Tuesday, October 6, 2015

Race Report: Northern Ohio Marathon's 5-person Relay

So what can I say about the Northern Ohio Marathon's 5-person relay? It's more like what's NOT to say about it. There is so much to share, from the personal reasons why this race was important to me (which I talk about in my post from Sunday entitled Every Mile a Memory: Northern Ohio Marathon) to the race experience itself, I could write a short novel. I really tried to keep this brief but it was darn near impossible. Believe it or not, there are lots of things I left out so these are only the highlights so please bear with me! LOL

Two things about this event that definitely stand out in my mind. 1) Running a relay is a LOT of fun and I can't wait to do another one and 2) I have absolutely NO desire whatsoever to ever attempt a full marathon. But first, the weather...

Team One Motley Crew (in order of appearance):
The Marine, the Triathlete, the Marathoner,
the Survivor, and the Newbie.
Saturday was downright miserable; cold, windy, and rainy and had the weather been like that on Sunday, we would have been hating life. Luckily by 6:30 a.m. Sunday morning, what precipitation was left had stopped and by race time at 7:30, it was a chilly 50 degrees with a real feel of 45 but rain-free. By the time I ran my leg around 10 a.m., the sun had come out and was 58 but it didn't take long into my run that I wish I had worn a tank top rather than a long sleeve running shirt.

Regarding the relay aspect itself, what a blast! From cheering on our first runner at the starting line to running with our last runner towards the finish and everything in between, it was so.much.fun. I honestly wish there were more races like this locally because I would do them in heartbeat. It was a little nerve racking at first because the one road we needed to take to get to relay exchange #1 was closed due to the race and wouldn't reopen until the bulk of the runners were past that point. Luckily the event took place where I live and a few of us were familiar with the roads so we were able to find an alternate route and get there well before my husband (runner #1) did. After the first relay exchange, we got the hang of getting from point to point so it went from being a little bit stressful to exciting and oftentimes silly. At the exchanges, it was fun talking with the volunteers, the other teams as they waited for their runners, fun watching for our runner so the next person could get ready to go, and fun being a runner as you accepted the timing device as well as handing it off. Lots of volunteers were positioned along the course directing runners so there was no doubt or confusion where the route went.

Regarding my leg, I was runner #4 and ran from just before the 16 mile marker and ended shortly after the 21st. The leg was supposed to be 6 miles but it actually ended up being 5.87 miles. I went through residential areas within a mile or so radius of my house and there were several residents standing in front of their houses cheering on the runners. I have to admit I felt a little guilty because most people probably didn't know there was even a relay going on so they could have just assumed I was a marathoner as well and not "just" a relay runner. I was sure to acknowledge them in some way by either thanking them or waving anyway. At one house, they were handing out popsicles and there was a little boy holding a sign that said "Touch Here 4 Power" that he had made himself so I made sure I did as I went by. That was cute. Part of the course ran along Lake Erie so I had some beautiful scenery as well.

Going into this race, I figured my pace was going to be somewhere between 9:30 and 10:30 based on longer distance races I've done, what my training runs have been like lately, and for the fact none of use weren't expecting that our team would place in one of the top spots, there wasn't a lot of pressure to run top speed. After my first mile when my Nike+ app announced my pace was 8:55, I was shocked and told myself I started out waaaaay too fast and didn't know how I'd be able to make it 6 miles if I didn't slow down. I felt like did scale it back a bit, especially between miles 4 and 5 where there were a couple of rolling hills and by that point I was starting to lose steam. I ran them and was tired but thankfully I knew I didn't have much farther to go. Perhaps it was fate or "divine intervention", but my son, who was volunteering with his XC team, was stationed at mile 21. It was kinda cool to see/hear him cheering me on and it must have been just the extra push I needed because I got a little more spring in my step and when I saw the relay exchange a minute or two after that, the adrenaline kicked in and I sprinted to the finish.

Much to my surprise, when I was done running and checked my time on Nike+, my average pace was 8:58 for the leg. I don't know what the chip-based pace was because for whatever reason, the only relay exchange that didn't have timing equipment was the one between 3 and 4. My brother-in-law, who was runner #3, is pretty fast and I don't recall what his pace was, perhaps in the low to middle 7's for a similar distance? For what it's worth, our combined chip time was an 8:22 pace but it doesn't really matter. I am stoked that I ran as fast as I did for that distance, surprising myself once again.

My brother-in-law wanted to run the last leg so he went off with our last runner and the rest of us headed to the van. That's when I noticed my husband had a coffee in his hand. "Sheetz?! What do you mean you went to Sheetz," I said. Here I was, busting my butt running my leg and they stop to get coffee, I joked?  He said someone needed to make a pit stop and because I was using the RoadID free app, they knew exactly where I was so they had time to stop at Sheetz. All joking aside, the RoadID app came in really handy and I'll suggest anyone on our team who runs with a smart phone to download it next time.

Although we couldn't run across the finish line as a team, we thought it would be fun to run together until we reached the chute so we wait several hundred yards away from the finish until our we saw our last runner and my brother-in-law. Apparently he had encountered a marathoner who was having a hard time of it and was running with him to encourage him and make sure he was ok. Our last runner's husband, who had already run the half marathon (placing 3rd in his age group), gone home, showered, and met up with her somewhere during her leg, was running with her for moral support. She looked like she was having a tough time so we cheered as she approached us and then we all ran together until we had to part ways. After she crossed the finish line, she told us she had a bad case of the side stitches earlier in her run, had to walk some of the leg because of it, and apologized for not being faster. After I looked at the official results (gotta love having them live so you don't have to wait around to find out how you did), I mentioned to her that she ran her 4.35 miles at a 9:12 pace while our 2nd runner, who ran a leg almost the same distance, ran it at a 10:25 pace. Please don't take that as knocking our 2nd runner because that's not my intention. I just know what that self-doubt is like so I wanted to encourage her and let her know how well she really did. Guess she surprised herself, too. 

Official Stats
Our team did much better than any of us expected, especially given the fact none of us had ever done a relay before and because of the wide range of running skills we all brought to the team; a Marine who recently started running again after 16 years, a triathlete who hadn't been able to run much lately, a marathoner, me (you know my story), and a new runner who only had a couple of 5Ks under her belt and had never raced a distance longer than that. We finished the race in 4:00:57 with an average pace of 9:12 and placing 9th of 17 teams. A sweet surprise and even sweeter victory. The top team, which was comprised of members from the running club, finished in 2:42:03! Can you say flying?!

So why would I never run a marathon? The feat (no pun intended) really doesn't appeal to me. Sure, it was fun driving the marathon distance and going from relay point to relay point but having to run that distance? And running for 4+ hours? I love to run and I love to race but doing it for 26.2 miles isn't something that really interests me. I do admire those that have the ambition and drive to accomplish it and give them a lot of credit, though. As I mentioned, I started my leg around mile 16. As I was running, I was thinking about all those people who had already been running and how they must have been feeling at that point. I was tired and I had just started! About halfway through my leg, I came up behind a marathoner whose support team was driving next to him for a minute or two before driving up on head out of our sight. Knowing I would end up running next to him for a bit, I took out an earbud just in case he started to talk to me. He did so we chatted for a bit and exchanged stories. He said he drove over an hour from home to do this race and I joked that my house was literally less than a half a mile from where were running and that we could stop there for coffee and snacks. Although he is an avid runner, this was his first marathon and he was telling me some of the struggles he was encountering but that he'd finish, even if it meant crawling across the finish line. After a couple of minutes, I needed to pick up the pace so I wished him well and ran on ahead. I thought to myself, I only had a handful of miles left to go and I was feeling kind of blah, I can't imagine what it must have been like for him or any of the other marathoners at that point. Crossing the finish line would surely be a rush. I can attest to that because I had a similar feeling when I finished my half marathon. It was indescribable. But I can honestly say the rush of finishing a marathon is something I'm ok with not ever experiencing. On a side note, after the race and shortly before we left to go home, I saw my running "buddy" so I walked over to chat. I high fived him, said congrats, and asked how he did. He told me soon after we parted, he finally had to stop and take a break, lying down in someone's front yard. His support team, who had driven ahead of us and must have stopped to cheer him farther up the road, said they almost had to call the ambulance but after a three-minute or so break, he was better and back on the road. Maybe he wasn't properly trained, maybe he was just exhausted, who knows. Yeah, I don't have any desire to run a marathon. =)

So that's my race report for the Northern Ohio Marathon's 5-person Relay. It was a great event. Very well organized, very well staffed, cool shirts and finishers medals, excellent route (loved the start and finish being at Headlands Beach State Park, one of my favorite places), great after race vibe and of course, great post-race snacks. While the marathon will never be in my sights, the 5-person relay will definitely be. I can't wait until next year!

P.S. It was completely unplanned that we three girls were all wearing pink and black. I wore it on purpose as I mentioned in my post from Sunday but the other two just happened to pick that color. Thought that was kind of neat since October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month. ;-)