Darkness had fallen in the town of Scio. Shops were closed, things had quieted down, and most people were settling in to sleep.
But for Monkey Butter Express van two, the night was just getting started...
|Ready to run my final leg!|
After running our first legs of the Epic Oregon Relay in the hot afternoon sun, my teammates and I were looking forward to a cooler experience for leg two. After finishing my second handoff, I slipped into the darkness following the main road through the sleepy town of Scio. The first mile, through the center of town, alternated between sidewalk and wide gravel shoulder. Then, leaving the city limits, I found myself on a very narrow shoulder of a minor highway. Although the traffic was light, it was nerve-wracking every time a vehicle passed by. Since I was decked out with headlamp, reflective vest, and enough glow bracelets to light a small city, I knew people could see me. And most cars moved over to give me more room. But still, one very fast car, and another huge semi blasting by did shake my confidence a bit. That, and I nearly tripped over something lying in the shoulder (likely roadkill, but I wasn't about to stop and check!)
|Another reunion with Van one's sleepy monkeys|
At 5.8 miles, this was the longest of my three legs. And it had a big hill near mile 2. But one of the good things about running in the dark - you can't see how steep the hills are! Although it was tough, I put my head down, kept a fairly comfortable pace, and chugged away.
|The longest port-a-potty lines all weekend|
The relay had a rule that vans had to keep their runner in sight during the nighttime legs. That meant I was continually being passed by my van. They'd drive ahead a short distance, wait for me to pass, and then go a little further. At first I thought this was overkill. But I have to admit, once on the highway, alone in the dark, I was thankful every time my van drove by. It was nice to know people were looking out for me - and the continuous cheers of my teammates really helped too!
|Karl finishes his last leg in style|
In each relay I've done, the night legs by far have been my favorite. Running in the countryside, I could see zillions of stars shining brightly. The air was cool, the night quiet and peaceful. When the "one mile to go" sign came into view, I was almost sad my leg was done. Well....almost.
Coming in to the exchange, I hurtled a roadkill deer (yep - more roadkill!) and passed the wristwrap off to a waiting Myron. Yahoo, two down, one to go! Time to relax and cheer my teammates.
|Farmland scenery on my third leg|
The next two legs followed narrow country roads, with little traffic. Constantly keeping track of our runner meant the vehicle was in motion much of the time. That, and the fact it was pitch black dark, made me decide not to even try to get photos. So - sorry no night shots this time!
The handoff to runner number four occurred in the larger town of Lebanon. Denis was the lucky teammate who got to follow busy state highway 34 for over 8 miles, to the west side of I-5. Then, after another quick switch, Eric continued the trek down this same road, nearing the college town of Corvallis.
|Eric has a pensive moment|
By now, it was after 2 am, and everyone was feeling the effects of this late hour. I took over driving duties, and kept awake by honking the horn and cheering at the other runners. I'd drive a mile, wait for our runner to pass by, and then continue for another mile.
Eric finished his leg, and handed off to Brandi. Brandi's leg would take her into the town of Corvallis, to Corvallis High School, where van one was waiting. We called our other teammates to let them know it was almost their turn.
|Myron killing his final leg|
We followed Brandi as she navigated through the dark streets of Corvallis. Luckily, the route was well signed, and I happily pulled the van into the high school parking lot. But.....where was the exchange? After circling numerous small lots that ringed the school (and getting lost in the process) I finally located the correct spot and picked up Brandi. Briefly reuniting with van one, they told us their tale of bedding down on the school's lawn, only to have the sprinklers turn on and douse everyone!
|Brandi readies the tp!|
Now that van two's second legs were done, it was time for our carload of tired monkeys to get some rest. But first we decided to drive to our next exchange point, a church in the tiny town of Harrisburg. We'd sleep there, and be ready to go once van one reached us again.
|This guy ran the entire relay - by himself!|
It was nearly 4 am by the time we arrived at our destination. The local Methodist church had graciously allowed relay participants to crash on their lawn for the night. Happily, my teammates and I spread out a couple of tarps on the grass, unrolled our sleeping bags and hit the sack. Waking at 7 am, I noticed the lawn around our group had filled in with lots and lots of sleeping runners. I'd slept so hard, I didn't hear a thing.
|Andrew hands off to Denis|
Checking in with Brandi, I was told van one's last runner, Karl was due to arrive around 8:30. I wolfed down some food, changed my clothes (Brandi and I took turns ducking behind an open car door while the other person held up a blanket) and hit the porta-potty. And this exchange was the only place in the relay I encountered any type of bathroom line. But the potties still had tp! (So different from Hood to Coast)
|Hangin' out by an abandoned farm|
Van one arrived in high spirits. After Karl finished, they were done! I was mildly jealous - especially when I heard the group planned on stopping for breakfast.
But....I had a leg to run, and I was ready to make it history. Waiting at the exchange, someone glimpsed Karl's blue team shirt. Ashley and Lindsay rolled out the toilet paper finish tape (now a Monkey Butter Express tradition - you get to cross this upon completing your last leg). I got a quick photo of Karl as he approached the tape, and then the wristwrap was in my hands, and I was on my way.
|Denis gives us his "monkey face"|
My last leg was a super-short distance of 2.34 miles. After running twice in less than 24 hours, I was more than happy that my final leg was so easy. Feeling rather sluggish, I willed my legs to get moving. But running on three hours of sleep, and eating at odd hours, I knew this wouldn't be anywhere near my best performance. My goal was simple - keep running and finish strong.
|The handoff to Eric|
Luckily, the early morning chill made for perfect running temps. My route took me out of Harrisburg, and through some beautiful farm country. And before I knew it, there was the exchange up ahead. Brandi had rolled out a tp finish tape for me, and I happily broke through it, and for the last time, surrendered the wristwrap to Myron. Woo-hoo! My relay was done!
|Eric heads in to Eugene|
While waiting for Myron at the next exchange, we learned there was a solo relay participant. One man was running the entire 187 mile relay by himself in an effort to raise money for a charity that supplied school clothes to kids who couldn't afford them. My teammates and I watched as the man's support van pulled in. The runner came in to the exchange, was briefly tended to by his support person, and then continued on his way. We were all awed by this guy's effort!
|Our final handoff - to Brandi|
Myron passed off to Andrew, and he took off down a scenic farm road. This was Andrew's first ever relay, and when he finished his final leg, we congratulated him on his accomplishment. Then Denis was up. He blazed through his leg three, and before we knew it, it was time for Eric to run.
|Despite the toasty temps, Brandi is all smiles|
Eric was another one of my amazing vanmates. The past Sunday, he'd run a marathon. Here Eric was, not even a full week later, running in this relay. And although he looked tired, and the day had begun to heat up, he completed his last leg like a champ!
|Van reunion at the finish line|
On our last two exchanges, my teammates and I were amazed to see only two or three vehicles, and just a handful of people. So different from the crowded exchange points we'd dealt with in Hood to Coast. One of the relay volunteers remarked that we were only the 8th team to pass through their exchange. Wow - none of us had realized we were doing so good!
|Finish line in sight!|
After a slight mishap (Eric missed a turn, and we had to hunt him down and redirect) we approached the final exchange, at a school in the town of Eugene. Brandi took the baton for our final leg of the Epic Oregon Relay. Woo-hoo, almost done! We could practically taste the finish line beer.
|Happy Monkeys model their medals|
Our team reunited for the final time at the finish line - Alton Baker Park in the heart of Eugene. We barely had enough time to mingle, when Brandi was spotted barreling down the bike path. All of monkeys joined her for the final 400 meters through the finish arch. Everyone was stiff and sore from running, and we struggled to keep up with Brandi, who, eager to be done, had turned on the afterburner.
|The REAL reward!|
What a wonderful feeling to complete another relay! After receiving our finisher medals, team Monkey Butter Express headed to the beer garden to collect our real reward.
Our team came away totally impressed with the Epic Oregon Relay. We all loved the small scale. With only 60 teams, traffic was nonexistent. Exchange points were uncrowded. The course was absolutely beautiful, well signed, and the volunteers were all fantastic. We had cell phone service the entire time. And, most important of all, there were plenty of porta-potties, hardly ever a line, and no worries about running out of tp. Compared to the Hood to Coast Relay, this was heaven! We all agreed the Epic Oregon Relay was......wait for it......EPIC!
|Will we do it again next year? Heck, yeah!|
And.....how did we do? Well, Monkey Butter Express ended up 15th place among the 60 teams. Not too shabby for a team that was thrown together literally at the last minute, and had no intentions of being competitive. (We do this purely for fun - that's what I love about MBE) And the icing on the cake? We won the prize for best van decorations!
So will Monkey Butter Express be back next year? Heck yeah! Wouldn't miss it for the world! As a matter of fact, Brandi's already signed us up.