Monday, September 10, 2012

When the Going Gets Tough - H2C Leg 3

When we last left our heroine, she was finishing up her 2nd leg of the Hood to Coast relay....

With two legs done, van one had another well-deserved break.  We weren't due at our next exchange, the town of Mist, until 6:30-ish.  However, race traffic has a reputation of being extremely heavy between our current location (the Columbia County Fairgrounds) and Mist.  Last year, it took us over two hours to travel this distance.  So after I finished my leg, my van-mates wanted to hit the road as soon as possible.

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

Morning zombies in Mist

Ian volunteered to take the wheel, and instantly became my hero.  Traveling from St. Helens to Mist is a confusing path of windy country roads, which is no fun to drive.  After negotiating the maze of vans and people at the exchange, he made it out of the fairgrounds and onto the correct road.  Still awake from my run, I was elected the navigator.  For awhile, the roads were clear and we sailed along.  I began to think we'd escape the congestion this year.  But then we passed a volunteer that told us Mist was only 5 miles away.  That was the kiss of death.  Two minutes later, we hit gridlock of epic proportions.  It took us nearly 45 minutes to travel those last five miles.  Everyone in the truck fell asleep, except our poor driver Ian.

Ashley and Dianthe waiting for Inessa

Finally, at 3:45 am, we pulled into a huge field near Mist, that was the designated rest area for H2C participants.  Opening the door and discovering it was freezing cold, nobody wanted to sleep outside.  So my van-mates and I opted to stay in the vehicle, dozing in our seats.  It was a cramped, uncomfortable night, frequently interrupted by the sound of moving vehicles, people calling out team numbers, and one very loud car alarm going off right next door.  Naturally, I slept poorly.  Definitely the low point of my weekend, I thought to myself "This sucks!  Why did I agree to do H2C again?"

Lots of "orphan" runners at this exchange

Someone's alarm went off around 5:30.  Tired and groggy, everyone stayed put.  But soon nature began calling, and before long we ladies had to exit our nice, warm truck to stand in an endless port-a-potty line.  Even though I'd forced myself to eat something after running last night, by morning my tummy was quite unhappy.  Running and eating at odd hours, "lava lamp tummy" is a common ailment among relay participants.  I'd hoped to avoid the same fate that plagued me last year, but no such luck.

Inessa is happy to be done with her 2nd leg!

Dianthe began preparing to run her third, and final leg.  Feeling quite miserable at the moment, I was glad it was her and not me.  As the sky began to lighten, Ashley and I accompanied Dianthe to the exchange.  The fields and roads were cloaked in a thick mist (the town of Mist is appropriately named!) giving everything a surreal feel.  People were wandering around everywhere, some draped in blankets, many looking like zombies.  It kinda reminded me of a civil war battlefield (except everyone was in running attire).  The exchange was a busy place.  Not only were there tons of people awaiting their runner's arrival, we spotted a bunch of folks who had completed their leg, only to find no teammate waiting.  These poor orphan runners kept shouting out team numbers to no avail.  One bystander told us that some of those folks had been waiting in the cold for over 30 minutes.  We guessed that many of the relief runners were either stuck in traffic, or still asleep in the field.

Race traffic clogs the country roads

It wasn't long before Inessa came streaking into the exchange.  Dianthe accepted the wristband for her final leg.  The rest of us made a beeline for the truck.  Dianthe had a short distance to run, traffic was heavy, and we didn't want to be late!  We motored through the beautiful countryside of the Coast Range.  The fog began to lift and the ultra-green hills and pastures came into view.  It promised to be another lovely day.
With time to spare, Amy, runner number two, jumped out of the truck and hit the honey bucket line.  As Murphy's Law would have it, her turn at the potty coincided with Dianthe's arrival.  So Dianthe had to pace around the exchange for a minute or two, waiting for Amy to finish.

More fun van deco

Then it was back in the truck, and rush to another exchange.  About a quarter mile before the next exchange, traffic came to a standstill.  As we sat, runners began passing the vehicles, and before long, we spotted Amy approaching.  Knowing we wouldn't make it in time, poor Lindsay, runner number three, was forced to jump out and follow Amy.  After running her second leg last night, one of Lindsay's knees was not happy.  Her IT band had flared up, and she wasn't sure she could run.  When traffic began moving again, we passed Lindsay on the road and saw that she was walking.  Everyone became concerned, and there was talk of sending someone back to run for her.  But in the end, we decided to let Lindsay to finish her leg. 

This team had a "convict" theme

Lindsay's leg, at 6 miles, was a long one.  This gave the team lots of time at the next exchange.  Good thing too, because it was here we encountered the longest port-a-potty line known to mankind!  Ashley and I stood in line for 30 minutes (we timed it).  And to top things off, every one of those honey buckets was out of paper (luckily a couple of nice ladies ahead of me in line had a roll and shared some squares).   Although it was tempting to run into the bushes, H2C had strict rules about only using the honey buckets.  Any team caught pottying outdoors faced disqualification.


I met the "Dead Jocks"

After my long bathroom wait, I wandered around checking out the action.  I met the "Dead Jocks in a Box," a team made famous by the Hood to Coast movie.  Another team had a "convict" theme.  Everyone was dressed up in orange jumpsuits, and they'd painted cell bars on their van windows.  Funny!

Then I headed down to the exchange.  Ashley and I waited for Lindsay's arrival, he more than ready to begin his final leg. The exchange was a hub of activity with many entertaining sights. Three large sewage pump trucks came rumbling down the road (cue "The Ride of the Valkyries") to clean out our overworked honey buckets. Everyone cheered the men as if they were rock stars! Then a couple of guys strung a crepe paper "finish tape" in front of the exchange, for each participant to run through. 

The mother of all port-a-potty lines

Finally we spotted Lindsay hobbling towards the exchange. She'd tried to run, but her knee had said otherwise. Lindsay toughed it out and finished her leg, even though she was forced to walk the entire distance. Although it ate up a lot of time, this ended up being a good thing. It erased our surplus and actually put us about 10 minutes slower than the predicted time. Now we were even closer than before!

Race participants wait at an exchange

Another drive through bumper-to-bumper traffic. And again, as we approached the next exchange, traffic stopped. We sat for an eternity, and runners again began to pass us by. And then Ashley appeared on the horizon. Ian, next in line, had to jump out and make a break for the exchange.

Lindsay finishes her leg in style

Ian was a true iron-man. He ran the three cumulative hardest legs of the course. And no leg was more difficult than this last one. At just over 6 miles, it climbed 600 feet in 3.5 miles to the summit of the Coast Range. By now, it was mid-day, and the sun high in the sky. Temps were getting toasty. But Ian, true to form again, absolutely killed it. 

Celebrating on the beach

My turn was next. I'd been trying all morning to quell my unhappy stomach. I knew I needed to eat something, but nothing looked good. Finally, I dove into a bag of kettle chips. The chips actually tasted good, and were able to settle things down. Oh, the power of junk food!

With the heavy traffic, I was afraid I'd end up jumping out of the truck early and making a dash for the exchange, as Ian had done. But luckily, we beat him there. Ecstatic, I even had enough time for a final bathroom break (no lines here!)

Amy, myself and Lindsay in Seaside

A very tired Ian, came storming into the exchange.  No one looked happier to be done (and I don't blame him!)  Finally it was time for my third leg.  I was so ready! 

Now that our cummulative race time had moved closer to the prediction, I was free to run as fast as I wanted.  Opening up the engines, I let 'er roll.  It was my last leg, and I was gonna leave it all on the course. 

More fun costumes

My final leg was so much different from last year's.  Since I'd run my first two legs conservatively, there was still gas in the tank.  My legs, although not fresh, didn't feel tired and heavy as they did last year.  I had a distance of 5.35 miles to cover, alternating between downhill and some rolling uphills.  There seemed to be more uphill than I remembered, but I was able to power up all the inclines no problem.  I even passed several people (woo-hoo, finally some roadkill!)  The scenery was amazingly stunning - thick forests, charming farms, peaceful pastures, and a couple of lovely streams.  Such a wonderful part of Oregon!

The monkeys reunite!
I'd forgotten my Garmin, so had no idea of my pace or distance traveled.  I just ran fast.  And enjoyed every minute of it. 

Team photo (minus two) on the beach
Finally, the blue sign announcing the exchange came into view.  Almost done!  Giving it all, I stormed into the roped off area.  Mike was there for one final handoff.  And with that, my H2C 2012 was finished.

Inessa finishes strong
My vanmates were even happier than me about being done.  Now we could head into Seaside for some food and beer!  We motored down the road, coming upon our teammate Mike full into his last leg.  The day before had been his 30th birthday.  As our truck passed by, we cheered and sang "Happy Birthday" out the windows.

Running through the finish as a team

The beach at Seaside was a wonderful sight.  Van one grabbed a plot of sand in the beer garden, and awaited the arrival of van two.  Being up half the night caught up to me, and I ended up lying down on the warm sand and sleeping for over an hour.  Some of my teammates got food, others mingled, and some cooled off in the ocean.  But I was so tired, I planted myself in the sand and rested.

We did it!
After waiting four hours, and getting sporadic updates from van two, we finally spotted the other monkey on a stick bouncing down the Seaside promenade.  The monkeys reunited again, we stood by the finish line, waiting the arrival of our last runner, Inessa.  Finally someone spotted her, and Inessa got a loud rousing cheer as she passed by the finish chute.  Our last runner's leg complete, the Monkey Butter Express assembled for one final symbolic team dash across the finish line.

Monkey Butter Express gets goofy (we are monkeys after all!)
Hood to Coast was just as wild, wacky, tough, and rewarding as I'd remembered.  I was honored to be a part of the Monkey Butter Express team for a second year.  Eric and Brandi did a great job as team captains keeping things organized.  Lindsay took charge and ordered us some awesome team sweatshirts (much appreciated during those cold evening hours!)  Inessa and her husband Keith again offered their wonderful beach house to the team for a place to crash after the race.  And my van one peeps - thanks for your help, humor, and support.  You guys are the best!
The Monkey Butter Express team ended up coming in a mere 10 minutes over their predicted time.  Looks like we are in for next year!  Woo-hoo! 
Will I run H2C again next year??  Wouldn't miss it for the world!



  1. It really is an amazing experience...from the lava lamp tummy to the long Honey Bucket lines to the gorgeous vistas to the awesome friendships :) Sounds like Monkey Butter Express had a blast!

  2. Really a great series of posts about the race! I applaud you and your team mates for a job well done.

  3. Great recap, it is fun to read how different everyones experiences can be at the same relay since we all had such different starting times. We had new rolls of toilet paper all the way and no lines for the honey buckets!

  4. Loved these posts...I am definitely going to try to arrange a team for our "river to river" run in Southern IL! Hopefully, they will have more bathrooms! :)

  5. Linda! You're amazing. What an ordeal, experience, not sure which. Congratulations to you and your entire team!

  6. Linda! You're amazing. What an ordeal, experience, not sure which. Congratulations to you and your entire team!

  7. loved this series. wow what a race challenging yet so much fun. congrats on finishing and thanks agin for sharing


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