The Huff 50k Relay was my first ever true relay race since track in high school, so 18 years. Back in October, when my college cross country and track teammates, Bruce Faltynski and Pete Ryan asked if I want to do the relay race, it sounded like a great idea despite my poor trail running abilities.
The Huff is run in late December at Chain O Lakes State Park in Albion, IN. The main event is the 50k race (which I did in 2014 as my first and only Ultra marathon race). There is also a solo 10.8 mile loop and of course the 3 member relay team option which follows to 10.8 mile loop equaling a 50k.
As mentioned, the original relay team was to be Pete, Bruce, and myself. But with just a few days left before the race, Pete came down with a calf injury and had been dealing with tightness for a few days. While Bruce and I knew Pete wanted to run, we assured Pete that we could find a replacement if he didn’t feel up to it. The day before the relay, Pete made the decision (a very wide decision) and decided to drop out.
Bruce immediately went to his wife Shelby and she agreed to be our third member of the relay team. So now, instead of running in the men’s division, we would be running in the Mixed relay division. No big deal, the timing company was able to make the appropriate changes on race day and we were all set and ready to go.
Shelby was going to lead us off. Poor Shelby probably had the toughest leg out of the three of us because of several inches of fresh snow on the trails that had yet to be packed down. She did have a friend, Robert Cutting with her, so I am sure that was helpful. Robert would be running the 10.8 mile loop as an individual. Robert in the gray jacket, black pants, Shelby in black vest/pink sleeves started off together.
While Shelby and Robert were out running, Bruce and I hung out in the tents trying to stay warm. Temps were near zero with windchill swell below zero. Like I said, this sounded like a good idea in October.
The tricky thing was, we really had no idea when Shelby would be finishing. The trails were snow covered, so we knew it was not a personal best type of day. We saw guys coming into the tents who completed their loop, so we knew when to start watching for her. The longer we waited, the more Bruce and i thought it would have just been a smarter idea to had just ran in the individual loop race. Shelby ran very well given the conditions and finished the loop in 3rd place for the mixed relay teams out of 11.
The great thing about the course when I was on it was that there was a nice groove cut out in the snow to run in, which I am sure made it easier than what those who were leading the first leg had to deal with. I really don’t have much else to say about my race. I ran slow and could never get good traction. I had my YakTrax on but that didn’t do much to help. I just don’t handle trails that well. There were also a lot of hills on the course. There were also 3 aid stations on the course but I chose to skip all 3. I finished the loop at 1:38:36. Slow for sure, but ran the fastest loop of anyone running the second leg in our division but still about 6 minutes behind the first team. Bruce would have to do the rest of the work. photo credit Robert Cutting
And did Bruce ever bring it home. Bruce ran the fastest relay loop of anyone in the mixed relay division in 1:20:14, brining home the victory for our team. He took us all a little off guard as we were sitting in my car keeping warm while watching runners come in. I had to hurry to put my coat back on to go outside to cheer him into the finish. We finished in 5:01:27. Of the 11 teams that started, 9 finished and we were on top. photo credit Robert Cutting
We were each awarded with a plaque for our efforts. Each runner was also given a finishers medal and a nice hand made soup mug as well. official race shirt, which is Cotton so I am not a huge fan of it, but the mug does make up for it.
In the future, we have decided that we will not do the relay again. We will just do the single loop. 5 hours out of your day for a relay is just a lot of time and would rather run with others that alone like we did for the second and third legs. We have gone back and compared our times with the results of the individual 1 loop runners. Shelby would have won her division, Bruce would have been first overall, and the worst I would have done was won my division. Plus, we would have arrived home about 3 hours earlier.