This was our first time doing Wadi Bih, though we have run other relays. I ran the Portland to Coast Relay for four years in the late 90s, and Jeremy and I did the Lake Canandaigua Relay in 2009. I was about to choose a favorite just now, but I can't. I have loved all of these relays. There is a special kind of fun to be had running in bursts of enthusiasm and them folding yourself into a cramped car as you leapfrog from checkpoint to checkpoint with your teammates.
The challenges of this particular relay included a border crossing, dust, and some misinformation (or unclear information) in the race packet.
Wadi Bih is in Musandam (Little Oman), and is normally off-limits to non-GCCers since the southern border to Musandam is closed. Racers had special documentation to cross, but the process still took about 45 minutes in addition to the 90 minute+ drive. Fortunately, we left Sharjah at 4.30a - by the time we were in Oman at the starting line, ready to go, it was a little before 8a.
We'd heard legends of the horrible dust in the wadi - there's only the one road in and out, and with the support vehicles and the runners and the normal wadi traffic from people who live in there, quite a bit of dust got kicked up. But this was where our relatively late start (teams could choose their own starting time between 5.30a and 8.30a) worked in our favor - by the time we were running, most of the teams were ahead of us. We ran into the worst congestion around Checkpoint 9 (of 12, where the turnaround is), because teams were coming back down the wadi. The dust was worse, and we were afraid our runner would beat us to the next checkpoint. That came closest to happening on one of Jeremy's legs - that's him in red, and us stuck in traffic:
but we made it just in time.
The only other mishap was when the most super, mega, ultra hard leg came one slot earlier than we expected, according to what we'd read in the race packet. This leg had slightly more than 300m elevation gain in 3.8km - seemingly straight up through a series of hairpin turns. It went on for so long that we, in the car, stopped twice, thinking we must have missed the checkpoint. Fortunately, we had a strong runner on it, even if he didn't know that was THE hard leg until he was smack in the middle of it. (And of course, the runner who was bracing himself for that leg ended up with a gentler one.) I wish the race organizers could put together detailed leg elevation profiles, like I've seen in other relay races. But maybe there is more involved in that process than I understand. In any case, now we know for future years which legs are killer and which are more moderate.
Overall, though, we had a fantastic time. It was great to be out exercising with Jeremy and friends, without our kids. Sorry to put it bluntly, but it's true: I was happy every time I thought of the fact that I did not have Sterling with me. He is still nursing, but just this once he missed his precious breakfast feed and then kept my mom company (she's here visiting) for the rest of the day. And I was so grateful.
I wish I could have trained more - 18km overall isn't that much, but I was really struggling by the final two legs. But now I am all the more happy of myself for having finished and not given up (or volunteered to be the driver for that last leg, which I considered a few times). My weakest moment came when I encountered a steep uphill on my last solo leg and I didn't think I could do it. Just then, AC/DC's Back in Black came on my Shuffle, and I was back in business. It was seriously the perfect git'r'done song at that moment.
Until next year!