Last weekend was hectic and packed full of fun running events. After Dog-N-Jog on Saturday, I had a little bit of downtime to prepare for the rest of the weekend. I squeezed a tiny bit of studying into the afternoon, then baked some muffins for my Brew to Brew teammates before getting ready to leave for Lawrence, KS to be closer to the start of the relay in Kansas City.
We have been planning for this race for months and ended up having two teams to run the 44.4 mile point-to-point relay from Boulevard Brewery in Kansas City, MO to Free State Brewery in Lawrence, KS. The race is 10 legs and we had 17 runners, with 8 runners on team 1 and 9 runners on team 2. Three runners ran 2 legs each to make up the difference. Organizing the runners and then the vehicle driving schedule are the most difficult part of planning for the race, but once they were figured out, everything else fell into place pretty well. Everyone traveled to Lawrence on Saturday for a pre-race pasta dinner and team meeting, where we went over our plans for Sunday’s relay race. We hadn’t decided on what we would use as a baton, if anything at all, so we made a last minute decision to use some bright yellow/green reflective snap bracelets that I had as our “batons” for the relay.
After our dinner and meeting, we split up and half of us traveled to Kansas City to stay the night, several people went on a beer run, and the rest of us hung out for awhile before bed. We stayed up later than I intended, but a big part of the fun of the weekend is the camaraderie, so it was definitely worth the lost hours of sleep!
4am came really freaking early on Sunday. The crew that stayed in Lawrence needed to be out of the house by 4:45am to get to the starting line to meet our teammates at 5:30am in time to send off our first runners after a team picture. Well, best intentions, right? We were up and at ’em, but leaving a little later than intended combined with poor GPS directions, and we didn’t make it to Boulevard Brewery till just about 5:45am. Luckily, the rest of our teammates were there and we were able to take a quick picture and send our first two runners just in time to begin their legs at 6am.
Last year’s race was insanely hot, so we had chosen to take the earliest start time for this year in case it happened again. It was pretty chilly at only ~45 F, which I know I was unprepared to handle. I brought about every possible combination of clothing that I would need, except I managed to forget a warm jacket. Needless to say, I shivered through the start! The day was slow to warm-up, so we were all bundled for most of the day, but our runners all rocked green shirts during their legs. We had decided in advance that we would wear bright neon/lime green shirts to make it easier to see each other at the exchange points. Apparently, neon green is very “in” this year because we were one of many teams with the same idea! Next year, we’ll have to get a little more creative and find another more unique color. I’d like to look into having tech t-shirts made for everyone to match if we can do it at a reasonable cost.
This was the start of a very long and exciting day.
Since sunrise was scheduled for close to 7am and dawn wouldn’t come till 6:30ish, so our first runners got to contend with running in the dark. We made sure that they were decked out in reflective gear for safety, and they fit right in!
As soon as our first two runners started, we headed back to the cars, made a quick stop for coffee, beer and some more pictures, reorganized our stuff and drove to the first station to wait for our runners. While we were waiting, we went up and cheered for all the runners coming in – especially the solo racers who would be running all 44.4 miles that day. I am a relatively quiet person, usually, but I will scream and holler and carry on with the best of them at a race. I love it when people cheer for me, so I figure I can pass that on and cheer for strangers, too! If I were running it as an ultra, I know I would appreciate the extra encouragement, so it has become my personal mission to cheer for as many ultra runners as possible on race day. Though, next year, I need to invest in a cowbell, so I don’t scream myself hoarse again by the end of the day. 🙂
Our runners came in right about the time we expected them. They were very close together, so our exchanges went off one after another without a hitch.
Our first two runners finished their 3.9 mile leg, getting us off to an awesome start for our day of running.
I’ll post my review of the rest of the race tomorrow, but I did want to back up a bit and write a little more about the planning that goes into relay races. The relay concept can seem confusing if you’ve never done it before, but with a little work to make sure everyone gets to the right place at the right time, the day can go really smoothly. Last year, not having the experience of a relay race, I did not put too much thought into pacing for our two teams. This year, I decided it would be fun to try and match paces on the two teams so that we could spend more of the day together. This ended up working out pretty well, though there are definitely still some kinks to work out.
After confirming the list of committed runners, I sit down with it and with the course details on each leg and start matching. I had a pretty good idea of each runner’s pace, and I had asked them for any preferences of leg and maximum distance they were willing to run. In the future, I think it would also be a good idea to ask for the minimum distance people would like to run so that anyone getting ready for spring races can use the race as a training run if they like. I just use a spreadsheet so I can copy & paste names into the roster and move people around pretty easily. Once I had all my info, I started with the shortest legs and tried to match runners in pace who wanted to do shorter distances and I also tried to fit as many people to specifically requested legs as possible. Curtis and I were the only couple this year, but if there were other couples, I would probably try to keep them together on the same team to make vehicle coordination easier later. I leave the most flexible runners to place last, so that I can fill any gaps that don’t have a perfect match prior. This year I did a few iterations of this because we started with enough runners for 3 teams, but unfortunately, we lost several runners for various reasons.
When the teams were finalized, we registered the whole team. Last year, each person registered separately and just entered the team name; this year, everyone had to be registered together at the same time, so I did the main team registrations and then had each person meet me to enter individual information. I thought it would be easier than gathering everyone’s information, but in retrospect, I think it would have been easier to have everyone complete a short form and return it to me to enter. This was all completed about a month and a half prior to race day.
Closer to race day, I worked out the driving schedule for the trip from Manhattan to Kansas City and for the day of the race. For that, I start with the vehicles offered and then just fill them according to team, moving people in and out of vehicles as they finish running their legs. I assume that people will pretty much get where they need to be even if there are some changes on race day, so as long as the main concern is getting the next runner to their exchange point, pretty much everything else follows.
More tomorrow on how the rest of the race went!
Have you ever raced a relay or organized one?
10 mile run – last one before the Kansas Half Marathon next weekend!