This weekend, we travelled to a beautiful area of our state to run a 50K relay. This was part of a 50K ultra-marathon.
The Girl's parents live 45 minutes away from the start so we had to get up mighty early for the race (6am!). We woke up Daughter, who was along for moral support, and ate a quick breakfast before departing for the race. The Bois was quickly transferred to his car seat without incident.
We got to the race 20 minutes before the start. There were tons of people there; all cool endurance-types, sporting their overpriced fitness clothes and arriving in their Volvos and Subarus. People started lining up for the start and the RD talked a little about the rules of the race. The Girl ran our first leg, a 13 mile out-and-back jaunt up and down hills. I suppose the field had around 200 runners but most of them were doing the solo distance.
The Girl lined up pretty close to the front. In our 50K last month, she got caught in the back of the pack for a long time. Off they went; they came back around the start area a few minutes later. Everyone was still in a big pack with the Girl close to the front.
Then the fun started. I got the kids into the car (after a quick game of badminton with Daughter to get the blood flowing) and drove off to the 3-mile AS. There, we saw the front people and then the Girl in maybe 10th spot and 5th woman. I thought she may be going too fast, being that far up in the field and told her to take it easy.
At the next AS, at 5 miles, she had been passed by a few people but looked spritely and fresh. She threw off her shirt, which was caught midair by Daughter (she sure felt as a part of the team). At the turn-around, the Girl looked like she was gettign sick of taking it easy. She yelled at me (and the AS people) "where is the turn-around?". I told her it was right there but that she should drink a little. Well, she drank a little and bolted off.
On the way back, we saw her once. She was going faster and had passed a few people. At this time, the Bois woke up. I tried giving him some milk but he wasn't taking it. He screamed and screamed until we took some of his clothes off. I think he had been sweating and wanted some attention. We carried him around and he regarded the beautiful day with his little blue eyes. When the Girl passed, it became clear to people that this little baby belonged to one of the front-runners. This gave the Girl a lot of kudos out there.
Then I had to get ready at the hand-off area. There was no chance for a warm-up, what with two kids in tow. We took some picutes and stood there a little. The leader came through, looking strong. Then the first woman came through; she was a solo runner, thankfully. The second woman, however, a very fit-looking tall woman was in the relay. She came in, looking for her husband, who stood there with their son. She told him to get off his ass and start running, which he did.
The third woman, who had been leading at every AS I had seen, had gotten off the trail a little ways back. Now, she came sprinting in, looking very fit, and handed off the chip to her husband. Then a male-male pair came in.
When the Girl came through, she was probably 12th overall and 4th woman. I suppose she was around 8 minutes behind the first mix team and 4 minutes behind the second mix team. She came in, looking strong. We were exchanging the chip (which served as the baton) and I was telling her stuff like "I just changed the Bois. He won't take the bottle, maybe it's cold. The car key is in the car seat over there. We have laid the blanket down over there, too." The Girl was all fired up and yelled at me to get my ass in gear and start running. It was a recurring theme that the first-leggers, who had been battling hills for two hours were did not accept any lollygagging.
Off I went. There were no iPods allowed in this race so I was all by myself in a beautiful forest. The legs felt good, actually, which is rare for me in this spring of too many racing miles. My leg was 18 miles so I started out at what felt like a 6-minute mile pace. However, after just a few miles, the hills started getting really steep. I even walked a few of them; they were so steep it felt weird to run up them. I passed the male-male team after a mile or two and passed a solo-runner or two after that.
Then, after 5 miles, I caught a couple of runners, including one of the relayers. This was the husband of the woman who had gotten lost. She had looked like the fittest person of the day and the pair had seemed like the, potentially, fastest pair from looking at them.
After that, I ran a mile or so by myself. As I came up to the next AS, I saw the guy who was leading the relay race heading out. I took a quick drink and caught up to him. I would usually shout out "good job" or something like that when passing people, but when I did that with him, he jumped up like I had scared the living daylights out of him. I apologized and went my way; I guess we both thought it was pretty funny.
I ran through the finish area and waved at the Girl and Daughter. I asked one of the volunteers how many people were ahead of me. They told me two runners, around 5 minutes up. This served as good motivation. The second lap was fun because now the slower 50K'ers were coming into their first lap. I got to feel like I had wings (which was completely unfair because at that point, I had run 10 miles and they had run over almost 15). I shouted out things like "looking strong. Keep it up" or "there is a good group working together just 60 seconds behind you" etc. It was fun.
When I caught the leader, he got really freaked out. I told him I was in the relay so he needn't worry. I told him the second-placed solo runner was several minutes back. Still, I felt like he had been hoping to beat the relay teams, too.
Instead, I got to come in first and get the big applause. That really wasn't fair, but I did get that "first-guy-in-the-corral" glory. The Girl was stoked to have won a race and Daughter was clapping and cheering.
What a fun race and a great atmosphere. We talked to the other top relay teams that all seemed to resemble us quite a bit. They were all fit couples who wanted to race as a team. The second-placed team talked about how they could do this and bring their son along. The woman who had gotten lost talked about their racing plans this summer.
It sure makes you wonder why there aren't more races like that. They seem like the perfect addition to an ultra. Sure, the top relay runners seemed a little more "type A" than your typical ultra-marathoner and maybe the RDs try to avoid that in some races. Still, it was such a fun race and I wish there would be more like it. Honestly, if every race had a relay division, I don't think I would ever do the solo, be it a 5K or a 50K.
So that was our spring campaign. Two wins, one snowed-in ass-whooping. Not bad at all, actually. Now, it's back to training, working on speed and long runs. We have a triathlon in a few weeks, which will be a fun experience. Then there is a 50K in July, which I don't know about. The Girl will definitely run it competitively but I may just start out slow and see what happens.
Life is good.