I usually only post marathon recaps but this was very special to me as it was my first relay.
I was apprehensive when I signed up with our Norfolk running group
because I always said, “I would NEVER run a relay”. I had visions of sitting in a stinky van and running at ungodly hours, alone in the dark. I must admit, I am somewhat of a scraredy-cat. I get nervous when Squirrels jump out towards
me in Elizabeth park and I am totally afraid of the dark!
As we got approached the date of the RimaConn relay, my anxiety increased! There was a big part of me that was super excited for our theme “Got Lit Runners” and the friends
that were on our team were so much fun. But the unknown was killing me.
We rented a van and decorated it with Christmas Lights, hence the theme “Got Lit Runners. This had nothing to do with drinking, it was just running with Christmas lights,
We set out to Rhode Island on Friday afternoon and I studied my legs of the relay as Kim drove. We arrived at hotel, we went outside to decorate our van we were pleasantly surprised to see so many other runners! The excitement was
building! We even helped decorate a van next to us. We also met some of “Webster’s” team and they graciously slapped a Webster sticker on our van!
Our van was officially decorated “lit” and we were ready
to rock and roll! We went to dinner, and let me tell you, people notice you when your van looks like Christmas Village. It was covered with graffiti and lights.
We got back to our rooms and said goodnight and planned our morning to
bring Glenn to the start for his first leg.
We arrived at the start parking area to be greeted by our friend Michelle Russi, who was sporting her headlamp and reflective gear directing traffic. It’s pretty cool to recognize other runners
when you are in a different state. I also spotted our friend Tricia King, our Glastonbury runner as well as other Fleet Feet and Hartford Marathon peeps. We were greeted by the race director Beth Shluger who was checking in runners.
6:15 group was kicked off by Beth and her husband. Glenn was the first to run his leg of 8.5 miles. After he left, we went back to the hotel to use the facilities one more time and checked out. The clock was ticking, and I knew I was next.
We got to the first exchange and I wasn’t sure what to expect. I was so nervous that I would get lost. Then, the runners started to approach. The first runner came through the checkpoint and slapped the wrist band/timer on the next
runner’s wrist as he took off. Now I start to shiver, not so much that I was cold, but terrified! What if I got lost?? Then Glenn approached, after running a blistering pace for leg one. I knew I had to run my “A” game.
My leg was only 3.4 miles, so I knew I could run a decent pace. I left, watching the woman in front of me, keeping her in sight. I was pleasantly surprised to see that HMF had gone above and beyond and had the course marked so well. I still
had my fear of getting lost which kept may adrenaline pumping. I cranked out a decent time for my first leg. I initially planned on running a comfortable pace and was really surprised at how fast I ran.
Margaret was the next let for
her let that was 3.5 miles. SHE IS SO FAST! She took off like a bullet. We drove to the next exchange with some concern we wouldn’t make it there before her. Mary was on deck ready to take over. She is super-fast too but
had been injured and hadn’t run long distance in some time. Her leg was 6.8 miles. Margaret and Mary exchanged the wrist band and we took off to the next exchange and waited for her to come in. As the runners started to come in, they
were covered in mud, expressing the difficulty of this “technical” leg of the race. Mary is not a trail runner, but her husband Scott is who was next up to run. She came in surprisingly fast compared to her projected arrival time.
So much for being injured!
Now it was Scotts turn. His leg was 6.3 miles. He always says, “I’m not fast”, but I’ve run with him on off-road/trail runs and he is fast and hardcore! I can’t keep up with
him. We took off to the next exchange and waited for Scott to arrive. Again, he arrived faster that I calculated. I asked him what his pace was, and he said, “it was around 7:40”! I was like, holy crap, he’s killing it!
Talk about raising the bar!
Kim took the exchange and set out for his nine miles to Putnam. This was one of the first major exchanges so there was food, vendors, music and ton of runners that I knew. I brought my own toilet paper (a benefit
of staying in a hotel). The runners started coming in and I was kidding and said, “Let’s have Kim run through the toilet paper like he was breaking the tape at a finish line!”. He came into the exchange so much faster than any
of us anticipated. Yes, he broke the toilet paper tape! Again, setting the bar even HIGHER. He said, “I had a 7:28 pace for 9 miles”.
Glen set out again and he was running 4.9 miles, so we programmed the address of
the next exchange which was mine. Yikes. The anxiety started again. As we drove there and saw runners and also noticed some pretty big hills! We expected Glen to slow down but he was on target with his blistering pace and met
me who anxiously awaited his arrival. He slapped that timer on my wrist with a vengeance and I took off running on my 3.4-mile leg. I thought, shit, I can run this, its ONLY 3.4 miles. I started downhill and passed out some runners feeling
awesome. My watched chimed 7:13 for my first mile. I felt like a Rockstar until I turned right to a which was very well-marked by HMF. I noticed I was now running uphill. There was a cop directing traffic and he said, “Turn left up the hill”,
so I looked ahead at the next street that looked like it was uphill, and he yelled “NO, HERE, this uphill”. I looked to my immediate left and oh my goodness this was a serious UP HILL on gravel. I am a good hill runner, so I pushed
myself to the top. This brought me to a trail that was not technical, but like the Vernon Trail that I’m familiar with. It was pretty easy to run on. I pushed myself to the next exchange and was greeted by a welcoming “toilet paper”
breaking the tape to finish! All of my dreams had come true and as soon as I crossed and broke the paper, Glenn yelled “Don’t stop now, you still have to hand off to Margaret”, what a buzz-kill! I ran another 30 feet to
the exchange point but couldn’t get the wristband off my wrist! So, I kept running alongside of her struggling to take it off! I finally handed it off and Margaret set off on a 7.1 leg with a dust cloud behind her! I was pleased with
my pace as it was another 7:44 for my leg.
Margaret arrived at the next exchange after running a 7:17 pace. SETTING THE BAR EVEN HIGHER! We sat there and shook our heads for a moment and then took off to the next exchange. Do
you notice a pattern here? Next Mary arrived after running her 4.2 leg, which I can’t recall her exact pace, but I know that it was faster that I could ever run, even being chased by a squirrel.
Scott was next to run with only a 2.2 leg.
We drove as fast as we could to the next exchange because we were worried he would get there before us! He arrived right on schedule with another sub 8 leg. Geeze. Now it was Kim’s leg next. He had a 3.8 mile. I know
Kim, and he was going to continue this streak and set the bar even higher.
When he arrived, I noticed him sweating more than I had seen him sweat in a while. He exchanged the timer with Glenn and he set off for his 2-mile leg. Kim
made a comment “I took one for the team, I just ran a 7.00-minute pace for my leg. Now we were really worried we wouldn’t get to the next exchange in time! Glenn arrived super-fast and Oh boy, now it’s my turn. I knew this leg was uphill
all the way to Vernon on the rail trail that I’ve run before. In the past, I’ve run here with our marathon training groups so the thought of running it alone was intimidating.
While I was running, Glenn was looking up the status
of the relay teams and noticed that our group was # 1 in the mix master’s division after 12 legs with a 7:40 pace.
Meanwhile, I started my leg. I took off and I could hear Kim yell, “see you in Hartford” busting my butt
like I had to run the rest of the distance, then I smiled and put my hand up and said, “no way”! I must admit, this was my last I smile until I finished my leg. I ran strong until I knew I had 3 miles to go, or so I thought. This
leg was tough because it’s pretty much a slow gradual incline the whole way. I passed out some runners and felt myself starting slow down. I was starting to feel it in my legs that were pretty tired. Then, I looked ahead and saw Kim.
I thought, “wow, I am so close to finishing”. He started running next to me and asked if I needed water. My watch chimed 7 miles and I said “are we almost done?”, and he said, no we have another ½ mile to go. I was
confused and pissed-off because I thought this leg was only 7 miles. Kim said “No! it’s 7.5 and just keep going”. He also mentioned that our team was in 1st place which increased my frustration. There
is nothing like telling a runner that they have ½ mile more to go when they are mentally prepared to have been done. In my head I thought like Scotty said on Star Trek “I’m giving it all she’s got Captain”, I put my head
down and practiced all my mental toughness marathon strategies, which was really not working so well”. When I saw the exchange point I had already pulled that timer off my wrist and just handed it Margaret. I was so ready to get rid of it!
Margaret set off for her 6.3 mile all uphill hard horrible leg which I’ve run in the past! I knew this course, but I know Margaret. She is hardcore and tough and had mentioned earlier “we are in it to win it”. We knew
she was taking this one for the team. I got in the van trying not to throw up and settled in and finally smiled, knowing I was DONE
We drove to the next exchange waiting for Margaret. Mary was there waiting for her 4.5 miles to “kill-it”
to Manchester. Margaret arrived, visibly sweating but not complaining who had just run one of the hardest legs. I don’t recall exactly, but I think she earned herself a drink! This was the cutest exchange, as Margaret arrived and saw
her twin Mary, they hugged and kissed each-other and Mary set out over the bridge heading to the next exchange. We were getting so close to finishing.
Scott was on deck waiting at the Charter Oak exchange who was running a 3.1 (5K) leg.
We headed to the next exchange. Kim couldn’t find the Solar parking area at Manchester College on GPS for the next exchange. We noticed another white SUV and felt better thinking “Oh, we are good”, only to realizing they
were lost too! We ended up talking to a volunteer that told us that the Solar parking area was around the building. The anxiety was building as we were running out of time to get there. Just to let you know, when you rent a van, you don’t
slow down, speed bumps are NOT an issue! Maybe that’s why my bladder was unruly??? Oh, my goodness!
We arrived, and Kim was on deck for the LAST 8.3-mile hard leg. I was looking on the running map while we waited for the exchange
to make sure we knew where to go, to avoid another late arrival incident. I was so engrossed. Scott arrived so fast that I missed the exchange. I almost got hit when I jumped out of the van and ran across the parking lot to send Kim off. I yelled
“I LOVE YOU KIM”, yes, people looked at me like I was crazy. I could her him yell “I’ll see you in 64 minutes”.
We set out to Hartford to meet Kim. We parked under the Founders bridge knowing he would be running there
just before the finish. We pulled out the Windex and cleaned our relay team graffiti off all the window of the rental. Then we all decided to wear our custom orange cotton “Got Lit” team support shirts to run Kim in. The
girls complained they were hot and uncomfortable. I did the next best thing and pulled out scissors and cut the necks out and said, “Kim will never notice”! We finished cleaning the van and headed up onto the bridge. Mary,
(the rock running star) said “aren’t you going to run him in from the bottom of the bridge” and I said, “no freaking way, my legs are toast, he’s going to blow right by me”! I looked out and knew that we could
see Kim coming in from East Hartford along the river. Suddenly, Glenn said “Jeanne, Is that Kim, you should know his gate” and I said, I’m pretty sure it’s him, but I hope it doesn’t turn out to be a women”! I started
to whistle (which is SUPER ear piercing loud) and the girls were yelling KIM!!! – he saw us, and he was moving. Margaret said “give me your backpack, you have to run in your husband”, and I thought, no F’ing way could my legs
do this! Well, when I saw him, the pain went away, and I started running ahead of him. Now I was running his pace and I felt freaking awesome! We all caught up with each other and the “Got Lit Runners” crossed the finish line
together. They were even holding up the tape as we crossed as they announced our names. It was epic. Beth, the race director was there to greet us and Liz, our HMF Pubic relations friend was there taking photos. This it the closest I’ve
been to being a Rock Star. Kim said “I took one for the team, I ran 7:37 for the last leg. Funny how peer pressure will push you!
We got our medals and went downstairs for the festivities. We looked up our race results
and were 1st in the “mixed masters” division with an overall 7:40 pace for 95 miles. Unbelievable, we never missed a beat and stayed on pace all the way to the end of the race.
We got our beer and pizza and sat down
to eat. We started reflecting on the race and were shaking our heads in disbelief and said , "Holy crap, how did we pull this off”? Oh, and I forgot to mention, Kim noticed immediately and said “What the hell happened to your shirts?
We all started laughing.
I have to say that RiMaCONN was one of the coolest experiences that I’ve ever had. Would I do it again? Hell yeah! Hartford Marathon organized this inaugural relay making sure they had every detail
covered. It was so well thought out; the volunteers, their staff, everything! I am so impressed with them. Kudos HMF for another amazing event. I can’t wait till next year!