It’s safe to say I’ve been bit by the relay bug. Or I’m certifiably insane. I’ll let you make the call on that one. Ragnar Cape Cod was an absolute blast and blew my expectations out of the water, which only made the excitement level rise for Hood to Coast in August. I soaked in every moment on each of my three legs in Oregon during HTC since it’ll probably be the only time I’m lucky enough to run that race. And by the time my flight home from Oregon touched down in Austin, plans were already in the works for relay #3 in 2014.
New Balance extended an invitation to be a part of their media team, Pumped Up Kicks, for the Reach the Beach Relay in New Hampshire. There were only three weeks between the two relays and while my legs were screaming “I don’t think so!” I just couldn’t turn down the opportunity. They went above and beyond all weekend, from outfitting us head-to-toe with apparel + shoes to making sure we had everything we needed [vans, snacks, safety gear, etc.] to get us to the finish line successfully. Every possible detail was taken care of and it made the race much less stressful than it could have been.
Now, let’s meet the members of Pumped Up Kicks!
From Cannon Mountain to Hampton Beach
Leg 1 – 4.8 miles
I don’t know what my problem is, but for some reason I get unreasonably nervous before my first leg of each relay. The thought of being Runner 1 or 6 seems absolutely horrifying. This was my first time being in Van 2 and… can’t say I loved it. There was a lot of ‘hurry up & wait’ and it felt like we were sitting around for most of the day. Needless to say, I was really anxious to get the hell out of the van by the time it was my turn to run. Melissa handed off the slap bracelet to me after finishing her leg uphill on a grassy knoll [rude] and I took off in the other direction.
The first half mile was a steep uphill and even though I wanted to haul ass to the top to get it over with, I kept a steady pace and tried not to waste energy. At the top we turned left on Chocorua Rd and then right on White Mountain Highway, where I’d stay for almost the rest of the leg. The views were GORGEOUS. I wanted to get my phone out and snap a few photos, but I knew I’d either [a] trip/fall trying to get my phone out of my belt or [b] have to stop to walk and never be able to start running again. Yes, I realize how dramatic option b is. My nerves were trying to get the best of me but I focused on the beautiful New Hampshire views and chatted with fellow racers along the way. I couldn’t get over how great I felt. I mean, the miles felt hard but my legs were handling them well and it was impossible to wipe the perma-grin off my face. Ahh, running. Sometimes you are oh-so-amazing.
The miles ticked away and before I knew it we were turning into White Lake State Park towards the transition. I came in slightly under my projected time [which previously felt a little ambitious] and sent Lorraine on her way to finish out our van’s first set of legs.
Leg 2 – 8.8 miles
I mentioned in my Hood to Coast recap just how much I loved the night leg and wished it was longer. Welp, ask and you shall receive! We didn’t find out our leg assignments until the week before the race and when I saw the almost 9 mile leg, it instilled quite a bit of fear in me. The last time I ran that far was… January? My projected pace definitely felt ambitious for a leg this long, but I tried not to think about it.
Side note: I have to commend my vanmates for their dedication to support each runner during these night legs. Everyone was beyond tired and borderline cranky, but we all took turns driving and making sure the runner who was ‘on’ had everything they needed.
I broke the leg up mentally into three 3-mile sections which somehow made it seem manageable. My teammates leapfrogged me in the van, waiting at miles 3 and 6, which gave me something to look forward to every half-hour. The first six miles were a freakin’ breeze. It was pitch black out and there were red blinky lights lining the road as far the eye could see. My legs were starting to feel a little fatigued at this point but the sun was starting to come up and I tried to just focus on the view to keep me moving along. By some sort of miracle I managed to cruise into the exchange right on time – despite all of those negative thoughts about the pace being too fast for a leg this long. Allie was the only one awake when I got back in the van so she was the lucky person who got to hear about how much I OMG LOVE RUNNING for 10 straight minutes without taking a single breath.
Leg 3 – 3.4 miles
Not even going to bother sugarcoating this: my last leg was MISERABLE. Sure, it was the shortest, the least hilly, and the sun was perfectly hidden behind the clouds. But it also came when my legs already had 13+ miles on them. They were done running, they had had enough. I boarded the struggle bus and slogged my way to Exchange 35, handing off to Lorraine for the last time and sent her on her way to Hampton Beach.
I have to extend a HUGE thank you to New Balance [especially Mary + Caitlin, the dynamic duo who made the magic happen] for the opportunity to be a part of their media team for this year’s Reach the Beach Relay. They put together a stellar team of women to document the journey from Cannon Mountain to Hampton Beach and I couldn’t have asked for a better group!