Summer ended, a new year began, and it may be simultaneously the greatest and hardest year I've ever had. So much is changing- and I know I've written before that it would be like this- and it's throwing me out of my comfort zone, but there is still so much about my life that's incredible.
This past weekend? Me and eleven of my friends- some old, some new- ran Reach the Beach together.
Reach the Beach is a 208-mile relay race from Franconia to Hampton Beach. On a twelve person team, each runner will run three legs of the race. Teams travel in vans to shuttle runners to their starting lines; the first six runners are in one van, the second six in the other. While one van's runners are on the course, the runners in the other van can eat, sleep, and whatever until they have to be ready to take over (so this involves lots of cell phone coordination and a good GPS).
My van- Van 2- was me, Boston, Tiny, Sunshine, Sunshine's mom, and Tiny's friend Mike. Basically? It was epic. I was a little unsure how Boston would take my north country friends; he met them briefly when Sunshine and Tiny got married, but a wedding's no place to really get to know someone. Riding in a van for over 24 hours, though? That will do it.
Fortunately, it was awesome. Everyone got along, and we had a heck of a time when we weren't running. We all had to get up early for the start of the race, and then- since we were the "off" van first- we were able to have breakfast together. Afterwards, we went to our transition zone- where our van would take over the race- and had to find a way to kill time. It was an absolutely gorgeous day, so we had no problem lounging in the sunshine. But we also discovered a version of Cards Against Humanity that we could play on our phones. Yes, we are all horrible, horrible people. But it was funny.
And then our van was up! I was the 11th runner, so I still didn't run for another couple hours. Instead, I cheered my teammates on and handled the navigation between transitions. I finally took the baton (which is actually a snap bracelet) midway through the afternoon and ran 4.8 miles to White Lake State Park, which was a fantastic bit to run.
My second leg was less fun: 8.8 miles at around 5:00AM. I ran from a parking lot in Pitsfield down Rt 28 to Webster Park. It was gorgeous because the sky was full of stars, and there were a lot of other runners on the route (the faster teams start in later waves and catch up around that point), and nearly all of them wished me a good morning and commented on how perfect it was to be out there. I was making my merry way through the mileage, but at around 5.5 I just bonked. I've never felt my blood sugar drop the way it did then. I sent a quick text to my teammates because I knew they'd parked the van at mile six and I wanted them to get me Gatorade. They also got me candy the Lindt Chocolate team had given us earlier. Seriously, it was like the candy of life right then. It was enough to get me through the rest of the run. I think what I said once I'd handed the baton off to Sunshine was, "Oh my God, that was ASS!" That got lots of laughs. So true, though.
I got about an hour of sleep the next time our van camped out- at Sanborn High School- and then I went out to cheer on all the runners coming through. I wasn't expecting to see my buddy Josh there as a spectator. Now, Josh is the real deal- a sponsored like woah mountain runner with a world championship medal- but before he was any of that, he was the goofy guy on my high school track team who forever encouraged me to keep running, so it was awesome to see him while I was in the middle of a ridiculous race. I hollered his name and he came over to hug me, despite the fact that I was gross at that point. He happens to be a fantastic hugger.
Anyways. I threw down as best I could in my final leg, which was 3.4 miles through North Hampton. It was all cute and residential, and smelling of autumn leaves already. I loved it. I passed the baton to Sunshine for the last time, and then we all hurried to the van so we'd be able to meet him on the beach and run the final stretch with him. That part was awesome: all twelve of us crossed the line cheering while the hype man announced who we were.
It wasn't a very beachy day at that point- too cold, too windy- so we didn't stick around long. Another day, we'd have stayed and enjoyed the after party. Instead, we parted ways. Boston left first because his parents came up to drive him back to the city, and then the runners in Van 1 started to trickle away. The rest of us went to Texas Roadhouse- so awful, so delicious- and then made the long trek back north. I stayed over at Sunshine and Tiny's house rather than trying to drive back to mine on no sleep.
The next morning, the three of us, plus Mike and his wife, met for breakfast. The thing about running a long race is that you burn so many calories that you're hungry for days afterwards. So breakfast was huge, heh. And then Mike invited us over to his folks' place for football, chili, and a hot tub. How would anyone say no to that? So I hung out in the north country a while longer, and man... It was awesome. Good times, good people, you know?
Both my parents tried to call me as I was driving home- and, hellooooo, post-divorce awkward!- so I got to tell them each separately about how the race went. I'll probably see my dad in a couple of weeks because there's a race in the old hometown for Benny. More on that in another entry.
I caught up on my sleep, drove into work on Monday morning... and, y'know, it was perfect. Sunshine, almost-autumn air, turkeys in the road. It's Homecoming Week, too, at my beautiful school in the mountains, and there's so much joy. There are challenges, too, but I'll save those for another entry. I just keep thinking to myself I want more of these days.