Reach The Beach 2010
In the past, when I've written up these events, I've tried to be as accurate as possible. Sure, once or twice I've had to fill in a couple of details, or perhaps embellish things a little bit, but those who were there have always been able to recognize some vague resemblance to what they actually experienced. This year, things are different. After spending 30+ hours with this years Van 2 full of lunatics, for the first time I found myself in the position of scratching my head incredulously, as reality has finally exceeded anything I could possibly conjure up in my wildest imagination.
I thought that would make things easy, just write down what happened. However, I quickly realized that if I did, reputations would be trashed, careers would be ruined, marriages would end, and there would probably be one or two prison terms as well.
So, for the sake of those involved, none of what you are about to read is true.
It all started innocently enough. We'd be running three teams this year, the original Mass Soles, the Mass Soles Too (Gary plus a bunch of hired guns), and the Ultra Mass Soles. While I could probably conjure up a pretty accurate description of what happened with the Soles Too and Ultra Soles, I'm going to restrain myself and stick to what happened with the Soles.
This years team:
You might notice that our dear friend Ranger Dave is not listed above. That's because, tragically, he was recruited away from us by Gary, who evidently felt that his team full of young, swarthy, male runners needed some kind of protection while running alone at night. Unfortunately, this put Dane in the position of wondering why he wasn't recruited to a better team, something he pointed out to us at every opportunity. Captain Karen hosted a dinner meeting, where she prepared all of Danes favorite dishes, and the only business Dane could attend to was to make sure Andy knew that he was ready, willing, and able to jump ship at any time!
At any rate, we invited half of ourselves to Andy's brothers condo, and the other half remembered where the key to Carols friend Marks condo was hidden, so we had a place to stay the night before the event. Van 2 fetched Bill on the way up, and found a delightful restaurant just a couple of hours away from the condo. Service was a little slow, while the bar was full the restaurant was empty, so anything we ordered that wasn't cheap alcohol involved a trip to their 'sister' restaurant to fetch it. "Hi, could I order some vegetables?" "Sure, we just have to run down the street to fetch them from our sister restaurant..". I think the sister restaurant was the frozen food section at their local Star Market.. During dinner, I asked everybody at the table if they knew what the phrase "What happens in Vegas stays in Vegas" meant. They all nodded affirmative. I then told them, it didn't apply here. I informed them that "What happens in this van goes on the Internet". You'd think that such fair warning would have resulted in some level of decency over the next 48 hours or so. It didn't.
We arrived at the condo before midnight, and hung out with the Ultras for a while before settling in for the night. Based on our respective projections, Lauren was very excited at the possibility of meeting up with her training partner/mentor Katy and running her second leg with her. Katy was having none of it, assuring us that the Ultras would be well past us before that leg of the race. In tears, Lauren went off with the rest of the women for the night, where Yvette would educate them on the virtues of sleeping in 'virgin' sleeping bags. Myself, I tried to position myself where I could have maximum impact on the Ultras with my snoring - I was going to try to give Lauren every chance to run that leg with Katy..
I did a good job, at 4:00 in the morning Dashing Dave Dorsey left to hang himself off the balcony (and suffered injuries that would later shorten his race), and Jason stayed up all night trying to adjust his noise cancelling headphones. Thanks Andy! Can't wait till next year!
I woke early, I wanted to grab a nice hot shower before we departed, and with 6 women and two bathrooms, I didn't want to find myself in a mascara line while trying to get out the door. It was around that point where I realized that I was going to be the only guy in Van 2, surrounded by 5 women! This could be a major problem, as I had read somewhere that if women spend enough time together, eventually their menstrual cycles will synchronize. We would be together in Van 2 for 30+ hours, what if they all had PMS at the same time? Everybody who knows me knows that since we've been running these things, my dream has been to spend the weekend in a van filled with Tutu's (Tutu's, CALL ME!!!), but now that I was about to experience something close, I was getting scared!
I decided to subtly inquire as to the states of everybody's cycle, and much to my alarm, my worst fears were confirmed - everybody was due to have their period in the next 30 days! That meant that everybody in our van (myself excluded) was going through PMS!
It was clear when we departed the condo, but the weather prediction was for rain during Danes first leg, and sure enough, not far from Cannon Mountain we found ourselves engulfed in dense fog and a light drizzle. I think that makes Dane 6 for 6. Seriously, if there are any drought stricken areas in this world, all you need to do is host some kind of ultra marathon and invite Dane, your problems will be over. Anyhow, we had our pictures taken, and I was saddened to learn that the Tutu's had long since departed, ruining my chance for another start line photo with them.
We went to the start to see Denis off, and heard some real annoying music being blared from a ghetto blaster. I don't know what it is about some teams, do they really believe that every other team wants to hear whatever moronic theme song they happened to have dreamed up being played endlessly on a loop? We were wondering which team of dickheads was providing this years most annoying distraction, when who should appear but Pat The Rat Bastard, dressed up in the cheapest, most plasticky Blues Brothers apparel they were able to find in the Halloween section of WalMart!
Pat The Rat Bastard - "We are here to annoy you!"
It turns out, the Stow Pukes, or whatever they're calling themselves nowadays, had the same exact start time as us! Great! Unless we ran faster, we'd be subjected to this visual for the entire race! We could only hope that their ghetto blaster battery budget was the same as their costume budget..
The gun went off, and Denis took off more quickly than usual, we could only imagine that he was trying to distance himself from the terrible music as quickly as possible.
We went off to our van, figuring we'd cheer on Van 1 and grab some food along the way. However, once inside the van, things started to get real weird, real fast. As we were watching runners pass by, Yvette declared that she was straight as an arrow, then immediately began salivating over most of the female runners that passed by. She seemed obsessed with any runner that sported anything greater than a -A cup size, which involved most of the female runners and many of the male runners as well. Unfortunately, that also included every runner in Van 2 <blush>, and became one of the non stop dialogs in the van throughout the weekend. Unfortunately for her, Lauren was our 'best' runner, and when I say 'best runner', I'm not talking about running, if you know what I mean. For the next 30 hours, Lauren would be subjected to endless questions. "How do you keep those things from bouncing around while you run?" "How do you sleep on your stomach with those things?" "May I borrow one of your pillows?" Lauren quickly became known as "Double D". I noticed Puja and Cara looking on, kind of frightened, looking for some kind of girdly things and loose running shirts.
As Denis cruised through his run and approached the first hand off to Dane, the rain picked up as expected. Dane was sporting his "Five Finger" running shoes (Vibram, you know we could always change our name to the "Vibram Mass Soles", CALL ME!). These fantastic new running shoes allow Dane to run faster, bounce higher, and strike up even more conversations with strangers along the way. They also have the side benefit of allowing runners to display the official Mass Soles salute with their toes!
The rain stopped a little early this year, about 2 minutes before Dane finished his run, which meant that Nathan had to quickly strip off his hurricane suit before heading out for his run. Nathan seems to be losing his edge, this year there were no pre-run push ups, and no starting line cart wheels. With nobody to propose to at the end of each leg, Nathan was becoming, dare I say, normal?
We didn't stick around for Bill or Joe, as we were all getting hungry, and we were learning the bladder and bowel sizes of a couple of runners. Double D, for example, had a bladder that was not, lets just say, in proportion to other parts of her anatomy. And when Yvette said she needed to go to the bathroom, it turns out she did not literally mean a 'bathroom', she was using the word as a verb, not a noun. If you know what I mean. In fact, when Yvette said she wanted to go to the bathroom, what she really meant was that she wanted to go to the bathroom pretty much anywhere except a real bathroom. Or Porta Potty. In fact, while I had it relatively safe on the drivers side of the van, our runners learned that you really had to watch your step getting in or out on the passenger side of the van. If you know what I mean.. As the race went on, the only place we really felt comfortable standing was inside a Porta Potty..
At any rate, we found a really nice restaurant, most of us took advantage of the running water and flush toilets (for some reason Yvette walked around the restaurant before she found the front door), and had a delightful lunch within walking distance of the first van transition area, where we would take the baton from Van
After lunch. things continued to get weirder. We discovered that certain runners started to shed clothing when they were bored, and this process could be accelerated with alcohol. We also learned that certain runners processed sugar differently than others, and that all you had to do was toss a blondie in somebody's general direction to get them bouncing off the walls of the van. (Note, when I say 'certain runners', I don't mean to implicate myself, Lauren, Cara, or Puja, but I also don't want to embarrass Yvette, if you know what I mean...).
After lunch, we followed the sound of "Soul Man" towards the VTA, and found not just Pat The Rat Bastard, but also Ranger Dave and Gary. I was trying to describe what was going on in Van 2, but it was beyond comprehension at this point. Gary did mention that they had a couple of cases of beer in their van, and offered to give me a six pack. As fun as that sounded, I was pretty sure that I didn't want to deal with the aftermath, and besides, if a certain runner in our van got naked at this point, we didn't know what needed to be done to get the clothes back on. And our set of legs were coming up.
At this point, Captain Karen was approaching quickly, Van 1 had gotten us ahead of schedule by around 20 minutes. The growing volume of "Soul Man" indicated that the Pukes were a few minutes behind us. The Soles Too, who had cleverly sandbagged enough to start just a single hour behind us, were catching up. And the Ultra Soles were just hitting the snooze button for the second or third time, confident that they'd be passing us by between the hours of 12 and 3 AM.. Karen handed off to Puja, and the rest of us headed back to the van, ready to do the best we could to hold our position.
It's interesting what happens when you add a few college age cross country runners to your team. You go faster! Our first stop to support Puja was midway up a hill, and we watched her effortlessly cruise up that hill, smiling all the way. We also heard the first of what would be many "she's fast!"'s from Yvette, a phrase she'd scream out any time she was anybody in our van running. (To be honest, I don't know what she was screaming while I was out running, I suspect it had nothing to do with 'she' or 'fast'). We also heard the first of what would be many "I don't think I can handle this"'s from Lauren. I was just hoping that Van 2 wouldn't give up too much of the lead that Van 1 had built up, something we'd certainly been guilty of in the past.
It turns out, Lauren is literally and figuratively full of crap. Not only could she handle her run, but for the first time ever, one of our runners beat the van to the transition area. Lauren had the 'hero' set of legs for this year, her first leg was one of her 'easy' legs, a mere 7 miles. We stopped at 2 and 4, then proceeded ahead to the transition area. Unfortunately a little less than a mile before we got there, we got hung up in traffic. I told Cara to get ready, she probably wouldn't have much time when we arrived. As we sat in traffic, I started to get nervous, and told her to be ready to jump out and run to the transition area. Cara wanted to get out and jog, but I was trying to save her a mile. I should have listened, because just as I was getting ready to let Cara leave the van, Lauren came flying into view! Cara jumped out and was forced into running to her starting point at a 6:30 mile! Now, her 6.3 mile leg was a 7.0 mile leg, and her warm up was a 3/4 mile sprint!
We arrived and picked up Lauren about 5 minutes after she got to the TA. Cara backed off from that pace a little bit, but at the same time realized that she actually could run faster than she'd been accustomed to. We were all feeding off the energy now, and doing things we didn't know we had in us. However, we still had our three slowest runners on deck, and I had a feeling that we'd be giving up some of the lead before our van was finished. Xuan was projected for 11 minute miles, Yvette at 12 minute miles (the RTB team wouldn't allow us to enter anything higher than 10, so we had already done a little bit of 'reverse' sandbagging), and I figured I'd be lucky to achieve my 9:30 projection.
My fears were unfounded. With the drone of "Soul Man" fading into the distance, Xuan ran her first and toughest leg a minute per mile faster than she thought possible, Yvette ran her first leg (down the hill that poor Xuan ran up) a couple of minutes faster than she thought possible (perverted and a sandbagger, perfect Soles material!), and shockingly, I got under 9:00 miles on my first leg! I'd called Van 1 before starting my leg, so Denis was all ready at the next VTA for me to hand off to. There is very little risk that I'll ever beat a van to a VTA (unless McGourty is driving, haha!).
We skipped eating, instead proceeding to the next VTA for some well earned sleep. Yvette had visions of DD pillows, Puja had long since drifted off to sleep (a female, Indian version of Nathan), Cara was long gone, and Lauren was worried about going to sleep alone and waking up with company, if you know what I mean.
Since Harts Turkey Farm was long closed by the time we passed by, we went straight to the next VTA, which from past experience is the place of 10,000 door slammings. In addition to all of the door slamming and yelling across the parking lot this year, we also had to contend with the sound of "Soul Man" blaring full blast from the center of the parking lot. Sadly, we were only about 10 minutes ahead of them at this point, and their batteries were not yet dead. It turns out, my biggest problem was to come from within our own van! Before we drifted off to sleep, I left careful instructions with everybody not to disturb me for any reason, as I would be driving all night long to allow the rest of them the most possible rest in between their runs. Unfortunately, the moment I drifted off and started snoring, Yvette, like Dashing Dave, also became suicidal, and WOKE ME UP!. Yes, she determined that her beauty sleep was much more important than having an awake and alert driver at 3:00 AM, so she woke me up and threw me out of the van!
I wandered off to the transition point to watch the other teams coming through. After only an hour or so, I called Denis to say hello, and was surprised to find out that he was in the process of dialing my number! They were about an hour away! Karen was out on the course, and they'd given her the added incentive that Katy was probably going to be on the same leg at the same time. Would we see a touching mother/daughter trot? Ha! No way, turns out mother is just as competitive as daughter, and there was NO WAY Karen was going to let Katy catch up during her leg!
I gave it a half hour, then woke up Puja to get her ready. Sleepless, I went with Puja to the transition area while the rest of the van slept peacefully. Karen came flying in to the transition area and Puja was on her way, a little nervous about running at night in the countryside. Growing up in New Jersey didn't prepare her for this. We stopped along the route every mile or so, it didn't take long for Puja to recognize the amazing setting she was running in and start to soak it up. The stars were out, the air was clear, and we were putting the Pukes and their annoying music further behind us.
I went back to the van, and listened to the faster and more feminine version of Mike McGourty start to whine about her next leg. "Ooohhh, it's got a hill!" "Ooohhh, I can't run fast!". "Ooohhhh, I scratched a nail!" "Ooohhh, I'm going to flash my DD's at the top of the hill!".
Yvette was now wide awake, salivating slightly, and looking around for the camera and a flood light. For whatever reason, an earlier conversation concerning sports bras had turned into whether or not certain people ran with their underwear on. Now, I didn't hear the response, but suffice to say that before I knew it, there was a pair of underwear flying around inside the van. Size -A, Vietnamese, if you know what I mean. How the heck did she do that?
Puja was running kind of fast, so we skipped the last mile of her support to get Lauren to the transition area before Puja arrived. Beating these three college aged runners to the transition areas was becoming a real concern. We were only delayed a little bit while we searched for one of the headlights (found wrapped up in Yvettes underwear, which had only been worn for her first leg!), otherwise we had no trouble getting to the next transition area, and Lauren set off like a bat out of hell.
Now, this is one of the most difficult legs of this race. 5 miles up a hill, 4 miles back down. I ran this leg 2 years ago, and haven't fully recovered. Cara ran it last year, and still isn't speaking to me. With all of her pre-leg sniveling, I figured I'd soon be moving Lauren to the "I hate Brian" camp. However, Lauren got through the first mile before we did, and we were lucky to catch up with her by mile 2. At this point she had this huge grin on her face, and was babbling about how much fun she was having, and also mentioned she was under 7:00 miles! Mile by mile I'd move the van forward, arriving just a minute or so before she did. At night, I could only tell her apart from the other runners by how much faster her lights were moving than anybody else. Wow!
Lauren was so fast that whatever flashing may have occurred at the top of the hill was just a blur. With a downhill in front of her, and showing no signs of getting tired, Cara was pleading with me to just get to the next transition area so she didn't have to run another 6:30 warm up mile before her next run.
Lauren arrived well ahead of schedule, glowing, then immediately started whining about her third leg.. We kept driving along, stopping every mile, Cara was just cruising along. This leg was another killer leg, 8.6 miles, with a nasty hill in the middle of it. Not as long as what Lauren had just done, but steeper. We supported Cara to the top of that leg, then had to leave her to her own devices for the last four miles, as Xuan was experiencing her first diabetic/blood sugar/run at 4:00 in the morning. Let's just say it wasn't looking good. She started pumping insulin, and loaded herself up with snacks in case she discovered during her run that she'd pumped too much, and soon was looking a little better.
Cara came cruising in, and Xuan was off and running. Amazingly, she had another great leg, less than 10 minute miles, at night, with hills, and her first time dealing with these blood sugar problems. She came in ahead of schedule, and handed off to Yvette.
We were scheduled to keep stopping every mile, with water at mile 2, and water and some strange Vietnamese honey flavored snack at mile 4. At mile 2, however I got the strangest support request to date - "Brian! I need handi wipes! I need to poop! Badly!".
Sheesh! Didn't you just poop 10 minutes ago? And 10 minutes before that? And...
We tore apart the van and pulled over with handi wipes a half mile later. And for any RTB officials who may be reading this, Yvette did not poop on the side of the road. At least I didn't see it. She did, however, grab the handi wipes and run off behind the van. I stood at the rear of the van, trying to block whatever might have been visible in the oncoming headlights, and after a couple of minutes turned around to see how things were 'going', if you know what I mean. Unfortunately, there was no sigh of Yvette! Now I was worried! Had she NOT gone right there beside the van? Or had she run off to the bushes, to NOT go in there somewhere? If we drove off, would we be leaving here there in the trees?
Lauren told me to walk around the right side of the van and look for evidence, but based on all the "eeeew"'s and "aahhhh"'s I'd heard earlier, there was no way I was going to walk around there in the dark. Instead, Lauren peered out the window and thought she saw signs of droppings and freshly used handi wipes. If you know what I mean. We decided that was good enough for us, and proceeded down the road, where we discovered Yvette, running along with a huge smile on her face.
We stopped at mile 4 and gave Yvette her honey drop and water, then proceeded to the next transition area for me to get ready for my second leg, a relatively easy 6.7 mile leg with rolling hills. I had such a great first leg running with my Five Fingers (Vibram, CALL ME!), that I decided to risk them again for my second leg, even though I was still heel striking a little bit, and had never run more than 5 miles in them. I'm glad I did, while my feet were a little sore after the run, I still managed to average just under 9:00 miles again!
We handed off to Denis, then set off for a hot breakfast, and some sleep. We drove ahead to a great little breakfast spot just beyond the next VTA, chowed down, and back tracked to the VTA. Unfortunately, a van pulled up right beside us with more women in it than our van, and for the next 30 minutes they loudly yakked about all kinds of topics, including going shopping! (Fetch me some ear plugs while you're there, ok?). Mercifully, I think they finally observed the annoyed looks on the faces of everybody who was trying to sleep in the van next to them (us!), and they shut up. Great, I finally started to doze off, when all of a sudden the van started shaking like crazy!
At first, I thought one of the many incompetent van drivers was in the process of hitting us, but it turned out to be Ranger Dave and Gary, trying to ensure that I wouldn't get a wink of sleep before this thing was over. Now, I love these guys, but not at that moment. In fact, if Ranger Dave didn't know 140 ways to cripple me with his pinky, I'd have beaten the crap out of him right then and there.
Any hope of sleep dashed, I wandered around, having thoughts of dropping a Yvette right beside one of the Soles Too vans (if you know what I mean), but I thought better of it and made my way back to the van to wake up Puja, who had slept through everything. We got her ready and I walked her over to the transition area, while everybody else slept peacefully in the van. While I was standing there with Puja, I was joking about her beating the van to the next runner change, but then I noticed that traffic wasn't moving. That, coupled with a well rested college aged cross country runner facing a whopping 2.4 mile leg, resulted in a quick "see you at the next transition area Puja!", and I left her there.
It's a good thing. We got stuck behind 2 or 3 vans doing what we'd painfully observed all weekend:
BUSINESS IDEA #1 - Valet Parking at all RTB transition areas!
By the time we got out of the parking lot, Puja was a full 3 minutes into her run. I'd told her how Ranger Dave had sprinted this leg a few years ago, trying hard to beat the van. I seem to remember it taking him 18 minutes. Puja did it in 17. Lauren hardly had time to snivel before it was her turn to go. The last leg of her hero sequence was a mere 6.7 miles, I'd forgotten how many hills there were.
We weren't taking any chances, we asked Van 1 to provide support at mile 3, and we went directly to the next TA. At this point, conversation in the van had degraded to the point where the discussion concerned reusable tampons and the real meaning of phrases such as "slap the monkey". Yvette also came up with a great cost savings idea to save money at the showers in the transition areas, we could all shower together! My daughter was in this crowd! I didn't think it was possible for me to be embarrassed, but I found myself groping around for a screwdriver to drive through my ear drums.
Yvettes corruption of my daughter was complete at the next transition, where Cara ripped off her shirt to run her final leg. Yeah, she tried to convince me that somehow a 'sports bra' was not, in fact, a bra, but at this point I was becoming numb to what was going on inside the van. We had some concerns about making our way through traffic faster than Cara could run, but Van 1 called with a report that it wasn't too bad, and it wasn't. Yvette finished her preparations for her final run (if you know what I mean), and emerged from behind some random vehicle with a determined look on her face. Ms "I can't run faster than 12 minute miles" was about to surprise all of us. No, not by suddenly becoming sane, but by running sub 9 minute miles!
I was ready and waiting in my Vibram Five Fingers (sponsorship gladly accepted!) for the final leg of the race. Normally, I hate running this leg, because I hate people watching while I plod along. But last year the van got stuck in traffic and missed the finish, so this year I'd given orders for them to head directly to the finish line, without stopping along the way. Go figure, the one time I have a decent final leg, there is nobody there to see it.
Yvette showed up around 6 minutes early, who knew? Apparently, the constant turd dropping over the prior 200 miles lightened the load enough that she got fast! I mean, really fast! I grabbed the baton, and in my Vibram Five Fingers (Come on guys, we're not even Kenyan!) I managed 9 minute miles to the finish. We were under the impression that the Ultras were right on our heels, and I was determined to not be the one that let them past us. I knew that if they caught me I would never win in a foot race, so I had no choice but to keep plodding along as fast as I could plod.
It helped that half way through my run, about 2 miles from the finish, I saw what I thought was Jay standing along the sidewalk, presumably to run alongside their final runner for the last 2 miles. I figured they had to be right behind me, so I kept on plodding.
It's not easy running through the sand at the finish line, but it's very gratifying. My team mates joined me for the last 100 yards or so, and then we were done. Our best RTB ever, 20 minutes faster than our previous best! Caught by the Soles Too ringers, but never caught by the Ultras. Further, we not only beat the Pukes (Getting sick of "Soul Man" Pat?), but we also beat the dreaded Tutu's for the first time ever! (Girls, my offer is still open, you couldn't be any more vulgar or perverted than the van full of chicks I spent this year with. Could you?).
So there we have it. What happened in the van stayed in the van, all of this was 100% fabricated.
Except this (thanks Yvette!):
Pictures can be found <here> (Friday) and <here> (Saturday).