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.

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