what a blur of 1 day and 1 hour, 50 minutes and 53 seconds. Yep, that’s right. My team, The Dirty Harriers, finished Reach the Beach in 25:50:53. I think that’s freakin’ amazing. It’s a 7:48 m/m average pace. No, I did not go that fast. But I went fast for me!
Here’s how it unfolded:
Most of our team met up at the captain’s house where we loaded gear into the 2 vans (a minivan and a 12 passenger). There were nine of us present (3 of us were meeting the group at Mountain Creek, the start). Our team, #1 btw, was scheduled to start at 11am. There had been start groups every half hour all morning. There were two or three start times after ours.
We got off to a good start, especially as the 1st leg was shortened by about a mile (due to blasting in the area). This put us “ahead” of schedule. Our team captain had done up an elaborate spreadsheet that included paces and estimated start/finish times. Because of this shortened leg, we felt like we were cruising. The first 12 transitions, both vans traveled together, with Van 1 supporting runners 1-6 and Van 2 supporting runners 7-12. I was in Van 2. My legs: 8, 20, 32.
Going into the event, I was a bit nervous. I knew the team captain was a strong and fast runner. And that most of the men on the team were even faster, but it wasn’t until I got into the car that I realized how seriously all these men run. They all work killer jobs (most in the city) with long hours, and running is their “thing.” And they had all been serious high school cross country and /or track athletes, and continued that on the collegiate level. Two were consistently in the 5:15 m/m range, while most of the others were under 7 m/m. I am a slowpoke.
It is at this point that I’m so glad I made cookies.
But, as the drive continued, and the rotation kept moving, I felt more at ease. These guys were sincerely fine with the fact that I was a slower runner. They do these events for the love of the sport and the camaraderie, and since I was equally enthusiastic, they were more than welcoming. But I’m still glad I made the cookies.
I got to run my first leg about 2:45 in the afternoon. The weather to this point had been a mixed bag with a warm-ish and sunny morning that changed over to rain at the start, and then by leg 3, a fierce and bitter wind had picked up. I got my hand-off from runner 7 (Mike) who ran at a 7:30ish pace, and I took off. My leg was 3.4 miles, and I just booked it. It had some rolling hills, but nothing too tough. I finished up strong at 30.44, an 8:54 m/m. Just slightly off my 5k time. I found it a bit hard to gauge my speed–even though this is a ‘race,’ for the most part I was alone on the road, so there were no nearby bodies to try to keep up with, etc.
The rotation continued, the wind got fiercer, and my next leg came a bit early at 1:30am. This leg was 3.7 miles, and I ran it at a 9:34 pace. It was a bit scary, because of the pitch darkness (even with headlamps, etc, it was soooo dark). But it was also fun–this leg was in such a rural area, with long rolling hills, it reminded me a bit of Maine and it was easy to get lost in my thoughts which made the entire distance go by quickly.
The winds stopped sometime near dawn, and the day started sunny (but chilly). My last leg was 5.7 miles, and I was nervous about the distance, especially after a fairly sleepless night. But as luck would have it, Mike (my hand-off runner) had a bit of an asthma attack (not serious) which made him pull out of his 5 mile leg at mile 2. I jumped in to replace him (as per the rules), and everyone else shifted down a leg. I finished those three miles in 27:41 (8:59 pace).
Because of the shift in legs, our number one runner, Pat, got to finish the race, but we all joined him to cross the finish line on the sand in Seaside Heights–what great fun.
My thoughts on the first annual RTB, NJ:
- excellent logistics and coordination–the roads were well marked, the transition areas very organized, and the porta-johns were always clean.
- great community support–the larger vehicle transition areas were all at churches and schools, and each had some sort of community group selling warm food, etc. The people were lovely
- Western NJ is amazing. It’s beautiful and rural and, well, beautiful. I’m glad I got to see it and experience it on foot.
- there were only 40 teams participating in this event for its inaugural year. I hope the RTB company decides to continue doing it here in NJ–many of the other teams I spoke to had come from Philly and NYC, so I think the potential is there for growth. I hope this is all part of their long-term growth model, because it’s a wonderful showcase for the state, and a fantastic course.
- I couldn’t have been part of a better team. It takes a lot for 11 people who’ve been running together at events like this for several years to open their doors to a newcomer, much less a slower woman. But these guys were amazing, and we genuinely had so much fun. Oh, and they loved the cookies.
- boy, it’s hard to sleep in a van. I had snuggled in the back of the 12 passenger amongst the duffle bags, and at one point, one of my teammates (who didn’t realize I was back there) started throwing more duffle bags on top of me. We all got a good laugh out of that.
- I will definitely do this again.
this is me before legs 1 and 2, and after leg 3.