Hood to Coast Part 3: THE RELAY!

For Van 2, Friday began with a few extra hours of anticipation to hit the road and begin the relay! We left the hotel at 11:15, dropped off extra bags at Nuun, and set off for Sandy, Oregon, the first major van exchange. The van 1 vs. van 2 Twitterfest began around then, as we finally had time to check in with the world…however, there was no where else we would rather be, so we basically made everyone else jealous 140 characters at a time, and checked in with the other vans searching for #teamwatermelon, #teamlemonade, #teamcherrylimeade, and #nuunhtc. I was learning so much. It was like Twitter 101 (TWI101?). After a stop for safety pins/fathers (cc: Lisa) and a stop for food, we arrived in Sandy just in time for me to get ready totally spaz out that I wouldn’t have enough time to get ready for my first leg. I was the first runner to be on the road after 6:00, meaning I had to wear all the reflective gear and lights. It seemed silly and excessive since it was still sunny out, and because I hate wearing extra…anything, but it was a rule so I put it all on. Sparkle shirt: check. Nuun tattoos: check. Garmin ready: check. Bathroom: check. Spotted Dead Jocks in a Box pulling out of the parking lot: check. I ran up to the exchange zone with Lisa, Devon, and Lindsay, and pretty soon, Catey was rolling in strong! I snapped on the bracelet and was on my way to start the first leg for van 2!

The hand-off! Lindsay caught a video of it here.

1. Leg 7: Hard & “Boring” My first leg wasn’t actually boring, it was a lot of fun. But, it was through the “town” of Boring, Oregon. It was rated H (hard), and began with a fairly steep downhill. There were then some sharp turns and some pretty significant uphills, which undoubtedly slowed my pace. I was thinking it would be cool to average under 7:00/mile for my legs, maybe add 15 or 20 seconds if there were a lot of hills though. Somehow, my Garmin was not on auto-lap for the first time…I didn’t realize this until I was over a mile in and it had not beeped. Oops. It was okay, though, I figured out my splits online later. My van pulled over a few times to cheer me on, which made me excited. It also made me feel as if I couldn’t get out of the game and slow down, because they were sure to be on the side of the road up ahead waiting to see me go by.

Leg 7, my first leg.

Random things that happened during this leg…a volunteer at a corner yelled after me, “I like your dress. I had one of those once” (referring to the sparkle shirt). I witnessed a runner getting reprimanded for wearing headphones and trying to run away from an angry volunteer. I noticed that the sparkle skirt did not quite make for the most comfortable running attire, at least when paired with spandex shorts (you would think that would be the preferred combination…it is actually not). It was my first glimpse at the other vans in the relay, so it was entertaining to see what vans passed me, and what was written on them. I got five roadkills – that is, passed five people – on this leg, and was passed by one speedy guy towards the end. The hills were a bit rough; I haven’t exactly trained on hills since my injury this summer, so I just tried my best to hang on and power up steadily until each one was over. I gave the slap bracelet to Megan at the end of my leg, and successfully completed the first stage for van 2! The stats: 6.38 miles in 45:57, giving me an average pace of 7:12. I was a little disappointed by this, and I did not really feel like myself…didn’t have that excited feeling I had after most runs, didn’t feel that great physically. Which was disappointing, because this was Hood to Coast, dammit. I knew what the problem was, though, and there wasn’t anything I could do about it. In the spirit of Jesica and Jenny, and the nature of a 200-mile relay itself, I will be honest and share that I did not get so lucky when it came to my time of the month…as in, I was greeted with an untimely (and unexpected) surprise Friday morning that pretty much affected me only for the hours of the relay. I’ve always been so lucky so I hardly knew what to do…I was suddenly much more nervous about how I would feel while running, and in the van in between legs. Hence, the not-so-hot feeling since before leg 1. Ohhh well.

It was fun to ride in the van and cheer on Megan, Laura, Lisa, Lindsay, and Devon as they ran their first legs and the sun started to set. Some of the exchanges were relatively far away from the parking areas, and so we did a little extra running ourselves to get there in time! If I was feeling a bit better, I would’ve been having a blast, like it was a big running camping trip or something. I still was having a lot of fun, but my mind was definitely partially on what I should do to feel better for the second leg, because whatever I was doing then (um, nothing) was not feeling good. After Devon’s leg, we were almost in Portland. We drove to the Hopworks Brewery, where apparently the van 1s had already visited. Going to a brewery mid-relay was a strange experience…I couldn’t look at the beer list because then I’d want one! Also, the food you would get after running is wayyy different than that you would prefer to order before running. Normally, my choice would be nothing, being the next runner up after our break, but I thought I should have something, so I got a grilled chicken sandwich and kept it simple and light. As soon as we got back in the van, I reserved a bench where I could lay down…there was no way my stomach was going to be happy if I didn’t get horizontal ASAP. The next thing I knew, it was about 2:30 in the morning, and I woke up to find rain and dew on the windows, a temperature drop of what felt like 20 degrees to me, and being told I would have to run soon. Ouch.

In what seemed like some kind of dream, I got out of the van and stepped into the eerie “Van City” that was exchange zone 18, changed into what I was wearing for my next leg, put on my reflective gear and bib number, used a Honey Bucket, and ran up to the exchange zone with a couple girls to wait for Catey. The air was thick with moisture, and it had definitely rained while I was sleeping. Here goes.

2. Leg 19: Surreal, hilly, and rough

Van 1 was there also, so I knew Catey was coming in soon. She flew in and gave me the bracelet I slapped it on and set off at who knows what pace. Running at night is always strange pace-wise, because your depth perception is so off. I had never tried to run a hard effort at night without being in a lit area, so this was all new to me. I could see the blinking lights and reflective vests of the runners ahead of me, and passed a couple immediately. There was never a time I did not see a runner ahead of me, which was nice; I had been worried about that. Also, there was plenty of van traffic on the opposite side, heading toward the next exchange, which provided some light and company in a sense. I have to admit, there were parts of this leg that made me question my sanity as a runner. I think a lot of runners experience this during the second, night leg of an overnight relay….It wasn’t so much that I hated it, or wondered why I was out there…but more like,

I can’t see where my feet are going, I don’t know where this road goes at all, I don’t know if there is an uphill or downhill ahead or behind me, I’m not sure when I’ll be done, I don’t know what pace this is or feels like, my body is so confused it’s stopped rebelling completely against what it’s being forced to do, this actually may be better than sleeping, not going to lie. Is someone messing with me right now, why do I feel so slow all of a sudden?

Second leg (19).

Second leg (19).

Yeah, some thought process like that happened. I had thought this was rated VH (very hard) initially, but the sheet we had in the van had said H (hard). I was confused about why this was not very hard while I was running it, but it made it less intimidating probably. Truth: the sheet had a  typo. According to every other source, Leg 19 was in fact VH. Finally the 5.89 miles were over, I passed off to Megan, and stopped to breathe. I felt better than I did when I started, so that was good! My watch said 4:03 AM or so when I finished. Yikes. We were in a strange time, a very strange time…definitely not really late at night. Definitely not very early in the morning. It was the dead zone. Speaking of dead zone, I went to tweet that I had finished my second leg after I returned to the van, but somewhere during my leg, we had actually entered a dead zone for cell service. We would stay in that dead zone for…about 11 more hours. Leg 2: 5.91 miles in 44:40, 7:33 pace.

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Chariots of Tired & Portland Fire Dragons in the foggy morning at exchange 22, around 7:00 AM.

Megan’s leg was also brutal – not only was it uphill, but halfway through the road turned to gravel. It was a peculiar scene: runners getting dust and dirt kicked up in their faces, lights flashing on the left side of the road, vans crawling along in a traffic jam, stirring up the gravel and creating dusty clouds on the right side. When Megan handed off to Laura, the dirt road was still in effect. That was when the heavy traffic leading up to the exchanges began, and parking at the exchange zones got ugly. When the clock in the van read 5:30 AM, I announced that we were now in “semi-normal time!” By this, I meant that people who woke up to start their day at 5:30 weren’t totally crazy, for the most part. Before that, woof. I got sleepy again all of a sudden, and ended up stealing a little nap during leg 23…I felt like I was missing out on something though, and felt bad for sleeping while people in my van were running, so I didn’t sleep for long! We were hoping for a pretty Oregon sunrise, but unfortunately it was overcast as the sky brightened. Once I realized it was officially no longer dark, and we had therefore made it through the night, I started to feel a little sad. We made it through the night. We would finish in Seaside “soon!” The craziness that was running through the night during Hood to Coast was over, and we only had daylight to conquer from here on out. I wanted to make the most of it, stretch it out as long as possible in my mind.

Total white van chaos at exchange 24.  This is why there are designated sleeping areas.

Total white van chaos at exchange 24. This is exactly why there are designated sleeping areas.

We spent awhile at exchange 24, the next major van exchange where we handed off to van 1 runners. Dick’s Sporting Goods had set up a literal campsite there, complete with rows of tents. We weren’t sure how one got to reserve one of those….It was at this exchange that it was decided we needed to start acting silly. Even without Twitter to write ridiculous updates, we must continue taking pictures, videos, and preaching the word of Nuun to other teams. It had to happen. Lindsay and I started this by initiating a rolling station – we got down on the ground with our TigerTails, my quadballer, and my TP massage ball and got to work. While recording soundbites on her GoPro, of course. I must say, rolling doesn’t usually affect me much, but this time it hurt. Wow. Others came up to us asking if they could use our little tools, and we “interviewed” them about Hood to Coast so far. Eventually we stopped and set off to sing “happy birthday” to someone (he wrote that it was his birthday on the van window), and give him the gift of Nuun samples. Best birthday ever, right? We eventually rounded up the troops and drove off. We stopped to cheer on Mallory during her leg, and even sang Ke$ha for her. That became the new theme: blast every runner’s favorite music out of the van window and slow down as we drove past. Hannah got some Taylor Swift, and a power arch! Feeling a little more energetic at this hour (about 10:30 AM), we took some jumping photos with the Oregon hillside as a backdrop. We may not have gotten to go to Mt. Hood, but in person, these views were also stunning. We used our quackers from the duck boat tour to cheer on runners also…I don’t blame them if they were confused….

Leg 29. Oh my. Warrior Sarah had this one, and it was a killer. We passed her at the beginning of it and cheered out the window, then continued our climb up to get to my exchange. I felt like we were just climbing and  climbing, it was insane. At the top, people were out of their vans standing in the runners’ path with an unraveled roll of toilet paper, so the runner would get to “break the tape!” So cool! I’d wanted to play “The Climb” by Miley Cyrus (spring 2009…anyone?), but I didn’t have it on my mp3 player anymore. I was marveling at the huge trees and steep, winding roads…I had never been anywhere like this before. Then…we hit traffic. It was worse here than it had been before any other exchange, and we were basically at a standstill as runners zipped by us. I was thinking I should warm up a little for this last leg anyway, so I hopped out of the van with Lisa and Megan and we started jogging to the exchange. I am very, very glad I did this! Not only did it warm me up, but I wouldn’t have had time to use the bathroom before running if I’d stayed in the van (um, a runner’s worst fear). I wasn’t even on the road when I heard the announcer yell, “seven one five!” I sprinted to the exchange zone and grabbed the bracelet from Catey. Andddd I bolted.

3. Leg 31: guts & glory

I really wanted to average under 7:00/mile for this last, M( medium) – rated 4.00 mile leg. My projected finish pace was 6:59 (I had been right on for the first two, give or take literally a second…I don’t know how you did that, HTC people!). I started out feeling pretty darn good. Somewhere in the second mile, or maybe even before, reality set in: I was tired. This was going to hurt. I focused on picking off other runners (roadkill = 10!), particularly if they were playing music through speakers, and just not letting go of my pace goal, because this was my final leg of Hood to Coast! Sub-7 hurt like never before, but after this I would be done continuing to my awesome team, and just supporting the rest of them all the way to Seaside. I had to make this count. With less than a mile to go, I saw my van. I was worried at first that Megan was still in it and wouldn’t be at the exchange, but Casey assured me immediately that she was there waiting for me already (she had ran out early like I had). A van just ahead of my van had been cheering on their male runner at the same time. I ran past him a few seconds later, and he just muttered an expletive under his breath. It probably had to do with the fact that I was wearing a sparkle skirt. Both teams were there to witness this moment, and if it doesn’t define “chicked,” I don’t know what does. 😉

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Splits for my last leg. Total: 27:28 for 4.00 miles, average pace of 6:52!

I let it all go and put on a mean pain face at the end as I saw Megan waiting at the exchange. Some girl I was about to pass that clearly had not been working as hard the entire leg sprinted ahead of me at the last second when I was at my highest gear and couldn’t match her speed…but I’m sure Megan passed her teammate immediately, so it’s all good. I ended up walking back with Lisa, who had been at that exchange with Megan (I’m convinced she ran around 3 extra warmup miles), to the van, hopping in, and just moving on to the next exchange…so much van traffic! At that exchange, I realized that my quads were totally spent, in such a glorious way.

Van 2 girls minus Laura, who was out running leg 33!

Van 2 girls minus Laura, who was out running leg 33!

The rest of the journey to Seaside went pretty smoothly…highlights included:

– lame rules and pissed-off volunteers at exchange 33

– running out of water at exchange 34…how the Nuun team ran out of water is beyond me, but that happened

– supplying Laura with Nuun as she ROCKED her long, hot, and hilly last leg and steadily roadkilled a bunch of runners

–  Lindsay getting through her long last leg on a trail without any van support and officially finishing her part of HTC in one piece!

– sending Devon off to run the final leg to Seaside, and supplying her with her favorite Heart song through the van speakers!

Final exchange! Almost to the beach!

Final exchange! Almost to the beach!

It was down to a matter of seconds whether or not we would get to Seaside in time to see Devon finish! We jumped out of the van when we got close to the beach, and Casey went to park. As tiring as it was, we ran to the finish line and just missed her. We found her, though, as well as our Van 1 teammates. We all got to cross the line together, but it was much less of a spectacle than we had expected – we didn’t get to run by ourselves, and it was way too crowded. We got our medals and took our official team picture, then just hung out and shared our stories from the adventure in the beer garden.

So happy!

So happy!

Our total time: 199.3 miles in 27:45.

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In the words of Leslie, “YEAH-YUH.”

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We finally headed to the condos Nuun had rented us for the night (thank you, thank you, they were so nice and I wanted to stay allll week!) to continue the celebration with all three teams. I headed out with some other girls later to touch the Pacific Ocean for the first time! That was probably one of my favorite parts of the day. Others went to get ice cream following that, but I, being from Van 2, was dying for a shower, so unfortunately I took care of that business instead.

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In the Pacific!

The next morning was bittersweet, as we separated into different vans after breakfast to head back to Seattle and said our goodbyes. It was such a short time and we all ended up feeling like we knew each other so well! I definitely want to try to make an effort to keep in touch with these wonderful ladies online, so that we can hopefully meet up again at races and maybe even other relays in the future!

I am about as bad at saying goodbye as I am writing the end of this recap…no words can really express how it all felt! One thing that sticks out in my mind though is this: it was really great, and really special, to feel like so many different girls understood me at the same time. Not all of my friends are runners, and even those who are don’t necessarily “get me” when I say or do certain things. All of these girls did. We all came from different backgrounds and different parts of the country: some of us started running in high school, others a year or two ago, others to lose weight, and still others began in their twenties, maybe because their friends were running. Some were mothers, some were engaged, some were single, some worked a lot, some worked a little, some were loud, some were quiet, some were confident, some were insecure. Yet, there was not a single person I spoke to (and I tried to meet everyone) who I did not feel as if I could invite for a run and coffee  (er, wait, I don’t like coffee…recurring theme on this trip) and have endless things to share and discuss. That’s pretty darn cool.

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6 thoughts on “Hood to Coast Part 3: THE RELAY!

  1. Love your recap! You covered so much even though it’s been a few weeks 🙂 (Oh and I was definitely not lucky in the time-of-the-month area either. Looks like that didn’t stop you from killing it on your legs! I’m so happy we met–hope to meet you at a race at some point soon!

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