Cross Island Relay 2011

My first big race on island was a team relay, and it was a very positive experience. In training for the marathon relay, other runners who had been on island for a while encouraged me to enter the Cayman Islands Cross Island Relay. Between the marathon event in December and the Cross Island Relay event in February, there was a running boom at work, so it didn't take long for me to hook up with five other runners and sign up as a firm-sponsored team.

The great thing about a relay event is the energy and excitement you glean from planning, discussing, and preparing for the race with your teammates. Four of my teammates were in the midst of training for Disney's Princess Half Marathon in late February, so running a relay consisting of four-mile legs was just a warm up for them. I had been maintaining a loose running schedule since my December race, so tailoring my workouts to prepare for a four-mile run was pretty easy. Whereas in the December race, I executed a run/walk interval rhythm, I didn't want to do any walking within my four miles in this race. After a few practice runs, by race day I was comfortable with a nine-minute mile pace. It was up to me and my running watch to maintain that speed.

The race had six legs, roughly four miles each, as follows:

1. From Gun Bay to the Blow Holes
2. From the Blow Holes to Frank Sound Road
3. From Frank Sound Road to Plaza Odessa
4. From Plaza Odessa to Savannah Meadows
5. From Savannah Meadows to Sunrise Apartments
6. From Sunrise Apartments to Smith Cove

photo credit: caymanhash.com

When my team started discussing who would run which leg, I found myself automatically requesting first. I guess it was because I had a commitment at church I had to get to by mid-morning, I had gone first in the marathon relay, and the sun only gets hotter as the day goes on. So first it was.

But then I started looking at the map above. I live in West Bay, and I realized that to get from West Bay all the way out to the eastern tip of the island for a 5:45 warm-up/start, I was going to have to leave my house well before 5:00, which meant waking up at some ungodly hour, which of course would have a direct effect on what time I needed to go to bed Saturday night... suddenly the race had become very unappealing! I voiced my concerns to LB, who initially was running Leg #2. Since she lives in South Sound and was 25 minutes closer to the race's start than me, we opted to switch. Thank goodness. I was still up way before the sun; in fact, LB and I probably left our houses at the same time for two completely different legs!

The next issue was one of transportation logistics. Unlike in the marathon relay, this race had no provided transportation to help you get from the end of your leg back to your car at the start. So we decided to carpool with contestants from other teams that we knew (accountants, of course). I paired up with AK, who was also running leg #2, to make sure we had a car at each end of our race.

Our leg started at the Blow Holes. (Oh, wait a minute, that doesn't mean anything to non-Grand Caymaners; see video below for the visual effects of the sea crashing on natural tunnels in the rock:)



Anyway, after arriving there, I had that inevitable bathroom urge. Except.... there were no facilities. I guess it's kinda a low-budget operation. Thankfully the sun hadn't risen yet, because I had to take a little hike down a (hopefully) deserted path to "go see Mrs. Murphy." I figured it was better than drawing that conclusion mid-race.

Before long, some leg 1 runners started coming in, reaching out the obligatory batons to the leg 2 runners who waited excitedly . It was still dark and a bit chaotic, as runners persistently stood/warmed up/chatted on both sides of the road while race personnel tried to corral us to one side. If only we had all cooperated; I would sometimes see another team's leg 1 runner come in before they did, and I found myself pushing the leg 2ers into the lane so that the poor first leggers wouldn't be stranded. Despite the disorganization, it was all so much fun! And runners from a variety of teams cheered for each other. After all, competition aside, we're all great friends.

My race went as planned. I maintained the pace I intended to keep. From memory, I ran just over four miles in about 36 minutes. But the official results are totally wrong, giving me credit for a 30-minute leg, while burdening my leg 3 teammate my extra six minutes. Other teams experienced similar results.  Although I'd love to take credit for being so speedy, I think it's unfortunate that the timer system was so off. Since a relay-style race doesn't lend itself to one-on-one competition, the goal is to race against the clock. When the clock is wrong, you feel cheated.

But in any event, I finished my leg and was quite pleased with my route, the weather, the temperature, and the number of people I passed. Everything felt good. When I got to my finish line, the other girls I rode with were waiting (they had followed very speedy leg 1 people), and we hopped in our car to ride home.  This was my favorite part. We drove through parts of Grand Cayman that we don't often see - Boddentown, Prospect, Red Bay, Savannah, South Sound - all charming island communities that were just waking up in the Sunday sunshine. We effectively drove past all the other competitors - some running along the side of the road, but most waiting in clusters at each specified changeover mark. We kept our windows down and our music blasting, and every time we saw a familiar runner, we'd shout out their names, cheering them on!  Then we'd burst out laughing, because every girl we yelled for would give us this huge smile and wave, and every guy we yelled for gave us a confused, upset glare. Such good fun.

Apparently my happy outlook on the race overall was not held by all runners, as each progressive leg of the race got hotter and hotter. In addition to the rising heat, because it was very hard to predict when each runner would arrive at the changeover spot, the runners in legs 4, 5, and 6 were left waiting at their starting points for quite some time. Overall, I have to report mixed feelings from the competitors that day.

But for me, the race accomplished what I wanted: An official event to keep me running, a chance to see and run on a different part of the island, and a team-based event that included lots of my friends. Although I have no races on my immediate schedule, with so many friends in the running community here in Grand Cayman, I sure the next one will be sooner than I expect.

2 comments:

  1. Thank you for the info. It sounds pretty user friendly. I guess I’ll pick one up for fun. thank u


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  2. interesting blog. It would be great if you can provide more details about it. Thanks you

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