My friend, P., and I ran the Lower Potomac River Marathon Relay yesterday. We placed first in the co-ed division of the two-person relay, with a time of 3:34:35. Not bad for a fast training run in preparation for the National Half-Marathon in two weeks.
The LPRM is a great little race, capped at 300 runners, and sponsored by the Chesapeake Bay Running Club. It has excellent race support, a scenic and challenging course, and showers and a hot buffet meal with all the fixin's prepared by the Harry Lundeberg School of Seamanship, a race sponsor, and where the race begins and ends.
Motorin'!: P. meet his half-marathon PR in his flat and scenic 14.6 mile leg, averaging just under 8:00/mile. His miles ranged from 7:38 to 8:19. (Please go over and congratulate him on his blog.)
In my hilly, 11.6 mile leg, with a strong headwind in the first six miles, I started conservatively, ran tempo-pace miles (guestimating 7:55-8:00/mile) in the middle, and slowed down in the last 3 miles, averaging 8:22/mile overall.
Relay runners had to wear blue (co-ed) or red (men only & women only) sashes to stand out from regular marathoners. At the hand-off, I looped the sash (with our team name, "Tortoise and Hare" glued on in gold glitter) around my neck. The sash was sweaty. I got used to it after a minute or two.
Off and running: I couldn't get my running watch to work (Jeanne, please teach me how to use it again), so I just ran by feel. The plan was a fast warm-up in the first two miles, run tempo in the middle, and, if possible, keep tempo-pace or go faster to the end.
I ran a series of long hills, passing a number of folks. As a tactical advantage, I stuffed the blue sash in my pocket after the 2nd mile. No need to let other relay runners know I had my sights set on them.
It seems that other relay runners had the same idea. I only saw three other relay runners ahead, all of whom I ended up passing. But when I saw the race results later (further down), I'd overtaken many more.
Race Support: This race had some of the most encouraging volunteers I'd ever seen. After the turn-around, around Mile 19, one of the volunteers across the road saw me, stuck a raised fist in the air and roared, "YEAH! Looking Strong!"
That made me feel really good. I smiled and waved. For all of you who have volunteered at races or come as spectators, know that even if runners don't say anything when you cheer for them, that they hear you and take to heart what you say.
Payback: P. came by several times in my car (which I left at the hand-off point) to take photos and cheer me on. That was really nice. Once, he ran next to me and pointed to a relay runner about 1/4 a mile ahead and said, "If you can pass him, that would be really great."
That runner's partner in the first leg had finished ahead of P., so it was time for payback. "Okay," I nodded.
I gradually gained ground, and steadily overtook him without a backward glance. Afterwards, I found out that he's not P.'s favorite person. Which is the understatement of the week.
Had I known that, I joked with P. later, I would have said something to that runner as I'd passed him. Along the lines of, "This one's for Peter!" But that wouldn't have been sporting, would it?!
The final miles: Strangely enough, it was the last, flat three miles that gave me trouble, not the previous hilly miles. The mid-day sun blazed down, and the route, a two-lane highway, was getting busy with cars (the route was open to traffic).
Some of them came way too close for comfort, and I had to skirt to the far edge. The road also had a slanted surface, so I was tilted for much of the time, further tiring my legs.
Only two people passed me in my leg (one of them was the 2nd-place woman in the marathon), and it was on the last 3 miles of the course. I slowed down, though not sure by how much, as I was still passing folks. There was about 20o to 400 meters or more between runners.
Finish line: My hamstrings felt leaden on the last turn-off to the finish line. I was the only runner within at least a quarter-mile, and it felt great to see that the finish-line crowd was cheering just for me.
A bunch of seafaring school students yelled encouragement as I tried to kick it in (albeit pitifully). I pulled the blue sash out of my pocket and clenched it in my fist as I pumped toward the finish.
Relay Results: Despite my paltry finishing kick, P. and I managed to snag 1st in our division. The runner-up in our co-ed division (I remember passing the second-leg runner at the turnaround) came in more than 10 minutes later.
P. also just emailed me and said that we beat all 10 women's teams (with a cushion of 9:59), and 5 of the 9 men's teams. Our place overall was 5th out of 27 teams.
Bex repents: Afterwards, we sat down to a huge buffet meal prepared by the school. Meatballs in marinara sauce. Roast ham. Two kinds of pasta salad. Hot rolls and cream of broccoli soup. Rice casserole. And much more. Very, very tasty.
We also had great service. Some of the seafaring students brought us water, Diet Coke, and other soft drinks, and also cleared our tables.
However, I ate too much, too fast. And my stomach rebelled, big time. No need to go into the particulars. Which are icky. But now I know not to be such a pig next time around. I feel better today. But I'll hold off on doughnuts, for awhile.