I’m back! I never intended to leave this blog forever, but thought I wouldn’t have much time for races or training while I’m in school. On the contrary, staying in shape and running most days of the week has helped to keep me balanced this semester. I did not make an effort to do much of anything in the fall semester and I ended it feeling quite distressed with how much fitness I had lost. I resolved to do better this spring and wrote a training schedule with no end goal in mind, other than general fitness. Pretty soon, I got sucked into the training to race mindset once again and signed up for a 44 mile relay race, “Brew to Brew,” a 10K and a half-marathon.
The “Brew to Brew” relay was last weekend, April 1, and it was a blast! We formed two teams with my classmates and two husbands, including mine. 🙂 There were twelve of us all together, forming one team of five and one team of seven.
Saturday afternoon, we drove to Kansas City, since the race start was going to be at Boulevard Brewery. We stayed at one of our classmate’s family’s house and had a wonderful pasta dinner together and reviewed all the race day logistics. Because the race was headed west from Kansas City to Lawrence, we wanted to make sure to be organized enough to get all six of the cars back to the finish so that we could head back to Manhattan (west of Lawrence) straight from the finish. It took some doing, but we managed to figure out a schedule that got everyone to the correct exchange points and end up with all of us at the finish together.
The race is started in waves with the first one at 6:00 AM and the last at 10:00 AM. The 6:00 AM folks were mostly solo runners doing the whole run as an ultra-marathon. The relay was broken into ten legs with some people running more than one leg. We had a nice early start at 6:30 AM, which was perfect since it was going to be a HOT day, so we were all up around 5:00 AM and in the car by 5:30 to get to the start before 6:00 AM. Somehow we all managed to meet up on time and get everyone to the right vehicles. We watched the 6:00 wave start, had some pictures taken, tasted some of the free Boulevard beer and sent our first two runners off at 6:30 AM. As soon as they were off, we hopped in the car and headed to the first exchange point. The first runner for our team was lightning fast and was one of the first from the wave to reach the exchange point. I was running the second and third leg, so I was waiting for her at the exchange to take over. The running surface for the first leg was quite nice – mostly crushed limestone/gravel, but we did have some strange parts where we were running up and down the embankments to various roads and bridges and we even ran up a spiral cement staircase to get to one bridge. There was also a short bit of “trail” running over rocks through a muddy dirt trail. I got through the 5.4 miles of leg 1 just fine and ran into the aid station.
The other team cheered me in as they were waiting for their first runner who had run leg 1 and leg 2. She was still behind me, but would get to the exchange soon. I grabbed some Gatorade from the aid table and started on leg 2. Leg 2 crossed some railroad tracks, and of course as I was running up to it, the gates came down and the bells started ringing to signal the oncoming train. I got an unexpected three minute break and then continued to finish my leg. Unfortunately, this leg was all on the shoulder of a boring, straight flat road with nothing to break it up. There were also several “fake-out” points that looked like they should have been an exchange point but you couldn’t tell until you got right to it that it was not. This wasn’t my favorite leg and I struggled with my mental state throughout. I just had a really hard time convincing myself that I should keep running. My mantra for this portion of the race was, “Tired is just a state of mind, keep going.” I repeated this over and over. Finally, the real exchange point came into view and I ran into, only to find it was the “B” exchange point and I was supposed to be running the “A” course so I had a little farther to go. I finally finished my second leg of 5.6 miles for a total of 11 miles, tagged our next runner, who would run legs 4 and 5, and got my break.
My day was not over yet though! I took over driving my car, while our next runners (legs 6 and 7) headed in a separate car to the next exchange point. I had to go pick up the gals that had driven the extra cars to the finish line to get them to their legs (8, 9 and 10). Fortunately, despite a little confusion, both girls parked relatively close to each other so I was able to pick them up without a hitch. We headed straight to the exchange point ending leg 7 and starting leg 8. Curtis, my hubby, was the leg 7 runner, so we were watching for him. I started to get a little nervous that we were in the wrong place because I had lost track of our timing while I was driving to Lawrence. While we were waiting, the other team caught up with us and assured us that we were in the right place and the runners were not too far off.
We finally saw Curtis coming up the hill into the exchange point and our next runner got ready to head off. She hit the road and we hung around with the other team to cheer in their runner and see of their next teammate. When we finally thought we saw her coming up the hill, we were unsure at first because her shirt appeared to be a different green than we expected. As it turns out, she was just soaking wet! This leg had the option of a stream crossing in a boat or the runners could run an extra mile to avoid the boat. Well, our runner, also an avid triathlete, had opted to swim across instead of waiting for the boat! 🙂
Once she got to the exchange point and rested a bit, we headed to the next exchange point. We would send off our leg 9 runners who were also both running leg 10. Our final runner had been sick with a bad cold for several weeks and by this time of day it was nearly 90 degrees and humid. We were a bit worried about her being able to finish because she had a terrible cough and no voice that day, so we decided to drive toward the exchange point between leg 9 and 10 in case she couldn’t finish. She called us partway into her run to let us know it just wasn’t going well at all, so Curtis took over the final leg for her. We hurried to the finish line and just barely made it in time to run Curtis into the finish line.
There was a “dinner” with gumbo and fresh fruit and bread after the race, along with beer from the two end point breweries – Boulevard and Free State. We sat and ate and then went to get ice cream before heading back home to Manhattan. All in all it was a whirlwind of a day and a complete blast. I am already looking forward to next year!
One thing I will definitely want to remember for next year is to have matching shirts in a unique color because it was so helpful that we were all wearing matching lime green shirts at the exchange points. It just made it so much easier to see our exchange runner. Although this year was unseasonably warm, it does not make sense for runners to have multiple legs later in the day and it’s probably a lot better to have only one runner per leg or to break up the legs so they’re not consecutive. Also, we should definitely bring beer in the car for waiting at the exchange points after our legs. 🙂
Overall, things went pretty smoothly despite some creative car moving. I would like to be able to have an entire team use just one vehicle in the future if we can get a big van or something.