Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Hood to Coast 2009: All Over but the Dewy-Eyed Remembrance

Having now returned, however unwillingly, to the so-called real world and out of the ersatz world of last weekend's Hood to Coast relay, I now wonder if I can recapture some of the spirit of that superior reality by devoting yet another blog post to bragging about reviewing my experience. There are only a handful of ways to find out, and I will choose the most obvious of these, namely, to do it and see what happens.

It's worth noting, for starters, that through the ~17 miles I ran, I suffered not a single brain injury, lip-fattening face-to-curb impact, broken tooth, or bloodying. The secret? I stayed off the bike.

As not-so-eerily foretold, I did some running:

First Leg (event leg 2): True to the maps, this was very, very downhill every step of the way. I now understand better than ever why so many people favor downhill running -- because you can go really fast! Even with a strong (and loud!) wind at my face, I finished this at a 6:17 mi/min pace, which I would find extremely difficult to match on a flat course of the same distance, 5.67 miles, on my best day. As I was running it, I knew my shins and/or hips might bite back later for it, but I went ahead and held the accelerator down and collected 11 roadkills along the way.

After the first set of legs, we retired to teammate Nathan's apartment for a brief recovery by the light of terrible television, where we ate some pasta and tried gamely to sleep even though it turned dark hours after we arrived. I might have dozed off for fifteen minutes before it was time to head back out for our second set of legs.

Second Leg (event leg 14): This one began shortly before midnight, and about half of its 5.49 miles happened against the background of the St. John's Bridge, that infamous-to-Portland-running and wickedly gorgeous spectacle that seems forever looming and yet forever distant along highway 30. As I ran, I was reminded that the second leg typically wrecks the less prepared Hood-to-Coasters by the fact that I seemed to be catching up and passing everyone -- 19 roadkills -- and more poignantly from the sight and smell of someone's three or four vomit pools, spaced only feet apart about a mile in. I don't know what they ate; funny how every puddle of vomit so closely resembles every other. Granted, it's not ha-ha funny, and I mean no disrespect to the unfortunate person who had such an evidently rough night. I finished this leg in 38:31, for a 7:01 pace.

After our second set of legs, we drove ahead to the next exchange in the Mist-Birkenfield-Jewell metropolitan area, in hopes of collecting a little more rest before the final legs. I dozed for roughly forty minutes during the ride and then another full hour after our arrival, so I was as thoroughly rested as any other participant.

Third Leg (event leg 26): All those long, lazy hours of slumber had caught up with me, so by the 9am-ish start time of this 5.67 mile leg, I was feeling rather battered and stiff. I wore a watch but soon realized it would be pointless to look at it, as the limiting factor would be the integrity of my shins and calves, especially the shins, which seemed ready to crumple at any moment. The most-I-thought-my-shins-could-take pace turned out to be a surprisingly lively 7:08 mi/min, which afforded me a net of 15 roadkills after accounting for five instances where gazelle-human hybrids passed me by as if to demonstrate what real runners look like. Well ..., I'll say that of four of them. The last to pass me was a more purely human creature who zoomed by in the last quarter mile; if I had had another quarter mile to work with, I am convinced I would have caught him, but as it was, hats off to him for such a strong finish, and my gratitude for a last bit of motivation for a strong finish of my own.

My cumulative pace for the event was 6:49 mi/min over 16.93 miles, but again, I feel I should asterisk the pace in view of the opening downhill sprint. My net in roadkills was +45.

My teammates (not pictured), consisting of Mike, Michelle, Lisa, Nathan, Roy, Michelyn, Abu, Wynn, Holly, Brad, and Anna, were as congenial, low-maintenance, generous, and supportive as could be. We came in frighteningly close to our projections -- within one second of the projected overall pace, within four minutes of the projected time. I got to know three of my van-mates better and to know two fine people for the first time; as a devout introvert, I don't come across these opportunities either frequently or lightly, so I thank and cherish these new friends to a perhaps unhealthy degree.

Last but not least, I wish to thank all the hundreds of volunteers who kept the event running smoothly from the parking lot of Timberline Lodge right down to the water's edge at Seaside. You were our orange-shirted beacons of civilization, keepers of order, checkers of reality, and anchors of normalcy. I count also the people whose participation was something less than strictly voluntary: the crews who maintained the portable toilets, the people whose homes or businesses happened to cross paths with the event; the police, firefighters, and emergency medics on duty; and everyone else whose duties placed them nearby. Whatever your role, please don't think your contribution was small. You made a rather crazy thing into a wonderful and festive thing, and we thank you.

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