After finishing up our first legs and dropping off JC's and Bill's wives who were enjoying the shopping available in Portland, we headed towards our next major exchange location.
We had a hotel reservation in St. Helens, but because of a fire at a tire store, there was ample traffic preventing a quick entrance, and we probably spent at least an hour trying to get to the hotel that could have been spent either showering or sleeping. I had contemplated showering, but by the time we got checked in, we were looking at less than 2 hours of sleep. Now, I am not a great sleeper, but I was asleep by the time my head hit the couch. We had a 2:30 am wake up to get Robin to the next major exchange, so I didn’t sacrifice that measly 90 minutes of sleep for a shower. I did, however, take the time to brush my teeth.
When we got to the exchange, we had our one and only encounter with a not-so-chipper volunteer. Because we were coming from a hotel, we were coming to the exchange zone in the opposite direction of everyone else. The volunteer tried to tell us we were at the wrong exchange. We started making our way to the next exchange, but the description of Robin’s leg and the roads we were on just made J. Mack uncomfortable. We called the other van and sure enough, we had been directed away from the correct exchange. With about 30 seconds to spare, we got Robin to the exchange, but we didn’t really get to see our pals in the other van, but we did get them the keys to the hotel room. Now, it was 3:15am, but even in that darkness, Robin’s leg looked nasty, mostly uphill and not fun at all.
I kind of took over the responsibility over the clip board so when we got to the next exchange, I was out with Bill waiting for Robin, and that had to be my favorite exchange. We were at some farm, and the sky was as clear and brilliant, it just couldn't be ignored. There was a very energized dog who was playing fetch with whoever was in the front of the Honey Bucket line. And then there was a moment when I heard someone say, look how good she looks, especially in that jacket. When I looked more closely, it was a gray jacket with "United States of America" on the back. It definitely looked like one of the American olympic athletes wore on the medal stand. Of course, I didn't think to look for a number or anything like that, but I like to think that the only stars weren't in the sky at that transition.
When Robin came back to the van, he was completely energized. He said he had a realization while on that brutal leg. Some guy said to him, “we are almost to the end” meaning of the brutal leg, when Robin said to him, “When you get to be my age, you don’t want to focus on the end, you really have to enjoy the journey.”
Now, if I felt bad for Robin because of the difficulty of his leg, I couldn’t believe Bill’s leg. At our very first relay, American Odyssey, Bill had the single hardest leg of the race, with something like a 15% grade climb after 2 miles of false flat. To this day, when I climb, I think of Bill “Billy Goat” Everett. Not only was it all uphill, but it was on a very dirt road. The dirt covered his glasses and between the dirt and the steam, he literally struggled to see, but he rocked it out regardless.
It was around this time that we were literally in “the middle of nowhere.” There was no GPS coverage, no cell coverage, I mean, they gave longitude and latitude coordinates for directions to the next exchange. After dropping off John and collecting Bill, we did have someone come by asking for “toe clips.” Talk about a time and place you don’t want to be stuck in a ditch. Now, I let John know that his “I am just going to take it easy lies” were not appreciated on his previous leg. Well, it took us a while to navigate through the vehicles on the side of the road (the parking lot for this exchange was literally the road). When we passed John, he was nearly finished, maybe a mile left of a 5 mile leg. I yelled out the window to him something like, “I see we are taking it easy, huh????”
Because of John’s speed, Kate, our next runner, was in quite a hurry and when she got up to the exchange she realized she was wearing two different shoes, one was hers and one was Jen’s. In a mad rush, we got her the right shoe in time for her not to make John wait again. Now, both John’s and Bill’s legs were on a horribly dusty dirt road. See photos of our “white” van after these legs. Now, John was a little fussy over the state of the vehicle, and when he saw the dirt, he thought it was chipped paint and nearly flipped out. After calming him down, we got moving to the next exchange.
I was kind of grateful with the timing of things, slowly but surely, the sun was starting to rise, and I was confident that both Jen and I would be free of having to wear the vest again. I don’t mind the safety vest, but by this stage of the race, they start to smell, and well, I don’t do smells.
After picking up Kate and dropping off Jen, we headed to my leg. We pulled in and were somehow picked out from the crowd of vehicles to try to give a jump to a vehicle that had died. Man, talk about some bad luck, one vehicle stuck in a ditch, another vehicle refusing to start. Despite trying to give them a jump, the vehicle wouldn’t start. I had to give over the driver seat to someone else to prepare for my leg. Now, it was about 7:15 when I would start running so I opted not to wear a visor and go for sunglasses and headband. I have to be honest, I bought these really cool orange Smith shades, and I was itching to wear them! Before the run, I got some great motivation from my team, Bill said to me, “what stands between me and 3 eggs over easy is your run, the faster you go, the faster I get my eggs.” Little did Bill know…
As Jen approached, there was a runner right ahead of her, and I kind of willed Jen not to pass her… the next runner, ahh, let’s just say didn’t have the body of a runner, and I was confident I could pass her. Now, this leg was just a shade under 5 miles, and it was in the 50’s temperature wise. I would have been cold had I not worn long sleeves, but I was a little warm in my neon Green Akron half marathon tech shirt.
Sure enough, I passed several people on this leg, and I was feeling great. There was a guy in green who passed me, but then he stopped pulling away so I spent most of the run trying to match his pace. The cant in the road was pretty round so I was having a hard time picking somewhere to run, but I was making good time. After about a mile, my van passed me, which is always fun to hear your teammates hooting and hollering. Because we had been in the Middle-of-nowhere, Oregon for several hours, there was some concern as to whether our other van would be there on time. Sure enough, about 3 miles into my run, I was treated by another van of teammates cheering for me. I am still curious how I am so easy to spot from behind amongst lots of other runners, but the cheers were definitely a pick-me-up, especially since I was suffering from side cramps. (I almost never get side stitches when I run, it was a very odd experience for me).
The other obstacle of this run was that I was running through a cloud. My shades were fogging up like crazy. I was definitely kicking myself for not going with the visor, but that’s what I get for putting fashion over comfort, a blind run!
I believe I was still positive in the “road kill” game for the first 4.5 miles, and then it’s like the flood gates opened, and I got passed by about 6 people. I would have been upset, but one of the guys who passed me was in tight black running clothes, pretty ripped, and well, provided an excellent view! I almost said thank you, but I thought I had seen a wedding ring as he passed.
Once again, I was happy to see James ready to go and passed on the snap bracelet. I did suffer through Eric taking photos of the dew on my face, but once again, Van 1 didn’t have lot to chit-chat as they had to get back to trying to collect James after his last short run.