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10 Bloggers, 200 Miles, and 25 Tubes of Nuun – Part II

Posted Sep 15 2011 8:45am

I have a confession. I don’t really love it when people stretch out their race recaps over a period of days (or weeks!). When they make you wait forever before they tell you how everything went, and drag it all out into 50 different blog posts. Yet here I am, weeks after getting home from Oregon and I still haven’t finished my Hood to Coast recap. And at this point, I can’t even say for sure that you care enough to read it.

But since I like things that have closure, I’m going to finally write this last chapter of my Hood to Coast experience. It’s sort of bittersweet, really. I guess now I actually have to admit that it’s over.

I will be adding all my HTC posts to the {ontherun}Relays page in the near future, but for now if you’re catching up:

Part II

When I left off, Van 1 of After-NUUN Delight had finished fueling up on pizza and was getting ready to kick off our second legs of the relay. But as we pulled into the van exchange, my body was feeling ready to sleep – not run. I knew I needed an intervention fast.

And by intervention, I mean caffeine.

Luckily, our fearless driver offered to accompany on my quest for coffee. Problem is, there was none to be found. The only coffee shop we came across told me that the only coffee they had was brewed so long ago that it wouldn’t taste very good. They may not be good sales people, but at least they were honest! Instead they sent us to the restuarant across the street, saying they might have coffee available for take-out.

Although the people at the counter thought I was crazy when I gave them my request, they did oblige with the only thing they had – an iced Americano in a take out soup container. Or as Mason deemed it – “espresso soup.”

LB_espresso soup

A few sips of this caffinated delicacy, and I was ready to go. Just like magic.

HTC_night leg_nuun staffNuun staff – Kimberly, Mason, and Alex – Van 1 driver for Nuun Platuun

As the second set of legs started up, it was pretty clear that our driver was getting antsy. Put a sub-3 hour marathoner in a van with a bunch of runners for the day, and you get someone who is practically dying to run. So when Jocelyn mentioned that she wouldn’t mind company on her night leg, Mason practically jumped at the chance. We told him he could jump in on one condition – he don a pink sparkle skirt for the miles.

Fortunately, if you haven’t figured this out already – Mason is a pretty awesome guy. He didn’t even hesitate.

IMG_0085.jpgIt is rumored that Mason and I may have been wearing the same size skirt. To which I say – no comment.

As Mason and Jocelyn took off on their leg Emily and I made a quick decision – if, when it was our turn to run, our driver wanted to keep going, we would let him. It was the least we could do to thank him for putting up with our craziness all weekend.

My second leg was 5.23 miles, rated Hard. Probably because the run was a steady uphill climb. But I’m going to let you in on a little secret of relay running: uphill climbs at night always feel easier than uphill climbs in the daylight. When you can’t actually see what’s in front of you, it never seems quite as tough.

Not surprisingly, when Emily came up the shoot for the hand off to me, Mason was still with her. I grabbed the slap bracelet and as I started to run I turned back and yelled, “Do you want to keep running?”

At this point Mason had already done about 12 miles. Apparently that wasn’t far enough. After a quick conversation with our vanmates to tell them to pick him up a few miles in, he came sprinting after me.

IMG_0088.JPGOkay, so this is actually Mason sprinting off after Jocelyn. But you get the idea.

Unfortunately for Mason, after only a few minutes in, a race volunteer made him stop and wait at a stoplight until the light turned. I was actually pretty shocked by this – in every other relay I’ve run, the organizers have police guiding traffic. So if a runner needs to cross, they let them go before the cars. I had never actually seen someone get stopped before.

For a few seconds, I thought about taking off and seeing what Mason was really made of. His legs are about 3 times as long as mine – he should’ve been able to catch me no problem! But I took pity on him and slowed down crawl, practically jogging in place so he could catch up.

The first mile was nice and easy. After waiting for Mason, we soon saw Lisa off in the distance – my Nuun Platuun counter-part that I used for motivation during runs (thanks for being a good sport about it Lisa!!). We caught up to her and chatted for a little while before parting ways.

At this point, the run turned off a highway and onto an old logging road. The air was peaceful, the night was cool(er), and my espresso soup had kicked in full force. I fell into stride beside Mason, using him to help keep me running strong. As each footfall echoed against the pavement, I found myself loving the run more and more. I didn’t even notice the hill as we flew through the night.

I’m not sure if Mason was loving it quite as much. His grand plan to be picked up a couple miles into the run was foiled when our route turned onto a different street than the vans could follow. Which meant he was stuck with me for all 5 miles. If he was thirsty or tired, though, you couldn’t tell. He ran 17 miles that night, without slowing a bit.

During the last mile, the hill finally caught up to me. Things got steeper, I stopped feeling super-human, and it was all I could do to just try and hang on to a quick pace. By this point I was running through pitch black darkness. By my watch, I knew the transition had to be somewhere close. But in my mind, that last bit seemed to stretch out forever. There were no lights, no crowd – nothing to tell me that the end was near.

Finally, almost suddenly, I came on top of a cluster of people waiting for the hand-off. I sprinted in, and my leg was done!

5.22 miles in 37:56 (7:16/mile)

7:39, 7:21, 6:57, 7:06, 7:15, 1:35 (7:18 pace)

And that’s when the pizza caught up to me. I finished and made a bee-line for the van in search of some Pepto. We were finally able to score some off of Nuun Platuun Van 1, who were kind enough to let us borrow their bottle for the night.

And so commenced a celebratory round of pepto shots. Team bonding = taking swigs out of a communal bottle of Pepto.

Finally – it was time to sleep. Well…after a 20-minute frantic search for the van keys that somehow managed to fall out of Dorothy ‘s sweatshirt while she was waiting for me to finish. After a frantic hunt in the dark parking lot, the keys were finally retrieved and we took off for the next transition – ready for some shut eye.

Unfortunately, the race had other plans for us. A few miles outside of Mist, we got stuck in bumper-to-bumper traffic. It was so bad, that runners were leaving the transition point and arriving at the exchange before we could drive the few miles between them.

Mist traffic.jpg

This year Hood to Coast had added 250 extra teams – which means 500 extra vans trying to get to the van exchanges. The roads weren’t always built for this kind of traffic – and the volunteers didn’t help. We finally made it up to the transition point only to find plenty of parking spaces available, and a volunteer who was holding everything up and doing an awful job of directing traffic.

By the time we pulled into Mist, we only had about 1 hour to sleep until Van 2 was projected to make the hand off. So we all curled up in the van as best we could. I spent the night cuddled up next to Emily. Lucky for me, she was a good sport about it.

6:30 am came way too soon. But I woke up feeling refreshed and ready to run!

Sort of.

nuundelight_HTC_leg 3 am.JPG

I modeled my awesome tatt crossed off my leg from the night before, and got ready to run one final time

LB_leg 2 done_HTC

But, like always, as my leg drew nearer and nearer I got increasingly nervous. The stomach issues hadn’t really gone away during my hour of sleep. So I took a few more swigs of that pink delishousness and crossed my fingers that it’d be enough to keep the problems at bay.

IMG_4956.JPGWhen the four of us start a band, this will be our album cover.

Fortunately, all it took for my excitement to come rushing back was to watch each runner in our van finish their third and final leg. Their feelings of relief and excitement after finishing were contagious. I wanted that to be me!

J_HTC third leg

With each leg, the terrain got more mountainous. Until we reached Emily’s final leg – which was 3 miles up the side of a mountain, and then 3 miles back down the other side.

hood to coast_leg 29

It looked grueling. But Emily is a champ – she powered up that hill with a smile on her face, and finished the leg feeling on top of the world.

EH_htc_leg 29

Which meant it was finally my time to run again.

5.35 miles, rated Moderate.

From looking at the leg profiles and reading the descriptions, this was the leg I had been most excited about all weekend.

Gradual uphill and steep downhill on winding narrow back road with minimum shoulder.

Yes please. In my case, Hood to Coast really had saved the best for last.

Emily came sprinting into the transition point neck and neck with another team. She handed that snap bracelet to me and I took off as fast as I could. That runner was going to have to work if she wanted to keep up.

The first couple of miles were rolling, with one tough uphill climb. Unfortunately my Garmin decided it didn’t really want to cooperate on this leg. It had had trouble finding the satellites before the run and was now showing me paces that were impossibly fast.

5:13 for the first mile? I don’t think so. If that were the case, I just got a new mile PR.

After that, the paces on my watch just kept jumping around and looking weird. I had no idea if I could trust it – which meant that I didn’t know how far I had gone or how much further I had to go. So I just ran, focusing on the sights around me instead of what pace I was running.

LB_HTC_leg 30_1

And let me tell you – those sights were glorious! The sun was shining, the leg was peaceful, and I was feeling awesome. We crested a hill around mile 2.5, came around the corner and the world opened up before me. I had almost 400 feet to drop in just a mile. And it was my last leg. So I leaned into that hill and just let myself fly – all thoughts of protecting my quads from being completely shredded out the window.

LB_HTC_leg 30_2

Two thumbs up – this leg is awesome!

The further I ran, the greater the views were. Sometimes I’d be running through forests of tall pine trees – other times it would open up, and I’d see mountains in front of me. If there ever was a time I was drunk on relay love, this was it.

HTC_leg 30_viewNo I didn’t take this photo while running. But these are the types of views I got for 5 miles.

LB_HTC_leg 30_3

I may or may not have even yelled out “This is AMAZING!!!” to my team as they drove by in the van. But I can’t really be responsible for my actions. I was high on Hood to Coast.

Unfortunately for the team – the traffic problems had caught up to us again. Less than halfway into my leg, Dorothy ran out of the van to hand me our team stopwatch. They were stuck in bumper-to-bumper traffic and didn’t think they’d make it to the transition in time. This situation was probably frustrating for them, but it was pretty cool for me. Team vans lined the course for miles, blaring music and cheering for the runners. It was just one more thing that made my leg feel so amazing.

LB_HTC_leg 30_4

HTC_leg 30_traffic

All to soon, the transition point appeared. My final leg of Hood to Coast was done.

(take these with a grain of salt – they’re probably off)

5.67 miles in 35:53 (6:20*/mile) *I’m guessing my pace was probably closer to 6:30-something/6:40.

There are really no words to describe how glorious this last leg was. I honestly loved every single minute of it and wished I could have run longer. Which is a first for the last leg of a relay when you’ve gotten 1 hour of sleep in the past 30. I can safely say that not only was this my favorite leg of Hood to Coast, but it was also my favorite leg of any relay I’ve ever done.

The high I had gotten from my final leg didn’t wear off any time soon. In fact, it kept me buzzing until about 8:00 pm, when I mistakenly drank a margarita with dinner. A few sips of hard alcohol, and I was out.

Fortunately, we had had plenty of time to celebrate before that. And celebrate we did!

IMG_5038.JPG

It’s not everyday you get to hang out with  Bart Yasso after a race and talk about how it went.

HTC_Bart Yasso_finish

Or get access to the VIP food line.

DB_LB_HTC finish_vip

Or the VIP beer tent.

IMG_5046.JPG

And it’s definitely not everyday that you get to spend a weekend with a group as amazing as my vanmates. These people have a very special place in my heart.

HTC_nuundelight_van 1_finish

Unfortunately, Van 2 did not have the same smooth sailing to the finish as we did. The traffic throughout the day kept getting worse, and by the time they left the last transition to head to the finish, the back up was well over an hour. They were still stuck in traffic when Megan finished the race.

HTC_nuundelight finish

I can’t even imagine how frustrating this must have been for them and I know many people raised very vocal complaints to the Hood to Coast organizers.

But finally, after a long trip for our Van 2 teammates, the vans were reunited and it was time to join together for a team finish!

HTC_nuundelight_finish

Over 28 hours after starting at Mount Hood, we had finally done it! We had reached the finish line.

Hood to Coast finish

Time: 28:12:46

Overall place: 323

Division place: 5/11 *which means we got an award…supposedly…

Even weeks later, when we’ve all gone back to lives that don’t involve sleeping in a van and running every few hours, the feelings of gratitude and excitement about Nuun and Hood to Coast have not faded. I am so blessed to have been given this opportunity of a lifetime.

Thank you Nuun for being such an amazing company. And thank you to all the bloggers who joined Team Nuun and made this a weekend I will never ever forget!

 

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