Surf ‘n Turf Relay (Trenton)

Surf n Turf Trenton Race Report

DSC_7592Relay races are a great way to break up the routine! The Surf n Turf in Trenton gives you a chance to really mix things up with a run/canoe/bike/run/bike/run/swim/run.

One of the great things about being part of a running group is you can usually find allies for relay races. Our coach, JR ran this race years ago. When he told Randy about it, entering became a foregone conclusion (for Randy the tougher and more interesting the race, the better). You can enter teams of 8 people, but since the legs are relatively short, we decided to enter a team of 4 so each of us could complete 2 sections.

Leg1 – 7.5 km trail run (Randy)

DSC_7611Randy was looking forward to the trail run, he is quite happy leaping over logs and splashing through mud. After seeing the route he decided to swap his trail shoes for his road runners. It turns out the trail is basically a packed dirt path. The timing chip is attached to a Velcro strap you put around your ankle so it can easily be transferred to the next team member at the transition zone.

Leg 2 – 4 km  Canoe/Kayak (Judy & Susan)

DSC_7640The second leg is a canoe or kayak. You can only use a kayak if you enter the tin man/tin woman (where you do the race solo) or the tin mate (teams of two).

You drop off your canoe or kayak between 6 and 7:30 AM at the transition area. You have to mark the front right hand side of the canoe with a bib or tape since the bib you wear will be covered by your life jacket. The canoe must contain a buoyant rope, a bailer, a whistle, and a lifejacket for each person. You leave the canoe on the grass (separate section for the kayaks) until it is time to hit the water.

Judy and I used to do a little canoeing growing up, we know how to steer a canoe, so we volunteered to do the canoe leg. Randy crossed the timing mat and Judy ran forward to get the timing chip. We ran to our canoe, carried it about 20 feet into the water and we were off.

We quickly discovered two things: #1 – four km is quite a long way in a canoe; #2 we are slow! Judy and I both have decent upper body strength (she is a swimmer and I do strength training) and we were both putting a fair effort into the paddling but we were passed steadily the entire way (we have decided to blame our paddles, we had wooden beavertail paddles and we saw several paddles with wider blades,  they allowed non wooden paddles this year.) Our time was 56th out of 66 teams on that leg… Well, I guess we have our work cut out for us the rest of the race.

When you exit the water, you have to carry your canoe up the path and then bring your timing chip to the cyclist who must wait in the transition zone. This caused a lot of concern for the tin man/woman/mate entrants who would therefore have to carry their kayaks alone up the path unless they had a support team. Apparently last year you could leave your boat in the water. James was waiting on his bike, but Randy was allowed to come down and help us carry the canoe. Judy ran up to James handed him the chip and off he went on his bike.

We saw a few people carrying their canoes back to the cars right away, but James only had 25 km to go on the bike so we focused on getting to the next transition zone to ensure we’d be ready to go when he got there. The parking lot for the canoe/bike transition zone is about 1 km from the t-zone.  When they arrived, Randy and James rode their bikes from the van to the t-zone.  After James left on the bike, Randy rode his bike back to the van and then drove back to pick up Judy and I as we were still walking towards the parking lot. It’s a bit of a hike and we were wearing water shoes and sandals that were not designed for running or jogging to the car.

In the captains meeting they said you could leave your canoe in the t-zone and come back for it anytime up until 3 PM and their would be volunteers keeping an eye on it….more on that later…

Leg 3 – 25 km bike (James)

DSC_7655There is a map of the bike route on the mobile website, but you can’t zoom in on that map, so the road names were too small too read. They showed us all the maps in the PowerPoint presentation at the captain’s meeting. We thought we would have printed versions of those maps in our race guide, but that was not the case. The only printed map provided was a map showing the recommended driving route for support vehicles to get from one transition zone to the next.  We were slightly worried James might miss one of the turns.

You are not allowed to drive alongside your cyclist since the roads are open to traffic. But we drove the route ahead of James just to make sure the turns would be obvious. If there was a confusing turn we figured we would park and stand there to make sure he did not miss it. (this is a tactic we have used successfully at the Park 2 Brew running relay). As it turned out there were either police or volunteers at all the turns. But we did get a chance to observe a lot of cyclists working hard on the hills!  That’s a pretty hilly 25 km ride, and some of the roads have very little shoulder so you need to be comfortable riding alongside traffic.

James arrived in the transition zone about 10 minutes after we arrived. He was parched, there were a few stretches in the heat where it was hard to take a drink of water because of the climbs. Judy took the ankle strap with timing chip and off for the cross country run.

Leg 4 – 5 km Cross country run (Judy)

DSC_7670Judy brought her cross country shoes complete with spikes. But after seeing the terrain for Randy’s “trail” run, she was concerned she would have stretches on concrete for the cross country run. She removed the spikes. It turns out that was an excellent decision. The last 500 m was along a road and the rest of the race was actually a trail run. Cross country running is usually across fields, maybe up and down a few ditches. This leg turned out to be a proper trail run. Judy arrived at the finish with splashes of mud on her legs from running through puddles and convinced that she would have poison ivy (she saw lots of it on her run) Randy & James who enjoy trail running were quite jealous.

20180614_190228FYI – They mentioned the risk of poison ivy at the captains meeting and said they make an effort to clear it where they can. You have to sign a remarkable waiver for this race with an exhaustive list of risks that includes risk of choking, drowning, hypothermia, heat stroke, allergic reaction to insects, and being struck by a kayak or other participant. We were amused to discover that they missed poison ivy 🙂

The transition zone from cross country run to mountain bike was a bit chaotic. By now it was mid-day and hot. The only shady place to stand was on the road. Every minute or so a car would come through and we all had to move over (it wasn’t clear if these were racers who hadn’t parked and walked up the road like we did or others just using the road). So now you have the team members on their mountain bikes waiting to go and a hundred or so teammates hanging around the finish area moving further out onto the road trying to see if their runner is coming, the end result is a frustrated group of race organizers and volunteers desperately trying to keep the road clear.  If you run the race, make sure you park before you reach the pylons that mark the last few hundred meters of the cross country run so you don’t have to drive through all of that.

Leg 5 – 8 km Mountain bike (Randy)

Randy had his bike helmet and safety glasses as required by the race (we found out at the captain’s meeting that they permit sunglasses as safety glasses). Judy ran over to give him the timing chip and off he went! We knew there was at least one good climb on the route.  None of us do much mountain biking so we really did not know how it would go.

Off to the next transition zone where we all clustered under one big tree, the only shade around. You could see the bikers coming down the last trail, legs covered in mud (clearly a few good puddles on this leg). Randy arrived muddy but happy and James took off for the road run.

We sacrificed a blanket to keep the mud on the bike from getting all over the inside of Randy’s van and took off to the next transition zone.

Leg 6 – 7.5 km Road run (James)

At the captains meeting they referred to this leg as the death run. James listed to the description along the roads through the town. It did not sound particularly nasty, so he asked why she called it the death run. “You do this run at the peak of the day’s heat, all on pavement,  and there is absolutely no shade”  She exaggerated, James said there was a tree that provided at least 15 feet of shade along the route. Yes they did have water stops.

Leg 7 – 500 m swim (Judy)

The swim is 20 laps in a pool. No diving, feet first entry only. The swimmers either need to shower or get hosed down before entering the pool area. We weren’t sure if Judy would have time to change into a swimsuit at the transition zone, so she wore her swimsuit under her running gear for the canoe and the cross country run. A volunteer with a hose washed the mud off her legs. When James came around the corner, Judy grabbed the ankle strap, put it on, and went inside to the pool. They have volunteers to help you keep track of your laps which is great.

You are welcome to go to the viewing area to watch your swimmer as long as you are clean (i.e. if you did the cross country or mountain bike you’ll need to get hosed down).

Your last runner waits at the far pool door. It’s nice not having to rush off to another transition zone. It also means a teammate can hold the swimmers clothes, sunglasses, towel, or whatever.   They call out the bib numbers to the waiting runners when the swimmer comes out of the pool so you have about 15-30 seconds warning before they arrive at the door.

Leg 8 – 3.5 km Run (Susan)

DSC_7679The last leg is a pretty straightforward road run. No shade. Flat except for one the hill that takes you to the finish line.

The last run is only 3.5 km, which means if you want to see your runner cross the finish line you’ve got to get moving. The parking lot for the finish area is about 500 m from the finish line.  I caught up to James, Randy & Judy at the bottom of the hill about 300 m from the finish. Being the awesome teammates they are, they immediately ran with me up the hill clutching their cameras and phones and we crossed the finish line together.

The finish area

The finish area is a good set up, they posted results quickly, they have music, they have ice cream, and instead of the usual post race BBQ burgers and dogs there were some very tasty beef sandwiches and watermelon. My only complaint would be the shortage of water. They had juice boxes and a server yourself cups of water from a drink cooler which ran out.

James calf was giving him trouble so he signed up for a massage. We realized 20 minutes later that each massage table had their own waiting list or line up. When we figured this out, James was still #6 on the list for the table where we had signed up and another masseuse had only 1 person waiting. So if you want a massage make sure you check out the lines for each table, you may save yourself a long wait.

Results were posted quite quickly. We had finished 10th team overall, 4th masters.  So no need to stick around for the award ceremonies. Randy and Judy had gone to pick up our canoe while James waited for his massage. Unfortunately when they got there they found out all the canoes and kayaks left behind had been moved to a tennis court near the finish line. When they got to the tennis court, the gate was locked and we couldn’t find anyone to unlock it.

While they tried to sort out the canoe, I had gone back to the other car to get our draw tickets (strips of paper in the little bag with the safety pins). I wrote down our names on the slips of paper and asked a volunteer where they go. They sent me to the main building in the finish area. Once inside I realized the system. You drop your slip into the bag for the door prize you hope to win. We entered the draw for the local micro brewery and the bike.  We didn’t win, but I will say they had an impressive number of draw prizes this year.

Just after they completed the draw prizes, they announced a volunteer was at the tennis courts so we could retrieve our canoe. All the paddles, bailing ropes, and bailers were in piles to the side. I *hope* I grabbed the correct paddles from the pile (remember we borrowed the canoe and paddles and I had left them in the canoe, I didn’t think I’d be digging through a pile of canoe paddles trying to find them again). Our bailing rope was not in the pile :(, someone else must have mistakenly taken it. Our most excellent tide laundry detergent container/bailer was not there either, I am assuming someone took care of putting it in  a recycle bin for me 🙂

In Summary

Surf N Turf is a fun race. Trenton is a nice town. Try to find a place with a patio by the river for dinner! The race would be easier if you were a local, a lot of directions at the captain’s meeting assumed you knew the neighborhood. I think it would be easier the second time you compete and know what to expect. We managed a respectable finish in our first attempt. Next time I would recommend you print the maps from the website at home before you travel to the race, since it’s hard to read the maps on your phone and the race kit only provides a printed map of the driving route from transition zone to zone.

This race is organized by the military, so they take safety and safety guidelines seriously. That also means the majority of the teams are made up of military teams fighting for bragging rights.  This race is reasonably competitive, not a lot of ‘my first 5 km’ runners. But you don’t need to run a sub 5 minute km to have fun at Surf n Turf… we may be back 🙂

20180615_174120_001

Here the rest of my running related posts and race reports.

 

 

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: