Monday, September 16, 2013

Via Marathon Relay Company race report

Last week I ran in the Via Marathon Relay with my company.  If you recall, I was hesitant to run this as a relay at first.  I was torn because I ran this race last year as a relay and I really liked the course and I saw the results and I thought I could place in the half marathon distance of the race.  Coming off Maine, I figured I was in top shape so running a half marathon on a net downhill course would be a great way to PR and get a podium finish.  The race is divided up to a full marathon, half marathon, and marathon relay with 5 members running different distances along the marathon course.  After going back and forth, I decided to run with my company as part of the "fast" relay team.  The event is in the Bethlehem, PA area where my company is based, and my company had about 15 teams included in the relay in addition to about 80 more teams not associated with my company.  I was recruited to be past of the fast team for my company with the idea that we wanted to be really competitive.

Since I was the fastest on my team, my team captain wanted me to run the first leg, which was also the longest of the 5 distances.  Since he wanted to beat a specific other relay within a subdivision of our company, he calculated that I could probably get about a 4-5 minutes lead going into the first transition over that team.  Not bad for a 10k distance.

So I got to the start line around 6:45 for a 7 am start.  From there, I got a spot on the starting line.  Since it's a smaller race, it was just show up, grab a place on the line and go.  I felt a little bad starting in the front knowing that other runners were running the full marathon, but then I realized I would probably be going out faster than them, so it was better if I was in front of them.  After a few words from Bart Yasso (Runner's World is located in Bethlehem, PA also so they had some runners), the gun went off, and the race began.

You can spot me on the left with my bright yellow Skora Base's and blue shirt
When I ran this race last year, I used it as part of my NYC Marathon training, so I ran at my race pace for the first 17-18 miles.  However, this year would be completely different.  I was going to push myself for the 10k and see what I can do.  After the gun went off, I was in the 10th position pretty quickly.  Not just 10th in the relay, but 10th with the marathon participants also.  When I passed people wearing the marathon bibs, I gave them praise and told them not to worry about me since I was part of the relay.

After the first mile, I looked at my watch and my mile was done at 6:01.  I wasn't sure if this was good or bad.  I wanted to be around 6:08 or so, but I didn't know if this was going to be too fast.  At the first mile mark, there starts a huge downhill.  The descent is like 200 ft in something like a .5 mile distance.  It's fast, but also hard on the legs.  I took the hill and just went.  My second mile was done at 5:57.  Not bad but I knew I couldn't keep this up.  Either way, I didn't see anyone in front of me or behind me.  I was in a nice groove and just kept pushing.

The next 2 miles are somewhat of uphills so I had to adjust accordingly, as well as the course switches from street/paved road to packed trail.  I knew I would be a little slower from running the route last year, but my times didn't decrease that bad.  The next 2 miles came and went uneventfully, and I got to mile 5 and looked at my watch and I was cruising.  I knew I was easily on my way to a 10k PR so I was psyched.  I figured why not try and push this as hard as I could to get as much of a lead over the next relay team as I could.  I started to feel the "team" concept right about now.  Instead of looking at my watch and gunning for my time, I was focused on getting my time as fast as possible so my team would have as large of a lead as I could get them.

With about .5 mile left in my run, I saw one runner and picked up the pace and caught him.  I came around a corner and saw the hand off for the next relay leg.  I cruised into this area and handed off and was done with my 10k. My team told me I was the 3rd overall relay person to come through.

Looking at my watch, I did my 10k in 37:11.  Miles 3 and 4 made me slow down a little but I was still happy with this time.

After getting some water/Gatorade, my team whisked me away and we had to drive to the next checkpoint so runner #2 could hand off.  The rest of the race was somewhat a blur to me.  I was in the car for some of the race driving from checkpoint to checkpoint and cheering on my team.  And then some of the race, I ended up running the course to get some miles in.  I paced 2 of my teammates along their relay legs.

As the race went on, I really enjoyed the day.  Helping pace another teammate was fun for me.  I wasn't a fan of running slower than normal, but it was a great feeling when I was with one of my teammates and all I could hear was cursing and him wanting to slow down, but I kept him going and at the end of his leg, he told me he wouldn't have been able to finish that fast without me pushing him.

When the final leg of the relay came, our teammate was off and after about 6 minutes of waiting 2 other runners asked if we want to finish the course together so I figured what's another 4 miles.  So the 3 of us started to run and make our way to the finish area.  Along the way, we saw a whole bunch of marathon runners hitting their wall, so we continued to offer support and praise to them.  They had it hard. They ran the whole marathon. We were only running 6 miles or less.  Even in a few situations, we reached runners who were cramping up and needed help.  We gave them Gatorade, salt tablets, and gels along the course, so it was nice to help other runners who needed it.

As we came up to the finish line, we helped pace one runner in particular who was really thankful to us afterwards.

All in all, it was a good day to run and get some miles in.  I ran a total of 14 miles in 1:32 for the day.  Some of that was my 10k PR, and some being pacing others.

Our relay ended up being the top relay in the company and the 4th fastest overall.  Our President/CEO was extremely pleased with us.  He couldn't stop smiling that we finished so strong.

I'm glad I did this race as a relay.  Sometimes it's good to be part of a team and not worry about going out there and needing to run a great race by yourself.  It was a fun day.  The only thing I didn't like was something that didn't affect me.  As I was running other legs of the relay, I felt bad for the actual marathon runners.  It's hard enough to run a full marathon.  But these runners keep getting passed all the time from the relay runners.  Running a marathon takes enough mental strength.  Having to see "fresh" runners passing you all the time is not something that would be motivating.  There is nothing that can be done about this, but it is something that I noticed along the course.

Finishing the race and helping green bib runner close out his marathon

Now that the relay is over, it's time to focus on my last individual race in October.

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