In a first for FRNY, we sent SIX teams of runners to RTB this year: a regular 12-person men's team ("The Real Front Runners of New York"), four men's ultra teams ("The Ultra Mission Men," "Fast Not Furious," "The Clowns Will Get Me," and "The Ultragays") and one mixed team ("The Ladies Tea Society")--in total about 50 runners and support people. And from what I can tell, everyone had a ton of fun and put in some really impressive racing.
We started the morning with FRNY's traditional pre-RTB breakfast at Polly's Pancake Parlor in Sugar Hill, NH. These are seriously the best pancakes anywhere! You get to choose your own batter and mix-in for each pancake.... I got buckwheat/blueberry, oatmeal buttermilk/chocolate chip, and cornmeal/coconut... yummm!!
After breakfast, team Ultragays got to Cannon Mountain for our 3pm start. This year, our start time was the same as three of the four other FRNY men's teams. This was both good and bad. Good because, at least at the beginning, we would be seeing the other teams along the course. Bad because the fact that we would be "competing" against each other could make things a bit more stressful. The other two ultra teams (the Mission Men and Fast Not Furious) were quite a bit faster than us, so I expected them to take off pretty quickly and probably lose us not long after the start. But I figured we were pretty evenly matched up against the Real Front Runners team (even though they were 12 and we were just 6), so I was a little nervous that it could become an intense fight for the finish the whole way. Actually, the thought of a competition made me feel super anxious...during the pre-race orientation, Mike Terry had to calm me down because I was pretty much hyperventilating. I tried to convince myself that we weren't really competing against the other FRNY teams--we were just running the relay to have fun.
There are indeed many opportunities to focus on having fun at RTB in a way that does not involve the stresses of racing. One is our wardrobe. The Ultragays of course were wearing cute little custom singlets. We got navy Asics singlets this year, very similar to the official FRNY racing singlets, but with "ULTRAGAYS" emblazoned on the front with our team motto, "Live FAB or Die!" People definitely noticed us, and we got a bunch of compliments. We also decorated our van proudly proclaiming that we were the Ultragays. I think we were able to bring a lot of good attention to both our team and FRNY. Probably in part due to our van and singlets, and partly due to our fabulousness, we found out there was another gay running team in the race, a non-FRNY team, "GURL Boston." I think GURL stands for Gay Urban Running League. We met some of their runners and they seemed very nice. If any of you GURLs are reading this, feel free to come to an FRNY Fun Run the next time you're in New York!
At 3:00, our teams were off. Kyle was the first to run. His first leg was a moderate-hard 7.97 miles, leading out of Cannon Mountain onto the the roads of Franconia, NH. We had planned to meet him halfway to give him Gatorade. As we entered the van and drove off, this was when our first (and, thankfully, only real) stressful incident came. The time was ticking, we had to meet Kyle about 30 minutes after he started, and I realized that I lost my cell phone. I was torn between just letting go and hoping the phone made its way to the lost and found, and having my whole team turn around to look for my phone. We ended up turning around the van, getting a little lost on the highway, running back to the start, where the race official had found my phone and was holding it for safekeeping. Apparently, as I was jumping up and down cheering on Kyle and the other Front Runners, my phone fell out of my pocket. Anyway, crisis averted.
I was the sixth leg in my team, so the last one to go. The order was Kyle, Evan, Peter, Onesimo, Mike Terry and me. Paul was our driver. Here's our list of legs:
My second leg was at 10:36 pm. It was short, just 3.87 miles, but there was a bit of a vertical climb. This was my first leg in the dark. To make matters worse, the first half mile was in the woods. It was pitch black, not even any moonlight could get in through the trees. And while the first quarter mile was on a paved bike path, it soon turned into a dirt trail. OMG, are you kidding me?!?! There was no light, and twigs and rocks were all over the place. I could just imagine myself twisting an ankle and taking a spill. I was going slowly in this area, and I got passed by two runners, but I thought that it would be better to be safe than sorry. This leg was more consistent, though, with half-mile splits between 3:32 (7:04 pace) and 3:43 (7:26 pace). My final time was 27:41 (7:09 pace).
Right after my second leg, we drove to Transition Area 13, which is always my favorite TA. Here, some local townspeople set up a veritable smörgåsbord of hot, tasty, home-cooked food. I filled up, and it really hit the spot.
I was definitely concerned about my third leg, which I started at 3:10 am. It was 4.89 miles and, although it was mostly downhill, the last mile had a 250' rise. I took my first half mile out at 3:18 (6:36 pace), which I soon realized was way too fast. I slowed down a bit and my next three miles were all around 7:30 pace. But then the hill came. It was pretty brutal, although I did pass three people. My Garmin beeped but I refused to look at it because I didn't want to know how slow I was going. About a third of a mile from the finish, a runner passed me, and I mustered up all the energy I could to try to stay with him. But I couldn't really hang on, and he finished quite a bit before me. So the splits for the last 2 miles were:
Mile 3.0 - 3.5 3:56 (7:52 pace)
Mile 3.5 - 4.0 4:04 (8:08 pace)
Mile 4.0 - 4.5 4:16 (8:32 pace....yikes!)
Mile 4.5 - 4.89 3:10 (8:08 pace)
This was my slowest leg, which I finished in 38:22 (7:50 pace). Ugh.
After leg 3, I pretty much passed out. I felt like crap. As you can see, I looked like crap too:
I ended up sleeping through the next several transitions. I just didn't have the energy to cheer on everyone or help give out Gatorade. Apparently, at one point I abruptly woke up from my slumber and yelled out mean/funny things about certain other people...I don't really remember, I was pretty delirious at that point.
I was really nervous about leg 4. It wasn't particularly difficult, except for a half-mile, 90 foot hill at mile 5.5 (pretty similar in size and distance to Harlem Hill), but it was my second longest run at 6.87 miles. I felt like my legs had nothing more to give. I popped an Aleve beforehand and hoped for the best. I don't remember very much about this leg, but it began at 7:45 am, so I didn't have to wear the stupid vest anymore. (You can see from the picture above that I had to put medical tape on my neck because the vest was chafing it so much.) The van stopped about halfway through to give me Gatorade. A woman passed me, going really fast and I couldn't keep up with her; that annoyed me. But I did manage to pass about a dozen other people. I finished in 51:42, for an average 7:31 pace on this leg. The half-mile that included the big hill was at 4:07 (8:14 pace).
Somewhere between my 4th and 5th legs, the "Real Front Runners" team passed us. I felt completely defeated. Of course, it wasn't really a competition, especially since they had twelve runners compared to our six. But we had been ahead up until now, and it was so disappointing that with their much fresher legs, they had caught up and then overtaken us. At this point, I started to get stressed out. Our teams were pretty much neck and neck. I was running against Manja from the Real Front Runners. Leg five was a short one, only 3.15 miles. It was 12:47 pm, and I felt like it was a new day. As I stood at the transition area with Manja, I saw that Mike, from my team, was the next runner to come in. He had taken the lead back for the Ultragays! I couldn't see where the next Real Front Runner was, so I knew I had a comfortable lead. I grabbed the baton/wristband from Mike and proceeded to BOOK IT out of there. My emotions were all over the place. But I knew I couldn't let myself get passed by Manja. I ran so friggin fast. My first half mile was 3:18 (6:36 pace). I knew there was no way I could sustain that speed, after already running over 24 miles. But I couldn't help it -- I was terrified at the prospect of being passed by another Front Runner. My first two miles were well under 7 minute pace. It was so hard. I looked over my shoulder after a left turn to see if he was behind me. I didn't see him, and let out a huge sigh of relief. I slowed down a tiny bit for the last mile, and made it to the transition at 21:38...a 6:52 pace, my fastest pace of the day! Manja must have been flying for that last mile too, though, because he came in right after me.
By the time I was up for the final leg of the race, the Real Front Runners had passed us again and were well ahead of us. I actually felt this was a bit of a relief. I couldn't bear another intensely stressful, fast leg. My last leg was 4.09 miles. It was also the very last leg of the relay, so I got to actually "Reach the Beach." The leg started at 3:40 in the afternoon, and I was so exhausted by this point after 24 hours of racing. The first two miles headed straight towards the beach, and the last two miles ran along the coastline. About a mile in, I could smell the sea air and I knew I was getting close. I had passed several people along the way. But one guy who I passed at mile 1 decided to stick with me. He proceeded to follow me, about 3 steps behind me, for the entire rest of the run. I couldn't shake him off. And he was pushing me to go faster and faster. All I wanted was for him to pass me so I could finish my last couple of miles without killing myself. But he just stuck on, three feet behind me. As we were at the last half mile or so, spectators were cheering for us. They loved the fact that we were almost neck-and-neck. I heard someone shout out that there was a fight to the finish. Around this time, I also heard, coming from above, people shouting "DAAAVE LIIIIINNN!" I didn't know who it was or where it came from, but it just pushed me to go harder and faster.
Then, with about a quarter mile left, I made a turn, and I had reached the beach! But... I had to run on.... SAND?!?! Not even packed beach sand but loose sand, that almost stopped me dead in my tracks. But I knew that the other guy was just a few feet behind me, so I kept pushing, trying to wade through the ankle-deep sand. And finally, FINALLY, I saw the finishing chute. I looked for my team but they were nowhere in sight. I heard other Front Runners though, cheering for me, and I just ran as hard as I could possibly go through that finish line.
It was exhilarating. It was such of rush of emotions. I had no idea I could push myself that hard. I was so relieved it was over. I was so happy to see other Front Runners at the end to cheer me through. But I was so heartbroken that the rest of the Ultragays weren't there to share the moment with me (their van had apparently gotten stuck in traffic and couldn't make it to the finish in time).
That last leg, miles 27-31, was one of my faster ones, which I ran at a 7:04 pace. I was elated. This past year has been a tough one for me and my running. I knew I was undertrained. I've had to deal with my butt injury for almost a year now. Through x-rays, MRIs, loads of physical therapy, and even a steroid injection, my running (and my sanity) have taken quite a toll. I truly, really had doubts about whether I would be able to finish this race.
But in the end, both my team and I (and my Club) did great. I finished my 31.49 miles at a 7:16 pace. A little bit slower than last year's 7:03 pace, but a solid time nonetheless. I felt great at the finish and proud that I could push myself so hard. My team, the Ultragays, was the fifth FRNY team, but I was so happy of our achievement. We finished the 209.06 miles at an astonishing 7:13 pace, enough to place us 25th out of 429 finishers (most of whom were 12-person teams). And even more important than our clock time, was the fact that we had just a great time together. Due to several dropouts, the Jewish holiday, injury and last minute conflicts, our team was not assembled until two days before we left for New Hampshire. At times, I had doubts about whether there would actually be an Ultragays team. But in the end, we all raced remarkably well, and we had a time that none of us will ever forget. Thanks Mike, Kyle, Peter, Onesimo, Evan and Paul for making Reach the Beach 2010 such a great, exciting, crazy, memorable and fun experience!
Congratulations to all of the Front Runners New York teams, and to everyone who ran Reach the Beach!!!
Overall Category Cat/Plc. Pace Finish Time
-------- -------- -------- ---- ----------
FRNY Ultra Mission Men
10 1-Men Ultra 1/19 6:27 22:31:00
Front Runners Fast not Furious
13 1-Men Ultra 2/19 6:38 23:07:43
FRNY - The Clowns Will Get Me
19 1-Men Ultra 5/19 7:08 24:52:26
Real Front Runners of New York
24 2-Men Open 6/118 7:11 25:04:29
Front Runners NY Ultragays
25 1-Men Ultra 6/19 7:13 25:09:27
FRNY Ladies Tea Society
330 14-Mixed Open 104/148 8:53 30:58:53