About 5 weeks ago I was asked if I wanted to join a relay team for a 100 race from Key Largo to Key West, it was for a masters team of 4 men and 2 women with an average age of 50, I would be the second eldest at 55. As I had never done a relay race I said yes as I thought it would be fun. The team was from the iRun Miami Group that I run with on Monday evening’s where we do interval training and if I stay over the weekend I join them for the 10 mile long run on Saturday. There’s a lot of good runners in the group and last year they won the Masters Division with a time of 12 hours 8 minutes. I knew Bo as I had ran with her on Saturday morning before and knew she was a strong runner and over the next few weeks was introduced to the rest of the team as we planned the event. Everything was set as we met on Friday to drive down to Key Largo to stay at a hotel next to the race start in our rental van that was going to be home for 12 hours the following day.
On race day I got ready and slipped on my new Newton Distance IV, weighing 7 ounces with a 2 mm drop in bright yellow they matched my shirt and new cap. I had volunteered to be the lead off person for the team so toed up to the line at 5:45am ready to start. The gun went off and off we shot, and I mean shot. I was having trouble keeping up with the lead group of about 12 people, not sure how many were behind as I had to push hard to keep up with the pack. I was already feeling tired and hadn’t even got to the first mile, it was 75 degrees and was only going to get hotter when the sun came out. My watch beeped at the end of the first mile and I looked at it, the pace 5:56, much faster than I had planned. My goal was to try to be consistent for the 17+ miles I was going to run, hoping to average around 6:50 a mile. Having never done a relay before I didn’t know how my body would react to many short 4K runs and then sitting in a van for over an hour and then doing it again, would my hip hold up, would I hold up?
I knew I couldn’t maintain that pace without it hurting me later so I backed off for the second mile and came in at 6:14 for a 6:05 average over the 2 miles and handed off to Bo with the team in about 7th place at that time. We jumped in the van and drove a couple of miles down to the next exchange point and waiting for Bo and Doc would go next followed by Romina, Juan Carlos and then Paul. As we drove past our team mates the cheering squad, led by Bo, screamed out of the window “he’s catching up to you”, “he’s on your tail, run”, not that we needed encouragement to run harder but it was fun to hear each time. Over the next 4 legs the first 2 teams were already out of sight when we pulled up at the exchange point, they were young all male teams running sub 6 minute miles. However there were 3 teams very close to us, another masters team (all wearing speedos), a team where we knew one of them as he runs with iRun and is super fast and one other team. We would exchange places with them over the next few legs but then the speedos team pulled ahead and were about 4 minutes ahead so we were expecting to be competing for 4th place as they had beaten us by about 20 minutes last year. The only new members were me and Romina, she was the youngest of our team at 40 but also a very strong runner and would be running our longest leg over the 7 mile bridge.
I continued to put in impressive legs with averages of 6:19 for my next 2 legs. Each one was getting harder as the sun was now up and the temperature had climbed to 88 before proceeding to 90 degrees by noon. The good news was that each time I ran my leg I made up ground and either overtook a team or 2 and closed the gap a little on the 3rd place team, their lead was now cut to about 2 to 3 minutes as we made and lost ground. 40 miles into the race there was only a few yards separating 4th, 5th and 6th place teams and we had to push hard with each run. My new Newton’s felt great, so light and kept me on my toes as I averaged around 190 cadence which is higher than my normal 180 but as I was pushing hard racing each leg not too surprising. Each leg I felt tired and wanted to slow or even stop, but the competitor in me kept me going, never looking back to let me competition know I was worried about them as I tried to put more distance between them and me. It was so good to see my team in the distance at each hand off point as I was exhausted pushing all the way to the handoff, these legs were a little longer at 5K and my pace was around 6:31. I would hydrate well, drinking a bottle of water after each leg and having a glass of Gatorade before my next leg, eating a banana or apple in between and some form of granola bar or something similar.
As we hit the 7 mile bridge we were battling it out for 4th and 5th with the speedo team still about 4 minutes ahead. Romina was running the bridge for us, Spencer who we knew was super fast was about a minute behind and we expected him to catch Romina. We were hoping we could make some ground on 3rd place as we drove over the bridge and waited for the runners to arrive. After about 40 minutes to our amazement Romina appeared first just yards ahead of the speedo’s and about a minute ahead of Spenser, a great leg now the race was on. We lost ground to them again over the next 2 runners, when I started and I pushed hard overtaking their runner going up over a smaller bridge and I pushed harder. By the time I handed over to Bo on the other side of the bridge I had built a lead of about 90 seconds which would erode and lose and then get back next time I ran. It was now a race for 3rd place as the other team had dropped off and were no longer at the exchange points as we waited with the men’s master’s speedo team.
I suggested that Paul and JC swap their next leg as JC’s was 2.7 miles and Paul’s 2.2 and JC was 60 and Paul 46. We now began to look at every leg and continued to make adjustments as to who would run which leg as we didn’t want to give the lead up. Our strategy began to work as we built up a lead of up to 3 minutes but no less than 1 minute as they continued to push us to our limits. My last leg came up at 12.3 miles to go with a run of 2.1 miles. I had thought about volunteering for the last leg in case it came to a sprint but wasn’t sure I had enough left so decided to give it everything. Our lead at this point was down to about 15 seconds as I started and kicked hard. I had soaked my cap in the cooler and placed a couple of ice cubes in it as I set off over another small bridge. I knew I was faster than my opponent and just wanted to build up a lead we could maintain. It was brutal, the sun beating down and I felt a little uncomfortable from all the water I had been drinking but knew I had too. I gave it everything, whenever I felt my body beginning to slow I kicked again refusing to listen to my body. As I saw Paul standing with his blue towel over his head to provide shade at the exchange point I went into full sprint mode. I didn’t know where the energy came from but if it was going to come down to a sprint whatever precious seconds I could gain here I would do my part and leave everything on the course. I handed off then pretty much collapsed to the ground, I was so beat, exhausted, hot, gasping. Luckily there was a tent at this exchange point so I sat in the shade for a minute, had a bottle of water before we jumped in the van to the next exchange point.
We maintained the 90 second lead I built going into the last 2 legs, Paul with a 2.9 mile run and Romina was going to run the final 2.1 mile leg. Paul would be going up against their strongest runner and we were concerned if we could maintain the lead. Doc and JC had done there part and ran hard and now it was down to the final 5 miles as Paul set off. He was puffing and blowing as we rode past him in the van a couple of times as we had to stop at the lights. He was running fast but we could see it was hard. By the team he emerged around the last corner he handed off to Romina and we waited to see how far they were behind, he had managed to extend the lead to almost 3 minutes, not that she knew as she pushed ahead. I think they knew by then it was all over and I think they eased up on the last leg. We met Romina with about 50 yards to go as we ran hand in hand over the finish line. Finishing in 3rd place overall with a time of 11 hours 20 minutes and 59 seconds, an average pace of 6:48 per mile for 100 miles, almost 50 minutes quicker than last years time.
Some great stats from the race, our splits for the first 50 miles was just 6.3 seconds faster than our last 50 miles, most other teams slowed by over 10 minutes. This shows great consistency and strength in our training. We were trailing the speedo team by 4:50 at the 50 mile split, had a 40 second lead on them at the 75 mile mark and eventually beat them by almost 8 minutes (they didn’t push on the last leg as they were beat). We were 22 seconds behind the 5th place team team at the half and beat them by 20 minutes, and 3 other teams were within 2 minutes of us at the half.
What a great race, having that competition for third place all the way to the finish line kept it super interesting andpushed everyone to their limit. We all ran above our expectations and gave it everything we had, everyone did their part an it was 100% a great team effort. After receiving our finishers medals we waited at the finish line for the 4th place speedo team and 5th place team with Spencer as we cheered them over the finish line. Our iRun girls team finished first also with a course record of 11:56:47. The end of an amazing day and great experience with new friends. If you notice there wasn’t a single mention of my hip during this race, it felt great, I felt great, or at least as great as you can after running 17+ miles at just over a 6:20 pace. I still felt great this morning as I went to do Yoga with my Fit2Run Bayshore running group on Sunday morning before heading to the pub to watch Man Utd play their last home game of the season and then enjoy a steak for dinner. I’ve been eating a lot healthier over the last few months, eve
n enjoying a couple of 100% vegan days the last week leading up to the race. I’m not sure if that helped me feel so good but it certainly didn’t hurt so I will be continuing to eat plenty of salads and increase my intake of fruit, vegetables and plant based foods.