Monday, September 22, 2008

The Orange Line's Last Legs

After a long and restful night's sleep of oh about two hours it was time to head back out to the next VTA. Since the hotel was at the VTA where we ended our last shift that meant we had to drive about 30 miles to catch the Green Line. We made it. Alas, along the way I lost track of my camera. On the up side Birgit and Merle had cameras as well. Better yet, Birgit set up an account on the web from which I have filched her photos so we have pictures for the blog too! Alas, Merle cannot find the cable for her camera so her pictures will have to wait for another day.

The morning began with everybody packing and then heading down for a quick breakfast at the hotel's well stocked continental offerings. I am a huge fan of pastries, granola and the like and that left me with lots and lots of choices! Right after wolfing down a few hundred calories, which I guess amounted to about 1000 on my part alone, we then headed off to the VTA. Now you might think that a van full of people that had run two race legs and slept at most two or three hours in the last 24 would be in pretty sad shape to run a third leg. Well, you would be wrong! Somehow we were all up and ready to go! Well, everybody but Dave who was clearly beginning to show signs of fatigue. Still, he would be ready to go when his leg came around.

We met the Green Line at the next VTA which was located in a large park and on time I might add. Sue waited for Aisling's arrival and at just after 9:45am took off for her last leg. By now the weather had cleared up somewhat. The clouds were no longer thick in the sky and there were occasional rays of sun. That and quite a bit of additional heat and humidity.

Sue's last leg was a 9.3 mile stretch! Not easy after having already run two and with at most a couple of hours of sleep. But, naturally, she did it in excellent time and a smile as well!
After Sue it was Dave's turn to finish up his part of our marathon. What he did was turn in another top notch race run! All of which goes to show you cannot tell how fast somebody will run based on how fatigued they look!

At the transition area Dave decided to pop the wrist strap onto my hand like the pros do.

Well, the pros have practice both delivering and receiving these things while on the run. Alas, we did not and it fell to the ground. What I then wanted to avoid at all costs was "help" from the race officials to retrieve the wrist band. Apparently though the words, "do not touch it, do not touch it" mean something like pick it up and try to hand it to the runner in race official English. So what happens when a race official picks up the band? It now turns into a moving target. As I went to grab it the band was instead knocked back to the ground and rolled off. Great! I figured that I better try another phrase and see if that would work. So I screamed, "Leave it, leave it!" as I approached the next race official near the band. Well that worked! It scared the poor woman to the point where instead of picking up the band she jumped back a few feet. But, now the band was still! So I picked it up and off I went.

To say I was happy with my third run is an understatement! Last year this was my best leg and I was determined to do well on it again. It is, in my view an interesting leg since it starts downhill for a bit and then turns uphill over the last half including a rather steep climb from miles 7 to 8. Then it goes downhill for the final .6 miles. Since I am, relatively speaking, a much better downhill than uphill runner that means I can initially get ahead of most runners on this course and if I can hang on stay ahead the last .6 miles. Well that does require hanging on! I passed one runner early on only to see him pass me back around mile 3 or 4. Alas, that was the end of that battle! Still I managed to pass well over a dozen runners and was only passed by about three. So a pretty successful leg overall.As I came into the home stretch I passed a few runners and heard Dave yell, "Bone coming up behind you!" I took what little I had left and dashed to the finish. The rat! Turns out there was nobody there he just wanted me to knock a few seconds off my time! Got to give him credit. It worked and I came in well under our spreadsheet's forecasted pace.

Nancy was next. From here on in the legs would all be under 6 miles and that meant fewer support stops to provide fuel and water. Instead the stops would be for picture taking and cheering! Alas, while all that is true the pictures of Nancy are on Merle's camera so those will have to wait for another day. Still, I can happily report that she finished her 5.5 mile leg at a pace 10 seconds per mile faster than our forecast!

But we do have pictures of Birgit! Well these are photos from her camera. It simply would have been unconscionable not have used it to take shots of her run!
After Birgit finished her run at a pace that was nearly a minute per mile under our forecast it was Merle's turn. Now poor Merle was being affected by a newly arrived heal injury and so had to be careful not to aggravate it. Still, she came in right on her forecasted pace! See what adrenaline will do for you!

As you can see Merle was however happy to hand the wrist strap off to Chris and thus mark the end of our part of the race. With all of our legs now in the books it would be up to the Green Line to take the wrist strap into the finish. Our job was just to get to the beach, hang out, take some more pictures and most importantly eat real food for the first time in two days!

Next report: life at the beach!


Wednesday, September 17, 2008

The Green Line, 4am-9:30am

We last left the Green Line catching a (very) few Zzzzzzs in the Laconia hotel room. It was more like Zzs. We slept from about 12-3am (although Aisling was too pumped up to get any real rest, alas). Had I known the Orange Line had been banging around the countryside nearly missing the transition, I probably wouldn't have slept so well, either. We saw this happen a lot to other teams, and it is NOT FUNNY. More than once we witnessed some poor guy sprint it in only to have his teammates tell him "Bob's in the bathroom!" or "We have no idea where Judy went!" or some such, and then he has to sit there panting and waiting, mulling the wasted burst of speed and whether drawing 20-to-life might not be worth what he's contemplating doing to his teammate. Although there is no jury of runners that would convict!
But the upshot was they DID make it and that's all that counts, as I told Matt last year when we did the same to him.

At 4:06, we picked up again from Transition Area 18, the NH Technical College located a mere .6 miles from the hotel. The Orange line then went back for their shift in the hotel rooms. We explained to the front desk clerk what all the smelly, sleepy trooping through the lobby in the middle of the night was about, lest she make the reasonable assumption that we were managing a particularly unsuccessful prostitution ring.

After Chris turned in a cheerful & speedy 4.4 miles, Emily took over for a grueling shift: 9+ miles, still in the dark, with occasional light drizzle. She pulled it off in 1 hour, 9 minutes, for a 7:35 pace worth something like 14 "puppies": Brilliant! But she succumbed to one of the risks of night running when she stumbled a bit on the soft shoulder. Ouch! Fortunately no surgery was required.

Rodrigo took us through the dawn with his 7 mile, 7:11 paced leg. He said it was a hard one but he made it look so easy. We were by this point maintaining a good 30 minutes lead on our projected time. Cathy was next, after a bit of last-minute panic at the transition when we learned, just as Rodrigo was approaching, that she was required to still have safety gear on even though it was well past the 6 am cutoff (heavy fog was keeping things dark-ish). Dressed up with hastily applied reflectors, she lit out down the road. We in the van took a big collective gulp when we drove off after her and saw the hills she was once again facing. But she did beautifully, and by the time I took over the "baton" the sun was shining and all was good. My 6 + mile leg was mostly a gentle downhill and I ran the fastest I ever have, other than that time in the Beartooths when I imagined I heard a bear in the brush. 7:54 pace for the 6 miles, and another 5 "puppies"! We originally were keeping track of roadkill just to humor Matt but it turned out to be pretty motivating.

Last up was Aisling, who had been a little worried about the long, hilly trek in front of her. But her knee held up and so did she, bringing us to the end of our second shift. Well done everyone! By this time last year, the Green Line was mostly taken with holding their stomachs, hoarding their Immodium, and moaning in gastro-intestinal misery, so yes, we are tired and smell bad, but: could be worse.

It was getting hot by this time so we were happy at around 9:30 am to peel off and make for the nearest cute diner for omelets, baked beans, and thick slices of homemade bread. We then boogied down to the last Vehicle Transition Area (VTA) where we would meet the Orange Line at around 2:00.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Orange Line Round 2

After dinner it was off to the VTA to take over the wrist band from the Green Line. It was closer than the Green Line ever knew! The place we went for dinner was a few miles away from the course. But, we were given directions back to the VTA. Well, on the way we got lost. Very lost. Say 30 minutes past where we needed to turn lost! In a panic we called in to find out where the Green Line was. They told us and I then entered the last runner's time in the wrong cell on our spreadsheet. Yikes! Just 15 minutes to drive over 30! We are going to be late! Fortunately, calmer heads prevailed and pointed out my error. Whew! We had nearly an hour to get there. Well we made it! It was close but we were on time. Why is this so important? Missing a transition is a major infraction of the pact between vans. There is little enough time to sleep and eat without your teammates forcing you to hang around cooling your heals until they show up. To make matters potentially worse, you should have heard me last year when the Green Line was late! I sure did not want to be on the receiving end of anything similar!

The Orange Line's second outing was a night run. All I can tell you is that running in the middle of the night with 350 other teams out on the road is something else. During my leg one runner, who I battled for a couple of miles after which I could not keep up, cheered me on by saying something like, "How often do you get to run a race at midnight? Soak it up!" Good call! It is something else.

Now on to the pictures! Fortunately for the Orange Line we had our own chauffeur to help us out. Dave did a great job.

He kept track of where we were, where we needed to be for our runner, and with all that he managed the occasional cheer to prod on the runners on course. Naturally, these were very quite cheers as the course turns into a quite zone after 6pm!

Pictures of our runners? Well they are tougher to get at night but not as it turns out impossible! First up in the van was Sue and here she is taking the wrist band from Aisling and thus sending the Green Line off to a well deserved rest.
After taking over Sue sped off to another great run passing runner after runner.

Lest you think that we only let Dave drive we have proof of him out on the course. Here he is in the middle of his hilly, 4.2 mile night run.
While the pictures you see here are from my camera my van mates were kind enough to take a shot of me getting ready for my leg.I am happy to report that I too pulled in a faster than expected pace, by nearly 30 seconds per mile! I had hoped to break a 7 minute mile and according to my GPS watch I did. Alas, the official map claims my watch was off on its distance estimate and I did not quite make it. Still, close enough and way faster than the spreadsheet had me pegged for!

Here we have Birgit during her spectacular run.Her second leg pace was nearly a minute faster than we had forecast! Great running!

What about the support crew? Dave not only drove, and cheered that night but also supplied on course aid as you can see here. Oh yes, once again the relay race managed to do the impossible and that is even tucker out Sue!
Once Merle was done with her run, a swiftly completed 3.4 mile leg, it was off to the hotel for a good night's sleep! Hah! A good night's sleep if your idea of one is about 2 or 3 hours of sleep immediately followed by your third set of runs! Night all.


Monday, September 15, 2008

Orange Line Leg 1 and Dinner Pictures

Back home now and still pretty wiped out two days later! The race was great! We had, just as we did last year, a phenomenal team. Thank you all for another wonderful experience!

But what of news from the course? Never fear! Home at last with just enough time to post. Erica and I will switch off to provide a pseudo-real time report so start following along today! That means the Orange Line's second outing is up next. Before that, though, a few pictures from earlier in the day.

What is the first thing the team needs to do? Why decorate the van! Here we see the Orange Line ladies hard at work doing just that. Sue is wielding the marker with Merle, Birgit, and Nancy all offering advice and support. By the end of all this the Rosie Ruiz Fan Club would have the best and most talked about vans on the course!

Once the vans were decorated next stop was the start where Sue was due to take off at 1:00. Now the team could not possibly let her take in that experience all by herself so we all lined up for a photo op. Alas, after that the rest of the team had to back away and let Sue start on her way. She, of course, set a blindingly fast initial pace of about 7:30/mile over her 7.8 mile leg.

Next up was Dave whose leg was listed as 8.9 hard miles. Translation: hills! He finished it in a 7:45/mile pace a full 15 seconds per mile faster than we had forecast! Congratulations on a great leg.
Amazingly, after that he still had the energy to cheer on the rest of the team, and every other runner along the course as well. If having fun yelling encouragement were an offence Dave would be spending a loooong time in jail! Here is just one of the many times he would help a tired runner continue on a full throttle.
Once we were off the course it was time to relax! Here we Sue, Birgit, Nancy and Merle getting ready for dinner. Or, at least, hanging around while the guys (that would be Dave and me) did all the work to get us going again!

As noted in my last post dinner was at an upscale market and deli. Want to know how things went? Just look at all the happy racers sitting down to finally get some real food. That is real as in something you might normally eat as opposed to Gu's , ShotBlocks and the like. Much better! Who is that guy in the bottom right of the picture? That tidbit I will leave to Sue to well, ahem, relay.

Tomorrow on we go to Orange Line's Leg 2. Pictures, and all! Stay tuned.


Saturday, September 13, 2008

Green Line Signing Off After the 1st Shift

... for about 2 hours, which is the sleep we hope to net before we take over again. We were off the course at 10:45, about 20 minutes earlier than anticipated. Everyone is healthy and satisfied. Chris started the Green Line out with a blazing 8:2-something pace over his 7 miles. Emily, who is burdened with a cumulative 20 miles or so, started out too fast (she says) and STILL wound up with 6:45s. Rodrigo did indeed get stuck in the wet and dark, as Matt surmised, but emerged with a look of Zen bliss. Cathy--well, poor Cathy. She had 5 miles just about all straight uphill, also in the wet and dark. Sorry about that Cathy. My own guilt at sticking her with that dissipated however as I began my 6.1-mi. leg: in the dark and rain, and, unanticipatedly, straight uphill. But, as the course map points out, it WAS a beautiful view off to the right. If it hadn't been 10:00pm and foggy. I turned in my fastest time ever--8:22s! With 5 "puppies" and no "bones"! Aisling brought us home with a lightning-fast finish. She, too, has something Zenny going on, only kind of a jubilant variety. Aisling got one puppy and one bone (the same guy, actually) but points out that she DID save 2 frogs by scooping them off the dark highway, and that ought to count for something.

And now, we're going to snooze at a hotel in Laconia that is much nicer than this grade school gymnasium where others are sleeping,

and much, much nicer than the Firebird (c. September 2007!)


Friday, September 12, 2008

Orange Line Update

It is almost 8pm and the Green Line has been out on the course since about 6pm. The Orange Line came in about 15 minutes ahead of schedule, and the latest update indicates the Green Line is a bit ahead too after their first two runners. Dinner was at a very good market with a deli. So the gang is now basically happily fed and ready for a nap. Alas, the nap part will likely not happen as we need to allow about an hour from here to the next vehicle transition area (VTA) when we once again take over the baton.

Oh yea, the weather. It started off very cool with a light rain through which Sue performed at her usual excellent level. Fortunately, mid-way through her run the rain ended and stayed away until, well just now! Word from the Green Line is that Rodrigo is out on the course which means he is running in the rain and the dark. Poor guy. All I can say is that I hope the rain ends long before we are back on the course.


Thursday, September 11, 2008

It's Cold in Them Thar Hills

Van 2 has joined Van 1 in Lincoln, NH. We're all settled comfortably into our spacious digs at the Nordic Inn. Aisling and Erica are playing cribbage, Sue is laboring over the Roadkill Posters, Rodrigo is sweating the 6:50 pace we estimated on his behalf (it's what happens when you disappear to Mexico all summer, dude), Chris is compulsively monitoring his blog counter ( IS that person in Kansas who keeps checking him out??--and we're all looking forward to a nice sleep-in tomorrow morning. The plan is to meet by 10:15 to straighten out the vans and get ourselves to the mountain.

And, it's really chilly here! Fall has arrived. The latest forecast strongly suggests-- demands rudely, actually --rain tomorrow night, so we could be in for a cold go of it.


Arrived and Checked In

Prior to chronicalling the day's events I want to welcome all of my friends from RA that are checking in to see how the Rosie Ruiz Fan Club is progressing through the next few days!

It is a long drive from Westport to New Haven to Cannon Mountain! Fortunately, with the early van's "noon" departure from New Haven we had plenty of time to drive up in the daylight and get to the all you can eat dinner at the ski lodge, which also doubles as the race's starting area.

Now I know you are thinking, "Wow an all you can eat dinner for just $15! I wish I could get a deal like that!" Well, before you get too green with envy maybe I should fill you in on a few details. The dinner bar begins with a salad that you can mix up with a wide array of items. There were bowls of lettuce, cherry tomatoes, and red onion. Yep, that was it. Next came your choice of whole wheat or regular pasta. On that you could put meatball, marinara, or one of three cream based sauces any one of which would probably clog every artery you have. I stuck with meatball. To finish the main course there were rolls of bread. Dessert consisted of your choice of chocolate chip cookies. Yes, they had out platters of them so you could pick your own cookie! I know you probably think it was one of those horrible home made ones, maybe even with the chocolate chunks. Rest assured that was not the case! Fortunately, Bare Naked had out granola and a stand where they would add in a little yogurt as well. To drink Fizz (?) had out bottles of their fruit flavored drinks both high and low calorie and those were pretty good! Finally, each wrist band came with up to two cups of beer.

True the pre-race dinner was not the worst meal you could have for $15 but it may have been the coldest! All of the tables were outside in an unheated tent. Let me tall you it gets really cold up here in the mountains at night! After we could not take freezing longer we headed to the condominium/hotel to get organized and ready for the next day's adventure.

Once we were settled in it was time to create a Road Kill Counter for each van. In a relay race like this "road kill" typically refers to somebody you pass. But, we are way too slow for that! So we count people that pass us as well! When we get passed the runner gets a Halloween sticker (think ghost) and when we pass a cute animal sticker (think puppy dog). By the end of the race everybody has a large collection of these things, and we have a photo worthy poster! If you want to see last year's final creation just check out the race end pictures here on the blog from 9/30/2007. Below is our first picture of the race which shows Emily creating the Orange Line's poster.

Off to bed now. There will be little enough time to sleep over the next two days!


Wednesday, September 10, 2008

It Was the Night Before Departure

It looks like the noon van will only contain the team's Westport contingent at this point. The New Haven crowd has apparently decided to forgo the "official" pasta dinner and no doubt some sleep. One thing is sure the noon van plans to get first dibs on the bedrooms when we check in! :)


Tuesday, September 9, 2008

2008 Team Details for Our Fans

Welcome Rosie Ruiz Fan Club fans! A special welcome to the SOM students, faculty, and staff that follow along!

First, some last minute roster change news. Chris H. is trying to recover from a running injury and unfortunately cannot make it to the race. We all hope he heals up fast and is back to running in no time! The good news is Birgit has graciously stepped into the breach. So, Birgit, welcome to the team!

The team takes off on Thursday in the two vans. Van 1 leaves at noon with Matt, Sue, David, Emily, Cathy, Merle, and Rodrigo. Van 2 heads out at 4pm with Chris, Erica, Aisling, Nancy, and Birgit.

If all goes well van 1 should arrive in time for both dinner and get some of the check-in obligations out of the way. Van 2, will hopefully get in on time to get a good night's sleep!

Here is the big and unexpected news: the team's starting time is 1pm! That is four hours later than last year! What is going on? Well two things. First, we have been somewhat more aggressive with the estimated paces submitted by our team. Last year we came in far under our expected time, and this year the goal was to submit forecasts that are more likely to be in line with reality. Second, the race organizers decided to spread the teams out more than they have in the past. Their goal is to reduce the congestion at the various transition areas. What that translates into is a set of starts in which the last, and fastest, teams will start at 4pm which is a full hour and a half later than last year.

So when will our runners be on the course? While we will not know exactly until they actually hit the road below are our best estimates at the moment.

Runner1st Leg1st Dist1st Start Time2nd Leg2nd Dist2nd Start Time3rd Leg3rd Dist3rd Start Time


Saturday, September 6, 2008

August and Labor Day Racing Update

This is the last monthly update before this year's Reach the Beach Relay Race when the team will once again reconvene for its 200 mile adventure!

August saw Sue, Emily, Dave, Cathy and me/Matt all compete in our town's local race series so I am going to report by race to help keep this post somewhat compact.

On August 2 the town held it annual 4.68 mile race. Emily was first in her AG finishing in a 6:33 pace. I/Matt was a bit behind, and alas the closest I would ever come to catching her in a race, at a 6:35 pace. Dave came in with a 7:05 pace. Sue, as always, won her AG in a 7:07 pace. Cathy resumed her racing career with a 9:15 pace effort.

Next came the August 9 5.85 mile race. Here Emily was the second woman overall as well as first in her AG in a blistering 6:33 pace. I/Matt was far back with a 6:56 pace. Sue, again, won her AG with a 7:17 pace finish. Cathy, in only her third race in the 10K range, finished with a 9:33 pace.

August 16 saw the town hold a 6.85 mile race. Emily was again second overall and first in her AG with a 6:37 pace. I/Matt finished in a 6:45 pace (yes faster than in the prior week's shorter race!) and fourth in my AG.

On August 23 came the 8.4 mile race which is held on one of my favorite courses. Emily was again second overall and first in her AG with a 6:44 pace. I/Matt finished in a 6:55 pace. Dave came in with a 7:17 pace and a fourth in his AG. Sue, was first in her AG with a 7:27 pace.

The penultimate race in the series was the 9.3 mile race on August 30. This was a big day for Emily! Today she set the course record! She not only set it she demolished it! The old record was 12 seconds behind the new one which Emily pulled off in 1:01:20 for a 6:36 pace! Wow! Needless to say she was first overall and in her AG! :) I/Matt had my best race of the season with a 6:52 pace finish and fifth in my AG. Sue again won her AG this time with a 7:22 pace finish.

Finally the local race series wrapped up with the August 30 10 mile race. Emily was first overall again with a blindingly fast 6:42 pace.

In the end Emily won the women's division of the race series and Sue her AG. Congratulations to both!

Heather returned to racing last month with her run in the Stratford 5K on August 23. There she turned in a time of 25:48 for a 8:19 pace. Good enough for 10/46 in her AG. Well done.

The next race on our team's agenda was the New Haven Labor Day race. There is a 20K and a 5K race and we had runners in both.

In the 5K:
Birgit, the team's newest member, finished in an 8:15 pace.
Aisling made her what may have been her racing debut with a 8:25 pace which put her 12/87. Great job!
Heather came in with a 8:20 pace. Somehow the system switched her chip time with that of her fiancé (and future team member?) Chris. At least Heather and Chris managed to figure it out!
Cathy finished in a 8:47 pace. Good for 14/105 in her AG!

In the 20K:
I/Matt came in with a 7:09 pace.
Sue finished with a 7:36 pace and 2/53 in her AG! Wow!
Erica returned to distance racing with a 9:01 pace.
Chris also returned to distance racing after a long hiatus and recovering from a running injury to finish in a 9:18 pace. Congratulations!

The next post will have the, we hope, final team roster and runner order! We will also reveal the team's super secret Friday start time. Stay tuned.