Wednesday, August 27, 2014

The Loop Does Hood to Coast

Three years ago I had a dream. "Wouldn't it be great to do one of these relay things with a team full of Loopsters?" Well, it took 3 tries, but we finally got through the Hood to Coast lottery, and I assembled a team of awesomeness. After months of anticipation, and a few substitutions, it was finally time to make it happen.

Wednesday night I flew to Portland and was met by two ladystuds who had each finished a 100-miler in the last two months.

Soon we added another 100-mile veteran, JennyRae, and we were off for the first stop of the weekend; Taco Bell. Because those new Quesaritos are a pretty damn good way to start a party weekend!

Thursday kicked off with a fun "Portlandy" breakfast at Slappy Cakes, where you cook your own pancakes at your table. Fun and delicious! Unless you get a mimosa in your lap anyway. I added a side of chicken-fried bacon with caramel sauce, because, well, chicken-fried bacon in caramel sauce!!!

More of the team had gathered by now, and we did a little hiking to see two of the area's beautiful waterfalls.

Then the whole team assembled for happy hour, and it was typical Loopfest party time!

Aside: I remember how my first few loopfests felt. marshall 2010 and Philly 2011. It was incredible to meet all these people that I knew from online, that I kind of treated like a celebrity, and find out that we could be like best buddies on first meeting. It was mind-blowing and so fun. Now, I have hung out with a lot of these people multiple times and known them for years, so it's different. It's more just like getting together with old friends. Because that's what it is. The fact that we met online is not really relevant any more. What is relevant is that we all share the same passion, and we understand each other a little more than non-runners.

Of my 11 teammates, only one was a new meeting for me. Stacy fit right in of course, as loopsters always do. I was in my happy place all weekend, just looking around at all my "best friends". Of course it was just an accident that they were all loopette babes...


 Wait, how did he get in here...

We had a few drinks. Some people didn't even need a glass.


 An unfortunate hair snag took hours to untangle...

Good times. Really good. And the race wasn't until the next day. Here's your team.

 On the way out, we had to stop at this nearby location.
 Wait, what? Well, I googled my name and this place came up. I promise it is not named after me. (It is a home for women survivors of domestic violence) But I still needed this photo.

 I totally should have stolen that sign. They had a bunch...

(and yes, I am embarrassed to be that semi-drunk guy smiling and laughing in front of this place. Sorry)

Anyway, on to race day!

Hood to Coast is about 200 miles from near the top of Mt. Hood to the Pacific ocean. 1,050 teams of 12 leave the mountain in waves of about 30 every 15 minutes for about ten hours. Our start was relatively late, at 1:45PM. We got up there early and had time to decorate the van and absorb the scene. It was maybe 50 degrees. There were people snowboarding on the nearby slopes! It was a beautiful area.

Jenster got reacquainted with her favorite bear.


The Timberline lodge there was the hotel used for the movie of The Shining - the "Overlook Hotel".
Maranda seemed pretty good for someone who had been puking all morning...

Jenster kept us grounded.

The announcer introduced each team, and counted us down until..."Get out of here!".. and Maranda started our 27 hour journey.

The rest of us hopped in the van and headed toward the first exchange. After every exchange we would drive by our runner and scream out the window. And that Jenster has some lungs, I can tell you...
Some of the legs we stopped midway for even more encouragement. It was a blast.
I got to sit shotgun and calculate all the timing, because I like that stuff. So we would estimate when we needed to be at the next exchange. Each one had it's own little challenges for parking, peeing, etc. It was never boring.
JennyRae and LadyRunsALot flew down the next two downhill legs at sub-7 pace!

Then Jenster ran and handed the wrist strap to me for my leg.

I had almost 20 miles over 3 legs, and I hadn't thought too much about strategy. I figured I'd go out at tempo pace. Half marathon pace. But have fun and not stress. Well, while waiting to start, the familiar race nervousness still kicked in. And just after starting, some guy passed me, and I was in race mode. Kind of. I was running about 7:30-7:45 pace. Working pretty hard, but having fun running along a beautiful forested highway. Another guy passed me in mile 2 and I stuck behind him for a couple miles, partly to draft, partly just to pace me. Then we passed my screaming teammates.

My last 2 miles were uphill and I went by this guy, and two others. It was a rough long hill, but I maintained a decent pace and finished strong to hand off to Quadracool. Unfortunately I somehow deleted my garmin data. But it averaged about 8 minute pace for 6.2 miles after the uphill slowdown.

Back in the van the endorphins kicked in and I was feeling pretty euphoric as we cheered for QC. Getting that first run in got rid of the nerves, and I felt relaxed, and happy and energized. So much fun!

Then we were off to exchange 6 to meet up with van 2. These guys.

We had maybe 15 minutes to socialize but then Quadracool handed off to YouMightDieTryin, and van 2 hit the road.

Van 2 did some great work, although I wasn't there to see it, but here are some pics.

Meanwhile we drove into Portland, and caught some more local flavor by having dinner at one of Portland's many food cart collectives. I figured I earned my bacon cheeseburger, and would have 6 hours to digest it before having to run again.

Night was falling, and we drove down to the river and downtown for the next major exchange. We had a few hours, and some people napped. Too early for me. It was a beautiful spot, under the freeway.
We were still in touch with van 2 by cell phone, so we knew when to expect them. It was great being able to communicate, send pictures, post to Loopville. But soon enough we would be thrust back into a 20th century world without contact, and had to rely on our wits.

Laura handed off to Maranda, and off we went! Over the bridge and skirting downtown Portland along the river. We were worried about M, since she had been so sick so far, but she was game, and came through despite more mid-run puking. Then Jenny also had food cart regrets, barely finishing her leg before dashing off to the Honey Bucket. Thankfully the rest of us stayed gastronomically healthy.

My 2nd leg started at 2AM. 7.5 miles along a 4-lane highway with no street lights. Plenty of room though, and most cars and trucks were in the middle lane. We saw team Google go by us here, on their way to 2nd place and a sub-6 minute average. Most of the run I was by myself. Three fast guys zoomed by. And I caught 4 people. But mostly just a nice progression tempo along the highway. Perfect temp, nice breeze, dark, clean air. I was having so much fun. Comfortably hard. I knew our time was meaningless, but you just can't help and race, especially when there are people to catch.
After my leg and QC's, we had some more time, so we headed to the local high school for a $2 shower, and a $6 breakfast of pancakes, eggs and sausage at 4AM. My first group shower in decades! It felt so good to be clean and put on clean clothes! Kudos to the 3,000 volunteers who stayed up all night! Amazing.

We then headed toward exchange 24, but just before 23 we hit the traffic and stopped. F-O-R-E-V-E-R!
Too many vans and not enough organization or space caused a major league bottleneck. I think it was over 3 hours for the last 6 miles or something. It was ridiculous, but I'm not going to get into that. But it cost us our hoped for nap time of 2-3 hours. No sleep for us!

We were also in the cell phone dead zone now, so had no idea when Laura would arrive to hand off. I had to estimate all 6 of their leg times and guess. Turns out they arrived about 15 minutes before I guessed. We had only just arrived ourselves and were returning from the pee-pee line when they announced our number! Maranda had to dash off without any prep. Laura had been waiting a few minutes. But away we went. It was just after dawn.

Maranda had a puke-free 3rd leg thank goodness and the other ladies were running great. Traffic was still a mess the rest of the race however, so the runners would get to the exchange before the van. The next runner had to jump out early and run the other runner in to the next exchange. Then the first runner had to double back and find the van. And no rest time for the drivers or passengers. Oh well. It was still fun!

For my 3rd leg, I had a 3 mile uphill of about 600 feet and then a 3 mile downhill of similar drop. It was about Noon and getting warm, but I did have some shade. I had to add 1.3 miles running Jenster in, and then up the hill I went.

It was tough. Pace stayed over 9:30 for the first two miles. Climb, climb, climb. And I got chicked. I carried a water bottle, and after 1 mile I took a short walk break for a drink. And of course that is when our van goes by. Whatever. Mile 3 was the worst. Steeper, and no shade. I stopped to walk about 4 times and had about 10:30 pace for that mile. But I knew I had a prize at the top.

An HTC tradition is to do a fake finish line at the top of this hill. My teammates did it to perfection. I could hear their screaming for minutes as I trudged up the last 1/4 mile. I was laughing and crying..and really looking forward to being done with this hill! So I threw in a BP as I broke the tape and got a shower as they screamed. It was awesome.
And then I stopped to walk. Had a drink, crested the hill, and started down. And it was steep. And I was flying. The joy returned. Some fast chick went by me, and I thought, oh no, no one passes me on a downhill, and I chased her for a mile. Also because she had a nice booty. And then I passed her. Because I was flying. I love the downhills. But then I saw the vans backed up. And then there was QC. A full mile and a half before the exchange.

I said, "Let's go! Try to keep up!" because I wasn't going to slow down! I kind of forgot that she is faster than me. Sometimes. So she had to go from standing to sub-7 downhill sprinting. But she was fine. I'm the one who had to slow down eventually as the 20+ miles and 30 hours without sleep started to get to me. I cut it back a bit, because, you know, it's not really a race. And finished a little less crazy fast.

But then booty girl went by me, so I had to pass her again just before the finish. Men.
QC headed off for her leg, and I turned back to walk up the hill to the van. I just want to note here that many of the other vans would cheer for me as we went by. Lots of cheering going on between teams. Good times, despite the frustration with the traffic.

Once we got QC, our van parked for a break and it felt great to be done. We ate, we peed, we changed. Then we made our way to the Finish. I finally got a little sleep.

The finish area was another mess, but we had a VIP suite, so we got away from the masses. It was good to be done and relax, get a beer, and stick our legs in the cold ocean.



Van 1 (above) happy! Below, van 1 on left and van 2, still grumpy for good reason, on right.


But once they settled in and ate and drank, it was all good. There was a bonfire, and beer, and bratwursts, and spouses, and beer. The mythical Loopville exists. Where it is 50's and overcast - perfect running weather - and all your best buddies are there. With beer.

 I think I'll enter the lottery for next year.

Monday, August 11, 2014

A Happy Run

Hi, Me again.

Yes, I just posted, but I had another run Sunday that I wanted to write about.

It was really a great week for me. Things are looking up.

Monday: Colonoscopy. Passed with flying colors. Decided not to run (duh) since I hadn't eaten in almost two days and was coming off of anesthesia.

Tuesday: Hoka test run became a solid tempo with 5.5 at 7:50 pace.

Wednesday: One Mile Race on the track exceeded expectations with a 5:52!

Thursday: Put in some more junk miles, about 5 easy.

Friday: Rest, but meet up with RunDanRun.

Saturday: 10K cross country race with Dan.

So with that busy week there was no room for a long run, like the 17 due up on my marathon training schedule. But I thought maybe I could do one more run on tired legs just to get in some miles. Then I slept 10 hours Saturday night! Much more than normal. By the time I was ready to run it was close to 10AM and the fog had burned off and the sun was out. I thought about taking a rest day.

A little later I was feeling better. I had nothing else to do all day, maybe I could just go out and enjoy the beautiful sunny day at the beach. Maybe 6. Take it easy.

By the time I left, I was feeling relatively chipper! Maybe I'll do the full 9 to the end of the beach and back. See how it goes.

I headed out in just my shorts and my brand new Hoka Cliftons. The weather was perfect for a day at the beach. Sunny, low 70's, nice breeze, no humidity. I took it easy, but I could tell right away that I felt pretty good! No residual race soreness!

I did an out and back on the beach bike path.
The Hokas felt great. Light weight but cushy. It's not like pillows. It's more like springs on your feet. The shoes just seem to push you forward!

Going through Hermosa Beach, there was a big festival going on - Fin Fest for Discovery's Shark Week. Lots of people and booths and stuff going on, and bands on a big stage. Pharrell's Happy was playing on the speakers and I got it stuck in my head for most of the run. But it was perfect, because I was Happy! I was celebrating a great mile race, a really fun loopmeet, and it was just blissful running along the beach on a perfect day! Sing with me now...

OK, sorry for the earworm.

At mile 3 I was passed by a guy and then he pulled me along for the next few miles. That pushed my pace down to about 8:00 - virtually the same as yesterday's race pace! Felt good the whole way, humming my little song, smiling, and knocking out 8 minute miles on tired legs without much effort.

beach 2
Sub-8 for the last 4, even up the hill back to the house. And the even better news is that the Hokas seem to be good for my PF as well. The feet felt a lot better after this run than they have been lately. So I rode the runner's high during and after this run. Still riding it.

"Because I'm happy
Clap along if you feel like that's what you wanna do"
"Can't nothing
Bring me down
My level's too high"

LoopMeet and Race Report!

RunDanRun is one of my long-time Loop heroes. We just missed meeting each other twice previously, but he was coming to LA with his family for a vacation, so we made sure to meet up this time - and of course find a race!

Friday night, Dan and his lovely family arrived at Chez Bangle, and we all went down to Redondo Pier for a little walk and dinner.
His two daughters were adorable, even during the Heimlich maneuver.

We loaded the girls in the back of the truck...
No, just playing around. So we had a nice evening. Of course, Dan and I got along like old buddies. His blogs paint him as a pretty intense guy, with some crazy hard workouts, tough goals, and laser focus. But in person he was more gentle then I expected. Just a nice sweet guy, who happens to kick serious ass when he puts on the short shorts.

Saturday morning we went to a local 10K called "The Hills are Alive". It is run on a variety of surfaces: horse trails, dirt path, some road, some gravel. It's really a fun course. There were four tunnels that were so dark you could not see your foot falls, just had to hope it was good. And there was horse poo to dodge. And then there were hills. Constant rolling hills.

Look at the first 1/4 mile. This would NOT be a PR course. But it was small, and I hoped for an AG place. Dan was seeing how close he could get to winning a race!

So, off we went. I was still smiling after the first hill.
The wives and the girls had to just wait until we got back, so they practiced being cute.
I survived the first hill and settled into a sustainable pace. The crowd was thin, and after about 1.5 miles I was basically by myself. Nobody passed me. There was one guy about 100 yards ahead of me that I was chasing most of the race. At least I had him to keep me motivated. But those rolling hills are tough! I was constantly losing momentum and sucking air on the uphills, only to regain my optimism on the downhills.

So I plugged along. Enjoyed the course. Stayed just under 8:00 pace. On that course, with the dirt and the hills, that was good enough. In mile 5 I started to gain ground on the guy ahead of me. I gradually reeled him in and blew by. Then there was no one ahead of me. But with only a mile to go, I used that momentum to push a little harder on the way in.

Meanwhile Dan was flying in to the finish!

He finished 7th overall. Nice job! The final 100 yards is down a steep hill, so we were flying!

I came in 17th with a 49:45. Garmin measured it a little long with 6.39 miles. Unfortunately some of my local fast friends from my AG showed up, and I finished 4th AG, just out of the medals.

But it was a fun time. 10K #95 in the books.

They had all the shirts from the race's beginnings in 1980.
Dan won his Age Group.
Then we went home for some of DW's breakfast burritos. And we had a few hours to kill before they left for the airport, so we walked down to the beach.


Life is GOOD!