This was my darkest leg yet, and as I started down Cherryville Lane, my flashlight beam creating an eerie glow in front of me, it felt like I was participating in my own Blair Witch Project. I saw no dogs, and if it weren’t for my van passing, I would have been completely on my own.
It was so dark, the only way I could really judge the steepness of the downhill was by how much my feet were slapping the pavement. I had to hold back a little and aim my flashlight at the rough asphalt in front of me. The last thing I wanted to do was hit a pothole and take a header.
Though only a couple of miles, it seemed to take a long time before I rounded a final corner and saw my van at the intersection where Cherryville Lane rejoins Hwy. 26. I carefully crossed the highway to run with traffic, and began the last push east toward the exchange.
Out of the woods and back in the open, the lightning was visible again, and I even felt a couple lazy drops of rain. As I continued through the darkness, the lightning, along with the green flasher clipped to the front of my shorts, began to create a weird visual halo, making it harder to see. Once I turned off my flasher, I was relieved to find my vision returning to normal, and the lightning ahead of me was a dramatic sight.
The last four miles seemed to go on forever, but eventually I rounded a bend, climbed a long hill and spotted my teammates at the prearranged turnout across the highway from the official HTC exchange.
As we drove up toward our next meeting place at Exchange 1 we spotted the first official runners coming down the hill. The frequency and intensity of the lightning was increasing, and we agreed how strange it was that we didn’t hear any thunder. Then we rounded a corner, saw another bright flash, and a huge thunderclap split the silence.
Soon after that the rain came, and by the time we parked at Government Camp huge raindrops were pelting the ground. By now Hood to Coast itself was well under way, and the exchange area was full of vans and runners. Most people were digging deep in their running bags for anything that approximated rain gear, as the deluge continued. I ran into a few friends and it was re-energizing to be back among the crowds.
The other van arrived, and Steve began to stretch and prepare himself for the epic climb up Leg 1 in reverse. The storm was beginning to break up by the time we spotted Lance coming up the road. For the first time we decided to use the actual exchange, and without interfering with any teams coming the opposite direction, a waterlogged Lance pushed hard up the hill and handed off triumphantly to a very excited and energized Steve.
We quickly returned to our van and set off for Timberline. Steve had already started the steep part of the climb by the time we caught up to him, and he was clearly thrilled to finally be tackling the climactic leg of our unique Coast to Hood challenge. The storm was quickly forgotten as the sun broke out, revealing a beautiful northwest summer morning.
We continued to the top and settled in to wait for Steve to arrive. His goal was to break an hour, and sure enough, about 55 minutes after he’d set off, he rounded the final turn and we joined him for the final few hundred meters of the adventure. He ran under the “Start” banner wearing a huge grin, roughly an hour before our projected finish, with a confused but appreciative crowd looking on.
Jim had notified the announcer and a KATU news crew, but our arrival went unrecognized except by fellow runners. But it’s the running community that truly appreciates things like this, and the many conversations with other teams and the support and enthusiasm they showed is more valuable than any “official” recognition.
Having completed the first half of our journey, we had a couple of hours to enjoy our accomplishment and check out some of the other teams (including the wild dancing of the “Sister Wives”!) before it was time to begin the more conventional westbound trip.
Check back tomorrow morning for Part 3!