I have a group of friends I've been running with about once a week since the fall. One of the girls suggested we run a marathon relay at the Oklahoma City Memorial Marathon and I was all in. I love relays! It is so much fun to run a race without pressure or anxiety to run a certain time. Morgan signed us all up and we paid her back. Then she asked us for our projected paces so she could put together a schedule based on our paces so the person we were handing off to would know when to arrive at their relay spot. I had just run a half-marathon at 6:57 pace but by the time the relay rolled around it would have been 5 weeks since I'd done any speed work. I was given the 12k leg of the race since I was in shape for longer distances and I was expected to have the fastest pace. I estimated I could run somewhere between 7-7:15 pace for my 7.5 mile leg. When Morgan put our schedule together she put me down for a 52 minute 12k which was 7:00 pace so I decided I was committed to going for 7:00 pace during my leg. Morgan and I rode to Oklahoma City together Saturday afternoon and met up with Audrey, one of our 5k legs, at the expo. The expo was pretty much like any other expo with the exception that they had free food. As I ate the spinach artichoke dip I thought, man it would stink if I got food poisoning from eating this dip that has probably been sitting out for a long time. I also ate some soft pretzels. They had popcorn and a few other things as well. I'm pleased to report I had no adverse reactions to the food!
The race took off and once I saw runners go by with Corral B bibs I knew I'd missed April go by so I headed over to the relay shuttle area to catch a shuttle to my exchange zone. On the shuttle bus they had videos playing. One video showed 2 survivors of the bombing who have run the race every year and I again got emotional. I was excited to run and proud to be there in honor of those who lost their lives and the families they left behind. I got to my exchange area with about 40 minutes until my expected hand off. I used the porta potty and then jogged a mile warm up. Then I did the dynamic stretches my physical therapist gave me and hit the porta potties one more time. I also ate the Gu at some point but don't remember when. I stood waiting for Alicia to come by while watching her progress on my app since she was running with her phone. I could see the runners crossing the 15k mark right before our exchange. The exchanges were a bit different than the other relays I've run. They had the relay runners leave the course and run on a different road for the exchange which made sense to keep them out of the way of the marathon runners. Alicia came sprinting up and mentioned the terrible heat as I took the chip off her ankle and wrapped it around mine. I took off and was really excited. I peeked at my watch and saw I was running 6:40 pace so I pulled back a little. About 200 meters into my leg we turned and ran back onto the marathon course. Since April and Alicia had averaged around 8:00 pace I was flying past marathon runners as I went. I later found out April, most likely thanks to waking up at 3:00 am and being sleep deprived, ran past the relay exchange and had to turn around and go back. That added about 3 minutes to our time.
I felt really good and smooth. I wasn't sure how running fast would feel after 3 solid weeks of easy running. It felt good and I was enjoying it! My first 3 miles were 6:55, 6:57, and 6:53. I really felt like I could maintain around 6:55 pace for the race because it felt easy and I knew I'd be able to speed up after the half-way point. I also knew from my warm up that the wind was at my back for those miles. It was already over 60 degrees and felt so darn hot! I was thinking about how I ran in 16 degree weather for my last race just 3 weeks ago and now I was running in over 60 degree weather! I told myself, I'd take 16 degrees over 60 degrees in a race any day! The next 2 miles we turned and had the wind at our sides. I noticed it was really windy and knew once I hit my miles by Lake Hefner the wind was going to be intense! My next 2 miles were 7:03 and 7:00. I really wanted to average 7:00 pace since my team was expecting that from me. They had joked a lot that I was going to make up for their times and they didn't have to worry if they ran a little slower because I'd bring us back so I really wanted to make it in 52 or as close as possible.
We made it to Lake Hefner and I felt the full force of the wind. It was intense! The upside was I was noticing the wind more than the heat now! I felt so bad for the people running the marathon in this wind. It was so strong, I felt myself leaning forward more to power through it. The bad thing about passing people the whole race was that I had no one to tuck in behind so they could block wind for me. At this point I got passed for the first time by a male relay runner. I calculated I need to run 7:06 or under for the last 2 miles to keep my 7:00 pace average for the race. I didn't look at my watch but I knew there was no way I was in the low 7's with the wind. I was really pushing but felt like I was getting no where. At that point I was starting to feel exhausted and thanked my lucky stars I was just running the relay! Mile 6 was 7:23 and then we got to move to run further from the lake so the wind was still in our faces but not as strong. I was excited I just had one mile to go and started picking it up. My last mile was 7:09. Then we turned and had the wind at our sides for a little bit so I felt like I could really take off and my pace dipped back under 7 for a bit before we turned and ran back into the wind for the finishing stretch. I saw Audrey waiting for me and was actually pleased she was standing at the very start of the relay exchange so I wouldn't have to run as far, that last portion was rough! I knew going in that my leg was a little short with Alicia's leg before mine being a little long. I ended up getting in 7.25 miles and finishing in 51:17 which was an average of 7:04 pace. I was happy to have finished in under 52 minutes and was proud I was as close to 7:00 pace as I had been with that crazy wind! That would have been my fastest tempo run of the spring so not bad, especially considering I'm in off-season so not training for speed right now.
I texted my teammates so they'd know I had handed off and warned Morgan about the wind as I knew her leg of the race would have a decent amount of running into the wind. Then I took off for a cool down while eating a banana and drinking a water. I ran a mile cool down and then headed back over to the aid station to find out where the shuttles would be picking people up. I grabbed an Oreo and a Nutter Butter to eat and jogged over to where I saw a shuttle waiting. It pulled out as I was headed over and I started to worry I wouldn't make it to the area on the course where we could re-enter the course and run to the finish with Morgan. I kept checking her progress on my phone and caught up with the group texts. Alicia had mentioned her phone showed it was a 20 minute walk from the shuttles to the relay re-entry point. When I got off the shuttle the app showed Morgan was projected to finish in 25 minutes so I freaked out and took off running toward the designated area. I knew which way to go to hit 12th street since I was on 5th, the numbered streets were easy but I wasn't sure where the named street would be. I found it with no problem and made it to the area with almost 20 minutes until Morgan should arrive. I saw Alicia and April and they were pumped. They said no all-women relays had gone by yet. We were standing next to a group of women who were on a relay and were chatting with them. Their woman came by so we knew they were the 1st place team.
When we saw Morgan coming I got so excited I forgot I had planned to take pictures of her. We all took off cheering and super excited. We went off so quickly that I looked back and saw we'd sprinted ahead of Morgan so we dialed it down, we were all just so excited and weren't just finishing a 10k like her! I saw a friend from the Runner's World running group finishing the marathon in front of us and cheered for him. We passed him and after crossing the finish line I looked back and saw he had fallen and they were trying to get him into a wheel chair. At that point it was nearly 80 degrees, way too hot for a marathon! I ran back and helped him up and into the shade before meeting back up with my teammates. We were going through the chute and I saw a friend who had just finished her first half marathon so I went over to congratulate her. They had Hardee's burgers at the finish so I grabbed one and ate it. I was so hungry after having gone so long without eating and not eating much for breakfast. April wanted to eat at Hideaway Pizza so we went there but it didn't open until 11 and it was only 10:30. We waited by the door and were the first ones in. I was still a little hungry but didn't want to get a pizza since I'd just eaten a burger a bit ago so I got a side salad. On the drive home I got hungry so I ate some of the snacks we were given in the finishing chute. Overall the race was a blast! I loved that I didn't have to drive. I rode down with Morgan and home with Alicia. It was fun getting to chat in the car and then having time to bond in the hotel. They were already talking about putting together a relay team for Route 66 but I'm signed up for the marathon so I won't be able to do it!