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Thursday, April 26, 2007

River To River Race Report

Josh, Kathleen and I met the Buffalo for lunch on Friday, then packed up the car and headed for Marion.

Much attention was paid to the cross in Effingham
Effingham cross
and the French school buses
French schoolbus
(we kept driving past school buses with all of the text on them written in French. We both saw this, so I'm confident it wasn't a pre-race hallucination)

Arrived in Marion around 6, just as 'A Country Boy Can Survive' was starting to play - a perfect start to the weekend. Got checked in, drank beer on the patio for a little while, met up with several more members of the team (including the important cutest alternate runner ever)
The 9th (and cutest) member of the team
then headed down to 17th Street Bar and Grill for the traditional pre-race fried pickles and meat extravaganza (I had the 3 meat sampler (brisket, pork shoulder, and hot links) with greens and red beans and rice)

Headed back to the hotel for pre-race meeting/poker game
Pre-race strategy meeting
then off to rest up for the big day.

Met up at about 6:30 to head out for our 8:45 race start (as you can see, Lucky was ready to go)
Lucky practicing his baton handling skills

And at 8:45am, we were off - 8 runners, 80 miles, 1 day. From soon after River To River last year until this year's running, I was sure I wanted to run as runner 6 (which includes some of the hardest legs of the course). By the time my first leg came about, I wasn't sure on that. We'd fallen pretty far behind in the team standings (we do River To River as more of a fun running vacation than super-competitive event, but I still wanted us to finish well), and while I have tried to do as much hill training as possible, Central Illinois' hill training opportunities are few and far between. Our #5 runner laid down the law on leg 5, finishing in fantastic time, and I knew it was time for me to step up.
The handoff to start leg #6
I took off on leg 6 (listed as 'Very Hard' by the River To River organizers - see below for an elevation profile) at as fast a pace as I thought I could maintain

I finished roughly 25:26 later, at an average pace of 7:42!
Running Leg #6
Keep in mind that my 5k PR pace is only 18 seconds per mile faster than this, and I still had two more legs that I needed to run, including 'The Hardest')

Rested up a bit before leg #14 (a much easier leg), ate a kabanos, took some recovery supplements (Anti-Fatigue Caps and Tissue Rejuvenator), spent a bit of time with a TENS unit on to speed recovery), and worked on rehydrating a bit. Leg #14 was a welcome rest compared to legs 6 and 22, and allowed me to pick up the pace a little more, finishing in roughly 18:23, at an average pace of 7:21 (3 seconds per mile faster than my 5k PR pace) - see below for elevation profile

With that, it was time to rest up for the infamous leg #22. I'd been thinking about this leg since I saw it last year on my first running of River To River, and I was determined to dominate the course, and help to make sure that we'd make it to Golconda before the cutoff time (shortly before starting leg 22, I told the team captain "Either we're making it to Golconda before they close the course, or I'm going to the Emergency Room, and I don't want to go to the ER today"). Shortly after making that pledge, I was off.
Running leg #22
Leg #22 starts off nice and easy, but as you can see, gets significantly steeper.

(The River To River course description says about leg #22, "This is the favorite section for everyone except Runner number 6.

There is a short uphill leaving the exchange, then an easy downhill to Lusk Creek. As you cross the bridge, the hill ahead of you does not look too bad. Unfortunately (or fortunately), you can't see most of it!")

I passed 5 people on leg #22, one of whom ended up catching up to me and passing me, and one of whom I passed in a sprint to the exchange point
Almost at the finish!
I finished leg #22 in roughly 31:06, at an average pace of 8:11, and while I did take a much needed brief rest in the grass after finishing, in a good bit of pain...
And I'm done!
...I did not end up in the ER!
We ended up in Golconda 11:00:35 after starting, having managed to move up from 2nd to last place (in the 8:45 start group) at one point in the race to 117th place out of 227 teams!
80 miles, 8 runners, 1 puppy, 1 day
We spent a little bit of time in Golconda, had a little dinner, grabbed a drink, then headed back to Marion. It's traditional for the Buffalo to appoint one of the runners of the team Most Valuable Buffalo for their performance, and this year given my performance as runner #6 (averaging roughly 7:48 pace over the some of the hardest legs of the course), that runner was me, which has resulted in fame, fortune, and a major sponsorship deal!
MVB Baton
(OK, so in reality, it resulted in my getting to take the baton home. That's at least as cool as any of the other things mentioned above, and I'm thrilled as hell)

Got back to the hotel, split some Arrogant Bastard Ale with Josh, had a little more kabanos, and drifted off to sleep to rest up for the ride back to Champaign the next day.
Josh and a fine recovery beverage

All in all, a fantastic experience, and I hope to do River To River again. I've managed to recover pretty quickly - no knee pain at all, and I was able to do a recovery run on Monday, and a fartlek run on Tuesday. Took yesterday off from running, will get some speed work in today either over lunch or after work.

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©2007 Shea Nangle