The Mother of All Relays–done again!


Done and done again. One more year for 4000+ participants, either running from the slopes of Mt. Hood or walking from the middle of Portland–not to mention the volunteers, everyday citizens along the route, police and  security officials–all those who made this yet another fantastic event.

For our team, “Sleepless in Seaside”, it was one unmatched by any in our seven-year history as participants. Except for “The Year of the Really Big Blisters”, at no other time have we had such a rich and colorful adventure. Our three new team members now know that what we told them at the outset was no exaggeration.

Our team was slotted to start at 3:00AM (yes–in the morning), and after our usual Keystone-Kops rendition of “Find the Start Line” (I hate driving in the city, and none of us can ever remember precisely how to get to the  beginning of this event), we got there in time–with time to spare for such things as Dutch Bros. Coffee and checking out the freebie booths. (How the homeless folks under the Hawthorne Bridge got any sleep that night is beyond me.)

Amy took off with the first group, and the race was on!

And we were back in the van, and the driving debacle resumed. Half the fun of starting the event in the dark is figuring out how to get back across the Willamette so we could follow Amy. Did I tell you I hate driving in the city? There was no experience this morning that changed my opinion at all…

We got on track, and Amy finished her leg. Paul started, we took off–and no one waved us onto the correct road further on. I’m glad I looked to the left–and recognized the road we usually take – as we passed it. Did an Oregon U-turn–which consists of pulling into a convenient parking lot and heading back. At 3:30AM, every parking lot is convenient. And Paul and someone else walked two blocks past that same road, and would have been heading who-knows-where if a police officer hadn’t put them right.

More fun further on. As the sun was just coming up, we pulled the van to the side of a busy highway to wait for Claire, our third walker. She passed us, we cheered and gave her water, and jumped back into the van.

Which then proceeded to NOT go.

The battery was done…

The van behind us was willing to help with the problem, but didn’t have jumper cables. I ran along the road, asking every van that was parked there–there were about eight or twelve by then. Finally found some–but it still took a ton of time to even get the cables connected. Reason being, our van’s engine compartment was designed by a sadistic clown with a real hatred for motorists. Stupid fuse box is built on top of the battery–which is also installed SIDEWAYS, so that it takes someone with really tiny hands to reach around it. We thought for sure that Claire would be waiting for us at the relay exchange, wondering what had happened to us, because this was taking forever. I have to thank the angels who not only finally got the engine going, but the darlings of the team “Treasured Chests” who waited patiently for us to finish up using their cables.

Claire got to the exchange about five minutes after we pulled in, which was a wonderful surprise. The handoff was made, and off we went again.

My leg was 7.68 miles, pretty much a straight, even shot along the highway from St. Helens to Scappoose. For being ten pounds heavier than last year, I still made pretty good time. Everyone passed me, but that wasn’t unexpected. My shoes must have been too loose, because my toes were ramming up against the ends of my shoes. So when I reached the relay exchange, I had a charley horse and my toes were asking for a divorce.

Thankfully the weather was very agreeable this year, so we didn’t have to battle the usual heat. Some years are excruciatingly hot–but this was a nice, mellow day. For those of us who are more sensitive to heat as we get older, this was a godsend.

I will, however, be losing two or three toenails. Meh, they’ll grow back. They always have in the past. Just not as pretty…ish…

The dreaded gravel leg finally got Paul–but I think it was a combination of things. His back had already been griping him somewhat, then there was the long uphill trek. The gravel miles in shadeless heat would put anyone out – but this time, it was worse. He made it, and in decent time–but it wasn’t his usual conquest. I think I will train this year to take that sucker myself. Unless he wants to kill it mercilessly next year–wouldn’t blame him.

There was a guy doing the entire route himself, from Mt. Hood to Seaside–just himself. No van support, no team–just relying on the beneficence of the runners, walkers, and volunteers. Whether or not he paid to be in the event, I have no idea. But he didn’t have a number–just the word “solo” on his race bib.

We met up with the other half of our team with little or no trouble–quite the feat, considering it was dark yet again when our group finished with our legs. Finding each other this easily is highly unusual–in the past, we’ve had quite the scramble. A huge, grassy field, hundreds of vans, people milling about in the dark, no cellphone coverage–it’s a miracle we found each other as fast as we did. Our vans had Christmas lights around the top, but so did many others. It’s tricky finding the right configuration of lights. All vans have some sort of decorations–from sublime to outlandish–but in the dark, not all of those decorations can be seen. Talk about a field of lost souls!

Our last walker met the second-half team’s first walker, we piled into the van, and took off for Seaside, the house, and some decent sleep.

I don’t know about anyone else, but I slept eleven hours straight…

The town was hopping already by the time we got out of the house the next morning. When we were finally able to contact the other half, we got their estimated time of arrival, and decided to have a sit-down breakfast. (Actually, it was closer to a brunch, it was so late.)

We also found out that our other fastest walker, Rick, had pulled a muscle and was being carefully watched and escorted by the rest of the team. So while we were at breakfast, and mid-way through our meal, when we found out he was 1 1/2 miles from the finish line–we thought we’d have plenty of time to finish up.

Not so–we got a call not all that much later, saying that he was at the finish line and waiting for us!

We made a wobbly, ouch-ridden beeline to the beach–we were up the street about a quarter of a mile–and encountered another miracle–we could find the other half of our team once again! With thousands of people in about three acres of sandy beach and booths, this NEVER happens.

Disappointment #1 this year–there were no professional photographers. But there were plenty of people happy and willing to take our group picture for us with our cellphones. Still, it just wasn’t the same.

The half of the team that had just finished the race limped on to the vacation house and rested, while those of us who were bright-eyed and in minimal pain wandered around town for awhile. Not for long–those pains from the day before came to visit again. So we went back to the house and reconnoitered with our teammates–those who were awake, anyway.

Dinner that night was at our usual place–Fulio’s in Astoria–and it was as wonderful as always. They gave us our usual room in the back – where we couldn’t infect the normals, I’m sure – and we had a rousing good time. All the fun you can have without actually getting up from your chair.

Five of us walked to the beach festivities that night, expecting to see fireworks. It was a little over a mile from where the house was–and it seemed a lot further than that, especially on the trip back. There was the usual live band and beer garden (I did NOT go in–aren’t you  proud of me???), but Disappointment #2 soon reared its ugly head–no fireworks this year. Major bummer! We still don’t know why that was cut–I’ll have to check the website at some point.

The next morning, my toes were okay, but my knee had swollen to twice its size. Made getting around a bit tricky.

Then the van’s battery wouldn’t work again. The neighbor brought a battery over, but apparently that didn’t work. We pulled the other team van up next to ours, and they got the battery jumped with a couple of wires. I didn’t know that was possible! Dangerous, though, I’m sure.

We bought jumper cables at a Napa Auto Parts store, then went on to breakfast. The thought was that, if needed, we could jump the van again after breakfast, with safer equipment.

Breakfast at Pig ‘n’ Pancake was marvelous. These people are pros! Every year, summer swells this town to four times its size at times. And those servers never miss a beat! Kudos to them for the work they do.

The van started, but was sluggish. We searched around for a mechanic, but not an easy thing to find on a Sunday. We ended going back to Napa Auto Parts, where we bought a battery, and our team member Oskar took parts out of the engine compartment and replaced the battery. Thank goodness for people who know what they’re doing!

Nothing much else happened – we went back to the house and packed our stuff, then headed to home. At this writing, Paul’s flat on his back, I have my swollen knee elevated, and daughter Meghanne is ready to head out and do it again. Ah, the resilience of youth!

I didn’t take many pictures this year, so I apologize for the almost 100% text of this blog. And I am sure the other van had plenty of adventures, but I don’t think they were quite as exciting as ours. Oskar tried to run a couple of team members over, there was an enigmatic joke about Cinderella that they were all snickering about–other than that, I don’t think there was anything outlandish. Not like our van’s, anyway.

Since I have been asked to order the pizza for dinner, I will now close this blog and do just that. Our weekend, in all its lumps and glory.

We’re sore and tired–but WE DID IT~!

Happy trails!


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