I honestly don’t know how to start this post. Since finishing my first relay race this past Saturday, the Hood to Coast relay, I have been thinking about how I could put the experience into words. I wanted the post to be as epic as the race, but as the dust settled, my legs recovered, and my sleep-cycle reset, I am realizing it’s actually not possible. I will, however, try to give you a few highlights of how our team of 12, team Sleepless In Oregon, worked together to run 199 miles, from the top of Mount Hood (a fricken active volcano!?!?) to the coast of Oregon, in just over 29 hours and 49 minutes.
Thursday evening two of my running friends and I arrived in Portland for the race we had been anticipating for months. I have been studying the course, my legs, the rules, and just about everything else you could imagine since I found out I was going to be on a team earlier this year and the weekend was finally here!! I didn’t know most of the the people on my team, but excited was for sure an understatement, but in reality, I had no idea exactly how exhilarating this weekend would be.
After our van art (and by art, I mean my friends expert drawings and my, well, third grade level drawing of a mountain) was complete on van 1, we grabbed a bite to eat and did some last minute packing and called it a night since we had a 5:45 am wake up call to make sure we got to our 9:15 am start time at the top of Mount Hood to begin our first leg of the race.
Let me be frank, leg 1 sucked. By the time our 2nd and 3rd runners were running the temperatures were creeping well above 90 degrees and there was zero shade. The sun was brutally hot and running alongside a highway just made it seem that much hotter. But with the energy and cheering along the course of every one of our van members, and other teams too, we all finished with only one bout of heat exhaustion. That runner pushed through like a champ, though, and recovered in time for her next leg. Seriously though, we heard that during the first day over 8 people were sent to the hospital with heat stroke. The weather was relentless, but we were stronger and completed our first leg right on pace. Temperatures kept rising as we handed off the baton to Van 2, we gave them tips and wished them luck to conquer the heat and they were off! As they set off to run, we set off to get food, recover as much as possible, and take a quick nap in the van with the A/C blasting.
Leg 2 was when the real work started. We were all exhausted and totally wiped out from being up since 6 am (with only a short nap in the van), the heat, running leg 1, coordinating the major exchange, cheering everyone on the course, laughing, driving… the list could go on… so when leg 2 started around 6 pm, we were beat. My portion started around 10 pm and I had never been so exhausted before a run, usually I am totally well rested and prepared, this was quite the opposite. I was tired and it was my longest leg, it actually was the longest leg of the whole course—8 miles. But with a little caffeine and a snack, I put on my reflective vest, headlamp, and lights and went off to the exchange station. Even at almost 8 miles, my leg 2, while not quite easy, felt good compared to leg 1, it was cool, dark, and flat. After we all completed leg 2, we had to drive to the next major exchange to meet van 2…. After 12 am. The drive was tough and shout out to EJ for taking it on… most of us fell sleep, but EJ seriously took one for the team and got us safely through the windy roads of middle-of-no-where Oregon to the major exchange where we all “slept” in the freezing van for a few hours (my Garmin says a slept a total of 2 hours and 45 minutes, waking up twice…. So I use the term “slept” lightly here)
We began our third and final leg as the sun was rising and it was all kind of a blur. The route was scenic and a lot of rolling hills, we had zero cell service or connectivity to the world, but what I do know for sure, is every single person in van 1 crushed it! Seriously every single one of us was right on pace or faster! My portion had a lot of incline, but ended on a smooth and fast downhill, it may have been the adrenaline of knowing what we were about to accomplish or something, I don’t know! But just like that, van 1 was DONE! The only thing left to do was drive to the beach in Seaside, OR and wait for van 2 to bring it home, drink beers, and celebrate with all the Nike Corporate teams!
I am still reliving the weekend over and over again, laughing at all the funny stories from the van, and thinking about how I made some seriously amazing new friends through this experience. I have never been a part of something so incredibly moving. From start to finish, from excitement to exhaustion, to crossing the finish line as group of 12, I can honestly say this was one of the most amazing experiences I have ever been a part of. The amount of teamwork, dedication, encouragement, fearlessness, communication, and planning that goes into an event like this is mind blowing. Huge props to the Hood to Coast organizers and volunteers this race was nothing short of incredible. Thank you.
Enjoy the photo story!