01 September 2011

{Leg 12...Love the dark} 2011 Hood to Coast Relay – Nuun-style: The Miniseries, Part 3

Time to run...

All day I'd been sitting around, waiting for this moment.

I had seen and heard 10 runners before me.

I'd stayed hydrated with water and Nuun and fueled with gluten-free protein bars and my breadless Quiznos sandwich to the best of my abilities.

I'd ground my hip and glutes and quads and hamstrings all fresh and pliable with The Stick (my absolute life-saver).

I was ready.

Leg 12. Total darkness. Bring it on.

My super fly, homemade, reflective Nuun-logo singlet didn't pass inspection...
I had to wear a vest with blinkers front and back.
I opted to wear a headlamp instead of carrying a flashlight, and it worked out wonderfully.
I wore it like a girly-girl headband, keeping my hair out of my face, 
instead of like a Jimmy Connors sweatband going across my forehead.
And it was CAMOUFLAGE ;-)

Yes, those are paw-prints on my butt :)
Thank you, Flashbrite!

My anticipated start time was 9:01 p.m. We parked about 20 minutes before, after negotiating some wicked crazy traffic. Not feeling stressed, just a little anxious. I was feeling remarkably and uncharacteristically chill given the fact that it was about 80ºF and I had been waiting all de doo dah day... watching everyone else get her relay groove on. I think they spiked my Nuun with something to keep me so chill ;-)

I had expected it to be cool since it was dark. Silly me.

I opted not to carry water because it was only about 10K and I am used to running 10K at 9 p.m. without carrying water. Silly me.

Lights and flashers were turned on. I was standing next to a path in the middle of a residential neighborhood... in the dark... with a whole bunch of other runners who were also waiting for their Leg 11 person to appear out of the darkness. I loved that the volunteers were stationed at intervals a short ways up and called out the numbers of incoming runners. I was jumping in place (ballistic stretching ;-) ), keeping my eyes glued to the oncoming stream of runners and my ears wide open to hear our number.


"Here she comes! Get ready! Other side of the path! You're gonna kick ass! There she is! Got it? Go! Go! GO!"

A sweaty Sgt. Style held out the slappy strap and I grabbed it, turned and fled... into the darkness for 6.37 miles... it was not at all what I had envisioned.

At first, I was running all by myself on a path in a park with bushes and trees close around me. All I could see was a circle illuminated by the headlamp... so glad I had it. I had messed up my Garmin so I had no idea the whole time how long I had been running or how far. I did have a pace... sort of. But could I trust it since none of the other stuff was working? I had no idea. It told me I was running way too fast, but this first stretch felt downhill. After this park-like area, I crossed a cool-looking bridge, went down a little hill, and saw a volunteer who had me make an almost-hairpin turn into a residential neighborhood... and had my first 'roadkill' (that means I passed someone).

After running several blocks through this residential area with cracked, chunky asphalt and few streetlights, I saw volunteers who directed me some other way. And then more volunteers directing me over that-a-way. At least here I had a frame of reference in the passing of city blocks. There were some semi-busy intersections to cross, and I did have to wait twice.

At the third one of these busy-ish intersections, two cars were coming sort of fast... the front one slowed so I could cross but the behind one sped up and slammed right into him! Ooooops. I cringed, waved, shouted out 'thank you' and 'I'm sorry' and kept on running... I did call out a mini accident report to the next volunteer I encountered. Very shortly after that I was off the streets and back on a paved trail (the Springwater Trail).

I had imagined this trail to be along the Willamette. I had imagined seeing the river as I ran. Silly me.

The path felt close and humid and hot. I saw no riverbank. I saw no water. I felt as if I were running in a weird tunnel. It was very quiet. And very dark... except for the light from my headlamp. It wasn't scary, just hot and uncomfortable. And I was running hard. And I had to pee. I contemplated squatting in a bush, but that's against the rules of the HTCRelay. Lots of bicycles who looked sort of 'official' kept passing me going the other way. It was kind of a bummer that none of them ever said anything. No words of encouragement. No nothing. Silently rode by. But they scared me into not peeing in a bush. So I kind of peed in my shorts. Not a lot because I didn't want it to dribble down my legs and into my socks and shoes. Luckily, I was able to sort of control that :P

I ran along for what felt like ever. And then I heard some loud cheering and music! I thought I was nearing the end of my leg... but I knew it hadn't been long enough even though I was totally in the dark (ha ha ha) about time and distance. So I thought maybe it was a little cheering area :) You know... spectators and music and a party to urge the runners on! At about the same time that I realized this was not the case... it was a carnival and the cheering was people screaming on the roller coaster... I saw the coolest thing EVER...



We love you

things to that effect... written over and over in huge letters on the pavement! Julie again! Julie is the BEST! She made a cool sign for The Blonde Ponytail AKA Pvt. Chafe... and this for ME... and then she ran the next leg (#13) with Tricia AKA Major Miles. This saved me, Julie... I started smiling and hope was restored :)

Right after this spirit-booster, I heard what sounded like a Monster Truck rally coming from a garage... but it was just a roller hockey match. After that, things got quiet again for a long time. Just running on the dark path in the hot, humid night.

"Holy crap. How much farther?" was running through my mind. But I couldn't dwell on the unknown.

I passed a couple of people and a few super speedy people passed me. All of us exchanged a "good job!" or "way to haul!" And I peed a little more. Then one guy passed me and said "less than a mile and a half to go!" I would have kissed him if I could have caught him :) I noticed a few flashing red lights ahead on the path...more runners. I decided to catch them by the finish.

I caught up with a three of them under a big bridge. Then I dogged two more for a few minutes before picking off another. The next one was harder. Someone told us there was about a half-mile to go, and she succumbed shortly after that. It was a really really really long time... whatever distance they said... it felt like a lie. At this point, I think we were running in a waterfront park and there is the OMSI there (whatever that is... science museum, maybe?). I remembered reading in the blog 110 Pounds and Counting that this was almost the end. I was so thankful that I knew this. But it still seemed like forever. There was a longish straightaway and then a couple volunteers waving me to turn left... toward the invisible river... into what looked like a parking lot.

There was the exchange chute!

I had a hard time focusing on anything but getting into that chute... I didn't see my runner. I ran into the chute with my slappy strap off and straight, ready to hand it over.... and BOOM ... there she was, right in front of me :)  She took it and off she went.

I sort of careened over to the side of the road as my team was shouting at me. I just waved them off because I needed to walk for a second or two. I was kind of stumbling, and they saw this. Lt. Love came over to make sure I was okay and because she had to 'go', and the two of us went to visit the ubiquitous Honey Buckets (portapotties).

When we met up with our van, I found out that I came in ahead of projected time:

6.37 miles in 56:40 (I think... it was about a minute ahead of projection which was 57:35) for an 8:55 avg pace. That is really fast for me. Toss in my 10 roadkills. I was super surprised. And very pleased.

At this point, we were all tired. We piled into the van and headed to the next major exchange... the start of Leg 19... where we'd try to get some sleep. Driving down the road and seeing all the runners strung out and illuminated by flashers on their reflective vests, flashlights, and headlamps was super cool. The incredibly starry sky overhead was uplifting. The whole thing gave me chills...

En route to our 'camp', I stripped down and washed up with baby wipes and then put on fresh clothes (the basic clean-up protocol for relays, I've been told). I ate some sort of protein bar and drank my water and my Nuun. It was probably 11-ish when we finally pulled into the parking lot at where Pvt. Chafe would start her second leg at about 3:00 a.m.

A few people slept outside. Sgt. Style slept sitting up... so hardcore. Nightingale curled up in a cute little kitten-like ball on the seat. I hogged the whole back bench... well, I shared it with my duffel and a couple of other large bags. I removed my contact lenses, laid my sleeping bag across the whole lumpy mess and stretched out. I did actually sleep. Earplugs helped drown out the shouting and commotion in the parking lot.

Suddenly, the door opened and the lights came on. Time to get ready for the hand-off. Not enough time to dream.

Our van began getting ready for our second legs.


I know this is so long. It is really hard to make it shorter and really capture what it was all about. I also hope that future HTC runners might find detail useful for their own preparations. I will endeavor to pare things down somewhat as I continue to tell the story of this epic experience. I did say it was going to be a miniseries :)


  1. I am LOVING reading all about this! Such a blast. :) And you rocked that leg! Way to go!

  2. You pee a lot. :)

    Your nightleg sounded WAY more interesting than mine!! And giiirrrrrrrl, you were booking it! Great job!

    Please don't pare these down -- I love your writing style & I appreciate getting to hear your perspective & what went on in your van. :)

  3. There was no doubting at that hand-off to Tricia that you had run yourself hard!!!!HARD!!! I almost cried at the sight of you giving so much! Gave me goosebumps.

    I SO SO wish I had been able to figure out a way (timewise) to get to Springwater to cheer you on in person, but I probably would have jumped out at you in the dark and made you pee all over yourself ;p

    What an amazing race this was!! I've never wanted to really do H2C before...but now after reading all your race reports, I've got the bug.

  4. Such a vivid recap here Marjorie. Great writing! You take me right to the relay and I feel like I'm there with you. You and I were probably running our first legs about the same time. I was leg 10 though. But I remember thinking the same about the stars! So cool that Julie put the chalk on the road. What great support!! And Great pace girl!
    I slept in the back of the van and Waylon and the other girls slept in sleeping bags on the field. I put earplugs in and I was OUT! So nice! It was kind of nice that our van 1 was slow...we had more time to sleep. ;) Again, great writing!

  5. That used to be my day time running route. It's gorgeous in the light of day down by the river. For those of you who haven't done this race, Marjorie captures it well. There is nothing quite like running as fast as you can, alone, in the pitch dark, with no idea how far you have left to go. Surreal.

  6. YOU DID AMAZING!!! And remember, ONLY cook kids can pee their pants.

    You left it all out there XLMIC! SO proud and honored to call you my teammate. Hoorah!!

  7. Between the chemical composition of the NUUN(TM) and those freaky ass reflective shapes I think you probably turned into a demon from another planet during this leg.


    We should make a cheap horror flick called "LEG 12 - THE MASSACRE II" (with the "II" being a simple gimmick to get hipsters wondering how they missed the original) where NUUN(TM) is really a release platform for killer nanobots because some evil scientist hates Oregon. Or something like that.

  8. Great recap and pics so far! Crazy about that accident you witnessed at night! Running a leg at night would freak me out, I'm just nervous that someone would be hanging by the side of the trail or something, or I would trip over something.

    Looking forward to reading more!

  9. I'm thinking you could write a novel, not just a miniseries!! Haha :). You can tell it was all new and very exciting for you and if you want to write a ton, then so be it! I like to use my blog to look back on my past and relive these things so these reports will be great for you to do that one day. It's funny the things you forget over the years...when I read my 2009 RR of Pikes Pike, I was like, "Oh yeah....I forgot..." Ha.

    Nice pace there, speedy!! I bet you were super happy with that. Kudos to you!!

  10. You are such a great storyteller! I can't wait to read more!

  11. I LOVE your long recap!! You had me cracking up with your tale - I'm sorry about your bathroom troubles, but you did what needed to be done, haha. AND I had no idea that you caused an accident (oops). Oh the stories I missed by not seeing your van. Please keep these long recaps coming.

  12. Good post! Sounds like a very weird run. I know you usually run at night, but this sounds almost eerie the way you describe it! Can't wait to hear more!

  13. LOVE that first picture of you! Loving the story, you seriously make my jog at night the most boring thing EVER!!!

  14. I love your recaps of HTC...my favorites...shhh dont tell...!

  15. I'm a leg 12 runner in about 10 days and I'm so glad you posted the long version with all the details! Muchos gracias friend!


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