At that moment when I was abruptly awoken after “sleeping” for two hours in the suburban, I was unsure if I really liked relay races.
It was more or less, 4 in the morning. It was dark outside. Van 1 was another 30 minutes or so ahead of schedule.
“Why are they running so fast?” I said to Rira, our trusty teammate who was on top of communicating with Van 1. (If these exact words did not actually come out of my mouth, it was because I was so tired, but I was thinking it).
This wasn’t any race.
This was Hood to Coast, the mother of all relays. It’s a 12-runner race that spans 198 miles from Mt. Hood to Seaside, Ore. Each person runs three legs ranging from somewhere around three to eight miles each. My total mileage was around 15 miles.
I’ve done four marathons and I thought that 26.2 miles of racing is “the hardest thing ever” but now after completing a relay race, I would say a relay is even harder.
With a marathon, once you cross the finish line, you are done. Like, d-o-n-e, done. You can hobble back to your hotel, take a nice hot shower, eat and eat and eat, and nap for-e-ver.
With a relay, once you get to your exchange, you’re now in cheerleader mode, pumping up your teammate who is now out there pounding the pavement. Or, you’re cheering and shaking the cowbell so vigorously — for strangers even! — that your arm starts to hurt. You shower in a high school locker room that has warm water and what you assume is soap. You get a little shut-eye. (My team slept no more than two hours that Friday night).
You just have to push through being tired. (If you don’t know me, I hate being tired).
And, for someone who needs her eight-hours-a-night sleeps, I really had to just suck it up and power through. I’m not quite sure how I did it. Probably with the encouragement of my awesome teammates — strangers, who are now my friends.
Yes, I did this relay with none other than people I met via Twitter. Our captain, who originally got the bid for the race, was from New York. He brought along three others from the East Coast. Then there were two women picked up from Portland. And then my van consisted of runners all from the wonderful city of Seattle.
Seeing that a majority of us knew we were doing the relay about? less than? two weeks before race weekend, I think our 244th place out of 1,011 teams is pretty darn good. Our final clock time was 27:48:02. (Yes, that is TWENTY-SEVEN WHOLE HOURS!)
I was runner 10 for our team and had fairly mild leg distances. My first leg was a little more than five miles. By the time I started this leg, it was about 10 p.m. and pitch dark. It was still really warm out but running on a paved trail through Portland away from roads and lights scared me — a lot. I sprinted down that trail the entire time. I ran the first mile in 7:10 pace and thought “Whoa, slow down!” But a little later when I saw a homeless person — no offense to people without homes — sleeping on a bench, I got a little frazzled and kept pushing myself to go faster. I obviously didn’t maintain my 7:10 pace because I’m not that crazy (or fast) but I did come in at an average pace of 7:50 at the exchange with my teammates nowhere to be found. I didn’t fault them. When I registered for the race, I put my pace as 9:00 so obviously I couldn’t expect them to be there already. (Don’t worry, the rest of my legs, I slowed down since I was running in daylight and was no longer fearing for my safety!)
It’s kind of a funny thing that I decided to do this race with complete strangers since (1) most of the time I dislike meeting new people and (2) my bum-ish knee.
But, a runner’s gotta do what a runner’s gotta do.
Race new races.
Push through the pain.
And meet awesome new people along the way.