Cascade Lakes was my first relay race. It was very different from any other race I've ever done, in so many ways.
One big difference is that you are on a team, and it is ALL about the team. No one person's time is very important and the focus is only ever briefly on any one person. It ends up being MORE about supporting other runners than running yourself!
The other thing that is unlike any other event I've done is the duration. The legs themselves aren't necessarily all that challenging. Yes there are hills, and yes the conditions can be tough, but the biggest challenge is running for the third time in a day in a half on maybe 1-2 hours of sleep. It's an endurance event in a very different way. You are outside, exposed to the elements, for about 30 hours straight. You're either running or waiting/crewing in the heat of the day and in the surprisingly cold nights, getting eaten alive by mosquitoes and eating the most random assortment of food, with very little rest and if you are lucky a brief shower. Everything about your typical "race preparation" goes out the window.
This relay was by far the most fun I've ever had in a race. Maybe of the most fun things I’ve ever done. It was indescribably awesome. My teammates were so funny and cool, we were talking and laughing and just going non-stop the whole time. I got to share this experience with my husband and a couple of my closest friends, but I also got to know two people I hardly knew before. By the end, we had nicknames and inside jokes to the moon and back. Dogalope. Throat waffle. Etc.
Surprisingly, I felt really great the whole time. A couple of the runs were tough, but not too long and I got through them ok. I didn't run very fast, just about average training pace, which I think helped me feel good throughout. I did OK on no sleep, and my stomach tolerated the grab bag of snacks just fine. I was happy I didn't have any issues with that stuff. And I even held up emotionally - I got a little snappy at Zach and I was definitely a bit loopy toward the end, but no major breakdowns. Win win win.
Here are some details of the event and summaries of my legs, but then I'll let the pictures tell the play-by-play. The scenery was a significant part of the event so the pictures are key.
Cascade Lakes Relay
Start: Diamond Lake Resort (5,200 ft elevation)
End: Bend, OR (3,700 ft elevation)
Total Elevation Gain: 8,195 feet
Total Elevation Loss: 9,740 feet
Team Left, Right, Repeat finished in 31 hours 04 minutes
Placed 25/107 in the Open Co-Ed Division
7.5 miles, moderate
approx 10:30 am Friday, very warm
elevation loss 429 feet (slight decline most of the way)
paved shoulder of highway
8:48 average pace
Lowlights: big semi trucks buzzing right by me, being super hot and thirsty
Highlights: seeing my team drive by! Finishing.
6.4 miles, moderate
approx 10:30 pm, pitch black and chilly
elevation gain 37 feet (flat)
dirt road in the middle of nowhere, dusty
8:52 average pace
Lowlights: inhaling so much dust
Highlights: SO many stars! Running alone in the middle of the night, seeing a jackrabbit and an owl
7.5 miles, hard
approx 8:30 am, sunny but cool
elevation gain 253 (slight, persistent uphill for last 3 miles)
paved road in middle of nowhere (no traffic except vans)
pace?? 9:15 ish? (lost garmin)
Lowlights: long hill, didn't know when it was going to end, exhausted overall
Highlights: last leg! Gorgeous scenery along a river, legs felt really good
A few random final thoughts and then pictures I promise-
Zach has done Hood to Coast, and so had a lot of other people we met out there. The consensus was clear that CLR is by far the better event. Of course there is a bias I'm sure, but I can see their point. There are 10x as many teams at HTC. (175 vs. 1200!!) Zach said it is very crowded and very stressful. That sometimes you can't physically drive to each exchange point in time and people have to jump out of the van and run TO the exchange points. Stuff like that. It sounds like a total cluster. Plus it's impossible to get in. I haven't personally done HTC, so I can't judge. I know it's a neat race with a lot of history, and I'm sure it has it's perks. I'm sure any relay is awesome. But this race was absolutely perfect and I highly recommend it.
I lost my Garmin. The van became a black hole and everything kept going missing. So frustrating! I'm a super organized person but I just couldn't stay ahead of it. I also lost my camera but found it when I was unpacking. But the Garmin is gone. Not even sure I"I'll replace it anytime soon- might be a good move to let that go? Of course it’s also a great excuse to get a fancy new one! We'll see.
The elevation didn't really affect me too much. Then again, I wasn't running fast. I wasn’t really trying to push it, because of my utter lack of speed training. Also, If I had bigger hills I may have noticed it.
I just cruised along at a comfortable pace and didn't push it. I was 100% ok with this strategy. Everyone in our van was very casual about their pace and we hardly discussed it. Zach was obviously fast, but I'm not even sure what his paces were (high 7's?). The other two guys in our van hadn't trained at all but mostly ran sub-9 paces. Deana and Petra cruised along in the 9:00's and I ran about 9:00 give or take. It was a really even group and our times were pretty predictable which was nice. I was glad that no one was particularly competitive or braggy. It just wasn't a concern!
The other van definitely had some speedy people - a bit faster than we were (excluding Zach) and they had one really fast guy who is running the Leadville 100 in a couple weeks. The definitely helped our team's average! I think each van was matched up just right.
Most of the race is spent with just the people in your van. The other van is doing their own thing and you only see them briefly. I definitely wished we could have spent more time with them, but it's just the nature of the event. We all rented a house in Bend so we had dinner the night we finished, but we were all so tired it was a short party. But it was really cool to hear their experiences since they had such different times/legs/etc.
There were quite a few mosquitoes in some places, and I did get a lot of bites. Like 15-20. But thankfully, the bites didn’t swell up like the ones I had earlier this summer. I was really afraid of that. I think they were a different kind of mosquito or something.
After my final leg was done, I ran a short ways with both Petra and Kevin to support them and keep them company on their last legs. I was on such a high from finishing this great event, I still had plenty of energy, and I just didn’t want it to be over. I think I was the only person who ran extra in this thing. :D (actually, Petra ran with me for a bit when we accompanied Kevin)
Finally, I have to give some shout-outs to my friends. Of course they were fun and amazing to spend time with, but I have to give them all major props for their stellar running performances. Zach was the fastest person in our van and really just blew through his legs. It was so fun to watch him! Deana did amazing – she ran three legs (2 about 5.5 miles and the shortest leg of 2.1 miles) and was SO strong and hard core. The girl runs quite a bit, but shorter runs and she has only ever done one 10k- so this was HUGE for her! She rocked it to say the least. Petra ran 3 long legs of around 6-7 miles each and kept a really strong pace. After coming back from a long illness this spring she did amazing. The heat, the altitude, and the hills were a challenge (for all of us) but she owned it. Everyone did great, and I’m really proud of myself too. I just can’t say enough about this event. So great. So great!!
Ok ok, enough gushing. Pictures! With an unprecedented amount of captioning, to tell the story of the race. Enjoy!
Driving to the start early Friday morning (from left: Petra, Sean, Kevin, Deana):
Zach, our Driver:
Decorating our van at the start:
Our team! Van 1 of “Left, Right, Repeat!” Zach, me, Deana, Petra, Sean, Kevin and our slap bracelet (we were “the team that slaps” none of this BS handing-off!)
The start line- Sean ran the first leg at 8:20 am:
The girls of Van 1!
Kevin handing off to me for my first leg:
Done with leg 1. Hot!
Zach waiting for his first leg to start:
Here comes Petra! Done with her first leg:
Zach’s dusty and hot first leg:
Van 1 buddies- waiting for Deana’s first leg. This area was really beautiful:
Deana running her first leg (I’m behind her there, just refilled her water):
Van 1 done with our first leg! Being goofy.
Petra getting some well-deserved rest (Zach’s mom commented on FB “it looks like she is timing herself” haha)
Rested at a park in Silver Lake for a couple of hours. Most people slept for a short bit but I didn’t get any sleep here:
The girls- Deana stretching, Petra eating, and all of us being really sunburned and exhausted. Ready to start running over night?!
Waiting for our Van 2 buddies to finish up so we can begin our 2nd leg- all through the night!
Me handing off to Kevin after leg 2. SO MANY STARS. It was amazing running at night all alone out there:
Leg 2 done!
After everyone finished their second leg, we made our way to La Pine High School about 3:00 am, where we showered in the locker room and slept for an hour or two on the gym floor. Not comfortable, but we were so tired:
6:00 am Saturday- McDonalds. Best. Breakfast. Ever.
Deana, Me, and Petra. Showered, kinda rested, and with coffee! Ready to start our final leg shortly:
My 3rd leg.. absolutely gorgeous. Nice and cool early morning run:
Had to stop for some bug spray. Zach was quick!
Last leg of our van – Petra ran 4+ HILLY miles. I joined her for one hill! She did so awesome:
After our van was all done, we stayed at Elk Lake for a couple of hours while Van 2 reached the finish. We drank beer, swam in the lake (swam out to that dock!) and just giggled and acted like the sleep-deprived, crazy runners we are. It was my favorite part of the whole event:
Well, that is all! Will be back for more updates soon of my ultra training and other summer activities. Hope you are all having a great summer too.
Thanks for reading. :)