Another relay in the bag. This time it was Ragnar Relay Reach the Beach which runs from Bretton Woods, NH to Hampton Beach NH. The route takes you through scenic New Hampshire for 200ish miles. This year I was asked to be a team member of Team Run. Rest. Repeat.-Rise of the Phoenix to fill in for a runner who had dropped out. I eagerly said yes when I was asked as I love this relay and its been a few years since I’ve run it.
I only knew one person on the team, my friend Becky and was acquaintances with another woman Hope. That’s the fun of a relay like this. You start off as runners together in a van for over 24 hours and end up friends by the end of the experience because you share miles, cheers, conversation and a lot of laughter as the relay progresses.
Check out @organicrunnermom’s @ragnarrelay Reach the Beach experience and get excited for your own #RagnarRelay!Tweet
To cut through the suspense I’ll tell you that I am very proud of our team!!! We ran the course in 28:54:45 finishing an impressive 8th out of 62 in the Wildcard Mixed Division and 108 out of 424 in all! Our runners (12 in all in 2 vans) all ran as hard as they could giving everything to the team on the course. That means our average team splits were a speedy 8:33 min/mile pace for 200ish miles!
The first time I met the whole team was on the morning of the race at 5:15 a.m. We loaded up into our vans and drove to Bretton Woods to register and get to the start of the race. It was a crisp morning, in the 40’s but perfect blue sky, incredible running weather. I was in Van 1 for the race which meant we would be starting first. I have to admit I love being in van one because we get to start the running party! We watched the safety video, registered, checked out the race swag and got ready to cheer our first runner David on.
David got the mountain trail leg to lead us off. Once he started the race day nerves set in a little bit. I was eager to run. I had eaten oatmeal and a banana at 4 a.m. before I headed to the race so needed some fuel before my leg would come up. I opted for a GU prior to my leg which was 3.9 miles. The first two legs don’t take you away from Bretton Woods and pass by quickly. Before I knew it it was my turn to run. I used the porta-potty, did a small dynamic warm-up and waited for our second runner Robyn to come in for the hand-off. If you have never run a Ragnar before, the runner wears a slap bracelet as the race baton and slaps it on the next runner as their leg starts.
My legs felt a bit heavy when I started my first leg, leg number 3. I quickly headed out of Bretton Woods onto Route 302 passed The Mount Washington Hotel. This leg was surprisingly hilly and I was running directly into a strong headwind. The leg finished on a short trail in Crawford Notch. I was hot despite the cooler temps.
I handed off to Becky who took off for a speedy downhill leg. My first leg was 3.9 miles and I finished in 31:58, 8:10 min/mile pace.
Our last three runners, Becky, Hope and John finished their legs in speedy fashion. We were greeted by the Lindt Chocolate Team handing out free samples. We of course obliged by sampling some delicious truffles. After we finished our first round of legs we met up with Van two for a brief hello as they took off on their first round.
Then we headed to Flatbread Pizza in North Conway, NH. We were ravenous and ordered three Large pizzas-One mushroom and pepperoni, one veggie, and one sausage. We polished off most of the pizza and then headed to our next transition point. We stopped to freshen up at a state park and then headed to the next big transition at the Crossett Brook School. Once there most of us decided to grab a little rest and set up our sleeping bags in the warm sun for about an hour of quiet and rest.
Finally it was time to run again. When Van 2 arrived, we learned that Kevin was having trouble with his hamstring but with taping and icing he figured he could make it the rest of the way. At this point in the race it was time to don the Reflective vests as is required once the sun goes down. As darkness set in the moon came out and we were lucky, a full moon on Friday the 13th! It was absolutely beautiful out! We began our runner order again. I started to get ready at this point by consuming a peanut butter and honey sandwich and some pretzels as well as some NUUN electrolytes with caffeine (I like the boost). I knew I would run better with more food in my stomach. It was cold so I decided to run in tights and a long sleeve shirt . . . I was happy about this choice when I got running.
Running at night is always such an incredible feeling. You can’t really see the hills as they come which makes it easier (or at least it seems that way) to go fast. I was feeling so strong on this leg despite all of the hills and passed too many runners too count. I loved chasing the blinking lights up ahead on the other runners vests. This leg (Leg 15) was 8.3 miles so my teammates stopped at the halfway point. It was so dark I almost didn’t realize that it was my teammates up ahead holding out water for me. I took a GU before I saw them and was glad for the water.
At the end of my leg as I came into the transition point at a church I saw a shooting star which was so cool. I finished the leg in 65:08 at a 7:53 min/mile pace totally surprising myself! All of our runners in van one flew through their night legs, running strong and fast!
I refueled after my night leg with some chocolate milk and two delicious grilled cheese sandwiches from one of the aid stations. The combo of the salty butter and cheese hit the spot! Once we finished our night legs David drove us to Bear Brook (thank you to David for doing the bulk of the driving) where we opted to stay in the van as opposed to trying to go and sleep in tent city. I lucked out with a whole bench row seat for myself for sleeping and managed to get in some good zzzz’s.
Suddenly it was morning. We awoke to the most beautiful sunset with the sky glowing pink. David our first runner got ready to run and I repeated my meal from the night before, peanut butter with honey and some NUUN electrolytes with caffeine as I prepared to run the next leg.
The third leg always feels the hardest because you’ve already run twice and then spent a lot of time standing and sitting around in between legs without much actual sleep. I wasn’t sure how fast I would be able to run as my legs were feeling heavy and mentally I knew it would be hard. I had 8.6 miles to run. As I got to the halfway point of my leg I saw my teammates again ready with water, David ran with me for a few steps and asked how I was doing, I replied that it just felt long. I knew at this point I needed to change my attitude. So I quit looking at my watch and just focused on using my strength in my hamstrings and quads, running fast but relaxed on the downhills but also using the strength in my arms.
I somehow changed my attitude and focused hard on catching the other runners. I think I had nine kills on this run (runners passed) which was tough as the runners were spread apart. Before I knew it I was closing in on the finish, somehow I thought I had a mile more to run when in actuality the handoff point was right around the corner.
This was the best surprise. I ran my third leg (leg 27) in 68:08 which was 7:55 min/mile pace again surprising myself with how fast I was running. After my handoff to Becky I was finished. . . three legs complete, time to focus on cheering on our runners through their final legs.
Becky, Hope and John cruised through their next legs surprising themselves with fast times on tired legs and then Van One was done with the handoff complete to Van 2 to take us into the finish.
This year, unlike in years before we actually stopped to take showers at the last big transition point. It was a fundraiser, $5 per shower. The shower felt amazing! So good to get all of the sweat off and to get into some nice dry comfy clothes. Then our van went to Me & Ollie’s Sandwich Shop in Exeter for a big refuel before we headed to Hampton Beach to run in with our team.
When we finally got to Hampton Beach several of us celebrated with Sierra Nevada Beer in the finish tent while we waited for our final runner to come in. Finally Jennifer reached the beach and our team ran through the finish arch!
We celebrated our finish together with more beers and a bbq meal so happy to be finished running!
There is so much more to this race than what I have included here in my recap . . . What happens in the van stays in the van! This recap is also written from my viewpoint so does not include the feelings of the other runners about how they ran . . . some things are better left unsaid, haha!