Saturday, September 8, 2012

Into the Night - H2C Leg 2

Are you ready for part two?  Read on!

On the go all morning, and late into the afternoon, my van one teammates and I were more than ready for a break.  With our first legs in the bag, it was time for some relaxation.  Lucky for us, Amy lived nearby, and graciously let the team invade her fabulous home.

Size matters!  Click on any photo to enjoy a larger version.

A new monkey for our vehicle!
It was a wonderful break.  Everyone got to take showers, use a real restroom (I was already tired of port-a-potties), eat some dinner, and chill out on Amy's spacious patio.  We all got so comfy it was mighty tempting to ditch the rest of the race (the other van won't miss us, will they?)  But we couldn't leave our teammates high and dry, so after a couple of blissful hours, van one packed up for our trip to the next van exchange - in the heart of downtown Portland.
Amy puts the old monkey to use as a hood ornament
But before we took off, there was decorating business to attend to.  Our poor monkey had sprung a leak, and his chances of holding air didn't look good.  However, Ashley found another inflatable monkey in the back of the truck.  After blowing him up and deeming him fit, he began tying monkey no. 2 to the roof rack.  Amy, not one to waste a good monkey, decided the damaged one would make a good hood ornament.  It gave our truck a "roadkill" look.
Our monkey is strapped down tight!
A roll of yellow tape and some plastic webbing were employed for monkey attachment.  Ashley worked his magic and secured our poofy friend to the roof.  The monkey was tied down so tight he looked straight from a page of "Gulliver's Travels."  But he stayed put for the remainder of the race.
Lindsay and Amy ready to start our second leg!
So off we drove, from the eastern 'burbs into the heart of Portland.  Tooling down the streets, our truck was met with lots of points and stares from passing vehicles (Haven't those folks ever seen a monkey on top of a vehicle?)  It didn't take long before our arrival at the second major van exchange, the east end of the Hawthorne Bridge.
A kiss for the monkey
To help our van 2 teammates find us, we grabbed a smaller inflatable monkey tethered to a long stick.  There was quite a crowd of people here, and we weren't the only team sporting some sort of sign.  While at Amy's we'd all sucked down the water, getting ourselves good and hydrated.  Unfortunately that meant everyone now had to go potty.  And the organizers had only provided only four - yes four! - honey buckets at this major van exchange.  There was a tremendous line, but we girls had no choice but to wait our turn. 
Both vans are reunited, as are the monkeys
While in line someone spotted another monkey on a stick making its way toward us.  It was our van 2 teammates.  Our monkeys reunited, Eric, Brandi, Karl, Mike and Jenn joined us in the potty line and began swapping H2C stories.  Everyone was awaiting the arrival of Inessa, van 2's last runner.  She was set to hand the baton off to Dianthe, who at that moment was prepping to run her second leg.
The guys get serious (Ian, Mike and Eric)
It was nearly 8:00 in the evening, and the sun was beginning to set.  Dianthe donned the required headlamp, reflective vest, and blinking lights (all H2C runners must wear these items while running during nighttime hours).  Then someone shouted they'd spotted Inessa coming down the path.  Dianthe rushed out to meet her, and once again the baton was passed back to van one!  On the move again, my van-mates and I hustled back to our truck so not to miss the next exchange.
Brandi and Lindsay havin' fun
Although Dianthe's second leg started out running through a wonderful part of Portland (across the Hawthorne Bridge and through downtown along the west bank of the Willamette River), it soon deteriorated into a rough, sketchy industrial part of town.  Our next exchange was wedged beside a couple of warehouse parking lots.  Dianthe finished her leg as darkness was enveloping everything.  She said she'd witnessed the cops hauling away a heroin overdose victim on the west side of the Hawthorne Bridge.  Very creepy!
Catchin' up with our van 2 teammates (Dianthe, Ashley, Jenn and Karl)
Amy, adorned with several lighted necklaces and bracelets, was next on the course.   Her leg meandered through the rest of the industrial district and finally intersected with Hwy 30, one of the main routes to the coast.  Driving down this highway to our next exchange, we could see a string of headlamps bobbing along the shoulder.  Lots of runners out tonight!
Amy's all lighted up and ready to run!
The relay continued on through the night, following Hwy 30.  After Amy finished her leg, Lindsay took over.  The wind came up, and by the time it was Ashley's turn to run, it was howling.  Cold and dusty and a head wind to boot.  Not exactly prime running conditions.  But Ashley, always smiling, decked himself with lighted necklaces and stuck light sticks around his headlamp strap.  This man ran in style!
Getting dark at the exchange
Back at the van exchange in Portland, Eric warned us about a huge fire in the town of St. Helens, which was right in the middle of the race course.  Apparently a tire store had burned to the ground earlier that afternoon, and the fire was so bad it caused the closure of Hwy 30.  Now, approaching the adjacent town of Scappoose, my van-mates were pouring over their smartphones, trying to get the latest information.  At Scappoose Middle School, we picked up Ashley, dropped off Ian, and headed towards St. Helens. 
Dianthe hands off to Amy
On the outskirts of St. Helens, we ran into a roadblock.  Hwy 30 was still closed, and race traffic was being routed through a bunch of local streets.  Our truck got caught in a huge traffic snarl and we inched along through dark, unknown backroads.  It was taking so long, I began worry we'd be late getting to the exchange.  And I was next to run.
Lindsay preps for her night leg
Finally, after what seemed like eons, we pulled into St. Helens High School, the next exchange point.   By then it was near 1 am, and my fellow van-mates were beginning to drift off to sleep.  But I still had a leg to run, and struggled to stay alert.  Jumping out of the truck into the cold, windy night woke me up in a hurry.  Ashley accompanied me to the exchange area.  To our relief, Ian wasn't there yet.  At least we hadn't kept him waiting.  But he was now slightly overdue.  We stood in the chilly wind, waiting for our 5th runner, hoping things were alright.
Then we heard some other runners talking. Apparently the vehicles weren't the only ones re-routed - the runners had been too. The detoured course added almost 2 miles to an already long leg.  That explained why we hadn't seen Ian yet. 
Another successful handoff
After a long, chilly wait, and several false alarms (it's hard to spot someone in the dark!) Ian materialized out of the night.  He looked very relieved to be done.  Finally my turn!  I took off into the darkness, willing my cold legs to get moving.
Although this leg was only 5.23 miles, the majority of it was uphill.  It wound through the town of St. Helens on quiet residential streets.  Last year, it was my favorite leg.  This year, cold and tired as I was, I just wanted to get it over with.
Ashley decks himself out with lights
After climbing a fairly large hill, I turned into a neighborhood.  Still running slow (our team hadn't yet erased it's 20-minute surplus) I was pleased to come upon a runner moving even slower than myself.  I was finally going to get a "road kill" (a relay term for when you pass someone).  But pulling alongside the runner and greeting her, I was surprised when she asked to pace off me.  Thinking some company at this late hour wasn't a bad thing, I said "sure."  In the ensuing conversation, I discovered the girl was around the same age as my son (which kicked in my mommy instincts), and had been battling a sore knee.  Knee pain was slowing her down quite a bit, and my presence provided a welcome distraction.  We had a delightful conversation, and the miles passed quickly.  Before I knew it the bright lights of the next exchange came into view.  Another major van switcheroo, the Columbia County Fairgrounds was bustling with people, even at this late hour.
Ian, Lindsay, Dianthe and Amy waiting for Ashley to finish his leg
I bid my new friend goodbye, and scanned the crowd for Mike.  Hearing our team number, he stepped into the bright lights and I gratefully handed him the wrist strap.  Yahoo!  Two legs down, one to go.  Time for another break.  It was now after 2 am, and I was so ready for sleep. 
But heavy traffic forced us to immediately head out to our next exchange point in the town of Mist.  It wasn't too far away, and on a normal day would be a quick trip.  But as I learned last year, in a relay, nothing is guaranteed.
Stay tuned for part three, the thrilling conclusion to my 2012 Hood to Coast Relay experience!


  1. I am enjoying your detailed account of H2C. We have a group of walkers that have pondered trying to get in but money is the factor right now, so I am enjoying your account of it..its not as hard as I was thinking it was...well...hard to stay awake but it sounds like so much fun!

  2. This looks like a lot of fun! Exercise doesn't always have to be a grind as this shows. Good work!

  3. I am in awe of you! There is no way I'd ever do this much less even THINK about doing it. You are amazing.

  4. So cool. I always wondered what Leg 12 looks like when it isn't in pitch black darkness. And glad your runner 1 was safe on that Leg 13. Sounds like this year it was just sketchy (good word you used!).

  5. that is pretty nice that you got to have a buddy for your night shift! sure could have used one on mine for leg 13 at midnight

  6. Loving this race story. This sounds more challenging then I thought good grief will you get any sleep through this?

  7. What a fun story this is...looking foward to part 3. Just four port-a-pots...ugh! Sometimes wouldn't it nice to be a man. :) What a chaotic race day it was!


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