I’ve been talked about Relay Iowa on the blog for so so so long, and now it’s finally time for the Recap! Brace yourselves, this is going to be a LONG post.
I had the entire week off leading into Relay Iowa, which was great, and gave me the opportunity to see a ton of friends who I haven’t seen since moving to Illinois. That all started when I drove home to Wisconsin following the Run For The Zoo last Sunday. After a day and a half there, I was on my way to Minnesota to see my buddy Ryan compete in a standup comic competition. While there, I was able to swing through UW-River Falls, and get runs both in my favorite place (Glen Park) and an additional run with Skelly.
Before driving down to Ames, I got a run in with my friend Brian on Wednesday as we tried to outrun a thunderstorm. Ames was basically friend overload for me, which was amazing to see everyone again. It also included an 8×400 track workout the day we drove out to Sioux City for Relay. Maybe not what the doctor ordered, but who cares.
Relay: Day 1 – If you’ve run a Ragnar, you’ll kind of understand the way Relay Iowa works, just with less rules. Teams have two vans, and a total of up to 12 runners. Our team had 11 again this year. It’s up to the teams how far each runner goes, and how far each van goes before switching.
This year, our van started off, so we got the ball rolling from Sioux City at about 6:30am. This is a scenic and challenging leg leaving the Missouri River area and setting off through the Loess Hills. If you’ve ever thought Iowa was completely flat, you’ll change your tune quickly at Relay. After 30 miles, we ran into the town of Anthon and handed off to the other van. After a brief rest (the other van only had a 23 mile leg through the “Dunes”) we got into Ida Grove, ate a quick lunch at Subway, and waited for our team to arrive. I took the opportunity here to attempt a quick 30 minute nap. That didn’t go too well, but whatever.
With the temperatures hurtling into the 90s and the dew point in the 70s, our 43 mile grind to Lake City was a hot one. Honestly, this section of the Relay is one of my least favorites mainly because we run exclusively on Highway 175, so all your miles are just straight shots down the road. Although, we were able to make a pit stop at a bar in Lakeview for a couple team bonding Fireball shots (because of course). After a couple blackbird attacks on my legs, we successfully got into Lake City around 9pm to pass off to the other van.
After passing off, we grabbed some Casey’s Pizza, because Iowa, and went to the pit stop which had showers and (kind of) places to rest. The plan was to sleep from about 10:30 until 1:15am and then drive to Dayton for the van switch. That plan was crippled a bit by the Pit Stop in Lake City closing at 12:30. So we ended up attempting to sleep 1.5 hours, driving to Dayton, and attempting another nap/sleep until the team arrived at about 2:15am.
Relay: Day 2 – I was completely exhausted when we started running again at 2:15. A few nights in a row of poor sleep, and a 15 mile Saturday, was taking its toll. I do enjoy the night running, though, since it’s just you and a headlamp. You literally can’t see a thing that’s outside your light. From here, it was a 30 mile leg to Ellsworth (right by I-35) where we could get gas station taquitos (breakfast) and rest. After that, we promptly drove to Eldora for the next exchange and some much needed rest. I’ll tell ya, when you’re going off less than 3 hours of on/off sleep, nothing is more glorious than sleeping on the grass in a park in nice weather and a breeze.
I got a solid, uninterrupted hour and change of sleep, and felt like a new man! After a quick “lunch” we were back to running just after noon. Our next segment was 35 miles into Hudson where ice cream and kangaroos awaited. Yes, you read that correctly. The day was heating up, along with high dew points again, and we got into Hudson just after 6pm. After sending off the other van, we got some ice cream, and set off for Independence where we could eat and get some glorious sleep before we were back to running.
Relay: Night 2 – The second night deserves its own area here because of how bonkers it was. We got to Independence HS around 8 for showers and sleep and were expecting the other van sometime around 11. Then this rolled in:
Granted, I didn’t see any of the storm, but from the Wrestling Room where we slept, this storm sounded vicious. In the three hours that it rolled through, it brought up to 70mph wind gusts, 4 inches of rain, quarter sized hail, and a tornado about 10 miles SE of us. Naturally, the our other van (and, you know, everyone) couldn’t run on in this weather. They stopped in Jesup (about 11 miles away from where we were) to take shelter from the storm. As the storm was moving out, the Relay announced that ALL teams should make for Independence and the running would resume at midnight. So while we got a little more rest, it wasn’t restful as we stayed in communication with our team and up to date on updates from the Relay.
That plan quickly changed. As you can imagine, flash flooding and damages occurred when that beast rolled through, and the road we were supposed to run on was closed about 2 miles away. The new plan was to resume at 1am. That also quickly changed, as teams were then directed to drive around the closure to Winthrop and begin running there. And so at 12:30am we were off on an adventure again.
Relay: Day 3 – Already, this was a shorter leg for our team, and skipping ahead to Winthrop made it only 16 miles. The weather had finally cooled during the storm, and we were treated to some spectacular lightning shows as we chased the storms into Eastern Iowa.
We met our team in Manchester for the handoff just before 3am. After a quick stop for some gas station food, we journeyed to Epworth for the final handoff, and some sleep. Never has the concrete of a park pavilion felt so comfortable. I was out like a light. Once morning rolled around, we grazed on some van snacks and awaited our team. At about 8:45am we started running made the final 21 mile push to Dubuque.
Much like the start of the race; if you think Iowa is flat, go to Dubuque. The hills await in Eastern Iowa and really come fast and furious the last 10 miles or so. The third day is about survival, but the rest we had in Epworth really got us through the final push. We got into Dubuque at about 11:30am to complete this year’s wild 339 mile Relay.
Overall I notched nearly 40 miles over the weekend to couple with under 10 hours of sleep, and two proper meals. Relay is all about how well you can survive running, eating like crap, and not sleeping. And it’s freaking amazing! In fact, our team is already planning for next year.