In Part One of this tale (which you can read here), I bared my soul to you, dear reader, and let you in on why this ten and a half miles I walked was such a big deal to me (summary: thyroid disorder, fragile teenager, always afraid I was gonna pass out, carried those feelings into adulthood, etc., etc.). I also brought you up to the moment the race started. I looked approximately like this:
So, to pick up our story, I was the last walker in van six, assigned legs 18 and 30. The first was 5.23 miles in St. Helens in the mid-afternoon, the next was 5.33 miles downhill in the Coast Range sometime at zero dark thirty the following morning. Riding in a Honda Pilot with a group of women who had known each other for years and done this several times before added to the general sense of “What on earth have I gotten myself into, I have exactly zero business being here.” But “here” I was, and I was still determined to do all of my hard work justice and not let these ladies down. I had shown up and I was going to do the danged thing. Yes I was.
I kinda was getting the hang of it, a feel for the general rhythm of each of the legs for the walker, observing the exchanges, making sure #allthethings I was going to need to get through this were charged (Music. This girl needs music), and feeling like I could do this.
Then, approximately forty five minutes before my first leg was scheduled to start, Team #HashHags Van 1 found ourselves stranded on the side of Hwy 30 with a dead battery. I kid you not. And nobody parked around us had jumper cables. And nobody stopped to offer assistance because seeing a vehicle parked on the side of the road isn’t a red flag during Hood/Portland to Coast like it is at any other time and our vehicle was angled in so nobody could see our raised hood until they were past us. Plus, they had walkers to support, people counting on them. Not sure we could have stopped either were the roles reversed.
Fortunately and by the Grace of God, my WONDERFUL husband happened to be heading into Scappoose with our kids to meet his parents for lunch and then hopefully find me along my route in St. Helens to cheer me on. He grabbed a battery pack from his dad, came and helped us start the car. Apparently once they got back in the car after procuring the battery pack, Mister Cameron announced enthusiastically, “LET’S GO SAVE THE RACE!” How adorable is he? He is so adorable. Anyway, with a newly-charged battery, we headed to the next exchange to set me on my way.
This fiasco not only flustered all of us, including and especially this newbie getting redy for her first leg, and it put us behind schedule. Picture me changing into my walking clothes for my first leg in the parking lot of St. Helens High School, frantically pinning my number to my tank top, then scrambling to the exchange point to meet Tara and pray that everything went off without out a hitch.
I stood at the exchange point, as keyed up as a 100 meter sprinter ready to get in the blocks and go. Or, you know, what I imagine that would feel like. Because, as I’m sure you know if you read Part 1, I have absolutely no idea what that actually feels like. Bless my heart. My over-the-ear earphones were on my ears, my Nike Running Club app was ready to go (I knew from experience that if I didn’t keep a solid eye on my pace, I could easily slack off) with my beloved and carefully-curated PTC Pacing Mix playlist at the ready (did I mention I NEED my music?). Tara walked down the homestretch, slapped that bracelet on my wrist (I’m not kidding, literally slapped. They actually use those 1980’s-style snap bracelets), I clicked “start run” on my app, and off I went.
When my feet hit the pavement and the beat dropped on the first song, I settled into a familiar rhythm and all of a sudden, I was home. This was what I had been training for, as much as the past 10 hours since I woke up that morning had been unfamiliar and a tad disorienting, this was familiar. This was comfortable. This is what I came to do and had been doing. This, I could do. And wouldn’t you know it, shuffle mode on my playlist sent this song out first. I shoulda known right then that everything was going to be just fine.
I’m not gonna lie, it was hot in St. Helens at 1:30 in the afternoon in full sun, my nemesis. I wilt in the sun. Heat is ok, full sun withers me. This made me nervous. But I had water in my hand, a breeze was kicking down Hwy 30 and I was cruisin’. My first two-ish miles and my last mile are my slowest and I was walking much closer to a 14 minute pace than a 15 minute pace and thinking, “I’m doing it! I’m doing it! I’m really doing it!”
Some time around three miles, Jeff and the kids jumped out from behind a parked car to surprise me and cheer me on. I slapped them high fives and the kids even ran a little bit along behind me for a few yards or so. When I got home the next day, Kendall said to me, “Mommy! I saw you in da purple shorts!” Leave it to Kenzie to have her most vivid memory of an experience center around Mommy wearing purple.
Just after that, however, the path turned uphill again. And I was tired. And it was hot. And that blessed breeze from the highway had not made its way up into the neighborhoods. And it was absolute and total Bee Ess. Like, why would anyone do this for fun? People do this FOR FUN? THIS IS NOT FUN! THIS IS MISERABLE! THESE HILLS AND THIS HEAT CAN, if you will pardon my French, SUCK IT!!!!
But, before I knew it, I could see the exchange point and hear the cheers of the other walkers welcoming us in. OK, just kidding, it wasn’t before I knew it. I felt every second of the push to the finish. Good grief. But finish I did and collapse in the shade I also did.
I hadn’t fainted in the sun and the heat. It was hot, it was uphill, I was tired and I and my body had handled our business and gotten through it without much fuss. I hadn’t even felt like there was a danger that I was going to push too hard and end up blacking out. What’s more, nothing hurt. My back, my feet, that one tendon on the inside of my right knee, none of it had bothered me. I had done it, 5.23 miles uphill in the sun and the heat, I hadn’t felt fragile- and i had done it at 14:13 pace. The glass box I had put around myself was starting to crack. I was starting to see that maybe there was more to me than the sick and skinny 13-year-old who passed out in dressing rooms.
Here, you can read Part 3, in which I attempt to sleep in a field and have yet another flustered exchange- and the glass box shatters altogether and comes crashing down around me.