Thursday, June 20, 2013

Relay Iowa (Part 1)

Relay Iowa - the first 24 hours.

(I decided to split my relay recap into two posts. Basically I'm tricking you into listening to me jabber on and on by splitting it into two different posts instead of one monstrously boring post.)

Relay Iowa may be the longest relay in the United States, but it's about so much more than just running. All the proceeds from the relay are donated to Restoring Hope International , an amazing organization based in Welkom, South Africa. Two amazing couples founded Restoring Hope Village, where they meet  both the physical and spirituals needs of countless precious orphans. Their mission is to restore the HEARTS of the children, because you cannot live a restored life with a splintered heart.
It was amazing to participate in such an awesome event, but also realize that it didn't end in was so much bigger than just running, recovery and our sunburned memories. 

Our team of 12 was amazing! I had only met about half of the team prior to the relay, so it was neat to see how well our team clicked and worked together, even though most of us had previously been complete strangers!!
The relay started in Sioux City, right at the Missouri river. There were 17 teams running this year, and each team had previously submitted an approximate average pace per mile. The teams were released every half hour or so, starting with the 'slowest' predicted average and ending with the fastest team. Our team was predicted to be the 3rd fastest team, so our start was at 11am. 

Our team was very laid back, and there wasn't a lot of haggling over details prior to the relay. We decided to run 5k legs, and switch to longer legs later if we wanted to.
The first leg was brutal-- HILLY. As we followed along in the van, I was exceedingly grateful that I didn't have to start out on that leg!! It was intense!! Most of the state was hilly, but there were only a few legs that had soul-crushing hills, and I think the very first leg was the worst!
After our first runner hit the pavement, we started making some rough outlines of who would run what legs at what time. We were planning about 6 hours in advance so that each runner could plan when to eat, what to eat and what time their first leg would be. 

We started out by having each of our 12 runners run a leg, and then split the group into a 'night shift' and a 'day shift'. The 'night shift' would run until early morning while the 'day shift' caught a few hours of sleep. Day 1 was a beautiful day-- about 79 degrees with a light breeze. Sunny, but lots of clouds. The weather was absolutely perfect for running, even at 3pm.

I ran my first leg just after 2pm. I was a bundle of nerves and it was even worse than running a race. You have all the emotions of the starting line of a race, but then you take off all by yourself!! My first leg my splits were 7:46, 9:02 and 8:43. Hmmm.....let's do some better pacing next time. :) My first leg was my hilliest leg of the relay, so it was all down hill from there (pun, intended). 

My 2nd leg was at 5:45pm and I ran 8:34, 8:51 and 8:49. My second leg was through the town of Ida Grove and also included a (very confusing) checkpoint. The course was always well marked, but at the checkpoint there was an arrow pointing to turn right, when you actually needed to keep going straight. The staff at the checkpoint kept me on course, but I was thoroughly confused!  

My 3rd leg was at 8:15pm, the last leg for the 'day shift' team before we split to get some sleep. I ran 9:25, 9:06 and 9:24 during leg 3. My third leg was probably the hardest leg of the entire weekend. I'm not sure why, but I just felt off on that leg, and it was also my slowest. 

Our team had some very fast runners (below 7 minute mile averages), but everyone ran their own pace. As a team we had submitted an average of 8:30 per mile, but we were all hoping to run faster than we predicted. Every single on of my team mates ran their hearts out- we left out legs in Iowa!!

Friday night the Relay provided a spaghetti dinner for the runners. I was in between leg, and the last thing that sounded good was spaghetti. I'm not much of a spaghetti fan, so I wasn't particularly bummed to miss out, but the rest of the team enjoyed it!

The 'day shift' group was spoiled and actually got to sleep on real beds for a few hours. Several of the team are originally from Iowa, so we stayed at the house of one of the runners! A shower and a pillow have never felt so amazing!! The 'night shift' started at about 8:45pm and ran for the next 8 hours. The two shifts transitioned at about 5:15am and the fresh runners took over. We were far enough into the state at that point that the 'night shift' had to camp out instead of stay in at the house.

When we got up, I was feeling great! My mileage total for the first three legs was just under 10 miles (our 5ks were usually just a touch long) and I wasn't feeling any unusual soreness or pain! I was excited to get out and get some more miles in!

Iowa was BEAUTIFUL! Absolutely great scenery! 

I wanted to run my first leg in the morning at a slightly slower pace and ramp up as the day went on. My first leg was at 6:15am and I ran three miles at exactly 9:01 each. This leg was especially flat, and my legs felt good. 

There were plenty of other runners out on the route. We were playing leap frog with lots of other relay vehicles. We were passing other teams every few legs. All of the teams seemed to do a good job of pulling off the road and being safe & mind full of the traffic. We ran all different road and surfaces--- dirt, gravel, chip 'n seal, black top, highways, brick etc..... 

Did someone say carb-load? The provided meal on Saturday was a pancake breakfast. I was definitely looking forward to splurging on some hot cakes!! After I finished my 2nd route, it was my turn to eat!!

Our 'day shift' group decided we wanted to run some slightly longer legs, so my 2nd leg of the morning was just short of 5 miles. I love the 5 mile distance, so I was excited. My 2nd leg was at 9am and my splits were 8:31, 9:12, 9:20, 9:03 and 8:52. As we transitioned and Rikki handed off to me, we were passed by a speedy blonde. I hung with her for about a half a mile, but I knew I couldn't stick with her for 5 miles. At about 3.5 miles, I saw another runner up ahead of me and realized I was gaining on her. I made it my goal to pass her before transition!! She was keeping a good pace, so I kept pushing. About 1/4 mile shy of transition, I passed her going up a hill. Mission accomplished- I got my first 'kill', and our teamed called it when you passed another runner!! :) 

The night shift reunited with us at about 10:30, and we continued on across the state. We were keeping a really good pace as a team and everyone was still feeling pretty great. Everyone was putting out some pretty fast miles, and the hills were an exciting challenge. 
11am on Saturday--- the first 24 hours gone-- we're halfway done!! 


  1. Sounds like a ton of work but tons of fun too! Can't wait to read the rest!!

  2. This sounds really neat. I 'm looking forward to reading the rest! I cant remember how I found your blog, but I really enjoy reading your posts.

  3. You got awesome times on all your miles!! Sounds like you had a great team too! Ok, where's the rest?? ;)