Hour by Hour with the Hustlin’Highlanders
The Players (in order of appearance)
Stages 1 and 8 – Marguerite White – aka Ice Princess or “Mags”– renown for wit, banter, and ability to thrive under chaotic conditions. Top quote “Just finished my last leg. Back tracking to my shower at the YMCA and preparing for a blue moon. Things got tense when we thought we lost Allen but we recovered.”
Stages 2 and 9 – Tim Allison – aka CZAR – nervous nelly defacto leader – pushes others to explore their endurance and fashion boundaries. Top quote “Social Time is Over!”
Stages 3 and 14 – Ellen Drury – aka Buckeye Girl – Mother Hen – steps in to lead when needed. Top quote “Alan has been converted to ice pants”
Stages 4 and 10 – Michael Cooney –aka Coon – One liner savant – Top quote “You go in to that cornfield to use the bathroom you come out a hillbilly's wife!"
Stages 5 and 11 – Dianna Carroll –aka Mamma – “Big sis” –Top quote “ I wonder what time Heather woke up and realized Tim took the Acadia? "Do you think Tim left her a note that the Tahoe brakes were out?"
Stages 6 and 12 – Alan Gates – aka Gator – “Flo Rida” – Top quotes “" How do we use these wipes unless he messes in his pants?" “Grindin ARP Style!”
Stages 7 and 13 – Jill Chisholm – aka Rockstar – “Shameless” – Top quote” Don't worry Mitch she isn't going to friend you on Facebook!"
Driver 1 – Kevin – “Big K” Top quote –"I'd be surprised if Alan gets back in the car with us”
Navigator Justin –“Mr. Map” Top quote – “You drink a beer during stage 13 you are my hero!"
Driver 2 Mitch - Top thumb’s up – Instead of offering aid or encouragement, Mitch delivers the thumb’s up from the driver’s seat during Stage 1, while brunching on a bagel and Gatorade as Marguerite runs past at mile 3.
Manager – Rory – Top quote "I'm 22 years old and you're laying that on me?"
The following takes place between 4am and 5 am
I am awake, my mind whirling. The Tahoe and Armada are packed. I am dressing as I eat and tick through items of coverage for the day. Tim, be a leader today. Show patience, emote calmness, be supportive, have fun!
I am worried that leaving at 4:30 am is cutting it close for our 6:15 start, but wanted to let the team grab as much sleep as possible for a long hot day ahead. Also, who knows what problems will crop up over the next 17 hours as we transport, monitor, support, and feed seven runners, two drivers, a navigator, and a manager across the state of New Jersey with the weather chefs serving up balmy temps forecast to hit 93 degrees.
Coon, Mamma and the drivers show up at 114 promptly at 4:15 am. Last minute packing and directions the rented Armada is sent for the Nicholson crew to meet us at the Store. We cruise down Mohawk hill onto Fairmount, so far so good. I am eating and thinking of upcoming logistics. Lost in thought it takes a sec for me to process the following from Kevin, “I just floored the brake pedals and they are broken, what should I do now?”
20 minutes later we are back at the Store in Heather’s Acadia, minus car seats but not detritus from McDonalds, and trips to and from SBS. We are now late and my calm mantra is out with the brakes from the Tahoe. I survey the scene before me, a 4:30 am version of happy hour at Charley’s Aunt. Unbelievable! I bellow “Social Time is Over!”
5 am and 6am
As we cruise on I-78 west to the start in the A”r”cadia, we discover the breakfast is all packed in the Armada with the Nicholson crew, Mags, Rockstar, Gator, and Buckeye Girl.
I establish radio contact with Manager Rory for the first of many checks in today ala Jimmy. As Kevin ups his speed and we exit the freeway to country roads, I consider the math on how we are to make our start time. Then we blow thru our turn, but I permit Justin to use his Ivy League education to extricate us. “Tim do not yet panic.” Had I been thinking clearly, I would have taken charge and a short cut on Rt 12 instead of now backtracking. Then as Kevin pulls his third u –turn, and breathes, “If I hear one peep out of Mitch it’s go time” Coon takes it upon himself to text and call Race Director Mark Z, to inform him of our tardiness.
In Mitch’s Armada, I can only imagine how Gator is assimilating the relay culture as presented by Mags, Rockstar and Buckeye Girl. Mitchie’s NASCAR driving no doubt adds to the bizarreness as Mags focuses discussions on how disturbing is the creepy "Cooler" labeled "BREAKFAST".
6 am and 7am
At 6am less than 20 minutes to the start time, we park at the new church lot and roll out to registration. So much for the mandatory 45-minutes of prep time. We bum rush the registration line, and I sub in Gator for CZAR 2.0 who’s militaristic presence is already being missed.
We grab stacks of race numbers and also Mags out of the port o let to send her to the start. With no race numbers on the Armada entering Milford and the start, Mitch receives the first team reprimand already at only 6:10am.
Mags hits the start line at 6:13. Two minutes later, Team Highlander’s own Mistress of Chaos, (have you ever driven with Mags around Chatham?) is off and running as if the surrounding chaos is no biggie.
The “Arcadia” parks at the Bull Island checkpoint and we hear that team 103 made its start time. CZAR’s math for Mags for 4.8 miles assumes a 40-45 minute window, or an 8:15-to 8:30 pace. We (CZAR) counts our race place as the leading team goes by followed by four more teams. I trumpet that we are now still in 6th place. Coon and Gator look at Buckeye girl and contemplate tossing me in the nearby Delaware River to chill out.
Out on the course, Mags is running on her limit, and her heart rate rises quickly into her throat. A little Gatorade would be nice to cool down and calm down a bit. Ahh, there is the Armada ahead across on the other side of the road. As Mags approaches, no one exits the vehicle. In fact, she spies Mitch in the driver’s seat noshing and drinking. He is able to muster a thumb’s up as Mags whirls by. WTF? Rory too? Rockstar? Hello! Now, annoyed and perhaps borderline pissed, Mags is running faster, how dare the support vehicle not support? Little does she know that providing support let alone finding your stage runner is not always easy to accomplish!
7am and 8am
Mags storms into Bull Island and I managed a sweaty cheek smooch at the exchange. I am off and intent to bomb it as fast as possible.
The road is wide and empty, the shade cool, and clammy, and I can scan far ahead for prey. I am turning it over in my yellow track flats rollin. First one, then two. Coon gives aid every two miles and tells me “Great job, you are running 8:30s.” WTF? I better be faster than that!
Meanwhile, Buckeye girl (BG) notices that the boys are not “themselves” Mother Hen sends them out for more breakfast. “Boys gotta eat or they get grumpy!” BG then tries to distribute huge packs of wipes in the car for future use specifically anticipating how best to combat the Czar's runner BO. Alan quips "How do we use these unless he messes in his pants?"
I keep up my turnover and pick off another runner. His support vehicle offers me fluids. Wow, six chicks in a support vehicle! I immediately offer to swap teams. As I mark my next prey, I spot another support vehicle, a red Tahoe. Hey it’s Rick McNulty RD of many Morris Country Ultras including the Schooley Mountains 15 coming up. Waddup Rick! He is Captain of the Running with Kilts team that ends up coming in first in our mixed veterans division. Sandbaggers!
I feel like I am flying. I open my mouth for more air and then whoosh! A slight brown skinned girl in her 20s floats by me out of nowhere and rapidly distances herself. I pick up the pace to my one mile max and manage to stay with her for a quarter mile. But she still moves away. How can her team # 32 have a runner hitting 6:30s and qualify for 6:15 -6:20 start time?
I try not to sulk as I pass my fourth slowpoke. At the exchange zone I manage to pull even with the fifth runner ahead of me. Even with #32 speed girl, we are in second place! I surprise smooch BG and “accidentally body her up a bit”. Mags observes ” This day is not going to end well”.
8am and 9am
Buckeye Girl is on her own mission to keep our race 2nd place. Stage 3 along the Delaware River is sheltered under a canopy of trees and gravel towpath that offers up a rave run. BG takes full advantage. She redlines per her Garmin and keeps her pace there for a solid 53 minutes. In fact she manages to pass the team that transitioned with us and is not passed by anyone, keeping us in 2nd place. AWESOME! She makes the turn off the path into Lambertville in stellar time.
The crew has assembled in the CVS lot in Lambertville now, and settling into routines. Rory has assumed the timekeeping, and sheperding duties, and the boys have been fed and watered. As we wait for Buckeye Girl to emerge I chat up the assistant RD, Rob.
As we talk my gaze falls upon Coon readying for the “Beast” and the leading Team 32’s runner on deck next to Coon. Hmnn, his equipment check, $175 Asics Gel Kinsei’s, $100 race sunglasses, kinetic tape over his legs, and a $150 NYC athletic store matching running outfit. Really? 6:15 start? This is bullshit! Rob the RD informs me that the sandbagging has become rampant, and team 32 is not even the worst offenders. (That could be Rick’s Kilted team?, or maybe the Euro cheese balls that won last year and is racing as Team 1 this year?)
9am and 10am
Buckeye girl glides in with her patented deer steps and Coon is off into downtown Lambertville readying to turn up Rt. 518 and the beast. We reseat cars for the upcoming legs and provide support for Coon. I tell Gator that his honeymoon ride with the chicks is over and he needs to ride along with the men to support Coon. The boys ride off and leave the girls with Mitch and Rory. (Maybe not the best idea?)
For the next 75 minutes we drive for 1.5 mile distance chunks, pull over, provide cold water and cups of ice as Coon lumbers up and down the rolling hills of west Jersey. He is steady eddie out there as he competes up in class.
I can only imagine what the Armada girls are up to during this time. The following Armada eclectic quotes range from Women's Health to friending on Facebook:
"You don't want a male gyno he doesn't have the same parts!"
Life is Short “One day we're all going to end up in a box." Which prompts Rory to respond: ":I'm 22 years old and you're laying that on me?"
All of the girls muse “I wonder what time Heather woke up and realized Tim took the Acadia?" and Mamma true to form as a Momma adds "Do you think Tim left her a note that the brakes were out in the other car?"
Mags - asks Mitch for his email address so she can send a race recap later. He thinks for a moment and says: “I'm debating whether to give you my personal or business e-mail."
Jill snipe back, "Don't worry Mitch, she isn't going to friend you on Facebook!"
10am and 11am
The temps are getting warmer now. We pull into the Summer Camp across Rt 31 and await Big Coon. There are getting to be more cars of teams around us now. Some of the faster teams are starting to catch up. As Mamma makes her final preparation to kill it, Team 32 bombs through, then several more teams. However, we are still in 10th-11th place overall as Coon rolls in. I am proud to be here with my running friends. We are older, not perfectly trained, but still living “outside of the box” Yes, Rory, that box”. “I love this feeling of living.”
Mamma takes off for her hilly 6.5 and so do we headed to the Princeton Elks. The Arcadia is not supporting this leg so the boys will have some downtime. The Elks is quiet as we arrive, still ahead of the main relay throng.
During their wait to support Mamma, Mags and Rockstar need to pee. There is no civilization let along portos in sight. They elect to venture into the wilderness to go. They change their minds when they see a dead deer a few steps within the field. They beat feet back to the car. Cooney says: "You go in to that cornfield to use the bathroom you come out a hillbilly's wife!"
11am and noon
During our downtime, I assess our team status. Gator, Coon and I in the Arcadia with Big K driving and Mr.Map co-piloting. I miss the girls in Mitch’s A-r-m-a-d-a. Time to shake up the team a little and switch things up. Gator is up next, so BG, Rockstar and I will Armada up, and Coon, Mamma and Mags will support Gator for his inaugural stage leg on Team HL.
(Perhaps not my best managerial decision!)
Mamma rolls in on schedule with a great run. Better yet, no one is that surprised that she killed it. She has matured into a seasoned relay runner. She hands off to Gator, Rory records her split and away we go leaving the Acadia and Mamma, Coon, and Mags to support.
Why do I keep mentioning this? Hmmnn. Because you would think that:
· between 5 (still sober) adults,
· a map,
· prior race course knowledge, and
· an SUV,
KEEPING TRACK OF THE WHERABOUTS OF A RUNNER WITH A RED CAP CANNOT BE THAT DIFFICULT!
However, truth be known Big K is a competent driver but new to the course, Mr. Map is also a driver, and not as polished as a navigator/runner watcher. Then one must consider the story telling acumen possessed by both Mags and Coons. Example, - A bee is swarming around Coons. Mamma blows on it to get it away and says "I'm blowing on your nipples".
Coons's response: “I'm going to become a bee keeper."
Then somehow Mags and Coons manage to forge a common thread involving the YES Network, Sports Authority, defibulators at Chatham Rec Games, and Dwight Gooden. Go figure!
As the Arcadia takes the second tight turn off of Rt. 518 across Blawenburg, they have now missed the deceptively speedy Gator. They sit and wait and time goes by. Where is he?
Kevin and Justin circle back. The stories and banter continue. Finally Mamma puts her foot down and barks at the collective to shut up, and look for our runner! Meanwhile, Gator forges on and manages the majority of the 8 mile run without aid. Only the sympathy of a rival team providing him water can be counted as aid.
Fortunately for the Team HL, Gator assumes this is SOP for novice relay members. At 85 degrees and climbing, he manages the 8 miles in 68 minutes or just over 8 minute pace! At the transition, a flush Gator is tucked into shade with some (Gator) aid. Big Kevin sums it up by saying: "I'd be surprised if he gets back in the car with us."
Coons replies: "One of us is going to have to touch Gator’s private parts. Justin you're up."
Noon to 1pm
Rockstar is readying for her first run of the day. In the shade, Rory is explaining Twitter to Mags while Rockstar stretches and practically moons ongoing traffic like an old lady. She takes off for Stage 7, 4 miles of lots of turns. We are tense to get away less we repeat the gator (less) aid. Quick bag coordination is conducted between the cars and I am off in the Armada with BG and a recovering Gator (surprised he is in this car?) to crew Rockstar. It is now officially hot out. As we cruise to the first aid stop, we pass a portly man in a thick red cotton tee sweating like a hog and overheating already at mile 1. He is desperately trying to hang with Rockstar (who wouldn’t!) after enduring heckling from his band of blubbery belly boys.
He actually falls down and nearly faints from the effort as Rockstar blows him away.
She continues to pace well and runs an even split stage leg. The turn onto Perrine Road is narrow with telephone poles on one side and fields on the other. Runners are on the wrong right side ahead and we approach them and an oncoming SUV. Mitch guns it managing to split the SUV and the runner on the edge of the road, somehow not amputating the runner’s left arm. BG’s heart skips a beat as she bounces around the rear jump seat. I envision a trip to the ER with a hit runner or an Armada hit telephone poll. (Should have spring for the extra insurance!)
1pm to 2PM
With the short stage leg, Rockstar knocks it out in 34 minutes, and again Mags does not have much time to prepare. She takes the exchange and is off for her second leg. The Armada is not slated to support and I am on deck for the long and hot. However, Rockstar relays the story of how last year she was drinking beer as Mags had to run the Stage 13 leg into Manasquan. Pissing off Mags to no end. Mitch suddenly stops the Armada, and Rockstar grabs a beer. Out she goes and offers it up in jest to Mags as she sails by, slightly amused.
Mags then runs by the YMCA and cannot wait to finish her leg and adds this. “Back tracking to “my” shower at the YMCA I am preparing for a blue moon. I need to chill after things got tense when we thought we lost Allen but we (the team) have recovered.
Speaking of moons, enroute we spot a WaWA and stop for ice. Coon goes in and Rockstar and I are hanging in the lot when Kilted Rick exits the red Tahoe. I say hey and he spots Rockstar. Then he lifts his quilt for Jill to take in a full Irish moon. Yech!
2pm to 3PM
As I wait under a shade tent I swap Ironman stories with several other runners that are IM finishers. It is officially hot now. Just being in the sun not moving is misery. As Mags notices on her run in, OMG I cannot believe that The Czar just took off in head to toe white spandex and compression!
Yes, I have changes to my “Badwater outfit” That is white compression shorts, white team t top, white glasses, white IM visor, and white comp sleeves.
I am off with a pack of five guys. We are running a shade too fast for me at 7:45s. Did I say shade? What shade? I wisely let them go and settle in at 8s for the journey ahead thru the box warehouses and fields known as “Kenya”. The heat is already slowing me. I have an ice cold water bottle and nip at it and pour on my head. I also stop to pee to ease heat and stress from my internals. I request aid every two miles, but Rory and Coon wisely stops every 1.5 miles. As I stop I know I am overheating. In fact as I race into the mandatory 30 second stop to catch up to my group of five, I see the red faces and hear the breathing. Tim, “time to employ cooling strategy one.” I see the crew and stop to walk. I ask for ice and open my sleeves. My forearms under my sleeves fill with ice and the freezing contrast is weird but the cooling eases the strain to rid heat from my core. I feel decent now heading into Jamesburg. I maintain contact with the group of five and wonder how they can maintain their pace in the heat without ice sleeves.
3pm to 4pm
Meanwhile, the girls minus BG are showering up at the YMCA. Mamma steps up her game and has packed, shampoo, conditioner, and body wash. Refreshed they exit to make the next stage leg 11 miles down the road. Traffic is fierce and they will be challenge to make the exchange with Mamma for her leg.
Our team calls this stage Kenya for a reason. Even with aid every 1.5 miles I am cooking from the inside out. In fact, one of my group of five ahead, simply falls over and throw up. His team gathers around and he climbs onto all four and tries to get up. He cannot. Tim, “time for ice strategy #2.”
Buckeye Girl observes from the Armada. “Well this is a new one. Tim has been getting ice. right sleeve. left sleeve. .. .. depending. But this time the guys asked left or right. Tim says pooper shooter. OMG! They literally shovel ice down his pants! They threw it down and it is quite the pix!”
The ass ice cools my core and I am able to actually increase my pace the last 8K. BG knows this is one opportunity not to be missed. The next aid stop I see her out on the road with ice ready to go. Guess this is payback for my stage kiss and grab earlier. She not only throws down ass ice, but comments on my grooming habits! Nothing like a relay and ice to bring folks together!
I am passed by only two more runners, Team #72 or as Coon puts it to Justin “Team Osi Ueyminora” and Team #1 the reigning sandbagger champs. Tim, “this will not stand”, so with a mile to go I hit the gas. Team #1 hangs on with me as I repass him. Then he pulls up, I hear him puke, and he sits down on the side of the road. I crack a smile and focus on bringing it home in sub 80 and do so at 77 minutes for the 9.15 mile stage.
4pm to 5pm
Coon and Mamma are up for the abridged, detour ridden relay stages 10 and 11. It is hot. Their strategy is to run a mile and then enjoy 8 minutes or so in the SUV to cool down from the heat. Their strategy works well with aid and exchange each mile for the 11 miles total. They are able to keep well under a 9 minute pace, and Big K and Mr. Map keep track of them through tough detours and building traffic. I smile thinking of how far these two have progressed from their initial foray into the relay two years ago.
Meanwhile, Gator, BG and I await at the busy Rt. 33 crossing. I am starving as I changed out of my wet clothes and hit Burger King for a post run Whopper. It is so hot I lay the treat on the Armada hood and it actually cooks more, as I check out several of the Team #72 Osi girls, all twenty something that could model for Runner’s World covers, I consider again why is youth wasting on the young? I am happy to be finished. Gator is up. I see teams already hitting the store for beer. Ah, a contractor sized BL is in my near future.
5pm to 6pm
Gator takes the wave off from Coon across Rt 33 and off he goes praying for some aid this leg. A mile and a half in, we stop and ask him, water, ice? BG observes from the Armada. “OMG, Alan has been converted to ice pants!”
Gator finds his pace and passes teams running an even split leg resplendent with icy shorts. Meanwhile, BG recalls from her run last year that a quality qwikie mart is just ahead before the exchange. We load up on ice and beer. (Of course, Mamma, Mags, and Rockstar have also done the same thing!)
6pm to 7pm
Rockstar is up for the 8 mile “Do or die” Stage. Mr. Map offers up “You drink a beer during that you are my hero!" She takes off and unfortunately is port-o-let challenged during the middle of the run. We all cruise into Manasquan to await her emergence from the bike trail. BG is ready to go. At 6:15pm we are now 12 hours into the race. The shade is cooling and I am starting to wish the day was not ending! Rockstar emerges from the shadows just shy of 7pm. BG takes off for the finish at the beach. The traffic is so fierce we miss her arrival. She runs a sub 20 minute leg and permits the Highlanders to finish in sub 13 hours. This is good for 76th place overall and 5th in our division of sandbaggers!
The team is dropped off and reunites on the rocks at the Manasquan inlet. Beverages pizza and stories are told, augmented and retold. We are wet tired and happy. Post race dinner plans are scrapped for the drive back to the Highlands. Team Highlander came, saw, and conquered with our first sub 13 hour relay finish!