April 21, 2007.
The relay: 67 miles total | My 3 legs: 13.2 miles
The alarm rang at a painfully early hour this morning so we could get over to the beginning of the race for our 6 am start time. Our rag-tag team of 5 runners consisted of myself, Sue, Lauren, Celine and Charlotte. We’d all driven down from Portland the night before to get a not-so-restful night’s sleep in a Roseburg motel. In preparation for the 67-mile relay, we had compiled an impressive load of food, beverages, and clothing into a big, white minivan. On little more than a Clif bar and a few swigs of water I prepared to run the first leg of the race, a 3.8 mile, 4 star section of mostly uphill.
Now, I don’t consider myself a “runner” by any means. I run occasionally…sometimes even twice per week. All I wanted to acheive in this race was a finish, not a record time. I think I can speak for my teammates as well. Sue divulged after the race that one of her secret goals for the team was not to finish last. Would I complete the race? Would our team cross the finish line before any other team?
Suddenly, all the anticipation led up to this moment. I stood in a small crowd of runners. 20, to be exact. Most were men, and most looked far more prepared than I. We were off. Or, at least they were. I had never run 13 miles in the course of a day before, so I took it slow. My lungs screamed for oxygen in the damp, morning air. Soon, the pack had broken away and I had nothing but a narrow road lined with trees in sight. Damn, I thought, I’m already in last place.
As I plodded along, wondering if I’d missed a turn, and how long 3.8 miles would take me, I started to hear heavy breathing behind me. It must be…sasquatch?! No, another runner. Soon after, I saw a familiar white van up ahead. My teammates took my jacket, directed me to turn left and cheered me on. Phew! This isn’t so bad…
I slipped into a groove and maintained just enough speed to keep ahead of the girl behind me. Reaching the first exchange, I slapped Celine’s hand and she took off. One down, two to go.
Upon my arrival, I changed into a clean shirt, grabbed some food and water, and sat comfortably in the van. We drove along to the next intersection, where we’d direct Celine to the correct route. The four of us chatted, read trashy magazines, and debated the best nearby places to take a pee.
It was an interesting environment. Vans, SUV’s, landscape trucks and cars full of all sorts of people congregated at key intersections and exchanges. These could be anything from a church parking lot to a random pullout along the road. At each exchange, a tired, sweaty runner traded off with a rested but nervous runner and the rest of us piled in the van for more driving. We made an effort to support our runners with well-wishes, cheers, screams, cat-calls and Hollywood gossip updates. We may not have been the fastest team out there, but we were sure having the most fun.
Soon enough, it was time for my second leg. This stretch was 5.3 miles of mostly downhill, which was still rated a 4 out of 5 due to its steepness. Oh, but first I had to top out on the mega-hill that Sue had been running up for the past 2 miles. It was evil, and I hated it, but at least it gave way to a sweet, 4.6 mile downhill piece of heaven. After a few minutes of running, the gray skies started sprinkling rain. Then, the rain got heavier and heavier, until I was totally soaked. I could barely see through my raindrop-coated glasses and I was fairly cold. Nothing I could do about the weather, though, so I smiled, laughed and kept on trucking.
It was here that I noticed several vans driving past as I proceeded along the course. The 7am and 8am starters were already starting to catch up to us :). I was so happy to get to the van where I changed into dry, warm clothes, and ate (literally) half a blueberry pie.
The team was continually in high spirits as we gossipped, ate, laughed, and ran the day away. We all appreciated the beautiful scenery we found ourselves in, scolded the peeping cattle, and made fun of the outfits and habits of the other runners. Good times.
My last leg included one hill: 2 miles of up, and 2 miles of down. I told myself I didn’t want to walk any of this route, so I took it easy as the hill climbed and climbed. The rain came in waves. Here, I was passed by one of those fit, muscley runners, who breezed by like it was nothing. At once I was filled with disgust and admiration. So many of the good runners were old dudes with amazingly sculpted legs. One day, I hope I look like those old dudes! (…minus the “dude” part). I came really close to throwing in the towel and walking, but I was encouraged by my teammates who were stopped on the side of the road, promising that the up would end soon.
Happiness is seeing the top of the hill!
From here on out, I cruised down. I started feeling a cramp in my side so I slowed my pace and sauntered on to my finish. What a sense of accomplishment :). My work here was done. All that was left was to fill the caloric void I had created, and support my team members on their last legs.
The rain continued to torment us by stopping, sprinkling, coming down full force, then relenting and repeating. Everyone was a trooper. No one ever complained and even though the last leg was the toughest for all of us, we all pushed through and completed the race.
Guess what, we weren’t even last. We came in just in front of the only other all-female team, who had been on our tail all day. I’m certain another few teams came in even behind them. It was an amazing day. Totally spent, we retrived our t-shirts and medals, drove to our motel in Florence, showered, ate, and crashed. Next goal: half-marathon?