I don't know that there's anything in the world of exercise that I love more than a good running relay. There's all the fun and hilarity of hanging out with your running buddies in cramped minivan quarters, combined with the exertion of running many miles over interesting and varied terrain throughout odd times of the day and night, all wrapped up in the novelty and excitement of a highly anticipated popular event. It's been years since I've been able to participate in one. Ten years, in fact. All four years I was in high school, I ran the Portland to Coast Relay (kind of like Hood to Coast, Jr. - we ran at the same time as the Hood to Coast people but we skipped the first third of the route and ran only two legs each instead of three).
It turns out that Upstate New York has its own awesome running relay. It's kind of like Hood to Coast Lite: 50 miles total around Lake Canandaigua, split into 10 legs. Some people run it all by themselves or with only one or two other people. You can have up to five runners on your team, which we took full advantage of. Our team consisted of Jeremy, my brother Blair, two friends, and I, and we each ran two legs.
The relay was on Saturday and it was great fun. Here are a few highlights.
I wasn't sure how smoothly it would all go for our team since among the five of us, we had six kids along for the ride. That also meant we had to take two vehicles. My brother Blair had the first leg and I had the second, so we headed up with our kids in one car way too early in the morning to get to the starting line in time. The other three members of the team, including Jeremy, who was assigned to the third leg, would show up later. It was exciting, if slightly freezing cold and ridiculous, to cheer Blair on at the starting line with three little kids in tow.
Our plan fell apart shortly after Blair took off running from the starting line. All of a sudden, I realized I was left alone with three kids, with nobody to help me navigate the unfamiliar race route as I drove, and nobody to take care of said kids while I prepared to run my own leg of the race in just a little while. I did my best to manage the kids in the car, look at the driving directions provided by the race director, and provide aid to Blair along his 10-mile stretch of running. Meanwhile, I was frantically calling and texting Jeremy to see where he was and when he could be at the exchange point to take the kids so I could get ready to run. Cell phone service was spotty at best, so most of my messages weren't getting through. I prepared myself for the possibility that as Blair handed off the next leg of the relay to me, I might have to hand him the kids at the same moment.
Somehow I managed to get changed and take a potty break while still taking care of the kids (OK, I confess, I locked them in the car while I ran into the bathroom). Jeremy was still nowhere in sight. So I got them all out of the car and we headed over to the exchange area. I was pretty much ready, if not really warmed up, and all I had left to do was tie my shoes. It would have to do.
Hallelujah, about two minutes before Blair came running in, Jeremy showed up with the rest of the team. So I didn't have to do a kid exchange right there in the middle of the race.
The running itself was gorgeous - the lake was in sight for much of my first leg, and there was plenty of beautiful fall foliage to admire. I had my iPod Shuffle on and I listened to a lot of soft, emotive soundtrack-y music like The Piano, Pride & Prejudice, and Last of the Mohicans. This was a great complement to the scenery, but not so much conducive to fast running. Don't worry, I remedied that mistake for my second leg later on in the day.
Having all the kids along ended up being lots of fun. They enjoyed hopping out of the car at each relay exchange, and cheering for our team's runners as we drove by them on the race route. I didn't think how inexplicable the race must seem to them until Miriam asked me sometime in the early afternoon, "Mama, why is everyone running so much?" In the middle of my second leg, with a strong headwind as I ran uphill, I don't think I could have answered her question.
After it was all over, my brother remarked that in some ways, the CanLake 50 is harder than Hood to Coast. Since there are only five people on the team, your turn for a 5-mile run comes up much quicker than the 4-7 hours you get on H2C.
Also after it was all over, I was painfully reminded of that special kind of muscle soreness that comes only after running a few miles, jumping in and out of a cramped car, and then running a few more miles. You don't really have time for stretching, cool-down or recovery when you have to get your team member to the next exchange point in a little over half an hour.
Jeremy and I plan on doing this relay for as many years as we are in Ithaca. It has so much going for it: a beautiful location, perfect timing with the fall foliage colors at their peak, a manageable team size, distance, and race entry fee, and great organization. I am so happy to have discovered a good running relay so close to our new hometown and I can hardly wait for next year's run!