Reach the Beach 2004
A few weeks ago Dad told me that I might have the opportunity to go to Portland to run the Hood to Coast Relay. Unfortunately that didn't pan out and honestly I was a bit disappointed. Then out of the blue Andy e-mailed me the week before Reach the Beach Relay and asked me if I'd like to join the team. I was ecstatic. Dad gave me some last minute tips on packing and told me a little bit about the race and what to expect.
Thursday morning we met at the airport for our 11:30 flight. I wrestled my luggage through the airports in Columbus, Detroit, and Manchester. Maybe it would have been smarter just to bring one duffel bag? In Manchester we rented vans and headed out to find a grocery store. I am so thankful I live in a big town with big grocery stores on every corner. These little corner markets are so hard to find what you're looking for. Not that I had any idea what I was looking for anyway. :) After the grocery store we went to the Olive Garden for dinner. Yummy! Then it was about an hour drive up to Brenton Woods to stay at the Profile Deluxe. We split up into pairs for rooms and then Mandy gave us all team shirts. Of course, mind said Bob and was about a million sizes too big. He he he!
After check-in we went up to the Brenton Woods ski area to check in our team, get our packets, and drink some free beer. Then we came back to the motel and walked across the street to the little bar. As we walked across the parking lot, the person inside unplugged the "Open" sign. Greg went up and talked to the people and then they let us inside. I guess they thought we were a bunch of kids! We spent a few hours over there just relaxing and shooting some pool with the locals. Then it was time for bed.
In the morning we went to this little hole-in-the-wall for breakfast that reminded me a lot of my grandparents' house in Kentucky. It was warm enough when we returned from breakfast to take a dip in the pool, although Nancy, Bridget, and Andy were the only ones who did. At about 12:30 we headed up to the ski resort to start our race.
At the race site, we got our team picture taken. That girl was definitely not a professional. I think I could have taken a picture as good as she did. We watched the 1:00 wave start. Then it was Junior's turn to head straight up the mountain. And when I say straight up, it was straight up. You could see people walking up the hill; it was just too steep to run. Junior actually said he walked a lot more, but pretended to be running by moving his arms in a running motion. He he he! The descent down the hill was as steep as the climb up. Junior looked like Mandy when he ws running down the hill...his arms were flailing everywhere.
Greg took the baton next, then Brian Grinnell, and so forth. I think it started to rain when Bridget was running and it didn't stop for a long time. I was the 12th runner; the last to go in the rotation. My first run was at about 9:00 at night and it was pitch black and it was raining. The route took me through a park and the vans could not follow me. It was so dark that even having a headlamp didn't help. I would put the lamp on my head, then hold it in my hand, then back on my head, then in my hand. Eventually I just clipped it onto the waist of my shorts to run the rest of the race. Although this leg was not hilly compared to everyone else's it was quite difficult because of how dark it was. It wasn't until the last half-mile that there were lines on the road. I spent most of this leg running in the middle of the road because I couldn't tell where the edge of the road was. After my rotation, our van went to McDonald's to get some dinner at about 10:00pm.
McDonald's had never tasted so good but soon I would regret the decision to eat it. Our van took a shortcut to the next double-van exchange at a technical school. Most of the people in our van went inside the school to try to get some sleep. I decided to stay in the van to get some sleep since everyone else went inside. I think I did get a little sleep, but when I woke up my stomach was hurting and I felt like I was going to get sick. I got out of the van to go inside the school to the restrooms. As I was waiting in line the janitor came in and said the well had gone dry and that we had to use the port-a-johns. Great! Ever had the runs in the dark in a port-a-john? This was not fun. I was pissing out my ass, it was dark, it was pouring down rain, and the race was nowhere close to being finished. I was not having fun and I was very vocal about it. I just wanted to go home! Dad gave me some Immodium and I crawled back in the van as Steve started the rotation for our van. I tried to get some sleep as we traveled between the stops. My stomach began to feel better as we approached my rotation and I decided to stick with the race.
My second run was at about 5:45am and it was starting to get lighter outside. Early on in this leg I got passed by a girl like I was standing still. I felt like I was doing a pretty good clip, but she blew by me. I passed a few people and then caught up to this guy I had been tailing since the start of the race. He said to me, "Pretty good pace." I was like, "Yeah." He just ran beside me for quite a while. Then he said, "Woah, there you go." And I took off in front of him. He said to me, "I'm just going to stay right on your tail for a while." I was like, "Okay!" And then he fell quite a ways back. Guess he didn't tail me for very long?! He he he! I made a left-hand turn and then went up a short hill. I passed two guys who were running together and they asked me if I was showing off. I said no. They said they were impressed so I said that I was showing off. There was another guy a short ways in front of them who was walking up the hill. When he heard me coming he started running again, but I blew by him. I must admit I get quite a thrill out of passing guys. I like being a woman who can kick ass. As I came into the finish line there was a police officer directing runners. He was facing me and he told me to get over to the right. Ummmm, I was on the right. I think he wanted me to get over to his right. Dumb ass!
Our van had finished their rotation and headed off on a short cut to the next double-van exchange. I tried to get some more sleep but Steve kept knocking my feet off his arm rest and Andy got lost so Nancy and Steve spent a good amount of time fighting over the map and giggling about how lost we were. This rest stop was good to get some food and get some rest. I used Dad's cell phone to call Dave. There was a message on the phone from Mom asking us if it was raining. Ha! Was it raining? Give me a break!
We had been told it was supposed to stop raining by noon, but noon came and went and it was still pouring. We were into our final rotation and the other van was following us now and cheering us on. This rotation consisted mostly of short legs and required some quick moving vans. Andy's run went through the middle of a town and we were caught in traffic. We didn't know if we were going to be able to beat Andy to the exchange zone. We did and Andy handed off to Nancy. She too had a short leg and we had to hop in the van right away. Andy decided to take a victory lap at this exchange and we had to yell at him to get in the van because Nancy's leg was short. Except, it wasn't short. It was almost a whole mile longer than indicated on the paper.
As we approached the final handoff, it was still pouring outside and the wind was really strong down by the ocean. I took the baton and by a miracle of God it stopped raining. I ran along the seashore blowing by other runners and other support vans. Each one of my teammates got out and cheered and some even made a tunnel for me to run through. I turned left, ran through a puddle, and there was the finish line. We finished together as a team, got our medals, and ate a warm meal. Together we went through 200 miles of aches and pains, huge weather swings, stomachaches, little sleep, little food, damn cell phones, and lots of fun.
After the race we checked into the Sea Spiral Motel and got some hot showers and dry clothes. I watched the football game with my dad and Rich, but I think all three of us spent more time watching the insides of our eyelids than the actual football game. We had some pizza and watched Cops right out our front window. I'm still cracking up about Nathan saying, "First of all, shut up" with his East Coast accent. I went to bed about 9:00pm and we were off to the airport the next morning.
People have asked me about this trip and what I thought of it. I think it's really hard to explain. It should have been totally miserable being cooped up in a van with no food or sleep, cranky people (including myself), and pouring down rain for 24 hours. But, there ws some sort of peace about the event that I can't really explain. Running goes far beyond exercise for me. It's sort of a meditation that puts me into a different world that few can understand. This weekend was a long meditation. We were out in the middle of nowhere with hundreds of runners doing the same things we were. It was peaceful and satisfying and I just might have to do it again. :)