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2011 NH Reach the Beach Relay Recap

It’s totally acceptable to post a race recap 2 weeks after a race, right? I promise this will not become a trend.

Two weeks ago today, I was on my way up to Cannon Mountain for the start of the 13th Reach the Beach relay in New Hampshire. Well, technically we were still on a desperate quest for a replacement vehicle, but you get my drift…

After all the frustration and anxiety leading up to this race, getting up to Cannon felt so good. And once we arrived, all that anxiety quickly melted away. It didn’t matter that we had spent our morning fighting Boston traffic to get a new van, or that we were almost late arriving to the start, or even that there were 6 of us crammed into a minivan for the weekend – the relay was about to start, and it was going to be awesome no matter what.

Especially because the {ontherun} team was reunited for a race for the first time in months.

ontherun_rtb start

At about 11:50 am on Friday morning, our wave finally started. Team Buttermore was headed to the beach!

RTB 2011 start

On Fresh Legs

Kimmy was runner #1 and had an 8 mile leg right out of the gate. After the course changes the officials had to make, her leg was by far the longest in our first round. But that didn’t phase her one bit. She got us out to a strong start and didn’t stop smiling the entire way.

While Kimmy ran, our motley crew of 6 decorated on the fly.



Our van got more decorated as the relay went on.

rtb van_2

rtb van_3

This year, in order to avoid a section of road washed out by Hurricane Irene, race organizers basically designed a course that went out for a couple of legs and then turned around and doubled back. This meant that Van 1 runners finished up at a different spot than Van 2 started. In order to keep track of our time, the 6th runner in the rotation needed to wear a chip on his ankle, which would record how long it had taken us to run the first 6 legs. Then Van 2 would start at the normal transition point at a pre-assigned time based on our predicted pace. So we never actually made a hand off between our first sets of legs, and we never got to see the other half of our team until the start of our 2nd . It was crazy and a little bit annoying, but given the circumstances, I’m not quite sure there was anything else that could have been done.

Last year, I ran Leg #2, which was (and still is) the longest relay leg I’ve ever run. Originally, I had planned to run this leg again, and would cover a total of 22 miles over the course of the relay. But the changes to the 2011 course meant that my original run had to be cut in half. I swapped places with EC (to get the higher mileage) and then the two of us pretty much just shared what used to be one leg.  He started us off, and I finished it.

rtb_hand off_1

EC’s first leg was pretty short. In just a little over 3 miles, he’d be handing off to me. So I got dressed in my watermelon finest (green Team Sparkle skirt and all) and got ready to crush that first leg.

Sadly the only picture I have of the race outfit is this tiny one that Kimmy posted on Twitter (Becky might have more, but she’s not sharing…):


So you’ll pretty much just have to use your imagination. For reference, please see this post.

Anyway…I lucked out and ended up getting the uphill half of the leg. But don’t let the map fool you. The hill was long and noticable, but it actually wasn’t as bad as it looks. This was by far my easiest leg of the three.


When EC handed me the slap bracelet, all I could think about was how excited I was to run. There had been so many emotions leading up to this race, and all of those were bottled up, ready to power me through the miles. Plus, entering New Hampshire had been like entering a completely different world. We had left the hot, humid days of summer behind, and instead were faced with glorious cool, crisp fall days. It was a runner’s heaven.

The first mile of my leg included a little downhill and I took off. I chicked skirted two people right at the start, and used that motivation to just keep going. I couldn’t believe how great my legs felt. I knew I was pushing the pace, but I never felt like I was running so fast I wouldn’t be able to finish. So when I looked down at my watch and saw that I was running sub-7:00s, I was actually in shock. And then I made up a new goal on the fly – to keep my splits under 7:00 minutes/mile for as long as I possibly could. The hill started climbing up, but I just picked up my knees and kept moving.

Somewhere between Mile 2 and Mile 3, I got a bit of a shock – people were standing on the other side of the road, waving runners into a transition. I kept looking down at my watch in a panic – I couldn’t be at the end yet! Did they shorten my leg without me knowing? If I had known, I would’ve tried to run way faster than I was going. But after a few panicked glances at the volunteers, they waved at me to keep going. I looked ahead, confused. It was only then that I realized a line of runners coming in the opposite direction. It was the transition for Runner #6.

This was the first time I had realized that we were literally running out and then back, and I wasn’t exactly happy about it. The entire puprose of a relay is to move your runners from Point A to Point B. It’s cool to think that even when you aren’t out there running, someone on your team is moving that slap bracelet down to the finish. I won’t pretend that this realization didn’t affect me at all, or didn’t make me feel just a little bit discouraged. But in the end, it was what it was, and all I needed to do was just keep running.

So I did. The hill climbed up, but I kept pushing the pace. And with the exception of a steep section between miles 3.5 and 4 that just about broke my spirits, I was so hapy to sprint into the transition point seeing that I had met my goal!

Final Stats: 5.6 miles in 37:38 (6:43/mile)


I handed off to Becky, who ran our last leg out before Steve and Sean turned us around and headed back the way we came.

Steve (who, it turned out, is not only a fast runner but also an awesome relay race photographer) took off like he was running the 400 meter dash and managed to maintain a just over 6:00 minute pace for his entire leg.

RTB_leg 5_steve

And Sean, who was running his first race ever (I think Becky’s craziness must have rubbed off on him just a little), stepped on the competition on his way to the win.

RTB_sean_shirtPhoto courtesy of Steve

At about 3:30 in the afternoon, Van 1 was done.

RTB_van 1_leg1finish

On Upset Stomachs

It was time to make our way down to Conway for some nourishment. Unfortunately, for reasons unkown to us, Van 2 wasn’t going to be starting until 5:30 pm. So even though we had all run fast legs to make up time, the rest of our team would still have a long wait before they could run. And we were left with an unheard of amount of rest time.

So we drove (for a very long time). And we ate pizza.

Van 1_flatbreadpizzaWhy I continue to think that pizza is a good relay meal is beyond me. This wasn’t feeling so great in my stomach at 12:30 in the morning

Drank nuun

LB_nuun_lemon limeSpreading the Nuun and After-NUUN Delight lovePhoto courtesy of Steve

And got excited to run again.

IMG_1833.jpgPhoto courtesy of Steve

IMG_1846.jpgPhoto courtesy of Steve

My second leg was just under 5 miles and was rated moderate. The elevation profile looked like a roller coaster.


By the time EC handed off to me, my stomach was a mess once again. Next time, I need someone to remind me that while pizza may seem like a really great idea after Leg #1, I’m going to be cursing that decision during Leg #2.


But if relays have taught me anything, it’s how to keep running even when your stomach is revolting. So when I got that slap bracelet, I tried to quiet my stomach and just run.

This leg ran along Rt 25 for pretty much the entire way. Despite that fact that it was on a main stretch of road, the run itself was pretty lonely. I started near one other runner and then was quickly on my own for the miles. And the rollers seemed to start right up. For every downhill that I enjoyed, there was an uphill soon after to slow me down. I knew in my head that the leg was moving gradually downhill toward the finish, but it certainly didn’t feel that way. My pace was all over the place as I tried to hang on during the uphill sections and take off down the other side. But surprisngly, somehow I was still running strong. Every time my watch clicked another mile below 7:00 minutes, my determination to keep it that way grew even stronger.

A couple miles into the leg, I heard fast footsteps behind me. Suddenly – some guy was effortlessly gliding up the hill next to me, blowing by me in what seemed like the blink of an eye. And one by one, a trail of speedy runners started trickling by. The corporate teams had caught us. Each time one of them came up to pass me, I’d try to hold on behind them for as long as I could. But ultimately they all left me in their dust.

If you pass 10 people on a leg but get passed by 7 (different) runners, can you still count the 10 kills? Or are you left with only 3?

By Mile 4, my speedy first leg and the rolling hills of the second started catching up to me. I knew I had less than a mile left to run, but that one mile felt so long. I crested the top of yet another hill and looked down, only to see a string of red blinking lights stretching out before me. Even though it seemed like all I had done during the leg was get passed, I was actually catching teams. Seeing those red lights was all the motivation I needed. I took off in pursuit of the runners, picking them off one by one right up until the finish line.

Final stats: 4.93 miles in 33:44 (6:51/mile)


On One Hour of Sleep

By the time the rest of our van finished their legs, I was more than ready for some sleep. We made our way to the transition point in search of some much needed rest. Because it was freezing outside and I didn’t have a sleeping bag, I stretched out in the front seat of the van, hoping to catch a few hours of sleep.

Turns out when you’re sharing a sleeping space with Becky and Sean, sleep might be in short supply.


I’m not sure how long we all stayed up talking, or how early we woke up again, but I’m pretty sure it all amounted to about an hour of sleep. Which, turns out, is actually pretty good for your creativity. In the early morning hours, Becky, Sean, and I came up with a bunch of stellar ideas for team names and taglines for next year’s team. And I’m sure they will all sound just as good when we aren’t sleep-deprived and stir-crazy.


That morning had dawned crisp and cool – another perfect day to run. But since my hardest leg was yet to come, I spent the entire morning trying not to think about what lie ahead.

Around 9 or so that morning, Sam came sprinting around the corner, and Van 1 was off for one final time.


Right from the start, it was clear that everyone was struggling a little bit. Kimmy looked strong, but was feeling sick.


And EC had horrible knee problems that forced him to slow down to a walk – and freaked me out so badly that I was ready to pull him off the course.


Meanwhile, the sun was getting warmer and I was getting increasingly more nervous. How were my legs going to hold up for 8.5 more hard miles?


My last leg was not only my longest, but it was also (by far) my hardest with a steep mile long climb at the very end. But EC ran this leg last year – and if he could do it, I could too. At least that’s what I kept telling myself.

EC’s run also finished at the top of a long hill. As I waited at the top, I sucked down a Gu (the first time I’ve used one on a relay), hoping my stomach would be able to keep it down and the sugar would propel me over 8 miles of rolling hills.

IMG_1877.jpgPhoto courtesy of Steve

Finally, I saw EC in the distance, running strong up the hill despite the obvious shooting pain in his knee. We made our final hand off (clearly I was proud of him for hanging in there) and off I went for my final relay leg of 2011.

RTB_LB EC_handoff hugPhoto courtesy of Steve

I’d like to tell you that I was filled with excitement and gratefulness to be running on that beautiful New Hampshire morning. That the thought of this not only being my last leg of Reach the Beach, but my last leg of the 2011 relay season kept me positive and made me enjoy every last minute. But unfortunately that was not the case. I was tired, and right from the start the leg seemed even hillier than I had expected.


But even though I was tired, I started out strong once again. I kept telling myself to pull back on the pace but I couldn’t. I realize this probably doesn’t make much sense, but the signals my logical brain was sending to my illogical legs were just not getting through. Despite my brain’s protests, my heavy legs had a mind of their own. The first 3 miles were not only surprisingly consistent, but they were also under 7:00 minutes. Instead of trying to argue, I just tried to turn my brain off and let my legs do their thing.

Between miles 3 and 4, however, I hit a big hill that finally forced my legs to slow down. I had given it my best effort, but I just couldn’t hold a sub-7 minute mile anymore. Instead I tried to push as hard as I could, and hang as close to a 7:00 minute pace as my legs could move.

Around mile 4, I saw my team for a much needed water break. I think this face pretty accurately captures how I was feeling at the moment, despite all their awesome cheering.

RTB_LB Leg27_2Why I thought it was super important to fix my hair at this moment, I do not know.

By this point, my stomach had started cramping so badly that all I wanted to do was curl up into a ball until the pain went away. I’ve dealt with nausea on many relays in the past, but these stabbing pains were an entirely new ballgame. I sucked down a little bit of water and asked my team if they could please stop again for me in a couple of miles.

Fortunately, seeing my team, getting a little water, and knowing that I’d see them again in just 2 more miles gave me a bit of a mental boost. At this point, runners were stretched out in a steady line in front of me. So instead of focusing on the miles I still had to run, I focused solely on reeling in the runner directly in front of me. Once I had caught up to him or her I’d look ahead to my next target. When you have 8.5 miles to run, slowly picking off the runners in front of you is a great way to stay motivated. I’m sure the people behind me were doing the same.

By the time I saw the team again around mile 6, the cramp had subsided a bit and my spirits had lifted. I took down a little more water, and prepared myself for the hill ahead. I told myself that all I had to do was make it to that hill. And then whatever happened, happened.

RTB_LB Leg 27_3

When I came around the corner at Mile 7 and saw that hill, I knew I was in for it. It seemed to stretch endlessly up in front of me, curving around corners into infinity. I ducked my head down, picked my knees up and dug deep. My only thoughts were to a.) not walk and b.) not let anyone who I had passed before pass me on the hill, especially the guy who sarcastically told me “good luck on that hill at mile 7″ when I passed him, in a way that implied I was running stupid and would get what’s coming to me soon.

I felt like I was crawling, but I never slowed to a walk. I focused on taking one step at a time to get to the top. And finally, it ended – with a nice long flat stretch to the finish.

RTB_LB Leg27_finishAlmost done! The smile has returned to my face.

It felt so good to be done!

Final Stats: 8.57 miles in 1:00:48 (7:06/mile)



I might have been done, but half of our van still had legs to run. It was clear that everyone was tired. But Becky, Steve, and Sean all dominated their final legs.


You may not be able to tell from this picture, but Steve was still flying. I think he ran his 3 legs faster than any other person I’ve ever had the pleasure of running a relay with.


Sean even performed a little dance for us as we drove by. Someone has caught the relay fever…


Finally it was time to hand off to Van 2 for the last time. We handed off the bracelet with cries of “see you at the beach!!” and we pointed our tired van toward the nearest restaurant for some grub.

The Finish

As the sun was starting to set, Team Buttermore started arriving at the finish area. Relay organizers had moved the finish line onto the beach this year, and besides the fact that it forced Runner #12 to sprint the final 3/4 of a mile through sand, it made for a beautiful finish.

RTB 2011_finish line

We took a few necessary photos…

RTB_ontherun jumpshot


RTB_group jump

And then joined up with Van 2 for the final sprint to the end.

Team Buttermore Finish_RTB

28 hours later, Team Buttermore was done!

Final Team stats: 28:12:28 (8:49/mile)

And the final question – did we ever find Buttermore??

Maybe. Through our awesome powers of online stalking, we were surprised to discover that he was running the relay this year with another team. We also found out that he was running in the second van, but we weren’t sure what team he was with. However, throughout the relay we had a couple of interesting encounters with other teams that made us think they were running with him…or at least knew who he was. We weren’t exactly shy about telling people the meaning behind our name. But if he did find us, he didn’t want to say hello…leaving the true identity of Buttermore a mystery to this day.


19 Responses to 2011 NH Reach the Beach Relay Recap

  1. You never, ever fail to amaze me Lauren. Even when you aren’t feeling your best you always find some reason to keep pushing and feeling strong! Congrats on another great relay- and relay season :)

    Too funny about Buttermore. I wonder if you met him and he just didn’t disclose his true identity!

    • I think we did! There was one team in particular that the other van met that brought another runner over to show them the van. No one actually said hello, but there was a lot of pointing and sideways glances.

  2. Awesome job! Sub 7:00 minute miles, I’m VERY jealous!!

    You probably did meet Buttermore and he was just too chicken to admit it!
    Jamie @ couchtoironwoman´s last post ..I Want to Run Faster

  3. 3 tough legs at a speedy pace — nice job!

    I love the jumping photos. Why are they always the best??!!
    Kristy@RunTheLongRoad´s last post ..I’m Running The Boston Marathon (it’s official)!

    • I don’t know. But they’re so fun to take and never get old! Especially when you look at everyone’s facial expressions in them.

  4. Awesome job on pushing through on tough legs.

    And I can’t believe this part: “especially the guy who sarcastically told me “good luck on that hill at mile 7″ when I passed him, in a way that implied I was running stupid and would get what’s coming to me soon.”

    I can’t believe someone actually said that, what a jerk! Glad you skirted him. Maybe it was Buttermore?!
    Kathy @ newlywedindc´s last post ..Parque Tayrona

    • He was clearly annoyed that I was passing him. And it would’ve been awesome if it had been Buttermore (though I don’t think we were running the same legs and I’m pretty sure he’s actually super fast. Darn)

  5. Wow what an adventure LB! I’m really sad I missed it ( I think ?) I’m not sure I’ve found a true love of relays and after this post, sounds you may be second guessing them too!!! An hour of sleep would kill me!! I love my 8-10 hours a night. You are a speed demon tho and need you to teach me how to be just like you!
    LIZZY´s last post ..The Best Meals of Summer 2011

    • Oh no – I didn’t mean to imply that at all!! The relay was tough and I was pretty stressed out in the weeks leading up to it, but I’m so happy I ran it. My love for relays is stronger than ever. I think the difficulty of the race is part of what makes them so addicting (for me) because I love the challenge and pushing myself to the limit.

      And if you ever ran with us, I think you would learn to love them too :)

  6. Looks like a great time!! I got tired just reading this though! You have some great will power to push through without any sleep :)
    Lauren´s last post ..Number Four

  7. You have such a great attitude – I would have probably started whining considering a) the stress leading up to it and b) those hills look like no joke! WAY TO GO, SPEED DEMON!
    Meggie´s last post ..Flight of the Bumblebee

  8. Nice writeup teammate!!! Honestly I think I had the most fun on this relay – great course, great team, awesome green skirt. You always get that feeling you’re doing something epic during a relay. It’s addictive.

    Also, thanks for the shoutouts and photo credits :)

  9. Way to do it, Lauren! It sounds like such a good time and great event :) So awesome you did it and did it so well :)
    XLMIC´s last post ..No nap and how bedtimes worked for the Waltons…

  10. What a recap! Honestly, that is so impressive to be able to push through those tough legs on stomach problems and maintain such a solid pace. You are one of the most strong, determined runners I know. I’m glad that despite all the craziness and issues, you had an awesome time with your team! I hope EC’s knee is okay…pushing through a shooting pain like that is not easy.
    All of your relay posts show how much you love them – I feel like they add a whole different dimension to running for you! I’ve said this before, but your posts really make me want to have the experience someday.
    Congratulations, Team Buttermore!!
    Corey´s last post ..Taper Thought Transformations

  11. I love all of your relay recaps. They look like so much fun! And awesome splits despite everything, lady! If I ever run a relay, I want you on my team! I also love all of your jumping shots :)

  12. Yayyy! Love the race recap :) You are SUCH a rock star :) I knew you were hurting during that final leg but WOW!!! Thanks for making my first relay experience a great one! :)

  13. I’m beginning to think Pepto should be your official relay sponsor!
    Susan´s last post ..expo time at the Twin Cities Marathon

    • haha!! Hmmm…not so sure how I feel about being known for my Pepto-reliance.

      …though secretly I think that’s actually a really good idea…

  14. Awesome! Your recap, despite sickness, makes me want to do this for 2012~

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