Sunday morning, January 16th 2011 brought forth the first race of the new year for myself and my relay teammate Chris B. A perfect morning as the pre race waffle went down smoothly, may have been the best waffle ever, and the weather was feeling perfect. Not quite sure of the temperature when I left Chris at the Sun Dial Bridge where the buses were herding up the runners for the start of Redding Marathon/Relay. Anyhow, the morning air was great and we were headed off to, hopefully, start the year off with a bang!
Relay exchange point #1 at the Keswick Boat Launch off of Iron Mountain Rd is where I would begin my venture into relay marathon history. After driving, or in my case passengering, past this point which required a very illegal u turn manuevered by Lilys mom(for future reference I will refer to her as Cowbell! :) lol, she loves them cow bells!) we arrived at said point circa 8:24 am. Not really wanting to warm up these sexy young runner legs too early, I sat in the little Outback(yes a subaru) eyeballing the competition that had begun to trickle into the exchange. After changing into the running garb(I had to represent Eclipse Running again, thems my boys) and a quick rest in the portapotty, I was warming up on the course awaiting the arrival of Mr. B. At this point, my race crew was sitting in the car staying warm until the last possible minute. Lily and Cowbell are so awesome and the drive out was not uneventful at all. Anyways, back on track here Kirk..Gees! Okay 9:01, 9:02....the minutes were ticking down and the nerves were cranking up. Standing there at the exchange point is like standing at the real starting line waiting for the countdown. One difference though, I had no clue when I was actually going to start.
Okay cool....I see a runner! It is the first marathon runner which would mean that Chris would be coming soon. Yes, here he is....I notice the swift running virgin round the corner and my heart jumps. Not only does he look great dressed in all white, but my turn was coming to lead us to victory! A slap on the hand, a beep from the starting of the Garmin, and off I go into the unknown. I could still see the first marathoner in my sights as I started my half of the race which was encouraging and gave me a mental game to play. It was called.....Catch that Runner! How original huh?! Phew. Okay, so the path was a nicely paved bike route that felt great on which to run. Around the 1 mile mark(12 miles total) there was a turnaround after a short jaunt up a hill. Post turnaround, I could see the 2nd place relay runner who was only around .25 miles behind me. That didn't bring me much comfort since I knew he was only doing to 2nd leg of the relay where I had signed up for 2nd and 3rd leg trials. A sharp right turn and up another hill where I did pass the marathon runner as he stopped to stretch. Thinking he may have blown up a tad too early in this race but.....We all have done it! So continuing on now with the bike path up and around, then down and quickly and up and around once again. Finally after a really quick and technical downhill portion, I was crossing the road and onto the flat and fast section of the course. Time to kick in the after burners... Oh wait, I already had done that when the 2nd place relay guy had given that "Im going to catch you smirk at the first turnaround". So that just meant I had to maintain the afterburners for another 10 miles. Whoo hoo! Okay, not the thought that really went into my head at that moment, however, I'll keep it G-rated. Feeling good and strong at this point with 10 miles to go was an encouraging thought as my leg was still holding up perfectly. No pain, no gain! Hopefully that would come later though(the pain that is).
I had run past people walking dogs, pushing strollers, and other runners just enjoying the course. The cool part is that everybody I passed(they were going the opposite direction) were encouraging and really rooting for me to press on. Maybe they wanted to see if I would croak on the side of the road but I had a feeling that they were genuinely pushing for me. Mile 16, 17, 18 went on by without a hitch. After crossing a bridge back onto the other side of the river which would now have me heading west again, and making a few zig zags on the bike path, I rounded a corner into a residential neighborhood. This was the exchange point #2 where the third runner would begin. Where was he, I couldn't find my next runner!!! Oh crap, it was me and I had just under 7 miles to go. Game on! After seeing Lily and hearing Cowbell ringing those awesome bells, Chris decided to run a few hundred yards with me as support. The roller coaster, as Chris would affectionately call these things, came and went as my little legs pressed onward. The miles were counting down and the time was on our side as well as the.....well, pretty much everything on this day! One last bridge back across the river and eastbound I was for the final time. This time it was awesome though because I was coming up on other runners from the marathon and relay. Mind games and speed games were back in business! Perfect timing too because I could feel the legs starting to get heavy and the mind becoming numb. Picking off runners one at a time, like boogers when you have a cold, is a blast! Mile 24 came.....Mile 24 went. Mile 25 came.....Then my awesome teammate was there to run with me on a .70 mile out and back before the finish. We chatted as the pace quickened(thanks Chris) about the course and what was left once getting to the Sun Dial Bridge and finish line. We parted as I hit the bridge in full stride. Its so amazing what spectators, fans, and running enthusiasts can do to the mind and body. I hadn't run that pace all day long. I mean, I hadn't been slouching throughout the run but I hit another gear as the hollers and cowbells got louder. What a flippin rush to be the first person to cross the finish. Yeah, you read that right. The very very first person to cross the finish line was Kirk Ferris of Team Ferris! 2:37:39 was the finishing time! 9 minutes ahead of the previous record set last year.
2011 looks like it is starting off with the bang we were hoping for. Awesome times, awesome crew(gf and cowbell), awesome teammate, and one heck of a weekend. Thanks for being there to share that race with me. Going to be a year to remember! Later Later!