Monday, August 1, 2011

Weekend Report: River to Sea Relay 2011

At 7:30 am Saturday morning, I found myself on a start line in a small town in New Jersey, about to embark on an all-day adventure that would end 93 miles later with my teammates and I at the sea.

Yup, that right, I did it again, the River to Sea Relay.

The race begins in Milford, on the Delaware River, and runs across the entire state to end at the beach in Manasquan.  Each team is made up of 7 runners who run 2 legs each. The legs vary in distance and difficulty, from 2.5 to 9.25 miles. Luckily this year I ended up with two of the “easier” legs – 4.8 miles in the morning, and 5.55 in the afternoon.

Like other ridiculous running experiences (think the Dipsea), the start is staggered by teams’ entry times. This means that the slowest team (based on submitted 5K times) starts earliest, and the fastest team starts the latest. The idea is that any team could win the race, if you define “winning” by finishing first (I’m not so sure about this model…call me old-fashioned, but I want the winner to be the fastest).

Anywho, our team had a pretty fast seed time, so we started on the later side. My intense pooling paid off – I finished in 34:52, averaging just under 7-minute per mile pace.

I slapped Jess’ hand and sent her off to do an 8-miler (at lightening speed, like she does), and jumped in a car to continue along the course.

One of the most difficult things about this race is the logistics: each team gets 2 cars and is responsible for supporting its’ runners. So one car gives water, while the other gets the next runner to the hand-off point. Luckily we have Steve, Jess’ dad and the mastermind of the Warriors to Thalatta (our team name).

We would stop to wait for our runner...

...hand him or her water...

...then jump back in the car to continue a couple miles further.

Now imagine 114 teams doing this across the state. Kinda a big thing.

My second leg was rough. With temps well into the 90s and a viciously direct midday sun, I seriously thought I was going to spontaneously combust. I passed 9 people, mostly because my self-respect would not let me walk. Along the route a few perplexed but magnanimous spectators stood on their front lawns, spraying passing runners with their garden hoses. Best thing ever! 

It was a hard run, but I managed to finish in 39:22, about 7:20 pace.

But within 10 minutes of finishing I was chipper and stinky and totally psyched to be done! The rest of the day I played support-person, navigating the cars while Jess and her boyfriend Zac alternated 2-mile dashes for the "Wildcard" leg (2 runners complete about 13 miles however they want). Then cheering as all our other runners powered through the heat. 

(Want to test your endurance/sanity? Run a race in the afternoon at the end of July.)

Finally, 10 hours and 30 minutes after we started, we reached the sea! We didn’t win any plastic shovels, but that salty ocean smell was music to my nose and cold pizza was good enough for me!

Pizza + diet coke + sitting = awesome end to an awesome day.

We spent a bit of time on the beach, but it was late, we were tired, and I think everyone wanted a shower and a change of clothes.

And so the Warriors disappeared into the sunset....maybe to race again?