Thursday, September 03, 2009

Portland-to-Coast Relay, August 28-29, 2009

***Sorry no pics yet - bad internet connection and lucky to be able to post text!*** Will post pics on Saturday when I'm home.

Portland-to-Coast Relay, August 28-29, 2009

Wow, what an experience!

Loren and I and the kids met Dee, Holly, Mary, and Mary’s son and his girlfriend at the Old Spaghetti Factory for a pre-race pasta dinner on Thursday night. I got some basic questions answered about the race from these experts (I think between the 3 of them they have done it about 25-30 times!), and after dinner we went to their hotel to decorate our van with inspiring slogans such as “Toenails are for sissies”, “Does this van make our butts look FAST?”, “Is it rude to count road kill out loud” (road kill refers to teams that you pass during the race), and “Put on your big girl panties”. Yeah, it was fun.

Then back to our hotel for some sleep. I was quite tired and pretty anxious about how my foot would hold up. I definitely did NOT want to be the one to let our team down! We had 2 goals: 1) WIN the women’s open division (any age competitor), and 2) break the course record, set in 2000 by a 12-woman team. We were pretty sure we could win the race, but breaking the record was going to be tough – it was FAST, and we were a 6-woman team.

The next morning I met everyone at their hotel and then we drove to the race start, where we met Katie & Lisa. We signed in and then had an hour to kill, so we hung out & visited with the other teams. I particularly liked the logo of the “Rockbottoms”, one of the other women’s teams. It was awesome to be around a bunch of other fast racewalkers. The time passed quickly and pretty soon we were cheering on Dee as she started for us.

I was 2nd in the rotation, and so I was getting nervous. We cheered on Dee halfway through her relatively short leg (about 4 miles) and then drove to the exchange. I warmed up a little, and my foot was painful but I definitely felt like I could walk through the pain. Katie tied a bandanna with ice around my neck and I was ready to go; it was pretty warm (around 80 and quite humid, with on-and-off sun).

Dee arrived and before long I was off on my first leg (leg 14). I started out a bit fast but settled quickly into a reasonable pace (about 9:30/mile or so). Pretty soon I had my first roadkill, passing one of the Sierra Racewalkers (a very nice woman named Karen); we never saw their team again, so I guess it was a convincing pass. Not long after that my team pulled up and gave me water, dumping a bunch over my head, too. It was really quite hot by then. The leg was advertised as flat, but it had a slight uphill the last few miles (total was about 5.49 or something like that) and I did slow down as I went. Still, I finished about 15 seconds faster than my projected time from the spreadsheet that Holly had set up for us (she and Mary made goals to meet for each leg for us to break the course record), and did 9:43/mile. Not bad for hot weather, I guess, though I was a little disappointed. 5.49 miles is less than a 10K, and my 10K best is about 9:27/mile, so I was slower than I could do under ideal conditions. However, it was hot, and it was a bit uphill, oh, and did I mention the diesel fumes from the passing trucks on highway 30? Yeah, not ideal. My average HR for the leg was 168 (88% max), so I had pushed pretty hard.

My foot got through the 1st leg OK but was a bit sore, so I iced it thoroughly, changed my clothes, and got something to eat. Nutrition is challenging when doing the equivalent of about 4 fast 10K races in less than 24 hours. You have to eat, but you can’t eat anything that might upset your stomach. During the race, I ate peanut butter & jelly (1/2-1 sandwich at a time), pretzels, bananas, Swedish Fish candy, and Fig Newtons. It worked pretty well, mostly… except my stomach did get upset before my 4th leg, but more about that later.

I enjoyed resting and watching the others do their first legs. Our team was fast… our slowest person could still do 11 minute miles with nary a hitch, and 3 of us were easily under 10 minute miles on the flat portions. It was great to cheer the others on, though hard on my foot to keep jumping in and out of the van. The weather got progressively more cloudy through the afternoon, but remained pretty warm. Still, it could have been lots hotter.

Too soon, it was time for me to do my next leg (leg 20), the one I’d worried about in training. It was 5.77 miles long, with 4 of that seriously uphill --- about 800 or 900 feet total. AND about 2 miles of that uphill was on gravel. Ugh! The spreadsheet said I had to average 11:15/mile for 1:04:41 for the leg; I thought I could do faster, and I did . All that hill work paid off. My foot HATED the gravel road because it was so uneven, and I kept slipping, but I pushed through it all and finished in 1:00:23 for 10:30/mile. Average HR was 164 for the leg; still pushing hard. All awesome. 4 minutes toward breaking the course record! The weather was cooler for this leg (though still on the warm side; I had Holly pour water over my head), and the scenery was beautiful. This part of rural Oregon is gorgeous with the evergreen trees, bucolic farms, and quaint homes on the quiet roads.

After the leg, it was ice, ice, and more ice for the sore foot, fresh clothes, and food. At the next few exchanges, we started to catch up with the teams that had started 3-4-5 hours before us, and it was quite entertaining to see the d├ęcor on their vans. The team names were clever, too (“Buns –n- Roses” matched nicely with our “Six Pistols”).

My teammates continued to be quite fast; Mary finished her next leg with at least 2-3 minutes to spare off of the spreadsheet time, and the other teammates finished pretty close to their times. We were building up a nice little cushion for later when we got tired.

I was apprehensive about my 3rd leg (leg 26) because it started late at night (10:20 pm), and that is probably my worst time of day. I am definitely a morning person! But the weather was in my favor. The clouds had given way to mist and/or rain at times, and the weather had cooled off a lot. It was perfect for racewalking. The cool air was invigorating, and in fact, I had trouble pushing my HR high enough for some reason! I was getting tired mentally, I think, and my foot was hurting more. Still, I was supposed to finish the 3rd leg in 59:30, and I gained us 3.5 more minutes, finishing in 55:58 for a 9:42 pace, despite some pretty serious hills (not as much as my 2nd leg, but it was still rated “HARD” in the handbook). Average HR was only 157; I felt bad I hadn’t pushed harder, but it FELT hard, and hey, I was fast, so I didn’t feel TOO bad.

About this time I knew my foot was not good, though. It really HURT to take my shoes off and put them back on. Oh, and I was tired enough that I had done my whole 3rd leg without my shoe insert in my left shoe – when I changed shoes between the 2nd & 3rd legs I’d forgotten to put one of them in. DUH! I just kept icing it and kept hoping it would be OK.

The next few hours were very interesting. I did catnap a couple times for maybe 20-30 min sleep, but things were interesting in the van. Katie accidentally set off the pepper spray she keeps in her bag, causing us to have to clear out the van and air it out, driving with all the windows down for a couple hours (from maybe 2-4 am!). My Nike sweatshirt got pepper spray on it, and I kept getting it on my face & legs until I figured out what was going on. Poor Katie wasn’t sure she’d be able to race again after getting it on her face and eyes; luckily, she had a few hours before she had to race and she was recovered by then.

After that, at one of the exchanges, Mary forgot to put the flashing light we had atop the van back inside. We drove off and it fell off the van. She picked it up (we heard it drop) but it was stuck in the ON position, so we buried it under the passenger seat, and for the rest of the race it was there flashing. We couldn’t take out the batteries because it took a screwdriver, which we didn’t have. Oops. Interesting things happen when you are sleep deprived!

My stomach started acting up about this time. I had taken an Imodium after my 2nd leg (or my first?!? not sure), but it wasn't doing 100% of the job. I visited the port-a-potty one last time before my final leg, and hoped for the best. Turned out that it wasn't a problem. Whew.

I started my final leg (leg 32) at 3:45 am. We were ahead of our spreadsheet schedule by at least 10 minutes. I had to do my last 4.09 miles in 40:13, and I figured I could (though it did have some mild hills). I was pretty tired, but figured I had it in me to finish well. Still, I got out there and was pretty fuzzy-brained. It was hard to push myself, but I kept thinking about the course record and how I didn’t want to let down my teammates. It was definitely the hardest leg, even though it was the shortest and probably the easiest course-wise, but I just didn’t have much oomph left. About 0.5 mile from the end, I slipped on the wet pavement and fell, skinning my right knee and my hands. I got up as fast as I could and kept going, but still, I finished in 40:29, 16 seconds slower than my goal pace. I wasn’t happy with that, or with my ave HR of only 154, but I had done my best under the circumstances. We still had a good cushion of at least 6 minutes (we had a few slow legs just before this).

Well, the cushion didn’t last long. The 4th legs were hard on everyone, and by the time we got to our last few legs, we were very close to the spreadsheet time. The pressure was on for Holly to finish her last leg in her assigned time.

Meanwhile, in the van, my foot was excruciatingly painful. I could barely think about how the others were doing, and had so much trouble getting out to cheer Katie on for her last very difficult leg. Ice finally restored me a little, but it was still so painful as the adrenaline wore off once I had finished my part.

We got to the beach and nervously awaited Holly’s arrival; I was only able to hobble slowly but managed to get out there. We figured that if she could do under 12:20/mile we’d break the record, but with how tired everyone was we didn’t know if she’d be able to do it. Pretty soon we saw her --- and we had 8 minutes to spare! We started chanting “HOLLY HOLLY HOLLY” and she crossed the finish line in 21:45:37, which was a full 7 minutes under the course record. We all screamed our lungs out and joined her for a victory lap on the sand under the finish line. It was such a great moment, and worth all the pain.

Later that night, after the awards ceremony, I did go to the ER and have my foot x-rayed. The pain was so bad in the afternoon that I could hardly sleep (and this after 24 hr of no sleep!) so I figured I had to do it, even though it meant Loren had to watch the kids while I was there. The x-ray was negative, but the doc said it could still easily be a stress fracture, as they do not show on x-ray for 7-10 days. He did say it might just be soft tissue damage. In either case the treatment is the same for now: crutches, ice, vicodin for pain, and anti-inflammatory medication and ace wrap for swelling. After a few days it’s feeling a bit better but I am still staying off of it.

Strangely, I’m not too upset about the injury. It might be the end of my Portland Marathon hopes for 10/4, but y’know what? I had such a great race this last weekend, that I honestly think I will be OK about it if I can’t do the marathon. Disappointed, yes, but OK.

It’s going to be a weight gain kind of week though, with no exercise (I have not gone this long w/o exercise in 4 years!) and lots of good vacation food, but oddly enough, I am not worried about that either. I feel sure I can get it back off again, and really, I’m just so thrilled with our race. A six-woman team WON the race (we were 2nd only to ONE men’s team, but beat all of the other teams in the race) and broke the course record, set in 2000 by a 12-woman team. We were amazing, and I got to be a part of it. That was more than worth everything.



Nyle said...

Wow Wow Wow!!!! I am just soooo excited for you. I loved reading your report, you had me on the edge of my seat...cheering you on!

I truly feel your pain with your foot. You are a trooper for pushing through it and bringing in the record with your team. Good on you for getting it checked out and do rest up as you will be amazed at how fast you will be after a short break. Enjoy the relaxing and eating...You have well and truly earned it.

Congrats to you and your team!!!!


Lani said...

Congratulations! I hope your foot recovers soon. I've got to ask: Swedish fish candy?

Steve said...

I forgot you were doing this race,but WOW...nice job!

Ive read lots of peoples accounts of that race. What a challenge and a thrill,especially to set a course record.

Sorry to hear about your foot, and if it turns out that you can't do Portland, at least you got the chance to run in Oregon.

PS..That bit about accidentally setting off the pepper spray made me laugh, but I'm sure it wasn't funny at the time :-)

Heal fast!

Tammy said...

Thanks for all the supportive comments :)

Lani - Swedish Fish are very yummy candy that is basically all sugar. They are fish-shaped and fake cherry flavored. Easily digested & perfect race food, along with Jelly Belly jelly beand :).

Kale said...

Incredible!!! You ladies are amazing it was exciting just to read. Thanks for sharing your experience it gets me all excited!

Love ya!