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Reach the Beach NH (and other relay race) Tips

This is the time of year where many Reach the Beach New Hampshire teams meet to finalize (or create) their plans for their relay race. Whether your race is the Reach the Beach New Hampshire, another Ragnar relay, or other multi-day event, these tips might help you and your team. Read on for more.

What to Bring

I’ve written an entire post on what to bring and have a nice packing list. The key thing to remember when you are packing is that space will be extremely limited. You don’t need 4 different bags. Your race will only be for 24-48 hours. Everything should fit in a standard sized duffel bag. Here’s some tips though as you think about what to bring:

  • Bring a clean set of running clothes for each of your running legs.
  • Pack the clean running clothes for each leg in a separate ziplock bag (will make it easy to find and a place to put the wet clothes when you are done
  • Bring a large battery backup to charge your cell phone. Most races are in remote areas which crushes battery life
  • Read the weather report and only bring what you think you’ll need. Consider not bringing running tights if the low will be 65 degrees
  • If it isn’t going to rain, you really can get by with one pair of non-running pants/shorts
  • If it’s not going to be wet, you can bring one pair of shoes…your running shoes

The important thing though is work with your team to coordinate what you each can offer to bring to the vans. Some people have done several of these races and have ideas on what to bring vs. not bring. Your teammates might already have some of the items and can easily share them.

Transportation

For each of the four relay races I have done, we have had van issues. Most teams make their reservations online only to find out when they go to pick up the vans that they were oversold or are simply not at the location. There are several (and not really reasonable) explanations for this. I’ve been told that the passenger vans are rented as “trucks” so they go through a different reservation system. These reservation systems don’t enforce stock limits. I’ve also been told that while you can reserve the vans online that they aren’t matched to reservations until you go to pick them up. This means they can and do significantly oversell the vans.

Decorations geeks understand
Big vans get less gas mileage but more room

Many people have asked whether they can complete the race in something like a mini van or Suburban. The answer is yes, it is possible. In fact, one of the years I did a race in a Chevy Suburban. You certainly give up space in these, but considering this one particular year we driving probably a $65,000 car. It was nice and had lots of cool features in it.

My advice when renting vans is to speak to a human being at the place you are renting the vans. Get a confirmation number at least a month before the event (ideally the day you book the event). Do not wait until the day you go to pick up the vans to show an Expedia.com reservation request for Enterprise and be surprised when Enterprise has no idea you were there to pick up a van. Call, confirm, and go up the supervisor chain until you are satisfied that you have transportation.

Also think about the timing of your reservation. If you know your race starts on Friday morning and ends on Saturday, it likely means you need to pick up your rental on Thursday and return it on Saturday. For the most part, this means a three, not a two-day, rental. This can significantly increase your race budget.

When it comes to van decoration, I’d discourage you from using any of the wax crayons, paint, or other marking devices on the vehicle’s paint. This can and will be difficult to remove. At 8 pm on a weekend right before you return them this is the last thing you want to remove. The rental companies might also charge extra to remove this. I do recommend lights and something unique to your van. Most teams decorate the sides, top, and front. My recommendation is make something unique on the BACK of the van. When you are running up to your van for support (especially at night) you want to instantly recognize which one is yours. This is especially important at night. Have a design, special lights, reflective magnets, something that helps you know it’s your van. The last thing you want to do is run right past your van and miss your support. There’s only a few hundred identically looking vans out on the road.

Team Captain

Related to the transportation section above, it is good to have a well organized team captain. This person runs point for any issues you have, makes sure all your paperwork is complete, filed, and printed in advance of driving to the race venue, and unfortunately, often deals with issues like no vans. The team captain is an important person on the team and is running point to make sure the event is successful for everyone on the team.

Being a team captain is also super stressful. The most fun and successful years were those when teammates took on some of the captain’s duties. Some of us would get the food while others would pick up the vans. Plan out your day to make it less stressful for everyone.

Food

Let’s break food down into two pieces. The first is food while in the van. The second is food when outside the van. Let me explain. When you are in the van, you all get hungry. Some teams have decided that buying a batch of food for everyone in the van works well. I’m talking about peanut butter and jelly, pretzel sticks, water, Gatorade, and my favorite chocolate milk that doesn’t require refrigeration (see more on recovery below). For most teams this works pretty well, but there is usually always left over food. Figure out what works best for you and your team. Many folks just bring their own food for the weekend.

A Reach the Beach Tradition
Don’t discount a real meal

Eating food outside the van is easy to do with some planning. For example, at Reach the Beach New Hampshire, there are not only great places to eat along the route, but usually each vehicle transition area (Attitash, Kenneth Brett School, Bear Brook State Park, etc.) have great and reasonable options at or across the street. I highly recommend eating some real food and not stuff in a package or in a bar. Don’t let your normal nutrition plan go out the window. Be mindful of what you are eating and how much you are eating. One year I got caught up in the moment and ate way too much. Just a short hour and a half later, I was running. Don’t feel bad about eating a little, taking a to-go box and finishing your meal after your leg. Just don’t do one thing…and that’s to try new foods. During a multi-day relay race isn’t the time to try that cheese covered creation if you’ve never had such a thing.

Also, don’t forget about hydration. Set a timer if you have to, but make sure you continue drinking fluids. You won’t have to worry about a rest room as every transition area has them. I shoot for at least 10-16 ounces of fluid per hour when not running and 30 ounces per hour when running. Note that there generally is NOT fluid at transition areas so plan on bringing your own.

Speaking of fluids, for most of your running legs, it is ok and normal to have your van stop up the road a few miles to provide water, Gatorade, a gel, etc. Personally, I prefer to carry my own fluids and nutrition, but for some newer runners its a great way to not only get nutritional support, but also get a “job well done!” cheer along the way. Coordinate this with your team and driver before your leg so they know where to stop. Just keep in mind that your van may have to park before or after the point you asked for depending on road and parking conditions. Some legs prohibit vans from stopping or parking along the way. I’ve seen several cases where a runner wanted support at mile 4, but wasn’t until mile 5 where the van could safely park. This is why I carry my own fluid and nutrition. It is available to me when I need it.

Gadgets

All of my relay races to date were with my former employer, a tech company. We had laptops, mobile wifi hotspots, and other tech in the vans mostly because we could. Talk to your teammates about what you really want to bring. Technology can get wet, banged up, and otherwise destroyed. That said, some “safe” tech and gadgets to bring might be:

  • Power adapters for vans (plugging in lights or charging phones)
  • Battery backup charger for cell phone
  • Cell phone
  • Camera
  • iPod
  • 1/8″ headphone jack cable (to plug a phone or iPod into a van for music)
  • Running watch
  • Flashlight
NH is a lovely place. Don't even think about cell phone coverage up here.
NH is a lovely place. Don’t even think about cell phone coverage up here.

Just keep in mind that communications can be difficult. In some areas you might have zero cell phone coverage. Capture the pretty pictures, but plan for each van to potentially be out of touch for hours on end until you each get into cell phone range.

Night Runs, Recovery, & Sleep

You won’t be getting 8 hours sleep. Period. What you will be able to do is get an hour or two over the course of the entire relay race. I highly recommend both a small camping pad and a camping sleeping bag. These pack up small and are much more comfortable.

This is what rest looks like
A place to rest inside
This is a place you'll sleep at night
This is a place you’ll sleep at night. Hundreds of people spread out over the lawn and wood chips.

This is normal. What makes a relay race difficult isn’t just that you aren’t getting a normal night’s sleep, but you also are running at odd times. Each person on the team will be running at some point during the evening (a.k.a dark). I’d encourage you to get at least one “dark” run in before the relay race. I love running at night, but for others it is nerve wracking. One way to get over this is to run with someone. Know that during your event, hundreds of vans and runners will be covering the same course at the same time. Roads will be well travelled.

In recent years, most races have required each individual to have their own reflective vest and headlamp. Not all headlamps are the same. I have a headlamp that not only can dim, but also has a blinking red light on the back. I take the approach that more light can’t hurt. I’ll slap a hundred red blinking lights on me if it means I’m seen better. I do recommend a separate flashlight to walk around at night so you don’t kill your headlamp battery.

Be visible
Be visible

While thinking about running at night, finding your teammate at the exchange zone can be tough. Coordinate with your teammate what you are wearing and get an idea on the type and location of their vest, blinking lights, etc. Spotting your teammate at night can be difficult. Some teams have come up with creative solutions such as different colored lights, battery powered LED christmas lights, and even the “snap in two” glow sticks.

The Stick
The Stick

Each person recovers differently. For me it involves hydration, chocolate milk, Advil, and a nice session with “The Stick.” Some people use foam rollers. Find what works for you, stretch out when you can, and make sure you try to replace the calories you burned when you can. You’ve got another leg or two to run in a few hours.

Planning and Time

A while back I built a spreadsheet that takes inputs for the course, estimated minutes per mile, and attempts to predict when the runner will arrive at the transition point. Different teams have many different ways of doing this. I’ve found this works pretty well.

Planning for the runner
Planning times for the runner

The important part to think about is making sure you DO NOT MISS your runner. Teams have overslept and the runner is waiting at the exchange zone for quite some time. Don’t be that guy. Have something you can reference to keep a track on how your team is doing. When in doubt, try to stay in contact with your other van letting them know when the next runner goes out. As noted above, however, cell phone coverage may be a bit spotty. So send something like “Dave is out for Leg 3 at 10:13. So when and if that message gets sent, you time stamp it so they know when the runner is out.

Conclusion

Relay races are a huge amount of fun. Training for them can be a bit challenging as most runners don’t have experience with multiple workouts or runs a day. Obviously this is something you might want to practice a before your event just to get comfortable. But, enjoy the race and the sleep deprivation. Most participants, myself included, feel like these races go by way too fast and are itching for the next one 365 days later. Good luck out there!

The Beach Was Reached
Enjoy your finish line beverage!
IMG_20160822_101732683

2016 Timberman 70.3 Race Report

Last year’s Timberman race most certainly didn’t go as planned. So…before the 2016 training year started, I set a stretch time goal at Timberman for this year.

SwimT1BikeT2RunTotal
0:35:00
(1:39/100 yds)
00:03:002:55:00
(19.2 mph)
00:02:001:50:00
(8:23/mile)
5:25:00

After we decided to sell our home in the spring, and took a lot of time off from training, I came to realize that there was a more realistic time goal and I needed to reset my own expectations:

SwimT1BikeT2RunTotal
00:42:15
(2:00/100 yds)
00:04:3002:56:50
(19 mph)
00:02:301:58:00
(9:00/mile)
5:57:15

I am proud to say that I beat my realistic goal time. Actual splits were as follows:

SwimT1BikeT2RunTotal
0:35:05
(1:39/100 yds)
00:03:063:01:56
(18.5 mph)
00:02:412:09:30
(9:53/mile)
5:52:18

As you’ll read below, this race was more or less perfect execution of my race strategy. Read on for more.

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Beach 2

Triathlon Training and Racing On a Budget

It is no secret that training and racing for any triathlon, including Ironman branded events can be extremely expensive. For some, participating in a triathlon is prohibitively expensive. The aim of this post is to not only document how I train and race on a limited budget, but offer some guidance on how others can too. It’s important to note that this is about training and racing on a shoe string budget. Sometimes spending more (such as on higher quality food and nutrition) can have significant positive impact on performance. You can skip to the end for a chart of the investments you can make from low to high. Read on for more.

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Timberman 70.3 Bike Course Pre-ride

On Saturday, July 23, over 15 members of the Northeast Multisport team met to ride the Ironman Timberman 70.3 bike course. The goal of the ride was not only to get a good workout in, but get a feeling for pavement condition, and to remind ourselves what the hills are like. Here’s how it went.

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Racing for a Cause: When training really matters

We’ve all gotten into “those ruts” in our training. You know, these are those days when you can’t get out of bed in the morning to find motivation and think “I’ll just skip this one workout the race is X months away.” I’ve recently been invited to race for a cause. I’ll be upfront here and humbly ask for a donation of any amount as you’ll soon realize it isn’t about me, my training, or my racing. You have the opportunity to directly impact the life of a family through an organization that makes dreams possible for those with serious illnesses.

The Cause

Maddie Carlson
Maddie Carlson

Simply put, the cause is Maddie Carlson. Maddie is now a 17 year-old teenager who lives in New Hampshire. A while back, I read an article about a local teenager who was diagnosed with a very rare form of bone cancer (Ewing Sarcoma). I do not know the Carlson family nor have I met any of them, but I do know several members of the Northeast Multisport Triathlon team who are connected.

This past week, I was asked by a fellow teammate if I wanted to be a part of their Team Maddie Strong Reach the Beach team. Reach the Beach is one of my favorite endurance events. This would make my fifth Reach the Beach and thought, sure, why not join a different team than I’ve been on in the past? But then I also learned some of my good Northeast Multisport friends (who are also racing Ironman Timberman 70.3) are on a fundraising team for Maddie through Make-A-Wish. These teammates are all racing and raising money for the same cause for the same person…Maddie Carlson. Following the steps of a good friend of our family, I plan on donating my Reach the Beach medal and T-shirt to Maddie.

I simply cannot pass up an opportunity to join my friends and raise money for a local teenager and family. As athletes and individuals, we are privileged to be able to do what we do during training. It’s an even greater privilege to have the ability to be able to make a difference, no matter how small.

More Inspiration

Andy Potts is one of the world’s best pro triathletes. He won Ironman Timberman 70.3 last year among other victories. Aside from being an incredible athlete, he is also involved with the Make-A-Wish foundation. He’s also an incredibly humble and motivating individual. He takes time out of his pre and post race activities to give back to the Make-A-Wish foundation and participants. Make-A-Wish has a significant presence at Timberman and found it awesome Andy got involved. I noticed their giant presence during last year’s race.

Just watch Andy in action in the below clip from the 2015 Ironman Coeur d’Alene Ironman awards speech. It was incredibly hot on race day where many athletes were not able to finish. This clip has been one of my favorites since I saw it. It takes on an increased meaning not just for racing as athletes, but what Maddie has and is going through as a cancer patient and the struggle between hope and doubt.

Maddie’s official song is “This is Your Fight Song” by Rachel Platten. I’d like to link to a cover of this by The Piano guys…also one of my favorites.

How You Can Help

My friends and I need your help to hit our goal, but more importantly, we want to support Maddie. We hope we’ve convinced you that this is a worthy cause, and humbly ask you to support us as we swim 1.2 miles, ride 56 miles, and run 13.1 at Timberman 70.3 and run over 200 miles collectively as a team at Reach the Beach. You can donate to our team fundraising by clicking on the button below. Thank you in advance for your generosity.

Finish 2

2016 King Pine Triathlon Race Report

First triathlon complete of the year. The 2016 King Pine Olympic Triathlon took place on Saturday, May 21st. This was the day after we closed on our new home. I finished 45th overall and 5th in my age group. Total distances and times were:

Swim
(0.9 Miles)
T1Bike
(32 Miles)
T2Run
(6.2 Miles)
Total
00:28:2800:02:1001:48:3400:01:4500:54:2803:15:23

This was an interesting race with very limited training up to the race. Read on for more.

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The starting group

2016 NEMS Kranc the Kanc Recap

On Saturday, April 23rd, nearly 40 Northeast Multisport members set out to ride the Kancamagus Highway in the heart of the White Mountains in New Hampshire. We started out of the Loon Ski Mountain. There were several routes members could choose from. I selected the 73 mile option.

Note: These pictures that follow were totally lifted from fellow NEMS team members Mia and Lori. I was too out of it to take any pictures of my own. Read on for more.
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Calm before the storm

2016 Tri-Mania Recap

Tri-Mania. This is New England’s largest (and likely only) large-scale triathlon focused convention. This year, the convention was held at Boston University. Unfortunately, while I wanted to attend last year, it was held almost a month later and conflicted with baseball practice. I was pretty psyched to be able to attend this year. The event had great vendors, speakers, and even team competitions in swimming, biking, and running. Read on for more. Continue reading

Tour of Sufferlandria

2016 Tour of Sufferlandria Recap

A Tour of What?

So. Last year a friend of mine and I participated in the nine-day indoor cycling event known as the Tour of Sufferlandria. All jokes and silliness aside, this event primarily is designed to raise money for the Davis Phinney Foundation. See, Davis Phinney was a professional cyclist who was diagnosed with Parkinson’s Disease. Growing up, there were friends of mine who were certainly fans of this excellent cyclist. The Sufferfest, produces videos that focus on various aspects of your cycling. They make jokes in the videos about pain, misery, and floggings by minions as you ride through and are cheered as a Sufferlandrian. Yes, cyclists have a sense of humor.

While last year’s event was my first Tour, this year I have a power meter and am not using Virtual Power (power extrapolated based on wheel speed). This would ensure that sprints truly were sprints, and threshold efforts really were threshold. Despite coming into this multi-day cycling event with limited base fitness, I still was in better shape than last year. The goal, of course, was to complete each day at 100% of the prescribed intensity (as noted by TrainerRoad.com). TrainerRoad sets the intensity off your Functional Threshold Power (FTP). Before the Tour started, I made sure to test my FTP with the new power meter to make sure I was starting off with current fitness on current equipment.

I like to think of this nine day tour as my cycling training camp. I was about to slam a heavy training load on my legs and see how they reacted. For each stage, I’ll give an overview and include the duration as well as Training Stress Score (TSS). As defined on TrainingPeaks website, the following is what TSS metrics mean.

  • < 150 – low (recovery generally complete by following day)
  • 150-300 – medium (some residual fatigue may be present the next day, but gone by 2nd day)
  • 300-450 – high (some residual fatigue may be present even after 2 days)
  • > 450 – very high (residual fatigue lasting several days likely)

Read on for more. Continue reading

Metrics Featured

Metrics I Track And What I Do With Them

I was talking with a friend recently about how over the top I am with triathlon technology. One piece of the conversation was around software, online apps, and what I use them all for. It’s no secret I enjoy analyzing the data my devices collect and helping to track improvement. It occurred to me that I have my own unique approach to my daily routine, what I track, what I use to evaluate performance improvement, and how tracking other metrics can benefit those training for endurance events. Read on for more. Continue reading