I’m not entirely sure if runners as a whole are a strange bunch, or my own unique personality just happens to attract a strange group of friends. At any rate, I had the privilege of spending a few days with a great group of friends this past weekend. The fact that we crammed into an SUV and ran a relay race along some beautiful paved trails in Iowa was an added bonus! You may recall that I participated in the Market to Market Relay- Iowa last year. The “Speedy Streakers” were back this year for another dose of “jello-O”, strange costumes, and running shenanigans. We may have been a bit slower this year, but I think we managed to have even more fun, so I’d call it a win!
We decided to rent an SUV this year for ease of transportation, and we once again headed over to Jefferson, IA on Friday evening to stay with a teammate’s parents. Her brother was actually a part of a second team, so we all got together for dinner and a relaxing night around the fire pit before heading to bed. We made sure to decorate the vehicle with our superhero-themed logos while we still had daylight, and we were ready to go the next morning. Luckily, our wave didn’t begin until 8AM, so we didn’t need to wake up ridiculously early. However, you can’t rush a good super hero costume so we made sure we had plenty of time to prepare ourselves. In most circumstances, a group of 7 adults dressed as super heroes in May would raise eyebrows. However, the relay encourages such displays of teamwork, and we were happy to oblige. Mind you, we still raised plenty of eyebrows with the level of spandex (and glitter) we were sporting!
Getting the Super Hero Transport ready to go!
We made the short trek to the starting line and picked up our packet and timing chip, and got set for a great day of running. We weren’t the only team in costume, of course, so we made sure to check out the competition, and make friends when appropriate. I was tapped to lead things off again this year, but I had no plans of going out quite as fast as I did last year. I was hoping to accumulate between 25 and 30 miles over the course of the day in order to stick to my training plan, so I knew I wanted to take it a bit easier. However, my adrenaline and the crowd around me probably got the best of me during the first mile and I looked down to see a 7:17 pace. I was determined not to see a “7” again 🙂 The first leg was fairly flat, and covered 4.8 miles in total. I kept subsequent miles around 8:10 and covered the distance pretty easily.
Off and running!
When I reached the exchange point, I handed off the chip to our next run for the next leg. Normally, this would signal a rest, but I wanted to run some additional legs to increase my mileage so I kept on running with her for leg 2. It was a fairly overcast morning, and threatened rain most of the day, which made for a comfortable day of running (it did get warmer later, as well as briefly downpour!). The two of us covered the 3-mile second leg pretty easily, and were able to stay out of the wind for most part, which was nice. We rolled in and passed off the chip, and it was time to rest.
One of the pieces I like most about this relay is how fast-paced it seems. As soon as you pass off the chip, you hop in the car and head to the next exchange point. Your team is busy joking, snacking, “hydrating”, and adding jokes to the fire, and things seem to fly by with ease. This was definitely the case throughout the day, as we hopped from one exchange point to the next. Stage 4 marked the inaugural running of the black Punisher morph suit for one very excited team member. It shouldn’t come as a surprise that it takes a special kind of person to wear a full spandex morph suit that covers you entirely (I can’t wait to get my own!), and he made the most out of the experience. Some runners were more excited than others to engage with him, but we certainly got plenty of laughs out of it. Alas, it also proved to be incredibly warm and non-breathable, so he had to take it off after 1 leg.
I call shenanigans!
I decided to knock out a solid chunk of miles by running three straight legs. The first two would be with others, and the third would be my own second assigned leg. The 2.8 mile leg 5 flew by, and we clocked off solid 8:05 miles. I was probably going faster than I should have, but it wasn’t about my pace, and my own goal was to keep up with my teammates that were running. The 5.7-mile leg 7 proved to be a bit more taxing, but when you transition from running with Batgirl to running with Wonder Woman, you don’t really have much to complain about ultimately. Wonder Woman and I pulled in to the exchange point after leg 7, and I took off on my own Superman solo 5.8-mile run (did I mention that I dressed up as Superman? 🙂 ). Midway through leg 7, it occurred to me that I probably hadn’t eaten or drank nearly enough yet. This is easy to do when you are bouncing from one exchange point to the next. This definitely meant that I was feeling a bit dehydrated by the time I took off on leg 8. Luckily, my teammates were amazing and noticed my fatigue so they pulled over down the trail and cut me off after less than a mile to hand me some water and a Hammergel. This intervention made those otherwise uncomfortable 5.8 miles bearable, and I was eternally grateful!
I took it easy after that, and enjoyed the camaraderie in the car as we traveled from one exchange point to the next. When the only thing you have to worry about all day is running, it’s easy to have a great day! We passed up some teams along the way, but we really couldn’t have cared less about our pace. We were enjoying being out on some beautiful trails and hanging out with hundreds of other like-minded runners. When stage 13 rolled around, I decided to head out with Batgirl again to log a few more miles. The 4.9 miles were definitely a bit more difficult thanks to some stiff and fatigued legs, but I gutted it out, although I did send her on up ahead to the exchange since I was slowing her down at that point.
I had a brief rest period before running my final 4.3 mile leg, and I needed every minute of it. The early morning, lack of coffee, lack of hydration and nutrition, and miles were definitely all catching up to me. Luckily, the fun factor trumped everything and kept me motivated as I headed out on my final leg with a teammate alongside me to keep me moving. After about a mile, we encountered a detour due to some construction on the trail, and we were forced to venture into some neighborhoods in Des Moines. I’m pretty sure this was Worst. Detour. Ever. I’m convinced the entire route adjustment was uphill, and we couldn’t help but laugh as we slogged on. At that point, knowing it was my last leg kept me going, and we happily arrived at the checkpoint and handed off the chip. As if it was designed as a cruel twist, we then had to venture up a long, steep path to get back to the parking lot. We got in the car and headed out only a few minutes before the sprinkles turned into a full-fledged downpour.
We arrived at the next exchange point, and figured out the logistics for as smooth a transition as possible in the pouring rain. By the time Green Lantern arrived, she was soaked and happy to get out of the rain. Interestingly enough, the rain significantly dissipated not five minutes after she finished her leg. I guess Mother Nature was jealous of all the fun we were having! We arrived at the finish area and waited for the Flash, our final runner, to approach, and we joined her for the final 1/4 to the finish line. We were sore, dehydrated, hungry, and tired, but couldn’t have been happier to cross the finish line and collect our pint glasses. I finished the day with 31.2 miles, and the well-deserved after-party was just ahead.
The Flash runs across Gray’s Lake…a perfect photo, courtesy of Wonder Woman!
We took a “wet wipe shower” in the parking lot, changed into non-spandex clothes, and headed to the after party at El Bait Shop. The rest of the night was a blur of good food, good beer, and great friends. The Speedy Streakers had outdone themselves this year, and we had plenty of memories (and pictures) to remind us of our super hero antics. Another fantastic M2M Relay is in the books!
Cheers to another great relay!