The Road to Fitville 8.29: Hood to Coast blow by blow

Friday Morning: I furiously pack a few last items and jump in the car with four cases of water, a gigantic mound of healthy food, and three running outfits in Ziploc bags. I’m bubbling over with excitement. There are 12 women on my team, and I don’t really know anyone in my van. I stop for my last cup of coffee for two days then meet my van-mates. As we pack our stuff, we get a proud and frantic call from our first six runners. They are 40 minutes ahead of our estimated schedule! We load up our various power aides and jump in.

Later Friday: After all the excitement, we sit for a while at a big parking lot in Sandy, Oregon , waiting for our first set of runners to approach the exchange. There are more than 12,000 runners in this race, and the volume of people is beginning to show. Vans are decorated wildly, with everything from college alumni teams to the fearsome Michael Bolton Running Team (How Can We Be Runners If We Can’t Be Friends?). Our team is all moms, and we have time to decorate our van with all our children’s names while we wait.

Friday 6:30 pm: I’m the last runner on the team, and I start my leg on a mean, nasty uphill in the hot hot sun. I struggle across a long (did-I-mention-hot) urban road that passes my teammate Sarah‘s house. I feel so loaded down that I consider dumping my water and MP3 player on her porch, but reason with myself that I’ll want my stuff later. I dial up an inspirational message from my husband on the MP3 and hurl myself onward. Turning onto

Hawthorne Blvd in Portland , I run past a group of heavy smokers waiting in line for a concert and gag. Then pass all kinds of bars with people drinking beer and eating pizza. Gag, gag, gag.
Sarah meets me near the end of my leg and I nearly pass out in her arms. Somehow I make it to pass the armband on to Melanie (see my big smile in the photo?). I think, What the hell am I doing in this race? I listen to a self-hypnosis CD in the van to regroup. I swear I’ll do better on my next leg, and that I’ll take my cue from the very serious women in my van. I try to rest.

Friday, 9 pm: For the first time in my life I fall asleep under the stars with no tent. The field is a madhouse. Idiots people on cell phones keep waking me up, and car alarms go off twice. My teammates and I agree we must have slept because we drooled, but we can’t remember sleeping. We’re up at 11 pm and getting icy-hotted and hydrated for the next six legs.

Saturday 4:30 am: I prepare better mentally this time and do some Pilates in the dark. When Marci runs in the volunteers fail to call her number. I notice her and we have a fumble hand-off, and then I’m running in the pitch blackness of night with just a circle of headlamp to guide me and soft music in my ears. The stars are diamonds and the cold air is delicious. I think I see a black cat curling up in the middle of the road, but it’s an illusion of the darkness. I actually see a little baby snake and jump over it. I feel strong and run in minutes ahead of my estimated time. A perfect, exhilarating, sweet run. I am redeemed.

Saturday afternoon: It’s hot again. The elite runners who started late Friday evening are now passing us, and it’s so cool to see them fly by. But I’m feeling scared that I have nothing else in me. I nap in the hot van and fret, feeling like I have a hangover. Only running will make the fear go away. At the same time I am afraid, I’m also hoping to surprise my team by coming in faster than they expect. That’s my dream.

Marci and I have a more professional hand-off this time, and then I’m off on a rather hard leg with two miles uphill on a dirt road with big ankle-turning rocks. It’s gorgeous. Dragonflies are all over the place. After climbing, I get to sail down, down, down to the coast. I remember my loping runs in my neighborhood and try to recapture that light, flying feeling.

When I see the ocean my heart breaks open and I cry while I run. We have come all the way from Mt. Hood ! We are here at the beach! And while all these women were strangers just a day ago, I feel like now I have a team. I’ve watched them push themselves to their limits and prevail, and they’ve helped me do the same. I run the Seaside promenade, and a woman calls my team number into a walkie-talkie. Now my mama friends know I’m here! It pushes me to go just a little faster. I see Martin and Sebastian at the finish and I cry more. I hear the timing chip beep as I cross the mat, so I know I have time to stop for kisses. Then I meet my team and we’re sent through the finishing chutes together. Success!

I forgot to hit my chronic, so I don’t know how I did, but I hope I surprised them. And it turns out I did! I came in before my estimated time and Martin tells me they were only at the beach for 10 minutes or so before “584” got called from the tower.

Next Day: I am still so moved to be part of such a serious team. I learned so much by watching these incredible athletes, who are average moms and yet each so unique and powerful. Our time of 31 hours and some minutes puts us right behind the course average of 28 hours. I have never before been part of a race where I was so close to average. It’s thrilling. I can’t wait to do it again and to get faster, faster, faster. When can we sign up? And what leg will I do this time? I’m hooked.

Author by Larissa Brown