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“I want to take a moment to congratulate Joe Iuliucci, Tag McCormick, Abby Koczera, Nate Sandmaier, Chris Blais, and Sam Nadeau on completing the 200-mile 2018 “Reach the Beach” road race,” wrote President Rick Pierro in a message to Superior Controls employees.  “This grueling, rugged, mountainous, 33-hour relay race from Bretton Woods to Hampton Beach through light and darkness took incredible teamwork, extensive preparation, and focus.  Undertakings our engineers are well known for!”

Rick went on to say, “Please join me in congratulating this victorious team, and be sure to ask Joseph about the black bear.  Also, ask them why Joseph slept in a luxury suite while Tag slept out on the grass.”

Tag and Joseph have run Reach the Beach (RtB) in New Hampshire together since 2016, and in this year’s race Joseph was the team captain saying, “Initially, the idea of running 200-ish miles from Bretton Woods to Hampton Beach seems fairly daunting, but relatively uncomplicated.”  Joseph added, “The overnight run is typically the one that people worry about most, but it’s also one of the most rewarding. That’s the time of night when you hear rustling leaves in the bushes and get really freaked out. But, there are usually other runners on the road, and your team is there to support you as well.”

The 2018 Superior Controls RtB team was made up of 12 runners, divided into two 6-person groups, with one group in “Van 1” and one group in “Van 2.”  The 200 miles of the relay are broken up into legs varying from 2 to 10 miles in distance. For most legs, the vans stopped every 2 miles or so to support the runner.  “We followed the course guide and broke up the 200 miles into 36 legs shared by 12 runners,” said Tag.  “Aside from a little bit of flexibility here and there when Nate picked up a mile+ for Abby on the last leg, we all stayed by the book. Chris Blais ran the most miles.”

The timing for runs followed this schedule:

  • Van 1: Friday Morning
  • Van 2: Friday Afternoon
  • Van 1: Friday Evening
  • Van 2: Friday Night / Early Saturday Morning
  • Van 1: Saturday Morning
  • Van 2: Saturday Afternoon

Although the schedule would imply that there are long periods of rest, in reality no one really gets more than just a nap in those 30 hours. This year, Van 2 rested on the Friday evening of the race while waiting for Van 1 at Gilford High School, where runners Tag, Nate and Abby slept out on any open patch of grass they could find.  In contrast, Van 1 runners Joseph, Chris, and Sam got to stay at President Rick Pierro’s slope-side chalet at Attitash in Bartlett during their first rest period!  The resting location inequity continued, with Team Captain Joseph and the Van 1 runners spending their next rest period at a family house near Bear Brook State Park. “So, while we were lounging in warm houses and sleeping (albeit briefly) in beds, Van 2 was stretched out in a parking lot,” he said.

“The nighttime hours for RtB 2018 were from 6 pm Friday evening until 8 am Saturday morning, extended by an hour because of the fog,” said Joseph.  “Every runner hit the road between these times.  You typically leapfrog your runner during the nighttime legs, and there is no way to describe how good it feels to hear/see teams along the road supporting each other.  It is the true spirit of the relay.”

Joseph describes the camaraderie in the long duration of the race, “The minutiae become so important over the course of 30 hours with the same people; it can be inspiring, it can be tenuous. There is no physical or mental space, and I have found that you have to be very honest to make it work. I like that; there is no BS in the van. It doesn’t mean it is all smiles and rainbows, but it is real.  Nothing else is equivalent – it is such a human experience.  We probably each have 100 stories that will mean nothing to anyone else.”

The long and difficult hours of the race were occasionally punctuated with excitement and entertainment.  “It was night time and we were pulled over waiting for Chris,” said Joseph.  “I was out of the vehicle to cheer on other runners and offer water and snacks. Within earshot a runner reported that she had seen a black bear. I immediately contacted the race officials; they wanted to know: On the road or in the woods? Aggressive? Not necessarily the easiest questions to answer, I relayed what I knew and they dispatched a vehicle to the area.”

“Van 1 did indeed see Santa, and I have photographic evidence,” said Joseph. “At the time, Sam may have thought she was hallucinating as she handed off to Mel under the watchful eye of Santa Claus, her feet and knee were pretty banged up and she legged it out for 5.7 miles.” Tag added, “Van 2 had no Santa sightings, but we were neck and neck with a team of mermaids the whole race.”

Six out of the 12 team runners finished the race on Hampton Beach, and all enjoyed the experience enough to commit to running again in 2019.  “Everyone survived and most with smiles,” said Tag.

Joseph added, “Everyone did really well! I have an immense appreciation for the event and everyone who participates, and folks like the Superior Controls management that identify this is a unique and important experience and cultivate and support it within the team.”

Reach the Beach Superior Controls