Thursday, June 21, 2012

Park2Park Relay, Part III:
Dawn, daylong relay breaks at Sodalis

Dawn broke and the sun rose at 6:15 a.m. Saturday at Sodalis Nature Park, and 3 hours and 15 minutes later, the Hendricks County Park2Park Relay had finally ushered through the last wave of starters from Sodalis in the cross-country team relay competition.

In the last week or so before race day, race organizers decided to stagger the starts in 15-minute intervals, sending off first those teams who expected to need the most time on the course and saving the faster teams for later. The thinking was to try and get everyone to arrive -- 64.5 miles later -- at the terminus, McCloud Nature Park, at about the same time.

So I was able to photograph all the starts, and in the process, got to witness the beautiful sunlight transition, from dawn to sunrise to early morning, at Sodalis. It made for a memorable experience.

Sodalis formally opened only about a month before last year's inaugural Park2Park Relay. I made my first visit to the park June 3, 2011, about three weeks before the start of the first race. I spent that day driving as much of the full course as I could find and access so I knew what I and fellow photographers from the Indy Meetup Photo Club would be up against ... and to hopefully get ideas on where to assign photographers on race day. I also took some photographs along the way.

Today's post features pictures from the various starts on Saturday ... and from the very short loop that runners take on an asphalt trail in the open area of Sodalis. The loop begins right off the start line, before runners proceed across an earthen dam then enter the park's wooded area to complete the first of 18 legs of the race.

Above: At 5:55 a.m., the ultramarathoners were already on the course for nearly an hour, and while some daylight was evident, sunrise still wouldn't arrive for another 20 minutes. Race organizers kept the car headlights pointed at the start line.

Above: Because of the staggered starts, race committee member John Sparzo (left) had to walk through instructions multiple times, once for each new group approaching the start line. Just like how all team members are invited to join their last runner cross the finish line at the end of the race, John told runners at the start that team members were welcome to join their Leg 1 runners jog along the short loop off the start line in Sodalis. 

Above: Diane Kaiser (left) and Kylie Kult joined their Chicks with Kicks first-leg runner, Kristi Waddell, for the ceremonial short loop off the start line.

Above: Hendricks Power Cooperative team's first leg runner, Kim Monroe (12901), is joined by teammates off the start.

Two area radio stations did live broadcasts from the parks along the course  Saturday. At Sodalis Nature Park, Randall Wayne (right) of WCBK in Martinsville interviewed the Parks Department's William Roche during one of the lulls between the interval starts. Below, Wayne talked to Logan Kuhne of the team "5 More Muffin Men ... and an Old Guy." Logan was the "old guy" on the team, by the way, and he made everyone aware of it because it said so on the back of that green shirt. Later in the race, Shane Ray and Rob Kendall of XBR radio in Brownsburg would broadcast live segments from the shade of a tree near the gazebos in Williams Park, Brownsburg.

Above: "Old Guy" Kuhne and the rest of "5 More Muffin Men ... and an Old Guy" head out for the ceremonial loop, after which the team's first-leg runner -- Levi Lewis, who leads the pack -- would continue on the course.

Above: Several teams are represented on the start line here. 

Above: There was even one start at which a solitary runner took off. This is the Muffin Men's Taylor Secrest, who had the penultimate start at 9 a.m.

Above: Preparing to break off the line for the last start, at 9:30 a.m., were Billy McManus (left), a member of the North Salem State Bank 2 team entered in the men's division, and Ryan Horner, a member of the North Salem State Bank 1 team, the only entry in the college division. McManus' team would not only win the men's division but also compile the fastest time of the day. NSSB2 completed the course in 6 hours, 18:31 minutes, for a clip of 5:50 minutes a mile. Horner's team finished in 6:40.05 (6:09), second fastest of the day.

Above and below: The mood was relaxed before runners hit the start line. Above, members of Team Tenacious -- which would win the Mixed 40+ division -- spoofed things up with some costuming props for a group picture. Team members would don those hats at the exchange stations throughout the course. Below, members of the two North Salem State Bank teams, chilling on the lawn near the start point before their start time.

Above and next four below: Teams doing the circular "parade" loop off the start line at Sodalis Nature Park.

Above: Horner (left) and McManus, the last two runners to start at Sodalis, also were the last two to circle the "parade" loop and head into the wooded area of Leg 1.

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