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.

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