Sometimes, there are no words. 29 hours and 198 miles, Hood to Coast Relay. Done. Four days of driving, 2 days living out of a van with people who are strangers (strangers no more). Living off pretzels, chips Gatorade, unwashed grapes. 1 hour of sleep in 36 hours. A life time of memories, the good, the bad and the ugly. Hood to Coast 2013 was incredible – hard fun, mentally taxing, physically challenging, and a lot of blood, sweat tears, and more than a few curse words.
Last year, I went as a driver (injured), this year I ran. It was last minute; I responded to a posting on my run club web site for an alternate runner. My boss was incredibly gracious and I got two days off on 2 days notice.
Thursday, we drove up to Kelso (We left Vancouver at 8am, but a stop at the outlets, and REI, and traffic) meant we didn’t arrive in Kelso till 5pmish.
Firs stop – Aztec Mexican restaurant for dinner with the gang – A pina colada the size of my head (with whip cream no less).. I felt ill (and I didn’t even finish it). The dinner plate was the size of my head, and I didn’t finish that either.
Friday morning we left Kelso – and drove the remaining two hours to Mt.Hood. At the start in Mt. Hood – we sent off runner 1, collected our t- shirts, posed for photos, and made fools of ourselves, and generally behaved obnoxiously.
Overheard – wife to her husband wearing a fuel belt – “are your jugs going to jiggle?”
Seen – a tiny hardcore athlete doing ABC’s across the parking lot while a runner with a mullet stares. Woman wearing booty shorts who should not have been wearing booty shorts – just saying. We saw guys in their skivvies, women in sparkly
We were Van #2 (runners #6 – 12). I ran leg number 9 which meant we had whole lot of time to sit in the Safeway parking lot in Gresham before our van ran our first legs. I changed five hours early, and ran around the Safeway parking lot, while my teammates demanded alternately that I take off the ridiculous headlamp (it was 4pm and a glorious sunny day) and to do another lap around the parking lot so they could take photos.
Kristijan had relay leg #7 so he was the first runner of Van 2 to run at 7pm Saturday evening. I was envious mostly because I was desperate to get the first relay leg under my belt. After picking up Kristijian and sending Anjulie off, it was time for to head to exchange #8 – where I would run my first relay leg – leg #9. Though we were at the exchange in plenty of time and I was basically freaking myself out waiting at the exchange, my headlamp decided to croak just before Anjulie was scheduled to come in. A quick exchange with a teammate, and I heard Anjulie yelling my name. Whoops. It was dark when I started, and not a km in I stumbled into a ditch. Oops. I scrambled out and inched my way forward – not till I hit the bike path as opposed to open road did I relax. A bit. The bike path was dark, but lit somewhat. At some point, I made a turn and he turned to me “Now you can pass me.” I wasted no time – he was the only person I passed on the leg (my first road kill). 13 plus km later I was done my leg. Average pace 4:33km.
Mostly though our race went off without a hitch until we got to exchange 12 where our relay leg 12 runner, Dan was set to arrive. I was sleeping in the van – but eventually a few of us wandered over to the exchange when we figured Dan was supposed to arrive. We were greeted by Kristijan yelling at us from the top of the embankment . Apparently Van 1 runner was not waiting for Dan. Huh? A frantic run around the parking lot. Turns out Van 1 was at the wrong exchange – 20 frantic minutes, one phone call and two text messages later, our Leg 1 runner had arrived at the correct exchange and was off.
And we were off to get some sleep. A sign at St. Helen’s High school greeted us. Eat. Sleep. Shower. Oh such sweet words. It was now 2am instead of the anticipated 12am arrival. For $10 dollars – I received the following, access to showers, a hot breakfast (scrambled eggs, pancakes and sausages never tasted so good), and the privilege of sleeping on the gym floor with hundreds of snoring runners. It had started to rain, and sleeping outdoors was no longer an option. After inhaling breakfast, two of us stumbled into the gym with our sleeping bags, right next to a gym filled with snoring runners– a symphony of snoring to be precise. I buried my head in my sleeping bag and caught 1.5 hours of rest (couldn’t legitimately call it sleep). 4:15am – Emily roused me and we headed off to the Van – as soon as runner 6 came in, and Kristijan was off, we would have to hit the road again. Such is the life. Let’s just say, that living in a van together for two days, driving hundreds of miles, you er..get to know people pretty quickly. We are strangers no more.
My second leg was on Gravel roads somewhere between 7 – 8am, and I thought it would be an easy 8km. Turns out nothing is easy when you’ve had no sleep, your previous run was done at race pace, and you are on your second run of the day. Two km in I was passed by a girl from the Knoxville Track Club. I didn’t feel so bad when I found out they placed in their division. She was encouraging. I was not happy. However, she was close enough that I saw her score a road – kill….and judging by his pace, it was a matter of time before I caught him as well. I was determined to get a road kill. Because we had lost time, opportunities to get road kills were scarce, and I had to make the most of every opportunity. I passed him and tried not to look to smug. I also told myself this relay was just for fun. Hah.
My second relay leg, leg #21 was done, and I was in search of food. I ate half a chocolate bar, half a bag of Lay’s ( I know that’s disgusting) and called it a day. Oh, and a Gatorade recovery drink that I’m sure contained pure sugar and very little nutritional content.
Only 9 more hours and I would get to run my last leg! – yay!:p. Meanwhile, we joined a parade of slow moving vans to Exchange 30 – the last major exchange. A muddy parking lot that looked like a landfill. I passed out face down on the van seats for an hour – oh sweet, sweet sleep. We waited, and waited, and waited, and it started to rain and hail, and our runner from Van 1 came in.
It was at this point (having lost ½ hour at the exchange, some mis calculations on predicted times) that Leifka (the de facto Captain of Van 1) informed us that officials had threatened to leapfrog our team (have us run legs consecutively) as they didn’t think we would finish under the allotted time of 9 pm with 6 hours to go (and 6 runners). However Leifka is very good at convincing people – and she managed to convince the officials we were superstar runners in Van 2, and would each road kill 2 people on each of our legs. Hah. …I don’t believe I saw 2 people ahead of me on each of my relay legs. Nonetheless, we were granted a reprieve. Thoughts of running a relaxing last leg flew out the window. Kristijan ran his four mile leg, in 26 minutes. Geez. I stood there, trying to calculate what time Anjulie would come in – and how long I had to do my relay leg, and leave time for Nicola, Dan and Emma to run their legs. I was nervous. Kristijian ran down the hill to run in Anjulie and I was off. Damned if I was going to let a course marshal pull me off:p the course. It was a leg with rolling hills, and Dan had told me it was best if I didn’t know what was coming. .
My last leg as runner number 9 – was leg 36, a stunning stretch of running through Olney, a community about 8 miles south of Astoria, with rolling hills, grass fields, churches, lakes. I passed a beautiful white mansion(marked for sale) at the top of a grassy slope. I thought momentarily of moving here. A cool breeze blew and for the last few km, the sun came out. I wanted to run slower and soak it in, but with teammates waiting, and ticking clock, I ran, and just kept running. Team vans honked and cheered for me. Our own van was amazing – cowbells and all when they drove past. A sheriff’s van passed me twice and the official photographer was waiting – I almost cried when I saw him. He snapped a few shots and gave me a fist bump. I ran on, and the tears flowed. I don’t usually cry when I’m running, but I was a bit of a mess… I saw a girl ahead and passed her (roadkillJ)– she asked if I knew how far in we were – I told her and ran on. A HTC runner was sitting on his lawn, and cheered for me. 2 miles, then 1 mile to go. The last words I heard from course marshals– climb that hill and you are done. Another hill??? So close yet so far. My last relay leg was the icing on the cake – the end was in sight. I could see the cones ahead that signaled the exchange zone. I could make out our next runner ahead, and I sprinted. 12.43km in under 1 hour. Happy me. Done, done and done.
Driving to the next exchange, I could feel the tension drain out of my body. I was indeed a happy camper. We sent off Emily and rushed to our next exchange.
Emily came in – having done a brutal 11km for her last leg. We sang her in with “Proud Mary.” She had been looking a bit worse for wear, but perked right up, even singing along. Good thing the Exchange Zones were full of weirdos and strange people. We fit right in.
After sending Dan on his way – we drove to Seaside, found parking and ran to the finish line – we had no sooner found the finish chutes – when we heard our team #791 being yelled. Dan came running in, right under an enormous Muscle Milk Banner. And we were officially done. Hallelujah. Off to get our medals and get a group photo taken – I’m sure HTC 2013 is making a killing off selling the photos. Can’t wait to see what sort of wreck I look like.
A beer hits hard after you have eaten crap for two days (or not eaten), slept next to nil, and run 3 relay legs. A volunteer kindly gave me food tickets so I trotted off to find food. I stood up from my seat in the beer garden, and nearly tipped over.
There are so many memories that I can’t begin to capture – but overheard in our van (the ones that can be repeated).
Quotes: “I’m not that violent.”
“You look like you went to the Sally Ann and bought some high class *&%$# and a unicorn barfed rainbows on you.”
“Do you want to have a lover’s quarrel right in front of these people? Because I will.
“Don’t worry it is pretty solid. Reply – well, you are pretty solid too.”
‘This is going to be a shit show.”
“We all have an inner *hole. I just wear mine out the outside.”
“I ran my second leg on average 8 second per km slower. Sarcastic reply: well you better get on there and run your relay leg over again then”. (Insert eye –roll)
How do you like your eggs? Reply– unfertilized.
To my team – thanks for a great weekend and some amazing memories. And the volunteers – you were unbelievable!
Bucket list # 59. Checkmark. Until next year….