need for speed relay-the long version!

and i mean long…so consider yourselved warned!!

“This is for fun and the party afterwards!”

When given an offer like that, I’m not one to turn it down, right? Back in April, a couple of my Flyer teammates were looking to put together a team for the inaugural Need For Speed relay race-a 60-mile relay from Bear Mountain to New Rochelle, NY. As I’ve heard great things about relays such as Reach The Beach and Hood To Coast, I figured it would be fun to try a shorter one first. Although it was the day after the Mini 10K, I made it perfectly clear-I wasn’t racing this thing, I was just doing it for fun.

After a ton of emails, some team comings and goings, and friendly arguments over the mad-early pickup time, we finally cemented our roster of 9 kick-ass Flyers, plus another Flyer who very graciously volunteered to drive our “getaway vehicle,” aka our rental van.

So the story begins around 4:30 am on Sunday morning. I’m waiting outside my apartment with my bag and pillow in hand, as I completely intend to catch a few ZZZ’s on the trip up to Bear Mountain. I receive a call from the east side contingent-Dan, Lisa and Nicole-they’re actually down the street from me picking up eats and drinks at the corner deli, near there Scott is waiting with the van. We then meet up with John and the remainder of the west side contingent-Christine, Pat and Susie and all pile into the van.

First lesson-always listen to the traffic report on the radio!! Little bit of a backup on the West Side Hwy due to an accident which concerned us briefly-but once we passed by it, smooth sailing. One last stop in the Bronx to pick up the final member of our crew, Suzanne, then next stop-Bear Mountain…which we arrived there at 6:15, so perfect timing!! Was quite chilly at the start, so for the most part we hung out in the van. We laughed at the 2 people leading the warm-up “aerobics”-looked more like warming up for step class, not running!! Finally, they called for all the leadoff runners to get to the start-which would be Pat for our crew, and for the rest of us to get to the van and get outta there. We wished Pat luck and then headed out to the transition area. We found this one with a minimum of drama. But knowing that Pat’s a speedy one, we were in a little bit of a hurry to park the van and get John, our second runner, to the transition area. The rest of us found the transition area, as the first runner came in…but where was John? Finally he got there, just in the nick of time-Pat finished his leg and got us off to a great start-he was 5th overall in that leg!! John then was off on his leg-a challenging 7.7 miles that the handbook nicknamed “The Bear.” On our way back to the van, I felt someone tap me on the arm and heard someone call my name-it was the coach of the Reservoir Dogs with his team!! Good to see some other friendly faces around!

At this point, our team is so happy with the smooth start, that we said “for an inaugural race, it’s pretty well organized.” Famous last words!!

Since John was the navigator and he was running, I volunteered to navigate the way to the next transition-after all, I have killer navigational skills, right? C’mon, I once saved our team from getting lost on the way to Brooklyn. Well, I stand corrected. I have killer navigational skills as long as the street signs are clear-we wound up getting lost, but not too far out of our way….we took a right when it should have been a left, but it seemed that every other team made the same mistake, because the sign was not clear. We still arrived at transition in plenty of time-good thing, because the Croton Dam was a beautiful sight-we snapped a few team pics with that in the background. Finally, John finished up his leg, and handed the bracelet off to Suzanne. Boy was John a trooper-he mentioned that this leg was a killer-and he’s used to running on trails!!

So we headed to the next transition area-and I gave the navigator role back to John. And we got lost again…or should I say confused. We turned around because we weren’t seeing the road we needed to turn on, we thought we were going the wrong way…but after stopping and asking for directions, it turned out we were going the right way, just hadn’t driven far enough. Man, this sorta felt like the Amazing Race-except we were trying to find blue arrow signs instead of red and yellow flags. Anyway, we found the transition area and after we got there, it sorta felt like a NYC running club gathering of sorts. First off, I spotted a friend of mine who runs for Chelsea Piers and we chatted a little bit. Then I chatted with the Rez Dogs, where I met Morrissey!! Very cool-exactly how he comes across on the blog. I then headed to the transition area where the rest of my team was waiting for Suzanne to arrive. We did get concerned when we heard a runner who had just finished leg 3 saying “This was the longest 6.5 miles I ever ran-I got lost twice!” Yikes. We were worried, especially since Suzanne had handed her cell off to me before starting her leg-she didn’t think she’d need it. Finally she arrived, and then handed off to Dan to start his “easy” 3.5-mile leg.

We had to hurry, since even though Dan was nursing an injury, he predicted he’d be done in around 25 minutes, and Christine needed time to prepare, as she was doing the long (10.3 mile) Leg 5. We got there with a few minutes to spare, as we saw the flash of Dan’s red singlet getting closer and closer. He arrived, and handed off to our Master Blaster, Christine and she headed out for her long run, totally pumped. Dan’s assessment of his leg? Only thing “easy” about it was the mileage-it was totally hilly!! If the first hill we saw him running up was any indication…

Anyway, we figured we had around an hour and 20 minutes to kill. We drove over to the next transition area where we pretty much just lounged around on the lawn for awhile. We probably should have picked up something to eat, but didn’t think of it (we did have snacks and PowerBars with us.) Plus personally, since I hadn’t run yet, I was a little wary of eating something unfamiliar. A couple of us tried to nap, a couple of us (like me) tried to catch some rays. Finally, around an hour and ten minutes in, Dan woke Lisa up and warned her that we expect to see Christine finishing in around 5-10 minutes, so it was time to warm up (she was running leg 6.) Five minutes went by…10 minutes went by…no Christine-we started getting a little concerned. I hoped it just meant she was taking this leg easy, as like me, she had done the Mini as well. A few more minutes passed, and then we saw Christine approach the finish of the leg, and hand the bracelet off to Lisa as she started off on her “5.3 mile” leg. Christine felt her leg was at least a mile long…and was very, very tough-killer hills…and she’s a strong runner who’s used to hills.

Anyway, I was on deck after Lisa finished her leg, so we got over to the next transition area. A few minutes after we got there, my friend from Chelsea Piers told us that leg 6 was long-actually around 6.7 miles, instead of the planned 5.3!! Since we weren’t told this beforehand, Dan sent Lisa, who had her cell on her, a text message with that heads up, hoping she would get it. So we had a little more breathing room, so I just stretched and ran around a little bit…I was nervous. Not as much performance-wise…as I told my team all I was going to do was just run comfortably-whatever that is, it is. I was more worried about getting lost than anything else. Our fabulous cap’n John had printed out the latest versions of the runner directions and gave them to us all to carry on the run. I was hoping with that I would be fine. Around 45 minutes in, Dan shouted “is that Lisa?” and my first thought was “oh shit, I need to get over to the transition area!” which I did, stepping in a puddle along the way. Not the way I wanted to start my leg!! But that wasn’t her, false alarm. I stuck around in the transition area anyway, knowing she would be here soon. Christine and Pat came over to help me calm my pre-run jitters, convince me I’ll do fine. Finally, I saw a flash of red a long way down-yep that was our Lisa!! Lisa handed me the chip bracelet and now it was my turn to take on 4.7 miles!!

Leg 7, my leg is described as “Moderate-this leg starts on the paved Bronx River Parkway Trail and then enters Scarsdale. Aside from one long, steady hill, the terrain is generally flat.” The first 3.5 miles of this leg were on the Bronx River Parkway trail-where some parts were paved, but a good chunk of it was on dirt paths similar to the Central Park bridle path which my legs really appreciated, as this was supposed to just be an easy run for me, having done the Mini on Saturday. One guy passed me in the early going and I let him go. I just wanted to run comfortable and relaxed, the rule of thumb was that if I was breathing hard, slow down, but actually the run never got to that point. It was damn hot by this time though…I wished I had water with me, especially on the sunny parts. Finally I exited the trail and headed onto the roads of Scarsdale. All in all, I think the hills of this leg weren’t that bad at all-I’d say this leg was nice and rolling (sorta like the Queens Half course)-this leg should have been “easy” instead of “moderate.” Terrain-wise, I feel I really, really lucked out. I had no problem with directions, all the arrows were there, the traffic cops blocking off cars were very helpful. However, as my watch moved closer to 45 minutes while I was on the last straightaway, I had a feeling something wasn’t right. I had predicted I’d run around a 9 minute pace, or around 40-45 minutes? Another guy passed me and we both said that this was the longest 4.7 miles we ever ran!! But we saw that we were definitely getting near the end. A car that passed me yelled to me “Go Flyers!”…I believe that was a Rez Dog car, thanks guys!! I saw and heard the finish line calling my name, and turned on the jets, and came very close to catching the guy who passed me!! Finally I was done, and gave Susie the chip bracelet, and then high-fived the guy I almost caught and thanked him for helping bring me in strong!! Then more high-fives and hugs from my teammates. I had finished this leg in 49 minutes and change-yep, this leg definitely was longer than 4.7 miles. Though I was running pretty relaxed (except for my final push,) I know I wasn’t doing 10 minute miles. I’d guesstimate this leg to be at least 5 miles. No biggie though.

Again, trying to find the next transition area, we got lost…or sidetracked or whatever. Man, this was a comedy of errors. We found it though and the minute I saw the table with Powerade, I grabbed a bottle-boy I really needed it, was getting hot and I needed more refreshment from my leg!! Reports were coming in that a lot of people were getting lost on leg 8-that some of the arrows were missing, and some added on at least another mile or 2. We just hoped that Susie was OK and that she’d be able to find her way!! Well find her way she did!! While me, Christine and Suzanne were sitting down, all of a sudden we saw our Ironwoman, Nicole, set off for the anchor leg!! We were like whoa-when did Susie sneak in? She did a fabulous job on what was apparently not only a physically challenging leg, but a mentally challenging one too-though apparently the later runners got less lost than the earlier ones did.

So then we were off to the finish line!! While Scott and John went to go park the van in a garage, the rest of us hurried to the finish line to cheer for Nicole when she arrived and help bring her in strong!! I figured Nicole be taking this easy-after all, she just finished an Ironman 2 weeks earlier, it was amazing she was out here!! While waiting for Nicole, we saw Morrissey finish the anchor leg for the Rez Dogs. Finally…we saw Christine give us the high sign, that Nicole was coming in and we cheered louder than we cheered all day!! 8 hours, 35 minutes, and 49 seconds after Pat set off at Bear Mountain, Nicole crossed the finish line.

Wow!! What a day. We all posed for a group picture by the finish line, then headed to the post-race party. While the food was pretty meh-I don’t even think I ate half of what I was given, the Sam Adams beer went down very, very well!! And while I was there, I met yet another Rez Dog blogger, El Profe!! Very nice, again, exactly like he is/was on his blog.

Finally, we rounded up the troops and departed-hoping to beat the Sunday evening traffic. We made it back to the city without too much incident and parted ways, with many hugs and congrats. And I just collapsed when I got home-man, was I exhausted!! This morning, everyone’s inbox was stuffed with emails from team members-we could not say enough how much fun we had and how much we enjoyed everyone’s company (really!)

I completely agree with that-we really had a top-notch group for this event-great teamwork. We were able to share a van for over 12 hours and endure each other’s company with no personality conflicts. And yes, despite the organization issues…as always with the Flyers, when we got handed lemons, we made electric lemonade!! Plus I got enough color to make it look like I spent the weekend sunbathing instead of running. I did this relay as a little test to see if I’d be up for any of the multi-leg relays like Reach The Beach and Hood To Coast, and one of those will be on my to-do list-maybe in ’07? Plus I’ll always have the great memories…like some funny things:

Scoping out hot guys wearing bandanas at every transition area…
Everyone: “what does the B in BR mean?” Me: “I think B means bear.” “Actual bears?” “No, to bear right!”
Me while reading the handbook: “Swearing can get us disqualified.” John: “Oh shit.”

As for the relay itself-we all had a feeling that being the inaugural edition, there would be problems, but as I said, since we were just in this for fun, we just ran with the punches, but I did feel for those who were really doing this competitively and got screwed by things like leg 8. Other things that could have used work were the directions, graphical maps would have been more help, sometimes it’s better to see directions visually. There should have been at least 1 water station on each leg, especially the later ones where it got hot!! I could have used it. This does definitely have the potential to be a great event, as long as the organizers learn from their mistakes and don’t repeat them next year.

And as for us…we rock. Go Flyers!!

4 thoughts on “need for speed relay-the long version!

  1. I don’t think it would have been as much fun without getting lost at least once. Then again, we got lost because on two occasions, we were reading the runner’s cue sheet and not the driving directions.It really was a fun race, though. Congrats to you and your team!

  2. nice to meet ya and congrats to the flyers team! we all did great! although the event has its problems, it is for a good cause! Well done!

  3. nice (and long!) post… I could feel the pre-run jitters.I’ve been keen to do a long relay like Reach the Beach – even more so now.

  4. jay-of course, getting lost is part of the experience. i’m sure the winner of each season of the Amazing Race got lost at least once along the way 🙂 Congrats to you and your team as well!!morrissey-thanks, it was fun to see another friendly NYC team around. had fun chatting at the transition points, and thanks for the cheers at the end of my leg!!josh-your team did well-the hellgaters were 3rd overall-congrats to them!! yeah, i think after this i know i’ll be up for a longer relay-definitely on the to do list for next year.

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