Monday, September 24, 2007

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!

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