Monday, September 24, 2007

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!

No comments: