“Teamwork is the secret that make common people achieve uncommon result.”
~ Ifeanyi Enoch Onuoha
Ok, so, assuming you're a regular reader, you've got a sense of what goes into preparing for the Reach the Beach Relay. If not, you can check it out here. Now, I will now do my best to explain how this outrageous event unfolds; at least, from my perspective. If you are just tuning in, the New Hampshire New Balance Reach The Beach (RTB) Relay is a 200 mile race, typically done in teams of 12 runners (though, there are some ultra teams) that starts in the beautiful White mountains and ends at Hampton Beach and takes places over 24 hours. In the winter, I work up at Cannon Mountain, a ski area located in Franconia Notch State Park, which is how I connected with the New Hampshire State Parks team. This is my 3rd (and their 4th) year running together. Since I live down in MA and most of my teammates live up in NH, this event actually starts a day earlier for me as I have to get myself up to NH with enough time to check in with the team at the race start on Friday morning. It's not a big deal, it just means spending the night with friends on Thursday night to avoid potential issues. Fortunately, everyone on my team welcomes me with open arms, so it's never an issue to find a bed. This year, I stayed with the Klenes who live in Manchester. Grant has run with the team each year and Mary has either run with us (while pregnant) or skipped out on account of her babies being born, so she's made 2 out of the 4. We'll see what happens next year. Not only was it fun to catch up with Grant and Mary, but I also had the good fortune of getting to chill with her two little ones, McKenna (age 2) and Jack (age 5 mos) which I was thrilled about. McKenna and I got into a serious game with Polly Pockets and I may have kept her up a little later than usual because I just love Pollys.
Ok, that's a lie. In truth I couldn't get enough of McKenna, who is so damn cute and hilarious. I loved that she continuously reminded me to brush my teeth throughout the entire evening. I think we ended up going to bed at the same time, around 9:00pm, though I'm pretty sure neither of us wanted the party to shut down. The next morning, Grant and I got going at 6:00am sharp. Along with eating breakfast, we had some final packing to do and wanted to make sure we weren't rushed. Plus, I needed time to stop for coffee so that was also factored in. Around 7:00, we headed off to Concord where we were going to meet up with part of our team in one of the vans and drive up to the race start together.
In Concord, Grant (hands up) and I met up with Mike (red shirt), Michele (big smile), our driver, RJ (reindeer costume), Ben (green sunnies) and Adam (white tee). From this alone, you can get a sense how seriously we take this race. We then headed out to grab Stacey, who is not in the photo above and was not happy about it. For the record, I thought we should wait and Grant told me to just post it because there would be so many more. So, it's Grant's fault. To make up for it, I'm throwing in this very bizarre shot of Stacey and me feeding a banana to Adam who happens to be wearing a horse mask. Again, you see how things are unfolding here. We haven't even made it to the start of the race yet.
We arrived at the Bretton Woods ski area around 9:30am and met up with the rest of our crew. We all went to the required information session given by one of the race directors, then re-grouped and gathered up all of our team gear (blinky lights, headlamps, reflective vests, etc.), decorated our vans (paint, magnets, posters, stickers),
passed out bib numbers, packed up all our gear, got into our uniforms or, in RJ's case, the yeti costume,
and finally headed back up to see Mike, our first runner, off at the start. The RTB crew has official photographers and kindly took multiple shots of our team. I'm sure they are all lovely. We then proceeded to take our own team photo which is a bit more reflective of our team's mindset and energy level at the time.
At 11:15am, Mike took off with all the other first runners from the groups who were seeded around our pace. We watched him run up a mountain, literally, and then got ready to hit the road. Since my group was in Van 2, we wouldn't be running for a few hours, so we just cruised along, making stops during various legs to cheer on our runners in Van 1 and take pictures. Our team represents all of the NH State Parks so we made an effort to get pics at each one that happened to be along the route. Like this one at Crawford Notch State Park.
LEG 7 : ECHO LAKE
10:30AM, 7.3 miles, HARD
Finally, it was time for my first leg. I was runner 7, the first in the Van 2, so I would be doing legs 7, 19 and 31. It was now about 85 degrees out; a perfect temp to bust out a 7+ miler on mountain roads. Or not. Actually, after seeing all my teammates from Van 1 run their legs, I was more than fired up to get started at this point. Our first year we were not allowed to listen to music but this year it was just strongly discouraged. Translation, if you want to listen to music, go for it. If I had to guess, I'd say about 80% of the thousands of runners on the course were rocking out.
I grabbed the bracelet from Michele, pumped up the jams, and took off. Despite the heat, I felt awesome. My van stopped twice along the way to give me cheers and high fives which lifted my spirits and kept me rolling. I flew into the next transition area and made a smooth pass to Grant, who would be running the next leg. Not to brag or anything, but we nailed it.
Around 9:00pm, we made a quick pit stop at Scott's condo in Moultonborough which is conveniently located right off the course. This was a chance for us to shower, eat some food (though most of us didn't eat a full dinner because we'd be running again in 4 hours) and grab a few hours of sleep, which was really just a mean tease. About 7 seconds after I started to drift into dreamland, Will, our driver, knocked on my door and told me to get a move on because I would be running in less than an hour. OMG. Thankfully, Scott has a Keurig and Grant brewed me up a cup of Folgers Vanilla, which was one of the best cups of coffee I have ever had. Despite the caffeine jolt, this was how I felt post-nap.
Taking directions from Will about my next leg.
LEG 19 : SOMEWHERE IN THE MOUNTAINS (Wild Card)
12:30AM, 7-9 miles, VERY DIFFICULT
My second leg was the hardest for several reasons. First, I would be running it after midnight. Second, I had slept for only 2 hours since I had woken up at 6:00 that morning. Third, it was pitch black out. And last, it was up a mountain. I decided I wouldn't blast my music for this one because I wanted to just take it all in and enjoy the serenity. But, as I got closer to my start, I decided I needed a little distraction to get me through the climb, so I put on Regina Spektor very softly and then headed out into the night. At about 5 miles in, I hooked up with a gentleman named Tim. We started chatting and realized that we had a friend, my teammate Scott, in common. So, we cruised along together for a while, trading bits of information, such as where we were from and how many kids we had. Around mile 6.5, Tim asked me if I was familiar with the route. Even though I'd run it the year before, I told him that I didn't really remember the specifics. Then he proceeded to let me know that a sharp turn would be coming up and after that I would facing a brutal climb to the finish. So nice of him to keep me informed, right? In truth, it was really nice to have him alongside me for a while as it made the run go much faster. True to his word, I took the turn and headed up a steep slope. Slow and steady. Grant was finally in sight and I passed off the bracelet as he continued to head up the mountain. Once I finished, I tucked into the back of the van for a few hours of shuteye. We did make a few more stops along the way to cheer on our crew and take some pics such as this one at Bear Brook State Park.
But, aside from some conversations with Jewels and Grant about our Gatorade chews and candy and how freaking awesome they tasted, I honestly don't remember most of what happened between the hours of 1:30am and 5:30am. With everyone's second leg compete, we now headed over to Adam's house for another reset session. Again, we showered, we ate, and some of us slept or, in my case, passed out. And again, 7 seconds or 2 short hours later, I was woken up by Will who told me I need to put wings on it because we needed to stop for coffee. Well, I couldn't argue with that. I got it all together as best as I could, threw some food in a tupperware and jumped in the van. We stopped at a gas station where I proceeded to purchase and then consume the second best cup of coffee I have ever had. I can safely say I was not alone in this.
The combination of caffeine, the fact that we were almost done and the fact that I was beyond tired and thus a bit loco had me amped up and ready to bust out my last run which was going to be short and sweet.
10:30AM, 2.4 miles, EASY
Much to our dismay, it was already hot as blazes at 10:30 in the morning. But, most of us had a short and relatively easy final leg so we weren't sweating it too much. I say relatively because regardless of the shorter distances and lower levels of difficulty, all of these final legs were tough as none of us had slept and all of us had tired and sore legs. Despite this, we were all ready to get to the beach and celebrate so the energy in the van was high. I grabbed the bracelet from Michele and took off. With only 2.5 flat miles to tackle, I went for it. I had nothing to lose and I was so ready to be finished. I passed off the bracelet to Grant with a huge smile spread across my face. Hallelujah. My work was done. Now we just needed to drive to the beach to wait for Jewels who would be running our anchor leg.
I have to give Jewels, who's coming in to the finish shoot in the photo above, a huge shout out because she was the only one in our group who had to run her last few miles on sand. Not hard packed sand. Soft, mushy, hot sand. BAD. ASS. We scooped her up and shuffled across the line together as a team. Then we headed over to the ocean to get some final photos. It's not typically this warm in late September, so we are not usually dodging beach goers at the finish. It must have been really strange (annoying? hilarious?) to see all these teams taking over, particularly ours with RJ in full Yeti costume. Not that we cared. We had successfully made it to the beach and we had survived. It had been a wild and crazy ride and now our adventure was complete. Another RTB Relay officially in the books. There are no words to describe the feelings that were passing through me at the end of this road. Elation, exhaustion, a little bit of sadness, and a sprinkling of madness all mixed together and lifting me up on a high that can be compared to very few others I've experienced in my life. There is a reason we only do this once a year. And while I'm still dog tired and incredibly sore, I'm already excited about our next one. #GOPARKSGO
NH STATE PARKS TEAM
23rd place overall (out of 499)
4th place in the Mixed Open Division
Many thanks to the official RTB race crew, the volunteers, the police force and all the other people who put on this incredible event. Huge props to our drivers, RJ and Will, who kept us on task and dealt with total chaos for 24 hours. With gratitude to those at NH State Parks headquarters who support our team every year. We couldn't do it without them. And finally, to my teammates - Corey, Mike, Adam, Scott, Ben, Grant, Jewels, Kate, Stacey, Michele & Lily - you guys are f***ing amazing. I love you all. There are 75 state parks in NH. I highly recommend that you get out and explore!
Listen to this:
Here for You - Kygo, Ella Henderson or listen w/