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Wednesday, September 30, 2015

A struggle to finish

My long-run distance hasn't changed much since I started half-marathon training a month or so ago. It started at an hour and thirty minutes, and only just increased to an hour and 45 minutes (which only adds a mile and a half, about). So I haven't really had any runs I wanted to quit - even though it's been hot, it's usually just 11 or 12 miles.
Saturday, though, was a different story altogether. This ended up being one of the hardest runs I've EVER completed! It was just a series of circumstances together that added up to a very tough morning.
I was exhausted on Friday after my hard week at work and my challenging flu clinic. Spending two and a half hours bent awkwardly over a too-short table to do paperwork and give shots, while standing on a cement floor, actually left me physically tired - and sore. I didn't wake up until 7:30, yet wasn't refreshed, since we were up very late Friday (having started a conversation with a friend that just didn't end...I was nodding off while he was talking, but anyway, we got to bed around 1 am!).
I started getting dressed for my run, and already felt tired and sore. I grabbed an open pack of sports beans with 4 beans left in it (yes, I'm cheap! I know! I'm not about to throw away four perfectly good beans!) and started off on my usual route.
The fronts of my calves were sore. My hamstrings were sore. My arms were sore. I was hungry. It was getting hot.
My route takes me up on to the levee, and climbing that "hill" reminded me of how bad I was at the hills during last week's race. The levee creates three additional hills along the route, so I decided that since I already felt like crap, I would do some hill repeats. They SUCKED. The first hill was ok - it was on the pedestrian path on the levee, so all I had to watch out for was fast bikers. I did ten reps up and down, nice and easy. But the next hill was at the entrance to the Fly, the riverside park where all the kids play soccer on the weekends. My hill reps were in heavy traffic of cars, bikers, runners, SUVs, trucks...I just tried to stay out of everyone's way. I only did five reps. The last hill was at the exit of the Fly, and it wasn't as busy, since the traffic had all parked for the game by that point. But I still only did 5 reps, because I was beat by then.
The rest of the run was in Audubon Park, and there was more shade than the exposed levee. I was looking forward to the shade, because the levee had been baking in the sun. I had a fast final 25 minutes on schedule, but I sort of forgot, until I realized I was maybe three miles from home. It must have been the magic four sports beans, because I eked out the last three miles in 7:31, 7:17, 7:14. Then I ran around the neighborhood a little to make my exact 1:45! That gave me 13.2 miles - not fast, but I finished.

The only problem, of course, is that my hamstring started bugging me after that - so I think perhaps the hills were more than I could handle. But thank goodness that run's over and done. It was one of the very worst!

Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Poor hammie

Work wasn't as terrible as I thought it would be yesterday... at least the computers worked. That's a plus. And I did buy my employees lunch, which hardly made up for the part where some lady shouted at us for a full ten minutes because we dared to call her doctor about a serious drug interaction. Some patients think they get to be their own doctors, and it's so worrisome. They start and stop drugs with reckless abandon. And when their doctors take our phone call and change or discontinue a drug, they're furious instead of thankful. It's very odd.

I ended up skipping my run Monday. After my run Saturday, my hamstrings felt tight, and after Sunday's easy 3 miles, my leg was really sore. I think I strained it mildly, so I took off a day (and will take off more if it keeps feeling tight). See what hills do to this poor flatlander's body?
But actually, it's not the hills' fault... after surgery, nothing is quite ever the same. You have new weaknesses and new imbalances. It's all a puzzle I just keep working on.
I'm sure that pre-injury hills would still have bothered my hamstrings, but the fact that it's left-sided only makes me think of the balancing act that my running is post-surgery!
For now my hamstring is still mildly sore when I stretch it (which I am trying hard not to do!) so I put some capsaicin on it and used ice Sunday afternoon. I'll run easy once it no longer feels tight.

Sunday, September 27, 2015

Work woes

The first week after returning from vacation is always so miserable that I regret taking the vacation at all. That was especially true this time, because my schedule fell in such a way that not only was that week very busy, I was also doing off-site work almost every day. This left me precious few hours to actually catch up on back-logged work. Oh, and Walgreens nationwide crashed on Monday and the system stayed down or sporadically faulty through Friday. The worst scenario to come back to!
On both Monday and Friday, I had off-site flu clinics that were exhausting. They were at a college campus downtown, a little less than half a mile away, and since there is no parking nearby, I walked from my store - lugging a cooler full of ice and vaccines, a giant sharps container, my multiple boxes of syringes, alcohol pads, bandaids, pens, cotton balls, immunization cards, epinephrine pens, and of course - hundreds of pages of paperwork. On Monday, I pretty much had to leave for the clinic the minute I got to the store, which was a stressful way to return from vacation; then the clinic itself was incredibly busy. In less than two and a half hours, I gave 104 shots - that's about a minute and twenty-something seconds per shot. That's the entire encounter: the paperwork, the screening, the shot, the immunization record. It was ridiculous. I was hoping it wouldn't repeat on Friday, but when I arrived about 15 minutes early to set up, there were already 48 students waiting. I know it was 48, because they had organized and implemented their own numbering system! It was like the dmv in there!
I don't have the final count for Friday, because of course, our computers went down, but it felt as busy as Monday, or more so.
What else was going on this week?
- A 6-hour certification test on Wednesday
- An off-site training on Tuesday (in the middle of the day - I had to return to work for one stupid hour after the training, much to my annoyance)
- Volunteering for an HIV community event on Saturday.
- Fielding a billion complaints from while I was gone: my pharmacist who covered my vacation shifts opened the store late THREE TIMES.
- A frantic hour during my test hunting down the teacher for a class I coordinate at a local AIDS service organization; she is usually dependable yet totally forgot this time.
- Talking to one of my big bosses about 18 times about a 340B agreement I'm trying to finagle. And a number of other projects he won't leave me alone about.

Now I'm heading back into work Monday morning absolutely not caught up from vacation a full week later! And the schedule only gets worse! I'm thinking my poor staff deserve lunch on Monday after their rough week, too.

Wednesday, September 23, 2015

Bar harbor half marathon

The morning we left Mount Desert Island, David and I stopped in Bar Harbor so I could run the Bar Harbor half marathon literately on our way out of town. It was kind of a bad idea to plan it this way, because my legs were sore the whole week from up-and-down hiking. I am not used to hills at all, and even light hiking makes me sore. A better plan would have been a race the first day of the trip, but such is life!
I had some trepidation registering for this race. It would be the longest distance I've run in...I don't know. I think at least a year and a half. My recent training has indicated that I haven't yet built stamina back, and I was pretty sure I would be disappointed in my time.
Then, of course, there were the environmental factors; the timing, the hilly course, the four hour drive and two flights right after. Not ideal: but then, what race is ever run in ideal conditions?

Add this to the list of races that isn't, because we had unseasonably warm weather all week, and - like every single other race I have ever traveled for - the temperatures were much higher than expected. We had high 70's - low 80's for the race, with high humidity (I didn't check it right before the race - it was 100% that morning, but I know my humidity levels, and it was nowhere near that for the race - maybe 70% or 75%).

Prior to the race, I'd plugged in my 5.5 mile portion of Hood to Coast and my recent 4 mile race times to the McMillan calculator, and it predicted 1:38 for the half.
One thirty-eight! But after last week's cool and pleasant 12 miler on totally flat ground, I realized that if I duplicated that pace on race day - on a much harder course - sure enough, I'd be running 1:38. This was a little humbling, because that is not at all what I'd like my half-marathon time to be. But the numbers don't lie!

David and I arrived at the race start with plenty of time to spare, so I went to the bathroom and picked up my packet before trying to find the start. Oddly, no one was milling by the start and it wasn't until 5 minutes to gun that the announcer came out and told us to make our way to a line on the street but stay on the sides - the roads were not closed. We rapidly assembled. Knowing my predicted time, I settled in the middle, even though it was not a chip-timed race.
The gun went off, and we ran straight up a hill for a long time. Right away the fronts of my calves hurt. They'd started hurting after my first run in Maine, since I never use those muscles unless going uphill (which of course, I never do). No chance of going out too fast for this one! Eventually we turned a sharp corner as we went back downhill, then back up, then back part of this race was on flat ground except the couple of yards on the grass at the finish. Mile 1, mostly downhill, was 7:11.
The race was described as "challenging" with nine miles on the carriage roads (packed dirt and small gravel) in Acadia National Park. We entered the park...uphill...and I realized that it is really hard to run up or down on gravel - you can't get traction going up, and you slide going down. It also took me until mid-race to realize that I should be running in the middle, most-packed area of the road - the gravel was thicker and harder to run on at the edges.

The part of the race in the park was beautiful! We circled Eagle Lake and had some stunning views - and parts were nicely shaded, which gave us a break from the heat. Early in the park I was running alongside another girl, and a couple of guys were talking to us. I sped up to pass the girl because I could tell she was already tired, and one of the guys came with me; he was a Godsend. He was a local runner and described the course elevation in detail so I knew what to expect. That meant that I wasn't shocked to face a steep two-mile climb at the half-way point! Luckily, it was a loop course, and I knew that what goes up must come down - but man, that was tough. Actually, the whole thing was tough. I really struggle on hills, especially knowing how to pace, and I think if I had access to hills I'd be a much, much stronger runner. As it was, I just toiled away, then charged down the downhills. Mile 2: 8:02 (all uphill), miles 3, 4, 5: 7:25, 7:34, 7:20 (up and downhill; gradually climbing). The gradual climbing was rewarded with a sharp downhill half-mile, followed by the start of the two-mile climb (7:01).
That two-mile uphill, though...mile 7: 8:22; mile 8, in which we crested the hill and suddenly basically fell back down was 6:53 (I went from running 9:30's to 6:00's in the same mile! The downhill was really steep!).
Things went back to up-and-down for awhile after that: mile 9, 7:16; mile 10:7:23. Then we left the park and started climbing again, but finally we weren't running on gravel, so that was nice. As you leave the park, you have more hills along a highway, and again, the roads were not closed, so that was a tad nerve-wracking.
Mile 11: 7:27. Mile 12 returned to ups and downs; 7:23, then finally I hit mile 13, a downhill mile. Between being downhill and being paved, I ran my fastest mile at 6:48, with the last bits at 6:20 pace. I regret that another girl was running near me at this point, and she pulled away in the last two miles and I didn't even try to chase her.  The last mile is mostly downhill,  but by then my legs were so sore it was hard to sprint! I finished on the grass as 5th female, 2nd in my AG, at...ugh, this is so embarrassing...1:37:12. My average pace was pretty close to the 7:30's I expected, but on the uphills I could be in the 8's, and downhill in the low 6's.

That, then is my benchmark: I'm a 1:37 halfer for now, and I know what to work on. At least now I know!

Tuesday, September 22, 2015

Maine vacation

We vacationed last week on Mount Desert Island, Maine. There were beautiful mountains, incredible scenery, lots of hikes, and plenty of seafood.

The only drawback was unseasonably warm weather (almost certainly because I was running a race that week, and you all know I bring the hot weather wherever I go). 

Highlights: incredible soft shell lobster, a boat trip to the Cranberries, and walking across the ocean floor to Bar Island at low tide. 
Walking to Bar Island
SW Harbor

Lowlights: way more driving than I'd have liked for vacation, sore hiking legs for my Saturday half, and no cell reception or Internet at all.
Overall? Lovely just to get away from work for awhile and spend some time with my darling!
Ferry to the Cranberry Islands

Sunday, September 20, 2015

Project Lazarus Bon Appétit

For the second year in a row, David and I volunteered at Bon Appétit, a fundraiser for Project Lazarus. Our roles were fun: we attended a house party as representatives for Project Lazarus, collecting donations and explaining the mission of the organization.

I mostly volunteered for a chance to wear this killer dress, which I have been saving for about 6 months. Because that's a DRESS.

I also volunteered because of the champagne-and-desserts afterparty, held at the beautiful Ursulines Convent.

Oh yeah! And I volunteered because I'm a big supporter of Project Lazarus, a transitional housing facility for people living with HIV/AIDS who would otherwise be homeless or in  unstable living situations.

Saturday, September 12, 2015

A break in the heat

I went running in 76 degree weather today.
Seventy six! Humidity mid-80's! Overcast! Cool breeze! 
Basically, perfect running weather: or at least, it seems perfect after summer's heat. I had a long run scheduled, which has been an hour and 30 minutes since the start of the training plan. Because of this consistency, I can look back at the past few weeks to see if I'm improving by running further each week.
Um, I'm not. I've actually run slightly shorter each consecutive week I think! But weather REALLY plays into it. Last week's hot and humid run was about 11.5 miles; this week, I ran over 12!
I actually sort of ran a progression, although not purposefully. I started out running in the 7:40s, which is faster than my usual long run these days, and it felt so good to run in the cooler temperatures that I just kept speeding up. I was under 7:20 for the last few miles, and finished with an overall pace of 7:27. I will admit that this wasn't really easy pace - more like moderate or moderately hard towards the end. I'm not that speedy these days. But I was just loving the weather and enjoying the chance to run a tad faster.
AND I wanted to see what sort of shape I was in just in case I end up racing next weekend. My plan is to run a half marathon at the end of October, but there is a half marathon near where we will be next weekend, and I'm considering running it. I ran a little faster today to gauge my ability to actually run a decent pace at that distance (it will be the furthest I've run in a very, very long time if I do).

Friday, September 11, 2015

Fall half-marathon

Well, as you all might have noticed, I have decided to run a half marathon this fall. It was a big decision, one that hinged on a relatively pain-free summer. I didn't get a lot of miles in this summer, but since I returned to running last March it's been five months of building back. I think I'm ready to attempt training for a half.
But just in case, I won't sign up until packet pick-up. How's that for confidence?

I've never formally trained for a half, and it's a distance I don't race often, so I am not too comfortable winging it. I decided to try a training plan, even though that's usually bad news for me; I will have to be very careful to make sure the training plan serves as a guide only, and I am careful of my health.

I downloaded a Hal Higdon plan, and so far it has...a lot of 3 milers. I don't think that makes a lot of sense, so I might be modifying that. It also has a fair bit of hard work, whether that be fast-finish long runs, tempos, intervals, or hills; since I have gotten injured with speedwork in the past, I am allowing myself to skip or modify this as needed. One thing this plan has is a lot of race-pace work, and I've already cut myself some slack here. I'm kind of out of speed shape, and it's very hot out, so I've amended my race pace to anywhere from 7 minutes to 7:15. Hey, maybe that IS my race pace! I don't really know yet! But I've dialed back so I don't get totally exhausted in this heat. I'd rather complete the workout at a pace slower than I'd like rather than get hurt, quit early, or drop from the temps.

I will be interrupting this half training with the Hood to Coast relay and a week-long vacation, so hopefully I'll be able to stay on track. And keep my hips attached. If all that goes well, then Jazz Half Marathon, here I come!

Wednesday, September 9, 2015

Why that was probably my last Hood to Coast

Hood to Coast was a fun experience. I thought our team was great, we had some hilarious members, the actual running wasn't bad (although I certainly learned some lessons for next time, if there ever is one), and Oregon is beautiful.
But I will probably not run it again, although a persuasive friend may coerce me into it in the future (If he does, I'll still run it with misgivings).
I just don't like waste, and this race is a big gigantic environmental nightmare. I can't justify 2000 vans idling down a narrow road. The miles driven are just mind-boggling. If both vans head to the start, you've got about 200 miles from where you are staying to the mountain, then another 400 back down. Plus, you have to add any side trips (like driving half an hour to get to a gas station, like we newbies did). Our team probably put 650 - 700 miles on those vans, and that is just insane.
There are some things that I like in concept, but when I actually examine the reality of producing them, I cringe. Mardi Gras is one of those things. It's rampantly materialistic and centers on greed for cheap crap that you will immediately throw away. I'd love to love Mardi Gras, but that aspect always makes me uncomfortable. Hood to Coast makes me feel the same way. I hope that, upon researching the race, I find that it is a huge boon to the local economy, and that our monetary input allows work to be done to preserve the forests and maintain roads, but otherwise I will have serious pause if asked to run it again.
And that's my two cents.

Saturday, September 5, 2015

Hood to Coast injury run-down

Running a relay after two hip surgeries and on a dubious left leg was a little risky, but I came out ok. At least so far. It's been a week, so I think I can safely report that I didn't re-injure anything.
We'll go ahead and do a review of systems, how about that? Flashback to pharmacy school!

Head: WINDBURN. My eyes and inside my nose especially.
Upper body: Fine; slightly sore lower arms from gripping a plastic bottle while running.
GI/stomach: It took me about four days for the nausea and cramping to go away. I just can't run on food at all. Or at least not whatever I ate over that relay. I'm finally back to normal.
Hips: No real issues. My right hip felt stiff after the plane ride home, but loosened up; it has since seemed a little impinged. It's probably a little inflamed. It's fine to run on.
Left leg: Actually, doing pretty well. I did not use any KT tape after all, and when I returned to some easy running on Tuesday night my left leg felt more sore than the right. But at least that means I'm using it. It also feels fine now.
Feet: Probably going to lose the same two toenails I always lose, despite draining the blood as soon as I got home. Blood blisters on the sides of my feet, mostly the left, thanks to too-narrow shoes.

Speaking of too-narrow shoes, I'm pretty upset that the Kinvara 6's felt tight on me. Now I'm faced with searching for another go-to shoe. I hope the 6's stretch out (or even tear open over the widest part of my foot like the 1's tended to do) and I can make them work - otherwise, it's back to the drawing board for me. Meanwhile, I glued the sole back on my Kinvara 1's and did 11.5 miles in them this morning without any mishaps, so I think I can get another 200 miles out of them. Hopefully.

And that's about it for the injury report. I feel very lucky and grateful that I seem to have escaped unscathed. Poor decision-making paid off!

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!

Tuesday, September 1, 2015

Hood to Coast relay recap

(This post recaps our race; I'll go into detail about my legs in a separate post)

Our team for Hood to Coast was a motley assortment of casual to serious runners, eleven total. Within our team were two couples, close childhood friends, total strangers, training partners, and running friends. We shared an Airbnb house and two vans with no real concerns, so I guess we all meshed pretty well (although it always amuses me when people freak out about spending hours in close quarters with people they don't know... we're all adults, I'm sure we can get along for a little while).

David and I were in van 2 with Marcelle, a mom, doctor, and recently involved runner; Laine, an early-twenties casual runner who is involved in producing the Crescent City Classic 10k; and her high school friend and VERY casual runner Michele (who had never run further than an easy 10k before being roped into this!). The other van had Andrew, the coach back when Varsity did track, his superstar runner wife, my friend Celeste (amazing athlete), her cross-fit friend Alyse, and two of Andrew's running friends from his glory days, Trey and Matt (those three have done the relay several times, so they were good resources. Plus Matt was the sweetest guy and Trey was hilarious, always a good addition!).

Pre-race, we headed out to some nearby trails for a shake-out run, then some shopping for van food. I had no idea what to bring. I made some peanut butter sandwiches, and brought cheese, fruit, crackers, and cookies. The saltines ended up saving a couple of us later once our stomachs rebelled! We also hammered out our race plan. See, we had just 11 people, and a lot of runners who top out at maybe 12 miles a week. We should have just rotated through, but that ended up giving additional legs to those who didn't think they could handle the volume. Since we were by no means competitive, we decided to have myself, Celeste, and Melissa each take an extra leg, and just accept the penalty. We decided I'd do leg 12, and Melissa would do leg 24 (van 1 would just take over early at that point, so that would be easy - normally we'd trade off at the end of leg 24). Then Celeste would finish with the final leg, and since van 1 would be done by then, they would just bring her to the exchange. The only problem with this plan is that it left me running leg 9, then turning around and running leg 12 very shortly after that...and then leg 21 would still be not a full rest. I'd only be fully rested for my final leg. Melissa also had legs kind of close together, but not quite. However, it was the only way to do it with our van configuration. After some cheese, wine, and other delicacies, we went to bed and tried to rest up for the next day's race.

We all trooped up the mountain for the start, and it was a gorgeous place. And we got some great "before" pictures, which of course, we never followed up with an "after". We had the weirdly late start time of 2:15, and we were van two, so after seeing Trey start us off, we headed to the exchange where David would take over from van 1 and got lunch. It was about 3:30, and we decided that Thai food sounded good. Yeah, hot curry before a relay. What could go wrong?
This is a perfectly good idea. 
After that, we headed to the exchange point and met up with van 1 for the first major exchange. Poor Trey! On his extreme downhill, his toenails were destroyed!
Matt was runner 6, and he handed off to David. David got started just as the sun started to fade.
Running into the sunset
By the time he handed off to Marcelle, it was dusk; when Marcelle handed off to me, it was night already. I ran two night legs close together, and don't mind admitting that I felt terrible. Van 2 ran through the night and handed off to van 1 as storms started sweeping in. Poor Melissa ran seven tough miles in driving rain; while they faced the first bands of the storm, we had tried to sleep at a high school. The rest of my van paid $2 for a cot, but I - who was feeling terrible at this point - lay down in the back of the van. Remarkably, considering I had a terribly upset stomach, I was able to sleep for an hour and a half. When David took over from van 1 again, I tried to drink coffee and get back into my normal morning routine, hoping that would help me feel more alive.

Poor David. His hard, hilly leg was in the middle of the night in sheets of rain. It was miserable, but he was a trooper. Our biggest blunder was right after: Marcelle took over for David, and she had to wait at the exchange for over 5 minutes as our van was stuck in miserable traffic! I got out to meet her once we were allowed to, but slogging through muddy gravel in the dark and the rain on a narrow road with no shoulder and heavy traffic took me a long time. I felt terrible for her.

Because I had to pick up an extra leg in the middle of the night since we had only 11 runners, this was my third leg, and when I handed off to Laine, I was relieved to get a REAL break before my last leg. As Laine ran/walked (she usually alternated, which helped her finish a relay that required more hours of running in one day than she normally does in a week!), the sun rose, and rain became a drizzle. By the time Michele handed off to van 1 again, the rain stopped. Finally!
Then came the least enjoyable part - the daytime hours of being stuck in a van at a crawl, just trying to beat your runner to the exchange. It was a disorganized disaster of traffic, and not fun at all! I was grateful, however, to finally run a leg in daylight hours. All my other runs were in the dark. By the last few legs for van 2, the weather had drastically shifted to storm mode. A tropical storm pounded us as we ran, and the wind and rain were really rough. The wind whistled around us as we waited for the final exchange.
Bleak exchange! 
Amazingly, Michele - our least experienced runner - ran a hard nearly-7-mile leg in the rain and wind and handed off to Celeste with a smile! The best part, though, was that after she handed off some dude stopped her and asked her for her number. Yeah, she totally ran a crazy stormy 7 miler and ALSO got a guy's digits! Too cute!
Celeste (running an earlier leg, but you get the picture)
Celeste was picking up a fourth leg to run us in to the finish.
Well, you know what the finish was like:
Cannot believe they didn't tear all this down as soon as they got the weather forecast! 
So after struggling through gusts and eating a good amount of sand, we high-fived Celeste (who ran something fast and amazing because that's what she does!) and beat it back to the house for pizza, wine, and blister contests. We couldn't stay if we'd wanted to - everything was cancelled.
27:54 was our time. It was a fun experience, and I'm glad we did it, but I have my reservations about the entire event. More on that later, but next, my legs!