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A Tale of Two Vans (Chapter 2)

Once we saw Jamie off at the start, Van #2 went for lunch at a sub shop, which enabled us to cheer for Brian turning onto Rte 302 on Leg #2. We then continued on to Attitash, the first vehicle transition area. We scoped out what the transition areas look like – as Brian mentioned, the actual transition is marked by yellow taped-off area along the road, a few cones and a tent. While waiting for our turn, our van decided to tackle the scavenger hunt challenge, which involved visiting New Balance team vans to collect letters (silly bands) to spell “New Balance”. We ended up collecting all of them, but one of our Ns broke and we tossed it out before realizing we actually needed 2 Ns. It was still a fun diversion that allowed us to meet other runners throughout the event. Unfortunately, due to the aforementioned van with speakers on top and a few guys playing catch with a football who evidently thought our van should play too, we had too much noise and interruption to nap much, and besides we were quite excited to finally get to start running.

NEW BALA CE or EW BALANCE!

NEW BALA CE or EW BALANCE!


Like Brian, I was the #2 runner in my van, making me the #8 runner on the team. At 5:30pm I took my handoff from Lou (who claimed he saw a black bear cross the road in front of him), running out of Echo Lake State Park down West Side Road. I passed many farms, heard cows mooing and generally enjoyed the beautiful evening while humming along to my destination, HAM’s arena in Conway. This was a pretty good warm-up run of 6.61 miles with rolling hills and a net loss of 55 ft, which was quite comfortable at an 8:01 pace. This was the first leg using reflective gear, and I did feel much safer running with the vest, though I didn’t need the headlamp – mainly I used my visor to shield my eyes from the low sun.

In Van #2, everyone kept pretty well to their target pace, enabling us to finish our first legs before 9:30pm. Unfortunately by the time we got rolling, it was too late to grab dinner at nearby restaurants, because they were all closed. We ended up going to the next Vehicle Transition Area at a school, where we ate some pasta and tried to get some sleep. A couple of us slept on the floor of one of the buildings, two more set up a tent on the lawn, and the other two slept on the back seats of the van. I don’t think any of us got more than a couple fitful naps, but at least we rested a bit before our second shift started at 2:30am.

The night legs were peaceful, with red lights bobbing ahead to let you know you were on the right road, and sometimes it was pleasant to not know how far ahead they really were. I found it irresistible to try to pick off a few runners on the hills, especially after one of the Grumpy Old Men (grand masters men’s team) picked me off in the first quarter mile, calling me his first “scalp” of the leg – he meant it in a friendly way. In fact, I have to say that all the runners seemed pretty encouraging of one another throughout the race, though it might also be a reflection of my own exuberance. My second leg featured a dip to start, followed by a three-tier uphill, gaining 900 feet by mile five, then a three-mile descent, finishing with a mile of slight uphill. I knew I had to take it easy on the first half, but once I saw my van mates waiting for me at the top and knew I was over halfway done, I handed off my water bottle and kicked it hard down the hill (802 feet of loss!) and then coasted into the Gilmanton School at an 8:15 pace for 9.23 miles.

On the longer night legs we stopped along the way to make sure the runner was ok, offer water, and cheer. Mike D had a pretty brutal leg after mine, 8.5 miles with 550 feet of gain and also noting it was about 4am; he cursed the faux top before the actual peak, but was definitely in the mood to tackle it and then enjoy his downhill. We kept leapfrogging through the early morning hours, with Mike A sprinting through his 3.5 mi at dawn, Sha pushing it hard up her hilly 6.2 mi, and Jason running his longest leg with a strong finish just before 9:30am. I chatted with Van #1 briefly to wait for Jason, but then the pancakes called and we enjoyed breakfast made by the firemen’s auxiliary before taking a break.

On this respite we found a bathroom with real running water (the port-a-john hand sanitizer + sweat + food residue formed a rather gross slime after 4 hours) where we grabbed some snacks and coffee and freshened up a bit. Thankfully, we had great navigators who knew the area well and allowed us to take a shortcut to the next vehicle transition area while the back seat dozed. We had another chance to stretch out on the school lawn, take a pit stop, snack, and chat until our final leg began. The last 6 legs were pretty short and the traffic was pretty bad, so we left Lou to start and hopped ahead to the start of my final leg to make sure we got there in time for the handoff; we’d already seen a few runners finish their leg to the dismal discovery that their teammates were not yet ready to take the handoff.

I honestly wasn’t sure how my legs would feel after 15+ miles and 20 hours in the car when it was time to run again at ~1:30pm. I had eaten steadily through the morning hoping that the calories would make their way to my legs. It turned out I had nothing to fear – my legs felt great for the 6.7 miles. On the rolling start, I was able to keep up my turnover rate to pass a number of other runners up the hill, and then whizzed down mile 4 to take advantage of gravity. I was very fortunate that another team’s van crossed the road ahead of me at a crucial turn, else I might have cruised right on by and gotten off course. I expected to run an 8:30 pace so I thought I had another 5 minutes to go when I turned the last corner and saw the transition area ahead. I finished hard for another 8min pace run, very satisfied that I had a little bit left in the tank and kept a steady pace for all three of my runs. The near-missed turn and miscalculated pace were probably due to my lack of sleep, but overall I felt I handled the challenges of the race pretty well.

From this point on to the finish we fought traffic, which was at least as challenging as the final running legs. Mike A barely got warmed up before it was time to take the baton from Mike D, we got a little bit of buffer for the next handoff, but then completely missed Jason’s finish because of traffic through Hampton. Luckily Jason’s wife and the other van were there!

Jason finishing with 6 crazies from Van 1 chasing him

Jason finishing with 6 crazies from Van 1 chasing him


We got a text saying he finished, and then finally got to the finish ourselves to congratulate everyone in person, get our medals, and share a few stories.
Team NEEP at the finish

Team NEEP at the finish


As I was talking to friends at church this morning, one of them asked what does one eat during a 28 hour race? Here’s what I ate:
breakfast (6am): Oatmeal with raisins and coffee
2nd breakfast (10am): wheaties fuel – free samples at orientation
(12noon ish) Lunch: Turkey and Provolone Sub with green peppers
(3:30pm) Pre-Run fuel-up: peanut butter and jelly sandwich
(6pm) Post-Run snack: minestrone and bread
(8:30pm) Tied me over snack: apple
(11pm) Dinner: Spaghetti and bread
(2:30am) pre-run fuel: Cliff bar peanut butter
(3:45am) mid-run snack: Power Gel vanilla
(5am) post-run snack: hot cider and a banana
(5:50am) “I’m still hungry” snack: Mojo bar mountain mix
(7:30am) “Make sure I recover” beverage: Ensure strawberry
(9:30am) breakfast: pancakes+ syrup and ham, hunk of bread, coffee
(11am) lunch: peach yogurt, cookies
(12:30pm) final fueling: trail mix and an orange
Throughout: Water and Gatorade
We packed a lot of snacks in the car but definitely appreciated the food provided by volunteers at several of the transition areas. Hot minestrone, pasta and pancakes hit the spot.

Our van definitely had a different dynamic than Van #1. Highlights for me were how considerate everyone was of one another, checking in to make sure we were fed, hydrated, cheered, encouraged, stretched, and generally in good shape for the next part of the adventure. We had excellent navigators and took turns driving. We shouted “NEEP!” to rally one another at the start/finish of the legs and when passing our runner in the van. I thought the legs were pretty well suited to each runner and everyone ran hard but within their own abilities. It was a really enjoyable ~30 hours with one another.

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