Tuesday, August 6, 2013

Next Time I'll Bring More Beer... or... (How I Survived the Cascade Lakes Relay)

 Appropriate soundtrack to reading this week's blog, would be the Old 97's "Timebomb"
Where to begin? Well...

Friday, August 2, 2013: (Somewhere in Bend)
    So, we wake up around 7:00am, (we being Jacob and I), in my parents' RV, (whom were kind enough to let us stay the night with them), desperately hoping our rented/borrowed van hasn't been
A.) Stolen
B.) Broken into
C.) Towed away by the decent folks who own the Wendy's parking lot that we left the van in.

   Somehow the van is still there, along with all our belongings. It's looking to be a nice day, and our first legs of the Cascade Lakes Relay start in the next few hours.
     By now our other half in Van #1 have already started off the line, and we're due to be down near Diamond Lake in a short time frame. We start things off by picking up most of our 6 person team, and then hitting up breakfast at the Original Pancake House - narrowly avoiding a peanut allergy incident in the process. I end up chugging a large quantity of coffee, and then we're off picking up our last 2 team members from the south side of Bend.
     Then, it's all road till Diamond Lake. We'll be doing a relay that's approximately 216.6 miles with a team of 12 people, split between 2 vehicles. It looks like this:
My team in Van #2 lucked out in having the 15 person van, filled to the brim with supplies, protein bars, PB&J sandwiches, Gatorade and water bottles, and 1 twelve pack of Blue Moon.
      We pull into the first van exchange point. Van #1's team hands off the relay wristband to Rob, who kills the first 5.54 miles easily. And then it's me...

Bear in mind, I've only started running in the past 4 months or so. Not exactly an athlete. But I've gotten to the point where I can run a good 5.5 miles, and not die... So I figured I could give this relay a shot. 
    My first leg is 3.98 miles long - easy. 
    Not so. The elevation of our location is a factor. A clear difference in the altitude is the first thing that hits me in the the first leg, along with the blistering heat at 2:30 in the afternoon. Thank God for random other teams with insect sprayers filled with what I assume to be water, standing along the roadside to spray runners. 
    I make it to the next exchange point, and hand off to Erik who breezes through the next leg.
    I'm thirsty and a bit exhausted, but I chug some water and Gatorade, and we're good to go. 
   We follow our Van #2 teammates as they run their legs, occasionally spraying them with water from our bottles, and always cheering for them before meeting them at the next exchange point. It looks more or less like this:
     We also find that our borrowed van has been tagged by the other teams. We end up with a painted turtle on the back of our van, along with some blue doodle on the passenger side window. Even better, there is a sticky moustache that is placed on the front hood of the van as well. 
      Nearly all of the vans/vehicles of teams are decorated with some theme or statement regarding their team name. We see a team with a giant turtle on the top of their van, with speakers attached, blaring Avril LaVigne at one exchange point. Another team is an all-female group wearing fake moustaches and driving a van that states they give "free moustache rides", thus our moustache tagging, I'm sure.
       Our van is plain white with a Christian-based company's logo emblazoned on the side, so our options of making our vehicle cooler are severely limited.

     The sun is beginning to set as our last 2 teammates finish their legs. It's a continuous stop-and-go routine, in which we intermittently sit along the wide shoulders of the road with our van, (careful to not get too far into the loose gravel along the edges), and take in a bit of the scenery.
    We hit Silver Lake and then proceed on an expressionless 50 mile drive to La Pine. The only signs of civilization out here is a creepy mini-mart that has "Deliverence" written all over it. We wisely continue on without stopping, only to find a few miles further a sign pointing off to a secluded dirt road towards "Cabin Lake." We all find this amusing in it's cliche horror-movie title, but again wisely elect to not stop and check it out.
    Sometime closer to 8:30pm we arrive at La Pine High School, where we find our temporary lodgings. There are cots in the gym and showers available for a donation. Most of us elect to just stink, and begin preparing for a couple hours of sleep while Van #2 continue their legs. 
     Erik, Jacob, and I slept in the seats in the van, and woke up more or less at the same time and found it time to get moving to the next van exchange point - a good 30 minute ride away. Everybody gathers up their stuff and we're off again. 
      There's a bit of a joke regarding the showers at the La Pine gym,
which looked more or less like these:

     I think it was Joey who referred to this style as "Locker Rooms Designed by Jerry Sandusky"... 

    Again, Rob is the first to go on the 2nd leg, and has to tackle 7.34 miles that on a topographic map seems oddly reminiscent of the outline of Mt. Hood: straight freakin' up, and then straight freakin' down. It's around this time I realize it's ridiculously cold, somewhere in the 42 degrees range.
     It's 2:15am, and I'm running out under a bed of stars. It's beautiful and absolutely clear, and it's just me, a flashlight, and an envelope of darkness. Probably the coolest run I've ever done - 3 miles, easy. 
    Well, easier than my first leg at least.

Saturday, August 3rd, 2013:
     Next van exchange, and it looks like this outside:
   Our next sleepover point is at Elk Lake, and we take what seems like hours to arrive there. At one point I'm leaning forward with my head against the seat in front of me, and then I'm awake and the sun has fully come out.
    We arrive at Elk Lake and again, half the team sleeps outside - and the other half stays in the van. I take a quick picture,
 and then become comatose. I end up sleeping in the front passenger seat, and surprisingly this works out well.
   I wake up close to 10am, and down a wonderful cup of coffee. It's around this time that it's noticed that several of the mass port-a-pottys are out of toilet paper. This is a bit discouraging, but being that I've been living on a steady diet of protein bars, granola, Gatorade, and water - it doesn't make much of a difference to me.
    My leg this time is 4 miles and is graded as "Very Hard", (as my previous ones were "Easy"), and it goes up a hill with a total elevation of 918 feet over that distance. At the van exchange point, one of the "Moustache girls" asks "Who pulled the shit straw for the next leg?"  The rest of the team points to me and chuckles. Sure, the weakest link in Van #2 gets the brutal uphill leg - but that's fine, I signed up for this and I'm going to do it - or keel over in the ditch.
     My parents show up before I start the last leg, and then by-pass me on the road, along with my team in Van #2 - yelling encouragement at me. Somewhere around two and half miles, they've pulled the van over and are waiting for me to pass. Using a series of charades that indicates to them that I need water and a gummi bear or something, they hand them off as I continue uphill. I attempt to masticate a couple of Swedish Fish, but my mouth's so dry that they eventually just end up goobered like mortar in teeth, and I'm at risk of aspirating a piece of gummi candy. Using the water bottle in my hand, I manage to break through some of the build-up in my mouth and continue pushing on.
     I finally make it to the exchange point, and take a moment to not fall over.
We're now down to the last 4 legs. It's all downhill from here - sort of.

    Joey is a little over half way into his leg, and we pull the van over onto the gravel portion of the shoulder. We yell and cheer as he passes us. We pack into the van to head for the next exchange for Jacob......And disaster strikes.
     The driver's side back wheel digs a hole nearly 6 inches into the gravel, and we're stuck.
    We try pushing, and all that does is dig us in further. Luckily, Jacob brings out a trusty camp shovel to use and dig the wheel out. In the meantime, Jacob runs up to another vehicle from another team pulled over and bums a ride to the next exchange, (and luckily they're kind enough to do so).
    But, that leaves the 4 of us to somehow get this van back onto the concrete. After a series of failed attempts at placing chunks of road-side wood under the tire and pushing, we're running low on ideas.
One final time, we find a large trunk of wood and use it brace the back-end of the van like a lever, and gently accelerate over onto the previous chunks of wood - winding up back on the pavement, and narrowly missing a mile-marker.
    With a ridiculous amount of cheering from the 4 of us, (and after definitely earning our "Man Cards" for the day - per Peter), we pile in the van and race to the exchange to pick up Joey - who's wondering where the hell the rest of the team is.
    Jacob and Peter run their final legs, and by 3:30pm or so, it's over. We meet up with the rest of Van #1, and cross the line with Peter.

  So, in a nutshell, it was worth it. The lack of sleep, the money, the expended energy. And the more I think about it, I'm pondering doing another one... One day... Maybe...
  But if I did again, I'd do a lot of things differently. First of all, I'd pack a lot less stuff, (i.e. extra clothes, extra pair of shoes, etc..). Packing the bare essentials would be more ideal.
    Second of all, I'd pack more beer, too. For all those lonely exchange points and sleepover areas, there's no better way to get your carbs post-run.
    Third of all, we would need to decorate our van up with crazy stuff, at least giving it some sort of graffiti to set it apart from the other 100+ white vans involved in the relay.
    Fourth, and last, of all, I would make an effort to not forget Jacob's camp shovel along the shoulder after using it to dig out our tire.
   That is all.

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