Palmetto 200 Relay – April 30 – May 1 2010

Thanks to Mr Sig for the support and organizing a cool relay event. I know we were a team that was kind of random and most of us met just before the race – I had no expectations of being competitive but it was thrilling how the team really came together and almost placed overall.

I had three legs to the relay: 8.8 miles, 6.6 miles and 7.5 miles each about 8 hours apart. I was runner #3 on the team and you can see the legs on the website. My goal was to try and maintain close to the calculated relay pace, which was 7:27 for me. This is also almost right at the pace I would need to qualify for Boston, so it would be interesting to see how I responded.

Right off the bat, though, I knew this was going to be tough. The high on both days was scheduled for high 80’s. I had my first leg at around noon, and it was already broiling. I was roaring to go on the first leg (8.8 mi) and did a ridiculous 1st mile for the conditions, around 6:45. Not a good idea. Not only was my leg full of hills but completely exposed with little or no shade. I basically hemmorhaged seconds each split as the heat really took its toll. Fell all the way to about 8 minutes/mile by mile 8, but was able to go sub 8 pace again in the last 0.8 with the van and exchange zone in sight. Just brutal conditions. To make matters worse, the runner on the team we were closest to blew by me halfway into the leg, pulling about 5ish pace (later found out he was a 2:30 marathoner). I was really spent after that leg and started to worry about how it would effect the other legs.

2nd leg (6.6 miles)was thankfully at night, just after 8:30 or so. I knew our team was doing well, just a few minutes behind our projected pace despite the terrible heat. Temps had cooled to the 60’s and I was feeling better, though still not 100 percent. Had to run in a crazy get up – reflective vest, headlamp and 2 blinking red lights, in a completely dark rural area with little but a straight road, which thankfully was nearly flat. I decided to go all out and reclaim some of that lost time from my first leg. Felt really good after I got going – just started knocking off 6:50ish and 7:0X splits. Passed a few people, but 2:30 marathon guy caught me again in the 3rd mile. At 6.6 miles by Garmin I still couldnt see a finish and I was close to panicking that I had missed a turn. Finally saw the exchange zone and Garmin read 6.96 miles at 7:08 pace. I was happy with that, but started worrying immediately about that last leg. I was pretty cashed at that point, having done almost 16 miles of hard race effort.

We had a hotel room to crash for a little bit after the last runner in our van did his leg at 11:00 pm or so. No one was really sleeping though so we headed for the next exchange zone to try and sleep while the other van ran their legs. Got maybe 2 hours of very interrupted sleep in our van. Woke up feeling completely wrecked – sore and exhausted.  Our other van (with Mr Sig) had kept up the good pace, and I was determined to try and continue that. My last leg was 7.5 miles, again flat and straight, at about 5:30 in the morning. My toes were killing me from doing the first 2 legs in my racing flats, and my quads were already really sore. I switched to my trainers for the last leg, which was probably a mistake. I again took off in the first mile, doing 7:15, but I knew I was in trouble pretty fast. Just felt terrible physically and the lack of sleep made the mental effort even tougher. Was able to hold it together through the first 4 miles at OK pace mid to high 7’s, but the wheels came off at about mile 5. I started seeing spots and the headlamp light was disorienting me a bit. After being unable to shake it, I just stopped and walked for about 10-15 seconds, and was able to recover enough to keep going. The last miles were brutal – I was more concerned about actually completing the leg and not being a medical issue more than maintaining any kind of pace. Somehow I was able to keep an 8:30ish pace, probably because I was so intent to finish. Passed a guy that looked as bad as I felt, but was walking, tried to offer some encouragement. Actually was able to get a second wind and do 7:50 in the last half mile, and man was I glad to get that leg over.

After my finish I felt much better and coffee and a sausage biscuit totally reenergized me. I was sorer than I’ve ever been, but it was great to follow the remaining 9 runners all the way to Folly Beach, including a group finish with Mr Sig for the last 100 meters.

In all, a unique and cool experience. I had a really nice and supportive team, so that made the painful parts much more bearable. Was so excited that a team of newbies like ourselves could have placed so well.

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