Monday, August 25, 2008

Hood to Coast 2008 - Miscellany & Review

Team. I couldn't have hoped for a friendlier team than Team Run Like the Wynn, consisting of Holly, Brad, Michelyn, Anna, Roy, Abu, Priscilla, Chet, Mike, Robin, and Lisa. I didn't really know any of them before the race, and now, even after I know how they all smell after a long run or three, I like them. There was no squabbling, plenty of humor and mutual support, and a laid-back approach to all things good, bad, and inbetween.

Roosters. I had forgotten how loud a rooster can be, but I was reminded somewhere along my second leg, around 4am somewhere in the pitch black night in the outskirts of St. Helens, when a rooster decided it was damn well morning enough and that everyone within six country miles needed to know it. With my iPod blaring I couldn't hear vans driving by, I couldn't hear my own footfalls nor the footfalls of others, but I could hear that rooster clearly. I am glad I have plenty of experience with roosters because the calls it was emitting were not classically roosterish sounds; I can imagine a rooster-inexperienced person being a little unhorsed by the experience there in the predawn hours of nowhere.

Sleep. I'm still recovering from the lost sleep and still somewhat puzzled over how I got by with so little. I suppose I have no right to be surprised; it's not as though I often challenge myself to stay awake for long stretches of time. Yet while it was happening, I was struck at how routine it felt. Yes, I was sleepy, but it felt more or less the same as the kind of sleepy I always feel tugging at me -- I felt no sleepier en route to leg two at 2am Saturday morning than I had felt en route to leg one at 4:30pm Friday afternoon. I did notice that, compared with the teammates, I seemed better able to handle getting up at 2am after our 90-minute night's sleep, judging from the quiet of the van en route to the van exchange.

Driving. I live in terror of being asked to drive one of the vans during a H2C -- given the vagaries of my sleep patterns and the volatility of schedule of an H2C, I don't want to be behind the wheel. If anyone could ever find a way to get us lost despite all the maps and strong visual hints (such as the long procession of H2C-decorated minivans), and if anyone could find a way to create a 36-minivan pile-up from 36 minivans that had been traveling at or below 5MPH in an orderly line, that would be me. I should never, ever drive in this event. If we're down to my driving or walking on blistered feet, we should walk. Hey, we're distance runners, aren't we?

So in that connection I can't speak highly enough of getting yourself on a team that includes a husband and wife who happen to own the very same kind of minivan that everyone rents for this event (Dodge Grand Caravan), and who are willing and experienced in driving it. Shout out and huzzahs to teammates Mike and Lisa!

Congestion. I think the lack of sleep was pretty widespread in this H2C and fits with the overall impression that this H2C field was unusually crowded and the van backups were unusually long. Compared with previous years, we spent more time in traffic and less time at our destinations, and that cut into the time available for little things like sleeping, eating, portable-toileting, and stretching. I wonder if the race coordinators let a few extra teams slip in this year? There are advantages and disadvantages to expanding the field, but I have to think we were very close to the maximum carrying capacity this year. These are narrow country roads.

Volunteers. The volunteers were fabulous and I thank them all. Their red shirts were beacons of hope -- running around a corner in the middle of nowhere and seeing a red shirt meant you were close to the finish of your leg, and as if that weren't enough, they were the ones directing traffic (human and van), keeping increasingly sleep-deprived runners pointed the right direction, pointing out parking spots, enforcing rules, and otherwise maintaining order.

Locals. The people along the way were of two kinds: out of the way or unfailingly nice. This is excellent given that this event has to be a huge pain in the ass for anyone who lives along the course. Of course this event would be impossible without the generosity of the people who open up their properties for use as temporary parking lots.

Portable Toilets. The Honey Buckets were, as always, bulwarks of civilization. In every H2C, there are certain teams that share your same start time and maintain roughly your same pace, so you see them at exchange after exchange. This year, the Honey Bucket men were an unexpected addition to that category. Their very foul-smelling and extremely necessary maintenance truck seemed to arrive at every exchange at about the same time as our van did, so we got plenty of opportunities to see them at their duty, using their powerful vaccum pumps to suckle those basins dry and carry the offal to places we don't want to visit in nightmares. A big tip of the hat to them.

No comments: