Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Reach the Beach 2008

Reach the Beach is a relay race that starts in the White Mountains of New Hampshire and finishes about 210 miles away at Hampton Beach. This was my 3rd year running and each year I'm amazed with the great job the race directors, staff, and volunteers do as it's incredibly well organized and run. I would imagine managing the race is a logistical nightmare, but the race seems to go off without a hitch each year.

The race is broken down into 36 different legs in which runners rotate through, typically one at at time until the race is complete. Most teams have 12 runners that run 3 legs each that result in total miles of 13 to 22 miles each, depending on distances of assigned legs. The past two years I've had great experiences being on a 12 person team.

The seed for a 6 person team was planted last year during the race as we ran into "ultra teams" comprised of 6 or fewer runners and probed them for info and insights. At the time it seemed like a heck of a challenge and one that we wanted to take on in 2008. So we added a second team, of 6 runners, called "Another Round 2" and added runners to our 12 person team to fill the gaps of "Another Round 1".

Heidi, Carol, Dave, Bruce, Jason, Jerry

Meet the team
Heidi - Ironman triathlete who's well on the way of meeting her goal of completing all US Ironman distance triathlons and a marathon in each state. Her passion for endurance events is contagious.
Carol - Calm demeanor but a relentless competitor. Downplays her abilities and ends up scorching each run.
Dave - Running form is incredibly relaxed and comfortable. Looks so smooth it appears as though he's moving slowly but is consistently at 7 min/miles.
Bruce - Me
Jason - Excitement about the event is evident throughout the event with high energy and humor. Runs on unique fuel sources that include beer and Red Bull. It works as he lights it up each time. He's a running stud.
Jerry - Consistently gets the job done. Tough and discipline as they come. About half way through his goal of a marathon in each state.

Thursday afternoon all 18 of us met at a commuter lot and departed for NH in three, twelve passenger vans. Many of us were strangers to each other just 2 years ago when we first climbed into a van together for our first race. It's amazing how well you can get so know someone in a couple of days, in tight quarters, and working towards the same goal. It was great to catch up on the lives of teammates and hear of races, families and adventures. Our expanded group enjoyed dinner together at Uno's in Manchester, NH where we shared laughs as we reminisced of the past 2 races and gave insights to the eager new runners to the group.

After a good night's sleep and breakfast in Woodstock we headed up to Cannon Mountain where we prepared for the race by decorating our van (nice work Heidi), completing the safety check, attending the pre-race safety meeting, registered, and had team photos taken. The start of the race is staggered between 7:30 am and 4:00 pm determined by the expected team pace with a goal of having teams finish around the same time of day on Saturday. We started at noon and Another Round 1 started at 2:20.

Being a part of a 6 person team meant that we would each run between a total of 29 and 43 miles each, distances that were new to all of us. The past couple of years we'd see how many runners we could pass on each leg. This year we cautioned ourselves about going out "too fast" and paying the price later. Well, caution ended up going to the wind as we let our competitive instincts take over, and we paid later as the pace of the later legs slowed. Being on a 6 person team not only required more distance but it also meant being "on" almost all the time. You were either running, getting ready to run, stretching, cooling down from a run, driving, co-piloting, or trying get nourishment. We proceeded through the night where chances for some shut eye were limited to about 20 to 30 minutes as opportunities presented themselves. My total sleep time was approx 40 mintues.

Our real individual tests started as the sun rose on Saturday and we we headed into our 5th run, we already had significant miles behind us, tight legs from being in the van, lack of sleep, stomach issues, fatigue, and the temperature started warming. Everyone rose to the occaision and got the job done.

As Saturday wears on and the finishing line gets closer there are more and more runners on the course which adds to the excitement of the event. At this time of the race there are several opportunties for pasta, snacks, sandwiches, soups, drinks, etc..at churches, schools, town halls, etc...the community does a great job supporting the runners - thank you. Real food becomes very attractive after 24 hours of eating from the van's well stocked supply of fruit and powerbars. We did enjoy a treat along the way as we were provided with homemade cookies by one of our runners who had to back out ahead of time due to injury - thanks Colleen!

We ended up finishing around 4:30 on Saturday with a total time of 28:28, 107th overall out of 356 teams, 9th out of 19 men's ultra teams, with an overall pace of 8:10. Was it challenging? YES Was it hard? YES Was it worth it? ABSOLUTELY.
The six of us just clicked together. It was great to able enjoy this journey with an easy going, fun, relaxed, and competitive driven group. Thanks to all!!!

Another Round 1 finished shortly after we did with a total time of 26:26,a pace of 7:35. It could not have worked out better as we cheered them as they finished and enjoyed post race celebrations together. They did an outstanding job finishing 37th overall and 2nd out of 32 mixed masters teams..Nice work..

After a quick dip in the ocean we headed for home. I wonder what next year will bring?

"The heat of the dog will melt the cheese"