Monday, September 16, 2013

Whatever Gets You Through The Night...

Once again, Reach the Beach kicked ass.  The Rosie Ruiz Fan Club came thiiiiiiiis close to not running the race this year, but at the last minute several adventurous runners stepped up and filled slots on our team in the place of teammates who had to drop out.  It really was touch-and-go up until a week before the race.  I had started to make peace with the idea that we would not run this year, but I was not very happy about it.
We tried something new this year and it really worked out well for us.  We joined a newly-created category of team called Freestyle.  The 12 members of a freestyle team are able to choose which of the 36 legs they run without having to stick to a predetermined order.  We get to choose how we cover the 205 miles from Cannon Mountain to Hampton Beach.  We came to this category out of necessity this year.  Several of our runners were recovering from injuries and were not sure of how many legs they could run.  Being a freestyle team allowed us to fill in for those runners if it turned out we needed to.

Happily, both of the recovering runners were able to handle all of their legs.  Nobody got stuck taking more than three turns on the course.  As a team, we were all over the place in terms of pace.  Some legs were long and hard and run through a pounding rain.  Others happened in the middle of the night on no sleep.  Some were short and flat and fast.  Our pace ranged from 10:00 per mile to 5:50 per mile.  Altogether, we ran the race in 26 hours and 47 minutes, for a pace of 7:49 per mile.  We had no idea about how many other teams were in the Freestyle category until we got home and looked at the results on the Reach the Beach website.  Turned out we came in third out of 156 teams.  Holy Shit.

Personally, this year’s RTB was great.  I met some new friends, got to reconnect and spend an intense amount of time with some old friends, and I got to make friends with some trees.

If you are a runner you know that most of the endeavor is mental.  If you have trained, then getting through the tough stretches is all about playing mental games and tricks on yourself.  My legs this year included two long and hilly stretches in the dark.  I knew going in that I was not going to be fast, but I also knew I could get through the hills without dying.  Nobody likes running on hills, but I have recently moved to Ithaca, New York and I have to run on hills no matter which direction I go from my front door.  So I figured I might as well do some of the hilly RTB legs.

My first foray out of the van around 10:00 pm had me going up three big hills in a span of 5.11 miles.  Two of the three hills were well over 200 feet high.  It was dark and it was difficult, but I did it.  My next leg, (Leg 19), at around 3:30 am, had me again going up three big hills, this time over a span of 8.3 miles.  There was a 350-footer, a 150-footer, and a 400-footer to close it all out.  The first two hills were hard.  The last was near-impossible.  It was still dark and it was still difficult and my mind was having a hard time getting my body to the end.

The final mile-and-a-half was straight uphill and I didn’t have much left in the tank.  I tried my usual trick of giving myself a goal that was visible and then making that the focus of my run.  I told myself, “Just get to that telephone pole on the right—that is your goal.  You can surely make it that far.”  And then once I reached that telephone pole I would choose the next goal and go from there.  Normally, this trick gets me through to the finish of any hard run.  Not on that second leg of Reach the Beach.

I found myself picking closer and closer goals, and yet I was still tempted to shut down and just walk the last half mile.  I had to come up with a new trick quick or my body was going to take control and start walking.  At this point in the course, I was on a road in the woods.  There were no houses, just trees as far as I could see—which was not very far given the low-powered head lamp I was wearing.  I am not sure where it came from, but inspiration hit just before I shifted from run down to walk.  I looked ahead, identified a particular tree on the roadside, and mentally reached out to it.  I introduced myself and asked for its help.  I asked it to loan me some of its energy and help pull me up the hill.

Generally, I am not a spiritual person.  I don’t believe in God or a soul.  I don’t credit stories of spirits and life energies.  I am a firm believer in science.  And yet, I found myself asking the trees for help.  Crazy, I know.  Yet there it is.

I chose wide, tall trees, figuring they were strongest and most likely to be able to help me fight gravity and despair.  And they did not let me down.  I could feel the boost they gave me.  I started to feel stronger and picked up the pace just a bit.  I started to feel a bit selfish—making it all about me me me.  So as I neared the top and the end of my leg, I told the trees I would repay them by doing what I could to help them whenever I could. I told them I would print two-sided.  I would recycle everything I could.  I would become a better steward of the land.

I made it to the top of the hill and collapsed into the van.  I did not tell anyone about talking with the trees.
In the cold light of day the next morning I knew that my mind made it all up.  It was effective and it got me through my second leg without walking, but I know I was not really communicating with the trees and they were not really lending me a hand.  Right?  In any case, do me a favor.  If you are tempted to share this post with anyone, do so digitally.  DON”T print it out on paper.

Sunday, September 15, 2013

Saturday, September 14, 2013

Final Results

We finished in 26 hours and 47 minutes, for a pace of about 7:50 per mile over 205 miles.  Tired, tired, tired!

Orange Line Selfie

We pulled over to prevent Pete from stopping for ice cream on leg 32.

Is this the real Rosie?

Our own Melanie imitating our hero.

Race Update

It is now 1:00 Saturday afternoon.  Van One is out on the course, running their legs.  Van Two is at a high school; some are sleeping, one is blogging.  We are about 167 miles into this thing now and it is going very well.  No major injuries, no lost runners, no van accidents of any consequence.  It looks like Van One will pull into the high school at around 1:50 and hand off the bracelet to Erica, who will start the first of Van Two's final legs.  Altogether, Van Two will have about 25 miles left to run and we hope to Reach the Beach around 5:30.

We will keep you posted.
A few pictures from the Day One:

Our namesake taking the easy way yet again...

Matt Speigel sprinting through the rain.  Most of the runners in Van One got soaked on their first legs.  The heavy rain was brutal.  Yet Nancy, who ran first, and everyone else in the van handled the moistness with grace and good humor.

An interesting sky as the rain stopped, the clouds broke, the sun emerged, and Van Two got to run through the cool, cloudless, moonlit night.  The members of Van Two all handled the perfect weather with grace and good humor.

5/6 of Van One.  Eugene, Catherine, Nancy, Matt, and Lisa.  Melanie was off resting up for her heroic effort uphill through the dark at 4:00 am.

Christian and Pete smiling pretty for the camera.  (Christina is doing her best to stop fidgeting four hours in advance of her next leg.)

Road kills

Van one talking with Matt about his road kills.

A Little Night Run

Running a relay at night is something else.  After all, how often do you run a race at night?  Normally when you end up running with a reflective vest it is because you want to get in a run when the sun has decided to hang out somewhere else.  But in a relay race?  It is just a blast!  Below are some shots of our evening.

Above you can see our first hand off from Nancy to Lisa.  In the back ground you can see some of what the runner transition areas look like.
Here I am pre run.  How do I know?  Do I look half dead?  No?  Then it must be a pre run picture!

This final shot is of Melanie just after her arrival into the finish area.  She handed off to Eugene.  Sorry, there are no night time action shots of Eugene.  With his blazing speed getting a day shot is hard enough!

Update from Orange.

We are all having breakfast now so the middle legs are already fading from memory.  It's a survival phenomenon:if you accurately recalled the worst parts of running 6 MORE miles on 2 hours of sleep with chili cornbread sloshing in you stomach, you'd never run this thing again.  Nor be able to enjoy chili cornbread.

Here is the profile of Chris's 8.3–mile Leg 19. The scale is 800 to 1200 feet.  Absolutely brutal.

On the Road Again

After a successful transfer of the wrist baton to the green line we are off again.  Nancy is up and going to run 8 miles.  It is complicated but she has an option to run fewer since her leg is part of a "wild card". But I have rigged things so she will go the full distance. Then I take over.  When I finish my next goal is to eat lots of the great pumpkin bread Erica made for us!

Survival tools

Spirits and caffeine levels are simultaneously lifting as the green line barrels towards our third vehicle transition area to pick up the baton again!   We are feeling strong thanks to the survival tools inside the van, which include Erica's pumpkin bread, Eugene's rolly-stick (great on the quads) and Matt's secret pop dance cardio pandora station.  Fueled by donuts and Rihanna, we just cheered on Christina from the orange line van who was speeding past tractors and picking up some roadkill. Melanie says "I just woke up with a lot of energy this morning".

Green Line Staggering Off

We just got up after two whole hours of sleep.  The crew just stumbled into DD for some coffee.  I do not drink coffee so I am just hanging out here in the van.  A van by the way that is not in totally awful condition!  Maybe not a place you would want to spend several hours.  But still I have seen worse.

Friday, September 13, 2013

Orange Line signing off

We are done with the first round and heading off to get a couple hours of sleep, maybe.  I had a mysterious dark run through the woods and fog for a mile or so.  It's perfect weather-- cool but not cold, no wind, no rain, big fat half moon  to light the way.

We are beating our projected time by 17 minutes which means we were actually pretty accurate.

A Day in the Rain

It just poured today while we were running.  Well at least while our first few runners were out.  Now that the Orange line is going it is, naturally, clear.  Their revenge I suppose for some previous years!

It just poured today while we were running.  Well at least while our first few runners were out.  Now that the Orange line is going it is, naturally, clear.  Their revenge I suppose for some previous years!

Our first runner out was Nancy.  If it had rained any harder the mountain would have turned into a mud slide!  This is also the first time I ever managed to get a clear shot of our first runner out of the starting shoot!

This is another shot of Nancy mid run.  Still pouring!

Our second runner was Eugene.  Fast as the wind! Here is the handoff

I am surprised we managed to get a picture of him.  When you run sub-6 minute miles you have to be quick with the camera!

Skipping to the end for now here we are at McGrath's Tavern for dinner, the second year in a row we have stopped there.

Lisa should be smiling since she clearly wanted us to do a return visit!

Star rain runners

It seems like van one performs best in the rain LOL. Team one is also superb with cheering on their runners while on the road! Feeling like a running star right now. 

Rosie joined us this year


The last three runners on the Green Line were each 1-2 minutes per mile faster than they would have had us believe.  You'd think a race team would like that,  right?  But it does not bode well for the Orange Line's sleeping prospects. Slow 'er down, kids!

Sandbaggers Everywhere

In years past we have outed sandbaggers by checking our teammates out on Athlinks.  This year we did not.  Bad call!  Catherine just knocked 2 minutes per mile off her self proclaimed half marathon pace and Melanie 1!  Glad they are in my van! Bummer if you are expecting more time for a leisurely dinner. :-)


Nancy finished soaked and precisely on time.  Eugene had at least 9 roadkills, and Matt just got the high-5 gamut on his leg.  The Orange Line is optimistic that the rain  will stop by the time we take over. The Green Line better hope so, too, because otherwise we will make like Rosa Parks and refuse to leave this bus.

Nancy is experiencing moisture

Nancy started us off at 2:00 and ran straight into this
(maybe you can't see it but it's definitely monsoony.)  good thing it's Nancy who is incapable of feeling grouchy about anything!

Breakfast with the Team

Or part thereof.  Given our party's size and the crowd we split up for breakfast.  Nancy showed the best judgment and stayed at the hotel.  Erica and Chris were the next brightest and abandoned the group and went back to the hotel. On the way back they apparently found a good place to stop.  The rest of us end up at the Texas Toast Barbecue. Our party of 9 did them in.  The food took forever! Joe and I ordered granola. Apparently milk was not considered standard with it.  Really!

Once the food arrived the crew happily gobbled it up.

In the dark of the night the members of the Rosie Ruiz Fan Club sped through intermittent downpours, descending on the Nordic Inn in the small ski town of Lincoln, New Hampshire.  Some of us have known each other for years, others just met as we climbed aboard the vans for the trip to Lincoln.  We came from many professions and many parts of the country.  We share one deep and abiding interest--love of Rosie Ruiz.

If you do not know who Rosie Ruiz is, this article will give you the important details.  To many she is just a memory, a negative exemplar, a punchline.  To us, she is inspiration.

Today dawned grey and rainy, but that will not deter us from covering the 200+ miles from Cannon Mountain, New Hampshire to Hampton Beach, New Hampshire any way we can.  Like Rosie, we are all runners.  So most of those 200 miles will be on foot.

Check back to this blog over the next two days to track our progress.

These vans will be our rolling homes for the next 2 days.  If the rain stops soon we are going to pimp these rides something wicked.  Check back for pictures of what they look like with their race faces on.

The 2013 Rosie Ruiz Fan Club Relay Team is in New Hampshire!

Sadly, it appears I am the first one to post this year.  But despite the delay in getting your favorite blog moving along we are all safe and somewhat sound up in New Hampshire.

Yesterday the team arrived in sunny warm weather.  Strike that.  It was hot and muggy in the morning followed by torrential downpours in the evening.  Fortunately, I did not bring an umbrella.  Which in this case is good.  One of this year's rookie members Eugene and I spent a few minutes pulling the back seats out of the vans early this afternoon.  Yes, in that very pleasant hot and humid afternoon weather I just mentioned.  Eugene is young and strong.  I am old and feeble.  The net result was Eugene's pinkie was a bit tired from holding the entire seat up while he checked out the cuticles on his other fingers.  I was dripping sweat.  So when late in the evening Nancy (a one year veteran), Catherine (a rookie) and I went off for a midnight drink at the bar across the road my clothes got washed, thereby sparing my future van mates from having to tie me to the roof for the race if they wished to breath!  See, I told you it was fortunate I forgot to bring my umbrella!

Stick around as I am sure the posts and pictures (sorry I have not a single picture as yet) will be coming fast and furious in the coming hours if not minutes!