Edited to add: I wrote this right after the race. I'm feeling more motivated and better about myself now, so please don't worry! But I still think this is an interesting enough race report to post. And I was, and am, this happy about the whole thing.Hau, who was also drinking champagne but obviously couldn't pose with us.
I’ve been reluctant to write about this year’s Hood to Coast, which my mamas’ team finished with a time of 29 hours and 50-some minutes (an hour shorter than our time last year!) I am stuck in this feeling that I was not serious enough, didn’t run fast enough or hard enough. That but for me my team would have been a contender in the women’s submasters category. That I am the slow one, and worse the one who ran recreationally and didn’t push hard enough to compete.
It’s just where I am today, this week. Torn between intense pride and severe doubt. I want to get faster and run harder, like the other people on my team. I want to have given 110%, not simply to have “finished” my legs. I want these vile thoughts to propel me for the year, not to just make me feel bad.
And finish I did, and even a little faster than expected on two of my three legs. And I felt great, and I loved the experience and the people I ran with. So maybe I can remember all the fun we had, the feeling of the loud music pulsing through the van as I cheered every runner coming up a gigantic hill, blasting Rocky or Eminem and feeling alive and part of the race.
Leg 1: Accompanied by butterflies
And tiny waterfalls that fairy princesses might stop and gawk at...
I loved starting the race for our team, running the first leg down
I felt good running, and felt good that I’d dropped to about 151 pounds (from 165) in order to do this race. I felt strong. Though later when I saw the photos of myself I was astounded by how fat and slow I look in so many of them. Like an elephant. (I know, I know. It’s just the truth about how I felt when I wrote this. Plus, get over myself! Who cares? It wasn't about me. Etc....)
I’d heard the steep downhill was going to trash me. It did not at all. The only trouble I had with the downhill was it tended to make me run faster than I can. I started out the race at 9-something miles and got a cramp from going too fast. Once I get one of those cramps, the only way to get rid of it is to go slowly for a while. Ah well. It so happened.
The end was a joy. I thought I had about a half mile left to go, and I was getting depleted, though not tired yet. And then I came around a little corner and the exchange was a couple hundred yards away! I was finished sooner than I thought—a treat! I did my first hand-off to Shetha, and I didn’t slap the band onto her wrist. So it was funny. We looked at each other and I said “Go!” and she was off.
All I could say when I got finished, over and over, was “It’s so hot. It’s so hot.” The only relief had been the occasional tiny waterfalls, which gave off a wee mist and the very slightest waft of coolness. They were gorgeous, and I was taking what coolness I could get. At the end I drank lots of water and got to see Martin. (His team and ours overlapped at the start, and at many of the exchange points throughout the night, and it was so fun to see each other start and end our legs along the way). Very soon, the mamas loaded into the van for our next stop—where Hien could take over from Shetha. And I got started on resting for a while.
Leg 13: Dark
We stopped at Shetha’s in-laws’ house in
I woke after about an hour and a half,
feeling intuitively that it was time to get up and shake the sleep off. We had about
an hour before we had to leave the house, or so we thought, and so an hour and a half maybe before I'd run. But a call came
from Van 2 that said we had only 50 minutes until my exchange with
We very efficiently got ready, loaded thermoses with coffee,
and jumped into the van. I donned the required gear of the night-dork, and
remained calm as our leader Olivia (combination fast and steely runner/wedding planner to rival JLo) expertly drove to the exchange point under the
Tracy soon came running in and I was off up the stairs, over the bridge, down some more stairs, and onto the west bank.
I’ve run this park many, many times, but never so late at night. The colored lights glinted off the river, the air was cold and lovely. I ran quickly to beat a train across the tracks, passed some people playing instruments on the sidewalk, ducked around numerous bushes that grow onto the walkways in the industrial area where hardly anyone walks enough to notice and prune them.
I felt tired and played games with myself, running intervals, promising a few minutes of jogging for 4 minutes of running hard. It was the only way I could get there, having not, actually, shaken the sleep off sufficiently. My team cheered me once along the way and offered me water, and then I huffed along until the exchange glowed up ahead like an oasis in the industrial night.
It was a pretty but uneventful, flat
Leg 25: M(o)ist
In the night, the Urban Papas team found us, and the mamas and papas slept alongside each other in a field. (My husband was on a different team, so, sadly, he wasn’t in the papa van). We woke with plenty of time to get dressed, drink some lukewarm coffee, and visit the porta potties or the woods. The sunlight really did wonders for my head. And we’d rested where I had to start, so no driving was required this time. Nice.
I took off my for my last leg, knowing from last year's experience that the first few steps would set off a dumb, solid protest from my legs and my mind, but that after a few minutes I would push that away and run great.
The route was, again, lovely. I thought this leg—which
started in the town of
And there’s always something new to contend with. This time it was humidity. Startling humidity, so that in 2 minutes flat I felt like Albert Brooks in Broadcast News. Water was running into my eyes, but it wasn’t bothering me, simply bewildering me. How could it be so wet?
I had to walk a couple times during this leg. I was just out of power at a couple of points, and took 1-minute walk breaks. A woman ran by me and said, not in a nice helpful way but in a give-me-a-break kind of way, “Oh, come on.” She shamed me into running and got me to the end. I had a great hand-off with Shetha and she was off! My Hood to Coast running had come to an end. I sat on a swingset for a couple of minutes, the breeze from the swing drying my soaked face.
I felt good at the moment, though later I regretted not giving more during this last leg. Whenever I'm running, I get very caught up in whether I can finish my set task. I think it comes from my marathon training six years ago, when it was all about finishing no matter how long it took. I forget that during the last leg of a race like HTC there’s nothing more to conserve for. I wish I had run harder. I mentioned it in the van and Hau said we all ran plenty hard. Silly. But I still think about this damp, rolling last leg and wish I had just run as hard as possible, instead of running to finish.
These thoughts will be what pushes me to train for speed this year, so I don’t dislike having them. I just need to make sure I don’t let the negative thoughts be all I remember. I did it! I’m incredibly proud. I’m proud that I did the notorious Leg 1 and did not feel pain, and that I ran these three legs at all, let alone at faster-than-my-usual paces for the first two.
There is plenty to feel wonderful about. Least of all the running, and more the greater friendships I now have with my team. And the inspiration I gained from watching them all run, each with her own style and mindset. I need to remember that, when I focus too much on what needs improvement. That it was a glorious race.
I wasn't used to having so much time to rest in Van 1 (last year I'd run last out of the whole team and so had no time to rest before the finish line meetup). After our van's final runner finished her third leg, we had a champagne toast. Then we went to Dairy Queen, arrived in Seaside, and had time to rest, take showers, and get dressed, before meeting for another toast with the dads' team and walking to the finish line to greet our last runners. The most moving part was seeing Sarah run across the finish line with 6-week-old Monroe in her arms--what an incredible woman! All of us were on such a high, we made great time and had a great experience and were ready to sleep and eat and celebrate. And eventually to reunite with our children. :-)