After a nearly a year of training and planning, the time finally arrived last weekend for our small group of Cadet runners, drivers and volunteers to take part in the Hood to Coast Relay. This race was unlike any other I have ever run. A Hood to Coast team is made up of 12 runners, split up into two vans of six. Each runner takes a turn running and when all six members of the van have run, they proceed onto the next exchange point and have some time to rest while the runners in the other van take their turns. The vans leapfrog each other in this manner through 36 individual running legs. For me, running has always been a very individual sport. I have my way of training, fueling, recovering, etc. but my individual running was such a small part of Hood to Coast. As runners, instead of thinking about ourselves, our focus had to constantly be on the needs of our teammates. We rallied around each individual runner to make sure he or she had water, food and anything needed at the start, at the finish and during each leg. The teamwork required takes a lot of different forms during a race like this. One of the most poignant moments for us was at the Leg 10 exchange when Darla finished running her leg. It was clear that she was suffering from severe heat exhaustion. She struggled to stay on her feet as we helped to get her into a shady spot to sit down. But it was late on Friday afternoon and Portland traffic wasn't getting any better. We had to walk a fine line between getting back on the road to meet our next runner and safely getting Darla back to the van. We had to work quickly and together to make it work. Fortunately Darla recovered and successfully completed each of her legs. Also, because we were driving the course ahead of each runner we were able to see firsthand what they were about to experience. “We were all suffering with the runner because we could feel what they were going through,” Brandon, our Van 1 captain said. It added an extra level of support and encouragement. No runner ran alone, we truly went through each leg of the race together. After battling stop and go traffic most of the night, me and my Van 2 teammates were excited to pass off to the runners in Van 1. But when we ended up in gridlock during leg 24 with over 4 miles still to go, we started to get the sense that our runner for that leg, Jamie, might actually beat us to the exchange point. And to boot, we had no cell service and no way to communicate with our teammates in the other van about what was going on. It was a pretty helpless feeling knowing that we would not be able to greet Jamie as she finished. We had no idea how long she might end up having to wait, with no way to stay warm and no way to refuel. In the end it took us two hours to reach the exchange. We were so relieved to find Jamie there smiling, muffins and breakfast burritos in hand and wearing a warm jacket, all courtesy of our teammates from Van 1 who met her there and were able to step up and help. The feeling of everyone being in it together is what really makes Hood to Coast special. Our volunteers certainly felt it. They were so busy directing cars for most of the day that they were barely able to get a break to grab food or water. Trisha, who works in customer service said the team spirit was shared among groups. Runners were very thankful for their help and passed out candy and water while passing through. “It’s funny because we were supposed to be supporting the teams and they supported us,” she said. When we finally got to the sand in Seaside we were greeted with cheers from our other teammates and a large contingent of Cadet supporters. It was all hugs and high fives, photos snapping, stories being recounted as we waited for our number to be called. Team captain Javier was beaming at the finish line. He couldn't be more proud to see everyone come together. "It's just a great feeling," he said. The pain and exhaustion were gone for the moment, there would be plenty of time for that in the coming days. For now, it was a time to celebrate, a time to be proud of what we accomplished as a team. Darla, reflecting on her experience of Hood to Coast said “it gave me an opportunity to get to know some of the new folks at Cadet. It felt like we started the event as coworkers and we finished as friends.” There were plenty of individual successes and failures, ups and downs, goods and bads over the course of the race. We had this rare opportunity to challenge ourselves physically and mentally in a way that we never have before. We had the opportunity to build comradery with our coworkers from all areas of the business that we never would have through normal work events. And in the end, The Hot Ones finished as a team, unified as Cadet and forever changed in our relationships with each other. Would we do it again? You bet. Stay tuned for more of The Hot Ones, version 2.0, coming summer 2015.
Speaking of support and teamwork, a very special thank you goes out to our friends at Environments Office Furniture who let us use their facilities to rest and clean up during our stop in Portland. Your generosity was awesome!