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Monday, September 17, 2007

Reach the Beach Relay - 2007

As an ultra team in the 2007, 9th Annual Reach the Beach Relay my experience was quite different than past RTB Relays. In many ways, it was worse – lack of sleep, longer runs and pain, and in many ways it was far more rewarding – lack of sleep, longer runs and PAIN. However, there was so much more support this year with half as many team members. Competing teams learn you are part of an ultra team and you are suddenly elevated to an entirely different level.

We decided to run 2 legs together. This allowed us to complete our six legs apiece with only three (long) runs like in previous RTB Relays we finished. Each run would be twice as long; however, we thought the trade off would work best. On the first half of my double first leg, I passed a runner as he was getting a water break from his team. No more than a few hundred feet later, I ran past my van and grabbed some water on the go. His support team must have noticed the "Ultra" placards in our van’s window as they passed because the next time I passed their van waiting for their teammate, they asked, "you an ultra right? Do you need some water?"

Midway through the first half of his last double leg, John told me during his water pickup that he was going to make a quick stop at the transition to get a bathroom break. After ending his 17.1 mile distance by climbing brutal non-stop hills in the pouring rain completing his 44.5 mile total he told us the story. "I ran through the transition and told them I was an ultra running through. I stopped at the Port-o-Potty line with about 50 people in it. I ran to the front and yelled – 'I'm part of an ultra team and I'm in the middle of my run, I still have the next leg. Does anyone mind if I cut in front?'" Needless to say, no one objected and he was in and out like a NASCAR pit stop. The kicker: he finished that 17.1 mile run climbing brutal non-stop hills in the pouring rain completing his 44.5 mile total with a 7:43 pace on that last run – including the bathroom break!

The amount of unsolicited support from other teams and volunteers truly was amazing. I passed a woman early into the first half of my last leg. We chatted for 30 seconds and I was off. I was pacing myself, I still had 6.8 miles on Leg 32 to accomplish and I was running with folks who at this point had about 1.5 miles to go to finish their final run. As I approached the transition, the young volunteers smiled and yelled encouragement – "You’re almost there, only 100 feet left". I shot back, "I wish". She replied, "No really, the transition is right there," pointing to the cones and other runners gathered waiting for their teammates. I answered back, "I'm an ultra. I’m running through the next leg." She just said, "Whoa!" As I passed through the transition, I looked to the officials and said, "370, Ultra, running through." Everyone at the transition started yelling and clapping as I crossed the street and continued on. About 2 miles into the second half of my final leg, I saw the woman I had passed earlier. She was with her team van waiting for their runner to offer support. I made a quick joke, "Didn’t I pass you? How did you catch up?" She smiled and then dropped her jaw when she recognized me. "Oh my god, you did. You’re the ultra". Her teammates must have told her about the guy that ran through the transition where she had handed off. For the rest of that 6.8 mile leg, every time that van passed to hopscotch their runner, they honked, yelled and cheered.

But perhaps the best story – or rather anecdote – for this past year's RTB Relay came during the second half of my first 10.8 mile run. As I was passing a Conway Public Works depot, a man in a pickup in the lot leaned out his window and noticing me, the runner in front and in back of me all wearing race bibs; he asked, "how long is the race?" I replied, "200 miles", without further clarification. I was tired, going uphill and running with a bunch of fresh legged runners on their first (short 3.5 miler) after I had already run the previous leg. About 30 seconds later, I noticed the pick up truck had pulled up to me, slowed and the driver leaned out his window. With a rather amazed look, he asked, "how long do you have to finish it?" I just smiled and gave him the RTB Relay tag line ... "24 hours". His eyes popped, jaw dropped and he quite incredulously exclaimed, "good luck", as he drove off. It occurred to me 10 seconds later that he must have assumed I was running all 200 miles myself and the good laugh helped me finish off the remaining miles quite happily.

And that about sums up the RTB Relay. You may feel alone with a 200 mile task in front of you – especially at night, during the rain, slogging uphill, with no runners in sight both in front or in back of you. But inevitably, you come upon your support van, you hear their cheers, get some water and Gu and you’re on your way again. Running is a team sport. Reach the Beach Relay - 200 miles in 24 hours!

Ultra Genetically Challenged - Men's Ultra

97/351 - 7/12

From left: Ted (Position 6: leg 11, 12), Vince [Me] (Position 4: leg 7, 8), Jason (Position 3: leg 5, 6), Gabriel (Position 2: leg 3, 4), John (Position 1: leg 1, 2), Rick (Position 5: leg 9, 10)

NOTE: This year, the course started at Cannon Mountain and took us over the Kancamagus Highway.

Distance Difficulty Time Pace
Leg 7
Leg 8
7.3
3.5
Moderate
Easy
1:21:30 7:33
Leg 19
Leg 20
7.2
4.5
Very Hard
Moderate
1:41:30 8:41
Leg 31
Leg 32
2.5
6.8
Easy
Moderate/Hard
1:10:30 7:35
31.8 4:13:30 7:58

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