Tuesday, August 16, 2016

Catskill Mountain 100k Relay

Back in June I was asked if I wanted to join a team for the Catskill 100k Relay. Without any additional information (distance, cost) I checked my calendar and agreed. With 4 Ragnar events under my belt I wasn't worried. Later in July I finally asked our captain what the mileage looked like per person (truth be told I could have learned this from the website, but I wasn't sure how many runners we'd have on our team.) Each leg of the Catskill 100k is roughly 10k, with our team of 5, we would each tackle 20k total. (12ish miles).

After boilermaker, my running has been consistent, although I hadn't ran double digits in one day, I still felt prepared to tackle the relay. What drew me into the event, was that it was a single day relay. Ragnar races are great (I am doing one in 2 weeks)  but they take quite a bit of coordination and packing. For the Catskill 100k, I threw my bag together the evening before with an extra running outfit and a set of clean clothes to wear post race. Everyone on our team has dogs, so we opted to leave early Sunday morning to alleviate any need for dog care. This did cause for an early alarm and a moment of panic when I set the alarm at 1030pm only to be told I'd be getting 4 hours of sleep.

3am came quickly but since I had packed everything the evening before, I let the dogs out (mine and a friends that I am dog sitting) and was ready to go with plenty of time to spare.  As I was driving to meet with my team at 3:45am, I realized that the bars hadn't yet closed for the evening, how different my life is from 21 when I'd be closing them down.

We rented a suburban which allowed for a lot of extra room, I claimed the back row and took a rest, I listened to the others talk but didn't join the conversations. We arrived at the start with about 10 minute to spare. In an average road race, this would have stressed me out, but today there were 18 relay teams running and 12 ultra runners.  To say this was a low key event would be an understatement. There was a tent and a banner at the start but no bathrooms (we knew this so it wasn't a big deal, but future runners....)

Our first runner was laced up and ready, she took the start line with the 3 other teams assigned to our wave at 6:30 am.  Our plan throughout the day was to follow along with the runner, offer water, and check in every few miles. I was the last runner of the group, which meant I had a lot of time before it was my turn to run.

I've driven on these roads several times to hike the Catskill high peaks & fire towers, and they are gorgeous routes. Leg 4 included a giant climb up a mountain and I was able to benefit from all of their hard work with a nice rolling course for leg 5. The temperatures were hot, but luckily I had shade for most of the run.

I couldn't get a signal initially for my GPS, which drove me crazy. Being in a new area with no music or watch, I had nothing to reference how far I had run. I kept asking every van that passed by if they knew how far we were hoping to get an idea of how much I had done.  I never realized how discombobulating it is to be racing and not know.

Through interrogating everyone else, I had learned that my watch was about a mile off. Eventually my watch did connect, so I could at least watch my pace for however far I had left. My watch was spitting out insane numbers for me. I don't hold my GPS as gold, but man did it feel awesome to see those numbers.  The past 5 weeks of running have been sloooow and steady that I was mildly concerned that I had lost some of the athletic gains I had made in the past year of consistent running.

I high fived our runner one and was done with my first leg. Since my watch didn't connect for the first mile I don't know my exact time but for the 5.25 I did track I ran it in 48:14 for a 9:11 pace!

The rest of the afternoon was driving through the Catskills semi melting. It was hot and so humid. Every runner needed a lot more water than I think any of us initially thought. Per my usual relay standards, I had only met my teammates once before the race, so we spent a lot of time chatting and joking around. Runner 4 had another tough leg where he had to run past streams and streams of people walking to a swimming hole.  I had never seen parking/congestion such a mess there before (note to anyone planning to hike Peekamoose or Table - parking is very limited on the weekends!!) My legs still felt pretty good, I was looking forward to running my second 10k. I knew that by completing it, I'd run my most mileage in one week ever ( and beat out my friends on Nike +)

I ditched my shirt for my last leg, its not something I do often, but it was SO hot.  I also re-wore my shorts from earlier in the day because they are my longest pair. Normally a fresh pair is my go to- but the heat had me worried about chaffing (my arm pits have been a victim of chaffing for the past few months which is painful enough). My watch was a bit questionable when picking up a signal, but I decided to press start anyways, hoping to at least have a clock to look at to give me some reference.

I ran with my handheld so I told my team to find the halfway point and wait there. My first mile was a bit of an incline and then the next was a very steep downhill. My garmin tells me I lost 1300 feet over that mile. (my quads tell me this is true)  By 2.5 it mostly leveled out, although I did manage to fall while trying to give way to cars passing. The shoulders were narrow not leaving a ton of space for 2 cars to pass with a runner on the road. I channeled my inner Mo and bounced up and kept running. A moment later I saw my team. Said hello and continued along the way. The clouds had rolled in and a breeze had picked up. After I passed them, thunder could be heard in the distance.

The rain started to fall, gently at first. It felt awesome after being so sweaty all day. By mile 4 it was pouring and thundering. I had my hat on (thankfully) and was mostly looking at my feet, so if there was lightening, I didn't see it. Around this time, my team switched back to check in on me.  I was a bit concerned they'd force me off the road, but they didn't. Although in no way did they make me feel like I had to run in the storm.

They trailed behind me for about a mile making sure that I was okay before I waved them off to the finish. The finish line is just past a pavilion that had plenty of teams inside that had already finished - I could hear them cheering for me and was able to keep up the pace to finish strong.

I turned into the finish to find that the banner had been blown over, so I jumped over the finish line to make my team official finishers. I had run that 10k in 1:04 for a 10'17 average, not bad for the second run in 4 hours!

The post race was a bit of a disappointment.  The food was already eaten and while I'm all for low frills races, there were no medals so our finish was a bit anticlimactic. I drank half of a rootbeer, we took a team photo, and then I wrestled off my wet clothes to replace them with dry before we loaded back into the car to head back to Albany.

I would definitely do this race again.  It is very low key - unlike the party atmosphere of Ragnar events, this is you and some pals running 100k on country roads. There are no bibs, no formal bathrooms anywhere, and the exchanges are marked with spray paint on the road. Two days later and I'm still high off the paces I saw during tough conditions. My quads feel a bit more human today, and I'm eager to get back on the road and running later.

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