Okay, so back in May of this year I was made aware of this thing called "Reach the Beach" (RTB) because J and a mutual friend were asked to be on a team. Being the inquisitive kind of guy I am, I had to log onto the Internets and find out as much about it as I could. The readers digest version: it's a 200 mile race over 24 hours, where you race as teams of 2 to 12, self supported. "Legs" are broken down by mileage/runner and the race folks set up and man "official transition points" where they note what runners are coming through and handing off the " baton" in order to make sure no one is cheating. Said transitions areas range from cones on the ground in the middle of nowhere to churches, schools and restaurant parking lots along the way. One of the benefits of the latter transition areas is that they are manned by locals and stocked with all sorts of great post run fuel.
So, I watched J and her 12 girl team do Reach the Beach Massachusetts, following their tweets and texts throughout, meeting them at a transition area at o'dark thirty in the morning to say hello and even met them at the end to see how it went. From the outside looking in it looked like so much fun and quite a challenge.....so....wait for it.....you KNEW I was gonna have to do one myself.
Flash forward a few months and I find myself on a team for Reach the Beach New Hampshire. I must admit that seeing the start gate for the race was a little daunting but I was gonna do this thing come hell or high water (and as you read on you'll see it came pretty close at times).
I had asked to be the runner with the most mileage on my team (um, of course) so at 11:16 on a cold Friday morning I stepped off on my first leg of 5.65 miles. If you know me at all from reading this blog or knowing me personally, you know I had two goals; run faster than any of my team mates AND run down as many other teams as I could. It was cold. Yes, I know its New Hampshire in September but it was cold. Tee leg started sunny but it rapidly got overcast, rainy, sleety (is that even a word?) and then cold. I picked up 6 teams while out on my leg and finsihed at a 7:05 average pace. Not bad, not great. I was hoping for sub 7 but knew that I had 3 more legs and little chance of real rest over the next few hours so I just did what I had in me. Two more runners after me and then my team was "off" for the next few hours while our second van and the runners therein took there turn at legs 7-12. The next few hours were spent having a delicious lunch, grabbing some more cold weather running gear (did I mentioned it was freezing cold) and napping in the van until it was out turn.
Less than 12 hours after my first leg I was back at it. My 2nd leg was 4.98 miles at 10:15pm. Not a long leg but I never run in the dark. I am always fearful of getting hurt, because of my own ignorance and lack of attention that leads me to step off a curb or into some hole in the pavement and sprain my ankle or worse (which I have totally done by the way. My last night run, I fell and sprained my ankle in the middle of a 10 mile anger-fueled-run that required me to run 5 miles back home on it. My foot, ankle and lower leg looked like some terrible science experiment gone wrong but that's for another post) or because some half awake idiot driver was gonna plow head on into my squishy body. Luckily, neither of those things happened. But, in my opinion, that leg was not marked very well for night running. At one point, had it not been for my team sitting at the top of a hill, I would've taken a wrong turn. The level of suck that would've come with that mistake isn't even something I would care to discuss. I would've been crestfallen (ya, big word, I looked it up, perfect for this situation). The leg was hilly and there was freezing rain. Amazingly, it was warmer at night for my second keg than it was for my first one in the middle of the day. AND...there were hills. I'm not familiar with the state of New Hamphire but I guess there are hills EVERYWHERE. So when I finished my leg in 37:09 at a 7:20 pace I was wiped out. Back in the van in some warm clothes and support my teammates as they finish their legs and and then it was off for some well deserved sleep.
My third and final leg was 8.66 miles at about 9:27 the following morning. Remember when I said earlier that the 'Shire of New Ham was hilly? Ya, I got the whole state in my last leg. THe elevation profile of the legs looked like a fat man's EKG! I have never in my life run a course like this. It was a bold new experience. One, that in all honesty, I'd rather not repeat anytime soon. Maybe I can talk to these organizers about a "Reach the Beach Georgia"...it would be pancake flat...um pancakes...wait back on track here. Anyway, the course was hilly and I was tired. Around mile 4, in perfect daylight with no one around, I stepped off the shoulder and twisted my ankle. So loudly in fact that a lady from another team standing on the side of the road asked if I had just broken my ankle and did I want to stop and have her call me team? Um, no. My motto has always been that there are only two ways to finish a race, crossing the finish line or being carried off in a stretcher. So, my response was, after a stream of expletives, "no thank you I have 4 miles to run this off" and just kept going. It was somwhere around mile 6 that I had that age old chat with myself that we all have at some point..."why the hell am I doing this?", "why can't I just be fat and sit on the couch watching tv while pounding a bag of Doritos (I've done that by the way, one of those family pack bags...it wasn't pretty and I'm not proud)?". I just need to get this run over and then I'm done. Of course, when I glanced down and saw that I was under two miles from the end I turned it on and headed for home. My frustration was replaced with the elation of running into the transition area with LOTS of people cheering me on and the realization that I was done running. Final leg done in 1:04, 7:22 pace. Ah, the hills were indeed alive and I was delighted to be through with them. Hence the look of fatigued happiness while I sat in the back of the van!
Yes, my RTB just turned into a spectator sport...sweet! Amazingly enough, while walking back to my team's van I ran into the lady that saw/heard me turn my ankle. She asked if I was okay and said she couldn't believe I kept running after that. Ya, the ankle was a little swollen and later turned a bit purple but to be honest it was worth it. I got to spend the rest of the time cheering on my teammates as they ran their last legs and we headed to the finish. I have to tell you, that I am normally ALL about
MY performance but Reach the Beach taught me to actually enjoy a race and see it with/through the eyes of my teammates. My teammates were awesome and I can't thank them enough for asking me to participate! Now...when is Reach the Beach Massachusetts?