Three weeks ago, I announced I was looking for a Hood to Coast team. It was one month until the start of the “Mother of All Relays,” roughly the same time every year when I start searching for a Hood to Coast team. Seconds later, my pal George popped up asking if I’d like to run Cascade Lakes.
I’d never done Cascade Lakes. And Cascade Lakes isn’t Hood to Coast! Would there still be a big party at the end? Lots of hotties?! George assured me, Yes and Yes. But was only a few days away. We’d leave Thursday afternoon to camp near the start, at Diamond Lake.
“Is there a cost?”
Pitched my go-to plan for situations like these: Let me make a video in exchange for fees. Turns out, Cascade Lakes has a video contest! George asked, “Would you be okay submitting it for the video contest?”
“Woo hoo! Stoked to have you on team, ‘Insecure Runners with Tiny Hands!'”
WTF did I just get myself into? My big mouth is always thrusting me into situations that my brain regrets. But I knew I couldn’t go wrong with any team George was on. He’s a hoot! Besides, we were going to DOMINATE that video contest.
Soon we’re on our way. That’s when they warned – far too late to escape – CLR is much more difficult than HTC, because it’s in the high desert. Oxygen deprivation, plus summer desert heat. You can count on adding a full minute (or more) to your average mile pace.
Getting close to the campground, it was already dark. There were several deer crossing the road. Or rather, standing in the center of the road, pondering life. (So that’s what they mean by “deer in the headlights.”) Then it was time for everyone to take turns telling the story of Last Time They Hit a Deer. Had to plug my ears.
Next day, the highlight of my morning was playing with the ducks. Caught one with my bare hands! There were many other creatures among us, including LOTS of mosquitoes. Slathered ourselves in sunscreen and bug spray and made our way to the start of the race.
I was Runner #1. Started strong, but within a thousand meters all but one of the people in my pack had left me in the dust. It was eight miles of rolling hills, on a sweltering summer day. Resorted to playing games with myself, pretending the butterflies were a sign I should push harder, a futile effort to keep running the whole time. Just a tad embarrassing to be walking when a handful of dudes from the final heat (which started twenty minutes later) went zipping by. Of course one of them knew me.
Killed time in a Silver Lake youth center, each paying three dollars for access to freezing cold showers. Hung out in the cafeteria, where there was so much bug spray, all sorts of insects were falling out of the air. Every few seconds, another dropped. They wiggled and kicked a slow death, peppering the floor.
Our vans, covered with Donald Trump’s big head, tiny hands and various cringe-worthy quotes, were one of the most popular spectacles of the relay. At one point, driving on the highway, a car ahead of us stopped. A woman got out, took a picture of our van with her phone, then went back into the car. She then got out with another phone, for another picture.
Looking at our van with a chuckle, a guy in LaPine said we’re lucky we hadn’t been shot. He also said he’d been there his whole life and his “family tree was like a pole.”
Had a hot shower and a short nap on one of many cots in the gym at LaPine High School. Woke up bleary, half-dreaming. Asked a handsome stranger if it was time for us to go. I’d mistaken him for our sixth runner…
My second run was a lonely eight miles in the middle of the night. Saw two shooting stars.
Bobcat! It was slinking across the road, right in front of our van.
Sorry I missed this scene, reported to me by van-mates, with glee: During my last run, the van came to a creek. Our third runner had the van stop so he could take a quick dip. He went to the water, stripped naked and dove in. He then got out, arms raised high overhead. BIG stretch.
That’s when another van drove by, full of women. With shrieks of laughter they pointed, shouting, “Penis!”
The end was in Bend. According to my notes, “Bend is way cooler than Seaside.”
We waded in the river, waiting for our twelfth runner to arrive. Then – the last push – we ran as a team across the finish line. Let’s hear it for INSECURE RUNNERS WITH TINY HANDS!