One To Grow On “Wolfson 55”

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A little over a year ago, I headed into Timed Exercise early on a Monday morning (ambitious back then, wasn’t I?) to hear non-stop chatter about a relay race. It sounded like a lot of fun and everyone was so excited about it, I really wanted a chance to prove myself in something like that. Unfortunately, I realized they were all chatting about the race because it had just happened the previous Saturday. Bummer.

So, I mentally put this race on my calendar. Next chance I had in front of a computer, I Googled until I figured out what race it was. One To Grow On (aka Wolfson 55) is a 55 mile race. You can run the entire thing as a solo ultra runner or form a relay of 5 – 11 teammates. The course is a 5 mile loop through downtown Jacksonville going over the Main Street and Acosta bridges. For the ultra, you would run that 5 mile loop 11 times. For the relay, you can run it as many times as you want, as long as your team has a minimum of 5 team members, and the team completes 11 loops total.

So, knowing I had a year, I managed to put a team together. Many of the runners were from the Ragnar team I had just run on, so that definitely helped out a lot!

Here was our official roster & running order:

  1. Adam (bf)
  2. Roxie (Ragnar)
  3. Judy (Friend from Timed Exercise, Subaru Half & Jax Bank Half)
  4. Amanda (Ragnar)
  5. Brooke (Ragnar)
  6. Stacey (Me!)
  7. Leif (Ragnar)
  8. Ryan (coworker of Roxie’s)
  9. Monica (Ragnar)
  10. Stacey (my second lap!)
  11. Roxie  (second lap!)

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The race started at the crack of dawn (also known as 6 am) so Adam and I found ourselves downtown around 5:30 am to stake out our space for the day with our 10 x 10 tent.

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Ahh doesn’t that just look like a luxurious space to spend the next 10 hours or so?

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While we were setting up the tent and gathering, we would occasionally see an ultra runner pass by. At this time I’m estimating they were rounding out their very first 5 mile loop. The Ultra runners start at 5 am. I’m assuming this is so the race director can be assured to go over all the rules and speak with each ultra runner individually since it’s such a huge undertaking, and there is a lot to know. Could you imagine running 55 miles and 22 bridges? Yikes!

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It was easy to tell an ultra runner from a regular runner because they wore bright yellow vests. Such a great idea since they most likely need more cheering and assistance for what they are accomplishing.

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Finally it was time. All the relay runners gathered near the starting line to listen to the brief instructions from the race director.

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Tell it to us, Doug! Lots of rules. (not) We were done in about 2 minutes.

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Adam took off as our first runner in the relay. Shortly afterwards, the sky lightened up into a beautiful sunrise. I can’t think of a better way to watch the sun rise than during a run!  (Ok maybe on a boat… with mimosas…)

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After we got things started, other teammates started trickling in. Amanda surprised everyone with a box of donuts. (Which I avoided as I’m still in shock from the Krispy Kreme Challenge I ran in June.)

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Nom nom nom…

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Judy was the first to pick up the box and dive in. She has a slight addition problem.

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They didn’t nickname her “Sprinkles” for nothing. I call that “stomach of steel”!

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Brooke found our tent without a problem.

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Our setup was fairly simple, though some teams went all out with game-day-style tailgates (minus the beer, of course!)

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Mid race, we started hearing this super loud noise. Looking up, we realized it was a helicopter buzzing around the top of the local CSX building downtown. It was there for about 5 minutes before we realized it was picking some large object up off the roof to set down in the parking lot next door. Very distracting.

restrooms

Huge props to the race for their portolet setup! They even had a Purell station!!

At this point I started to get worried. Only one runner hadn’t shown up yet, and we were getting close to her leg of the race. Where was MONICA!?! Finally she showed up… physically at least.

monica

Hmm. Maybe that explains this a bit? Yah, girl had a fun night out the night before. Time to rally & run!

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That’s better!

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When it wasn’t our leg of the race, everyone had fun relaxing. Some slept…

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…while others relaxed.   (and recuperated from the night before…)

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Great Race Signs:

There were some hilarious motivational signs throughout that I thought I would include.

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I don’t get it.

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How motivational.

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The Timing Chip:

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Ahh the good ol’ timing chip. We each wore the same timing chip that velcro’d around our leg.

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This meant after a runner finished, they had to take it off their leg and put it on the next runners leg.

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Easier said than done. Often someone else would offer a hand. It’s hard after finishing 5 miles to bend over and do that!

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Let me tell you, that timing chip was SLIMY as the day wore on and the sun got hotter!

The 5 Mile Loop:

The course was actually a fairly easy 5 mile figure 8-style loop through downtown Jacksonville that took you over two bridges three bridges. Yeah.. I THOUGHT it was two, but they actually snuck in a third (evil) bridge.

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The starting line was along the riverfront in between the Times Union Center and the Jacksonville Landing. This was great because it gave everyone plenty of room to setup, and we weren’t too far from solid food if needed.

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To start, we ran east in front of the Jacksonville Landing, past their stage.

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This took us under the Main Street Bridge and past the Hyatt.

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About a mile out from the start, we just turned around and continued back in the same direction.

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Shortly before the Main Street bridge, we took a right.

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Hmm, something about that bridge doesn’t look quite right… any guesses?

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Right at the foot of the bridge, we got a surprise with a few spectators cheering everyone on!

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Reading from right to left..
Ultra Registration… $100
Running Shoes… $125
Watching YOU run the bridges…PAINLESS!

Isn’t that lovely?

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Started the slow and steady trek up the Main Street bridge..

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Only to find a bit of a traffic jam near the top.

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Hmm. Guess this is what happens when the draw bridge goes up!

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After a very short wait, we were off again.

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To the right we could see our original starting position…

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And to our left… the Green Monster known to cause a lot of stiff quads and cramped calves in the Gate River Run.

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Because of this race also being an ultra, the “water stops” had a bit more gusto than normal. They handed out full bottles of water, bananas, m & m’s, crackers, cookies, pretzels, granola bars, chips, and even peanut butter and jelly sammies! I do NOT have a stomach of steel, so I passed on these treats. (uh.. and I wasn’t running the ultra so I left it all for those guys….)

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Normally running in costume is not a big deal, but this wasn’t exactly a big race. There were several times along the course I could only see one or two other runners. This meant there were a lot of confused looks by pedestrians and onlookers for the two girls ahead of me running in super hero costumes!! It was quite fun to chase after them the whole loop.

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And chase them I did right up the second bridge, The Acosta. The Acosta is typically my nemesis on training runs, but for this race, we ran along the sidewalk on the other side which is actually not quite as steep.

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I was happy to say I made it up and over without a walk break. Crossing over the bridge, to our right, was where we started (just down to the right of the CSX building).

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To our left, was the Florida Times Union Newspaper buildings, and the riverwalk… with the THIRD surprise bridge. DOH!

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About this time, I’d made it to mile 3. Yay! Over halfway done (with this loop.. I was scheduled for two loops total).

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We ran along the sidewalk (You can just see the Florida Times Union building to the left there).

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Once we made it about a quarter of a mile down the road, we took two sharp left turns..

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…which put us back on the riverfront headed back into downtown….

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…and up onto that third surprise bridge. This bridge is okaaaay. It goes up a bit, then flattens out.. then goes up.. then flattens out etc several times which makes it a bit easier.. and a bit annoying…

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Finally at the top… only to head back down. The down ramp is a big curly cue  that funnels you out onto the riverfront in front of the CSX building.

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A quick dash past our tent, and I was pulling off my timing chip and strapping it onto Leif. Who am I kidding? Someone else ripped it off of me, and Leif put it on himself and took off. I was wiped!

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After I finished my leg, I hung out, took a walk to Einstein Bagels for a sandwich, and relaxed. Oddly, my lower back started to ache. Typically my back doesn’t bother me, so this wasn’t good. I continued on and ran my second 5 mile loop a few hours later and was in PAIN!! Major pain. I essentially spent the entire 5 miles stopping every 10 feet or so and bending over to stretch my back (which did absolutely nothing)! Obnoxious, but I felt I had to finish or I’d be forcing someone else to run extra miles. OY! The picture above is me finishing the second leg in MAJOR PAIN trying my best to put a smile on. I wasn’t too successful.

Since the race, I took it easy for a few weeks and enjoyed a break from running. My lower back still bothers me a bit on occasion (almost 2 months later), but definitely not as much. Thankfully I’ve been able to start running again. I’m focusing on strengthening my back and core which should fully alleviate the pain as well as prevent future issues.

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Towards the end of the day, the race directors setup the official Finish line in anticipation for the runners to complete their 11th lap.

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Roxie completed our 11th lap and those of us that had hung around ran the last 100 years or so with her as a team.

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I am bummed we didn’t get an official team photo, but with everyone’s different schedules, this was all that we could coordinate!

We definitely had a blast (aside from the uninvited back pain), and I look forward to putting together another team in 2014!

If you live close to Jacksonville and are interested in joining us in 2014, send me a message!!

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