It has now been over 3 weeks since Hood to Coast! The memories are so fresh, but life has been so busy since then that it feels like it happened a long time ago. I still find myself daydreaming about being back there…in the van, on a run, cheering for teammates or laughing about something silly at 3 a.m….and wishing I could relive the fun all over again.
Before I get sappy and sad, let’s talk about my third and final leg of the relay…
If you remember, my first leg was 5+ miles of amazing, “I love running” fun, then was followed by a very mentally challenging 6 miles in the middle of the night.
When I finished the 2nd leg, it was cold and dark and all I wanted to do was get into the warm van and change. From the moment I got into the van and tried to sit down, my legs were super sore. I had to use my arms on the back of the headrests to help lower myself down. This was definitely not a good sign for my third (and hardest) leg that would be coming up. I was truly worried.
Although I was a little skeptical of the idea that any kind of compression short could “work” by help alleviating soreness, I decided to put on my Aspaeris compression shorts and give it a shot. At that point, it hurt so bad to even move my legs that I would have tried anything. It was a struggle to squeeze my sweaty body into the shorts and I am very glad there was no mirror for me to see how I looked in them, but I got them on, put Bengay everywhere on my legs that the shorts did not cover and prayed for a miracle.
Then our brave little runner #5, Caitlin, headed out for her night leg. Runner #5 already faces the hardest legs of the whole relay, but a fire at a tire plant forced a detour, causing Caitlin’s already-long (but flat) night leg to turn into a near 9-mile jaunt with some bonus hills. Driver Jay decided he would accompany her on the latter half of the run, so I took over driving duties for our van.
We sent Jay off and somehow managed to find our way to the next exchange. While we waited for them to come in, things got silly. 3 a.m., no sleep and lots of running will do that to you. There was nothing more hilarious at the time than eating peanut butter, dried mangoes and watching Nicole give herself a butt massage with a tennis ball and Bengay.
And since The Blonde Ponytail REAAALLLY wanted trail mix, but was afraid of what it might do to her stomach, the hashtag #don’tshityourpants was born and sort of became the mantra for the rest of the relay. (Especially since we also came up with the theory that the Aspaeris shorts not only get your blood circulating, but also get everything else moving in there…if you know what I mean?!)
Our silliness was short-lived as a volunteer came screaming up to our van that there was a sparkle skirt waiting in the exchange area for her runner. It turns out that it was Sarah, from Team Noon. I will let her tell the story here. We felt really bad that we were at the exchange the whole time and never realized that the other van hadn’t made it there, but Sarah handled it very well and just waited for her runner to arrive.
Eventually Caitlin, Jay and Casey (Team Noon van driver) came cruising in and we were ready to head to the next exchange!
Once Nicole handed off to Erin for Van 2′s second round, we took off for the next major exchange in Mist, OR, where we would finally attempt to get some sleep. I don’t think we even made it out of the parking lot before I fell asleep in the van. We hit traffic and I vaguely remember some chatter trying to keep Jay awake, but I was essentially passed out on Jess‘ lap for the duration of the ride. (Thanks Jess! I owe you!)
When we got to the next exchange, it was light out and I had to go to the bathroom so I dragged myself from the warm van and hit up the Honey Buckets. There was too much going on and not enough space in the van to really get comfortable, so I chose chatting with Team Noon over an attempt at more sleep. I actually felt surprisingly refreshed after the 1 1/2 or so hours of sleep I had gotten.
Finally all of the other vans started showing up and once again we had a mini-reunion at the exchange!
As the morning went on, it warmed up and eventually we peeled ourselves out of our warm clothes (and in my case, compression) and started getting ready to run again.
Matching compression socks!
Once Tricia was off again, I was on deck and getting ready to go.
As I prepared to run, Jess and I found this:
Not only had they tattooed this butt at last year’s Hood to Coast, but this fully fit our new theme of #don’tshityourpants
As I walked off and headed up to the exchange shoot and Jess went back to the van, I found myself getting very emotional. Tears filled my eyes and I got a sinking feeling in my stomach. It came out of nowhere, as I wasn’t even really thinking about anything in particular at the time. It just hit me all of a sudden that this amazing adventure was 5.75 miles away from being over.
I collected myself (somewhat) and hung with Team Brunch while we waited for Kelly and Tricia to finish their legs and at 10:53 a.m. I took the slap bracelet for the final time and took off to run.
I swear this is the honest truth (and not just a courtesy shout out to companies who supported us): between the compression shorts and the Tiger Tail muscle massager, I felt 100 times better when it was time to run again than I did just 8 hours before. I still wasn’t sure until I took off running how my legs would feel, but I hadn’t been able to sit or stand without using my arms to assist all night long, so being able to move normally was a HUGE improvement.
As I took off, there was a slight downhill. The momentum from the downhill and the adrenaline that I had from knowing this was my final leg was all the confidence I needed to quickly decide that this was going to be an awesome run. Any worries I had from the night before about my legs not having anything left, were gone.
I had initially told myself that I just wanted to keep the pace around 8:00 min/mile, but as I approached the first mile at 7:30ish, I told myself that this.was.it. and there was no reason to hold back. I wanted to leave Oregon knowing that I had given it all I had.
I took in the beautiful surroundings, thought about all of the moments of the last 18 or so hours and just RAN as hard as I could. I can’t ever remember being in the moment on a run as much as I was on this one.
For the first 4 miles or so, the terrain rolled and I pushed hard on the inclines, knowing that I would hit the downhill pretty quickly. Then as I approached the one big climb that I knew was coming, I saw a few guys in front of me. I set my sights on (finally) passing a few people and tried to keep the pace up.
Somewhere along this point, I realized that I had not run over a 7:40 mile the whole relay and I decided I wanted to keep it that way. But as I hit the climb, I saw the pace creep closer and closer to 8:00. I felt like I was sprinting up that hill but I could not get it under 8:00. In reality, it doesn’t really matter at all, but at the time, it seemed SO important.
I finally made it up the hill and cruised back down the other side toward the finish. I was smiling from ear to ear and pushing as hard as my legs would let me as I heard my teammates cheering for me at the exchange.
The second I handed the bracelet off to Steph, I looked at my teammates standing there and immediately was in tears. It was such crazy mix of emotions. I was so very happy to be done, but extremely sad it was over, grateful for the unbelievable experience and exhausted with no sleep. It all just came pouring out of me right there as all of my Team Brunch friends grabbed me into a HUGE group hug. They all seemed to understand exactly how I was feeling in that moment and big smiles and hugs were all I needed.
Leg 3 Results: 5.75 miles, 43:45, 7:37 min/mile
One more post coming up to recap the rest of Van 1′s final legs, the finish and the misfortune that turned into one of the best things ever that followed the next day.