Hood to Coast: The Main Event

Race morning, as they all do, started bright and early. I had an alarm set for 3:45am but was awake well before that due to paranoia of missing the alarm. This is pretty much the scene that plays out the night before every single one of my races. Elisabeth, Sean, Jenny, Eric and I sleepily met in the lobby to wait for Casey and Arielle from Nuun Hydration. They picked us up from the hotel at 4:30am and we were off to the starting line at Mt. Hood!

HTC Relay - WB Van 1 - Drive to Mt Hood

HTC Relay - WB Van 1 - Start photo credit: Arielle

The energy at the start was electric and I just could not get over the fact that I was about to FINALLY run Hood to Coast. Only a certain type of runner will get excited to spend 30+ hours in a van with sweaty strangers. The weather was a little foggy and overcast so Mt. Hood was hidden behind the clouds the entire time we were at the top.

Elisabeth was our leadoff runner and took off down the mountain at 10:15am. She cruised through her 5.65 mile leg under the projected time and then Jenny set out on Leg 2, followed by Eric, Sean, and Arielle.

HTC Relay - Exchange 1

HTC Relay - Jenny and Sean - Leg 1

Leg 1 – 6.97 miles

In the weeks leading up to the race I tried to read recaps of the legs I’d be running and review tips on HTC’s Facebook page from runners who had tackled the same miles in years past. One recurring comment was to prepare for traffic leading up to the exchange and this was no exaggeration. From the point where I got of the van until the actual exchange, it was about 3/4 of a mile. Casey walked with me and the one thing I remember distinctly is being incredibly quiet. For some reason I was ridiculously nervous and this was causing my heart to race. 80 degrees with 90% humidity at 3:45am in the dark is what I’m good at. Having the mid-afternoon sun beating down on you, despite how warm it is, is another animal entirely.

Arielle had [unsurprisingly – she’s a total badass] beasted through her leg and came flying into the exchange just after 2pm. She slapped the bracelet on my wrist and I set off to conquer my first leg. A majority of the first mile was spent trying to get my heart rate down and breathing under control. By mile 2 I was in good shape and riding my “I’m running Hood to Coast!!” high. Just after my watch clicked over to 4, the wheels fell off. It was a struggle from there on out and I was so damn happy to see all 11 of my teammates at Exchange 6 and hand off to Kevin.

Jenny navigated us to Laurelwood Brew Pub for dinner and our first real meal of the day. She then skyrocketed her way to the top of everyone’s “Favorite Person Ever” list by offering up her house as a place for us to rest, shower, and basically enjoy the extra room that the van sorely lacked. I spent a majority of the time there laying in the hallway with my legs up the wall and my eyes shut.

HTC Relay - Portland ExchangeExchange 13 in Portland
photo credit: Rachel

All of our night legs went off without a hitch, with the exception of a random man who barked at Elisabeth during her leg. There were some interesting characters in that particular area of Portland. During Sean’s leg I started to get really tired, so when Arielle [and Casey] took off for her leg we made a stop to grab ice for the drink cooler and some sort of caffeinated beverage for me. I settled on a Starbucks Double Shot Coffee that ended up being too sweet and too heavy, but overall got the job done.

HTC Relay - WB Van 1 - Exchange 17

Leg 2 – 5.23 miles

I don’t know if it was the legs up the wall or what, but this leg was magical. It felt like my first run of the day. Sure, there was a lot of climbing but it was only 60 degrees so I really didn’t care. The quietness of the night was so peaceful and I kind of wished it was a couple miles longer. We weaved through a neighborhood a few times and I was so grateful for all of the volunteers working through the middle of the night, letting us know where to turn. I loved every minute of Leg 18.

Walking back to the car someone mentioned to prepare for a shitty ride to Exchange 24 [where we would sleep + wait for the handoff from Van 2] and I didn’t quite understand how the traffic could be that bad at 3am. At some point, for a reason that’s still unknown, the exchange was shut down and no longer letting any vans inside. We sat in the same spot for over 2 hours. I would sleep intermittently and every time I opened my eyes we hadn’t moved an inch. Casey somehow managed to keep himself occupied in the driver’s seat the entire time – I don’t know what we would have done without him! We should have had 3-4 hours to sleep at the exchange but by the time we actually pulled in and parked? It was only 30 minutes.

With it being everyone’s last leg, we made a point to stop mid-way on each runner’s run to cheer and cowbell excessively for them, providing an energizing boost to help them push through the suck. And after Arielle crushed a monster hill on one of the hardest legs of the course, we set up finish line tape made of toilet paper for her to break through [the video at the end caught that gem]

HTC Relay - Eric - Leg 3
Leg 3 – 5.43 miles

This wasn’t pretty. I take that back – the actual leg was GORGEOUS and definitely the most scenic of the three I ran. My legs were toast at this point and the only thing keeping me going was the fact that the finish line [ahem, beach + beer] was oh so close.

And with that, Van 1 of Team Wild Berry was officially DONE!

HTC Relay - WB Van 1 - Team

HTC Relay - Leg Check Marks

As glorious as a shower sounded once we arrived in Seaside, everyone opted to venture down to the Biergarten instead. Hashtag priorities. A couple Widmer Upheavals later we heard our anchor, Liz, was almost done so we headed to the finish to cross as a team. This was an incredibly bittersweet moment: so proud + happy to have those 200 miles behind us, but so sad our HTC experience was coming to a close.

HTC Relay - Team Wild Berry - Finish Line    photo credit: Eric

HTC Relay - Team Wild Berry - Finish Line Beers photo credit: Eric

And the TL;DR :: My teammate Eric put together the video below that recaps our race fantastically in a short 3 minutes:

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An Ode to Nuun Hydration

I have to thank Megan Fay for one of the best weekends of my life. She worked tirelessly throughout the year to ensure a successful experience for all of the ambassadors. If any issues or problems arose, we knew nothing of it. From the second I stepped off the plane in SeaTac on Thursday to my sad departure back to Austin on Sunday, every single detail was taken care of and perfectly executed by Megan. She worked her ass off to ensure everything went off without a hitch and I know every single one of us appreciated her hard work.

Nuun Hydration was the key to our success throughout the entire race. A company is only as strong as their team and I have to say – Nuun has an incredibly strong group of people working for them. [Kevin – hold on to ALL of them!] I hesitate to use the word “working” because every single person seemed to sincerely enjoy what they do. And that’s the dream, right – to love what you do? They’re a perfect example of this.

Thank you to our excellent van drivers – Casey, Jay, Kevin and Vishal – who signed up to be the navigators and had to deal with some of the worst HTC traffic in recent years. Thank you to the Nuun employees – Arielle, Megan, Zoë and Kim – who completed each of our vans and rocked every single leg. We couldn’t have made it across the finish line without each and every one of you!

I am so honored to represent Nuun Hydration and grateful to have been offered a spot to race with them at Hood to Coast. It was truly the experience of a lifetime.

Hood to Coast: The Prequel, Part II

Thursday morning started with a run along the Seattle waterfront for most of my teammates. I opted to sleep in and rest my legs a little. My shins get super feisty when I cram too many miles into too few days and with 19ish miles on deck between Friday & Saturday, taking Thursday off seemed like a logical decision. Skipping the run also meant I had a little extra time to get ready and enjoy my final shower before living in a van for 36 hours.

The girls returned from their run around 9:30 and somehow the four of us were out the door by 10:20. A miracle I tell you. Vishal and Zoë from Nuun Hydration picked us up and whisked us away to Brooks Running’s new headquarters.

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Brooks’ new space is absolutely massive, spanning five floors in an energy-efficient building with open floor plans, a cafeteria [it was Mac & Cheese day and unfortunately we already had lunch plans] and a huge rooftop area with gorgeous views of the Seattle skyline. We were lucky enough to sit down with one of their Product Line Managers, Carson Caprara, who discussed the life cycle of shoes. It was interesting to hear about the research that goes into developing the next iteration of a specific model – it’s a lot more extensive than you may think. Carson also touched on the process of nailing down design details, reviewing 3D prototypes of the shoe [welcome to the future] and what the steps are once it gets closer to production. The amount of work that goes into one model of shoes is mind-blowing.

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Team Nuun Energy at Brooks HQ

After our tour of HQ, the vans took us back downtown to Pyramid Brewing across from our hotel for lunch. Pitchers of Hefeweizen and Thunderhead IPA were passed around the table and the only time anyone stopped talking was when our food hit the table. I ended up sitting next to Eric and we chatted about our New Jersey and Philly Marathon experiences, among other things. His running story and how it changed him is pretty awesome. I also had the opportunity to talk a bit with George, starting with me thanking him for the shot of Fireball that closed out the previous night. Since there were so many of us, it was really hard to get to know every.single.person especially if you weren’t roommates or in their van. I wish I could have had just one more day to spend a little more time with the people I missed!

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Everyone split off into groups after lunch and our group [Susie, Lauren, Doug] hit up Target for a few necessities, did a little browsing in an antique store, and ended up back at Pike Place Market to give Storyville a shot.

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Storyville  Collage

The final item on the agenda for Thursday was a visit to Nuun HQ for dinner catered by Chipotle, liquid carbs [beer] and van decorating. This was one of my favorite parts of the weekend because it was one of the only times every member of each van was together. I finally got to meet Joe of Recycling Runner, who knows my IRL friend Ashley. She wrote a great piece on him and his mission a couple years ago. The running world sure is a small one!

After dinner we moved out back to decorate the vans and show off our sweet drawing skills. Or lack thereof. One of those.

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photo credit: Rachel

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14862233968_b57911a12a_z photo credit: Lauren

Of course, the night didn’t end there. Once we were back at the Silver Cloud, a fairly large group of us wound up back at Jimmy’s on 1st despite having ridiculously early departure times in the morning. Ahem, 4:30am for Wild Berry – Van 1. We ALMOST made it out of there shot-free until we were 5 steps from the door and Sean called us back to the bar for a round of Fireball.

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Next up is the main event (!!) so now would be an excellent time to introduce you to the two teams that represented Nuun Hydration at the 2014 Hood to Coast Relay:

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Team Wild Berry

[Van 1] Elisabeth / Jenny / Sean / Eric / Arielle / me
[Van 2] Kevin / Rachel / Doug / Amanda / Megan / Liz

Team Lemon Lime

[Van 1] Justin / George / Carrie / Zoë / Susie / Lisa
[Van 2] Lauren / Sophia / Joe / Jim / Kim / Hyla

Hood to Coast: The Prequel, Part I

An absurdly early wakeup [3am] followed by an equally as absurd flight time [6am] kicked off the beginning of my journey from Austin to Vegas to Seattle. I had grand plans of sleeping during the first leg but those were quickly tossed aside in favor of a large coffee and way too many episodes of Million Dollar Listing. The connection in McCarran was short and sweet, complete with another large coffee. A couple hours of Bravo reality TV later the flight landed in SeaTac and I quickly located Elisabeth waiting in the food court for me. Megan from Nuun Hydration scooped us up from the airport shortly after and we made our way downtown to the Silver Cloud Hotel, conveniently located next to a brewery and CenturyLink Field. Huge thanks to Megan for shuttling all of the team members from the airport to the hotel all day long, dealing with traffic and many flight delays! She rocks.

Susie [one of our roommates] was just coming back from a run and brought us up to our room. Our hunger was taking over so we decided to take Megan’s suggestion and head to Elysian Fields up the street to grab lunch. The food was fantastic and I enjoyed the Immortal IPA so much I had two. Rachel [our last roommate], Sean, Lauren, Jim and Doug met up with us after lunch and our group set out to be tourists at Pike Place Market.

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We visited and made our contribution to the infamous [and gross] Market Theater Gum Wall in Post Alley:

download_20140820_165258photo credit: Susie 

Part of the group waited in line for coffee at the original Starbucks, but Holly had recommended a shop near Matt’s in the Market so Susie and I went in search of it. This was an interesting adventure considering we didn’t know the name of the shop and my GPS kept getting us turned around. We admitted defeat when we found Ghost Alley Espresso on the lower level and although it wasn’t what we were looking for, their double salted caramel nut latte hit the spot. On our walk back to meet the group we passed Storyville and knew immediately it was the place Holly suggested. Susie and I decided we’d try to make it back for a visit before heading to Oregon on Friday.

Of course we couldn’t leave our first group outing without photo evidence:

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photo credit: Rachel

We moved the party to Pyramid Brewing for a few pre-game beers and just before 7pm made our way across the street to CenturyLink Field to watch the Seattle Sounders take on the San Jose Earthquakes. This was my first MLS game and Seattle was definitely the best venue for it. Their fans are super passionate and they are LOUD. And I mean REALLY loud. Seahawks games have to be absolutely deafening. I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t disappointed that the game ended in a tie because, a tie? That’s just weird. Someone needs to WIN. This is probably why I could never get into soccer.

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We ended the night at Jimmy’s on 1st for a late dinner and drinks with several teammates who had just arrived in town. It was great to meet a few more people but at this point the long day of traveling and/or exploring was starting to wear on everyone. As we were in the process of settling up our tabs, George declared none of us were allowed to leave yet. And that’s when our server reappeared with these:

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photo credit: George

We all toasted to the beginning of an exciting weekend and then parted ways to rest up for the next day’s busy schedule!

Westward Bound

After several years of dreaming about running the Mother of All Relays, this Friday I will finally make my way to the starting line at the Timberline Lodge on Mt. Hood. Over the course of two days my 11 Wild Berry teammates and I will cover 200-ish miles through beautiful Oregon.

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We received our itineraries from Nuun for the week and I’m kinda-sorta-maybe-ridiculously pumped for what’s in store for us. I poked around on Yelp and Googled “Top 10 Things to Do in Seattle” over the weekend, compiling a list of restaurants to try and landmarks to visit. Also if I could find a nametag somewhere that reads “Hello, my name is: TOURIST” that would be ideal.

After skimming flight times and plans for the week, the amount of sleep I won’t be getting between Wednesday and Sunday is glaringly obvious. Maybe I should have taken another day off post-relay?

Wednesday: 3:30am wake-up call, 6am flight to the west coast

Thursday: all sorts of jetlag, 5:00am wake-up [guaranteed it] – 8:30am shakeout run

Friday: 4:30am departure for Van 1 of Team Wild Berry – proceed to stay up for 36 hours

Saturday: still awake from Friday, most likely suffering a severe case of delirium

Sunday: 5:30am departure for Seattle – fly for umpteen hours – return home to Austin at midnight

Monday: sleepwalk to work.

Stay tuned for incoherent tweets and desperate pleas for all of the coffee in all of the land. But guess what? I don’t care! Because I will be running HOOD TO COAST and it’ll be 110% worth it.10418999_927601913921803_1130609836037782024_nNow, let’s take a look at the legs I’ll be running on Friday/Saturday. I’m runner #6 [Van 1] which has the 4th most miles and the 4th most difficult legs. That freaked me out a little bit while typing it. Here’s what I’ve gotten myself into:

HTC Relay - Legs for Runner 6

NBD, just a few hills.

I was runner #6 during Ragnar Cape Cod as well and loved feeding off the energy at every major exchange. I’m also feeling pretty damn lucky to have snagged a spot in Van 1, since due to logistical issues and traffic Van 2 cannot go up to Mt. Hood. Being completely new to the PNW, I have a feeling the views will be amazingly breathtaking.

The HTC packing list is queued up in Google Sheets and I should be able to start check-check-checking things off tonight as they go into my bag. We have the option of leaving a larger suitcase at Nuun HQ during the relay so I’m struggling with whether I want to stuff the duffel to the brim or have a little extra breathing room for souvenirs in a suitcase on the way home. But larger suitcase = baggage fee. Decisions, decisions.

I have most of the day Wednesday and a few hours on Thursday free to explore all that Seattle has to offer. Any must-sees [other than the Space Needle, Starbucks, Pike Place Market, etc.] or restaurants I need to find my way to?

Life Lately

I don’t want to be different than every other blog on the Internet, so let me start out by saying: OMG guys, tomorrow is August! Can you believe it?! This year is just flying by!

Okay, now that that’s out of the way – let’s catch up on a few things, shall we?

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1. I’m 110% over summer. Almost positive I say this every year. Sure, Austin has only seen a handful of days over 100 degrees making it an exceptionally mild year for us. Lora, if it was you who brought these “cooler” temps then you’re never allowed to leave. While we may not have broken 100, we’ve been in the high 90s most days and the daily low is between 75 & 80. This occurs somewhere in the 3-4am timeframe and is hideously accompanied by 90% humidity. I’m jealous of you northerners flaunting your windows-open weather and enjoying morning runs in the 60s. Anyway, I’ve decided it’s definitely okay for us southern state dwellers to complain about how hot it is since we spent all winter listening to the rest of the country complain about how cold it is. What’s fair is fair.

2. Recently I received a promotion and have been splitting time between training my replacement and transitioning into the new role. I had been in my past position for two and a half years so I’m really excited for the challenge and experience in a new role. That being said, work has been keeping me very busy. The hours are a little longer but it doesn’t really bother me until we’re eating dinner at 8:30. Once the transition is over everything will settle down. There’s a light at the end of the tunnel!

3. With marathon training starting in mid-September, we decided it was time to clean up our eating habits. 3 weeks ago we switched to a modified Paleo lifestyle. I say modified because we still have coffee, sweet potatoes and dark chocolate on occasion. Moderation! In the first 2 weeks we collectively lost 14 pounds and it wasn’t terribly hard to stay on track. I also noticed a significantly positive difference in my sleeping habits, which was a welcomed surprise. Last weekend while friends were in town we definitely bent the rules [because pizza. Tex-Mex. beer.] so we’re starting from scratch again.

Via 313 - Craft Pride

The plan is go hard for 30 days to allow our bodies to adjust and then maintain an 80/20 balance afterwards. The only downside is all of the cooking. The prep work can be tedious and letting a spaghetti squash cook for an hour in the oven after walking in the door from work at 7pm results in several late dinners each week. Eventually it will be second nature but for right now I’d rather just pour a bowl of cereal and call it a day.

4. Relay #2 is just around the corner! It’s hard to believe Hood to Coast is only 3 weeks away. I’ve never been to the PNW so spending 4 days out there should be pretty damn fantastic. Much like my last foray into slap-bracelet world, I haven’t met a single one of my teammates in real life. Each and every one of them is a Nuun Ambassador so we’ll have that in common at least. I’m fairly certain this girl and I will get along just fine, based on her appreciation for the Red Sox and stellar social media posts. The sarcasm that girl throws around unabashedly is top notch. I also just found out my best friend from high school will be out there running HTC as well, so hopefully we’ll be able to rendezvous on the beach in Seaside Saturday night. This will be the second Seaside city [next to our neighboring one in NJ] we’ve wreaked havoc in. Can’t wait.

5. Sox has pretty much turned into Dora the Explorer on our hikes and two weeks ago managed to snag a sweet case of poison ivy. Thankfully she didn’t eat any or it could have been a lot worse. Her poor face did swell up though. Dog - Poison Ivy

Sox - Poison Ivy

Sad puppy. Google Machine to the rescue, since it was Sunday and a visit to the emergency clinic would likely result in a $200 bill. A few rounds of Benadryl and she was good as new. Now that we’ve seen what Benadryl can do to her, we sometimes talk about giving it to her when she’s being spaztastic and we’re trying to sleep. Kidding, kind of. Parents of the Year over here.

6. Weird Al released “Word Crimes” [his spoof on Robin Thicke’s “Blurred Lines”] and it touches on almost every grammatical error I find myself getting fired up about. If you’re passionate about using the English language correctly, you’ll love this video. If you’re one of my friends on Facebook who doesn’t know what a run-on sentence is, writes words like L8R, or misuses ‘literally’ on a regular basis – you might not understand most of this video. But plz watch it neway, k thx.

7. I probably spent too many dollars at the Nordstrom Anniversary Sale, but you won’t find any traces of regret here. I was able to grab a tote for work large enough to hold my beast of a laptop but small enough that it doesn’t feel like I’m carrying the entire world on my shoulder. I’ve been on the hunt for 6 months so it was nice to finally quit that adventure. I also picked up my first pair of Fryes– a little gift to myself for the recent promotion. Treat yo’ self, kids.

8. I had the absolute best Manhattan of my life last weekend at Travaasa. Not usually one to choose Makers Mark over other whiskeys but the bartender said he’d make one with it for us and we could order something else if we hated it.

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Rather than using sweet vermouth and bitters, he used a bottle of something delicious from Barbados that sent the Manhattan way over the top. Between the two of us over the course of the evening we sent the bartender dashing out of the building to grab another bottle of Makers after flying through the first and landed ourselves a pretty healthy bar tab. Sadly, I can’t recreate this cocktail at home unless someone wants to make a quick trip to Barbados for me. Any takers? I will pay you in tasty whiskey beverages.

And that’s all folks! Until next time…