One of my favorite weekends each year is the Reach the Beach Relay in New Hampshire. My team, Chasing Tail, won a free entry to the new Massachusetts relay in the scavenger hunt contest last fall so we decided to take advantage of the free ride and put the team together for the spring edition. We had four new runners to the team, and two had never run in a relay before. It was exciting to have a mix of team vets and some new recruits.
Chasing Tail has built a reputation at RTB for having great team spirit and a unique sense of humor. We always have music blaring from the vans (with the exception of quiet hours) and each runner wears a clip-on tail when they are running or not running if they wish. This year, it seemed everywhere we went teams were dancing to the same song. An adorable pop song by Carly Rae Jepson called Call Me Maybe made famous by the Harvard Baseball Team Viral video. You could not escape this song over the weekend…not that you would want to.
The Tails arrived at Mt Wachusett on Friday morning and the weather was beautiful. Our first runner, Bob, took off up the mountain at 11:20 and Chasing Tail was ready to run! My Van 2 teammates and I went to find some lunch and we were ‘lucky’ enough to stumble upon Lucky’s Cafe in Worcesterwere we got some stares for wearing tails but enjoyed some delicious sandwiches. Thanks Ian! After lunch it was time to prepare for our legs later that afternoon.
As runner #7, I had the honor of kicking off our set around 4:00 Friday afternoon. It was the most difficult of my three legs but I was so pumped up to get started I bolted out of the TA (Transition Area) and had a great first mile…and then the climb began. I began to slow down but knew the leg was just under 4 miles so I felt okay about pushing myself a bit. I grabbed some water from the team about half way through and powered up another hill. Finally the course evened out and was able to get some speed back. I averaged an 8:35 and was psyched to have my first leg under my belt. We were off to a good start and excited for Stacey (our team rookie) to head out for her very first relay leg. There was some drama with her headphones getting caught in her hair (‘rip em out, it’s just hair!’) but otherwise, she did awesome! Kristina wrapped up our first rotation and we took off to find somewhere to eat pizza at 10 pm. Not as easy as you might think. Thankfully we found the Southborough House of Pizza whose owner is the nicest man in the world and would have stayed open as long as we kept eating.
We headed to Hopkinton State Park to rest for a little while before starting our next set of legs. I was able to sleep for about an hour or so before I got the call that Runner 5 was on their way in and I should start preparing for my run. I got dressed and put on all my reflective gear and went to use the bathroom. I was still a bit groggy from my nap and got a little turned around in the parking lot. I began to panic when I couldn’t find the van and felt silly pacing back and forth along the row I swore my van was in. My teammate Eric actually saw me anxiously circling around right near the van but didn’t realize I was lost so he just let me wander around like a crazy person (thanks Squatch). I decided rather than to continue searching for a van that had obviously vanished I would just go to the TA and wait for runner #6, Mike, to come in. The group eventually found me and it remains a mystery why I couldn’t find the van. I was still trying to decide how many layers I needed for the cooler night air when Mike turned the corner toward us, I shed a long sleeve shirt and we got me put back together in just enough time. I was off for my 2nd leg and night run.
Usually, I love my night runs at RTB. It’s so unique and interesting to be running in the middle of the night and usually alone on the course. The air is a comfortable temperature and you’re not distracted by the normal sounds you would hear during the day. It’s refreshingly peaceful. Unfortunately, this was not how I felt for this particular run. It was 1:00 am and I had never really woken up from my quick nap, my knee was bothering me from the hills on leg 1 and my body just did not seem prepared for this run. This was a 6.5 mile leg so I had the Van meet me about halfway for a quick drink and I powered through the last half. I averaged a not so awesome 8:53 but quickly put the run behind me to support the rest of my team on their runs – especially Stacey who was running her first night run ever and was appropriately nervous. Once again she was a trooper and by the end of Van 2’s set, the sun began to rise.
During this next break we drove around looking for a diner or IHOP where we could find a good hearty breakfast but it was before 6:00 am and we got lost looking for the IHOP which wasn’t open yet anyway. We gave up and settled for Dunkin’ Donuts. It was enough refuel to prepare us for our last set of legs which came quickly. We spent some time in Lakeville reorganizing the Van and cleaning up a bit while the morning heated up. When we got word that Van 1 was getting closer I pounded a 5 hour energyhoping it would give me a little extra boost for my last run of the relay. Less than 10 minutes later I was bouncing off the proverbial walls. Holy Moly – I felt like I drank a magic potion. Someone turned on ‘Call Me Maybe’ and we turned the parking lot into Club RTB. Several minutes later a van close by was playing The Devil Went Down to Georgia which I surprisingly was able to recite every word to (I messed up a couple of times when I realized I was being videotaped and got a little camera shy).
I was dying for Mike to get there so I could run. When we finally caught sight of him I began reeling him in like a fish until I got the slap bracelet one last time. My goal was to stay as close to an 8 mm as I could for the majority of the 5.85 mile leg. To help keep me charged up Van 1 pulled up next to me blaring Kei$ha – I started to ‘race the van’ (I felt like superman) and danced along with them. I told them to get out of there and I would see them at the beach but soon after I began to feel very dry and thirsty. I had asked my team to meet me half way with some water so around the 2.5 mile mark where there was a slight incline I began to really looking forward to seeing the team. Suddenly, there they were…I couldn’t have missed them with the familiar sound of our new favorite song and all my van-mates performing the popular choreography. I laughed the whole way up that hill, took some water and powered on.
Some of the more competitive teams at Reach the Beach aim to pass as many runners on the course as they can. They call each pass a ‘kill’ and some even track their kills on their van. While I realize this is all in good fun, I’m not a fan of this tradition and find it to be somewhat contradictory to the unique camaraderie of the RTB. That being said, I totally passed at least a half-dozen runners on this leg and it felt good to feel so strong for my last run (thank you 5 hour energy!). I started to slow down a bit at the last mile and there was a bit of an incline at the end so I ended up averaging 8:02 but I wasn’t disappointed at all. It was a great run!
Eric was up next and like his two legs earlier in the race he was crazy fast. Eric is consistently fast and happy – a perfect RTB teammate. Brian went next and was determined to catch a team of strong women called ‘Where’s Mom’ who all wore these awesome sequined mini skirts over their running shorts. When we saw Brian half way through his leg we let him know she was about a minute and half ahead. At the TA when we finally saw Brian head for his finish he was waving the skirt in the air while the Where’s Mom runner waved his tail. It was a great moment for everyone!
Stacey’s last leg was next and she had been anxious about it since it was the longest of her runs. She headed out and we met her a couple of miles in where she was clearly overheating and having a tough time. The temperature had climbed quite a bit and there was very little shade not to mention she was exhausted. We walked with her a little bit and talked about options even letting her know if she wasn’t comfortable finishing we could have someone take over the leg. That was not an option for her but she did allow Brian to come out and jog with her for a bit. The next time we saw Stacey she had a huge smile and simply said ‘I’m gonna finish’…and she sure did.
John’s last leg was 7.29 – one of the longest for our van and he had to dig deep too since it was getting so warm and he had pushed very hard his first couple of runs. He finished up and Kristina was ready to bring us to the beach. We stopped along the way and enjoyed an impromptu dance party with another van to…what else?…Call Me Maybe and to help Kristina stay hydrated. This leg was also over 7 miles and a little bit difficult. We met her one more time before going our separate ways and meeting Van 1 at the beach where they had been resting and soaking up some sun as well as enjoying the post race food and beers. The whole team gathered to join Kristina in the last few feet of the course and crossed the finish line together. We then got to relax, enjoy the ‘refreshments’ and chat with other teams. Before we finally left the beach we cranked our favorite song one more time for a Chasing Tail dance party. For several of our new teammates a particular lyric of the song is extra appropriate: Hey, I just met you…And this is crazy!
Chasing Tail completed Reach the Beach: MA 2012 in 28 hours, 52 minutes and 41 seconds …loving every moment of it. As always, the race organizers did an amazing job and we can’t thank the volunteers enough! We can’t wait to do it all again in New Hampshire this September!
In regards to my personal performance, I was happy overall. I have not been doing much speed work and my hamstrings definitely need to strengthen. I should have stayed more hydrated throughout the race and my nutrition was not ideal but it’s a challenging couple of days to stay healthy in that respect. I found the hills especially challenging so I will have to focus on some inclines getting ready for my upcoming races.
After all the laundry’s done, the photos are posted and I’m caught up on sleep it will be time to refocus on preparing for the other upcoming races leading up to NYC in November. Remember, if you would like to support my fundraising campaign please visit:http://go.liverfoundation.org/goto/LauraNYC