29 mile marathon – you read that correctly. More on that later…
Today marked the premier of the 30@30 All-Star squad – four of the squad members teamed up to race the Reston Runners Marathon Relay. A little about the all-star squad:
Leg 1: Brendan Chestnut > 5K PR: 15:30, Nike Outdoor Nationals competitor
Leg 2: Murat Kayali > 1500m PR: 3:47 (converts to 4:04 mile), 5K PR: 14:34
Leg 3: Terence Lee > Half-Marathon PR: 1:16, Marathon PR: 2:45
Leg 4: Jake Tuber > Has recently completed several races.
The anchor leg is supposed to feature the slowest guy, right?
1) Win the Relay ✓
2) Don’t aggravate my foot injury (meh…)
Background: I’ve been sidelined the past two weeks with a moderate plantar fasciitis injury to my left foot. I’ve only run once-twice and am terrible at cross-training. Had this not been a team event, I would have skipped it. But when it comes to the squad, the show must go on…
Brendan lead off for us after only a few hours of sleep and refusing to warm up. No matter. He crushed his leg and arrived at the relay exchange with the lead pack, averaging about a 6:20/mile pace for his leg of about 6.9 miles. The dude was barely breathing when he made the relay exchange. Filthy.
Murat took the second leg out fast, quickly blowing by the runners also in the lead pack. Murat claims he went out too fast… but his strategy worked. He crushed a 6:11/mile pace and got Terence the relay belt (yes, the ‘baton’ was a belt with a chip-laden racing bib attached) in the lead.
Terence crushed his leg. Opening up a the lead with only the lead police motorcycle in front of him. By the time he finished his leg of the relay averaging about 6:20/mile pace, we were several minutes clear of anyone.
That’s when it got interesting.
Worried about my foot, I opted for a short warmup jog and lots of strides/drills. When Terence came charing through the relay exchange zone right behind the lead motorcycle it really fired me up. I took the belt and ran the first mile in about 6:30.
At this point, the marathon course ran mostly on a beautiful bike path that swerved through the wooded neighborhoods of Reston, VA. It was just me and the lead motorcycle. It was pretty damn cool. I have never trailed the lead car before and it’s an experience that every runner should have.
The tough part is that it was very hard to understand my pace being all alone out there. No matter. I had my watch, I was cruising and knew we were going to win. My foot hurt a bit but it wasn’t too bad. I was averaging around 7min/mile pace through the hills and working hard… my legs felt unpolished and sluggish. Not running for the better part of two weeks and then racing a distance event will do that. No matter… I just wanted to finish strong without hurting my foot and was on pace to negative split the last two miles like I had planned… what could go wrong?
Perhaps I should back up a bit.
In addition to the marathon relay race, there was also a full marathon, half-marathon, and even a half-marathon (2 person) relay. All events began simultaneously and would run the same half-marathon loop… the runners in the full marathon and full marathon relay (us) would run that loop twice.
Okay. So. I’m churning up what I thought was the final hill and my watch says that I’ve covered just under six miles. I am tired but feeling ready to kick in a hard last half mile.
There is a split in the course.
I’m not sure which way to go so I look to one of the volunteers directing runners. Part of me thinks that I should be turning left… following the sign that says “Half Marathon”, which I know turns back into South Lakes High School and the finish line. But I’m not sure. I look to the volunteer holding the flag and say “Relay?” – she points me to the right. That sign says “Full Marathon”. I’m surprised… but okay, I don’t know exactly where I’m supposed to go and the course has been well-directed thus far.
I head up a hill. This seems wrong.
I cross a timing mat… is this not the finish?
I keep going and turn a corner… the course keeps going… so I keep going. Now, I’m reasonably sure I’ve gone the wrong way.
I shout a question at another volunteer stationed up the course: “How long ago did the motorcycle pass by?”
“Oh, it’s way ahead.”
Okay. I’ll keep going.
I thought my leg was supposed to be about 6.2 miles… my watch now says I’ve ran 7.2. Was the course distance just listed wrong?
I keep going.. now I’m certain I’ve been misdirected.
I pass a volunteer who cheers me on. I yell: “How far away is the finish? I think I’ve ran too far!”
She laughs and keeps cheering. She thinks I’m making a joke about wanting the race to be over.
I lap a runner wearing an orange bib… which is a marathon relay bib.
“What leg are you, two or three?!” she shouts at me, confused.
At this point, I’ve run just under eight miles when I finally recognize the street I’m on. The cone-lined course takes a left turn… but that can’t be right. I’ve had about enough of this so I stop to ask the cops there what is going on.
“Is this the way for the relay? Where’s the finish at the school?”
They tell me that this turn takes runners a long way from the school. I clearly made a wrong turn.
I know that if I continue straight and don’t turn left, I can make it back toward the school quickly. At this point, I don’t even care what happens. I’m tired, really angry, and my foot hurts. I just want to get back to my teammates.
I’m done with this.
“Well, I’m running back the direct route… you can tell them to DQ team #404 if it turns out I’m wrong. This is bullshit.”
I start running again and soon link up with the course, hitting the turning point where I was misdirected.
Suddenly, it becomes clear to me what happened. Charitably, the flagger must have thought I was running the second leg of the relay – which would mean that I should continue to the right instead of taking the left toward the finish line.
This time, I turn left and head for home. I soon reach the finish, having run just over an hour, and instead of the jubilation of winning, I’m just pissed.
I explain what happened and have my GPS watch to prove it. Luckily for me, Terri and Mike for CRM/PRR are timing the race, and they immediately get what happened. The race officials are incredibly apologetic and do a great job assuaging the situation.
Luckily, because my teammates we so damn fast, our clock time was still good enough to defeat a small field of relay teams, despite the extra 2.75 miles that I ran! Our actual time – likely in the mid 2:40s, was good for a relay course record.
Check out my splits for the distance below:
That 8th mile also includes about 25 seconds of stopping to talk to the police, meaning that I probably averaged about 6:50/mile pace for 9 miles – not bad given my current level of fitness, foot injury, and a tough course.
Unfortunately, I was so upset about the missed turn that I couldn’t even enjoy our victory.
Murat had to head off to his first of two soccer games before we could get a team picture… but we did get these sweet victory batons:
Next up: Loudon 8K… assuming that I am healthy enough to train these next few weeks.