I had been waiting for this weekend to come for so long; partially for selfish reasons. In the last few weeks leading up to the race I had some feelings of “let’s get this over with” so I could start focusing my attention on stuff like re-commitment to injury rehab, getting settled into a new project at work and planning for an upcoming vacation. With the team being so different this year I didn’t know what to expect and truth be told I was a bit frustrated with the time I spent recruiting a full team. I was afraid that the amazing experience we had last year would never compare. I was right, it couldn’t compare, it was a brand new kind of amazing.
2013 Centro’s Survivors, INCREDIBLE ladies
Last year our entire team was made up of American University Track Alumni, we ran with 11 teammates, unable to fill that 12th place. That complicated things and put extra pressure on some of the teammates, so this year I was dead set on fielding a team of 12. When former teammates started dropping like flies we decided to switch the format a bit. We still wanted to be “fast” but didn’t have be alumni. I asked my teammates if they had any friends who would want to run with us; that’s how we got Steph, Lauren and Marisa. We had a couple more people who were in and then out, so we added Caroline, Penny and with about two weeks to go, had the final addition of Ashley, who was nicknamed “Twitter Ashley” since she had responded to my twitter plea for a runner who would be fast enough and also available last minute.
We all met up in Portland, luckily Kate’s parents hadn’t moved out of their house just yet, so we had a place to sleep Thursday night, when many of us arrived, and also Friday night as a crash spot while we attempted to get sleep between our 1st and 2nd legs of the race.
Our start time was 6:00pm, last year we had 5:30pm so we knew the drill, Van 1 would leave Portland around 2pm on Friday, giving us plenty of time to pick up our packet by 5pm. This year only Van 1 went to Mount Hood, it was easier logistically and it made more sense for Van 2 to relax in Portland and make their way to Sandy (where the first major exchange was) with full stomachs of real home cooked food.
Just like last year, the parking lot at Mount Hood was not super full. We got there with way more time than we needed (sorry for my cautiousness ladies!!) but it gave me a bit of an opportunity to warm-up and start to feel ready for the adventure ahead of us. As both runner 1 and the driver, I had a lot going on. Luckily Zaia stepped in to help me drive and different teammates took the role of navigator throughout. As I was signing the team in I was able to peak at the roster and noticed that we were starting with Baba Yaga. They’re kind of a legendary team of women who have been running and winning whatever category they’ve been in for 18 years. They recently aged up to sub-masters (once you have all athletes over 30 you get kicked out of the open category). I was definitely nervous:
— Meg Gayman (@meggayman) August 23, 2013
In the parking lot our fastest runner, Meghan recognized a woman on another team that was there from her hometown. She knew her from racing against her, turns out they were both running leg# 5, the hardest one. The team that this other girl was on was the Knoxville Track Club, and we would soon find out that we’d end up seeing a lot of them the entire 24 hours.
Starting with just 7 other teams, I was off and heading down the mountain right at 6pm. After doing so well this year on Mount Baker during Ski to Sea, I was sure that Mount Hood wouldn’t be a problem, the weather was clear and I was feeling good. I tucked behind the leader and stayed behind him for about a mile before taking the lead for myself.
I was cruising out there for a bit, but got passed by the Baba Yaga woman, it was my goal to just keep her in sight for the rest of the leg (that didn’t happen) and then with about a mile left, the Adidas guy passed me and I started us off in third place in our heat. I wasn’t as fast as I hoped, but I still had two more legs to go.
Van 1 remained strong throughout, and we ended up reaching our exchange about 30 minutes ahead of the predicted time. We handed it off to Van 2 and I drove us back to Portland, where we’d only have about an hour and a half of sleep.
Van 2 woke us up with a call letting us know they were ahead of schedule and we had to get to our next big hand off. Zaia was driving and we got a little lost due to a missed part of an address via the iPhone, but made it in time for the hand off. I was frazzled, tired and not psyched to be running this 7 mile stretch on a scary bike path that I had heard awful stories about. I knew I would be by myself, they weren’t providing bike escorts this year. When Catie came to tell me that a rivalry had been struck with Knoxville just before my hand off, I literally told her “I can’t care!” (sorry for being so blunt at that moment Catie!!), I was already nervous about my leg, added pressure wasn’t going to help right then and there.
So, I did what I had to do. One male runner had blown by me and that was the only racer I saw. I usually enjoy the night run, but I think I had scared myself too much especially after I was yelled at by a homeless person to ”STOP!” (I didn’t. I could tell that the person yelling that was not close to me and was just heckling, but it did scare me) I ended up running much slower than I would have liked. Luckily the rest of the van had some strong performances on some of these difficult and somewhat scary legs. Note to all relay participants/drivers: don’t honk in the middle of the night, it scares the crap out of runners.
I was getting so tired at this point that I knew I couldn’t drive anymore. Zaia took over from leg 5-6 while I passed out snoring in the back, and then got us to the next big exchange while allowing me to sleep. I slept a little longer in the sleeping field as the sun was coming up and then woke up and stretched out before my last leg.
It was only 3.75 and I was ready to give everything I had. I was also now ready to hear more about what was going on with the Knoxville team and Van 2. Catie gave me the scoop, and I was excited to start. Knoxville came in maybe a minute and a half before I received my handoff. I started down the road hoping to just ride on her and maybe catch her. About 2 miles in, I made my move to pass her. I told her “Good work” she told me “Good job” and then said “Are you runner 1?” I was a little taken aback, said “yep!” and then she said, “I thought you were blonde”. The thought that she was accusing us of cheating fueled my fire, I knew I couldn’t let her pass me no matter what and I sped up to target some other runners who were walking. When I finished that leg about a minute ahead of her I told my teammates about what she said, and we were all a flutter with the drama of accusation (we’re all competitive females, what do you expect!). However, at the next exchange the same girl came up and apologized and then I felt bad for making anything of it. I looked back at the video from the start and saw there was a blonde who had started with us, it just wasn’t me!
Unfortunately we didn’t get a good enough lead on Knoxville and Meghan and the girl she knew from their team battled it out on a steep hill, that girl could move, and ended up passing Meg and a whole bunch of other runners on the hardest leg of the entire race. Pure beast. Meghan continued to hold her own and ran the leg in an impressive time, making sure we didn’t lose too much ground from them. With Marisa’s final leg, which was long and hard, Van 1 was done.
I drove us to Kate’s beach house but first took a cue from Karen and got some Dairy Queen to celebrate.
Van 2 kept us updated on their expected arrival and we drove over to the beach to go see the party and get through the finish. Last year we were able to run through the finish as a team as Kate came in. This year when Caroline hit the mat she found us and we got caught up in the congestion of a lot of other teams finishing at the same time. Knoxville had been called before us but no one noted the time at that point. We were happy to all be together and to all be done. We each gave it everything we could and we were mostly proud of killing last year’s time by over an hour. I hit my watch which was had the overall time when I saw Caroline it said 24:08. Turns out that was accurate. Knoxville came in at 24:06. 2 mins ahead of us.
Smiles in the sun at the beach.
They had also been delayed at least 5 mins by an exchange gone wrong, luckily we didn’t have anything like that happen (which is still a surprise to me, considering Van 1 didn’t have a driver!!) We were all happy and impressed with what we accomplished. I felt like the rivalry between Knoxville and us was all in good spirit, it was really fun to be going head to head with another team, it kept us on our toes!
We spent some time getting photos on the beach and then made our way back to the house where pizza and salad were waiting. We had a great time re-capping everything and couldn’t stop laughing during our dinner conversation. While I won’t say that every single second was magical and stress-free, this year it felt like we knew what we were doing and every single runner on the team was into it. I have to give a lot of credit to Steph, Lauren, Caroline, Penny, Marisa and especially Ashley who came into this crazy team really not knowing what to expect.
They were amazing at cheering, going with the flow, running strong legs and just awesome people to have on the team. As always it’s incredible to reunite with my former college teammates. I’m so lucky that they were willing to come out again and run the race and didn’t complain when I gave them hard legs. While the competition was much steeper this year, we still gave a good showing.
Team Joha was formerly named Girls Just Want to Have Fun and they’ve been in the top 3 in the division for years. The D-Hos are apparently a Yale alumni group, Nuun- Cherry Limeade was very selective and somewhat secretive group comprised of speedy ladies. As some of you in the blogging world may know they’ve been putting together blogger teams for years, but this year they made a star studded third team that grabbed the bronze. Team Last Best Pace came from Montana, potentially a group out of a running store there, but they’re not too far out of our reach. I’d say our team may have a goal of sub-24 hours within the next couple of years. Hopefully Knoxville will also return!
I will say, next year will be interesting. Because we placed 6th we’ll get our automatic entry again, but we know for sure that Meghan and Kate won’t be able to come, nor will two other of our original teammates. (EDIT! Meghan told me that she is in again for next year!) I’m already in planning mode, and will hopefully do some training on the track leading up to next year’s race so that I don’t die in my second leg again!! Regardless of times and the place we came in, we stayed true to our #1 goal, to have a freakin blast!
ETA: I made a short video of our adventure! Sorry you can’t watch it on a mobile device, I decided to use Katy Perry’s song Roar as the background music: