Thursday, June 18, 2015

Rip City 3-on-3 Basketball Tournament

  All my Portland-area hoopers and wannabe hoopers!!

  Come play at the Rip City 3-on-3 Basketball Tournament July 25th & 26th! Divisions for all ages, abilities and skill levels. Activities include the tournament, Slam Dunk contest, 3-Point Shootout and a Youth Skills Challenge.

  Benefits Special Olympics Oregon -- so hurry and get your team signed up before registration closes July 10th.

Wednesday, February 4, 2015

Taurasi to Sit Out WNBA Season; Should Force League to Action

Diana Taurasi will sit out the upcoming WNBA Season.

  Diana Taurasi made news this week by announcing she wouldn't be suiting up for the WNBA Champion Phoenix Mercury for the 2015 season.

  Instead, she is going to rest. But here's the catcher, she's still going to get paid -- by her Russian team, UMMC-Ekaterinburg

  During the WNBA's off-season (which happens to be twice as long as the four-month summer season), Taurasi, like many women's players go overseas to earn a living.

  To protect their investment (UMMC is reportedly paying Taurasi $1.5 million this season) and secure Taurasi for the following season, the Russian club offered to pay her to sit out the 2015 WNBA season.

  Get paid to rest -- not a bad gig.

Two Leagues, Year-Round Seasons
  To be honest, I'm surprised Taurasi/UMMC is the first instance of this happening. The best players in the world play year round, between the WNBA and Europe, Asia or Australia.

  One full season overseas (September-May) is hard enough on your body. Remove the summer months to rest, recover and rejuvenate? I don't know how they do it for an entire year.

  Taurasi has played 10 year-round seasons. That's a lot of wear and tear to put on an aging body, in a cutthroat, short-lived profession.

  I look at what Taurasi has done for 10 consecutive years and say she's made a sacrifice. To play year-round, at the highest level, puts an amazing toll on your body. My body wouldn't have held up for one year-round season, let alone 10.

  This is where I get to why.

Why Play?
Taurasi was the league's MVP in 2009, & two-time Finals MVP.
  Why has she sacrificed? Why do players like Diana Tauarsi, Tamika Catchings, Maya Moore, et al play in the WNBA, when financially it might not make sense? It's not for the money or the glamour of the WNBA. They sacrifice to help the league maintain and (hopefully) grow.

  First, to have the opportunity to play professionally at 'home' has to be an incredible feeling. It's something I was never able to do.

  Secondly, and what I think is most-important, is that they don't want the WNBA to fail.

  Players feel an obligation to the opportunity. The WNBA hasn't always been around, and players want it to succeed. In order for it to succeed, the best players need to be on the court.

  We are just now at the tail end of players' careers who remember a time when there was no WNBA. When there was no viable opportunity to play professionally in the US.

  The the Tamika Catchings, Sue Birds, Diana Taurasis, the Deanna Nolans.

  As we get further away from that generation, there might become a time when the league is taken for granted. When players assume the league has always been here, and will always be here.

  It wouldn't shock me to see more players sit out WNBA seasons to allow their bodies and minds recover from the longer, more financially rewarding overseas seasons. Especially as the younger generation asserts itself.

Moore is one of the top young talents in the league.
  Point blank, it looks bad for the league to have one of its top five players be paid more NOT to play.

  And I don't blame Taurasi. A basketball career is finite, and she's trying to make the most of it financially.

  But it could become a turning point.

Danger Zone?
  Here's what needs to happen -- somehow, someway -- the WNBA needs to find a way for this not to become a trend. Otherwise, they'll be in danger of becoming a second-tier league, or worse, obsolete.

  The players who have sacrificed to help the league, that's still in its infancy, grow, need to see the support from the WNBA in return.

  The WNBA has league maximum and league minimum salaries -- for both veterans and rookies.

  In 2013, the minimum salary for rookies was $35,190. The league's top four drafted players earned at maximum $48,470. Every other rookie, earned between 35k and 48k.

Maya Moore plays WNBA off-seasons in China.
  The minimum salary for a player with three-plus years of experience was $55,000 while the maximum salary for a six-plus year player was $107,000.

  Based on her 10 years of experience, Taurasi is at the 107k maximum. Again, her contract with UMMC is $1.5 million. (Keep in mind, most overseas salaries reported are post-tax earnings, while WNBA are pre-tax.)

  You do the math; what would you do?

LeBron vs. Steve Blake Analogy
  While the WNBA pay scale is a nice idea, it doesn't make sense.

  A 10-year veteran role player, should not earn the same salary as Diana Taurasi --a three-time WNBA Champion, two-time WNBA Finals MVP, three-time Gold Medalist, etc). Why? Because she doesn't bring the same value to the franchise, nor to the league.

  I'll give you an NBA comparison to make it more obvious: Should LeBron James and Steve Blake earn the same salary? (I bet even Steve Blake would say 'of course not!')

  Currently, they're both in their 12th NBA season. So under the WNBA's pay scale, they would earn the same salary. Instead, this season LeBron will earn $20.6 million from the Cavs, while Blake will earn $2.1 million from the Trail Blazers. Seems comparable for what they bring to their teams and to the NBA.

  I'm not here to compare and argue NBA vs. WNBA salaries. They're different animals, and cannot be compared. But if the WNBA is to remain relevant in the women's basketball world, the powers that be must come up with a solution to compensate, and keep its best/most-visible players on their court.

The only uniform you'll see Taurasi in during 2015.
Franchise Tag Solution?
  Franchise tags are used in the NFL, but in a different manner than what I would be suggesting. In this instance, franchise tag means superstar.

  Each of the 12 WNBA teams should be allowed two (?) franchise tags. Teams can then pay those players whatever they deem fair, and either the league raises the salary cap, or franchise tags do not apply towards the salary cap. (The current salary cap for WNBA teams is $913,000.)

  The number of players who garner the Taurasi-types of salaries overseas are very few. Likewise, the number of players who the WNBA should tag as superstars should be just as few. In fact, allowing 24 franchise tags for the entire league might be too many. But that's not for me to decide.

  This is a solution I came up with in 20-minutes, give-or-take a few. There are many other options, and there are people much smarter than I who should be working to find a solution.

  Because as it stands right now, the WNBA needs its superstars exponentially more than they need the WNBA. I certainly don't want to witness the league's demise, but whatever their solution, the WNBA better be working on it ASAP.

Monday, January 5, 2015

Knight Cancer Challenge

The Knight Cancer Challenge has almost been met!
  A year ago, this past September 20th, Nike founder Phil Knight, and his wife Penny, launched one of the most-impressive and inspiring cancer research challenges to date:
  If OHSU can raise $500 million by February, 2016 the Knight family will match that $500 million -- all benefiting cancer research.
OHSU & The Knight Cancer Institute
  For those of you outside the Portland area, Oregon Health Science University (OHSU)  is a nationally prominent research university, and Oregon's only public academic health center.

  Over the years, OHSU has grown into a world class teaching hospital and research center.

  The Knights and OHSU have history together in the cancer research community. In 2008, a $100 million donation from the Knights turned the then-named OHSU Cancer Institute into the Knight Cancer Institute. The NCI-designated institute is an international leader in cancer research and personalized cancer treatment.
OHSU sits above Portland's West Hills.

  Together, their mission is to 'end cancer as we know it.' 

  The Knight Cancer Institute focuses on attacking cancer on a molecular level, and looks for ways to detect cancers earlier, before they become deadly, giving more patients the chance to survive more cancers.

  If OHSU is able to match the Knights' $500 million challenge, the vision for those funds will go towards:
  • Seeking faster, smarter ways to detect and treat cancer – before it becomes deadly.
  • Putting unprecedented research resources behind this initiative so that it can make a significant impact in a decade. We can’t ask those living with cancer to be patient.
  • Assembling a collaborative, multidisciplinary team of cancer researchers, combining new recruits with top talent at OHSU to focus on improving early cancer detection, and fund their programs sufficiently to ensure they can devote their time to innovation.
  • Investing in the resources to accelerate discovery. Investments in equipment, shared research resources and computational biology will generate new discoveries. 
Knight Cancer Challenge Update
  As of January 5th 2015, OHSU has received nearly $450 million towards the challenge. One anonymous donor, pledged $100 million to the effort in July of 2014.

  Pretty impressive to raise those kinds of funds in less than a year. Nothing is guaranteed, but it seems that the Knight Cancer Challenge will be met (it feels crazy to assume $50 MILLION is a guarantee in a relatively short time frame), and $1 billion will be on its way to OHSU and cancer research.

  If you'd like to participate in the challenge, go here for more information.

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Dirty Dozen Guide to Food Additives

How safe are the artificial colors
and dyes added to candy? Would it surprise
you to hear they're banned throughout Europe?

  Many of us have been exposed to the Dirty Dozen and the Clean 15 'clean eating' lists. I've previously written about both of them several times.

  The Dirty Dozen are fruits and vegetables we should always buy organic (if you're trying to avoid pesticides, etc), while the Clean 15 are foods that are okay to buy conventionally (many times, produce that has thick skins or rinds).

  Unfortunately, our entire diet is not made up of only produce. For convenience's sake, processed foods are a part of our daily lives. Foods we buy in a box (meaning, they're processed), come with a plethora of added ingredients.

  Wouldn't it be nice to know what ingredients we should really try to avoid -- just like those pesticides found on produce?

Cured meats contain nitrates and nitrites.
  The Environmental Working Group (EWG), the same group that publishes the Clean 15 and Dirty Dozen, followed through, and released the first Dirty Dozen Guide to Food Additives.

  The list does exactly what it sounds like it does: identifies the top food additives that are harmful and why consumers should avoid eating foods that contain these additives.

  There are over 10,000 additives allowed in the US Food Supply. Most of the additives identified for the dirty dozen are controversial because they are generally recognized as safe in the US, but are known carcinogens or disruptors, and are banned or restricted in other countries around the world.

  1. Nitrates and nitrites -- very common; found in cured meats, can react to form cancer-causing compounds
  2. Potassium bromate -- used in bread and cracker dough; a known carcinogen
  3. Propyl paraben -- a weak synthetic estrogen found in tortillas and muffins
  4. Butylated hydroxyanisole (BHA) -- very common; found in chips, cured meats, etc; categorized as a possible human carcinogen
  5. Butylated hydroxytoluene (BHT) -- chemical cousin to BHA
  6. Propyl gallate -- preservative found in edible fats
  7. Theobromine -- found in chocolate
  8. Secret flavor ingredients -- 'artificial' or 'natural' flavors; mostly synthetic chemicals that can contain 100 different substances (that do not have to be disclosed by the manufacturer)
  9. Artificial colors -- used to increase the appeal of a foods with little nutritional value; are banned throughout Europe because of effect on children
  10. Diacetyl -- in microwave popcorn, yogurt, cheeses, etc; concerns over working closely with flavoring chemicals in food factories have been raised as of late
  11. Phosphates -- most common additive -- found in over 20,000 products; leaven baked goods, reduce acid and improve moisture retention and tenderness in processed meats; concerns over cardiovascular/heart disease in high phosphate levels
  12. Aluminum additives -- used as food stabilizers
  If you have further questions, follow the link to the EWG's guide to explore and learn more about the specifics of these additives and their health concerns.

  So what does this mean? From the looks of it -- as you walk down the grocery store aisles -- most of us are reading food labels these days anyways; the latest list from the EWG just gives us something specific to look for!

  There is a lot of information out there; the key is getting it. And once you have the information, it's up to you to do with it as you like!



Monday, December 8, 2014

One Step 4 (RED)

Mission accomplished!

  Running and working out (well, mostly running) continues to be a part of my daily life. Even though my days as a competitive athlete are behind me, there is still something that working up a sweat and clearing my mind does for my quality of life. That will probably always be the case -- at least I hope it is.

  No one makes me run. And it's not like it was before, when I had to stay in shape for my professional livelihood (or in college, for my personal livelihood during the always-unpredictable Ceal Barry practices).

  I run when I want to. When I feel good, I run. When I need a day to rest, I take a break. Simple as that.
Not every run looked like this.

  Every once in a while, however, it feels good to have a tangible reason to pound the pavement (personal sanity aside).

  In early October, through Nike+, I pledged to run at least 150 miles by December 7th.

  Bank of America, (RED), and the Nike+ running community joined forces to bring us 'one step closer to ending AIDS'. For every mile run and pledged, B of A would donate 40¢ (or one day of medication that can help an HIV-positive expectant mother from passing the virus on to her babies).

  I was already a member of the Nike+ community, so all I needed to do was push the pledge button, and log the miles.

  150 miles; it wasn't an enormous number, but it would take a commitment to get it done.

One mile = one day of medication.
  I was going to do whatever I had to do to meet my goal: whether it'd be sneaking in three-to-four miles on my hour-long lunch breaks, running in less-than-ideal conditions (rain, wind, cold, dark, all of the above), logging several runs on the dreaded treadmill (read: dreadmill), or finishing a long day with short run in on tired, jello-y legs.

  I said I'd get to 150, so you better believe that I was going to get there. I liked having something holding me accountable -- it made it easier to get out the door.

  That brings me to my point: I ran a lot more during these past two months than I would have had I not committed to this campaign. During the cold days, I would have said, 'It's too cold to run,' and stayed in. When I was tired, that would have been a good enough excuse not to get out the door. And so on.

  If the commitment/motivation is there (in anything), we will find a way to get it done. The Nike+ community was committed to the cause, and we accomplished this with our legs:

  One million dollars towards ending the spread of HIV/AIDS: not bad for a bunch of runners.

  Get out, get involved -- you never know what will get you out the door!

Thursday, October 9, 2014

A Walk Down Memory Lane

Piazza del Duomo in Milan. 

  I found myself awake way too early one morning last week -- like 4am early. Not able to go back to sleep, I grabbed my iPad and began checking out the morning news. You know, the important stuff, my Twitter and Instagram feeds.

  One thing led to another, and 15 minutes later I was on Google Maps looking up an address in Milan.

  A NikeLab post got everything rolling. NikeLabs are boutique-like stores in nine locations around the world, Milan being one of them. Since I'd spent so much time in Milan during my two seasons playing in Italy, I was curious where the newly re-branded shop was.

Fiera in Milan.
  Once I located the shop, naturally I wanted to see where it was relative to the places I ran around most in Milan -- the Duomo, the Brera neighborhood (where the NikeLab is located), and Corso Como.

  Before I knew it, I'd scrolled to the north, to Como, trying to remember the route I'd drive to practice every day -- so I could find where our gym was on the map.

  Then I found my first apartment, and the train stations in Como centro. I'd walked to and from the train stations often, as that was a much easier (less stressful) way to get to Milan. The least amount of driving, the better!

Pre game with Nev.
  That took me to where I lived during my second season in a villa just outside of Como (though, I had a little tougher time finding that place). Then to the nearby McDonald's, where my teammate Nev had an unfortunate encounter with the McDrive (drive thru) one evening.

  It's always interesting, the things you remember most vividly. They're not necessarily what you'd think. I spent nearly two years in Italy, and none of my immediate memories are on the basketball court. I'd gone to Italy to play basketball, yet the memories that resonate with me the most, have nothing to do with basketball.

  Of course, I have great memories of basketball moments in Italy. It was the only place I was ever able to win a championship. I played with a group of women who were very passionate about the game, and pushed me to become a better player and more well-rounded person.

Celebrating our championship.
  Practices and games were never uneventful, but that was part of the job.
On the Court Growth
  My first two seasons abroad are probably the two that shaped me most as a professional basketball player. The groundwork was laid into establishing the expectations and commitment required to be successful.

View of Lake Como from above -- Mt. Bisbino
  I still think, to this day, had I been on any other team, in any other country, I wouldn't have played 10 seasons overseas.

  I experienced just the right amount of successes and challenges to inspire me to push for more. And I was surrounded by some great teammates who were supportive and great examples to me.

Off the Court Growth
  Italy also gave me my first experiences living in Europe -- as a person, not a basketball player. I spent many an hour in the coffee bar run by two of our fans. 

  The internet connection at my apartment was challenging, and I had 11 TV channels that were all in Italian -- so I didn't have much choice: go out and live!

Leaders of Pool Comense.
  During my downtime in between practices, more often than not, you could find me at the coffee bar with Cheru and Francy.

  They spoke Italian, I tried to understand and speak back.

  I spoke English, they tried to understand and speak back.

  They explained places or things about Como that were important -- whether it'd be the local banks scheduling a strike, or good restaurants around town.

Francy & Cheru.
  I read the paper (not the days after games, however), and learned more and more Italian words.

  I tried every coffee bar fare they offered up. And grew to understand that I should limit my chocolate croissant and piadina intake, and that cappuccinos should never be ordered after 11am.

  It's where I grew to love coffee too!

  It was a fun way to learn a new culture -- I wouldn't trade those afternoons in Como for anything.

  I've written before about how special my experiences in Italy were, but I was inspired once again to share some memories after last week's Google Maps walk down memory lane!

In Milan one summer.
Teammates Kim & Mara.
Via Indipendenza in Como -- the street I lived on.
Teammate Nev and I at the coffee bar.
Como from above again. This time from the tram.

Monday, September 29, 2014

Three Year Anniversary

  The summer went so fast, I didn't even realize we were approaching Sabrina's Crossing's third anniversary. It came and went quietly, without even a nod.

  Admittedly, I haven't been as in-tune to my blog as I was in its first two years, but I am working to keep it part of my daily/weekly life.

  So here we are, 245+ posts later. I wanted to highlight some of my highlights: the posts that have been the most well-received by you, the reader, and the posts I am most proud of writing.

  Take a look!

Top blogs (five of my top most-viewed posts):
  1. "Whether you think you can, or you think you can't -- you're right" -- Our self talk.
  2. Nike Fuelband Review -- A summary of Nike's Fuelband.
  3. Children in Crisis: Kids & Our Food System -- How US advertisers target children.
  4. M&M Analysis: Altered Recipes in Europe Remove GMO -- Changing recipes and labeling food. 
  5. Running Down A Dream: Cope's Journey to the NBA -- My friend's, Chris Copeland, road to the NBA.
My personal favorites:
  1. Allow Me to Introduce Myself -- My first blog ever. 
  2. Little Eyes Upon You -- Being a role model. A reminder that kids look up to us!
  3. Following Your Passion -- How a shy, homebody became a professional basketball player in Europe.
  4. Italy: My Rookie Year -- Bumps and bruises during my first year as a pro.
  5. Do You Know What GMOs Are? -- Introducing GMOs to my readers.
  6. Love for Luleå -- Why the Frozen Tundra is a pretty cool place.
  7. My First French Carnival -- The pride of Dunkerque on display.
  8. No Redos, No Regrets -- My last game as a Colorado Buffalo.
  9. From Rookie to Veteran -- My growth as a person and as a player from year 1 to year 10.
  10. The Walk to End Alzheimer's -- The first year of Papa's Team, and why I wanted to get involved with Walk.
  It's fun to go back and re-read some of the stories I've shared with you all, and always fun to reminisce. 

  As I mentioned above, I'm still working to keep my blog relevant in my life as a non-basketball player -- always a work in progress. 

  Thanks, always, for reading, and for holding me accountable!

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Walk to End Alzheimer's Recap -- Year 2

Walk day with Papa's Team.

  Two Sundays ago -- Grandparents Day -- the Portland Alzheimer's Association hosted their annual Walk to End Alzheimer's.

  As you may know, for the second straight year, I organized a team in memory of Papa -- my grandpa -- who we lost in 2009 to Alzheimer's after a 12 year bout.

Papa's Team, By the Numbers
  Thanks to you, Papa's Team raised $660.00. We landed a couple bucks short of last years numbers, but all in all I think we did a great job fundraising for a worthy cause.

  We had 14 total donors, many of whom were repeat donors from last year's team -- I can't thank you enough for showing an interest, contributing money, and helping out!

  Money raised from the Walk goes directly to funding care and support services, along with research efforts by the Alzheimer's Association.

Post-walk treats -- Mom and Nana.
Walk 2014
  Walk day participants for Papa's Team were down to three -- me, my mom, and Nana. But over the last several years of Papa's life, I remember many a-day spent -- the three of us and Papa. So it kind of seemed right to be with my mom and Nana on this day, remembering Papa.

  This year's walk was very similar to the year prior, even down to the hot, sunny afternoon on the race track. The Portland Chapter does a great job of making Walk more than just a 2+ mile walk around a race track. There's music, a car show, a kids' playhouse and food.

Purple flower for Papa.
  It's an afternoon event that an entire family can enjoy as they're raising awareness and money for those affected by Alzheimer's.

  What stood out again to me this year, as it did last, was the Promise Garden. Depending on how Alzheimer's has impacted your life, you're given a corresponding colored flower pinwheel:
  • Blue represents someone with Alzheimer's or dementia.
  • Purple is for someone who has lost a loved one to the disease.
  • Yellow represents someone who is currently supporting or caring for someone with Alzheimer’s. 
  • Orange is for everyone who supports the cause and vision of a world without Alzheimer’s.
  As walkers neared the finish line, we were allowed to 'plant' our flower. The garden that resulted from all the flowers makes for a very memorable image, representing the reach Alzheimer's has.

Portland Walk By the Numbers (all unofficial, as things are still being counted)
  • Total Raised: $270,836.25
  • Total Teams: 341 
  • Total Walkers: 3,688
Pre-walk festivities.
Get Ready for Next Year
  As I promised last September, I hope to continue to make Papa's Team a yearly presence in Portland's Walk to End Alzheimer's. So mark your calendars!

  Many of our families have been affected by Alzheimer's in some way, so I'm happy to be able to raise awareness for the disease, and for the Alzheimer's Association. 

  And again, I'm so grateful for everyone who contributed, and helped me honor Papa in a small way.

  Thank you!

Mom and I on the racetrack.

Sunday, August 31, 2014

Walk to End Alzheimer's Countdown

  T-minus one week and counting until the Walk to End Alzheimer's kicks off at Portland International Raceway on Sunday, September 7th.

  I know everyone's wallets have been opened this summer with the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge. If you haven't yet put those wallets away, Papa's Team -- my family's team in memory of my grandpa, who we lost to Alzheimer's in 2009 -- would love your participation or your donation.

  As a quick reminder, The Alzheimer's Association's Walk to End Alzheimer’s is the nation’s largest event to raise awareness and funds for Alzheimer’s care, support and research. It's held annually in more than 600 communities across the US.

  When you donate to the Walk to End Alzheimer's, your fundraising dollars directly fuel the Alzheimer's Association's mission-related initiatives of care, support and research. Their mission is: to eliminate Alzheimer’s disease through the advancement of research; to provide and enhance care and support for all affected; and to reduce the risk of dementia through the promotion of brain health.

Walk Day Schedule -- September 7th 2014
Registration: 12-2 
Live Music: 12:30-3:15 
Promise Garden Pick-Up/Decorating: 12-2 
Team Photos: 12-2 
Bus Rally/Voting: 12-2 
Car Show/Voting: 12-2 
Panorama Photo: 1:30 
Opening Ceremony: 1:45 
Bus Rally Winner: 2 
Walk Start: 2 
Car Show Winner: 2 
Route Length: 2.99 miles

  ***Between now and Saturday night -- September 6th, I will match all donations made by 'Social Media Friends' (People I've reached through social media...Mom, you don't count).*** 

  Donate to Papa's Team, or if you'd like to join us on Sunday, register for the walk by clicking on the links -- walking is free!

  Alzheimer's is a far-reaching disease that does not discriminate -- help us try to put an end to the 'long goodbyes' and see the Alzheimer's Association's vision: a world without Alzheimer's disease.


Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Hood to Coast: Perspectives from Van 2

The whole squad at the finish. 
  From the mountains to the beach. Mt. Hood to Seaside. Hood to Coast 2014.

  They call it the Mother of All Relays for good reason: 197 miles. 12 runners. 2 vans. Little, to no sleep.

  Sounds potentially awful, doesn't it?

  In actuality, it was one of the most memorable team experiences I've ever had.

  The 33rd rendition of Hood to Coast was one I was finally able to participate in.

  As a driver.

  The Brownstars -- a team from Nike asked if I could drive one of their two vans for the race. I, of course, said yes.

We took a detour to get out of traffic to Clatskanie -- 
that turned out to be a time-saving move.
  People thought I was crazy for volunteering, but I've always been a sucker for a team -- especially ones committed to accomplishing uncommon things.

  Even when it's with teammates I'd never met.

  A lot happened in the span of those 24 hours, but it went surprisingly fast (officially, we finished in just under 24 hours).

  Maybe it was because my teammates were awesome runners --  some clocking in paces of 5:40 and 6:00 miles.

  They knew their bodies, knew how and when they needed to be fueled, and how hard they could push themselves. And they cheered their teammates til the end.

  So what, you ask, could be so great about staying up all night, while you wait for people you barely know, run from Mt. Hood to Seaside?

Van 1 at the start -- Mt. Hood.
  For one, being part of a team working as a group towards a huge goal is awesome.

  In those situations, every person needs to do his/her job to allow the team to succeed. Those are the things I've always loved -- and one reason why basketball was always so fun to me -- you needed every teammate on their game to make great things happen.

  And those are the experiences that make us, as individuals, better.

  Secondly, you're accomplishing things you would never dream of doing alone. Each individual running three different times, for a total of roughly 17 miles, in the span of 20 hours -- on no sleep -- who does that? Not something your average Joe is willing to do.

Van 2 -- making a pit stop.
  But surround them by like-minded, motivated teammates, and they'll put themselves on the line, and push through tired legs and injury to run their fastest pace ever -- even on their third run of the day.

  It was being surrounded by people, who, when we were stuck in miles of traffic, offered to hop out of the van and run twice the distance their scheduled leg called for.

  Those same people, readying towels and water for teammates as they came in from midday (read: hot) runs.

  It was seeing another teammate run the toughest leg of the relay -- through brutally hilly, dusty (gravel) roads, in the dark of night (or 5am) -- even when they were coming off a stress fracture and hadn't trained.

  Those were my teammates, and that's what made it special.

The 197 mile course.
For those wondering about specifics, here's how Hood to Coast worked: Van 1, with six runners, started at Timberline Lodge (Mt. Hood). Each team member ran one leg of varying lengths (ranging from 4 to 7 miles).

  At the end of leg six, near Sandy, Oregon, Van 2 entered the fray. The six runners in Van 2 then took to the roads to log their legs, while Van 2 had several hours to make their way to the next van exchange.

  Since we were still near Portland, many vans chose to go someplace (someone's home, a hotel, etc) where runners could clean up, and if they were lucky, take a little nap.

Van exchange 2 -- at the Hawthorne Bridge along the Willamette river.
  The second van exchange was under the Hawthorne Bridge on Portland's Eastside, where Van 1 reclaimed the reins, and Van 2 was free to clean up and get some rest.

  There were five van exchanges over the course of the 197 miles, and at the end of the 36th leg, everyone was united at the beach in Seaside.

  My teammates talked about how lonely it was while running their first leg. It was dark, quiet (no headphones allowed), and since we started fairly late in the day, there weren't many other teams around. As the race progressed, and we caught up to slower teams, it got more and more crowded along the route, and loneliness was no longer a concern.

Awaiting one runner to come in and pass
the baton (slap bracelet) off to another runner.
  The one downside that was widespread: traffic. As I mentioned before, we had a couple runners who had to log significantly longer runs than they initially were scheduled for.

  As vans piled up at exchange points (for miles), the runners would pass the van up as we sat idling.

  In order to keep the team on pace, the 'on-deck' runners jumped out of the van, finished the leg with their teammate, then took over the baton as they both crossed into the exchange. Then, in turn, the runner who just finished their leg would turn back and run towards the van until meeting it.

  After van exchange four, my van made the decision to bail out of who-knows-how-many-miles of sitting traffic, and go north to Clatskanie, west to Astoria, and then meet back up with Van 1 in time for van exchange five.

  It was an amazing experience -- even just as a driver. You're reminded how team plus sport allows for amazing things to happen. That has always driven me and inspired me, and it was awesome to be a part of something like that once again.

  Next year, if I'm able, I'll be running.

Seaside, Oregon.
The always sunny Oregon Coast.
The finish line.