Have you ever wanted to go on a Grand Adventure but stopped yourself before you ever tried?
“That’s too hard. I could never do Fill In The Blank?”
Six years ago I heard about the Cascade Lakes Relay (CLR), similar to Hood to Coast but longer, harder and all at elevation. The course, which starts at Diamond Lake and finishes in Bend, traverses some of Central Oregon’s most rugged and beautiful country. I put this race on my Bucket List.
Two years later I joined a team of eleven other runners and ran CLR. I was in great physical condition and well trained, but I was not prepared for the impact the extreme conditions would have on my body and mind. I got my butt kicked by this very HARD race. It shocked me to hear that some people ran CLR as an ultra race with six runners instead of twelve. I wanted to be like them, but I couldn’t even fathom attempting such a feat. I killed the Grand Adventure idea before it had time to take root.
I did however keep running CLR. Every year I admired the ultra teams and wondered if I my body could withstand that kind of challenge. When I started a run streak in July 2015, my annual running mileage and fitness level increased significantly. (Running every day also increased the amount of running gear I needed, so I stocked up on Handful bras. I would never think of running without one.) For the first time since hearing about ultra teams I felt equipped to be on one.
Last weekend I tackled one of the hardest physical and mental challenges of my life: relaying 216.6 miles with only five teammates in just over 29 hours. My portion of running was 40 miles – 24 of it on soft gravel road or trails.
We ran up and over mountains, past wetlands, rivers and mountain lakes, and through Oregon’s beautiful forests.
When we started at 10 am on Friday it was already hot. We ran into and through extreme heat, then into middle of the night So Cold You Could See Your Breath, and back into extreme heat.
My teammates got eaten alive by mosquitos, lost toenails and grew some horrendous blisters. We didn’t sleep for 40 hours, changed in the back of the van after each leg, and used baby wipes to “shower.”
Our fifth of six legs wrecked every single one of us. My teammate joked that the fifth leg was “crushing his soul.” I wanted to lay on the dirt trail and cry. Or bum a ride. Or both. The last 400 meters to the exchange point were grueling.
Our sixth legs were so victorious we cried. Well, I cried. Like choked over I Can’t Believe I‘m Doing This sobs. I ran down the Cascade Lakes Scenic Highway wheezing and smiling past a stream of tears. I was one Happy, Hot Mess.
Our team name was "Did We Just Become Best Friends" and it was so appropriate. Some of us started as strangers, shaking hands as we loaded the van. We all finished as friends who shared a life accomplishment together.
We knew running CLR as an ultra team would induce physical and mental suffering. We made it our team goal to Spread Joy, even when – and maybe especially when – we were suffering. This perspective made all of the above one of the most amazing race experiences of my life. Our team crossed the finish line 100% spent and 100% satisfied.
CLR as an ultra team was supposed to be a Bucket List one-and-done event, but our team is all in for one more ultra next year cause runners are a crazy breed.
Did We Just Become Best Friends? I think we did.
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Find more of Jodi and her adventures on her blog Sole Sisters.