Monday, August 29, 2011

"An Epic Adventure....Hood to Coast 2011"

A little over a year ago, I found out about this relay race from the top of Mt Hood, all the way to Seaside.  I was told stories about how it works and thought, that is seriously crazy!  I would never do that!  Last year I was in Seaside the day before this relay started.  They were starting to set up for the big beach party and grand got me excited.  Three of my friends ran this relay that weekend,  and that began my interest in the Mother of all relays...Hood to Coast (HTC)!

Happy Birthday Eric!
Several months ago I was asked to be on a HTC team, well how could I say no to that?  I started my training and wondered how I would get through this.  HTC is 200 miles, each runner will run about 17 miles (maybe more) and get almost no sleep for two days.  My team captain told me I was training right, so I just went with it!  I decided not to go drive the route with some of my team.  Why would I want to see the mountain I have to climb anyway?...not me! I just decided I would run on this killer hill in Dallas called Bridlewood, and run it a lot.

Decorating van 1
Thursday evening we went to Debbie's house to meet the team, eat dinner together and get the vans ready.  They weren't really vans, but that is what we called them.  Van 1 and van 2.  I was in van 1 along with Darcy, Debbie, Susie, Brandon, and Lance.  We also celebrated Beric's, I mean Eric's 40th birthday!

Darcy at the start
Friday morning we met again at Debbie's to leave for Mt. Hood at 2:30am.  I had slept for only about two hours, as did, most of my team.  Off we went into the night, groggy, but excited for what was yet to come.  As we started up Mt. Hood (it was still pitch dark) it started raining. We began seeing runners come down the mountain.  HTC has so many runners they have a staggered start.  Every 15 minutes, so many runners were released.  As we continued up the mountain we saw lighting and heard thunder, or should I say felt thunder.  The thunder felt like it was about 10 feet from our van.  The rain was pouring down around us so hard!  Runner one (Darcy) was beginning to freak out a bit....I sure wouldn't want to run in this storm, and I know she didn't either. We got to the top, and Debbie had to check us in.  We all got out for a quick team photo.  Van two (runners 7-12) took off for breakfast and my van (van 1-runners 1-6) stayed to take more photos and see Darcy off.  As the sun came up, the storm passed.  Darcy took off in great weather.  She did get rain, but the thunder was goon...phew!

End of leg one
My first leg (leg 5) was described as... "6.08 miles-very hard.  Long leg in length over very challenging rolling hills along hwy 26 on paved shoulder."  Off I went about 10:15am Friday morning.  It was hotter than I expected it to be.  The first 3 miles I was in the sun along the hwy..then as I started up this killer hill.  I thought..."just make it to the top!"  As I got about 3/4 into this hill, I was told by a volunteer to to turn right.  Oh I was excited!  I got to go into shade and get off that stupid hill!  My Garmin was messed up, so I asked the volunteer, "how long do I have?"  He said, "uh...about a mile."  Oh joy...I was so excited.  Shade and only a mile!  I was now on a narrow country road.  My team was kinda keeping track of roadkill (people you pass in a race).  I was not getting any roadkill, only being roadkill to others.  These really fast men kept passing me.  Also two really fast women.  Why was I going so slow, and why was everyone so fast on this leg?  This mile was beginning to feel really long.  I kept having to go up these hills and I was really hot.  I went by another volunteer.  "How much longer" I asked?  "Oh, only about a mile" she said.  Uh, are you kidding me?  That's what the guy said about a mile back???  As I went on, and on, and on I finally saw a construction sign with a picture of a flagger on it.  I knew I was very close to the end now.  I could hear someone coming up behind me so I turned around and said something like "whoo hoo, were almost there."  It was two super fast men.  As I turned back around, I ran into that flagger sign.  Yes, It wasn't my proudest moment.  Sigh...I went on up my last hill.  I handed off the baton to Brandon and thew my water bottle into the crowd (no joke).  Darcy was there to take me back to the van.  Lance was there too, and picked up my water bottle for me.  I was really glad Lance got that for me.  I really wanted it, just not at the time.  After it was all said and done, I ran 6.08 mile of very challenging rolling hills at 9:32 pace, roadkill-0.   I was happy with that!

All the runners in my van seemed to have great leg ones.  It was exciting!  As the day went on it got really really hot.  Van two took most of the heat of the day, but as we took over again, it was still very hot and muggy.  

Susie suggested we go to her parents house to rest during the break time (while van 2 is running).  I think we were in the Portland area now, but in HTC land there seems to be no scene of time or place, and too tired to care.  We walked into a lovely home with lovely carpet.  Some of my team took showers.  I plugged in my phone to charge and simply laid on the lovely carpet to sleep!  I never did fall asleep, too wound up I guess, but it was nice to be out of the heat and just stretch out for about 45 minutes.  It was now time to go to downtown Portland to meet up with van 2 and start on our leg 2's. 

Downtown Portland
Leg two didn't go well for anyone in my van.  My leg 2 was leg 17, described as "7.13 miles-moderate. Basically flat terrain on paved shoulder along hwy 30."  Easy pie is what I was thinking.  This was the only leg I wasn't worried about...nice and, love, love!  I started around 9:30pm Friday night, maybe 10.  Remember, you enter another world out there with no sense of time or direction.  I'm not kidding!  It was dark.  I knew I would be in the dark.  I was all equipped with reflectors, blinkies, a headlamp and flashlight!  For some reason, runners seemed to be really spread apart on this leg of the race.  I seemed to be all by myself, but I felt great.  My pace was really good and I was gonna get this done!  My team was going to check with me around mile 4.  As I was out there, I found myself on this odd dark country road.  I thought it seemed strange that no HTC vans were going by.  Oh well, I see other runners ahead...keep going.  The road was dark, but I had a good flashlight thanks to Lance and Susie.  Up ahead I saw someone fall down.  I was so glad it wasn't me...she got up and seemed to be ok.  Next thing I know this crazy lady comes up from behind running really fast yelling, "are you sure we are going the right way?"  ....What?  "I don't know" I said, "I was just following the other runners."  So she ran ahead yelling, "HEY, ARE YOU SURE WERE GOING THE RIGHT WAY?"  Around that time, a farmer comes out and yells, "HEY, YOU GUYS ARE GOING THE WRONG WAY!"  The crazy fast lady, told me and two high school students she would go ahead and get the others.  I now found myself on a dark country road with two high school students, Zac and Taylor.  Zac kept saying, "if we just keep going, we can turn right, and come out somewhere so we don't have to go back."  We were into that dark country road about 1.5 miles.  I didn't know what to do.  I was really irritated there wasn't a arrow or a volunteer back there to make sure runners went in the right direction.  We finally turned around to run out of that 1.5 hole.  As we came out and turn in the right direction we weren't even 1 mile into our 7.13 mile leg, but we had run about 3.5 miles.  Talk about the never ending leg!

  I am 34 years old running along with two high school students at a pretty good pace mind you, as they both proceed to tell me they aren't even runners!  Zac said, "I don't even run, I'm a football player.  Do you know how hard it is to carry around this 250lbs?"  He's not a runner (but he's keeping up with me!).  Taylor was a sweet girl.  She was the one who fell down earlier.  She is a sophomore and goes to the same school as the kids on "Little People, Big World."  She told me she isn't a runner, she is a soccer player.  I told them, "I am a runner and I have been training my butt off for this." Oh, to be young!  Finally Zac said, "hey, I'm gonna stop at that mini mart and go to the bathroom."  I think he just needed a break, but I have my first "roadkill, yaaaa!

  Taylor and I moved on at a nice steady pace.  We were both so thirsty.  My team waited for me around mile 4, but moved on to the finish thinking they just missed me in the dark.  Next thing I know Taylor goes,  "hey..there's a bottle of water!"  She quickly picks it up off the road.  To our surprise it was a unopened bottle of water a runner or van had dropped.  Taylor and I decided it must of been sent from heaven just for our time of need.  She poured half into my water bottle carrier that Lance saved in my first leg and kept the rest.  Finally after running about 10 miles, we came to our 7.13 mile exchange, passed off to the next runner and let our teammates know were weren't lost in a ditch somewhere along the course.  My team was walking back to the van to look for me, as I came running in...phew, just in time! All-in-all, not a good run, but got 1roadkill. Not sure if I'm happy with that or not!

After our next runner came in, it was time for our "break" while van 2 ran.  We had plans to go sleep in a field in Mist.  I still don't know if Mist is a town or just an area, but apparently it's misty there.  We were happy to know we would get to stop for about 3 hours.  As we drove on, and on, and on it got later and later and later.  Traffic for HTC had gotten so backed up, we weren't moving how we should of been.  We finally got to a field, I don't know if it was Mist or some other field, but it was our next exchange area.  We got to rest for about 1.5 hours.  I don't think everyone on my team rested as well as me.  They told me Saturday morning that people were being very loud.  Glad I slept well.  When I got up, I did, amazingly feel better.  I even saw a falling star just before I crawled out of my misted over sleeping bag. 1.5 hours of sleep, does a body good!

I was worried about today.  My whole van had a hard time with our last runs and now we were even more tired.  You should of seen us trying to get in and out of the van while sore, tired and just out of it!  Darcy took off!  At our check point for her, she seemed on fire.  She didn't need anything, not even a little water.  She looked happy as can be!  This good running went on with all the runners in my van.  Finally it was my turn, ugh!  This was my most dreaded leg...the one I really trained for.  It makes my stomach hurt just writing about it.  Leg 29 (my leg 3) described as "6.11 miles-very hard.  Very challenging up and downhills through winding wooded section of hwy 202."  From the map I knew it would be about 3.5 miles up a mountain for starters, then down hill for the rest of the run.  I went into this leg just saying to myself, it's only 3.5 miles...that's all I have to worry about.  You see, I knew if I could only make it up, I will make it down with no problems.  Right?  Right, it worked as planned this time, for once, it worked out as planned!  I ran up that mountain and loved almost every minute of it. This is where all that training on Bridlewood paid off!  As my van passed to check in on me around mile 2, told them I was good, go on to mile 4 or so.  I must of been rather excited, I yelled, "this is awesome."  The look on Susie's face was priceless.  I was owning that mountain.  I was even making roadkill!   As I got to the top of the mountain I knew I was done!  I sore down that mountain and it felt very good.  As I came in on my last mile the HTC vans started backing up yet again.  I was just thinking, what if Brandon isn't at the exchange?  I started watching for my van, surely they would send Brandon off early?  With about .25 mile left, there was my van with the window rolled down.  I yelled, "he better be there."  They said he was, so I kept going fast.  Was so happy to see Brandon there to finish off van 1's last and final leg!  Leg 3, best run ever...5 roadkills.  Perfect end to my H2C runs!

Our hitchhiker!
Brandon handed off to van 2 and we drove on to Seaside to take showers and head to the beach for our big finish.  There was a accident so we were stopped in traffic a lot.  As we were stopped a lady standing by a HTC van started waving her hands at us yelling, "can I have a ride to Seaside?  I am a runner too."  As weird as this was, we let this hitchhiker lady into our already crowded van and she didn't stop talking until we got to the beach.  On and on she went about leaving her van to get to the beach cause they wanted food and coffee and blah blah blah.  She was so funny!  We dropped her off and went to shower.  Ah, nothing like a good shower after two days with no showers and running over and over again.  We had to walk about a mile to the beach.  We were a sight walking or should I say, limping down the path.  It was good to walk it out some.  

It was about 70 degrees in Seaside that day, the sun was out and there were people everywhere. We decided to split for an hour then meet back for our big finish with van 2.  I spent most of that hour in the bathroom, don't ask!  When we meet back, we had gotten a call that yet again, traffic was backed up and our van 2 would have to be shuttled in.  We had to wait another hour or two.  Finally they arrived and we ran through the finish line together and then were given our medals.  It was so hard to run through that sand, but yet so awesome at the same time.  They corralled us through and then took a team photo.  We did it!  

My team was part of the largest relay in the world.  We were with 15,000 other runners.  We were thankful for all 4,100 volunteers, especially George, Bob, and Laird.  We were suppose to run 200 miles, but are over achievers and  ran 203 miles, ha!  My team was made up of 12 truly amazing people.  We had a firefighter, a doctor, a physical therapist, and the ordinary me. We had a couple from Newberg, a man from Michigan and a man from Arizona.  Nobody knew everyone on the team.  Some were friends, some were strangers, but something happens when your stuck together in such an environment.   My van came together and took care of each other and worked as a team.  It was simply amazing. It didn't matter who we where, or where we came from, we all were there together like a little family lost in time for two days!

 Well team, don't let the meatballs take away our Lance!  Great job!