Reach the Beach was never on my radar - it seemed a like a logistical nightmare that was more of a team building activity than a race. Well Jimmy Johnson changed all that when he set out to create a super team with the sole mission of winning. He rattled of a bunch of really fast runners, now we were cooking. In February, I blocked off my weekend for this race and was committed, regardless of my road fitness. Looking back at my training leading in, I was good to compete but certainly not breaking any new ground with my speed. Mostly endurance runs on the back half of the summer had left my legs strong but slow compared to the studs joining the CUTTERS.
Friday morning I drove down to Hampton to ditch a car at the state park. That was easy and I met up with the team to drive the minivans up to Bretton Woods, the start of the race. Easy. We checked in, got our bibs, and had plenty of time to relax. Our wave wasn't until 3:30, the last five teams to go. The start was uneventful and Matt Veiga took things out conservative but hammered the last climb up the ski trail. He came down with a nice lead and handed off to Jim Johnson. From there we never really looked back. Our lead grew from 20 seconds to 5 minutes over the course of our first six legs. After that we were catching teams that started hours before us and there wasn't any way to keep tabs on those behind us even if we wanted to.
My legs were easy but not really. The fist one was from the Highland Center in Crawford Notch down to the Willy House. A short 2.9 miles but with a 1.5 mile section that was 13% grade, it was a crusher. I was rolling 4:30 pace and my road flats were not the ideal shoe choice. If I had realized how steep that descent was I would have definitely gone with some cushion. Too late, damage was done and when I handed off in 14:35, I kicked my shoes off and had blisters. Sweet. I spent the rest of the legs getting video and taking photos. It wasn't the best sunset / golden hour but I still got some good content (video below). Our other van continued to crush legs, throwing down average paces in the 5:20 - 5:50 range.
With the other van running so fast, we had time for a quick meal at Subway before heading to the next exchange in Tamworth. I loaded up on cookies and other desserts and tried to take a nap. We had at least an hour of downtime but since it wasn't too late, sleep wasn't really happening. From Tamworth we cruised through the night and had a lot of fun in the process. My leg started with a solid climb which took its toll on the rest of my running. Getting the second leg done though felt great and I knew my last leg wouldn't be too bad since it would be daylight and half the vertical.
After our next van exchange we drove 45 minutes to Bear Brook where we got an hour of sleep. This was where things got tough - waking up from a deep power nap with tired legs. Our last legs went great. Our entire team performed without any hiccups. My blisters weren't a limiting factor which was huge but in the back of my mind I could help but think of the following weekend, the VT50. Was it worth it to ding up my legs more than necessary? The last leg for me was 5.7 miles - the first two miles were fast, the next three were incredibly challenging (not the terrain, but physically), and the last 0.7 I could smell the barn.
We had two more legs and made our final handoff to Van 2. Their legs were short making it tough to follow but we got some more footage and headed to the finish. Ragnar was still setting up the finish when we got there, definitely not ready for us. Kevin Tilton ran in the last leg and we joined him on the beach for the last 200 yards. It was a ghost town and we got our finishing medals then really had no choice but to leave or just wait an hour for food. The next team was over an hour behind us and I had a wedding to go to in Portsmouth. I don't think anyone stuck around. I made my way to Portsmouth and spent the next seven hours on my feet, hobbling around with tight calves and sore feet.
Recovery didn't go so well. Blisters were a non-issue by Monday but those calves were absolutely shredded. I did my best to roll and stretch but here I am a week later and I can still feel the soreness. Should make for an interesting race tomorrow (VT50).