Saturday, September 17, 2005

Reach the Beach Relay 2005 Race Report

I realize that this report is probably too long to be read but I wanted something that I could keep in my running log so feel free to skim/skip to the end/results section.

One week before the RTB my running club team had an opening due to injury. I had resisted getting recruited before since I was running Steamtown just three weeks later. A race like this seemed risky. However, after all I had heard about this race I caved in and signed up. Also, it helped that I was assigned to the easier legs. The brutal legs were assigned to the faster/more masochistic runners.

Our running club had two teams entered into the race. Coincidently, the club resources seemed to have been divided equally amongst both the teams (from the best two runners onwards). It did not take too long for this race to become a friendly competition between our two teams - it kept things interesting and helped keep us charged up. Of course we were supporting all the runners in both teams. Also, both of us had a 1:30pm start time so we had double the numbers of vans cheering our runners during the race. We got branded as the “uncool”/serious team, while they were the fun loving bunch. We stuck with our running club name for our team while they called themselves "TheBandits". Our official group photograph had us standing normally, while they formed a pyramid for theirs (there was no way anyone from our team would agree to have feet placed on their shoulders while they were bending down).

Before the start I got to meet the FOTBers. They had a start time of 2pm. Eric was running the same set of legs as me. I figured that if I were lucky we would run into each other at some point during our runs. Perhaps, I would get a chance to yell something like "Go Assman" before he passed me and disappeared into the dark.

Well, so at 1:30pm our first runner started off with leg 1 (a brutal ski hill). He had dealt efficiently with other beasts such as the Mt. Washington road race and so was not unduly perturbed by the run. One of the lead runners from the starting group was an ultra runner who just moved onto leg 2 instead of handing off to another runner. Over the race I began to have more and more respect for these ultra runners. While driving through some of these legs I was thankful that I did not have to run them and here they were running 35+ miles of the course. We learnt that there were two ultra teams comprising of just two runners so each runner would be running 100+ miles!

After sticking with van 1 for the first three legs our van, we grabbed some pizza (almost the best I've ever had) and headed to the end of leg 6 to get ready for our runs. As we pulled into the parking space I noticed that van 2 of the FOTBers, which they branded "Bubble 2" was parked next to ours. So I got to talk to them for the last time before the finish here...

By the time the first runner in our van had started off we had extended our lead over the other team to three minutes but it was still close. Leg 8 had the fastest two runners in our club teeing off against each other. It was an awesome sight to watch as we cheered both of them while proceeding to the start of Leg 8. After Leg 8 it had become dark so we needed to start putting on our "elaborate" night gear as required by the race rules.

Leg - 11 (5.5 miles officially, actually 6 miles, elevation gain 400 ft, diff: moderate), 8:10PM
Temperature: 65F, 94%
Avg HR-176
Route 113-Page Hill Road-Turkey Street-Maple-Route 16

By the time it was time for me to run I had begun to get antsy. It was over six hours since we had started running and I had not gotten a run yet. I had never run in with headlamps etc. before and I am rather infamous for getting lost. My leg had four turn which I needed to make. I heard that a few other runners who had started earlier in the day had made a wrong turn and so they send folks to add additional signs. While I waited for runner 10, I continuously bugged the nice lady who was volunteering ["So I turn left,... and then?,... is that right onto the main road,... and then?, ... left onto Paige St, ... and then? ... right onto Turkey St" - repeated multiple times till I was forced to start running]. As I started running up the first hill it was just weird. I could see nothing even with the headlight. Luckily the flashlight was more useful. I wished there would be some runners around me but there were none. Our two team vans passed cheering me.

Also, there were some other team vans passing. These moments were nice since the van headlights allowed me to see more easily. I was concentrating on looking out for signs to the turns and running as fast as I could. After about four miles a convertible pulled up next to me and stayed for about ten seconds blazing "mission impossible". Heck in the dark I was happy to have any company. My Garmin mileage readings were consistent with what some folks on the route were yelling out based on their van odometer but I remembered that Eric mentioned that last year this leg was 0.5 miles off so I was mentally prepared for the same happening here too. At the Turkey St turn, my team van was waiting for me (they are well versed with my sense of direction). Finally, in the last couple of miles I got to pass three runners and felt better to have some company but I was glad to see the end. As soon as I passed off to the next runner in White Lake State Park, it started pouring almost as if god was applauding my run (It was not fun for the next runner with it already being so difficult to see – the pouring rain just made things worse).

6 miles, 42:06 @ 7:01 [My 10k PR pace up till RTB was 7:00]

Leg - 23 (6.2 miles, elevation gain 0 ft, diff: easy), 4:55AM
Temperature: 63F, 94%
Avg HR-178
Route 28 (Exeter)

All of us in the van seemed a bit dreary and tired before the start of our runs but the endorphins generated after the runs surprise me! Runner 9 came back from her run and started singing at 3:30 am. I started my run a feeling tired but excited. This run was much better because it was on the shoulder of a highway rather than on back roads. It was marginally better lit. Also, our team must have made up quite a bit of time in-between since I seemed to be passing droves of runners (I counted around 20). By mile 1, I was on 10k PR pace and wanted to see if I could go on as I was feeling great. As I passed each runner I made sure I said something like "Nice job". They responded in kind except for one lady who responded, "Hey, you are flying - good for you". Having my Garmin really helped since once I knew I was on PR pace I was extra motivated. Finally, when I reached the end, opposite to a Country Cookin Restaurant, I caught my team a little surprised and unprepared - they had expected me to take a little longer... Luckily, we did not waste more than 5 seconds.

10k, 42:05 @ 6:47 [A 1:25 10k PR!]
[6:43(170), 6:35(181), 6:34(180), 6:48(179), 6:56(178), 6:56(178), 6:22(179)]

I was pretty elated. I have been trying hard for most of this year to get in a decent race without any kind of luck. I've tried everything (tapering, carbo-loading, getting extra sleep etc.) but nothing seems to have worked. So I figured I should generate a pre-race checklist from this run:

1) Register for races that start at 5am in the morning.
2) Get at most one hour of sleep in the 25 hours before the run. Ideally, while resting your head on a wooden table in a high school cafeteria.
3) Run another race at 8pm in the previous night
4) In-between the two races try to get as drenched as possible in the rain
5) Dress like a Christmas tree for the race - a head light, a blinker on your back and front, carry a flashlight for added effect and add on other shiny decorations randomly.
6) Around 12:25am, have a bowl of unsalted cold turkey soup. Pickup a bottle that appears to contain salt, and gradually pour it into the soup while wondering why the soup is not getting saltier. Finally, make the pivotal observation that you are actually pouring sugar and not salt into your soup.
7) Race in the dark - not being able to see much during the race is a good thing since that means your brain will be less distracted processing the useless stuff you normally see and wonder about.

We came to know that a runner in the other team had gotten injured and ended up walking his last two miles. While we now had a big lead over them that kind of spoilt the fun and excitement (or so we thought). Our last runner finished her leg as the sun rose so the remaining legs for the team were in light. We no longer needed to adorn our bodies with ridiculous objects. Next we moved onto TA 30 in Kingston State Park. The scene as a runner remarked was no different from a refugee camp. Runners sprawled all over the place as if they had not slept in ages. I did manage to get in a few hours of sleep here - the runners in the other vans had some brutal legs to run so it took them a while). After I woke up I treated myself to the ideal breakfast before a run, courtesy of the girl scouts at the stop - a bagel with eggs, cheese and sausage...

After what seemed like an eternity finally around 12pm our other van was done. Oh and as a BTW they added that the other team was now less then 2 minutes behind us. The injury had made some of their faster runners run earlier/longer and a faster runner would be running the extra leg! So we had a race on! The last runner from the other van passed onto runner 7 with a lead of just 2 min and 39 sec. The competitive spirit of the folks in our van was stoked up (though mellowed down since we after all these were our own runners in the other team). Soon we realized that the change in match ups allowed our next few runners to buildup the lead before passing it onto the last three runners (including me).

As we drove by to drop our runner 9 we passed the “stuffy” town of Rye. By the lawn of each house there was a specially inserted "No Parking sign". At the beginning of the race we had to sign some sort of a waiver that none of us including our ancestors would not sue Rye for any reason. Then we came to an intersection where the town cops were actually holding up runners for 3-4 minutes for a traffic light. In a race, runners kill themselves for seconds - so this sort of a wait was driving folks nuts. Luckily our team runner told the cop that there was no way in hell that she would be stopping and motored by!

Leg - 35 (6.5 miles, elevation gain 0 ft, diff: easy), 2PM
Temperature: 66F, 100%
Avg HR-185
Rt. 1A: New Hampshire coastline - North Hampton State
Beach

I worried before this leg since I suspected that I had run the previous two legs a bit too hard. I had never run 3 races so close to each other either. So I decided that I would start off slowly and be conservative (right that would happen). I started off as fast as I could possibly run (on pace for the first two miles for a new 10k PR). Then luckily after a reality check I decided that my legs were tired and I would not be able to go on at this pace. Running in the light was nice. Also, running parts next to the ocean was great. I suspect I would have been able to "enjoy" the views a bit more if my legs had a bit more strength in them. Luckily, in spite of being slow, up till now I had not been passed by anyone. Finally, in the last 200m of this run another runner caught up with me. He was nice. He told me "Come on lets run this in together". My brain communicated this message to my legs but my legs responded back that it had run close to 19 miles at 10k pace and there was no way in hell that it would attempt to run a single step at sub-6 min/mile pace. I thanked the runner and asked him to go on. I was relieved and happy when I passed onto runner 12 for the last leg - after over 24 hours we were almost done with just 5.5 miles more to go.

6.5 miles, 44:28 @ 6:51 [Better than old 10k PR pace!]
[6:37(188), 6:39(176), 6:52(183), 6:50(186), 6:57(188), 6:58(187), 6:50(184)]

We hurried to reach the finish before our last runner came in. It was nice that they allowed all the runners in the team to run in as they announced the team name and time(of course the finishing runner had a separate entrance). I ran into Victor at the finish before meeting the other FOTBers for a last time before leaving.

I reached home last night at 8pm and decided to lie down on the carpet for 5 minutes before doing other stuff. Those five minutes ended at 7:30am this morning - I guess
I was a little tired. Surprisingly, my legs felt really good in the morning - the massage at the finish must have helped. So I went for an easy 20 miler, all the while thinking about the RTB experience (coincidently I got "caught" by runner 1 of my team who admonished me for not "resting"). I am glad that I decided to signup at the last moment. It's probably the most unique experience I've had in the few months I've been running. It's surely worth experiencing at least once in a lifetime and hopefully I'll get a chance to run the RTB again!

Now it's three weeks of taper and then Steamtown! Going into taper, I feel physically and mentally better than before any of my other "tapers" so hopefully, this translates to a marathon PR on Oct 9 (sub 3:25)...

Results:
Me:
18.7 Miles [3 legs - 6,6.2,6.5], 2:08:39, 6:53
My Team:
212.6 Miles, 25:47:01, 7:17,
19/285 Overall, 8/48 Men's Open

Our second running club team: 28:03:03 (2:00 hr penalty), 7:56
The FOTBers must have been pretty close to us all the way through. They had a strong race as well! 26:15:15, 7:25

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