Monday, June 23, 2014

Zen and the Art of Passing the Baton: 26x1 Relay (6/21/14)

Team Photo after race
Photo by Tom Cole
Event: 26x1 Relay
Distance: 1600m
Location: Tufts University
Goal Time: 5:30
Actual Time: 5:35 (PR!)

At the high school, college and Olympic levels, passing the baton is a big deal in relays.  A quick scan of the interweb finds hundreds of articles and looking at Youtube baton pass technique gives you 4,800 videos. Coaches suggest doing blind handoff drills during warmups and cooldowns. The marginal return of those miliseconds can make the difference between first and fifth.

I remember at practice after the BC Relays in high school Coach B and Dwayne Sykes discussing the travails of bad handoffs:
COACH: Dwayne, isn’t dropping the baton the loneliest feeling in the world?
DWAYNE: No. The loneliest feeling is walking back across the track to go pick it up.

Adult amateur distance runners who run a mile 1600m on the track once a year – don’t do any of these things.  It becomes a comedy of errors at the point of baton…

Last year, Jason refused to hand me the baton until I started running.  So I kept trying to grab at it and he kept moving it away from me so I couldn’t get it.  Finally, when I was running a pace he found acceptable, he gave it to me. (Fortunately, I was the anchor so I didn’t have to pass to anyone else).

Scot Dedeo and Rachel Shanley had an awkward hand off this year.  Scot came barreling in at near 200m pace to finish his 1600.  Rachel was convinced NOT to start running at 200m pace to begin her 1600.  So at these asynchronous speeds, Scot was forced to handoff to Rachel nearly behind him.

Some good can come of such handoffs.  In 2010, I handed off to Urvi even though we didn’t know each other yet…

2010 handoff, Urvi and I
photo by Robert Cipriano

This year, I was the 10th runner for Somerville’s Trains team.  (This year the teams were Planes, Trains and Automobiles).    I got the handoff from Eva in more or less the best possible handoff for the situation.  While I of course went out a little too fast, it wasn’t unmanageable.  An 81 second first lap hadn’t destroyed me.  My next two laps, I followed Caffrey’s advice to maintain and be comfortable.  The last lap, I still had some juice left and didn’t feel like I was going to die.  I kicked it up a notch at 400 to go.  Then I tried again at 200 to go and had nothing.  Out of the turn with a 100 left, I had a bit of a sprint left.  I came in full bore and tried to hand it off to Benai in kind of a tomahawk motion.  But, she of course didn’t know what I was doing so she tried to grab it when it was high in the air. 

This led to a humorous picture that Karen really enjoyed showing everyone and SoRad said it looked like I was trying to play keep away with the baton.

The masterful Jesse to Benai handoff (Neil of November Project, looks on incredulously)
photo by Tom Cole

The SRR A Team, “Planes”, was victorious and broke the meet record with a 2:16:04.  Chris Antunes beat the meet record for a 1600, but that was broken only minutes later by Andrew Rotz from November Project.

November Project and Greater Lowell – A took 2nd and third.  SRR – Trains: 5th.

 1. Finish 2:16:04 SRR Planes(14)
 2. Finish 2:22:51 NovProject(10)
 3. Finish 2:24:11 GLRR 1(4)
 4. Finish 2:34:56 NETT(9)
 5. Finish 2:38:12 SRR Trains(15)
 6. Finish 2:39:47 TMIRCE(11)
 7. Finish 2:46:00 MRC(7)
 8. Finish 2:46:22 GLRR 2(5)
 9. Finish 2:46:45 TVFR(12)
10. Finish 2:51:58 ComRun(2)
11. Finish 2:57:17 GFRC(3)
12. Finish 3:11:01 SpiderOneRacing(13)
13. Finish 3:11:20 Wicked(17)
14. Finish 3:16:28 Mystics(8)
15. Finish 3:16:40 GLRR 3(6)
16. Finish 3:20:06 SRR Automobiles(16)
17. Finish 3:24:41 BOMF(1)

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