Before I begin this post I want to thank everyone who read, shared, commented and emailed me about last week’s post dedicated to Laura Linehan. We all have our own ways of paying tribute and it was very special to have some many of you enjoy mine. Thank you.
Last week Chasing Tail was back on the road for the Reach the Beach Relay, this time we were competing on the original New Hampshire course which starts at Cannon Mountain and runs all the way down to Hampton Beach.
We were thrilled to welcome back Duncan and Mike back to the team but we lost Dennis just a couple of weeks before the race. Thankfully we had two new female recruits to round out the team giving us 6 men and 6 women so we would be a true Mixed Team again. What we didn’t realize was that we’ve all gotten a little older and Stacey (our token 20 something) had a family obligation so we ended up a Mixed Master Team. Yikes! I guess that explains why Chasing Tail doesn’t play drinking games the night before the relay anymore.
We left Thursday night in two packed vans for another 24+ hours of insanity. After some carb loading at Olive Garden we made it to our hotel in time to reconnect and get to know our new teammates before getting some sleep. After all, it was going to be a long couple of days.
Apparently, RTB has caught on to the fact that the Tails are getting a little faster because we had our latest start time yet, 11:40. We were at the start nice and early so we had plenty of time to hear orientation, hand in our paperwork, take a team photo and of course, spend some time in the Merch Tent. I remember in past years bundling up in winter hats and gloves or standing in front of big bonfire at the mountain to keep warm, but this year the sun got hot very fast and we were sweating in our team hoodies. Team Rookie, Alex, was our Leg #1 runner and we all cheered her on as she sped by for her first leg. We hugged Van 2 good bye and headed off to the course.
|View of Leg 3 – photo courtesy of RTB Relay
I was runner 3, which are the same legs I ran in my very first Reach the Beach back in 2008 when I ran with Dangerous Monkey’s Del Fuego. My first leg was less than 4 miles and labeled Easy on the course description. I was reminded by Mike that the leg was definitely more challenging than described but I still felt great going into it. Like I mentioned, it was very warm Friday afternoon and I didn’t start running until after 2pm. I already felt my energy draining in the first mile but pressed on reminding myself that it was only a few miles. This run was actually quite pleasant with beautiful views of Mt Washington until the very end when you climb a steep hill and then run through grass in what looked like someone’s backyard to get to the transition area. The hill and heat took a toll on me and I averaged a somewhat disappointing 9:03 pace for my first leg.
The next three runners flew through their legs and we finished up our first set at Attitash Ski Resort passing the RTB slap bracelet to Van 2. After spending a little time with the other half of our team we took off to find some dinner and rest before our night legs. We ended up at the same 99 Restaurant we always do. I have no idea what we did for the next few hours but time seems to go by much quicker during RTB. One minute you’ve got 5 hours to kill, the next minute you are scrambling to beat your runner to the TA. It’s fascinating.
The VTA (Van Transition Area) was the Kenneth Brent School in Tamworth (Go Tigers!). Every year the volunteers there offer the best food in the school’s cafeteria. The mac n cheese is legendary. Many of the Transition Areas are staffed with volunteers who offer food, baked goods, coffee, soda, water, etc. for a donation. Some of them are there throughout the night supporting the runners. It’s so helpful for the runners and an inspiring example of communities going above and beyond to support the event. RTB gets an incredible amount of love from all the cities and towns we visit along the way but it takes a lot of work, flexibility and understanding to make it work. The entire operation is impressive to say the least.
It was already late at night by the time Van 1 began our second set which means we wear a reflector vest, blinking lights on the front and back and also a head lamp. It sounds like a lot but when you are running on the rural backroads of New Hampshire it’s important to be safe and cautious. As intimidating as running in the middle of the night sounds, it’s actually pretty great. On Friday night the air was nice and cool making the running temperature perfect. My 4.92 mile leg had some rolling hills that were challenging but fun. There were quite a few people running in front and behind me which made me feel a little more comfortable but mostly I could just focus on my own run. I felt awesome and during the last mile I saw a bank clock that said 11:52 so I raced the last bit to hit the TA before midnight. As soon as I got there and passed the bracelet to Bob I checked my watch…11:58. ‘Yes!’ I yelled ‘I really wanted to finish while it was still Friday!’ After my run, I cleaned up and changed into some comfy clothes for a while. I ended up in the front seat of the van but turned out to be a terrible co-pilot. That last run knocked me out and I couldn’t keep my eyes open. Every time I woke up someone else was running which made my updates to Van 2 completely useless. We got Kate out for the final leg of the set and then finished up around 2:30 on Saturday morning at New Hampshire Technical College.
|Van 1 before the rain washed all the fun away
Next, we headed off to Bear Brook State Park to get some sleep. New Balance sponsors ‘Tent City’ here where you can escape the van a few hours and stretch out in a camping tent. Mike, Eric and Kate took advantage of this while Alex, Bob and I each lied down on a bench in the van. We got almost 3 hours sleep before we were woken up by a rain storm. I immediately started to worry about our van-mates since I didn’t know for sure they got a tent. It wasn’t until a while later that I remembered a couple of the Tails in Van 2 were running in the storm! Luckily, everyone did fine and the only major issue of the rain was all of our Van decorations were washed off.
The sun came out an hour later and it was time to tackle our final set. I started to mentally prepare for what was my longest run, 8.52 miles, and according to the course map, my toughest. After Alex and Mike finished up their last runs I took off. The course was very difficult with a few tough hills but it was also really beautiful and I great way to end my running portion of the race. I was doing great with a 8:20 pace for most of the run until I hit the steepest hill at the end. I averaged a respectable 8:48 pace which I’m happy with considering the distance, the difficulty and the fact that I had only slept a few hours squished in a van. Van 1 finished up at Sanborne Regional High School which opens up its locker rooms to the runners for $5. It’s the first time I have ever had an opportunity to shower at Reach the Beach and it was definitely well worth it. I felt like a million bucks after washing the dirt and sweat off with actual soap and not the baby wipes we had been using all weekend. I haven’t appreciated shampoo that much in a long time. Now that we were clean, it was time to start heading to the beach.
|Van 1 teammates in the beer tent
Alex, Mike, Kate, Laura, Bob and Eric
At Hampton Beach we grabbed some food courtesy of Boloco and headed straight for the beer tent. We were all pretty exhausted and anxious for Van 2 to meet us there. Unfortunately, some wires got crossed and our last runner, Kristina, made it to the finish line before the rest of us. We finally got everyone together to celebrate our finish…we Reached The Beach!
Some important notes from this year’s RTB:
After the spring relay Call Me Maybe craze we were hoping there would be another great song for the fall. We speculated if it might be Pound the Alarm or Good Time…and then Gangnam Style came out of nowhere! There was a whole lot of pony riding going on this year. Pretty awesome.
Our Chasing Tail hoodies were such a hit in the spring that we bought knit hats for this relay. They came out awesome (Thank You Watertown Sportwear!) and we were excited to have them for the cold nights. Well, it was by far the warmest RTB in a long time so we didn’t get as much use out of them as we thought but they will come in handy soon enough.
I want Hello Kitty Athletic Club to know that they were missed this year. I hear they chose to race 100 on 100 in VT instead. There was always something very special and fun about spotting Hello Kitty in their pink bathrobes and girl scout sashes along the course. They sometimes hand out stickers or whisper words of encouragement like ‘hello kitty loves you’ as they fly by you on a leg. I hope they come back. Are you listening Hello Kitty?
As unofficial costume coordinator for Chasing Tail you would think by now I would have learned to protect my tail (costume tail that is) from toilets. Nope, I ruined at least two this year. Next season I will be more responsible.
Chasing Tail completed Reach the Beach: NH 2012 in 28 hours, 39 minutes and 13 seconds. As always it was a great trip and we can’t wait to do it again! We are currently working on our official video for this relay and it will be entered into a contest for a free entry. Be on the lookout for that coming soon.
I have to admit that I was a little disappointed with my personal performance in this race. I was hoping to be a little stronger since I’ve been training so hard for NY but the speed just wasn’t consistently there. It’s hard to perform your best in a situation like this and thankfully I am on a team that puts less emphasis on our final time and more on fun, teamwork and of course…Chasing Tail!
|Chasing Tail NH 2012:
Van 1: Alex Swan, Mike Tatian, Laura Dempsey, Bob Cassin, Eric Bristol, Kate O’Malley
Van 2: Linda Saccone, Brian Yoon, Nancy Rucio-Bell, Duncan Warden, John Gianitsis, Kristina Ingram
Thank you to all the RTB organizers, towns, volunteers, sponsors and fellow teams who were a part of making the relay so much fun. We love this course and will be back next year.
In the meantime, the BAA Half Marathon is coming up in just a few weeks and we are less than 7 weeks away from the NYC Marathon! Remember, if you would like to support my fundraising campaign please visit: http://go.liverfoundation.org/goto/LauraNYC