It wasn’t supposed to happen. When the captain of Ranch Road 1 informed the members of the original team (from 2013) late last year that we had an admission to the event for 2017, I passed. I didn’t want to pass, but I felt like I should because the timing wasn’t good for me. Doing an out-of-town 30+ hour overnight relay two weeks before Ironman Wisconsin felt irresponsible towards my Ironman effort. I was supposed to bike 100 miles this weekend and then begin my taper, not exhaust myself on a fun and social effort. But then a couple of months ago, that same captain told me that someone had dropped out and invited me to reconsider the decision. So I did. It still felt irresponsible, but I decided to make it work. And I’m so glad I did.
To make it work, I promised myself one thing: no matter what, I would figure out a way to get my 100 mile ride in. Last time we did Hood to Coast, I flew to Oregon a day early and helped get cars, go grocery shopping, and prep everything for the team’s arrival. So I told myself that I would take the same amount of time off, but get my ride done mid-week rather than go to Oregon a day early. I hated leaving my captain to handle everything on her own, but she understood my need to get my training in. So I got my ride in on Wednesday and then headed out to Oregon Thursday morning.
This time the team was Catherine, Jenn, Josh, Lucinda, Lars, Mike, Jeanie, Fred, Danny, Kristen, Dave and me. Like the last experience, we all meshed well. We tried something different this time. Rather than have six people in each van and each of us stay in the same vans the entire time, we shuffled vans a bit. The structure of the van changes was a little hard to wrap my head around at first, but it worked out well in that it gave us a little time in a van with almost every member of the team. The only negative for me was that normally your van is either “on” or “off.” And if you’re off, then you get to eat and stop somewhere – a field or a school or perhaps the rental house – and sleep for a bit. Because of the shuffling, I went from an “on” van to another “on” van and didn’t have the “off” period until very late in the event. Because I’m incapable of staying awake all night, that meant I took a good long nap in the car (from about 3am to 6am) just as soon as I did my first van change. I felt bad going right to sleep with a new group of people, but that few hours made a world of difference to me.
In terms of goals, I nailed this event. I went in hoping to run an average pace that started with a ten. I haven’t been doing a lot of speed work, but I’ve been running a lot, so this was a test event for me. I had three legs that totaled 16.46 miles, and I managed average paces of 10:36, 10:18, and 10:46 on the three legs. That gave me an overall average of 10:34 miles, which I consider awesome, especially under the circumstances. I’m thrilled. And while this event is more social than training, I’m really pleased that I got good training out of it. That gives me confidence going into Wisconsin in two weeks.
All of that aside, this event really is about the people. And these people were so much fun. I knew everyone on the team before this weekend. I didn’t know them all well, but I at least knew them somewhat. Some people joined the team only knowing one person or a few people. It’s no small task to get a group together, put them in tight quarters, work them out physically, deprive them of sleep, and expect them still to get along. But we got along beautifully. I laughed this weekend. A lot.
I can’t capture the entire weekend, but here are a few highlights:
- On our flights to Portland, we met and chatted with members of teams called Sisters with Blisters and the Dragon Slayers and then happened to run into them at the start on Mt. Hood. I loved getting to high-five near strangers as though we were old friends.
- Dave broke out into dance at the rental car area of the airport. I wish I could post the video, but I promised him I wouldn’t. Let me just say that it’s super cute.
- We had a team member who was fresh off hiking the Appalachian Trail and apparently wasn’t really a runner, though you’d never know either of those facts from his times.
- Some of the team names and van decorations were fun. My favorites were “Make America Chafe Again,” “Everything Hurts and I Am Dying,” and “Sunny With a Chance of Pain.” There were also quite a few taco themed teams.
- As we drove from one runner exchange point to another, we often drove along the race route and could cheer for our runner. One of our runners, who shall remain nameless, mooned our van as we drove by.
- At one point, I was standing at an exchange point with Jeanie. We are both wearing our Texas shorts, and our Ranch Road 1 shirts, which have the state of Texas drawn on them. Jeanie is also wearing a cowboy hat. A woman walks up to us and says, “Are you guys from Oregon?”
- Our team outfits were a huge hit. Protocol was for volunteers at the runner exchange points to announce bib numbers – ours was 1055 – so team members would know their runner was coming in and could stage themselves in the exchange area. By the end of the race, the announcement for our team was just “Texas.” Not 1055. Just Texas.
- At one point, our two vans met at a runner exchange point, and the eleven of us who were not running were enjoying taking group pictures so much that we didn’t see or hear our runner come in. A volunteer from the exchange point ran down to us to tell us our runner was waiting. Oops.
- I was runner twelve, which meant I did the last leg. I will never forget running up the boardwalk to the Oregon sand and hearing my team long before I could see them gathered near the finish. That last stretch with them in sight was the absolute sweetest moment of the entire race.
I’ve said before that I love a good hard effort. There only thing better than a good hard effort is a good hard effort with people I love. This was a good hard effort with people I love. I won’t soon forget Hood to Coast 2017. And I can’t wait for an opportunity to do this again. Given the chance to rejoin Team Ranch Road 1, I will not pass – regardless of what else is going on. The weekend is just too much fun.