Wednesday, August 9, 2017

Cascade Lakes Relay 2017-Year Six!!

This was my sixth year racing in the Cascade Lakes Relay and my seventh year being a part of this great event.  It was also the 10th anniversary of the relay.  Which is really awesome.  Kind of crazy to think about the idea that I've only missed out on three years of this race.  

I look forward to this race every year.  It's hard.  It's hot.  I have a hard time breathing because of the elevation.  I don't get enough sleep.  I am slow.  None of those things sound like something I would normally look forward to. 

But I do.  Every single year!  

I am challenged.  

I have to push myself.  

I have to dig deep.  

I have to work harder than I do at most anything else I do all year long to just keep moving forward.  I have to work at not getting down on myself for not being faster or better.  I have to work at not being Madam Crabby Pants even when I'm tired and sore. 

So for me it's more than just trying to run fast.  It's about all the other mental parts of being an athlete.  It's also about being okay with where I am at and what I am able to do without comparing myself to others.  Not always an easy task for me.
Trying to decide what I should bring to CLR.  😀
Josh and Wendie got to our house and we loaded up the truck and headed for La Pine on Thursday afternoon.  It's always exciting when we are actually heading for the race.  Always fun to have friends to share the long car ride with.  Lots of talking and laughing along the way.  It's like we were prepping for the race.  

We were Van 2 again this year.  Which means a later start but also means running in much hotter parts of the day.  

We kept trying to get together and decide who was going to run which legs.  But we could never find a time where everyone could get there.  This summer has just been crazy busy for all of us.  So Joe and I were supposed to do it.  But Joe didn't want to do it either.  Which meant I picked the legs for Van 2.  I figured if anyone had a problem with it they would have to deal.  lol  Everyone was great with it.  

The fun part was that since I picked the legs I could kind of do whatever I wanted.  I had always wanted to do the very last leg of the relay so I could bring the team in.  So I assigned myself Leg #36.  
So many miles!
Once everyone got to the house in La Pine we spent time getting organized for the next day, prepping food and just having fun being together again.  
Yep, she went there.  😉

Important to bring plenty of water and really important to have Vaseline!

It's rough to have to do a little paddle boarding before race time.  
Friday I woke up early and was able to see Van 1 off as they headed out for the start line.  They sent this picture from the start line.  
Kelly, Heather, Jenipher, Andrea, Jacob and Dan
Suddenly it's time for Super Team Dwayne to start their 6th time doing Cascade Lakes Relay.  Two hundred sixteen point six miles, two vans, 12 crazy people.  Let the fun begin.  

Van 2 got the van painted up, food prepped and headed out to meet up with Van 1.  
Josh and I ready to getting moving to the exchange.

We got to the major exchange and waited for Van 1 to show up.  It's one of those hurry up and wait situations because we had pretty good idea of when they left exchange #4 but with no cell phone service it's hard to know if they will be there quickly or it will take some time.  We made good time getting to the exchange so we had a bit of a wait.  

Van 1 shared a few pictures of their very special 'Merica runner.  All I can say is, stand back ladies, he's all Jenipher's!!
Dan is making sure that people at CLR are smiling in spite of the heat.  (I hope he wore sunscreen!)

Suddenly we see our runner and it's our turn to start our part of Cascade Lakes Relay.  

It was hot and there was quite a bit of smoke in the air.  Fires from Canada and one from the Jefferson Wilderness had been drifting in and the sky was very hazy.  Not our normal Oregon blue.  

When it was my turn to run I started out pretty good.  Had some trouble breathing.  I usually do because of the altitude but it seemed worse so I'm thinking the smoke haze was not helping.  My buddy Josh wanted extra miles so he was trucking along behind me when there was traffic and next to me when it was clear.  I always love getting to run with Josh.  We talk about the most random things.  Sometimes we don't talk at all.  He lets me do my thing and just kind of follows my lead.  Can't ask for a better running buddy at a relay race. 
Leg #8-Cascade Lakes Relay
I got a stitch in my side about a mile into my run.  Made it hard to run so I walked a lot of my leg.  Not the best but I moved a long at a pretty good walking pace.  I was proud of myself for not letting myself get frustrated because it wasn't going like I wanted.  It was hot, smoky and a little bit miserable.  So finishing it was a win.  

My teammates rocked their legs.  I seriously love watching them kick ass at this relay every year!

Lots of laughter and silliness that can only happen on a relay.  

Brandi demonstrating her flagging skills. 
When you find a pinwheel you have to make it spin!
Josh has a really big.......flag.

The hazy sky made for a gorgeous sunset.
It was nice that it cooled of a lot for most of the runners in our van. 

We got into the second major exchange in Silver Lake at around 10:00 p.m.  It's always fun to see our teammates from the other van and see how they are doing.  Lots of hugs and teasing.  A few comments that will not be repeated here but I'm sure will live on in STD infamy.  

Andrea was the next runner for Van 1 so once she took off we loaded up and headed back to the house in La Pine.  It's a bit of a drive but so worth being able to take a shower and then catch a couple hours of sleep in an actual bed.  I have to tell you that my two hours and fifteen minute rest felt more like two minutes and fifteen seconds!  

We got into the van and headed to the next major exchange.  We arrived at almost the exact time that Van 1's runner was coming in so we didn't have to hurry up and wait this time.  Probably cut it a little close but it worked out okay.  Cutting it close means that Van 1 seriously rocked their night legs.  

Josh was our first runner for our second turn at the relay.  He had a really big hill to run up for about 2.5 miles and then it was downhill from there.  I was the next runner for leg #14.  I love this leg because it's mostly downhill at a nice easy slope and because it's at night it's cold and I have an easier time breathing.  

Josh ran with me again for part of this leg.  Always nice to have company, especially in the quiet of the early morning.  We had started CLR a couple of hours later than we have in the past so instead of running in the dark I was running as the sky began to lighten and eventually the sun was coming up.  It was beautiful.  

The first couple of miles went really well.  I felt great and was moving right along.  I was running a mile and taking a minute walk, then repeat.  However, I had one little issue.  I had a bit of diahrhea and while I was fine I was making sure that everything stayed where it was so I was clenching a bit.  (Hopefully you know what I mean, I don't want to have to get too graphic.)  This had a side affect of making me chaff in areas that you really don't want to chaff during a long run, let alone a weekend with multiple runs (inadvertant pun, lol)  

So the last three miles was very uncomfortable.  There was also one pit stop to take a trip into the woods so that I didn't end up with brown shorts.  

This was all a little frustrating because this is the one leg I know I can do well because the conditions are so much better for me.  

But once again I was able to push through and finish my leg.  While I think I could have done better if I hadn't had the issues it still was a solid time for the distance for me.

I got back to the van after my run and was telling my teammates about my chaffing issues and wasn't exactly being shy about it when I look up and realize there are two strangers in the van.  Oh my word, talk about wanting the floor to just swallow me up.  lol  Their van had gotten stuck trying to turn around at the exchange that I started.  We were helping them out getting them to their exchanges so that their team could still keep moving along and they would deal with getting the van out later.  I heard later that a tow truck came all the way out there, got them unstuck and then didn't take any money from them.  How cool is that?  There are such good people in the world!!!
Me and my favorite guy, all lit up.  Safety first!

Joe had the last leg for our second time and had to do a unsupported run that ended at the next major exchange at Lake Wikiup.  We sent him off and then headed to the exchange.  Last time I had been at the lake it was for my training camp in June and it had snowed.  The weather was a wee bit warmer this time.  

Joe had a good run and looked solid when he finished.  Andrea took off for Van 1 and suddenly we are 2/3 done and Van 1 is starting their last turn.  

It was very apparent that we had to leap frog if we didn't want to finish in the dark.  So we headed back to the house for some food and to clean up before we headed to Mt. Bachelor.  We could start our runners at 2:00 p.m. no matter where Van 1 was in their last legs.  

We got up to the mountain and got ready to start our last leg of CLR.  Josh and Joe had decided to switch there legs so that Joe could have a little more time to recover before his last leg.  So Josh started off down the mountain.  
Sychronizing our watches. 
Showing our love to some amazing CLR Staff!  Thanks for all you do and always doing it with a SMILE! 😀

When Josh runs 40 miles he gets a wee bit tired.  We were nice, sort of.

The boys are ready to get the last leg started.

Josh ran a solid leg and Wendie absolutely crushed hers.  Oh my word, she just flew down the mountain!  Brandi and Ross also kicked butt.  Then came Joe's leg.  We dropped him off, and then headed to the last exchange so that I could get ready.  

I was suddenly really, really nervous.  It was hot.  I was tired.  I started getting in my own head again.  

Thank goodness for my most excellent friend Heather.  She helped me get cooled down.  Then she helped me fill my sports bra with ice (and we put a lot of ice in there, front and back!) I admitted that I was really nervous.  I was getting worked up about being slow and being the one to finish the whole thing.  She said she was proud of me for putting myself in a position where I would be out of my comfort zone.  And that I needed to just get after it.  Suddenly we can see Joe coming.  Big hug from Heather, slap bracelet and a kiss from Joe and off I go.

This was considered an "easy" leg.  On the short side.  Not too much elevation.  But, oh my, I struggled.  It was hot.  The few ups were steep and then the downhills were too.  I kept sliding on the dirt trail so I had to take the downhills slower too.  While I had to walk quite a bit of this leg, when I was running, it felt like I was doing a solid job in spite of the heat and being the third run on tired legs.
A lot of the run was right along the river. I wished I had brought my phone so I could take pictures.  It was so beautiful!  I crossed over the river and then was on the opposite side of the finish line.  I could see it across the way and knew I was getting there but had a long way to go yet.  I could see a bridge and was excited because once I crossed the river again I would be heading back to the finish line.  That bridge just didn't get closer for the longest time.  When I finally reached it I realized it was the car bridge and the pedestrian bridge was even farther down the river!  Ugh!  The farther I went downriver the farther it would be for me to get back to the finish.  

The last mile was a struggle for me.  Partly a mental struggle and partly a physical one.  It was hot.  I was tired.  I was done.  But I wasn't done so I had to keep going.  The last half mile was really hard.  I decided that I would walk really fast until I saw a teammate and then I would run until the finish line.  I saw Wendie first.  She had walked up the trail to keep an eye out for me.  As soon as I spotted her I started running again.  Pretty soon I saw more and more of my teammates.  All of them cheering me on and happy to see me.

As I came into the last bit to cross the finish Super Team Dwayne joined me and we crossed the finish line together.  I was in the middle leading them in and I'm pretty sure my smile was HUGE!!

I finished in under an hour and considering how tired and hot I was I was actually pretty happy about it.

We got our shirts and medals.  So very cool!!  Wasn't long before we were heading back to the house to clean up and eat dinner.  Heather and Kelly had to head for home so they got all packed up and then we got big hugs and sent them on their way.  Dwayne, Faylene and Dani had gotten everything ready and as soon as we were cleaned up they started grilling burgers for us.  It was so nice to not have to think about anything.  We just got our food and hung out on the back porch together.  More laughing, which is pretty much a requirement for our team.

The next morning we got up (late and slowly).  It was nice to have a low key morning after all the rushing around of the two days before.  Ross and Jacob had gone for a mountain bike ride but they had a late start.  If we were going to be able to float with Dan and Jenipher we needed to get going. So we decided to go ahead and do the float without Ross, Brandi, Jacob and Andrea.  Not perfect but it worked.  The others got to have a float later in the day so everyone got to float, just not all together.

I love our Sunday After CLR Float!  We laugh and joke and relax.  It really is the best way to end CLR!
Nate and Dani made sure we didn't hit anything by dragging the floaty train with the kayak!

Run, Breath, Smile....Repeat.  Mission accomplished!!
Super Team Dwayne!!!  (Missing Heather and Kelly 😢)  I love these people so much!!!
Cascade Lake Relay 2017 is in the books.  Six years of running, one year of volunteering.  I can't imagine my summer without the challenges and laughter that I experience every single year!!

Before I wrap this up there are some big shout outs I need to do.

First!  Cascade Lakes Relay!  Wow!!!  What an event!  Well organized from start to finish. Volunteers that deal with tired, cranky, smelly runners and do it with a smile on their face!  All year long they are updating the teams, sending us reminders, making sure we are aware of the weather conditions, and probably a million other details that I am sure I have no idea about.  Thank you for all you do so that every year we can get Super Team Dwayne together and make the most amazing memories!  If you want to be part of Cascade Lakes Relay or one of the other events that they put together just check out their website:  Everyone from the organizers down to the volunteers were amazing!!!  (Next year can we have purple shirts?  Pretty please?  With sugar on top?)

Second.  Dwayne and Faylene!  Holy Moley!  You didn't run this year (not going to happen again, right?) but you took such good care of us!  Thank you for making us dinner and then breakfast after we were all done with the race.  It was awesome to come back to the house and just be able to clean up and then hang out together and eat an awesome meal.  You guys are amazing!  I love you both more than you could possibly know.  Dwayne, extra kudos for volunteering from 8:00 a.m. until 3:00 p.m. just because you could.  You have such a big heart!  😘

Third.  Van 2.  Ross and Brandi.  We have been in the same van for all six years of doing the relay.  We laugh and give each other shit.  I cannot even begin to imagine doing this race without the two of you!  Josh and Wendie.  You have been in the van the last three years!  I love you both and appreciate the giggles and silliness that can only come with the Gums in the van!  We seriously have the best van.  I appreciate how no one in our van has NEVER made me feel like I was less because I am so much slower than everyone else in the van (let alone the team).  I am cheered, supported, encouraged and ALWAYS made to feel like an awesome contributor to the team.   I have come a long way since year one.  Not necessarily faster but definitely better in how I feel about how I contribute.  That wouldn't be the case if you guys didn't make that happen.  Thank you!!  Joe, as always, my biggest fan and unwavering supporter.  He always believes I will do great.  I think sometimes I do better than I originally think I can because Joe just "knows" I'm going to rock it.  Love my guy.

After the float it was time to load up the truck and head for home.  My favorite part of summer had come to an end.  The minute we started heading for home I was already thinking about next year and some of my goals that I want to happen.  Always moving forward!
Heading for home. 
Cascade Lakes Relay 2017 is a wrap.  Already looking forward to CLR 2018.