Tuesday, August 5, 2014

cascade lakes relay 2014

The 2004 LA marathon was a misery. I'd agreed to run it with LD, but when he started walking we got into an epic fight. The story of our fight, in the water station of mile 13, would be retold time and time again, and became so well known to those around us that, a few years later, the friend who married us used the story in our wedding ceremony to illustrate the point there might be some tough times still ahead.

It had been 90 degrees and on the black asphalt heat rose in waves so thick it made the air visible. The course was along the major thoroughfares of downtown LA, without shade and crowded. I can't remember the actual words we exchanged as part of our fight, only that I had been feeling anxious before he insisted we walk and that anxiety became panic when I started to contemplate how long 13 miles of run/walk would take us. It was only late morning, the temperature was going to keep rising, and walking would prolong the time we spent exposed under the sun, I'd try to make him understand. He yelled at me to JUST GO THEN, and I took off to finish the race without him.

Although there was a band at each mile marker, the only sound I remember was of ambulance sirens as they raced up and down along the course. I didn't know it then, but Mayling was one of the runners-turned-patients who was taken off the course when her dad saw her staggering as if she was drunk. She doesn't remember her dad leading her to the sidewalk, the ride in the ambulance, or her arrival in the ED of LA County hospital. She does, however, remember waking up naked in c-booth. LAC has a massive ED (it's where the Navy trauma teams train), and c-booth is the where the most critically ill patients are assessed and stabilized (hence the "c" of "c-booth"). There are many problems with waking up naked in c-booth, not the least of which is the large deck behind c-booth where medical students and other trainees stand to look down on what's happening below. This might be considered especially distressing when one is a medical student at that institution and classmates with the some of the onlookers. 

Of the group that had run the marathon that morning - all of whom reported they'd had to adjust their expectations and performance to compensate for the temperature - the one that I could have correctly predicted to land herself in the ED with heat stroke was Mayling. She was then, and remains still, the most competitive person I've ever met. 

So when I invited her to join the our CLR team, I felt the need to be almost insultingly explicit when making the point that she could not push herself into heat stroke during this race. It was at altitude in the desert at the height of the summer heat.  We'd be exhausted, dehydrated, and operating on 1-2 hours sleep over the time period it took our team to run a total of 217 miles. There was almost zero phone reception and if she fell over in a ditch it was very likely she'd stay there. I thought about getting her a shirt that read THERE IS NO PR to remind her of this, but was certain she wouldn't wear it.

Thursday was predicted to be 100 degrees in Diamond Lake. As I packed the last of my things - including naprosyn, Maxalt, Peptol Bismol, imodium, and an outdated bottle of Cipro I'd received for a trip to Mozambique five years ago, I got a text from Tia that one of our fastest runners was out due to family emergency.  She had been assigned to our van, so on the ride south I redistributed the three extra legs amongst those of us who remained in van #2. I gave myself, Tia, and Hillary a fourth leg, and moved the longer legs to Mayling and Kelsea.  My mileage now totaled 23,  including the last leg of the race which would occur under the full measure of August's afternoon sun. 
I worried about the heat and the extra distance, about getting lost at night and my leg 36. I worried that Tia would freak when she saw I assigned her leg 32 - a mid-day 4 mile stretch with 1000 ft elevation gain. I was the only one who knew everyone else in van #2, and wondered if the different personalities would get along over the day and a half we spent living out of a minivan, without regular meals, sleep, or bathing facilities. 
the starting line, Friday morning 
I need not have worried. 

The first clue that I need not worried occurred Thursday night. We arrived at our campsite near the starting line much later than we'd planned. The sky was dark and clear and so no one bothered with the rain fly. When the first drops fell, Kelsea and Mayling rushed out of our tent to get up the fly. Tia and Hillary emerged from their own tents (both in their underwear) to help out. The only person who didn't help was me. I was wearing ear plugs and a face mask, sleeping deeply under 10 mg of Ambien and not responding to external stimuli. Luckily no one seemed terribly put out in the morning. 

And, even though we ran short of a full roster, we won. Again, which made for the team's sixth win in as many years. The team averaged 8:03 min/miles, finished 21st out of 187 total teams, and 1st in the open women's division. I ran better than last year and was very happy with the 7:09 min/mile I averaged over my 22.6 miles. 

waiting for us outside Mayling's home on our arrival late Saturday night 
But it might have been the last victory for Emily's Truckers. This was her sixth year as team captain, and she made mention that she's ready for a break. Despite the Trucker's winning streak, it was difficult to put together a team of 12.  Only 6 of last year's 12 were available, and so we all did a lot of recruiting. Last minute family emergency notwithstanding, this year pregnancies, injuries, and unexpected moves for work and school led to a rather large attrition in the weeks leading up the the race. Although we all know a lot of runners, I think it's hard to recruit for CLR because it attracts a similar type of athlete as Hood to Coast, and both races are conducted within weeks of each other.  H2C is shorter, closer to town, requires fewer provisions and overnight logistics, and is without the extremes of temperature, terrain, and altitude when compared to CLR. CLR also doesn't have H2C's non-stop party vibe, but makes up in vistas where it lacks in costumes and nudity.  

Crater Lake
(not actually on the course but twenty minutes from the start at Diamond Lake)

Diamond Lake 
And still, it isn't without its own festivity. 
Leg 33 beer run, courtesy of CLR


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