GMR – Friday

So I haven’t been blogging recently because, well, I’ve been way up in Vermont competing in the Green Mountain Relay.  The relay, which covers about 200 miles, runs along the historic Route 100 which apparently is one of the most scenic highways in the United States.  Running the course takes about an entire day to complete, and as an ultra team we were competing as a team of six runners with each of us completing anywhere from twenty-eight to forty miles divided up between six legs.  Since this was such an amazing (and long) experience, I’ve decided that I’m going to divide coverage of the whole race up between three separate blog posts over the next three days.  There was just so much that happened that there’s no way to cover it all in a single post.  So today, I’m writing about Friday’s events.

Ah, Friday.  The day before the Green Mountain Relay.  The whole day felt like the calm before the storm.  I could see the race looming on the horizon as it was quickly approaching, and all I could do was prepare myself for it as best I could.  It was time to start loading up on carbohydrates and maximizing my body’s stores of glycogen (science talk for energy).  My breakfast consisted of some soy milk and cereal (soy milk because of Crohn’s) along with some eggs with cheese on toast, and lunch was a nice large helping of pasta with a little butter and Parmesan cheese.  Of course, anytime you load up on carbs like this you also gain a few pounds of water weight.  This is fine because you need to be well hydrated before a huge race like the GMR, but man can you feel bloated and disgusting.  I don’t normally stuff carbs down my face like this, so I felt like a total tubby the entire day.

I left work a little early to go home and finish packing for the race (and eat more cereal).  After Googling “long distance relay tips,” I came across an article and a forum that gave some (now in hindsight) really good advice.  Besides the expected advice on food, water, transportation, and safety, there was some particularly good advice on what to pack.  One runner suggested packing an outfit for every leg plus one.  Seems like a lot of clothes, right?  Who packs seven pairs of spandex, six tank tops, four long-sleeve shirts, two pairs of shoes, a pair of flip flops, and eight pairs of socks among other things for just one race?  Regardless, I packed it all up.

WW, JP, and SW of Newton Center swung by my place to pick me up (along with all my crap) before swinging by the North End to grab SK, SM, and CR.  Next thing I knew we were en route to New Hampshire for a quick pit stop at SK’s house for reflective vests, headlamps, and some delicious homemade oatmeal cookies.  Then we were off for Vermont, but first stopping for dinner at Blaser’s Fireside Tavern.  This was pretty much our only option because SK was attempting to direct us to a Cracker Barrel for a quick bite, but we then discovered that it was Cracker Barrel Store, which was more of a small town general store (way to go, SK).  Anyway, the restaurant was a very homey kind of place.  I mean, when we were walking up to the door it felt like we were crashing someone’s summer BBQ at their pond-side house.  Having loaded up on carbohydrates the entire by downing bowls of cereal, bread, and pasta, I ordered a chicken sandwich with a little bit of french fries and onion rings.  Most of the other guys ordered pasta with chicken, but I knew I’d be fine on carbs.  However, little did we realize that this would be our last real meal before the race.

During the course of dinner night fell, and it started getting cooler out.  Thoughts of running through Vermont in this kind of darkness started to course through my head.  This was going to be interesting.  “Interesting” soon turned into “unfathomable” as we got closer to our hotel and were driving up some seriously steep and winding hills, well, more like mountains.  We were literally all laughing out loud as our van was cranking in first gear up the hill as WW dodged massive boulders jutting into the road.  What were we getting ourselves into?

We finally arrived at the Smuggler’s Notch Inn around midnight, and quietly snuck in.  It was a quaint little place with creaking floors and country-style rooms, and it would serve as a great place for our last night of sleep before the GMR.  I was tired, but looking forward slash scared of the race the next day.

We had just one last night of sleep before we would embark on what would become one of the most challenging physical excursions of our lives.

Fuel

In preparation for the Green Mountain Relay this weekend, I went grocery shopping for food that I thought would satisfy my hunger and stay down.  I honestly felt like a frat boy walking up and down the aisles as I tossed three bags of Chex mix, two boxes of Cinnamon Toast Crunch cereal bars, a small bunch of bananas, a four-pack of Monster energy drinks, a jar of peanut butter, a pack of Thomas’ bagels, beef jerky, and a bag of Snickers Peanut Butter Squares into my basket.  I decided to try and keep consistent flavors by going for a peanut and coffee theme so as to not disturb my stomach with a mix of stuff.

As I was going home I thought that it was enough food, but then when I started adding up all the calories I realized that I would probably need to get even more to eat.  I expect to burn well over 4000 calories in this race, let alone that it’s over the course of a day so that’ll bring my own personal caloric total to over 6500 calories.  That’s a lot of calories, which means that’s a lot of food.  So I may pick up some more food just to be safe.  Plus I’ll need some celebratory treats for after the race.

At least I get to be a fat kid for a day.

Cheesy

The one truly awesome thing about food is that sometimes the most basic edible treats can take us back to some of our fondest childhood memories.  Anyone who’s seen Disney and Pixar’s “Ratatouille” (one of my favorites) can probably recall the scene where the cranky critic Anton Ego takes one bite of Remy’s ratatouille and is suddenly sent back in time to comforting thoughts of being a boy and eating his mother’s own ratatouille.

Well, for me the other night I had a non-stop craving for some grilled cheese.  I actually went to the grocery store specifically to buy white bread and American cheese.  When I got home I heated up the pan, tossed in a pad of butter, and threw in my simple sandwich of bread-cheese-bread.  I listened to the sizzle of the frying bread as I waited a minute or two, flipped, and waited another minute.  Done.

Who thought something so simple could be so freaking delicious?  Biting into the crispy, buttery bread and with the ooey-gooey melted cheese all in one bite is simply out of this world.  I don’t need those fancy cheeses, artisan breads, or other toppings.  Just give me some Pepperidge Farms white bread and some Kraft singles and I’m set.  It’s so good.  And sure grilled cheese is a comfort food in itself anyway, but it always reminds me of the times when my brother and I would be stuck inside on cold, rainy summer days and Mom would make us lunch.  My favorite days were when she made grilled cheese (although if I recall correctly my picky eater brother wasn’t such a fan, but his loss).  So on these recent cold, rainy June days in Boston there’s nothing like having a little grilled cheese to help block out the bleakness of the recent weather.

Grilled cheese anyone?