- June 11, 2008 at 6:43 pm #9570
As some of you probably remember, I got recruited with less than two weeks to go last year to run the GMR, the precursor to the MC200 relay. It was quite an experience and, for some crazy reason, one that left me wanting to come back for more.
So I was back this year. More warning, less preparation. That's how I would sum things up going into this year's race. At least I knew I was in months ahead of time this year but I had actually done less preparation for this type of race this year than I had done last year. We had a team I liked, though. Quality runners and quality people. I had a feeling this was going to be a good run for us.
With an 11 person team this year and still 36 legs to cover, we had 8 people who had to run only 3 times and 3 who had to run 4 times. I got selected for not only one of the 4 run legs but also the leadoff and longest cumulative leg of the race. This means it was on me to get us started good and cover more distance than any of my teammates. I felt like I was ready for the responsibility, though. What I was more worried about was the weather. With heat and strong to severe thunderstorms in the forecast, who knows what this race might turn into?
At the start of the race, we had the heat and a pretty strong wind. I was going to be running most of my first leg with the wind at my back, which I thought would be beneficial. After meeting up with part of the team in Brookfield and the rest of the team at the starting area in Madison, I did a short warmup and was ready to begin the race. There weren't many teams starting with us so it was a bit of a unique start line atmosphere.
At the start, I went straight to the lead. I quickly realized that I didn't feel fully on, not a bad thing at the beginning of a race like this since it would help me not overdo things early, but I wanted to get us the lead so I continued out in front. By a mile, I was pretty much all alone so I decided, with the heat and the tailwind that was just creating sauna-like dead air, to back off the effort just a bit and save it for later. If I can get the team a lead and save myself for later in the race, then this would be a great leg. The wind was so strong that a few signs were blown around to the point I couldn't see them so I had to hesitate a few times to look around to see which direction to go but that didn't really affect my race. What affected my race more was the heat, the glaring sun beating down on me, and that wind creating the dead air. I basically did a tempo run for the 5.24 mile leg, giving us the lead while running about 6:06 pace (all paces are at best estimates). After I handed off to Dana, I found that I gave the team about a minute lead. Dana stretched that out before the second place team put a very strong runner in the third leg and left us behind. We ran second throughout the rest of the team's first leg.
By my second leg, starting almost exactly 6 hours after the start of my first leg, the sun was long gone, the heat had broken, and the wind was letting up. Much better conditions. While we were pretty set in second place, with first well ahead and third well behind, we were beginning to see some of the earlier starting teams so we weren't completely alone out there. I wanted to run hard and try to close the gap on first some without killing myself since I still had two more legs to come. Fairly early in the run, I passed an earlier starting team, then got held up for just a moment while crossing a street. Then, I set right back into race pace. I was running hard but saving just a bit for later. This is actually a very boring stretch, especially in the dark, with barely seeing anyone and running in the dark down a bike path the whole way. At about halfway through, though, I spotted the light from someone ahead of me. I decided to try to close in on this person and give Dana someone to pass. For the longest time, it seemed like I wasn't gaining anything. Then, all of a sudden, this person started coming back…and fast! Before I knew it, I wasn't giving Dana someone to pass. I was passing myself. I had a little bit of a scare over the final half mile or so when I thought I should have been finishing. I thought I somehow missed my finish spot, even though I knew it was right on the trail. I just kept pushing, though, trusting that I was still on course. It turns out that I was right and I handed off to Dana tired but ready for more. Second leg, a bit more than a tempo run for 6.35 miles in about 5:59 pace.
By my third leg, race wise, things were about the same. The first place team was way out there, the third place team was somewhere behind us, and we were right there maintaining position. By this time, about 4:45 in the morning or about 6:45 after I started my second leg and 12:45 after I started the race, daylight was showing. The sun was about to come up and, honestly, I probably didn't have any need for my lights and reflective vest. Still, I was told to wear them so I did, even though I didn't even bother to turn my headlamp on. Also, by this time, I figured it was time to race. If I can get myself through this leg, I'll find a way through the final leg. Still, I got caught with the leg before mine being shorter than I thought it was. So I went in without as much of a warmup as I wanted. Before the handoff, I told myself I'd use the first mile of this leg as a warmup. As soon as I began running, though, I was all in. This is going to be my big leg. It's my longest leg of the race and I'm going to make the most of the distance to bank some time. I was out there in the zone, just hammering away over the rolling hills, passing earlier starting teams left and right, flying through like I was running my first and last leg right there. I just flew through this whole leg this way. Nothing and nobody would break my focus or my will on this leg. Even as the leg seemed to begin dragging on, I just kept the rhythm up and kept pounding out the pace. The uphills were no obstacle and the downhills were just a chance to turn on the afterburners. In the end, I got through 6.86 miles in about 5:45 pace.
By my final leg, starting about 7:30 after the start of my third leg, the heat was back and we had a bit of trouble on the course while the third team turned it up. They handed off to a kid that looked like he couldn't have been more than 8 years old (it turns out he was I believe 14) about 3:30 before I took the handoff. As soon as I saw that kid taking off, I said I'm not going to let this kid beat me. I went out hammering to close as much distance as I could. I knew I wouldn't get more than a minute or two since my leg was only 5.75 miles long but at least I could set up my teammates in their final two legs to challenge for second again. I had a couple of instances where I was unsure of the directions (I think some signs were missing) and those last 2 miles seemed to last forever as I was running on fumes but then, a miracle happened. I saw the kid ahead of me. Could I have possibly gained enough time to have him in my sights? Do I have enough time to catch him? Even if I don't, every second I can gain on him is another second my teammates will be closer to making the pass. With this motivation, I held things together for 5.75 miles at about 6:15 pace. I gained more distance than I thought I could, finishing only about 30 seconds back. After handing off, that effort left me so drained that, as I turned around to walk back up to my teammates, my legs went to jello on me and I just went down in a heap. I got helped off the course and sat in the shade for about 5 minutes or so before standing up, taking some time to regain my balance, then staggering back to the vehicle as we headed off to the next transition area.
Over the final two legs, we lost ground on the second place team until they made a wrong turn very near the end. Because of their wrong turn, we ended up finishing second in 22:45:25. The team's final result was 203.45 miles in about 6:42 pace with runners ranging from about 6:00 pace to about 7:06 pace. This was a much more even effort than we had last year, both in terms of everyone being closer together in paces and not fading nearly as badly in the closing legs. This was a great team to run with, both because of the competitive, never give up spirit and because they were a bunch of great guys to hang around with.
As for my final tally, I ran 24.2 miles in a total time of about 2:25:30 for a pace of just about 6:00 even. While I would have liked to be sub-6, given the heat in my first and last legs, I'll take these results with no complaints.
- June 11, 2008 at 7:44 pm #25317
Once again Ryan proves what an animal he is!!
Way to go Ryan. Solid effort.
- June 12, 2008 at 12:40 pm #25318
Great recap, Ryan. Even with the heat and everything I had a great weekend. Next year we need to try and get a 12 man team so we can focus on getting well under 6:00 on our 3 legs 🙂 There's nothing like running that 4th leg and having ” . . . . that effort (leaving you) so drained that, as (you) turned around to walk back up to (your) teammates, (your) legs went to jello . . . ” That last leg was brutal – – – but some how fun 🙂
Until next year
- June 12, 2008 at 2:14 pm #25319
Hmm, what kind of animal? Something with a small brain? 😉
Dana, it would be great to add a 12th man but I'm thinking in another direction. It would allow us to push even harder in the earlier legs, not fade quite as much in the final leg (though I think the fading you and I experienced was largely due to the heat, not so much fatigue), and run that much faster. If we were in that kind of battle again, it probably wouldn't matter how many legs I was running. I'd end up collapsed on the ground no matter what.
As tough as it was, that last leg was pretty fun in its own way.
- June 12, 2008 at 2:52 pm #25320
Great report. Outstanding job by everyone. Ryan, way to put all you have into the run. I don't know how you all do it. Ski
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