Wednesday, September 1, 2010

The Mother of All Relays: Portland to Coast

This past weekend after much anticipation and drama, I got to do Portland to Coast for the 4th year in a row!  It is my favorite weekend of the year by far and I am so happy that I was able to participate this year because for a while it didn't look like I would be able to. 

For those who don't know, Portland to Coast is a 127 mile walk relay race from downtown Portland to Seaside, Oregon.  (You can find more information about it, and the other race that goes on at the same time but a longer distance and for runners, Hood to Coast: HERE.)  Basically, you fill a van with 8-12 people and you walk, one at at time to the beach.  The coarse is divided into legs of various length and difficulty.  Each person takes a turn in sequence and walks a leg.  (We were a 10 person team, so 6 people did 2 legs, and 4 people did 3 legs.  I was lucky and got to do 3!)  Start times are staggered based on fitness level and estimated finish time.  (So the slower teams start first and the faster teams start later.  There were 102 walking teams this year.)

My weekend began on Thursday after work.  I had to take home a Freightliner Sprinter van that I borrowed for work.  This van is 20.5 feet long, which is whole lot bigger than my Honda Fit, and made for some interesting driving!!  When I got home it was time to start packing and get the van decorated.  My friend C who was also on my team this year (and a PTC virgin) came over to help.  We packed, and double checked our bags to make sure we had everything, then carb loaded with PB&J sammies while watching a movie.  We finally crashed on the couch at 12:30 and got a full 2 hours sleep before the alarm went off at 2:30 AM.  We brushed our teeth, grabbed our bags and headed out the door.  C got the first shift driving the van and she wasn't too excited about it!  It is a BIG van!!

We got to where we were meeting our team, packed the van and headed off to the starting line. 

At promptly 5:15 AM the whistle blew and we were off!!

Now, the fun really begins!  The van follows the course along and stops to meet the walker on the side of the road to make sure they are safe and to bring them water and moral support. 

Until it was my turn to walk, I had a lot of fun cheering my team on.  My Sissy was on my team this year and it was her first year as well as C's.  I also had a returning walker J on my team too.  (I didn't know any of the other people on my team so they will be left out of the story.  Sorry.)  I was pretty jacked up on 5 Hour Energy drinks due to lack of sleep so silly things started happening involving self portraits.

Hey there!

At about noon it was time for my first walk.  (Yea, noon....which means that in 29 hours I had slept for a blissful 2 hours.)  It was a nice and short "Easy" leg that I knocked out in under 45 minutes for a 13 min mile average.

Now, an important tradition at PTC (and HTC) is counting Roadkills.  Not the dead animals you see on the side of the road (which you see plenty of).  Roadkills are other walkers that you pass during your leg.  You keep track of them with hash marks on the side of your van for bragging rights.  Being 'killed' is a bad thing.  However, making 'kills' is a great motivator!  I spot a person in the distance and aim to 'kill'.  It makes the walk time go by faster and gives you something to focus on and challenge yourself.  My first leg I got 8 kills.
If you look closely on the left of the picture you can seen an elbow belonging to a woman in pink?

I had her in my sights during the last mile and finally got her.  Just as we hit the exchange point she sped up and tried to kill me, but I sped up and made the exchange before her!  (My team mate is the one in white with the backpack on. The pink bracelet is what designates the teams 'walker' and is what we exchange at the beginning of each leg.)
The next leg belonged to Sissy:

Yep, those are her legs!  HA!  Pretty nice, huh?  (She has lost over 50lbs on WeightWatchers and is fricken awesome!!)

Here she is at the end of her fist leg just after her exchange with J. 

Sissy is in grey, J is in blue.

She was really nervous about the walk and didn't think she would be able to do it, but she totally rocked it and I was so proud of her I made this face:

So, when you do PTC you live in the van for 30 hours with 10 other people.  You eat and sleep in the van and frequent the Port-o-pottys placed at each exchange stop.  (Which is awesome.  Nothing like sharing a toilet that is baking in the summer sun with hundreds of sweaty people...especially people jacked up on high fiber, high carb diets...think about it for a second....are you picking up what I am putting down here?  Don't make me spell it out for you....)

J grabbing a bagel in the back of the van!

At about this point, things start to get really silly....

I have no idea who this guy is...or why he was dressed like a monkey...
The walking continues throughout the day and the sun starts to set...

All the vans waiting to pick up their walkers at an exchange point
And things get even sillier...

I am so sexy!!
After the sun sets, the walking gets harder as we are all tired and starting our second legs.  Night walking is pretty dangerous so we all wear reflective vests, headlamps, and blinking lights on the front and back.  We carry flashlights as well too.  A local motorcycle group drives up and down the route making sure people are safe and the vans go extra slow and double check their walkers haven't been attacked by badgers or cougars.
My second leg began around 1 AM.  For those keeping track, it would be a grand total of 2.5 hours sleep (I got a nap in) within a 42 hour period. 
What?  You don't trust my math?  How could it be 42 hours, you say?  Well, lets to the math:
Thursday, I get up at 7 AM, I work a full day and go to sleep at 12:30.  I wake up at 2 AM on Friday morning, catch a half hour nap sometime during the day.  So at 1 AM on Saturday it is 42 total hours since my head was on a pillow getting a full nights sleep.  Got it?  Good!  Let's move on.
I have done this leg all four times I participated in PTC and I lovingly call it "My Everest". 
This time around it was the best walk of all time!  The first 2 miles I struggled and had a pace of about a 15 minute mile.  The next two were not much better.  When I hit the crest of the hill and could feel the back of my ass start to burn from the new angle, it happened.  I got my first ever "Walker's High"!!  I didnt' think it was possible or that it even existed, but it happened!  I could feel all the muscles in my body working together.  Everything went into sync, and my pace increased to a 12 minute mile.  It was glorious!!  I got 3 'kills' going up hill and 3 going down.  One of the 'kills' was a guy that 'killed' me on the way up hill!  At the end of my leg, I hit the exchange point hard, and kept walking!  I didn't want to stop!  My team captain chased after me and I said "Nope, I gotta keep walking while I can, this is too good of a feeling to stop!"  I don't know how much more I walked, but eventually I started to slow myself down so I could stretch and get back into the van.  I changed out of my sweaty clothes, curled up in a seat, and got a blissful 3 hours of sleep with interruptions roughly every half hour.  But it didn't matter, everything was still feeling perfect after the walk I had just finished.  But then, the feeling started to wear off, and the pain started to kick in...and it occurred to me that I had a I took off my shoe and found this...

A beautiful and painful blood blister on my heel!!

I still had one leg left to do, so I did the best I could padding it with bandages and put my shoes back on.

The sun came up to a new day which meant our race was coming to an end soon. 

My girls: J, C and Sissy gabbing in the van
My last leg was also the very last leg of the race!  I was so honored to get to bring our team in for the finale! (In a previous year, I got to start the race.)

I decided to take my camera a long to capture some of the scenery coming into the finish! 

The first section was on a gravel road in the woods!
I make this look good!! 
(My visor did a great job of keeping the sun out of my face, but I got a nice sunburn on the top of my head at my part line!  Oops!)
See that white speck?  Yea, that bitch was 'Roadkill'!!
I had to put the camera away for the final few miles of the race as I was really in a groove and had a good pace going.  (About a 12.5 minute mile)  I had to stop part way to help an old man who fell in his driveway while washing his car get back up again, but the good karma was worth the extra 3 minutes on my walk time!
I made it to the finish like which was right on the beach to meet my team and walk across together!  The whole crowd cheers, we get beautiful medal, and a team picture taken, then we are free to relax in the sand!! It is a full on party at the beach!  They have a big stage with bands playing, a beer garden thanks to Widmer Brothers Brewery, and food vendors.
In case you aren't up to speed with your American history, Seaside is where the Lewis and Clark Expedition ended! 
Sissy ran off with her boyfriend, and J left with her husband so C and I grabbed some greasy junk food and chowed down!

C had a cheeseburger, I had chicken yakisoba
After our meal, we hit the sand for a nap.  And I attempted to take a picture of myself with my medal.

I wasn't all...
After a lovely hour of sandy rest, C and I headed back to the van to meet the team and head home.  But wait...who is that I see?  Could it be?  OMG it IS!!

Wow, that totally made my weekend perfect!  I didn't talk to her or anything as her camera crew was with her and she looked pretty focused on what ever it is they were doing.  But, WOW!!!
After seeing Amy, we stopped for an ice cream and I ate a waffle cone with one scoop of double fudge brownie and it was amazing!  (I can't tell you the last time I ate real, full fat, ice cream!!)
We loaded into the van in total silence and all fell asleep (except the person driving, but he had to swap half way home).  We cleaned out the van and went our separate ways!  I got home around 5 on Saturday, showered, loaded all my pictures onto Facebook, crawled into bed and slept until Monday.  (Totally not joking...I really did!)
And, that my friends, is the end of my adventure! 
Oh more thing....remember that blister?


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