Thursday, September 03, 2009

Hood To Coast Results

Here is a photo of me at the near top of Mt. Hood, awaiting our 11:45am gun time to start the Hood to Coast relay. I ran the first leg and had the honor of starting the relay for my team of 12 fellow runners. Relay races are lots of fun but I only had a vague concept at this point what we were all in for, as we had never run the Hood to Coast relay before (preferring slight smaller and shorter relays in the past).

At the start I was greeted with enthusiasm not only by my teammates but also by a loud commentator shouting out our team names as we left the starting gate, and also the American Cancer Society folks who were happy to meet us after our fund raising efforts.

I began my decent down the steep Leg One at 11:45am on a Friday morning (we had left Seattle at around 5am so I was already a bit sleepy). My adrenaline was pumping with the rock music and caffeinated gu blocks from the race start and I had to keep telling myself to take it easy and not run my fastest first mile ever. One glitch in my plan was that I left my Garmin at home so I didn't really know my pace. I kept passing runners and asking politely, so what is your pace? They kept saying they were 9 - 10 minute milers and I thought, I'm out of my league here. Why am I passing these folks. I guess its the downhill (I shrugged and kept with the pace that felt good). I realized at one point that I ran one mile in 8:20 pace (since I had a Timex I'd borrowed and could set a split between the state road mile markers). 8:20!!!! I hadn't run that mile pace since MAYBE high school JV basketball try outs, age 15. I tried to slow down but found the pounding on my knees hurt more and my lungs and heart rate were so slow that I wasn't out of breath at all. I decided to just run as fast as I could (this is a race afterall) and I finished the 5.65 mile downhill in 49:35 (around a 8:44 pace).

Running 5 miles normally doesn't fatigue my legs that much. I'd been training with three such runs of this length a week or longer. So the quick inflammation of every part of my legs after this run from calves, to quads, to ankles, to hamstrings was a bit surprising. Only an hour after this run, despite my attempts at stretching, icing and biofreezing, I was hobbling whenever I tried to stand up and walk. I made an effort to get out of the van at EVERY exchange to walk, and still I was just getting stiffer and stiffer. I was slowly turning into a Tinman without oil and still had to more legs of the race to run (the next one approaching at 8pm that Friday evening).

Once my other 5 teammates ran their first legs (with lots of hand slapping and team espirit) our team van was off duty and needed to drive to Portland for a major exchange where we thought we could sleep and eat. After fighting through Portland rushhour traffic we sat in a barren industrial parking lot thinking where is the food and how can we sleep here. It was a major let down. No nap. No food. So we set out doing what any runner would do, and walked about 2 miles looking for food (to only find a Burger King). After eating my BK salad and a kid Whopper and a small shake (yuck) I prepped for my next run as my teammates tried to get a nap. The sun was setting and the rain was drizzling. The exchange points was chaotic, the theme at this point was already in our heads, this race has too many teams in it! I walked a bit away from the crowded exchange to stretch when I saw my Dad (father-in-law) running quickly to the exchange. He didn't see me and I just barely saw him coming. I stepped in, said "I'm here!", he handed me our bracelet baton and I was off.

"Off!" Yes, I was off. At a distinct walk hobble jog. It was an interesting gait. And soon after starting I had to run up stairs to get to the Portland bridge that crossed the Columbia River. I cranked up my Ipod (first time I'd worn it) to push through the initial pain. I passed some other hobbled Leg One runners, and that fueled me. I picked up the pace and my legs loosened up. I ran this leg through the oncoming darkness down an industrial Portland road on the broken sidewalk. It was 4.75 miles, at a time of 48:35 (10:10 pace); not bad for my legs feelings so stiff and tired.
After this leg I was in great need of a nap. But now our van was on a mission to make it through the ridiculous traffic of 2000 other vans careening toward the same exchange points in time to get our next runner to the next stop. At 2am we were off duty again and trying to get to the next major exchange for that long awaited nap (I'd been up for 22 hours straight and run 10 miles). The windy back road took us 2 hours instead of 1/2 hour to navigate. We laid down in our sleeping bags on the floor at eyes finally closed at clock alarm awoke me at 4am...I started running my last leg at 4:30am.

At this point I looked at my brother-in-law as he helped me hobble to the exchange with my headlamp and sweatshirt in the slight rain and said, "I think this might be the hardest thing I've ever done." I have birthed out two huge babies so i was feeling some discomfort at this point to say that. I ran very slowly at first and once again passed my first runner and then more it was crazy how bad everyone looked at this point. My mind was so tired it played tricks on me. I thought any shadows in the street that moved were either animals or puddles. I had to keep working through that each time a shadow moved. I pumped my arms the entire run to keep moving. I could hardly stand or walk when I got out of my sleeping I was surprised that I was running. Black clouds floated over my head and i was on a back country road. I would have enjoyed the run more however it was 4:30am in the morning and I had slept in 24 hours, so I was in survival mode. I could see reflective vests dancing in front of me; they were mesmerizing. I decided to think of all the people who had died from cancer that folks had ask us to run for.

Each name came to mind and I was reminded how hard it is to watch someone you love struggle to breathe, to sit up, or to stand. "I'm blessed." I kept saying this in my head. "For my kids." I said this too. I want to stay healthy and alive for my kids, unlike my Dad was able to. "For my Dad." I almost heard his voice out there. "For my friend." I thought about my friend Emily who just lost her Mom to cancer. And I was somehow moving forward, and passing people. I got passed to, but not as often. This leg felt the longest, but it was the shortest. I ran 3.75 miles in 38:30 minutes or so (another 10:10 pace).

Last year I ran at an overall 11:10 pace or so. My fastest leg last year was 11:06 and I ran it weighting 168 pounds and 2 months pregnant. This year my overall pace was closer to 9:40 and I weighed 141 pounds. I set a goal 10 months ago to run sub 10 minute pace and to weight in my 150s for this race. I met both goals. I also set a goal to raise $1000 for American Cancer Society and with your help I raised $1107.

It feels great to set a goal and meet it on so many levels. Thank you to everyone who supported me along the way. Nate says i called him after my last leg a bit drunk on lack of sleep and misery. He joked if he recorded the conversation I might never sign up for a relay race again. But even though I was sleep deprived and sore to the point of hardly walking for days, I'm ready for another one! I think it is because when you do an endurance event you discover what your real limits are. Now a 5am run seems easy (especially after a few hours of sleep), since I've done one at 4:30am with no sleep!

I encourage you to find a hard goal and go for it. It truly makes you realize how strong you really are.

1 comment:

Shannon Rush said...

You are such an inspiration, Sarah! Thanks for sharing your journey.