Monday, August 30, 2010

100 on 100 Relay

I tried to post a video of my wife running the start of the movie, but gave up after Blogger spent over 3 hours allegedly processing a 40 second movie. Hopefully this photo of her finishing her last leg at the bottom of the Killington access road will work.

The 100 on 100 relay is a six-person relay event that starts at the Trapp Family Lodge in Stowe, Vermont and travels south through the state to Okemo Ski Resort. Most of the race is on route 100, although the course deviates from route 100 a few times for safety reasons.

This past Saturday marked my 3rd time running this event in the past 4 years. Regretfully, I'm not in the kind of shape I was the last two times, but I still had a lot of fun, even if I was slower than in the past.

Three years ago, I was on a fairly fast team and I was probably the second fastest runner on the team then, but I was also suffering from a cold on race day. I believe we finished 14th overall with a time around 13:30.

Two years ago, we lost half of our team in the days leading up to the race. One person suffered a "cardiac event" and was not allowed to run. Another called in at the last minute with a "dead family member" story (It was probably true, but it sounded suspicious to me for some reason). And, a third team member got stuck in an airport and didn't make it home in time to run. She sent her boyfriend to run in her place, and we found one other last minute replacement runner. Despite our best efforts, our five person team fell behind time-wise, and we had to skip two relay legs to finish under the cut-off (allowed, but you are no longer an official finisher). I ran four legs that day, and had a great running day, but our team struggled as the day wore on.

This year, we lost one runner about a week or so before the race. But, we were ready with an alternate this time - my wife. I think she had only agreed to be an alternate because she never believed she'd be pressed into service. Luckily, she really enjoyed the day and she would like to do the relay again. She even suggested she might train next time.

The race uses a staggered start based on speed estimates from runners. They ask each runner to list their estimated 5 mile race pace. I had raced 5 miles only once recently, and I was ridiculously slow, but that race was in high heat and humidity. I estimated myself at 9:45 mpm, slower than I've been for years, but it was a realistic estimate.

The earliest start time was 6:00 a.m. and our team was assigned the 6:30 slot. Every team must finish by 11:00 p.m., and if you are too slow after the 15th stage, they bump you ahead to get you to the finish line on time. The race is a charity event and while they recognize the competitive aspect of the run, they also want all teams to cross the finish line. This is different than other relay events that I've done in the past.

So, at 6:30 a.m., my wife took off on the shortest leg of the event, a 2.5 mile, somewhat hilly trail loop. Next, Jack did a mostly downhill 10K or so (I don't remember the exact distances, so if I list all 18 of them and they don't add up to 100 miles, it's my faulty memory), and then I was next in the number 3 slot. To be honest, I'd asked for #3 because it's the easiest of the six and I'm not in great shape. There are no huge uphills and after a 7.0 mile first leg, the day gets easier.

I hit the one mile mark in 8:07. Uh-oh. That was stupid. I settled down, but continued to run sub-10's, which made me pretty happy. I did struggle late in the leg with two short but steep hills, and I finished in 67 minutes or so. I was happy to run that speed over that course at this point in time.

The next runner was Christy, who had some tough uphill miles and then a screaming descent to Harwood High School. She was doing a 7:20 pace when she finished and she ran really well all day - better than she gives herself credit for. Next, Brad had a mostly flat 5 miler to Waitsfield elementary school, and then Kristen took off on one of the tougher legs of the day - almost 6 miles with a very long climb to start and only one real downhill. When she finished that stretch, everyone had done one leg.

My wife next left on a 6.6 mile leg that went downhill for 3+ miles and then mostly climbed along the headwaters of the Mad River. We stopped to get some food while she ran and then met her a couple times along the way to offer water. It was now after noon and things were getting warm. My wife mixed some walking in with her running, but finished her run with a smile on her face. But, the heat was starting to be an issue.

Next, Jack had a really tough leg - the longest of the day. Previously, this leg had been second longest, but the loss of an exchange area pushed this leg down the road a bit, making a tough (but very scenic) leg even tougher. Jack's 8.3 miles took him further up the headwaters of the Mad River to Granville Gulf, the dividing line for the Mad River and the First Branch of the White River. After 2+ miles uphill, Jack passed through the gulf and started downhill along the headwaters of the White River.

When he handed off to me, he was soaked with sweat and looked beat. Next, I had what should have been the easiest leg of the day - a flat 3.5 miler. But, the heat really affected me and it took me 36 minutes to finish this leg - no fun at all. The next few legs were flat, but the heat was taking its toll on everyone. Christy ran really well to the Rochester Elementary School, re-passing the team we'd designated as our arch-rivals.

It seems that every year, a team finds itself running close to another team. I'm not sure when this other team started in the morning, but at the end of the third leg we were really close. As the day progressed and we stayed close, they became our targets - something to keep us all motivated. They were faster than us in leg 1 and 3 - the girl who ran their leg #3 passed me on my first two legs and I started behind her in leg #3. We were faster than them on legs 4 and 6. Legs 2 and 5 were fairly even, although we seemed to have a slight edge.

After I'd gotten smoked on my 3.5 miler by the other runner, I was shocked to see that Christy had re-passed them. Next, Brad took off on a long, mostly flat leg, exposed to the sun most of the way. He told us after his leg that another runner had passed him near the end, decided he'd had enough, and simply said "F*ck it. I'm done". I don't know if he really quit or not, and he was only half a mile from the end of his leg.

Next was Kristen for a 5+ mile leg. She'd been fighting a headache most of the day and hoped that running would make her feel better. Given the 8:09 pace she ran and the smile she showed at the end of the leg, she seemed better.

Suddenly, we were starting our last legs. But, runners 1 through 3 have very interesting finales. My wife had a 6.7 mile uphill run that climbed a net 800 feet. She was tired and estimated that she'd run 1:30 to 1:45. I thought the 1:30 might be realistic, but not 1:45. We stopped to give her water twice and she was doing great. She ran 1:20 said later that she'd felt really strong. I know I could not have gone that fast at that point in time.

Next, Jack had another major climb to a parking lot at the Killington Ski Resort. He averaged about 8:40 per mile on this final leg - a great run considering that he had been fighting an injury to his leg all day long. On Sunday, he could barely walk, but Saturday evening, he cruised up this tough four mile leg. From there, I had a 4.5 mile leg with a net downhill of about 1000 vertical feet, but with a couple good-sized uphills in the first couple miles, I probably did at least 1300' of descent. According to my Foreruner, my pace on this leg varied from 5:58 per mile to 17:20. At the 5K mark, already on the final descent, I was right at a 10 pace, but it was all downhill from there, and I was able to push pretty hard those last couple miles. Today, I can't really walk down stairs without holding a handrail, but I'm glad I pushed hard on those last miles.

At this point, it seemed that every van in the race was a mix - three runners were done and they were drinking beer, and three runners still needed to run, and they wanted to finish so they could have a beer soon. Many of the team vans were decorated and many of them made reference to beer. Beer seems to be the primary fuel of relay runners, or at least the preferred recovery drink.

Next, Christy took off on a fairly flat 10K leg, and it was now getting dark. Every runner was required to wear a reflective vest, a flashing red light on their back, and a flashlight or headlamp. Christy ran another very strong leg and once again, she caught our "rivals". They probably never knew we were gunning for them, but it kept us motivated. As I'd done my last descent, my only thought was to keep us close enough for Kristy and Kristen to finish them off.

After we got back to the "van" (our van was actually a huge rented SUV) and headed down the road, we were surprised to see that the rivals had just about caught Brad. We started telling Kristen she'd have to run six minute miles for us to win. It turned out that Brad got passed, recognized the rivals, and refused to give in. He gave Kristen a lead of about a minute heading into the final leg of the race.

As we drove past Kristen running that final leg, Jack told her that the rivals were behind her. That was accurate, but sort of misleading. She had a good lead, but Jack thought she needed some motivation. Something worked, as Kristen averaged a sub-8 pace to the finish line. We "beat" our rivals by about seven minutes, finishing in 15:17, vs. a projected time (estimated by race officials) of 15:00.

We had some dinner, some beer, and then quickly found our rental condo for the night. We'd all been up for a long time and sleep was needed.

On Sunday, people were in various states of tiredness and soreness. Jack's leg was really hurting. My quads were beat up from the last descent. Of course, all three of our female runners would barely admit to being tired and no one was in pain. Just the guys.

Maybe they should replace the guys with some tougher runners next year.

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