Reach the Beach 2007

Mass Soles!


They say imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, so it looks like the semi professional running team "Mass Soles" has made it to the big time.  This year, there were two other teams with variations on our name, the "The Mighty Massholz" and the "Western MassHoles".  But this is the write up of the Mass Soles, not to be confused with lesser imitations!

This year, our team consisted of the following members, most returning from last year, and one rejoining us from our first, stellar year:

Van 1:

    1) Andy "could you make that burger well done" Bragg

    2) Adrien "I need a bigger cell phone battery" Grise

    3) Dane "hero" Leblanc

    4) Pat "It's all Brians fault" King

    5) Mike "I'll be glad when that first leg is behind me" Mc Gourty

    6) Carol "F.U." Anderson

Van 2:

    1) Dave "Run in a happy place" Poirier

    2) Brian "It's all my fault" Shorey (me)

    3) Denis "I know I was right there beside him, but it's all Brians fault" Claveloux

    4) John "I was out of work and running 5 miles a day on a beach in LA, so I didn't have time to train" Jaskola

    5) Jason "I'll bring my GPS, you bring the batteries" Bui

    6) Nathan "Stealth Runner" Hedberg

Now, I know there is no 'I' in 'team', but Dave reminded me that there is a 'me' in 'team', so before I start, a few words on my last 6 months of training.  I'd run (er, plodded) the Boston Marathon in April, so the plan was to build on that training and show up at RTB this year in Adrien form.  I was hoping for 6 minute miles, or better.  But alas, it was not to be.  I'd stress fractured my shin during (or before?) the marathon, and three months of not running had really taken their toll on my cardio conditioning (and my waist line).  But one month before RTB I started running again, culminating in an 8 mile run a week before RTB!  I was ready!  I was back!

Did I say "back"?  The very next day, I threw out my back in the worst way.  I couldn't walk for 2 days!  Ouch!  Not being able to walk could really slow me down!  By Monday afternoon I could stand up a little bit, so I decided to try my best to get ready for the race.  I also figured it would be a good idea to see an actual doctor, just to make sure I didn't have a slipped disc, or something else that might result in permanent damage (there is no wheel chair division in RTB).

After the doctor determined that there was no disc problem, the conversation went something like this:

Me: "When can I start running again?"

Dr: "2-4 weeks."

Me: "If I started running before then, however, I wouldn't do any damage, right?"

Dr: "No."

Me: "I have a stupid question."

Dr: "Shoot!"

Me: "Well, I was thinking of running this RTB thing.."

Dr: "What's that?"

Me: "200 mile running relay, in 30 hours."

Dr: "And when did you say this is?"

Me: "This weekend."

Dr: "You're f*cking nuts.  And you're going to need some stronger drugs."

With that professional blessing, I was on!  I didn't realize it at the time, but my fellow Soles were already doing the "11 runner math".  I also didn't realize that they'd started doing that right after last years event.  But they seemed truly happy to know I'd be running with them.  In fact, they were so happy that they neglected to tell me where we'd all be meeting up on Thursday afternoon!  Seriously!  However, they finally figured out that I'd probably find my way to the starting line anyhow, so they may as well put me to work driving a van.

On Thursday, we headed North.  Andy had a borrowed condo, as had Carol.  Since they were both Van 1 runners, Carol went up in Van 2, and Dave went up in Van 1.  The plan was for Carol to spend the night with Van 2, Dave to spend the night with Van 1, then we'd switch back in the morning, but it was all very confusing.  Confusing was to sum up our weekend..

Each van had a GPS in it.  Jason had brought along ours, we were really looking forward to it, because we kind of have a history of misjudging exactly where we are along the course, and some times giving runners (including our own) bad advice regarding where they are along the course.  "You're at the top of the last hill!"  "One mile to go".  We've learned that providing this information to a runner when they're not actually at the top of the last hill, or if there are, say, five or six miles left to go, can be discouraging.  So we were happy to have a GPS with us, this year we would be able to provide accurate information to everybody!  Yay!

Note to self - next year, make sure GPS has a freshly charged battery, or perhaps some sort of cable to plug it in with.

The Thursday night dinner was wonderful, it's nice to get all the registration done the night before, that leaves the morning wide open to relax, have our team photo taken, eat breakfast, stalk the TuTu's, etc.  Also, for some reason, either because the course had been shortened, or because I'd mistakenly entered a 6:00/mile anticipated pace for myself, we had a later start time!  10:00!  Whoo hoo!  We're inching closer to Hello Kitty AC territory!

Carol and I left the team to their celebrations, and we went off to begin the long and grueling process of registration.  This meant we had to go through safety inspection of all of our equipment, waivers, show them the course materials that we'd left behind, sit through a tedious, but important rules and regulations presentation, pick up the team packages, etc.  It's a heck of a lot of work, but we decided to go off and do it so the rest of the team could sit on their lazy asses, enjoy the free beer, and listen to old Gordan Lightfoot songs that Mike somehow seemed to know all the lyrics to.

And what did we get for our thoughfulness?  Nothing, but accusations that we were off doing other things!  What a bunch of unappreciative peckerheads!

Anyhow, we got past all that, and headed back to the condos to get some rest, and do the mental preparations that all semi professional athletes have to do to make sure they are not just physically, but also mentally prepared for what's ahead of them.  For my team mates, they meditated, stretched, etc.  For me, I took a lot of Aleve.

Our team goal?  Beat the Tutu's.  They'd edged us out by 9 minutes last year, so we were confident that we'd catch them this year.  Our team intelligence gathering had indicated that they'd been looking for runners as recently as a few weeks prior to RTB, and they had a start time 20 minutes ahead of us!  Finally!  Victory would be ours!  We also had some business to take care of with a couple of other name stealing teams, but that took second stage to our main goal.

Thursday morning, we were all business.  Proper nutrition, which is important for semi professional athletes.  Got our team picture taken, then set out for my now annual traditional photo with the Tutu's.  First surprise of the day, they remembered me from last year!  (In hind sight, why would that be such a surprise?).  They graciously posed for a few photos with me, then I'm sure they went off to prepare for what surely must have been their main goal, to beat the Mass Soles.  And to take out a restraining order.

With the 20 minute head start, Dave was pretty convinced that Adrien would catch the Tutu's somewhere during his leg.  Or, Dane would catch them running up the hill from hell.  They might gain on us in other legs, but with three of our best runners running those first, long, nasty legs, we'd make up that 20 minutes pretty quickly.

At 10:00, our race began!  The 'other' mA$$hole teams also started in our 10:00 time slot, so we'd get a chance to open a can of whoop ass on them too!  We watched Andy fly out of the starting gate, listened to Dave rant and rave about how much easier it was than when *he* did it two years ago, and had to run up and down the ski slope, then set off to find a nice, warm breakfast.  Pancakes were sounding good.

It's at that point when we discovered that Carol had left all of our beverages in the fridge at the condo!  What the hell?  We let a Van 1 runner into Van 2 for a few minutes and they throw away all of our nourishment?  Van 1!  Please!  We have other mA$$holes to be competing with now, we've got to help each other!

Without a GPS, or even a useful map, we were trying to figure out how far the condo was from the race course.  It turns out we got quite lucky, what we thought was the exit for the race course was not, the condo exit was one further down, and not only did that get us back to the condo, and our tasty beverages, but it also put us right back on the course where Adrien would be coming through, hot on the heels of a TuTu.  We'd be able to sit down for a nice plate of pancakes, and with our window seating we'd have a great view of Adrien chasing pink, and a couple of fake mA$$holes eating their collective dust.  Life was good again, we only had two worries:

    1) That we'd accidentally hand Adrien a bottle of delicious syrup, instead of water, and

    2) What else might Carol have done? 

I mean, if she had maliciously stolen all of our liquid replenishment, might she also have gone so far as to have spiked our Twinkies?  It really put a damper on our breakfast.  Everybody was thinking it, but nobody wanted to say it - did we have a TuTu saboteur in our midst?  Maybe the person with us wasn't even Carol!  After all, just the night before, the person who looked like Carol had told me to go f*ck myself, the real Carol would never say such things!

We'd just have to watch our backs..

We finished our breakfast, got outside in plenty of time to see Adrien come by (we did give him water, not syrup), and drove ahead to try to get a split, to see how much ground we'd gained on the TuTu's.

And there came our first shock!  They'd gained 9 minutes on us!  WTF???  Who the heck had they gotten as replacements?  Uta Pippig?  Or perhaps there was something else lurking under those pink wigs and TuTu's?  We decided to try to get to the bottom of it.  A few TuTu's were hanging out at that rest area, so we decided to try to become friendly with one of them, see if we could maybe extract some critical competitive information.

It turns out that they had not picked up any ringers, or men, but that they had picked up 3 or 4 new girls who were pretty damn quick.  I'll say, if their top runners were quicker than our top runners, then it would be up to our team slugs (me) to make up the time on their team slugs.  Right...

Anyhow, the lovely TuTu we talked to never suspected we were extracting valuable competitive information, we seemed to have charmed her so much that she kindly drew a lovely little graphic on Van 2 - "Kissed by a TuTu".  She even donned pink lip stick and kissed our van, right next to her writing, leaving an imprint of a pair of lips on the glass.  Lovely girls.  They seemed to really be taking a liking to us.  I was especially touched.  At this rate, they'd be coming to look for me for a picture next year.

The next leg of the race was the 'hero' leg.  7.7 miles, one hill.  And I don't mean one hill in the middle of a 7.7 mile leg, I mean one 7.7 mile leg that consists entirely of ONE HILL!

1600 feet of elevation change, 7.7 miles, all up.  No flat.  No down.  Just up.  And not just a little up.  A lot up.  9% over the last half of it.  That's some serious incline.

Dane set off like a trooper.  Head down, all business.  This next 7.7 miles is the rough equivelent of squeezing a marathon into an hour.

One mile in, our van was running hot from driving up the hill, so we pulled over to let it cool down a little bit.  Figured we'd also see if Dane was ready for a little liquid refreshment too.  To be honest, we were still wondering if Carol had put something into our food or water, so we figured we'd let Dane try some first, and if he made it up that hill, then it would probably be safe for the rest of us to drink.  And if Dane collapsed on the hill, we would know to ditch all of the water and go shopping for ourselves..

Dane sucked down some water, without stopping, and didn't go into immediate convulsions, which was a good sign.  This lifted our spirits, but we thought we'd pump some more water into him before we tried any ourselves.

We drove another mile up the hill (mile 2), and stopped when we noticed steam coming out from under the hood of the van.  More water for Dane, he's still alive, but he's not smiling.  We're not sure if it's the hill he's running up, or perhaps the first signs of some kind of slow acting agent in the water, so we decide to hold off drinking any for a little while longer.

Another mile up the road (mile 3), the van is still running hot, so we stop again.  We've noticed that there are a couple of teams that have built robots to run up this hill.  Seriously, there are a couple of male-bots that are running up this hill at about a 7 minute/mile pace, which as we all know is impossible for a human.  I'm a finely honed endurance athlete (semi pro), and I can't run *down* a hill that quickly.  We also get another bright idea - why not test out some of our possibly tainted water on some other runners?

We've conveniently noticed a runner from another team, the Rush Hour Renegades, who's team seems not to have noticed that somebody running up this hill might need a splash of water along the way.  Perhaps if we pretend we have some water, and don't let on to the fact that it might possibly be laced with cyanide, he might be fooled into drinking some?

Well, the RHR runner seemed very grateful for our offer!  Dane was quickly approaching, so we told the RHR guy we'd be right back, and we went to check to see if Dane was convulsing yet.  Dane is still looking good, but he's still not smiling.  While we wonder if he's figured out that he might be drinking possibly tainted water, we also think it could have something do do with the hill he's running up, so we try to put our paranoia aside and hope for the best.

We drive a short way up the road, and give some water to the RHR guy.  He seems quite grateful, although we suspect he'll be kind of upset if he ends up dying.  He seems more concerned that we find his RHR team mates.  Not that he needs any support from them, he's already realized he can get some help from us.  Nope, he wants us to find them and kick them in the nuts!

Another mile (mile 4), another stop, the transmission in the van is making funny noises.  Dane is still looking great, he even smiled at one of my jokes!  It's the first sign of humanity we've seen from him, with the look of grit and determination on his face we were starting to worry that he might also be a male-bot!

We kept stopping every mile or so, to check and see if Dane and the RHR runner were dead or not, and to let our van get some much needed rest.  That hill was really putting a strain on the mechanicals!  At mile 6, the RHR van finally stopped to support their runner.  Or maybe they just had engine trouble.  We figured he could kick them in the nuts himself, so we continued to give water to Dane, monitor his general health, and work our way to the top of the mountain.

We finally made it to the top, where one of the great injustices of all time took place.  You see, after making one runner run 7.7 miles up a single hill, they make him stop 50 feet from the summit, so the next runner can have the glory of reaching the top of the mountain.  I guess they want a runner that looks fresh for the photo opportunity.  For us, that was Pat, we pulled our van over so I could take a good picture of him cresting the pass, next to the sign.

Unfortunately, we pulled over in a 'no parking' zone, and somebody from the RTB staff was running around noting which teams had parked there.  This would be a 2 hour penalty for us!  This could be tragic for our chances to beat the TuTu's, so I decided I'd try to negotiate, or charm my way out of it!  I had a nice little conversation with her, gave her my most sincere, apologetic look, got a little teary eyed, and she told me she would remove the penalty from her book.  Phew!

At this point, we decided not to press our luck anymore, and just went ahead to the next 'legal' stopping point.  The course was all down hill for now, and Van 1 could supply their own runners.  We figured we'd try to get another split on the TuTu's, see if we'd gained or lost any more ground.  BAD NEWS!  By the end of the first set of legs, we're down by 19 minutes!  It will be up to Van 2 to catch the TuTu's, if we are to achieve our goal this year!

Carol handed off to Dave, and Van 2 sprung into action!  Dave had a long leg that was mostly down hill, so he was scowling a lot due to the lack of potential to inflict pain upon himself.  As for me, I was starting to get nervous.  My first leg had a big hill in it, but that wasn't the thing I was worried about.  Would my back hold out?  Would I be able to deal with the pain?  Would my month of training be enough?  I'd find out soon enough.  Dave, meanwhile, was scowling a little bit less, he'd heroically caught and passed a number of other runners, and has somehow caught but was unable to pass one particular well proportioned athlete.  In Van 2, we were trying to devise a set of code words for Dave that would let him know that there was another femal runner with a better looking ass somewhere in front of him, without somehow offending the female athlete with the good looking ass that he happens to be right behind at the moment.  After all, it's not good form to shout "Hey Dave, there's a woman with a better ass up ahead!" when you're within earshot of the woman who's ass you're comparing it to is right there.

Dave handed off to me, and I was off.  Hey, the back isn't so bad!  The drugs are working!  Whoo hoo!!!

My leg was short, mostly uphill and flat.  I am a terrible uphill runner (actually, I'm a terrible runner in general, but I'm especially terrible when there are hills to run up).  I don't know if it was the drugs, or the lack of anticipated pain, but I actually ran most of the way up the hill, with only one short walk!  And I finished 2 minutes ahead of my projected (slow) time!  Hooray for me!  I handed off to Denis, and went off to start composing a thank you letter to the makers of Aleve..

Denis ran a great first leg, handed off to John, who had 3 nasty hills to climb, but he handled them with ease!  John handed off to Jason, who works part time as a Red Bull spokesman.  "One can per mile" is Jasons motto.  Jason flew through his leg, and handed off to Nathan.  Note to Nathan - learn how to pace yourself!  Ha!  Nathan already has too much energy, but when you have too much energy and you're runner #12, well, let's just say that by the time you run you're kind of chomping at the bit, and that's not a good combination!  Nathan took off at a sprint, for a while we thought he'd catch the TuTu's all by himself, but it turns out you can't really sprint for 4 miles.

Of course, we didn't notice that, because at that point the vans go one way and the runners go the other, and we ended up missing our turn!  Of course, I was driving, so even though there were four other people in Van 2 who were not driving, and had nothing better to do but maybe help with the navigation, the fact that we missed the turn became entirely my fault.  But the end result is that we weren't there at mile 2 for our runner.  And for a team that prides itself in logistical excellence and providing top notch runner support, this was devastating for us.  Not devastating enough for anybody else in the van to pitch in and provide navigational support, of course, but devastating nonetheless.

We finally caught up with Nathan, maybe a mile or so later than he was hoping for, apologized profusely, and sent him on his way.  Nathan passed the baton to Andy, And with that,Van 2 was ready for some nutrition and much needed rest.

Shockingly, we also discovered that we'd lost more time to the TuTu's.  We started to do the math - if our Van 1 was slower than their Van 1, and if our Van 2 was slower than their Van 2, then it would be extremely difficult for us to catch up to them this year.  Dave, of course, was confident that we could still catch them and beat them, but I was doubtful.  But Dave had convinced me that every logistical error ever made was entirely my fault, so who was I to argue?

I also noticed something very disappointing at this van transition area.  Seemed the TuTu's had 'kissed' a few other vans.  And when I say a few, I mean like every other van in the lot!  Damn!  While I thought there may have been some feelings growing  between us, they were just teasing me!  Sigh..  It's going to take a long time for me to get over that hurt.  I start my counseling next week.

While Van 1 set off to lose more ground to the TuTu's, we went ahead to the next van transition area, where we knew we could get a nice hot meal and catch a few quiet hours of sleep.

We got that half right.  Of course, the half that we got right, the hot food part, was somebody else's idea, and the part we got wrong, the ability to get sleep, was all my fault.  Along with every logistical error ever made.

You see, I did some simple math.  Assuming all 700 vans from all 350 teams showed up in the same parking lot at the same time, and assuming that everybody quietly and politely opened and closed their doors twice (once to get out of the van, and the other to get back in), how many loud, slamming doors would you expect to hear in a 3 hour period of time?

The correct answer is 4,358,273.  I know.  I counted them all.  But that wasn't the worst part.  The worst part was the people yelling across the parking lot to each other, the HONKING horns as people locked their doors, and the complete moron who actually knocked on our van, because he was too stupid to realize that the foot tall letters that clearly said "Mass Soles" on the side of our van might, just might be a subtle indication that it was NOT HIS VAN!

If any runners from RTB are reading this, please people, learn some consideration!  Parking lot, van transition area, QUIET ZONE, people trying to sleep, be a little effing considerate!  There are 349 other teams in this race, you know?  Jeez...

At least the meal was good.  Our paranoia was getting to us again, however.  You see our new runner, Denis, wasn't talking a lot.  In fact, he was being disturbingly quiet.  Now, some times this kind of quiet is the indication of a polite, thoughful person.  But other times it's the warning signs of a serial killer on the verge of going postal.  And if he was the latter, we all wnted to find out before he went postal in the presence of 5 hopefully sleeping team mates, after listening to the 4,358,273rd van door slamming shut.

I decided to simply confront Denis with this possibility.  I told him, he was being a little bit quiet, and some of us were worried that he might slash all of our necks in our sleep.  He responded by spewing out some profanity, which set all of us at ease.  Phew!  He's one of us!  Just a little quiet, that's all.

Jason was in my van this year, which meant that he didn't call me right in the middle of when I should have been sleeping to wake me up to ask me when he was supposed to call me.  The bad news is that it wouldn't have mattered, nobody could ever have gotten a wink of sleep in that #$%^&%# parking lot that night, with all the noise.

Except Nathan.

Nathan, we learned, can sleep through anything.  While the two biggest challenges of RTB are the miles and the sleep deprivation, Nathan actually got *more* sleep than the average human get's while resting comfortably in a fluffy bed in a 5 star hotel.  If Nathan wasn't eating or running, he was sleeping.  We added it up, of the 29 hours and change it took us to finish the race, Nathan was sleeping soundly for 24 of them.  If Denis was going to kill everybody in the Van 1, we'd have known it as he got to Nathan, which would have given Dave, Jason, and myself plenty of time to escape while Denis was finishing off John.

Dave and I finally gave up trying to sleep and decided to go to the runner transition area to try to get another split on the TuTu's.  They passed through about an hour and a half before Carol was due to arrive, so Dave was confident that we would catch them.

Carol finally showed up, Dave set off for an enjoyable (i.e. painful) uphill leg, and it started raining.  It was a light rain, we actually found it cool and refreshing, but Van 1 would later report it as 'torrential downpours', with 'high winds'.

Dave enjoyed the painful uphills, but wasn't too happy that there was no good 'scenery' along the way (or if there was, it was too dark to enjoy it), and handed off to me.  I was encouraged after my first leg, I had one small hill to get up, then it was mostly down hill.  My kind of leg!

Well, the up hill was a bit longer than I'd hoped for, but I made it.  Strangely enough, the down hill part was the worst for me.  While I was able to enjoy a pace that was less snail like than normal, the impact was the only time my back really bothered me.  I kept telling myself that at least I was making good time, so it wasn't so bad.  But then, a mile and a half from the finish, I moved over to let a faster runner by, and my ankle turned on the edge of the pavement!  Son of a !$%^$#!!!  That hurt!  I walked a bit, then started running again, and made it to the next transition.  It was pretty swollen, and would certainly make things that much more difficult on my final, and longest leg.

I handed off to Denis, who had his most difficult leg in front of him.  He later described it as the longest 7.2 miles he'd ever run.  We're thinking next year we'll let him run Dane's first leg..

John ran another effortless leg.  Too bad he didn't have more time to train in between his 5 mile daily beach runs out in LA.  Real shame, that is.

Jason, well, let's just say the Red Bull people seem to know him by name.  They stopped our van as we drove by, and forced a few cases of the stuff into the window (they also winked at Dave, what the heck is that all about?  Dave??).  Jason, fueled by Red Bull, had to open a chute at the end of his leg to slow down, as he was going so fast through the transition point.

Then Nathan took off, and for the first time in 3 years of RTB for the Mass Soles, disaster struck.

You see, Nathan had a leg that was just short of 7 miles.  We'd planned on stopping at 2.5 and 5.0 miles (which would have been a little easier with a GPS), to let him know where he was, provide water, etc.

At 2.5 miles, I stopped the van.  Dave, through half opened eyes, muttered something like "Nathan can go ^$@$# himself, I'm not moving".  It was up to me to drive the van, provide the runner support, etc.

Denis was awake, and got out to stand with me at the side of the road.  Now, keep in mind, it was 5:30 ish in the morning, and absolutely pitch black out there (although visibility inside Van 1, from where I would recieve much criticism later, was apparantly perfect).  Denis and I waited and watched the runners go by.  At one point, one of them actually patted me on the shoulder and said "Go Mass Soles!"!  Wow!  We're famous!  I did wonder how this guy knew us, even in the dark, and asked Denis, but we figured maybe he'd seen the van on the other side of the road.

Five minutes later, we were getting concerned.  Five minutes after that, we were alarmed.

Something was seriously wrong.  I could run 2.5 miles in 28 minutes (just barely).  If Nathan wasn't there yet, then he was in trouble, or lost in the dark.

We sprung into action!  We quickly formulated a plan.  We called Van 1, and told them to have Andy ready for the transition, just in case we'd somehow missed Nathan.  We also asked them to get somebody into Van 1 right away, and start back tracking from their transition point.

Meanwhile, Denis remained at mile 2.5, just in case Nathan was on his way.  The rest of us started driving back to the prior transition point, looking for places where Nathan might have gotten lost, or expecting to see him at the side of the road, possibly clutching a turned ankle.  Except Dave, of course, he mumbled something about it being all my fault, and then went back to sleep.

We drove back to the rotary just after the prior transition area, no Nathan.  Had he taken the wrong turn off that rotary?  We thought we'd seen him on the proper road after that point, but were we mistaken?  It's possible (as Dave seemed all to happy to remind me, at every opportunity).

An error at this point would be critical.  If Nathan was running up the wrong road, then he would have to run all the way back.  We couldn't give him a ride back to the course, or we'd be disqualified.  We discussed it at length, and decided we'd seen him after that rotary.  Dave even mumbled agreement in his sleep.  So we decided to follow the route carefully, and watch each and every runner we went by.  Dave even helped, using some kind of top secret Ranger trick that allowed him to observe carefully through his eyelids!  While snoring!

We made it to mile 2.5, and picked up Denis.  No sign of Nathan.  He had to have somehow made it past us.  We continued on our way, desperately looking for any sign of Nathan amongst all the other runners.

Finally!  Right around mile 5, we spotted him!  What relief!  Denis jumped out and ran across the road, to apologise profusely for not being there at 2.5.  When he got back, he told me Nathan was ok, but really pi$$ed at me, because obviously it was all my fault.  We went ahead to the next transition area, and I steeled myself to face Nathan.  2 legs so far, and 2 screw ups in his support.  And it was all my fault, as Dave pointed out to me at every opportunity.

As Nathan approached Van 2 at the next transition, I prepared for the confrontation.  I felt terrible.

Nathan approached the van, glowing.

Nathan: "What a great run!  Whoo hoo!!!".

Me: "Huh?  You're not mad?"

Nathan: "Mad at what?"

Me: "We missed your support!"

Nathan: "No you didn't.."

Me: "Huh?"

Nathan: "I touched your shoulder, and said "Go Mass Soles!"."

WTF!!!  That was Nathan, running in the dark, calling out to Denis and I!  Of course, as Dave pointed out to me many times afterwards, it was 100% my fault and 0% Denis's fault for not realizing it was Nathan who passed us by.

So, we'd actually been there and seen Nathan at both mile 2.5 and 5.0, thinking we'd totally screwed up and lost him, meanwhile he'd seen the support at both places, as needed, and never even knew there was anything wrong!

I knew I'd never live this down.  I mean, It wasn't a trivial error, like neglecting to bring along a charging cable for a GPS, a device that let you know exactly where you are at all times.  No, we're talking about something serious here!  Failure to realize that you didn't miss providing support to a runner!  The shame!

Anyhow, it was time for some sleep.

We drove ahead to the next van transition point, to try to get some sleep.  We actually got a couple hours sleep this time, but were woken up by a bunch of loudmouths parked beside us.  I guess they got whatever sleep they needed, or had just pulled in, so they didn't need to be courteous towards anybody else..

We got on the phone to Pat, in Van 1, and cheerfully asked how much more ground they'd lost to the TuTu's.  Pat returned my attempt at good humor with a string of profanity, some really nasty comments about shoving my calculated running times up my butt, and then hung up!

Wow!  What had happened is this.  Since we began this effort, we knew it would be a good idea if everybody knew up front roughly what times they were running, and if we as a team were running ahead or behiind schedule.  So, I put together a little spreadsheet that allowed us to enter leg lengths and the anticipated pace for each leg, and calculated times for all of the handoffs.

It had worked pretty well to date, but this year, at the last minute, the RTB team changed one of the legs from 4.5 miles to 8.0 miles.  Once I verified it wasn't my 4.5 mile leg (phew!), I made a mental note to make sure it got reflected in the spreadsheet.  So, a few days later, I went to the site, and verified that sure enough, Adriens middle leg was 8.something miles, not 4.5.

I entered that data into the spreadsheet, ran the results, and sent the entire thing off to the team.  At which point they apparantly did, well, nothing.  I mean, why go through all the effort to actually check to make sure that the data on your individual legs is accurate, when you can always blame Brian later on for any and all errors?

Which is exactly what happened!  Turns out that it was Adriens third leg that was bumped to 8 miles, his second leg was already at 8 miles, and I was somehow supposed to have known that somebody else was supposed to have two 8 mile legs, not one.

My bad.

Anyhow, Adrien didn't seem too upset, and it was him that was running the miles, so I just resigned myself to taking the blame for anything that went wrong, and started to worry about my third leg.  The ankle was pretty swollen, but the drugs were still working.  I'd already decided that if I was going to pass a leg off to somebody else, it would be a short one, not a long one, and there were no short ones left on my agenda.

It turns out that my team mates, when they weren't busting my balls for something or another, had actually discussed this as well.  And Dave, who's next leg was a short 2.5 miles, was ready, willing and able to switch with me.  Technically against the rules, but..

That's why I love these guys.  After running two long and nasty legs himself, he would have gladly traded for a third one.  In fact, he'd have probably just run through his 2.5 and added my 6.8 on top of his.

But I couldn't do that.  Instead, I asked Dave what kind of special training they gave to people like him in the Rangers that allowed them to welcome the pain, and continue to work through it.  He told me, "Just think about yourself in a happy place."

He also assured me that the elevation maps were wrong.  Mine showed a pretty big hill for the first 3 miles of my next leg, but Dave promised me that there were no more hills between where we were and Hampton Beach.  Since I'd come to realize that I was the only person on our team who made mistakes, I figured that the hill that was in the course book was probably not much more than a speed bump, and I started to prepare myself.  It wasn't going to take Dave very long to run 2.5 miles.  He was on a mission - he wanted to beat Van 2 to the next transition area.

We dropped him off, then raced in the van to the next area.  We made great time, there were no backups, and we pulled right in.  I jumped out, stood in a small line for the porta-pottie (ironic how they were all owned by some guy named Dave), and as I emerged, I noticed Denis yelling my name and motioning frantically to get my ass over there.  Dave had arrived.

That's probably as fast as I ran all weekend, and I barely made it to the transition area in time.  Then I began my run.

The ankle wasn't too bad, and my back was feeling ok, but I noticed I seemed to be running up.  That couldn't be, Dave had promised me that the course was flat from here on in.  Oh well, time to think about happy places.

I tried to imagine myself riding along with the TuTu's, giving them tips and inside secrets on what made me so fast, all of them doe-eyed, and oozing with admiration for my athletic prowess.  But that seemed too unrealistic.  I imagined myself, Austin Powers like, about to consumate the deal with Fook Yu and Fook Me, but that didn't work either.  So I decided to go upstairs for some help.

Me: "Oh God, what the hell did I deserve to get this?"

God (imagined, he didn't really talk to me): "What are you, a moron or something?"

Me: "Huh?"

God: "Well, I stuck all this extra weight on you, I broke your leg, and I crippled your back a week ago, and yet you're still running.  Are you an idiot?"

Me: "Are you trying to tell me something?"

God: "Yeah, stop running you moron!  Leave it to the real athletes.  Go get a job as a stand up comedian or something."

Me: "Why can't you just make me thin and studly instead?  Help me win one of these things, instead of torturing me every time?"

God: "Because that wouldn't be funny."

Me: "Oh.  Well, glad I could brighten your day."

God: "Thanks.  You're kind of fun.  Keep up the running.  HA HA HA HA HA HA HA!"

And that was it.  No more happy thoughts.  Just one damn hill, that didn't seem to be ending.  I walked in a couple of places, naturally Van 1, who was providing support, had their cameras out.  It was not pretty.  But at least somebody was getting a chuckle out of it.

Eventually, the hill ended, and I actually got to run back down the other side.  I picked up my pace a little bit, so something just shy of what a snail might do, and Van 2 actually got to see me running for once!  They all seemed shocked!  Except Adrien, who seemed to have fallen asleep while waiting for me.

The course leveled off, and I plodded along.  My ankle was hurting, and my back was too, but I was still moving, and somehow, maybe I was already in my happy place.  I started to recognize things, hey, this was the same leg that Adrien had run last year (slightly faster), and now that I thought about it, I do recall there being some hills along the way.  Somehow, they didn't seem to be such obstacles when it was Adrien running up and down them, however.  I also recognized something even better - the next transition point!  Whoo hoo!  And then something even better, Ranger Dave, coming to help encourage me to the finish line!  (Or more likely wondering if I was going to show up this life time, or the next).  I wasn't even upset when I discovered that the transition point had changed, and that I had to run a few extra yards to get to the new one.

I'd done it!  With all the events of the past few months, the leg problems, the shortened training period, not being able to walk one week before the race, I'd done it!  Finished!

I handed off to Denis, cleaned up with the Baby Wipes, and put on my street clothes.  There was no way I was going to even try to run across the finish line, I'd take the pictures this year.

All the legs from that point were medium length.  Denis had 4 miles, John had 4 miles, Jason had 3 miles, and Nathan would wrap up with 4.7.  No doubt that none of them would stumble, our team goal of finishing in less than 30 hours seemed within reach, and Dave was still confident that we'd attain our other team goal of beating the TuTu's.

Denis ran a stellar leg, and John did as well.  We made the executive decision to leave Jason behind, called Van 1 to tell them to get to that transition point and make sure to not forget to pick up John (had they left him behind, I'm sure it would have been all my fault), and we went to the final transition point, so we'd get Nathan there before Jason showed up.  Jason, running a 3 mile leg?  Empty Red Bull cans strewn all over the back of the van?  It wasn't going to take long..

Sure enough, Jason showed up pretty much sprinting.  After 2 legs, and little sleep, a sub 20 minute 3 mile leg.  He and Nathan then proceeded to demonstrate the Mass Soles version of a 36x5.5 mile relay race baton handoff (large video can be found <here>).  And finally, we were down to our last leg.

Nathan was on his own.  We, along with Van 1, headed to the finish line for the photo op.  Nathan didn't let us down, another stellar leg, complete with a cartwheel at the finish!

The results?  The TuTu's smoked us, beating us by almost 2 hours.  I'd say "next year", but the only way this team is going to catch them is if they replace me, and somehow I don't think they're ready for that yet.  There'd be nobody to blame everything on, after all..

One of the imitation mA$$hole teams beat us by 14 minutes, we beat the other one by a pretty good amount.  Maybe we have a new team target.

As for me, my running pace was a little over 10:30 per mile.  However, when you factor in the 2 hours I saved the team by charming our way out of a penalty, my aggregate time was a mere 2:40 minutes per mile.  Which made me, technically, the fastest runner on the team!

Can't wait till next year!  Sorry God, I'm not quitting!  Enjoy the comedy!

Pictures of both days, along with some captions, can be found here:



Dane's incredible Mass Soles RTB video can be found here:

And Nathan's pictures can be found here: