This. Was. Epic. I simply cannot do justice to this race in one blog alone, so I will be writing a trilogy - legs 1-3 (the forgotten legs), legs 4-6 (everything's not lost) and 7-10 (the comeback kids). This is part one.
Follow the white line - Travis Eyes 100 miles of Drama Ahead of Him
We had already had our fair share of drama even before the race with our leg 6 runner (Nick Haddow) telling us on Wednesday that a golf cart had driven over his foot and that it was broken and he was on crutches. What he didn't tell us was that HE was driving the golf cart at the time. Quite a talent.
Ever-willing, Travis Cummings stepped up and agreed to do both legs 1 and 6.
Leg One - Travis Cummings - 68:32 - 2nd fastest
Nick, Our Leg 6 Runner, On Crutches at the Start Line
Travis has often been compared to Steve Prefontaine (usually by himself) and he certainly didn't sacrifice the gift on leg 1. Up against Maxime LeBeouf, Travis had his work cut out for him. Maxime built up a small lead very quickly and Travis was staying with the Running Room guy. Not for long. In a burst of pace, Travis opened up about a 300m gap in about a mile, to leave the Running Room guy wondering what had happened. The gaps pretty much stayed at that distance the rest of the way. Travis came in second, 2 minutes and 38 seconds behind Maxime, his work well and truly done. We were in second, and still in touch after one of their best runners had completed his leg. It became apparent early on that they had front-loaded their team, whereas we had not.
Leg 2 - Blaine Penny - 3rd Fastest - 63:12
Blaine was not only up against Matt Normington and Kris Swanson, but he was up against the wind too, in what had to be the windiest leg of the day (in fact, by the time Jody ran leg 7, it had turned round and was a tailwind - no such luck for Blaine).
Blaine Wonders if his new short shorts will be help
What better way to hear about the leg than through the eyes of the runner? Here's what Blaine had to say about his leg:
"I was going into this run like it was any other big individual race. I knew it was going to be a tough run and that every one us was going to have an exceptional day if we were going to challenge the win.
Matt Normington's View
Travis Cummings (a.k.a. young Steve Prefontaine) ran Leg 1, and was running in 2nd place with the competition about 3 minutes ahead, and the Running Room team right on our heels. I knew I would be starting with Matt Normington on my heels and have to admit I secretly wanted to hold him off. (Matt is a 2:21 marathoner!) My approach was to start at a good pace (at my upper end), and then adjust by how I was feeling, and not worry about Matt too much. I glanced down at the first mile split and saw 5:08 and was pleasantly surprised to be feeling so good. Definitely some adrenalin in the mix there I realized, and then settled into about a 3:40 min/km pace.
After about 3 km Matt caught me. Matt sat on my shoulder for a few minutes to recover as he was breathing pretty hard. I knew he started really fast and figured I could stay with him. He then surged past me and opened up a 10 second gap. I held that gap for several kilometers and then we were met with a crazy headwind. I could see Matt struggling ahead of me and soon caught him. He tucked in behind me and started drafting. I thought this was cool for a minute, but I thought I either had to shake him or work together taking leads. Duncan was yelling at us to start working together and that's what we did, doing 1 min pulls. It was an awesome way to battle the wind, and we kept a pretty steady (but much slower pace) to the Leg 3 transition where Aaron Swanson was in the chute and ready to go."
By this stage the gap was exactly 5 minutes. Plenty of time...
Leg 3 - Aaron Swanson - 57:03 - 2nd Fastest
I did not see much of Aaron's leg but he looked majestic as he strode into the finish. I know this for sure:
(a) He blew the Running Room runner he was up against out of sight, putting 3.5 minutes between us and them. We never really saw them again.
(b) He was only 12 seconds slower than the guy who won the leg which meant that, importantly, the gap between us and the lead was only 5 minutes and 12 seconds. And they were running out of good runners.
Legs 1 - 3 are the forgotten legs. But the race is won and lost here. Hats off to the efficient work of the "engine room" boys who did their job with minimal fuss.
None of us knew that the drama was about to begin.