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 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.
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.
|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?)|
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).
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.
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.
|Checking off my first leg on our customized chart|
|After 45 seconds, though, everyone bailed on me (ha!)|
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.
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.
|At the Stage 7 exchange point...I have ridden this slide every year|
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!
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!
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!
|With the finish line behind us.....|
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).
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).
We're already making plans for the 2019 Market to Market Relay. Anyone care to join us?
|Do we look tired?|
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?