“You’re tougher than you think you are,
and you can do more than you think you can.”
– Ken Chlouber on the Leadville Trail 100 (Born to Run, Christopher McDougall)
It was my turn to run. As I saw Cool Aussie running towards me, I took a deep breath, grabbed the green band from his hand, and set off to run my first leg.
LEG 10: Windy Run through the Backroads of Oregon…Fantastic!
Time: 2:30 p.m.
Weather: Cloudy and windy
Description: “Long leg mostly along Springwater Trail then city streets over relatively rolling and flat terrain”
By this time, the intense heat that scorched my teammates during their run had dissipated and I was blessed with cool weather with winds blowing upon my face. The long paved road I was running on was narrow—just enough for two runners to run alongside each other—with trees lining both sides. I glanced at the road ahead with pure excitement, cranked up my speed, and put on my race face.
I swept past a few runners, but could not, for the life of me, outrun one older lady runner. After a few kilometers, we settled into a comfortably hard pace and run side-by-side. Boy, she was tiring me out. When we reached a turn on the road leading to a short climb towards even narrower roads, I spotted my teammates waiting to provide support. I smiled, waived off the drink they were offering, and sped off to leave lady runner behind.
This was the time I managed to admire my surroundings: abundance of nature around me, fresh air, and the sound of only panting runners, made me smile no matter how tired I was. I remember thinking how absolutely happy I was at that very moment and thanking God once again for such a great opportunity to run.
The run was much longer than I thought. After throwing all I’ve got during the first few kilometers (a common mistake for overly eager runners), I realized I was tiring out. I was glad to see city roads which meant I was nearing the exchange point, but it was a long ascent towards the finish. I trudged along, made a right turn towards the end, and excitedly searched for my teammates, especially Fast Boy, who was the next runner.
Ave. Pace: 5:25 min/km*
Ave. Cadence: 87
Ave. Altitude: -12m
* adjusted from uncalibrated Polar reading
Among the crowd of runners, I yelled out with outstretched hands “Where are my teammates?!!!” They were nowhere in sight. I was about to exit the exchange area until a marshal said it was against the rules. I waited, and waited, and waited. A runner told me “I feel sorry for you. Your team abandoned you.” I didn’t think so, I was sure something had happened. Did they lose their way? Or worse, did they get into an accident? I replied, “Oh, it’s okay. I feel sorry for the next runner who’ll have to make up for lost time.”
After a long wait, my teammates arrived. They mistakenly drove towards the next exchange point, skipping mine. Fast Boy ran his leg and we all entered the van laughing. This little mishap essentially spelled out our van’s mission for the race: to have fun. Other teams would’ve labelled this a “mess up,” or blamed each other for the lost time, but not our team. As we drove off, our van captain, Cool Aussie, said that this little mishap made our race experience all the more richer. In between bites of chicharon, we agreed.
When all six of us completed our legs, we turned over the band to Van 1 and headed back to the hotel. We showered, rested a bit in our own rooms, and met again at 9 p.m. to head to the next exchange point.
LEG 22: Wet and wild night run
Time: 1:10 a.m.
Weather: Cold and rainy
Description: “Gradual up and downhills on paved but narrow back country roads”
Before my run, CK had run her leg with no incident. As Coco run his tough uphill leg, we had yet another mishap where we waited for him in the dead of the night along the course, only to discover that he had been waiting for us at the finish for some 30 minutes. (It was so dark out that he probably ran past us on the road.) As usual, we had a good laugh about this mishap. Cool Aussie, as usual, ran a fast leg in the dark.
By this time, it was freezing cold. I wore a long-sleeved top, long tights, jacket, beanie, and gloves, yet every time I stepped out of the van, my teeth would start chattering. The rains didn’t help at all.
As I prepared for my second leg, I also wore the reflective night vest over my rain jacket, chose to carry the torch instead of a headlamp, plus I added a cap to wear on top of my beanie. I left the gloves behind. I was nervous and scared about this run. I had never run this early in the morning in the dark, and here I was making my first attempt in unknown territory.
I saw Cool Aussie coming in, grabbed the band from him, and climbed up the narrow trail along with a handful of runners. After a few meters, the terrain changed to paved roads but the ascent was steep—similar to the zigzagged roads of Baguio—that I was short of breath. The thin, cold air made it all the more difficult to breathe. It was so cold that in my second kilometer, my upper lip completely went numb!
I was having some difficulty with the torch, too. In pitch black, with every swing of my arm, the light would sway back and forth ahead of me; it was like running in a disco and it was getting me dizzy. I shut it off for a few seconds, and in an instant, I could see absolutely nothing, I turned it on and swore to God I would never scare myself that way again.
The entire time, I ran on the left side of the road at the edge of the mountain; one misstep and I could fall into nothingness. One time, as I tried to fix my beanie which was sliding off my head, I didn’t realize that I was veering off to the left (one doesn’t notice these things while running full speed ahead in the dark). When I focused my torch on the road, I was so close to the edge that I could’ve slid off in a step or two! Phew.
After the long climb, it was all downhill to the end. I abhor downhills as they’re bad for my knees, so I ran fast but practiced caution. Before I knew it, I could see Fast Boy waiting for me at the end. CK grabbed me by the arm to lead me to the car. Coco asked my time and I looked at my watch in the dark and said “1:10” Geez, 1 hour 10 minutes for approx. 11k? That was slower than expected. No worries, I submitted that time anyway. (It was only when I got back to Manila that I discovered I submitted the time of day, not my actual time! Whoops)
Distance: 10.96 km*
Time: 1:00 hour
Ave. Pace: 5:27 min/km*
Ave. Cadence: 88
Ave. Altitude: 29m
* adjusted from uncalibrated Polar reading
BACK TO SCHOOL
After our van finished our legs, we set off for a local highschool that offered hot showers and sleep areas at their gym for all Hood to Coast runners. For $2, we got to wash up (in a public shower…oh boooy!) and we got to secure our own tiny spot on the gym floor where close to a hundred runners lay in the dark getting as much sleep as they could before it was time to run off again.
By 7 a.m., we got up, and without washing our faces nor brushing our teeth, we loaded our van with gas and headed off for the next exchange station.
LEG 34: Tough and Tiring
Time: 11:22 a.m.
Weather: Cool and rainy
Description: “Very short leg in length with gently rolling hills along paved country roads”
Surprisingly, I didn’t feel sleepy nor tired that morning. I was looking forward to my last leg which, based on the course description, sounded like it was going to be easy. CK had decided to run the last leg with our last runner, Hyper T, so Coco chose to run my seemingly easy leg along with me.
For the 3rd and last time, I grabbed the green wristband from Cool Aussie and ran full speed ahead. Coco stayed right behind me.
By the first kilometer, after one major uphill climb, I yelled at Coco and told him “Go ahead if you want to. I’m super tired.” And, I was telling the truth. I felt like that first climb had yanked all the energy out of me and finally all the hours of running and traveling had caught up with me. I don’t even remember what he answered, but he remained right behind.
So much for “gently rolling hills,” I thought. These hills we were running were not gentle; they were aggressive and angry! The hills would not let up. After one hill, there would be another, and another, and another. I continued to plod on forward, but I was falling apart. Thankfully, on the middle of the road, our van awaited and provided us with Gatorade, which allowed me to push forward once again. We even managed to enjoy the sights when we passed a huge plot of land filled with the most cows I had ever seen.
The last uphill was the toughest. It was long and arduous and I felt like I wasn’t making progress even as I took one step at a time. Slowly but surely, we reached the top and a few meters ahead, I saw Fast Boy and turned over the band to him.
Wow, we survived! I finished my three legs in one piece and with no injury! What an amazing experience!
Distance: 6.85 km*
Ave. Pace: 5:14 min/km*
Ave. Cadence: 86
Ave. Altitude: 5m
* adjusted from uncalibrated Polar reading
The Nike Hood to Coast Race ends at the beach in Seaside, a picturesque little town which came to life with decorated vans and thousands of runners walking about in the streets.
Cool Aussie, Coco, Fast Boy and I headed for the finish area and waited for our runners CK and Hyper T to come in. After a few minutes, we spotted Hyper T and watched her cross the finish line to mark an amazing finish for Team Singapore Chili Crabs.
We met up with the rest of our teammates and Singapore Noodles at the Nike area on the beach. Against the background of the cloudy sky and the Pacific Ocean, we had tons of food to eat, beer, and lot of stories to share for hours.
BEST RACE EVER
The Nike Hood to Coast relay is what you make of it. Our team dove into the adventure with nothing but fun (and a little bit of competitiveness) in mind, so we came home with a treasure trove of happy stories to tell and memories to cherish. I will never forget the three different race experiences I had on those three legs (especially Leg 22), the great teammates I loved being stuck with for over 24 hours in a dirty, stinky van, the many mistakes we made yet laughed about, the beauty of Oregon I saw by foot, and of course, the lessons I learned along the journey. As many of us said after the trip, it was definitely the best race ever!