Tuesday, September 03, 2013

Hood to Coast recap: Legs 1, 13, 25

Hood to Coast was, overall, a smashing success. I had a fun time with great friends and enjoyed the wonderful scenery, weather, and people of Portland, Oregon.

Our start time was 2:45 p.m. We made our way to the top (well, not the very top, but very high up) of Mt. Hood. As our first runner, I made ready, making sure I was wearing sunscreen and the baton/slap bracelet and that my Garmin had located its satellites. I was a little bit nervous, which happens at literally every race I've ever done, even tiny local 5Ks. A few minutes before 2:45, I made my way with my team over to the starting line to join about a dozen other people. They announced our team name, Hoosiers to Coast, and we cheered loudly. Then we all shook hands with each other. One guy told me he had done the Tecumseh Trail Marathon last year, which is such a great coincidence.

Leg 1

We took off and they were not lying about that downhill! I guess it's what you'd expect running down a mountain. In this leg, you descend about 2,000 feet in the space of 5.64 miles. It's literally constant downhill, and it seemed steady as far as grade. I tried to concentrate on taking small, gliding steps. Although I started in the back, I quickly passed most everyone from my wave. I chased a few more down in the course of the leg. In fact, I believe I ended up third or fourth out of the whole wave, and I caught one or two people from the previous wave.

In any race, it's important not to go out too fast, something I have learned the hard way so many times over that I've actually learned it and am pretty good about now. It's doubly important in relays because it's vital to save something for the remaining two legs, and most especially the last leg. So I was concentrating on my breathing and on staying comfortable. Even so, my pace was well under 7:00, which is shocking when you're me. But it was exhilarating, especially when you consider the breathtaking views. Although it was clear and sunny, I could see great mounds of cloud settled on the mountaintops nearby.

I came thundering down into the exchange and handed off to Chris, our next runner. I checked my watch and goggled a bit at my time: 38:05 for 5.64 miles, or 6:45 pace. As I told our team captain, Darrell, I'm honestly not sure I could have gone any slower without a lot of braking, which would have taken an even greater toll on my quads. As it was, my legs were already feeling it and I knew Legs 13 and 25 would be tough. Little did I know...

I drank some more water with Nuun (I had been sipping this all day previously and that morning). I changed into my clothes for the next leg and stowed my first leg clothes in a plastic ziploc bag. They weren't really that sweaty (this place has no humidity, it's like heaven), but I might as well. Then I fixed myself a peanut butter bagel and had some pretzels.

My head was a little achy and I kept sipping water, hoping to ward off dehydration (although I knew it was probably too late if I had a headache). We passed through a foggy area and the views were just as breathtaking, just in a different way, with the tall pines cloaked in mist. By the time my van was finished, I wasn't feeling very well at all and was just lying down on my seat in the van with my eyes closed. We handed off to Van 2 and drove into Portland to go to dinner. At this point I was considering asking to pull over so I could throw up. But by the time I looked up, we were in the city and I didn't think I could bring myself to throw up on the side of the road in the middle of downtown Portland.

We parked in a garage and my van mates prepared to go to dinner. I couldn't even think about eating. They were a little torn about going without me while I was feeling so awful, but I finally told them to go on. Alone, I managed to throw up into a garbage bag. I cleaned myself up with wet wipes and double bagged the mess, then tottered down to the street to throw it away--I didn't think anyone in the van would appreciate having THAT around. I was just worried about the vomit smell making others feel sick.

I felt better, but not great. I dozed off for a little while longer and then my van mates returned and we went on to the next exchange to meet Van 2.

Leg 13

I was finding the idea of 7.32 "very hard" miles very daunting. My van mates were awesome. We talked a bit about how to organize things should I decide to drop out, and there was no pressure on me to keep going if I didn't want to--I had an offer to just have someone else run my leg for me. But in the end I decided to at least start the leg. Everyone told me not to worry about running fast--just run what you can. I knew I would be on a bicycle path for part of it, away from the road (and the van), but they assured me they'd check up on me as soon as they could in case someone else needed to finish my leg.

I visited the portapotties a couple of times and got myself ready to go, then we made our way up to the next, and not a moment too soon, because runner 12, Rebecca, came flying in only a few seconds after we arrived. I set off. I noticed almost immediately that I was feeling a bit better. I did about 9:30 pace for a while, but by the time I'd gone two miles, I knew I'd finish the leg and I was even speeding up a little bit.

This leg was a little scary. I was in a dead zone with few other runners to pass, and the bicycle path was completely deserted, with no lights other than my headlamp and blinkie lights. I fixated on the red blinking tail light of a runner way ahead and tried to work on reeling him or her in. It occurred to me that someone could jump out of the bushes and grab me, and since THIS HAS BASICALLY HAPPENED TO ME BEFORE, I was getting a little jumpy. Then I saw a headlight up ahead and realized they had bike patrols out, going up and down the path, and I felt a little better.

I exited the trail and head out onto deserted roads in a section of town with a lot of warehouses. There were a couple of places where I worried about getting lost, but I just kept going and luckily there were volunteers placed throughout to help point us in the right direction. I thanked each and every one of them profusely because it was probably a little scary standing out there alone for long stretches of time, not to mention boring and tiring. Let me just say now, and I'll be repeating it, the volunteers for this event are truly awesome.

I reached the river and was directed up onto the bridge to cross it (ZOMG a hill WHAT!). The van found me here and I told them I was feeling okay and was pretty sure I'd be able to finish the whole leg. I ran along the riverfront for a quite a while and this was really nice--lots of lights, so even though it was dark, the river and the cityscape were lit up and pretty. There were a lot of homeless people along here and I felt a stab of shame at how frivolous it is to be running around at night in a basically pointless fashion while there are people who are out of options and have nowhere to go.

At one point I passed a spot where a flashing police car had pulled up nearby and a motorcycle, also flashing, had pulled up right on the path. Several officers were standing around, including a K9 unit. I had no idea what was going there. I just skirted the disturbance and kept going.

After a while we left the river and got back into another warehousey area, but this time I was catching up with several runners, so it wasn't so lonely. I wasn't feeling terrific, but I'd sped up quite a bit in anticipation of being done. I think I was down close to 8:00s at this point. I finished 7.32 miles in 1:03:44 or 8:42 pace. I have no idea where the "very hard" designation came from because it was basically flat.

After finishing, I dry heaved a bit, but nothing was left to throw up. I knew I'd better get something in my stomach asap or I would be really regretting my choices later. I concentrated on sipping water and trying to lie still. I dug out a Honey Stinger waffle and ate a miniscule bite every few minutes. The van went somewhere (I don't even know because I was so out of it) and parked until dawn.

I slowly because aware of the lightening sky and realized I needed to use the bathroom. As I walked slowly over to the portapotties (seriously, this race has SO MANY, and they are somehow ALWAYS close by THANK YOUUUUU) I realized I actually didn't feel so bad. Whatever my issue was, I seemed to be over it. I helped straighten up the van a bit and got some more food in me, and we left soon after to get to the next checkpoint.

We weren't exactly sure what was going on with the other van because we hadn't heard anything from them in a long time. There was a large section of the route that passed through a cell phone dead zone, and we couldn't communicate. Luckily we were organized and kept a good schedule and knew we were most likely still a little ahead of our original projected time. In fact, as we got closer to the checkpoint where our van would take over again, we saw our runner 11, Brandon, and Van 2.

We proceeded to the checkpoint and I got ready again. Although I felt better, I was definitely tired and my legs were sore. I wasn't sure how it would go.

While we were waiting, I had a run-in with the only annoying volunteer in the entire event. Since I'm short, I had to step out into the road to check for my approaching runner. When I did this, a lady came up to me and said something like, "You're in the hot lava! You'd better watch out or it will burn you!"

I didn't move and just looked at her. Was she making a joke? "Um...okay?"

"You have to step out of the hot lava so you don't get burned!"

Finally I just said, "I have no idea what you're talking about."

At last she explained that she wanted me to stay off the road and I got really annoyed. I'm sorry but we're all exhausted, sleepy, and smelling terrible. No one is really in any shape to process your metaphors and P.S. I'm an adult and not in kindergarten. But all I said was, "Oh, okay. Why didn't you just say so?" Hopefully this wasn't too rude (she was a volunteer after all and volunteers are awesome), but it just seemed to me like an idiotic way to get your point across. I guess she'd been telling people the same thing for hours and was a little sick of it and well, who can blame her? But in general, I think most people at these events will obey volunteers with alacrity if they're told straight out what you want!

Leg 25

After this weird interlude Rebecca came around the bend and I set out for my final leg. One reason I agreed to be Runner 1 was that after two "very hard" legs, the final leg was short, a little less than four miles, and rated easy. I was just hoping I could get closer to my projected pace on this one, something I'd missed first by being one minute per mile fast, and then by being one minute per mile slow.

I felt weird on this leg. It was pretty flat with a few minor rolling hills in the second half. I just felt out of it. Like I would run for a few minutes and then suddenly realize I was still running and think how strange that was. It seemed unreal, somehow. I passed a few people but on this one, but I got passed three times by really fast men. This is always nice because it makes you feel like you're standing still, which is a great feeling. Sarcasm. Actually I tried to let them motivate me to stay focused on running and keeping my pace and it did help. Most people were encouraging each other as they passed (I tried to say "Good job!" or "Nice work!" to every single person.

I was very glad to see the checkpoint; I wasn't sure how much longer I could keep up any sort of pacing and I was just ready to be done. But I managed my goal of running close to my projected pace: 3.75 miles in 29:08, 7:46 pace.

My overall pace worked out to 7:50 compared my original projected pace of 7:56. So I guess that all worked out pretty well.

Our team finished in 27:05:37, which is 8:13 pace. We were 173rd out of 1,009 teams and 46th out of 216 in our division. Our division was Men's Open even though we had five women on our team. Erm, okay? We beat tons of men's teams with probably way more men, so there.

Afterward, we ate some overpriced but very tasty food and drank some overpriced but very tasty beer. Then we stood in the Pacific Ocean for a while, which was glorious. Then we retired to our FRAKKING OCEANFRONT HOTEL, where we ate cheaper food and drank cheaper beer while still enjoying the post-race party, concert, and fireworks, and the view. Somehow this was affordable.

Guys, it was so much fun. I'd love to do it again, possibly with less vomiting. I don't know what brought on the headache/stomachache/vomiting. Maybe dehydration? I was really very good about drinking a lot of water, but maybe it wasn't enough. I didn't keep track, but I was sipping pretty constantly all that day before, including in the airport and on the plane. Maybe the altitude of my first leg had an effect? It starts at 6,000 feet and ends at 4,000 feet. I've never run at anything even approaching that sort of altitude before. But even with that, it was an incredible experience.
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