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Posted on May 21, 2012 in Races | 30 comments

Reach the Beach MA: Part 1

We. Did. It.

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After 31 hours, 200 miles, and 2 vans full of my awe-inspiring teammates, Team Off Balance literally Reached the Beach and I could not be more proud, more happy, or more exhausted.


Our team, plus our AMAZING New Balance drivers/coaches/van moms! (via Anne)

I’m not really even sure where to start with this recap. So much has happened over the past few days — exciting, exhausting, physically and emotionally challenging things — that it’s actually kind of difficult to organize my thoughts to the point of coherency. Still, I want to get it all down while it’s fresh in my mind (and before it’s burned out of my memory by the hot Caribbean sun, haha) so I’m going to try!

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12 bloggers, 200 miles. NBD.

Our epic weekend actually began on Thursday with a New Balance factory tour (they were seriously the most AMAZING sponsor!) and a lot of team preparations (photos, logistical planning, eating of steak and carbs, haha), but I’ll circle back to all of that after I’ve recapped the actual race itself.

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Things got started bright and early Friday morning with our arrival at the starting area at the Mount Wachusett Ski Area. We had to go through a registration process, safety check, and get our team photo before we could line up, so we got there nice and early. Our team’s starting time was 10:20 AM, but I think we arrived sometime around 9.

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Because the start times for all the teams were staggered as to avoid congestion both at the beginning and end of the race, it was a bit of a different starting line experience than I’m used to. No huge crowds of people or corals to push through, just a few other teams and a decent amount of time for me to start freaking out. I was runner number 1, after all!

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Feeling excited…

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… but admittedly anxious!

My first leg was only 2.8 miles, but marked as “hard” (for good reason, as it turns out!). I was excited about the short mileage, but completely petrified about the elevation. I mean, we were at the base of a freakin’ ski resort! I was literally looking straight up the side of a mountain from the starting line.

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See the ski lifts behind me? Hahaha…ha…ha.

Despite my terror, the anticipation and excitement was still very high. My teammates did their best to keep me amped! Because of the short length and fact that this was predominantly a trail run, this was the only leg that our team didn’t give van course support on, so they really layered the support on ahead of time. 🙂 In retrospect, I’m actually kind of glad of that, since I wouldn’t have wanted them to see how much I ended up struggling!

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Anne and me at the base of the mountain.

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Theodora helping to get me pumped with her maaaaaad jump shot skillz.

Before I knew it, they were calling our team to the start and I was lined up and ready to go. At 10:20 on the dot, we were off! My entire team was cheering for me and I was so excited that it was finally starting. I high-fived them all as I ran past! 🙂

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The incline up the mountain path started right away. Seriously, from my very first step, I was headed uphill. I quickly fell to the back of the pack (uh, duh) but held up a steady step as I climbed upward.

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After about half a mile, the trail completely disappeared into the woods and I couldn’t see down to the starting area anymore. This is where things got really bad. If I thought that the initial hill at the starting line was steep, I had absolutely no idea what I was getting myself into. It was RIDICULOUS. I started to breathe extremely raggedly, and my quads and hamstrings began to seriously burn.

I was petrified that I wasn’t even going to be able to finish this one leg of the race, and every step forward was a huge mental battle. I knew I couldn’t stop though. I mean, that clearly just wasn’t an option. This was not only my first leg, but the very first leg of the entire race! I had a whole van of supportive women waiting for me on the other side. So onward I plugged, step by step.

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It doesn’t translate very well into photos, but I snapped this shot on my phone as I was making my excruciatingly slow way up the mountain path. Just pretty much think of this hill as being twice, maybe three times as steep as it looks, and maybe that’ll be an accurate representation. It was also rocky and uneven, and I definitely stumbled more than a few times. I even fell once! Luckily (?), I’m super clumsy and am always tripping and falling, plus I was jogging along at a snail’s pace, so I didn’t really hurt myself, just ended up with one or two wicked bruises on my shins to show off later.

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Aside from the unbearable, agonizing steepness, it was a really beautiful trail. There were one or two blissful 50-ish foot stretches of semi-flatness that were absolutely breathtaking. One had this little pond/waterfall was that was babbling nicely, where I was fortunate enough to be chased off by an angry bee (which definitely motivated me to keep running, haha!).

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Another stretch of the path opened up to a little viewing area with a couple of benches that looked over the entire mountain. This was the point where I started to realize how far I had climbed upward. Not too far after seeing this, the trail opened up onto the road (just a tiny bit before the 2 mile point) and things got better. Way better. Super-awesomely-downhill-better. I was so excited to be A) going downhill and B) on solid ground (not to mention feeling fairly guilty about how slowly the first 2 miles had gone) that I started to FLY. At one point I looked down at my phone and saw a 7:40 pace!

In hindsight, this was probably a terrible, terrible thing, because I was hitting the pavement HARD with each step. I definitely bruised the bottom of my right foot and it still hurts even as I write this (though to be fair, I can’t really say whether it happened during this leg or one of my others).

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Finally, after what felt like an eternity, I heard some cheering and whooping as the runner a little ways ahead of me reached the transition area, and I knew I was almost home free. There was one last tiny uphill incline at the very end (cruel!) but I powered through because I knew my van was waiting for me.

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We had a videographer along with our team for the entire race, so I’m sure he got some SUPER attractive footage of me here, hahaha.

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As you can see from my expression, it wasn’t pretty, but I did it!

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Our “baton” for the relay was actually a snap bracelet (80s throwback, what-what!), so I unhooked it from my wrist as I approached my team and slapped it onto Jess‘s wrist right as I finished!

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And that was a wrap on leg 1! To be honest with you all, I was probably the least qualified runner to tackle this insanely difficult leg. I mean, I’m sure it would have been hard for anyone, but it was seriously the most physically challenging thing I have ever done. I guess that just makes me all the more proud that I was able to do it, though! I like to think that I bit the proverbial bullet for the rest of my team by taking one the very first leg, too. You know, so that they didn’t have to. YOU ARE ALL WELCOME. 😉

I think I’ll cut off this lengthy post there. I’ll be back tomorrow with a recap of Leg 2! (Well, technically, I’ll be on my way to St. Maarten tomorrow. But you get what I mean.) And in case you’re in need a refresher, here is the breakdown of Team Off Balance!


Another pilfered pic from Anne, hehe.

Van 1:

#1: Me!
#2: Jess from Fit Chick in the City
#3: Melissa from Fitness NYC
#4: Patricia from Run Foodie Run
#5: Bridget from Yogurt Berries
#6: Sarah from SarahFit

Van 2:

#7: Tina from Carrots ‘N’ Cake
#8: Monica from Run Eat Repeat
#9: Theodora from Losing Weight in the City
#10: Elizabeth from On Tap for Today
#11: Anne from Fannetastic Food
#12: Ashley from A Healthy, Happier Bear

30 Comments

  1. Holy cow, that hill. I would have died!! So impressed! Can’t wait to hear about the rest.

  2. Eee! I’m so proud of you Gretchen! I know that I wouldn’t have been able to make it up that high. Go you for not giving up! Sometimes you just gotta take it one step at a time, one foot in front of the other!

  3. 1. I AM SO FREAKING PROUD OF YOU.
    2. Those pics from your leg are GORGEOUS.
    3. That pic of me jumping is, um, interesting.

    • That’s what some serious air looks like, girrrrrl! 😀

    • OMG YESSSS. Everyone needs to watch this so they can see how it just keeps. going. up. Thank you for this! 😀

  4. Yay, Gretchen- I’m so proud of you! That leg sounded hardcore, and I can imagine the mental strength it took to PUSH THROUGH (so much of running is mental!!). Having the whole van of girls relying on you and cheering you own is definitely a big motivating factor!
    Can’t wait to read the rest. 🙂

  5. Love this post! You did such a great job! Thank you so much for joining the team! 🙂

  6. Way to go! That hill looks intennnnse. I’m terrible at hill running – give me flat Richmond streets any day!

  7. I just found your blog today, from Monica’s blog. It looks like a great accomplishment. Congratulations!!

  8. Holy crap! Good job! I would have DIED on that hill! It’s making me winded just looking at the picture…. yeesh! Can’t wait to read the other recaps 🙂

  9. Hi, teammate. 😉 You crushed that leg, and definitely got our team off to a great start. Loved spending time with you this weekend. Safe travels (please get a tan and a fruit beverage for me). xo

    • Consider it done. I find it especially appropriate that the drink I will have in my hand nonstop starting tomorrow is called a “Dirty Banana”. 😉

  10. Wow!! Watching Jack’s video REALLY emphasized the climb!! Way to go Gretchen! I’m proud of you!
    The surprise in the video made me lol and my hubby looked over at me like I was nuts!
    I can’t wait to read all about the rest of the relay!

  11. Did you pick to be number 1? Or were you assign?
    Either way you were super brave to go first. Way to go!

    • I was originally supposed to be runner 5, but then they changed the length of the first leg so I swapped with someone so my overall mileage would be more manageable.

  12. Thanks for tackling that hill for us… so we didn’t have to. 😉

    So proud of you! xo

  13. THAT LOOKED FUN! I need to do a race of sorts like that sometime.

  14. Gretchen!!!! You were an awesome teammate/vanmate/sweat sistah! So happy and honored to have met you and ran a relay with you! Have so much fun on your well-deserved vacation…and I don’t think I can thank you enough (haha) for running up that hill..err, MOUNTAIN! Love ya!

  15. I love the way you recap!! I was interested in every word, even though I’ve been reading along with all the team off balance updates since last week!!

    You rocked that leg, lady!! AWESOME JOB!

  16. Can I just say how amazing you are? That had to have been the hardest leg of the course and you smashed it! So happy to have met you and had you in my van!

  17. Great job! Hills suck, but at least yours were lined with beautiful scenery! What an awesome adventure!

  18. CONGRATS! I am so proud and inspired by your success! Thanks for the motivation Gretchen!

  19. Hi, Gretchen,your blog really touches me, have been reading it for awhile… Just wanted you to know about a website i started ReadYourBiblesChurch.com… It’s a place for Bible study guides.. I also put a forum in that can be viewed from a mobile device.. I couldn’t find where to contact you privately so I’m commenting, hope that is okay. 🙂 God Bless!
    Jenn.

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