As many of you know, I'm running in the Hood to Coast relay, the largest relay run in the country - 197 or so miles, from Mt. Hood down to the ocean. It happens August 24th and 25th. Twelve of us mamas cram into two vans and each run a leg of the relay. Each leg consists of three parts. (The park, above, is the one I write about all the time. It's a block from our house and it's where I train every day.)
I'm starting to get thrilled. I like to be part of something so much bigger than myself, a force of such numbers (12,000 runners in this race), and a challenge where we all suffer and we all have such grueling fun. I've always liked being part of the human race. Whereas Martin's dream as a kid was to fly all alone to Planet Z (farther away than any other planet, you see), my dream was to live in a house on the boardwalk, so I could see everyone I know walk by at night. The grueling fun part came much much later. I hated running when I was a kid, and was chubby for some time. I never would have imagined myself loving getting sweaty and dirty and worn out so utterly thoroughly. Pushing myself? Nah.
But now I love it like I love to breathe. I've done two Cycle Oregons (one while unknowingly pregnant!), one Portland Marathon, a large number of dragon boat races in Canada and the US, and now my second Hood to Coast with the urbanmamas team.
All that said, I was getting deeply worried about completing my assigned leg this year.
Most of the three parts of Leg 7 were described by the HTC people as "rolling hills." This is sort of like saying the Cookie Monster likes cookies. These rolling hills are the kind that go up and up and up, then plunge with breathtaking commitment, then rise up again so that even our Miata, a bona fide racing car, was struggling at the top of one of them when Martin and I went to scope out the course. On the second part of Leg 7, after those rolling hills, the steady ascent began for a couple miles that seemed okay but like they just weren't going to feel good, not at all. I knew I could finish it all, but it was going to hurt in a non-fun way.
All year I'd hoped to do Leg 1. Leg 1 is the shortest of the HTC relay, but it's no stroll. Leg 1 is legendary for the stunningly steep downhill that comprises its first portion (descending off Mt. Hood), covering a 2000-foot drop in 6 miles, then making a short but brutal uphill dash and a flat finish that, after all that downhill, feels like running with a full dishwasher strapped to each foot.
This seemed exciting and preferable to me.
But Sarah got first pick on Leg 1, because she had a baby, like 3 weeks ago, and so I couldn't exactly grumble. Except a miracle happened. When Sarah started running at 2 weeks post-partum she felt great. She was hitting her 9-minute miles with glee. And she decided the vast downhill of Leg 1, followed by the flatness of its other two portions, were a) going to hurt her injured coccyx, and b) be boring. Whoopee! I want the boring Leg! And so I got it. She traded with me, because she prefers "terrain." Hee hee.
So next week's race will be brought to you by the number 1 - Leg 1. Now, rather than mentally training for something I feared I would hate, I'm gleefully getting ready to dash down this mountain, doing squats and as much downhill running as I can in a week and a half. I'm going to keep my stride small, try to stay perpendicular to the mountain, and stay loose. I'll have ice ready for right after I stretch. Any other ideas?
Next week's race is also brought to you by the letters O and L, because our team has two real live, honest to God sponsors: Oregonlive and Larabar. I feel like a famous athlete. And I feel so thankful for them, I wanted to mention them here. I can tell you with great certainty that the Cherry Pie Larabar is delicious. I think it will speed my intra-Leg recovery.