Friday, August 31, 2012

What the heck is Hood to Coast?

Before I go into a post with stories/opinions about my experience with last weekend’s Hood to Coast (running) Relay (HTC), I am going to break down HTC. Hopefully this breakdown will give an easy-to-understand explanation of this event so that you (specifically my mom and dad) have a better idea of what the heck HTC (or any relay) is and what goes into it.

Here are the facts:

  • Total Distance: 199 miles (+2 miles due to a detour)
  • Start Location: Mt Hood, Oregon
  • Start Date: Friday August 24
  • Start Time: Varies, but slower teams start Friday morning with the fastest teams starting Friday evening; my team started at 8:15 AM (we had a slow projected finish time) on Friday August 24
  • Finish Location: Seaside, Oregon
  • Finish Date: Saturday August 25
  • Finish Time: Anywhere from 20 hours to 32 hours after starting; my team ran it in 30 hours 6 minutes and finished at approximately 3:30 PM Saturday August 25
  • 12 runners total; 2 vans with 6 runners each to cover the 199 mile course
  • Each runner runs 3 legs over the course of the relay

Here is a map of the course with locations of exchanges.  The course goes over varying terrain but on average is a hilly course going through Oregon mountains and countryside along (mostly) paved roads or trails.  I was in the second van and ran legs 7, 19, and 34 (should have ran leg 31, but switched with a runner to help the team out) for a total of 19.41 miles as shown below:

HTC Course MapAll three of my legs were “rated” as Hard or Very Hard as shown in a breakdown of the various legs and their difficultly rating:

HTC Leg DescriptionsA huge aspect of the relay is logistics.  There is navigation of the vans between the various exchange zones and knowing the expected time each runner will arrive at an exchange…. and doing this on little or no sleep can make for interesting situations!  Luckily, my team and van was, for the most part, on time at each exchange and our runners didn’t have to wait (we saw some runners waiting up to an hour for their vans/exchange runners). 

Here is a summary of the schedule/logistics of the van/runner exchanges:

  • 8:15 AM Friday: Van 1 starts at Mt Hood and each of the 6 runners run 1 of their legs (legs 1-6) to get 35.25 miles from the start.  Van 1 drives ahead of each runner and drops the next runner off to complete each exchange (and picks up the runner who just ran….this continues throughout the race).


  • 11:00 AM Friday: Van 2 drives to the 7th leg  in Sandy, Oregon (first “major exchange”) and must be ready at a specific time based on the average pace of each runner in Van 1.  There was a spreadsheet we completed to know the time range that each runner would arrive at each exchange.  You have to give an honest and accurate expected pace to not screw up the exchange coordination!!!!!

HTC van

  • 1:15 PM Friday: I started running the 7th leg when runner 6 from van 1 arrived and passed the “baton” (slap bracelet) to me.  I had no idea how to pace myself and just went with a comfortably fast pace; I felt really good, even with running during the heat of the day and on a hilly section. 

Barb Leg 7

Leg 7

  • Van 2 runners continue running the next 6 legs (legs 7-12) until they run 34.11 miles from Sandy, OR to Portland, OR to exchange back to Van 1 runners.


  • 6:15 PM Friday: Van 1 runners continue running legs 13-18 (34 miles) from Portland, OR to St. Helens, OR.
  • Van 2 then drives to the next “major exchange” and tries to get in a few hours of sleep before it is their time to run again.  We each got about an hour or 2 of sleep before the Van 1 runner arrived.
  • 12:30 AM Saturday (middle of night): I started running leg 19 in the middle of the night.  All runners are required to wear a head lamp, reflective vest, and a back light.  I was very glad to have the head lamp as my leg was in the middle of nowhere Oregon where the stars and other runners were the only “lights.”  I really enjoyed running at night in the middle of nowhere; the silence and darkness made for a (different sort of) sensory overload. 

Leg 19

(sorry no nighttime photos, I was practically sleepwalking/running and didn’t know what was going on)

  • Van 1 drives to the next “major exchange” and gets their turn to catch some zzzzz’s.
  • Van 2 runners continue running legs 19-24 (32.55 miles) in the middle of the night in the dark in the middle of Oregon until they exchange back to Van 1 runners in Mist, Oregon.
  • 5:00 (ish) AM Saturday: Van 1 runners continue running legs 25-30 (30.97 miles), their final legs.
  • Van 2 drives to the next “major exchange” and again try to sleep.  I think we all got in less than an hour of sleep before we had to run our final legs.
  • 11:00 (ish) AM Saturday: Van 2 runners continue running legs 31-36 (31.6 miles) to the finish line in Seaside, Oregon.
  • 1:30 PM Saturday: I started running leg 35, a gradual uphill for 7.20 miles in warm temperatures with no shade (this leg felt the hardest for me, esp. on little sleep…. as you can tell from my terrible running form below). 

Barb Leg 35

Leg 35

  • Van 1 runners were able to go to Seaside, shower, and rest before meeting Van 2 at the finish. 
  • 3:30 PM Saturday: The entire team (both vans) waited for the final runner and finished together as a team.


The finish is a giant party on the beach.  They have a stage set up with music and a beer garden.  Teams celebrate together on the beach and the night ends with fireworks.

finish line party

I hope that helps clear up the relay concept, and Hood to Coast in particular.  There are lots of other details that go into a relay (traffic, eating, other teams, etc.), but that would just bore you even more than you already are.

* I’ll do another post concerning my down and dirty opinions of doing the HTC relay with complete strangers and how I will do things differently if I do another relay. 

** I didn’t take a lot of photos because everyone else had better cameras and was snapping away.  But then I failed to copy over their photos before I left.  Foto Fail.

Friday, August 24, 2012




Last Saturday (yes, I know this is late but I have been busy!) I met up with some friends for the Sounders game.  The Sounders beat the Vancouver Whitecaps 2-0 in front of a packed house (I think 55,000+ in attendance).  Seattle fans are some of the best soccer fans in the US.  Not all of the Seattle fans know the art of soccer or even the rules, but what they lack in soccer knowledge, they make up in enthusiasm and I respect it.  Seattle Sounders games are always a blast, especially with my Seattle friends.

After the game, a very gracious friend Jed (one of my co-rec soccer buddies) invited Jessica, Steffanie and I to go on a boat ride.  So we cruised Lake Union and enjoyed some cold Bad Larrys (that is what Jed called Bud Lights).

boat ride Its good to have friends with boats, especially one as awesome as Jed.  I miss my Seattle friends, especially friends like the guys from Chico Bail Bonds (the name of the co-rec team).  The boat ride also made me miss Seattle and all the water that surrounds it!

Post boat ride the girls and one of the guys, Brad, headed to Lower Queen Anne where my hotel was.  We ate a delicious meal at Pecos and enjoyed some margaritas.  Yuuummmmm!

IMG_20120818_214155_910After dinner, Jessica, Steffanie and I had a few more drinks and snacks at the hotel (The Marqueen) bar.  Then we had a slumber party and fell asleep giggling and gossiping like pre-teens.  Nothing like a girls night out!!!!


I am currently in Portland, Oregon getting ready to depart on my Hood to Coast Adventure.  I will have plenty of posts about Hood to Coast and everything that goes into 200 mile relay (I am learning SO much!). 


Saturday, August 18, 2012

Wetlands Stink.

An young engineer, a feminist hippy wetland ecologist, and an ex-military unexploded ordnance technician walked onto a wetland…..

Sounds like a joke, right?

Well, it isn’t.  I have been working all week up on Whidbey Island in Washington on a wetland delineation project with the two most opposite people in the world; a wetland ecologist who is a feminist liberal and a ex-military conservative southern good old boy.  It makes for interesting conversation while tromping through wetlands and forested areas for 10+ hours a day. 

wetland The site is gorgeous as we are in a very rare wetland type that is right along the west coast of Whidbey Island overlooking Admiralty Inlet.  There is a lot of wildlife and beautiful plants.  BUT wetlands smell like rotten eggs, the mud is knee deep, and the outlier areas are covered in thick needle and other thorny bushes.  And we spend the entire day mapping the boundary of the various types of wetlands through this challenging terrain.

Needless to say, its been a long week and I am glad it is the weekend…..

But I can’t complain too much because it is so nice to be outside working and hiking/walking (and sometimes running) over 3 miles each day.  I also did some lifting:


I’m so strong.

In the evenings I have been running each night and am running WAY faster at sea level.  My “fast” pace in Denver feels like my “easy” pace at sea level.  Its so nice.  Plus I have been trying to run along water fronts to soak in the views. 

IMG_2642 Today I am headed down to Seattle to see my friends and go to a Sounders game.  Tomorrow I am going to get in a long run along Alki Beach, one of my favorite places to run in Seattle!  Hopefully I won’t be too hung over from the day before and that the long run goes well.  Then the end of next week I will head down to Oregon to run the Hood to Coast Relay!  WOOO HOOOO!

Friday, August 10, 2012

Bronchoscopy Patient for Hire

Yep, I am back at it…I did another asthma study in the name of science (and for some more cash). 

A month ago I was screened to participate in a follow-on asthma study to one I participated a few years back.  This time they were looking for asthmatics who also had Vitamin D deficiency.  If I would have screened for this study while I was living in Seattle, I would have qualified.  Unfortunately, I now live in sunny Denver and spend probably 60+ hours a week in the sun between work, running, hiking, and camping…. needless to say, I was NOT Vitamin D deficient

Then a few weeks ago I got a call asking if I wanted to participate in a different asthma study.  They were looking for people with controlled asthma, like myself, who would be willing to undergo a bronchoscopy to look at my airways and take some biopsies.  They wanted various subject data to look at the correlation between asthma and GI issues effecting the esophagus.  They would pay me $450 for about 6 hours of my time…. um, yes please, sign me up!  In addition, they asked if they could take pictures of my airway to include in a medical publication; I was going to be a airway model!!! 

Not only would I be earning some side cash, but I would be helping asthma research. I’ll consider it my little piece to make the world breathe easier. 

Monday was the bronchoscopy.  I have never had one before, but surprisingly was not nervous.  Mostly I was not nervous because they give you some nice sedatives so you don’t even remember a thing. 

I have had similar sedatives for the other –scopy  and knew the sedatives they give are some fun drugs!  But those drugs made me crazy; in fact, the doctor said I was one of her most entertaining patients….but wouldn’t elaborate on details, she just said I was very talkative and inquisitive during the procedure….. sooo embarrassing since I don’t remember a thing!

The asthma folks didn’t mention any craziness with the sedatives this time around, but I did come away with TWO copies of the photos they took during the bronchoscopy. 

IMG_2614I don’t know why they gave me one copy, let alone two.  This seems like something drugged-up-Barb would request, “Hey doctor, can you please print two copies of the photos you took during the Bronchoscopy; I want one for my files and the other to hang in my cubical at work.”  What is wrong with me!?

And if you didn’t know what the photos were of, they look kind of naughty.  But they are just of my larynx, trachea, mucosal and bronchial tree.  And maybe if you are a doctor reading a published asthma study one day, you will see these very photos and think, “Hey, I know that Larynx, that is the runner person who posts pointless blog entries on the internet!” These photos might just make me famous.

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Bluegrass, Beer, and Head Wounds

This past weekend, Jeff’s cousin and his girlfriend were in town.  We decided to head to the mountains (again) and took them to Keystone for the Bluegrass and Beer Festival

keystone bluegrass and beer

We got a sampling glass and were able to taste tons of local brews, some of which we had not tasted before.  A bunch of local restaurants also had tents set up and we were also able to get some really great food…. all while listening to bluegrass.  The weather was sunny and temperatures were mild, perfect for an outdoor festival.


We got a hotel room in Dillon, CO and took the free bus to and from the festival.  The shuttle was nice, but was on mountain time; meaning that there was no adherence to the posted bus schedule

free busride

After the Bluegrass and Beer Festival in Keystone, we took the bus to downtown Dillon for a bite to eat at a brew pub (I won’t waste any words discussing the horrible food and service we had there).  After our sub-par dinner, we stepped outside and heard some 70s funk music blasting from an outdoor amphitheater on Lake Dillon.  We headed that way and caught the tail end of the free outdoor concert.  Then someone had the brilliant idea to start log rolling down a steep grassy hill. 

log rolling head wound

My coordination after a day of drinking beer was not at its best and once I started rolling, I could not stop!  Wheeee!!!!!  I just rolled faster and faster and faster until BAM!  Suddenly I was stopped at a small retaining wall… and I was really dizzy from all the rolling!  Giggling with dizzy gleefulness, I stumbled up the hill and sat with Jeff.  I happened to mention my abrupt stop at the base of the hill and that my head hurt.  Jeff gives my head a little rub and then realizes his hand is covered in blood.  Whoops, apparently I split my head open when the retaining wall stopped my out of control log rolling.  And once head wounds start bleeding, you can’t get the bleeding to stop! 

I guess this was a sign we should go back to the hotel.  But remember how I said the buses are on mountain time?  Well we waited and waited all while my head was bleeding.  Impaired first aide skills probably are not the wisest and we determined that I didn’t need stitches, but that I did need to get home…and who knew when the bus would arrive.  I won’t elaborate on the fuzzy details, but we all made it home in an adventurous fashion.

The next morning my head wound was still bleeding, not to mention we never cleaned it before going to bed, so I went to get it checked out.  A good antiseptic cleaning by a rough nurse (she did not think my head wound from log rolling was humorous) and some medical glue fixed the issue (it could have used a stitch, but I opted with glue so that I wouldn’t have to worry about getting the stitch out later).

I’m too old for this behavior; no more day long drinking festivals OR log rolling down hills. 

Sunday morning we hiked off our hangovers and enjoyed more wonderful weather in the mountainshike

My glue head held up well to the hiking.  My hair, on the other hand, is a gluey mess. 

The End.

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

A night of BASEBALL

This week Jeff is like a kid in a candy store.  His favorite team, the St Louis Cardinals, is in Denver playing the Rockies.  When the tickets for the game went on sale several months ago, he bought two tickets and started a countdown calendar to the BEST WEEK EVER (well maybe I am exaggerating, but he was really pumped).  Jeff was gracious enough to invite me and was hoping I was equally as excited.

Jeff Loves Baseball

Unfortunately, I have never enjoyed baseball (or softball for that matter).  I have tried and tried to enjoy it, but I just can’t get past how painfully boring it is to me.  And Jeff just can’t fathom why I don’t enjoy baseball or why I have not morphed into the biggest STL Cardinals fan like he is.  I have tried the “fake it” method like many wives and girlfriends use, but realize it just fuels Jeff’s expectations of me joining in on his excitement and enthusiasm for the sport. 

After 10+ years of being with Jeff, I no longer fake it.  I lay it out there… I could care less about baseball and there is a list of 500 things that I would rather do with my time.  With that being said, I *try* not to take away one of his loves; I just don’t accompany him to games and never watch the sport with him on television.  If he wants to go to a game, find someone to go with who appreciates baseball (or the Cardinals) as much as he does.  It will make all involved much happier. 

Despite my obvious disinterest in going to the game, for some reason Jeff really wanted me to go…and being the dutiful wife that I am (hahaha…), I put on my Cardinals jersey and headed to the game. 

IMG_2553 (I was having an ugly day, both physically and emotionally, so this was my favorite picture of us from last night’s game)

I really wanted to enjoy watching Jeff’s beloved Cardinals and share his enthusiasm, but yet again, I couldn’t get past how boring it was (plus I was tired and had a headache and would rather be watching the Olympics).  To top it off, there was not good people watching.  Usually I can entertain myself by counting mullets, drunkards, or people over 300 pounds, but we were in the first row and it would be too awkward to sit backwards.

This made for a unpleasant situation….

  • Jeff: “Why aren’t you having fun?”
  • Me: “Because I just don’t care about this game and find baseball boring.” 
  • Jeff: “You are such a Debbie Downer.  Your are ruining my Cardinals watching experience.  Why can’t you be like all of the other girlfriends and wives and love baseball?” 
  • Barb: “Because we have been together 10+ years and I cannot fake it any longer.  Plus I have a functioning brain with opinions and interests of my own.  Sorry to disappoint you.”

Then I made a discovery that brought life to the game of baseball and to last night in particular.  The bullpen. (And if I didn’t find something to turn around my attitude, Jeff probably would have pushed me into the bullpen to get rid of me.)

As I said above, our seats were positioned in the first row, but thankfully overlooking the bullpen.  So I spent time watching the relief pitches entertain themselves while they waited for the final innings (because they too were bored).  Luckily there was a duck in the bullpen.  The pitchers and catchers LOVED this Bullpen Duck and spent the entire game conversing with the duck and feeding it sunflower seeds. 

Bull Pen DuckThen the final innings came and the relief pitchers were called to duty.  Suddenly, more awesomeness emerged from the bullpen.  The Bullpen Sprinter Guy. 

Apparently this guy does this every single Rockies home game and every single time an away pitcher is called to action.  He takes the pitcher’s coat, jogs it out to someone (a coach?), and then sprints as fast as he can back to the bullpen.  He even performs warm up and cool down stretches!  This is worth the wait and all the 9 innings of boringness!  In fact, I will go to the game for the last few innings and to watch The Bullpen Sprinter.

bull pen sprinter

Thank you, Bull Pen Sprinter for your 250 pounds of awesomeness.  You and the Bull Pen Duck made the baseball game entertaining and saved a disastrous night out with the husband (yep, a duck and a fat man sprinting is all it takes to make baseball entertaining for me).