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.


Post a Comment