The Cascadias are an amazing shoe!
(insert pic)

To GO Sport ID,
Thank you for keeping us safe. I had no idea how scary it would be up on that levee, out in the middle of nowhere, all alone. Our ID bands gave us the peace of mind to know that should anything happen to us, that our loved ones would be able to notified quickly.

To Nuun,
Thank you for keeping Team Girls On The Geaux hydrated. With the freezing temperatures, it was often hard to convince ourselves to keep hydrating but the tasty fizziness of Nuun made drinking freezing cold water much more palatable. By the end of the race, several teams were calling us the Nuun Girls!

To Running Skirts,
Thank you for the awesome purple plaid running skirts! When undertaking an adventure such as this, it is always easier when you are doing it in STYLE! We tried our best to put a running skirt on our van, which we appropriately named Rapunzel! The running skirt was super comfortable and the fabric, design, and fit are excellent. Thank you!

To Drink Chia!,
Thank you for the awesome chia drinks! After a couple of the legs, I was not really interested in eating heavy food, but the chia drinks helped give me much-needed calories and nutrition without making me feel too weighed down. The texture took a little getting used to, but the drinks were delicious!

To Barber & Mann, 1st Choice Real Estate, and Good Shepherd Christian Academy,
Thank you so much for your financial support of Team Girls On The Geaux. With your contributions, Team Girls On The Geaux was able to contribute $550 to the Girls On The Run of Greater Baton Rouge. GOTR provides incredible programs to the girls in our communities and we appreciate you helping us help them!

Thank you so much for all of the bars! The Old School PB&J is the best and was super tasty around 2:30AM! We were able to share with some of the runners in other vans and every said how delicious they were! Thank you for keeping our tummies full and our bodies fueled!

To Icelandic Glacial,
Thank you for all the water!! Runners could not do what we do without water and Icelandic Glacial tastes awesome! After leg 10, my teammate Lindsey took a swig and looked at me and said, “Man, this is REALLY good water!” It made me smile!

To Enterprise,
Thank you for the GIGANTIC Econoline van! It was massive and FANTASTIC! Even though we overpacked big time, we still had plenty enough room for all of us, our food, water, and medical gear. We even had enough room left on the seats to stretch out our legs and nap a little between legs. And, surprisingly, it was really great on gas too! Way better than I expected!

To Giraphic Prints,
Thank you for the most awesome team tech shirts! Having matching shirts made us feel like a real team and we were so proud to be able to display all of our sponsors on it! You did a great job!!

To my fellow Girls On The Geaux,
Thank you for this incredible experience. We laughed, we cried, we danced, and we ran. Boy, oh boy, did we run! We shared stories, we helped each other, we got aggravated with each other, and we hugged. I could not have imagined tackling this adventure with a better group of girls. We only barely knew each other when this trip began, but I feel like we are running buddies for life! Who knows what fun things might bring Team Girls On The Geaux later this year and into 2013!! Keep on running, ladies!

Photo Credits: Erin Parker Skinner, Krisytn Gunter, Heather Montgomery, Jenn Macha-Hebert, Lindsey deBlieux, and Evin Beck.

27 Responses to “Race Recap: 2012 Rouge-Orleans 126.2 Ultramarathon Relay”

  1. The Ale Runner at 6:25 PM #

    Awesome story Katie. It’s like I was in the van and on the levee with you. Congrats on pushing through those conditions and finishing such a tough race. I know just how cold it was up there.

    • katieRUNSthis at 12:28 PM #

      Thanks for taking the time to read all of it. I know it was long! I seriously don’t know how you and Kristen did it without succumbing to hypothermia. You were out there TWICE as long as I was. You are a real beast and a real inspiration to me! I’m so proud of y’all!

      • The Ale Runner at 6:29 PM #

        The only way, was to just keep moving. It was the only way to stay warm out there. I was OK as long as I kept going. 3 layers, a hat and gloves were enough for me. My legs were actually OK, even with shorts on. Probably helped them actually, being numb from the cold. 🙂

  2. Digitalgirl717 at 6:45 PM #

    Wow what an adventure!!! Thx for sharing this. Someday I want to be able to share an experience like this without the cold though. You ladies are an inspiration. Way to go!!!!

    • katieRUNSthis at 12:30 PM #

      I’m not going to lie, the cold sucked. Like really, really sucked. But I just kept the mindset that “this is an adventure”. And boy, was it! I am so fortunate to have had an amazing van of ladies to share this journey with. Looking back, even if I *could* have run this solo or on a 2- or 3-person team, I am not sure that I would have. Doing this as a big group was really fun!

  3. runningwithsass at 7:01 PM #

    great recap! it was like reliving it all over…well, except for the cold! Oh the miserable cold! I am so glad I had this experience with yall, I think it says a lot about us that we finished all in one piece and still on speaking terms with each other! You worked so hard, I dont think I could have done that so soon after having a baby, you are a rock star!

    • katieRUNSthis at 12:31 PM #

      You said it, sister! I know at certain points we all got tired, frustrated, and aggravated, but I think it is a true testament to our willpower with how we finished. I think we are all BETTER friends now than before! I think we need a reunion later this year!! 😀

  4. Stacy H at 9:31 PM #

    Oh my! this story made me cry! Had anyone on your team ever done this race before? Are you (any of you) planning on doing it again next year with your knowledge and experience to help know what to expect and knowing what to pack?

    • katieRUNSthis at 12:33 PM #

      Oh no! No tears! 🙂 None of us had ever done this particular race before so we were not 100% sure of what to expect. We had done some training runs out on the levee, but from my personal experience, I don’t think we did enough of them. I would definitely have done more two-a-days to prepare myself for running on tired legs.

      And, yes, we are planning on running it again next year! We are working on a rocking video recap so maybe we’ll get in free! Ha! If you are looking for a team, I think we are going to have TWO Girls On The Geaux teams in 2013, so let me know if you are interested!

  5. Erica@CajunRunner at 11:23 PM #

    Ladies…I’m SO INSPIRED by all of your hard work. I followed (ok stalked) 🙂 Ya’ll all day and until about 1:00am and then woke up around 6ish and you guys were the first things on my mind, especially once I noticed how cold my house was. I thought about you guys and the freezing temps immediately and grabbed my computer! This was an exciting and amazing thing for me to follow and I can only imagine how full of pride each and every one of you must feel. This is a great recap. I wondered about the behind the scenes of twitter…I figured it was much harder than Girls on the Geaux made it look. Y’all totally rocked this event! I’m so proud that I had the opportunity to support y’all and keep up through twitter! A+ on the MENTAL and PHYSICAL TOUGHNESS…it’s because of you guys I run harder each time on my little easy runs…I always think to myself on each run..”it could be a lot worse..go..go hard!” AWESOMENESS for Girls on the Geaux!!!!

    • katieRUNSthis at 12:43 PM #

      We are so glad you stalked us! After all, what else is the wonderful world wide web good for?? 😀 We tried SO hard to remain upbeat and positive at all times, but there were definitely some really difficult moments. Thank you so much for your kind words. They are really appreciated! I hope you consider this race next year. As I have told a few other ladies, I think Girls On The Geaux will have two teams next year. Let me know if you think you would like to join us!!

  6. running on faith at 7:41 AM #

    love all your pictures! after reading this, I’m still not sure if I’m up for the Rouge-Orleans or not?! Cold weather, sleep deprivation, yikes. But that asthma issue must have been scary. Glad you are feeling better and congrats on a great race! I was thinking about all of you last weekend because it was so cold but great job persevering through some tough conditions!

    • katieRUNSthis at 12:44 PM #

      Steph, you’re the best. I am so inspired by YOU!! I love reading your blog and how you keep up all those awesome miles…and don’t even get me started on your speed. SPEEDY GONZALES!! Your slowest day is still ten times faster than my fastest day! Ha!

  7. Awesome post Katie! The race conditions seemed miserable at times, but we all survived. I don’t think that I have ever run a Forge Trail race that wasn’t bitter cold or extremely hot!

    • katieRUNSthis at 12:46 PM #

      Jamie C. Gary, I don’t know how people like you, Ryan, and Brenton did it…you know, without dying of hypothermia. I watched you at one exchange (towards the end…exactly which number, I can’t remember), but you handed off to Ryan with such ease! Y’all made it almost look enjoyable! Ha! Y’all did a phenomenal job and I’m so proud of y’all! 🙂

  8. Awesome race recap!! It really makes me miss my Ragnar team. I’d love to do another relay someday. So much fun, and having great sponsors (which we didn’t have for Ragnar) makes it even better.

    • katieRUNSthis at 12:48 PM #

      I am totally interested in running in a Ragnar Relay. They seem to have really beautiful courses and it has been on my bucket list for so long. Unfortunately, there aren’t any that are anywhere close to me and we haven’t had a lot of traveling dollars lately. I’ll get there one day though!

  9. David H. at 2:33 PM #

    Great recap! Looks like a ton of fun. I’d love to do something like this one day!

    • katieRUNSthis at 12:48 PM #

      Thanks for reading it! I know it was long! It really was a lot of fun and I am so glad that I did it! If you are interested in doing it next year, let me know!!

  10. Jamie at 9:14 PM #

    Wow, what an experience! In the cold too! You girls totally inspired me and I love that you all were a supportive team. I’d love to do something like this one day! 🙂

  11. Ann at 10:46 PM #

    I LOVE the pictures and the recap! It looks like SO MUCH FUN!!! Congrats on such an amazing accomplishment!!!

    • katieRUNSthis at 12:51 PM #

      6 extroverted Tweetin’ bloggers don’t go anywhere without a camera. We have TONS more pictures than what is posted here. I hope to get them all uploaded to my Flickr this weekend. I’ll send out a link when I do. There are some REALLY funny ones!


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