Saturday, September 5, 2015

Hood to Coast- The Mother of All Relays

     Earlier this year the opportunity arose to join some other Sub-30 Club runners in the Hood to Coast Relay in Oregon. This is considered the Mother of All Relays. Our team was lucky enough to be selected in the lottery and so began the whirlwind adventure.  I knew this trip was going to be fun, but I didn't realize just how much I would be challenged. We planned, and planned, and joked, and planned some more. Our gracious Captain/host Lonnie and his wife  Roni, made arrangements for us to not only stay at their home, but to get us there if needed (Biggest Thank you ever you guys). Most of our team, the Neon Banana Hammocks, stayed at Camp Neon up until and after the race.
     I flew out on Tuesday as did another teammate, Kate. She hung around the airport and waited for me to arrive so that Lonnie only had to come to the airport once. 

     The next couple of days involved the remainder of the team arriving. (Christine, Sheri, Amy and Jamie, Cathy, Dave, Jennifer, Susan and Sherri) and preparing ourselves for what was about to come. Lonnie and Roni had prepared some awesome goodie bags for the trip, which was like Christmas for everyone.

     It seemed like a blink of an eye before we were getting ready for bed the night before Hood to Coast. Everyone got their gear together and decided what was necessary and what was not. We decorated our vans and celebrated what was about to become a reality, the awesome race, but facing a nasty storm. 

Race morning, Bavana 1 (See what was done there credit goes to whoever came up with it) had left early to get to the top of the mountain. We had been assigned a 7:15 start time. I was in Bavana 2 which only had to be at the exchange for me to kick off leg 7 which would be in the afternoon. Yeah we can sleep. But at 3:30 a.m. I was awake and I could not go back to sleep so I had coffee. My body was still on East Coast time plus having the excitement and nervous energy did not help. Once the rest of the team was awake we finished packing the vans and took our group photo.
     We headed out the door to our breakfast, which I had planned to eat something semi healthy and filling to hold me through. We hit a little restaurant called Shari's Restaurant and Pies. Everyone had ordered their breakfast, and once we were done we found out how crappy they were about upselling. No offer of pie. Our checks were handed to us and Jamie asked the waitress if the pies in the case were for sale.  The waitress quickly said, "Yes. Did you want to buy some"? Since I am #TeamPie I ordered a slice to take with me for after my first leg. Yes please. We hit Target for some last minute odds and ends then off to the first exchange with Bavana 1.

     Leg 7: 5.40 Mi. - Moderate LEG DESCRIPTION: Rolling hills along Hwy 26 on paved shoulder and farm/country roads.  LIES. All Lies!!!!!!
I anxiously waited for Christine to finish Leg 6 and get the slap band from her.Our wait was a cluster as the people calling in the incoming runners was not loud enough to be heard over the excited mob.  The course was also curved so we weren't able to see the runners coming in.  At the last possible second I heard Team 406 and saw Christine bringing it in strong.  I jumped out onto the track and we hugged, exchanged the slap band and I was off.  The beginning started through a mulched track around the outside of a schools athletic fields. That quickly began the suck of Leg 7.  It was similar to running in sand. When I finally hit the neighborhoods and saw the "rolling hills"  What the hell do they call a hill?  Bethlehem has nothing on these hills.  I was getting my ass kicked right out the door.  I battled the hills up and down over and over until they finally eased up.  The sun came out about 2 miles in and temperatures quickly escalated. (Oops no hat or sunscreen).  I managed to get 1 roadkill on this leg, but it was hard fought.  The terrain was more difficult than I thought so now I was freaking about my second leg, which was Very hard.  I tried to take in the scenery which was beautiful.  I thanked volunteers and waved to kids who were cheering along the way.  I also loved that some residents and farmers had set up sprinklers to spray into the road for us.  I completely took advantage of these moments of bliss.Before long I was coming up a short hill and could hear a crowd cheering.  I was getting close to finishing.  Before I knew it I heard 406 being shouted and saw my teammate Jennifer.  The slap band was passed and I stumbled to my other team mates across the road.  I was a hurting puppy.  I massaged my quads, calves, and hamstrings at the van and chugged down some electrolyte water before we headed out to the next exchange.  This leg was the F Bomb Leg.  I said it a whole bunch. 

     Leg 19: 5.89 Mi. - Very Hard LEG DESCRIPTION: Long leg over challenging up and down hills on paved back country roads. Cell phone coverage unreliable until after Leg 32.  And then the sky opened upon me!
This was my second leg and our 2nd major van exchange.  On the way here from Portland we stopped for dinner at a grocery store.  I wanted to stay healthy in the eating department so it was hard boiled eggs, a turkey sandwich, and a quinoa/ kale/ broccoli salad.  I was starving as it was now about 11pm and we hadn't eaten substantial food since breakfast. We got to our exchange site and prepared for bed.  A few of us took our sleeping bags to sleep underneath some trees since it was drizzling.  After settling down the thunder began rumbling and lighting was streaking the sky.  We tried to go back in the van to be safe.  That was short lived as tempers began to flare (7 cranky/ tired/ hungry/ hot people crammed into a minivan is kind of a recipe for this).  Since I was next up I decided I needed sleep desperately and I took my chances outside under the trees.  There was a non-stop rumbling of voices around me, car doors opening and shutting, headlights on and off, and people heading to the Honey Buckets (yes they were actually called this). I finally nodded off for a few minutes before the guys at the coffee tent set up their boom box and began blaring music.  Are you freaking kidding me?  Its so freaking late and people are trying to sleep everywhere.  I struggled and finally nodded off for a few more minutes with my alarm set for 3:30am.  At about 3am my buddy Jennifer woke me up because she wasn't sure what time I was going to be getting up.  (Love ya Jennifer). 
      I prepared myself and got my gear together and mentally prepped myself.  People were in and out of sleep and wondering where the other team was.  We knew their estimated time.  Jamie went looking for them while I was still getting ready.  David and I walked to the exchange when the race gods decided I need to run in a monsoon.  A freaking cold, windy as all hell, with a splash of wicked lightning storm. I waited anxiously in the pouring rain for Christine with all of my lighting on.  I was ready to go.  Suddenly I hear 406.  My turn.  I run out into the street to wait for her to come up the hill to me.  I saw poor Christine busting her ass coming up that hill and she passed the band.  I was off into the dark, alone and cold.  I couldn't see more than a few feet in front of me as I climbed the hill.  I was struggling up it and it never seemed to end.  I was passed by some of the fast runners.  By the way, those with soft steps should have to wear warning sirens  because it's scary as hell in the dark when they come out of nowhere.  I finally hit the top of this mountain and began my steep decent.  I was cruising and felt great. I was cool and relaxing a little bit.  I met my first volunteers who guided me down a side street.  I started to cough from some sinus drainage and couldn't stop.  Then up came my hard boiled eggs all over the side of the road.  I felt crappy.  I caught my breath and continued on, much slower.  Back up another freaking hill.  When suddenly I see something moving in the roadway in front of me about 5 yards away.  There was a snake, about 5 feet long slithering across the roadway.  What the hell?  Can the running gods throw any more crap at me tonight?  I went to the other side and sprinted past it and struggled up the next hill.  
     I was wearing out and desperate to see some form of human life besides the scattered volunteers at turning points.  There weren't any.  I can't see around me and there weren't any street lights.  Blackness.  The rain finally stopped and I was starting to heat up.  My shoes and socks were shot and so was the good feeling from when I started. I pushed on.  Then I finally had someone approach me from behind and tell me how grateful she was she found me.  She thought she made a wrong turn and now she knew she was on the right path.  Off she blasted by me.  I'm so glad I could help.  Professional moving road marker.  Then the final upward climb at the end of the leg started.  I pushed like there was no tomorrow.  I needed to finish and I needed it sooner than later.  Finally I see signs of life.  Lights, cars, people.  Yay.  I finished into the chute and handed the band off to Jennifer.  I was beat, but rejuvenated once I saw Roni there.  She was our volunteer and this was her station.  I was so freaking excited to see her friendly face. David was there too and he walked with me to the van then back to get desperately needed coffee. I apparently missed giddy time in the van during the hell leg.  

     Leg 31: 3.96 Mi. - Moderate LEG DESCRIPTION: Gradual hills on narrow paved back country road. Leap Frog On Baby! Oh and More freaking rain.  
By this point in the race the weather has hit the fan and communications have been lost with everyone.  We were in the section of the course where there was no cellphone signals or data available.  A major storm had torn through the area also knocking out power to half the county. We were at Leg 22 waiting for Sherri to finish when a volunteer at the exchange began to break things down and put stuff away.  She said we should have been leap frogging at this point.  According to the manual given to us by the organizers they would determine that and notify us if we are to start doing that.  We never were. It appears the volunteer doesn't know the rules.  We were way off schedule and we knew that, but so did they. We ended up meeting up with Bavana 1 at the major exchange.  There was some discussion as to leap frogging, but they didn't seem to want us to do that yet.  We waited for Jamie to finish and Amy had already left on her leg.  Both vans chatted for a few before an executive decision was made to meet up the road and see what we could find out.   We drove up to the agreed upon exchange and waited for Bavana 1. Once there the need for real food was bearing down and we so happened to have a group of Fireman running a fundraiser selling chili.  I knew I had more time to rest so sure a bowl of chili and coffee sounded great.  The sun began to come out and temperatures were rising again.  Oh boy what a freaky storm this was.  
     We started to worry because we didn't know where the other van was so we began to search for them.  
 Finally Bavana 1 arrived.  They met with a nice lady who had given them an official note to go ahead and leap frog the remainder of the course.  Yay for eating chili before running. David drove me to leg 31 to drop me off.  Before we got there the sky opened up again and dumped some more rain.  Thank god I had dry shoes and clothes on.  I jumped out and watched Vanana 2 drive towards the next drop off.  I took a quick visit to the Honey Bucket and off I went on my final leg.  It was going to be mostly down hill so i knew I could pull a quicker time. I had to be extremely cautious as the roads were covered in mud and fallen pine needles and branches.  During a moment of my heavy exertion I almost had the chili back.  Luckily I held on and busted down this hill.  I managed to get a second roadkill on this course.  About halfway through the clouds broke and out came Mr. Sun to bake my behind again.  Dear Running gods, I was already challenged and I know what I'm capable of.  Please give me a freaking break. The temperatures began to spike and I was soon baking in the sun.  On a plus side I was drying out.  Before I knew it I was nearing the end of the leg.  ALL. UP. HILL.  I was determined to beat that damn hill if it was the last thing I did.  I finished the leg, but this time was different.  I didn't have teammates waiting for me.  My exchange buddy, Jennifer had already been there and left.  This was the leap frog part.  
     David had to drive everyone to their legs and we all ran at the same time.I waited around for David to come back and the breath of fresh air was nice.  At this point my legs warned me I was too hard this time.  All the down hill and curves in the road that had steep cambers caused me pretty moderate ankle and knee pain.  I pushed the line this time and I knew it.  I just needed ice and to sit.  David and Jamie came back and picked me up and we worked our way through the final legs to pick up Vanana 2's teammates. Jamie was the final runner and was going to be bringing us into Seaside.  

     Seaside was a hot mess.  People were everywhere and thanks to Hurricane HTC the finish line party was cancelled as all of the tents were destroyed and things blew away.  It was a finish at your own risk finish line.  I was disappointed to say the least, but I was happy to see Vanana 1 and wait for Jaime to bring us home.  Soon after arrived Jamie blasted through the finish line and we followed him through.  The coolest thing was hearing the announcer say Team 406 then repeat Sub-30 Club.  Whats that? Age, Hours?  We should have shouted back a bunch of badasses.  Jamie handed out our finisher medals and we posed for a group photo and then homeward bound we were on a 2 hours drive.  I slept most of the way.  When we got home there was some pizza eating, beer consuming, moonshine sipping fun mixed amongst showers. Lonnie and Roni must have the worlds best water heater.  

     On Sunday people started disappearing back to reality, but we partied throughout the day.  We drank, laughed, hooted and hollered. There were stories exchanged, inside jokes passed, notes read, and so much joy.  It was sad to see it all end.  We discussed doing this again next year and instantly I knew I was onboard.  I love this race.  The teamwork and camaraderie.  The friendships from the people in my phone were even more solidified.  Thanks for the adventure and I can't wait to run with you all again. 

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