Two hundred mile relays are hard to write about. I’ve now done three of these. They get in your blood, they become an addiction. This is the first of those three I’m writing about. Last year I caught the bug by joining RaceMenu at Reach the Beach MA, which I was woefully unprepared for. Then in September, a strong contingent of the RaceMenu team tackled RTB:NH. This year, a mix of people I ran both those relays with decided to run a lesser known 200 mile relay, The Mass Dash.
The Mass Dash is a charity relay that Benefits the Jimmy Fund. Starts at the highest highs of Massachusetts and crosses the state ending at Carson Beach in Southie. For this go around, I managed to recruit my sister and my friend Angela from college. It was not easy to cajole both of them into taking on a 24 hour relay.
Let’s just examine why this was hard for a moment, because I’ve become anesthetized as to why this may sound crazy. You are running 24+ hours. You are running three legs spaced hours apart over the course of those 24+ hours. You are not really sleeping. You are not really eating all that well. You are cooped up in a van with 5 people, many of whom may be strangers for 24+ hours. You’re malnourished, hygienically a disaster, and exhausted.
Now, to me all of this sounds strangely like fun. But rereading the last sentence of that last paragraph I can see why it isn’t altogether appealing to the common person. But, somehow I did manage to talk them in to all of that.
Perhaps writing about one of these is so hard because so much happens. You have 6 different personalities in van, helping each other, making each other laugh, stay hydrated, stay awake, stay focused, stay alive. It would be impossible to write everything that happened down. So, I can only hope that the rest of the members of Team Boom! May recount their own experiences. I will do my best to recount mine here.
We all met in Southie. We were rolling hard in blacked out Suburbans. We could have been the government. We could have been Jay-Z. We took the Opa-Opa Steakhouse and Brewery by storm for dinner, where my teammate, a fine British fellow by the name of Phil and I drank maybe one too many of their strong beers. The crew made it up to Williamstown were we checked into the Bates Motel. Having had one too many strong beers, Phil and I slept soundly in our rooms. We woke the next day and headed to Mount Greylock, which not only sounds like something out of Shakespeare, it looked like an evil castle could have been lurking in the mist ringing the top of the mountain. We were in the second of two groups to go off. The first left 3 hours before we were scheduled. We somehow were seeded second of all the 26 teams – which meant we were paired up exclusively with high school cross country teams. After warming up with a Zumba class, our first van of runners led the charge up the mountain and were on their way. Our van drove to get a few needed supplies and then met up with van 1 at the fourth TA (transition area).
*Just a quick note on the course and the volunteers. This was a beautiful course – literally over mountain and rivers, though valleys, town centers, landmarks, and ending at the beach. It was, however, very difficult – the terrain climbs and descends, roads are trails, trails are roads, night is pitch black, and the days were like Amazonian jungles. The volunteers were amazing – all so nice, helpful and passionate. All in all this was a very well organized race. But know that for everyone running, we were all be challenged physically.
Leg 1: Zoar State Park. 5.8 miles. Ally handed off to me and I took off wearing the shortest of short shorts a male runner can conceivably wear. My goal was to hunt down some of the children we had started with. My theory was that, as XC runners, they wouldn’t be able to sustain endurance that long and would eventually run out of gas. I can tell you right now, I was horribly wrong. I ran pretty well, and at one point was within 4 minutes of catching one of the whippersnappers, but they eluded me. The terrain was flat and beautiful, with only one slight hill, which managed to destroy me (mile 1 was a 6:14, without the hill I think I would have turned in my first documented sub 6 of the year). I ran strong in to the TA and handed off to Jayme (who’s a wonderwoman).
Leg 2: Quabbin Reservoir and Winsor Dam. 9.5 miles. After eating at the Amherst Brewing Co (only 1.5 beers this time around for Phil and me), I took the baton after 10:00 at night in unfortunately named Belchertown. I started off at a good pace, still feeling fairly fresh after my earlier leg. I told the van to meet me between 2.5-3 miles, right before I was to enter the Quabbin area where the van wasn’t allowed so I could grab some water. I didn’t see the van pass me or hear them cheer for me when they passed so I started to get worried that they wouldn’t meet me in time. Turns out I was running faster than they anticipated so they got nervous when they didn’t see me and sped ahead. They did meet me, though, and I had some water before heading into the Quabbin/dam area. It was eerie. It was very dark as I ran down the road to the dam. I had been told I would have a ‘police escort’ but no one met me(since 9/11 the dam has been closed to pedestrians – only Mass Dashers are allowed on it). I ran onto the dam itself. I’m not joking when I say the ‘guardrail’ came up to below mid-shin. It was pitch black. There were no sounds. I took a quick look over the edge and couldn’t see the river flowing below. There was just a giant blackness that spread where the river valley was. I made sure to stay in the middle of the dam. After ¾ of a mile, I finally was off the dam and met some state troopers. I told them I was happy to be off that, they told me to be careful of the bear – thanks, officers! I met up with my van again outside the park and had some water before taking on a steady 2.5 miles of hills. The hill wound up not being so bad. What was was the angle of the left side of the road I was running on. My right ankle (my bad ankle for those of you that remember the fence jumping incident of 2011) took most of the impact and was on fire for the last 2.5 miles of the leg. It was absurdly humid and I pulled in to the Knight’s of Columbus looking like I had taken a dip along the way. The KOC were kind enough to stay up cooking breakfast, however my stomach was not quite happy with the combination of beer, Portobello burger, and 9.5 miles in air you could swim through easier than run, so I had to forego.
Pre-Leg 3:Ally courageously drove us to Hopkinton with Phil as co-pilot. I fell asleep along the way. On arriving, we went behind an elementary school. I mumbled a few nonsensical, 90% asleep phrases and then wandered off to sleep on a park bench in a playground. If the homeless could do it, so could I. I woke up around 6:30. The sun was shining, birds were chirping, I was on a park bench. A few other teammates were making slow movements. I Yelped coffee in Hopkinton and my sister and I headed off across the green, over the marathon starting line, only to find it was closed on Sundays. There would be no coffee for the members of Boom! Van 2. The rest of the Boom! arrived and then we got going.
Leg 3: Greater Wellesley area/Wellesley. 5.3 miles. In one word tough. The fact that I barely trained finally caught up with me. Add in poor eating and drinking habits (I did hydrate plenty), a night spent exploring where everyone thought my English degree would land me and I was in for a bad leg. The first mile was tough, but pretty quick – 6:47. But then the wheels came off. I went into the 7’s, then the 8’s and just kept plugging along. In a town center, I don’t know what town, I couldn’t tell what direction I needed to go in. I ran a ¼ of a mile the wrong way. Asked a local what road went where, and they shrugged at me. This was the only time along the course I felt like it was not adequately marked. I walked some, I’m almost ashamed to admit. But it was hot. My head hurt and my legs felt empty. I finished the last few miles and ended at the library in Wellesley.
Leg 4(?) Southie. 3 miles. My sister was awesome all weekend, I think she may have had a religious experience. But due to a course reroute for cars, we lost sight of her. We went on ahead to the finish. I was worried though. I ran the course backwards until I met up with her about 1.5 miles out (told her only 1 mile) and paced her in. Lara ran strong and was the first one of all of us to cross the finish line.
This was a great, albeit small, relay. It was beautiful, it was challenging, it was for a good cause. If you’re a runner, and don’t get why I do these, go get on a team a try it for yourself. RTB, Ragnar, Hood to Coast, Mass Dash. You’ll get it. It will get in your blood. You will do more. I promise.
Place: Overall, 6 – 2nd in category – Time – 27 hours, 6 minutes
Next up – Falmouth Road Race.