Reach the Beach: Leg 6 – My First Leg

Reach the Beach Leg #6, White Mountain National Forest, Hart’s Location © 2010 Pieter van Hattem

My first leg of the Reach the Beach Relay for Better on the Way Down was Leg #6. I took the week off since my long run last Sunday. My body was beginning to feel the miles. A taper to prepare for race day was in order anyway. When registering, I had estimated my pace at 7 minute miles and didn’t want to let myself or my team down.

I’d studied the map of the run and the elevation. At 8.63 miles, this was my longest run of the race. I wanted to run fast but also needed to pace myself for what was left ahead.  And I had no idea what was left ahead having never done a 24-hour race before this.

The route was pretty straight forward – down route 302 for 8 and a half miles on a gradual downward slope.  I thought I could put in a good time with my only fear being the stress the downslope would put on my legs.

It was hard being the last runner in my van. I’d been chomping at the bit, a coiled spring, since leaving Brooklyn 24+ hours ago. The longer I had to wait and watch my teammates run their legs, the more I started to actually have nerves. Juno sent a text reminding me “you could do this standing on your head” which helped since I knew that I could. I just didn’t know how it would feel. And the twist of a team relying on me brought a dimension to running I hadn’t experienced before.

When I got the “baton” (a reflective snap bracelet actually) from Janine it was energizing to see her strong push to her finish line, my starting line. I took my first strides in a week and felt like I couldn’t remember how to run, it had been so long.  I flew off the line at a sprint needing to remind myself this was over 8 miles to run with many more to follow.  When you’re the one running, though, you know your team is counting on you.  I wanted to run fast but most of all I needed to be sure to not get hurt.

I pulled back a touch and got into a groove.  It’s hard to get up to pace without a proper warm up run (which usually now takes me at least 3 miles) but I managed to cover my first mile in 6:38.  Not a bad warm up mile at all.  I managed 3 “roadkills” (passing other runners) but got killed myself around mile 7.  That probably helped as I used my killer as a pacer for the rest of the leg.  I kept my distance, staying about 50 yards back for the rest of the run and finished in 58:36, a 6:48 pace.

My leg ended at the first Vehicle Transition Area so our whole team was there – 11 others greeting me at the finish and sending Kathryn off with cheers.  It was great to have my first run done feeling strong at a pace I could be proud of and knowing I helped my team on it’s way to the beach

For stats see Reach the Beach: Leg 6 – Details.

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