Reach the Beach MA Relay Recap
|May 24, 2011||Posted by Lauren under Running|
At this point, if you’re convinced that all I do is run, blog, and tweet about relays,
you would be correct, I can’t really blame you. The obsession is at an all-time high. But although my dream job would include some sort of sponsorship which would allow me to travel the world competing in (and reviewing!) every 200-mile relay ever created, sadly no such offer has materialized. Which means that the relay craziness will have to die down….for a little while, at least.
But first – one last relay recap. For those of you who are looking for the “short and sweet” version, here are the Clif Notes:
RTB Relay Clif Notes
Basically, the weekend was nothing short of amazing. Team Puke & Rally covered the 201.04 (it’s good to be precise) mile RTB Relay course in 27 hours 44 minutes and 22 seconds, with only 9 runners (a standard team has 12). I ran 25.5 miles in 3:03:08 (which would’ve put me at a sub-3:10 marathon[!!], assuming I could’ve actually held that pace for a non-stop 26.2 miles…probably not a safe assumption) over the course of 4 legs with only 1 hour of sleep. I had two daylight runs and two nighttime runs along country roads, a state park, through dense fog, Evan’s hometown (!), my hometown, and towns I had never even heard of…and I managed to avoid highways with crazy drivers speeding toward me in the dark. My awesome van of 5 runners covered those miles with grit, determination, and lots of queasy stomachs. And I’m only slightly sorry to report that none of us actually earned our team its name. The relay organization was great, the volunteers were extremely helpful, and the route was well marked. In short, I loved this relay and can NOT wait to do it again next year!
And now, because you all know me and how wordy I am, I’ll take you back to the dark and
stormy cloudy day where it all began…
Reaching the Beach with Team Puke & Rally!
At 12:20 on Friday afternoon, Susan lined up on the starting line at Wachusett Mountain to lead our motley crew of 9 on our journey to the beach. Clouds hung overhead and reports of thunderstorms threatened, but Susan, Maura, Brian, Blake, Maria, Steph, Matt, Erin and I were ready to go! Because we only had 9 people, our plan of attack was a little different than how I’d ever run a relay before. Instead of having each van rotate through 6 legs before handing off, we would just run straight through both vans before starting the cycle again. This not only meant that every runner would be doing an extra leg over the course of the relay, but that we would also be shifting legs throughout the race. So although I was the 3rd runner in Van 1, I didn’t run the planned leg for the 3rd runner each time around. And we didn’t hang out at the normal Van Transition Areas (VTAs) between legs either. While I did miss some of the VTA downtime that allows you to meet up with other teams, I enjoyed how quickly the relay moved because we were running so often.
Leg 1 – Riding that Relay High
Van 1 contained The Couple (Brian and Maura), the Marathoning Nurse, the Internet Runner otherwise known as Blake, and myself. After Susan dominated her mountainous leg, she handed off to a smiling Maura who came flying into T2 to hand off to me.
I was dressed in my relay finest and ready to run.
Despite some stomach issues earlier in the morning, by the time I got that fancy snap bracelet, I was super excited to run. Plus, the fact that the first 2 miles of my leg were downhill and I was wearing my fancy new racing flats didn’t hurt. I got that snap bracelet in my hand and took off….and I mean that literally. I maybe got a little too excited about running this last minute relay in my new super light shoes. By the time the road started flattening out, my legs were starting to feel it. I never have been the best about staying conservative, so I just tried to soak up the moment and enjoy every ounce of that run. I was struck by how pretty and peaceful the course was. Here I was, running through my home state and not having any idea these beautiful country roads even existed. It was amazing.
I finished that run feeling as high as a kite, and handed off to Bryan. He sped through his first leg (good thing because the bugs were out in full force) and passed off to Blake. And since it’s a well-known fact that short shorts make you run faster, Blake cruised through his first leg without problem.
Before we knew it, we were passing off to Van 2 and ready for a little rest. Since this transition would be our longest stretch of not running (I think we had a full 3 hours or so), the members of Van 1 decided it was time to get some food.
Leg 1 High: 2 miles of amazing downhill!
Leg 1 Low: Downhills eventually flatten out. And 6 miles feels really long when you bust through the first 2 at your 5K pace.
Final stats: 5.95 miles in 39:46 (6:41/mile)
Leg 2 – Fueled by Real Food
Our sketchy, unmarked white van rolled into a classy pizza joint that could’ve been found in rural NH, and we all loaded up on the only real food we’d be eating until after the race.
Yes, the van was not decorated. But at least we didn’t have to clean it at the end…
Susan and I split a pizza that the owner told us we only had to pay for if it was good (too bad it was), and we hit the road again. We spent the rest of our downtime stalking Biggest Loser contestants (Mark Kruger how did you do?!)…
cheering for Van 2…
Maria hands off to Erin – runner #9
and hanging out at a minimum security prison.
Just one of the many scenic views along the course…
As evening fell, Susan got ready to run again.
Since this was the quickest I had ever had to transition to my second leg during a relay, I was concerned by how my legs would feel. I wasn’t sure how fresh they’d be with only a few hours of rest. But as soon as I geared up, I knew I was ready.
I had none of that characteristic stiffness that usually starts to creep in during this point in the race. And to top off my excitement, it just so happened that out of all of the 36 relay legs, I was the one who just so happened to be running through Evan‘s hometown! We came up with a quick plan via Twitter, and I took off knowing I’d get to see a familiar face just a little while into my leg. As darkness fell, I kept my eyes open for the WannaBeChef. And while the image of a lone man sitting on a bench in the dark night might sound creepy under any other circumstance, the truth is I was so excited to see a familiar face! The extra cheers gave me a boost as I ran across Rte 9, past a sign for Ashland (where I waved to Lizzy!) and into Hopkinton State Park.
Leg 2 High: This whole leg was the high – it was my favorite of the course! My legs were still feeling fresh (which isn’t always the case on Leg 2), I got to see Evan, and the run gave me redemption for my last Friday evening run just two weeks ago.
Leg 2 Low: Having it end after only one mile into Hopkinton State park. I loved this leg, and I loved how dark and peaceful the last mile through the park was. So naturally, I didn’t really want it to end.
Final Stats: 5.98 miles in 42:42 (7:08/mile)
Leg 3 – Getting Delirious
But it still wasn’t time to sleep. Speedy Van 2 only had 16 miles to run before we’d be getting the baton again, which meant we had about 2 hours to hunt down some caffeine and get to the next transition area. My desperate cries for a Dunkin Donuts that was open past 11pm probably made me sound like a suffering addict, but hey – we all know that Dunkies coffee makes the relay go round. Fortunately, for the sake of all my teammates, we found a Mobil station with a Dunks inside…and I made a beeline for my favorite form of sustenance.
I sucked down that tar-tasting coffee and wondered how I could possibly run 7 miles when I could literally fall asleep standing up. But when Susan came in still running negative splits after 3 legs, and Maura ended up dominating her 8 mile leg without any problem, I knew the bar was set high. So at 3:30 in the morning, I took off through the fog to conquer that third leg.
The fog was hanging low overhead and there was literally no one in sight. So I did the only thing that keeps me motivated during these night runs – I looked for the blinking red lights. I couldn’t see much through the fog, but finally other runners started to materialize. I focused on chasing them down, one by one.
Leg 3 Low: Starting off the run feeling physically exhausted having already done 12 miles, still having 13.5 to go, and knowing that sleep wasn’t going to happen anytime soon.
Leg 3 High: Loosening up a few minutes into the leg, and then literally running into a teammate from my college cross country team (hi Stephen Wall!). Getting to spend the last mile running through familiar Foxboro streets while chatting with him was awesome.
Final Stats: 6.93 miles in 50:49 (7:21/mile)
I apologize to Bryan and Blake because after this point, I stopped being able to think clearly. My body was shutting down fast and the only thought on my mind was getting a few moments of sleep. We still didn’t have much time between hand-offs, but it didn’t matter – sleep was coming for me whether I was ready or not.
Leg 4 – Staying Flexible
One hour of restless sleep never felt so good and I woke up to daylight and stiff legs. After snagging half a cup of weak coffee from the volunteers and figuring out what breakfast I could eat that wouldn’t immediately come back up, it was time to get dressed to run. Unfortunately, one of our Puke & Rallies woke up in a lot of pain. Maura had somehow hurt herself during her last leg, and wasn’t sure she had another one in her. But though we may not be experts on puking, rallying is what we do best! Bryan quickly jumped in to take Susan’s 8 mile leg so that she could run two shorter ones – bringing her up to 5 legs and over 27 miles for the relay!
Looking pretty good for just finishing an 8 mile leg
Taking off for Leg #4
I’d like to tell you that I also rose to the occasion like a Rock Star. That I busted through that final leg faster and stronger than any leg I had before it. That I had never felt so good running 6.6 miles in my life.
I’d like to tell you all that, but it would be a lie. The truth is, the run was the exact opposite. I tried to stay positive. I tried to laugh at the fact that my legs weren’t really moving like I wanted them to be. And I tried to convince myself that I was just out enjoying a nice run on a beautiful morning through quiet streets. My mind is strong, but it’s not that strong. Every hill felt like a mountain, every mile felt like two, and every ounce of my being just wanted to stop running and never ever start again.
But no matter how long they feel, runs don’t actually last forever. And finally… I was turning into the school to hand off to Blake. Never had I ever been so happy to see my short-short wearing, chia seed+Ensure cocktail drinking, Crustable-pounding friend.
Leg 4 Low: Experiencing that “last 6 miles of a marathon feeling” and having a strong flash of regret that I had signed up to run Marine Corp this October (“why the heck would I ever want to experience this feeling again!?”)
Leg 4 High: Finishing!!
…and once I did, having that awful “I never want to run another step for as long as I live” feeling go away. In it’s place came renewed excitement for the Reach the Beach relay in September.
Final Stats: 6.62 in 49:51 (7:32/mile)
After we finished our legs, we dropped off Susan with Van 2 so that we could all get some much-needed food (sorry Susan!) and more importantly, wash our hands with actual water. Over 24 hours in, I was smelly, grimy, and covered with a layer of anti-bacterial gel so thick that I stuck to everything I touched. And as much as I enjoy that delicious flavor of hand sanitizer, running water never felt so good.
After a few more stops to cheer for our Van 2 friends, our van of 4 runners made it down to the beach to wait.
The sun was shining, and cruelly enough…this was the longest stretch of “rest” we’d have the entire relay.
After soaking up the sun for a little while, we finally saw Susan come into view! She was running her 5th and final leg to reach the beach, and she was coming in strong.
200 miles and over 27 hours of running and it all came down to the final sprint.
Team Puke & Rally jumped in behind and we all booked it to the finish line.
We had Reached the Beach!!
Total Time: 27:44:22
Average Pace: 8:16/mile
Place: 36/150 finishing teams; 13/57 in our division
I was so honored to run with every member of Team Puke & Rally. Thank you all for welcoming me in and for being such an amazing team! You all make me wish I lived in NYC so I could crash your group runs on a regular basis.
And I also owe a huge thank you to the organizers and awesome volunteers at Reach the Beach Relay. They put on an amazing event. For a first running, this was incredibly well organized. I was impressed by how well the course was marked, by the number of helpful volunteers, and by the fact that everything went off without a hitch. I’m so happy that I took part in the inaugural Massachusetts Reach the Beach Relay and I hope that this becomes a part of my yearly tradition.
Who’s with me for next year???
And as for that 5K…as much as I really wanted to do it, in the end I traded in running for
Because every dehydrated, over-tired runner should re-fuel with beer at 10 in the morning.
Do I regret that I missed it? No. As much as I wished that I hadn’t spent money on an entry fee for a race I didn’t run, I would rather run a relay than a 5K any day. And that’s a fact.