Monday, April 2, 2012

Texas Independence Relay

Team: More Pain Please!!
Results: Overall Win!!

There is no "I" in Team.

Running is certainly usually an individual sport but here we are - twelve of us out to try to be the fastest team to run from Bastrop, TX to the San Jacinto Monument 203 miles away. Much of the race I liked to think was generally around the "Runaway Scrape" back in 1836 where Sam Houston's Texas Army fled from the pursuing larger Mexican Army that Santa Ana led to their ultimate demise at the battle for Texas independence where the San Jacinto Monument now sits today. We had our own "Runaway Scrape" to do as the #1 seeded "Dollz n Towel Boys"(DNTB) started the journey just 5 minutes after us and we wanted to keep that pursuing team in our rear view mirror - more than 5 minutes back at the finishline and we win with the fastest net time.
2:15pm on 3/31/2012 - the race is on.

There's a little history between these teams as both were contenders in the 2011 race although neither the DNTB nor MPP came away victorious despite both setting course records over prior years. DNTB finished 2nd and MPP finished 4th with a roughly 11 sec/mile advantage to the DNTB team - but neither the 1st nor the 3rd place team showed up in 2012 so the contenders for this year were pretty clearly down to these two - DNTB is a predominately Dallas team and MPP is a predominately Houston Team - of course there is always Houston/Dallas rivalry so here we go - like the Texans against the Cowboys.
Team MPP:

Team DNTB:

Team Captain, Jace, largely retained the 2011 team although there were 3 new runners recruited to be a part of the team to replace runners that couldn't repeat and then a last minute replacement for a 4th runner that finally faced reality that his sore achillies was just not going to let him run the race and stepped instead into the drivers seat for one of the vans (Thanks Ian!!). I was one of the new recruits and didn't really know anyone on the team except a couple I'd seen at a couple races - as I understand someone (John Spiller I believe) came up with my name from meeting me at a race, another (Tom) did some google searching, found my blog which has a facebook link then sent me a facebook message inviting me on the team. I was initially reluctant with the Boston Marathon 2 weeks later but after a week or so of thought I was intrigued to be on what I saw as a kinda-sorta competitive team - I must admit a 4th place team wasn't really so impressive to me but what the heck - might be fun.

A few weeks before the race I send Jace an email asking if there was any draft plan out there for this race so I could get an idea of what kinda workload I was piling into my weekend 2 weeks before what to me was a more important race - Boston Marathon 2012. I told him I'd probably be sandbagging just a little so I didn't wear myself out too bad for Boston but still figured I'd deliver a better than team average 6:00-6:15 pace on my legs - to which I received a reply "That's disappointing" - which initially pissed me off and got me to the edge of bailing on this group strangers. But after a couple email exchanges I came to understand better that Jace had put a lot into forming a "contender" team vs what I'd kinda viewed up to then as a 2nd tier team. My attitude shifted more as I met a few of the guys in a pre-planning meeting - pretty cool guys - and some pretty fast too - I'm closer to the midpoint of the team than the top - and according to the official seeding our team is rated 2nd fastest team on the field according to what runners put down in their race entry - only one team to beat - the little Competitive Jerk in me is starting to get fired up about our chances. I finally come around - this is worth giving my all - 110% effort - and move Boston down in the priorities - I can quite possibly have a great race there too - who knows maybe even better - but going for a win at TIR was an inspiring goal.

Jace really formed a great team and organized us well working out the best potential time balancing the variables to two vans of runners. Initially the plan was somewhat straight forward with a pretty much straight 12 person rotation of 36 legs then the fastest 4 doing the last 4 legs but with the last minute swap out changing Ian for a replacement that had certain conditions/restraints made that simple plan more complex. Our 12th man - Jose Lara was committed to running a 5k race on Saturday Morning in Houston and agreed to meet up with the team Sunday morning as we rolled into Houston - knock out back2back legs for 11 miles - rest a couple hours - then run the final leg to finish out the race. That made us an 11 person rotation for a couple cycles then a bit of a mix around for much of the second half of the race to work the legs in. Although not so simple - still a great plan to maximize our potential with 4 out of 5 of our fastest runners running 4 legs (Jose was fast guy not doing 4 because he had the 5k race too) and the other 8 running 3 legs for the total 40 legs. I just barely made the cut to be one of the 4 leg runners.

Van #1 - Ian (Driver) - runners (in order of first rotation): Dan, Sydney, Stephen, Evan, Tom and John H.(me) - on paper were were the slightly faster van by ~10sec/mile on averages.

Van #2 - Charles(Driver) - runners: Nikki, Claudio, Jace, Geoff, John S.

Here's how it all played out:

 LegsMilesSplit PaceTotalPaceLead over Dollz n Towel BoysSplit Conditions
(aka excuses)
Team1-522.33 22.336:00 Very hot/humid/LSO(life sucking orb - aka direct sun w/o shade or clouds) into the wind with some hilly legs.
Me64.946:1227.276:028min @Leg 8
very hot/humid, LSO, strong headwind (15mph), net uphill, 2 miles of it on dusty dirt road about like running on an inch of sand.  Not so tasty as cars go by.  Translation - it sucked - but I ran my heart out anyway.
Team7-1650.846:1078.116:073min @Leg 14After Leg 9 cuts crosswind - Cut out the LSO at sunset around Leg 11ish
Me174.555:5882.666:0711min @leg17
Cooler though still humid, down to ~10mph headwind, net uphill.
Team18-2647.756:05130.46:07-3min @leg23 as one of ours got cramped.One more leg of headwind then crosswind for the rest.
Still cooler though still humid, crosswind and flat - Best running conditions of the day for me.
Team28-3856.16:15192.96:0910min @leg35Mostly crosswind - A couple legs on trails - humidity peaks at sunrise around leg 33ish.  Heat of the day builds as the LSO moves up.
very hot/humid, LSO, flat
Team405.325:59201.56:0825min @finish or about 8 sec/mile
very hot/humid, LSO, flat on busy road.
TotalMine  19.26:01  
TeamThe Rest  182.36:09  

In the final ~30 miles it looks like the DNTB team slowed down with the last official split coming in around 30 sec/mile slower than they'd been doing the first 170 miles - seems like they'd eased up knowing we were out of reach. Jose Lara sealed the deal. He'd run his 5k race on Saturday (which he WON at 15:56) then knocked down his 2 leg 11 miler at 5:50 pace Sunday Morning then closed out the race at the hottest part of the Sunday Race with 6 mpm for the final 5. I heard the DNTB runners that were standing at the exchange where he didn't hand-off were kinda stunned how fast this guy was and he didn't even hand-off - so nice to have the fresh legs closer Sunday Morning.

Although 164 teams started this race with some starting as early as 6 am Saturday more than 8 hours ahead of us - we passed them all. The evidence along the way was the portajohns - very used at the aid stations initially - cleaner and cleaner as we went to the point I had to unwrap the toilet paper at the end.

10:53 there are 13 people (including 2 drivers) on the finishline waiting for Jose to finish out this race (really - there wasn't another sole out there - we'd even beat the official timekeeper to the finishline).

Jose seals the deal winning his 2nd race in two days. And we are done. Yeah it was kinda like Sam Houston getting pursued by Santa Ana - in the end Sam Houston kicked a$$ and won the Texas Independence and in the end we did the same. Very happy to have come away with the victory - but also just a little tired - occasional spurts of cheers and hurrays were intermixed with a bit of a weary shuffle through the post race festivities.

There's a post race epilogue - victory walk to the San Jacinto monument we shuffle along through and a party set-up of sorts at the monument

- which I can imagine becomes rather rip-roaring after there are more than a single team at the finish. For about 30 minutes we go through the motions posing for pictures,

congratulating each other, eating free pizza, accepting a few accolades by the volunteers at the finishline the we wonder back to the vans. As we head to the vans the DNTB's are doing epilogue journey to the monument and we all kinda naturally form a line giving high fives to all with a "good race" good sportsmanlike gesture as we head to the vans and they head to their pizza. If it wasn't so hot out and I wasn't so eager to fall on a pillow somewhere it would have been kinda fun to swap stories for a while. Home bound where after a quick shower I fall on my pillow and hours and hours fall away then have a quiet margarita with my wife to toast the victory.

Several Thanks to go around:

Ian - thanks for driving - initially terrifying but eventually you won me over - take care of your achilles!
Tom - Thanks for inviting me to join the team - turned out to be a lot of fun! Your motivating cheering with a few hundred meters to go was great to get a couple good finishing kicks out of me - I really appreciated that and you look like a professional traffic cop out there stopping cars too.
Sydney - you're an amazing gal to put up with 6 smelly sweaty guys all day - and man did you kill your legs - Jace had you down for way too slow.
Dan - Thanks for organizing the van and getting all the stuff and letting us all crash at your pad for a couple hours - that was priceless. You are one FAST dude! Good luck in Chicago - sub2:40 seems a cake-walk for you.
Evan - you're the far traveller among us - hope your trip back to San Francisco went smooth - I'm still considering Bay2Breakers despite your not so inspiring words about it - clearly it's a 4fun kinda race. Man you rocked your legs!
Stephen - Thanks for teaching me a little on how to do 100 mile races - hope my rattling you with questions wasn't offputting - I really appreciated your experience. And as I said out there - your marathon time is way too slow - no way your only a 2:45 marathoner the way you dominated your legs - you're certainly way faster than me. Good luck at IM Texas next month! And I hope to see you at Rocky Raccoon 100 next year - maybe we can do a training run or two together before so I can learn a few more secrets to success.

Captain Jace - Well Done! You deserve several victory laps alone for assembling the winning team. It was really a pleasure to be on your team!

Sorry I missed the opportunies to visit with the rest of the Van#2 people much. Thanks to Charles for taking lots of pictures!!

Of course to all the Race organizers and volunteers along the way - you put on an awesome race overcome some major obsticals along the way - awesome job!!

Way to go Team: "More Pain Please!!"


Sam said...

Hey man... great job out there. TIR is fun, and sounds like you definitely filled in on my spot left vacated due to being severely out of shape. :P

Nice recap. See ya on the roads!

kayry said...

Thanks Sam - glad to see you're starting to get on the roads again - fitness comes back pretty quick I've found so I expect to be in your rear view mirror pretty quickly once you really get going.

Fun time - always nice to be on a winning team!