Friday, August 22, 2008

Hood to Coast: First Leg, or "She'll Be Comin' Round the Mountain"

~5 min w/u
5.67 miles @ 33:30 (~5:52 pace)
~5 min c/d
Total: 7 miles
Course map

Van 1 teammates at Brooks headquarters before our journey
L to R: Liz, Rick, Alex, Bri, Tara, me

After a traffic-intensive drive from Seattle to Portland, we arrived at the top of Mt. Hood around 6:30 pm. What a breathtaking view! Since I was in Van 2 last year (which doesn't go to the start of the race), this was my first time to journey to the top of the mountain and witness our team's sendoff. Through a combination of predicted time and lottery, we literally were among the final 7-8 teams to start the race, and our Hood to Coast experience kicked off at exactly 7:45pm. Tara Schwager, one of our customer service girls, ran the first leg and would hand off to me after about six miles. I would then continue down the mountain (literally) for another ~6 before handing off to a guy named Alex who works at our outlet store in Bothell. He handed off to Bri (customer service), who passed to Rick (sales VP), who passed to Liz (apparel sales), who then handed off to the first person on Van 2. Such would be the rotation throughout the entire race.

The ladies of Van 1 at the start: Liz, Bri, myself, Tara

By the time I got the baton (read: slap bracelet) circa 8:30, daylight was waning rapidly. Though temperatures were in the upper 50s at this point, the humidity was rather high and I worked up a sweat pretty quickly. Race rules mandated that each of us wear a reflective vest and carry a flashlight during the night runs, and I was glad to have both as I weaved down the mountain around hairpin turns amid relatively heavy traffic. Everyone had warned me to neither push nor hold back on this leg, but rather to let the mountain carry me in hopes of preserving my quads for the next two legs. I tried to take this advice and concentrated on maintaining relaxed breathing and a comfortable stride. I also opted to wear a heavier shoe instead of a racing flat on this leg, which proved to be a wise decision. I've never run downhill for six miles straight before and it was definitely a strange feeling. It would've taken a tremendous effort to stop my downward propulsion; fortunately I didn't trip or stub a toe or anything because it would've been all over.

Van 1 at the start line

When I handed off to Alex at the next exchange I was shocked to see my split. If only running 5:50 pace could feel that effortless all the time! I jogged around for a few minutes and immediately popped an ibuprofen to prevent some soreness in my quads, but I could tell almost immediately that I was pretty toasted. At this point it was time to rest, hydrate and refuel for approximately six hours before my next run. I was just hoping to still be able to walk by then. Remind me again why I signed up for this??