We met as a team outside the hotel’s lobby at 5 AM. There was a lot of banana munching going on, as well as people trying to figure out how these timing chips worked! I helped a couple people attach their chips. This gal was the recipient of a little teasing while I attached her chip, but she turned around and said, “I am not going to look like a newbie out there, that’s why I have a coach!” Love her!
At 5:15 AM our Team boarded a shuttle bus at the hotel and proceeded on the 45-50 minute ride to the start line. The race started at an estate amongst rolling vineyards and next to a reservoir, a very picturesque environment. There were plenty of porta-potties are the start line and the wait time wasn’t very long. We had plenty of time to goof around and take pictures.
The race started at 7:00 AM, and based on chip times it took us about 2-3 minutes to cross the starting mats. There were about 3500 participants in this race, a really nice size for a race. You never felt like you were alone out there, but it also wasn’t too crowded. The roads never felt empty, no matter what point you were at in the race. (Well, maybe the winners felt alone… the first place guy did complete it in 63 minutes!)
There were a couple places where runners were stopped by the highway patrol to allow cars to go through. I got held up at 2 points like this. It was strange to stop and wait, I suppose if I was racing for time I might be annoyed, but in this case I just used the opportunity to talk to people around me and look at the scenery. Team Challenge made up about a quarter of the participant field, so there was a lot of orange out there!
The roads had some pretty dramatic camboring to them, and some pretty big potholes in places. The nice thing was lots of people seemed to be pointing out the holes and yelling back to other runners about them. I love how runners watch out for one another!
The race finished in Sonoma, right by the City Hall and in a park area. Finishers got a medal and a wineglass for the winetasting tents at the finish line. There were bananas, oranges, mini-Clif bars, cereal and mini cinnamon rolls at the finish line. Team Challenge finishers got their own after-party area beyond that where we had a pretty big spread of burgers, veggie burgers, salads, fruits, grilled veggies, cookies, cheeses and drinks. All race participants had to pick up their technical race shirt at the finish line too, since the shirts weren’t available at the expo the day before! (Shirts were coming from Pakistan.)
As for the coaching aspect, I started out running the race with our frontrunners in my sight. Every few miles I would pause for a bit to cheer for people and keep an eye out for anyone that needed help and specifically people from my team. Since I was a coach for Team Challenge, I was in a position to help all TC runners/walkers on the course. I ran/walked with people from Wisconsin, Florida, Washington, LA, Northern California, Illinois… lots of places.
The funniest thing was I started to get the same reaction from people on the course that I’ve received from my runners on occasion, “You again?!” When I paused or ran backwards at times, people would obviously pass me… but I guess I passed them up again when I moved forward. So when they saw me passing them going either direction multiple times, people started to notice. I even had a woman at the after-party comment on seeing me pass her several times.
I wore 2 race bibs, one with an official race entry number and one that said “CCFA Coach”. I also had a timing chip on my shoe, which is kind of silly since my time doesn’t mean anything in this race. In fact, when I crossed the finish line I had already run the last half mile of the race a few times. I just decided to cross the finish line when I did because I was pushing one of my runners in to his finish and decided I wanted to get a banana. After getting my chip cut off and my banana chunk, I circled back around and headed back on the course.
For all my runners that I found on the course I would run or walk with them to just before the finishing chute then I let them proceed through that on their own. The day before the race I was encouraging them to enjoy the experience, to take in the whole event because you never get to have your first race again… but I felt a little bit like I got to experience that first race joy with each one of them I saw cross the finish line!
Every single person from Team Vegas finished the race. It got hard at the end for several, but all of them powered through. Some of them needed the extra gentle encouragement at the end, some of them needed a swift kick in the rear to keep going; but they all made it!
I ended up running just under 16 miles, but it felt completely easy… I have never felt that good during or after a race. Just enjoying the views, talking to people, ignoring my pace, pausing to cheer… it was a great way to spend the race! I loved every minute of the experience and I’m so excited to do it again for the Las Vegas Rock ‘n’ Roll race. We start training on August 28!
Special thanks to my team members for providing photos for this post!