So I ran my 8th Texas Independence Relay this weekend. I committed to four legs for over 19 miles, plus the 1.15 mile prologue.
It was probably a poor choice to commit to that many miles, but we had several runners that were not 100% and I felt like I didn't have any nagging issues that could prevent me from being a workhorse over the course of the relay.
I blew up. I did all the miles I said I was going to do, and I averaged 9:31 pace over my four legs. But it should have been much faster and much easier for me. My last two legs were the two slowest legs I have ever run in all eight years of this relay, at 9:49 and 10:20 pace. I'm so disappointed in myself and so confused as to what went wrong.
Two days later, my legs feel pretty good. Although I had a bit of IT band tightness in the late hours of the relay, and my quads were unusually sore going into my fourth leg, I have recovered well and my IT band is giving me zero issues right now. I am, however, very sick with a cold that started coming on Sunday night. I don't want to make the excuse that I was coming down with something and that's why I suddenly couldn't run well anymore. I suppose it's possible, but it still frustrates me.
I ate well. I hydrated very well. I rested better than I expected during our break overnight. I don't think I was particularly tired or cranky.
I just totally blew up.
I ran 8:53 pace and 9:06 pace for my first two legs, and while it wasn't particularly easy to hold those paces, I was steady and determined and not overtaxed despite the warm weather. I had high hopes for the my third leg, which was at 1:00am in much cooler weather. Usually my overnight leg is my strongest and with it being only 4.13 miles I thought I might be able to run about 8:45 pace. But as soon as I started running it felt hard. I thought I was running around 9-9:15 pace but when my first mile came through it was an even 10:00. I tried speeding up in the second mile and it came in at 9:38. No way should this leg have been feeling this difficult, but I simply could not run any faster without it being a huge struggle. My van mates cheered me on when they checked on me, and all I could think of to say was "I'm running 10 minute miles and I don't know why!" They thought that was hilarious....but no. No it was not.
I wasn't the only one to struggle overnight. The humidity was getting very bad as the night progressed, although I didn't really notice it so much on my leg. The other van was feeling the effects of the weather and the miles and a couple of them needed to drop their fourth leg. I really had no choice but to suck it up for my 5 miler into downtown Houston. My legs were getting so stiff and I was honestly worried about being able to finish strong. We needed absolutely every strong mile we could get in those last legs of the relay. I wanted to do well for my team.
It was pretty ugly. I started off as conservative as I could to loosen up, but even a slow pace was hard. As the other van passed me to check on me, I told them I was running 10:30 pace and wasn't sure I could make my legs go any faster. They cared less than I did and just cheered me on.
I have never had the urge to walk on a relay leg more than I did right then, but I pushed through and forced my legs to keep running. As I crossed the pedestrian bridges over the bayou and could glimpse the skyscrapers of downtown it felt like they were so far away, even though it was less than three miles. This leg was taking so long to get through! For the first four miles I averaged about 10:15 pace but my fifth mile I slowed down considerably to 10:45 pace. I couldn't really pick it up very much when I turned the corner for the last minute of the run down Smith Street to the exchange.
The best way to describe my last leg was that it was every bit as hard as the last five miles in a difficult marathon, and the way I felt after I finished that last leg was exactly like how I feel coming down the finish chute after a marathon. I was completely spent, totally sore, unable to breathe, and miserable.
Thinking back on it now, two days later, and I'm still pretty perplexed as to what happened. Is it obvious I'm totally disappointed in myself?
I need to shake this disappointment and move on. My team did pretty well for having so many people struggling with injury and training problems, with it being in the mid-80s and sunny during the afternoon runs, and with having to shuffle some of the legs around. We finished earlier than expected (barely!) and nobody was really hurt (at least not anymore than when we started!), and we had a great time. But I always want to be a workhorse (even if I'm the slowest workhorse).
Good God, I need to shut up.
However, at the end of the day, the Texas Independence Relay is still the best race of the year, even if it's the most exasperating. Lots of great moments. Lots of crazy moments. Lots of moments that fall under the category of "what happens on the relay stays on the relay."