I’m starting to believe this saying is true. Three years ago I ran the Hood to Coast relay. A 200 mile relay done by a team of twelve. Now, inexplicably, I have signed up for another relay. As I think about starting to train, I found this piece that I wrote just after finishing the Hood to Coast.
The alarm went off at 4:30 am on Friday, August 26, 2011. After two days of beautiful sunny weather we were a bit surprised, and concerned, that the skies were now full of lighting and rolling thunder. By the time we were loading the vans and heading out the door it was raining. After a quick drive up Mt Hood to Timberline Lodge the skies had cleared and we all began to feel the excitement mounting. Twelve ladies from Vancouver, Calgary, Ottawa and San Jose had come together to run 197 miles from Mt Hood to Seaside on the Oregon coast. With our support vehicle drivers Jo and Jen ready to go, our coolers filled with ice, water and peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, Canada flags flying proudly, The “Eh Team” was as prepared as we would ever be.
We piled out of the vans and headed to the check in booth and our first (of many) trips to the port o pottys. After checking in we stood pinning on our numbers and checking our watches in anticipation of our 7:15 start time. Sharon was interviewed by a local tv station, Andrea snapped some photos of the sun bursting through the clouds and Aimee and I hit the Cliff Bar sample table. Fifteen minutes before our start time, the skies darkened again and rain came in buckets. As we all retreated to the vans Sharon (runner #1) bravely headed out to the start line. Once again the weather broke and we were able to see her start. So exciting to hear the count down and see Sharon fly down the hill with Canada flag cape flowing behind her.
And so it had begun. None of us really had any idea what we were in for but were willing to give this our best effort and deal with whatever came our way. Van 2 left to go back to the condos and clean up. They wouldn’t start for another 5-6 hours. Van 1 headed down the mountain to our first exchange point still a bit clueless as to how this all worked. It didn’t take us long to meet some fellow Canadians and learn how to get parked, find the Port-o-Potties (POPs) and get to the exchange zone ready for runner 1 to come in. As the volunteers called out team numbers, Donna waited by the side line for team 228. Within minutes they called it and our first exchange was done. Piece of cake. And so it went all morning. Run, exchange, drive, POP, and repeat.
Within a couple of hours the temperature has soared to 30 degrees or more. By the time we met up with Van 2 at the Safeway parking lot in Sandy, OR runners were coming in soaked in sweat and guzzling water. Rosa’s first run started at 11:30 ish and when she finished she was so hot she said her head felt like it would explode. Never a good thing. Robyn took the wrist band from Rosa and headed out. Van 2 was now on the road and running through the afternoon. We would see them in 5-6 hours under the Hawthorne Bridge in Portland. It was a bit weird doing a race as a team but not seeing half of your team for more than a few minutes at van exchanges. Never the less, there was lots of support and multiple texts back and forth.
Van 1 now headed into Portland to find our exchange point and have some down time. Parked in a parking lot in the blazing sun we tried to rest, hydrate and dry out our sleeping bags that had been soaked in the mornings rain. After re-fueling on fries, coke and chocolate (sorry Leanna) we readied ourselves for the next 6 legs and some night running. A few tense moments followed when we couldn’t find our required vest flashers but $15 later we were all set and waiting for Moe to exchange. We were off again and Van 2 had a well deserved break which I hear included a Mexican dinner.
My first leg had been a pretty easy 4 mile down hill run at 8:30 am. I now got ready for a 7.25 mile run on rolling hills starting at about 7:30pm. While it was sunny and still pretty hot when I started, darkness came quickly and I switched on my headlamp about half way through. I made friends with a guy named Gill from Salem who was running for 4-5 minutes and then walking. By the time I had passed him for the 6th time we were chatting away. A lot faster than I thought, I spotted the weigh station sign. One mile to go and I felt great! Just before passing off to Aimee I thought “Wow, I can do this.”
I think my darkest hour came after our next exchange with van 2. It was after midnight and we had just experienced our first traffic jam and had kind of vague directions to our next rest point. As we drove for over an hour along a dark country road that curved and twisted and rolled my stomach dip flip flops and I thought I might heave. This was the only time in 32 hours that I thought “this really sucks” But as van 2 ran through the night we reached our destination and bedded down to try and get some sleep. At this point we were well into the countryside and had lost contact with van 2. I can only imagine how it was for them. They had run in the heat of the day and now as the temperature dropped to 10 degrees they ran in the pitch dark on windy and occasionally dusty roads.
So it is now 4:15 am on Saturday morning. I wake up to hear Rosa and Sharon (who slept outside) laughing hysterically at the guy who was wandering around the field at 3:00am trying to find his team. We knew that Moe would be coming in soon so we packed up and got ready for our last legs. It was cold and dark and we were all groggy but eager to go. Unfortunately, Moe is a tad faster than we anticipated and was left waiting for us at the exchange for 15 minutes. General discussion at the POPs revealed that this was pretty standard for this exchange as there was no way for the vans to communicate expected arrival times.
As van 2 headed off for some rest, we looked forward to our final legs. Helen’s final leg was a doozy. Three and a half miles up hill. And I mean UP hill. And then 3 miles back down the other side. She is such an amazing runner and finished with a smile on her face. And then we were done. It was hard to believe but we had finished our legs and had nothing left to do but head to Seaside to meet van 2 and cross the finish line.
Van 2 on the other hand had not only the longest run to complete but a traffic nightmare waiting for them at the end. Orianna’s last leg was just over 8 miles long. I can only imagine how hard that was after 30 hours but she did it and then some. Once they realized that they probably wouldn’t make it to the finish line in time to meet Moe if they stayed in the van, they decided that they would ALL run the last leg together. So Robyn, Andrea, Jen, Leanna and Orianna hopped out and ran 3 miles to met us on the beach. Orianna had just run 8 miles already. Sweaty and tired they found us and we all crossed the finish line together.
I realized while we were waiting for them on the beach that for months we had focused on running. Training, talking about our respective legs and how hard or easy they might be. Running at night, in the morning, up hills and down hills. Running, running, running. But in the end the running became secondary and what really became the challenge was the adventure. Finding our way in the heat and the dark to places we had never been before on limited water, food, sleep and patience was what made the race what it was. Meeting amazing people and finding great friendships. My husband asked me on the way home if I would do it again. My answer…probably not, but I will NEVER forget what we accomplished in those 32 hours.
So here I am, three years later, and I’m doing it again. What can I say. Some of The Best Thing in Life just need to be repeated.