Reach the Beach Relay

Last Friday and Saturday I had the pleasure of running Reach the Beach, a 200-mile relay race, with New Balance’s media and PR team, Girls Run Beta.

rtb ocean

This was my second time running Reach the Beach with New Balance, the first being as part of Team Off Balance in May of 2012.  (Leg 1, Leg 2, Thank You, The Gear)  Going into this year’s Reach the Beach, I was worried that it wouldn’t compare to my previous experience.  For months after the race, Team Off Balance sent random emails and text messages to each other filled with inside jokes and memories. We comforted and supported each other through tough runs, danced to Call Me Maybe and ate more bananas than one can imagine.

Now having had more than 72 hours to reflect on this year’s experience, I can say, without a doubt, that it was an even better race weekend. Instead of doing a leg by leg recap, I am going to share a reflections recap.

Reach the Beach finish line

Before jumping into the reflections, here is a summary of Reach the Beach and Ragnar Relay races so you can understand what we experienced.

  • Reach the Beach is a 200-mile relay race that lasts anywhere from 24 to 35 hours depending on your team’s pace.
  • Most teams are made up of 12 runners, each of whom will run three legs. Legs can range in distance from 2.5 miles to 9 miles depending on the course.
  • Legs are categorized easy, medium and hard based on elevation and distance.
  • There are, however, a few ultra teams who have as few as four runners who each log 50 miles during the race!
  • The runners separate into two vans. When one van is “on” or running the other van is either eating, resting or relaxing.
  • There will be someone from your team running at all time, including during the night.
  • Runners finish their legs in assigned transition areas where they hand off the slap bracelet to the next runner.

Three years later, three years stronger: Three years ago, I was a nervous runner who was very unsure of my abilities and whether I would even cross the finish line. This time around, I was the experienced runner who was able to motivate and support each of my teammates. Only two of the twelve runners had previously run a relay race, and therefore, we leveraged our experience to help ease fears, answer questions and support the newbies. Over the past ten years, many people have mentored and coached me through my running journey, and it felt wonderful to start finally returning the favor. Hopefully, I can serve in a similar capacity for readers and friends who decide to conquer their first relay race!

rtb bib

New Hampshire is beautiful.  While the race name was the same, this year’s race course was very different from the Reach the Beach 2012 course that ran through Massachusetts instead of New Hampshire. As our van drove from Boston towards the start line in Bretton Woods, our faces were glued to the windows. The lush landscape, rolling hills, and panoramic views were a refreshing change from the Boston and New York City paths where we each logged most of our training miles. During the 30 hours of running, the course took us through rolling countryside, along shimmering lakes, over babbling brooks, past 18th century New England towns, through farmlands and cow pastures, and finally to the coast. If you decide to do a Ragnar or any other relay race, take the time to review the course as the scenery helps take your mind off the pain during tough miles.


Supporting others is the best way to pass the time!  Finishing a relay race of this magnitude isn’t easy. Every runner, regardless of their ability, will have a tough mile emotionally and mentally. Luckily, with over 500 teams on the course, there are constantly other vans and runners passing you or lining the roads. Unfortunately, they didn’t all get the memo that Reach the Beach and relay races in general are more fun when you support EVERY runner, not just your team.  When we weren’t running, we were cheering. In fact, most of us grew horse by the end of the weekend from cheering so much. Our van fully embraced the cowbell and airhorn provided to us by New Balance. Air horn novices quickly learned that it is best to blow the air horn once you pass a runner, so it doesn’t scare the shit out of them. Sometimes the runners would wave excitedly, thanking us for the support and other times they would just continue running. Regardless of their response to our cheers, we kept cheering and using mantras like “you can do this” or telling them how awesome they looked. Our radio was permanently turned to the highest volume so runners could enjoy our jams just as much as we were.  When runners within our van were running, the support rose to a level I’ve never seen before. We averaged two support stations per leg on the course, pulling to the side of the road to hand the runner their beverage of choice (NUUN, coconut water, Gatorade, or plain water) as well as checking in with them. No one on our team ever felt as if they were running alone, even during the night legs.

Embrace the night. Never in my wildest dreams did I think I’d enjoy my 6.4-mile night leg. In 2012, even the experienced runners in my van feared the night leg and finished saying that they couldn’t stand the quiet darkness. I finished my leg wishing I could double the distance, having thoroughly enjoyed the crescent moon, bright stars and peaceful roads. I listened to Whitney Houston’s greatest hits and logged sub 9-minute miles through the rolling hills and darkness. Instead of fearing the dark, I embraced it. I took the time to enjoy the bright stars and crescent moon, I used my headlamp to illuminate not only the road but also my surroundings, and I enjoyed the surprise of the path. I had no idea when a hill would begin since I couldn’t see more than ten feet in front of me. As a runner who is still working to improve my mental game, not knowing what came next helped me have a better mindset and not waste time fearing the hills in advance.


Push yourself: Other then the New York marathon, this race had more crowd and team support than any other race I’ve run. But beyond the typical crowd support, this race also provides team support 24 x 7 from the other people in your van. This camaraderie and atmosphere helped many of our runners complete distances they previously thought impossible. Even though three legs can seem grueling, and the distance adds up due to the lack of recovery, the support of your teammates will help you push past walls and tough miles.


Eat wisely: This year, I avoided mindless snacking and scary diner meals instead choosing to eat only when hungry and only foods that I knew wouldn’t upset my stomach. I finished the weekend without any stomach issues and felt like I fueled perfectly for my 20.4 miles. Our van ate two meals, Friday breakfast and Friday dinner, in restaurants. Friday morning I had one egg and one blueberry pancake while Friday night I had a grilled chicken burger with a baked potato for dinner. I avoided coffee, fried foods, spicy food and candy both in the restaurants and our van. My van meals included two mini cinnamon raisin bagels, an apple, some pretzels, almond butter, and two bananas. Trust me, during relay races, the last thing you want is to sprint to the port-a-potty due to a mystery diner meal or one too many handfuls of candy. Pack your regular pre-run food if possible and take a few extra minutes during restaurant stops to evaluate the menu and feel free to ask for menu substitutions. A 200-mile relay race gives you some room to be a “difficult customer.”

“We start as a group of strangers, we finish as a group of friends. Running will do that to you.”  Sashea included this quote in her recap, and it summarizes the weekend and experience perfectly.  This year, I climbed into the van barely knowing any of my teammates. I’d met Evann briefly during two separate workout classes but otherwise did not know anyone else. By the end of the weekend, I walked away with eleven new friends who supported me through sweaty sports bra changes, 90-degree runs and side of the road bathroom stops. I actually enjoyed sharing this experience with strangers more than with good friends as we had plenty to talk about the entire weekend.  If I did this race with family or close friends, I think we may kill each other.

Come back this Friday for a Reach the Beach themed Friday Favorites post that will include my suggested Ragnar or relay race packing list, a review of my favorite gear from the weekend and a fun giveaway. 

Thank you again to New Balance for sponsoring an incredible weekend and providing me with this opportunity.


Finding the Confidence to Strip

I can’t pinpoint an exact date. There was no epiphany that took place one day. But, over the past year, slowly but surely, I’ve started to enjoy living each day just a little bit more.

For 30 years, I wasted time and energy worrying about what others thought. Would they like the dress I was wearing? Would they think I was too slow? Would they notice those extra layer of softness on my arms? I spent countless hours comparing myself to everyone. This constant struggle caused self-doubt and affected every aspect of my life.

What took me so long to realize is that 99.5% of the other people are too busy and focused on their life that they don’t have time to think about that girl next to them. Whether it’s the girl running next them at the gym or the girl lying next to them at the pool.

In the past six months, I have felt more confident and happier than any other time in my life.

On Saturday, after ten years of running, I finally found the confidence to run in a sports bra. The slight breeze felt cool and refreshing against my skin, and I couldn’t help but smile. I don’t have a six-pack and don’t have a perfect body but I felt strong and I know how hard I’ve worked to feel that way.  Even though the miles didn’t come easy, the feeling of freedom and confidence gave renewed meaning to the run. 


After sharing the picture on Instagram and Facebook, I was amazed the number of women who commented. These are women who I’ve considered my inspirations whether for fitness or physique. Somehow, they were amazed that I ran without a shirt. Many of them said they wish they could reach that point.

Unfortunately, there isn’t a magic pill I can prescribe or a book I can recommend to each of you so that you can feel the joy that is, for lack of better words, “not giving a shit.”

The only thing I can do is to beg and plead that each of you find the courage to strip down, whatever that means in your life. Try just one thing that scares you or intimidates you. If you want to strip off the shirt and run in a sports bra, try running in a new area, where you won’t be recognized or run earlier in the day. If you want to practice hot yoga in one layer less, try it at home first, so you get comfortable in your skin. If you want to clip in, but are scared of falling, try riding with only one foot clipped in until you feel comfortable. Want to wear something that isn’t on the pages of this month’s fashion magazine? Own it and wear it with pride.

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Don’t believe it’s that easy? Two of the women who inspire me daily stripped down for their workouts for the first time this week! Both Bonnie and Mindy shared that it felt liberating and helped them realize how far they’ve come in their journey. All it takes is a little bit of confidence and the freedom to not care what others think. I bet you’ll have a high from all that libration and far more time on your hands to focus on the important stuff.

Oh and don’t forget, it is a gradual evolution. As I said, it didn’t click overnight. Slowly but surely I worried less about other people and spent more time focusing on me.  There are moments when I lack confidence or worry about what others think, but it’s far less often than before.


So, What’s Next

Hey gang! I’m currently in the midst of packing and saying goodbye to Geneva.

Last night was all about the fun, while today is all about packing.

I’ll let you guess which of the two I prefer more. Luckily the movers are also packing the majority of our things but I ended up spending most of the day packing the air shipment goods, the things we’ll check on the plane Saturday and then helping the movers. It went better than expected but is still stressful.

Instead of focusing on the move, let’s talk about something that is more fun: RUNNING! After Sunday’s race, I’m anxious and excited to run ALL THE RACES! Luckily, we’re moving back to New York City this weekend which means that I will have easier access to races of all lengths. Since I have a tendency to over commit, I’ve only signed up for the below races so far. We have a lot going on this Summer with the move, finding an apartment, moving into the apartment and getting reacclimated. But, I’m excited to have a mix of races on the schedule that I can race and others like the Nike Women’s Half Marathon, that I can run for fun and enjoy with friends.

NYRR Boomer’s Cystic Fibrosis Run to Breath 4 Miler – July 18th

  • I’m hoping to run this with my sister-in-law Meg and her fiancée, as they have recently started running.

NYRR R-U-N 5k – August 6th

  • A NYRR race in Central Park on a Thursday night? Heck yes! I’d love to race this one and then celebrate with my runner friends over beers and burgers post race. You should join us!

NYRR Bronx 10 Miler – September 27th

  • Jess suggested that this could be a great half marathon warm-up race to check in with my fitness levels and practice everything for race day.

Rock ‘n’ Roll Brooklyn Half Marathon – October 10th

  • Excited for an awesome race weekend with LOTS of friends! Amy, my original running buddy is flying in from Cincinnati for the race and lots of fun.

Nike Women San Francisco Half Marathon – October 18th

  • Running for fun with Kristine and my Geneva friend, Lauren, who just moved to San Francisco. Here’s hoping we get in via the lottery.

Rock ‘n’ Roll Savannah Half Marathon – November 7th

  • Running it and then walking with my Mom, Aunt and my brother’s girlfriend Madeline. SO excited for another great Savannah race experience!


In addition to running, I’m looking forward to taking advantage of Summer in New York City with free outdoor workouts,  trying standup paddleboard yoga with a local yoga studio at Rockaway Beach,  and supporting friends for a few of their miles as they train for fall marathons!

I hope to see a few of you out running! Are you signed up for any of these races? If so, which ones?