Monday, April 26, 2010

Louisville Marathon Relay Team Race Recap!

This past weekend, I did the Louisville Marathon Relay as a team with Mandy and Melissa. This was my first time doing a marathon relay and also doing the Louisville race. I really had no expectations other than hoping I could run a decent pace for my leg. Actually legs. The relay consists of teams of 3 to 5 people that run a total of 5 legs of different distances. We had a team of 3, which meant some of us ran multiple legs. I happened to get lags 3 and 4 for a total of 9.3 miles, or a 15k.

My overall impression is that this race is pretty disorganized. That said, it was a fun weekend and a nice little break from reality. I warn you now: my recap gets a little long…

We couldn't find a lot of specific information on the website regarding how the relay would work or what to expect. We arrived at the packet pick-up and expo with lots of questions and concerns. Everything was answered for us by the lady at the relay team table. She explained how we would take buses to our designated transition spots and wait for our teammate to hand off the timing sensor. Seemed easy enough, although we would be separate the whole race without much of a chance to cheer each other on. The biggest issue was that they ran out of shirts. So, even though we registered 1.5 months ahead of time, they didn’t order the right amount of shirts. That was a bit disappointing, especially since we were team 01 out of 60 total teams. So, how could they not have our shirts?!? My other thought is that the math is easy: 60 teams x max of 5 members = 300 shirts. Seriously, this is not rocket science and for the price we paid to register, it would have been nice to have a shirt to bring home. They had us write down our names and sizes on a scratch piece of paper. Who knows if we’ll ever get the shirts or not…

The expo was okay. There were a good amount of vendors, but it was definitely cramped and hard to get around. The convention center downtown was massive, yet they seemed to stick the expo in the smallest room available. Also, the actual race merchandise was not that great. They had hardly any selection or sizes left and what was there was not that great of quality (i.e., screen printing on the shirts was not centered or was peeling, etc). So, not only did we not get a shirt as part of registration, we couldn’t even buy a shirt to bring home. Definitely disappointing!

The race was fun. The hills were killer. The humidity was stifling.

I boarded a bus from downtown Louisville and was taken to some neighborhood near the University of Louisville campus. The bus dropped us off around 7:30, which was the start time of the race. Knowing Mandy’s pace and the fact it could take her a good 10 minutes or more to get to the start line from way back in coral C (where they stuck all the relay teams), I had a good 1.5 hours to kill. The people were nice and we talked awhile before going in search of restrooms from hydrating all morning. Since we were in the middle of a neighborhood, there was nothing. No bathrooms, no port-a-potties, no water, no nothing except the curb and a row of houses. We hiked a good 2 miles round-trip to find a bathroom and ended up going in a building on campus. When we got back, someone had dropped water for the relay runners, but it was across the street and down a block from our exchange point, to no one saw it until later on. It was raining some, so I used a garbage bag to stay dry.

I waited for Mandy to hand off the sensor to me at mile 9.3. I would then run until mile 18.6 to meet Melissa who ran the remainder of the marathon. There were 15,000 runners and a much smaller number of relay runners. Thankfully, at our exchange point, they had spotters a few blocks back looking for relay team members. We had special bibs and a relay bib on our backs, too. The spotter would radio ahead and a guy with a bull horn would announce what teams should get ready for the exchange. That made the process a little easier because the race course was packed at that point. We saw the marathon and half-marathon elite runners come through, a few other super speedy people, and then the street was full of everyone else having a good time. So, it was good to have a minute or two to prepare to run.

Speaking of preparing, I should mention that I followed my normal half-marathon fuel/hydration plan for the race. Definitely not a good idea at all! I was dragging because there was such a large amount of time between when I actually prepared for the race and when I ran. I am not used to all the standing around in between. Also, the night before, we had a hard time finding someplace to eat. We ended up at TGI Friday’s. I haven’t eaten at one of those in years and didn’t want to risk ordering anything that might not be good for my stomach. So, I had a very light salad with minimal toppings. Definitely not my normal pre-race chicken or pasta with salad and bread meal. So, I could have prepared better food wise, although I think I did okay on water. I was pretty hydrated and only got a slight side cramp near the end of my legs.

The course was brutal. I have no other way to put it. I was mixed in with everyone until slightly after mile 10 and then I followed the marathon course while the half runners broke off in another direction. There were very few marathoners, but they all rocked. There was an older lady who was probably late 60’s or 70 just trucking along. I seriously hope that can be me someday. She was amazing and had an awesome pace!! Most of the course was through a very HILLY park. I am not sure the elevation map on the website was correct, and if so, it did not do the hills any justice. I feel like it was more mountainous than hilly. I have run some hilly courses and this one takes the cake (even over the IU Mini course)!! Also, as I began my legs, the rain stopped and the sun came out. On a normal day I would have been rejoicing. On a running day, I was less than thrilled. Sun after lots of rain = serious humidity. I think I almost died out there. Coupled with the fact that everything was blooming in the park, I swear I could not breathe. I never had to stop and walk. Yikes. I am embarrassed to say I actually walked three times to catch my breath during my legs. The whole time I was thinking about how mad my team would be at me, but I just needed to walk for 20 seconds to get my breath. The worst was coming up to a T in the road where we had to make a turn and seeing the street sign: Longest Ave. Yep, you guessed it. The longest hill EVER! I was hoping in my wildest dreams it would be flat. But no, my worst nightmares came true instead.

There were water stations on the course, but they seemed to be far apart. Maybe it was the hot and humid weather that crept up after the rain ended, but I was constantly looking for water and felt the course could have used more stations. Also, the stations were handing out small plastic water bottles. Not very environmentally friendly at all! I was rather shocked. They were very hard to handle. One station gave me a bottle with the cap in place, so it was hard to undo and drink while running and I only took a few sips, so water and plastic were wasted. The next time, the top was removed and the water sloshed all over me as I tried to take it. It would be nice to have something more environmentally friendly in the future. I am not sure if those bottles were recycled or not.

Finally, I made it to mile 18.6 and handed off to Melissa. I was glad to be done. I was not proud of my pace at all given the fact I was hoping to use this as practice for some other upcoming races. However, I feel like I deserve a (very) slight break as I have not really trained in the humidity and weather plays a huge role in how I run. I haven’t been avoiding the humidity, but there have only been a few humid days. So, not much chance to practice or acclimate. I finished with a pace of 9:15.

After that, we boarded another bus to head to the finish line to meet up with teammates. We could run the last .3 or .4 miles of the race as a team. I found Mandy and we waited for Melissa. Thinking she had passed us and already finished, we kept walking closer and closer to the actual finish line. We finally saw her and jumped on the course (with security chasing after us) to finish the race. I ran with Melissa while Mandy braved the last bit in her flip flops after changing shoes when her legs were done. It was rather comical!

Post-Race Party
I don’t have much to say about this. We didn’t stay long. This is probably because the party wasn’t that great. Everything was really far from the finish and really spread out in this large park. There was also a huge volleyball tournament going on, so it was hard to tell what was part of that and what was part of the race. We got our medals and bananas and left. We had to check out of the hotel by noon, so that was also an issue. We were late, but they were nice not to charge us anything extra.

Like I mentioned above, the race atmosphere was great and a lot of fun, my overall feeling is that it was a bit disorganized. I hope they continue to improve it for next year. Given that it was a hilly course and I run a fair share of hills in races at home, I will likely give this race a miss in the future.

In general, we had a great time. Here is a post-race shot of our team. We finished in 3:58:57. We were pumped to finish under 4 hours and also excited to learn we took 3rd overall out of the women’s relay teams. Not too shabby given the fact we all had admittedly less than stellar runs (at least not as good as we hoped).


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