I realize that if you’re reading any of the thirty blogs of the ladies who ran Hood to Coast with nuun this year, then you might be HTC’d out. I hope you enjoyed my initial
mini–recap of the non-running events, but the truth is that I’m much better at writing about running than I am about…not running. So in a much overdue recap, let’s talk about the actually RELAY.
to the top of mount hood
Last year I was in Van 2 and that meant a later start from the hotel, as you go straight to the exchange point and wait for your team. Being in Van 1 this year meant an 8am departure time from Seattle. Van 1 of Afternuun Delight Team Night climbed into the van with our trusty driver Mason and made our way to the start of Mount Hood.
Let’s just say it’s a good thing we were prompt with our 8am start because if you put six women in a van, add an initial Starbucks stop (thanks Mason, you don’t want to deal with me if I don’t have coffee…) and a lot of nuun drinking to hydrate for the relay, you end up with many, many more Starbucks stops in order to use the bathroom. Oops.
Team Night, Starbucks Stop #94774
As I said in my last post, I didn’t know much about the ladies who were going to be in my van other than Lauren, but on the way to Mount Hood I quickly learned how awesome they all were. We turned on some tunes (our NIGHT playlist), listened to “Call Me, Maybe” at least seven times (dancing documented by Caroline here), and got excited about getting to Mount Hood.
Snapshot of the fun!
After eight bathroom breaks, we saw Mount Hood in the distance and I started to get excited…I only got to see it from the distance last year, and I couldn’t wait to get to the top and see the start!
We climbed, climbed, climbed (in the van) to the top and reached Timberline Lodge, home to the start of the race. We met up with the other two Van 1’s, snapped a ton of pictures, and hung out by the start. It goes without saying how beautiful it is at the top of the mountain. Certainly not NYC…
All of the Van 1’s on Mount Hood! Ready to run!
Time was flying and before I knew it, it was time for Caroline to kick us off at 2:15pm with Leg 1 of the relay! Definitely one of the most beautiful start lines I’ve ever been on…
Caroline ready to rock it!
AfterNUUN Delight TEAM NIGHT Runners:
Back when nuun was first sorting out the relay legs, I signed up for leg 5, known as the toughest (big uphill climbs) and second longest (topping out around 19 miles). As the race drew closer, I got more and more nervous about my ability to cover the distance. The week before the race, I got an email from Mason saying it wasn’t too late to switch if I wasn’t feeling the distance. I wanted nothing more than to crush leg 5, but I knew that I’m still coming back from six months off, and that it would be better to play it safe. So instead, I switched to leg 4, which is a much shorter, flatter set of legs. The fact that I was running was way more important than how far I ran. So, away we go.
I had told everyone and anyone (and promised Meggie and Jocelyn) that I’d take this race easy. “8:30 miles, 8:30 miles,” I repeated over and over again, and in my head I was worried about even running that since my day-to-day runs were averaging 8:30-9 minute miles. I know I’m out of shape, and I’m trying to take it easy post-back injury.
Well, I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again…you throw me in a race and hand me a slap bracelet baton…and I’ll take off. For better or worse (oops…), Vanessa handed off to me and I bolted. It certainly didn’t hurt that this was the elevation profile…
Downhill basically all the way…win. I started my Garmin, slapped the slap bracelet on my wrist, and ran. My first mile clocked in at 6:33. I haven’t run that fast since, um, February? When the whole back thing started. In my mind I knew that this pace was ridiculous and that the prior week I had be ecstatic to see sub-8 miles on my run. But this is Hood to Coast, and you just go. I figured I’d run with it and see how long it lasted.
To say that I was having a blast would still be an understatement because for the first time in months, I felt like I was flying again. Definitely not an easy pace, but I never started running because I like when it’s easy.
Probably my best running picture…ever.
I ran and ran and was having the best time ever. Not dramatic at all. But seriously, it felt so great to be running again.
100% real smile.
My team was awesome and stopped to cheer and hand off water twice, which is probably one of the best parts of relays because you never know when your team is going to drive by you and it’s awesome when they come out to meet you on the road…your own personal cheering squad!
As I sped along, my pace was hovering in the 6:40’s. I knew my 10k PR is somewhere in the 6:50-ish range (the longer the race, the better I run…and 10k’s aren’t my best, by far), and somewhere around mile 4 I realized that if I kept moving along, I could PR in the 10k. Let’s totally disregard the fact that this entire thing would be downhill…it still counts, right?
Running along, my team passed me one last time on their way to transition, and shortly thereafter Chris and the Intel van honked as they drove by, and I nearly fell off the side of the highway as I was taken by surprise…no casualties, life is good.
I motored along and stared at my watch as it creeped towards 6.2…at 6.2 miles, my watch read 41:55, which is about a thirty second 10k PR. IT’S REAL, OKAY? Also, clearly if I could run this fast out of shape, then certainly I need to set up my game when I’m in full on training mode. Oops.
I held on for one more mile and passed of the baton to Shanna, who set off to rock leg 5.
Leg 4 Stats: 7.18 miles in 48:42, avg pace of 6:47……..WIN
I felt awesome and realized I probably killed my legs for my remaining two legs…so worth it. We quickly climbed in the van to cheer/hydrate our final two van runners before heading to the main exchange at Safeway. Last year, we spent an extreme amount of time in the Safeway parking lot, but this year we didn’t hang too long as real food was a necessity. We did hang out long enough for me to witness the crisis of the Intel van locking their keys in their car, as I tried to hung down Chris in the middle of this. Luckily we had enough time to snap a picture for evidence while in the checkout line in Safeway.
Between van exchanges is the best time to get some real food, and unfortunately my van was dealing with multiple stomach issues (relays bring out the best in people’s GI systems…). For the rest of us who felt like eating, pizza seemed like the best decision so we headed to a random pizza place in a neighborhood where Robyn continuously told us that people get shot there. (She told us this for just about every neighborhood we drove there, which was really comforting.) The breadsticks and pizza were delicious and carberific, which is really just about all that you need.
Despite all the stomach issues in the van, mine weren’t too bad and only made me feel slightly nauseated. I have a bit of a severe dependence on caffeine, and I figured that only have a small coffee in the morning was the culprit as I do experience caffeine withdrawal. (It’s a problem, I know.) Post-dinner, we found a drive through Starbucks…as this happened:
Apparently they had espresso drinks, but needed to brew some more coffee. DISASTER. Well, not really, we just waited a few minutes while we got our caffeine fixes brewed fresh for us. But really, who would have thought that Starbucks would run out of coffee? Crazy.
The major exchange/halfway point for the race is in Portland, so with coffee in hand we headed there to greet Van 2. This big exchanges were also the only times we saw the other Van 1s, as Team Morning and Team Lunch were much closer together than Team Night was with either of them, so it was fun to catch up with the other nuun teams at the exchanges.
We had fun dancing to “We Run the Night” (perfect song…) and I don’t remember why, but Robyn, Lauren, Caroline, and I took pictures outside the port-o-potties…maybe to honor all the bathroom stops? No idea.
After a quick hello to my friend Jason who lives in Portland (thanks for swinging by at midnight…), we waited for our runner to roll in to kick off our second legs. We spotted Kelsey, and off went Caroline!
We were excited to start running again, but the excitement was replaced with nerves when Caroline finished her leg and told us what happened to her (check it out here). Luckily she was okay, although definitely a bit shaken up…which admittedly did make me a little nervous for my next year. My second leg last year was in the middle of a forest with no van support and very few other runners…I definitely ran fast on that leg because I was a little scared, but nothing happened. This year I was on the side of a highway and still ran fast with my eyes darting to the side of the road…
My hardest leg was most definitely my first leg, as my last two were only a tad over four miles each. That being said, I was worried that I went too fast on my first leg and wasn’t sure what that meant for leg two. Luckily, the coffee and nerves kicked in and running wasn’t a worry at all. If anyone was best prepared to run a NIGHT SHIFT leg, it would be this night shift nurse. Who needs sleep?
Like last year, I didn’t see too many people, although it’s always fun to see headlights and reflective vests shining in front of you like beacons for you to chase down. And chase them down I did…it doesn’t matter that you have no idea what time they started, if they’re ahead of you because they have a fast team or simply because they started before you. It’s still fun to pass people, and pass people I did.
Four miles goes by fast even when you’re on the side of a highway, and very quickly leg two was done.
Leg 16 Stats: 4.1 miles in 28:15, avg pace of 6:54
Although shorter, I’m still proud of these miles…faster than I ever anticipated I’d be running at Hood to Coast, and definitely awesome to see that pace again.
After wrapping up our second legs with only a little drama including a detour due to a huge fire and major stomach problems which involved Robyn running a few extra miles, we were able to make our way to Mist for the next van exchange. I had a terrible time keeping my eyes open and definitely fell asleep en route. Pretty sure the rest of the van did too, but serious high fives for Mason who had to be awake to drive us there. Pretty sure we slept through 45 minutes of traffic to get to Mist, and I can’t say that it was the best sleep I ever got…but sleep is sleep and night shift has trained me well to function (you know, lives in my hands and all that) on little sleep.
When we made it to Mist, most of us climbed out of the van to stretch our legs and hunt down coffee. Now, when people ask me how I like my coffee, I generally say, “with caffeine.” (Har har…) I’m here to tell you that the coffee at the Mist exchange is just a step above drinkable. That might actually be generous since I took about five sips and poured out the rest. Disaster.
The entire van was definitely feeling the lack of sleep, van snacks, and minimal caffeine. If you wondered what we ate during the relay, here’s what the trail mix looked like about this time:
Fueled by M&M’s and gummi bears, I got ready to brave leg 3. I wasn’t sure how my legs would respond after the first two legs, but I told myself to enjoy it and soak in the fresh Oregon air. These final legs are definitely beautiful and green and a huge contrast to my normal running in NYC. When we started our third legs, Mason said something along the lines of, “I think we need some Maybe” and we proceeded to listen to “Call me maybe” another seven times, blasting it and a few other power songs as we drove past our runners.
We also did the ultimate relay must-do and power-arched all of our runners. Because really, if you’ve never had a power arch done for you, you seriously need to get on that. It’s awesome. Spirits were high for these final legs and while I can’t speak for everyone, we were all having a blast.
First power arch for Caroline!
Lauren and me before my final leg…I think that smile is because she’s finished!
Everyone was speeding along on their legs and all too soon it was time for my final leg. It was definitely getting warmer, but it’s your final leg so you give it all you got. I got the slap bracelet from Vanessa and off I went.
I realize now that I never looked at the elevation profile for this leg prior to running it because I was convinced it was perfectly flat…and while running, it didn’t feel flat at all. Surprise! Uphill with some rolling hills…that explains a lot.
Needless to say, my legs were a bit tired, but I just wanted to MOVE. Not to discount the other runners, but so many people are dragging on their final leg…if you have any speed left in you, you will pass so many people and very few people will pass you. The Bowerman women weren’t too far behind us, and my main goal was not to let them pass me. It obviously makes no difference on way or another, but it gave me a reason to keep the pace…and it definitely worked.
Other motivations included passing a guy (I always say, “Good job!” or “Keep it up!” to runners I pass in a relay…) who yelled, “Holy sh*t, you’re really fast!” as I sped by. Yesssss. And of course, I can’t deny the power of the power arch…
Did I mention how nice the scenery is?
At just over four miles, this leg flew by as well, and I had a HUGE smile on my face as I came through transition to hand off to Shanna.
Leg 28 Stats: 4.2 miles in 29:18, avg pace of 6:59
I know I didn’t run that far, but I averaged sub-7 for allllll my legs. A month before, I didn’t even think I would be running Hood to Coast. It feels amazing.
TO THE FINISH
As each runner finished, the excitement just continued to build as the pressure (what pressure? all self-imposed, for sure) was off and now we could celebrate and cheer. It’s a bit strange to be in Van 1 and be done yet still have a whole van of people before the finish. We continued with our playlist and cheering until our very last runner…then we headed for some celebrations.
Beer in mason jars?? Yes, please. Post-hydration needs are officially met. We chowed down at the brewery and then headed to Seaside to cheer on our final runner.
As I walked into the finish area (which is huge…), I spotted a familiar face as Kevin was walking out. Fact: I’ve never met Kevin before and was still able to pick his face out of a crowd. Twitter for the win. Chanthana came up as we were chatting, and it was great to see her again if only for a few minutes. Solid Chicago representation!
Team Night (…and all the other teams!) made our way over to the finish line to greet our final runners as they came through. And then we waited. And waited. And waited some more. Apparently some of their runners went wayyyy (like, six miles) off course. Finally we spotted Kelsey bringing TEAM NIGHT in strong despite her minor detour.
All the nuun teams finished strong and turned into one big team as we headed to the post-race celebration (sponsored by Nike) for some post-race beer and food.
Love these NUUNIES
Final excitement with Lauren!
BEST RELAY EVER
I cannot give enough thanks to nuun and everyone who works there for making this year just as awesome as last year. It’s hard to compare being in Van 1 vs Van 2, which group of runners was more fun, and which year I liked better. Nuun does an amazing job of picking runners to represent them, and this year was no different than last year in how much fun I had and how I enjoyed every step of the way. Afternuun Delight TEAM NIGHT Van 1 was full of an amazing group of ladies plus Mason not only got us from point-A to point-B, but left us wanting for nothing and was supportive and positive the entire way. From the dancing to the late night Starbucks to the power arches, my team was amazing and I’m so glad these ladies were in my van. Let’s do it again next year, okay?