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Wednesday, September 2, 2015

My legs at HTC

Pre-relay coffee with our team mascot (part of the slightly over the top decor in our rental house).

I, making smart choices as usual, sacrificed luggage space to bring a stack of books rather than a second pair of running shoes. Because there's no way something could go wrong with my only pair of shoes during a relay, right?
It didn't, actually - luckily it happened before the relay even started. I brought my Kinvaras, a pair of 1's I've been hoarding for years, but that only have about 300 miles on them. After our shake-out run on Thursday, I was horrified to realize that the sole was separating! Apparently, glue just gets old, even if you don't use the shoe. It had dried up and there was an area of separation. It wasn't terrible, but I was nervous to just bring those shoes. There was just too much of a chance that they'd fall apart in the middle of the relay. By then, it was Thursday night, and running stores were closed, but the next day we stopped at Road Runner Sports on the way out. I thought I could repair the sole with Shoe Goo, but they didn't sell it, and we didn't have time to hunt it down in an unfamiliar city. They did, however, have one pair of men's 8.5 Kinvara 6's. I hoped they were close enough to the 1's to not create disaster, and bought them.

Leg #9: I was runner 9, and as we started at 2:15 pm, by the time I was running, it was 8:15 and dark out.
At my first exchange, back when we were early to exchanges and all prepared (that changed )
My first leg was on a pleasant, mildly-downhill walking trail. I put the (annoying) vest, lights, and headlamp (actually clipped to a ball cap, which made wind ... interesting) on, and grabbed the bracelet from Marcelle. I felt great for this first leg, even though the air was heavy and reminded me a lot of pre-storm stillness (I was right, of course). It was a little over five and a half miles, and it was DARK. There wasn't a single volunteer on the course, not even where it crossed a busy highway (!) and I had to wait for a stoplight (!!!) - it was that or get creamed by cars who had the green light. I was surprised by that. I saw very few people during the entire leg. I passed just five people, and one fast dude passed me. This was the very beginning of the Fast Serious Dudes, who continued to pass us over the next couple of legs; they flew by all in the zone and poor Laine (who came after me at this leg) stopped counting after 20 people passed her! Demoralizing!
Anyway, the cool weather and the downhills made running easy, and I ran a 37:03 (I was shooting for 37, but I sucked at the exchange - Laine and I both had our blinding headlamps on and couldn't see each other!).
Laine, about to blind me with her headlamp
I was a tad winded after that, but I had no time to sit around and stew about it  - after Laine and Michele, I was back on after they covered just ten miles. And they were fresh, so I didn't think I'd have a lot of time (sure enough, Michele surprised herself by running 8 min miles, way faster than she expected!). When we got to the van, I realized I was hungry. We'd eaten Thai curry at 3:30, and now it was 9 and I had over 6 miles coming up soon. So I did something dumb that haunted almost the entire relay: I ate a peanut butter sandwich and a plum an hour before my next run. I should have done a Gu. I don't know what I was thinking!
Leg #12: Leg 12 was my bonus leg. This leg was mostly on another trail that followed the Willamette River, plus some neighborhoods. It was mostly pretty, but it was also surprisingly industrial and DARK and LONELY. If I ever do HTC again, I'm running with a real headlamp. It was 10:30, and my clip-on light left me gingerly picking up my feet as I ran. The path was smooth, but I was constantly trying not to trip and fall.
Immediately at the start of this leg, I realized my eating error earlier. My stomach starting cramping terribly! Less than a tenth of a mile in! I ran a slower, controlled pace, but I was in so much pain. I was sweating. It was horrible, and I was basically talking myself out of barfing the whole way. I was relieved to break off the path and hand off to Trey, but I was doubled over with pain. A few Fast Serious Dudes passed me, and I passed seven others, but again, it was a lonely stretch. I ran 46:53 for 7:19 pace, a drop from the 6:44(ish?) I'd run for the first leg. Not only did my stomach hurt, my legs loudly reminded me that I do not know how to run hills at all (not that this was a particularly hilly leg, I just never run any inclines at all).
I staggered back to the van and curled up in a ball. For the next twelve hours, I basically did everything in my willpower not to throw up. I was so nauseated that if I turned my head I'd feel a wave, so I tried to just move my eyes! Luckily I did get a short nap in before my next leg, but I still felt incredibly woozy by the time I had to run again. Around this time I also started realizing that the Kinvara 6's are a lot more narrow than the 1's much to my chagrin. I have some lovely blood blisters on my left forefoot! As we headed to our van to try to find a place to sleep, the rain started, and it would continue on and off all night and during the early morning and late afternoon of the next day.
Night exchange in portland. I handed off to Trey here. It was so high-energy with both vans here and echoing cheers and music! With the addition of the roar of traffic overhead, it was loud and sort of exciting. 
Leg #21: I resigned myself by now to be slower, and told my team that. The other van told me that they were not all feeling great either and not to worry about it, but I still felt like I was letting them down. And even more so after Marcelle had to wait for me at the exchange! The rain and mud and narrow roads created a terrible snarl of vans and I was so upset to see her standing and waiting. I took off, slowly, nervous about the wet gravel roads, the mud crumbling under my feet, the dark (I started at 5:50 and the sun rose just as I handed off at the end) and my tattered shoes...for this rainy leg, I put on my old Kinvaras and hoped for the best. This should have been an easy five miler in a pretty forest, but the conditions made it not all I hoped for. On a sunny day, though, it would have been lovely. At least I didn't fall on my face or completely separate the sole of my shoe - all I did was get covered in mud spatter from head to toe. Again, I saw almost no one, passing five people - and that mostly at the very start. I aimed for 7:20's again and came in right at 36:25, exactly the pace of my previous leg. I didn't actually throw up, so that was a huge plus.

Leg#33. I finally got to actually rest my legs! Over the course of the morning, my stomach started to settle and eventually the sun came out. The rain was still sporadic, but it wasn't as bad as the rain we'd had at night. By the time my last leg rolled around, I was tired and hungry (but way too scared to eat!) and expected a hot and sunny leg. I slathered on sunscreen and made it to the exchange ahead of Marcelle only by getting out of the van and walking/jogging the last mile past van after van. I was carrying a small water. This leg was 7.7 miles, and hilly, and I was tired. No records being broken here today. I started out in hot sun but that didn't last long. Suddenly, it grew overcast and windy and a light rain stung my face. And then in minutes I was in a tropical storm! The last three or four miles were in mostly headwind, and I laughed that I'd been concerned about sunburn when clearly windburn would be the issue (sure enough, I'm windburned all over my face, chest, shoulders, lips, and - miserably - the inside of my nose!). I have to admit, though, that the cool weather was nice. Isn't that what I came to Portland for? Finally on this leg I saw some other runners. In fact, it was totally different than my other legs. I passed 25 people, more than all my other runs combined. I have no idea why that is, but I much enjoyed the company! The hills, though, I didn't enjoy, and I'm a little sheepish to say that I didn't even get close to goal 7:20 pace at 58:40 for 7:36. Oh well. Can't race 'em all.

Laughing at the absurd wind as I head into the exchange

And that's my HTC running for you. I expected to be faster, but I keep surprising myself with how slow I am now, so I guess it's time to get used to the new paces. I still had fun, despite the constant feeling of impending barfing, and the lack of cell coverage that made our snarky van-to-van banter impossible. I had a great time in the van with three nice ladies I'd never met before, all of whom were good sports and troopers, and I got experience with running on hills, at night, and in the rain. In case I ever need that.
The girls of van 2
Would I do it again? Probably not...maybe. More on that to come!


  1. Ugh, I remember the lack of cell coverage. It's 2015 now, wtf?? How are there still places like that, especially in Oregon?
    I'd forgotten how industrial parts of leg 12 were.
    And I remember the traffic snares. I was supposed to meet my whole team to run the last couple minutes into the finish but couldn't find them -- all stuck in traffic. I ended up finishing alone b/c if you finish within x minutes of your predicted time, you get guaranteed entry for next year and I wanted to ensure that.
    I only had 3 legs and my pace was very steady, but tons of others on our team slowed a lot (and by a lot, I mean a lot, not less than 1 min/mile, which you did and I'd consider to be both minimal and expected!).

  2. As a writer, I love (love!) that you sacrificed a second pair of running shoes for books. You are kind of my hero now, lol. P.S. Nice job on your relay runs. P.S.S. Your "slow" paces are still much faster than my fast paces.

  3. Why do we do these things to ourselves? Running through the night, Running with cramps. Running in the heat. In the humidity. Through storms. Making ourselves miserable. And then we line up to do it all again. 'Probably not ... maybe.'

  4. That sucks about your shoes! And the blood blisters! Ouch! This post basically confirms that Ragnar is not an experience I need to have. It just sounds completely unappealing, even if I wasn't putting up with rain and high winds and such! But I am glad that you did this with fun people and that your legs held up ok! But the stomach issues sound so horrid. I know the kind of nausea you described and it is HORRID!!

  5. That's so weird how food reacts to different people. My wife would have had exactly the same experience as you with the sandwich, but it most likely it would have been perfect for me. Sorry your first run in the Kinvara 6's wasn't great, hopefully they get better for you. And basically your whole description of this experience is why I've turned down about six offers to run one of these type races so far. Maybe I'll do one in the future, but based on your report probably not.

  6. The shoes - yikes! Sorry you had a little bit of a rough go - sometimes I think HTC should everything figured out since they've been putting it on for so long, but I guess not! And I feel like every runner/van goes through some time of "none of us feel good, forget this running fast business." My van once passed around a bottle of Pepto, haha.

    I feel like the weather made the relay much more challenging/not as enjoyable - I think relays are fun, but it takes certain people (and a certain group of people!) to enjoy being up all night and not showering, etc.

  7. FWIW those paces sound pretty impressive. You stomach would have been okay with the Food if you were coasting along at 8:30 pace but, 6:44 pace is pretty fast, ouch! It sounds like the elements made this race memorable. I'm glad to hear you aren't too sore except for windburn.