Monday, June 30, 2014

Solstice Stupidity 2014 - EPIC Relay

Warning - this is the full recap. Prefer the short version? We ran the EPIC Relay with a bunch of friends. It was a blast! The end.

Long version:

On the longest day of the year, Brad and I always do something crazy with friends. (2009, 2010, 2011, 2012, 2013)

We started planning our sixth Solstice Stupidity right after last year's fun, and when I saw a local relay called "EPIC" - on solstice weekend - I KNEW we had our next adventure!
EPIC Oregon is like the famous Hood to Coast relay but newer, smaller and goes from Beaverton to Eugene over a 187-mile course.

Over the next months, we recruited friends to join our team of 12 plus drivers and volunteers. Some committed and then changed their minds and some committed and then got injured. Most (including Brad and me) had no relay experience! When June finally arrived, we were ready:

Van #1 - Connie, Marc, Elise, Gretchen, Susan, Emily and driver Jeremy
Van #2 - Liz, Brad, Jeffrey, Christi, Diane, Deb and driver Rodger

Eryn, Randy and Monica agreed to be our volunteers, covering an early-morning shift at Exchange 28. (We had to provide three or pay a fee so they could hire workers)
Our team, Solstice Stupidity, met a few times to iron out the details, but our adventure began for real when some of us went to the van-decorating party Wednesday evening 6/18 at Road Runner Sports in Tualatin. We ate free pizza and used their window markers to beautify Van #2, which we were able to borrow at no cost to us.
I picked up Van #1 Thursday evening from Landmark Ford and delivered it to Connie, who was heading up their half of the team.

At registration, each runner submitted his/her 10K time. Organizers used those times to determine how long our team would take to complete the course, then they back timed to determine our start times. We were at 8:30 a.m. Friday - the third wave. That means we weren't the slowest!! :)

Van #1:
Brad, Deb, Eryn and I went early to get everyone checked in and see off Van #1.
Wave #3 is ready to go (Gretchen is on the right in the black capris and gray jacket)
There they go:
Go Gretchen, Go!

Van #2 gathered a little while later to load our van and drive to the first vehicle exchange in St. Paul. We got there nice and early and hung out while Van #1 wrapped up their first legs.

Christi and Diane:
Courtesy: Rodger
Connie and Brad put together an amazing spreadsheet that had each leg's estimated finish times. We had a laptop computer, and as each runner finished, we texted between the vans and updated the spreadsheet so we always had a good idea when we needed to be where.

Van #1 pulled in, Emily soon followed on foot, the snap bracelet was passed, and Deb took off for her first leg. Van #2 was off!

Brad ran next, then Diane, Jeffrey, me and Christi. We jumped in the van, drove ahead a couple miles, pulled over, jumped out, cheered on our runner, jumped back in the van. Repeat. Over and over and over. That's why I have no pictures: We were too busy!

Inside the van was declared a "no-vomit zone" and a "judgement-free zone". We whooooo'd and giggled the ENTIRE time. We cheered for each other and all other runners/van on the road.

Everyone was hitting their estimates fairly close, and I was nervous that I would be the first one to blow it. Totally stupid because it didn't matter. We were all out there to just do our own thing and have fun.

It was hot and sunny when I finally took a turn. My first leg was listed as 4.72 fairly flat miles. I finished at 4:04 p.m. in just under 43 minutes - a 9:08 average and 2 minutes faster than my estimate. I kept it comfortable, not wanting to blow it early. It was a good run on country roads. I was passed toward the end by two half-naked guys running really fast.

Oh, and I came around the corner and saw my van pulled over and my teammates chillin' on the grass next to a blueberry farm. They cheered their hearts out, but I thought it was kinda rude to be lying on the grass while I was dying in the heat ;)
Courtesy: Rodger

Courtesy: Diane

 While Christi ran, we waited at an elementary school playground :)
Courtesy: Rodger
We finished up our first legs and handed off to Van #1 at Old Silverton High School. 

Gretchen takes the bracelet from Christi:
Courtesy: Rodger
Then we went to dinner at Mac's Place in Silverton. Felt great to have one leg done!
Courtesy: Rodger
After some good refueling, we drove to the next vehicle exchange at Scio High School and threw out our sleeping bags for some rest. Unfortunately, it was hot and light and loud, and I dozed just a bit.
Courtesy: Rodger
Soon, it was time to hit the road again. It was almost dark as Emily came into view and again handed off the snap bracelet to Deb. Donning her reflective vest, red rear blinker and headlamp, Deb ran off into the night.

During the dark hours, we tried to stay closer to our runner, though the narrow country roads made it harder than we'd hoped. But everyone stayed safe and happy, especially Diane who loved her overnight run.

I've never run in the middle of the night like that and was again nervous to take my turn. Jeffrey was running really fast and flew down the I-5 overpass to our group waiting in the gas station parking lot on Highway 34. I took a deep breath, grabbed the bracelet and started running.

I have to say, that run was awesome! The temp was perfect, and I had a huge, flat shoulder to run on next to the highway. Because it's 4+ lanes along there, I never felt too close to the highway traffic. Though I did wonder what so many people were doing out at 1:30 a.m.!

My leg was effortless and fun. Good songs came on my iPod, and I just smiled the whole time. I had a great run and understood why Diane was so happy after her leg.

My second leg was listed at 5.73 miles. I finished at 2:15 a.m. in 58 minutes - a 9:41 average.

Christi ran after me, and we drove ahead and waited for her at the next vehicle exchange at Corvallis High School.

Lots of other teams were sleeping, and we debated crashing at Corvallis or at the next vehicle exchange so we'd be ready in the "morning". We made the choice to stay where we were, so at about 3:30 a.m., Rodger, Deb and Christi curled up in the van while Brad, Diane, Jeffrey and I laid out our sleeping bags on a tarp in a field.

I slept hard, not waking until the sun started to come up. I opened my eyes long enough to see the gorgeous sunrise in the east, then fell back asleep. 

I sat up a little while later, looked around and saw that the field around us was completely empty. The parking lot? Also empty. It was the most surreal experience. I grabbed my watch to make sure we hadn't overslept. Did the Apocalypse happen while we were sleeping?? Did the other teams know something we didn't??

No, we were right on schedule. It was 6 a.m. and we'd gotten a precious 2.5 hours of sleep. I felt great - ready to tackle the rest of the day and our last legs.

We quickly loaded the van and drove to a Harrisburg cafe for breakfast (can't for the life of me remember the name...). The restaurant was great and the server was terrific! It was a good rest before hitting the road.

On our way to Harrisburg, Van #2 stopped at Exchange 28 to say hi to our volunteers. Eryn, Randy and Monica were working hard to keep track of each team that came through their stop.
Thanks SO much for helping out!!
We arrived at the Harrisburg vehicle exchange and saw sleeping bags all over the grass next to the parking lot. We definitely made the right choice to sleep in Corvallis!

Soon, our Van #1 friends arrived to hand off. In came Emily and out went Deb for one final leg.

My turn finally came at 11:20 a.m. in Coburg. I took the sweaty snap bracelet from Jeffrey and started my last leg. It was warm and sunny, but I felt good.

I cruised through town and then followed the highway south. I could see I-5 to my left, and cars whizzed by me on my right. It was a long, straight, sorta sucky stretch, but I was determined to finish strong.

Then I suddenly got hit with a side ache! I'm certain it's from my eating being "off". Normally I eat specific things before a run and I have specific bathroom habits. Years of experience have taught me how to avoid side aches, but our schedule forced me out of my routine.

I slowed down and tried to run through it, but it was really painful. I was getting ready to take a walk (my first of the weekend) when I spotted my van ahead by a cool bridge. I decided to run until I got to them.
Courtesy: Rodger
I slowed to a walk and told them my trouble. They were all really supportive. Christi yelled out the window, "There's no shame in walking!" I LOVE my non-judging teammates :)

I walked until I got it under control, then I ran really slowly. Eventually, I reached the outskirts of Eugene and my ache disappeared. I kicked it up as best I could, and when I saw a woman approaching from behind, I vowed to drop her. And I did!

I almost missed the turn off the highway but saw the sign at the last minute and ran across traffic to make the right. Knowing the finish was just around the corner and knowing this was my last leg, I kicked with all I had left. Rodger caught the handoff:
Courtesy: Rodger
And the relief:
Courtesy: Rodger
My final leg was listed at 5.21 miles. I finished at 12:12 p.m. in 52 minutes - a 9:53 average.

I took just a couple minutes to cool down, then we had to jump back in the van to get to the finish. We pulled over once to cheer on Christi, and I stayed in the van to change out of my sweaty clothes.

Then we busted it to Alton Baker Park to meet up with Van #1 and wait for Christi. Here she comes!
Courtesy: Rodger
We all jumped in and ran in with her:
Courtesy: Rodger
Courtesy: Rodger
Eryn was done with her early-morning duties and met us at the finish line.
Solstice Stupidity!!
We finished in 28:21:57 - a 9:07 average. We took 30th place out of 60 but 14th out of 35 in our division! (results) WOOHOO!!! :) :) :)
Courtesy: Rodger
Our original spreadsheet estimates put our finish at 29:11:20. But with most teammates finishing a minute or two faster than predicted, those minutes add up and we ended up 50 minutes ahead! 
Courtesy: Christi
We weren't the only team with that "problem". Toward the end of our night legs, exchange workers warned us that all teams were ahead of schedule. Because the upcoming exchanges and finish line wouldn't be ready when the fastest teams arrived, everyone was held at the Corvallis High School vehicle exchange until 3 a.m. We weren't THAT far ahead of schedule and were not affected. We left Corvallis High at 3:06 a.m.

Sounds like EPIC needs to reevaluate their estimation formula if everyone was ahead.

So tired but feeling so good:
Teams had to be self sufficient throughout the entire relay, providing our own fuel and hydration. Thank goodness they did provide porta-potties at all exchanges.

The finish line was no different. We finished, got our medals and then wondered around not sure what to do. It was very different from other races I've done. There were a couple of sponsored snacks and a tiny jug of water. Then there was the beer garden and a food cart with food for sale.

Eryn and I didn't have our ID but convinced the security guard to let us sit with our friends while they drank their free beer.
Courtesy: Rodger
Susan of Van #1 got hurt on her final leg. Something happened to her foot, so soon after we finished, the other half of our team took off, wanting to get her home as soon as possible.

But we were hungry and hit up Track Town Pizza for some refueling:
Courtesy: Rodger
I cannot say enough about our team! Van #2 had an absolute, hands-down blast. Everyone was incredibly supportive. We cheered nonstop for ourselves and everyone else on the course. We were there to have fun, and we did.

And Rodger deserves special recognition for his rock-star driving. Rodger was supposed to run until he was sidelined by injury. Instead of bagging it, he volunteered to drive us hooligans around for two days. He set the tone for our positive, party atmosphere, cheering out the front window for everyone. I felt his energy, and I know everyone else did, too! Words cannot express how important he was to our team. Thanks, Rodger!!! (Plus, he's the only one who took more than a couple pictures!)

I am so very glad that we did this relay! It was an amazing experience. I do regret not getting to spend more time with Van #1. Connie did a terrific job heading up that half of the team, but I really missed getting to mingle with the others. I wish we could have at least celebrated together at the end.

In all, I ran about 15.5 miles. Wanting to pace myself, I ran conservatively and kept it comfortable. My body survived just fine and I was just very tired over the next week - from the lack of sleep.
The strangest thing was having to run when I was told to, rather than when I wanted to. Usually, even if I have to squeeze in a workout, I do it on my terms, when I'm ready, when I feel like it. Not with a relay. When it was my turn, I had to suck it up and get 'er done. But guess what? That's exactly what we did - and it was awesome!!!

And not wanting the stupidity to end, Brad, Jeffrey, Sheri and I went out again Sunday afternoon for Portland's monthly Sunday Bike Parkways. The causal, 9.5-mile bike ride in north Portland served as a good recovery workout.
A good way to end an EPIC weekend :)

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