Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Rainier To Ruston Relay

I’ve discovered a new joy in running – the relay team! Before I joined my running club I didn’t even know about relay races. When I heard “relay” and “running” in the same sentence I thought we were talking about a high school track meet and passing batons. But apparently there are grown-up relays that don’t involve the nerve-wracking baton hand-off.

The first weekend in June, on National Trails Day, I was part of a a 6-person team that ran the Rainier to Ruston Rail-Trail Relay. This race raised money for the Foothills Rails to Trails Coalition, which is attempting to create a contiguous, non-motorized, public trail from Mt. Rainier all the way to Tacoma. The relay is just over 50 miles and luckily is mostly downhill. There are 12 checkpoints/hand-offs and we all carefully calculated our 2 legs we would run weeks ahead of time. No uphills for me? Check! Reasonable mileage for each leg? Check! More solid terrain? Check!
The day of the race we met at 6:45am in Puyallup to carpool in two cars to the top of Mt. Rainier. The trunks of both cars were loaded with gear – extra clothes, extra shoes, lots of food and water, and all of our maps. Our team shirts were distributed (donated by a chiropracter who was friends with Ron; this means I'm a sponsored runner, right?!?) and signs were taped up on the back windshield that said “Runners on the Road.” We felt lucky that this Saturday happened to have gorgeous weather, but with the elevation gain, we were chilly by the time we arrived at the Mt. Rainier starting point. We didn’t have to wait too long for the start and Laura was our first person to run (she also ended up with the most elevation gain as well, but she seriously rocked those hills.) As we drove our cars to the next checkpoint, we stopped a couple of times along the way to cheer Laura on. As Laura arrived at the first checkpoint, Becky was ready to go. Laura ran under the checkpoint, rang a little bell that signaled she was done, and slapped Becky’s hand. Becky took off and ran the most technical part of the race on some serious unpaved, deep forest trails, which involved crossing rivers on fallen logs, running through mud pits, and even falling down a couple of times. I ran the third leg, mostly on unpaved trails and tried to avoid the copious amounts of mud and puddles. Katie ran the 4th leg, Molly the 5th leg, and then Ron ran the 6th leg. We essentially ran the next 6 legs of the race in the same order, with Molly and Katie switching it up. And Ron and Laura ran the very last leg to the finish line together. We ran a combination of unpaved trails, paved trails, neighborhood sidewalks, and even some soft sand along the Puyallup River. It took us approximately eight hours to run the entire trip.
I think the thing that surprised me the most about the relay was that I thought there would be a lot more downtime in between the running. In fact, I never once opened my magazines I had brought with me. As soon as one runner would take off and start their designated leg, the rest of us would pile into the cars, drive to the next checkpoint, and cheer on runners who were coming in. There was so much fun and excitement throughout the day! An eight-hour day of just running and driving never moved so fast! And at the end of the day, when we were waiting along the Tacoma waterfront for Ron and Laura to make it to the finish line, the clear weather allowed for perfect views of Mt. Rainier off in the distance. (In the picture look to the left above the Tacoma city buildings.) And we realized that we had actually run all the way from that beautiful mountain to Puget Sound. How cool is that?
So, relays are my new thing. I couldn't do anymore this summer because I've been trying to stick to a strict running schedule in preparation for my October marathon. But I will for sure try to run more next summer.

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