It’s already Thursday and I have yet to even process what the hell happened last week. Last Wednesday, I flew out to Seattle to meet the Nuun crew and the 35 other runners they graciously hosted and ushered through the Hood to Coast Relay. We spent 2 days in Seattle. We drank coffee (Starbucks, duh), went bowling at The Garage (I’m a less than stellar bowler), ran around Green Lake (oh the jealousy!) ,met the Oiselle crew and visited their HQ (what the what?!), dance battled on two duck boats (still not sure who won that one), decorated the vans (I’m now certified in free-handing Twitter birds and cherries…), and tried to get as much sleep as we could before it took a literal backseat to running and driving to each exchange.
Before the relay even began on Friday afternoon, I knew that the experience was exactly what I pictured since I was selected for the team back in April. — It was a running LOVEFEST. It’s rare to meet so many runners from all across the country and have more than 10 minutes to talk to each one of them. Nuun threw a ton of “strangers” into 6 vans and magically (and not so surprisingly), we learned a lot about each other. It’s amazing what happens when you’re sleep-deprived, on a running high, and fueled up on ALL OF THE VAN SNACKS.
The most dedicated & focused, yet silly-ass Van (Van 1, Cherry Limeade):
Hood to Coast was my first relay, which meant that I was nervous and a bit anxious about the ‘logistics’ part of the whole experience. I was happy to be in a van with experienced relay runners.
When Mason called and asked if I’d be willing to switch from Team Lemonade to Team Cherry Limeade (the competitive women’s open team going for the W!), I responded with “OH MY GOD I’d love to! …..BUT you have to promise to give me the easy legs because Chicago is flat as a pancake”. Having lived there for 20-ish years, he heard me loud and clear (thankfully). I was runner 4 in Van 1 for Cherry Limeade, which included 15+ miles: first leg was the longest, middle leg was easy peasey, and last leg was gradual uphill yet short.
I averaged just under a 7:00 min/mile for the 15 miles. Considering I’m in the middle of a marathon training cycle, my focus hasn’t been on speed lately (although speed workouts are obviously still part of the marathon training recipe). My goal was to stick as close to my recent tempo paces as I could and see how far I could push it if I was feeling good. I figured my legs would be tired on the last leg no matter how hard I took the first two legs.
7.18 miles with a steady gradual downhill along paved shoulder on Highway 26. —> 6:36 average pace. I was FLYIN’ dudes! Granted, gradual downhill equated to a much faster time than I thought I was capable of running and I was caught up in the adrenaline of running my first relay leg evarrrr, but I’m happy with it nonetheless. (It bodes well for an upcoming 10k!) The team stopped halfway through my leg to give me a water bottle. I tossed the water bottle like a pro, gave high-fives, and marveled at the fact that my most recent tempo was 4 miles at 6:45 pace. ….and I ran 7 at 6:35 pace. I’ll take it!
3.78 miles on gently rolling highway, paved shoulder just like the first leg. —-> 7:20 average pace. Ok, let’s just preface this by saying there was a code brown involved. It was pitch black outside, few runners around, and it just had to happen. (Thanks to Holly, I’ll always use #poopthereitis to describe potential future situations.) My average pace was 6:45 until that unfortunate pit stop. DERP! Normally, this would just be a private moment that I’d keep to myself. But when you’re running as part of a team, “TMI” doesn’t apply and I felt the need to explain myself. I hope I never have to answer this question, “how’d you do?” with a “good!….except for that poop stop” ever again. [Come on. I can’t be alone on this one!]
4.20 miles, gradual uphill on paved road (narrow highway with limited shoulder). —> 7:17 average pace. “Gradual uphills” don’t really exist in Chicago unless you count overpasses and parking garages. I think I’m a pretty good hill runner but give me 4 miles of gradual incline and my legs (and lungs) tend to be confused. Not going to lie, this last leg was *tough*. I just kept thinking about how short 4 miles normally is and the fact that once I pushed through them that I’d officially be done with my first relay. It’s sure not to be my last.
- Code Brown. Enough said.
- 30 minutes of sleep. Par for the course, but I felt like a zombie. (Up for 40 hours straight — haven’t done that in years!)
- Exchange snafus led to a 3rd place finish. Sure, third is AWESOME, but we were going for the WIN and thought we pretty much had it in the bag before logistics caught up to us. At some point, you just decide to run strong on your own legs and leave everything else behind. I’m excited to see future Nuun teams get the big win because our van wanted it and wanted it bad.
Come on. Did you seriously think there was an ugly side of this experience?! I rarely think that experiences are all sunshine and rainbows, but I can honestly say that it was the closest I’ve ever come to “Skittles: Taste the Rainbow”.
Run around Green Lake 🙂
All 36 runners with the Oiselle crew
Hanging at Nuun HQ before decorating the vans
Team Cherry Limeade, Van 1
Obligatory jumping pic at Mount Hood.
HERE WE GO!
We found a hill at a van exchange and put the legs up
Team Cherry Limeade (Julia is running!)
Toilet paper finish tape. Julia’s all kinds of serious
If you don’t finish your relay with bloody mary’s and sides of bacon, you’re doing it wrong.
Beers with the lovely Robyn Hefner (AKA badass van leader!) at Seaside Brewing Co.
I’m still having “pinch me moments” about this whole experience. When I started running 2 years ago, I never thought that my “running world” would be as big as it is now. I love being able to chat with so many runners via social media but you take those conversations to a whole other level when you get to meet IRL and work together as a team. When you’re running for a team of 12, there’s no excuse–you run as fast as you can and leave it out there because you know that van is waiting for you at the next exchange.
I also know that I was (obviously) not the first choice for Team Cherry Limeade and there are plenty of speedy ladies out there that would kick my ass if they had the opportunity. I feel lucky to have been part of a competitive team with women that I learned a lot from. I don’t consider myself a “competitive runner”, but I do thrive on competition. But dang, these girls are on a whole other level and it’s cool to have been given the opportunity to represent Nuun with each one of them.
Meeting and exceeding goals this training cycle all comes down to hard work and, let me tell you, Robyn, Dorothy, Katie, Julia, and Sara consistently work their tails off (and most of them do it while raising a family…except me and Robyn. But it’s all good. She has a 30 lb cat and I like to think I have a pretty cute dog).
I know that I’ll be keeping in touch with the women I met last week well into the future. And we’ll be a support net for each other in future races, from near and far (there’s always someone waiting to hear how you did at a race on Twitter, after all…) . That’s pretty cool when you stop to think about it.
I’m not sure I can ever properly thank Mason, Megan, and the entire Nuun team for their hospitality last week (“hospitality” doesn’t even begin to cover it). You guys seriously thought of everything and we all felt like it was a special treat to be able to just show up and RUN. Your company and its energy is refreshing and it was just a pleasure to be around you all for an entire 5 days. I think it’s rare to find a company that feels so much like a family and it was nice to become part of yours!
Running Hood to Coast with Nuun was just what I needed to fuel me through the next 7 weeks of training for the Grand Rapids Marathon. And once I process this whole experience, I’ll likely be at that start line ready to kill it.