Sunday, August 26, 2007

Hood to Coast - 6 weeks to go

Well, this was Hood to Coast weekend. 197 miles, 1200 teams, 12 runners per team. Mileage per person varies dependent on which leg they choose. 2 years ago I ran this and did well on the first 2 of 3 legs. The third leg I blew up on. The last 4 miles were sheer hell...

This year was going to be different. I wanted to not only go back and do those same legs again, but I wanted to take that third leg and not let it get the better of me.

Leg one is a 7.2 mile run along the Springwater Trail at the very eastern side. The first 2-3 miles are on gravel, but the terrain is ideal for setting a solid tempo. My splits were almost even pace, averaging 6:40's for a 47:20 overall time. Everything felt great there, no worries, it's all good...

Leg two is a 5.1 mile run in the middle of the night in the middle of nowhere... It's all gravel, in the dark, with the team vans (support vehicles) kicking up a lot of dust. You're running off 2-3 hours sleep if you're lucky, and it's about 4:30 am. Fortunately this is also another mostly flat leg (unlike the runner before me, which was 5 miles of a slow grind uphill on gravel). I eased up on the last mile because I wanted to get a good cool-down before getting into the car. This leg also went real well (as it had the previous time for me), 34:10 for a 6:34 average pace.

By the third leg, you've now had maybe 4-5 hours of sleep if you're lucky. You've been living off GU, bagels, sports drink, and anything else you could get your hands on, and you've been living out of a van with 6 other runners for close to 24 hours now. Getting in and out of the van can be a challenge. Fortunately, before you went to catch some sleep around 8 am you got to eat pancakes at a Grange along the way (it's an exchange point and they do this every year).

Leg 3 is in the afternoon, you're closer to the coast, and you will most likely have a good head wind. There is little to no shade along this route, so if it's sunny, it can be real brutal. This is also an 8 mile leg and the terrain is rolling hills. The finish is an uphill 1/2 mile (or so) to a school. It's easy to see why so many will crack on this leg. Mentally and physically you are drained. You are starting out with sore, tired legs. Blisters on your feet from the first 2 legs can make each stride even more fun. Because of the terrain, keeping an even pace is more challenging. You have to give and take because of the hills, and work for the average speed. This year I was not going to POP, I would not lose focus, and I would not let this leg get the better of me.

I had the team go out about 4 miles to give me a morale boost. Gotta have more cowbell. At 4 miles I had battled the mental part, and it did have it's ups and downs, but I was still strong. The morale boost helped me kick it back into a rhythm again. With 2 miles left, it wasn't too hot, but the heat was starting to wear me down. Then it started to mist lightly... it was what I needed for another boost. I picked the pace back up slightly, and kept it going up to the base of the last hill. I thought of the last time I did this leg, and how Beth, who was already done and exhausted, met me at the bottom because I was so dead and led me up that hill (in sandals, and I could barely keep up). That gave me another burst as I reached the school. Once I hit the grass and the flat surface I gave it everything that I had left. I knew that I won this time. This leg had NOT defeated me as it had before, and I would reach my goal. 8 miles, 55:42, 6:58 pace.

My Portland goal is to break 3:20. That's a 7:38 average pace. My targeted pace is 7:10, which would be a 3:07:46. I just finished 20.3 miles (granted not in a row) with roughly a 6:43 average speed. This was the boost in confidence that I wanted...

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