We were stuck in traffic, and we were slowly but surely getting passed by LOTS of runners. At this point, I had several thoughts:
1. Surely, we will turn off the HTC course and be able to find a place to eat
2. If we are stuck in traffic, what is our van who is actually running right now doing to get to exchanges?
3. Yes, those oreos look good, but I want real food…okay, maybe just one.
I recall Bill saying somewhat confidently that even if it’s a McDonalds, we were going to get breakfast. (Side note: not the first time someone promised to take me to McDonalds and failed to find one) Well, with every passing exchange zone, even the hope of McDonalds vanished. What was one oreo became three, maybe four. I was sad, dejected and crying behind my Smith shades. We were stuck in that traffic for about 2.5 hours, and like everyone else, went to the next major exchange and ate at the concession stand set up there.
The only good thing about this time in the van was getting to check out some of the runners. There was one guy with an amazing body wearing animal print tights, and I couldn’t help but roll down the window, stick out my head and scream, “NICE!!!!” I believe he nodded in appreciation.
The last major exchange was definitely the most interesting of the trip. I made a B-line to the concession stand. At the concession stand, they had a grill guy, and they wrote up a slip with your order and you handed it to the grill master. Now, if there is one thing I have learned from my mother, it is the ability to be completely comfortable starting a conversation with a total stranger while waiting in line. This stranger just happened to be tall and handsome and felt perfectly comfortable joining the rest of my group as we sat and ate our coveted food. One of the first things this guy asked me was if the two vans got along with each other. In a kind of, are you kidding, we looked at him and said, “we all get along great!” Apparently, he was in a van with five other women and the other van also had one guy and five women.
Okay, stop right there. I am female, and if you tried to put me on a team with nine other women, I would probably walk away before you finished the sentence. But, more power to this guy, more power to him for carrying on a conversation with yet another woman. They had some problems with exchanges, at one point, one of their runners had to wait an hour for the other van. I guess that hour long wait created some bad blood that was kind of ruining the rest of the trip. For fear of having more delays, he had to leave, but he asked for my number before he did.
I might have bragged about getting some hot guy's digits after running about 11.5 miles with no shower and less than 2 hours of sleep, now that’s game! (Oh, he does live in Michigan so it is entirely possible that I will see him again). I have a feeling it will be much like the guy I met at a bar in Houston, Texas who let me crash at his place 3 years later to run my first marathon.
Back to the race...
Per usual, Josh came in running like a cheetah, and we managed to get Robin up there in time for the exchange. Because their van hadn’t quite made it through the traffic, I walked with Josh back to our van and gave him some powerade. We waited there until Katie came running up with the clipboard. We were once again unable to hang out with the other van as we were fearful of traffic. It was around this time that the inability of my, or my teammates’ brains, to function completely started becoming apparent. I recall getting the clipboard and Josh’s finishing time and couldn’t figure out his segment’s time. I sat there for a few minutes before I sucked it up and used the calculator on my phone to do the math.
Throughout the race, we were constantly predicting people’s finishing times to make sure that we would be at the exchanges when they got there. When multiplying pace times number of miles becomes difficult, you know you are no longer operating at full capacity. Conversations also became more deliberate. At one point, I recall talking to Bill about something that seemed important. He looked at me and apologized that he hadn’t been able to register what I was saying. I then looked at him and said, “oh, I don’t know what I said either.” With little sleep, little nutrition, and some significant physical exertion, I was breaking down physically, mentally, and somewhat emotionally.
The next exchange had one of the more memorable moments for me on the trip. As we stood there waiting for Bill, some guy finished running, and he, in all of his soaked sweatiness, brushed up against my back. “UGGGG!” I recall yelling. There are worse things in life, but for someone who 1) doesn’t like smells and 2) other people’s body heat, this brush of bad luck left me retching.
Now, John’s last leg looked nasty! It was almost 8 miles, and there just wasn’t any shade. While it was my job to continue to give John as hard a time as possible, even I had to relent after he finished that leg. He didn’t look good (or worse than normal, JUST KIDDING). It was during that leg that I was driving, and I nearly fell asleep at the wheel. It became clear to me that it was time to hand the keys over to someone else, even if I was still quite capable of some impressive maneuvering in the parking lot. I did do a bulk of the driving, but that’s because I have a strong propensity to get carsick. There are few people, my ex being one of them, who have never made me carsick from his driving.
This exchange was also difficult to navigate. The volunteers were being quite strict about not letting people past a particular line, and well, I was having a hard time 1) hearing the person announcing the numbers coming in and 2) seeing the people as they came in as well. Consequently, I had to stand in front of the turn so I could see Jen as she approached and ran forward to get to the exchange line.
When I got the snap bracelet, I was definitely in this “get this thing done” mode. It started with a mile climb on a gravel trail. Even though I only run trails usually a handful of times a year, my focus on cadence and the general momentum of the race that faster teams start later and catch up to the slower teams, I was just picking people off on this hill. I hit double digits on the number of kills I had on this trail. After the trail, it was another quarter-half mile of climbing. There was a runner right ahead of me, and his van came up and asked him if he needed anything, to which he responded, “yeah some tunes.” They fulfilled his request and started blaring “Ice Ice Baby!” The combination of cheesiness and preference for any music rather than silence made it an enjoyable few minutes of music.
Once we reached that little summit, it was a nice downhill for about a mile and a half, and that is when my side cramps, and my stomach let me know that these last few miles weren’t going to be easy. I got to the flat section after passing a few people on the decent, and I just kept trying to count down the number of minutes until I should be finished.
I still had a couple of miles to go, and I saw my team walking to the beach from the parking lot. They weren’t cheering for me so much as yelling at me that I needed to stop. While driving to the finish, they realized that they had forgotten to give me the timing chip (only required for the last runner on her last leg). As soon as they realized I needed this chip and wondered how they were going to find me to get it to me, I turned the corner, and John was able to attach it to my shoe.
I wish I could say that the rest of the run was uneventful, but it was anything but. First, we had to run over a land bridge that was about 30-40 feet in the air with a significant grade and with hand rails that only went up to about my waist. Like many people, I am scared of heights, but unlike most people, I also know that I am clumsy enough to trip over an imaginary line and fall to a horrific death. I maintained relative control over the freaking out and made it over it safely.
After that, some guy who had passed me started to slow up. He was wearing an Ironman Coeur d’Alene hat and opted to slow down and ask if that was an Mdot tattoo on my neck. At this point, we had about a mile to go, and I was honestly scared I was going to crap my pants. I tried to talk to him, but I couldn’t muster much more than what races I had done. I felt bad, but it was at this moment that I spotted a public restroom and excused myself to relieve myself and my fears of being truly embarrassed at the finish line.
My pace had slowed down, and I took only a couple of minutes in the bathroom, but I still had about a mile to go. With my body completely rebelling from the concept of running and having at least half of my team waiting for me at the finish line, I pushed myself through the physical pain to get to the finish line. With about a quarter of a mile left, I heard them announce our team name and that I was finishing! I heard my teammates cheer, and I pushed to get to the finish line. The finish line was pretty poorly marked, and there was a woman walking through the finishing chute. I never know what to do, do I run past her, or do I let her have her moment. Having been faced with this decision a couple of times, I have decided that I just pass them if they are walking.
Final leg had a 9:50 pace including the bathroom break, pretty pathetic, but would have been about 9:30 otherwise for my 5.2 mile run.
So, van 2 (my van) struggled to get to the finish line. In fact, they weren’t there when I finished and probably took another 30-40 minutes to get there after I finished, which I kind of expected when I saw them with a couple of miles left.
Standing there, van 1 was asking me questions like, so how was your second leg today? I looked at them and stared blankly. I honestly couldn’t remember. After a few cues and several minutes later, the run started to come back to me. Man, that run was less than 12 hours earlier in the day, and I honestly couldn’t remember it.
I asked them about their 3rd legs, and they talked about having to run to get to the exchanges so the incoming runner didn’t have to wait. We stood around and waited until the Van 2 people finally made it there.
It was kind of a cluster at the finish, and your team has to get called by the announcer to go through the chute and collect the medals. The team recommended that I try to get the announcers attention because I am female and well apparently pretty good at getting guys’ attention, but I had no flirt left in my tank so we sent the next choice: our team Clydesdale Steve Thompson who got our number called basically immediately! (Look back at my Part 1 and you will see Steve modeling his compression socks, he knows how to get someone’s attention). He later admitted he told the announcer we had flights to catch.
I had to go through with someone with the clipboard, and I received our teams’ medals, which I got to give out to everyone. After a few team photos, we opted to skip the finish line party and head out to get some dinner on the drive back to Portland. I was a little disappointed as tall and handsome guy had invited us to a party, but no one (myself included) was really up for it.
The last final bit of the saga was the death march back to the car. I hadn’t eaten for about 2 hours before my run. I ran for about 50 minutes, and then I waited for Van 2 for about 30 minutes, then another 20 minutes of photo taking and plan making. So that is over four hours of not eating at all after about a day of barely eating. I was crashing and had to walk about 2 miles to the van. For the second time that day, I started crying behind my Smiths because I was so hungry. I recall Kate comforting me, telling me I would be okay. I think she prevented me from breaking down completely on the side of the road. When we got back to the car, I downed a diet coke and some Nutty Bars that held me over until dinner.
By the time we got to dinner, we were all in good spirits. We had good food, good conversations and shared the various stories from the different vans. It was at this dinner that I heard the most annoying but ironically funniest song I think I have ever heard (Das Racist: Combination Pizza Hut and Taco Bell) that has made me laugh ever since.
Some Post Scripts:
HTC has a rule trying to make sure people don’t sand bag their times, that if you finish within 30 minutes of your predicted time, that you receive an automatic registration for the following year. Well, we were 50 minutes ahead of schedule, and no one was sad that we wouldn’t be getting that auto registration.
Everyone, new members and old, had a good time and are excited for the opportunity to do another relay in 2013. I am grateful for Joe who sent out that email back in 2008 starting the ball rolling on this relay.
Being the last runner was really hard, and I give James and Josh props for having done it in the past. I had a longer time with minimal nutrition and little rest, it was difficult.
I do not like racing feeling this under-trained. While I am grateful that my team cares more about having fun than being competitive, I re-affirmed that I do not like racing under-trained. I can get away with it on a bike, but when it comes to running, I am just not strong enough to get away with it.