HOOD TO COAST RELAY – BIG KAHUNAS!!

It was a quick week to turn around from the duathlon and prepare to leave for the Hood to Coast Relay. I trained well since I was a bit sore from the race and also was working at the store every day through Wednesday. Got my fix at Rita’s on that Sunday which was good, and we had a visit from Matt Rivas at Polar who brough us some papusas and raisin bread for some NYC home cooking. His nephew lives in Fort Mill which was about 20 miles from us, so we took a drive down to meet up. Good to see him and his wife Millie, even though it was brief. So the days leading up to my departure on Thursday were key in that I was packed, ready, and able to focus on my continued organization at CRC while also getting race ready for what would be a rough few days out west with little sleep, high energy, hard running, and good times with the Kahunas crew. Coach Spano had a good team on tap and was ready to try and win our divison – the submasters (everyone on team over 30 yrs of age). Our average team age was more like 45, but Coach and Sandman do a phenomenal job preparing and managing everything about the team and race logistics in general. We have people from NC, Texas, and Florida, with a few locals right there in Oregon. Since we have 2 teams, this means co-ordinating 24 people’s itinerary, van assignments, and housing. I tell you, from experiencing it last year, I knew my job was to show up ready to go, and do whatever Coach told me to do leading up to the event, and when I got there, just following orders. And don’t expect to get much sleep.

I would certainly be missing Gina and Holmes, but knew they would be just fine. On the home front, Holmes is back to normal getting us up at 5am and looking to go for a walk on his leash. We are all setup and the place looks great. Gina even started crocheting! Good news about her mom, from what we hear from updates, has been cleared to return home finally. The hurricane was a threat here, but not much, and the weather out west was superb: 60-85, no rain forcasted. Before I knew, Thursday morning came around. We left for the airport at 4:15am, after I got in a nice jog to awaken and loosen up. She dropped me off and a kiss/hug farewell would have to secure me for the next 4 days. I was checked in and ready to fly by 6am. I have flown American this year and have to admit – not bad at all. My flight to Dallas was half-full and quite roomy. Made for a comfortable beginning. I was going to gain time, so I was prepared to be up all day. Actually, I figure I only got about 15 hours sleep over the 4-5 days total. I love the Dallas airport as I had time to switch planes, walk around a bit, and make some calls. Just perfect for getting the mind ready – for the race AND the draining 3 hr flight into Portland. It was full but thanks to some good reading, was able to pass the time and catch a few quick 15 minute naps. The plane was full of HTC runners, so I talked to the guy next to me from Virginia who was doing it for the first time, sponsored by his corporation. Now that was sweet – employees representing the company.  Once I landed, it was “only” 11:30am and heck I was on my second java. I met up with Maverick at Dallas and he was on the same flight, but had a seat in front of the plane. Yes, I refer to people on the team by their nicknames, so I was to be referred to as Hammer from here on. I throw down the hammer when I race, but also because my initials are MC. Coach assigns them, and they stick. Most of us actually only know each other by our nicknames, not our real names – true.

We stayed at the Reunion House this year, which was plenty closer to the beach action and finish activities. Plenty of room and we all grabbed our assigned areas – some bedrooms, some futons (myself), and others wherever the carpet was warmest for their sleeping bags. So after a long flight, then another 2 hr car ride to Seaside – which was great since I met Gasman and Big-D- I got out, said hello to who was already there, and went for a quick jog. The air felt good, wind lovely, and the legs a bit heavy but overall, I’m good. After a half-hour I was loose and ready for a shower. By now, everyone had arrived and we all helped out to prepare a typical runners pre-race meal. Since our start time this year was 10am, and we had the long drive to Mt. Hood, that meant trying to get to bed before 10pm since Coach called for a 3:30am wake up for the BK1 team. BK2 didn’t start until 4pm so they were able to sleep in. Time to get down to business. Settle in and focus.

Everyone was out the door by 4:15am and the drive went smooth. We stopped for some java as we got there much earlier than expected and had plenty of time to get the ice, snacks, and drinks for the race. It had rained briefly but dried off quickly – and that was the last of the rain we would see all weekend. As we drove up to Mt Hood starting line, I expected it to be much colder based on my experience last year, but it was actually warm – very warm! The place was buzzing as teams go off starting at 4am! We all geared up and made last minute plans. Check, double check. Since we were in Van 2, our rotation would be starting in the afternoon, but as Sandman toed the line, we all gave a great Big Kahuna send off along with the 11 other teams in our wave. Now it was action! Into the van – Ice, Coach, myself, Tracker, G-Dog, and Howatzer, off to the next handoff. We had time to see the second relay but then had to go to our 6-7 leg checkpoint and wait. Cellphone service is hit or miss, but we managed to get updates and estimated times of arrival. By the time we started our rotation, it was 1pm and close to 90 degrees.

I was Leg 9, 21, and 33 – totaling 20 miles and was ready to hammer. I tried to loosen up and was locked in mind. I got the relay from Coach and took off. It was 2:30pm. I just motored. The heat didn’t bother me as much as the terrain. It went from asphault to gravel/dirt, to trail, the back to asphault. I battled with one guy as I totaled close to 60 kills and really gave this guy a battle -which I won in the closing minutes of the relay. Less than 40 minutes after 7 miles+ and I was done for round 1. Now it was cool down for 5 minutes, jump in the van, and try to recover as we headed to the next exchange. You sweat like crazy, towel off, BioFreeze, hydrate, suck a gel. That’s a relay – and with 1200 other teams, log jams happen and timing is critical in addition to teamwork. Everyone has to pitch in – that’s Hood to Coast. You try to stay loose anytime you stop and wait at a checkpoint. Plain and simple – but difficult to be disciplined about. By the time my next rotation came along, I was in blinky lights and running sub 6 downhill on a dirt road for 5 miles – at 10:30pm. Pitch black. You run fast but easily can splatter if you don’t see that hole, rock, whatever. I did get to see a wonderful star lit sky for a few seconds to lose focus intentionally. That was a 28 minute blast and by the time your final rotation comes, you are sore, semi-delerious due to lack of sleep, but jacked too since you don’t want to miss action . I had my Nuun, gels, Odwalla smoothies, and Biofreeze to keep me hydrated, awake, and injury free. I was starting to get sore since it cooled nicely to 55-60 degrees and started to cramp a little bit. Round and round we go, and by 5:30am, I got my final relay and motored as well as I could for the 7.8 miles. The sun came up and that was lovely but at this point, its stay ahead of everyone, “kill” anyone you see on the road (70) and get to the end. I handed off some 46 minutes later and shouted at Tracker to run like hell. A team was gaining on us and we knew overall, everyone’s times were slower due to the heat the day before, but we didn’t know how much. Actually the heat called for numerous ambulence calls over the course. Most for dehydration. Coach was awesome to be with in the van and our crew did a great job making sure there were few mishaps and nothing to cost the team time.

Now we were heading to the finish. Our final man Howatzer was rollin and we met up with Van 1 at the finish. Now you are stoked cause everyone else is and the sun is up and the party is already started at the beach. In comes Howatzer at 8:30am, for us, some 22 hours and 7 minutes later, the Big Kahunas finished!!! It was awesome! A total win in all aspects of the sport and teamwork. An actualization moment (my running book is finished and can’t wait to publish!!) for sure. I spent the rest of the day walking to the house, eating finally (nothing but pb/banana sandwiches too this week), then back to the beach for a massage/checkup/ assisted stretching, again then to the house for a shower, some pancakes, then TV, and finally sitting out front with several other Kahunas watching people walk by along the promenade. It was sooo warm and comfortable, how could one sleep? Drink a Monster yo – they got this new recovery Tea flavor that kicks.  I was rollin on 44 hours by the time I crashed that night around 9:30pm. Mission accomplished. Turns out we came in 3rd in our division and 32nd overall out of the 1200 teams. I think Coach was pleased with another automatic bid. I was able to break all Kahuna records once again for Leg 9 (all under 6 minute pace), so along with Leg 5, not bad for 2 years on the team. I was happy, but really feeling it from my effort and the duathlon last week.

The next morning, I jogged a bit to feel the damage, went to church at Our Lady of Victory, and then the traditional group run with Coach and other Kahunas. Breakfast, hang, clean up the vans, and soon Money took us to a local beach areas where we walked along the Pacific. I soaked my feet for all of 5 minutes before I froze. Surfers had wetsuits, booties, headcaps, AND gloves. Must have been like 50 degrees that water. We had another celebratory dinner at the house and the stories continued. Can’t describe it enough in a journal – seriously. Our team photos are up on the www.hoodtocoast.com website. Our bib number is 254. Check it out.

I got to sleep late, but another early wake up as a bunch of us were leaving for the airport at 7:30am. I was going to be in a plane all day so got a 30 minute jog in before leaving. I missed Gina and wanted to get home. It was a smooth return and welcomed by the fact that my flight from Dallas to Charlotte once again was only half full! I had my own row and once I finished my usual USA Today (the best paper to read on long flights), I caught a few cat naps as I was able to lay out and relax. Once back on the ground, I hugged and kissed Gina and we were in the door at close to midnight. Man I was rattled. But heck, when I opened the fridge and saw a Cannoli/Almond layer cake HOMEMADE staring at me, AND watermelon ice, hell I had another hour in me!!!!!!!!!!!!!! YO!!!! G rocks. No seriously, G rocks.

I unpacked and we both “slept in” since I didn’t have to work until Wednesday. I used the day to regroup and get a ride/swim in. I was getting sniffles by the end of the week as I attacked work again and needed to back off a bit. I was scheduled to do a lot this holiday weekend at work, so I am using the next week to get into the routine again, but focusing on the ITU WORLD LONG DISTANCE CHAMPIONSHIPS in Nevada on Nov 5th.  I got the link to order my TEAMUSA uniform and I will show you pictures when it is delivered. The next 60 days are all about this race as it is my season ender. I plan to start my run group at CRC this month and also work on additonal projects while doing some coaching on the side. Gina begins her work at OrthCarolina and we should have an idea on our schedules meshing by the end of the month. Stay tuned as I occassionally Twitter (@teammc1)!! Big thanks as usual to my solid round table: Odwalla, Nuun, BioFreeze, Aquaphor, and Polar. Hammer down.

 

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