Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Rev3 Half Rev Race Report - Run

Starting the run I had my PowerGels on my race belt and in my side pockets.  I was down a couple but I could easily pick them up at the aid stations where I would be getting my water.

I tried to be very conservative for the opening miles.  My inner quads started to cramp on the bike and I needed to loosen them up before trying to squeeze out any speed.

Two years ago when I did the HalfRev I had gone too hard on the bike and cramped up bad.  In 2010 I spent some time at the first aid station walking out the cramps and taking salt tablets.

This year I was able to cruise right by the aid station while calming down the quads.  I was going to stop and take a pee but I saw someone duck into the port-o-potty and another was in line.  As I ran past the last volunteer I saw several other guys heading towards to tall grass to relieve themselves.  I was fine for the time being and kept on trucking along.

At the mile markers I pressed the split button of my watch but didn't look at my time.  I just wanted some data to look at after the race.  I was going to race by perceived exertion.  Just like I've ran all year I would find an effort I felt I could hold the entire distance.  Only problem was that this would be my longest race distance of the year and there were mile markers telling me how much I had left to run.

Between miles 2 and 3 Mark finally passed me with a smack on my butt.  He was moving at a great pace and was by me in seconds.  There was no way I could stick with him and not pay for it dearly in the later miles.  I had to let him go and stick with my own strategy.

Nutritionally I was taking a PowerGel every other mile and water at all aid stations.  The PowerGels keep me mentally aware of the race and what I am doing.  Without proper nutrition on the run I turn in to a zombie just going through the motions. 

I did my fair share of passing people but was also passed by some people much faster.  But I held my own, raced my race and thanked the volunteers when I could.

For the first three miles I was averaging a 7:40 pace.   In hindsight that was probably too fast but that is what felt comfortable at the time.  For these longer races, half and full, I may need to pay attention to my watch a little closer and control my efforts.

At some point during the first half of the run I couldn't stand the loaded bladder and didn't want to bother with a pot-o-potty.  For the second time this year I peed during the run while running.  At the next aid station I grabbed some water and dumped it on my legs.  It felt good to have an empty bladder again.

Right before mile 6 I approached Daly's Pub and saw the CTC crew setting up their corner of the patio to cheer the runners.  They saw me and started cheering.  I saw them and headed towards them to get some high fives.  One person I was glad to see was an old teammate Adam.  I haven't seen him in a long time and it was great to get a high five and some encouraging words from him.

I continued on my way and got back on pace.  At this point I was going to start picking up the pace but my legs had different ideas for me.  My right calf decided it was a good time to start cramping. 

I was maintaining a good 8 minute pace but certainly some dehydration over the course of the day had seeped in.  I shortened my stride to prevent a full blown cramp from developing and had some good self talk with the calf in question.

I just told my muscles to relax and we would get through this with very little problems.  I was still cognizant about my surroundings and encouraged those athletes around me that I knew.  I passed my Hood to Coast teammate Steve.  He said he was hurting but I told him to control the pain and push through it.  He eventually placed in his Clydesdale division.

My calf tried to cramp on me no less than five times during the last half of the run.  But I fought through it.  There were several times I thought I would be forced to walk but I didn't.  I saw Mandie, 1 Puma, on her run and yelled that she was looking good.

I also saw Ginny near the 3 mile aid station.  She was three miles into her run and I was three miles from finishing mine.  I still managed to cross over and give her a high five, despite almost crashing into a volunteer.

I loved seeing my teammates and friends on the course.  We managed to give each other a mutual exchange of energy to boost our spirits and lighten our stride.

With about 1.5 miles to go we cross over a bridge which is the largest elevation gain/loss of the entire run.  It's only about 20 feet but near the end of the run it feels much steeper and taller than that.  I was gaining on the person ahead of me and I would make the pass near the top of the bridge.  Despite his compression socks I could tell he was in me age group.  I made what felt like a solid pass and pushed myself to widen the gap between us.

The calf was screaming at me some more but I kept a steady breathing pattern that allowed me to control the pain.  Only one more mile to go.

Mike took this picture of me at my finest.  I was grunting my way to the finish line.  I passed a couple more people before entering the final gated chute. 

There was an opening in the fence for relay teammates to join their runner to the finish line and I saw some familiar faces as they cheered for me.  Right before the passing under the inflatable arch I saw Aimee standing along the fence were I set up the team tent.  I slapped her hand as I passed and turned left towards the finish line.

I crossed the line with a final run time of 1:45:27 and finish time of 4:58:16.  I managed to achieve my sub 5 hour goal by two minutes. 

I stood for a moment with shaky legs as a volunteer helped take my timing chip off my ankle.  My finishers medal was draped around my neck and I started walking towards the back of the finish chute. 

They were handing out large Gatorade towels that had been dipped in cold water.  It felt good on my heated up body.  I grabbed my finisher shirt and sat in an open chair.  I pulled the towel over my head and allowed myself a moment to release the emotions that were ready to come out after a hard fought battle.  The battle with my body, mind and course often takes an mental toll on me and the post race release is just how I deal with it. 

I collected myself and started to make my way to the Snakebite tent.  Aimee, Laura, Jane and some others were sitting around waiting for more finishers, especially Mandie.  Aimee and Jane didn't have to wait too long to cross the finish line with their teammate.

Mandie was hurting just as bad as I was if not worse.  Her foot was bothering her very bad but she gutted it out for the team.

Overall I was 6th in my age group and 37th overall male.  I was happy with the effort I put forth even if it was not the smartest race I have ever had.  In retrospect I needed more fluids on the bike.  I recall a couple of times where the wind was drying the sweat from my body.  This leads to a false sense of your how much you are sweating.  I also discussed it with Aimee and she mad me realize that I didn't take any salt tablets prior to the race.  And the Saturday before the race was not the best nutritionally.

Oh well.  If you can't learn something from each race then why bother.

After watching some more people cross the finish line and change into regular clothes I made my way to Daly's Pub in downtown Sandusky.  I joined Jen, Mark, Marie,  and a couple others cheering for the runners. 

Then we drove back to the finish line and partied until midnight.  I was tired from racing but still had something for the party. 

Another great end to a fun and exciting season.

Sunday, September 16, 2012

Rev3 Half Rev Race Report - Bike

I ran past the other athletes mounting their bikes and had a great running mount onto the bike.  Mark wasn't too far behind me and when he caught up he said he was going to draft behind me for the entire ride.

I know he wasn't going to draft in the illegal sense of the word but just ride behind me.  Which he didn't have to do because he could have crushed the bike course.

My strategy on the bike was to take it easy for the first 28 miles and then increase the effort for the second half.  It was hard to not push the pace too hard with so many people around.

Leaving Cedar Point I was consistently passing people.  At times I had to push the pace so that I wasn't drafting and could make a quick pass.  But it was a little congested the first 15 miles.  We were sometimes 3 wide on the street as passes were made at different speeds. 

The roads were in good condition and the recent chip 'n seal was confined to a short stretch.

My nutriton plan on the bike consisted of two bottles with Perpetuem, one bottle of Nuun, two Clif Z-Bars and one Honey Stinger waffle.  I also had a PowerGel to get me ready just prior to the run.

During the first hour I drank my Perpetuem and also used my PowerGel.  My effort was steady but I wanted an extra boost for some of the hills.  There were PowerGels at the bike aid stations so I knew I could grab one on the go.

During my second hour I switched to my solid foods.  The first Z-Bar went down fine.  It was good to have some solid food.  When I was  reaching for my waffle the second Z-Bar fell to the ground and was a distant memory in a matter of seconds.  According to USAT rules I could have been penalized for abandoning equipment or littering but it just wasn't possible to turn around on Rt. 113...more dangerous than worth it.  So I ate my waffle and switched to my Perpetuem bottle early.

I didn't need anything from the aid stations until around mile 31 when I could feel the pressure of a full bladder.  I would have to empty my bladder soon and wanted to take a "shower" when I was done.

After passing through the town of Berlin Heights I found some nice rollers to relieve myself.  One athlete behind me passed while I was taking care of business and washing off.  When I passed him a short time later I apologized for him having to see that.  He thought it was a good idea and may need to do it himself.

I was picking up the tempo by now and I could see Mark ahead of me.  Along Rt. 113 he had managed to pull away and I didn't realize it.  I meant to keep in contact with him and I wasn't focused enough to follow him.

Now I could see him down the road and he was a target for me to catch and pass.  Unfortunately I was also catching up to a lot of other people which caused us to start bunching up again.  It seemed like a constant rotation of the same group.  One person would pass on an uphill, I would pass on a downhill, everyone took turns passing on the flats.  With 16 miles to go the traffic was getting bad again.

I hated being in a group like this and tried to stay off the draft created by the person in front of me.  I must have been getting some benefit because eventually I would start creeping up and have to pass several people and take the lead.  I would stay out there until someone else had recovered enough to make another pass. 

When we turned back onto Cedar Point Road I decided to back off the effort for the final 6 miles and give the legs a chance to recover and be ready to run.

Despite my reduced effort I was still close to a lot of people.  I tried to be staggered and stay out of a draft but it was difficult.  Of course a motorcycle pulled up behind me and I knew it was one of the USAT referees.  I immediately backed off my tempo and faded away from the person ahead of me.  I think the referee understood what I was doing and continued down the road. 

I started making some additional passes and the second USAT referee passed me while I was making a pass.  It was legit and she moved ahead to watch how others were riding.

I came into the Cedar Point parking lot with Mark and a couple others.  We made our way towards the transition area.  I slipped my feet from my shoes and was ready to dismount. 

Despite the crowds lining the road I spotted Aimee cheering for me.  I swung my right leg over the bike and prepared to dismount. I found the hole shot I wanted at the dismount line and hopped off the pedal right at the line and ran to my transition spot. 

I took off my helmet and started to slip on my shoes.  These were new running shoes and I never replaced the regular laces with Yankz.  So I tied my shoes, grabbed my race belt and hat, then started heading towards the transition exit.  Despite needing to tie my shoes I don't think my transition time was much slower.  My T2 time was 1:34.

I pressed the split button on my watch and started my 13.1 mile run to the finish line.

My 56 mile ride took me 2:37:46 with an average speed of 21.3 MPH.  I had been passed by some guys in my age group so I was leaving transition in 6th place.

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Rev3 Half Rev Race Report - Pre-race and swim

This race report should be about the Rev3 Revolution which consisted of a sprint tri on Saturday and the HalfRev on Sunday.  But due to circumstances beyond anyone's possible control the sprint race was cancelled.

Aimee and I got up at our "normal" 4:45AM time Saturday morning and headed to Cedar Point for the 7AM start time.  There were only five of us registered for the Revolution and then all the other sprint racers including two SBR teammates, Martha and Beth.

The rain was coming down in buckets but I readied myself for a cold wet race none the less.  Driving on Cedar Point Road, part of the course, the water was almost covering the road at points.  Some sections only had 2 feet of pavement showing.

In the parking lot people were saying that the race was cancelled.  A 5k run would take place instead.  I walked to the expo while Aimee waited in the car.  I found Martha and Beth in the registration tent and managed to get a team picture.

I checked in the club tent area and dismantled my tent and the CTC tent before the expected winds ripped them to shreds.  Aimee and I drove back home and we climbed back into bed until 9:30AM.

We met out friends later on Saturday to pick up the race packets and check the bikes into transition.  Aimee was the swimmer for her HalfRev relay team, 1 Puma, 2 Cougars, with our friends Mandie and Jane.  We didn't spend too much time at Cedar Point and wanted to get home.  I think we were both feeling a little off because of already being at the park earlier that day.  We tried to get to bed as early as possible.

Cougar 1 (Aimee - swim), Cougar 2 (Jane - bike), Puma (Mandie - run)

We woke up on Sunday morning at 4:45AM...again....and made our way to Cedar Point.  The transition area would be open for us until 7:30 but I wanted to get there before the FullRev started.  Adam O'Meara was racing and I wanted to wish him good luck.  Adam had been our homestay in 2010 when he raced the Full.

We got there with plenty of time to see Adam, set up my transition area, pump up bike tires (mine, Jane's and Laura's), get the team tent put together, and mingle with friends and competitors. 

Aimee and I were in the same start wave going off at 8:45.  The FullRev started at 7AM but they wanted the full racers to at least complete their first lap before we entered the water.

During the time before the start I was able to talk and share some moments with everyone.  I was also able to get into the water and loosen up the arms.  All of this keeps the atmosphere loose until we enter the swim corral.

When our swim wave was announced I gave Aimee and quick kiss and made my way into the water.  We stood about thigh deep in the water as we waited to be sent off.  I lined up front row middle since my swim had been pretty solid all summer.

With 5 seconds to go I started my watch and got ready to start swimming.  I immediately started swimming since it was deep enough.  With each breath I could see the people walking around me but I felt it was easier to swim than walk through the water.  We were all going the same speed whether walking or swimming.

Eventually everyone was swimming and we set our sights on the course markers.  My left goggle was getting some water in it so I stopped for a moment to take care of it.  The water still wasn't too deep and I was able to stand with no problems while I took care of my goggles.

Back in action I pushed forward through the water.  About half way to the first turn buoy the chop became a little more noticeable.  My sighting seemed to be paying off as I felt I was swimming fairly straight.

Rounding the first turn buoy the chop started coming at us from the left side.  I caught a couple of waves during my breathing but you can't let something like that affect your swimming.  I just exhaled as much water as possible and went for another breath.

On this second section I felt my sighting was not as good.  I'm not sure if I was trying to counter the wave action too much but I always felt like I was drifting left.  I had to keep adjusting right so I wasn't too far away from the buoys.

I began passing some people from the previous waves but also noticed a yellow swim cap from my start wave.  We were swimming the same pace I always had sight of my swim "partner".  Maybe I should have drafted off that person but I'm not very good at it.  So I just kept chugging along. 

About half way through the swim I was able to settle into breathing every third stroke.  I kept myself long and made the most of my catch and pull.  I felt fast and powerful which is a great mental boost.

Rounding the final turn buoy we began heading toward the beach.  The wind was coming from the west, the direction we were headed, and the chop was the worst here.  It was still manageable, but it was also noticeable when trying to sight the buoys. 

My yellow capped swim mate and I were continuing to pass people.  I tried swimming as far as possible, but when I started digging into the sand I was still a ways from the beach.  There is a lot of shallow water leading up the beach so I walked with those around me until I could get my feet above the water line and run.

I spotted my friend Laura ahead of me who was doing the Aquabike.  I ran by her, patted her on the butt and said, "let's get going girl."

I glanced at my watch when I hit the beach and it said 32 minutes.  My chip time was 32:18 and I was 3rd of 59 in the age group.  So I was happy with my swim.  I felt it was solid and put me in good position for the rest of the day.

As I ran up the beach I could hear some people cheering for me on both sides.  I could see the group from Spin/Second Sole Multisport off to the left and pointed at them in recognition.  I charged up the beach through the sand to the parking lot.

As I rounded the corner and headed towards the transition area I saw CTC super cheerleader Krystal bouncing up and down cheering for me.  It put a smile on my face and I hope she saw it.

I ran towards my bike getting my wetsuit down as far as I could.  I was finding the shortest route possible to my bike.  Below are the bike racks Rev3 uses.  I jumped over an empty transition rack to get to my bike.  It was just quicker that way.

I immediately put my sunglasses and helmet on before taking my wetsuit off the rest of the way.  Mandie, the Puma runner of Aimee's relay team ran over to cheer me on but I was very focused on getting onto the bike I didn't say anything to her.  I heard her screaming at me but my concentration once inside transition is so intense I shut things out. 

Having a friend right there at my transition spot gave me some extra energy to move even faster out of transition.  So my socks and shoes were next and I grabbed my bike from the rack.

I ran towards the bike exit and saw that it was jammed with people getting on their bikes.  Just hanging out and the mount line taking their time straddling their bikes.  I found an opening in the crowd and ran through the hole running right past my friend Mark.  I ran about 5 more yards and finally mounted my bike on the fly.

Time for a 56 mile ride.

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Hood to Coast - Leg 3 and Finish

I’m not even sure how long we slept but being able to sleep in a bed was awesome. When the alarm went off I was out of bed and getting my stuff together. I took my gear to the van and had a quick breakfast in the lobby….mmmmm waffles.

We had to drive to the 24 – 25 exchange so James could run his last leg. After getting our bearings and driving in the right direction we passed Marie before the exchange zone. We met up with our teammates from Van 2 and waited for Marie. She came rolling in out of the fog and handed off to James.

The traffic between the exchange zones was starting to get congested. A couple of times we were worried that we wouldn’t be at the exchange zone in time. As Katie was getting ready for Steve to finish his leg I was getting ready for my final leg.

I was all dressed and ready because Katie’s final leg was only 4.2 miles. As we drove along the road we passed all the runners heading towards the exchange. We saw Katie and cheered for her as we drove by. Then we reached the traffic jam. The road was all backed up and moving slowly. We didn’t even know how far away we were from the exchange zone.

We kept looking back to see where Katie was. Finally we saw her and she was gaining ground on us. I grabbed my water bottle and race belt then jumped out of the car. I started running towards the exchange zone so I could be waiting for Katie.

After a couple of minutes I realized how stupid I was. I didn’t need to be there before Katie, I could be there with Katie. Why was I killing myself trying to beat her there when I could run with her to the exchange zone.

I slowed down and waited for her to catch me. She told me we still had 1.5 miles to go so I was in for a long warmup. Katie was running strong and adding to her road kill count. JC had also joined us and we escorted Katie to the exchange zone.

As the volunteer announced our team number I said, “Here I am.” I held up my arm and Katie slapped the wrist band on my arm to begin my final running leg.

Run leg 29 is the fifth and final “very hard” segment. It was also the longest at 6.11 miles. As the profile shows; you go up….then you go down. So from the exchange zone I was immediately going up.

I knew this was my final leg and I was going to leave it all on the course. I was feeling surprisingly good and had plenty of targets ahead of me.

This was by far the prettiest segment I ran. The tall trees and river beside the road provided plenty to see when I wasn’t looking at the road. The road was similar to my first segment when the twists and turns of the road had a serious pitch to it side to side. I ran on the gravel berm as much as I could to find flat land.

But I kept my pace steady and passed people at a good rate. The team finally passed me after picking up Katie and JC. Their cheers brought a smile to my face. And there were many other teams cheering for everyone.

The part of the climb between miles 2.8 and 3 was a bitch. It was a slow shuffle up the steep part but I never walked. My team was counting on me to bring it home quickly. I just wanted them there before me.

As I reached to top of the climb my road kill count was up to 18, that made me feel good. I glanced at my watch and I had covered the 3.5 mile climb in 30 minutes, an 8:34/mile pace.

I crested the hill and felt gravity pull me down the road. Now I was in my element. I have worked hard over the past several years to improve my downhill running. I find that balance between falling forward and staying in control which helps propel me down the road.

My focus had to be spot on because I was still running on the gravel berm. I felt there was better traction on the gravel than on the road. I kept my leg turnover quick to maximize my speed.

I was passing other runners who were braking down the hill and would probably be feeling it in the quads later that day. I was also passing a lot of van too. The traffic had become congested again and I wondered when I would see my teammates again.

It was pretty cool to be running past the cars. It made me feel fast and I imagined the people in the cars were thinking the same thing.

I did finally pass the van and they cheered for me saying Josh was waiting for me at the exchange zone. Josh and Katie had gotten out and ran to the exchange zone to be ready for me.

I came flying into the exchange zone and handed off the wrist band to Josh. This time is was a good 5 minutes before I regained my composure. Katie and I had some time to kill waiting for the van which was good for me. I kept walking or running up and down the road to keep my legs moving. I wanted to flush out at much lactic acid as possible before sitting in the van.

When the van finally reached us we headed to the next exchange zone to pick up Josh.

I completed the final 2.6 miles in 16:13, a 6:14 pace running downhill. And I added 18 more people to my road kill count. It was good to be back in the van with my teammates hoping our team in van 2 would continue running strong.

After we picked up Josh we stopped at a roadside gas station/convenience store/bar. We bought beer, snacks and an ice cream sandwich for me. It was delicious. We sat around for a while relaxing and enjoying the fact that Van 1 was done. But we still needed to make our way to the finish line at Seaside.

We arrived about way before Marie, our last runner. We got some food and beer for everyone else since I was driving the van back to Portland. I chatted with some other runners, especially Team Cougar Club. Steve wanted me to take a picture of the team. They were very willing to take a picture WITH me.

Marie arrived at the finish line before Van 2 could make it through the traffic.

We waited for the entire team to assemble before we all ran under the finishing arch. We took some more pictures and headed back to the cars. Dinner was calling but would have to wait until we got much closer to Portland.

Our team dinner was a great time to share stories from each van. Seeing pictures and reading other race reports helps tie the two vans together and remember this was a team event. And I was blessed to be part of such a great group of people. I would run with them again without any hesitation.

Our team finished in 27 hours, 10 minutes, 50 seconds. Over one hour better than the prediction. We ranked 15th out of 68 in our category and 167th of 1060 overall. That says a lot about the caliber of people on the team. We drew the best out of each other because of that desire to not let our teammates down. To give everything we had and not sacrifice the gifts we have to offer.

The Burning River Runners had their Game On.

Thursday, September 06, 2012

Hood To Coast Race Report - Leg #2

After Van 2 took over the running we decided to get some dinner. We headed towards downtown Portland where we would meet back up with our teammates and start the second rotation. Someone suggested Deschutes Brewery so we let Garmin show us the way. Checking in with the hostess it would be a 30 minute wait for a table. We walked back across the street to the parking garage and dug into the mountain of snacks purchased for the weekend because we needed some sort of food NOW!

I plopped down next to the van and put my legs up. It felt good to be off my feet. The six of us with our compression socks and technical t-shirts were getting some good looks from people out to have a good time on a Friday night. One older couple surprised me when they asked how our race was going. Having someone understand and recognize what we were doing and going through was rather comforting.

We finally got our table and were able to have some real food. During dinner we received a message from Van 2 telling us that Leg 17 had been changed. Not only was it changed but the distance was extended by almost 2 miles. Of course Leg 17 would be my next running segment.

After dinner we made our way to the 12 – 13 exchange zone. The exchange zone was on the path that ran next to the Willamette River. We had to park the van on a deserted parcel of land and wait. Imagine 6 people trying to get some form of sleep inside a mini-van, with all of our gear. Around us people were climbing on top of vans with sleeping bags to get some sleep.

I tried to get some sleep but my front row seating was not easy to get comfortable in. I did the best I could with the room I had. Eventually Josh and I walked over to the exchange zone with James would be our first nighttime runner.

Marie finished her run looking pretty good having completed her first run in the dark. We took her back to the parking area and chatted briefly with our teammates in Van 2. However we couldn’t delay our departure because James’ leg was only 4 miles. We had to make sure we arrived at the next exchange zone before he did. We continued the leap frog drive to each exchange zone trying to pick out and cheer for our teammates. We blew by JC without recognizing him and pulled a quick u-turn so we could cheer him on. Steve was quite vocal cheering for James out the window considering James was sitting right next to him in the van.

Around 2AM I was ready and waiting to Katie to reach the end of her leg so I could begin my modified leg 17. The leg is ranked moderate probably due to the distance. Or should I say original distance. The distance of 7.01 was increased to 8.82 because of a fire at a local business along the highway. The detour took us off the primarily flat highway to roads which were more rolling.

Katie came into the exchange zone looking good and I took off after the runners that had left before me. During the hours of 6PM – 7AM we needed to wear reflective gear (vest) and lights (headlamp, front and rear flashing lights). I could see the flashing lights in front of me but didn’t know how far away there were. I never knew if I was getting closer or farther away until I could actually see the runner.

Once again I was passed by two runners early on, -2 on the road kill count. I was still happy with the effort I was putting in even if I didn’t know what pace I was actually running. I had my water bottle with me and two Powerbar Gels to fuel me for the long run.

It was dark along the highway. My light would show me the asphalt immediately in front of me and then be swallowed up by the darkness. Occasionally I would look up and see the stars above. There were definitely more stars in the sky than I would normally see back home. I would have enjoyed stopping and standing along the side of the highway to take in the beauty of the stars but my competitive nature pushed me forward. I had teammates that were relying on me to run well.

I finally checked my watch and I was 20 minutes into my run. It was the perfect time to take in my first gel. I was hoping to finish around the one hour mark so my second gel would be 20 minutes later. I was also starting to catch up to some of the runners ahead of me. The red flashing lights gave me targets to reach, pass and aim for again. My road kill count was finally into the positive numbers.

At various side roads I would see vans parked. Teammates waited for their runner to go by and offer words of encouragement, water, food…whatever was needed. It was so dark, and I was on the opposite side of the highway, I never saw my teammates drive by in the van. But I knew they were cheering for me, or maybe they were fast asleep in the van.

I finally reached the detour that took us off the highway and onto the rolling country roads. It became even darker as I moved away from the highway. The detour arrows painted on the road entered the circle of light in front of me and exited just as fast. At least I knew I was going in the right direction because I was all alone at this point. No vans were allowed on the detour and I didn’t see anyone in front of me. There were no red flashing lights in front of me. It was rather peaceful on this quiet road.

I finally saw some light ahead of me. A mobile generator was powering a tower of floodlights at the next turn. It was good to finally see someone even though it was only a short time since turning off the highway. Each time I saw someone I knew I was getting closer to the exchange zone.

I also started to see people running ahead of me. The red flashing lights had reappeared. Street lights from intersections and neighborhoods illuminated the people in front of me as well. I had new targets to turn in to road kill.

My pace over the rolling terrain was still strong and I started to increase my road kill count. Knowing I was getting closer to the exchange zone made me go even harder. The excitement of starting the run leg is perfectly matched by the thrill of completing the leg strong and handing off to your teammate.

I approached the exchange pushing myself to the edge of the red zone and saw Josh waiting for me. I could also hear my teammates yelling for me. I handed off to Josh and stopped my watch. After I collected myself I turned to the runners along the exchange zone and told them, “to treat your incoming runners like the gods they are, because that leg was a bitch!” Going into the run expecting a fairly flat segment and being treated to those rollers in the last two miles proved the toughness of all the runners that night.

I completed the 8.82 mile segment in 1:07:00 at a pace of 7:35/mile.

When we go back to the van my teammates gave me some of the best news I could have heard. The high school we were at was open for food, showers, sleeping and massages. They offered to drive to the next exchange, pick up Josh, and return for me. I gladly accepted their offer and grabbed my gear bag.

I paid two dollars to use the showers in the boys locker room. It was great to get clean and I wouldn’t be in the way of my teammates when we reached the hotel room we had secured for some sleep. I also got a 15 minute massage that surely helped my body recover for my final leg.

Just as I was walking out, Steve walked in to pick me up. It was perfect timing. It turned out that our hotel was right around the corner from the high school so we were able to get to the room quickly, get everyone else showered and crash for a couple of hours.

Because of the darkness during our second legs I didn't get any pictures.  I was also kind of tired.

Monday, September 03, 2012

Hood to Coast Race Report - Start and Leg #1

My adventure with Hood to Coast begins only three weeks prior to the race. A local team had sent out the message for a replacement runner. One of the team had an injury that would not allow him to run. I threw my hat into the ring since I; had a flexible schedule, was fairly well prepped for the distance because of Rev3, and knew about half the team. Jen P, Josh & Katie Z, John M, Marie R, and Steve T would be the friends I already knew. I’m sure the rest of the team would be just as awesome.

For the uninitiated, Hood to Coast is a 12 person team relay event. It starts at Mount Hood, Oregon and finishes 199 miles later at Seaside, OR……hence Hood to Coast. The distance is broken into 36 legs. Each person runs 3 legs. Distances range from 13.6 to 19.68 miles. Plus there is a difficulty rating for each leg: easy, medium, hard and very hard.

Part of the difficulty is driving from exchange to exchange, running through the night, eating properly and getting some sleep. I was replacing the number 5 runner who had the 2nd longest mileage and most difficult terrain. John was very accommodating and offered to have someone else run in the number 5 spot, but I didn’t want to cause any disruptions with the order so I stuck with the #5 spot. I looked at the difficulty as a challenge that I would endure as best I could.

With the go ahead from Aimee and the nod of acceptance from John and Katie, I booked my flight to Portland, OR. All of the other logistics were already taken care of so all I really had to do was show up and run.

The flight out to Portland was fine and I was able to spend some time with Steve and teammate JC who was traveling with his wife. In fact I was going to share a room with Steve and words were already being exchanged about how I might need a gas mask to sleep.

 JC, Steve and Lisa at the airport

Once we made it to Portland and our hotel for the first night, the team gathered on the patio for some important hydration. Two 12 packs of Oregon beer served as our warm-up for dinner. I was able to meet the rest of the team, Robin and his wife Katie, Bill, and James. The entire evening would involve getting to know the team better.

The team would be split between two vans for ease of transportation; it was also the recommended way of doing things in the race guide.

Van 1 consisted of, in running order, James, JC, Steve, Katie, me, and Josh.

Van 2 had Robin, Bill, John, Katie, Jen, Marie.

For dinner we went to the Mellow Mushroom in downtown Portland where of course, we continued to hydrate with beer and wine. More great conversation and we had a night cap at the Rogue Brewery across the street.

One important thing to understand is that Hood to Coast is an all weekend event. The race starts on Friday at 6:30AM. Well the first runners go off at 6:30AM. It’s just not feasible to have 1,060 runners starting at the same time, so groups of 20 – 25 runners start in 15 minute intervals starting at 6:30AM and ending at 6:30PM. Our start time was 1:45PM. Van 1 had plenty of time to sleep in, shower, eat breakfast and drive to Mount Hood. Van 2 didn’t need to be anywhere until almost 6PM when their first runner would take the exchange from Josh.

The Van 1 crew made it to Mount Hood with plenty of time to register, decorate the van, and get James pumped up about the start.

Despite his shirt, James was excited to get things started for the Burning River Runners.

At 1:45PM our race started. As James ran down the side on Mount Hood we drove to meet him at the first exchange. It became standard protocol to yell incessantly as we passed our current runner, even if we did call someone by the wrong name. While waiting to run my first leg, we enjoyed watching the other runners and teams in the exchange zones. I took some pictures and mentally prepared myself.

My first leg was 6.08 miles and listed at “very hard”. Just look at the profile.

Sure it’s downhill for two miles but that uphill starting at mile 4 is pretty steep all the way to the exchange. Except for landmarks listed in the athlete handbook there were no mile markers. Without any way to know my pace I would push myself just below the red line. I didn’t want to completely explode until the final leg. I would need to hold something in reserve for the second and third legs.

I was off to a good start after Katie passed me the wrist band. She warned to me to take it easy because of the heat, but my mind was already made up to push the tempo. I was carrying my Snakebite water bottle for hydration during the run and also a couple of Powerbar Gels just in case I needed some electrolytes or quick energy.

 I thought I was running well when I heard footsteps behind me. A few moments later a spry female started to make a pass….not at me but by me. If I tried to stay with her I would burn too many matches so I had to let her go. Of course getting chicked like that by a person 15 – 20 years younger than I shows a sense of maturity right? I didn’t try to knock her down or anything, like I wanted to do to the little shit who passed me next. That guy must have been a collegiate runner because he passed me like I was a turtle going uphill.

One fun aspect of Hood to Coast is counting the road kill along the way. It’s not road kill in the traditional sense; deer, raccoons, possum, birds, snakes. But how many people you can pass during your leg. We were keeping track of our road kills for a friendly little competition in the van. Unfortunately I was the road kill which put me at a count of -2.

Despite it all I was still having a good time running on the road. The highway traffic didn’t bother me and the sights along the road were wonderful. On the open highway we were exposed to the elements. The wind was blowing straight into my face and the sun was fierce. I could feel it on my face despite wearing a hat.

By the four mile mark I had passed a couple of people and was at 0 on the road kill count, at least I was breaking even. This was the point when the course turned off the highway and onto a nicely shaded part of the leg. However this is also where the course started to climb up. I reminded myself that it was only two more miles until I could turn over the wrist band to Josh for his first leg.

The shade was a welcome relief from the blazing sun. As soon as I entered the shade it felt 10 degrees cooler. Up and up we climbed the roads. The worst part of the road was the ever changing camber. The road curved back and forth and there were barely any flat spots to run on. The climbing and cant of the road would take its toll on the legs.

I thought I was climbing well until I was passed by two people. DAMN….down to -2 on the road kill count. I pushed that out of my mind and kept moving forward so I could finish my leg. Damn….another guy just passed me….-3.

Everyone who passed me never go that far away and I was within striking distance. As we rounded the final curve I could see the exchange zone ahead of me. And there was a guy not far ahead whom I was pretty sure I could catch. It was still a little uphill but I started to push a little more. The competitive nature of the run took over. I came even with my target and he started to increase his pace. Shit, he didn’t want to become road kill either and was going to make me work for it. I pushed harder and he matched me again. Finally I said, “no fucking way” and made a final surge away from him. That final surge took me past one more person and into the exchange zone where Josh was waiting for me. I gave him the wrist band and tried to catch my breath. I started walking back towards my teammates who were coming to greet me.

 I saw the two guys I had passed at the last minute and shook their hands. We all smiled and agreed the little “competition” was good for the run. Once I collected myself and peeled off my sweaty clothes we drove to the next exchange zone where Van 2 would take over the running duties.

My first running leg of 6.08 miles was completed in 45:19 at a pace of 7:25/mile. I was -1 on my road kill count after Katie had recorded somewhere around 20, she stole all my road kills.

Now it was time for Van 1 to get some rest before starting legs 13 – 18.