Monday, August 28, 2006

26:37:36

5:00 PM Friday August 25. It was Happy Hour throughout the rest of the West Coast, but for me and my 11 teammates, it was time to get things started.

Hood to Coast 2006:
  • 2 vans.
  • 12 runners.
  • 36 legs.
  • 197 miles from Mount Hood to Seaside, Oregon.
We gathered at the Starting Line near the Timberline Lodge. The first wave of runners left the start at 8:00 AM Friday morning. 9 hours later, it was finally our turn to begin the treck. Nine hours - can you believe that teams had already been running for nine hours before my team ever even set foot on the course? And there were still quite a few more waves to go - the last team didn't take off until 7:45 PM!

All teams are required to finish the race by 9:00 PM on Saturday. So I have to admit, getting the late start time was both exciting (hell yeah, we're fast!) and nerve racking (but are we THAT fast?) We only had 28 hours to finish, meaning we had to average 8:30 miles the entire time. Could everyone on the team do that? For three legs? On zero sleep? In the middle of the night?

We'd soon find out. Van #1 blazed down the slopes of Mount Hill and through the first six legs in approximately four and a half hours. So at 9:35 PM, it was time for Van #2 - The San Francisco Contingent - to begin our journey.

Running in the afternoon can be difficult for me, so to say that running at night - er, EARLY morning - is difficult is also an understatement. I ran my first 5.9 mile leg of Hood to Coast form 1:00 AM to 1:50 AM. Sure, I averaged under 8:30 minutes/mile, but it was painful. I think everyone in Van #2 felt that way, too. We finished our legs, but it wasn't always pretty.

So, after meeting up with Van #1 at the exchange, the SF Contingent piled back into Van #2 and headed down the course to the second van exchange. During this time I had the *pleasure* of riding in The Stinky Seat, which not only sucked, it smelled. Needless to say, I did not get much sleep during this rest time. But I'm pretty sure feeling nauseous due to a lack of sleep, a smelly van, and an overdose of Cliff bars is all part of the fun of a distance relay...

Four hours later, it was time to run again. The sun was coming up now, and I must say, Oregon is really quite beautiful. RN, our first runner, had a pretty difficult 6-mile leg. Up up up up up lots of hills in time to pass off to DC, our second runner. He averaged 7 minute miles through most of his legs, and was a great last minute addition to the team. DC endured 6 miles on a dirt road for Leg #20. He passed off to EZ, another 7 minute miler, who killed his leg before SS climbed a mini mountain and picked up 17 road kills for yet another 7 minute mile performance on Leg 22!

The hand-off from SS to KT was just as fast, transferring enough momentum to KT to keep the speedy paces going. KT finished 4 miles for Leg 23 in 30 minutes! An average pace of 7:45 minutes/mile! She was going so fast she almost couldn't stop to do our transition dance. (You laugh, but relays are SO much better with transition dances...) I shouted, "Come on KT - MAKE IT WORK!" To which she replied, "Go Nic! CARRY ON!" (Yes, in our best Tim Gunn voices. Not going to lie, the crowd loved us.) A quick do-si-do and I was off on Leg 24.

It was starting to get warm by now. And although Leg 24 was flat, there wasn't time to slack off in cruise control. I flew out of the transition and onto the long, winding road. It felt good to be running in daylight. The team drove ahead to meet me 2.5 miles into my leg, but I reached them a little less than 20 minutes into the leg. No one saw me. To be frank, they weren't even LOOKING for me yet. I guess they thought I'd be running 8:30s again. Turns out, though, I was running a little faster than 8:00 minute/mile pace. And it felt good. So good. But not good enough to stop for water! I decided to keep going for fear that slowing down would bring me to a standstill.

Instead, I said I'd meet them at the transition, which turned out to be easier said than done. Because by now, there was a bottleneck of vans trying to make it to the van exchange. I passed our van and realized there was a chance I was going to make it to the handoff before they did. And that's almost what happened. Except luckily, SS and RN jumped out of our van and sprinted almost an entire mile to the exchange, just in time to see me finish 4.9 miles in 39 minutes. (With 15 road kills!) Under 8:00 minutes/mile average pace - a PR for Nic, and the start of a very-well deserved rest period for all of Van #2.

Thank goodness. Because by now it was pretty effing HOT. It took a long time to drive to the next van exchange. The traffic was terrible and there were runners everywhere. I don't think I have ever seen so many runners. It's just amazing to think that for two entire days, 200 miles of Oregon was covered in runners.

The heat slowed Van #1 considerably during their final legs, so we had to wait a little longer to run again. This extra time made us realize how tired we were. So by the time we met up with Van #1 at the final exchange, we weren't looking good. But we were so close! And Van #1 was done!!!!! So Van #2 embarked on the final legs of the race. Tackling rolling hills and cruising through well-deserved flats. In a lot of pain but with a lot of heart, everyone blazed through their final legs. Until it was my turn to run Leg 36...

I was nervous at the handoff. I was just so tired. And nervous. And tired. I really HATE being last! For almost 26 hours I had been dreading this final leg. Leg 36 had nearly two miles of climbing at the start. And I just haven't been training very consistently, lately. And I certainly haven't been running too many hills! FUCK! I'm tired! And petrified of that hill!

But eventually, it was time to face the incline. I took off at around 6:58 PM, climbing my first mile up mostly trail. Up! Push! Leap! Spring! I dodged right and left around boulders. I scurried past other runners. I pushed and propelled and forced my way to the front of the pack. Once I reached the road, I didn't quit. I continued to grind out the climb, and I made it to the top of the hill in 16 minutes.

Which meant that it was all downhill from there! Downhill for the fastest, most beautiful mile of my life. Winding right and left and down and right and left and down through the tallest pine trees under the clearest blue sky. Never stopping or slowing, only thinking of that beach. That beach that is only a few more miles away! And before I knew it, a H2C volunteer directed me to turn right and said, "Only a half mile to go!"

"WHAT? ONLY A HALF MILE TO GO?"

My watch read something around 37 minutes.

"HOLY SHIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIT!"

I ran as fast as my little 5'3" body could carry me. I smiled. I cried. I soared. I fucking booked it down that promenade. I high-fived small children. I high-fived their parents. I said hello to doggies. I looked out at that Pacific Ocean and BEAMED with pride and excitement.

And I crossed the Hood to Coast Finish Line at 7:37 PM on Saturday August 26.
  • Team Total Time - 26:37:36
  • Team Overall Place - 257/1032
  • Team Overall Percentage - Top 24.9 %
  • Team Overall Average Pace - 8:06 minutes / mile
My stats...
  • Leg 12 - 5.9 Miles - 49:45 Total Time - 8:26 min / mile pace
  • Leg 24 - 4.9 Miles - 39:15 Total Time - 8:01 min / mile pace
  • Leg 36 - 5.8 Miles - 41:29 Total Time - 7:09 min / mile pace
By the time I went to bed that night, I had been awake for forty hours. And I had run - I had really RUN - 17 miles. I was tired. My legs hurt. My stomach was in knots. My eyes were dry. And I was having trouble breathing without wheezing. I had the world's biggest headache and I kind of sort of wanted to die.

And I couldn't remember the last time everything felt so damn good.

20 comments:

Spikey1 said...

Awesome dude! Wow. I have decided to run next month and Im looking for a 3:30. Wish me luck.

running42k said...

Damn Nic, you were smoking. Great job.

I pictured a VW bus, was that the van? Better still, don't tell me.

jkrunning--Just Keep Running said...

And to think you didn't want to do it!!
Awesome job. I love reading your recaps.

Danielle said...

I just did a similar length relay in Colorado during my last leg all I could think about was how long four miles seemed - I was tired, my stomach was in knots, and I got passed in the last quarter mile (hehe, or became roadkill as you put it)... So kudos to you for actually finishing strong!

IMmike said...

um. wow. so you're moving from marathons towards... adventure racing?

impressive stuff.

I pictured a vw van as well.

Laurie said...

Awesome race report, I felt like I was there cheering you on. VW van all the way!

jeff said...

"...And I couldn't remember the last time everything felt so damn good..."

that is the most bitchenest way to sum it all up. congrats on your success!

Jessica Deline said...

Wow! You got faster with each leg! Great job and that race sure sounds like fun. My manager at Nike ran it too and had a blast.

Running Jayhawk said...

hells yah.

Way to completely rock that relay!!

walchka said...

Please make way for speed demon Nic! What a great race and report. I'm sure it hurt, but it sounds like one hell of a race. Congrats on such a great job!

Pink Lemonade Diva said...

awesome darling. I know I've said this before, but I simply love your running recaps.

Cliff said...

So the more tired you are, the faster you can run.. ;O...oh and i have been resting up for all my A races..dang :)

good job ;D

Kim said...

holy f*$king $hit you ran your little tush off!! great job nic!

Anonymous said...

Dad says ... first, I thought that 12 runners would have 24 legs (not 36) See your bullet points.

WOW -- I am surely proud of you again -- and I am very happy to be able to cheer you on from 3000 miles away -- by leaving messages on your cell phone.

Love Dad

a.maria said...

oooh so good to have you back to bloggyland.

AND HOLY SHIT WOMAN. you just got faster and faster the more tired you became.

um. holy shit. you awesome.

and, just one more time...


holy shit.

HP said...

YAYAYAYAYAAY!! I'm so proud and SO excited for you. Well done, well done!! You are truly accomplishing tremendous feats... good for YOU!
Love from LA.

David said...

Hey, great run, awesome race! I had your legs too, loved it; it's stressful going last, but the payoff is big! Downhill on the last one was amazing. Btw, if you care, the last leg mileage is way off - it's actually 5.22 miles not 5.8. Also, at least according to htcmaps.com, leg 24 is actually 5.03 and leg 12 is 5.97. (The 5.22 is corroborated by my Garmin.)

Raul! said...

Awesome job! I want to do this now after reading your recap.

Kate said...

congratulations! it is great to see you getting that runner's high again! :-)

Danny said...

that is so awesome!!!

congrats!