From Elation to Exhaustion: a Team Running Relay

Spirits--and runners--are flying high at the start. (Kelly is the gal sporting the pink Team Sparkle skirt and a massive blue hand.)

The "Mother of All Relays," a.k.a. Oregon's Hood to Coast Relay, had its 30th running this past weekend. We suspect many of the 20,000 participants might be wanting to relive the 200-mile party, so we decided to share an excerpt from Train Like a Mother: How to Get Across Any Finish Line - and Not Lose Your Family, Job, or Sanity. It's a fictional start-to-finish recap of a relay race. (But photos accompanying this post are very real: They are courtesy of Kelly Lewis of the blog, who was one of 36 women runners on teams sponsored by nuun. Thanks a ton, Kelly!)

1 p.m. Friday
Start! Lots of pictures, lots of laughs from everybody in their matching “Tough Mothers” tanks and black skirts. Excitement—and nervous energy—course through your veins. As the vans pass by your runner, you hang out the window and scream like you’re a teenager seeing Justin Beiber.

1:45 p.m. Friday
First hand off. Again, everybody enthusiastically gets out of the van. Go team! High fives all around.

5 p.m. Friday
Contemplate an apple, but break out the Red Vines instead, rationalizing the high-sugar content qualifies as carbo-loading.

5:25 p.m. Friday
Your first leg: 5.4 miles. A few uphills, but it feels so good to run after sitting in a van for five hours. Cakewalk.

7:20 p.m. Friday
You climb out to cheer on the final handoff of this series of six legs, and those hills, which had seemed so mild-mannered, are reverberating through your legs with every step you take.

8:40 p.m. Friday
Poll vanmates about what to do during the first big break while Van 2 runners are blazing through the course. Despite your hard but tactful lobbying, your suggestion to grab drive-through, then some shut-eye, gets voted down in favor of a sit-down meal at Olive Garden.

12:25 a.m. Saturday
Hustle teammates to the van—you’re worried you’ll miss the handoff with Van 2 in the dark.

12:40 a.m. Saturday
Spy your first nighttime runners. Get chills from envisioning yourself out there running—and the 48-degree night air.

Kelly, a costume-creator-par-excellence, ready for her night run.

1:15 a.m. Saturday
The skuzzy camping feeling has set in. You deeply regret the Olive Garden meal, which meant no time to shower at the team captain’s house. Judging from the stench wafting off your teammate who is co-piloting as you drive, you must be smelling rank, too. Vow to brush your teeth and wipe your pits at the next transition.

2:35 a.m. Saturday
Consider drinking a bottled Frappucino to revive, but the mere thought makes you throw up a little in your mouth. The flat of them at Costco had looked so appetizing.

3:55 a.m. Saturday
Your second leg: 7 miles. Wearing a headlamp and a sweaty reflective vest and carrying a glow stick in each hand, you look like a Christmas tree. Despite the cool night air, your legs start to cooperate after a mile. Birds start to twitter; it’s beginning to feel like morning instead of nighttime. Rejoice as you contemplate how amazingly different this run is from the basement-treadmill ones you are often designated to do during your toddler’s naps. There’s nothing I’d rather do in the pre-dawn darkness than running seven miles, you think to yourself. Until you hit more hills, which you don’t see until you’re at the bottom of them. Why do my legs have all the hills?

4:55 a.m. Saturday
You know it’s anti-social, but you doze off instead of getting out of the van to cheer on and hand water to a teammate halfway through her (way-less-hilly-than-my) leg.

8 a.m. Saturday
The smell coming off the two port-a-potties at the transition is so revolting, you decide to squat by the side of the road, and realize you’ve forgotten the TP, which isn’t as pristine as it was a day ago. Drip-dry, or so you think, until you stand up and dribble all over your inner thigh. Contemplate sharing anecdote with a teammate, but realize it may only be funny to you—or at the end of the race. Anybody know where the Purell is?

8:35 a.m. Saturday
Spy the van of the Fairfield Fairies, a team of tutu-clad, 20-something women runners your team has been jockeying with since the early stages of the race. The urge to overtake them is less compelling than it was, oh, 18 hours ago. (Is that really all it’s been?)

9 a.m. Saturday
Tally of what you’ve eaten so far: flavorless, too-salty Spaghetti Puttanesca at the O. Garden; half an Egg McMuffin (you would’ve eaten the whole thing, but it fell into a puddle at a transition area…the five-second rule couldn’t apply); four bags of mini Mrs. Field’s; three bottles of Powerade; a PB+J; at least 15 Red Vines; two bananas; five handfuls of Frito’s and, to make sure you had enough fuel to finish your legs, two gels while running. Decide you’ve consumed far more calories than you’ve burned running.

Rainbow bright: one of the nuun team vans

9:10 a.m. Saturday
After the handoff with Van 2, you navigate the now-dust-caked Sienna into a massive field that resembles a Civil War battlefield, if fleece hoodies and running shoes had been standard issue for Union troops. Scope out a secluded spot—a relative term when you’re talking 213 decorated vans and 1,200+ runners—to spread out your tarp and sleeping bag. Pull on eye pillow to block out the sun and hook your hand over your ear to block the noise of other racers having Hershey squirts in the nearby wooded area.

1:15 p.m. Saturday
Last leg: 3.6 miles. Relive the McMuffin as it reappears as you hit yet another hill on your final leg, which is, thankfully, mostly flat and downhill. All good, except it starts to rain.

2:00 p.m. Saturday
Go through all your clothes—you thought you brought enough for a week—and realize you don’t have anything that is both clean and dry. Settle for your sweat-stained team tank and a random black fleece you found stashed in the back seat, along with McDonald’s wrappers, used Kleenex, a stash of celebrity gossip mags (score!), and a smooshed bran muffin. Your kids are less messy than your friends.

2:15 p.m. Saturday
Forget dancing by the side of the road or flirting with the Midnight Cowboys team of youngins from the University of Texas. Try to sleep in the van. Get so annoyed by a teammate’s high-pitched voice you put on your iPod, but Lady Gaga’s “Edge of Glory,” which got you so fired up yesterday afternoon, doesn’t really have the lullaby vibe you need. More like “Edge of Insanity.”

5:42 p.m.: Saturday
Finish! Big group hug, lots of pics (that will never make it past Facebook), and a few tears. We did this! Vow you’ll definitelydo another relay again next year.

#nuunHTC teams MORNING and NOON were all smiles after the finish in Seaside, Oregon


6 responses to “From Elation to Exhaustion: a Team Running Relay

  1. So true!! Love it. Haven’t done Hood to Coast but would love to. Finished Ragnar Great River a couple weeks ago and we won the women’s division!!

  2. well…I was a part of that team…it was magical
    still on a high although feeling the pain in my poor legs…you see I was runner 1…..the first leg is no joke.
    Running dream come true!!!

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