Hood to CoastLINES

“Hood to Coast” (HTC) is the mother of all relays.  At least, according to the plastic bracelet that cost me $2 at the start line. Certainly the largest relay on the West Coast: a 100 teams of 12, from all 50 states and 23 countries, run 197 miles from Mt. Hood to Seaside, Oregon.   A 27 year tradition. This year was my first. 

With the exception of a few elite teams, most runners are there purely for the adventure.  Every participant runs three times over the 24 hour race, for a total of 15-20 miles.  Still more time is spent decorating vans, coming up with team names, and planning finish line attire; than is ever spent actually training.  The goal is to push the limits.  To see how fast you can run with no sleep and full of junk food.  To see how  much good clean fun you can have while still keeping it good and clean.  It is like a never-ending caravan of tailgaters, rooting for the other team.

We were “Girls Gone Running.”  Our t-shirts read “Censored”  across the front, and our vehicles looked like we crashed into a Victoria Secret on our way to the race.  Even though hanging a bra out the window and drinking half a beer at the finish line is about as wild as I get, the gone running part was what I needed.  A weekend to cut loose and gain perspective. 

The tag lines of the weekend are sure to be echoed for years to come.

Here’s to Girls Gone Running!  Here’s to Life according to HTC!

#1  Is that Captain Underpants running through a sprinkler?  Look Right, Look Right!

At the start line, we met a team of super heroes.  For some reason they all ran when they saw us coming.  

Amongst them was Captain Underpants.  I made the mistake of asking him if he ran the entire race in the same pair of unders.  He explained that after his first leg they got a quick rinse.  For legs two and three he just doubled up; stripping the top pair off between runs.  It took me only seconds to realize that by stripping the outer layer he actually was removing the clean pair.  Disturbing as that was, I learned later that the quick rinse was actually a run through a sprinkler.  A discovery made when we drove past him in the very act.  He to our left, we all quickly looked right.

I learned from Captain Underpants that even Super Heroes need a back up plan.  Sometimes our reasoning is flawed, our plans all wet.  When we find ourselves exposed, when our cape is not enough, it’s nice to know our sidekicks are coming.  To Captain Underpants I say:  Cheers to Good Friends!

#2  I was eating my celery, and I started shaking.

So, here’s the deal:  I don’t wear socks.  A non-issue when I drop my running shoes off in the garage and head straight to the shower.  A HUGE issue when I remove my shoes while crammed in a van with six other people.  My sister threatened to make a t-shirt claiming she survived my foot odor.  One teammate described it like an earthquake: innocently going along when the smell sent her into convulsions. By my third leg, I had created a changing of the shoes routine that involved feet hanging out the window and a lot of baby wipes.

It was that same leg that the elite runners who had started after us, caught up.  Having not been passed by a single runner my first two times out, it was completely disheartening to be surpassed by a surge of long-legged men who weren’t even breathing heavily.  Disheartening, until I was passed by a runner who looked like he belonged on the cover of a magazine.  Not only did he look good in his vented shorts and bare chest, he smelled heavenly.  I swear the boy sweat his own brand of cologne.  It was such a fantastic aroma I actually sped up in an attempt to catch him; a short-lived sprint, but well worth the attempt.

I learned from my stinky feet and magic-deodorant man that as we pass through this life, we leave an aroma behind.  We either evacuate the van, or cause others to run faster and follow.  To magic man I say:  Cheers to a life of perspiration that leads to inspiration.

#3  Bras make People Smile!

In keeping with the theme; we hung thrift-store bras out the windows, tied them to the antenna on the front, and closed them in the tailgate.  We expected a few giggles, but were pleasantly surprised with the all the attention given to our vehicle as we drove through the crowds.  Women grinned with power, unashamed by the exposure.  Men smiled slyly; like they were seeing something they shouldn’t, yet they couldn’t help but to stare.  Either way, smiles all around.

Bras make people smile.  Seeing something, usually hidden, flapping freely in the wind was surprisingly refreshing . . . joyful even.  It made me realize that there is something to be said for being real and open.  Ours were not the only bras in the race, and these got even more smiles.  To these guys I say:  Cheers to Honesty.   To putting it all out there.  To creating joy by being real.

#4 You’re Reflection is getting in the way, do you want to take that off, and we’ll do another picture.

Our team divided into two vans of six.  The first van exchange offered a great opportunity for a picture.  The reflective coat of our teammate sent our photographers (some random guys standing on the street) reeling.  Her own reflection actually blurred her from the picture. 

Though in two separate vans, our team unified in one purpose.  We crossed paths only in the exchange from the sixth to the seventh runner, yet we knew the transaction represented all those who had gone before us.  We moved forward because of those behind. 

Sometimes our own reflections takes us out of the picture.  Sometimes we need to recognize the people around us, who have stood behind us, who are the reason we continue forward.  To Luann (the one in the coat) I say:  Cheers to no I in team.  We couldn’t have done it without you.

#5 Hey Elvis!  We’re next

This guy was at the start line.  I honestly have no idea if he even ran.  Just about every team took a picture with him anyway.  In fact, anyone in any kind of get-up was pulled in all directions for photo opportunities.  Even the guy at the finish line party with the “Alcohol Monitor” shirt, had a line of fans wanting a snapshot.

Some of the most popular people along the way weren’t even runners.  They certainly weren’t famous.  They came to entertain, support, and monitor.  Even when you can’t run, you can still count in the race.

To elvis I say:  Cheers to playing your part and playing it well.

# 6  I Hope He’s European

This guy told his friends he would be wearing his “cool pants”  to the after-party.  The crazy thing?  In this setting, these really were his cool pants.  We all need to find that place where we can be who we are.  The place where who we are is not only cool, but wanted. 

To this guy, who is actually from South America, I say:  Cheers to being yourself.  You wear it well.

#7  You cannot bring that to church or to school.

The Nads team wasn’t advertising a hair removal product.  They found humor in what happened when you shouted “GO,”  followed by their team name.  They even threw water bottles and ping-pong balls inscribed with that cheer to anyone willing to  catch one.  My kids came to the first van exchange and caught a couple ping-pong balls.  I told my son he was not allowed to bring his prize to church or to school.  He didn’t understand why.  I let my husband explain it to him later.

Every moment is a learning opportunity.  Every moment is not comfortable, but sometimes the most uncomfortable are the most important.

To the Nads I say: Cheers to uncomfortable conversations! 

#8  Love the Nightie!

Caught up in the moment, I wore a black-lace teddy for my final run.  This same teddy was purchased from a Salvation Army the day before and had been tied to the back of our vehicle since we bought it.  It was dusty, smelled of exhaust, and had a completely unknown past.  I wore it anyways.  It was a total hit.

I made more friends in the one hour I spent in that teddy than I did the other 26 hours of the race.  For some reason, wearing something used and a little shady made me approachable.  Maybe I need to wear a little more acceptance all the time. 

To the Teddy I say:  Cheers to taking a risk, and letting people in.

#9  Wait, am I the only one posing?

The hardest part of the race, was getting the whole team gathered for a picture.  When we finally pulled it together, we looked pretty amazing.  In the picture are best friends and barely acquaintances.  There are two sets of sisters, some twenty somethings . . . and some a little older than that.  Whatever our relationship, we will always have Hood to Coast.

People come and go from our life all the time.  Those who race amongst us, endure with us, cheer for us . . . those leave a permanent mark. 

To Girls Gone Running I say:  Cheers to the memories.

#10  Mommy!

My favorite thing to hear at the end of any race, is the sound of my children, calling my name (which to them is mommy).  At the end of the day, I want nothing more than to set an example for them.  I want them to know that with good friends and a van anything is possible. 

To  T&T I say:  Cheers to all the adventures life has for you.  Give me the keys, I’ll drive.