“The wildest experiences become the best stories”. That’s the mantra on one of my favorite medals. I gotta tell ya, that is legit!
Recently, I was asked to join two of my friends, Dan and Kevin, to try a rogue race in downtown Grand Rapids, Michigan called, “Race The Rapid”. (put together by November Project Grand Rapids). “The Rapid” is a Grand Rapids city bus. So yes, we raced a city bus.
Here’s the deal. “Race The Rapid” is a 3-person relay team with 1 goal: beat the Rapid’s Silver Line express bus through downtown Grand Rapids. The only rule is this: get hit by a car, or bus, and your team is DQed. Easy as that.
For some reason, all day I was nervous about this race. I knew I had to run just under an 8 minute mile. Now, I can totally do that, but I felt that the pressure was on! How did I handle it? Prayer! I literally spent time praying for peace. I asked God to calm my nerves, and give me what I needed to pull through. Hey, God says to “pray about everything”, right?
I did a bit of research, and found, “Take On Me” by 80’s band “A-Ha”, is a perfect song for an 8 minute pace. As is, “Runnin Down A Dream” by Tom Petty. I decided to do a little shakeout run and cue up the songs. They were a perfect pace! My nerves were calmed, (thank you, Jesus) and I was ready!
Here are my early thoughts as I sat in the parking lot.
As we arrived, 9 teams of 3 lined up at 6:30 p.m. We listened for our instructions, which were pretty simple: beat the bus, and not get hit. Then, we strategized.
All first leg runners, (which was me) had to wait for the 7:00 bus. Meanwhile, Dan and Kevin, who ran legs 2 and 3, jumped on the 6:55-ish bus. The bus dropped Dan off at exchange #2, Fulton and Ransom, and Kevin proceeded to exchange #3, DeVos Place on Monroe Avenue.
As we waited, I cued up “Take On Me”. I checked my ‘gently used’ Garmin Forerunner 920XT, and was ready. Unfortunately, I had to wait 4 long minutes. That’s because the first bus wouldn’t be there til about about 7:00. This gave us a 5 minute head start vs. The Rapid.
As we heard, “Go!” I fired up the song. It was ON! But, like a dummy, my Garmin wasn’t. After nearly .10 mile, I finally started it.
We took off like rockets. I usually need a few miles under me before turning up the heat. Not this time. I had to go microwave mode. Fast! Now!
As I knocked down my first .25, I was already feeling it. My lungs were burning! My pace was not on beat with the song, so I knew I was actually running faster than what I planned. I took a deep breath, dodged a dog-walker, and headed up Jefferson Avenue.
I was fortunate to have no traffic. No stoplight. Only pedestrians. It was funny to watch everyone’s face, because they couldn’t figure out what was going on. They witnessed 9 people moving at the speed of light on Jefferson.
All was going better than expected for me. Prayer works, ya know! I could see exchnge #2. All of Grand Rapids could hear Dan screaming, “C’mon Tommy! My boy!” Then, I hit a stoplight at Fulton. Literally 10 yards from the exchange. No rules, right? So, I checked traffic and went for it!
I crossed Fulton, and tagged Dan. He took off like a cannon. I did my best Ric Flair, “Woooo”! Totally spent. That 8 minute pace ended up being 7:11!! It was fast. It was flat. Literally 6.6 feet of elevation for .80.
As all 9 first Leg runners waited for the bus, which was still a few minutes behind, we congratulated each other. Mission accomplished. So far.
Dan had to tackle a huge hill on Ransom. Dan is fast, and he is trained. I had no doubt he would nail it. And, he did! As he went up Ransom, he would get the glory of gliding down Michigan Street hill. The only potential problem: traffic!
As we got on the bus, every team rooted for traffic. Sadly, it was pretty light. The bus only had 1 rider get on at a certain station on Ransom. It was making up time in a hurry.
I kept looking for Dan’s red shirt, but I never saw it. That was good news. The bad news? The bus hit zero lights on Michigan street. So, a monster bus, going down a monster hill, with massive gravity equals made up time! (Gulp)
The Rapid passed a runner. Then another. And yet another. Still no sign of red-shirted Dan.
As we turned onto Monroe, near exchange 3, there we saw Dan. But not Kevin. Kevin took off fast and headed up Monroe toward the finish. Speaking of fast, Dan nailed a mile pace of 6:25. (That included 65 feet of elevation gain)
As Dan jumped into the bus, he said that Kevin was moving fast! The bus had to wait for several riders to get on. Advantage us!
Only about 6 teams were left. So everyone on the bus began cheering for each other. (Loved the teamwork and sense of unity) Again, light traffic on Monroe caused the bus to keep moving. Until, Monroe and Ionia. (Cue the Angels singing) Finally, a traffic light. And it was a long one!
Eventually, the light turned green, and the Rapid took off. But, still no sign of Kevin.
As it headed up Monroe and turned onto Grandville Ave., we passed a few more runners. The bus began to moan because there was growing concern over anyone beating the bus.
But, then came the corner of Grandville and Oakes. Heavy traffic near “The Intersection” caused a bus delay. (And of course anytime you get near Founders, it causes traffic congestion)
As the bus turned left onto Oakes, then made a slight right headed back to the bus station, we still didn’t see Kevin. We knew we had a chance!
With the bus only needing about 100 yards to the final bus stop, Dan shouted, “Is that Kevin?” Yes it was…Kevin was waiting for us at the finish line! We beat the bus!
As soon as that bus came to a hault, we shot out of it, and screamed. What an amazing feeling!
Kevin said that when he turned the corner, and didn’t see the bus, he threw his arms up into the air, and gave his best “Rocky Balboa” pose!
As you’ll see in the picture, any team with a, “thumbs up” beat the bus. While not everyone beat it, all teams had an amazing time!Well done, November Project.
We came. We saw. We beat that bus!