I know what you're thinking:
What could possibly be more fun than running around in circles for 26.2 miles???
The answer is simple, my friends: Running around in circles for 26.2 miles as part of a team.
That's right; this year I took on the Icebreaker Marathon Relay as part of Team Frosty Femmes. My speedy teammates (Kristi, Juliet and Nikki) and I had two goals: run fast and win hardware. Based on the 2011 relay results, we thought we stood a pretty good chance of placing among the top 3 female teams. Possibly even winning. We were hopeful, determined, strong...
And then two other Peoria-area all-female teams were formed, including a team headed up by our very own FAST coach, Maggie. Her team, Illini Quad, consisted of a bunch of gals who (a) were 11 years younger than the average age of my team and (b) all ran cross-country competitively in college.
The local running community was buzzing about these two teams who all had talented runners on them and both wanted to win. People were even wagering on it. Who would be victorious?
Suddenly, our goal of placing wasn't enough. Our new goal was to beat Maggie's team. In the weeks leading up to the race, every time I or one of my team members ran into Maggie, growls and evil glares were exchanged.
Before we knew it, race day was upon us. It was time to prove just how awesome we really were.
The relay didn't start until 1pm, so we had a lot of time to sit around, watch the half-marathon races, chat, snack, and exchange more evil glares. We also made last-minute tweaks to our race strategy.
Strategy, you ask? How complicated could it be? Each person runs 6.55 miles, right?
What makes an indoor marathon relay so unique is that team members can switch off as often as they like, in any order they like, to run any distance they like, so long as the team runs 96 laps total. You might think, given that knowledge, that it would be best to have team members run one lap at a time, as fast as possible. But, team members have to hand off an ankle bracelet timing device each time they switch off, which wastes valuable seconds. So there's a delicate balance between how short of intervals team members run and how much time is wasted transferring the ankle bracelet.
Our team's tentative plan was as follows, with the understanding that we could modify this plan at any time during the race, depending how team members were feeling. Keep in mind that 1 lap is 443 meters, so 4 laps just over 1 mile.
Me: 4 laps
Juliet: 2 laps
Kristi: 3 laps
Juliet: 2 laps
Nikki: 6-8 laps
Lather, rinse, repeat, for 96 laps total. This plan was designed to allow each of us to run the distance we felt we could run the strongest. For Juliet, that was short bursts of about 800m. For Nikki, that was 1.5-2 mile segments. For me and Kristi, it was about 1 mile increments.
|Peoria-area runner chicks chillin' before the start of the relay|
(L to R: Juliet, Nikki, me, Maggie, Louisa, Kristi, Katie W, Katie O, and Laura)
We ended up sticking to our plan almost exactly. And let me tell ya, it wasn't easy. It took a couple of hand-offs before we mastered the fine art of efficient timing chip transfer. And because there was so much time between a given runner's intervals, it was nearly impossible to stay warm and loose. It was essentially a speed interval workout with extremely long recovery periods.
|I'm running so fast, you can see through me. |
I didn't even know that was possible, but the camera doesn't lie!
Maggie's team seemed to be implementing a similar strategy to ours, playing up each individual runners' strengths. There were times during the race where we seemed to be surging ahead of her team... and there were even more times during the race where we were falling behind. We were just no match for a team of 25-year-old former cross-country stars. But that didn't mean we didn't put up an admirable fight.
Our team placed 3rd in the female division with a time of 3:05:54. Take a moment to stop and ponder how fast that really is. That's an average pace of 7:05. For 26.2 miles! This time would have won us 1st place in last year's race. This year, the field was that much more competitive. Three minutes ahead of us was the 2nd place female team. And then there was Maggie's team, who ran a blisteringly fast 2:55:25 for the win. Huge congrats to them - what an outstanding performance! And the other Peoria-area team, The FASTies, also ran strong and broke the 4:30 marathon barrier. Way to go!
It's amazing what four people can accomplish when they work together!
But that's not all, folks. I served a dual purpose this weekend. Not only was I a runner, but I was also a videographer. As a favor to the race director, I shot video all weekend long (except when I was running) and created a promotional video. So now, I present to you my very first video race report!
If, after watching that, you have any doubt remaining about how cool the indoor marathon experience is (both literally and figuratively), then I have not done my job as a blogger or film producer. You should fire me. Except that I don't work for you, so you can't. Ha!
And the good news, for all of you wanna-be indoor marathoners, is that you don't have to wait until next January to try this. There is a new event coming this July 28 called Heatbreaker, and as you may have surmised from the name, it is great a way to escape the mid-summer heat. This event is a half-marathon event only... but never fear, you marathon addicts! There are four half-marathons spread out over the course of one day (spaced three hours apart), and runners can choose to run one, two, three or all four races. FOUR half-marathons! Can you imagine? For those of you who are not mathematically inclined, that's a total of 52.4 miles. In one day!
Now, I know you're thinking that I'm the sort of person who is just crazy enough to run four half-marathons in one day. I can assure you, I'm not that crazy... yet. But I have never been one to pass up a good challenge, so I will be running the Two-Alarm Challenge at Heatbreaker, which is back-to-back half-marathons. Some have argued that that's the same as running a full marathon. I beg to differ. One would not normally sit down and relax for 45 minutes in the middle of a full marathon. So, as you can see, it's totally different from a full marathon.
And, as usual, I will not be doing this alone. Fellow Goofy Challenger, Kristi, is also on board for the Two-Alarm Challenge. Let's see how many other people I can coerce... er, I mean, encourage to do one of these events! Milwaukee will never know what hit it. Who's with me???
Peace. Love. Train.