By the time Dale was gleefully crossing his second majestic McCulloch-designed bridge of the trip, Van 1 was scarfing down Liberty Pub grub in North Bend and catching the first half of the Ducks-Spartans clash. Then we scurried out to Charleston and Seven Devils Road before Scott finished off another easy seven-minute per mile effort. After a cooler but still pleasant Saturday in the light, Mark kicked off night two with a climb into a fresh batch of fog and mist.
Then Roy had his second battle with the demons. Whereas I had early on taken the wrong road in the right direction, he finished off Seven Devils Road in seemingly fine form only to then take the right road in the wrong direction. His errant left turn at Highway 101 took him north quite a ways before he realized he was never going to reach Bandon without turning around. Luckily he had his phone with him and we were able to set him straight, but this was another 20 minutes that didn’t need to happen. The ribbing never let up, but we could have fun with this because overall we had been gradually wiping out any and all deficits with otherwise solid running up and down most of the roster.
But shortly into my 9.7 mile sixth leg, I hit a low point and suddenly found myself struggling to maintain a running stride. Fortunately, there were almost no cars on the highway, and I could for the most part run down the center line. Except for passing through Langlois and seeing a quartet of deer who did not know what to make of me and my NightRunner 270 shoe lights, I had an extended interlude where I was now having a lot less fun. This lasted until I finally saw the hazard lights of both vehicles at the van exchange point; then there was relief, a small measure of pride in toughing it out in spite of a slow time, and the prospect of attaining a shower and some needed rest in Port Orford.
I had persevered in part by invoking an ultra-running mantra championed by the legendary Dean Karnazes: Run when you can, walk if you have to, crawl if you must; just never give up. Then I sprinkled in some of the wisdom Mike Bur had been sharing along the trip from his own hard-core ultra experiences. Unfortunately, he found himself drawing on that wisdom more than he had anticipated during this relay, as he wasn’t as comfortable with all the pavement pounding intervals versus his more familiar endless trail excursions. Combined with using shoes which were past their peak, he was steady but not too speedy. Not for a minute did it detract from his effervescence.
The other Mike was having plenty of fun, too, even as he ran his assignments with his characteristic game face on. Sunday morning had him taking his final handoff from Roy at perhaps the most scenic exchange point of the entire relay – Myers Beach and Cave Rock. It was a spot I didn’t want to leave except I was fully recharged and ready to run my own final leg alongside several sections of extended Boardman State Park. I took the handoff from Mike and almost immediately felt a flood of emotions. I cried, I laughed, I cried again, thrilled at how my erstwhile vision had now become a remarkable, amazing reality, and then proceeded to bust my way up my final extended hill to the highest bridge in Oregon, over Thomas Creek. I purposely let Thomas have the namesake crossing, and celebrated with my van-mates. We then pushed ahead to Brookings for a breakfast stop and next found a spot to cheer Bur on. Then both vans headed for the border, and we all joined Scott for the ceremonial group crossing of the finish line. More pictures, more laughs, a burying of a cache of found objects along with Bur’s dead shoes, and then north to lunch, some brews, and to gain entry to our beach house.
Scott surprised the gang by unveiling “finisher” beer glasses, featuring a superb etching of the Oregon Edge logo and personalized to boot. We toasted our achievement and took turns soaking in the soothing hot tub. A little pizza, a little football, and we were all in bed by 9pm for 10 hours of very solid and much-deserved sleep. We were all walking normally on Monday and it hardly seemed like we had done much more than run across the street, as opposed to the entire state. Some of us had even managed to gain weight in spite of running 45 miles in 50 hours. The drive home featured the Umpqua River valley route out of Reedsport, one more scenic exclamation point on a trip that was intensely memorable in addition to being a non-stop feast for the eyes.
So, I ask again, would you sign up for a relay like this? We are all quite glad we did.