Monday, August 28, 2006

Hood To Coast 2006

Finishing my last leg

Leg 11: 4.2 miles / 35:35 / 8:28 pace
Approx. 9:35 pm

Down the Springwater Trail in the dark warm of night. I can hear the hobos and raccoons rustle in the tall grass and creekside brush but they don't bother me. I have run this stretch of trail many times and trust the path enough to tuck away my flashlight. All runners are required to wear a reflective vest and carry a light between the hours of 6 pm and 7 am. But I run in the dark on a stretch of recreational trail where no cars are allowed. The smell of blackberries and apples is strong, almost overpowering. Mostly I am alone with my pulse and the cricket song.

One man passes me on this trail but he has long bounding legs with which he clearly uses in a cheating manner. I slaughter five other runners and two more are spared, making their escape when I am forcibly stopped by a race official at a stoplight.

Leg 23: 4.1 miles / 32:35 / 7:56 pace
Approx: 5:55 am

The road has wound through dark farmland on packed gravel shared by both vans and runners, illuminated by nothing but head lights, and a dusty fog of tail lights. Dawn breaks, ice cold and misty. In the van I haven't slept much but a nod. My next exchange point is in a rock quarry just off the road, pebbles the size of fists. I stumble, nearly fall on the rocks after our runner passes me the bracelet. Groggy and cold I launch onto the road, now thankfully paved. I forget the misted forests and glassy still creeks as soon as I pass them. What am I thinking about? Maybe I just say to myself YOU BETTER RUN, YOU BETTER TURN OVER YOUR FEET. I feel clumsy and my nose is cold but I run my fastest time.

One man passes me. His vest has reflective tape cut out in the shape of a huge martini glass. I pick up a little speed and, quenched, draft him for three quarters of a mile. One other man passes me. I earn six more road kills and my left hamstring cramps.

Leg 35: 7.4 miles / 1:03:35 / 8:32 pace
Approx. 3:35 pm

I have been nervous about my last leg all day long. It is one of the longest legs of the whole race and, like my first leg, there is no van access, no support. The afternoon is very hot, but the temperature is getting cooler as we near the coast. Butterflies swarm through me.

I still haven't slept though we did lay in flattened grasses in a field somewhere past the town of Mist. The map shows a steady uphill, and indeed the road rises gradually through the forest. I pass three loggers logging, a cyclist and two police officers on horseback who tip their hats to me.

The shaded road breaks open into vast acres of clear cut land, stumps and dried brush piles. It is dead, void of life except for me and my pulse. Weyerhaeuser has posted signs along the way, a Burma Shave cheer for the timber industry, proclaiming the land before me to be vibrant with wildlife and foresty health.

The road is rough, mostly unpaved and I lose considerable speed churning up and spitting out gravel under my shoes. I start to see other runners ahead of me about half way into the leg, and each one is motivation for me to keep running. The road is only as long as the back of the next runner. I get 12 more road kills, and am killed only twice, and for the first and only time by a woman. She is smoking hot and gone in a flash. I cheer. My right hamstring cramps.

I reach the relay point for our final hand off and she goes running while I drink water indelicately. An hour later the entire team, from both vans united, crosses the finish line with our last runner and are awarded medals for our awesomeness.

Grand total: 23 roadkills, 5 times killed

Overall our team finished about three hours behind our projected finish time due to complication and injury mostly in the first van. Still, we finished in 28 hours, one minute and 34 seconds. All delays included we averaged a pace of 8:31 per mile.

I love this event. 1054 teams, 2108 vans, 12,648 runners (not to mention the walkers and their vans). We are a festive carnival of runningness. I loved having a chance to run on this team but I am dreaming of the day I can enter with my own team. So far, I have myself, Clark, my brother John and my sister-in-law Anita on the roster. I have my heart set on 2008. If you are interested, start training now please.

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