Tuesday, May 21, 2013

My kind of Birthday

Most people celebrate getting older with a party or dinner and drinks with friends or a quiet night at home in denial.  I take a different approach.  It seems since I turned 30 I have done something crazier and crazier each year to celebrate.  I may be getting older, but I'm also getting more and more AWESOME.  For my 30th I did the traditional party, although I tried to make it an 80s theme throwback.  Then the next year I did a long course Duathlon in the mountains of New Hampshire in the rain with friends Jackie and Chris.  Last year I did the Bennington Vermont Stair climb followed by the Shires of Vermont Marathon.  And this year Reach the Beach on an ultra team.  Not sure how I can top that next year.

This year was so much fun it may be impossible to do something crazier and have as much fun.  It all started Friday morning.  I got up early and made some chocolate chip banana nut muffins for my team before I headed out to meet the captain, Jay, at a park and ride on the way to the mountain where the race started.  We drove from there to the mountain to meet the rest of the team and decorate our van.  We checked in and did the safety orientation.  Oh, but before that the fun sort of began.  While we were waiting for the safety orientation to begin we stepped out onto a beautiful deck to stand in the sun and listen to the other waves starting the race.  When it was time to go back in and do the safety orientation we realized we were locked out and stuck on the deck.
Hilarious!  We got someone to let us in and sat through a 15 minute presentation going over all the rules and safety info for the race.  Then we went back to the van and continued decorating.  Before we knew it, it was time to head to the start line and begin the journey to the beach.  Jay bought a skeleton costume to run the first leg in based on our original team name (Ultra Dead Runners - we changed it in light of the Boston tragedy).  He was by far the most popular person at the start line.  Everyone wanted a photo with him.  His first run was relatively short, but he had to run straight up the mountain.  While we drove to the next transition I made a bib to wear on my back that said "Running 35 miles for my 35th birthday".  I had one of my teammates pin it to my back and then waited for Jay to hand off to me for my first run. 
My first run was my longest, 14.4 miles.  I tried to keep track of how many people said happy birthday to me, but after I passed an entire van full of people I lost count.  It was really pretty with a few decent hills.  It was really warm out.  Since we started the race at noon I was running around 1:00 in the afternoon.  It wasn't quite in the 80s, but high 70s for sure.  Thank God I had my fuel belt.  I drank all of the bottles and took some salt tabs too.  I finished the run and handed off to Nathanael.  I was covered in salt and dehydrated.  I chugged two bottles of water immediately and we were off to chase Nathanael and grab some food on the way.  The guys had eaten while I was running.  We found a small pizza joint for me to get lunch/dinner.  I washed the salt off and got a small cheese pizza and some lemonade.  It totally hit the spot.

We continued the journey through the evening.  I tried to take a little nap in the back of the van, but couldn't sleep.  I was having too much fun.  The sun went down and the headlamps and blinkie lights came out.  I love night running.  I think I did manage to get an hour or so of sleep because my second run was around 11pm.  I had a little over 9 miles to do.  My pace was a little slower and running in complete darkness half asleep was very disorienting.  There are fewer teams in the Massachusetts Reach the Beach so the roads have fewer runners and therefore fewer blinking lights along the way.  I tripped over a stick in the road at one point.  It was REALLY dark.  As I ran through one of the transitions I asked them if it was midnight yet because after midnight it was my birthday.  I still had a minutes before I could do a happy birthday dance.

Almost at the end of my 9 miles my team was on the side of the road waiting to whisper "Happy Birthday" to me (it was a quiet zone and we'd get DQ'd if we were too loud).  Best birthday ever!  Doing something I love and meeting so many awesome people along the way.  When I finished my 9 miler, I hopped in the driver seat and drove the van for a few shifts while the other guys rested.  Pretty sure at least one of them got some good sleep because someone started snoring.  hahaha It was AWESOME.  I have to admit I was a little jealous.  Next few miles went by fast.  As the sun started to come up I swapped with someone else and tried to get a little sleep before my last run.
Around 8 in the morning I started my last run - 10.8 miles.  The sun was up and it was already getting really warm.  At this point in the race people start to really fade.  I passed a bunch and as we drove in the early hours we passed people walking.  One girl was really struggling.  I tried to keep her motivated.  Determined to finish strong and help her get there too.  Everytime she stopped to walk I told her just keep moving.  You can do it.  Only a little more and you are done.  She said I was her hero.  I'm no hero.  I'm just a crazy person that likes to run a lot.  If I can help someone else along the way that's a bonus for me.  She made it to the end of the run shortly after me and came over to where I was standing and gave me a GIANT hug.  She did it! 

We had to get going to support our runner and get to the next transition.  I'm not sure it even hit me yet that I had completed ~34.4 miles in about 6 hours total (averaged about a 10:30 pace).  At the next transistion they had hot showers for a donation of $5.  Best $5 ever.  Although I had some pretty nasty cuts on my feet that did not feel good in the shower.  It was still worth it.  Oh and the walk to the showers was at least a quarter of a mile so I'm adding that to my total mileage and rounding up to 35 miles.  Still hard to believe I did it.  The rest of the day went by pretty fast, leap frogging our runners and giving them support along the way to the beach.
This is me after I showered handing off water to Sagi, our last runner.  From here we made our way to the finish line.  We ended up finishing the entire race in 28 hours and 27 minutes.  When we finished the clouds had rolled in and it was actually really cold out.  We got our free meals and skipped the beer tent.  All in all it was a really great experience.  One birthday girl and five random dudes made it to the beach and had a lot of fun along the way.  I fell asleep in the van on the way back to get our cars.  Made it home by about 8:30pm and tried to stay up a little to bask in my birthday glory, but ended up passing out from complete exhaustion.

Sunday I decided to be completely lazy.  I earned it.  I slept in as late as I possibly could which was still only about 7:30am.  Then lounged around in my PJs for several hours before getting dressed and going to the grocery store.  At the store I got myself the cupcake at the top of this post and a few different birthday beers to sample.  I've got some really gross cuts on my feet from shoes rubbing me the wrong way and I'm still not totally caught up on my sleep, but my legs feel fine and I haven't stopped smiling for the past few days because it has just been so awesome.  I could not be happier (well only if I had actually remembered to buy a Powerball ticket on my way home from the race Saturday AND won the jackpot).  Thanks everyone that helped me celebrate another year! 
 Nathanael, Chris, Me, Jay, Danny, Sagi
The Medal

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