It is a very informal race. First off, there was no expo which is to be expected for a non-marathon event. Participant t-shirts were only available for those who paid extra, and they only handed out 2 race numbers for the entire team (a clue that wearing bibs are optional). You only needed to wear a number to help label the official photographs, or have your time recorded when you crossed the finish line. There was no prize money involved, but you will get some notoriety for being the last team to cross the finish line.
Here's where things get a bit confusing. Your relay team can consist of anywhere from 2 to 10 people. If your team donates over $200, you become a "generous" team, meaning you can buy a handicap so that your recognized finish time is faster than it really is. If you donate enough to charity, you can actually finish before you start. If you're not in a generous mood, then there are about 7 other divisions to be in including 2 person, female only, male and mixed, military, racewalking, scratch, and six leg special (only run first 6 legs) teams. There are 10 total legs of different distances all under 6 miles. So is all that clear as mud?
I drove up to K.C. with 4 other friends from Wichita. We ended up in the male and mixed teams division which uses a handicap based on age (as do some other divisions). We each picked two legs to run. I selected legs 3 and 10 which are two of the longer legs totaling about 11 miles. I didn't realize it at the time but I picked the flatter sections of the course, while the other legs are shorter, but hillier.
I'll try and keep my experience with the race brief. I knew days before the race that it was going to be a hot one. Turns out the temps got into the mid 80s by the time we were done by 2:30p without a cloud in the sky. I can honestly say that I have never raced in weather that hot before, and I think I've only done one or two training runs above 85º. When I did the 5.9 mile third leg in the morning, I ran it hard and I overheated, but it was probably only in the low to mid 70s, and that's not really enough combined time or heat to make it a health issue.
However, by the time my tenth and final leg came around, the Sun was at its apex with no cloud cover and the mercury read 84º. On top of the early leg I ran, I had been constantly exposed to the elements since we hung around outside waiting at all transition points. I applied sunscreen twice during the morning in an effort to ward off skin cancer someday, and some of it eventually found its way into my eye mixed in with sweat. What I'm getting at is that I didn't have much going for me. So off I went on the last leg of the day, a 4.7 miler. Soon after, I was running between a 7:30 and 8:00 pace, and my heart rate was starting to red line. As I saw my HR get to 200 with about 2 miles still to go, and my body temp as high as ever, I wondered to myself if I should back off. It's one thing to have a HR of 200 when it's 65º, it's another sensation to have a HR that high when it's 20 degrees warmer. I decided to walk until my HR came down a bit. I probably walked a couple hundred feet before my HR got down to 195, and I started running again. I wondered to myself if I was experiencing heat exhaustion, and if the way I felt was cause for concern. I tried to tell myself that I was just hot and to finish as best as the conditions would allow. When I saw the finish line, the adrenaline shot through me and I was able to finish strong, but it took a lot longer than usual to recover and compose myself.
One word of wisdom I would pass on to anyone running this race in the future is to figure out how fast your team is going to run each leg. If the pace is going to be much less than 8 minute miles, then it could be difficult to make it to the next transition point on some legs before the runner you're meeting up with gets there. In the case of our team, the runner beat the rest of us to the rendezvous on 3 of the legs. This caused a delay in our time, and since one of those times was crossing the finish line we missed out on that photo op. On the other hand most teams aren't there to run fast and they have time to enjoy some beer or toss a Frisbee while waiting their turn. We waited until the race was over to partake in the alcohol, but still had a great bonding experience during the relay.
Not that stats matter in this race, but we finished 42nd in our division out of 344 recorded teams. Official time was 5:51:28 for 44.XX miles, with an adjusted/handicap time of 5:43:28. Two of our guys were running a sub 7:00 pace.
Finally, I present to you some obligatory pictures from the day.
|Team "Joggers And Lagers" at starting brewery. From left to right: Brant,|
2 Slow 4 Boston, Eric, Todd, and Chuck.
|Yours truly after my first leg.|
We are on a non sectioned off highway
|Between KC and Lawrence, a farm served as a transition|
|Farm #2 complete with port-a-potties in the driveway.|
|Still at Farm #2, notice the girl in green with the open container|
waiting her turn.
|Post race photo with the finish line in the background.|