Saturday, June 03, 2006

Rainier to Ruston Relay

Eric and I were up at 6:00 to begin race day prep. Rob came by about 6:30 to pick up his packet, and Eric's team all met at our house at 7:15 - the 4 runner teams started a half hour earlier than our 6 runner teams. After I saw the guys off, I had about a 15 minute wait till Amy and Sonya picked me up. We headed for the Y to meet the rest of our team - Margaret, Linda, Jenny and our official photographer, Darcy. We were off!

We had about an hour drive up to the start point. We pulled in about 10 minutes before Eric's team was ready to go. We looked for Rob along the way, but he was on one of the secluded trail sections when we went by. We saw Eric's team off, hit the porta potty lines and got our starting line picture. We found the other Y team and had a chance to chat. There were a lot of cars crowded into the smallish clearing. This is the second official year of the race - the first year was a private run, last year was the first year open to the public. Last year Eric and Rob ran it as an ultra, and we had two Y teams. Apparently the number of teams doubled this year, and quite a few more ultra runners signed up too.

Finally, it was time for the start - Linda was our first runner. After they left, we piled in the van to head to the first transition. We saw Linda running with Anna from the other Y team so waved our cow bells and whooped and hollered. That set the tone for the rest of the relay - whenever we had a chance we were sticking our arms out the window, ringing bells and yelling. It was big fun! At the second transition, we discovered that Amy had packed a pop-up changing tent - we pulled it out just so we could see how cool it was. It was great - right up to the point where we tried to pack it back up. That was a no-go. No matter what we tried we couldn't get it back to the small original size. We finally stuffed into the back of the van and figured we'd deal with it at the next stop. I think we ended up trying to fold it up at every transition and weren't ever able to. At one point, Jenny shifted a bag in the back, which caused the tent to pop out and attack her. Too funny.

It was finally my turn to run about 12:15. (Race started at 9:30) I was leg 5. This was a paved section of trail, mostly secluded, very slight downhill all the way. 4.8 miles, 50:04, 10:26 pace, hot and muggy. There was a family with younger children (probably 10 - 12 years old) running the relay too. There was about eight of them waiting for their runner on a quiet section of trail. They found a bunch of long branches and held them over the trail creating a long arch for me to run through (it reminded me of military weddings where they hold the swords up for the bride and groom to walk through). They showed up again toward the end and this time were waving fern fronds at me. Pretty cool. By this time, I'm feeling my toes. I used white medical tape on them, and I knew that it was rubbing my big toe. I knew there was a bridge near the end of the trail - I ran over thinking, okay, this must be it. Then there was another bridge and I could see a bend after that, so I'm thinking, all right, this is the end, only to round the bend and see the third bridge and another bend. Now I'm thinking, this has to be it. There can't possibly be anymore bridges or bends! Finally I catch a glimpse of parked cars beside the trail, I make the bend and there's the bell stand, with Sonya waiting underneath. At each transition, the incoming runner runs beneath a bell stand, yanks the rope and slaps the other runner hand to send them off. This was a short leg for Sonya, so we piled right into the car to get to the next transition.

Linda's husband Rich, rode his bike and crewed for Rob. He was waiting for us at the next transition. I didn't get to hear much about what was going on - I was trying to change and get some food and drink in. On these shorter relays, it's hard to judge how much food and drink to take in to fuel for the next leg, but not overeat. I figured I had about two hours till my next run. I pulled off my socks to discover a gigantic blister on my big toe. Jenny told me that I should've put vaseline on it after I taped up the other. Too late now, so I just wrapped it up too. I heard from Linda that Eric's team was about two and a half legs ahead of us. Rob was about two legs ahead. We never did catch either of them.

Eventually my next leg came up. Leg 11 (out of 12 legs). 4.3 miles, 49:10, 11:26 pace. The clouds had moved in, making it overcast and the wind picked up. It was actually perfect - much more comfortable than the first leg. I ran about 50 feet and got caught by a red light. I hit the crosswalk button and waited. The next runner made it in and ran to the corner to wait with me. Sheesh! We should've planned ahead and had someone hit that button for us! This leg runs straight down the road, past car dealerships and Costco, then turns into a deserted industrial area. My teammates tracked me through this area, driving a little ahead, watching (and cheering and ringing) as I went by, till I was almost out of sight, then moving a little ahead again. I was feeling really good, no pain in the toes, strong legs. Of course, now that I see my pace, I see why - a whole minute per mile longer than my first leg! After running under the freeway and over a railroad yard and the river, I hit one of the not-so-nice streets in Tacoma. I ran past a tavern with an open door and all the patrons cheered me on, I ran past three or four transients, who also wished me good luck. I finally got stuck at a street corner waiting for the light, and a homeless guy asked me how far I was running. I replied that it was a 50 mile relay. He was shocked I was running 50 miles, and I explained that my legs were about 9 miles. He told me "you're gonna be in good shape". As I crossed the street I entered downtown Tacoma, where I got to run past the History Museum, Union Station and finally, my transition at the Art Museum. I got a nice treat there - Margaret and Amy had a coffee frappicino for me! It was the perfect way to end my share of the relay. Once again, we piled in the van to head to the finish.

We got there to find Eric's team and Rob waiting. Eric's team took first in the four-runner division, winning a coveted golden spike. Rob was disappointed in his time, but in pretty good humor about it. After some socializing, we headed for the Y. A few of us decided to go to dinner, and everyone else headed home. I can't begin to tell you just how much fun we had today - for one thing, we decided "what happens in the van, stays in the van." There's nothing quite like a relay with your running buddies!

I forgot to add: Thanks to Amy for letting us use the perfect relay van, and to Darcy, photographer and driver. Pictures to come soon!


olga said...

Sounds like you had a great day! Dang for the cross-walk:)

PuddyRat said...

Wow! It was so GREAT seeing all of you at the Carbonado site.

I, too, remember the transients on that leg of the relay from last year. They were all quite nice and very supportive. As you said, they were quite shocked to find out it was a 50 mile relay and they didn't seem to care that our portions of it were much less. They were still duly impressed!

I sure missed running with you all this year but, as we know, I have other goals. Maybe I can hook up with you next year!

robtherunner said...

Man you were a speedster out there on your first leg and you should have also noted that you probably crushed my time for leg 11. I guess I will have to come run with you on Wednesday again and see if you can work on my speed with me.

TryAthlete said...

Sounds like it was a whole lot of fun! Congratulations to Eric too!

Robb said...

What a great report. Those relays sound like a lot of fun. You did well. Congrats to Eric, Rob and all others.

angie's pink fuzzy said...

woo hoo!!! what fun :) congrats to eric's team!