Race Recap: Hood to Coast Relay
All runners have race moments they will never forget. Moments that will stick with them forever. If you don’t have them yet, I promise you – you will. Your first marathon. The race you ran with your best friend. Watching your mom finish her first half marathon. Finally crushing that PR you’ve been chasing.
Unforgettable running moments.
Last week, I had another unforgettable running moment. A running experience that was so much deeper than just a race. A life-changing few days that were about running on the surface – but ended up being a lesson in kindness, determination, inspiration and believing in yourself.
Hood to Coast.
I had the great fortune of being selected by hydration company Nuun as one of 20 running bloggers to run on one of their 3 Hood to Coast Relay teams. Although running a relay was one of my 2013 goals, I had no idea just how profound this race experience would be. I’m honestly still reeling from the inspiration, running high and life-changing people I met along the way.
Because there’s no possible way to condense 5 incredible days into a blog post that doesn’t scroll for decades and send you into a sleep-induced coma, I’ve decided to share the 5 most memorable moments from my Hood to Coast journey. I HIGHLY recommend this race as something every runner should experience once in their lifetime. I know it will leave a lasting mark on my soul for as long as I’m able to run.
My 5 Most Memorable Moments from Hood to Coast
1. Meeting the most amazing women and runners from across the country.
The running bond is a powerful thing. It can connect people from different places, backgrounds, ages, races, lifestyles and paces unlike anything else I’ve ever experienced. At Hood to Coast, I got to hang out with more than 30 women from across the United States who not only share my love of running, but who are some of the most wonderful, kind people I have ever met. They exceeded my expectations in so many ways. As runners, motivators and human beings.
We started our journey in Seattle 2 days before the race, where we broke the ice with a little bowling. (For the record, I suck at bowling.)
We connected with a pre-race run and a fun morning at Oiselle headquarters.
We got down and touristy with a ride on a duck, which everyone who ever goes to Seattle must do. This bus-and-boat-in-one is truly a sight to see. Quack. Quack.
The night before the race, we hung out at Nuun headquarters, where we had dinner and decorated the vans that would transport us the 200 miles we’d be crossing on foot – one runner at a time – across Oregon.
2. Learning to believe in myself more from others who do.
When we arrived in Seattle on Wednesday, we were randomly assigned roommates for the 2 days we would be in Seattle. Little did I know I would discover a special bond and connection with my roommate Tere Zacher. Most people are lucky if they’re good at one sport … or, let’s be honest, any sport. Tere is a world class athlete in 2 sports – a world champion swimmer and a 2:40 marathoner. Yes, I said 2:40, and yes we’re talking about 26.2 miles. I wasn’t sure how things were going to play out. Would we have anything in common? Would she scoff at my “normal” running times?
By the end of the weekend, Tere had me practically believing I would become an elite runner. She talked to me about how mental running is and that what we believe is what we end up doing. She told me she believed I could run a sub-3-hour marathon one day if I wanted to (yes, I laughed when she said that too). The point is, she reminded me that I need to stop revolving my thoughts around what I’m not sure I can do and focus my energies on doing what I want to do. My time with Tere made me believe – really believe – that I am capable of SO much more than I think I am. I’m always so busy wondering if I can hit certain paces or achieve certain race goals that I psych myself into believing I can’t.
Well, that brings us to our next highlight …
3. I ran the fastest times of my life.
On Friday morning, we departed Seattle to make the 4-hour journey to Oregon where our race would begin. I was on Nuun’s Team Lemonade with 11 other amazing women and runners. In my van were Kim, Holly R., Holly B., Zoe and Karen … and our selfless driver and Nuun employee Jeff Howard.
With bags, blankets, pillows, running shoes, baby wipes, snacks I hope I never see again and Nuun bottles packed to the gills, the 7 of us lived in that van for the next 28 hours and 45 minutes – the time it took us to get from exchange #6 (our first runner’s leg) to the Oregon coast. We laughed, we danced, we high fived, we pooped and pooped some more (more on that in a minute), shared sweaty reflective vests, swapped stories and RAN!
There’s truly nothing better than not only having fun with an amazing team of people, but also running the race you always hope for yourself. Here’s how my legs went down:
Leg #10: Friday, 8/23 at 9:00 p.m. – 5.13 miles – 00:37:38 (7:20 average pace)
My first leg was on a flat, narrow walking/bike path in the dark. I wore my headlamp and could only see in front of me as far as my light would shine.
Here’s a 10-second video of me starting the leg:
I was a little nervous from a safety perspective, but a bike patrol was on the course. We were team 717 and my first mile was 7:17, so I think that must have been a good sign. I’m pretty sure I’ve never run 5+ miles that fast in my life. I felt really good although it hurt at the end. I think I finally discovered what it takes to keep pushing mentally and physically and not let go. Believing in yourself is like magic.
After the run we went to a restaurant for dinner and then caught an hour or so of shut-eye before journeying onto the next leg of running.
Leg #22: Saturday, 8/24 at 6:45 a.m. – 6.88 miles – 00:54:00 (7:51 average pace)
I had a whole host of stomach issues between my first and second leg, so I was really nervous as I waited for my teammate Zoe to finish leg 21 and hand the race off to me. Perhaps I was also a little anxious about the nearly 2-mile hill that was waiting for me at the start and how I would feel coming off my fast 5-miler the night before. My first 2 miles were slower (for me) trudging up the hill (9:10 and 8:30). I was breathing hard and my legs felt heavy, but I knew if I could make it to the 1.7-mile mark I’d be flying downhill the rest of the way. As soon as I reached the decline, I started to push and never looked back. My remaining miles ranged between 7:14 and 7:35. I passed 15 people on the run and got to see my van mates twice on the course. Toward the end of this run, I started to feel my quads getting sore, especially from the downhill running.
Leg #34: Saturday, 8/24 at 4:11 p.m. – 3.36 miles – 00:24:58 (7:25 average pace)
My legs were incredibly sore by the time we made it to my third leg. It hurt to get in and out of the van, so I was nervous about how this last leg was going to go, especially with the rolling hills. But I decided I was going to give it everything I had. I wanted to experience the same proud feeling I had after the first 2 legs. And I did.
I remember seeing my teammates as I ran the last 50 yards to hand off to Holly B. I knew I had done it – running some of my fastest times because of the energy of our team. To not let them down. To celebrate each other’s successes.
Getting back in that van and knowing we were almost there was amazing.
And then we were.
4. Joining forces with lots of unladylike runners.
If you’ve been reading my blog for a while, you know its name is a mash-up of the words “run” and “unladylike,” because I’m often a very unladylike runner – no holds bar. Well, I met my perfect matches at Hood to Coast. Lots of unladylikeness went on.
- Almost everyone had major GI issues at some point, and we proceeded to talk about it and analyze it non-stop – how much we pooped, where we pooped, etc.
- We – or rather Holly B. – subsequently invented the best hashtag ever: #PoopThereItIs. Boom!
- That is, until 3 of our fellow team members in our second van had to poop while running. Then #CodeBrown was invented. Bad asses I say. They earned their stripes, er, lemons.
- We all ran 3 times during a period of more than 24 hours with no showering and lots of changing in porta potties.
Yep, I was right at home and it was awesome.
5. Being supported by Nuun.
I have liked Nuun since I started drinking it back in 2011, but I had no idea what an incredible company it truly is until last week. When you meet the people behind a company, you get to see who that company really is – their true colors. The team of people who work at Nuun, from their CEO to their regional sales staff, are thoughtful and wonderful people. They love the running community and they understand runners. They treated us like rock stars, made us feel special – and most importantly – gave us a forum and a venue in which to connect with other runners across the country on an experience of a lifetime.
This journey would have never been so special without all the support, planning and love they provided us. I don’t think any words can ever express my gratitude for inviting me to be part of an experience that truly changed me. That’s about more than selling products or talking about hydration. That is sincere passion and a love for our sport.
In the coming days, I’ll share more with you on my tips for running a relay race, but today, I leave you with this quote.
“Don’t believe what your eyes are telling you. All they show is limitation. Look with your understanding, find out what you already know, and you’ll see the way to fly.” ~Richard Bach
Hood to Coast was a turning point for me. I’m starting to break down what I see as my limitations. Thank you Hood to Coast. Thank you Nuun. Thank you Team Lemonade, Team Watermelon and Team Cherry Limeade. Thank you to all of you who cheered me on virtually and sent me words of encouragement. Thank you Oregon.
This was a running moment I will never forget.
In case you missed it, be sure to read my 10 Truths about Running inspired by my experience at Hood to Coast.
What are your most memorable running moments? Who inspires you to believe in yourself?