After being up all night, either running our second legs or supporting teammates, everybody in the Monkey Butter Express van 2 was beat. It was very tempting to lay down and sleep at our current location. But because race traffic had the reputation of being heavy between exchanges 24 and 30, our van needed to get to exchange 30 first. Then, if time permitted, we'd get some rest.
|Honey bucket line - a common H2C sight|
Karl was the brave soul who drove the entire way - while fighting back the sleep monster (He became van 2's hero!) Everyone else conked out soon after we picked up our final runner. Although I drifted in and out of sleep, it seemed our van rolled through the traffic with no trouble. To our delight, we arrived at exchange 30 as the sun was coming up. Not due to run until nearly 9:30, we had a whole three hours to sleep!
|Ready for my final leg!|
Ashley spread a tarp in a huge field. My van-mates and I rolled out our sleeping bags, and in the pre-dawn silence, fell fast asleep.
Three hours later, I awoke to voices. Lifting my head up, I saw a long line had formed for the porta potties, the end right next to where Hyla lay sleeping. Realizing I was first runner, and due at the exchange in a half hour, I knew I'd better get moving.
|An accordion player was entertaining the runners|
Ohhh.....my body was stiff and sore! Although I'd been running all summer, I didn't train nearly as much as I should've. And my lack of preparation had caught up.
Ashley walked with me to the exchange. Once again, I waited for the arrival of Eric. Because we were in the sparsely populated Coast Range, cell service was non-existent. Not being able to communicate with van one, we weren't sure exactly when to expect their runner. But we arrived at the exchange area based on time projections - plus a few minutes early, just in case.
|Scenes from my final leg - lovely Oregon countryside|
By now, traffic had become super-heavy. Lines of vehicles crawled past us. A half dozen runners hung out at the exchange area. They'd finished their legs, only to find no teammate waiting. The guys kept yelling out team numbers and names, to no avail. One man was really funny. He held his bracelet high and asked if anyone wanted to take it and run for him. He then joked his teammates were probably all back at the van drinking beer. When his relief finally arrived, after a 20 minute wait, everyone at the exchange applauded.
|Beautiful red barn|
Finally, I heard our team number called. I spotted Eric coming in, looking very happy to be done. Passing off the bracelet for the last time, he wished me luck. Ok, time to get moving!
But.....I took a step, and my legs balked. They were so stiff all I could manage was a fast shuffle. After two long runs in less than 24 hours, my body told me it was quite done! With every step my muscles screamed. This was not gonna be fun.
|Backed up traffic meant the exchange was near|
But .... luckily this final leg, at only four miles, was my shortest. And it was relatively flat. Compared to my previous two legs, it should be a piece of cake. I kept telling myself "only four miles......only four miles." It would become my mantra.
Happily the scenery was a good distraction. This leg followed a country road through some lovely farmland, complete with a cute red barn. I passed forested corridors, interspersed with open fields. Although the day was beginning to get warm, a combination of shady areas and a slight breeze helped immensly.
|Monkeys on the move|
Even though it was only four miles, this final segment seemed to take forever. The "one mile to exhange" sign was a welcome sight. Then a volunteer informated me that there was one final climb. Really? A hill at the very end?? What a dirty trick!
I staggered up the stupid hill (ugh!). Finally noticing the backed up race traffic, I knew the exchange was very close. Almost to the exchange zone, I readied myself to hand off to Lindsay. It was then I noticed my teammates had strung a toilet paper finish tape across my path. Awww!!! Feeling like a true champion, I ran through the tp with hands held high, before surrendering my bracelet for the last time. Yahoo! I was done, done, DONE!
|Lindsay passes off to Rick|
Ahhh....It felt so good to be finished. As we drove to the next exchange, I lounged in the van scarfing down everything in sight. Our next stop was a wooded area with an overlook to a waterfall. And a huge clear cut next door. We had to walk a ways to the actual exchange zone, and upon arrival, realized we'd forgotten to grab the toilet paper roll for Lindsay's finish tape. Luckily, Hyla spied a roll sitting on top of one of the cones, and grabbed it.
|Monkeys in waiting|
So Lindsay got her finish line tp after all! Back in the van, we drove down the road, Karl ringing the cowbell, and Lindsay yelling funny things at all the runners. When we passed Rick by, he got an especially loud cheer from his teammates.
|Rick hits the tp tape|
And on to the next exchange.....by now it was nearing midday, and the sun was out in full force. Temps were beginning to get toasty. I was so thankful to already have my run out of the way.
|Hyla is ready with the TP!|
Rick passed the wristwrap off to Karl, and I again volunteered to drive the van down the narrow country roads to our next stopoff. Karl had a very short 3 mile leg, so we had to hustle.
|Karl finishes his leg in style|
But we made it in plenty of time to erect Karl's tp finish tape. Karl got lots of style points for his big finish!
Then Ashley was on the course. Poor Ashley had a long final leg - 7.2 miles, all uphill, in the blazing sun. But Ashley took it in stride.
We arrived at our final exchange. Due to Ashley's long distance leg, we had a longer wait. But it was nice to spend a little time and check out the exchange area. Lots of funny decorated vans, and interesting costumes. Many photo ops!
|Hyla gets ready for her leg|
Finally, Ashley came puffing in. Lindsay and I rushed to get the tp strung across his path, and Hyla reached for the bracelet. Yahoo! Our final runner was now on the course. Seaside, here we come!
|Reunited....and it feels so good|
Once again, Hyla managed to beat us to the finish. We got stuck in some traffic, and then it took awhile to find a parking spot. But as we approached the beach at Seaside, I glimpsed the other van's monkey above the crowd. Reunited with our van one teammates, Monkey Butter Express prepared for our symbolic run across the finish line.
|The big team finish|
With our final runner done with her leg, Monkey Butter Express was permitted to run across the finish line as a team.
|I love crossing this finish line|
What a great feeling! There were lots of cheers and high fives. And after we crossed the finish, each team member was given a medal.
|This year's medal|
Formalities done, my van-mates and I headed straight for the beer garden. Time to replenish those carbs! We'd been dreaming of a nice, cold brewski all day. A toast was made for another successful Hood to Coast relay now in the bag.
|The monkeys have a toast|
Of the three years I've participated in Hood to Coast, this was by far my best year. My van-mates were wonderful - very supportive, fun people. Traffic, although heavy in places, was still by far better than the two previous years. Even though I struggled with my legs, I gutted it out, survived and still felt like I had fun.
|Another H2C in the bag!|
Although there's now lots of other relay races across the US, Hood to Coast will always have a special place in my heart. Fingers crossed Monkey Butter Express will be back again next year!
For a recap of leg one, click here. For leg two recap, click this link.