Leaving it all on the Trail

Last weekend I competed in the Cabot Trail Relay race, and if I was at all underestimating how exhausting a 24 hour relay was (and how it can quickly turn into a 48-hour affair), I now have a much better idea of the level of exhaustion it can produce. I was part of a 17-person team (for 17-race legs) where each person faced varying distances and hill profiles, and a 6-minute kilometer (9:30 per mile) deadline in which to finish their distance or else fail to hit the mat.

The event itself was nothing short of spectacular; a well-oiled and well-organized machine in its own right. Legs started in the exact spot the previous leg stopped, just minutes after the maximum alloted time. Slower runners trickled in and were awarded the slowest finishing time plus five minutes. But by 30 minutes after the close of each leg of the race, one would never know that anything out of the ordinary was happening, much less suspect that the better portion of the 1,200 participants were roaming the ten to fifteen mile distance only minutes earlier.

Saturday morning had us following and supporting runners as they worked their way to the top of the Cabot Trail, starting with rolling hills which grew in to hellish beasts of straight-up switchbacks. Needless to say, this was not my preferred leg, though I might like to attempt it some day. By 5pm, a teammate and I were on our way to Cheticamp, on the other side of the trail, to ready ourselves for his 0330 run and my 0530 run on Sunday morning. Some spectacular fish at a local eatery and a very early sleep (the sun had still not fully set), and we were raring to go at 0200. Well, we were sleepy and grumpy, but nonetheless committed to the challenge.
I dropped him off at 0315 and trailed him part way, then headed to the end of his leg (the start of mine) and waited for his finish. He took on a 20-km leg with no trouble; in fact, you'd never know that he ran 20 the day before (for another team, under an assumed name -- not uncommon for this relay), giving me some hope that me and my bum leg/groin/hip could take my 15.5km race down (with the help of 400mg of Ibuprofen, naturally). After the gun, I started with a decent pace, lost somewhere in the latter half of the pack. About 3km into the race, someone let us know just how far we'd come, and for some reason I found that a source of inspiration. Perhaps I was just looking to get the race over with and was disappointed that we hadn't hit 5km yet. Whatever the reason, I started to put a push on while the terrain was reasonably flat.

The middle and final 5-kilometre stretches were considerably hillier than the first, which suited me fine. I tend to speed up on the hills (again, get them over with!) and I passed a few other competitors, ending with a time of 1hr and 17 minutes (for reference, my 10-mile training runs weren't nearly that fast at 5:22/km and 5:54/km) -- a finishing pace of 5:01 per kilometre! Surprisingly, this put me at 20th place in my race (of 70), the best finish for any of our team members throughout the relay. Talk about beginner's luck. (note: all the results are here, incluing my Leg 15 results)

While I never once called the Cabot Trail Relay by its full name (including the word "Race" at the end)I will definitely sign up for this race again. It's just that fun.

Posted bythemikestand at 3:42 PM  

1 stepped up to the mike:

HalfAsstic.com said... 2:25 AM, May 28, 2009  

Wow! You are really getting into this stuff! I am super impressed and am looking forward to hearing about future races.

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