The SOLA relay race has a special place in my agenda. Of all the races, it’s the one I participated the most often: nine times, I only skipped 2006 when I was in the Netherlands. The first three times were with the team of a friend of my brother and I got the easiest leg because everybody else was really fast.
Since 2005 we participate with a team from my university program, and because we were so few, I suddenly got a rather difficult leg. There are 14 legs overall, two of which are women only, and on one leg women can take a shortcut. The overall course is about 116 km long (2600 m elevation) and the legs range from 4.4 to 14.17 km.
The mean leg I did is towards the end of the day (11 out of 14) and looks like this:
After a flat first kilometre, it’s uphill for three kilometres, then rolling hills for three kilometres, then downhill for four, and then a mean last ramp and a slight uphill final kilometre. Once the first four kilometres are done, it’s just about bringing it home – if the legs still move, that is.
Geographically, the leg leads from Egg to Zumikon (where also the world famous Zumiker Lauf takes place), crossing the Pfannenstiel “mountain”. Like this:
I got to my starting area rather early. It’s hard to know when the preceding runner will arrive, and better save (and wait a bit longer) than sorry (and lose time in the hand-off). I warmed up a little, but the weather was so hot I felt warm anyway. I bumped into about five people from the triathlon camp, chatted a little here and there and finally went to the area I was supposed to start from.
I had to wait for about 15 minutes, but there was so much going on it never got boring. Hand-off was smooth, and off I went. The first, flat kilometre flew by, and already I was in the nasty ramp. This is where in slower years I was passed all the time; not so this year, I felt rather strong (or I didn’t, but still passed a lot of people). Two or three guys zoomed by and I never saw them again, but I was confident to gain a few places as mostly I was the passer.
The first goal was to be still alive once I had reached the end of the ramp, so I could get into gear quickly and accelerate on the more flat part to come. I managed more or less, with the upwards splits just below six minutes and the splits in the rolling hills at about 4:30.
Finally, I got to the downhill part of the leg. For the next five kilometres, it was very speedy, and my favourite part of the course was in there as well: a small path along a river, just wide enough to pass people (but not much more). I got some solid sub four minutes splits, but the dessert was still to come in the shape of the mean ramp two kilometres from the end.
I felt okay, but the heat took its toll and the only time water was handed out it was given in rigid cups, so the drinking was more like cleaning the face and not so much about replacing fluids.
But the finish was nearing and I just wanted to hang in there. After the steep ramp it was rather clear I would achieve the sub one hour goal, the question was more by how much. About one kilometre from the end I passed Melanie who I know from the tri camp, but there was not enough energy for much small talk. The last bit was all slightly upward, and just before the hand-off area, there was a photographer:
The strap around the right hand is the “e-stick” used to register team times.
And one minute later, I was done. My hand-stopped time was 57:43, the official time was (due to the hand-offs) 57:56, good enough for 80th place. Not stellar, but personal best nonetheless. The girl running after me was missing for a minute or so, but that did not count towards my time, but hers, so I didn’t mind.
Our team placed 81st overall; considering there were almost 800 teams and we actually don’t have any ambitions, that’s totally okay. Just five of the team members actually studied the same as me, the rest was selected based on (also) performance criteria (I can assemble a fast team if I want to, right?), so we ended up having Ironman [Hawaii] finishers, a multiple marathon champion, a sub 80 minutes half marathoner and so on in the team.
Here are the race pics I could find of the 2011 “Random Walkers”:
Browsing through all the race pics, I saw one funny guy. Instead of running, he decided to levitate! Here:
And all alone, here:
Smart way to save energy!
To come: race report of the 10 mile race in Bern one week after SOLA and various tidbits that have been spending time as drafts since almost forever.