Sunday, September 8, 2013

Nuun Hood to Coast Report!

It's been two weeks since I had the opportunity to run Hood to Coast with Nuun Hydration. The day after I flew home from Oregon, I immediately flew to New York to meet the wonderful crew behind espnW and to attend the US Open in Flushing Meadows. I got back on Monday and have been playing catch up ever since. I have tried to sit down and write this post many times, but I just haven't known where to start. So much happened during Hood to Coast. I met so many amazing ladies and inspiring runners, I feel privileged and a little in awe of the opportunity I was given. Nuun itself proved to be an even more amazing company than I already knew. The owners and employees were so down to earth, motivating and tuned into us as athletes. Yes, they really do care and it showed in everything they did for us and they do every day. I'm forever in their debt for making this dream of mine come true and I will continuing sharing my "Nuun Love" wherever I go! I hope you're ready for a long recap about my adventure!

#TeamLemonade Van Mates and Our Fearless Driver!

I flew to Seattle the Wednesday before the race to meet with my Nuun teammates and do some bonding before the race. I arrived in Seattle Wednesday morning. I met a few ladies at the airport and then we all split up to tour the city. I was able to meet up with my sister for lunch and then headed back to Nuun headquarters and then off to the bowling ally!

I'm a runner and so was everyone else in the group, so as you can imagine, we did not post the highest bowling scores. But it was a great team bonding activity, made better by the fact that we could laugh at ourselves. After bowling and food we teamed up with our roomies for the next two nights and tried to get some sleep before Friday's race!

Thursday Morning Shake Out Run

Thursday was a very fun filled day. We all went out for a short shake out run around the lake and then toured the Oiselle headquarters. A huge thanks to Oiselle for providing us with our cute team jacket, long-sleeve tee and team shirt! I had never worn Oiselle clothing before, but I have to say I am a believer now! After a quick return to the hotel to shower and get cleaned up, it was off to Ride-A-Duck! 

View from the Seattle Duck Ride

I was in Seattle a few times when I was in grade school, but I haven't been since and was excited to get the chance to tour the city. The Duck Ride was actually pretty fun and I felt like I learned some new things about the city. If you are ever in Seattle and want to see a lot of the city with fun drivers and a sea cruise, then check out the Ducks!

After the duck drive we headed over to Nuun Headquarters for supper, received our goody bags and decorated our vans for the next two days of travel and running! There were so many fun things from Nuun and our sponsors I had to bring an extra bag back from the my parents house to get it all back on the plane. A big thank you to Naawk, Swiftwick, Tiger Tail, Oiselle, Amphipod, Endorphin Warrior,  Team Sparkle and of course, Nuun!

Hood to Coast Swag Bag!

After we all opened our Swag bags and shared in the excitement of our new gear it was off to van decorating! I'm not an amazing artist, but luckily a few of the ladies on our team were! I did help with some dots and lemons. The van turned out really well and was full of our team spirit. Go Team Lemonade! 

Van decorating in process!

Friday morning the Van #1 girls left before 7am and then those of us from Van #2 had a big breakfast before hitting the road at 11am. We had a team cheer and then packed up the vans and started the drive south to Oregon! The energy in the vans was electric as we all were excited to start the race! We still had a while to wait before starting our legs of the race around 5pm.

Team Cheer!

At the first major van exchange we started to really sense the fun and excitement of this event! The exchange was held in a Safeway parking lot and it was full of decorated vans, cheering teams and excited onlookers. I have to say it was the most exciting of all the major exchanges. Since it was still early in the race everyone still had energy and the anticipation of the next 28 hours of running was still high! I spotted Marie Purvis and her team "Purv Army" and had to say hi and get a picture! She's my fitness inspiration!

Marie Purvis and I and the "Purv Army!"

Exchange #1 was a great place for group photos so the Nuun teams took a few with those who were there and not out crushing their runs on the course. Van #1's had just completed their first six legs and Van #2's were just beginning! 

Nuunies at the first exchange!

My first run was as the sun was setting and made for a beautiful course. I couldn't have asked for a better first leg. There were a few rolling hills, but all in all it was a pretty easy leg. I ran through neighborhoods and families were out cheering me on as I ran by so that definitely helped me push my pace! Too bad they weren't out cheering on my second leg at 5am! That leg was more of a struggle. It's amazing how much the support of a bystander cheering me on can push me.

Running into the sunset!

The final stretch of leg one went up a slight hill and then had a downhill straight into the handoff area. As you can tell from the smile on my face in the photo below, I had a lot of fun on this run. Look at those trees in the background. Gorgeous!

Handing off after leg #1

I don't have any photos from run two because it was an early morning run and there were no great places to take photos. This leg was tough, straight uphill for the first few miles, then a slight downhill and then uphill again on a very slushy gravel road! The dust from the vans driving by was hard to breathe as well. I definitely struggled on this run, but I kept thinking of my teammates and pushed through to the finish!

From here we finished up the following four runs and headed to the last big van exchange. At this exchange everyone could sense that we were nearing the end. I spotted the Nike "Run Free" van and got to finally meet Jessie Zapo who is the Captain of Black Roses NYC and has done a lot to elevate running! I was excited to meet her and wished her luck on the race!

Jessie Zapo and I in front of the Run Free Van!

My third and final leg was probably my toughest because I was fatigued from my earlier two runs, lack of sleep and the heat outside. I had a lot of fun on the run, but the worst part was coming into the exchange, I had to try to sprint uphill! I felt like I was sprinting, but I'm sure I was probably just shuffling up the hill. Seeing my teammates cheering me on gave me an extra boost and knowing that we were so close to the finish and glory was worth it!

Handing off to Zoe!

Once I was back at the van I got to check off my final run and mark my kills! Kills are how many people you pass while you are running and I finally had a lot to check off! Excitement for the finish was building and I was excited to cheer on our final four runners to the finish! Relay's are such fun experiences! I love running, but running with a team and for a team is so much better! 

Checking off my final run!

We came into the finish in the evening and our team came in 9th in the Women's Open Division with a time of 28:45:31. We were 351st of 1002 teams and I could not have been prouder of my teammates and the work they all put in on their runs. The finish on the beach was gorgeous and so inviting! I couldn't wait to see the ocean and feel the sand in my toes!

Finish Line!

There was a bit of a jam at the finish line with so many teams going through, but it was so fun! Our team was happy to be done and still decked out in our Team Lemonade gear and trucker hats! The first van had arrived hours earlier and had already showered and eaten but had to wait for us to finish before they could go through the finish chute to receive their medals. 

Team Lemonade at the finish!

Finally we received our medal! Recognition and proof that we had all gone through this amazing experience together. Hood to Coast is a relay race that I will never forget. It was special to me because we ran through places I grew up visiting as a child, I made new friends and am so inspired by everyone I met. This medal is going to go on display as a reminder of my experience and as a motivation to me to push my limits everyday. I can't thank each person who impacted me at this experience individually, but I hope you all know how much you impacted me and my running journey. A huge thanks to Nuun for making this possible.

Finisher's Medal

I've run two marathons, multiple half marathons and other races, but none of them measure up to the experience I had at Hood to Coast. I learned about the power of a team and that we are all capable of more than we think we are. No matter where we are in our running journey, there is always room to improve and things we can do to maximize our potential. I hope to do Hood to Coast again soon, but no matter what happens, it will always be an experience I cherish. I will look to the women I met for inspiration online and hopefully we will meet up again soon for a reNUUNion. 

Love the Nuun Teams!

A big thanks to each and every one of you that made this experience great and I hope we meet again soon! Hood to Coast will always be a part of me.