There’s no race I have done more often than the Sola relay around Zurich; I think I’ve participated every year since 2001 except once, when I was abroad for a year. Even though this amounts to more than ten starts, I’ve only ever done two different legs: the last (short and easy) one for the first few years, and the 11th (long and hard) one for the last few years. Since I’m usually signing up the team for the race, I’d have first dibs at any leg, but I enjoy racing the same one to see how I compare to other years. 2011 was my best time so far; I wasn’t very sure about my run fitness this year, so a similar time would be okay in my book.
Our team is supposed to consist of people who studied the same obscure subject as myself, hence our extremely funny name, “Random Walkers”. If you don’t get it, congratulations, you’re not a nerd. If you get it, congratulations, you’re a nerd. Unfortunately, there are other teams with people just as witty to choose their name, so there is the three “Brown’sche Spaziergänger” (“Brownian Movers”) teams, which often rank in the overall top ten, and they’re also older than our team… but they haven’t complained yet. And we came up with our name totally independently, promise.
Because only very few people studied the same as I did, I usually don’t manage to assemble a full team just from that pool. This year, we’ve been down to five actual computational scientists/engineers, and while it’s fun to try and find the fastest possible people to complete the team, it’s always also a hassle. But, just like every year, we managed – even though two guys dropped out last minute due to injuries, but they provided replacements themselves, so no extra work for me.
The start of my leg was in the afternoon and it’s almost an hour to get there from my place. I’ve never been late, but almost every year I feel I could be too late, just to wait for about one hour in the transition area. This year, for the first time, I actually estimated when the runner just before me would arrive, and went to be there at the corresponding time (minus some slack, of course). The little train I took was almost empty; usually, it’s crammed with runners. I figured that either I was too late, or everybody else had time to spare.
I only skimmed the race information because I’ve seen it so many times before, so I couldn’t find the truck that transports clothes to the end of my leg immediately as it was somewhere else this year. After five minutes, I did and proceeded to the area where the handover should take place. It was almost empty and I thought that I finally managed to be too late. Luckily, that was just another minor change and everybody was just a bit further up a hill.
I ran into Reto from work and we chatted for a few minutes before he had to run. His goal was for me not to catch him; quite lofty, considering he didn’t know how much of a gap I’d start with. Also, he’s running at about my pace, so I’d be lucky to catch him no matter my delay.
After only a few minutes, Emily from my team arrived and I could get going. Bonus points for good timing on my part! In the morning, there had been quite a lot of rain, now it was dry and not too warm. The first kilometre of the course is flat and I had a solid sub 4 minutes split, but then the nasty bit of the course started, a four kilometres ramp up to Pfannenstiel (“pan handle” mountain). I didn’t feel great and some people passed me, but without major breakdowns, I managed to get to the top without being too exhausted. I remember the first time I did that course, I was ready to die after five kilometres.
The overall course length is 13 kilometres, and once the top is reached, it’s mostly flat and downhill. I tried to get into a rhythm and passed a few people, but the overall feeling still wasn’t great. The splits looked okay, though. After about ten kilometres, my favourite part of the course starts: a little path along a river, great to get into a flow without being boring at all. While I did feel quite fast, I also had to work hard. The nice path is topped off with a mean ramp of a few hundred metres that leads into the final kilometre, perfect to go all-out and save those precious extra seconds. The photographer was a few metres later than usually, but because I knew he had to be there around, I made sure not to fire a snot rocket or look all destroyed in the wrong moment.
I found the next member of our team without any problems and handed over the e-stick used for timing. Checking my watch, I was surprised to see that I had been a little bit faster than the year before: less than a minute, but still, I wouldn’t have thought.
While getting lots of after run sports drinks, I bumped into Fiola and again Reto (hadn’t caught him, of course), and after some chatting I headed for the shower and returned home. The traditional after race dinner was attended by about ten people, I think we’re talking about a record here! Behold the 2012 Random Walkers in action:
I didn’t stay too long, because I was signed up to race Thurgauer Triathlon Stettfurt the next day. A rather stupid idea, but I didn’t want to miss Sola, and I didn’t want to skip the triathlon because I wanted to get some race practice before Ironman 70.3 Switzerland a month later. See the race report of Stettfurt for my learnings about double race weekends. (Spoiler: they suck.)