Featured photo for The Relay
Photo: Peter Gonscherowski

The Relay

For the second year in a row, I participated in the Providian Relay with the Tri-City Triathlon Club (TC^2). It’s a 200-mile race from Calistoga to Santa Cruz, California.

This year I recruited my friends Heidi and Lisa to do the race with us. Rounding out the rest of the team was Al, Everitt, Herb, Manuel, Mike, Phil, Sharon, Steve, and Tom.

Steve’s Quickie Report

As Felix mentioned TC2 completed its second Providian Relay. I think it is safe to say that a great time was had by all. It really is a unique event. It is about camaraderie, encouragement, team support and having fun together. It is also about putting out 3 close to race effort runs in less than 24 hours with little to no sleep.

For those who don’t know this event is a running relay race consisting of 36 individual legs starting in Calistoga and finishing in Santa Cruz. This is a distance of 199 miles. Each runner runs 3 times totaling somewhere between 13 and 20 miles with legs from 3 and 8.9 miles. As you might expect some legs are harder than others so they are classified as “Easy, Moderate, Hard or Very Hard”. I don’t know how to describe the classifications but I can definitely say that “Easy” does not mean flat. Almost all the “Easy” legs would be more hilly than the WLC loop.

When a runner registers he or she is asked to enter their current 10K race pace. This is needed for a couple of purposes. The first is to help the team captain determine who are the stronger runners and put them on the appropriate legs. The second is for the race organizers to determine the speed of a team as a whole and assign an appropriate start time so that, at least in theory, all the teams arrive in Santa Cruz at roughly the same time.

We started at 12:30PM on Saturday which was pretty much in the middle of all teams, start times varied from 7:00AM to 5:00PM. As a team it took us 27:56:49 to complete the event which is a 8:26 minutes per mile pace average for the 199 miles. It is important to note that every runner ran at least one leg at night and just under half of our miles were in the dark. Our running compadres the “Mission Peak Striders” had two teams entered so we casually tried to figure where we were in relation to them; after all, we have our pride! One of their teams finished 45 minutes ahead of us and the other was 35 minutes behind. We also beat 65% of the teams so it was a solid team effort. Not bad for a group of triathletes!

The weather was excellent, may-be a little too warm Saturday and Sunday afternoons and a little foggy and damp in the Daily City area. For a 24 hour on average, excellent! Even though we are not pure runners I think that our triathlon training really helped us out. One aspect was mental toughness. Nobody caved in on our team; I saw plenty of walkers out there. It could have been lack of preparation on their part but I think it was more mental toughness. Another is endurance. Any runner can do a fast first leg but doing that 3rd one with a body worn down by lack of sleep and two previous race type efforts is quite another thing.

How did I do individually? I was pretty happy. I was able to put together 3 solid efforts with zero sleep. I averaged 8:15 pace for my 19.3 miles so I was slightly ahead of the team average. The truth is the numbers don’t really matter, I gave what I had and had a hell of a good time doing it.

I would like to thank our volunteers, Laura and Peter (wasn’t there a 3rd? yes, there was Phil’s wife Michele. Thanks, Michele! –Felix). I have no idea why they would want to do it but am most grateful that they did. A special thanks has to go out to Janette for organizing this for us for a 2nd time, things ran like clock work once again.

Steve W.

Race Data

  • 199 mi
  • 12:30pm start, 4:26:49pm finish — 27:56:49 overall time
  • Average Speed, team overall: 8 min 26 sec./mile pace
  • Ranking: 85 / 249 overall (top 34%)
Photos not created by Felix Wong may be subject to copyright.
We encountered our first "challenge" hours before the start of the race when we realized the first Chevy van we picked up from Enterprise had an ill-fitting back seat from a... Ford!  We hence packed everything into Phil's own van, drove it all back to Enterprise, and then transfered the stuff into a Chevy Tahoe.
The Tahoe had its own problems, like not being able to fold down the middle row of seats to allow access to the rear seats.  So Lisa and Heidi (my special recruits who did not let us down!) graciously climbed over the middle row of seats about 50 times during the weekend.  "Good thing for your rock climbing skills," I remarked at one point.
[5 minutes before the start, 12:25 p.m.] Phew!  With less than 10 minutes to spare, we made it to the start of the race. Heidi (not shown) kicked off the first leg for us.
[4 minutes before the start, 12:26 p.m.] Meanwhile, as luck would have it, we ran into Terry (Lisa's boyfriend), who was doing the race with the SF Tri Club.  Here's Lisa in front, with Terry and another dude in the background marking up their van.
[Mile 6, 1:06 elapsed, 1:36 p.m.] Here's Phil on his first leg.  It was starting to get really hot on this sunny October afternoon.
[Mile 6, 1:06 elapsed, 1:36 p.m.] As we would do for almost every leg, we stopped off midway to offer water and support.  That's Phil running with Everitt, Lisa, and Heidi cheering on.  You can see the gas-guzzling Chevy Tahoe with non-folding middle seat in this picture too.
[Mile 10, 1:35 elapsed, 2:05 p.m.] Here's Lisa on the third leg, giving a thumbs up.  By this time it was really roasting outside, and she still did great.
[Mile 23, 3:07 elapsed, 3:37 p.m.] Here's Mike running underneath the stars and stripes and the California flag.
[Mile 26, 3:24 elapsed, 3:54 p.m.] "I crapped my pants!" was one of the many interesting things scrawled on other teams' vans.
[Mile 26, 3:28 elapsed, 3:58 p.m.] After the fifth leg, we ran into fellow Tri-City Tri Club member Peter, who was a race volunteer.  He snapped this picture of Heidi, Felix, Lisa, Everitt and Phil while we awaited Mike's arrival.
Photo: Peter Gonscherowski
[Mile 26, 3:35 elapsed, 4:05 p.m.] Here's Everitt taking off right after grabbing the baton (actually an elastic wrist band) from Mike.
[Mile 30.5, 3:56 elapsed, 4:26 p.m.] Mile 30.5 marked the first van exchange at a church.  Here's Steve.
[4:03 elapsed, 4:33 p.m.] Here's Heidi and Sharon chatting while awaiting Everitt.  Sharon would be running next, and Van #1 would get a break.
[4:10 elapsed, 4:40 p.m.] At the van exchange, with Heidi and Tom looking on, Herb and Manuel wrote on Van #2, "Try biking & swimming first!  I want my bike!"
[6:05 elapsed, 6:35 p.m.] While the Van #2 members ran, we (from Van #1) went and had dinner at a pizza place in Napa.  "The place has an Italian name," we reasoned, "so it must be good."  It was!
[6:34 elapsed, 7:04 p.m.] Back to the road: our team getting into Van #1 after dinner.  You can see Phil, Heidi, Everitt, and Lisa in this picture.
[Mile 105, 14:19 elapsed, 2:49 a.m.] After we in Van #1 ran our 2nd legs, we met the other van at the van exchange just south of the Golden Gate Bridge.  Here's Tom, Al (background), Phil, and Steve during a beautiful night of a full moon and perfect running temps.
[Mile 141, 19:35 elapsed, 8:05 a.m.] Here's Heidi on her third and last leg, running with just one of the half dozen or so completely random guys who'd become enamored with her during the race.  This dude even bought her a chai from Starbucks afterwards!
[Mile 149, 20:37 elapsed, 9:07 a.m.] Lisa awaits a handoff from Phil after his third and last leg along Foothill Blvd in Palo Alto.
[Mile 151, 20:54 elapsed, 9:24 a.m.] Lisa proved to be our most consistent runner. It didn't matter whether the leg was rated easy, moderate, or hard--she ran every one at a ~7:30 pace!
[Mile 164, 22:44 elapsed, 11:14 a.m.] Here's Everitt midway up the grueling, all-uphill leg  on Highway 9 from Redwood Gulch to Saratoga Gap.
[Mile 166, 22:58 elapsed, 11:28 a.m.] At Saratoga Gap, Manny, Steve, Sharon, and Herb awaited Everitt while Heidi, Lisa and I ate hot dogs.
[Mile 199, 27:54 elapsed, 4:24 p.m.] After almost 28 hours, wwe made it to the Boardwalk in Santa Cruz!  This is Sharon, Mike, Everitt, Lisa, Heidi, and Phil awaiting Manuel's arrival!
[Mile 199, 27:55 elapsed, 4:25 p.m.] Manny arrives and prepares to give us high-5's all around!
[Mile 199, 27:58 elapsed, 4:28 p.m.] Mission accomplished!  Our entire group after a journey of fun: Heidi, Lisa, Felix, Sharon, Mike, Manuel, Everitt, Tom, Steve, Herb, Al, and Phil.
The celebrations weren't over, however: afterwards, we had dinner at the Seafood Grill in which we were going to surprise Sharon with this applesauce-almond-raisin b-day cake.  This is a picture of the cake from Saturday morning in my kitchen; amazingly, it survived the journey completely intact!
Word has it that Sharon was surprised all right.  Joel (Heidi's boyfriend) was also able to make it, who is sitting here next to Felix Wong and Sharon.
Our entire group (minus Al, Manuel, and Ev who took this picture) during this very happy occasion.  Happy b-day Sharon, and congrats to all... it was great to have fun and share memories with each and every one of you!
... and all the way back in Newark, Al, Herb, Steve, Sharon, Manny, and Tom load up Van #2.
Photo: Tom Erceg
And look at the Flamingo Van!
Photo: Tom Erceg
Group shot of us at the first Van Exchange.
Photo: Tom Erceg
[Mile 37.6, 5:05 elapsed, 5:25 p.m.]Before Tom's first leg, Tom gives an inspired salute.
Photo: Tom Erceg
[Mile ~40] Now here's Tom actually running his leg!
Photo: Tom Erceg
Herb makes a handoff to Steve during the darkness on his 2nd leg.
Photo: Tom Erceg
Here's how Van #2 was decorated with its members names...
Photo: Tom Erceg
Herb chats with Steve as Steve mixes up a sports drink.
Photo: Tom Erceg
Here's birthday gal Sharon on what looks to be after her 3rd leg!
Photo: Tom Erceg