Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Market to Market Relay: Race Recap

Over the weekend I had the opportunity to partake in my second race of the season, and it was a unique event at that.  The inaugural Iowa version of the Market to Market Relay was held on Saturday.  It is a seventeen stage, 73 mile race starting in Jefferson and ending in downtown Des Moines.  I have always wanted to participate in a race like this so when my old friend Jack contacted me a few months back about joining one of their teams I immediately said yes.

We are Runners and We are Runners Too
We fielded two six person teams, "We are Runners" and "We are Runners Too" and met up in the early morning hours to head up to Jefferson.  At 6:30 am the wind was already blowing hard and we knew we were in for a blustery day. The good news I guess was that it wasn't snowing like the weekend before.  The van ride up was fun as I got acquainted with my running mates for the day.  We had some time to kill at the start line before our wave went off so we watched the wave before ours go off and tried to stay warm.  We were in the last wave of the day, dubbed the "championship wave" since we had a legitimate shot of doing very well in our division based on our estimated finish time.  That info surprised me a bit and I figured I may just have to run a little harder if we were going to be competitive.

We are Runners - Pre Race

Soon enough we were ready to go and Brian led us off.  It was indeed a stacked wave as he later related that he ran the first mile at a sub 6:00 pace and was near the back of the pack.  He held his own just fine though and reeled in some of those who went out too fast.  The rest of us loaded into the van to meet him at the second check point.  There wasn't a whole lot of down time after arrival at the exchange point and before long our second runner and team captain, Jaime, was taking over.  Then we all piled in the van again to do it all over again.

My first leg was leg 4 and I took over from Jack who ran a smoking first effort.  The leg was a straight shot south down the Raccoon River Valley Trail for 4.8 miles. The best part of that was that there was a sweet 20 mph tailwind shoving me along.  It wouldn't be so sweet in later stages, but I was able to relax, let the wind do half the work, and save the legs a little.  As I started the leg I could see one guy far up ahead in a black shirt and I made it my first goal to catch him.

Taking part in my first relay race I was quickly introduced to some new lingo.  Overtaking another runner in the race was referred to as a "kill" and the goal was to rack up as many of those as you could.  Starting in the final wave of the day and fielding a fast team we were set up to score quite a few kills.  We marked each one the team accumulated in chalk on the window of the van until we ran out of window space. Or maybe we just lost count.  Either way there was a lot

So I kept black shirt in my sights and slowly reeled him.  And I do mean slowly.  After the first couple miles ticked by it seemed I hadn't even closed half of the original gap.  Either he gassed the next two miles or I picked up the pace, but I eventually caught him shortly after the 4 mile mark.  The remainder of the leg I managed to pick off a few more people.

Miles: 4.84
Time: 31:12
Pace: 6:27 min/mi
Kills: 6

After that it was back in the van to recover a bit while the other runners on the team continued to kick butt. Ryan and Liz had stellar first legs and soon enough we were preparing to start the second cycle of stages.  Everyone was running hard and having so much fun it was just a great group to be a part of.  By the time stage 10 rolled around I felt like I could at least run again, having fueled and recovered a bit, and was ready to do my part for the team.

The route was now heading east so that super sweet tailwind was no more.  Now it was a pain in the butt crosswind that tried to blow you off the trail if you weren't paying attention.  There was a decent tree line along the trail, but every now and again there would be a break in it and you'd feel the wind full bore.  So the second leg was much more of a struggle than the first, but we had caught back up to the meat of the teams running so the kills were plentiful.

After the first couple miles I was feeling pretty spent.  I decided to just put my head down and run and not look at my garmin to see where my pace had fallen off to.  Apparently this strategy worked somewhat.  I just kept trying to catch the next person ahead of me and didn't glance at the watch until there was about a half mile left to go.  That made it seem like only a half mile and bringing it in didn't seem quite so bad, and looking at my total pace for the leg it really wasn't as bad as I thought it was.

Miles: 5.11
Time: 33:14
Pace: 6:30 min/mi
Kills: 17

More recovery time in the van while my teammates had a go at it.  Again, they were all running great in that nasty crosswind, and the team was slowly ticking off their final legs of the day.  As the late stages of the race unfolded we were certain we were locked in a close battle for 3rd place in our division.  By the time my final leg came up we were still behind by a bit.

Luckily for me my last leg was also my shortest, a mere 2.8 miles.  I kept telling myself that it would be a piece of cake.  That wasn't even a 5k!  I took the exchange from Jack, who came running in dueling with top hat guy, and I promptly took out top hat guy's teammate on a downhill section that made it feel like I was flying.  Less than a 5k, no reason to hold back now.

Apparently the legs didn't get the memo that I wanted to run fast because they were complaining big time.  I did the best I could to keep the turnover going.  The stage wound through water works park and it was easily the my most scenic leg of the day.  It took my mind off my unresponsive legs a bit at least.  With a half mile to go I started to ratchet up the pace until I was doing my best attempt at a sprint to finish things off.

Miles: 2.81
Time: 17:59
Pace: 6:24
Kills: 16
The Final Handoff
When I passed the "baton" off to our anchor leg, Ryan, we were still behind the third place team.  As our team had waited at the exchange point they had identified who our anchor needed to catch so when we arrived near the finish line the anticipation to see who would show up first was growing.  The finish area was in a unique spot in that you could see a good half to three quarters of a mile across the river to where the runners were running along.  Both our team and the one we were competing with for third was squinting and trying to see which runner was coming along first.  After a false alarm or two, Ryan finally came into view hauling ass along the river, with the other dude nowhere in sight.

We happily joined him for the final short group run through the finish line.  It turned into more of a haphazard free for all as no one could match each other's pace, but we eventually all crossed the line for a hard earned finish.

Final Stats: 10/205 OA, 3/66 Open Div.

The second team finished not too long after ours in a very respectable 25th place, and we all met up for a post race celebration after such a productive day.  I thoroughly enjoyed my experience and feel truly grateful to have met and run with such a great group of people.  Running for the the most part is a very individual sport.  You can go to races with friends, but you're the one racing the clock (or the field).  For this race you have to rely on your teammates and it is the sum of their superb efforts that produce the final result.  The best part about this team was that while we were competitive, there was a constant positive vibe and sense of fun from all of the members. That's what made the day.  The time and placing on the final scorecard was just an added bonus.

We are Runners - Post Race

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