Come From Behind: Hood to Coast 2018

by Jodi

HTC 2018 was one for the story books... the kind of athletic story we all love.  I still am trying to wrap my head around what just happened.  And also trying to get my body to move without being sore and a thousand percent fatigued.

There are so many subplots and stories within the overarching story, and I'm not going to tell them all.  I'll try to just give a recap of 23 very eventful hours.
We call this "Leg 4."  Our Sunday morning one mile run to keep Paula's (and now mine) run streak alive.
My team is sponsored by Portland Running Company (PRC) and is called PRC Girlz. The women on my team are FAST. Really FAST... like 6 minutes miles for their overall average pace. I am one of the slower ones on my team and I averaged a 7:05 pace for just over 16 miles.  I was THRILLED to run that pace.  I give these stats only to give you a glimpse into the athleticism, grit, determination, and speed of the women on my team.  You don't run that fast without hours of training, blood, sweat and tears. My teammates are impressive and inspiring.

Well guess what?  There's another team of twelve equally inspiring, fast, talented women in our division.  Last year, Team Athena Tight Assets started at the same time as our team and beat us.  This year we started at the same time AGAIN.  This 199 mile race just got broken down into 36 mini-races. The bar was raised.  Every single second mattered and all 24 of us knew it. If we wanted to win, we had to leave it all on the course.  Everything we have.  Every.single.time. It was intense.
Van 2: (L to R): Jami, Aubree, Ashley, Rachel, me, Dawn
First van exchange - adding Brittney from Van 1 to synch the app.
me with Jami, our fearless Van 2 Captain
Me and Larisa (Van 1)
Rachel and Ashley have been friends for forever.
Hi Nikki! (Van 1) 
Dawn and me... This woman has taught me how to be a smarter, faster runner.  She also has become one of my very best friends.  Miles and miles and miles together, sweating, training, praying, doing life.  She's a keeper.
For the next 23 hours, our teams played cat and mouse.  Team Athena led initially, then we took over the lead.  Then lost it again for a handful of exchanges.  Regained it on Leg 21, only to have me give it back to them on a wicked mountain climb in the middle of the night. (Sorry PRC Girlz...).  The Team Athena girl blew past me like I was standing still.  It was impressive.  And a little demoralizing, but whatevs. I was running as fast as I could.
Look closely for Rachel... She closed the gap to about 20 seconds after her first leg. 
Rachel handing off to Ashley.
Ashley all done with her first run. Rach checking up on her.
Jami ready to rock.
Me trying to copy Jami.  My muscles are close...  LOL! 
Jami's done and off I go.

Me handing off to Dawn.
Dawn coming into the exchange.

Aubree ready to run.
Most of both our vans at the second van exchange in downtown Portland
Waiting with Team Athena girls to see which of our runners would come into the exchange first. 
PRC Girlz didn't see the lead again for several hours.  We went into the last van exchange behind Team Athena by almost seven minutes.  Six runners.  Seven minutes.  We each had to chip away more than a minute against a very talented team.  I didn't think we could do it and had really given up hope.  But Jami....

Oh Jami...  Our Van 2 Captain, is a personal trainer and a high level athlete.  She knows how to motivate athletes.  I'm pretty sure she never slept all 23 hours because she just kept calculating splits, projected paces, etc.  She had an action plan plotted out to come from behind. She told us, "I'm going to take the lead around mile six of my leg and then it will be up to the last three runners to try to hold them off." And that's exactly what happened.
Seen on the side of the van in the middle of the night...  #wecandohardthings.
Rachel ran her guts out with a 6:45 average pace on her last leg and chipped away at their lead.
Blurry Rachel killing her last leg.
Handed off to Ashley who also crushed her last leg with a 6:40 average and chipped away at their lead.
Passing out Sour Patch Kids and waiting for Jami to get to us.
Jami took the baton from Ashley still behind, but with "only" four minutes to make up.  Jami's leg was EIGHT grueling miles of rolling hills on legs that had already run ten miles at a low 6:00 minute average.  We stopped to give her water four miles into her run.  She had closed so much on the Team Athena runner that she was almost in sight.  Just watch this video of Jami's intensity and focus.  She's a beast.  And Rachel's giggle at the end gets me every time.

Jami came into the exchange ahead of Team Athena, just like she said she would do.  I had no idea how big my lead was or wasn't.  All I knew was that the Team Athena runner racing me was much faster than me, good at climbing hills and that the next 4.12 miles were all rolling hills.  Also my legs were completely shot, so the odds were not in my favor.  My projected pace for this leg was 7:20.  I made up my mind to do a few things:

  1. Don't look back.  Ever.  Eyes focused and forward. Don't waste negative mental space worrying about something that was out of my control.
  2. Hit my projected pace.
  3. Don't let my team down.
  4. PRAY.  Hard.
Me running my last leg.
Once I started running, I didn't think about Team Athena.  I prayed for breath in my lungs, which at this point were not giving me full oxygen like my first two legs.  I prayed for strong legs and a strong mind.  I prayed for my friend who is battling cancer like a boss.  Her name was on my bib and it felt comforting to take her with me on the journey.

SIDE STORY: While I ran, the lyrics of a song I heard on Friday were running through my head on repeat.  Over and over, to the point of almost being annoying, but the lyrics matched the cadence of my feet and labored breathing.

Peace, bringing it all to peace
the storm surrounding me
Let it break, at your name.
Still. Call the sea to still.
The rage in me to still
Every wave, at your name.

Jesus, Jesus.  You make the darkness tremble.  
Jesus, Jesus.  You silence fear.  

Breathe.. then call these bones to live.
Call these lungs to sing.
Once again, I will praise...

Jesus, Jesus.  You make the darkness tremble.
Jesus, Jesus... You silence fear.

Your name is a light that the shadows can't deny.  
Your name cannot be overcome. 
Your name is alive.  Forever lifted high.  
Your name will not be overcome.

The reason I share this part of the story is because on Sunday, when I went to church post-race tired and elated, the worship team led this song.  God loves so intimately and personally. I just feel that someone reading this needs to know that He sees you.  He knows your name, your fear, and your darkness. And He has already overcome and redeemed it.  To Him be the glory. END OF SIDE STORY
Okay... back to the race... My run ends on a hill climb.  (Of course.)  It's short, but steep and it took every part of my mental strength to keep running and not walk.  Every muscle ached.  My breathing sucked. I wanted to quit, but I knew my team was relying on me.  And then I saw the exchange.  And heard my beautiful teammates screaming my name.  Friends... there is power in encouragement.

Dawn waiting for me. 
Cresting that stupid hill.
Into the exchange zone 
And Dawn's off.  You're welcome for that ten second lead.
I passed the baton to Dawn, pushed stop on my watch, and looked back for the first time in 4.12 miles.  The Team Athena runner was already in the chute stopping her watch.  Ten more seconds and she would have caught me.  GAH!  Our teams were even again and this 199 mile race was going to come down to the last 12.3 miles.

Dawn crushed her very hard 7+ mile leg on gravel with a continual uphill grade at a 7:11 pace.  She came into the exchange first, but we had no idea what kind of a lead she was giving Aubree, our last runner.
Getting the baton for one last time.
And Aubree is off and running.
Also... while I was running, Jami went into exercise induced anaphylactic shock.  Thankfully, Dawn is a nurse.  Thankfully there was an ambulance right at the exchange.  Thankfully they were able to help her and she was fine within a handful of hours, but she did have to go to the hospital and miss out on how the race ended.  She is a beast.  

So back to Aubree.  She was in the same position as me - racing against a Team Athena runner who was much faster than her.  It's not a good feeling when eleven other people are relying on you to outrun someone who will always beat you in an even foot race.  But Aubree is tough.  She trained hard.  She's mentally strong.  We all knew she would run her guts out.  And that she did.

We piled into the van, got stuck in traffic (#shocker) and were a good 20 minutes into Aubree's run before we were driving on the race course headed to the finish.  We saw the runner from Team Athena flying down a hill. She was fast, strong, focused.  She was coming for Aubree.

Where's Aubree?  

Drive some more.

Where's Aubree?

More driving.

Where's Aubree?

We finally saw her about 3/4 of a mile down the road. She had a huge lead with two miles to go.  


Rachel, Ashley, Dawn and I looked at each other and realized... "Oh my gosh.  We could win this thing."

Aubree was running fast and focused, but she was pushing herself beyond what she thought she could run.  The strain was evident on her face.  Rachel immediately insisted that we stop.  We gave Aubree water and then Ashley - who has a hurt hamstring - jumped out of the van and started running.  Initially it was next to Aubree to give her a word of encouragement and then it was ten steps ahead of her.  We'd been chasing for 197 miles.  Why not chase your own teammate? #tears #sobs #teammwork #allthefeels

Our van of six was now depleted to three: Jami at the hospital, Aubree running her guts out; Ashley winning the Teammate of the Year award. We parked about 3/4 of a mile from the beach and  sprinted toward the finish where the rest of our team was waiting with baited breath.  Thirty seconds after we arrived, Paula yelled, "I SEE HER!"  We all went crazy.  Like lose your mind screaming, crying, hugging, jumping up and down, yelling crazy.  

Way down the promenade was Ashley.  Ten steps behind was Aubree, chasing down our dream to win our division.  Ashley peeled off and Aubree brought it home, crossing the finish line in the sand in 23 hours, 4 minutes, 28 seconds with an average pace of 6:58 per mile.  What an adventure.
Teammate of the Year Ashley grabbing Aubree's face to say, "YOU DID IT!"
Hugs between two amazing women. 
Love this moment between Ashley and Aubree.
Paula and Aubree
Walking across the finish line.
So much joy. 
We did it!
Group hug. 
This race came down to two minutes and 43 seconds separating two incredible teams.  Can you believe that? 

Team PRC Girlz finished: 
  • 32nd place overall
  • 3rd fastest women's team
  • 1st place in our division
This Hood to Coast was really about the women.  Women empowering women to rise above, see the bar, and beat it.  Team Athena and PRC Girlz pushing each other to run to a 32nd and 33rd place overall finish in a race with more than 1,000 teams. 
some of both teams.
Team Goats and Roses was the first place overall women's team. They finished with a blazing average pace of 6:21 per mile, and got 12th place overall, but they were not recognized at an award ceremony on Saturday night.  Only the mens top winners received trophies.  Goats and Roses was brave enough to speak up.  Their tweet went viral, bringing national attention to a pretty big mistake. Hood to Coast staff offered a quick apology, made some staffing changes, and acknowledged that this will never happen again. Positive change for all women moving forward.  Thank you Goats and Roses.

Thank you Paula Harkin for being my friend.  Your friendship is a gift I treasure deeply.  Thank you for putting together the PRC Girlz team and including me on the roster.  The friendships I've gained from this team grow deeper every year. What a gift. 
me and Paula
Shout out to my teammates. You women inspire me every day.  You are gritty. Determined. Hard working.  Successful business women, moms, wives, friends.  You get up early.  You stay up late. You put in the time, sweat, tears to be fast.  But you are also loyal, funny, kind.  You make me want to be better, faster, kinder, and stronger.  Thank you.

And to Team Athena and Goats and Roses... well done.  Thank you for pushing us all to rise above.  To work smarter, harder, better.  Until next year...

My Legs by the splits so I know for next year:
5.25 miles - 6:55 pace
6.82 miles - 7:09 pace
4.12 miles - 7:17 pace

Hold Everything Loosely and Be Kind to Yourself: Life Lessons from Running

by Jodi

Most of my teammates at our team dinner

Today I am prepping for Hood to Coast, an epic relay race from Timberline Lodge, nestled high on Mt. Hood, to the ocean beach at Seaside, Oregon.  Runners flock from all over the world to participate in this race.  For the third year in a row, I have the distinct privilege of running as part of the Portland Running Company's all women team.  It's a huge honor to put on the race team uniform and run for a company that has contributed so much to the running world in Portland.

With that uniform comes a responsibility to train hard and run fast. This year, I'm nervous about the "run fast" part.  I spent the first seven months of this year rehabbing tendonitis in my knee.  I watched all speed and distance I'd accumulated from two years of training hard dissipate with one slow, painful, short run after another.  My knee did get better though and I've slowly been building back speed and stamina.  I'm getting faster, but I'm not as fast I as I have been.

And then there's the training piece. My training has been interrupted by grief, sporadic asthma, and Life Stuff.  So often this spring and summer, I've had a plan, then scrapped it because Life decided to turn things all cattywampus.  I'm training hard, but not in the predictable, routine way that I prefer. Normally I head into a race with weeks of consistent training behind me and a hard and firm pace that I know I can run.  This year, I've got a semi-confident guesstimate. If there's anything I've learned from training this summer, it's to hold everything loosely and to be kind to myself mentally.  This summer God has given me so many opportunities to practice training my mind and for that, I'm grateful for every hard, wheezy mile.

Would I love to run a 7:00 minute pace this year again for my team?  You bet.  Is that going to happen?  Nope.  I'll be thrilled with a 7:20 average pace and that will be just as big of a stretch for me as the 7:00 minute pace from years previous.  But what I can do is manage my mental space.

What am I telling myself?  

Is it a garbage thought?  Then throw it out. 

Truth?  Hold on to it.

The TRUTH is I am healthy.  I am so thankful for legs that can run and lungs that can fuel my body with the oxygen I need, even when it's all wheezy.  I'm still breathing.  I'm still running.

The TRUTH is I have a strong mind.  My body will do what my mind tells it to do.

So I will run my guts out, with the goal of spreading joy to those around me.  I resolve to speak kindly to myself: to praise God when I want to complain, to tell myself "I can" when I want to say, "I can't," and to not care about my pace as much as I care about being a positive and hardworking teammate.

These truths apply to life, not just running.  How often do we put too much emphasis on things, agendas or people that feel HUGE in the moment but in the grand scheme of life should not consume so much mental and emotional energy? When things don't pan out the way we hope or plan, we jump straight to mental defeat and shame.  My friends.. this is not God's heart for us.

May I encourage all of us to embrace seasons of difficulty and challenge?  Use these seasons of life to press into God and practice training your mind instead.

"Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is TRUE, whatever is NOBLE, whatever is RIGHT, whatever is PURE, whatever is LOVELY, whatever is ADMIRABLE - if anything is EXCELLENT or PRAISEWORTHY - think about such things." - Philippians 4:8

Tomorrow I will put on my PRC uniform with pride, run my guts out, and manage my attitude.  I'm saying it out loud so you can all hold me accountable.  And, to make our captain happy, I promise to GET IN THE VAN!!!!!!!!

See you on the flip side.

Running through life together...  Jodi

Free Therapy: Cascade Lakes Relay 2018 Just Us League

by Jodi

The first weekend of August 2018 I ran in my fifth consecutive Cascade Lakes Relay (CLR): 216.6 miles from Diamond Lake to Bend through some of the most beautiful parts of Central Oregon.  I love the rugged beauty of the course.  I embrace the challenge of surviving the harsh elements.  The temperature swings from extreme heat to very cold desert nights.  The mosquitos and bees can be super annoying.  Much of this race is run on single track trails and gravel roads, without support from your van.   And all of the course is at elevation - a race factor that is hard to train for when you live at sea level.  It's grueling and magnificent and altogether amazing.  Every.single.time.

This year I ran with the Just Us League - an all women team that my training partner captains.  We wear red capes the entire race that signify our camaraderie and our love for the race.  I ran Leg 3 (with one leg change in the middle) for a total of 23 miles, 17 of it on trails or gravel.  I loved every mile, even the hard ones when I struggled with my breath control.

Van 1 Ladies 
Van 2 Ladies
We arrived at Diamond Lake the night before the race and checked into our cabins.  As our van settled in for the night we discovered a common theme.  Each of us had walked through personal tragedy, sorrow, or suffering in the months leading up to the race. Our training had been one of mental strength... choosing joy each day in the face of suffocating sorrow.  Our legs and lungs weren't as prepared as we normally are for the race, but our minds were strong.

This year, CLR was free therapy.  Each woman in our van needed encouragement.  Friendship.  A place to be raw.  Grace to run slow and use our time in creation to breathe in. Breathe out.  We needed each other.

She-Wolf Costume Leg.  OH MY GOODNESS! #amazing

Ran into some of my Hood to Coast teammates.  
We cried together. Prayed together.  Laughed together. Cheered each other on.  Danced on the side of the road at all hours of the day and night.  One of our teammates even put her shoes back on and ran with a teammate who was suffering from a broken toe for the last two miles of her leg.  We needed each other.
I like this random photo...

I got my special Five Year shirt.
My friends who don't run, think I'm crazy to run every day.  But honestly... this is why I run.  You can't put a price tag on friendships that are forged in the fire of sweat, tears, and shoulder-to-shoulder of running together.  Some of us started our weekend as strangers, but we all left as friends.  Thank you Jesus for knowing just exactly what we need.  And thank you Cascade Lakes Relay for putting on this race.  I look forward to it every single year.

Oh.. forgot to mention we finished 216.6 miles in 30 hours, 25 minutes and 21 seconds, for an 8:26 average pace.  We won our division and got 32nd place overall. Well done ladies.

podium picture
#whyirun #runeveryday #runstreak

And just for my reference because I sometimes come back here to look up stats.  I ran Leg 3 (for legs 1 and 3.  Leg 2 for the 2nd portion).

Leg 1: 7.8 miles - 7:32 pace (some downhill and the rest flat. Four+ miles of dirt trail; the rest pavement)
Leg 2: 8.9 miles - 8:15 pace (climbing in the first three miles, the rest rolling.  All gravel)
Leg 3: 6.05 miles - 8:51 pace (all uphill on pavement.  Breathing was really difficult.  Had to slow down to catch a breath and be able to finish)