Real Madrid 5 - 1 FC Basel
M. Suchy 14’ (GPP)
G. Bale 30’
C. Ronaldo 31’
J. Rodríguez 36’
K. Benzema 79’
So, if you’ve been following along at home, then you know that from 7:30AM on Friday until sometime around 3:30PM Saturday I was taking part in one of the most epic relay races ever: Reach the Beach.
Teams of twelve runners (or six if you’re especially ridiculous) take turns running various distances to cover the 207 miles from Cannon Mountain in Franconia, NH to Hampton Beach in Hampton, NH. I’d say it’s going from one of the highest towns in the state to the lowest- which is technically true- but that makes it sound like it’s an entirely downhill run and New Hampshire doesn’t do that. This course rolls, and rolls, and rolls- and, in the process, goes through some of the most beautiful landscape: White Mountain National Forest, various state parks, a handful of little cities, and a lot of quaint New England towns.
On a twelve person team, each runner will run three legs of the race. Teams travel in vans to shuttle runners to their starting lines; the first six runners are in one van, the second six in the other. While one van’s runners are on the course, the runners in the other van can eat, sleep, and whatever until they have to be ready to take over (so this involves lots of cell phone coordination and a good GPS). Thousands of volunteers, medical professionals, police officers and the like mark the course, man the transition zones (where one runner hands off to the next), hand out water, and generally cheer on the 500+ teams of lunatics who decide to do this every year.
Sound completely nutty yet?
This was my second time running. The first time I was on a really good team, so there was pressure to race hard. This time my team was all about the fun. We’re all friends and we figured we should do this ridiculous thing together- why not??? We had some fast runners, and some not so fast ones (like yours truly), but we didn’t really care either way. We just wanted to get across that finish line.
It was really cold at Cannon Mountain when we started because it was so early, but everyone was in high spirits. We made friends with the other teams in our wave, wished one another luck, and cheered our first runner off. Then we parted ways; the six runners in the first van hit the course, while me and the other five- van 2- went in search of breakfast.
We knew we had roughly five hours of downtime before we had to take over the race, and Attitash Ski Resort- the transition zone where we’d take it over- was only about an hour away. We actually drove just past it to eat at Glen Junction. Bacon and coffee were musts. After breakfast, we drove back to Attitash to wait, and by then the day was gorgeous: sunny, mid-60s, a slight breeze… Absolutely perfect for running.
We discovered a version of Cards Against Humanity that we could play on our phones. That’s how we passed the time. Yes, we are all horrible, horrible people. But it was funny.
And then our van was up! I was the 11th runner, so I still didn’t run for another couple hours. Instead, I cheered my teammates on and handled the navigation between transitions. I finally took the baton (which is actually a snap bracelet) midway through the afternoon at an inn in Tamworth, I ran 4.8 miles to White Lake State Park, which was a fantastic bit to run. I was having a good time of it, too, until my inhaler broke. Luckily, my van stopped ahead of me so I could switch it out for a functional one. Once I could breathe again, it was all good. Running in the park itself was the best; it is such a pretty area, and there were a lot of locals out to cheer.
After the 12th runner finished his leg we had another stretch of down time, so we went and got dinner (chocolate milk, salad, and pasta- so very athlete life- at a restaurant built to look like a giant barn), and played more Cards Against Humanity. We got a little lost trying to get to the transition zone in Gilford afterwards, but it wasn’t a big deal; something always goes wrong in a logistically complicated race like this, so that was it.
We had a couple hours to sleep. I, however, probably only got about twenty minutes. it’s hard to sleep when you’re keyed up to compete, and there’s noise, and all of that. So I knew my second leg was going to be pretty brutal. I tried to hydrate and eat enough to prep for it, and I told my teammates I’d be slow. I had no doubt I’d finish; I just knew it would be slow.
Because it was 8.8 miles.
It was about 5:00AM when I started. I ran from a parking lot in Pitsfield down Rt 28 to Webster Park in Epsom. It was gorgeous because the sky was full of stars, and there were a lot of other runners on the route (the faster teams start in later waves and catch up around that point), and nearly all of them wished me a good morning and commented on how perfect it was to be out there.
Funny thing: a lot of runners didn’t realize they could figure how far they’d gone by counting the mile markers on Rt 28. They had the fancy watches and phone apps, or they had their teammates shouting it to them from their vans. Me? I’m the smart one.
I was so not the fast one, though. I’d told my teammates I wouldn’t be, and it was all fine; I was making my merry way through the mileage, and at around 5.5 I just bonked. I’ve never felt my blood sugar drop the way it did then. I sent a quick text to my teammates because I knew they’d parked the van at mile six and I wanted them to get me Gatorade. They also got me candy the Lindt Chocolate team had given us earlier.
Seriously, it was like the candy of life right then. It was enough to get me through the rest of the run. I honestly enjoyed it, despite that. I watched the sun rise, I chatted with other runners nearby, it was all good. And my teammates, bless them, hooted and hollered when I came jogging into Webster Park. I think what I said once I’d handed the baton off was, “Oh my God, that was ASS!” That got lots of laughs. So true, though.
I got about an hour of sleep the next time our van camped out- at Sanborn High School- and then I went out to cheer on all the runners coming through. I wasn’t expecting to see my favorite runner ever cheering, too. That’s right: Josh Ferenc, the last hero and the only hope, was there as a spectator. I hollered his name and he came over to hug me, despite the fact that I was gross at that point. We chatted about the race, and my team, and about all of his mountain running exploits. I told him to hire me to translate for him next time he decides to run in a Spanish-speaking country. That should totally happen.
So that was pretty cool.
My final leg of running was 3.4 miles through North Hampton to Winnacunnet High School. It was all cute and residential, and smelling of autumn leaves already. I figured I had to throw down at that point, despite being sleep-deprived and sore. I finished fairly respectably, and then we hurried to the van so we’d be able to meet our twelfth runner on the beach and run the final stretch with him.
That part was awesome; all twelve of us crossed the line cheering while the hype man announced who we were.
It wasn’t a very beachy day at that point- too cold, too windy- so we didn’t stick around long. Another day, we’d have stayed and enjoyed the after party. Instead, we parted ways. A handful of us went to Texas Roadhouse- so awful, so delicious- and then made the long trek back north.
I’m still a bit tired and a bit sore, but it was so worth it. Reaching the beach always is.
Why Alysia Montano wears a flower in her hair during every race.
Even though she grew up playing football, shooting hoops and running races against all the boys in her neighborhood, U.S. 800-meter champion Alysia Montano never wanted to be thought of as one of them.
As a result, she started wearing a flower behind her right ear to remind the boys they were getting beat by a girl.
The flower remains Montano’s trademark even though her opponents are now world-class female middle-distance runners.
"The flower to me means strength with femininity," Montano said in June after winning the 800 at the U.S. Olympic trials. "I think that a lot of people say things like you run like a girl. That doesn’t mean you have to run soft or you have to run dainty. It means that you’re strong."