Hood to Coast 2009: The Honey Bucket Saga

This Summer I participated in my first team relay race from the top of Mt. Hood to the coast of Oregon.  This 197 mile route meandered through Oregon’s mountains, rolling hills, cities, and quiet rural towns and ended at the Pacific Ocean in the quaint little beach community of Seaside, OR.  I was fortunate enough to be in Van #1 and share this awesome experience with some old and new friends: Zoe, Rob, James, Jared, and Tracy.  Van #2 was full of the sub-6 min milers, so it’s safe to say that we had the more rowdy, fun van!

Since we were in Van #1, we had the honor of starting the race atop Mt. Hood.   We got up there with plenty of time to peruse the parking lot full of uniquely decorated team vans, many of which displayed team names that were most likely derived and agreed upon after heavy drinking…some of the top names: Rusty Trombones, Dragon-ass, Go N.A.D.s, Team Corndog, and of course top prize goes to our own team…”A Good Case of the Runs”.  So when 2pm on Friday came, we were ready to hit the trail runnin’!  Zoe bravely took the first treacherous downhill leg and knocked it out without needing to duct tape her heels (a trick that James picked up from past races…apparently it helps to prevent full-heel blisters…what a wonderful invention!).  Tracy followed and then it was my turn…Leg 3…which was deemed “easy” in the racer’s handbook mainly because it was all downhill and just under 4 miles.  No sweat!  Tracy passed me the “baton” (slap bracelet from back in the early 90’s…genius!) and I was on my way.  Seeing that there really is no 4 mile strip of road in the Fan that is all downhill, my training was lacking this type of terrain.  Luckily, I had some good tunes blarin’ from my ipod (thanks Bros) and I was liking the downhill run.  Without mile markers or provisions along the leg, I was a little unsure about how far I had gone or what was ahead, but as I neared my exchange, I saw a good ol’ trusty Dairy Queen sign and I knew I was almost done!  I slapped Rob with the bracelet and he was on his way.  First leg down (avg 7:11 miles…thank you downhill), two to go!

Our team finished our first round of runs and passed the baton off to Van#2.  We had about 6 hours to spend wisely before our next round…which included eating dinner, trying to take naps, showering, and getting to our next exchange.  I would have to say that the nap taking adventure was my favorite part of our down time.  We ended up in the front foyer of an office building that smelled of “rich mahogany”, curled up on the floor or on big cushy study chairs, surrounded by several “leather-bound books”.   We were supposed to sleep in Jame’s office but apparently they changed the elevator code on him, so we had to opt for the foyer.  The funniest part was that while we were attempting our naps, there was a crew of workmen doing construction and an old security guard on duty who made no attempt to find out why there were 6 people, dressed in pjs and carrying pillows camped out in his building.  Perhaps that is the norm in Portland.

Well our 45 min naps ended swiftly and we were off to our exchange with Van #2 in the middle of the night.  This was the leg I was most concerned about…how the hell do you run 7.25 miles in the black darkness of Oregon, along a highway, with no provisions, and only a head lamp to guide your way?  CREEEPY!  Again, the two ladies running before me knocked out their runs and it was my turn again.  My nerves were a little eased by the fact that I could usually see a runner in front of me at all times (by the light of their headlamp…awww), and the team vans were parked along the road to cheer us on.  Despite needing some body glide and water 1/3 of the way through, my second leg went pretty well.  Once I saw the exchange I turned on the speed and finished averaging ~9:10 min miles.  I was really in need of a nap by that point.  Luckily, to the dismay of my teammates, I snuggled myself in the back seat of the van and attempted to sleep until we finished our legs and then made our way to the “big field” for the final exchange.  It was at this “big field” where we were going to actually be able to get out, get horizontal and attempt to sleep on a tarp…fun!  Poor Rob and Jared were stuck with driving to this lovely destination, which was off of a one lane road that was completely backed up with vans.  Once we FINALLY got to the “big field” we nestled into our respective cocoons and slept for maybe 2 hours.  All of us, minus Rob who was in a sleep coma, woke up to tiny raindrops pelting our faces and the sound of the Honey Bucket trucks emptying the “honey” from the “buckets”.  Once we were up, it was plain to see that THIS exchange had it going ON!  Some smart Oregonians set up tents with food and coffee.   Although I didn’t think that biscuits and gravy really would have sat well for my final leg, I settled for a Cliff bar and iced latte…come on coffee go to work baby!

Our final set of legs went very well.  I think everyone was ready to be done and make our way to the hotel and beach finish line festivities.  My last leg was just under 6 miles and I would have to say that although it was difficult, I particularly enjoyed pretending to smoke a few people on the trail while the “media” van drove by filming me.  Once they left and rounded the corner, I was back to my normal pace…hahaha!  I wonder where that footage will end up?  Jared brought up the rear for Van #1’s final legs, just in time to hear the first beer being cracked open.  According to the vets, it was tradition to stop at this little tiny po-dunk bar at the Olney General Store and throw back a team shot to celebrate.  So we made rolled in, sweaty, stinky and sore, but ready to get the party started!  The local yokles got a kick out of us as we held up our shot glasses to cheer our victory.  VAN #1 ROCKS!  We jumped back into the van, cracked some more brews, and made our way to Seaside.

I couldn’t have asked for a better place to lay my weary body than the condo that James got us.  Basically, it surpassed everything I had imagined…ocean view, roomy, full kitchen…but honestly I was just happy to have a side of a bed!  We headed down to the beach finish line and watched the teams come in and cross the line together.  We met up with Van #2 and waited for Morgan to get close before we joined her and all finished the race together.  What a great experience!   Post-race festivities included sharing some beers on the beach and sharing our most and least favorite things about the whole events.  The best answer was Jared’s “least” favorite part…”My favorite part was the commrodary and my least favorite part was that I kept fucking everything up”.  We all were rolling.  Poor Jared was our anchor runner and 2 out of 3 times was not prepared for James at the exchanges.  He got some sympathy votes for his honest plea that night on the beach.   My evening ended fairly early.  Although I hoped to throw a few more back and celebrate, my body was telling me something different….SLEEP!  The next morning came and we had a final breakfast all together.  It was a great ending to an even more amazing race and experience.

Now, there was talk of getting a team together for next year.  While the pain hadn’t completely set in and I was still high from it all, I threw my name in the hat for Hood to Coast 2010.  I originally said “one and done” but had such a great time with my new and old friends.  It was definitely a bonding experience, and one I will not quickly forget.  Thanks to all of my team members who made my first (and maybe not my last) HTC an amazing race!

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December 30, 2009. Tags: , , , , , , , . Friends, Sports, Travel.

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