Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Mill Cities Relay

Relays are fun. On Sunday I met a bunch of Shamrocks, including my teammates Randy and Val, at the Woburn library and drove up to Nashua, New Hampshire for the 26th annual Mill Cities Relay. Our lead off runner, Mike, and our 2nd leg, Crystal, would meet us in Nashua.

We broke it down like this:
Leg 1, 5.6 miles -- Mike
Leg 2, 4.75 miles -- Crystal
Leg 3, 2.5 miles -- Val
Leg 4, 9.5 miles -- Me
Leg 5, 4.75 miles -- Randy

All of it ends, appropriately, at the Claddagh Pub, in Lawrence. All in all things went pretty well. the logistics of a 2-state, 5-person, point-to-point relay always offer a few challenges and this was no different. Crystal decided to jog a lap around the building as Mike was finishing his leg--leaving him nobody to hand off to and costing us somewhere around a minute and a half (not a big deal in the grand scheme, but pretty disconcerting to a guy who'd just run his ass off.) Later, after the leg 3 exchange, there was a small disagreement between me and the guy directing traffic at the exit of the Greater Lowell Technical School. Since Val was ahead of me and I was supposed to take the baton next, I didn't have time to stop and compare and contrast my credentials as a runner versus his credentials as a traffic director, but some colorful language was exchanged. However, I made it to the exchange before Val, with just enough time to throw off my sweatshirt and pants and get lined up.
I told Randy my goal was to pass 10 more people than passed me. That turned out to be a conservative goal as I lost count how many people I'd passed in the mid-to-high teens and nobody passed me. I just tried to aim for half marathon effort for the first 8 miles or so and then figured I'd bury the needle. The first 4 or 5 miles were mostly on an icy, snowy bike path along the river through Lowell before we returned to he road for the end. Despite (or maybe because of) my slacker training schedule lately, I felt great. I fed off the energy of having lots of targets up ahead and just rolled along. I wound up covering the 9.5 mile course in 57:53 or 6:06 pace and I'm pretty sure the last 1.5 miles were sub 6 pace. I came really close to catching Noel on our Men's Open team--I think the gap was about 30 seconds when we handed off. The great thing is nothing really hurt. My cranky hip made a few complaints in the late miles, but nothing serious.
Randy ran a great last leg and we wound up 26th out of 201 teams overall and 4th of 14 teams in our division, covering the 28.6 mile course in 2:54:38. We were the highest point-scoring team among the Shamrock entries. (Yay us!) If not for the little mishap at the first exchange, we would have been fastest Shamrock team overall. Oh well. Good times, nonetheless.
The best part, of course, is that this race ends at a pub. And even though we were done by 11 and they didn't serve beer until noon, we found a way. It was good as always to see a lot of the regulars of the New England running scene and overall a great way to usher out my 30's. That's right, my next race will be as a masters runner. Yikes.

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