Monday, May 20, 2013

Race Recap: River City Marathon Relay

My history with relays is not good. In fact, it's quite clear that if you are ever on a relay team with me...
1) At least one person will get injured the week before the big race.
2) It will be the first scorching hot day of the year.
3) We'll get lost driving to exchanges several times.

All this has made me steer clear of relay events, but when Peoria announced their first marathon, I had to be a part of it! I already had a full race calendar though, plus a wedding the night before. My choice for a shorter distance was clear, so I reached out to my out-of-town Tough Chiks to build ourselves a team.

The River City Marathon restored my faith in the relay... or at least made the logistical chaos seem 100% worthwhile!  This past Sunday, my Team Tough Chik kicked some butt and had a fantastic time in the process at the 1st annual Run River City Marathon in Peoria, IL.

Getting to the start line was not completely void of obstacles though... Our fast closer, Carmen, suffered an benching injury one week out, but found a quick replacement... who then also bowed out with an injury the night before. OMG. We sat in a circle Saturday night with our cell phones busy, trying to find a new runner. We got lucky with Katie, who just happened to be traveling to Peoria to watch her hubby run (kick ass!) in the marathon.

Weather is out of our control, but the forecast got worse day by day. A humid, hot and sunny day was awaiting our team. We were prepared (as much as you can be) and relaxed on our time goal a bit. We didn't want anyone pushing themselves outside a safe zone in this heat.

One of the downfalls of "first time" events is the organizational stuff. When we found out there was no shuttles for the relay, I immediately started to fret over the driving and directions. This is MY town and I didn't want my team to get lost... and leave a runner hanging in the chute. (It's happened to me before and it is a really sucky feeling.) I got frustrated with the instructions provided by the race (wrong and then multiple revisions), so I made my own and did a trial drive through. I'm happy to say we did not get lost or leave a runner hanging. Success!

Race morning came and I was so damn excited you would have thought I was doing the full 26.2! Our team of five (The injured Carmen still came to town to be our coach and cheerleader) met up downtown Peoria and were ready to go... finally!
Shannon, Amanda, Katie, me and Carmen

The marathon started downtown and Katie took the first leg so she could stay downtown and cheer in her hubby. While she ran, the rest of us watched the later 5K take off (which my hubby's PR'ed on a wedding hangover!). And we goofed around downtown with the camera...

For a last minute replacement, Katie completely smoked her 6 mile leg with an 8:29 average pace! At the first exchange, Amanda sped off for leg #2...

During Amanda's 7 miles, the sun started to heat things up on the course. It was obvious by watching the runners coming through the second exchange, drenched with sweat and dumping water over their heads. When Amanda came in, I could tell she was miserable, but she did a fabulous job - hauling it in just over an hour (9:03 pace).  Shannon was now up for the leg #3 and I couldn't believe how fast this race was going by!

The third leg was the shortest in distance, but involved a long elevation climb. Shannon is from Orange County (CA) and didn't seem as effected by the heat as the rest of us. She kicked those 5.5 miles with ease (9:29 pace).  Before I knew it, it was my turn!  I suddenly got really nervous. My soaring adrenaline was making me hotter than the weather. I dumped cold water over my hair - before I even started running. And then it was time to take the baton and wrap this baby up...

The final leg of the marathon relay was 7.75 miles (my Garmin read 7.8, most likely due to the early pushoff in the exchange chute). There were a couple little rollers along Forrest Hill with a big descent back to the riverfront.  

Mile 1 - 8:11  I started off way too fast through the residential area. Runners were pretty spread out at this point on the course. To keep myself driving, I focused on a runner up ahead and picked them off one by one. Side note - when I run 26.2, it annoys the crap out of me when relayers come flying by in those tough final miles. Ha! Today I got to be that person!  I'm usually getting passed up in the 20+ miles, so it was kinda fun to be the passer for once.

Mile 2 - 9:21
Mile 3 - 9:07  I was surprised how much community support was out in these late miles of the marathon. Many residents had unofficial water and ice tables set up, along with sprinklers and hoses to cool us down. I took advantage of every single one! I grabbed water every single time, took one big drink and then dumped the rest over my head and down my shirt.

Mile 4 - 8:52
Mile 5 - 9:49  Now I entered into territory that I run often near Glen Oak Park and Springdale Cemetery.  I guess it calmed me because I slowed down a bit. I was having trouble breathing with the humidity and slowed several times to stabilize myself. Oddly enough, my legs also started getting tired at this point.

Mile 6 - 9:34
Mile 7 - 9:36   It was a long stretch on Madison Ave to get back into the downtown area... but a nice flat straightaway with a little shade now and then. The local water company had their mister up and several people were spraying us with hoses. It felt so good! Amanda met me at the Mile 25 marker. My initial goal was to hit a sub-9 pace on my leg. I knew I'd need help bringing it in and she volunteered to come push me. I didn't quite make my goal (9:08 avg pace), but she certainly kept me honest in the final mile.

The last 0.8 - 6:32  The final stretch was fun because I know it so well from multiple years of running the Steamboat Classic. It's exactly how you want to end a race - fast smooth downhill on Main Street and a great crowd along the finishing stretch.  Carmen and Shannon met us at the final turn and we all ran it in together.... four strong TOUGH CHIKS!
Thanks to my hubby for getting the money shot of us coming down the finish!

It felt so good to cross the finish line with these ladies and hear the announcer call us out one by one. It was nice to be on the early end of finishers... we had a clear lane all the way to the finish and got lots of cheers.  The community was super supportive. I didn't always see who was cheering, but I heard my name a lot - so thank you friends!!  In the end, we hit our team time goal (sub-4 hrs) after all!!
Official Chip Time 3:56:49
(9:03 average pace)
4th Place Female Team!!

Were there issues with this inaugural event? 
Absolutely. As with any first time event, there are mistakes and things that could be done better...  communication, porta-potties, written relay instructions, mile markers, post race food.  I believe race organizers learned (and heard) many ways to improve for next year already. I personally had a FANTASTIC time and our team had no problems. In fact, it was one of the most enjoyable race experiences I've had in a long time. I could brag on and on about my great teammates. I saw wonderful acts of community support... and runners pulling each other through the adverse weather. The finisher's medal is outstanding with a stained glass look. I witnessed so many of my run buddies achieve huge achievements.  I am so very proud of everyone who ran - and the community that I live in!!

I will definitely be returning to Run River City Marathon in 2014.  I hope you'll join me!


  1. That's quite the money shot - you look like you had a BLAST! Congrats on an awesome team run!

  2. Jess, it looks like you had a great time! I love all your photos. I also thought the marathon went really well, especially for a first time event. It had to be a HUGE undertaking. I am looking forward to next year. Maybe it will be my first marathon!

  3. Rock stars you are!! So awesome to meet and greet before the race! Congratulations ladies <3

  4. I agree, I had a blast, but I think there are a few things that need to get addressed next time around. I thought the community support was phenomenal!

  5. Nya, nya. Nya, nya catch me if you can.
    I'm the gingerbread man!

    1. I TRIED to catch you so badly... but you have finishing KICK!! Great job yesterday Erich!

  6. How fun! You got some awesome shot, but my fav is the four of your running toward the finish line (Yay Jess's hubby for such a great picture!) Congrats on the 4th place finish...that's great!

  7. That sounds like a really great way to do a marathon. Relay style. Glad you had fun =)

  8. You girls kicked serious asphalt out there! Nicely done- and 4th overall team is AMAZING!! Congrats on a fabulous race (and relay experience). Woot Woot!!!! Way to go! ;)

  9. i've never done a marathon relay before--- i bet your leg would be the most fun like you said, passing those who are in final stretch of running the full. Glad your team met your sub 4 hour goal :)

  10. WOW! Y'all had a great race!! Glad you were able to find a last minute replacement the night before...what a scary feeling!!

  11. I had an amazing time! So glad we did this! Your hubby totally rocked in for us on the camera too! Great pics.

    I know things weren't perfect but I think it was a good start and will only get better. Yay, Peoria!!

  12. Great job ladies! So proud of all of you! It was SO humid up here in Wisconsin- and I know you were feeling it during your race!

  13. Great job! I love me a good marathon relay and it's super fun when you have good people involved. Congrats on a 4th place finish- awesome!

  14. Congrats! That seems like a fun day, a marathon relay sounds like so much fun! It makes me want to do one...

  15. What a fun race! Would LOVE to do it next year but only if I'm on your team. :-)

  16. Fun, fun, fun. You guys looked great, especially in that finish shot. I hear you about wanting to take care of people in "your town". Way to work out the kinks.

  17. I LOVE relays! Long ones, short ones....the chaos is part of the challenge and they have always ended up so much fun! Congrats! It looks like a blast!

  18. This looks like SO much fun- congrats!!

  19. Great job, congratulations! I'm always wary of inaugural races so glad this one turned out well.

  20. Love it! Relays are so much fun! I've done the First Light Marathon Relay for two years (except last was the same day as my Disney Full) and it was a blast! Great job and I love the shirts!!!

  21. Wow, that looks like so much fun. I just started running a few months ago and love it. I am currently training for my first race, a 10K. I would love to do a relay with friends one day.

  22. Awesome-- I enjoyed reading your race report- you gals are all winners..hearty congratulations!


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