Monday, September 9, 2013

Night Legs - H2C 2013

It wouldn't be the Hood to Coast Relay without at least one massive traffic tie-up.  While racing to pick up Hyla, who was finishing her first leg, our van ran headlong into epic gridlock.  Traffic was backed up for over a mile from our destination.  Inching along at a snail's pace, there was no doubt we'd be late.

On the move again!

The problem began at the exchange itself.  Due to construction, the usual location was moved to Oak's Park, a local amusement park.  With one road in and out of the place.  Not good when you've got hundreds of large vans converging.  Van one gave us a call, said they'd picked up Hyla, and warned us to bypass the exchange.  They were hopelessly stuck in traffic.  We arranged to meet up in downtown Portland once our teammates were freed from the mess.

Lindsay - queen of the cowbell

What's a bunch of monkeys to do?  To pass time, we parked along the relay route, and waited for Amy, our van one teammate currently on the course.  Lindsay, queen of the cowbell, readied her secret weapon.  I whooped for each runner we saw, and held out my hand for some sweaty high-fives.

The men monkeys eat bananas

The guys hung out by the railroad tracks and ate bananas.

Soon we spotted Amy's pink top, and she breezed by us, smiling and waving.  Lindsay rang that cowbell loud and proud, and everyone else cheered.  (We didn't think until later that maybe someone should've warned Amy her ride was gonna be late.)

Here comes Amy!

After an hour and a half, van one extricated itself from traffic hell, and we had our runner back.  A quick trip to Karl's house for some much-appreciated showers, and van two was on the road again. Destination:  the town of St. Helens, and our next exchange point, the Columbia County Fairgrounds.

The drive went quickly and we experienced no traffic snarls whatsoever.  And surprisingly, when Karl pulled the van into the fairgrounds, it was nearly deserted.  By Friday evening this place was usually crawling with vans and runners.  Where was everyone?  Someone joked they were still stuck in traffic at Oak's Park.

Ashley preps for his night run

With nearly two hours before our van was due to run again, my van-mates and I decided to catch a little shut-eye.  We bedded down in the designated sleeping area, a big roped-off field.  But sleep wouldn't come.  The sleeping area was right next to the main drive, and the constant noise and headlights from vehicles disturbed our slumber.  Then my sinuses decided to stage a revolt in the form of a massive headache.  Head throbbing and stomach roiling, I regretted not taking some ibuprofen before bedding down.  In addition to that, I was apprehensive about my next leg, by far the toughest of the three.  I'd studied the elevation profile and it had some serious climbs.  Already tired and a little sore from my first leg, I feared a major breakdown on my second.  Between my achy head and worried mind, sleep was all but impossible.

A rainy exchange

Soon, too soon, someone's phone alarm roused me from my troubled rest.  Time to get ready to run! was almost midnight and I felt like crap.  This was not gonna be fun.

But I strapped on my headlamp, and donned my reflective vest and blinking lights (required gear for all H2C participants once it got dark).  The cool night air seemed to clear my head, and calmed my nauseous tummy.  I might not have felt 100%, but I wasn't about to let my teammates down.

Rick and Ashley wait for Karl

Off to the exchange area, I waited nervously for our runner and fretted about my next leg.  Then our team number was called, and Eric materialized out of the dark.  Grabbing the by now very sweaty wristband, I willed my legs to move.  Time to get this show on the road!

Leg 19, a distance of 5.89 miles, was rated "very hard."  Turning out of the fairgrounds, I immediately began to climb a monster hill.  I told myself to ease up the pace and just keep going.  Slow and steady.  I was warned the road had no shoulder, so I kept to the inside of the white fog line.  At first, running directly in the travel lane (in the dark, no less) was a little scary.  Luckily, at this time of night, traffic was light.  Most of the vehicles were those of Hood to Coast participants, and were great about leaving me room when passing.

There goes Ashley into the night!

I got into a rhythm.  My pace wasn't at all that speedy, but I never stopped and walked.  Once my body warmed up, I actually began to enjoy myself a little.  The leg meandered through a thick wooded area (near as I could tell) that was very sparsely populated.  The roadside fir trees gave off a lovely woodsy scent, and crickets chirped loudly.  It was really quite peaceful.  And after all the faster people passed me, I was all by myself, alone in the dark countryside.

I was running without my Garmin (it conveniently died the night before H2C) so had no way to judge distance traveled.  Knowing it would take me about an hour to cover this leg, I relied on my watch to gauge progress.  When the blue "one mile to exchange" sign came into view, I was never so happy.  Of course, leg 19 had one more trick up it's sleeve in the form of a steep long hill.  But knowing the end was near, I powered up it and into the exchange, where I gleefully handed off the bracelet to Lindsay.  Relief washed over me.  My most difficult leg was now history.  Two down - one to go!

The Natal Grange is a hot spot a 4 am

But there was no time to rest - traffic was thick and we needed to get to the next exchange before Lindsay did.  Leg 20, steeply uphill on a dusty gravel road, was one of the most difficult legs in the relay.  Watching the runners as we passed then on the road, they all looked so miserable.  But Lindsay ran it like a champ, with nary a complaint.  After Lindsay was finished, Rick took over, also traveling over more gravel.  But he too took his leg in stride, and got 'er done.

Taco lady

Next up - Karl.  While Karl was out on the course, I took over driving duties.  Although I had no idea where the heck we were, or where to go, I just followed the other vans (there weren't any other roads that I could see anyway).  About halfway to the next exchange, wet mist began to appear on the windshield.  By the time I'd parked, this mist had turned into raindrops.  Ashley was gonna have a wet run!

But Ashley, good-natured as always, didn't mind in the least.  He was pumped to run his second leg.  Karl materialized out of the darkness, and Ashley was on his way.  Yahoo - almost done!  Only one runner remained, then we'd get another break.

Reflective runners

The next exchange was a busy one.  It was located at the Natal Grange building somewhere near the town of Mist.  The grange building itself was open, and appeared some sort of fund-raiser was going on inside.  Someone else had erected a concession stand, and it was open even at this early hour.  I eyed the Gatorade bottles and cinnamon rolls, wishing I'd grabbed my wallet.

Some sleepy monkeys!

Hyla was up next, and Lindsay helped her get the vest on and her lights blinking.  Happily, the rain had stopped by now.  My teammates and I hung out by the roadside, watching for signs of Ashley and taking in the spectacle of a Hood to Coast exchange in the wee morning hours.  My favorite wacky sight was a woman readying to run her leg in a taco costume.

Lindsay turns on Hyla's lights

After a short wait, Ashley appeared out of the night, and the baton was passed to Hyla.  Knowing she would be extremely fast, the rest of us jumped into the van to try and beat her to the exchange.  But the next exchange, in the town of Mist, was a major van handoff.  With both vans from each team converging here, this place had a reputation for terrible traffic jams.  About a mile from our destination, progress ground to a halt.  Sitting in a long line of vehicles, we watched as Hyla passed us by.

Hyla is ready to go!

Poor Hyla - she'd finish her leg alone once again!  Luckily, when Hyla passed off to van one, we weren't too far away and she just walked back to the van and hopped in.  Yahoo!  That meant no need to stop at exchange 24 - we'd just continue on to our next big van changeover.  And that's exactly what we did.

Go monkeys!

On through the dark country roads, Karl drove.  By now it was past 5 am, and we'd been up all night.  One by one everyone in the van fell fast asleep, leaving poor Karl to get us safely to exchange 30.  Would we arrive with time to actually lie down and get some rest?  Or would our van be tied up in traffic once again?  And would van two survive their final legs in the brutal hot midday sun?  These questions and more will be answered in my next post - Hood to Coast, the final push.

If you missed my Leg one recap, read all about it here.


  1. Gripping stuff, Linda! I've been reading it over breakfast and now I'm going to have to get a move on to get to work on time. Your epic hill climb in the dark will give me inspiration to power up my own hilly route! Looking forward to the next chapter.

  2. Wow....I knew you were a hiker but running also?!!! You make me feel lazy...which I I do enjoy your adventures....this one sounds like so much fun! Thanks for sharing.

  3. Wow--you are one determined lady to run when you're not feeling well! Yep, I know all about the H2C traffic jams--we got caught behind the runners one year; it was an unforgettable experience! I never thought about the effect on the runners before, but it makes sense.
    Blessings, Aimee
    PS: Still LOVING those monkeys!

  4. Kudos to you for getting out and running in the night when you didn't feel like it! This whole thing sounds so grueling! But fun at the same time :)

  5. Congrats for not letting your team down even though you didn't feel like running! Hope the rest of the run was a tad easier for you!


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