It Just Keeps Getting Better, by Jack Burns
The Providian Relay 2000: A View From the Back, by
IT JUST KEEPS GETTING BETTER
by Jack Burns, October 2000
It just keeps getting better and better! What, you ask?
The Relay, of course! But why does it keep getting better?
I'm sure for Team Ménage à Douze it's partly because we've
done it five times and so we know the course intimately. We are also a
local team, which helps. The variations in weather, always fantastic for
running, make the race interesting and different from year to year. And,
of course, race management seems to have this thing down to a science,
in spite of the huge and increasing amount of work that's involved in
putting this event on.
The major reason The Relay keeps getting better is the volunteers who
show up at all hours of the day and night, in unusual places, to work
the runner exchanges, timing the teams as they wind their way from Calistoga
to Santa Cruz. At a minimum there are four volunteers at each exchange,
often more, while it is open. That represents more than 150 people alone
who come out and get involved. There are also volunteers who put up and
take down the directional signs, also marking the course with flour, for
199 miles. Other volunteers open, oversee, and close the runner exchanges.
Ham radio operators volunteer their time to provide communications, especially
for areas where no cell phone service is available, and land and facility
owners volunteer their properties for exchanges, trails, and services.
There are many, many volunteers who work tirelessly to make The Relay
happen, and a lot of them recruit friends, family, and neighbors to volunteer
On Leg 17, one I am very familiar with (Corte Madera to Sausalito), more
than a dozen cyclists were available to accompany runners through a difficult
set of dark, tricky turns until after four o'clock Sunday morning. These
people had no formal ties to The Relay but wanted to support the Organ
and Tissue donation message by adding additional manpower to make sure
that runners felt safe and had a good experience at a crucial point on
A fact I believe is lost on many competitors is the true importance of
these volunteers, no matter how big or small the race. Without them The
Relay could not be held. There would be no race. And while it's
true that most teams are required to provide two volunteers, those people
have to be willing to get out of bed at 1 AM to show up at an exchange
for a 2 AM shift. They have to be committed to fulfilling their promise
to their team and to ensure the success of the race. If the volunteers
are standing there when you come through the runner exchange, you owe
them a debt of thanks. They're pretty important to you.
Editors note: Many thanks to Jack and Gayle Burns for serving on the volunteer
Relay Committee since 1997 and soliciting 10 or more volunteers each year to assist
runners through Marin in the middle of the night. Under Captain Jack's leadership,
Ménage à Douze won the submasters mixed division in 1997, 1998, 1999
RELAY: A VIEW FROM THE BACK
by Margo Dean, October 21, 2000
The purpose of the 2000 Relay is to bring awareness to the
need for organ donors. The course is 199 miles, beginning in Calistoga
and ending at the Boardwalk in Santa Cruz. Women on the Run (WOTR) brought
together 5 teams, totaling 60 women. A team is made up of 2 vans, 2 drivers,
and 12 runners (6 runners per van). Each runner completes 3 legs ranging
in distance from 3 miles to 8.9 miles.
"It's two days after the event and I am still descending stairs
like a marionette with a bad puppeteer." Heather Sadlon, WOTR
Our team was "U-Haul, Second Date" and what we lacked in pace,
we made up for in humor, attitude and style. Some of the women on Second
Date could easily qualify for the Boston Marathon, but God bless 'em,
they chose to run with us. Undoubtedly, their participation ensured we
would cross the finish line well before the start of the 2001 Relay.
We were off to an auspicious start after discovering our 12-woman team
had been classified in the "Open Men's" category. A heated discussion
ensued about using an appropriate strap-on device as our baton. In deference
to our mothers, we decided to stick with the flexible wristband.
Our fearless team captain, Lisa Stripe Dibble, was one wicked captain.
Her training regimen would make even the most veteran of runners cringe.
But she did vow that next year she would, in addition to Salsa dancing,
do some running prior to The Relay.
Never one to mince words, Stripe was horrified at the behavior of the
faster WOTR teams. When they arrived at a host house, the runners didn't
rest. "The least they could do," she sniffed, "is to try
not to have so much energy after completing their legs. It just doesn't
show good sportsmanship." We nodded in appreciative agreement.
Second Date did have sympathetic moments. We had been patiently waiting
for Van 2 to arrive at Leg 12 when a disoriented male runner approached
us. "Is this Leg 11?" he panted. We sadly shook our heads. "Sorry,
this is Leg 12." "Leg 12!" He almost cried. "My ride
left me here! I have to get back to Leg 11!"
We watched in sympathy as he attempted to hustle a ride back to the missed
leg. Fifteen minutes later, our cell phone rang out. "Where the heck
are you guys?" barked Van #2. "We're waiting for you at Leg
12," we chided. "We're at Leg 12 and we don't see you! You are
at the Cheese Factory, aren't you?"
Uh-oh. We scrambled into the van and lead-footed it down the road to
the Cheese Factory. When someone mumbled something about the runner we
had misdirected "back to Leg 11
" we had a solemn moment
of silence (followed by the Serenity Prayer) and we all donned disguises
in case the misdirected runner came looking for us. Fortunately it was
dark, and we did have a head start on the guy.
"My cleaning lady came early on Friday when there were still 18
coolers ready to go on my living room floor. She suggested perhaps tomorrow
would be better. I suggested she take the check and just load my car!
I'm not sure I can navigate the stairs 18 more times on 90 minutes of
sleep." Rachel Stewart, WOTR Kitchen Magicians
Certainly, an event like this does not happen easily. The logistics boggle
the mind. The volunteers keep everything running smoothly - sometimes
even the runners. There was food; there were beds, friendly greeters to
welcome weary runners. There were van drivers and cheering sections and
there were people who (fortunately) gave correct directions to lost runners.
In the WOTR camp, there was Karen Trilevsky of Full Bloom, Terri Hill
of Hill:Designs and a woman who knows the way to a runner's heart, Rachel
Stewart. Rachel's praises were sung from Petaluma to San Jose. Her cuisine
had us well nourished with just the right foods. At 4:00 AM she was flipping
flapjacks, wondering if she would be home by 7:30 AM for the next Webvan
Rachel's cooking expertise is equaled by her ingenuity. Using a canoe
paddle, she stirred the rice and millet; and using her "oomph"
she shouldered 30 bunches of swiss chard, (15 in a bag on each shoulder)
through crowded aisles at the farmer's market.
Would she do it all again? "Yes. At least I didn't have to walk
up and down my stairs backwards with all that food."
"To the cows rustling in the fields during my night run: YOU DIDN'T
SCARE ME!" Heather Sadlon, WOTR
I can't imagine a better time to run than at night. It's peaceful and
quiet. The Relay is always scheduled during a full moon. Hearing the night
sounds, seeing the sky with those bright stars, being shrouded in soft
shadows, smelling the sweet damp grass - it is my idea of a perfect run.
I didn't want to relinquish the baton to my teammate Ngoc Tran. I wanted
to keep running forever. But Ngoc was there waiting. I passed her the
baton and watched as she slipped into the darkness. I decided she needed
this run. Between legs, Ngoc studied in the back of the van. Even while
the rest of us slept or rested, Ngoc studied. She needed a break from
all that work.
"I want to thank the four moons for helping me up the mountain on
my last leg Sunday. At first, I thought I was hyperventilating from the
running and seeing in quadruple. You ladies have some nice cheeks."
Diana Daniel, WOTR
While running is usually a solitary experience and great for loners like
me, there are times when what it takes to get up a tough hill is inspiration,
support and team work.
Each team had a different approach to get their runner to the top. Mooning
by day would qualify as an excellent incentive. Second Date took a different
We watched as teammate, Ingrida Gailitis tackled Leg 30, a grueling 3-mile
hill. Corinne Suyeyasu met up with Ingrida to offer her liquids and support.
And then Corinne began running with Ingrida. Stripe and Kimi Serrano joined
in and we ran in shifts, talking, inspiring and supporting until Ingrida
made it to the exchange to pass off the baton to Sherilyn Adams of Van
2. Later, Ingrida said she had never expected that type of support. "You
would have done it for us, wouldn't you?" we asked. "Of course,"
she replied. Three days prior we had all been strangers. Now we were friends,
bonded by running.
"I'm sad it's all over. I miss our Monday runs in a sick and twisted
way." Shannon Strong, WOTR
There was a feeling of excited anticipation as Second Date entered Santa
Cruz. Van 1 had finished the final leg hours before. Now Van 2 was coming
into the home stretch. The finish line was in sight.
But it was close to 7:00 PM. There would be no roaring crowds to greet
us, no blaring bands. In fact, as we awaited the arrival of teammate Krista
Christian, course volunteers began to dismantle the chute. Our finish
would be met by only a scattering of faithful volunteers. But our spirits
were not dampened.
As Krista came into view with Margot Antonetty running by her side, a
cheer erupted from the runners of Second Date. We joined Krista and Margot
and ran to the finish line as a team. Photos were snapped, high fives
were passed around and hugs were exchanged. Stripe distributed our finisher's
medals. The race was done.
The next morning, I awakened with what I've come to recognize as "post
running depression." Two days later I would register for The Valley
of the Sun Marathon in Phoenix.
What does it feel like to finish this type of event? No matter where
you finish in the relay, there is pride and camaraderie that perhaps only
another runner can appreciate.
Dagmar Beyerlein describes it best. The day after the relay, she says
she was almost pummeled by a bunch of angry commuters. The commuters were
irritated at the pace she descended the stairs (Dagmar counted 34 steps)
to CalTrain. "I guess they were completely unaware of my newly gained
stature as one of the queens of the Relay," Dagmar confided. "If
they had known, I'm sure they would have carried me down on my throne."
A belief we all share. And a throne no one but a runner can appreciate.