Running Relays for the Masses // Race Report – CLR 2013

Running relays are in a category all by themselves. They are different than running a 10K where as they usually involve more miles, take place over approximately 30 hours, and your part as an individual participant is often blurred into a large “cog” of runners working together as a team.  But that team is the strength, support and sacrifice you all depend on to get through approximately 200 miles of running.

My first relay experience was in 2001, up in Washington State.  A bunch of college alumni decided it would be fun if we ran from Mt. Rainier to the Pacific Coast.  I was excited – how hard could it be?  Running a few legs between three and nine miles each?  No problem. But I had never run one before, so what did I know?

When we began the first leg, our team consisted of five members (most teams were running with 11).  We had confirmation we’d be meeting two others along the way, at some point, but nothing is ever “for sure” and this was before cell phones were common. I ran my first leg, which was about seven miles, and I did not want to run again, any time soon.

We were fortunate to find those last two teammates – somehow – in the midst of relay chaos.  And the rest was history.  My memories of that day/night/morning include running past a casino in the middle of the night, almost hitting a dog who was loose at 3am (in a Jetta), the funny glow of the sky that isn’t quite dark-but the sun is no where close to appearing at 4am, running through quiet the coastal range with the sound of chainsaws in the distance early in the morning, crossing the finish line at the beach and feeling so incredibly sleep-deprived at the finish and only a curb to hold us up. With just a burger to fill our tummies, we headed home after what I might describe as a surreal experience.  But a fun one, at that.

This year, I was invited to participate in the Cascade Lakes Relay. I had never considered doing another relay since Rainier to Pacific back in 2001.  My focus had always been on my own races, and therein lies the significance.  After I confirmed I would be able to participate, I was genuinely excited to embark on this virtually unknown adventure.  Running on the back roads of South Central Oregon had an appeal that seemed oddly refreshing – a change from the road runs I had been used to, coupled with a team who would be supporting one another throughout each leg.

Our arrival at Diamond Lake Resort the evening before the start of the relay was relaxing – just as seven people (six plus one support crew member) continued to make small talk and get to know one another as the sun set and the campfire burned bright.  Soon enough it was time for sleep – of which we all got none – and alarms soon chimed at 5am.  Our first runner was off at 6, and away we went.  Runners passed, we cheered, chatted and continued on in our van until our first six legs were over.  Seemed quick enough with a nice, long break at a park in the middle of a sleepy Southern Oregon town.  Sleep evaded me, as I am not one to sleep outside in the middle of the afternoon, and soon enough it was time to run again.  This time the sun was setting as our first runner pounded the gravel through the fields of cows. He had injured himself on the first leg, and so I gladly stepped in to help finish his second leg.  Night slowly fell as van after van and runner after runner became a flurry of red tail lights and reflective figures bouncing ever so steadily. My second leg ran along forest roads populated only by said vans and runners, but also kind individuals on tame horses who “watched over the night” as we ran past. This is where I failed to think intelligently, and did not dress warm enough – so after my leg my body began to shut down as my core temperature dropped.  It took a good two hours in a sleeping bag (since a hot shower was not available) for it to get back up to normal.

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We Thought They Said Rum – Van 1 (Nick, Amy, Cory, Glenn, Ed & Kathy)

Our night drive was dead silent after our exchange with Van 2. Mad props to our driver and co-captain who kept his eyes open for that long, half hour drive to our next area of rest.  One hour of sleep later, and it was off and running once again.  And while I was typically the fifth runner, I ran first that morning due to our first runner being injured.  An early six miles for me – and a lack of fuel – but I survived.  My final  leg included donning a costume – as it was relay’s official “costume leg.” Two miles of wearing a heavy, Pointer Sisters-style wig on my head was all worth it, as I was done.  WE were done. Van 2 was now in charge of bringing us to the Finish Line.  A quick shower and reunion with my family was in store.

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Amy as Diana Ross / Pointer Sister #4

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Cory passes off to Nick onto his first leg.

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We Thought They Said Rum Vans 1 & 2 meet up for their first major exchange.

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Glenn passes off to Amy onto her first leg.

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We Thought They Said Rum at the Finish Line.

As my van dropped me off at my house – it was a simple, yet physically / emotionally hard departure as I had been traveling with these people for over 24 hours straight.  In fact, it was almost 48 hours.  We had been working together as a team, and now it was over.  The bond you create with your Van is one that I had really never experienced.  Each team member worked and ran as hard as they could, to get us through the relay.  We all worked hard together.  I must have exhausted my family and friends with my continuous chatter about what a great time I had running in the Cascade Lakes Relay.  How much fun my teammates were – how I am planning more runs with them because they are just a great bunch of people.

When I was unable to run a marathon in June, due to illness, I could have never imagined that my frustration (and in turn, desire to run every race possible), would lead me to this awesome experience.  The Cascade Lakes Relay was just what I needed to pull my head out of the sand, and become a happy runner once again.

I am looking forward to running my 10th marathon next weekend (avoiding illness at all costs, KNOCK ON WOOD), thanks to the Cascade Lakes Relay and my wonderful, awesome and amazing “We Thought They Said Rum” teammates. XO.

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Why I Love Boston

I am not from Boston. In fact, my first time visiting Beantown wasn’t until 2008. But I have been in love with Boston for as long as I can remember. My dad began running marathons in the early 80’s, and qualified to run the 1988 Boston Marathon. The impact of his accomplishment affected me in ways I wouldn’t realize until much later in life. I was only 12 at the time, but Boston, and the Marathon, always lingered in the back of my mind. At that time, besides the Olympics, running the Boston Marathon was the ultimate achievement.

20 years after my dad ran the Boston Marathon, I finally earned my ticket.  That’s truly how I felt. I earned my ticket to Boston by running a qualifying time in the 2007 Portland Marathon. This was a once-in-a-lifetime trip, and my entire family came along to celebrate.  My dream had come true. I even planned an appointment with a tattoo artist in Boston to commemorate my achievement.  This was a big deal, and I wasn’t about to forget how hard I worked to get there.

From the moment we stepped off the plane, Boston did not disappoint. South Boston, the North End, Cambridge, Jamaica Plains and Fenway Park. For four days, we experienced the energy, history and culture of a city that loves their marathon just as much as they love their baseball team, if not more (if that’s possible). And with every step, through every town from Hopkinton to downtown Boston, I realized that I had come to love Boston that much more.

But I am not the only one. Every year, people work for months to try and qualify for the Boston Marathon, running hundreds of miles.  Some may qualify, but many won’t.  That means they will have to devote another 4 months to training so they can try again. 26.2 miles is a daunting distance for most to just finish. But marathoners are a dedicated group of athletes, and crossing the finish line is one of the most amazing feelings in the world.  One of those, “I can do anything” feelings.And that’s why they keep running.

To think of all those who lost their lives today, at a place that is so sacred and so loved, makes me sad, angry and disheartened. To think of all those who had to suffer, hurt and witness so much pain today makes me angry. And to think of those who worked so hard to get to the Boston Marathon only to have been turned away at the finish line, or worse, injured at the finish line makes my heart drop. All I know, is that Boston will rally and surround their marathon runners with love and comfort. Boston will keep their runners and spectators safe and do what it takes to prevent them from harm. Next year, the marathoners will be back in full force. Because this is Boston. And Boston’s heart is wicked huge.

Boston 246

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Early Riser

Now that my kids have been consistently sleeping through the night (knock on wood), I have also been getting quality sleep. Which means getting up early is a little easier these days.  I can also train for my marathon in the morning before my family starts their day.  Mind you, this includes a 4:45 a.m. alarm, as well as navigating pitch black sidewalks and streets (I took some nice air off an invisible curb this morning, even though I was donning a headlamp), but having one more hour in the day to do my other favorite thing – writing, makes it all worth while. Alas, there are some other benefits to running in the morning.

I was able to look up at a vast array of stars – a view I haven’t seen for a long, long time. The world is so quiet and peaceful, and there’s a special feeling that comes with being awake when most people are sleeping. While I am cautious and much more aware of my surroundings (since I can’t see much of them) at 5am, I am also aware of how beautiful the world is when there are fewer distractions.

Perhaps the best part is getting home and walking in the door, pouring a cup of coffee and knowing that the day has only begun.

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My Lovlies

This morning, I peeked in my kids’ room only to find them sitting together on one of their beds, reading a book. I love these kinds of mornings. After carrying Boden downstairs (“I carry you!”), he saw his daddy in the kitchen and said, “Bye, bye daddy, have a good day at work!” Melt.
Two things I have never mentioned (because they are habits ingrained in my kids since early on), are 1.) Zoey smells her blankets. Not just any blankets, but the flannel receiving blankets that are fortunately very plentiful in our house. She smells the corners and it calms her. I was the same way when I was a girl – smells of home/linens often put me at ease. I remember it very clearly. 2.) Boden sees train tracks in EVERYTHING. Just this morning he had his books scattered on the bedroom floor and was walking on them saying, “I walk on train tracks, mommy.” He sees patterns often, which I am hoping is a sign of his potential creativity / ability to solve problems.
Lately, they have been singing – not just one line, but choruses. “Puff the magic dragon” and “Hakuna Matata” are two favorites. And just last night, Boden demostrated his ability to count (Whilst sitting on the toilet, reading a book about electricity). I love these kids so much – can’t imagine loving anything more.
Happy, singing, counting kids.

Carpe Diem

Due to some recent events, I am taking a pledge. Because I can.  With the passing of Adam Yauch (MCA of The Beastie Boys) at the young age of 47, I had to reflect a little – not only on my life, but on life in general.  Heck, I’m 36 which feels so completely old.  I’ve got two, two-and-a-half-year-olds who make me feel old every day just because of their boundless amounts of energy. I never thought I’d say that. And I’m still pondering how I’m going to get where I want to go in life.  There are so many inspirational people whom I admire, pursuing what they love to do – relentlessly.  I’ve pondered what it is that I wanted to do for so long.  But what it comes down to is that I just want to write.  Write novels.  The story ideas used to flow effortlessly (usually), and I still have those in the back of my head.  The hard part is finding the time to move them to paper.  So – here’s my pledge:  I vow to get a draft written of my “novel idea” down on paper by November.  November also happens to be National Novel Writing Month or NaNoMo.  From that point, we’ll see where I am.  But life is just too damn short to keep waiting.  ~aac

My New Addiction

I’ve written about my coffee addiction, and while I wouldn’t call my running habit an “addiction” per se, I do it a lot. Well, I can honestly say I’m addicted to Twitter.  I have been for a while, but I’m just now owning up.  It took me time to find the right people to “follow”  (you’ve got to weed out the boring tweeters).  For example – my inspiration comes via new music, photos, memorable quotes and links to recipes, videos and websites.  Or just profound words. But there are boring tweeters (“Had a bagel for breakfast”).  And there are those who use exclamation points in every tweet (“I had a bagel for breakfast and it was so good!!!!!!!”). Bye-bye. Somehow, I was able to find cool people who I share common interests with.  Whether it’s food, music, sports or humor – they are out there.  And I look forward to reading what they have to say. Every day.  Just today I was notified about Adam Yauch’s passing  (MCA of the Beastie Boys), via Twitter, before even Rollingstone.com had posted it..

But the beauty of it all, is that Twitter requires that you post your thoughts in 140 words or less. So if you would rather follow me (I promise, no exclamation points), I’ll try to provide some daily inspiration:  @amywrites

For now, here’s a recent pic of my last 100 yards on Hayward Field at the Eugene Marathon on 4/29/12.

No Run Today

Today I’m at the coffee shop, catching up on finances and listening to Van Morrison.  I have spent the past three days nursing sick kids at home and now I myself am feeling a little under the weather. Hence, the inside lunchtime activity on a cold, wet day.  Even though I’ve only got one month until my next marathon, I’d much rather skip a lunch run than have to skip a long run on the weekend.  So I’ll cross my fingers that an overdose of vitamins keeps me healthy and strong.  This blog post has no real intent, just to get my fingers moving.  Unfortunately, when my body feels crappy, my brain flips to autopilot. So, on with the day I go.  Here’s to hoping my waning energy takes a turns for the better, tomorrow.

LOVE.

Such a hard word, love.  The most beautiful, yet the most painful – sometimes, at the same time.  I’m not much of a Valentine’s Day person.  But I can always count on my dad to send me a Valentine.  And I used to be one of those girls hoping that the Val-O-Gram was for me.  That someone secretly had a crush on ME.  I had crushes on boys whom I sent Val-O-Grams to (Eric & Mike, you know who you are), but if I ever got a Val-O-Gram, it wasn’t from someone I liked. I was the one getting the flowers from my wonderful grandparents. And in the end, that matters more than anything.

So tomorrow, remember your family and your friends first and foremost.  And then if you have someone you have fallen for – feel lucky you have found them.  But make sure those who have a place in your heart everyday know that you love them, because life is too short. 

Morning Coffee

I write about coffee. A lot.  It’s one of my favorite things in life – along with my family, running, music and writing.  And it helps me with all of them, except for maybe running – I can’t tolerate caffeine when I run, unlike some athletes.  And yesterday I finally received the replacement basket I ordered for my espresso machine.  A couple of years ago, my father-in-law came to visit after we had the twins and was helping out in the kitchen when he dumped the grounds into the garbage.  Such a wonderful gesture, but apparently he dumped the metal basket they were stuck in, unbeknownst to him.  I finally ordered another two years later, and I can’t tell you how excited I am.  I get to make my lattes at home, with coconut or hemp milk, just like I like them.  No more $4 morning stops, as much as I enjoy the break between dropping the kids off at daycare and going to work.  I am going to save my money!  I could go into why I can’t tolerate drip coffee, but that would take forever and it’s really not a pleasant story.  So it’s Friday, and I’m enjoying my latte, with the happy knowledge that I’ll be making my own this weekend.

Making My Life Mine

I may have mentioned that after having kids I knew I was in for a literal pull-the-rug-out-from-under-me life change.  And it has been, no question.  But priorities have changed and become extremely clear.  Friendships have changed, and I know who my real ones are.  And I know what I want out of life, pure and simple.  That’s why I’ve wasted no time trying to figure out how to make it all happen.  Unfortunately, I have limited time on my hands day-to-day.  But as the kids grow older and become more independent, I find it easier to accomplish these things.  Reflecting on the past, makes it easier to determine what I’d like the future to hold and how I’d like to approach it.  Funny things like dreams about rock stars have an incredible affect on my outlook on life.  Where I was once timid and self conscious, I am now confident and ready to live my life to the fullest, taking each step up to my next goal.  If I’ve learned one thing, life is too short and it’s time to do what you love NOW.  Not walking to get there, but running – of course. And once you get there, do it with passion and love.

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