Reach the Beach 2008

Mass Soles!



It's September, that means it's time for 12 brave runners from Mass, the Mass Soles, to run, or in some cases plod, their way from the mountains to the ocean.  But not this year..


This year, there would be more.  No, not the cheap imitation Mass Soles from previous years, but two Mass Sole teams!  Yes, it's true!  It seems that Ranger Dave, who was on vacation last year and didn't get to choose any of the difficult legs, went home sulking after our 2007 run, and quickly devised a plan to form a smaller team.  (Of course, since Ranger Dave has gotten a reputation for dreaming up extremely stupid and painful things to do to yourself, he's trying to pin this idea on Dane, but those of us who have subjected ourselves to the lunacy know better..)


This year there would be 3 vans:


Van 1

1) Jason "I don't need no stinkin' Red Bull" Bui

2) Rucha "I need a waterproof match for my Brian effigy" Khisti

3) Denis "I want a *real* hill" Claveloux

4) Pat :"I know everybody" King

5) Carol "Hey, all the Van 1 guys are in Van 3!" Anderson

6) Gary "Turk" Lewis


Van 2

1) Paul "Wake me up and push me out when it's my turn to run" Riley

2) Brian "Nobody to blame but myself" Shorey

3) Tony "Porcupine" Chung

4) Xuan "Is there a spot on the Ultra Team?" Zhong

5) Lynne "We need more food" Abell

6) Karen "Let's get organized" Agule


Van 3 (Ultra Mass Soles)

1) Dave "It looks painful, let's try it!" Poirier

2) Dane "It couldn't get any worse than last year" LeBlanc

3) Andy "Are you awake?" Bragg

4) Adrien "If I spend more time running, my cell phone will last longer" Grise

5) Nathan "Sure I'll train, that's what leg #1 is for!" Hedburg

and last, but not least

6) Rachel "fembot" Boudreau


Would the Ultras be able to handle double the mileage?  Would the 'normal' Mass Soles ever reach the beach?  Would Brian be able to yet again accurately document the antics, given that there would now be three vans he'd have to follow (and two of which he'd have to gather information on)?  Read on..


Given the addition of the Ultra team, there was a new level of complexity to the planning.  On a normal team, it's pretty simple - the 'good' runners fight over the long and/or difficult legs, and the smart people let them.  But we'd lost all of our 'good' runners (except Jason) to the Ultra team, so for the normal team, somebody would have to step up.  And for the Ultra team, the math got pretty complex, because for that, you don't simply choose a sequence of legs, but instead individual runners can double, or if they're stupid, er, good enough, they could even triple up legs!


The good news is that there were still plenty of stupid people on the normal team.  Denis whined a little bit because he wouldn't be able to take the previous years 'hero' leg, but he found something just as long and almost as painful, so we thought he'd be ok.  In a moment of utter stupidity, I selected one of the difficult sequences, I think because they hadn't posted the elevations on the web site and I was too lazy to look them up from last year.  There were still a couple of really difficult sequences, Jason stepped up for one of them, and we kind of assigned another to Rucha.  She was new and didn't know any better.  We were also still dealing with more dropped runners, even with the Ultras gone we were still losing a couple here and there, but with a lot of very careful wording, we were able to convince a few associates that this would actually be a lot of fun.  The amazing thing was that the Ultras were able to convince somebody that doing this thing with half the number of runners would be fun!  Gary, one of the new guys in Van 1, was also something of a food logistics expert, which would come in handy later on.  Through Gary, we learned that all of our nutritional needs could be met by a single, amazing place called "Hart's Turkey Farm", which were located conveniently along the route wherever we may happen to need them.


The Ultras were fretting over who would run what, how to split up the sequences, etc.  Captain Dane sent me an early proposal, but when I looked at it I noticed that he'd kind of favored Adrien with the miles (160), while evenly balancing the rest (10 each) between the other five runners.  I think this is how they convinced Rachel to join them.  I pointed out to Dane that this might be a bit much for Adrien (you're welcome Adrien), and he came up with another proposal, which was a little more balanced.  This conversation would go on for months, literally until the day before the event, at which point they kind of threw up their hands and decided to just pick an order and run one at a time for whatever distance seemed to make sense.  Of course, what they didn't say was that they thought that what would make the most sense would be to pretty much let Adrien run for 160 miles.  And to ensure that Adrien did his fair share of the running, Dave was threatening to bring along his 'marathon stick', which athletes in other sports normally refer to as a baseball bat.


As usual, a few of us met in the Cisco parking lot a little early to go fetch the vans.  Pat, Denis, Nathan, Adrien, and myself headed over to fetch them, and that's when I realized for the first time that I had a little problem - I was the only person in my van who'd be signing for it, which meant that technically I was the only person who could drive it!  Not really a problem, except when I was running..


We got back late, loaded up the vans and all of the runners (luckily all of the newbies hadn't yet realized what a dumb idea this was!), and headed north.  Ranger Dave noticed that when Lynne and Karen handed Van 3 a third of the food they brought, it was more than Van 3 had packed for themselves.  Our plan was to arrive early Thursday, register, eat, then head back to the generously donated condos for a good nights sleep.  Even though we showed up 15 minutes before closing, we were actually able to get through the safety equipment check, the orientation, and registration before they closed!  Those of us who'd taken care of the registration went to meet the others for dinner, where Rachel was telling vagina jokes to a table full of female gynecologists (Surrender the Booty).  "Spread 'em" was to become the Van 3 buzzword for the weekend.  I guess they either weren't checking ID's, or the drinking age is a little lower in New Hampshire!  (Note - while Rachel was telling vagina jokes, at our table I was learning the virtues of pumpkin as a healthy ingredient for cooking..)


On Friday, while the Ultra team had an earlier start time than last year (8:40), the normal team received quite an honor, we were selected to head out in the first wave of runners at 7:30 AM!  This was incredible news for us, you see in any high profile event, the 'elite' athletes are given the opportunity to start first, so they don't get held up by any slower runners that might have started in front of them.  It seems that the organizers had finally recognized the Mass Soles!  Hooray for us!


Some of the normal runners had gone off to the Ultra condo, and on Friday morning we kind of got mislead by Emily, our sarcastic GPS.  Emily, it turns out, has a 'fun' mode, in which she some times chooses interesting and scenic routes for me, rather than something that might get me from point A to point B in a reasonable amount of time.  In this case, Emily chose a 9 mile long dirt road with a speed limit of 25 mph when it was not closed.  Which it should have been.  I did the math, we had 45 minutes to get to the starting line, and at 25 mph it would take most of them to get from one end of that dirt road to the other.


Luckily, I'm a better driver than a runner, and despite the fact that we were driving an 8,000 lb passenger van, we were able to get from one end of that dirt road to the other in a relatively short amount of time.  My passengers, Paul, Gary, and Xuan, were seriously questioning what they'd gotten themselves into.


We showed up shortly before the start, and as could be expected of elite athletes, they were already ready and waiting to take our team picture and conduct a few interviews.  We were able to finish all of this comfortably before the start, and I had time to reflect on how far we'd come as a team.  I also realized, sadly, that because of our elevation to elite status, my other favorite team, the Tutu's, who looked forward to a photo with me every year, would be greatly disappointed when they showed up this year and realized we were long gone.  But given the adoring glaze in their eyes during last years picture with me, I was sure that they would understand that elite athletes some times don't have the time to take a photo with every adoring fan who asks for one.


Sorry Tutu's!


I guess, as something of a consolation, we did end up with number 22, which Lynne pointed out is pronounced "too too".  So girls, hopefully that's some consolation to you.  Next year come early and I'll take that photo with you again!


Anyhow, the gun went off promptly at 7:35, and as expected, the Mass Soles took off firmly in the lead.  He cruised along comfortably for about 5 miles, at which point Captain Pat sent him some team instructions to back off a little bit.  You see, long distance endurance events are not won in the first leg.  As elite athletes, we know that, hence the instruction to reduce the pace just a little bit and save something for later.  So at 5 miles, Jason backed off a little bit, and let 2-3 runners (we won't mention that a couple of them were girls) go past him.  Our plan was to kind of hang out in the top 5 for the first 180 miles or so, let the other elite runners break the wind for us, just kind of tuck in behind them, and then sprint the last 30 miles to the finish.


So far everything was going according to plan!  The only thing we weren't too happy with was the fact that the Ultras seemed to be sulking a little bit over not having been selected to start off with us and the other elites, so they decided to sleep in rather than come and support us.


We also had our first near miss at the starting line, after Jason took off, we headed back to the vans to get to the first transition point.  If you're not careful, some times a runner can arrive at a transition point before his support van does, and with a relatively short 7.8 mile leg, this was a distinct possibility for us.  Anyhow, we all headed over to the vans, but it seems Rucha forgot we were actually running a relay, so she wandered off for some shopping and sight seeing.  Carol ran a mile or two back and forth form the vans to the start line looking for her, but eventually Rucha showed up and we were able to get going.


Just as we were leaving, the Ultras showed up, and begrudgingly wished us good luck.  Ha!  As if we needed it!


Anyhow, Van 1 headed north behind Jason, and Van 2 headed south to confuse the other RTB teams (some of whom almost followed us) and grab some breakfast.  Elite runners need fuel, and plenty of it!


After breakfast, we headed north again, and on the way we passed Ranger Dave, who shockingly hadn't found anybody to draft.  We weren't worried, however, with 10 miles to run over the next couple of days, there would be plenty of opportunity.


We hopped back into the van, and a short way up the road we passed by Dave, who'd sped up somewhat.  Ah, there was drafting material not far ahead!  All was well..


Having taken the time for breakfast, we kind of missed Rucha's run, which was a brutal 8.9 mile leg with some nasty hills in it.  We did pass by Denis, who was cruising up a hill, making it look easy.  At this point the Soles were solidly in the top 5, things were still going right on plan.


Captain Pat also gave me a little warning.  It seems that Rucha was somehow blaming me for putting all the hills in New Hampshire, and had been cursing me violently all the way up the ones along her route while she was running.  When I went to make peace with Rucha, she assured me that she never cursed anybody in any language, but that I should watch my effing back.  Phew!  I thought she was upset with me!


From here, we kind of leap frogged our Van 1 folks, cheering on our runners and having a good time.  This is the easiest part of the relay (aside from the autographs), where you haven't yet started any actual running, and haven't yet been deprived of any actual sleep.  So we drove along the route to cheer on our runners, and even got a chance to back track a little bit to see how the Ultras were faring.  During one of those trips, we measured the mileage, and noticed that we'd gained a little bit on them.  We didn't want to demoralize them by letting them know, so we just told them that they'd picked up a whole lot of distance on us.  They believed us!


Carol ran an awesome downhill that I was so envious of that we turned around, drove back up it, then drove down it again!  Lucky her!  I want that leg (and only that leg) next year!  Carol handed off to Pat, Pat handed off to Gary, and next up was Van 2!

Paul was first up in Van 2.  Not all of us knew Paul prior to this event, I know Pat was asking around for real pace times so we could eliminate any sandbagging (getting rid of Dane made a huge difference in that respect) and try to accurately calculate an accurate finish time.  Somehow, we didn't find out until we were en route on the day of the race that Paul has run a marathon!  How the heck did we miss that!  Sheesh, we could have given him some tougher legs (like mine!).


Anyhow, Gary approached, and what we first thought was a tragic breakfast accident turned out to be a real life bloody nipple!  First one I've seen in person!  And I hope the last!  Captain Pat gave him a couple of band aids, one of which Gary applied to the bloody appendage, so on his second leg the other one would suffer the same fate!  Two nipples, two band aids, Gary!!

Paul grabbed the baton and set off. down the road, into what was starting to become a very light drizzle.  No worries, while Paul was a rookie, he had some serious running miles under his belt, a little bit of rain wouldn't slow him down.  Pauls first leg was a hilly 7.2 mile run, which was less than half his long run distance from the prior week!  Piece of cake!  Paul cruised through that one, with one simple swig of water along the way, and when the baton came my way we were still pretty high in the standings.

Now, usually I'm the slug on the team, but this year I was stepping up, and I was determined to not be the guy who was going backwards.  My first run would be 6.6 miles through some rolling hills, would I be able to maintain the torrid pace we'd been setting so far?


I'm proud to say, I was!  I ran a little faster than I'd planned to, by the halfway point I'd only gotten passed by one person, but I had passed somebody myself, so I was feeling pretty good!  And then, around mile 4, some guy came flying by me, and I realized that with my sequence of legs I was running against everybody else's Adriens!  Oh oh...


Whatever.  He was the last one to pass me, so as I approached the next transition point I was feeling pretty high.  And then disaster struck!  I entered the chute, and Tony, the next guy in line, was not ready!  What the heck?  He was there, but standing on the wrong side of the rope!  I was somehow afraid of that, that I might run so fast that my team would not be expecting me, it happens to the best of us elite athletes from time to time, but it's never happened to me.  I told Tony to get ready, but he wasn't moving.  He kind of had this look of shock on his face, I thought I must have been *so* fast that they simply couldn't comprehend how I'd gotten there so quickly.


I couldn't get Tony moving, so I prepared to "run through" the transition point.  "Running through" is what the Ultra teams do when the next runner can't handle his leg, so the previous runner just has to keep running, some times as many as 3 consecutive legs!  So I started to yell over to Tony to hop in the van and get everybody moving along to the next transition point, when the race organizers jumped out in front of me!


What on earth was going on?  This had never happened to us before!  I slowed down so I could hear what they were saying, they were waving frantically in front of me, and as I got closer I started to hear what they were saying - they were telling us we were going too fast!  It's true!  We has set such a torrid pace that we were on the verge of arriving at the next transition point before they could finish setting it up!  The race organizers had no choice but to stop us, along with a few other elite teams, and make us wait until the rest of the course was set up!


I'm pretty sure that this has almost never happened in the history of semi professional athleticism, but it was certainly confirmation to us that we'd earned out elite status!  However, now we were facing yet another problem that elite athletes face - disruption of our momentum.  Let me explain it to those of you who are not seasoned athletes.


It goes like this:  When you work your way to the highest levels of sports achievement, there more than simply raw physical talent that gets you there.  In addition, you need an extremely high level of mental concentration, so that you can set your goals and maintain focus on them.  Further, in endurance events, you require this mental ability to force yourself to keep operating at such high levels, when the lesser athletes around you are falling off in performance.  If this is interrupted, as we'd just been, it's sometimes impossible to get your focus back.  We'd almost have been better off to run slower, such that we'd pass through this transition point a little later, with our team focus uninterrupted and intact.


Damn!  I wasn't sure we'd be able to recover from this!


Well, we gathered up as a team, and I tried to give everybody a little pep talk.  We also tried to figure out how they were going to get everybody moving again.  At first, they decided to line everybody up in waves again, sending us along in 5 minute intervals.  Ok, we could deal with that.  Unfortunately, we were told we'd be in the second wave, not the first!  How could this be?  We'd arrived in the top 5, how could they send us out in the second wave?


I went over to discuss things with the organizers, but couldn't make any progress.  Ok, we could overcome this.  Luckily, I hovered around the organizers, and when they started to call the team numbers for the first 5 teams, team 032 was not responding.  Hmmm, wait a minute, team 032?  Could they possibly mean 022?  I asked the organizer to check her clipboard, and sure enough, she meant 022!  We were back in the top 5, but Tony wasn't going to be ready for another 5 minutes!  This was tragic!  We only had 10 seconds!  Still, it's a good thing we caught this, we might still be standing at that transition area waiting to get re-started!


Tony jumped into action, ripped off his warm-up jacket, and sprang over the line to the improvised 'start'.  A whistle was blown, and we were on our way again!  As I walked away, the organizer pulled me aside and gave me a warning  to slow down as a team, or we were probably going to have this happen again!  Now, this wasn't going to be easy, trying to get our heads back into the game, but not getting too much back into the game as to get too far ahead again?  We'd simply have to adjust..


Given our late re-entry into the first wave, Tony had lined up in the middle of the pack, and wasn't able to fight his way through to the lead.  So he tucked in behind the leaders, and they all set off in a pack.  But I couldn't help thinking that our momentum had been broken, and we'd been told to cool it a little bit.


Tony had a moderate 6.3 mile leg, which he handled with no problem, except for one incident where he tripped and fell down.  But other than that, he had an excellent run, and didn't need any water or medical treatment along the way.  However, we were starting to think that our luck had turned.


At one of the points we stopped at, we'd pulled over in front of what looked like a sand and gravel company.  Pretty soon we were surrounded by pickup trucks and police cars.  One of the pickup trucks was being pulled over by the police for speeding too close to the runners (hmmmm, I wonder if this guy was trying to help another team by pulling a Tonya Harding on Tony?).  The other pickup truck seemed to be one of the owners of the place.  As the theme to Deliverance entered my head, this guy with a Maine beard and a shotgun in the rear window got out of the truck, looked over our way, then headed over to unlock the gate.  I think he might have been unloading some bodies, but we didn't want to stick around to find out.


Our team would meet strange people all day long.  At one point, a drunken Bill Rodgers wannabee approached Van 1 and informed them that he was a world class marathon runner, and this whole RTB thing was a farce.  Gary had to show him a bloody nipple to get rid of him.


Meanwhile, Tony charged into the next transition point with ease, and handed off to Xuan.  Xuan I was a little worried about, I felt kind of responsible for her getting into this mess by virtue of having blatantly lying to her about how easy and fun it all was.  She was new to running, and had never done anything remotely like this before, but she'd trained long and hard for the past 6 months, so I figured she was as ready as she'd ever be.


I'd also forgotten how steep the two hills on this leg were.  She was a little concerned in advance, but I had lied to her and told her they were just some small rolling hills.  Now, as we were starting up the first one, the van was struggling to make it up the hill, and I realized that it probably wasn't very nice of me to have misrepresented these inclines.


We caught up to her in the van mid-hill, and with the window rolled down gave her a little cheer.  I still have this image in my head of Xuan, without breaking a step going up that hill, turning her head towards the van, and with a look that was clear as day to everybody in the van, telling me "f**k you" in Chinese.  Great.  The day wasn't half over and I'd already been cursed at in two different languages, neither of them English!


Still, Xuan took that hill like a trooper, and the next one as well, and as she approached the next transition point she had this huge grin on her face, and she was waving crazily to everybody with both hands (although I swear I saw her give me the finger with one of them).  She handed the baton to Lynne, and went over to inquire about a position on the Ultra team.  For the race that was already in progress.


Lynne was the other rookie I'd been worried about.  Lynne competes with Rachel for who can be the nicest in the fitness center (not on the RTB course), and she's been recovering from foot problems for the past couple of years.  She'd also been training very hard for the past 6 months or so, but this event was going to be a lot tougher than a training run on a Sunday afternoon.  If she reinjured her foot, or otherwise hurt herself, I was going to feel really bad about having lied to her about how easy and fun this whole event was..


Fortunately, Lynne had a trainer and coach that knew what she was doing (and fortunately for us, that trainer and coach also joined our team!).  Lynne set off on her 6.1 mile leg, with one nasty hill in it (I'd learn later that she was cursing me all the way up that hill.  Wonderful.  Cursed at by three different team mates in three different languages all in the same day.).  Of course, as soon as we saw Lynne running, none of us had any worries, she looked really strong and had a steady gait, and it was pretty obvious that her training had paid off.  In addition, she refused any help along the way, insisting on carrying her own Camelback, loaded up with her own secret potion.  Some of the team members suspected there may have been some prohibited substances in there, but I tried to convince them that Mass Soles didn't engage in that kind of behavior.  Or that the ones that did were all in Van 3 this year..


Speaking of Van 3, we'd noticed in the prior transition area that they were getting kind of close.  Now, the casual reader will remember that we'd already been stopped once and told to slow things down, but we don't like to make excuses.  The fact is, they were doing pretty well on their own, although we were starting to get concerned about Adrien.  He'd already run 25 miles, and they were only about 50 miles into the event!  (To be honest, we weren't concerned that Adrien would hurt himself, we were concerned that he'd catch on to the Ultra team plan of having him run 80% of the miles).  We also found out much later that the Ultra team had been taking bets on when they'd pass us, with the numbers ranging from 70 - 110 miles (I'd guessed 45 - 60 miles, to be honest).


But Adrien wasn't running the next leg, Rachel the fembot was, and we were a little concerned that Lynne might not come out on top in a head to head foot race with Rachel.  We did kind of figure that even if Rachel caught up with Lynne she wouldn't pass her, Lynne had spent a ton of time in the van talking about how wonderful Rachel was, how close they were, blah, blah, blah.  To be honest, we were getting kind of sick and tired of hearing about Rachel this, Rachel that, Rachel, Rachel, RACHEL!

In this case, we thought it was a good thing, if Rachel caught Lynne they would surely run together for a while, and then our next runner could open up another lead in a foot race with the next Ultra runner, if we had to.


Sure enough, Rachel sprinted up that hill, and pretty soon was bearing down on Lynne.  We kind of caught Rachel just before she caught up with Lynne, as she passed us by we told her how much Lynne lover her, and how much Lynne was looking forward to sharing a nice run with her for a while.  Rachel just kind of gave us this look that told us to bug off and let her run her own race, and as she went past us we thought we saw her spit some tobacco into the bushes.  The Ultra guys were starting to corrupt her..

Still, we were hoping for that frontal picture of the two of them running together, close workers, close friends, so we hopped in the van and started to drive a short distance to get the photo.  We all had high hopes that the photo would be the lasting image of this years RTB, two close friends from different teams, sharing a run and a great moment together.


Well, you can imagine our surprise when we rounded the corner, and there was Lynne, but no Rachel!  Rachel was quite a bit ahead.  Huh?  What about the camaraderie?  Was Lynne not worth even a minute of the Ultras time?  As we passed Lynne, she was in tears, clearly she was as shattered as the rest of us.  So we caught up to Rachel and asked her why she'd blown off Lynne in such a manner.  The corruption was complete, Rachel just spit the remainder of her tobacco in our general direction, gave us not one but two fingers (official Mass Soles greeting), and kept on running!


The really funny thing here is that all of the guys in the Ultra van were thinking the same thing we were.  They were all convinced that Rachel would do the girly thing and run in with Lynne, they were just as shocked as we were when Rachel flipped Lynne off and didn't even slow down!


Note: Dane (the cocky b*stard!) won the contest, as he'd guessed 70 miles, but in my opinion they should take into account the 15 minutes we spent parked!


Our spirit was broken.  First, the orders to slow down, and now this.  This was no longer a race for us, we knew it was time to shift focus from competition to teamwork, friendship, and other such nonsense.


Lynne finished her leg and handed off to Karen.  We helped her dry her tears, and hopped in the van to go give Karen some support.  Until this weekend, I'd only known of Karen as the mother of one of my daughters high school track team mates, and the good friend and running coach that Lynne never shut up about in the fitness center.  Oh, and Captain Pat, being the responsible kind of team captain that he sometimes is, had Googled her name to see if he could figure out how much she was sandbagging in her pace projections.


It turns out, a lot.  I think we had 9 minute miles in our projections, a pace that I was already jealous of.  But in reality, Karen ran 8's, or less!  (On a normal team, that might have been enough to catch back up to the Ultras, but Adrien hadn't run for an entire leg, so he was up for the next two..).


The other thing we learned about Karen is that when she's running, she becomes extremely anti-social.  Unless, as it turns out, she's running alongside somebody from another team!  Sure, then she can smile and wave, and look all happy.  But if she's running alone, and you're standing on the side of the road trying to provide support, or just cheer her on, all you really get are dirty looks, or no looks at all!


But one can forgive a lot from a person who runs faster than 8 minute miles, so we did our best to cheer Karen on, and looked forward to switching the 'compete' switch off at the end of her leg so we could see her smile again.


After we left Karen for our last bit of in leg support, we passed by Adrien.  We really wanted a picture of him, after all you don't get many opportunities when a runner is only out on the course for 160 miles or so.. Who knew when we might see him again?  I floored the accelerator, drove a few miles up the road, slammed it into park while we were still rolling, and hopped out of the car with the camera in my hand.


And still, I almost missed him.


Adrien is much friendlier than Rachel (or Karen) while he's running.  He doesn't spit much, and he makes eye contact some times.  This time, we think we detected a grin.


We moved ahead to the next transition area, where we were going to hand off to Van 1.  We also saw the Ultras there again, and tried to make conversation with them (except Rachel).  I was talking to Andy, and asked him who was up next.  He said Adrien was running through, they expected him in about 10 minutes.  I told him I thought he was mistaken, I was pretty sure that Adrien was already here.  No, Andy insisted that Adrien was at least 10 minutes out.  No, I over-insisted that we'd just passed Adrien, and he must have already gotten here.  Reluctantly, the Ultras headed over to the transition point and asked, where they were informed that Adrien had in fact flown through the transition point moments earlier.  They'd tried to catch him, but naturally couldn't, and they hadn't gotten his number.


So, Ultra Mass Soles, you can stop busting my chops over the whole Nathan thing now.  Had I not told you that Adrien had passed that transition point, you'd still be there wondering where he is.  Ok?  And this one was in broad daylight, not pitch black.  We're even now, so shut the hell up about the Nathan thing!!


The Ultras raced back to their van, with the next transition area only 3 miles ahead, Adrien really did have a good chance of getting there before them, and they didn't want to burn him out too early.  They still needed him for legs 15, 17, 19, 21, 22, 23, 25, 27, and 29.  Oh, and also 30 - 36.


Not long after we set the Ultras straight (no more on the Nathan thing, OK???), Karen came flying in and handed the baton to Jason.  We flipped Karen's switch back to 'friendly' mode, cleaned her up, and started to think about dinner and some sleep.

As we drove up the road, we passed Rucha on the course, this was a moderate to hard 7.7 mile leg that was about to become a lot harder.  About 5 minutes down the road, Mother Nature decided to punish poor Rucha for her prior evil thoughts towards me, and sent an entire race worth of rain  down on her.  Ouch.  Fortunately, Rucha was wearing long sleeves and long pants for this leg, so she was able to absorb that much more.  I called Pat to see if Rucha was burning an effigy of me, and he told me that she wasn't, but that they had all learned how to say "Brian is a flaming M*sshole" (two S's, not three) in Hindi.  And they had gotten that lesson while Rucha was still on the course running, them sitting in the van.  Windows up.  Fingers in their ears.  Parked in the next town over.  Pat hinted to me that I might not want to close my eyes that night, or perhaps for the rest of my life.


We stopped for gas, and Karen and Lynne went inside to clean up and change clothes before dinner.  40 short minutes later we were on our way again, with Karen trying to convince me that I should try a sports bra some time.  At this point there were three things on my mind - dinner, sleep, and avoiding the next van transition area while we were trying to sleep.  Readers of past years race summaries will remember the upcoming van transition area as a never ending slamming of doors, yelling, and general loud disruptive noises.  Not to mention they throw people out of the buildings at 2:00 AM.  So we drove along, looking for something quick and friendly when woe and behold, a Hart's Turkey Farm popped up right in front of us!  Wow!  This must be an omen!  How could we not stop there?


It seemed like most of the dishes were turkey related, which we thought might also help with the sleep.  However, we were also concerned, as would anybody who's ever cooked a Thanksgiving dinner, that service might be a bit slow.  So we made sure to remind them that we were in the middle of a race.  That helped, the meal was excellent and quick, the bathrooms were clean (until we got to them), and we headed back out to the parking lot.


Here is where we made what turned out to be a pretty good decision.  Rather than forge ahead to the next transition area, where sleep would surely be impossible, we just parked the van in that lot, facing away from the street lights, and decided to try to sleep there.


Note to all future RTB teams that reads this: Hey, we strongly recommend this place.  The turkey was excellent, the parking lot was quiet.  So if you park there, DON'T SLAM YOUR EFFING DOORS A MILLION TIMES LIKE YOU DO IN THE VAN TRANSITION AREA, OK?


Now, I had a little problem with the whole sleep thing.  As tired as I was, I just couldn't sleep.  For some strange reason, I had the Disney 'It's A Big World' ride stuck in my head.  I kept imagining I was stranded in that ride, looping between India, China, and the US, and there were little Rucha, Xuan, and Lynne puppet dolls singing the following:


"Brian's a M*sshole, we hate him,"


"Brian's a M*sshole, we hate him,"


"Brian's a M*sshole, we hate him,"


"He's a M*ss M*ss M*ss M*ss hole!"


I mean really, how can you sleep with those images stuck in your head?


I'd even thought to bring my noise cancelling headphones with me (too bad I didn't think to wear them the following morning), and they worked great, except when some huge diesel truck pulled in next to us and left his engine running for an hour while he was unloading turkeys.  That vibration went right through me.  Lynne told me it put her to sleep.


At 11:30 PM I gave up and decided to move the van forward, it was 12 miles to the next transition area, and I heard people shuffling around in the van.  Might as well head to where there were porta potties and get ready for our next set of legs.

When we got there, I made sure to slam our doors as loudly as I could 30 or 40 times, yelled at my team mates to try to keep the noise down, and then made sure to honk the horn a few times to make sure they were paying attention.  People were trying to sleep, after all.


My phone rang, it was Carol, in a panic, telling me Gary was only 20 minutes away, and that they'd been trying to call us.  I guess cell phone reception at the turkey farm isn't so great.  Another reason to stay there..


We met up with them at the transition point, and I tried to calm Rucha down.  I asked her about the whole effigy thing, and she told that she never, ever cursed anybody, except me, and besides, how could she burn an effigy of me in all of that rain?  She'd have to wait for drier times, if I lived that long.  Wink wink.


Gary arrived, left nipple bleeding (two nipples, two band aids Gary!!!), and Paul was off and running!  This was a short 4.4 mile leg, and we couldn't cheer too loudly, so we forged ahead to the next transition area to wait for Paul there, and for me to prepare to run through hell.  My next leg was a long one, with a hill.  A big hill.  A big, long hill.  And everybody knows, I hate hills.  I hated myself for choosing this leg.  I was beginning to agree with Rucha, Xuan, and Lynne, that I was a d*ckhead and really should be smothered in chloroform in my sleep and dumped at the side of the road.  I was trying to devise a plan to do it myself, before I had to run up that hill, but I couldn't figure out how to dispose of the body after I chloroformed it.


Paul cruised into the transition point.  Damn, that was fast.  My turn.


Hey, guess what!  The elevation map must have been wrong!  I was running down hill, not up!  Um, whoops, that only lasted for a half mile or so, and all of a sudden I was facing this five mile long vertical wall of pavement in front of me.


Now, I'd like to tell the readers what a freakin' hero I was, motoring up that hill.  In fact, I'm quite proud of the fact that I did stumble all the way up it, running pretty much all of the way, even though my heart was on fire and my legs turned to Jell-O.  I also realized why Rucha, Xuan, and Lynne had been cursing me so much.  It wasn't pretty, and it wasn't quick.  And as much as it killed me to get to the top, on the Ultra team Rachel ran my 9.3 mile leg, and then the 9.3 that Jason ran a little later, also with a nasty hill.  So how can I blather on about what an awesome achievement I accomplished when the little fembot turned my monster leg into 'just another leg in an Ultra run'?


I can't.  Damn Ultras, stealing everybody's thunder!


Whatever.  I ran my piddley little leg, and handed off to Tony, so I could go off and find a coffin to lie down in.  Unfortunately, I was reminded that the race was not yet over, and we really should be fetching Tony at the end of his next leg.  We drove a couple of miles down the road, along the way passing a silhouette of a runner kicking what looked like a defenseless (and dead) porcupine, and pulled over to offer up some support for Tony.  Or, after last years debacle, anybody that came running by who responded to the name 'Tony'.  Lynne wasn't sleeping, so we both hopped (fell) out of the van to go provide some support.  I really wanted somebody else to see for themselves just how difficult it was to identify a runner in pitch blackness.  After all, just a few short hours ago the Ultras had missed Adrien, and that was in broad daylight, right?


We almost missed Tony, he passed us by and asked us to stop a couple miles further up the road.  As he ran off into the darkness, we thought we noticed some porcupine needles sticking out of one of his sneakers, but we figured that was probably just the drowsiness setting in.  A couple of miles up the road we were actually able to spot Tony as he was approaching (porcupine needles glow in the dark - who knew?), gave him some Gatorade, and then proceeded to the next transition point.

Next up was Xuan.  During the orientation, we'd gotten a warning to look after the female runners during the overnight legs (they posted a picture of the Ultra van as part of the warning, go figure), so we decided that even though none of our next three women really needed any support we'd make sure to stop much more frequently along the route.  This allowed us to see how much faster Xuan was running without those nasty hills to get in the way, she was turning in to quite the runner!  Xuan handled her 5.4 mile leg with ease, and handed off to Lynne for another 6+ mile leg.


Lynne was becoming the easiest runner to support, she insisted on carrying her booze laden Camelback on every run, so we didn't have go get anything for her.  While she was running, I was sifting through her stuff in the van, trying desperately to figure out what she was drinking - I wanted some of that!  Whatever it was, it was working well, Lynne looked extremely strong for her entire leg, although she swerved a lot on the flat parts.


Karen took the baton just after dawn for a 7 miler, her longest.  We still figured we'd stop pretty often, so a couple miles down the road we pulled over to cheer her on, even though we were sure she wouldn't even acknowledge us.  We were in for quite a surprise, however, as when Karen crested the hill she was running along side two other runners, smiling away and chatting with them as she ran.  Now I was really beginning to feel self conscious, but she fixed that by smiling and waving at us as she ran by.  Interesting..


As soon as Karen took off we called Van 1 to wake them up and get them ready for their final set of legs.  The informed us that they'd lost Jason, apparently he'd headed off into the woods with his sleeping bag, and they were afraid he might have been gathered up by a roving band of chipmunks (they gather nuts, you know).  We told them to keep looking, we'd keep them posted with Karens progress.


We called a couple of times during Karens run, and each time the story was the same, still no Jason.  I didn't even care at this point, all I knew was that in a few short miles we were going to be handing over the baton, and then I could get some sleep.  I really could care less at this point whether we handed it to Jason, Rucha, or anybody else in Van 1.  But Van 1 seemed to think I should care.


It turns out, Jason hadn't been kidnapped by chipmunks, nor was he even missing.  They were just trying to get a rise out of me.  Sorry guys, too tired, and besides, if Jason was missing, Rucha was next in line, I'd welcome the opportunity for her to curse somebody other than me!


Karen handed the baton off to Jason, then decided to go for a swim!  I wonder if she noticed that the water wasn't salty..

We drove along the route for a while, passing Jason going up a huge hill on his 9.3 mile leg (he was moving a little faster than I'd moved on mine), and kept moving along the route towards the next transition area.  We were kind of hoping that we'd pass the Ultras along the way, it would be good to see how far they'd gotten ahead of us, and how well they were holding up.  As we drove, we were passing fewer and fewer runners, and after a while we figured we must have missed them, when all of a sudden we noticed the unmistakable Swedish bounce in front of us - It was Dane!  And for crying out loud, with almost 30 miles under his belt he was still out there, bouncing away, looking fresher than I'd looked at the beginning of my first leg!


We stopped and gave him some water, which he gladly accepted (it seems that the Ultra van only makes stops every 5 miles), then he bounced on down the road.  We drove a couple more miles and found the Ultra van parked along the side of the road, kind of hidden from site.  I got the impression they were hiding from Dane, we pretty much missed them and had to turn around and go back.  We stopped to see how they were doing.  Nathan was in the drivers seat, looking pretty fresh.  Or delirious.  Ranger Dave was in the passenger seat, with his usual sh*t eating grin on his face.  Rachel was strapped in to her childs seat in the rear, waiting to be unleashed for her next set of legs.  Andy was sound asleep in the rear (I should have woken him up - more on that later), and Adrien was nowhere to be seen, but we could hear him groaning.


Me: "How are you guys holding up?"


Ranger Dave: "Do you have any Aleve?"


Me: "Sure, I buy it by the case, what's going on?"


Ranger Dave: "Adrien is crippled, if he can't run his next 3 legs we're going to have to shoot him.  Have you seen my marathon stick?"


Me: "I really don't think you should shoot Adrien."


Ranger Dave: "Why the hell not?  We only got 35 miles out of him!"


Note: We were only 2/3 into the race at this point..


Me: "Well, please don't shoot him, he might be able to run the last few legs if he can recover."


Ranger Dave: "F*ck him.  He can't even drive for us now, and once you're gone, you can't get back in.  We're sick of his groaning, we're going to shoot him.  We might have to shoot Andy too, he's been coughing for the past day and a half."


Me: "Why don't you let me get you that Aleve, see if it quiets them down a bit?"


Ranger Dave: "Ok, but make it quick.  We've got a race to run."


(You're welcome Adrien.  And Andy.  You owe me big time.)


At that point, I sprinted over to our van to fetch my Aleve (I saved four of them for my final leg), and gave Dave the entire bottle (economy size).  Right around then, Dane showed up, still looking good.  I told him not to show any signs of weakness.  I think he understood what I was getting at.  We got out of there quickly, the whole thing had kind of an Apocolypse Now feel to it, we were glad to be out of there.  I wouldn't have been surprised if Ranger Dave had uttered those famous words - "I love the smell of Napalm in the morning..".


For a while after that, nobody in our van had much to say.


And then we stopped for breakfast!  We stopped at Nicks, made sure to remind them we were in the middle of a race, and drank a lot of coffee.  Here, we also learned that Tony had not gotten this much sleep in over a month!  That's right, he's got a newborn baby (premie, very fast!) that came home a month ago, and the only reason he signed on to this goofy adventure was so he could GET SOME SLEEP!!


I remember pulling in to the transition area at 10:00 ish, pulling the lever to recline the seat, and then being woken up by Andy at 11:30:


Andy: "Hey Brian, how are you doing?"


Me: "I'm %^^$#@$#%$! trying to sleep!"


Andy: "Why are you sleeping?  It's 11:30 AM!"


Me: "I *was* trying to sleep because I haven't gotten any all night long.."


Note to Andy (and anybody else who might be reading): Sorry for the crankiness, but next time you see somebody sleeping, regardless of the time of day, LET THEM EFFING SLEEP!!!  Seriously.  That was the only 90 minutes I'd gotten since Friday morning.


Anyhow, I was too tired and weak to kill Andy, but I made a mental note to point out to Ranger Dave that Andy seemed to be slacking off in the latter miles, and perhaps they could use the extra space in their van.  Now I was wide awake, with a whole 90 minutes of waiting for Gary to arrive in front of me.  Whoo hoo!


Note to self: I need a marathon stick.


Eventually, we got the call from Pat that Gary was on his way, so we started to prep Paul for his final leg.  This leg is a virtual sprint, 2.5 miles, and I had real concerns that he might show up at the next transition point before we did.  I remember running the following leg a couple of years ago, Ranger Dave had the 2.5 mile leg Paul was about to run, and he was hell bent on getting there before us.  I also remember he almost did it, I was coming out of the porta potty when I heard somebody yelling for me to get my butt over to the transition point, Dave was coming in.


The Ultras had a different plan for that leg.  The fembot was running it, and they knew they couldn't beat her, so they had their gynecologist friends tilt one of the course arrows to send Rachel in the wrong direction for a few miles.  That way, they'd have plenty of time to pull into the transition area before Rachel arrived.  The plan worked, Rachel ran an extra 1.3 miles, and the Ultras got there just in time!  Everybody felt good about this except Rachel.


Paul asked for some support at mile 3/8, 5/8, 3/4, 7/8, well, you get the idea.  We hoped he was kidding (you were kidding, right Paul?), and just drove to the next transition point.  I downed my Aleve, tightened my laces, and prepared for the worst.  I also left instructions for my team to not stop anywhere along the route.  I didn't want anybody to see me sniveling.


Well, that leg was pretty tough, and I was running on empty pretty much all the way.  I had nothing left in the tank when I handed off to Tony, but it felt good to finish.


We were down to four short legs now, we could almost smell the ocean from where we were.  We also didn't have any opportunity to support any of our runners in between transition points, at this point in the race it becomes real difficult just to get in to the various transition points, so we had called Van 1 to ask for some support, as we'd done in previous years.  Much to our surprise, they turned us down!  Turns out they were all swimming, dining, and taking hot showers at Gary's house, which was conveniently located right along the route!


Tony didn't need our help, but as we crawled along in traffic we started to worry that he might beat us to the transition point.  Fortunately traffic lightened up a little bit, and we made it with time to spare.  Now we were down to our last 3 runners, and almost single digits for mileage.


Xuan was chomping at the bit.  Earlier, she'd tried to trade our last legs, my 6.8 for her 4.0.  Aside from the fact that it's kind of against the rules, she'd never in her life run more than 6 miles in training, so as tempting as the offer was, I decided it wasn't a good idea to subject her to her first 7 mile run at the tail end of this kind of event.  But here she was ready to run her 4 mile leg, jumping up and down with way too much energy.  Tony came in and handed her the baton, and she *sprinted* out of the gate.  I jumped out and told her to slow it down, which she did - a little.  I figured she could slow it down now (the easy way) or slow it down later (the hard way).  We'd find out which one when we passed by her in the van.


Xuan slowed it down the hard way, but she was still making good progress, so we kept going towards the next transition point.  Now all we had left were a 3.2 mile leg for Lynne, and a 4.2 mile leg for Karen.  Piece of cake for both of them, although both of them were fretting.


Xuan showed up right on time, passed off to Lynne, and all we had left to do was get Karen to her transition point ahead of Lynne.  Van 1 was calling us on a regular basis now, they'd finished their frolicking in the pool, and wanted to see if there was anything we needed.  I told them that our last three runners needed some support while we were struggling to make it to the transition points, and they informed me it was too late, they were already at the finish line drinking beer with the Ultras.


Lynne passed off to Karen, and now all we had to do was get to the finish.  And for the first time in Mass Soles history, we failed to make it.  The van, not the runner.


We knew Karen wouldn't need any help, and she probably wouldn't talk to us anyhow (she didn't, as we drove past her..), so we headed straight for the finish.  Too bad for us, there was a ton of traffic, we saw an ambulance right at where the parking lot entrance was, but by the time we got that close it was already too late - Van 1 called to let us know that Karen had arrived!  At least somebody got to run in with her!  Whoo hoo!


The rest was kind of anti climatic.  We took our traditional beach picture, this time with 18 people in it, not the usual 12.  I'm pretty sure that we'll have two teams running again next year, we've got a pretty good crowd of people now, I hate to see any of them drop out.


Mike, we missed you.


Until next year,




The pics:


<2008_09_11>    Pre Race

<2008_09_12>    Day 1

<2008_09_13>    Day 2