This weekend I got together with a few of my runner friends to run the inaugural Ohio Market to Market Relay. The route took us 76 miles from Cincinnati to Dayton. Friday night we piled into the 7 person rental van and headed out to Cincinnati to spend the night.
We woke up bright and early and headed to the start line which was in the downtown area of Milford, Ohio. I thought this was a great place to start. It had a small-town feel and the local bakery and coffee shop were getting plenty of business! The race started off in waves, the earliest at 6 am and the latest at 8 am. Our wave was a 7:40. We arrived around 7 to pick up our packet and get mentally prepared for the day ahead. The wave start mixd with the cap on the amount of teams really made for a stress-free start that still had high energy. One of my teammates commented that the Ragnar start lines are often overwhelming with the number of people. There were plenty of port-a-potties and the wait for them was short.
This is my blanket complaint for every race – race announcers, stop telling runners they aren’t pumped up enough and don’t have enough energy. We are mentally preparing for the long road ahead, it doesn’t mean we’re not excited! For the majority of our team this was our first relay experience and even our Ragnar veteran commented that she was nervous. The weather was calling for possible storms, none of us were familiar with the route, and 3 of us were injured. Luckily my Friday morning trip to the chiro did wonders for my PF since he focused most of the appointment on doing ART on my foot. Promptly at 7:40 our wave started and we cheered on our first runner before piling into the van and heading off to the first exchange point.
The race bag had small booklets for each race member. It had maps of each leg and driving directions to each exchange point. The majority of the race took place on bike trails which were scenic, but extra humid in the canopy of trees. We had a timing chip bracelet that we passed off to each runner at the exchange, but and to keep track of each runner’s time to record into one of the booklets to turn in at the finish line. Since the timing chip was continuous, it did not take into account time lost if teams were late to reach an exchange point to switch runners or lightening delays. Luckily, the weather held up the whole time.
I was the third runner and, before I knew it, it was my turn to go. The weather was extremely humid in the morning and my first leg was my longest which was supposed to be 4.3 miles from Loveland to Fosters. I was feeling a bit nervous about how my foot would hold up during the day, but I was planning to take the day easy and use the miles as my regular weekend long run. Everyone on the bike path was extremely friendly and encouraging, but overall it was a very lonely and quiet run. I had my race-required clip on speakers hooked up to my iPod so I had some tunes to keep me moving. I reminded myself to take it easy and parts of the trail were a bit lopsided which were tough on my legs. Before I knew it, I was running under the beautiful high bridge that we crossed the river on the way to Cincinnati the day before and my team was at the next exchange point cheering. I started my watch a few seconds late as I worked to get the timing chip bracelet on, but for the first leg my watch read 4.16 miles in 37:56 or a 9:06/mi pace.
The race was extremely well organized, but the number one thing I feel needs to change for next year is the exchange point at Fort Ancient. Runners had to literally hike .20 miles down the side of a mountain to get to the exchange point which meant runners that had just finished running 4.8 miles had to then hike up the mountain as well. This was pretty ridiculous and honestly, kind of dangerous. We saw a lot of runners finish and have to wait around as their teammate hiked down the mountain. A huge time waster and pretty taxing on the body when you are living off of Cliff bars and bananas! One our runners had been dealing with calf issues and, a mile into her run, texted a teammate to say she couldn’t do it and was walking. She was the one that would have to hike back up the mountain. We let our next runner know that he may be hanging out at the exchange point for a while since it could take her some time to get up the mountain. She did come shuffling into the finish and luckily she was not so injured that the hike was too bad for her, but had her muscle been completely shot I am not sure how we would’ve managed.
We were late to the next exchange point by 18 minutes, but not because of the injury… because we got lost. Written directions were provided, but no GPS coordinates. This is one other thing that I think should change next year. Not knowing the area, we had no idea how to get where we were going once we missed a turn and got lost. Had we had the GPS coordinates, we probably would have saved a lot of time. I understand the race organization would like teams to use the directions provided rather than taking their own route, but we know of a few other teams that got lost that likely would have benefitted by having some coordinates. Luckily our runner had been expecting us to be late and was relieved to know it was because we were lost and not because our teammate’s injury was serious. Our next runner made up for some serious lost time and then it was my turn to go again!
My next leg was from Hisey Park to Corwin and it was my shortest at only 2.8 miles. By now the humidity had lifted a bit and the air was feeling cooler. While I waited, I told my team I was going to push a little on this one since it was my shortest. I started out running through a field that led back to the bike path. The bike path ran along the road and I was wondering if I would see my team’s van when I suddenly heard honking and saw my team van go by with my teammates yelling “YOLO!!!” out the window. This quickly became our team joke because of our bright yellow shirts. I felt amazing during this leg and was running a pace in the 8s that I knew I could maintain to the end. My watch read 2.75 miles in 23:08 or a 8:23/mi pace.
At this point I was kind of over it. We were almost half way there and it had been a long day already. Luckily we had some pretty comical teammates to keep our spirits up and the other participating teams were so friendly and there was such great camaraderie all around. I enjoyed cheering other runners in and checking out their team outfits and costumes. There was another team from the Columbus area at most of our exchange points that we chatted with a lot and I enjoyed making small talk in line for all the porta-potties. By the time the runner after me finished her leg, we had caught back up with most of the teams (and gotten ahead of some) that we’d fallen behind when we’d gotten lost.
Our spirits were high as we knew we were getting towards the end. At the start of my last leg, we were on a bit of a hill and we could see the top of the Dayton skyline. This was very encouraging. I was so ready to get my last leg done with and I wasn’t sure how much more I had in me. I had been stretching pretty well at each exchange point, fueling on Cliff bars, Gu Chomps, bananas, water, and Skratch Labs, and my foot was feeling pretty good. As runner #2 approached the exchange point, he began celebrating his last leg by whipping his shirt off and just doing a hilarious celebration run on his way to handing off the timing chip. I would say our team was one of the most spirited, screaming like lunatics to cheer on our teammates, and one of the most entertaining.
My last leg was supposed to be 3 miles downhill and easy from Beavercreek to Riverside. I personally thought my second leg was easier, but perhaps at this point my body was just tired. My legs were heavy and my hamstrings were tight. I got off on a good pace and was pretty pumped when Taylor Swift’s “Shake it Off” came on my iPod. I had to navigate through a neighborhood and passed several runners on their way into the exchange point. It was fun to cheer them on and let them know they were almost there. Once I got out of the neighborhood and onto the trail, it definitely was not downhill, but I pushed on. I had to slow down a bit as I approached a fork in the trail and wasn’t sure which way to go. Luckily another participant was coming up behind me and he said he thought we stayed right. He and another runner passed me, but I was able to keep the second runner in my sights as I barreled my way down. I as thrilled to be almost finished! Knowing the runner after me was one of our faster runners and her last leg was very short, I thought about how I would have to jump right back into the van without stretching when I finished so we could get to the last exchange point. I hustled my way in and was able to get spell out O-H-I-O with my arms to the cheering of my teammates as I approached the finish of my last leg. My foot hurt a bit during my last run, but I was tired and am sure my form was not the best at that point. My watch data read 2.94 miles in 25:36 or a 8:41/mi pace.
I was THRILLED to be done and I’m sure my body was as well. There were points when we thought we would be cutting it close to the 8:45 p.m. cut off, but it was a little before 7 and our last runner only had 3.6 miles to go so we knew we’d make it with plenty of time to spare – and before “night gear” rules hit!
We dropped our last runner and headed to the parking for the finish line party. We parked and got situated to cheer our last runner in and then run as a team into the finish. It’s hard to see in the above picture, but the last runner was supposed to run up this steep incline to the top area where the bridge was, but we waited at the bottom of the hill and ran up together.
After crossing the finish, we immediately went to the beer tent for our free beer and sat down together for the first time in 12 hours. Instead of medals, finishers got an official pint glass.
Our team finished under 12 hours with an average pace of 9:15/mi. We counted in our 18 minutes for getting lost and were still super happy with our time, but our average pace was likely closer to 9:02/mi if we hadn’t counted the 18 minutes. Our runner mile averages range everywhere from miles in the 7s to miles in the 11s.
I ran a total of 9.85 miles in 1:26:40 or a 8:47/mi pace. I felt really good after the humidity went down after my first leg. In fact, it was pretty chilly at some exchange points and most of us took advantage of long-sleeve pull overs and some type of pants. After getting an official team picture (which I don’t have yet,) we headed back home and I got in around 11 pm last night. Today I am sore and exhausted. I took the dog out for a little walk to loosen things up, but I am so sleepy! I had a great experience and the race was difficult both mentally and physically. I’m glad I had my team to pull me through.
I’m on the fence about whether I would do it again next year. Everything was extremely well organized, but being an out-of-town race, it ended up being pretty costly per person. I would recommend Market to Market Relay’s for anyone who is interested in trying a relay, but isn’t quite up to the demands of a Ragnar. The longest leg in the Ohio Market to Market was 5.6 miles which is very reasonable.