It’s the day before #CLR2014 and I’m in the midst of traveling 2,500 miles over six legs from Milwaukee, Wisconsin to Diamond Lake, Oregon. Call me crazy, but I think it’s going to be a great time! Now that the big day is almost here, my excitement is at an all-time high. I can’t wait to get my team Stranger Danger off to the races with that first leg at 6:40 a.m. tomorrow. Oh, did I mention this will be the first overnight relay I’ve ever done?!

If you’ve never participated in a long-distance, overnight relay race, I’m sure you’re wondering 1) why would you run through the night, and 2) what’s so special about the Cascade Lakes Relay that I’m traveling this far to run it? Well, here is some of the motivation behind my decisions and the emotions that have come along with them.

I’ve been running competitively for five years now. Prior to that, I didn’t think very highly of the sport. Yes, I love to run around bases and up the court, but just running for fun? That seemed crazy to me. I moved to Milwaukee five years ago and was lucky enough to have a best friend from high school also living here. Meg is an avid runner, from marathons to 5Ks to triathlons. At that time, she had signed up for a 5K during one of the many Milwaukee summer festivals and asked if I wanted to join her. I was hesitant at first but then thought, “Why not? I’m new to the city, it’s something fun to do, and the run is by Lake Michigan.” A little exercise and the chance to meet new people would do me good so I took the plunge and signed up for my first 5K!

I’m a bit of a planner so was quite nervous since I had only signed up one day before the race. I asked Meg a million questions on how much rest I needed, what food to eat, and how to warm up – all for three miles! Of course, it all worked out in the end and I had a great run. It also helped that there was free beer at the finish line! A few weeks later I signed up for another 5K and a few months later committed to my first half-marathon. I had officially become a runner.

Fast-forward a few years and I’m chatting with an old friend on a much-needed tropical vacation. Work and graduate school had taken over my life so running was put to the side. Then this CLR thing got brought up in conversation. A 200+ mile relay race? We run straight through the night and the team drives around in vans? Sounds crazy…but kind of fun. I needed a summer vacation, so I was in.

Since I signed up on a whim and the race was across the country, I hadn’t thought about it too much until these last few weeks (when I finally booked my flights). Then it hit me about a week ago: “OMG! I’m about to compete in a pretty intense race – I need to prepare!” Of course, being the planner I am, I had been training this past month with a short run in the morning and one at night to get my legs ready. I researched online for the best relay training plans before customizing one for myself. And that was really important. There are so many training plans out there, but you just have to listen to your body and do what’s best for YOU. There’s no perfect plan for a race of any distance. It was a struggle though each week I tried to run “mini legs” around town, through the parks, and down by the lakefront. I was exhausted and this was after a full night’s sleep – how would I be able to run longer distances for the race? My nerves were taking over.

I was feeling okay about the running part, but there were still the eating and resting parts. How much do I pack? Will we stop for food? What’s the weather going to be like? This was concerning for me since I had to pack two days before the race and fit everything into two pieces of luggage. Luckily the WI-OR weather forecasts aren’t too different right now, but I made my lists. Lots of lists. I picked up some snacks for fuel and my team in Roseburg is also helping with this.

I’m looking forward to meeting my team. That’s right, I only know one person on my team, our captain. She’s been awesome, answering all my first-timer questions, and getting everything else figured out for us. Don’t take your team captain for granted – they’re doing more work than you know – a big shout out and THANK YOU to my captain Natalie! Similar to my first-ever 5K, I’m excited to meet new people at #CLR2014. I’m guessing they’ll be fun and little crazy (like me), because who wouldn’t be for signing up for something like this?! While I’m very self-motivated during races, knowing I have friends like Meg competing with me or a relay team like this supporting me, is a huge selling factor for any event. From the sounds of it, team spirit is quite intense, and since my team Stranger Danger won the team spirit award last year, I know I’m in for a treat this weekend!

One of the many things I love about my home state Wisconsin is the distinctness of all four seasons we experience, and being able to run through various courses and trails takes it to a whole new level. Another thing I love about Wisco is our enthusiasm for our sports teams. I’ve ran races through historic Lambeau Field (Green Bay Packers), beautiful Miller Park (Milwaukee Brewers), and the infamous Camp Randall Stadium (Wisconsin Badgers). I’ve actually visited Diamond Lake before, but am so excited for the opportunity to run around it just after sunrise, as well as the rest of the Cascade Lakes region. I just need to figure out how I’ll take photos of the breath-taking scenery during my legs…

I think I’ve done all I could this week to get ready for #CLR2014. Training, packing, snacks, playlist…I even made custom #WiscoProud t-shirts for each leg (one for each of my favorite teams, the Packers, Brewers, and Badgers). Now I’m just crossing my fingers that my next flight arrives on time. Then the fun begins. Team bonding, awesome trails, competitive spirit, and an adventure that is sure to push me to new limits!

By Amanda Witucki, Team Stranger Danger

Amanda is a runner and sports enthusiast from Wisconsin. In her free time she’s an online marketing professional who is also earning her MBA. When not training for a race or cheering on her favorite teams (Packers, Brewers, & Badgers), she’s spending time with her friends and family, probably enjoying a beer. She plays beach volleyball and even some broomball during the winter months. Amanda also has a passion for live music and is an international traveler.