Monday, August 18, 2014

If 4 Were 6... or ...(How I Survived the Spokane to Sandpoint Relay)

 Appropriate soundtrack to reading this week's blog, would be My Chemical Romance's  "Desolation Row"

Where to begin again?

Friday, August 15th, 2014 - Approximately 10:45am - Spokane, Washington

     So, some how or another, I opted to do another relay race this year. Where this finds me is in my Chevy Traverse with 4 other people at the Spokane Airport, picking up our 6th member, Sarah. (The names of all parties may or may not have been changed in order to protect the innocent... Although there weren't that many innocent people in our van)
     And as soon as Sarah's in the van, it's full throttle to our first check-in point on the outskirts of Spokane. Our counterpart in Van 1, (also a group of six other classy individuals), has been running their legs of this crazy relay since approximately 8:15am this morning.
     Our course looks much like this:
  So, it's going to be a long 24+ hours...
    We arrive at the first exchange point, and proceed to decorate our van with the only thing available, which happens to be washable chalk. So, to the windows we write our team name "Scrambled Legs and Achin'" and make labelled tally marks regarding how many kills* we've made, and/or how many beers have been drank, and how many Honey Bucket* visits have been accrued by our elite team.
    However, our first debacle of the day is when we realize that none of our directions and street names make any sense to the exchange point where we're located. We then realize that we have arrived at exchange point 7, not exchange point 6 at Sontag Park. We urgently pile in the van and take to the road in order to be in the appropriate spot to meet our teammates before their runner crosses the exchange.
     We're in luck, and we have a good 20 minutes or more of downtime in the park, which looks like this:

       Then it really begins. Erik crosses the exchange, trading off the wrist wrap baton, (if you will),  that looks like these cool bracelets from the 80's, but with less neon colors.
     We greet Erik with our gift of the most disgusting, wussy-type drink we could purchase from a 7-Eleven earlier in the morning: a Bud Light Raz-Ber-Rita. And amazingly, Erik chugs the whole thing upon immediately handing off to Jacob - elliciting cheers from our team as a whole.

     And Jacob is the first one to go from our van. He's got 3.5 miles, and the weather looks like it's about to rain and/or thunderstorm, so there's a touch of apprehension on what the weather is going to do. We load-in and head to the exact same spot where we were before, and await his arrival.
       Jacob burns through the 3.5 miles and hands off to Shelley, who has 3.66 miles to go. There's some sporadic sprinkling, but it hasn't rained yet. And then it's me.
      So, a bit of background here: I'm still not a very fast runner, but I've improved since last year. I've been training with 4.8 to 5 mile runs for this, and can easily do those. Thus, I'm as prepared as I could ever be, since my three assigned legs are all 4+ miles, and not over 5 miles.
      This is where I'm wrong.
      The next exchange point is at a place called Bowl and Pitcher State Park, and has a beautiful bridge that looks like this:

   There's a bunch of stairs at the far end of that bridge. But I'm fine with that.
   However, after conversing with the volunteer at my exchange point, she has a look at her map of this leg and I find out that this stretch is not the Moderate 4.3 miles I had anticipated.
    The map shows a leg that is rated as "Very Hard" and is 6.32 miles instead. It's roughly about this time, that we realize the print-outs I had of my "assigned legs" were old 2013 maps that were no longer accurate.
So, after a mild panic attack, Sarah talks me down with words of encouragement, and then Shelley arrives and I'm off.
     Despite my apprehension, the leg is a beautiful winding run that is partially gravel that then gives way to concrete, and then paved bike trail. And it truly is one of the most scenic runs I've ever done, (I even ran right past a deer that was hanging out on the edge of the bike path), although there are numerous ascents and drops in elevation throughout.
    However, the worst drawback is that there are little to no directions on where exactly to go. The signage is terrible, and only sporadically appears about every mile or so - giving me at least 5 or 6 opportunities to worry that I may have taken a wrong turn and ended up lost somewhere out here in the woods. Luckily, at each little area there finally comes a small pink little flag that at least re-affirms that I'm not completely lost.
     Somehow or another, I make it to the next exchange point and I trade off to Bruce and I've finished... And by some miracle, I finished in exactly an hour.
     After a granola bar and water, we load-in and head to meet Bruce at his exchange, which is coincidentally at the No-Li Brewhouse parking lot. So, the trade off occurs, and the first thing mentioned by Bruce, (in between ragged breaths), is: "Perfect! A brewhouse. First round's on me. I'm buying!!"
     Supportive and loyal teammates that we are, we decide to get a couple sampler beers for everyone to share.... in Matt's absence as he runs his 6.17 miles.
Friday, August 15th, 2014 - Approximately 8:45pm

      After all 6 of us ran our legs, we met the other part of our team at the van exchange and they had bought us Krispee Kream donuts, (which we found out later that one donut may or may not have been tea-bagged by someone in their van), which we eventually threw out.  This seemed to keep in pace with their first "gift" to us at the first van exchange in the morning which had been a bag of pork rinds and a bottle of Olde English 800 Malt Liqour.
      We had a little over 3 hours to eat and/or sleep at McEuen Park before the next van exchange - so, after dinner at some wood-fired pizza place, (which seemed to be strangely run by only teenagers), where this picture was taken, and where most of the conversation was built around discussing definitions from Urban Dictionary - we finally attempted some sleep at the next van exchange point.
       That, of course, was made difficult by someone's brilliant idea to set off colorful fireworks across (what I can only assume was) Lake Coeur d'Alene while all the runners were supposed to be resting up for the next leg.
        Thus, no sleep here.

Saturday, August 16th, 2014 - Approximately 12:50am

      My next leg is in complete darkness over 4 miles of what I assume is a paved bicycle trail. This is where the headlamp came in handy. However, upon starting the run, the red strobe light I have hooked to my reflective jersey keeps pummeling my chest with each stride - till I make the intelligent decision to hold the damn thing, rather than have a ginormous bruise on my chest  by the end of the run.
       The sky wasn't particularly clear, but it was fantastic to run in complete darkness - and a couple Arcade Fire songs on my iPod made this run even a bit more surreal. Definitely the best run I've ever done. Ever.
      Somehow, I score 3 kills on this run - and actually arrive at the exchange point a minute or more before Bruce even had his shoes on.
      So, after carb-loading with a beer from the back cooler - (I believe I forgot to mention that there was an unholy amount of beer in the 2 ice chests we had in the back of the car. It's as if we were on our way to a frat party... But basically an  absolutely ridiculous amount of beer, which Bruce, [well, all of us], had been going through at a fevered pace) - we elected to start watching the movie "Zoolander" at the next exchange. Which we did. And endlessly quoted for the next 2+ hours, whilst giggling like the bunch of sleep-deprived individuals that we were.

Saturday, August 16th, 2014 - Approximately 4:15am

        After Matt and Sarah finish their legs, (7.56 and 6.65 miles, respectively), we head to Priest River High School where we find that we have the opportunity to sleep on a gym floor for a few hours while the other team finishes their final legs. After you've been in a van for 18 hours, a gym floor sounds absolutely amazing - plus, they had free showers at the gym which was unheard of in the last relay I did.
       I went to sleep listening to the Future Sound of London's "Lifeforms" album... and passed out exhausted.

Saturday, August 16th, 2014 - Approximately 9:30am

         After waking up in the gym, (and after gathering my surroundings), I stumble outside to blazing sunlight, and a ridiculous amount of people. There's still a lot of teams in the parking lot, waiting for their own individual hand-offs.
      So, I buy a hard-boiled egg and an "endless" cup of coffee from the donation food cart that is selling breakfast food to a bunch of starving runners.  Three cups of coffee later, I'm more or less ready for the next few hours.
      We load-in again, and Jacob tackles an 8-mile nightmare on a two-lane road, and in no time at all - it's my last run.
     By now it's getting closer to noon, and the sun is already ridiculously hot - even though I'm doing a little under 4 miles, I'm losing it. My hips are sore, my calves are on fire. The last 24 hours have started to take their toll. It's the longest 3+ miles I've ever run.
     Somehow, I manage to make 1 kill on this last leg. But it's all I have. I'm done. And of course, I made the smart decision to wear a tank top without using sunblock - thus, I end up with a terrible tank top-shaped sunburn as a special prize for finishing my last leg. 
      Bruce finishes his leg with flying colors, and returns back to being our official iPod DJ of the van, and Matt heads out on another lengthy run. It's at this time that we decide we should drive up ahead and offer the runners free beer while they're in mid-leg, and of course, we decide that we do the "slow clap from Rudy" as runners come around the corner of where we're parked - which of course ends with us cheering incessantly and offering them free beer as they pass by, of which a few partake.
      Of course, after Matt passes us, we hop in to get Sarah to her final leg, and we head into Sandpoint to the finish line. Van 1 is already there, looking moderately rested, and before long Sarah comes down the hill, and we all run in together to cross the finish line - and it's over.
      We pose for a team picture, we get 1 free drink token, a running shirt, and medal. And then we all have to figure out our way back home from Sandpoint.
      So, at the end of it all, I didn't really learn any new life changing lessons - but I had found myself more prepared for the non-stop, traveling circus of debauchery that 6 people in a van can endure over a period of a day and half. And again, I learned that I packed way too many clothes. We certainly had enough beer to go around this time, so that was an improvement over a year ago. And, I learned that Bruce is a pretty sweet  iPod DJ.  Overall, I'm still not sure if I'm up for another year of this, next August, when Eric plans on doing the Cascade Lakes Relay again... The jury's still out on that, for me.

     But hell... I'm considering it.

*Kills: a reference for when you pass a runner from another team on any given leg of the relay race
*Honey Buckets: a reference to the multitude of plastic contraptions known as port-a-pottys that are found to be at every exchange point throughout the relay