“Support the team.”
Back when I made my marathon plan, I had decided that the final quarter of the year would be to rest, relax and try to have fun with running again. So what could be more fun than running a relay race with your friends?
27 miles. 5 legs. 2 states. 1 river. That is the Mill Cities Relay race description. This race is also a chance for the running clubs in the area to compete against each other – and the competition is pretty fierce. Since I’m not fast enough to be on a competitive team, we got to put our own team together and we had some really terrific average runners (like myself) who try their hardest, never let their teammates down and also manage to have fun and a great attitude. I could not ask for better people backing me up.
I had the first leg, which was perfect since the previous year I had the last leg. It was a 5.6 mile leg that started in Nashua, NH and ended in Hudson, NH. I have been feeling a nagging pain in my left calf and behind my knee that had been occurring off and on, so I was a little nervous the morning of the race. Luckily the pain seems to go away as I’m running – it’s only the aftermath that has me screaming in agony. I have been getting a little faster in my 5K’s lately, so I wanted do really well in this relay. I wanted to keep my leg under a 9 pace. I felt confident about it up until the morning of the race – I was worried I would not have the race I wanted.
Many of the leg 1 runners stayed inside until right before the 8 AM start, since it was around 30 degrees. I had been up pretty early since I met my teammates at the finish where we would need to leave some of the cars – except the two we were using along the course. As I lined up for the start, my car was being driven by a teammate, who would meet me at the end of my leg. The start was pretty casual. I waited and chatted with another person from my running club until we got the call to start. All the anxiousness and waiting got me to take off fast – too fast in fact. After mile 2, I started to realize I may not be able to sustain my current pace and tried to dial it back a little. I saw someone from my running club that I know is faster than me just ahead. I wanted to keep her in my sights, but the distance between us increase. Oh well, I was starting to find my groove. Through the rolling hills, I could feel my breathing get better. No more pain.
I did warm up a bit during the 3rd mile, but noticed around the 4th mile how frosty the air felt. My lungs felt like they had a little fluid in them and rattled a bit. But I still felt really good. In fact, I was surprised when I saw the sign for the exchange – I couldn’t believe I had already run 5.6 miles. I ripped my gloves off, so I could get my slap bracelet off for the hand off. As I turned the final corner, I heard them announcing my team number. I heard people calling my name…but my teammate, I couldn’t see him! He was there of course, there were just too many people in the way, it took a minute. I finally saw him and rushed over to hand over the bracelet. I checked my watch – 8:28 pace. I even exceeded my reach goal of 8:30. Ecstatic that I did right by my team, I took off with my other teammate and headed to another exchange.
It was a nice feeling being done so early. My other teammates did their best too and we beat our overall time goal. There is some friendly competition between some of the other average running teams as well and we definitely held our own. I felt good about our effort. The race ends at a bar where we all hung out with the rest of our running club and all the other participating clubs as well. The after party is definitely one of the best as you can connect with so many other people who run in the area.
I always look forward to this race every year and can’t wait to do it all again next year. Our car logistical planning also went smoothly thanks to another teammate who designed it. Everyone was where they are supposed to be and no one missed an exchange – there is nothing more disheartening than getting to a leg and not seeing your team there. I saw it happen a few times. Looking at my time from the previous year, I can also see how I’ve improved. This is always an encouraging feeling as the year winds down. I wonder what next year holds for me? Will I continue to improve or will maintaining this speed take everything I have? Will I finally get rid of this calf pain? I guess I will just have to find out.