Monday, August 10, 2009

River 2 Coast Relay 14 (R2C14)

The Hustlin Highlanders post race and Tim taming the beast, (White calfguards not visible)

RIVER TO Coast Relay August 1, 2009

The 14th running of Mark Zenobia’s River to Coast Relay, or simply R2C14, transpired, or should I say perspired, on August 1, 2009. The day was filled with physical, mental, logistical, and even adversarial hurdles. “Take that Team Audi Wagon from NYC” as we curb hopped over then. The team from Chatham , NJ ran over every hurdle throughout the day, or drive over them if you were Mitch or Justin, our two college age drivers, courtesy of TSS.

The event requires submission of an average 5K time for each runner. Starting times are then determined by aggregating the submitted times, and then multiplying by 4.5 to come up with gross minutes. 8:30pm is the time cut off and your allocated minutes than our subtracted from 8:30 to create a starting time between 6 and 10am. For team #49, aka the Hustlin’ Highlanders, this is our race story as relayed by the observations and impressions of the team through their Team Captain Tim Allison.

All seven team members showed tremendous courage, poise, patience, understanding, sympathy, and stamina to make the event the memorable experience that it became for all seven of us. A brief introduction of the team members and drivers from left to right per the above photo.

Tom Albrecht – aka - the Prof. Reentering the running world in March after an 18 year layoff, Tom laid down 9 valuable miles. He covered his last five miles in sub 8 minute pace. Not bad for a diabetic 40 year old! Affiliation (or affliction) he is Tim’s brother in law from New Paultz, NY. Therefore he has to worship Tim and follow all his zany running tips, such as injesting electrolyte tablets, drinking blue accelerade, and donning breathable IM hats.

Michael Cooney - aka – Coondawg, The YES network director ramped his 3-6 miles a week treadmilling to 15 miles a week outside running in preparation. He had not run a six miler until two weeks before race day. He contributes 11 miles over three stages for the relay including the sprint in to the sea for Team Highlander, dusting that little girl!

Dianna Carroll – aka Mamma llama. Fairmounter Lady Di took her running to a new level in completing over 10 miles in extreme conditions. Dianna had run for charity, but never for team or rabid neighbors before. Not sure who suffered more damage during race day, her body, or her donated Honda minivan.

Marguerite White – aka Ice Princess (Ice P)– Marguerite uniquely discovered the joys of ice during her hot humid training runs. How? By stepping out for a training run through a hail storm. She parlayed this valuable lesson to create ice pellet water scarves for several Highlanders and lend crucial mental and physical support all along the race route.

Ellen Drury – aka Buckeye girl - Same as her treasured team, Ellen consistently is a winner in her running pursuits. She was assigned the longest hottest stage, no cheering and honking please! and then managed to rock out another 6.5 miles on short rest. Way to dot the “I” Ellen!

Mitch from Ohio – Well, he is from Chatham and goes to school at Denison, but is “semestering” in Copenhagen. Mitch manned the Lexus 450, and did not permit curbs, mud, private driveways, or small animals stand in the way of his successful support vehicle driving. Remember what I told ya, those Eastern European girls don’t love you, your charm, or your good looks, they love your green card potential! Careful there, son!

Jim Connelly – aka Jake Blues – Jim manned up for over 17 miles of running and logged the lowest per mile stage split, running 8.2 miles in under an hour and then ran another 9.15 later in the heat. He did not let anything stop him, even the footprints on his back from the Kenyan girl that ran him over at mile 4 of his second leg.

Justin from PENN – Relegated to the minvan, Justin’s manhood was never threatened. However, at midday he was spotted in the Lex 450 with Mitch and what was assumed to be SUV envy. Turns out Ellen and Marguerite had tossed him out of the van for a little lady changearoo time! Sorry Justin!

Tim Allison – aka Race Czar, and the team voted worst relay race dressed team member. Per feedback from Buckeye girl, “That photo is SHOCKING. The only thing missing were the white calf warmers. While I am reluctant to make fun, since god only knows what blackmail pictures were taken of me, but we all know Tim deserves it. BTW Big Al would love it.”

August 1st was to start early, around 4:30 am for the seven runners, but in many ways started months or even years ago. Tim had been working to create a Highlands neighborhood relay team for years. Ellen was first on board, overcoming her fear of the work to regain her competitive running form. Jim and Marguerite were intrigued by a relay concept. Novice runners Tom, Mike and Dianna were venturing into foreign territory, not sure how their bodies or spirits would react to the unknown, in terms of distance to run, how to manage nutrition, hydration and heat, and being surrounded by many ultra competitive athletes.

Race Morning – 5:30 am

Jim, Tim, Mike and Tom, (the boys) congregate at 48 Huron and are met by the two drivers, Justin, and Mitch. Where is Dianna with her van? She is five minutes late then it is 8. The plan was to pack the coolers, drive over to Nicholson and pick up Ellen and Marguerite at 5:40 and then be on the road at 5:45 am. We are now behind schedule and Tim and Jim face their first test of being anal retentive time bandits.

OK, pause, breathe, focus. This event is not about seconds, or minutes, but the whole day. Swallow the testosterone and man up. Face the fact that the day is about seven people and not one person’s race. So what to do? It is decided that Jim’s Lexus SUV heads out to collect the other two girls, and then meet up at the country store. Just as Jim is leaving, Dianna shows up in her Honda Minivan. At 5:39. As she was told we are leaving at 5:45, she is not only not late by most standards, she is six minutes early.

So as we pull the van into the store, the Lex appears. I look at my watch, 5:44 and tell Justin to hit it and follow the departing Lex. We are off on time. Wait, where is Mike? Mike is nowhere to be found. He has gone to pee in the Country Store. Now we experience the first of our Honda door troubles trying to get Mike back in. The door is automatic, but has a mind of its own. Mike struggles to open and close it, Dianna struggles to not say “its not that hard guys”, Justin is quiet and Tim know what will happen next . .wait, wait, wait for it, “Tim’s cell phone rings to Montell Jordan’s “This is How we do it,” the first of many check in calls from Jim wanting to know where are we?

Tension is not ideal to start a race and we need some team building. Our drivers are Justin and Mitch both summer workers at TSS and have “volunteered” to drive today. I guess when compared with packing dumpsters or sweeping up drywall dust, driving a bunch of idiot runners around all day is not a bad deal. OK, we need an icebreaker here!

Hhmnnn, common ground. I think back to my summer of TSS like work. In 1986 I spent 2 months of homebuilding construction, or “the Big Al” story. For those not in the know, let’s just say the story revolves around the general class of career contract day labor construction workers, and the constant sexual overtures toward proclivities that do not include females. That and cleaning up mancrap in paint buckets which always brought a laugh by the labor set At any rate, a small hit to the Captain’s ego to break the ice and the tension. The van arrives at the race start an hour later with the loose fittings of a group prepared to tackle a project together. Now to bring Jim and the Nicholson girls onboard.

Milford, NJ 6:50 am. Check out the Race route,+nj&daddr=lambertville,+nj+to:hopewell,+nj+to:rocky+hill,+nj+to:jamesburg,+nj+to:manasquan,+nj&hl=en&geocode=&mra=ls&dirflg=w&sll=37.0625,-95.677068&sspn=29.716225,42.626953&ie=UTF8&ll=40.327702,-74.779816&spn=0.445994,0.666046&z=10

Team Highlander enters Milford and the race start. I am now in pre-race mode. How much time to the start? How is my eat and drink? What is the bathroom status? Check in needs? Timing chips? Body marking? Transition Zone set up? OK, this is weird. I am not even running for 3 hours. What I do need to do is bring the team together.

We need to check in, take the race photo, and distribute numbers. Beyond that we have to kill an hour. OK, assign tasks. I need to register us, talk some support logistics to ensure each car has a timer, a timing leadsheet, a plan and icebreaker #2, CAR DECORATIONS!

As any “soft” of creative endeavor, there are early adopters, and those who wait, observe, and will participate when the acceptance risk is lower. Marguerite champions the project from the get go on the Lex. Ellen encourages, Jim watches, Tom captures on video. Poor Mitch who has to tape numbers on the car is lost.

On the VAN, Tim watches as Dianna and Mike decorate and Justin capably tapes car race numbers on. The Big AL theme is memorialized, HEY! what about Highlanders? OK, Tim maybe not your shiniest moment here! The Lex is Highlander central, and yes Mitch please move that race number yet again per Ice P.

Mission accomplished, let’s pin on some numbers, talk race and get ready to go. After some bathrooming, time for the team photo. A last pee for Dianna and to the start on the bridge. Lady Di is nervous, but better now than sitting in the car waiting for hours. Let’s get her feet wet. The team heads up the road to Exchange 1 and Tim, Tom, Ellen and Justin accompany Dianna to the start.

7:40 am - Stage 1 Milford, NJ 7:40 - Mamma on her llama Miles 0-4.8

We are off! Dianna is out fast and is racing the eight other starters. They are all moving and she is in the mix pushing herself out of her comfort zone to keep up with the band of runners. Caught up in the moment and racing, but hey why not! I admire her courage taking on this relay challenge. She makes quick stops for water at mile 1.5, 2.5 and 3.8 and she is into transition to handoff to Jim running sub 9s and her 30 second walks right on the team’s finishing schedule.

I quickly realize this relay is gonna be really hard. Yes, running itself is going to be hard, but way harder to cheer and lend support all day. As a supporter you are not in control of the outcome but can only influence it. And as Captain you must make quick decisions all day long, as you get hotter, more tired, and feel more out of control of your situation. Kind of like being a parent!

8:25 am Stage 2 Bull Island - The Jiminator Miles 4.8-13

The first transition is packed with teams, runners and support vehicles. People are rowdy and loud filled with nervous energy. The van drives by and cannot stop. We do spot Jim getting ready. Ahead one mile we pull off and wait. There he comes! Jim is flying. Stage 2 is a shady wide open road slightly downhill. Though he has 7 more miles to go Jim is on a mission from God. Now if the team only had a 1978 Dodge black and white cop car with a bull horn on the top to cheer him on. V-8 cop motor. Will outrun anything. Throw in 8 Slices dry white toast, and four chickens, whole. Jim is Jake Blues from the Blue Brothers and he is on a mission to get the band back together. Or at least the team to Manasquan in just under 13 hours.

Jim posts 7:25 splits and is the newly appointed Highlander team religious icon. The support thing is still hard but we are getting the routine down. Pull over every other mile, pee in the woods, grab some water and ice and wait for Jim to whoosh by for a quick drink. He passes 6 or 7 teams and posts 8 minutes of “bonus” time for the team.

9:25am Stage 3 Delaware River Canal Tow Path Margueritizing the competition Miles 13-19.5

Marguerite is poised to go waiting on Jim, but not for long. Jim is taking no prisoners and no names. Earlier Jake Elwood joked that the handover at the exchanges involve "making out". At least between legs 2 and 3. “How much for your wife? Your daughter? How much for the women? Nice Try Jake! Save it for the long and hot later.

Ice P will be cool as she is shielded from the road by the canopy of trees that separate the canal tow path from the highway. She recalls, “During my first leg in Lambertville on the canal I thought it was funny that one runner got around the "no IPOD" rule by attaching a small sound system to his waist and playing 80s music/Pat Benatar for all those around him to hear.

She tracks two other runners and does not know her pace, but knows she is kicking ass. “I found my strategy of just running and focusing on the run and not the time successful during my legs in my effort to go as fast as I could and therefore exceed my performance expectations.” And four minutes under the team captain’s projections for her as well. She comes in under 50 minutes for the 6.5 miles which is sub 8 minute pace. AWESOME

Team Highlander is now a net 12 minutes under our required pacing to finish. OMG! Meanwhile Justin drives the van ahead to the 3rd exchange for the 4th leg at the CVS in Lambertville. As Ice P churns into the exchange, the Lex drives ahead to an old folks home half a mile up the Rt 518 hill otherwise known as the beast to serve as the backup water stop.

10:16am Stage 4 Lambertville and the Beast Hello? Can I speak with the Fashion Police please? Miles 19.5-27.7

I spot Ice P coming and am getting ready to run. Justin, Ellen, Tom and Marguerite will catch up to provide my support service. I check my watch and “Wow”, Marguerite posted a great leg, and I am off. Wish Jake Elwood had clued me in on his suggested exchange zone protocol. I settle into a smooth pace into downtown Lambertville. The traffic is fierce and I know that the van will be ensnared in it. There goes my support! I can only hope that the Lex is in the home and will be ready for me! Whoosh, what was that? I have been tracking a 20s something runner girl up the hill, hey anything to motivate yourself right? When I get my doors blown off by this large black Kenyan dude. Well, at least he is a guy! I proceed up the hill and it is getting hotter. The heart rate is getting higher fast. I am now into my routine. Look ten feet in front, head down and move the feet. Like hot coals, small choppy steps but get those puppies up as fast as they touch. Don’t look around, just in front and keep those feet up.

Think Tour de France, think Tourmalet, Ventoux, anything to make this pain seem like its not a big deal. I sneak a peak and “Ah, there is the home”. “There is the Lex. Wait, what are they doing?! They are laughing and standing around! I yell “water”. No movement. I yell again, and Jim Tom and Mike see me and then come scrambling to the rear and then race out to the street. Apparently, as I am approaching Justin has called ahead to warn them they are tied up below. Jim and Mike reach me and I grab a Gatorade for the next few miles of road. Shew! Disaster averted and back to my climb up the Col.

As I depart team highlander determines that mismatched blue and red lycra tri gear, and 2XU white calf compression guards combined to make a bold statement. And not one they necessarily want to be associated with!

The remainder of the Beast is rolling, up , down, up again. I try and settle into a sustainable pace but it is hard to catch your breath. You want to go fast down and then always have another small climb. At least only rock star runners are passing me, but I am not passing anyone either! With a mile to go there is a stop light in Harbourton and I miss the cycle to rest for 30 seconds. A couple of guys catch up, including Team #26’s Mohawk boy. I tag up and the four of us suffer another mile on our way to the diner.

11:22am Stage 5 Brass Ring Rt 31 The Pelham Express Miles 27.7-34.2

I make it in just over an hour and 5 minutes and wave across Rt 31 to Mike to go get ‘em. He is easy to spot, tall white and with the headband. Kinda like Salami in the White Shadow, without the locks. Hey if we are tossing around fashion stones! As Mike jets off, I find myself disoriented and very hot. I spot Ellen in the loo line and she directs me toward the car. I grab some water, some recovery drink and then get out of my wet clothes. I leave my calf guards on for recovery. Yes, they look goofy but they seem to work. No leg cramps for me! Marguerite is not so sure.

Pelham’s finest has stepped up in class to tackle a tough hilly and rolling course into Hopewell. Mike is great at just psyching himself up and everyone else up for the legs. He may be scared and has never raced a 10K but you cannot tell. He is pacing well and carrying his speed up the hills. He is consistent and does not blow up. Most importantly he actually looks like he is having fun while baking in the sun like a hot salami. The Lex is supporting and us in the van stop once to cheer him on and then head to the Princeton Elks for Ellen to prepare to run. It is 11am now officially hot out. There is no shade and we are hot just standing, so we all know how hot that the Pelham express must feel out on the course. Mike secures an ally over the last mile to convince him to pick it up and he finishes strong in under an hour.

12:20pm Stage 6 Princeton Ellen’s Army Miles 34.2-42.2

The good news is that Ellen is a strong and consistent runner. The bad news is that she is forced to cool her jets for mandatory stopping points right away at Great Road, and then again for 2 minutes at Rt 206. Also her jets are not cooling because the temp is now in the high 80s and still getting hotter.

Marguerite and I post ourselves at key turns to support her and provide drinks. We also have Justin beep the horn as we pass her as encouragement. Apparently, Buckeyes do not like to have horns being blared at them much. I assume it rekindles memories of the USC marching band horn section blares after each Trojan 1st down and TD in the BCS last year. It is interesting to see how everyone has their own race needs from the support vehicle....Buckeye girl asks us all that we leave her alone with her GU and provide her water, and no cheering. Her stage is hilly, hot, and horn laden, but she champions through the 8 miler. It is not a fun stage but she takes her medicine and preservers. (Shhhh, golf clap, golf clap, golf clap) We are now at the Westin at Rt 1 Forrestal Village. Room please? No, we are not even halfway through this lunatic fringe undertaking.

1:35pm Stage7 Halfway home Thomas the Train Miles 42.2-46.2

Tom is up now for a tricky, curvy 4 miler. He takes off through the corporate parks and we see him first at the 1.5 mile mark. Man it is now officially hot out! Justin tells me it is over 95 on the roads. Tom pauses to drink and then he gets whitewatered. I mean ice water pouring over his head and down his back to cool him down. I know that last weekend at the hot Sherwood 5K he overheated and had to slow down. Today he barks at me to stop, then after the initial shock to his system the cool water kinds feels good. Emboldened I cannot wait to douse our future runners on upcoming stages. Tom trots in after about 35 minutes and we are halfway done. Somehow we are doing this! But not being timed, The Lex’s stop watch has crapped out. Mitch hands me their time sheet that is a mess. Kinda like something a third grader would submit on a pre-calculus test.

2:10pm Stage 8 Oasis Sunny D Miles 46.2-15-51.7

Whoever named this stage Oasis must have been chewing Qat or some other mideastern halluciongenic. There is no water, no shade, no mirages, and no damn oasis. Lady D makes it through the first 1.5 miles OK and then trouble starts. Well, yes for her as she has to cross a metal pedestrian bridge that has been baking all day and has temps well over 120. Her core temp quickly rises and she knows she is in trouble.

But actually I was referring to Ellen, Marguerite, Tim and Mitch in the support vehicle. For the second day in a row I miss the sharp turn onto New Road and Mitch jerks a right into the vacant building and lot to cut through and back onto the route. However, a little richy rich NYC yuppie team’s tricked out Audi wagon is blocking us. Fruity pebbles is wary of driving forward to enter the street requiring a curb hop and potentially scraping the muffler of his Hampton hooptie.

Instead, he insists on backing up to exit the driveway. Unable to turn around he wants us to back out too into the street to allow him to exit. Mitch from Ohio is not going to play that game. He veers dangerously close to the Audi as it starts to back out toward us. Richie stops, we pass even closer next to him and curb hop out into the street and we are gone. How ya like us now playa hater!?

We spot Sunny D and she is red in the face and overheating. The three of us all voice encouragement for her and ice her down. Each half mile we take turns walking short stretches with her. We are all scared and tried not to show it. She is upset, emotional, and very hot. Heatstoke is a scary thing. I also do not know how well she has hydrated and how susceptible to the heat she is. However, D is on the case and she keeps movin’ and will not throw in the towel.

Speaking of towels, Ice P fashions an icy head scarf for Dianna to wear to try and cool her. The next 3 miles are touch and go. We are quite worried about Dianna and her health, however, we know how much she wants to plug on and not quit. Jim is on deck and is blowing up the phone wanting updates. A contingency plan is formed. He will drive back and if she cannot go, he will take over and then also run his upcoming 9 miles. OOFffaa.. That would suck.

With a mile and change still to go, Ellen and Marguerite and I make a call. We leave her. That might sound mean and dangerous, but our logic is this: Whenever D sees us, she stops. Yes she is hot and could faint. However, there is a mandatory stop with race officials in sight in less than 400 meters. Then after she has only another 1000 meters to go. We leave her and collect Jim and the Lex and head up to the check point.

Here the EMTs are involved too on the radio with the checkpoint. We all await news. We hear that Dianna has crossed the mandatory stop and is headed our way. Did we do the right thing? Will she make it in? If she collapses, I will not only feel personally responsible but need to answer to her family as well as the Captain and decision maker. I try and justify my decision that race officials on the course have just seen her and let her go, she wanted to go, and we were talking a short distance at this point. As I chew on this on the edge of our vision we see her. She is not only heading in but she is running. Talk about the little engine that could, here she comes chuggin it in. She slaps Jim’s hand. (Still no kiss Jake?) and he is off and Dianna get a quick check from the EMTs and starts the cool down process. She is awesome! Team Highlander is still in the game!

3:15 pm Stage 9 Long and Hot Miles 51.7-60.9 Holy hotness Bat jim!

Jake/Jim is still on his Blue Brothers mission. The problem is, with no coolent the cop motor is starting to overheat. Also Jake Blues is being pursued by the Nazis, the Illinois National guard, and a Kenyan girl in green that literally prances over his fallen carcass as she jets by. Wow, team highlander just got run over by the green team. Even the pink team passes us. The Lex and Van rally at a 7-11 a mile later and reallocated resources like ice, food, sponges, Gatorade and our Highlander team pride.

We realize that the weather warriors are emerging victorious over the Highlanders. After toying with Mike, flirting with Ellen, and abusing Dianna, her heatness has just bitch slapped Jim in the shape of a Kenyan girl to bring us back down to the reality of how hard a relay event is.

In fact, you truly feel for everyone. At the Princeton exchange, zone a runner comes tearing in working his ass off. Only to discover there is no handoff to be had as no one on his team is in sight! Then as he dejectedly walks into the parking area, there is his team at their car, drinking cool liquids and telling stories. Man, talk about pain!

OK, Time for Team Highlander to rally. Jim hydrates a bit, becoming sponge worthy if not kiss worthy and ventures on resplendent in an Ice P scarf, and a new found respect for the Kenyan princess god of weather. He slows down but will not quit.

Tom Ice P Justin and I venture ahead for the upcoming wildcard legs. Mitch, Mike, Dianna, and Ellen stay to support him. It is interesting to see the transition of the complexion of the running crowd as the day wears on. Once the faster more competitive runners catch up with the earlier teams we all went from passing people to being passed. Then things totally thinned out and the race official sweeping the event became more visible so we knew it was time to double up on the legs.

4:40 pm Stages 10/11 Monroe Township T n T’s Wildcard Dash Miles 60.9-74.9

As we wait at the Old Zion Church, Marguerite consults a race official who explains that race director Dan has already been in touch with our team to discuss our strategy to finish. (Translation, we need to double up or we risk not finishing within the time cutoff) Reality – she is lying about contacting our team, (I believe that Dan may be trying to locate us, but at this point he has not.) However, considering that we were jobbed at least 40 minutes on our starting time due to our inaccurate 5K times we are not surprised by this sequence of events. I now fear the dreaded race official discussion looming on the horizon.

I only know that I need to get ready to run. To be honest, map navigating, cheerleading, and race time recordkeeping math and logistics are mentally taxing. Running is much easier. I came here to run and that is what I need to focus on. I have planned my eating very carefully the last four hours. I am full, hydrated, and should be mostly digested. I also have been poppin electrolyte tablets 3 per hour to increase my water absorption and maintain electrolyte balance. Also I have my calf guards that may help physically but certainly help mentally. Hey it beats the frilly wear that Susan Sarandon made Nuke LaLoosh pitch in for the Durham Bulls!

I chat with two 6 minute a mile track stars, as Jim comes into view. He is straining and hot, However, he is movin’ “take that weather gods!” Team Highlander is still in this thing. I set off at a comfortably hard pace. Tom and I had discussed a plan for the upcoming 14 mile stage. I will initially go 3-4 miler hard until I am gassed. Then Tom goes hard for a mile and change. Then we rotate going 2 miles to one mile until we are done.

As I set out, I think about how fast I am going and how I am still a runner at age 41 and all the leg injuries. I am feeling pretty good about myself when whoosh! I barely hear track god 1 as he comes up on my rear door and then quickly disappears from view. Wow, he really is running sub 6 mine pace! Wow. I am turning it over when I enter Monroe Township. I try to remember the race route. All I know is we stay on 522 and then get on 527 south. However here 522 is a turn to the left and 527 goes straight ahead. I look around for any clues, any team vehicles. Anything! I decide to stay straight and get on to Rt 527 thinking well since I need to eventually end up on it might as well be now. I am rewarded with the decision a few minutes later when a team car goes by and I am still flying along at 7:15 pace.

The Lex comes up on me and Jim tells me what I had been dreading. Ellen will start the next leg concurrently so we can finish within time before 8:30. I do not want this to happen and believe that Tom and I can buy back a lot of time running 7:30s. However, deep down I know that Jim is right and this is a team event. That and also the decision has already been made. Tim FOCUS!! OK, let’s still run hard and see how early we can finish among the other teams.

The rest of the run is one of those magical times I refer to as achieving a runner’s high. I go two miles until I am getting gassed, see Tom and he runs one mile and change and I then run two more. The only issue I have is that Tom, Jim, or some combination thereof always seem to pick the top of a hill to stop for an exchange. No matter, Tom and I are flying, and more importantly passing other runner teams. First, the Pink Team, then team 77. We log our first 10 miles in under 75 minutes. This is fun! At mile 11 I am closing in another prey. I see her stop to walk and am confident I will pass her.

She takes a left turn. Uh oh, is that right? I approach the intersection. We are on Rt 524 now, and the detour sign says Rt 524 Business to the left. Hmmnn. Then I recall seeing 524 business back at the diner, and think Jim would definitely have stopped or told me about a turn. I will trust him and continue on. A half mile later there is the white shirt that I know is Tom. There is another team also waiting there. I give them the bad news. They do not believe me at first. I am like, “what? Yes, you caught me, I was trying to mess with you!” You idiots, go get your teammate. The van u-turns and the waiting runner proceeds to just sit there waiting at their agreed upon exchange point. I yell at him too. Hey, “She is lost, scared and tired” Walk back there and give her a break, loser! We finish up the 14 miles sub 1:50 and look for the van, some A/C and the cooler.

5:40 Stage 12 Reachin for the beachin Ice, Ice, Buckeye baby! Miles 74.9- 81.4

While Tom and I are doing our thing, Ellen has ramped up for her second run. It is now cooler than her nooner run, and she is feeling good. She has practiced running two a days and her legs are responding well. However, the heat in the sun is still there and she is slowly getting hot again. Though she hates the cheers, she does hope she can spot the Lex for some support. However, Mitch has ventured off course on a Bud Lite acquisition mission, but hey Buckeye girl, with no support, no one can honk and yell cheers out at ya either!! Then she runs up on the Lex and Mitch and Mike step out for her aid. Mitch hands Ellen a huge ice chunk. Too big to shove in her mouth, Ellen stuffs her jog bra with it instead. Talk about win win! She is instantly cooling down and can run faster, and Mike and Mitch can’t be complaining either!

She is now hitting the accelerator and kicking it in toward the exchange zone, Mitch yells at her that only two more miles to go! She is gassed and flustered. Only when she then spots the exchange cones a minute later can she breathe. Simultaneously the van is driving toward the exchange to drop off Marguerite for her leg. Tim and Tom can barely stop exchanging fist bumps after their tag team stage. Jim is navigating toward the next stage, or at least to the van where Mitch has now secured the cooler of BLs. Ellen has run so fast that we have not been able to catch up for Marguerite to be available at the next exchange zone. Ellen has no one to exchange with!

6:30pm On the shore Stage 13 M+Ms Do or die! Miles81.4-89.3

Out of nowhere Mike to the rescue! He will start running Marguerite’s leg until we arrive with her. In fact he has visions of running her 8 mile leg and then having Marguerite run his finishing sprint. Wow, eight for you big dawg?! Excuse me, Cooner, like no way Jose! Ice P did not come this whole way to sit in a Lexus with sweaty people that are acting like children. She does that at home every afternoon. She bolts out of the car and crosses the road to take what is hers. The Lex boys all nod their heads with appreciation until Marguerite assumes a gait similar to a kid tied to another in a three legged potato sack race. Man, her hip is bad. Does she stop? Hell, no! Team Highlander will not go out like that! She befriends another runner works it out and they find their pace and go.

By now it is 7pm and I feel that the mental decision making skills are similar to those during a last call situation. Jim and I hunker down over the racebook to decipher how to support and stage the last leg into Manasquan and are thoroughly flustered.

Finally, I muddle through enough to direct Jim to stay with the van to support Marguerite and then heads to the race finish. Tim, Mike, Justin and Ellen, head to Stage 13 and the final exchange to catch Ice P comin home.

Marguerite had this to say, “ The crowds at the end of the race as we get closer to the beach are terrific. There is true unity with all of the participants. All along the way if you need something other teams would offer it to you. Very healthy competition. And at the end I just started tossing garbage to folks including sweaty rags and they happily took it.” Happily? Wow!

So we park the van in a lot and enter the mad throng of racers. Oh, and yes Justin and Tim split a BL in the lot, but hey what Jim doesn’t know . . .. Stage 13 ends down a long shaded bike path into the crowd for the final handoff. I step up as close as we can go with Mike and he is entering the zone. No, not that zone, but that area behind the buildings where he can drain the vain before his last sprint to the sea.

7:40pm Manasquan Stage 14 Mike to the sea Miles 89.3-92

Our number is called and Marguerite emerges from the shadows. Mike and I scream at her and she hits the jets. Mike is now up for the last 2.5 miles in. Not even a 5K, how hard can that be? Well, he did get up at 4:30 am, ran a hard hilly hot 6.5, sat in a car with other running lunatics for 12 hours, then stepped in for at least 2 miles of the prior legs. All meaning that for someone who until recently had never run more than 4 miles in one day, he has already ran close to 9 miles TODAY!

The old Mike would not accomplish this total mileage for a WEEK!. ..So yes this final 5K is hard! Oh, and Mike then decides that to really put the pressure on, let me step in a hole on the second turn and twist my ankle too!

We enter the car for the drive into Manasquan. Justin lets us out at the finish and the girls seek a civilized urine depository facility. I still have two duties to perform. I need to populate and submit our timing sheets. I also need to yell NY Giant 4th quarter motivators to the Coondawg as he comes in. Man this math is hard! I manage to nearly complete the sheets as the headbanded Highlander rolls toward the final turn. Wait. Is that a 20s something girl coming up abreast of him, then going for the pass. Coondawg hits the nitro and pulls ahead. She then rekicks. Uh, oh, that is it. GOOO Mike, 4th quarter! Get off the ball Strahan! Mike finds it within him to rekick and is now a runaway 18 wheel semi around the final quarter turn. The crowd claps and roars! No, seriously, I heard it!

I look at the time clock. 12:27 and it is 8:07pm. Team Highlander has traveled from River to Sea in 12 hours and 27 minutes. Even factoring in the doubled up leg, team highlander comes in well under 13 and a half hours. That means that a 7am start would have brought us home right in the thick of it!

Odds and the end/After party

Jim and the team has secured a strategic spot by the water and team highlander breaks out some beers. I snag a couple of pizzas, and the drivers joins the group. Ellen’s family meets us and brings along high end champagne and stogies. SWEET! Smiles, hugs, and stories are given, taken, told, and retold. The Highlanders are oblivious to all the chaos around us and don’t care how gross, smelly, and tired we all feel. We are like old friends getting together to get caught up on all the happenings. And to think that less than 13 hours ago, we were little more than neighborly strangers that needed a Big Al story to break the ice!

Wait, hold up! Did Mike jump in the ocean? Did our designated “get wet” person shirk his duty? Guess we will just have to reunite the team next year for R2C15. Until then, keep hustlin!