A Thanksgiving race is a must!
Last year was my first year running a Thanksgiving race and after repeating that for a second year, I plan to run every Turkey Day. (Or non-turkey day if you're me.)
This was my first time at the Fisher Cat's Thanksgiving 5K. I actually planned to run a different race up until about a week before, but when I realized running this 5K would get my milage high enough to complete the Millennium Running Series and earn a jacket...decision made.
One week ago I ran a marathon.
It was hard, but it was awesome!
I'm glad that I wrote some thoughts down the day after the race because, honestly, I've forgotten most of the details already. I'd compare it to my wedding - a memorable moment that I don't remember any of.
Half marathon #3 is complete! First Rock N Roll race, check! This check-in is like a month post-race... I wasn't really feeling like blogging after the race. I felt more like race shopping like a crazy person :-P More on that next race later...
Heading into this race weekend I was really not looking forward to the actual RACE part of it at all. I knew I (once again) hadn't trained properly and thought it was going to be a painful 13.1 miles. BUT I signed up, I had done all of my fundraising for CCFA, I was flying to Louisiana and I was running it!
My game plan heading south was to enjoy exploring New Orleans with my teammates, go visit Villalobos Rescue Center to volunteer to walk the dogs and pace myself slower than my past half marathons so I wouldn't run out of juice by Mile 10.
We had two days in New Orleans before race day so explored a bit with teammates and got to check out the French Quarter a bunch of times since all of the Team Challenge runners were in a hotel right around the corner from the French Quarter.
This was my first time to New Orleans and I LOVED all the music everywhere! Just walking down the street you would hear a ton of hugely talented musicians. I am a huge travel virgin, so I don't really know if it's like this in many other cities, but I loved it in NOLA.
This was also my first real destination race and my first time traveling long distance with Team Challenge (last time we just went to RI, so we drove down and my friends and family) so it was cool to walk around exploring and hanging out with my teammates.
The Pasta Party the night before the race is my fav!!! It was at Mardi Gras World so we got to see a ton of amazing floats from the parades, which was wicked cool! I had no idea what to expect when I heard we were having dinner there. I've never seen a Mardi Gras parade so I didn't realize how HUGE and how MANY floats there would be!
During dinner we get to listen to a bunch of fellow patients and fundraisers speak (and try not to cry), congratulate our top fundraisers, hear about new research from the CCFA and really just enjoy each others company before the hard work of our race in the morning.
After the Pasta Party is when it really hits home that you are about to run a half marathon!!!! (Holy shit... what did we all sign up for?! ha!) After carb-loading we finished prepping for our 13.1 miles by staying up late ironing letters on our singlets and being hyper out of excited nerves.
Race morning is early....way too early for anyone in their right mind! All of the Team Challenge teams from across the country meet up in the lobby, take team pictures and one HUGE country-wide Team Challenge picture. It's actually really cool seeing all four-hundred-something of us one place!
Then it's off to the start line to stand in your corral and let your nerves build for another 30 minutes or an hour. I was assigned to a pretty low corral (meaning I was supposed to be fast), but I didn't think I should start there since I was going into the race with a "slow and steady" plan. I decided to find a TC friend and start in a higher corral with her. We didn't stick together for long, but I normally run alone so it wasn't a big deal. It really helps me stay at the right pace when I start slower and that would have been really hard for me being surrounded by faster runners at the start.
Once we were off I could tell pretty quickly that this was going to be a cool race. There were SO many spectators throughout the entire course with hilarious signs, tons of people cheering, offering drinks, Oreos (HAD to take one of those!) and even shots! Ha! They were clapping and yelling, formed a huge high-five line under a bridge where it was CRAZY loud, people were playing music (both through stereos and on instruments) and then of course the actual bands every 1.5 miles since it was a Rock N Roll race!
I ran into a few girls who spoke at the Pasta Party the night before and felt like I was talking to someone famous when I was chatting and running with them for a few. #TeamChallengeFamous They were super sweet and the coach they were running with was chanting military style to keep us going strong.
Running as part of TC with all of the national teams is amazing. The coaches and participants from all over the country take you in as their own, as if you were on their local team and they already know you, even when you just bump into them for a few mid-race. They chat with you, they pump you up, they encourage you, then cheer you on and reassure you that you are about to CRUSH a freaking HALF MARATHON.
As we ran we went through a ton of different neighborhoods that I hadn't had a chance to see yet. We went through residential areas with colorful houses, downtown, the French Quarter, parks and got to see trees that apparently always stay full of beads as we ran through town.
Running through so many different areas was awesome since almost the whole trip I stayed in the French Quarter and didn't get a chance to explore the rest of the city.
The miles ticked by nicely as I passed each band and each water stop. I passed my Team Manager cheering crazily for us at around 11.5 miles. I saw my coach at around mile 12 and he joined me for a few, assuring me that I was just about at the finish.
This was the biggest race I have ever run and I was REALLY nervous about the finish line being congested. I usually need to walk it off and feel like I'm about to pass out if I come to a quick stop after my pushing myself so hard.
I made it to the finish line and was pleasantly surprised to see it wasn't as congested as I feared. I grabbed a medal, a water and every snack in sight and started walking to find our TC tent. The finish area was the first time I was kind of disappointed with this race. It wasn't clearly marked where to go and I wasn't given great instructions so I ended up walking the wrong way and a lot longer than I needed to find the Team Challenge tent. This wouldn't be annoying if I wasn't so tired from just running a half!
I finally found the TC tent and got to enjoy the last amazing benefit of being part of Team Challenge on race weekend: FREE FOOD.
All in all.... Amazing weekend. Amazing new friends. Loved the race. Loved my first NOLA and first Rock N Roll experience. Love Team Challenge fo' eva.
So much that got home from NOLA and signed up for my next TC event.
And this time.... a FULL MARATHON. I think I've lost it...
Thinking about joining me for a Team Challenge event?
You should be because I'm clearly obsessed with it.
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Check out my slideshow/video from this season of Team Challenge!
We did it!!! I was so excited yet so nervous to run Reach the Beach. I had never done anything like this before and neither had anyone on our team. We were just a bunch of Ragnar virgins all teamed up together hoping for the best. (I am warning you....this is a wordy one!)
Before we even went to the start line we had some obstacles to overcome. The vans we reserved months in advance weren't actually available. We offered mini-vans instead, which have wayyy less space. Another team member was able to find a big van in Maine to rent as Van 1, so I frantically started searching and calling all over New England looking for a 12 person van for Van 2 that didn't cost a million dollars. No such luck. I found two and they cost a million dollars. So... mini-van it was. (And it actually wasn't bad. Our doors shut with the push of a button. So that was cool.)
Our start time was 7:45 and we were instructed to be at the start and hour and a half early. So we stayed in North Conway the night before the race, had a 5am wake up call and headed to the start line at Bretton Woods. I felt like we were pretty disorganized and unprepared, but we managed to make it to the start on time and we even finished the race :-P
Christina from Crazy Mama Runner was our first runner so she was the lucky one who got to RUN UP THE MOUNTAIN and back down. While she was running a few of us ran down to the vans to decorate them as quickly as we could so they were ready to go when Van 1 needed to start driving. Luckily legs 2 and 3 all started right at Bretton Woods too so we had some time to decorate vans and then go shop for some Reach the Beach gear!
Since I was in Van 2 we didn't have to run for a while so we went to get breakfast, filled up our jug with ice and water and all got dressed in our running clothes then headed to the first van transition area at Attitash Mountain.
Before each runner in our van started we discussed if they wanted us to stop for them at all or go straight to the next transition area. It was HOT out during the day so most of us really wanted water or Gatorade during our runs. Unless you were one of the lucky runners on a "No Van Support" leg. Then I'm sorry.
My leg was second to last. The legs started flying by even though everyone had pretty long runs and before I knew it I was on-deck. I was starting to get nervous and to combat that I read through my route again in our binder and tied my shoes over and over. (That's a thing I do. They never feel right. Always too tight or too lose.)
We stood at the transition waiting for Karen to come around the corner and for me to start my leg. There she was... run to her... grab the bracelet... run.
I started running. Take picture of my feet. Try to take a picture of the bracelet (that was the baton). Run.
I'm starting too fast! Sloowwww dowwnnn. Cross the street. Thanks police officer. Run.
I swear this road was flat. Damn it! This whole freaking road is a slight hill! Run. Kill. Kill. Kill.
Cross the road. Why is there no cop here? I'm runningggg... la la laaaa (I don't listen to music)
This road is realllyyy busyyy. These cars are really close to me. Cross the road? Thanks police man.
My knee hurts. Damn it. Why?? My knee hasn't hurt in a year!
I see the transition! Kim! I told Kim I am going to slap the bracelet on her because everyone was just handing it to the next runner. I slap the bracelet. I slap the bracelet too hard. Fumble. Photographer taking pictures. Ha! Kim's off. I'm done with my first leg.
I knew Kim's leg was short so I grabbed a sip of water and we all packed into the van.
After Kim's leg was another vehicle transition. I quickly changed in the van and then joined up with everyone since it was our off time again. We went out to dinner and we were all so exhausted we just wanted to sleep at the table. It felt like 1am and it was 7pm. It was sad. After a little bit of food and entertainment in the form of karaoke (Shaggy's "Wasn't Me" anyone???) we headed off to the next vehicle transition area Gilford High School.
When we pulled into the high school I WAS NOT expecting the set up that I saw! You know how there are little patches of grass in a parking lot? Medians and little patches of grass under a flagpole or in front of the door to a school? Well every little patch of grass had sleeping bags filled with a runners packed in there. It was crazy! People were "sleeping" on the concrete, on picnic tables, in their vans, and even some fancy people had a tent or a hammock!
Before we tried to get some sleep we rigged up our van's nighttime decorations. Christmas lights and light up globes on our antenna. We also made sure we had all our nighttime gear ready and close by. Reflective vests, headlamps, flashlights, blinking lights.
Okay. Time to sleep. We had two hours before we had to start running again.
Sleep wasn't really happening for me. I slept for maybe 10 or 20 minutes. Then I just laid there resting, looking at the stars. It was really cool. All of us sleeping under the stars. That was when I said I have to do this again. This is amazing.
People around me all started getting up so I decided I would just get up too. Good thing I did because when I got to my phone I saw a text saying we only had about 15 minutes until the runner would be reaching us! So we ran around crazy getting Sammi ready for her next leg and for Van 2 to head off into the night.
When we first started our nighttime legs it was really hard for us to adjust and learn how to see our runners. Everyone looked the same..a human form with flashing lights. But you start to differentiate the shape of the flashing lights and the type of vest and figure out how to spot your runners, even in the dark.
Still, we missed her and I had to text her to see if we had already passed her or not. We had. We were way too far. So we pulled over and waited.
After dark is quiet time. No more cowbells, horns or cheering. Just a quiet run. We still wanted to cheer people on so as runners passed by our van we would whisper-cheer at them. It was hilarious. Maybe it was only been hilarious because we were all sleep deprived, but still. Someone would run by and we would whisper "GOOD JOB" and they would look and smile or laugh because I don't think anyone was expecting a whisper-cheer! Because whisper-cheer is not a thing!
At this point of the night we were all pretty pissed to she the van telling us we were going NORTHWEST. The beach is most definitely SOUTHEAST from Bretton Woods. That was when we realized we were going on a fucking tour of New Hampshire, not just "reaching the beach."
It was weird to be staying up all night and running again at 5:30AM. I wasn't sure if I would be hungry before my run or what. I definitely had not trained at the times and circumstances of these runs. I don't really think you can practice it.
So my turn came around. I started my second run. It was supposed to be about 8.5 miles. My knee was really bothering me. I taped it up a couple miles in when I reached my van that was pulled over. A couple miles later I had to poop. There were no porto-potties during the runs, only at transition areas. So I kept running. But I really had to go! Nowhere was open. It was 6AM on a Saturday running through a small town. So I changed to walk/jog...then to walk. I finally came across a breakfast place and barged right in there and used their bathroom. Thank god I passed that place! It was the only business that was open on my whole run! After that I felt ready to crush the rest of my leg. I saw my van pulled over and I told them to head to the transition because I was good to go now!
Well I was good to go until my leg was supposed to be over and didn't see the transition. I expected it after every corner or uphill and it just wasn't there! I was FREEZING cold. I really wished I had gloves by the end of my run. I took the slap bracelet off, thinking the sweat on that was making me colder, or the tightness was cutting off circulation or something.
No, it was just freezing.
A guy passed me, I asked him what his watch said for distance. His was lower than mine, which was already over 9 miles. So I accepted that maybe my app on my phone was just off. Finally I saw the transition. Fi-na-llyyyy. I was so freaking cold.
I told Kim just to take the bracelet. I had no energy to slap it on her. I could barely use my phone to end my run because my fingers were so frozen. I tried to warm up by throwing on a sweatshirt, but it's pretty hard to warm up when all the clothes underneath your sweatshirt are cold and wet with sweat.
I was happy to have that run behind me. It was a rough one. The van's mileage said 9.1 miles so I went with that as my distance and updated my app (even though my app is usually right on with mileage in races).
Kim was quickly done with her leg. Next was off time again so we did what we do best: go out to eat.
After breakfast we went to the final vehicle transition area and had a TON of time before we were going to be running again. We reorganized the van a bit. Since a bunch of us lived nearby we got rid of some of our gear taking up space in the van. I iced my knee then re-taped it. I tried to get a little bit of sleep but ended up mostly just walking around my old high school carrying my pillow.
Hours later we got back to running. Van 1 decided not to go to the beach because they were exhausted and a few people were feeling sick. So they all headed home while Van 2 trekked on to finish this thing!
Everyone's Leg 3 was sort of just survival mode. We just wanted to say we finished.
(Except Chad. I think he could have run like 5 more legs. He was going for 12 kills during his third leg so he could hit 100 total kills. He got 13. 101 kills over 201 miles. #BeastMode)
It was really hot out and we were beyond exhausted. After each person finished their leg we yelled "You're done!!!" The person that just finished was so happy and relieved, but didn't want to rub it in for the people who still had more to run.
I was expecting my knee to be horrible my whole third leg. My husband showed up at the transition where I was starting my last leg, so that was cool! I was just so tired and wanting to finish.
My last leg was just over 3 miles and I was consciously trying to run with correct form and forward lean so my knee wouldn't hurt. That worked nicely except when I focus on my forward lean I fucking fly. My first mile was a 7 minute mile! So I had to reign that in a little and slow down so I didn't run out of steam. But with slowing down my form gets worse. That's something I've got to figure out.
That last leg went by semi-quickly and then we had to hop right in the van to drive down to the beach because Kim's last leg was short too. There was SO MUCH traffic along the beach and we were worried Kim would beat us and we wouldn't be there when she crossed the finish line.
We walked up RIGHT as she was getting ready to cross the finish line and all of Van 2 ran over together. It was too bad that Van 1 couldn't be there with us! But we were all so tired and cold that some of us took off right away and the rest of us ate our burrito bowls then only hung around for a few minutes before heading home.
Reach the Beach really was one of those things that was all about the journey, not the destination.
The finish was kind of anti-climactic because the fun was really in the hours and days before, living in a van, running crazy miles, staying up all night, maybe sleeping in the van or under the stars, eating meals together, laughing, joking, giving each other shit, becoming close with people you have never met before, don't see that often or maybe they are your sister.
We were tired, cold and a little delirious, but right after we finished we started discussing running a reunion race together and doing Reach the Beach next year. So clearly we had fun.
Now what other Ragnars or relay races should I do?!
Here's a little sneak peek into our team's Reach the Beach experience:
Hi, I'm Jessie!
I live in NH with my husband and our pup. My favorite things are coaching Girls on the Run, eating good food that I didn't have to cook, helping other people work on their health, volunteering for and running races, watching tv, doing yoga, and spending too much time on social media. #Balance