Sunday, December 4, 2011

2011 Mill Cities Relay

Smiling and asking about the competion ahead
The Mill Cities relay website sums it up best - 27 miles, five legs, two states, and 1 river. The race starts in Nashua and finishes right outside the Claddagh Pub in downtown Lawrence, Massachusetts. Five person teams are compiled with distances that vary from 2.5 to 9.5 miles along the Merrimac River. I was fortunate to get on a coed open team with the Somerville Road Runners. 2011 USATF New England Mountain Series winner, Kath Hardcastle led off the charge at the 8am start in Nashua, traversing 5.4 miles to Hudson, handing off to Andy Schneider. Andy hustled 4.75 miles over the state line and into Tyngsboro handing off to Kevin Guarnotta. Kevin ran 2.5 miles along the Merrimac River into Lowell handing off to me. I covered 9.5 miles through Lowell, Dracut, and into Methuen. I handed off to recent Larissa Park who recently ran a 2:52 marathon in Philadelphia. She wasted no time over the last 4.75 miles, finding her way to Canal Street in Lawrence to help the team finish 1st over in the coed open division.

I went to sleep last night pretty nervous about the relay. I was not too sure how the logistics were going to play out for me. I was worried about getting to the start of my leg, securing warm clothing at the end of my leg, and was uncertain how to get myself to the finish. Fortunately, Todd Callaghan put me at ease this morning in Nashua and let me ride with him as we were running the same leg. Todd and I got to the start of our leg around 8am when the relay started. We were not expecting our teammates to come through our exchange zone until after 9:10. I went out for a warm up with Todd at 8:45. The clouds broke for sun as I put on my yellow SRR singlet. I wore my Nike Lunaracer 2 flats. I walked over to the exchange zone and Kevin came in to hand off the slap band to me. I took off and set my sights on the runners that were about twenty seconds ahead which included Dave Corbett, Jim Rhoades, and Joe O'Leary.

While running through Lowell with the Merrimac River on my right, I recalled memories of my 2010 Bay State Marathon where I had a tough stretch in the last four miles. I ran through the water stop taking Gatorade from Jen Arnott (formerly Jen Lavoie) with whom I went to high school with. It took me a while to catch Chris Spinney who I was tracking down for a bit. I ran beside him for a few strides checking in. He mentioned that he rolled his ankle at 2.5 miles. He hung in there and was seen two hours later icing his ankle. I felt pretty good, still on my toes, with the sun now over my rear right shoulder. The river was flowing in the same direction as the runners. Everything was good.

Larissa Park, Andy Schneider (with the brick), Kath Hardcastle, and I

I peeked at my watch at 40 minutes into my run. Then I saw John Gillis for the third time on my leg - yelling encouragement and offering water. He told me that I was getting closer to Todd Callaghan who was hurting (turned out he had a stitch that haunted him for miles). I was guessing that I had two miles left and tried to close the gap. I passed mile eight and just then realized the leg mile markers where painted in orange all along (duh!). Todd was too far ahead to reel in. I turned left into the industrial park where the exchange point was. I could see someone driving Todd's Subaru Wagon into the parking lot. I came through the exchange to handing off to Larissa. I felt good about the effort (just under 54 minutes - 5:41 / mile pace). Joe O'Leary came in behind me. My relay mates, Kevin and Andy were there so I got an update on how the SRR teams were doing. Our coed open was in 1st place for the division. They offered me a ride to the finish but I passed so that I could find Todd and get my warm clothes and dump my flats for my trainers. I let Todd out of my sights and could not find him for the next 25 minutes. The sun disappeared into the clouds and I started to get cold. I finally found Todd walking with Dave Quintal who ran with Winners Circle. Todd drove us through the last leg and to the finish line where a huge after party awaited at the Claddagh Pub off Canal Street in Lawrence. I sat down to pasta, salad, and bread while catching up with teammates and friends. Our coed team finished first in our division so we got a coveted brick as tribute to the Mill City.  

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