Monday, May 14, 2018

Let's Huddle - Market to Market Relay 2018


Let’s huddle.

Yes, the temps were gonna be chilly and the wind was blowing. Also, there were intermittent rain showers and thunder storms in the forecast. It's a good thing we're all friends.


The Market to Market Relay took place on Saturday, May 12th. The Iowa route began in Jefferson and ended (approximately 76 miles later) in downtown Des Moines (there's also a M2M Relay in Nebraska and Ohio). Our place of work has had a team take part since 2014. I ran with the team for that first year, and also last year (I had to miss 2015 and 2016 due to scheduling conflicts).
Ready to go...(L-R): Nick, Ryan, Kristin, Ashley, myself, Eugene, Alan
Our day began with a 4:00 a.m. departure from our company's parking lot ((yawn)). We had an hour-long drive to Des Moines (where we picked up Alan, who was coming from our Omaha office). We stopped briefly at Starbucks (because of our 4:00 a.m. departure), and then had another 80 miles to Jefferson.

Our team's starting wave was at 7:15, but several other teams had started earlier (as early as 5:45 a.m.). The Relay is capped at 400 teams (of 6-8 runners), and the various teams all have different start times, most of which are based on projected finish times (but that's not always the case).

Prior to race day, the weather was looking most undesirable. Unsure of what to pack, I kind of packed everything...I had a tank top and fitted compression shorts with capri-length leggings layered on top (in hopes of losing as the day worn on). I also had a 1/4 zip jacket, arm warmers, a fleece jacket, and a thin windbreaker. Let's not forget the extra pair of running shoes and extra socks, and a dry cleaning bag (for a rain poncho)...all in anticipation of the potential rain in the forecast.


Ugh...doesn't this look ugly???
We arrived in Jefferson around 6:45, just enough time to get checked in and and use the porta-potties. Nick was our first runner, so he had to grab the team "relay baton" (a slap bracelet) before warming up for the ceremonial start.
A really cool landmark is the bell tower on the town square, right near the start line
At the start line, ready for Nick's send-off  (don't we all look cold?)
After Nick ran his first leg, it would be my turn. We drove to the first relay exchange, and we waited. They have course marshals stationed about a 1/4 mile from the various exchange points, and they communicate with the volunteers (with walkie talkies) as to which teams' runners are approaching...and the team numbers (via the runners' bibs) are announced to alert the waiting "next leg" runners.

We heard our team's number called, and spotted Nick almost immediately. I took my place on the course, he handed me the slap bracelet, and I was off! 

Unsure what to wear, I opted for my fleece jacket for my first leg of running. I was headed south and had a pretty strong NE wind pushing me along, but the air was so cold and damp. I  had 3.4 miles to run, and the first mile or so was relatively boring because it was out in the open. Eventually, I had some woodland to run through, and that also gave me a bit of shelter from the wind. I wasn't really trying to run this first leg fast, but I wasn't really holding back either. Before long, I could see the green banners up ahead (way up ahead)...and then I spotted Alan waiting for me. I handed off the bracelet and I was done!

My Garmin showed 3.37 miles. The splits were 8:31/8:43/8:39/3:20 (.37 mile); total running time clocked in at 29:12 (8:40 pace).
Checking off my first leg on our customized chart
I quickly hopped in the van, and we headed off to the next exchange point. A fun activity (in my opinion) was to do various exercises in between the exchange points as we waited for our runner to come in.The most recent runner got to choose the activity at each exchange point...so I chose planking.
After 45 seconds, though, everyone bailed on me (ha!)
Having started at 7:15, Nick ran his leg (4.4 miles) pretty quickly, and my 3.4 miles went fairly fast as well. I was finished well before 8:30 and would have several hours before it was my turn to run again. 

A challenging aspect of a relay such as this is that each team is self-supported. There are no water stations or food stands along the route (unless you take a mini detour to a convenience store, but that's not always possible). Figuring out when to eat, and how much, is tricky. I wasn't really feeling hungry, but I knew I would be later, so I ate two peanut butter & jam rice cakes for a quick snack. My next leg (stage 9) would be happening around lunch time, and I wanted to wait to eat my lunch after that.

As the morning progressed, the weather continued to stay cool and windy, but the forecasted rain was still a no-show. All of our runners were doing well! The cooler temps certainly were working in our favor.
At the Stage 7 exchange point...I have ridden this slide every year
Before long, it was time for me to run again. My next leg was Stage 9 of the relay...and we were about an hour ahead of schedule thus far.

I was having a tough time staying warm. I kept alternating between my fleece jacket (for warmth) and my windbreaker (as a barrier), sometimes with the arm sleeves underneath, sometimes not. When it came time to run again, the temps hadn't really warmed up much and the wind was still crazy. I opted for my windbreaker, knowing I could easily shed it and tie it around my waist.

The first part of Stage 9 had a nice downhill, though some of it was a bit tricky with a 1/4 mile or so of gravel to navigate. Once the relay course left the city limits (of Redfield), we were back on the paved Racoon River Valley Trail...out in the open air, directly into the wind. UGH! After the first mile, I decided the windbreaker had to go. Surprisingly, I was feeling a bit warm but knew it was only a matter of time before I'd be overheated. If I waited too long to shed the jacket, I'd be a sweaty mess underneath my bottom layer and that would make me even more cold when the jacket came off. 

The wind was brutal! It didn't really feel cold, but it was tough to run against it. Fortunately, by the time I'd reached the 2.5-mile mark, there was mostly woodland to run through and the wind was no longer an issue. Way off in the distance, I caught a glimpse of the green banners, so I knew the exchange point wasn't too far off. 

I saw the crowd of runners awaiting their teammates to come in...and spotted Alan. I unsnapped the bracelet and handed it over to him.  He took off and I was finished (again).

My 2nd leg stats: 4.69 miles. Splits were 9:21/9:21/9:26/9:18/4.69 (.69 mile); total running time 43:33 (9:17 pace)
2nd Leg (Stage 9)....DONE!
By the time I had finished my second leg, I was hungry. I grabbed some water, and a couple of mini sandwiches I'd brought along. When we got to the next exchange point, my activity-of-choice was burpees...but only one other teammate (Nick) joined me. We'd also done lunges, jumping jacks, and push-ups throughout the morning and afternoon. 

We were most diligent about marking off each of our legs as we finished. One of the perks of working for a signage company is the elaborate vinyl chart we had for the back window of our van. Neat, huh! 


So, onward! As the afternoon wore on, the cool temps persisted (as did the wind), but the rain still held off. A relay, such as this, basically encompasses nonstop action. We're either arriving at one exchange point, or driving to another. There is some downtime in between the longer legs, so we can stretch, foam roll, or grab a snack. By the time my third (and final) leg arrived, I was really feeling pretty tired. Don't forget, I had been up since 3:15 a.m. Even though I had only run a little more than eight miles, I felt like I'd run twice that far.

Stage 16 was probably my favorite part of the day, though. My pace was much slower, and my right piriformis and hip were starting to feel a bit grouchy, but the scenic trail I ran along was beautiful. Even though I was well within the city limits, the majority of those 4.3 miles were surrounded by trees. There was an especially steep uphill at the very end....immediately followed by an even longer (uphill) walk to our van....but I was done and all was well.

My final leg stats: 4.29 miles; splits were 9:00/9:23/9:38/10:14/2:47 (the final .29 mile). Total time was 41:01 (9:34 pace).

Having finished the 16th leg, we had to go and wait for Alan to finish the 17th leg and then rally to the finish line to await Kristin finishing the 18th (and final) leg of the relay. As is customary, the teams gather at the meet-up spot and run the final .3 mile together to the finish line.

We spotted Kristin coming across the bridge, so we joined her and ran the final stretch. If you can imagine, all of us were feeling dead tired by that point, some of us were even limping. But we did it! We huddled and made it happen.Teamwork at its best!
With the finish line behind us.....
The final team standings showed that we placed 10th (out of 20) in the corporate team division. Our overall finish time was 10:34:34 (giving us an average pace of 8:20!) and finishing 84th place overall of the 400 teams. Not bad!

This event is very comparable to a Ragnar Relay, but on a smaller scale. As mentioned, we were company-sponsored corporate team, but there also were teams of families, friends, women, men, co-ed, collegiate...and a lot of the teams were dressed in costumes and had clever names.

The swag is decent....tech shirts for everyone and glass pints (in lieu of finisher medals).
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All in all, it was a great day. It was a fun adventure with a great crew of co-workers. We all ran strong and shared food, drink, and therapeutic essential oils. And, we totally got lucky with the weather. Even though it was cold and crazy windy, we avoided all of the forecasted rain (until AFTER the finish line).
Do we look tired?
We're already making plans for the 2019 Market to Market Relay. Anyone care to join us?

Have you ever done a team relay? Ever lucked out on the weather? Ever done a record number of U-turns in a mini-van?

**I'm  linking up with Marcia and Patty and Erika for Tuesdays on the Run. 

**I'm also linking this with Debbie and Rachel and Lora for the Running Coaches' Corner.

28 comments:

  1. I sat here wondering where you got that fabulous window sign. Haha! So this relay is not an overnight affair like Ragnar? Just the day? Sounds like fun and I'm glad the rain held off for you. The Ragnar I ran was 100 degrees for my last leg and not much cooler for the others. Ugh.

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    1. I'd love to do a Ragnar someday, but this M2M is pretty similar. Yes, the window sign was designed and fabricated by the peeps I work with ;-)

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  2. I think this kind of relay would be more my style than Ragnar, since it's not overnight. Sounds like fun!

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    1. It was a lot of fun! No overnight running, but a very early wake-up to start the day (since we chose to drive up the day of instead of lodging near the start line).

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  3. Oh like a mini Ragnar! How fun. Relays are the best for bonding aren't they? Where did you get the custom car decal sign?

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    1. The window sign was designed and fabricated by my place of work ;-) #workperks

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  4. How cool that your company sponsored a team for the race! It sounds like you all had a fun time :) And that's perfect that the rain held off until after the finish.

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    1. Gosh, we were SOOO thankful the rain stayed away!

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  5. Great job. Looks like fun.

    We have Ragnar races here and everyone says they are an amazing experience but I hesitate because I don't relish the idea of no sleep for several days.

    The one that is tempting is Seneca 7 since it is done by 7 runners and all in one day.

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    1. The Seneca 7 would be very similar to what we experienced...seven people on our team!

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  6. That sign is great! When I did Ragnar we just painted a similar check off sheet on our windows. I agree that exercises are a fun break :)

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    1. We painted our windows for the first year, but came up with the idea of the vinyl chart last year (and again this year). It got a lot of attention and promoted our company well ;-)

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  7. Great job to your team!! I've done Ragnar MA and Reach the Beach NH and this definitely sounds like a mini version of those. I never got a chance to do M2M Ohio when I lived in Cincy because I wasn't really running that much yet.

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    1. We have thought of also doing the M2M Nebraska (Omaha to Lincoln), but Ohio is a tad bit too far to drive. I believe the company who sponsors the relays (Pink Gorilla) offer a trifecta medal (?) for the teams who do all three locations.

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  8. GREAT job on this relay!!! I've done one Ragnar but this sounds like fun too since it doesn't require an overnight stay.

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    1. I would LOVE to do a Ragnar event some time, but there aren't any close to my area.

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  9. I think it's so great that you did this with your co-workers! Now that's great company spirit!

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    1. It really was a fun day! We're lucky our company is willing to sponsor our registration ;-)

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  10. Sounds like fun! I know some people at my job run, but not many. We find each other and talk about what runners talk about.

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    1. It's definitely nice having more in common with your co-workers than just your job ;-)

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  11. So forgive my ignorance Im not a runner BUT they have relay races for adults? I could so get into this I love team sports. Great job guys

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    1. This is kind of like an ultra-distance group run. The teams have runners who all take turns running the various "legs" of the course, one runner at a time.

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  12. Awesome job!!!! I knew so many people who ran that and felt so bad for the cool weather and rain. You all did so amazing, I was happy to be stuck inside on that day :)

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  13. Relay races sound so fun to me. I haven't done a relay race of any kind since high school track but they sound do fun!

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  14. you guess rocked this relay!!! I can imagine it was loads of fun!

    I did a marathon relay once - 4 of us, 4 different legs of the marathon in Milan. I did the last leg so I had the best views, but the weather was HORRIBLE. So no, we did not luck out with the weather hahaha!

    I also participated in the RoPa run last year but not as a runner, instead as one of the team massage therapists. During practice I subbed for a runner - there were quite a few van u-turns involved :) This year I'm doing Ragnar (as a runner) in Germany. Looking forward to that!

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  15. Wind is the worst!! I'd rather be out in rain or snow, but wind ruins everything. Good on you for sticking it through to the end. I'm not sure I would have...

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  16. The hardest part of that (to my mind) would be getting warm after the run. I can get so chilled after a run! That's gotta be tough. You guys did a great job.

    Nope, never done any type of team relay (and have only done one relay).

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  17. I've always thought Ragnar races sound fun, EXCEPT the multi-day aspect is a bit too intense for me. I'd love to do a single day relay like this!

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