This morning, after a delicious night of much-needed sleep, I squeezed in a short 3-miler in the woods near my house. I had all of 30 or so minutes to get out the door, break a sweat and return home in time to take my 11-year-old to his dentist appt. I’m not complaining about the time constraint — any run is a good run, and this one in particular was perfect because it was just what I needed after two days off from running due to a came-on-fast case of the flu. I spent much of Mother’s Day in a haze and all day yesterday on the couch sipping Vernors, so going outside, breathing in 7 a.m. air, and getting my shoes muddy on the trails helped me feel normal again.

With last night’s hard rain, lush was the word that came to mind as soon as my feet hit the ground. Green buds are beginning to pop on tree branches, which just makes the whole scene seem suddenly alive — in technicolor. The air was warm and damp, the road wet (I dodged a few decent-sized worms on the street before hopping onto the trails.) I had limited amount of time, but I was soaking up every second. I even decided to go without music. It was that kind of short and sweet and fun run.

It reminded me of this past weekend — pre-full-on flu — when I participated in the inaugural Run The Ridge 10K Team Relay, on trails not far from my house. The evening event, put on by the organizers of the Farmland 5K held each December in Traverse City, took place at Timber Ridge RV & Recreation Resort, a spot that’s home to numerous northern Michigan races and events, and a great family-friendly campground. We were among several families who opted to pitch a tent or stay in a cabin the night of the race. (More on this in a minute.)

Inspired by nature ~ signage and awards at this weekend's inaugural Run The Ridge 10K Team Relay were carefully made by race organizers using items from the race trail and surrounding area.

Inspired by nature ~ signage and awards at this weekend’s inaugural Run The Ridge 10K Team Relay were carefully made by race organizers using items from the race trail and surrounding area.

Some 65 teams total ran the relay. Emma and Andrew chose to team up, and though Joe and I initially had planned to run together, he ultimately decided he didn’t want to risk injury given he hadn’t trained much. Krista, just a few weeks post-Boston, jumped in for him. We decided to wear matching shirts — our Boston Marathon tees, mine from 2012 and hers from this year. The long sleeves ended up being a bit too warm for me — it was sunny and in the high 60s at race time — but it was fun to look alike. A few other runners wore matching outfits, too. It was great to see so many kids running, including sibling and friend match-ups as well as parents teamed with their children.

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Team Durocher: Andrew & Emma at the finish.

I checked in with race founder and director Lisa Taylor this week to get her thoughts on the weekend.

“I was really excited to see such great intensity from all the runners. I loved seeing the look of effort in people’s faces, and especially loved the ‘family’ feel of the event.  It was so much fun to see the way parents with little kids would tag off to each other, both to run or to watch the kids. I loved the mother daughter pairs on this Mother’s Day weekend, and was especially excited to see the expanse of the ages,” she says.

Lisa was impressed that only two teams didn’t show up: “While I know the weather helped with this factor, it still was pretty cool to see.”
Pre-race photo of the relay teams.

Pre-race photo of the relay teams.

What I loved about this event:

Great lodging specials for runners (and their families). For $49.95 we booked one of Timber Ridge’s Basic Cabins for the night — this was a special race weekend rate (normally $65/night) and included beds for all five of us, bunk-bed style, plus space heater, microwave and small fridge. It was perfect for a night’s stay. We had friends close by, too — a family who decided to tent camp and another who chose the cabin behind us. It was a great set-up for the kids to hang out and for us to have one campfire for all of us to sit around.

Age-group winners received these cool wooden "medals."

Race winners in several different categories received these cool wooden “medals.”

Cool use of the natural surroundings. Runners could “pass the baton” to their partner using small birch wood sticks from the woods that race organizers had gathered (though it certainly wasn’t required and in fact Lisa announced to the group at the start that safety was of utmost concern). Directional arrows on the race course, meanwhile, were made of sawdust, and awards and finisher’s souvenirs were crafted from wood. “I was glad we were able to create an event that used almost entirely natural materials,” Lisa says. “This required a lot of creativity and time, but it was so much fun to go foraging for birch bark, and to collect the fallen timber that helped block off the ‘wrong turns.'”

Yep. That's my daughter smoking me at the finish.

Yep. That’s my daughter smoking me at the finish.

Superb volunteer and crowd support. Each runner ran two 1.5 mile loops — we circled through the start/hand-off area, which provided a great spot for spectators to watch for family and friends. Volunteers were positioned throughout the course to make sure runners didn’t make a wrong turn. There were a few hills on the winding course, but nothing overly treacherous. The warm weather (not to mention my runny nose–thanks, head cold) made for a more challenging run, but the trails were as pretty as ever. Emma and me, both the “first-leg” runners, ran together — until the end of the second loop, when she sprinted ahead of me to give Andrew the high-five go-ahead to start. Krista was waiting for me and as soon as I reached her she took off, taking her Golden Retriever with her for the first loop. “I’m glad everyone found their way on the trail course,” Lisa says. “Trails can be tricky, and thanks to our volunteers from the TC Bayrunners and the Grand Traverse Conservation District, everyone knew exactly where to go as they made their way around the campground and the forest.”

We snagged an award! Actually, two - one for our age-group and one for our "costume" of wearing matching Boston tees.

We snagged an award! Actually, two – one for our age-group and one for our “costume” of wearing matching Boston tees.

Festive post-race vibe. After finishing (and breathing hard still), we made our way toward the outdoor seating area and tent of food. We were so thirsty. We had brought water bottles, but they were with Joe and Alex, who found us shortly after we finished. This would be my one suggestion for next year: cups of water on a table for runners as we finish. I will say that each runner was given two drink tickets — for Faygo and, for those of age, classic canned beer — along with a ticket for a Plevalean burger or brat in the race packet. After cheering Andrew’s and Krista’s finish, we all found a spot at a picnic table, grabbed some food and settled in to wait for the awards. The kids also enjoyed the s’more kit also part of the race packets, thanks to the bonfires going nearby.

“As I hoped, people really stayed around for the awards,” Lisa says. “We try with our races to make the ‘post-race’ worth waiting for, both with great food and super unique awards. I was glad people enjoyed our wood medals, and our wood trophies, all collected from the forest we ran in. It was fun to see people get excited to climb up to our tree stump awards podium, which was actually quite gigantic and a little difficult to climb!”

A few of my favorite pictures from the weekend: 

 

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Emma and me, after crossing the finish.

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Look at these sweet girls! A & A, my dear friends’ little girls who ran together and won for youngest relay team. They were all smiles — before, during and after the race.

 

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Two of my dear friends and running partners, Katie and Pam, who teamed up and ran strong and fast! Love these ladies.

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Hey, look at us! Krista and me, savoring our combined age-group win.

 

 

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My loves after finishing the race.

 

 Anyone else run this relay? How’d it go for you? 

Have you ever run a relay race before? This was my first one and it was a ton of fun. 

 

 

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