Sunday, May 3, 2009

Gettysburg to DC Relay

Last weekend I was part of a 12 runner team that took part in the American Odyssey Relay. I was part of the "Whalen Good Time" team. It was a family team mostly made up of Whalen's. A couple extras filled out the roster. The Whalen's had been athletic and on their track teams in their high school days. For some that was 30 years ago. There were 3 Whalen teenagers who were now on teams. Nobody had done this type of event before. The furthest anybody else had run was a half marathon. It was a family event, not a race.
The start was according to our reported previous 10k times. Slowest teams started first. We were #35 of 105 to start.
The morning was cool and a bit overcast, just nice for running. I was the #4 runner. I had legs 4, 16, and 28. Each leg was around 6 miles. Some were easier or harder. The race handbook had ranked the legs for difficulty to allow the team captain to place runners in the appropriate slot.
We had 2 vans, 6 runners each. Van 1 took off, meeting runners at change points and sending out the new runner. Van 2 had the morning to kill and met us at point 7, where their man took over. Then we, van 1, went to eat and get some rest.
The course was mostly on secondary paved roads. It went through the Gettysburg battlefield and Antietam. This area is great for running. It is mostly rolling with enough short steep parts to make it interesting. I noticed how the grass was more grown and the trees were more leaved out than at home. It is only a couple hundred miles south, but must be 3 weeks ahead of us.
Van 2 carried on through the afternoon into the dark. We met them at the Boonsboro high school. This was a major transition point and arrangements had been made to open the school gymn and showers for us. It looked like a disaster center with people wandering around, sleeping on the gymn floor, talking on cell phones.
I had an out and back leg here. I ran from the parking lot to the edge of town and back. The 2 runners following me in rotation did similar loops. When we turned it over to van 2, we went to the Amtietam Battlefield Visitor Center. We got some sleep here and soon it was our turn again.
In a couple legs, we were on the C and O Canal path. This historic path led us more directly toward DC. It was gently downhill and packed dirt. My section was well shaded. I was grateful because the day was warming fast. Van 1 turned over to van 2 around noon. It was well into the 80's and humid, quite nasty for running.
After loading up on pizza, we headed to Washington to the finish area to wait. I hadn't been there in many years. I'm glad someone in our crew knew their way around the expressways. We went to the national mall, a grassy area on the Potomac river within sight of the Washington, Lincoln and Jefferson monuments. We drove around and were fortunate to get a parking place within sight of the finish line. We lay in the shade and watched and cheered other teams as they finished. A couple more family members joined us to see the finish. Soon our runners came along. They had run in the hottest part of the day and were quite beat. We all joined in for the run under the banner. Pictures and medals were in order. Then we loaded up and out for a needed meal together.
This was my first relay race. The format is quite different than a trail run. The run, get stiff and then run again, is quite a change. Also, the legs were short to me. I'm used to 40 or 50 or 100 miles at a stretch and I pace myself accordingly. 6 miles is a sprint to me. The others on the team found that very funny. They are used to a 10k as a whole race.
These relay races are apparently popular and numerous. I think this group may run another one. Some members won't run again, some family members had commitments this time.
In all, I had fun and would do another one.