When I describe the Reach the Beach relay to people, the word "insane" usually comes up once or twice. It's really a rather nutty endeavor. But 15 years into it, RTB is more popular than ever. As I drove up to Salem, NH, to meet my team and head up to the start in Franconia Notch, I wondered how it would go. I've been hacking my lungs out for the last two weeks, and even though I'd continued to run, I was hoping I wouldn't bum out my teammates who were stuck in a van with me for 24+ hours and 200 miles. I was also wondering how my feet, which both have heel and Achilles problems, would do under the increased RTB workload.
The team, as always, differed a bit from the previous year. We had a few people drop out, including my friend Molly, but I was able to get my old buddy Bob after he expressed interest. It was pouring here and alas, also at Cannon Mountain when we got there. Our start time was 1 p.m., later than we usually begin; we tried to get everyone to put down slower times so we could start earlier, but I guess we weren't slow enough. I was in Van 2, so after the first runner headed out, we drove on ahead and got some lunch at Flatbread Pizza in North Conway. Last year, I had chicken parm for lunch and it came back to haunt me; this time, I had a small pepperoni and mushroom pizza that seemed a little lighter.
Fortunately, the rain had long ceased by the time we started our first legs. I headed out around 8 after it was already dark, which was a first. I was used to doing our first leg in the waning daylight. I struggled with the hills on the 6.36-mile leg, which I also ran last year. My stomach didn't bother me, and I kicked ass on the last mile or so of downhill to finish in 51:51 (8:09 pace). Alas, after the run I spent about 40 minutes just coughing non-stop. Not fun. We had three runners go after me and then we headed to the transition area in Laconia to get some sleep; of course, we didn't realize it had been moved to a different school and had to backtrack, but it was fine.
We parked around 1 a.m. and figured it'd be two or three hours before Van 1 got there to hand off to us again. I tend to have trouble sleeping during RTB and I wasn't helped by my coughing and self-consciousness about waking everybody else up. I probably got 90 minutes of fitful sleep, punctuated by coughs, drinking water and the occasional trip to the porta-potties. We got Bob up when we got word from Van 1 that they weren't far off. The handoff was at 4:20 and we were off. By the time I got the handoff, daylight was creeping out. I had a very hilly 8.5-mile leg; I was passed almost immediately by three or four fast runners but maintained fairly fast splits (7:40, 7:35) for the first few miles until the mega-hilly mile 3. I ended up walking a few times and had a 10:40 split. But then the terrain leveled off and the leg finished with a huge downhill that I took advantage of, picking off six runners ahead of me. Finished strong in 1:11 (8:21 pace) and promptly started coughing like a mofo.
We finished our second set of legs and drove to Manchester to the Airport Diner, which has become a tradition for Van 2. I got French toast again and actually nodded off at one point before the food arrived. We drove to Kingston to wait for Van 1. I didn't get any sleep there; rather, threw a frisbee around with Bob and just hung out. Surprisingly, I didn't feel exhausted even though I know I was. I started my run a little after 4 and felt surprisingly strong. Usually the last leg is totally done on fumes, but I had a lot of power left. The 4.1-mile leg starts in downtown Exeter and heads up a long hill before finishing on a straightaway at the Timberland headquarters. Once I got the top of the hill, I blew past 10 runners on my way in. Felt awesome. I regretted not picking up some beer to have in the van after I got done. Bob ended up doing an extra run because one of our teammates was injured. We ended up getting to Hampton Beach a little after 6 p.m. in 29:05, 172nd out of 474 teams. Not too bad. Considering how banged up a lot of us were, this was impressive.
The beer tent was sponsored by Narragansett and as much as I'd been looking forward to it, the first beer I had just didn't go down well (could've been the hot sauce I had with my burrito bowl). So we left after that since we still had to drive to Salem and unload the van, and then drive home. I got home around 9.
The cough continued Monday, so I decided to go to the doctor to get checked out. Turns out I had post-viral bronchitis, which basically means I have a nasty cough that won't go away. At least my feet felt pretty good, which is a good sign.
This was the fifth RTB for both me and another teammate, which means we hit the 1,000-mile mark this year. Pretty cool.