Bear in mind, this race is in its 13th year, so it's ridiculous for these kinds of mistakes to still be a problem. Now, I went back on the website and it appears that the organizers are using runsignup.com now and website-related issues are fixed, but I still want to mention them because they made life frustrating.
Sign Up: I began trying to sign up for the relay option back in July. The webpage is supposed to have a spot, upon choosing the "2-person relay" option, to join an existing team or create one. This part of the signup process was missing until last month. By that time, the price had increased. I wrote to the race organizer and the website tech support at least a half-dozen times before it was fixed. At that point, the organizer did give me a discount code so I could sign up with the original cost, but the fact that it was so impossible to get in touch with him and get this simple mistake fixed was irritating.
Packet Pickup: Pickup was in a small running store where there was a single table, staffed by three people. With a race this size, a larger venue, multiple days for pickup, or multiple tables should be the norm. Also, Matt and I waited in a line that literally wrapped around the store only to be told that relay runners needed to speak to a different person at the table, so we had to get into a second line and wait again. A sign indicating a separate line for relay runners would have been a simple way to avoid this frustration and confusion.
Logistics: The race website says relay runners wear a clip they can attach to a belt and hand that off at the checkpoint. I knew going in we'd be running with a baton instead, but only because Kristina warned me ahead of time. Why is this information not updated on their website?
Race Start: I'll get to this in more detail, but the starting corral was ridiculously narrow and we started 6 minutes late because the drawbridge was up. The drawbridge raises every quarter-hour and three-quarter hour; the schedule is posted. The race organizers should have changed our start time to account for that, or at the very least told us why we were delayed as we all stood in the corral. No one ever got on the mic to say, "Oh hey, the bridge is up, please be patient!" Is communication so much to ask for?
All that said, the race itself was a success and I'm so glad Matt agreed to run it with me. So, on to the recap!
[I've included Matt's parts of the recap in italics.]
Our plan for the race was simple: I would run the first half because I don't handle sun and heat as well as Matt. I would keep a conservative pace of 10:00. I felt confident in tackling the bridge twice. Matt would take the second half of the race, making up for lost time with a goal pace of 8:10. We'd finish together. (Duh.)
After getting dressed, making coffee, and using the bathroom 100 times, we drove the ten minutes to the new Las Olas parking garage.
We arrived an hour before the start and got prime parking. This race was the first I planned to run fasting. I brought a Gu with me just in case, but I didn't plan to eat ahead of time. I had some black coffee in the car and chased it with some water.
It was incredibly narrow and crowded; I don't think I've ever been in a corral that took up only one side of the road for nearly 700 runners.
My goal pace was 10:00; I was treating this race as a training run for Ragnar, not as a goal race in and of itself. I wasn't planning to push it too hard.
My route took me immediately over the East Las Olas Bridge, then down into Victoria Park. I was prepared to run the bridge twice, but was a little less prepared for the rolling hills along parts of the route.
After Ali crossed the start line and disappeared from view, I walked to the car to put our things away and put on sunscreen. Then I went to the exchange point. It was completely unmarked (more disorganization) but there was a timing mat so I figured it was the halfway point. At first there weren't very many people there.
I was tracking Ali and knew I'd have at least an hour from the time she left, so when I got hungry I walked to a CVS across the street and bought a donut.
Admittedly, my legs felt pretty heavy and tired for the first couple miles. Around mile 2.8 I ran right past Oden's place, where he was waiting to cheer. I called out, "Almost at three miles!" and he called back, "Alright, looking good!"
I got to see other hand-offs while I waited, including the Paraguay team that came in first in our division. I saw another guy who spent a lot of time looking for his partner, slowing down and even running backwards, but couldn't find them, and so he just kept the baton and kept on running!
Being off the beach, I had a bit of a breeze but nothing major or distracting. I got some welcome drizzle around mile 4.
|This photographer was right at the top of the bridge. Such a mean spot for photos!
By the time I hit 6.25 miles, I was feeling great. I caught sight of Matt's bright pink hat as I neared mile 6.5 and put on a burst of speed. I raised the baton in the air, grinning. I handed it off to him and said, "Good luck, have fun!" and off he went.
|Right on target! I couldn't be happier!
Not five minutes after seeing Matt, Oden met me. He had ridden his bike over to see us finish. We hung out for the hour or so it took Matt to get back to us. During that time, the wind picked up and it poured for awhile. Then it stopped and got sunny again. Ah, Florida.
The rain came and went. At times the wind felt helpful, but there were also times I had to put my head down and power through it.
Then I started paying attention to what mile I was at. I saw the sign for "mile 12" (mile 5 for me) and mile 12 seemed to last FOREVER. Finally, I saw Ali and Oden back where I'd left her, and I waved her ahead, wanting her to jump into the race. I expected her to be a lot closer to the finish line, like near the last corner where you turn in, but she was about a quarter mile out.
|Matt tracks his races in km.
|4th relay of 18, 2nd in our division!
We may not repeat this once, but if I can find another half marathon relay to do together, I think I'll try to talk Matt into it!