Tuesday, October 2, 2007

Captains Awards

2007 RTB – Mine Falls Milers - Captains Awards:

The Degree of Difficulty Award –
Steve Tomasi
Nobody had more obstacles to overcome than Mr. T. First, he was the “New Guy” that only knew the “Fast Guy” (Mark). Second, we put him on the opening leg where he had to actually race “live people” while the whole team watched. Third, he started his second leg only after some Captain induced panic/chaos at the VTA. Finally, he had to run his last leg completely blind since it was the only leg that was not provided with an updated elevation profile after the last minute course changes. Of course, all his pain & suffering was rewarded when he clicked off a sure-to-be RTB record 52 road kills on his journey over Mt. Delight!
The Hand Grenade Award – Mark Wimmer
Our team owes a debt of gratitude to Mark for his leaping on the hand grenade that was Leg #3. Mark really took one for the team on this one as he powered his way 8.0 miles (not 7.7 as originally reported) up the toughest part of the Kangamangnus. For most of us, this one devastating leg would have been enough for us to quit or feign injury. But, not for Mark. Despite this punishing start to his RTB, he pushed through and ran very impressive times on some of the hardest terrain in the state. The overall success of our team was a direct result of Mark’s personal sacrifice!
The Hammer Award – Raelyn Crowell
5:13. Period. There’s really not much more that needs to be added to describe how hard Rae put the hammer down on the race (and her competition) this year. Except to say that her phenomenal first leg was just the beginning as she cranked out a team leading 6:13 average pace on her 16 mile journey through the New Hampshire woods. A few hours before the race began, in true Raelyn fashion, she pulled me aside and said that I shouldn’t expect too much from her this time. Of course, since I’ve captained at least 8 of Rae’s relay teams over the years, I knew that this was just her way of saying she was ready to kick some ass!
The Shadow Award – Kerry Litka
Kerry was put in the unenviable position of having to follow up one of the toughest acts in relay racing. When the teammate that runs immediately before you is putting up some jaw dropping times it can be easy to wilt under the pressure. But, Kerry proved she was up to the challenge as she put it all out there and matched Raelyn step for step. On Leg #2 Kerry followed up Rae’s 6:50 with a 6:46 in the torrential rain. And, when Rae ran a stunning 6:22 on her final leg, Kerry calmly step to the line and cranked off a 6:21. Of course, if she knew that her van mates had committed the winner of their Leg #3 duel to run an extra leg if needed, she may have backed off :02 per mile. Nah, probably not!
The Mr. Cool Award
– John Green
Nobody made it look easier than John Green. He didn’t make a peep all relay long as he quietly ran his appointed legs in a cool sub 6:42 pace. John was relaxed and ready for this year’s RTB and he took a whopping 35 seconds per mile off of his pace from last year. In addition to running some fast times, John unselfishly spent a good portion of time behind the wheel while his captain was in the back seat licking his post-run wounds!
The Attitude Adjustment Award – Denis Tranchemontagne
Despite his well-known penchant for pre, post & mid-race belly-aching, Denis shed his “Chardonnay” moniker and became one of the most useful members of Van #2. Not only did Denis run more miles than any of his van mates (17) he ran them at a very quiet and respectable pace (6:38). In fact, Denis was so accommodating this year, that his overall actual pace was the closest of anyone’s to their pre-race predicted pace. Now that’s a team player!
The Comeback Kid Award – Steve Delahunty
Yeah, Steve was a pain both before and after the race. And, his “Did anyone blow-up yet?” comment after the first leg didn’t win him any fans in Van #1 either. But, you gotta’ give credit where credit is due. After his total meltdown in last weeks ½ marathon, Steve pulled it together and ran the second fastest overall pace on the team with a very impressive 6:24. So, I’ll rephrase my pre-race prediction by saying, “Wow, from 2nd, to 7th, to 12th, and back to 2nd again!?!? Has anyone in RTB team history fell so far, & recovered so fast?” How’s the whiplash treating ya’ Steve?
The Most Improved Award – Ryan O’Hara
While his van mates might credit this award to his inordinate amount of back seat napping and even vote him “most useless”, there is no denying that Ryan was this year’s biggest surprise. Heck, just having him with the team prior to the start of the race was a big surprise. All joking aside however, it was clear to me from the start that Ryan came to this RTB on a mission. And, his 37 second per mile improvement over last years pace certainly proved that!
The Lonely Heart Award - Brian Coates
We know it must have been hard for Brian to see his girl fraternizing with another van. Surely if his Captain had realized that this was the first time in RTB history that the Coates/Crowell combo had been split apart, he would have made some adjustments. But, to Brian’s credit, there was no vengeance in his eyes when he saw Rae and her van mates at the occasional VTA. And, thankfully the only carnage was out on the course as Brian ripped off 6:35’s and accumulated some tasty road kills!
The Mr. Consistent Award – Steve Wolfe
Steve could have easily won a truckload of awards this year. He could have won “Comeback of the Year” after his multiple knee surgeries, months of rehab and slow but sure return to form. He could have won “Sandbagger of the Year” since his overall actual pace was the furthest away from his pre-race predicted pace. And, he could have won “Best Actor” when he showed no signs of wanting to choke me after my VTA debacle. However, this year, Steve has won the “Mr. Consistent” award for running nearly the exact same pace two years in a row. Last year he ran 6:33 pace, and this year he did it one better by running an even 6:32!
The Patient Saint Award – Molly Zahr
Molly is deserving of this award for two reasons. Firstly, as the last runner in the last van she had to wait the most amount of time before her 2007 RTB actually began. Molly had to sit around and hear stories of how everyone’s first leg went before she had her “opportunity” to run at 9:30pm (more than 12 hours after she left her house that morning). Secondly, Molly had to wait the most amount of time after finishing a leg before the next runner showed up to take the baton. I’m sure 5:13 never felt so long. Of course, 24 hours in a van with Delahunty couldn’t have been a bargain either!

The Self Restraint Award – Kevin McIntyre
As the teams first alternate, Kevin took his "Last Kid Picked" status in stride. Despite the fact that Kevin trained with most of the runners on the team leading up to RTB, he never once tried to trip any of us during a group run, or poison our water bottles, or even casually mention that we'd "lost a step" in hopes that we'd lose heart and drop out of the race allowing him to jump in and save the day. Stuck on the outside looking in, Kevin had to endure countless emails from excited runners looking forward to an awesome team event that he knew he had no chance in hell of participating in. Of course, it was probably a wash since the team did have to endure Kevin inviting himself to the various group outings. Fortunately for the team, no one got injured and everyone got to run. Well, everyone but Kevin, that is. Better luck next year Pal!

Monday, September 24, 2007

RTB 2007: The Movie

Here is a little trailer of our soon to be released feature length film on our racing odyssey.

Leg 35 and 36: Molly Brings it Home and the Epilogue

Leg 35: 2.90 miles – 12:46pm – 18:02 (6:13 pace)

We’ve driven ahead to the final VTA at the new Sandown HS. We are so far ahead that the VTA is nearly empty. No runners will come through for a couple of hours and the porta-potties are still clean. This is really cool. The sun is now up but it’s still raining a bit so we all stay in the van, me crammed into the front passenger seat again. I curse Ryan to myself for snagging the back seat…again. He runs hard, he sleeps harder.

We all try to sleep, most don’t but we do have some quiet time for a couple of hours. Denis is antsy, I think he wants to run. My legs are killing me and it hurts to run. I start to worry about how I’ll be able to run my last leg. Trent stops by our van and we all have some small talk. He is not worthy of our van and he is shooed away. Suddenly the winds pick up and the rains come again. We check our watches, 11am, just like Mark said. Maybe he should do the spreadsheet for next year…

We get to TA35 and I start to get ready. Again, no vans and clean bathrooms at the North Hampton School. This is really weird but kind of nice. My legs are really sore and I lather them up with Ironman Pain Relief Cream hoping for a miracle. I decide not to warm up and try to run, opting for the ‘give me the baton and let’s see what happens’ approach.

I take the baton and head out for what at the time was listed as a 3 mile run. It hurts but I know it’s only 3 miles. I feel like I’m running fast and I pass a few more runners but they are few and far between at this point. I LOVE this run though, a nice flat to gentle downhill run on mostly quiet streets. The transition comes up faster than I thought but I’m glad to see Molly waiting on the sidewalk. Transition goes well and I’m done and feel good about my run. I check my watch: 18:02. Holy crap I think, I nearly ran 6 minute miles on my 3rd leg! Very happy indeed. Later I find the leg is a little short but I’m still happy, having made up (in my mind) for my less than stellar run on leg 2.

Overall time: 18:02 with an average pace of 6:13.

Leg #36 4.3 miles
This was it. I was finally about to be finished. I spent the morning thinking about how nice it must've been for van 1 to pass off to us and then go out and have a nice breakfast, while we were still eating bagels in the van and trying to grab a faint hint of sleep in the transition area. The rain had rolled in once again, but seemed to pass by pretty quickly. One by one, my team mates finished up their last legs and I still waited and waited... At least by then I wasn't tired anymore and I wasn't dreading my last run. I knew I could make it 4.3 miles. We had passed most of the teams by then, and there was hardly anyone left. I took the bracelet from Steve 1 last time and took off. I spent the better part of the first mile trying to get the bracelet to stay on my wrist. Which one of you broke it so it didn't wrap all the way around? Once I determined that it wasn't going to fall off, I set my sights on the only runner in front of me. It took me until we got to the ocean to get past him, just after the two of us almost got hit by a truck crossing route 1. There was a cop blocking traffic at the first intersection, but not the second one. I passed him right on the coast but only stayed in front for 2 or 3 minutes. He came back up to my side and I asked him what time his team started the day before. When I heard 11:30, 3 hours after we had started, I knew I wasn't going to have to race him. So I didn't fight too hard when he started to pull away. I just kept my eyes up the beach, searching for the finish line festivities. I got to pass plenty of old people out for their Saturday strolls, wondering what the heck we were doing running down the sidewalk there with numbers on. My legs were hurting, but not as much as I expected them to. I finally came around a corner and had a race official ask for my number and then was handed a baton to carry in to the finish as they pointed me to run along the sand. All of that running and sleeping in a van and I had to run the last quarter mile on soft sand. That wasn't fun. But I just kept running and made it towards the finish line where there were 2 separate chutes: 1 for the runner (that would be me) and 1 for the rest of the team. I was so fixated on finishing that I didn't even see my team, but apparently at least some of them crossed the line with me. Our 5th place finish was secure, although we didn't find out until later. I was thrilled to be done, and also humbled by being on a team with such incredible runners. Thanks to everyone. I had a blast!

Epilogue – Hampton Beach by Michael W.

Looking back at our eventful 24 hours over a plate of eggs, hash browns and wheat toast with my van mates at a diner in Kingston, and later with the full team in Hampton, I realized how fortunate we were. We were able to come together to run what is quickly becoming one of the most popular Relay races in North America. We ran from Cannon Mountain in beautiful Franconia Notch, through some of the most scenic (and hilly) roads that our state has to offer, before finishing 203 miles later at Hampton Beach. Even with the foul up at the VTA, we ended up completing the race in 23:08:01, at an average pace of 6:44 per mile and finished in 5th place overall (out of 350+ teams). However, far more important than the time we ran, was the time we had. We had a blast running this race and truly enjoyed the camaraderie that can only be achieved during the ups and downs of this type of team adventure. As it turned out, I didn’t need to “atone” for my mistake. My teammates did that for me. Everyone ran their hearts out and brought us in well below our expected time. Our unofficial team motto was "200 miles, 24 hours, 12 people, 2 vans and unlimited insults". But, after having shared this year’s RTB with our team of friends I'd have to add "A lifetime of memories" as well!

Leg 23 and 24

Leg 23: 6.25 miles – 4:52am – 41:48 (6:41 pace)

We got to the 2nd VTA at Laconia Tech around 11:30pm or midnight and it was packed. Bodies (sleeping bags) covering most of the grassy areas (for some reason I thought of Jim Jones and his cool aid drinking cult). Anyways, Steve Delahunty went inside for some nice warm food, I opted for turkey soup, Steve D picking Chili. Chili? This is not good, especially for his van mates.

I was hoping to get some rest/sleep so I grabbed my sleeping bag and found some nice quiet grass about 100yds from the transition area….NOT. Apparently this is not a quiet zone. After enduring constant screaming from the runners at the TA station I finally started to doze off and then the rains came. Thankfully, just sprinkles to start to make sure you were awake, then the downpours. All the body bags came to life and headed for cover, I headed for the front passenger seat of our van, and making sure I kept the light on as long as possible so that no one else was able to sleep. At the time, I thought it was fair. It is now 1am, I have no sleep and will run again in less than 4 hours. Oooh, I can’t wait.

The second leg starts in my hometown of Pittsfield. As we pull into the TA, I spot my younger brother volunteering, Denis yells something like ‘we’ve got your brother’ and we go and park. I walk up and chat with him for a while and then decide to get ready for my run. It is raining….still.

Brian is cranking and comes in early but I’m ready. Again, he’s racing someone in and I take off with another runner, heading for the Epsom traffic circle roughly a 10k away. I’m hoping this will be an easier run, no real hills, mostly flat. I run hard for the 1st mile finding someone to race with. Good, I like competition, this should be fun. However, after a mile, he fades back….never to be seen again. I know start to focus on the seemingly endless line of red blinkie lights all along Rt28. I feel like I’m working hard but again I have no idea of my pace. I start passing runners, lots of runners, 5, 10, 15. I remember Ryan’s phenomenal roadkill total of 33 from his last leg and I keep that number in my head. 20, 25, 30. It’s a killing field. I start counting ahead to see how many kills are still available. 35, 36, 37 and finally 38. I really want to hit 40 but I have less than a mile to go and I can’t see anyone or at least anyone within range of catching. 38 roadkills it is (a personal record) and once again I see a tall blond runner standing at the TA. I’m running hard and I overshoot the transition…still with the baton in my hand. Whoops, sorry Molly. Leg number 2 is done.

Overall time: 41:48 with an average pace of 6:41. I’m disappointed with my time. The effort felt faster than that. Crap.

Leg #24 6.9 miles
My second leg was the hardest one for me to mentally prepare myself for. It was my longest leg, and I knew I wanted to do it fast enough to be respectable, but not so hard that I wasn't going to be able to run my last leg. It was also hard knowing that very soon after I was only finished with my second leg, many of my team mates would be done with their races entirely. After lying down for a while but not sleeping at all, I watched my van mates do their runs in the rain and wasn't particularly excited for when it would be my turn. But inevitably, it was. The transition area had become a lot more crowded as we caught up to some of the later starters, but I saw Steve coming in and I was off once again. It was about 5:40 in the morning, which is a common time for me to train. The faintest hint of daylight was starting to show, although the sun was hidden by the clouds. I lucked out and didn't have to run in the torrential rain that I'd heard earlier from the safety of the van, but it was still sprinkling and wet out. I'll admit that I didn't have high hopes for running a good pace on that leg. I really didn't think I was capable of it. But having seen how fast my team mates were going, I had to at least try to hit my projected pace. I decided that lungs burning = ok, legs hurting = not ok. It was a series of rolling hills as I made my way to Bear Brook State Park. Many other runners were lined up in front of me, primed for the road killing. It began early, and I racked them up pretty quickly. At least 4 of them were walking, so I'm not sure if that counts, but I'll take it. This was the only one of my legs that was long enough that I asked my van to stop and give me water at about mile 4. I started to get worried when I didn't see them until about 30 minutes in, but they were beyond 4, so that made me feel a bit better. It was getting brighter and I didn't need the light of my head lamp anymore. The normal people were waking up and cars that weren't part of the race were on the road once again. I turned the corner and headed towards Bear Brook State Park, still trying to reel in as many runners in front of me as I could. I passed a member of the Google team, which made me feel good because I had heard that they were fast. By the end of my leg I had amassed 24 road kills and didn't get passed once. I ran down the final hill and was thrilled to see that I actually had a team mate to hand off to. My second leg was done. Most of the team would be done racing in a few short hours, but I still had a long time to wait.

Leg 11 and 12

Leg 11: 6.04 miles – 8:43pm – 39:36 (6:33 pace)

A lot of things were going through my mind waiting for Brian to come in at TA11 (Brass Heart Inn). Most importantly, would I be the one that gets passed by Hello Kitty. Our incredible team had been holding off their runners for the last couple of legs but they were getting closer. I really hoped Brian would be the fall guy and not me (sorry Brian).

I have to admit, my running abilities were a complete unknown even to me. When I committed to this race back in March I was already coming back from one knee surgery and a blood clot a couple months earlier. Then in April I was struck (or run over) by the injury bug (or bus) again…tearing the meniscus in my other knee and having surgery on that one too. Needless to say, I was a little anxious when it was my turn to run.

My handy-dandy spreadsheet said Brian should finish at 8:45pm so I got lit up, did a couple strides and then figured it was pointless and proceeded to the transition area to wait for Brian. At 8:43 I see him racing up the hill with Hello Kitty guy right in front of him. I take the baton and I’m off, with Mr. Kitty right in front of me now. Since he’s the only runner I can see (it is bitch friggin black out) I try to stay with him as best I can. We run together for the 1st mile or so, some small talk and then I think he gets annoyed with me and picks up the pace. I feel pretty good, realize I’m probably running above my means but I keep pushing. It’s still a race and this guys pulling away. The next couple of miles had some killer hills and I seem to gain on him on the ups and that’s encouraging. Now deep down I know this is probably one of there slower runners but I don’t care, it feels good to be racing again. Van 2 is waiting just after ½ way, I think I grab some water and continue on. This is my first relay that I started in the dark, and this road is DARK. No cars, no runners (except HK) no streetlights, nothing. HK now has about 50yds on me and we’re starting to see an occasional runner, which we kill (in a roadkill kind of way). I have no idea what pace I’m running but I’m not holding anything back, applying the Delahunty race rule of go out hard and hold on at the end (note to self, not a good plan for a 3-leg relay). At about 5 miles we hit Rt16 and I know White Lake State Park (the next TA) is not far away. I also note I’m starting to gain on Mr. Kitty. I pick it up some more, getting closer and closer. I see the glow of the transition lights over the next hill and race down to hand off to Molly. She’s easy to spot, a 6+ft blond standing in the middle of the woods of NH. I hand off (or up) and keep on running a bit, having narrowed the HK gap to just a few yds. One down, two to go and I feel good about my run.

Overall time: 39:36 with an average pace of 6:33. Sweet.

Side Note:

It is true there was some disappointment when we got to the next TA and Van 1 was not there, having preferred to stay at another transition to avoid all that fuss that goes along with teams handing off the baton. I was disappointed because we were competing with the team that had won this race last year (even though they actually started a 1/2hr after we did), and we were having a lot of fun with it. It was definitely a mental letdown when we found out van 1 was not there. Yes, I was mad but contrary to what others have said or not said, I was not alone (just more vocal). I did not, as far as I can remember, show this anger with van 1. It was a mistake and I did get over it.

Leg #12 4 miles
By the time it was my turn to run it almost felt as though the race was just about over. My team had started about 7 hours prior, and I was just getting around to participating. According to the eerily accurate spread sheet, I was due to start running at about 9:20pm, which is past my bed time on a normal day. Instead, I lined up at the cones and heard Steve Wolfe calling out "292" from the darkness. I took the bracelet loaded with 11 prior runners' slime and took off. It began down hill, and I immediately recorded my first road kill. The man was likely in his 60's, but I'll take what I can get. Before I even had a chance to be happy about it, I was quickly road killed as someone flew past me at a pace I can't match. I am not much for running fast. I can go forever at a moderate pace, but my marathon pace and my 5K pace are way too close together. I possess no fast twitch muscles, so I let him go and continued on. I was running on dirt to start, which was difficult to maneuver with the light of a head lamp. I stumbled more than a few times but at least managed to stay on my feet before I finally made it back to actual pavement. I kept thinking I was seeing a police car's flashing lights up ahead of me, but I was actually slowly reeling in another runner who was decorated like a Christmas tree. At least his team would know he was coming. I passed him to at least get myself back into the +1 for road kills. There just wasn't anyone else out on the road. I rounded a final corner and saw the flashing lights of the transition area up ahead. I wasn't that tired, but I was happy to be almost done so I picked it up to finish strong. I saw Brian a ways out and he said something to me, but all I made out was something about taking it easy. What? Take it easy? I'm almost done! I sprinted to the finish calling out our team's number and searching for Steve Tomasi, who was supposed to take over from there. Instead I saw Steve Delahunty who seemed to really feel sorry for me (and the team) when he simply said, "They're not here." Great. All that work and I could've run some nice 8:00 miles and cruised in to save it for later. I'm probably the only one on the team who really works to run 7:00 miles. I was irritated at first, but I got over it pretty quickly. What can you do? I was just glad that at least the first one was out of the way and I finally wasn't the only one left who hadn't run. The other van finally showed up, just over 5 minutes later. I just hoped that the next time they didn't make the same mistake because at least once during the race I wanted someone to hand off to.

Leg 34, aka "Brian Is No Tolstoy"

Leg 34: Time to let it all hangout until I get stopped at the traffic light. So it was like 2 races in one.

Van 2 was a blast I had a great time and everyone ran extremely well!

Legs 19 and 22

Denis T:
Ok, this leg is what caused my disgrace in the 2006 RTB, it could have been the lack of training or Mike's overly ambitious 1/2 marathon pace estimate for me, but what ever the reason the leg sucked.

For all you people in Van #1, this is the "money leg" for Van #2. I was ready, at least I hoped so.

After the Van #1, can't find the VTA fiasco, our team is running a little behind on getting to the rest area. I do have time for a nice sandwich that will serve as my food for the next leg. Steve W. knows a short cut to the VTA and we get there with 3 hours or so before my scheduled run. I walk around a bit stretch the legs, see what they have for food. Its pretty crowded not going to get a quiet place for sleep, seeing they parked us near the road.

I get out my sleeping bag, and lucky yellow pillow. (Owen, thanks for letting me bring it) toss it on the ground and try to rest. There are some annoying people talking, cars and runners going down the road, but I set my alarm for 1am and close my eyes hoping for a little sleep. I wake up, my watch say 12:50ish but I feel a couple of drops of rain. Hmm, a couple more, I pick up my stuff and search for coffee. The rain picks up, I drink my coffee and realize that I am pretty tired, no one should have to get up at 1am. I talk to a couple of the "competition" before making my way to the van.

I proceed to open and close the back door 30 or 40 times (thats Ryan count not mine), get some running gear on. Try to get warmed up and stay dry. Van #1 pulls up, (please note that Van#2 was at the proper VTA). I am not sure that Steve W and Mike are on talking terms at this point.

Finally John G is coming up the hill to the hand off point. I receive the very sweaty and somewhat gross "baton" and start my run. There is a slight up hill grade for the first 1/2 mile or so and my legs aren't very happy. I crest the hill and it flattens out, I open up my stride and feel pretty good. I figure I can try to give a good hard run since I only have 2 miles tomorrow. Running at night on a back road is pretty cool, I catch a couple of people, say some words of encouragement but I doubt they are happy. I don't really remember the course too much there are a few more turns then I remember and the slight down hill and flat spots seem pretty good. I look at my watch once or twice and notice I don't have my number on me (Oops) and I am wearing my glasses. The van will meet me around 4 miles in, I will give my glasses to them and get my number then.

They come by take my glasses give me some water, no cow bells no threats no comments that were suppose to be humorous they come out wrong. I get to run with it for 3 or 4 minutes while they find my number. They drive by and take the water bottle and give me my number. I put it on while running, trying to maintain my pace. I felt like I was cruising this whole time. Then comes the big steep hill. Ouch, I slow down I keep working it but it doesn't feel quick. I past some more people give them the distance left and keep going. Ah the top of the hill, I open I my stride and continue to the end. I pass about 16 runners, probably more but my counting skills aren't too good.

My time was a little disappointing thought I was clearly faster then 7:00 pace, but it was definitely better then last years run.

Leg 22: Wet and dark but it was fun reeling in all those red blinkies.

Leg 7 and 10 (8 and 9 are missing..Ahem..)

Denis T:

This leg started last year as I failed to meet the expectations of the team. In my defense if I don't train, they shouldn't expect big things from me, so it was really their fault.

So I start my training early this year, suffer a few set backs (i.e. motivational black holes), but get myself into decent shape. Then procede to run only twice a week for the last month prior to the race. At least my legs will be rested.

The drive up was uneventful, actually it was pretty painful listening to Ryan, Steve D, and Brian talk about work for an hour. At least it isn't that long of a drive. (This was the only time that Ryan was in the van and wasn't sleeping)

Brian Coates

Leg 10: Ouch!!! Where the heck did these hills come from! That elevation map is crap but at least I held kitty off until 10 feet from the finish that is.

Get to the start of the race, get our stuff, learn that some evil person has nicknamed me Chardonnay, this is the same person who made a comment about timing me with a sundail.

The race starts and Van #2 makes our way to T6 where I will be running my first leg. So I am a little nervous, having tapered really well for this, I was beginning to think that maybe my training wasn't where it should be. My I put my running shoes on they feel strangely comfortable, almost light. This has to be from the good vibes from my team.

Finally John G. is in sight and I am ready to run. He hands me the baton (wrist strap), and I realize again how sweaty John gets. I really want to wash it off before I put it on, but this is a race and my team would frown on it. Ok 7 miles to go down the beautiful Kank till N. Conway. My team will meet me at mile 4 with water, all is going to be fine. There is no one near me. I get to set my own pace, and it is down hill so this won't be too hard, unless I blow up and go to fast. I like being on the Kank I think, but there is no shoulder to run on, the road isn't wide, I don't have my glasses so I can't see and it is already getting dark. I wonder how fast I am running probably doesn't feel too fast.

Finally I see our van, I haven't seen anyone for 20 mins so it is good to see someone. Then the $%^# cow bell, who the heck brings a cowbell, and even if one is silly enough to bring, what in God's name would possess them to ring it. I make some threatening comment at Brian, grab the water and keep going.

It is now dark, and I finally see another runner, or at least their blinkers. I am avoiding looking at the watch, don't want to make time slow down. I finally pass him, say some kind words of encouragement, and keep going. Then I keep looking for the turn on to rte.16. Not sure if it is ever going to come. Finally the tell tale blue lights and I am almost done. I keep my pace up turn into N Conway and look for who to pass too. Hmm I forget who is next, finally Steve D shouts to me and I am done. 1 Road Kill in 7 miles not a great start, but I am under my target pace and I felt pretty damn good. Lets see how Leg 19 goes.

Legs 25 and 26 and 28, aka "Mt. Delight and Record Road Kills"

Second Intermission – Laconia to Allenstown

After the completion of our respective second legs it was now well after midnight and time for the team to rest. So, I climbed into the driver’s seat and headed off down the road that would lead us to Rt. 93 and eventually on to our resting place for the evening, Bear Brook State Park. Most of the team members slept for the balance of the one hour trip down the highway. Nearing the park I could see signs for the race, but no runners. We had jumped so far ahead at this point, that no one had even come through yet. We were gaining on them! I pulled into the parking lot and once I confirmed that we were indeed in the right spot, I grabbed my gear and headed out for a couple hours of sleep under the stars. Unfortunately, the rain had picked up again during our drive south and the stars were nowhere to be found. So, I picked as dry a spot as I could find beneath some large pine trees and zipped myself into my own personal sleep cocoon. After an hour and a half of restless tossing and turning with more than a few splashes of cold water on my face from the branches above I decided that the growling in my stomach could no longer be ignored. I ambled over to the van in the dark and grabbed the peanut butter, some bagels, a banana and a diet Pepsi. Mmmm, the breakfast of champions! I settled down at a picnic table at the race pavilion and I started to slather my bagel with some yummy peanut butter. Many of the tables, some with runners still sleeping on them, were starting to become filled with other breakfast eaters. A few of whom sat next to me and we quickly struck up a conversation. Apparently they had begun running at 9:30am the previous morning. When I told them that our team started at 2:30pm their jaws hit the floor. We had made up 5 hours on their team during a mere 15 hours of running. It was then that I realized our team was really doing something very special.

Leg 25 [9.44 miles at 7:14 pace]

I would have preferred sleeping outside but the rain kept me in the van. My scheduled run time was around 6:30am. I had two hours to sleep before I needed to get up. I woke up a few times during the night (open door lights, someone’s watch alarm set to 5am). I woke up to my watch alarm at 5:30. My right calf cramped up while putting on my shoe. (not a good sign). I put my contacts in using my penlight so as not to wake anyone else. I stepped out of the van and saw what seem to be over 300 white vans. What a difference! There were only about 50 vans when we pulled in 2 hours ago. As I warmed up I was hoping it would get light soon so I wouldn’t have to wear the reflective vest, blinking lights, and headlamp. (Don’t need the nuisance while climbing Mt. Delight, especially knowing that I would only need it for a short time.). Molly came in and I was off. I’ve been training on hills with my heart rate monitor and had a plan to not exceed 175 while climbing any hills. Though my calves were on the edge of cramping, the run went pretty well. Since this was the time in the race where we push through many of the slower teams, I started counting my roadkills. This helped me concentrate and motivated me. I even caught a few runners I saw take off before me which looked like they were moving pretty good. It took a while but I finally caught them too. The road kills were coming often. 10, 15, 20 how many could I get? 25, 30, 35, now I’m thinking 50 would be a great number. Mark stopped at the top of Mt. Delight to let me know I was at the top of the highest peak. I continued on, feeling good but knowing at any instance my calves might shut me down. I went though an intersection and a lady said 1.4 miles to go. I hope she was right, my watch agreed. Finally the course flattened out. I was on roadkill 48. Turning onto a busier street I saw more runners ahead. Needed to get to 50. 50, 51, and 52 as I pulled into the school parking lot for the handoff. I had a good run. The calves held up. I was hungry and tired but I was done. What a great feeling. Now to root on the team and enjoy the rest of the adventure.

Thinking in the Rain – Deerfield Community School

The funny thing about a 3-part race like Reach the Beach is that you really don’t know what to expect from one leg to the next. You don’t know what the weather is going to be, you don’t know what the course is going to be like and, most importantly, you don’t know how your body is going to respond after all the pounding and lack of real rest. The physical aspect of the race is sort of akin to a deep well that you can’t see the bottom of. You know that there’s water down there, but after depleting it time and time again, you’re not sure really how much is left. These were the thoughts that ran through my head as I prepared to start my final leg in the rain. This leg was supposed to be a victory lap. A short, easy 4.5 trip from the Deerfield Fairgrounds to nearby Candia. But, some last minute bridge work required the organizers to re-route the course and therefore lengthen this leg to 8 point something miles. I say 8 point something because no one was really that sure how long it truly was. As it turns out, it was 8 point forever.

Leg #26 – 7:32am - 8.3 miles – 59:18 overall time – 7:08 pace

Leg description: typical New Hampshire running - up 1m, down 1m, rolling 1.5m, big climb 2.5m, down 1m, steep up again 1.5m.

After my 8 hours of “rest” I grabbed the baton (bracelet) from Steve and began my last leg of the race. There were many more runners and vans now as we really started catching the other teams. I would later find out that on the leg previous to mine Steve T. had caught and passed a record 52 runners (roadkills) on his 9 plus mile run up and over Mt. Delight. Fortunately he left some for me as I passed 28 on my way to Candia. The first two miles, or so, seemed to go pretty well. It was rolling, but not too tough. Then, while cresting a hill it was like my energy had suddenly been dropped by the side of the road like Rae’s coffee. This can’t be happening! I’m just 20 minutes into my leg! I looked down at my watch and it only read 16 minutes. “Oooh, this can’t be good”, I thought to myself. Ok, here it is. Welcome to “well-bottom”. My run wasn’t even a third over and I was really starting to struggle. I finally reached the fairgrounds, where my leg was supposed to start, with the big hills looming in the distance, and all I could think about was how the heck was I going to do this? I chugged slowly up the first hill. Those 2 plus miles seemed never ending. Twisting & turning but always up. Halfway up, I got passed for the first time ever at RTB. I tried to stay with him but I just couldn’t do it. Near the top I grabbed a quick sip of Gatorade from a bewildered bystander. Apparently he was going to drink it himself or maybe pass it to a teammate behind me. Either way, I didn’t care. I hadn’t seen my van yet and I needed something to get me through. Just before the road descended, however, I saw my team again. Rae handed me some Gatorade and said I looked great. Liar. “I’m dying”, I said before trudging down the hill. Sure enough, after a bit, I got my legs back under me and started passing people again. “One more hill and then I’m done”, I thought. I pushed through, handed off the bracelet and finished in a heap on the ground. I was finished. Literally.

[Leg 28] 4.8 rollers
The best thing about having done RTB before is that you know the 3rd leg hurts more in anticipation that in actuality. I'm freaking relieved just to be able to start running and prove to myself that I'm not going to lose the 8 nutter-butters I ate for breakfast. Leg starts with a down, then steep up -- then rollers for the rest of the run. I'm loving the roadkill, but I want more (Tomasi got greedy with 52 on his leg) My legs feel good, except the front of my calves from leg one (fyi - if you run my leg 1 next year don't expect sympathy from your vanmates for this soreness, you can call me though) I finish with a 6:22 pace and all my nutter butters.

Race Report: Legs 13 and 14, 16, aka "The Transition Fuck Up"

First Intermission – Conway to Tamworth

When each of our first legs were completed we headed into Conway for some dinner. The first Pizza Place we came to had closed their doors for a 1 hour break. Apparently all the hungry RTB’ers must have worn them out. So, we had our meal at the next Pizza Place (right next door). It was nice to sit out on the deck and relax with some crispy pie and reflect on the first of our three runs. We didn’t even mind the commotion outside as some Conway kids got into a heated argument. I don’t know what it is about white teenagers and their apparent need to talk like they are black. I mean, here we are in Conway Freaking New Hampshire probably one of the whitest towns in probably one of the whitest states in America and it was like we were watching a scene from “Boys in the Hood”, or something. I just don’t get it. Afterwards we headed out to our next VTA to wait for Van #2 to finish their first runs. On the way we stopped for gas and to get Rae some coffee, which she promptly dumped while trying to re-close the van doors as we drove down Rt. 16. Fortunately, Rae didn’t spill out onto the road like her coffee. Unfortunately, when we went back to re-fill her cup they had closed for the night. Later, we continued down Rt. 16 and over to Rt. 25. We by-passed the race course in an effort to cut down on driving time and to give our runners a chance to rest at the next VTA. Little did we know, a critical error in navigation was about to shake up our relaxing between-run break.

Panic at the Disco – Bennett Corners Community School

The group of us tromped into the little community school and set up shop on a couch and a couple of comfy chairs to wait for the arrival of our other team. Later, as Steve T’s warm-up preparations were coming to a close, there was some anxiety since the other van hadn’t shown up yet and it was almost time for him to start his run. I assured Steve that they would be here shortly and not to panic. Of course, I quickly walked away and began to panic. Fortunately my cell phone, which up until then had not had a signal, rang with a voicemail message. On the other end of the line was a screaming Steve W. “Molly’s almost here! Where the hell are you guys?!?!” Before last the words had even reached my ears I had already begun sprinting back toward the school. “What leg is this? What leg is this?!?!”, I frantically shouted in the general direction of the sleepy RTB official seated at the check-in desk. “leg 13”, she replied. My heart leapt with joy. We were fine. But, before my brain could even register this news she continued, “The end of leg 13”. Crap. The adrenaline hit my leaping heart like a bolt of lightning. Damn we’re in the wrong place! “Guys, we’re at the wrong TA! We gotta’ go! Now!” We all jumped into the van and sped off down the drive. Then, I had a brief moment of clarity and hit the breaks. I had to run from this point and Steve’s leg was less than 4 miles long. I needed to stay here. So, I quickly jumped out and the van continued on to bring a now breathless Steve Tomasi to the start of his leg. Fortunately, Rae jumped out with me and did her best to talk me down. But, all I could think about was how stupid I was and how I had let my whole team down. Those 25 minutes waiting for Steve to come back were some the longest I had ever spent.

Leg 13 [3.94 miles at 6:23 pace]

Just chilling out at the transition area was relaxing. This is my short easy leg so all is good. I was happy to hear that our team was keeping pace and I was going to run at the predicted time. I started warming up when I head that Molly would be here for the handoff in 15 minutes. The next thing I heard was Michael telling me to get in the van, “we’re at the wrong transition area”. My heart rate monitor proved I was a bit anxious driving to the transition area and I felt bad for Molly showing up and I wasn’t there. We were in constant contact with the other van and had play-by-play as Molly came into the transition area. We then knew how far behind we were and watched the clock continue to run. Jumping out of a moving van and attaching nighttime flashing lights seemed like it took longer that it did. I finally took off on the run and felt that I had to make up some time but still knew I had the long hilly run in the morning. I did have the advantage of seeing my running course before I ran it.

Leg #14 – 10:16pm - 7.8 miles – 51:15 overall time – 6:34 pace

Leg description: dark & rolling with two big hills at 4.5m & 6m.

Frantic pacing and self-flagellation had done wonders to break me out of my sluggishness from earlier in the evening. So, as Steve’s shadowy figure finally came into view, my 6 hours of “rest” came to an end and I was on my way. Again, my goal was to run this 7.8 mile leg at a 6:30/mile pace. But, I’m sure that as I left the parking lot, with all that panic-charged adrenaline coursing through my body, I was traveling a heck of a lot faster than that. I quickly passed a few straggling runner and headed onto the main road. Once I realized that I was breathing way too heavy for this early in the run, I throttled it back a little bit and settled into a comfortable, yet demanding pace. As each dark and lonely mile ticked away I found myself fighting two battles. The first was against the toughness of the course, the second was against the negative thoughts creeping into my mind. My team was racing so hard and I screwed them with a stupid mistake, I should have known better, all that preparation down the drain, etc. But, as I crested the first big hill at mile 4.5 I could see my van mates illuminated by my bobbing headlamp. They were there waiting for me with water and shouting words of encouragement. So, I downed the drink they gave me, only briefly thinking it might be poisoned, powered through the hill and picked up the pace. The second hill at mile 6 was tougher but once I got to the top I rolled down and quickly picked off a few more runners. 12 total for the leg. As I took the final turn and headed toward the handoff I found myself in a much better frame of mind then when I had started. I was tired, yes. But, I knew that the race was long from over and there would be plenty more opportunities for me to atone for my major mistake.

[Leg 16] 6.4 hard
Never trust the altitude maps, luckily I ran this last year and I know it starts out with a 2 mile up (not the flat/down it promises and lies about). Then it hits gravel - nice, big chunky fun gravel. The gravel is actually pretty challenging at night, but better than last year since there is no fog. The rain also started on this leg though, and I love the rain. This leg has one more pretty challenging uphill after the gravel section. I'd really like to see this hill in the daytime because it feels huge, and both last year and this year I felt awful on it. After the hill it's cruising flats and downs. And, awesome, I'm 40+ seconds faster than last year!

Reach the Beach: Race Report Legs 1&2&4

Steve T.

Leg1 [6.6 miles at 6:21 pace]

I felt a little pressure starting the team race but I tapped into my 25 years of racing experience to keep calm, “everything will work out fine”. I was interested in were I would place among the other 8 teams starting with us. I started in the back of the pack to watch the race unfold. It was clear after the first mile that I was going to finish in the top group and Olympic marathoner John Tuttle was going to kick everyone’s butt. It took me about 3 miles to catch the guy which was in 2nd place. I noticed that I gained on him on the flats and uphills but he cruised and pulled away on the downhill sections. With about 1 mile to go, I was hoping for another uphill and I got it. I passed him and moved into 2nd place and held it until the last 50 meters. There was a long downhill to the first transition and he came roaring by me. It didn’t really bother me, I was saving my quads for the later stages and I gave my captain his first roadkill. “If I see that guy again on hilly leg 25, I’ll bury him on the hills”.

Michael Wade

Leg #2 –3:12pm – 9.5 miles – 1:02:45 overall time – 6:37 pace

Leg description: elongated skate ramp – 3m down, 3m flat, then 3m back up.

After all the time I spent building, coordinating and preparing our team for the 2007 RTB, I was anxious to get on with it already and start my first leg. My goal was to run this 9.5 mile leg at 6:30/mile pace. I ran a few frantic warm-up laps around the Flume Gorge parking lot while we waited for our opening leg runner (Steve T.) to come through. Finally, someone yelled “here he comes” and I hurried to the starting line. I saw Steve running strong to the finish with some “yahoo” sprinting past him at the line. Steve calmly handed me the baton (bracelet) and I was on my way. I quickly picked off the “yahoo’s” teammate as we headed out of the parking lot. As I rolled down Rt. 3 I started to wish I had toyed with him a bit more and not passed him right away. Now I was on my own with no one else in sight. Ah, the joys of the early RTB legs! The first few miles passed quickly. Going downhill I had no clue what my pace was. I guessed probably around 6 min per mile. The road started to flatten out as I turned and headed toward town. Ok, we’re rolling now. Through town I saw a few Van #2’s having a pre-run snack. Then I saw our team’s Van #2. Steve W. was filming and said something about being “2 minutes behind”. 2 minutes behind what? My expected pace, or the guy in front? Neither prospect seemed particularly appealing. Brian made some half-hearted attempt to cheer me on & Steve D. snapped a picture. I heard “Oooh, I got a good one. Look at this…” his voice trailed off as I ran up the road. Sheesh, with teammates like this. Just past town the road started to slope up now. I must be 6 miles in, or so. Just past Loon Mountain (7m) the pace was starting to feel slow and labored. Later on, during a particularly rough patch, I saw Damian Rowe driving Van #1 for the GCS – Old Farts. He slowed down just enough to shout, “Great job Mike! Our guy is 200 yards behind you!” What!?!? NFW, I thought. I refused to turn and look, and struggled to maintain my pace. It felt so much harder, by comparison, to those early downhill miles. As I neared a turn, to what I assumed to be the finish, I glanced back down the road and saw no one for at least a half mile. F’in Damian! Now, for some reason, the course headed down a trail and into the forest. Great. Just what I need. After a 1/4 mile or so of messing around in the woods, over a bridge and around a closed gate, I handed the bracelet off to Mark and stumbled over to the van. Someone let me know I had just run 6:45 pace. Well that sucks. And so began my RTB 2007.

[leg 4] 4.8 crashing down
Leg is marked as approx 1 mile up, followed by a crashing 4 mile down. Sadly for Mark, the course was mismarked and he got to run my 1 mile up, and I got all the down. I move to the start of my leg - I can see Mark coming for about 3/4 of a mile and I can see him closing on the Rochester runner he is racing. It doesn't look like he's going to have enough time, and the Rochester runner toeing the line with me looks me over and says "Sh*t" That's right, buddy, prepare to be chicked. It's hard to not run fast when Mark hands off to you, and I start off my leg 1 of RTB to the encouraging calls of my teammates "Your ass is hanging out of your shorts!!!" I pass the Rochester runner right after the summit, and then I run as hard as I can downhill for 4 something miles. This run is FUN, it's just like a roller-coaster ride. Next time I would recommend training with a few downhills if you get this leg - because the after-effects were painful. During though - no issues, and I finished in 25 minutes (later turning out to be a 5:26 pace when Wolfe recalcuted the true distances of all legs, but for a brief period of time I will always remember -- I ran a 5:13 pace).

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Meet the Team ...

Runner #1 - Steve T.
Age: 49
Nickname: “Tom”
Occupation: Unknown (but works with Mark, so its probably weather related)
Leg #’s: 1, 13 & 25
Total Distance of Legs: 19.6 Miles
Estimated Average Pace per Mile: 6:36
Little Known Fact: Tom has just received his first issue of “Playboy-Senior” with an “article” on the girls of the AARP, and a nice spread on a couple of sexy GMILF’s.

Runner #2 – Michael
Age: 38
Nickname: “Captain Fly”
Occupation: Architect
Leg #’s: 2, 14 & 26
Total Distance of Legs: 25.1 Miles
Estimated Average Pace per Mile: 6:40
Little Known Fact: The details of Michael’s life are quite inconsequential... His father was a relentlessly self-improving boulangerie owner from Belgium with low grade narcolepsy and a penchant for buggery. His mother was a fifteen year old French prostitute named Chloe with webbed feet. Michael’s childhood was typical. Summers in Rangoon, luge lessons. In the spring he'd make meat helmets. And, in his spare time, Michael likes to build teams of elite runners with the sole purpose of crushing their competition.

Runner #3 – Mark
Age: 36
Nickname: “Superman”
Occupation: Meteorologist
Leg #’s: 3, 15 & 27
Total Distance of Legs: 24.5 Miles
Estimated Average Pace per Mile: 6:42
Little Known Fact: In addition to leaping over tall buildings (and small litkas) in a single bound, Mark enjoys eating mountains like they were candy.

Runner #4 – Raelyn
Age: 36
Nickname: “Little Miss (intense) Sunshine”
Occupation: Computer Code Writer
Leg #’s: 4, 16 & 28
Total Distance of Legs: 16.0 Miles
Estimated Average Pace per Mile: 6:37
Little Known Fact: Raelyn holds the unofficial state record for most men “chicked” (not what you think) in one racing calendar year.

Runner #5 - Kerry
Age: 31
Nickname: “The Polly Pocket Rocket”
Occupation: Teacher
Leg #’s: 5, 17 & 29
Total Distance of Legs: 16.9 Miles
Estimated Average Pace per Mile: 6:36
Little Known Fact: Kerry is is shortest member of the Knights who until recently said "Nee", but who now say, "Ecky-ecky-ecky-ecky-pikang-zoom-boing-mumble-mumble".

Runner #6 - John
Age: 43
Nickname: “Snowman”
Occupation: Air Traffic Controller
Leg #’s: 6, 18 & 30
Total Distance of Legs: 14.2 Miles
Estimated Average Pace per Mile: 6:58
Little Known Fact: John enjoys creating mid-air close calls just for “shits & giggles”. His words, not mine.

Runner #7 - Denis
Age: 37
Nickname: “Chardonnay”
Occupation: Unknown, (probably computers)
Leg #’s: 7, 19 & 31
Total Distance of Legs: 17.0 Miles
Estimated Average Pace per Mile: 6:40
Little Known Fact: Denis once ran a 10 mile race in 57 minutes then proceeded to fall off the face of the earth.

Runner # 8 - Steve D.
Age: 44
Nickname: “Dick”
Occupation: Another Computer Geek
Leg #’s: 8, 20 & 32
Total Distance of Legs: 14.8 Miles
Estimated Average Pace per Mile: 6:38
Little Known Fact: Despite his loud and sometimes arrogant nature Steve has the fragile psyche of a canary with brittle bone disease. Steve also like searching the web for pictures of little boys in compromising positions.

Runner #9 - Ryan
Age: 30
Nickname: “Agent Zero”
Occupation: Engineer
Leg #’s: 9, 21 & 33
Total Distance of Legs: 13.9 Miles
Estimated Average Pace per Mile: 6:53
Little Known Fact: Ryan is a current member of the US military and can kill you with his bare coccyx (also, not what you think). That is, if he can find you.

Runner # 12 - Molly
Age: 28
Nickname: “Ironwoman”
Occupation: Professional Tri-athlete
Leg #’s: 12, 24 & 36
Total Distance of Legs: 15.2 Miles
Estimated Average Pace per Mile: 7:02
Little Known Fact: Molly likes to ride 100 miles on her bike before any (and all) of her races. Needless to say, we had her bikes confiscated prior to RTB.

Non Runner # 1 - Kevin
Age: 41
Nickname: “Barnacle”
Occupation: General Contractor
Leg #’s: None (Alternate)
Total Distance of Legs: 0.0 Miles
Estimated Average Pace per Mile: N/A
Little Known Fact: Kevin's fondness for riding the pine has left him with a chronic case of "gluteus maximus splinterus". Which is self-evident if you've ever seen him run.

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

What was he thinking?

I went running today at lunchtime. It was a beautiful day outside. Temps in the 60's and sunny. I decided that I was going to do my favorite 10K course. It's a large loop that consists primarily of nice, quiet New Englandy back roads. I left my place of employment and headed up towards North Street. As I turned left on North, I saw a man running ahead of me. He was not fat, but he definitely was not slim. He wore long, basketball shorts and could generally tell he was not a top-10 kind of race if you know what I mean. I was going really slow, just easing into the run. I was slowly gaining on him, but I wasn't trying to do so. As my legs warm up I just naturally start running faster. The course takes me down North road about 1 mile, then left onto some other road who's name I forgot. The guy ahead of me makes the same turn and I see him take a quick look back and he sees me. I can see him suddenly pick up the pace and he starts to pull away. The chase is on!

I admit that I began to pick up the pace too. I felt like a tiger chasing down a sickly doe. I was just loping along while the doomed doe struggled. The guys pace began to fade in a few minutes and I quickly caught up to him. As I was running next to him I said hello and introduced myself. I asked if he wanted to join me on my 10K. He said he had a different 10K course, but he was willing to join me. I don't run with people often and I was not planning on going fast so I welcomed the company.

The road we were on went up a hill, through a 4-way stop, and then down a hill. I could tell by this guys respiration that he was out of his zone. He was breathing too hard when going up hill this early in the run. But what amazed me was that he took off down the hill. Why would he do that? I think he wanted to drop me. To show me what a great runner he was. I let him get a little ahead of me as we went down the hill. Tigers do that once in a while so that their prey would get more tired and the kill would be easier.

At the bottom of the hill we made a left. He was ahead of me and I called forward to tell him to make a left. He didn't know where he was and I wondered what he was thinking. When you're running with someone on roads you don't know, you don't run ahead and try to drop the person you just agreed to run with. I decided not to kill him right there on the spot. Instead, I decided to drag him down the road and leave him for dead in the bushes. I picked up the pace, just a little so that he could stay with me. At this point, I'm not really running that hard. My legs are using impulse engines, but I was soon to switch over to warp engines. We rounded a corner and I could hear his breathing getting labored. I tweaked the pace a little more, but he was hanging on. I began to switch over to warp drive, but he started falling off too quickly. Mustn't kill the prey yet. It's no fun unless this game goes on for a while. I throttle back a little to let him catch up. He calls back saying not to wait for him. Alrightythen. Helm? Warp 1. Make it so!

I switched to real running mode and attacked the hills with vigor. I didn't need to look back to know my prey was in trouble. One minute I heard his wheezing and whimpering, the next I heard nothing. I kept the pace at a moderate level, maybe at 80% effort. I knew the poor bastard was going to struggle up the hills, but I decided this guy needed to be taught a lesson. Arrogant? You betcha. But I was annoyed he tried to drop me.

I kept the pace until the end of the road. At this point, I turned around expecting to see him. The road was fairly straight and I could see a long way, but no prey. He was gone! I know her was lost and didn't know which way to turn. But I was still annoyed and I was having such a good run that I decided to leave the carcass for the vultures. I headed back to work and completed the run in record time. :)

I wonder what will happen when he sees me out on the roads next time? :)

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

On Being Invisible

As a runner, when you're injured it's almost as if you don't exist. You're not there for your daily run through the neighborhood, you can't participate in the weekly track workouts with your running club, and you're most definitely not able to race with (or against) your friends at the local 5k. You feel like you're invisible. Instead of being outside where you want to be, you're stuck inside getting physical therapy, or having a deep tissue massage, or on the couch with an ice pack on your injury.

The reason that I've been contemplating the existence of the injured runner is because I currently am one. I have a calf injury. I stupidly did an early morning 8-mile tempo run two weeks ago without being properly hydrated. Being short on time (before work) I just bolted out the door with very little fluid intake. I hammered the run (6:08 pace) and finished feeling good, but my calf tightened up in the last 1/2 mile of the cool down. And, I haven't been able to loosen it up.

Since then, I have been doing precious little running, a lot of biking, and once a week I have been getting my calf worked on by my sadistic massage therapist. I'm not kidding. After each session my calf throbs like it's got its own heartbeat. She's tough. So, to recap, I went from running 70 miles a week and biking 20, to running 20 miles a week and biking 140 (Including a 50+ mile odyssey last Sunday). It's sort of like the Kerry Litka method of transition training, only in reverse. Hopefully, with sufficient time, I'll be able to tip the scales back in favor of running.

Until then, I'll be pounding the pavement with my mountain bike that has a chain that grinds against the derailleur with each pedal stroke. It's not ideal, but, it's the best I can do for now. And, even though I despise my bike, I'm actually starting to get good at riding it. I've averaged almost 19 mph for each of my rides. I've also had a couple of close calls with some cars. But, I can't really blame them. I am invisible after all!

Friday, August 3, 2007

It's all in the name...

I need new running shoes. I discovered that after 10+ years, the people in charge of R&D over at Adidas decided to change the shape/fit/form of my preferred Trail Response and the new shoe is not the same shoe that I trained in exclusively back in the college days.


Which is too bad since I really liked that shoe. A few years back (2004, I believe) when I casually started running again in the off season, I picked up a pair of Adidas Precision trail and really liked those. They fit well and they were cheap... unfortunately they don't seem to make those anymore.

So here I am in search of a new shoe that will serve my needs - semi curved last, not too much cusioning, trail friendliness, and under $90.

A careful dissection of the latest Eastbay catalog revealed that shoe names have evolved quite a bit in the years since my absence from the sport commenced. And the marketing people are in a desperate attempt to give the shoe a name the reflects what it's made for, but also has a sense of glamour, speed, or flash. Somewhere they went a little off track with their names. Back in the day I ran in Nike Air Icarus (what a fiasco that was), Nike Air Verona (nice shoe, didn't work for me), Adidas Response Trail (my one and only true love), Nike Air Structure Triax (bad, bad bad) and one pair of Saucony Grid something or other as lightweight trainers/road racing flats. Today I run in Mizuno Wave Riders in road races, but I need new trainers since I realized my most recent pair of Adidas trail shoes were causing me problems (namely, they are too wide for my feet). Here's a sample of what is available out there:

I remember when Nike premiered the Air Max running shoe. They have since expanded the line to include the Air Max 180, Air Max 360, and the Air Turbulence.

Air Turbulence? Is anybody home over there? And while we're on the subject, how about an Air 90, or an Air 45? Or perhaps an Air Meridian or an Air Latitude or something...

Then we have shoes like the Asics family: the Cumulous, the Nimbus, the Stratus...
umm, why are they all named after clouds?

Adidas has the ClimaCool Rotterdam IV...that is way too many words for 1 shoe...almost as bad as having a name like Thomas C. Mapother IV.

Brooks has the Beast and the Ariel. Spare me the Disney character names, please. They also have the Glycerine...glycerine? Isn't that a Bush song?

New Balance has always stuck with numbers - that is safe. But boring. Number tell me nothing about the shoe.

Saucony: the Grid Omni, Grid Hurricane (her we go again with the weather references), Grid Tangent (oh look, geometry..that's never been done before..) Saucony needs some originality. I do give them credit for simply adding the word "Pro" to the shoe name (ProGrid Triumph, ProGrid Hurricane) and charging roughly $25 more for the extra syllable.

Speaking of originality, there is a lot of overlap in shoe names. Adidas had a Precision Trail (this I know because I own a pair, even though the fact laden world of the Internet appears to have no prior evidence of such a shoe), Mizuno has a Wave Precision. Most trail runners have the word "trail" in them - Response Trail, Trailfox (Puma... apparently they didn't realize that a Puma already kind of implies mountainous terrain, so they figured changing species wouldn't further confuse the consumer); Excursion TR2 (oh, we're going on an excursion. Good thing you added the TR on there so I knew what type of excursion it would be - why, that of the off road variety).

I wish I were in charge of naming running shoes. Here is my list of tentative model names:

Nike Air America - they retail for $300 because unlike every other Nike shoe, they are not assembled overseas in some third world Southeast Asian sweatshop by a 6 year old who earns 37 cents a day in wages

The Asics Gel Cumulonimbus - dark, puffy, shoots water out at you

Saucony GridLock - I don't really have anything to say about this one, except that gridlock implies not moving...so this one if for those posers who buy the shoes and then leave them on a shelf in the closet

Brooks Glycogenesis - this one makes sense. I'm getting an intellectual property patent on that one...got it, punk?

New Balance - the DNF and the DFL. Maybe a DNS as well. The track spike could be The Scratch.

Adidas Don'tFuckWithMe - the ultimate in off road trail running

Monday, July 30, 2007

From 0 to 60...

I spent the last 6 days at Keene State Cross Country camp. I was a counselor and coach for 51 high school campers. The week was packed with running, swimming, conditioning, and lectures. My own running was jump started back into existence with my little training camp. The week looked like this:

Saturday: raced the Bill Luti 5mile road race, total of 7 miles for the day with warmup and cooldown. I finished in 5th place among women in 31:28. I was happy, since 6:30 pace was my goal and I hit 6:20s.
Sunday: 3miles
Monday: 3miles AM, 3miles PM
Tuesday: 4miles at 6AM, 3.5 more miles at 7:15AM, then 3.5 miles PM
Wednesday: 6miles at 6AM, 3miles at 7:15AM, 4 miles PM with fartlek on cross country course
Thursday: 6miles at 6AM, 2miles at 7:15Am, 5.5miles PM with 1xDeath Hill
Friday: 7mile at 6:30AM, 1.5miles with sprint work at 9AM
I typically don't calculate a weekly training block to run from Saturday to Friday, but since I hadn't been running in, like, 6 weeks and I did my first run in the race on Saturday, I decided to add up the miles for the week starting with the race. So I ran 100k in 7 days. That impressed me since the highest mileage week I ever did in college was maybe 45.

I hadn't really been back to Keene since I moved out in 1999, and I hadn't run there since I graduated. There is something about being back on campus, being back on my old training loops, that stirred my love of running. These were the trails where I became a serious athlete. This was where it all began. Running with my college coach, racking up the miles... nostalgic doesn't even begin to describe it. I never planned on adding the morning runs, in fact, I had my bike with me with the intention of getting an hour or so in every morning before the kids' first run.

But even though I began my cycling career there, I equate Keene with running. And living on campus in the dorms made me feel like I was back in college again. So I ran. I had to get up every morning at 4:45, stumble two blocks down the street to Cumby's for coffee, then back to the dorm. Pete and I would head out for 4-6 miles on the trails at 6, before the campers got up. We'd be back by 6:45, ready to wake them and head our on run number 2. After morning session, lunch, and afternoon session, we did our afternoon workout. Then back to the dorm for a quick change and some easy swimming to relax the legs. Then on to dinner, then evening games like volleyball or capture the flag...then back to the dorm for movies (Showdown, Run Like Hell), then bed. I basically immersed myself in running for the past 6 days

I think I may have inadvertently cancelled the rest of my cycling season. The bike doesn't really interest me at the moment.

100K weeks, however, seems damn appealing.

I should be ready for Reach the Beach. And a fall marathon is starting to seem more like a reality than a dream.

Thursday, July 26, 2007

The True Locomotive

In Steve’s blog entry a few weeks back he referred to me as a locomotive on the track. And, while I appreciate his compliment, I know that there was only one “Locomotive”. He is my running idol and his name was Emil Zatopek.

Emil Zatopek was born in 1922 in Czechoslovakia. He started running at age 18 when he was ordered to participate in a race by the sports coach at the shoe factory in which he worked. A mere four years later he held the Czech national records for the 2k, 3k & 5k distance.

In 1952, at the Helsinki Olympic Games, Emil did the impossible. He won the 5k, 10k & marathon in the span of 8 days, breaking the Olympic records for all three in the process. And, the marathon was his first ever! At one point, he held every world record from the 5k up to the 30k and had won something like 40 consecutive 10k races.

Zatopek was not known for his gracefulness. His running form was not considered to be a very efficient style at the time. His head would roll, face contorted with effort, while his torso swung from side to side. He often wheezed and panted audibly while running, which earned him his nickname.

But, what Emil lacked in style he more than made up for in heart and courage. He just plain trained (and raced) harder than anyone else was willing (or able) to do. In the winter he would run through the snow in heavy army boots. And, when the snow melted, he was known to do as many as 80 - 400 meter repeats in one track session.

Here are a few of my favorite Zatopek quotes:

"Why should I practice running slow? I already know how to run slow. I want to learn to run fast.”

"If you want to win something, run the 100 meters. If you want to experience another life, run a marathon."

"I was not talented enough to run and smile at the same time."

"It's at the borders of pain and suffering that the men are separated from the boys."

Sometimes, when I'm having a difficult time getting motivated for a run, I just think of how hard he worked at becoming such a great runner. And, that run usually ends up being my best workout of the week. If I could be one iota of the runner that Emil Zatopek was, I’d be pretty happy.

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Real Men Blow Chunks

Ok. So, last week the running club I belong to (The Gate City Striders) held it annual "Ultimate Workout". The "UW" typically occurs during a break between the two halves of our track season and consists of 4 distances (400, 800, 1 mile & 2mile). Each participant runs these back to back with about 6-8 minutes rest in between. It's sort of like "Survivor" for runners. And, the key to success is to not run any one of the four "all out" since the competition is age-graded and each distance is worth 25% of your total score. Of course, in my case, knowing the key and using the key are two very different things!

The first event was the 400. And, to say I was psyched up wouldn't even begin to describe what I was feeling. I used to run track in high school, and since I was the slowest runner on my team, track meets were not my favorite places to be. Being lapped repeatedly in the mile will do that to a person. However, we were 20 years removed from that time & place. And, this was my first track meet since I graduated. Let's just say I was slightly eager for a bit of personal redemption.

So, the race starts and I bolt to the front. Up on my toes and leaning into the first turn. Down the back stretch I feel like I'm flying. This is why I run. This feeling right now. I take the far turn and I can't hear anyone behind me. In fact I can't hear anything at all. I'm all alone. I start down the front stretch and I can just make out the clock at the finish. 45 ... 46 ... 47. My legs are starting to get heavy as I race toward the line. It is at this point that I start to feel like I'm floating above the track watching the race unfold before me. The clock gets blurry as I get closer. What does it say?!?! I dig down for one more moment and then it's all over. I collapse on the curve and look down at my watch. 1:00.9 - a personal best 400 by 5 seconds. So much for not going all out.

Five minutes later they announce it's time for the 800. What?!?! My heart rate isn't even close to normal levels. It feels like I'm still running, for crying out loud! So I reluctantly amble up to the line. And, as the race starts I think to myself, "this is going to be a long night".

I survived the 800 in 2:31. And, started to feel a little more like myself during the mile which I finished in 5:32. For the two mile I chased the lead runner as hard as I could but never closed the gap. My time of 12:03 would have easily surpassed my best high school mark. But, as I crossed the line, all I could think about was lying down. I got to the infield and proceeded to get violently ill. Oh yeah. I remember this feeling. This sucks.

After I recovered, I sat back (in a different spot) and reflected on my evening. One first, two seconds, a third and one exorcism. Not bad for a nights work. As I staggered back to my car preparing to head on home, I thanked God that this "Ultimate Workout" was finally over.

I can't wait until the next one!

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Fryer Tuck Route

I work in Tewksbury, MA at the corner of Route 495 and 133. I'm a Software Engineer who sits on his fat a*s all day writing Linux code. I try to take a break everyday at lunch to get out and run a few miles. I found some nice running routes around here ranging in distance between 4 and 8 miles. The hills aren't too bad, but I wish there were more of them. I used to work in Greenville, NH and the hills around Mason were my training ground for about 2 years. There were also some gorgeous, isolated trails around that area where you could run completely n*ked if you wanted and no one would know. I wouldn't know anything about that though since I'm the shy, reserved type of person. :) But I decided that I wanted to change gears in my career so I took a job down here in Tewksbury.

One of my favorite routes is something I call the Fryer Tuck route. It's a 7.7 mile route that includes 3 good hills and some nice, quiet neighborhoods. It's a far cry from the isolated trails in Greenville, but at least I'm out running and not being run off the road too many times by a Soccer mom balancing a phone in one hand and a coffee cup in the other. Right smack in the middle of this course is a Francsiscan Monestary. Attached to the monestary is a very large and old Retreat house. The monestery is a modest building with a large fence surrounding the compound. The larger Retreat house is surrounded by wide open fields. Once in a while I see Fryer Tuck walking around the grounds. Actually, I don't know if it really is Fryer Tuck. I don't even know if the person is a male or female. It's a human (I assume) in a brown robe with a rope tied around the middle and they sometimes have their hood on. They remind me of those sand people in the original Star Wars, but much, much larger. And fatter.

Running gives me plenty of time to think and I think a lot about this place. I wonder what God must think of these people, walling themselves off from the rest of society, not contributing to the common good by not paying taxes, living off the donations of hard working people, not facing the stresses and challenges of life like the rest of us. They don't need to deal with job deadlines, nasty bosses, kids issues like drugs, s*x and rebellion. I'm not sure if this is what God intended for us. I believe that humans grow, both physically and spiritually, through hardship and struggle. From what I can see of the Fransiscan Monestery, these people don't have much hardship. The Retreat house makes me laugh every time. What do these people have to retreat from? My retreat is usually 10 minutes alone in the bathroom reading my Runners World. I can't imagine putting life on hold to retreat away. It's just not possible. Do I want to? Sure! I want to do a lot of things that just aren't possible. I think everyone does.

So I run past the Monestery and the little gift shop and the beautiful grounds as I continue on my run. I soon forget all about Fryer Tuck, until the next time I run this route.

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Too much of a good thing

I've read somewhere that running is good for you. So lots and lots of good, hard running must be even better. Right? Wrong. I don't know why I keep relearning this lesson. Any idiot can run themselves into the ground. Trust me on this one. I'm the king of doing that. But proper training consists of knowing what kind of workouts to do, at what intensity, and most importantly, when to back off and let your body absorb all the hard work. It's that last part that I struggle with. Running involves a certain amount of masochism as we push ourselves beyond our comfort zones. This creates a mindset that if we're not working hard during our workouts, then we're not running properly.

Last week was the Fourth of July holiday and a few of us on the team decided to run the Sparkler 5K in Merrimack. The day before the race I went out for an easy 5 miler and it was a total disaster. I couldn't run for more than 5 minutes without my legs burning and my body feeling just terrible. I decided to do a walk/run instead. But what a horrible feeling. I've always taken great pride in my ability to run and it's totally demoralizing to be walking like that. There wasn't much else to do other than ponder why my body felt like it did. There are 2 likely reasons. The first, and least likely, is that something very bad is going on in my body. The second, and more likely reason, is that I'm beating up my body and not giving it sufficient time to recover.

For the past year I've studied as much as I can about training and how to do it properly. I know the importance of rest. I know that the body does not get stronger during hard workouts. It gets stronger during recovery. Proper training is based on the simple principle that improvement is gained from repeated cycles of stress/recover, stress/recover. Too much stress leads to burnout and/or injury. Too much rest leads to an erosion of fitness. Finding that balance is the key to a successful training program.

After the Sparkler, I decided to take 2 complete rest days. No biking, no swimming and no running. On the 3rd day I ran an easy 5 miles and I felt great! I've since run 5 miles on the tmill and I successfully ran my 7.7 mile Fryer Tuck route (I'll describe the Fryer Tuck route in another post) on a very hot day and I felt strong. I forced myself to go slow, but still averaged 7:30 pace. That's a good sign. I plan to give myself a little more time to recover, then I'll reintroduce the more intense workouts, but with sufficient rest to avoid the downward spiral of overtraining this time.

Monday, July 9, 2007

Summertime Blues

Since I raced on Wednesday the 4th (my usual speed work day) I decided to do my track workout on Friday instead. I was slightly concerned going into this one because I had gotten a little lightheaded from the heat and humidity during my previous days run. But, my schedule said "6 x 1,200". So, I decided I was going to at least give it a try.

The training program called for these to be done at my current 5m pace(1:30/400, or 4:30/1200) with 1/2 rest (2:15). It looked to be the perfect workout to help me prepare for my next race in 2 weeks (Bill Luti - 5 Miler - July 21st). So, my goal for this workout was to target 1:28/400 with no lap higher than 1:30 (or lower than 1:26) and see if I could make it through without falling on my face.

It was about 85 degrees with what felt like 100% humidity as I started my warm-up. 2 easy miles then right into the workout. First set: 1:29, 1:27, 1:27 - 4:23 (felt OK, boy it's hot). Second Set: 1:27, 1:29, 1:27 - 4:23 (sweating profusely, shirt comes off). Third Set: 1:27, 1:27, 1:29 - 4:23 (well, at least I'm consistent). Fourth Set: 1:31 (damn) 1:26, 1:27 - 4:24 (oops, spoke too soon). Fifth Set: 1:30, 1:30, 1:25 - 4:25 (that one was all over the place) Sixth & Final Set: 1:30, 1:28, 1:28 - 4:26 (that one was a grinder). 2 miles cool-down and I set off to sweat in my car for the ride back to the office. AC is a wonderful thing.

74 miles for this week and the heat is definitely getting the better of me. It's only July 6th and I'm already looking forward to the end of summer and the cooler weather. What's wrong with me?!?! I guess I must be a runner.