Thursday, September 19, 2013

Hood to Coast - The Race

Tomorrow...two weeks....pretty much how things are working out here lately.  Yowza.
On to the good stuff.

Friday morning started nice and early for us van one people.
The three other ladies in my room were all van two people, so they were planning to sleep in a little while I got up early.  Well, mostly.  Allison is a super early riser anyway, so for her getting up at 5 something was sleeping in!  When my alarm went off all three of my roomies were sleeping.  The winner part here is that I forgot to switch my alarm, so it was a duck quacking.  Who *doesn't* want to hear that super early in the morning?  Nice.  Though quite fitting after the whole Ride the Ducks thing.

I was smart enough to get all of my things into my backpack so that I could quietly sneak across the room-by the light of my phone-grab my backpack and get to the bathroom so I could get ready without disturbing the sleepers.  Without disturbing them anymore than the duck alarm did anyway.
Thinking ahead, good!  Forgetting that I left my clothes for Friday morning laid out separately and not in the backpack, bad.
I snuck back across the room and grabbed my clothes, nice and quiet.
I snuck back across the room to the bathroom, went to gently set my backpack down just inside the bathroom door aaaaand knocked over the metal bathroom garbage can on to the tile floor with a big crash.  Not so quiet.

And don't worry, after getting myself dressed and ready to go, I snuck back out of the bathroom and grabbed my suitcase to drop off at Nuun HQ, was doing great with the being quiet again....until I was getting out the door and dropped something and crashed again, slamming the door to boot.  Superfantastic.

Dear Roommates,
I'm sorry I'm a super klutz who has a weird alarm.  Thank you for not hating me (I hope) because of it.

I would have felt defeated with that kind of start to the day, but it's pretty typical for me, so no biggie.

Met up with all of the other van one people in the lobby, and after a few minutes of chatter we were loading up in the vans and on our way out!

The drive to Mt Hood was fabulous.  I wondered how the personalities in our van would mesh.  They were all fabulous people (which should go without saying at this point) but none of us had spent much time together so we didn't know each other terribly well yet.  It took all of about 23 seconds for us to jump right into conversation and I don't think it stopped the entire drive.  It was so great!  We talked about little things and big things.  We talked about Sarah's Jack and everything they have been through in the last year (check out the amazing things she is doing to raise funds for CHAD), which naturally led conversation to everything with Sam.  Having told his story so many times over the past few years, it's usually just part of the conversation.  I was a little taken aback that I really shared everything about his story and ended up crying too.  (at least I wasn't the only one teary, right?)  Obviously I felt super comfortable with all of these wonderful people to let that out.

Before we knew it (but after a Starbucks stop of course) we were at the point on the road where we were driving through where we would run our first legs.

I got butterflies as we passed the iconic Safeway where my first leg would end.  We started seeing runners on the road.  Each exchange closer to the mountain got a little more exciting!

And then, there it was.
I am so glad I was in van 1 and got to go up to Mt Hood!!  So exciting to actually finally BE there!
We hung out and killed time,

Best Team Ever
Took plenty of pictures,
Amazing view

Met some legends.
As far as I know we retained our first place spot on the Dead Jock fashion board.
Best legs on the course?  Of course.

And before long it was time for Megan to set out on the first leg screaming down the mountain.
Just look for the green sparkle skirt.
It was amazing to me how quickly everyone's first legs went by.
Plus everyone was maintaining great paces so they were going even faster than was expected.

Mallory flew.
Kara flew.
And then there was Hannah who finished her first leg...oh...only FOURTEEN minutes faster than expected!  Hello!  Sarah was actually still in the bathroom when we could see Hannah come flying in toward the exchange.

Sarah took off and my legs were starting to get really antsy.  After sitting in the van all day and watching everyone else head out, I was so ready to run!
The exchange that I started from was in a weird spot along the highway so our van had to kind of park in the traffic line along the highway.  I got out and headed up to the lovely Honey Buckets hoping that I would be out before Sarah came cruising in.
Thankfully I had enough time to loosen up my legs a little bit before she got there, and I was ready to fly when she did!
Please note, this pose is not indicative of my portapotty experience.  It is just the signature pose, and me super pumped to go run.

Fun moment in the few minutes I had before starting my run-I was walking over to the exchange chute and another team was scrambling to get their runner 6 over as their 5 came in sooner than expected.  As she was running over she turned around and yelled "Are you Catey?!  I read your blog!" I felt all special.  Though I never caught up to her on the run I was able to meet her at the next exchange, so that was super fun!  Hi Heidi! It was great to meet you!
Sarah came in and I took off.  I knew I was running faster than normal (which was the goal), but I was trying not to pay too much attention to the Garmin and just run by feel.  Bonus to living at 5000ish feet and running much closer to sea level=faster running.  The first mile ticked by at the fastest speed I have ever officially clocked (I think), and was even uphill!  Mile one-6:55.  Um, wow!  Talk about a boost!  My first leg felt much more uphill than the map made it appear, but thankfully I was able to hold a pretty darn good pace over the whole thing.  That first mile time made me a little nervous that I'd crash and die in the last mile.  Teams along the side of the road cheering were a blast.  Dancing on the roof of the vans was super.  Dude offering me buffalo wings was super (even though I declined).  And then I recognized the road and knew I was getting close to the first big van 1/van 2 exchange.  Super excitement that I was almost through my first leg.  Quashed by the traffic lights that always turned red just as I approached.  Stopping at lights toward the end of that was torture.  Traffic lights in this situation are the devil.  I finally just got tired of standing at one red light when there was no traffic coming through so I took off running again in hopes of getting stopped at the next one.  (It worked)

Personal quirk; I really hate the feeling of the slap bracelet (that is passed off to each team member at each exchange) on my wrist.  So I wrap it around the top part of my shirt.  It doesn't bother me there.  This does make for some awkward pictures as I come in to exchanges though.  For example: 
But the quads are looking good!
And look-I was so fast my leg was blurry.
And then there was the cheering, and the next green sparkle skirt up ahead.
Run 1: 6.7miles, 49:19 (7:22 avg) 4 roadkills too.  Just in case you were wondering.

We hung out there for a little bit getting everyone situated, sending the van 2's off, and then headed to Portland for dinner.  The hardest part of that was deciding what to eat!  I was hungry and knew I wouldn't be running for a lot of hours (I want to say it was 8ish when we got there and I was set to run around 3am), but was also afraid of eating too much and making myself sick.  I settled on a big salad with chicken (yes this is important to know), knowing that it would be a quicker order than the calzone I was eyeing as we realized we were short on time.

We scarfed down food and hit the road again, heading off through the dark.

After sending Megan off on her second leg and climbing back in the van, I realized it would be a good idea to attempt some sleep before I was to run again.
Bonus to being a mom: you've been so tired at so many awkward hours, and grabbed sleep in all sorts of weird spots in effort to keep a newborn/infant/toddler/preschooler asleep, that propping yourself up in the back corner of a van and dozing off really isn't as challenging as it once may have been!
I have a few fuzzy memories of people heading out on their runs in the night, but I will admit that I slept pretty well considering the circumstances!

As we pulled in to the exchange where I would begin my next run (also a Safeway right there ironically), I awoke to find that a couple of other ladies in the van were not feeling well.  Stomach problems were taking over.  Aside from feeling absolutely awful for them, I got worried.  Had it just been one person I would have chalked it up to bad luck.  But since it was multiple people, and everyone happened to have eaten salad at dinner....I was a little nervous.  I was looking at the ladies curled up in the fetal position on van benches and felt so bad for them!  I hoped it wouldn't last too long for them (and honestly, hoped it wouldn't hit me as well!), and stepped out into the misting rain to wait for Sarah.

All suited up in my nightgear I headed out for 5ish miles uphill.  Thankfully it wasn't the brutal uphill that awaited the van two runners on their night legs, but it was a nice steady incline for the whole leg.  I pretended I was at home running my favorite gradual uphill stretch (except I was running through civilization here instead of fields like at home).
I started out feeling good, and kept on feeling good.  The misting rain felt great, and the temperature was nice.  Such a great middle of the night run!  I really do love this part of relays-there is something so liberating about running through the dark.
I passed a few people in the beginning, one being a woman that caught up to me again about halfway through.  At first I was annoyed because at that point she was trying to push a little ahead of me, then would drop back just a step or two behind me, then back up a step or two....I don't love leapfrog.  But after leapfrogging a handful of times, she finally settled in just beside me.  At first race mentality kicked in as I realized that she was breathing hard and would struggle to keep that current pace so I was thinking I would hold her there for a bit and then take off.  But then I realized that I would lose some of my push to keep my pace if I dropped her, and running with company in the dark was kind of nice.  Plus her headlight was much brighter than mine.
So we hung together for the rest of the run.  Neither of us spoke, except to thank the volunteers and offer encouragement when we passed others.  Until the last quarter mile or so when I realizes she was starting to drop back.  I turned around and encouraged her to hang in because we were close and I needed her to keep pushing me.  She obliged and we both kicked it up a notch.  Running in to the chute together was great, she grabbed me immediately and thanked me for staying with her.  I returned the thanks for motivating me to hold my pace and for keeping me company.  It was exactly what we both needed.

Run 2: 5.2 mi, 41:08 (7:55avg), 11 roadkills and no stomach problems.  Hallelujah!

I channeled my inner "it's the middle of the night and I really don't care" and changed out of my nasty sweaty clothes in the middle of the field/parking lot.  Well, not the middle, I was kind of hunkered down in front of the van to stay out of headlights and satisfy my prude side.  Then I climbed back into my little back corner of the van and fell asleep again.  I was getting more sleep on this trip than I do in a normal night at home!  Yes!

We awoke in yet another field (notice a pattern?), parked next to this loveliness.
Really a pretty great thing actually, this little tent city.
After an epic wait for a bathroom-yes, that is just part of the line
(I timed my lining up perfectly with the trucks there to clean out the portapotties), and spotting Frank Shorter coming out of the bathroom (would have loved a picture with him, but that was a little awkward!  And I didn't want to get out of line), someone from van 2 came hunting me down because we had to get on the road asap.  We had looked at the time chart incorrectly and were off on when our runners were supposed to be ready for this last leg.  Megan was already on the road and we had to get to the next exchange!  She blew through it and wrapped up her running.

We made it in time and send Mallory off on her last leg.  Thankfully she was feeling better.  She killed it again.
She finished up and Kara was off...this poor girl was not feeling better.  Well, she was I guess, she wasn't puking anymore so that was good.  But poor Kara had been sick all night and was literally running on empty.  She tackled her last run like a champ despite the dry heaves hitting her midway through.  She was a trooper and still was only a couple of minutes off her projected time!  Props.
(hanging out in...wait, wait...a field! while Kara toughed out that run)
Hannah, as with her other legs, just completely pummeled her projected times.  
Girl is so much faster than she realized!  It was so awesome.
And then there was Sarah's last leg.  Brutal Hill.  Killed it.  Killed. It.
And then as she was out there killing it, we hit the traffic jam.  Vans lined up for a long, long time.  I was eyeing the clock and the road, and realized that I was going to have to get out and hoof it to the exchange because there was no way the van would make it there.  Shortly after I got out and started walking down the road my van shouted out to me that Sarah was coming up behind me!  We were not that close to the exchange yet!  And she was flying down the hill!  I kicked it into high gear hoping just to stay in front of her until we got to the chute.  It was a challenge!  She handed off the slap bracelet to me as we hit the exchange and I just tried to maintain the awesome pace I was holding.

This leg went mostly downhill, a few quick uphills in the first two miles, before it veers off for a real uphill before the big down starts.  This was such a beautiful leg.
SO green.
Such a beautiful place to run!
I really enjoyed this run.  Not that I hadn't enjoyed all of them, but this one was just fabulous.  I wish my Garmin would have been working through here so I had actual numbers from this other than just the overall time because I know one of the downhill miles was really quick for me.  I'm sure it was faster than that first mile.
There was a super long line up of vans again and I passed our van probably a mile from the exchange.  I was just hoping van two was already there waiting for me!
Thankfully they were, and I handed off to speedy Meghan.  Run 3 done.  Great feeling.

Run 3: 5.35mi, 38:48 (7:15 avg) 22 roadkills.  Yes I was counting!

And that was it.  Our running was done.  The rest of our team still had 6 legs to finish up to bring us to the finish line of course, but our part was done.  So wonderful.  So much fun.

We headed off to Seaside where we would meet the rest of our team and the other Nuun teams to gear up for the big finish.

(after stopping at Starbucks on the way of course)

One more installment...too much fabulousness to cram into this.

Thursday, September 5, 2013

Hood to Coast (part one)

After over a week I am still trying to come up with the words.
Or perhaps it's that I'm trying to pare things down.  Short of signing a deal for a three installment series of books it wouldn't make any sense for me to say everything that I could and would like to say.

There are moments in life that change you.  Sometimes they are huge, sometimes they are simple.
Sometimes they fall nicely in the middle of the spectrum, not altering your course in life, but certainly making a difference in who you are.  Hood to Coast is one of those for me.

I am shy.  I am an introvert.  I have a hard time putting myself out there, especially in big groups of people!  I am easily intimidated, even when there is no reason to be.
I know, ironic considering I throw my life out here in the online world.
I guess my efforts at trying to change it all started when I made the new year's resolution a few years ago to step out of my comfort zone.  Who knew how far reaching those effects would be!

I started rewatching Lost recently (stay with me here for a second), and in the first episode there is a moment when Jack asks Kate to stitch up the slice in his back.  They talk about fear and he recounts a story of his first surgery and having something go wrong.  He says that the fear was overwhelming, and that he let the fear in, but only for five seconds.  After he counted to five, he moved on.

I had a little pep talk with myself as I was waiting to board my flight to Seattle.  I prepped myself to get over my fears and doubts and insecurities and embrace what was certain to be incredible experience that lay before me.  When I landed in Seattle it was time to put it into action-I was due to meet up with Jolene there at the airport!  I counted to five, and off I went.
Despite my nerves, I was so excited to meet up with her and have some time to sit and chat.

We got to spend a couple of hours just hanging out at Nuun headquarters waiting for the next group of ladies to get in.
Behold the wall of happiness.
What an awesome company Nuun is.  Their office was totally chill, everyone was more than welcoming.  I have liked the product for years, and the more I have learned about the company the more I have liked it.  But wow, meeting these people and seeing them in I really, really LOVE it.   To meet these amazing people behind it all and be blessed with their generosity was more than I imagined.  Mason, the president and CEO of Nuun is amazing.  Absolutely none of the stuffy, weirdness, or superiority that often comes from the people in charge.  He made everyone feel right at home.  Hearing him talk about how Nuun does things-the fact that they would rather put their time, effort and money into people as opposed to dropping big dollars on magazine pages advertising the product-was awesome.  They get it.  And they have a great enough product to let it speak for itself.
Then there was Megan.  She is the one I met in SLC back in June.  The woman is magical I tell you.  She coordinated 36 women coming in from all over the country, plus the awesome guys who drove for all of us crazy women who are Nuun employees also from all over, plus accommodations, entertainment, awesome swag...not to mention she personally transported almost every single person from the airport to the office.  Wow.  Totally in awe of everything she put together.
And I would be remiss if I didn't mention Casey.  A blast.  Genuinely great guy, and a decent bowler to boot.  Also the magic behind making sure that I went home with enough quackers for the whole family.  Explanation, pictures, and video, to come.

After basking in the glow at Nuun for a while, the next round of ladies appeared and we set off to explore Seattle.
Heading out in a city I'm not very familiar with, with a bunch of women I've never met before was awesome.  So unlike me, and completely awesome.  We headed down to Pike Place Market for lunch and just to roam around.

I ordered soup from some little cafe and was seriously craving bread, so I figured I'd grab a "mini baguette" to go with it.  She handed me a loaf of bread longer than my arm.  So I then roamed around Seattle eating a loaf of bread.  The ocean and ridiculous amounts of carbs=happy.
We enjoyed the view of the waterfront and then Meghan mentioned that she wanted to meet up with a friend of hers who she had previously worked with and recently relocated to Seattle.  He also happens to work at Brooks headquarters.  Hello!  So the other 4 of us tagged along and got to tour it!

We got to see fabulous things, like giant shoes
and runners made of pasta.
It really was pretty dang cool to get to roam through their offices and see the design areas, all of the colors and fabrics and sketches that they use in creating these shoes.  I'd share it all with you but for obvious reasons we couldn't take pictures of those things.  Dang.  We also got to see Moving Comfort's line of fabulousness for next season-some super cute things coming there!

After our little tour there and raiding their candy drawer, as well as snagging free tshirts, we headed back to Nuun to meet up with everyone else who had flown in through the afternoon so we could go to The Garage where we would spend the evening stuffing ourselves with food, bowling, and trying to remember the names of 40ish people we had just met.

I have to admit that I wish I could do this night over again.  I was so terrified with all of these people there!  I feel like I did ok introducing myself to people and not being too incredibly awkward, but there are SO many ladies who were there that I wish I would have made an effort to talk to more than just introductions and small talk.  It was a little overwhelming to be completely surrounded by so much greatness.  There were women who are elite athletes (like world class elite), women who are mega bloggers, and women who I am just totally in awe of.  Which pretty much covers everyone there.  It really was a blast to hang out with everyone though, and get a chance to meet the guys who would be chauffeuring us around in big vans for a couple of days.  I know I've used the word awesome probably a dozen times already, but really, it was just a giant room full of awesome.

After all of that awesome we headed to the hotel where we met up with our roomies for that night and the next.  I was blessed to be set up with Allison, Karen and Devon, three incredibly wonderful ladies.  Allison and I have a mutual friend, so it was super fun to get to know her a little more after hearing so many great things about her from said mutual friend.

First day-incredible.

Day two started out with a run around Green Lake, which was gorgeous.
 I am usually a solo runner so running with a group of ladies was a fun change!
We headed to Oiselle headquarters after the run and met the amazing people behind their greatness.
After a fabulous morning we headed out to tour Seattle on The Ducks.  I will admit I was skeptical about how exciting this would be.  Seemed cool to do the whole land/water thing, but I'm not necessarily a huge cheesy touristy kind of person.  It was great though, such a blast!

Aside from the novelty of the whole driving in to the water thing, our tour guide was fun and funny, and the atmosphere with this whole group of people was a riot.
Good times.
Also this is where the quackers originated.

That evening we all gathered back at Nuun for dinner and a little pow-wow,
a lotta swag (Christmas in August anyone?),
and van decorating.
Oh, the vans.
Relay decor done right!
I had the privilege of being in a van with Megan, Mallory, Kara, Hannah and Sarah, with the fabulous Jeantel at the wheel.  We made up the first van of Team Watermelon.

The rest of Team Watermelon was chauffuered by Casey, and consisted of Meghan, Megan, Laura, Lisa, Lindsay and Devon.  Such an amazing group of ladies!

By the end of the night we were anxious and excited to get to the running part of this trip!
Which I'll share with you tomorrow.  Because this is already way too long.