Monday, May 17, 2010

Beach to Bay Marathon Relay Race Report

My co-worker (A, from Team Erin) has done this race several times and managed to pull together several of us from work to form a team.  The premise is that you do a marathon as a 6-person relay in Corpus Christi.  Each leg is 4-5 miles, starting from the beach and ending at the bay.  We decided to make a weekend of it and rent a condo on the beach.  Sharing a condo with coworkers is a whole other level of weirdness (I really try to limit being too social with my direct coworkers, due to being stabbed pretty bad by some coworker "friends" a few jobs ago.  Sharing a 3 bedroom condo was out of my comfort zone, but my fiscal cheapness won out).  To make things complicated for me personally, this race is 4 weeks before my Boise 70.3, which is pretty bad timing to be taking 3-day weekend trip AND doing a race.  Not to mention trying to get my 70.3 training in.

I had to get a bike ride in, so I got up early Friday morning and rode 35 miles.  My Garmin died (wouldn't charge, turn on, connect - nothing), so I was a bit panicky!  Fortunately, the unit came back to life after a soft reset (unlike the last time it died and I had to send it back in).  Then I had a whopping 1 hr to shower and pack before A picked me up.  We ended up having lunch by my house (with me decked out in my compression recovery tights), then loaded up everything (running and cycling gear) and hit the road.  The weather was crappy (rain) but we made decent time - got to the packet pick up at 5:15 PM.  I had never heard of B2B before and was very surpised to hear that there were 12,000 people running.  That's 2,000 people PER leg.  Craziness.  Pick-up was fairly disorganized (and crowded!) but we got it done.  Headed down to the island to our condo, unpacked, and waited for the rest of the team to show up.  We got tired of waiting, so we headed over to the restaurant for dinner, which was so crowded it was unreal.  Ended up being seated at 9 PM.  WAY to late of a dinner for me.  Had tuna w/potatoes, then it was back to the condo.  The last couple showed up and we were all wound up and ended up staying up much later than I prefer (11:30) chatting.

Saturday (pre-race)
Our condo was 1 block from the beach, and the race had a beach start that according to some people's phones was 0.5 miles away from our condo.  Leg #1 was a beach out and back run and  I was doing Leg #2, which started on the beach and went to the Causeway Bridge.  I got up at 6 AM, tried to make coffee but couldn't figure out where A stashed it.  Runner #1 was up and getting ready, and we both wished we had taken the time the night before to scout out the race start, as we had no idea about where it was specifically.  Race started at 7 AM, so #1 left around 6:30.  I left at ~6:40 and quickly realized that the race start was not as close as we thought.  I jogged 1 mile before getting to the beach access (#4) and I had to walk down the beach ~3/4 of a mile to the pier which was where the race started.  I had never done a relay, so I didn't know what to expect, but this was crazy.  I was expecting to see a sign or an inflatible or "something" indicating the hand-off location.  Instead I round 2,000 Leg #2 runners crowded in a narrow part of the beach (it was high tide and there wasn't much room).  They crammed us into the area which also contained the water station AND the first aid tent.  And then you add the stress of trying to hear your team number being called over the speaker (poor announcer guy sounded like an auctioneer) and trying to see your relay person before he went past you.  Not to mention pre-race jitters and a boat-load of volunteers yelling at the #2 people to move back to give the runners room in the chute.  Argh!

When we were putting our relay together, we had to predict our run time, so that the next person knew about what time to expect the baton.  I said I would "try" for 50 min (10:42 pace for 4.67 miles).  Wasn't too sure how that would go, given all my training for the week, but it was a nice round number so I went with it.

The first runners showed up 20 min after the gun.  Then the nervous waiting started.  I didn't hear my team number get called, but fortunately, my #1 is TALL, so I spotted him right away.  It also helped that I had a neon green tank top with a gun-toting panda bear on the front.  He passed the baton off and did not look happy at all.  Hmmm...  It was very congested and I was still on sand, but I tried to get moving.  It was also very warm and humid, which aren't optimal for running.  After ~500 yards I found pavement and started to make my way northward, holding around an 11:00 pace, passing some and getting passed by others.  I was crusing along and then around mile 1 I noticed very dark ominous clouds, and even said aloud "that looks BAD".  Then just like that I ran into what felt like a wall of cold wind, which was a very strange feeling.  It literally was like walking into a walk-in cooler with strong headwind.  At first I was a bit freaked but once I realized that this meant COLD air temperatures I was probably the happiest runner out there.  I love cold!  This meant I could push things faster w/out blowing my HR up.  Sweet!

I estimate that the winds were ~20+ mph with some pretty intense gusts.  And then it started raining.... small drops at first and then rain so heavy it felt like hail.  I was wearing my Texas 70.3 hat and didn't want to lose it, so I ran with my head down to keep my hat from blowing away.  That made the view for nearly the whole race consist of my shoes and the pavement directly in front of my shoes.  Awesome.  Water stops were amusing, as the paper cups were blowing every which way and the poor volunteers (which I thanked loudly) were drenched.  I was drenched.  But I wasn't hot and was so stinking happy to be running in windy torrential downpours in cool air temperatures.  As I was running and pushing faster, I just kept thinking to myself "I can do this - this is good training for Boise - I am a triathlete and a little wind/rain is no problem".  With the last 1.7 miles to go, I sped up and started passing people who had passed me.  I felt strong.  The last 0.7 mile, I'm pretty sure I was close to a 9 minute split (+/- 15 seconds).  This was where I realized I could "trust my training".  All those track workouts with sprint intervals and the recent hour long decend pace runs were paying off.  I was running as fast as I could and not dying.  Hooray!  I looked up and saw the bridge, and knew my #3 runner was just beneath it.  I had to run faster, and I did.  I glanced at my Garmin and it showed 8:30/mile as my pace.  I felt pukey, indicating I was right on target for finishing strong.  As I came into the chute to hand off my baton, I found #3 easily and wished him luck.  Poor guy had to run OVER the bridge with wind, rain, and now lightening.  Eeeps.

I looked at my watch as I passed the baton and I came in at 48 minutes - 2 min faster than predicted, and at a 10:16 pace. 

Post-run bonus miles
It was very congested and to get my training miles in, I needed to reverse my route and run back to the condo.  And it was raining and lightning out.  Plus there was major congested traffic on the side of the road I had to run on. 

None of that mattered - I just beat my time and had a FANTASTIC run.  I ran fast and had SO MUCH FUN in crazy conditions.  In fact, the crazy conditions are probably what made it so fun.  What can I say, I'm not wired like normal people.... I like crazy stuff.  I ran/skipped/floated my first ~2 miles back in sheer happiness, even as a ran through puddles and had jerks driving on the shoulder I was running on. 

Then a window opened of a car stuck in traffic - it contained runners #4 and 5.  Stuck in traffic.  Not good.  But nothing I could do about it, so I just ran back to the condo.  Did a total of 9.25 miles (warm-up, race leg, and return run).  I was one soggy mess.  But a happy soggy mess.

Rest of Saturday
We hung around the condo for a while, and after ~30 minutes, runners #4 and #5 came back, saying traffic was so bad there was no way they could get over the bridge and to their start.... so DNF for our team :/  But they brought groceries for breakfast, so we made the best of it.  After an hour (ish) things cleared up and they decided to try and make the final leg.  Traffic was gone, so A ran the final leg and crossed the finish line.  So not quite a DNF....

While they were gone, I took a nap (yay!).  Once they came back, we ran around for a bit doing tourist errands (swimsuits and beer), then spend quality time by the pool (it turned gorgeous and sunny!).  4 of the 8 condo-mates went back to Houston in the afternoon, and 2 of the condo-mates had plans with friends.  So that left just A and me up to our own devices.  My coach wanted me to do another 35 mile ride that day, and we did go through the hassle of bringing our bikes with us.  So we headed off on Road 22 south, with the intention of only doing as much as we felt.  The roads were crappy (chip seal and VERY rough) and while traffic was light, those on the roads were jerks.  So, we rode down to where the state park started (11 miles) and turned around.  My wrists were killing me from the rough roads, so I was happy to be headed back home.  We turned north and found wind (boo!).  Nothing major but still annoying.  Did a total of 22 miles and called it good. 

We got cleaned up and tried a very cute bistro I saw near the condo (Black Sheep Bistro), split a bottle of wine, and had a tasty dinner.

All in all, a very good day. :)

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