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Reach the Beach: A Relay Weekend

relay runners

A handoff

So. Relay #6 is in the bag: four Ragnar Great Rivers, a Bourbon Chase, and now a Reach the Beach New Hampshire, starting in 2009. Clearly I adore this race permutation and I’m still thankful to Mr. Bill for getting injured and allowing me to sub in for him that first year with the Loo Lovers Team. I’d dreamed about doing a relay for a few years prior, and I feel fortunate that I do, in fact, know at least 11 other people who are willing, on occasion, to do this with me.

Here are some tips I can offer, which I hadn’t seen in other what-to-expect lists for overnight relays. I admit: the list items do get increasingly esoteric, but well, this is a story about our Reach the Beach Relay, last weekend in New Haaamshah. Enjoy:

van art

Our scent was dope.

  1. Be a person who can fall asleep anywhere, anytime, with your body contorted in any way.
  2. If not #1, make sure that you get off your feet, and get your legs as horizontal as possible, as often as you can (when not running, of course). If you have to choose between a not-in-motion meal and feet-up time, choose the feet-up time and slam a leftover sandwich or Clif bar laying down.
  3. Renting larger passenger vans, not minivans, helps with this immensely.
  4. So does not ever having to be the driver. So, my heartfelt thanks to our four designated van drivers, on this last trip. Mark my words: I’ll help next time.
  5. Coca-Cola is the nectar of the gods, after running a relay leg. It has to be icy cold, even if the weather isn’t toasty. It’s heavenly. Visualize those nasty acids eating away at the exhaustion that will build up everywhere in your body. One of those small bottles is the perfect size. Nummy! Gatorade for the next exchange/transition area may be a good idea, nevertheless. Things always taste differently as you move into different cumulative lack of sleep segments.
  6. Huggs in form

    Hugs & a member of the awesome race staff/volunteer team

    Be okay with changes in your own gastrointestinal … rhythms. Porta-johns are everywhere, anyway.

  7. Be okay with van smells. Celebrate them! See photo, above right.
  8. If fate and a very thoughtful captain who knows about your plantar fasciitis deal you a less-than-3-miles last leg, make it a great run. One “kill” and a speedy (for me, at that hour) 8:40 pace will do it. Celebrate by buying a teeny-tiny but huge-in-flavor peach bread loaf from the locals at the transition area, when you’re done.
  9. Say yes to the team t-shirt. It’s way more fun. Duplicates might be handy, depending on when you take a team photo. That dupe can become a souvenir for the folks back home (assuming you clean it, first).
  10. Get a track coach who is also a seasoned relay runner, knows the race’s course, and also co-crafted a bicycle that can do a safe endo to join your team. You won’t be disappointed, especially if he sports a Hello Kitty hat when cheering for you.
  11. If it starts raining really, really hard, go and buy yourself a new raincoat at the L. L. Bean outlet. This move is guaranteed to make the rain leave your relay course relatively toute de suite. This is particularly helpful when you pack a sleeping bag and pad, but no tent.
  12. Cold leftover barbecued brisket sandwich, such as the kind served at Moat Mountain Brewery, is great relay food. Also: the Hoffman Weiss and Violet B’s Blueberry Ale there were excellent. Share a sampler with a teammate to feel better about drinking beer 4 hours before your relay leg!
  13. A great soundtrack, especially one that includes this, is key.
  14. Dunkin’ Donuts coffee is way overrated. The DD Boston Kreme doughnut, however, is not. It’s simply scrumptious, especially if you eat it in front of children on an airplane. Actually, “sheer torture” was the word used by an adult in a neighboring seat on our flight home.
  15. Do the relay with a crowd that is largely composed of particularly friendly and gifted-in-conversation people who also happen to be fellow alumni from a certain liberal arts college on the east side of the Cannon River in Northfield, Minnesota.
  16. Also be sure to include others in the group, to keep things balanced, real, and at times, sufficiently offensive.

Here’s to Team Smell Strong! and to another delightful long, strange trip in vans. Here are the rest of my photos.

Addendum on 9/18: I just realized that a brief review of this event may be in order. Here goes:

  1. The staff and volunteers were great! Reach the Beach NH was a very well-run relay event, overall.
  2. We had to keep an eye out for our incoming runner, as the volunteers didn’t tend to yell out numbers. Compared to my other relays, this took an adjustment, but perhaps this gets teams to pay more attention.
  3. The scenery was lovely, with the fall color just starting. Finishing at the coast at sunset, as we did, we particularly scenic.
  4. That said, our local team member told me that the area we ran through in the dark was absolutely gorgeous… but we didn’t get to see much of it other than the strip of headlamp-illuminated pavement in front of our swiftly-moving feet. Big bummer!
  5. The road shoulder was very narrow, if existent at all, on many of the roads we ran on. Which meant that they were lovely small country roads, with little traffic, but it still felt a little dangerous for a runner, and were not all that level. I’m glad that my training included trail running, to prepare my ankles for running for 7 miles at the same degree of pavement tilt.
  6. I don’t understand why so many of the communities we ran through requested to route the runner down the right-hand side of the road. I’d rather face traffic. Is this a New England thing?
  7. It was great that at many of the transition areas, local groups would set up tables and sell food to us. Chai from boy scouts and a hamburger & root beer at the high school were a godsend.
  8. This is 100% due to the fact that we were in New England, but I’ve never seen so many Boston Marathon finisher jackets! This year’s tragic event at Boston meant that there were also several teams whose t-shirts read something like Boston Strong. It was an inspired, inspirational lot.
  9. Ugh, there was way. Too. Much. Pink.
  10. Everyone we met was super friendly; much more so than on my prior relays. Even the lady managing parking at the late-night transition area in the particularly quiet-thirsty town of Madison. She gave our driver a pop quiz, to stall us for a minute or two. “So, what are three things that you can do in Madison?”

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