In the days leading up to the start of Hood to Coast, I vacillated between feeling super calm and unstressed and freaking OUT about the fact that I would be cramming double my weekly running mileage into less than a 24-hour window of time. Ummm...yeah. Can we say 'feeling a little undertrained'? Just a weensy bit. Kinda, sorta.
Whenever I would go to that scary place, I would remind myself of the hours on the elliptical, the effectiveness of heart rate training and reassure myself with the memory of having physically run on the ground for 7 miles the week before the race to prove to my legs that, in fact, they could go the distance...of at least that first leg :P
Flashing on my enjoyable mile and a half run the morning of my flight up to Nuun in Seattle assuaged my fears...somewhat. And once in Seattle, I knew better than to try and 'fit in' with the real runners...going on a 'shakeout' run that was longer in distance than my training runs and more than half my normal weekly mileage would have been a mistake. Babying my hip was of tantamount importance. I wanted to at least start the race feeling tip-top.
So the babying was helping things feel not painful, but I could tell that my legs (and mind) were stagnating. Not good. Needing a little leggy wake-up call, I scurried off to the hotel exercise room for 5 speedy minutes on the elliptical before bed on Thursday night. It not only helped get my blood pumping and my muscles moving, it was a great way to discharge some stressful b.s. from my personal life that had been worming its way into my outstanding Nuun Hood to Coast Experience. B.S. must be BANISHED!
When I awoke Friday morning as Caroline was preparing to depart with the Van 1 runners, I started getting antsy all over again. A call from home didn't help. I tried to blog to get my mind back on matters immediately at hand. Ehhhhh....sort of worked. Then Harmony got up and went for breakfast. I ate in the room and pretended to repack my exploded duffel bag. When she returned, I realized how close it was to 'GO' time. Sh*t! I wasn't ready. I started panicking.
Four minutes on the Machine of Pleasure (yes, I am referring to the elliptical) and I was lucid, placid, ready...and a leeetle bit late for the 11 a.m. departure. Sorry, ladies! Believe me...you're super glad I was late and didn't bring the entirety of that emotional mess into the van!
Grounded and centered and laden with plenty of fueling items that would work with my imperfect digestive system, I climbed aboard the vessel...
I don't know who I stole this from...and it isn't even Van 2, it's Van 1. But they were almost exactly the same. So we're going with it.
...and off we went...next stop... Panera about 20 minutes away for lunch :P so anticlimactic!
And then...Sandy – the first major van exchange in the Hood to Coast Relay!
As we were en route to Sandy where our first runner (#7 – Erin...our awesome Nuun employee teammate) would take the hand-off from Van 1's last runner (#6 – Nicole) at around 7 o'clock in the evening, this is what the Van 1 runners were doing...
Yeah, pretty spectacular.
Kind of way more spectacular than a Safeway parking lot!
(aka Team Morning Van 1...our predecessors)
As they were enjoying the high mountain air and kicking off the running for us, we were driving...and tweeting...and texting...
I was super lucky and sat in the back again.
And they were all so gracious (or intimidated) and let me be there.
I am so appreciative of this...and so apologetic if it is because they felt intimidated :(
...calming pre-race jitters....
"Does Washington have an open-container law?
Shhhhh...it's just #lemontea..."
...rolling out stiff muscles...
Double-teaming with the Tiger Tail...
Take that, QL! And THAT, gastrocnemius!
...alleviating some tension and attempting to speed up slow-moving 'systems'...
Take THAT, constipation!
The Tiger Tail does it all!
photo by megan
The tat train...
Then we needed to start getting ready to actually run. We'd been on the road and waiting for hours, starting at 11 a.m. and now it was approaching 6 p.m. I still had 5 hours before I would run, but we needed to get Erin ready. With the nighttime safety rules going into effect at 6 o'clock, we needed a reflective vest with front AND back flashers and either a handheld light or a headlamp. We couldn't find any of this stuff in our van. Go, us! Oh, and we still didn't have our race bibs! Where o where are you, Van 1?
Finally, we located some vests. Then Erin pulled out her keychain...it had an LED flasher on it! I reached into my god-awfully humongous bag and pulled out...
a sewing kit!
because of course one would take a sewing kit on a distance running relay.
you might need to, you know, sew something along the way!
don't anyone ever give me sh*t about my big bag again...
and now you know another reason why almost-50-year old ladies can be good to have on your team!
I stitched that keychain on the vest, we scrounged another flasher, Van 1 showed up with our bibs, and Erin sped off! Her leg was pretty grueling with a never-ending series of rolling hills. We whooped and hollered. We let her know she was the boss of those hills!
We even power-arched her!
She handed off to Elizabeth, who took off so fast that she looked as if she had blurry roadrunner legs like from the cartoon...
Go, speedy girl!
Elizabeth handed off to Katie who did an amazing job on a long, dark road while encountering some unsavory types. She was followed by Amanda who set herself a blistering pace...and then hurt her leg :( It was debatable whether she would be okay ... and it's kind of tough to pamper someone in a van with no light and limited pampering supplies. We all felt super badly for her and tried to comfort her as best we could and hoped that 9 hours would heal the wound. I felt kind of like an ass because I was pretty distracted since Amanda had just handed off to Jennifer (the runner immediately before me in the rotation) who runs crazy fast. Her predicted finish time for that 4- or 5-mile leg was something like 5 minutes. I knew it would take us at least that long to just get out of the parking lot.
We got Amanda into the van and somewhat comfortable and headed to where I would begin my first stint. Upon parking, I realized that not only did I have to relieve myself but that the exchange set up was different from last year and very far from parking to hand-off. I didn't wait for anyone to come with me...I don't think I even waited for the van to stop moving. I jumped out and took off running the approximately 0.437 miles to the hand-off zone. Thankfully, there was a lone Honey Bucket right there...which I used. I had just stepped out and asked Random Runner Girl next to me if my flashers were on when Jennifer handed me the slappy strap and I was running Leg 12. Woo Hoooooo!!!!!!
I looked like this...
...possessed eyeballs and all lit up...
but in a sparkly purple skirt and neon yellow sports bra.
And this year I wore my Buzz Lightyear Garmin wrist protector...
to infinity and beyond!
And something happened.
All my anxiety melted away.
Running by heart rate...I aimed to keep it between 145 and 150 for the body of the run and then bump it up a little in the last mile. 146 to 148...right on the money the whole way. I felt like I was floating. I knew I wasn't running fast because I got passed by people who were running fast, but when I peeked at the lap pace screen on my watch I was a little freaked by what I saw...but heart rate was in the zone so I just went with it and enjoyed :) I was alone for most of the run...similar to last year. I ran faster than last year with less running under my belt. My hip didn't hurt. I fell madly in love with running all over again.
But where was Lindsay? Another Nuun runner had taken a wrong turn somewhere back there. Fortunately, she found her way without too much of a detour, but that is exactly why I wrote such detailed course reports last year...to help prevent that from happening to future Leg 12 runners! It pays to read my blog ;-)
So glad she was safe!
Able to relax once Lindsay showed up, I walked a little and then ate in the van and cleaned myself up while my vanmates went out to a midnight dinner and enjoyed a couple of beers. We drove to the next major van exchange and tried to get some sleep.
About 2 and a half hours of sleep.
Stats for my first leg...Leg 12:
finish time ... 53:17
the official course gives it 6.37 miles (which computes to 8:22 avg pace)
my infallible Garmin showed 6.21 miles (yielding a slightly more realistic 8:34 avg pace)
Way faster than I imagined and faster even than last year when I was actually running in training...albeit consistently injured.