Monday, October 11, 2010

Hood to Coast 2010: Breaking Barriers

Note: After the triathlon, I abandoned this blog. But I didn't abandon working out. In October 2009 I started a fitness program via my iPhone called, "Couch to 5K". Even though I wasn't really on the couch, I wanted to start slowly. It was a great program for me and I highly recommend it. This is what came next...


I love trying new things. Last year it was hula hoop dancing and a triathlon. I had never done Hood to Coast before this year. Friends had participated in the 12-person, 197 mile relay race over the years so it was “on my list”. Subsequently, when an invitation came to run with the Aha! team, I said yes without hesitation. I never thought of myself as a runner. I played soccer for 25 years but training via running was never a part of my routine. I could run but I wasn’t a “real” runner.

I didn’t know what I was getting into when I signed up to do Hood to Coast 2010. I thought I was going to be running 3 legs of about 3 miles each and everyone else was going to do the hard legs. I was in for a big surprise. As far as I can tell, there are no “easy” sets of legs. Everyone pays. We pay in steepness (ascending or descending). We pay in distance. We pay in dust and gravel. We pay in exhaustion. Before June 2010, I had never even run more than 5K. That is 3.1 miles for the uninitiated. For Hood to Coast, I was signed up to do legs 10, 22 and 34. The mileage total for all three legs? 17.13 miles (the third highest mileage). I was terrified.

I am a good team player. I show up. I have enthusiasm. But honestly, when it finally sunk in that I would be running 17.13 miles in less than 24 hours, I realized that I would need to train hard. So, I showed up. I had enthusiasm. I trained. I listened to our coach, Angel. I ran and I ran and I ran.

Thank god for the bottom of Pamela’s shoes.

The trail runs in Forest Park were my favorite part of the training. My neighbor Pamela and I would start out running together. She is faster than me so she set out in front and I would watch the bottom of her shoes. But eventually she would pull away and I would be left alone. I got to know my playlist. I figured out which songs I needed more of and which type I needed to delete. I kept pushing myself and eventually was able to look at the bottom of Pamela’s shoes for longer amounts of time. I don’t know what it was but through some strange hypnosis brought on by the bottom of her shoes paired with just the right music I ran farther and I ran faster.

But really I was just trying to make it through.

When I heard that headphones were not going to be allowed for Hood to Coast, I panicked. Music and running are inseparable for me. I actually thought I wouldn’t be able to run without music pushing me along. I immediately ordered some clip on speakers that were allowed. When I realized I wasn’t going to get them in time I ordered a fancy external speaker the shape and size of a racquetball. How the heck was I going to run with that? Finally, at the exchange from Van 1 to Van 2, I copied Brett and got an inexpensive little external speaker. Then I “McGuyvered” it to make a handle and, bobbing to the beat, started running my first leg of 6.19 miles.

I have to admit I whined, wheedled and pouted about my second leg: Leg 22. It was 6.81 miles and classified as “hard”. The first two miles were straight up. Oh, and I had to run it at 1:30 am. I asked everyone in my van if they would run those first two miles with me. I really didn’t think I could do it. But it was the middle of the night and I had no takers. I cranked my music and went for it. I was determined. And I did it. I ran up the two miles and ran down the other 4.81 miles. Toward the end of my run, a song my friend Eileen recommended came on called, “I’m Shipping Up to Boston” by the Dropkick Murphys. It is a crazy, fast Celtic song about sailors with peg legs and it got me going. As I finished my run the song that was playing was a remake of “Pump Up the Jam” by Bomba Estereo. Perfect.

Even though my last leg was a mere 4.13 miles and classified as “moderate,” I was nervous about it. It was hot and I was queasy. I was feeling the mental strain of running farther than I’d run in my life plus the physical strain of trying to stay healthy in awkward conditions. Becky offered to run my leg with me. This was both a blessing and a curse. It was a blessing because she was positive and she kept me going. It was a curse because she kept trying to get me to go for some “road kill”. In Hood to Coast whenever you pass someone, you count them as your road kill. She kept urging me to go faster, pointing out all the easy road kill up ahead. Sadly, I didn’t get even one and eventually she encouraged me to finish the leg on my own.

The last part of that race was a turning point for me. I wanted to finish. I didn’t want to walk. I didn’t want to throw up. I was also curious. I wanted to know what it would be like if I did push myself. That moment was not the right moment for pushing. I did not push myself and I am still ok about that decision. But I was curious.

Cut to present day. The other day I ran 4.14 miles. Yes, I just ran it. It was really no biggie. Oh, and I ran it fast*. I can do that now; because I am a runner.


Thank you Aha! Easy Writers: Shari, Bryce, Lou, Pamela, Dan, Cory, Barbara, Angel, Becky, Britta and Brett. You provided the inspiration and reason to become a runner. I had a blast doing Hood to Coast 2010. And thank you for giving me a gift to take forward, a gift of being curious about finding my limits. Thank you also to all the volunteers – we couldn’t have done it without you. Thank you to my husband, Will, who helped me to make it happen.

Let me know if you need another runner for next year’s Hood to Coast and I promise to push myself. See you on the trail.

* Well, faster for me.

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