Flying Pig Marathon was this past weekend, and last Monday I had this message from my good friend Mark show up on my computer, "Totally last minute, but one of my relay members had to pull out for this Sundays race. Any interest in running?" Let me think for about 2 seconds, ...YES! I've always wanted to do a relay, but had never put the effort into getting one going, and no one had ever asked me to be part of one. Sure it's only 13 days after the Boston Marathon, but why not!
Had to get permission from the Mrs (she loves me), and make sure I could crash with him on Saturday night, and I'm in! I didn't even care which leg he had me run! I did the Flying Pig Half Marathon last year, so I had already run the first leg 6.84 miles, and most of the second leg 5.16 miles, so when Mark told me I'd be running the 3rd leg, I was glad to run a new section of the course, even if it was the longest leg at 7.67 miles!
I arrived to Mark's house around 8 pm on Saturday night, and his cousin Shaun came over to meet me. Shaun would run the 2nd leg and it was important that I knew who I was looking for in the exchange zone. Shaun is a Cincinnati firefighter and I enjoyed getting to meet he and his wife and son. I was settled into my accommodations around 9:30, got all my gear ready and fast asleep before 11, which meant less than 6 hours of sleep before that 4:45 alarm went off!
The race starts at 6:30 and we had to allow time for the commute, traffic, parking, and then board our buses that would transport us to the start line! I learned later that there were over 600 relay teams! That's 1800 people that have to be transported to 3 different exchange zones! They were ready for us, and it could not have been better!
So the only negative to the relay is that if you run a later leg, there is alot of down time waiting on your teammates! It reminded me of the long wait I had at Boston before the start, only this time it was not raining. In any case, I was in my exchange zone by 6:15 and was pleased to see that they had space blankets for us to wrap up in since it was still a chilly 48 degrees. I took a "nap" for about an hour wrapped up like a homeless person in a warehouse parking lot as I watched a beautiful sunrise!
There were 4 marked areas to hang out in and wait for your teammate. Someone with a sound system was positioned about 30 yards down the road and would announce the bib numbers as runners came in. Then another person with a bullhorn would repeat it if no one made a move into the alley. Each team was provided a timing chip, placed inside a small tube that must be transferred from runner to runner. Some teams put the timing device in a belt with a strap and just passed it on to reclip from runner to runner. Others like us took the chip out of the tube and just handed it off and carried it all the way. Every team had a different method for the exchange. Some teams would handoff just like you would in the 4X100 track relays (they were in it to win it), and others took 3 minutes to talk, snap a selfie, exchange gear, etc. One side of the road is reserved for full marathoners continuing through and the other side is for the exchange. It got really congested as the race wore on, but the energy was so high and very exciting!
I took the timing chip from Shaun and blew out of the zone. (Shaun crushed the hills with a sub 10 pace) It was so much fun for me to actually be passing people! Tried not to get too cocky since these people were 12 miles into their race, but it still felt good. All relay runners wore a yellow bib that read RELAY on the back of their shirt, so most of the people that were passing me were fellow relay runners who also just received the handoff. My first couple miles had some hills, but I just wanted to go fast and crush them, so I kept running hard and knocked out the first two miles in 9:33 and 9:47! I kept the press on during mile 3 at 10:12. Shortly after that reality set in. I would guess it was a combination of unrecovered legs, pushing too hard on the early hills and just a touch of heat (it was into the 60s now), but it was all I could do to hold on to miles 4 and 5 at 10:59 and 11:04.
I was feeling good that I had yet to walk at all and thought with only 2.7 left I might make it until I turned a corner and found THE hill that broke me! It wasn't a necessarily long hill, but was VERY steep. I made it about 3 strides into it and felt my legs quit and fall into a heavy walk. I don't know about you, but once I walk, it is so hard to get going again. At the top of the hill I tried to find a little jog, but I rarely could go more than a minute or two before I had to walk again. Miles 6 and 7 were a dismal 12:50 and 12:42 even though the course flattened out significantly, and many of those people that I passed were now catching back up to me!
With 0.7 left, the thought of not wanting to let the team down comes in to play. It gets in your head and really motivated me to just push through it. Once I could see the relay zone ahead, there was no way I was going to walk again. It was pretty cool to see Mark emerge from the crowd into the alley and raise his hand to get my attention. Handed it off and he was gone! 1:25:48 on my watch and 1:26:06 on the official clock for an 11:14 pace.
The exchange area here was just like the one I started in with apples, water and gatorade. Plenty of folks milling around and cheering as well. A short walk to the waiting bus, and we're on our way back downtown! Once off the bus, I follow a gated area that leads to the actual "Finish Swine" where I get my medal and all the same great post race food and drink that everyone else gets! Pretty decent medal considering each runner gets one! I had a text from Shaun who was waiting on me at the exit and we met up to cheer Mark in to the finish line!
When it was all said and done, our official time was 5:00:04! How crazy is that!? It's like I have a curse with that darn 5 hour mark! Can't even break it with a relay team! It's just not meant to be! We ended up 471/607 relay teams!