This marked my fifth year of running in the Iowa Market to Market Relay race, a ~75 mile (depending on the year) team relay event from Jefferson to downtown Des Moines, primarily following the Raccoon River Valley Trail.
Each year, I participate in several running races and triathlons including marathons and Ironmans, but this easily is my favorite event each and every year. As a team, we are lucky to have Kyle’s Bikes as a sponsor of the event and loaning the sweet minivan for us to use.
Facebook messages have been flying for months regarding the proposed order of running (our team has 8 members, 18 total segments), who’s been training, other race results, what food Andy Bernholtz needed to buy for the day, and plenty of trash talking—building the excitement for the 2019 race!
We met in Grimes at 6:45 to pile in the Kyle’s Bikes van to head to Jefferson for our 8:45 wave start. Thankfully we always have the latest starting time, as the idea of a 5:45 am start sounds AWFUL. We arrived in Jefferson plenty early, took some pictures, and did an easy warmup jog around town. The cooler temps and overcast sky made it perfect running weather (but not ideal for spectating between legs!)
My assigned legs were stage 2, stage 10, and stage 18. I ran these same stages last year, so I could benchmark my performance year over year.
3.4 Miles flat trail from Winkelman’s Switch to Cooper
Early on in the race, the only runners in our area started at the same time as us, which makes the first few legs pretty competitive as you can see where you are early on in the team race. As I took the handoff at Winkelmans Switch we sat in 7th place.
I took off running at a fast and uncomfortable pace (recurring theme coming) trying hard to pick up a few spots. Within the first mile, I could barely breathe but had passed 5th and 6th place and ran side-by-side the 4th place guy the rest of the run. I had a goal of running sub 6:00 for all three of my legs, so I wanted to hold just a little bit back on this first leg knowing it would be a long day.
I came into the exchange point and teammate Dan Harty wanted to get a running start, meaning I had to speed up just to give him the baton—that sucked! Finished the leg, jumped in the van, and onto the next stop. Total time was 19:35 (5:51 pace)
Between my legs (~3 hours or so), I made sure to do my best to take on some food (PB&J sandwich, fruit snacks, bananas) and enjoy the time with my fun teammates.
5.1 miles Kennedy Station to Adel
My longest stage, and a tough transition to sit in a van for three hours and then just start running hard again. I told myself to take the first mile “easy” and try to make it a consistent, strong run. Well, as I mentioned in my first leg, it’s impossible not to hit that first mile with way too much energy, which led to a 5:43 first mile. About 1.5 miles in, a random stray dog started running with me, and ran side by side with me for a solid mile, before I became too fast for him and he ran out of energy! During this stage, the trail is filled with runners from teams that started in earlier waves, so it’s great seeing lots of people racing out there.
I felt pretty good the entire leg and finished with a 30:07 split, for a 5:53 per mile pace.
Between Stage 9 and 14, we started to build a pretty large gap between us and the team behind us, as we moved into second place. At every stop, we would try to figure out how much of a lead we held.
4.1 miles from Gray’s Lake to Court Avenue
Knowing we had a large gap on 3rd place, the primary goal for this leg is to finish without hurting myself. Once again, adrenaline kicked in and I took the first mile too fast with a 5:40 split. At that point, I made the decision to shoot for a sub-6:00 pace finish. Overall, it was an uneventful leg. I just kept pushing myself to finish strong.
Came down the river, popped up on the bridge, and got to join our team to run in the last 0.1 mile together. My time for this stage was 24:00 (5:55 per mile).
Post-race party at Iowa Tap Room was a bit chilly but a great time. Kyle’s Bikes finished 2nd again with a total team time of 7:54:58 (6:12 average pace), a full 13 minutes clear of 3rd (and 36 minutes behind first).
Full Race Results are on the Market to Market Relay website.