A lot of people are familiar with relay running races, think Ragnar and Reach the Beach. Last fall, we hatched crazy plan to complete a different relay, The Seneca 7. This relay is 77.7 miles completed by 7 different runners around Seneca Lake starting and ending in Geneva, NY. I had been watching this race for a couple of years. I’m always up for group races because they’re fun and this looked to be one of those opportunities. In fact, Seneca 7 took it one step further and gave the option of a “bike team” So typically in a relay, runners take turns running their legs while the rest of the team drives from point to point in a van. With the bike team option, you no longer have a van and instead you use bikes as your main transport around the lake when you are not running. This means that in addition to running your 11 ish miles, you would also be biking somewhere on the order of 66 miles. Last fall when registration opened for Seneca 7 not only did the bike option sound like a good challenge, but they opened registration up to bike teams a day early. This was pretty much all it took to force our hand and have us forking over our credit cards to sign up a team. Thus, our team, Tri Harder, was born.
5/7ths of the Team… I never got a full group shot!
I will admit that we didn’t give this race a whole ton of thought. With everyone training for Ironman, or Half Ironman, etc. This was just going to be a training day. We did have one team meeting to figure out how in the world we were going to get everyone around the lake with 6 bikes. See 7 people, one always running means that we could only bring 6 bikes unless we had a trailer or something to haul the additional bike with. We did not … so 6 bikes it was! We had the following for bikes … 2 52 inch bikes, 2 54 inch bikes 2 56 inch bikes and one monster 58 inch bike. Our solution was simply that the middle-sized people would need to rotate around on bikes, riding a variety of sizes. Time would tell how that would work.
We headed out to Geneva in waves on Saturday due to different commitments everyone had. My group grabbed some lunch at the Crooked Rooster Brew Pub with my family which was super yummy and it was a great opportunity to see them since this race was only an hour and a half or so from my childhood home. From there we headed to Geneva to check in for the race and head to the pre-race briefing where we found out that we were one of only 20 total bike teams for the race.
Special goody bags for the bike teams!
After getting the briefing and collecting all of our bags we headed out to check into our hotel for the night and pack our bags. Turns out that packing our bags for the relay was semi time-consuming and stressful as it required a lot of thinking and rethinking to get the right things in there that would work for the weather throughout the day. Remember, no van to store things in and we needed to be self-sufficient minus a special needs bag drop half way around the lake. The forecast was for a 65 degree day, but we’d be starting the day in 35 degree temps. So, tights, jackets, hats, gloves, all the way to shorts, tank tops, sunglasses, etc. Oy! After a yummy dinner of pizza and some pasta for some at a local restaurant, we head back to the hotels to tuck our little heads into some pretty ish-ka accommodations for the evening.
This is how we pass the time!!!! At a sketch hotel!
Wake up call for the day came at some ridiculous hour like 4:30 am. I distinctly remember Ben turning on the hotel room light and my screaming out that the light was like “standing on the face of the sun.” Laurie kindly asked me if I had experience with that. I don’t know what my reply was but I most definitely know that I was not ready to get up!!!! Regardless I did it. We packed things up and headed over to Dunkin Donuts for some morning breakfast. At this point we found out that one of our seven team members, Alex, had been throwing up for most of the morning. Oh boy! The day was very young and already interesting. After getting some breakfast we headed to the start line and to the Geneva bike shop to have our bikes checked out prior to the start of the race. After everyone was checked and cleared we made some last-minute team swaps (i.e. lets not have the puking member be runner 1) we were on our way!
Scarlet Making her 2015 Debut as a Race Vehicle!
Laurie led us out as runner one picking up for Alex as the sick runner. She managed to run the first leg with her camelback back pack in place. We quickly decided the that backpacks were the biggest problem in this whole bike/run/bike/run scenario. Who the heck wants to ride their bike with a 20 pound back pack on their back? I’m fine with it for 3 miles, but 66? Not so much.
We biked and biked from leg 1 to leg 2 to leg 3 and then leg 4…. my leg! We always sent our runner ahead to the leg they were running so they could get ready, meaning change into whatever they were running in, eat some food, relax for like five minutes and get ready to run. So leg 4 …
My first run leg
This run was quality for me. I was a little irritated when I started out and people were flying by me. Then I remember that we were on a downhill … Turns out that gravity doesn’t work for people once we are back on flat ground. What do I mean by that? There were several I recaught once we were not running downhill. My splits were good and minus the giant climb over some railroad tracks at the end, I remember distinctly thinking that running was great during this race.
After finishing this first leg, I felt pretty good. I don’t know why, but I was really worried about how I’d feel running off the bike. Turns out that the answer was good. So at this point I was happy to keep at our mission of getting around Seneca Lake. Ok, ok, so biking, biking, biking. And then it’s my turn again at Clute Park in Watkins Glen. As we were biking down into Watkins Glen for this leg, I am certain that the temperature dropped at least 10 degrees. It was totally bizarre, but we talked about it and we all felt a drastic drop in temps. Also, part way down I spotted a stopped biker and opted to stop and see if he needed assistance. As it turned out, he had several flats and was in need of a canister of air. I gave him two of mine, only one of which seemed to be good. He was able to inflate his tire and keep at it.
Clute park was a major exchange for everyone as it was the halfway point of the race and a turning point as we had to head up and out of the this thing. There were also special needs bags available to the bikers as needed. While we had some warmer clothes etc in our bag, nothing was really needed so we opted to just ditch things that were weighing down our back packs at this point. In fact, we opted to dismantle one team members bag entirely, Laurie, so that we could no longer do the one person is carrying two peoples bag thing per leg.
My second running leg
So yeah, leg 2. This leg mostly consisted of heading straight uphill. Good times! The good thing here is that at least after all of my teammates passed me on their bikes, they truly appreciated how steep these hills were. Yeah, yikes! This was a ridiculous leg, but I was able to keep in mind that it was only 3.5 miles. Not that long! After this it was time for me for some serious mental recovery. I really needed to step out of this thing for a minute or I was going to have a tough time at the final leg.
I finished up leg 2 super happy to be done for a bit!
Unfortunately at this point in the race is where we started to get a little bit discouraged. The bike teams were promised water at several exchanges to refill bottles. After we passed through Clute Park, every exchange that promised water was out. Now don’t get me wrong, I understand running out. However, I do not understand not getting more. Here we are … a bike team. We have nowhere to carry extra water. In addition, the route that we were traveling on had NO rest stops or gas stations at which we could buy extra water. So, what the heck?! We had to beg water off from van teams who might have extra available. This was NOT ok with me and we let race volunteers know it. Yes, they are only volunteers but they need to deliver that feedback to race directors. Anyway. Back to biking, biking, biking.
I haven’t ridden this stead this much in a long time!
I don’t know what number leg it was, but during one of Laurie’s runs I decided to add some additional fun to the mix. As I was climbing a small hill about a mile from the next exchange, my bike felt funny. I looked down and sure enough, I had a flat. Great. Two of my teammates, Lonnie & Jeff, quickly rode up behind me. This was a flash back to another race that I had been at with them when Jeff got a flat and NONE of us could change it to save our lives. So Scarlet has a flat. I knew that we weren’t far from an exchange point and for some reason I thought that we might be able to throw an air canister in it and keep it inflated to the exchange where I would have more time and expertise to change it. First, remember that I gave one of my canisters away to the biker with the flat on the hill in Watkins Glen. The other canister in my bag was spent and had somehow gotten back in there. Fortunately Jeff had canisters. After messing up two, I made the decision to change the tired. We had limited canisters with us and we needed to be able to inflate my tire. Also, this race has no bike SAG. Anyhow, I quickly pulled off the tire, took out the tube, put in a new tube after removing a staple from my wheel and with a little monkeying around with yet another canister we were on our way. Boom! As my teammates know I am pretty proud of this tire change. I’ve never gotten a flat on my bike while on a ride. So, I was happy with the expertise with which I was able to change it. I guess I’ve watched it being done enough times.
Jeff & the Ladies… Relaxin!
We continued to make our way through exchange points. We were slow but maintaining the pace we had set out to run. There was still no water on the course but we managed to get a one gallon jug from another team. Fortunately that filled many of our bottles and lifted our spirits a little bit.
Several of us had our last run leg through part of Sampson State Park. That was a nice change of pace. It was much quieter and evening was slowly starting to set it. This also meant that it was getting chillier quickly as the sun was going down. We were all beginning to layer back up.
Last Run Leg
Fortunately, my last run went in a general downward direction. At this point I was tired, so I’m glad that I wasn’t climbing anything. It would have been ugly. I was able to once again pick off some folks who thought that they’d get me on the downhill. And this run was right near the lake so it made for a nice night-time view. I finished up the run and was happy to put my sneakers away for the day. However, I was not as happy to be getting back on my bike. Fortunately I knew that I only had about ten miles left to ride.
Look, they’re smiling
The last few legs people started to get a little silly and giddy. Or maybe that was just Ben… Anyway, the promise of finishing was just around the corner and after a long day on our bikes and on our feet we were ready to be done. All in all the relay took us something like 13 hours to finish. We were right on target with our projected running pace. Unfortunately, it was dark enough at the finish that again, we didn’t get a good team picture. Ah well. Maybe next time! Ha ha ha.
Holla for the exchange point!
All in all, the Seneca 7 was a good experience and I am glad that we did it. There are some logistical things that the race directors really need to work on. These things include the water on the course for the bike teams. It also includes more port o potties. Again, we can’t wander away to some obscure place to use the rest room as a bike team and we often found ourselves waiting a very long time to try to use the bathroom. Lastly, with this many van teams and all of the bike teams, the roads got a little bit dangerous from time to time. There needs to be a bit of attention paid to van drivers about sharing the road with the bikers in the race. It got a little hairy out there!
This is where I started to lose my mind…
In the end, it was a good race on a beautiful day with some of my very best peeps. And no, I did not eat Ben or go crazy! So, we will call it a win!