You might be asking yourself what the hell am I talking about?
What is Reach The Beach you ask?
Reebok Ragnar Reach The Beach (RTB) Relay is one of the oldest and longest running relay races in the United States. Reach the Beach takes place in picturesque New Hampshire during the start of the New England foliage season. The event will start at the Bretton Woods Ski area.
Reach The Beach (RTB) Relay began in 1999 by two multi-sport athletes with a goal of creating a 200-mile overnight team relay event that would run from the White Mountains, to the shores of the Atlantic Ocean and conclude at a beach front party in Hampton Beach, New Hampshire. It was bought by Ragnar in the past couple of years.
How it works
Reach The Beach consists of 12-person standard teams and 6-person ultra teams that will rotate through 36 transition areas as they cover the approximate 200-mile course. Each relay team member will run 3 legs (6 legs for ultras) of varying lengths and difficulty, and will cover an average total distance of about 16.6 miles (about 33 miles for ultras). Runners rotate in a set order once the race begins and will be obligated to follow this rotation until the final runner reaches the beach.
Doesn't this sound like the perfect way to spend your birthday? Well for me it was! In 2015, I ran my first RTB with New Balance to celebrate my 33rd birthday.
I had SOOOO much fun I'd be back in 2017 to ring in my 35th year with my Tedy's Team family. We ran Ragnar Cape Cod back in May so I was excited to tackle RTB to earn a special medal for doing both. Oh hey extra bling!
The team all slept at Nate's house the night before, but unfortunately I had to drive up morning of due to work commitments and well Laney having yet another vet appointment. So the wife drove me to Nate's house at 4am and that is another reason why she is the bestest.
We were out the door by 5:30am so we could get to Bretton Woods to check in on time... or as close to on time as possible for this crew. Punctuality isn't #TeamBringIt's strong suit. :P
We quickly checked in and rushed Melissa (Runner 1) to the Start Line.
We cheered her off for her first leg, made sure both vans had all the safety gear we needed and headed back to the vans.
I was in Van 2 and we were headed off to find some breakfast. We had a few hours before our van would be doing anything.
This was my first time being in Van 2 for RTB. I would be Runner 8 and my 3 legs (7-ish, 6-ish, 6-ish) totaled about 20 miles. Which was PERFECT since RTB was taking the place of my last long run for the Chicago Marathon. :)
Melissa started her run at 8:12am and I wouldn't start by run until somewhere around 1pm-ish. So you can see I had awhile. Haha. There is a whole spreadsheet the race sends you so you can try to keep track of when each runner would start/end and when overall the team would start and end. It helps your team get ahead of well falling behind. :)
Our van had a delicious breakfast before heading to the first major exchange where we would be taking the slap bracelet from van 1 and start our journey. Yes each runner passes a 90s style slap bracelet to the next runner.
Van 1 ROCKED their first legs and now it was Meg's turn to start Van 2 off STRONG!
Oh man now after hours of being lazy I was nearing up on my time to run. I officially started my run at 2:10pm. So we were about an hour behind our spreadsheet. Eek! I had put a slower pace than I expected to run so I was really hoping to make up some time.
By the time I started running the sun was shining, there was a cloud in the sky and the temps were rising. This was NOT the type of September temps I really wanted. ;) But you run in whatever Mother Nature throws at you.
I got the slap bracelet from Meg and was off.
I had about 7.3 miles and my leg was allowed van support so I asked the team to wait for me at the halfway point just to make sure I was okay and didn't need water or anything... and I just wanted to see their smiling faces. :)
Seeing their faces was exactly what I needed. I had Pedialyte in my handheld, but took a quick swig of water since hey it was free. :)
When our van drives from one exchange to another, we were using a combination of google maps and the directions provided in the "race bible" aka official rulebook from the race. However, on my leg, the team wasn't supposed to follow the google maps as that route would take them WAAYY out of the way. Unfortunately as I was running, I saw my team drive past me heading straight when they were supposed to take a right. The cop directing traffic was talking to some race official in a car and both were blocking the "Race vans turn right" sign so my team didn't see it. I immediately turned my podcast off and started calling and texting my van to turn around. Luckily I got ahold of them and they turned around.
But it was too late. :( They had already lost some time so when I hit the transition area... my team wasn't there!
So I sent them this selfie to let them know I arrived safely. I didn't really care that they were late because it wasn't their fault they missed the sign. The transition spot was super cute anyway so I was having fun poking around the little barn.
Plus I was talking to other teams who had vans in the same position we were. They were telling me how the route took everyone way out of the way and it took way longer than it should've. :/
Overall I was proud of my first run. My average pace was over a minute faster per mile than I projected. To be safe I said I would average 9:30 min/mile paces, but was hoping to really average under 9, but I liked having the cushion.
Can we all tell which mile the team stopped to see me at? :P
I think we can also tell that I was just a LITTLE excited to run. :)
With my first leg done, it was time to chill out and cheer on the rest of my teammates and get some driving in as well.
We were pretty lucky to be in the gorgeous scenery, hills and national parks that New Hampshire has the offer. I mean how lucky were we to have built in ice baths?
Oh and dinosaurs as well...
Wait? What? :)
Once our van all finished our 1st legs, it was time for dinner and a few hours of sleep at Jenn's lake house. Oh thank heavens for a little sleep in a bed rather than the van. I tried to wait in line for dinner with the team, but my 3am wakeup was kicking my ass and I was fading FAST. So instead of hot dinner, I opted for extra sleep in the van. Best decision I could've made. That extra time helped me feel human and I missed "meh" food. We headed to Jenn's lake house and everyone stayed up a little longer while I continued my sleep straight away. We would need to be awake around 1:30/1:45am so we set the alarm to make sure we had time.
I don't know how people did Ragnars before cell phones/Facebook because a group message was how everyone kept up to speed on what was going on. Jenn's lake house was less than 10 min from transition. Seriously that couldn't have worked out better if we tried!
We made it to transition with time to spare.
It was funny to wake up on my birthday an hour after it started. HAHA! Hello 35! :)
Alright now to get ready for my night leg. Meg is a speedy little beast so I didn't have too much time to spare. I threw on as much night gear as I could in the 80% humidity. I mean it was like running in SOUP.
I had a 10k (6.2 miles) that would start on an uphill (Gee thanks Ragnar) and would start at 3:36am.
Needless to say I didn't take any pics. I was fighting to keep moving forward, especially right out of the gate. I started on a steep incline so my first mile was 11:30 min/mile pace. SHIT! I was freakin' out. If this kept up I would lose a TON of time and we would fall even more behind. Alright that wasn't going to happen. I would end up with negative split between the first 5k and the second 5k if it killed me.
Can I tell you there is something oddly calming and nerve-wracking about running in the pitch black of New Hampshire roads? It didn't help that I was listening to a True Crime podcast. Hahah. I had to switch that up before I freaked myself out. We wanted our van to have as much time to get to transition as possible so we would text each other when we were a mile out.
I was so freakin' excited to take the final left of the run and see the transition up ahead.
I was dripping from the humidity definitely not from pushing myself on the pace. I was disappointed with my overall pace, but it was still under my projected pace so I was still winning. ;)
Oh man I was ready for another nap, but first I would help with some driving. I loved driving our can. I really don't know why, but it was super fun.
Our van was a blast. There weren't any fights. No one got testy. Everyone remained calm, cool and collected even when we had some bumps in the road. I was so thankful to be with these fantastic souls. Once again the dynamic of 5 ladies and 1 guy worked out. :P (We had the same ratio for Ragnar Cape Cod).
Once our last runner was out (freakin' Dean the speed demon), we headed to transition to wait for Van 1 to meet us. It was at this park where we met another person with the same birthday as me... but he had hats!
Once the teams were back in the vans, we headed out to cheer on Runner 1 (Melissa). She had an INTENSE start to her third and final leg. Hello climb for the entire first mile. We met up with van 1 and had an epic cheer station for all runners that passed. There were cowbells. There were dane moves. There were pom poms.
Unfortunately, Melissa had a nagging injury and she had to end her run early. Since it was injury related we were able to sub in another runner to finish her leg. Dean put on his game face, started his kill count (kill=a person you pass during your leg) and finished out the leg.
Now earlier in the day, our van witnessed a gentleman take the water stop from his teammates a little too seriously. He took the water, took a few sips and steps then freakin' spiked the bottle to the ground.
What I loved is as Dean came in from his extra miles, he created the "incident" and our van freakin' lost it. I was laughing so hard I was crying and was doing that silent laugh. You know what I mean? Haha. Ahhh it was exactly what our van needed. Now we could go find some Dunkin Donuts, food and gas/ice for the van.
Oh and maybe a time to clean up a little bit. We had some hours to kill since Van 1's longest legs were their final legs. Since I had skipped dinner, I was psyched for a real meal instead of bagels/peanut butter, bananas, luna bars, etc. that we had in the van!
Finally it was time to head to the final exchange with Van 1 and finish this journey up. We had hours to pass, but it was nice to already be at the transition spot and not worry about parking.
Plus I had brought my Normatec with me so everyone got to take a spin in them before their final run. Once we got the word that Nate (runner 6) was out on his last run, we headed to the handoff. He had a quick 5k and knew he'd be pushing the pace.
It is funny how there are over 500 teams at Reach The Beach but I kept running into my friends along the way. :) Always fun seeing familiar faces and sharing war stories from the race.
Nate, complete in his speedo, came barreling through and there was a quick handoff to Meg. Meg only had a 2+ mile run and she was rocking sub-7s so we had to HUSTLE to transition.
I wanted to go out with a bang I broke out the cape.
My final leg was 6.7 miles at 2:20pm - yes 11 hours after my last run. I was wicked thankful for the Normac at this point. I cued up a good podcast, asked the team to see me somewhere near Mile 4 and I was off.
Alright self it was time to soak it all in. You can see everything around you since it isn't pitch black. The team was back on schedule to finish in time and not have to cut legs and this was the victory lap.
It wasn't the prettiest of little lakes, but it was nice to take a quick stop to appreciate the overall beauty of New Hampshire.
Besides the rolling hills. I was freakin' DONE with the rolling hills. Ha.
When I hit Mile 6 I was getting close to joining the struggle bus. I needed something to light a fire under my butt. Oohhhh kills. That's right. I turned on the legs because this was my last opportunity to pass folks and I noticed a large number of people walking as we approached the last 0.2 or so of this leg. I made sure to encourage every person I passed, but it felt good to tack on some more kills.
YYEESS!! The magic of the cape worked and I finished 45 seconds faster per mile than expected.
In total I completed 20.29 miles in 2:58:40 (8:48 min/mile pace). Thankfully 42 seconds per mile faster than I had projected. YAY! Happy Birthday To ME!
Now I was officially off the clock and in 100% cheer mode. It was super humid so we made sure we stopped whenever could to give our runners water or give someone a hand held if we couldn't offer van support.
Before we knew it, it was time for Dean to tackle the last leg and bring us home. We had to speed (within the limit) to the Finish so we could find parking, meet up with van 1 and get to the beach before Dean. Since he is soooo speedy, we had to act FAST.
And w barely made it. There was Dean coming down the beach and it was time for #TeamBringIt to cross the Finish Line as a team. We finished in just under 34 hours. And just like that my 5th Ragnar and 2nd Reach The Beach were in the books.
Nate collected the double medal for those on our team that had also run Cape Cod. We then collected as a team and each van shared a superlative for a person as they were given their medal. Let's just say there were tears, laughs, smiles and hugs.
Can we guess what I got? You got it: Van Spirit! :)
Once the hugs were handed out, it was time to head to the beer garden. Kinda sucks that the race gives each runner a really pathetic "post race meal." It looked a tiny bowl of soup or a pathetic sandwich - we all skipped that. Instead we had to pay $5 per beer. C'mon Ragnar. You can't give everyone a free drink?
During this time the wife called and we finally got her into the right parking lot. I am not that familiar with Hampton, NH so I wasn't the best with directions, but we made it. Once she parked, we were walking back to see the team in the tent and a woman was NOT paying attention and almost hit both of us with her car. We both had to slam on the hood before she realized what she was doing. Hello heart attack!
We had a couple beers then bid the team farewell as they headed back to Nate's house to collect their own cars and I headed back with the wife.
While our entire team was outstanding, I have to give extra love to Van 2. You get really close to your vanmates and I couldn't have asked for 5 better people to spend 34-ish hours with.
I promised the wife I would stay awake on the ride home, but in true me fashion I fell fast asleep. I only woke up when we stopped for dinner then fell back asleep again. Haha.
I can't recommend Ragnars/Reach The Beach enough. I have had an amazing experience each and every time. I've grown as a person and a runner. This was my first year as a Ragnar ambassador and it was a pleasure!
Now to find a Ragnar in Europe for 2018... ;)
Disclaimer: I did receive complimentary entry into this race as a Ragnar Relay ambassador, but all opinions are my own. Ain't nobody got time for lyin'!