I got suckered into this relay months and months ago. A guy that used to live down here (that I still keep in touch with) asked me to join his relay team. He's a very fast guy, and his goal was to put a team together that could win the coed division. I did "know" a few people on the team from a few years back when I used to read and post on RW forums. The few days prior to the relay were TERRIBLE. I was so, so swamped at work and with XC stuff. I felt like I would never get it all together to be able to leave. It's times like this when I wish I had a "normal" profession where I could just take off and be off. I mean, I was off work for 2 days, but it took me 3 days to get everything ready to be gone. Ridiculous. Nonetheless, I was on a plane early Thursday morning to New Hampshire, ready to run.
We went for a shake-out run that evening at the base of the beautiful New Hampshire mountains. And there was a bear in the playground at the hotel. Let me say that again. THERE WAS A BEAR IN THE PLAYGROUND OF THE HOTEL! People were gathered in the parking lot taking pictures of it. I was so fascinated by it that I wasn't even afraid. It was just nosing around near the bottom of the slide, like it belonged there.
Our team was in the last starting group, and I was Runner #12. That meant that I didn't even start my last leg until about 11 p.m. At this point, I was absolutely petrified of the hills. No, not hills, MOUNTAINS. A gal on our team that is about my speed ran an average of 7:17 for a 6 mile leg. I had to prepare myself for slower paces. For that reason, I had very good plans to run my first leg fairly easy (4 miles). I was one of the lucky ones to have not one, but TWO legs where the vans actually did not follow the exact path of the runner. In this particular leg, we started at the back of a state park and met the main road after about a mile. The map didn't mention that this was gravel. Grave + nighttime + new territory + fog = Me running scared like a bat out of hell. I really don't know what happened to me on that first leg. I know that I got scared as crap out there and wanted to see a van ASAP. I must not have been the only one b/c I ran up behind a lady and she screamed at the top of her lungs. Hahaha. Then she laughed and said, "I wish I could keep up with you. I'm too scared to run alone." It was pitch black, like can't see your hand in front of your face. And because of the fog, I couldn't see the Garmin, even when I pushed the light on. Oh well. I must've crashed and burned after that first mile b/c my average pace was 6:33.
My 2nd leg was going to be my toughest leg- 7 miles on VERY mountainous road. Our van collectively decided to try 5 Hour Energy. This was my very first experience with caffeine before a run. It was... different. I will say that my energy levels felt consistent. I will also say that when I was running up hills, I thought my heart was going to explore. Of course, that could also b/c I'm not used to running hills that steep. Who knows. My 2nd leg started around 6 a.m.? Not too sure. It was still dark. I had no idea what to expect, and had decided to run by effort. I maintained fairly steady average pace, but halfway through I switched Garmin screen to lap pace. I wanted to see the difference in pace on the ups vs. downs. I'm glad I did. My 6th mile was 7:27 pace. OUCH. This was obviously up. I made up for it on the downhill and ran a 5:50 last mile. Hahaha. In fact, I was running so fast towards the transition area, I had to slow down so I wouldn't bust it on some pine straw. Average pace for that segment was 6:42.
I could not sleep at all between the 2nd and 3rd leg. Everyone from my van slept but me and one other guy. We just walked around one of the transition areas and put our team magnets on tons of vans. Haha. I also tried to clean the van at this point, but finally gave up b/c I couldn't do it without disturbing the sleeping beauties. At the start of Van #2's final legs, we determined that we were in 4th overall and were winning coed by large margin. After 3 runners from our van, we realized we had a shot a 3rd overall. One girl made up ground and temporarily closed the gap on 3rd place. Unfortunately, the runner after her (before me) lost some of that ground. Not placing blame, though, they likely had a faster runner put in there. No worries. Anyway, we were hanging at the last transition area and I heard the guy from the 3rd place team say he was going to try to run 6:30s. It was only a 4 mile leg, and I didn't feel *too* bad; so I thought I might could do it.
When I set off behind him, I was able to keep him in sight for my first mile. 6:08. Yeah... I don't know where in the world THAT came from. Before Mile 2, he was out of sight, but I still ran a 6:11. I got to a boardwalk area and didn't know which way to go. The map had said to stay on the same road, but it literally forked in 2, and I had to make a decision. I actually stopped for a second to try to locate road signs. (I had written notes on my arm. Hahaha, when you get lost in races, you do stuff like this.) I finally had to ASK someone, and then I was on my way. This brought down my average pace to 6:22 which I held all the way until 3.65. At that point, I hit the beach. I was nearly there and could see my team in the distance. Of course, I had to run half a blasted mile in the unpacked, nasty New Hampshire sand. *Side note: Their sand is so gross compared to Gulf Coast sand. Eww.
Yes, he gets his own section. When we were at the start, one of my teammates pointed to a guy and said, "Doesn't that guy look just like Brian Sell?" Being that I met him in Seattle a few years ago, I knew that it was actually HIM. After some chitchat with other teams, we found that he was on a relay team. A guy in our group was dieing to meet him, but we just watched from afar and made bets on how badly they were going to whip us. At Transition 7 or 8, we saw him again. This time he was standing RIGHT next to us. The guy on our team that really wanted to meet him kept nudging me and pointing at him. I finally just walked up to him and asked if we could meet him and get a picture. He even told me that I looked familiar!!!!! He was really fun to talk to him, even if I did make a total imbecile of myself. We were discussing Brooks (my gear, his gear, and how we're both sponsored by them), when I noticed his "other brand" shorts. I said, "Uh oh, how would they feel about those?" followed by the most idiotic laugh I was capable of. He says, "Well, I think they would be OK. I got these shorts in Beijing. They have a lot of sentimental value." And then the ground opened up for me to fall into. Insert foot into mouth. We saw him and his team later at the beer tent, and we got a table right next to theirs. Yeah, we're stalkers like that. Brian Sell congratulated us. Yep, he did.
*Side story: My feet were getting really sick of wearing running shoes. So, I bought some $3 flip flops at a gas station. I wore them between legs and was wearing them after the race at the beer tent.
Brian Sell says to me, "I wish I had remembered my flip flops. I really need some." And to sum up the story, I gave him my flip flops, and he offered me his Brooks shoes in return. Stupidly, I declined. I took one look at the shoes and determined they were very much not new. They were nasty. We ended up hanging with them for a little while longer. He and his team were hilarious, really great guys. Come to find out, they only beat us by an hour!
Final stats for the team:
1st coed, race record time
6:05 pace average for the team
Sunday night we went to a famous place that sold fresh steamed lobster. I had never eaten lobster; so this was a new experience for me. It was delicious! I also tried some clam chowder, but wasn't as much of a fan of than.
The title of this blog post comes from the Lisa Loeb song. We jammed out to it in the van before our last legs. Those words became our mantra. While I love relays b/c of the experience and fun, GEE, they are hard to recover from. My legs were well enough early in the week to do my regularly scheduled speed workout, but I am still worn out from it.