Monday, September 16, 2013

RTB-NH 2013: Goldilocks and the five bears

So, this weekend I did the Reach the Beach relay in New Hampshire with the team "Cops N Runners".  I was a last minute addition and found myself in a van with five guys I had never met before about to spend about 30 hours together sweaty, stinky, and sometimes slightly inappropriate.  Similar to the childhood story, the group was a little bit a grizzly bear and a little bit teddy bear, but just the right combonation of both to make it a good time.

The fun started Thursday night.  We all gathered at the team captain's house for pasta dinner and introductions.  We talked about the plan for the next morning and put a few things in the vans then I went home to get the last little bit of sleep I would get for the next few days.  I had set my alarm for 4:00am but I woke up at 3:30am.  Got up, took a shower, drank some tea, and headed out the door to meet everyone at Nashua Police Dept. at 5:30am.  We were on the road and off to the start area at Cannon Mountain by 6:00am.

When we got to the mountain it was overcast and a little damp out, but not raining......YET.  We did all the check in stuff, decorated the vans, took some pictures, bought some gear, and waited....then waited some more.  It became the theme of the weekend - Hurry up and wait.  Finally, our start time approached and we were ready to get the ball rolling (the icon for our GPS just happened to be a beach ball rolling down the road).  At 10:20, the clock counted down and our first runner began Leg 1 of the 200+ mile relay race.  A few minutes into the run, the skies opened up and the rain began.

Van 1 was off and running while Van 2 could relax and head to the first van transition area for breakfast.  For the most part, our first few runs were downhill.  It was raining really hard though and that made it pretty miserable.  Someone must have been looking down and watching over me because when it came time for me to run the rain stopped just long enough for me to complete my 5.5 mile run.  I felt really good.  It was downhill or flat the entire time and I ran the fastest I have run in a LONG time.  I averaged 8:50s.  I went out way too fast though and ran the first mile at an 8:25 pace.  I pulled back a little knowing I still had two more runs to do.  I handed off to our last runner and the rain started up again as we headed to the first Van Transition to meet up with Van 2.
After we handed off to Van 2, of course, the rain stopped and the sun came out.  We hopped in the van and went to North Conway for some dinner.  I suggested Flatbreads pizza, my all time favorite RTB pit stop.  Unfortunately, the grizzlies in the van grunted and ganged up to over-rule my suggestion in favor of a smokehouse/brewery (Moat Mountain) instead.  Beer is good, sadly for me (mostly vegetarian and allergic to eggplant) 99% of the menu was inedible smoked meats or contained ingredients that would make me violently ill.  I made due and ordered the only thing left on the menu that fit my particular dietary requirements - cheese pizza (which was kinda chewy and not even close to as good as Flatbreads).

After dinner, it was still too nasty out to do anything fun so we just drove to the next Van Transition and waited for the other half of the team.  Around 9pm we started our second legs.  It was clear out finally, now that the sun was down, but it was actually perfect running weather, cool and in the 50s, a little humid, but not unbearable.  Since I was #5, I didn't start my run until after midnight.  It was the hardest of the 3 legs I had.  9 miles with two giant hills.  The hills definitely sucked a lot out of me.  I was doing great on the miles that were not so steep.  I averaged 10:30s, but I wasn't consistantly running 10:30s.  I did 9:30s on the downhills and 12:30s on the climbs.
Around 1:30am I handed off to our last runner and we were just about done with the night time runs.  I changed into my PJs and curled up on a bench seat in the middle of the van and tried to get some rest.  We handed off to the other van and then drove to the next Van Transition at Bear Brook State Park to try and sleep a little before our last legs.  I think we maybe had about 3 hours by the time we got to the park and no one really got solid sleep.  Half slept outside under the stars and half slept in the van.  Neither option was very comfortable.  But on the bright side, in the morning when we woke up we got hot breakfast served by local Fire Fighters. Yummy.  hahaha

Finally, Van 2 arrived and we only had a few more miles between us and hot showers and the beers on the beach.  The sun was shinning and the temperatures were cool.  It was absolutely beautiful out and the perfect day for a run.  My last leg was relatively easy.  Just one hill, a little over a mile then mostly downhill or rolling hills into the transistion area.  4 miles total and I averaged 9:30s feeling good and running strong.  A little tired and my back was sore from sleeping on a bench seat, but overall I felt good.  
And then I was done.  18.5 miles all around or under my marathon goal pace and felt really good about it.  Didn't get to eat at my favorite RTB restaurant and had to listen to hours upon hours of oogling and critiquing other female runners 'assets' trapped in a van that smelled about as bad as a hockey locker room, but I am extremely happy with how I did and confident that my body is now ready for Berlin (and some much needed rest days).  At the Van Transition area where we handed off to the Van 2 for the last time, you could pay $5 for a shower and I wasted no time getting my towel and shower shoes.  There was a line in the women's locker room, but one shower was ice cold and no one wanted to use it so I took it.  Just like an ice bath, only it froze my brain when I washed my hair.  I didn't care, it felt good just to get the sweat and salt off.

After we all showered and changed into clean clothes, we were off to the beach to wait for Van 2 to finish.  We got there and still had about 2 hours to kill.  Had some food, hung out in the van, drank some beers, and waited.  Eventually we got the text that Van 2 was getting close and we went to the finish area to meet them.  31 hours after we started the journey, we all crossed the finish line together - We Reached the Beach!
So you might think that would be enough running for one weekend and I would be ready to chill and relax for a day or more.  Well, that's where you would be wrong.  Before I was recruited for Reach the Beach I had already registered for a half marathon, since it's two weeks out from Berlin it would be a good test run to see how my training went and what my potential finish time could be.  Sunday, I got up super early again and ran to another beach in Revere.  Considering the fatigue and slightly sore legs and back, I did AMAZING.  I ran the best half marathon I have run in a while, maybe even all year (I'll have to check).  I finished in 2:13:33 (10:11 pace).  I think based on that, my goal of maybe getting close to a 4:30 finish in Berlin is well within reach.
NOW, it's time to really relax and rest and taper for Berlin.  All I have planned for the next 13 days is acupuncture, rest, maybe another massage, rest, a short easy run to shake out the legs, rest, oh and hydrate, then rest some more, maybe jump out of a plane again, rest, then pack, get on a plane, and have a lot of FUN!

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