2014 Reach the Beach New Hampshire Recap

Team Pumped Up Kicks

When I was in college, one of my favorite shows was MTV’s Real World. I was in awe of the ridiculous houses that they lived in and the drama – oh the drama.

Over the weekend, I was invited to be part of the New Balance Blogger Team for Reach the Beach Relay. It felt like we were on a runner’s version of the Real World – 6 stinky runner living together in a van over 36 hours. This is what happens when you stop being polite and start being real. We even has a videographer following us around during parts of the race, filming our experience and cornering runners, breathless and tired after their hand-off to the next runner, to interview them about their run and experience.

There wasn’t all the Real World drama, but I did run through a whole spectrum of emotions during the Reach the Beach Relay in New Hampshire.

Scared. Terrified. Exhilarated. Exhausted. Proud. Giddy.

Determined. Sore. HUNGRY. Cold. TIRED.

Reach the Beach packing

The week before the race, we found out which runner we would be. I was assigned to be Runner 5 and would run 18.8 miles.

Whoa.

One of my biggest concerns going into Reach the Beach were my nagging injuries. I didn’t want to aggravate them. I haven’t run that many miles in a 24 hour period (or even 36 hour period) since I ran my last marathon in 2003. I typically don’t run consecutive days because it doesn’t always agree with my body. I wasn’t sure how I was going to handle this. I literally made myself sick over the weekend worrying about it.

Then I let it go and decided to give myself entirely over to this experience.

Team Pumped Up Kicks New Balance Factory Tour

I left for Boston on Wednesday and met up with Team Pumped Up Kicks and the folks from New Balance.

Thursday morning, I went for a quick shake-out run along the Charles River, one of my favorite places to run. Then, a tour of the New Balance factory and off to New Hampshire for dinner with all of the New Balance teams (12 in total!).

We were snuggled into a townhouse near Mount Washington and Bretton Woods for the night, getting a last night of good sleep before our early morning wake-up call.

Gorgeous New Hampshire

Gorgeous New Hampshire

Reach the Beach takes you from Cannon Mountain in the White Mountains of New Hampshire to Hampton Beach. Typically, there are 12 runners on a team split into two vans.

The first van runs the first six legs of the race, handing off a slap bracelet from runner to runner. Runner 6 then passes on the bracelet to Runner 7, the first runner in Van 2. Van 2 then tackles the next six legs of the race. Each runner runs 3 legs of the race.

When your van is on, you can support your runner, offer them fuel or water, and stop along the side of the road to cheer. When your van isn’t running, you can rest or go get a real meal.

Reach the Beach start

Race Start

Our start time was 7am, but we were supposed to arrive at least an hour early to do a safety check-in, orientation and registration before sending our first runner (Jess) off. After getting slightly lost on our way to the start and a couple of other snafus, we barely got Jess to the start line on time!! We then took off in Van 1 to support Jess on her run.

Jess passed on to Carrie who passed on to Theodora who passed on to Gia who would pass on to me and I would pass on to Melissa.

I started to get nervous sitting in the van, calculating when I should eat, how much water to drink, and if I would have enough time to go to the bathroom before my run. It was also colder than I was expecting so I had a slight panic attack thinking about whether or not I was dressed properly for my run.

Runner 5 – Leg 5

Around 10:15am, I saw Gia make her way to the exchange and at 10:18 I was off.

RTB Leg 5

Ready to start running Leg 5 of Reach the Beach New Hampshire

Reach the Beach Leg 5

Reach the Beach New Hampshire Leg 5

Leg 5 of Reach the Beach runs through Crawford Notch. It was mostly downhill with a total elevation loss of 311 feet. I didn’t want to start too fast and trash my quads on my first leg of the relay. It took me a little longer to find my stride than I was expecting but it was a beautiful stretch of road and the sun started to come out.

5.6 miles – 50:04 minutes – Average Pace: 8:57 min/mile 

Melissa (Runner 6) handing off to Allie (Runner 7)

Melissa (Runner 6) handing off to Allie (Runner 7)

I handed off to Melissa who ran the last leg of our van. We met up with Van 2 at the next transition area and it was really great to have the whole team together cheering as we handed off to Allie and Van 2. Then, it was time to eat!

We were near North Conway, NH and stopped for lunch at Flatbread Company Pizza (thanks Sarah for the suggestion!). So delicious. But I could feel that we were all starting to come off our running high and beginning to crash.

We drove to the next transition area where we would meet Van 2 and made ourselves comfortable on the tennis courts at a school in Tamworth. I thought that I would be able to sleep but couldn’t shut my brain off. So I laid down for a while and then stretched, yoga-ed and foam rolled. I’m really glad that I did that because that was the only time during the race that I was able to do that.

I also got a chance to see Sarah again and to meet Sandra in person! They look like they are ready to run while I look like I’m in the pajamas.

Tennis Courts

Team Pumped Up Kicks at Transition 12

Sarah and Sandra

Nighttime Run

As the sun began to set, Van 2 rolled into transition and soon Lorraine handed off to Jess and we were off on our second legs of the relay.

I have to admit – the nighttime run was the leg that I was most worried about. Luckily, Carrie agreed to switch with me so I ended up running 6.5 miles (Leg 16) instead of 9.1 (Leg 17) I was originally slated for. Thank you Carrie!!

I was still worried about running at night since I’ve never done that. But in my mind, I knew that if I could make it through this run, I would be OK.

Running at night meant we had to wear all of our safety gear – reflective vest, blinky lights, headlamp. Even with all that gear, it was hard to keep track of our runner.

In fact, we lost track of our runner three times (gah!) and weren’t able to support them well. Two runners beat our van to the transition because we didn’t realize that they had passed us on the road! Theodora actually had to call us to let us know that she was done and waiting. I jumped out of the van and ran to meet her and start my next leg of Reach the Beach.

Reach the Beach Leg 16

Leg 16 was 6.5 miles with a elevation loss of 743 feet and elevation gain of 712 feet. In my rush to meet Theodora, I never started my watch so I had to rely on just the clock time to gauge distance during my run.

I started running around 9pm and I loved it. The stars were a big, bright blanket over the sky. I looked up and found the Big Dipper and Orion, and I knew that I would be OK. Orion in the sky has always been a bit of a beacon for me.

I was focused on trying not to trip in a pothole or run off the road. But my van scared the heck out of me at one point because instead of waiting at the side of the road, they were driving towards me with my water bottle hanging out the window!

About a mile or mile and a half from the finish, I passed a gentleman. As soon as I passed him, he sprinted past me, ran for a while and then stopped and walked. I kept chugging along, my pace picking up slightly and passed him again. We would repeat this leap frog until the finish line but it took my mind off the darkness and kept me motivated. I wish I knew what pace we were running because we were both pushing our pace.

6.5 miles. Approximately 62 minutes. Approximately 9:32 min/mile.

Reach the Beach nighttime

After our Van handed off to Van 2, we drove to the next transition area at Bear Brook State Park. We arrived sometime after 1am. Jess and I decided to sleep outside in our sleeping bags. There were people sleeping everywhere. I slept from about 2am to 4am. When I woke up, it felt like a new day.

Around 7:45am, Jess was off again for her last leg. Our transitions were much smoother during the day and I think that everyone was happy to be running under the sun again.

Transition 28

Runner 5 – Leg 29

Leg 29 was 4.1 miles through the town of Danville with an elevation loss of 270 feet and elevation gain of 263 feet. This was one of those legs that they said was moderate and looked flat. Nope. Maybe that’s what flat is for New Hampshire??

I was surprised that my legs didn’t feel like lead after having already run two legs and I was surprised that I felt so awake. I decided that I wanted to race my last leg, to leave it all out there.

When Carrie came through transition, I took off. I tried to dial into a comfortably hard pace. I kept pushing my pace and pushing it up the hills. Just as my legs started to tire, I passed my van around 2+ miles into the run and they gave me a second wind.

RTB Leg 29

Trying to convince my vanmates that I’m fine and that the hills are no big deal. PS: I really wanted to catch that guy.

Finishing leg 29

This is not flat.

This is not flat.

I feel freaking proud of that last leg. I think that it’s the fastest I’ve run 4 miles in my life.

Then, we were done! We finished off and drove to Exeter to refuel. I stuffed my face with huevos rancheros, coffee, water and Diet Coke at Rogan’s and attempted to clean up a little bit. A few of us slept in the van and then we made our way to Hampton Beach to meet up with Van 2 and cross the finish line with Lorraine!

Hampton Beach

Reach the Beach Relay New Hampshire Finish Line

FINISH LINE!!!

Reach the Beach Team picture

33 hours. A little more sweaty and tired than when we started but all smiles.

We reached the beach and crossed the finish line in 33 hours, 43 minutes and 17 seconds.

Going into this event, I was convinced that if I made it out in one piece that this would be my one and only relay. Now? I’m not so sure!

Thanks again to New Balance and Reach the Beach for an amazing experience and for taking great care of us. It was definitely a memorable experience in so many ways.

Have you participated in a long distance relay? Love it or hate it?

Reach the Beach 2014 Posts:

{Disclosure: I participated in Reach the Beach Relay as a member of the New Balance media team. All race fees and travel expenses are covered and we received New Balance gear to wear during the race. I was not compensated for my participation or obligated to write this post. All thoughts and opinions are my own.}

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