Chasing 42

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Market to Market Relay- Iowa: The Speedy Streakers Have More Fun Than You

Tradition is a powerful motivator, much like friendship. It’s been a strange, transitional year filled with more changes, opportunities, adjustments, educational moments, challenges, and triumphs than I’ve experienced in quite some time. In fact, I’m pretty sure my life hasn’t been this topsy-turvy since I graduated from college. I’ve done my best to stay positive about everything being thrown at me, but the reality is that there have been good days and bad. Without a doubt the hardest part of leaving Iowa was leaving such an amazing group of friends. My running journey began with Team Vardo and our paths will forever be linked. So, I was understandably quite excited to make the trip back during the first weekend in May so see so many amazing people, and run a relay event that I’ve been able to participate in for the last 4 years.

Welcome back to Iowa!

Welcome back to Iowa!

My flight was much too early on Friday morning, but the Philadelphia Airport was of course already a buzz when I arrived around 6AM. After the requisite waiting, I did my time in a steel tube and landed in Des Moines mid-morning. Several friends were there to greet me, and it was wonderful to see their smiling faces when I got off the escalator! We hopped in the car, and it was go time. Friday afternoon was all about relay prep and we managed to stop for lunch in Des Moines as well before heading back to Ames. Ironically, it was in the low 80’s when I got there, which was much warmer weather than Delaware had seen to that point. My body wasn’t necessarily acclimated, but it felt great to feel the sun beating down on me.

We met up with some other friends around 3pm for a short run. I had to keep my streak going πŸ™‚ It felt strange to be “visiting” as we ran through campus and along roads I have logged so many miles on in the past. It was still great to be back and most of my sense of direction returned as we marked out our route. After about 5 miles, we headed back to the gym to shower, then grabbed a drink at a nearby restaurant before heading to dinner to meet up with a larger group of Vardos. It was fantastic catching up with so many people, and the caring and thoughtfulness that made me fall in love with this crazy group came out instantly and it was as if no time had passed. Of course a year had passed so there was plenty of catching up to do, and the time went by far too quickly.

Visiting The Pig again this year!

Visiting The Pig again this year!

After dinner, the Speedy Streakers piled into the van (minus one teammate benched by family obligations) and down to Jefferson. We stopped at The Pig (bar) for our customary drink and dollar signing, and the bartender greeted us with smiles and sarcasm, just has she has every year! I was pretty tired at this point, and it was probably for the best that we made our way back to Nicole’s parents’ house and got settled for a few hours of sleep. Our starting time of 8:30 the next morning was later than we’d started in the past (I think we may have overestimated our speed!) but it did mean sleeping in a bit longer so nobody was complaining.

The Speedy Streakers run again!

The Speedy Streakers run again!

Everyone got ready, pulled out their costumes, and had some light breakfast before we piled back into our moving base for the day and made the 5 minute drive to the starting line. We didn’t end up with an overall costume theme, although the ladies (and Ben) did manage some spectacular sock monkey costumes! Our goal this year, as every year, is to have fun first, and to run second. I wanted to run as many legs with as many people as possible this year, and I certainly had the chance to make that happen. I ran the first leg, as I’ve done every year, along with several others, and we traded off and Eric and I kept running for the second leg as well.

Are you sure you're ready for us?!

Are you sure you’re ready for us?!

The weather had cooled a decent amount, and storms were threatening during the morning but nothing much came of them, aside from a short delay for lightning in the area. The legs ticked off pretty effortlessly, as we were all really familiar with the route at this point, and we made sure that numerous folks were running each leg so everyone always had company. The overall mood was perhaps a bit more mellow than in previous years, but the pudding and Jell-O shots were still flowing freely. It felt really comfortable to be back there, in that place, with such an amazing group of friends, during that event. In many ways, it almost felt like home in a way. I suppose that’s the result of being so completely comfortable with a group of people and an area, eh?

Ticking off the miles!

Ticking off the miles!

I ended up running 5 of the first 8 legs, and the morning hours flew by quickly. I was determined not to push as hard as I had in previous years so I still had some juice for the late stages, and I finally succeeded this year. I ended up running 8 of the 17 legs in all, including the hilly detour leg at the end, which didn’t seem nearly as bad as I had remembered it from a few years back. Thank you, Delaware hills! We made our way to the finish area and waited for Carla to come in on the anchor leg so we could all join her and cross the finish line together. She looked strong coming in, and we all made the final push through the finish line as they announced our names, and we picked up our finishers pint glasses. Another M2M Relay was in the books!

Miles of smiles :)

Miles of smiles πŸ™‚

The evening ended up being pretty low-key as well, as we made our way back to our hotel room to shower and head out for dinner and drinks. We ate at a new pub/restaurant with enough beers on tap to make my head spin, and it was a perfect way to close out the night! Everyone slept soundly, which made getting up at 6AM all the more difficult. I got dressed quietly, along with Lani and Steve. I was able to say goodbye to everyone, even if they don’t remember it, and we headed to the airport so I could catch my 9AM flight. Leaving was bittersweet as I said my final goodbyes and began my journey back to Delaware. Leaving a place you called home for so long, as a visitor, for a new home, is a strange feeling, and it left me with plenty of mixed emotions. This trip was a much-needed means of connecting with many people most important to me, and at the same time a difficult reminder of just how much has changed, even if the people haven’t. The Speedy Streakers, and the Vardos as a whole will always hold a special place in my heart, and I’m now more committed than ever to making sure I maintain those connections and those friendships for the long haul! The Delaware Chapter of Team Vardo is stronger than ever, and waiting to welcome others to the world of East Coast running πŸ™‚

Finishing strong!

Finishing strong!

 

Tradition, family, and running are interconnected for me. You simply need to return to some races…they mean more than simply a medal or a finish time. Times and logs never tell the full story. The power of running rests between the miles, in the conversations, the smiles, the trust, and the memories. Remembering that is as important to #chasing42 as any race will ever be!

Market to Market 2015: The Speedy Streakers Strike Again!

It’s still hard to believe that my 10 years in Ames was at an end. Quite a bit has changed in my life over the course of those 10 years, not the least of which is my passion for running and the friends that I have picked up as a result. Thus, it was only fitting that my last weekend in Iowa was spent with an amazing group of friends doing what we love to do…run! This was the third year in a row that we’ve participated in the Market to Market Iowa Relay, and our Speedy Streakers team has the relay and the preparations down to a science at this point, which made for an amazing weekend. This race was my farewell of sorts as well, so there was plenty of chatter leading up to the race, and I was looking forward to a fantastic weekend of running and shenanigans!

Our goal, as a team, has always been to have as much fun as possible, with a little running thrown in, and we certainly hit the mark this year! We always find a theme so we can prepare costumes accordingly, and we landed on “Barrel Full of Monkeys” this year, although “What Does the Fox Say?” was a close second. The opportunity to dress up in a monkey costume was just too good to pass up, obviously!

We made it out of Ames eventually :)

We made it out of Ames eventually πŸ™‚

The 78-mile relay begins in Jefferson, IA and follows a series of trails all the way to downtown Des Moines. We packed up the rented 15-passenger van on Friday afternoon and took our time heading down to Jefferson and our hosts for the evening. Interestingly, we managed to have a bit of trouble even leaving Ames, but only because we clearly had to stop at a few bars on our way out-of-town to help condition ourselves for the following day (minus our driver, of course). It’s carb-loading, right? The drive down took us to two other bars, including a stop for dinner, and a stop at a teammate’s Aunt’s house for more carb-loading. Did I mention that our team could easily be called the Iron Livers? πŸ™‚

We awoke bright and early on Saturday morning (May 8) after a short but restful burst of sleep and donned our costumes before heading down to the starting line a few minutes away. We met up with some of the other Vardo teams and cheered folks as their waves took off. It was quite convenient that M2M was giving away bananas- we took advantage and grabbed plenty to hand them out to other runners. What else is a monkey to do?

Would you care for a banana?

Would you care for a banana?

From the beginning, our relay experience was about equal parts running and delicious Jello-O shots, and we made the most of the day. In previous years, I’ve added on additional miles by running various legs with other teammates, and I crafted a repeat performance again this year. However, everyone was in a nostalgic mood and wanted to make the most of the day, so we had multiple runners for 14 of the 17 legs of the race, and we easily tallied the most collective miles of any team out on the course!

Truly a team effort!

Truly a team effort!

We treated each exchange point during the relay as a mini-party and did our best to embrace the crazy of the day. The legs all blended together a bit for me, and the weather was relatively cooperative (not too hot, and some wind off and on), so it made for a beautiful day to be outside running. My legs felt great for most of the day, and I did my best to scale back my pace a bit this year. In past years, I’ve logged some significant miles, but forgot I was going long and also proceeded to run the entire day at more of a 5K than marathon pace. I was determined not to be quite as tired this year, and I succeeded for the most part. My legs were still plenty tired by the final collective leg, which several of us ran together and then met the rest of the team to run in the final 1/4 mile to the finish, but overall I felt great. I ended up collecting a bit over 33 miles for the day, which suited me just fine!

M2M15-4

We crossed the finish line, collected our pint glasses, and were all smiles after another successful relay! We were committed to having as much fun as possible during the after-party this year so we decided to rent a hotel room in downtown Des Moines, not far from the finish, which meant no driving needed. We stopped by our hotel room to shower and then headed back to the after party to meet up with all of the other Vardos. I was able to see a lot of folks and inevitably, the line of “goodbye” moments began. It was wonderful to see so many people but talk about an emotional rollercoaster! Good grief, I love this group!

M2M15-5

 

The rest of the evening was a blur of toasts, cheers, antics, late-night pizza, and some memories that I will hold dear for the rest of my life. Throughout the day and night, I did my best to forget that I was leaving on Monday morning and just enjoy the time. What actually happened was a mixture of bittersweet moments with some of the best friends anyone could ask for…I went out with a bang doing what I love with folks I love, and I wouldn’t have had it any other way.

Transition and change are rarely easy, sometimes necessary, and hopefully a part of the relentless forward progress of life. I woke up Sunday morning and we stopped for breakfast on the way home. I’d fought the tears off up until that point, but the dam broke and the tears came flooding out into my coffee. I knew it was happening, knew it was the right choice, but saying “until next time” is never easy. This weekend wasn’t just about running, or having fun- it was about cementing relationships with some amazing people and being reminded what true friendship is all about. I knew I could take those things with me when I drove off on Monday morning…and I did. #chasing42

Race Report: Market to Market Relay- Nebraska

Normally, one of the biggest selling points for me when running a marathon or other race is the ability I have to control the outcome. I decide how much effort I put forth, when I push myself, and the perception of success is based on how I feel at the end of the day. Relays are a completely different story. I certainly have control over the legs of the race that I run, but beyond that, that overall satisfaction with the day depends as much on the people I’m running with, the weather, and a host of other variables. In this regard, I feel very luck to have so many amazing friends! This past weekend, I joined a group of friends, some new, and some old, and headed to Omaha, Nebraska for the Market to Market Relay. You may recall that I ran the Iowa iteration of the Market to Market relay this past spring, and the races are put on by the same directors.

We loaded up the car on Friday afternoon and headed west. Luckily, one of my friends is from just outside Omaha, so we stayed his parents for the evening. They were gracious enough to host us, as well as feed us a delicious spaghetti dinner. His dad was actually running with us the next day, so the circumstances worked out perfectly. We woke up around 5AM, and drove the 30 minutes to the starting line of the relay in Omaha. We fielded a seven-person relay team, and I was slotted to run the first leg, so they dropped me off at a park in Omaha, and took off for the first exchange point. I had to be there 30 minutes early to pick up the timing chip and check in, so I had some time to warm up, which was nice. Now, as you may recall, I have a rather lengthier race coming up in December, and my training calendar called for 28 miles on this particular Saturday. Thus, I knew I would need to squeeze in some extra mileage on top of my scheduled 3 legs of the 78 mile trek from Omaha to Lincoln. It was chilly enough that running around the park while I waited for our wave to begin at 6:40AM made sense, so I knocked out 2.2 miles and loosened up a great deal.

Is it time to run already?

Is it time to run already?

I wasn’t entirely sure how my pace would match up with others in our wave, since they try to stagger start times based on team average pace. The first leg was a quick 3.2 miles (all legs were between 2.5 and 5.5), so I knew I could push it hard with fresh legs. It was still dark out, so I strapped on the required headlamp and headed out with the gun. I quickly worked my way to the front of the pack (only about 30 other runners) and figured I would see how long I could hold my pace. Aside from a few runners who were clearly much faster than I was, I held my own around 7:00 min/mile, and wormed my way down the dark city path towards the first exchange point. My lungs were definitely exerting themselves, but my legs were feeling good and I came in near a 5K PR, for which I was really pleased. I handed the chip off to the next runner, and met up with everyone else to hop in the van and head to the third exchange point.

Beginning to wake up after a few miles...

Beginning to wake up after a few miles…

It was still early enough that the lack of coffee in my system had not caught up to me yet. However, a lack of access meant I went the whole day without, and the caffeine headache certainly found me after another few hours. I knew that I’d need to find a way to run additional miles in order to reach my 28 mile training goal for the day, so I decided to join others on various legs in addition to my own. This decision ended up being a great choice and a lot of fun! The volunteers didn’t seem to mind or notice that there were two people from our team running, and it was fun to run with someone else as well. The short legs and driving between legs meant that everything was incredibly fast-paced, so being able to run with two of my teammates that I didn’t know as well gave me a wonderful chance to get to know them better.

Knocking out some extra miles with Ben...song stuck in our heads- "What Did the Fox Say?!"

Knocking out some extra miles with Ben…song stuck in our heads- “What Did the Fox Say?!”

Through the first set of 7 legs, I ended up running 3, including some quality time on a very hilly stretch of gravel road. Unless Market-to-Market Iowa, which was almost entirely on paved bike trails, this relay took us over a variety of terrain, including more gravel than I would have normally cared for or chose. I ran the 4th and 7th legs, and then just continued with the 8th leg, which was my leg to run in the first place. After the back-to-back legs, I was definitely starting to feel a bit more fatigue. I had completed a little over 15 miles at that point, which just enough down time to cool off but not really recover.

The stop and go nature of the day ended up taking its toll on my body far more than I imagined as well. My last leg was the longest at 5.2 miles, and after a relatively speedy first two miles, my quads started screaming at me, and I had no choice but to slow down a bit and push through the last few miles. I ended up running 7 of the 21 total legs, along with the final group run to the finish, for a total of 26.95 miles. Normally, my body tends to handle these distances really well, but the extended nature of the miles throughout the course of the relay left me more fatigued than normal. Additionally, I developed a hot spot below my pinkie toe on my left foot that irritated me more and more as the day went on. I’m not more convinced than ever that I need to see a doctor to figure out why I have so many issues with my left foot/leg, but never any problems with my right. In terms of nutrition, I wouldn’t say I ate well, but I took in mostly whole foods (trail mix, bananas, dates) and avoided chews altogether, and my body seemed to react very well, which was encouraging.

Strong at the finish!

Strong at the finish!

We arrived together as a team to cross the final bridge in Lincoln, across from the University of Nebraska football stadium, into the finish area and after-party, and that last .3 miles was definitely stiff, but it felt great to cross as a team. In all, we tackled the 78 miles in 10:45, with an 8:11/mile average pace, which was mighty impressive in my book. More than that though, we had a blast doing it. As we sat at the after party, enjoying our free beer and pizza, the effort of the day began to weigh on us, and our energy reserves slowly reached empty. However, as we piled into the van for the drive home that night, we may have been exhausted, but we were happy, content, and leaving Nebraska as closer friends. That feeling of contentment is truly the appeal of relay events for me, and I was once again happy to be a part of the Speedy Streakers!

Well deserved after a long day of running!

Well deserved after a long day of running!

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