Flaming Foliage Relay Race Review.
Our team is made up of coworkers and friends none of us would consider ourselves elite runners. Some of our team members are in the 8 min mile pace which others are closer to 12 minute mile. (When running up mountain passes the later is generally the case) Some members of our team have run together or in other relay races before and have never had the issues we had with this relay.
The issues started early in the day although we did not know it at the time. There was no baton or wrist band to hand off as our runners came in to hand off to the next runner. This started a chain reaction with teams sending off the next runner long before their current runner had even come into the exchange. (I thought the point of a relay race was you wait for your team mate then you start.) We found this out at midnight on Fremont pass as our runner was nearing the end, the pace van scared her by stopping in the road ahead of her to collect the race signs as she passed. Whats the rush? Other relay races leave their signs up until the race is at least over so they don’t rush the teams and let them run their own paces. Although we understood that there were some cut off times, we were well ahead of them when we were asked to start “leap frogging” our runners so that we would catch up. Also at the last exchange there were plenty of teams still waiting for their runners apparently they all cheated and started the next runner early.
We understand there will be cut off times to make sure no one is running a trail run at night we made these cut off times but what we don’t understand is the average pace set by the relay race director to have every team maintain a minimum pace of 10:30, which did not add up with the cut off times. Our team has people myself included who may be able to keep this pace on a flat course but not up a mountain. The Race director wanted the last team to come through at noon in Buena Vista. While we understand the concept some teams can not keep that pace. Hurrying along slower teams (by picking up signs when they are still running in the middle of the night) when you technically have all day to cheer on the teams to finish adds to extra anxiety and takes the fun out of the race.
This was a challenging course, one I think if managed differently we might do again, but not when the aggressive cut off or minimum pace requirements were changed as the race was going on. We also had challenges with getting our volunteers signed up in the time slots that worked for them because all the prime times listed as options prior to the sign ups opening were already taken by the Paid volunteers (this is also not advertised, until the volunteer sign ups opened, and the list of options had significantly shrunk.) The race director was not overly sympathetic or helpful when this issue came up.
If you are a team of strong runners looking for a challenge then you should have no problem doing this. Make sure on the legs that say to carry a map, you carry the map because the trail runs are not labeled and nearly every team we spoke to got lost including our own team members.