Longest day-race: Haney to Harrison 100-km relay

(Day-long workshops on Monday and Tuesday really wiped me out especially when the weekend was also very tiring. That’s why this recap is late in coming.)

At the end of Saturday, I sighed because it felt good to warm my insides with eggnog latte and I glanced at the collection of Starbucks’ “The Way I See It” quotes on our coffee cups. I sat up straight when I noticed that mine was Quote #263, which just happened to be my relay team’s identifying number! Not only that, our quote was so fitting for the trials we endured from 6:30a.m. until 3:45p.m.: “Run when you can, walk when you have to, crawl if you must; just never give up.” (Dean Karnazes, Runner)

I had wickedly unfitful sleep the night before as it happens sometimes — but not recently — before race day. I woke up at 1:53 a.m. dreading waking up and thinking it was already 4:45. I woke up again shortly before 4 and one other time and didn’t log the time. :S I wasn’t too happy when I finally, truly woke up but if I felt wretched, it was consolation to not have to run immediately. I ate my usual breakfast: cereal with bran, a yogurt, and a cup of water.

Our team, cheekily named Don’t Run Me Over, started with the 6:30 a.m. wave. It was too dark and so many other teams were also starting that I did not see as I had hoped my buddies who were part of other relay teams.

As is possible for a race in a rural area where the roads remain open, we could easily drive further along the course and then wait and cheer for our runners. We tried it first, standing at an intersection 30 minutes after the start, waiting for our first runner to come by before speeding by car to the exchange point. He did not show up. We saw other runners whose gaits were so terrible, it was hard to believe they had passed our runner. Suppose our Leg 1 runner — who was a newbie to the relay as I was — had surpassed our expectations and was waiting, confused and tired, already at the exchange point?

At the exchange, there was no sign of him. I even shouted his name several times into the crowd and we watched as time marched on and he was 5, then 15 minutes late arriving on a predicted 47-minute finish. Did he keel over? Then I overheard a volunteer mention that a group of people had gone the wrong way. What was most hilarious is that the Leg 1 runner and I had done the his leg just last week (by daylight) and the deviation from the course was early and long: they ran an extra 2KM out and 2KM to get back! The Leg 1 runner was ribbed all day for the blunder but we all agreed that we would have followed the leader pack off the course, too.

During Leg 2, I was somewhat one track-minded to find a washroom. I had been up for 2.5 hours and would not run for 2 more hours! When we were trekking to the second exchange point, I tripped on a long thorny vine and scraped up my calf – it would sting for the rest of the day. :(

Leg 3 started around 8:45 a.m. and I was somewhat incredulous that after all the anticipation, I would be running for my team in Leg 4. By then, we had driven on the course and clambered in and out of the SUV several times and I learned why we needed to pack two sets of dry clothing in addition to your running outfit and a dinner outfit: the first set of dry clothing was to get wet while cheering before your leg; the second set of dry clothing is for changing into after a guaranteed-soaked run. Given the circumstances – up so early and lacking sleep – I popped a caffeine pill 10 minutes before my run. The little pink sucker does not adversely affect me and could very well help. (It didn’t.)

My leg was Leg 4 and I set out just before 10:00 a.m. As I was taking off and running in a corridor of people, I could hear someone exclaim my name in a distinctive voice. Who was it?? Unlike the other 7 legs of the course, there was no vehicular or fan traffic on my leg. It took me a total of nearly 8 11-minute intervals. Here were some of the events of each interval….

* Interval 1: Started out too damn fast. It may have been 5-minute kilometers. I mulled over who had that distinctive voice who called out to me at the start of my leg and figured it out. I looked forward to confronting him about it later!
* Interval 2: Part of this interval was part of a glorious 3-km downhill. I could feel my hips still feeling stiff and rued not being warm before starting.
* Interval 3: This entire interval was still downhill which was at times steep. I felt a cramp come on in the last two minutes – it was nearly incapacitating. :S
* Interval 4: I concentrated during this flat section of the leg on breathing evening to stave off the cramp returning. I looked forward to sucked back on my gel at the end of the interval.
* Interval 5: Polishing off my yummy Gu Vanilla Bean gel translated into an extra 14 seconds of walking. I think I noticed at this point that we were running towards a mountain and I wondered how close we would get to its base. Close behind us, there was another mountain – it was an amusing moment to contemplate the novelty of running in a valley. I saw a barn with several cows penned up… then I smelled them. :S Not coincidentally, the road was named Farm Road.
* Interval 6: My body was not working with me and I was miserable to feel like so at the 10K mark when I run twice as much without much protest on the weekend. I saw my minutes-per-kilometer (pace) drop and took an unplanned 1-minute walk at 1:44. =(
* Interval 7: It started out okay I could see the highway and once again – Civilization! And cheering fans once again! – knowing that once I made it to the junction, there would only be 1KM left to go. It was demoralising to seem to never reach the highway so I took a breather at 5 minutes.
* Interval 8: It was during the longest last kilometer the team aspect weighed the most on me at that point as I watched my time march past an hour and fifteen minutes. As much as I wanted to, I continued running non-stop, knowing that both cars of my teammates were at the exchange point (the end of my leg was approximately halfway and the next car of 4 runners would set out).
* I was completely wiped out and beyond miserable and soaked even though it did not get worse than a drizzle during my run.

Fortunately, we, the first four runners, could zip back to the captain’s house to shower. Then we head back out to cheer on the other four runners on our team while taking our lunch on the road. I had the best A&W Teen Burger – it’s all relative, no? – and learned that A&W has good onion rings!

We stopped at both the 6th and 7th exchanges to see off our 7th and 8th runners, then we drove to the finish line, about 100KM from the start.

Other items of note:
* The guy who pooped his pants (black spandex leggings). I was not the observant one who noticed and still wonder if the spatter pattern actually matches our assumption….
* Our captain made light of the situation by heckling the team members when possible. As we drove past our 6th runner, he hung out the window jeering, “You’re still here?!” She grunts and gives him/us the finger. :P Fifty meters further, he stops to offer her our last onion ring. Another finger. To our fastest runner, he heckles him to improve his pace by 33% to make up for our first runner’s “gaffe”. :D
* Some teams coordinate and design a costume that is known to racers who return. The “Turtle Power” team was outfitted with shimmery green capes and neon green shirts reading “Turtle Power” and their team vehicles sported large inflatable turtle swimming pools strapped to the roof. One team’s runners wore grass skirts over their gear. And a fun team was identifiable by their hot pink clothing and, uhm, prosthetic body parts: we slowed to ogle a woman wearing projectile prosthetic breasts and I captured the runner who, with a prosthetic rear, looked like she was wearing assless chaps. :D
* When we left the race course at 4PM, we had the time to observe the ultra runners, who did the 100-KM race themselves, as they struggled to the finish line. What troopers they are! Starting at 3 or 4AM and running 100 kilometers in one shot in the boring countryside is completely unfathomable to me!
* To be honest, I was really miserable by the beginning of my leg of the race. I was so cold from getting soaked cheering on our runners (ill-prepared, you can say) that I had clenched my teeth to bring on a constant headache.

Some of the logistics of the race – like needing to be 40 minutes out of the city at 6 AM – made me wonder if I had been rash to sign up for the race. I held to the reason that I could not pass up the opportunity to participate in a team-based running event when running is mostly a solo effort. Then race day came and we were a fantastic group in our car with sporadic moments of seriousness to update our predictions (later runners needed to know when to expect to run). The teamwork and goodwill within and between teams was apparent at all the exchanges. It was surreal to be out and running before sunrise. It was an mind-boggling concept and feat when you think of each team of 8 covering 100KM in just 9 hours (for us) and all day long, the teams wandered from one exchange hub to the next, from Haney to Harrison!

Team result for Don’t Run Me Over (Open Mixed)
174 of 245 relay teams
30 of 41 Open Mixed teams
9:16:04 for 100 km

Individual result (for me)
193 of 245 Leg 4 runners
82 of 120 Female Leg 4 runners
33 of 41 Open Mixed teams
1:23:17 Chip time
5:47 Average pace
(I reported my 10K time as 55:39 and from that, a “50% Expected” prediction of my time to complete the 14.42-km Leg 4 was 1:21:52. Initially, I thought my 10K time was simply scaled to 14.42KM but it turns out a more sophisticated calculation was performed based on the results of Leg 4 runners in the past taking into account their 10K times. My 10% fast and 10% slower times were predicted to be 1:16:15 and 1:27:28, respectively. I was somewhat close to the middle. :D)

On this day..


  1. Henry Chan says:

    Sorry to hear about the rain.
    For some weird reason, its rained for almost 80% of my races this year.
    U running Fall Classic?

  2. wyn says:

    Rain: it’s fun to whine about it, just don’t be caught unprepared for it!
    It was an okay year for weather (dry Sun Run where you waited so long, and dry Canada Day run, as could be expected, dry marathon *whew*!) but it was the rainy runs that stuck out like sore thumb – like the downpour during the Scotiabank Half. Gosh, that was the most miserable race I’ve ever done!

    Yes, Henry, I’m running in the Fall Classic. 10K! You?

  3. Henry Chan says:

    How do you prepare for a rainy run?

    Most of the guys I know wear a cap, singlet, shorts and gloves even for the rain races. Hey – that’s pretty much the standard for hot-weather running too minus the gloves! So is that how you prepare for the rain – wear gloves?

    I’m racing the 5k.
    Hey, didn’t know you were much into teams for racing. You should have let me known. I was looking for someone who can run 9.5km (James Cunningham Seawall race 2 weeks ago) in under 1h.
    We got someone on the last minute, but would have been nice recruiting ppl a bit earlier.


  4. wyn says:

    Rainy day run: cap, technical shirt on the form-fitting side, light-weight capris, tie up my runners tightly, gloves in the fall/winter I’ll wear a windbreaker if it’s a short distance (i.e., less than a half-marathon).

    Haney to Harrison was my first relay event and I was under the impression that a Seawall race team wouldn’t be a relay. Henry, I can do 9.5K in under an hour but I really thought your team would want a faster 9.5K runner who completes it in far less than an hour!

  5. Kenny says:

    So who is this leg one runner you speak of, he must be an idiot!!! ;)

  6. wyn says:

    I was trying to remain diplomatic as to not “out” the Leg One Runner. He knows who he is. ;-)

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