It was 1:17AM. I was lying on a blue tarp on the front lawn of a person's home; I had my hoodie, a pillow, and a small quilt wrapped around me. I stared at the star-filled sky and watched my breath rise in the cool air.
A cheer went up as another number was shouted out into the crowd. It didn't phase those of us trying to grab a few slices of sleep on the lawn. My hands rested upon my swollen abdomen and I saw a shooting star --and then another. And another. I marveled at the beauty of what I was seeing, and I marveled at my participation in something so incredibly fun and amazing. I knew my van buddies would be by to wake me up around 1:30AM, so I tried to doze for another ten minutes.
Participating in Portland to Coast was, in a word, life-changing. I'm not even sure where to begin to describe such an incredible experience! Maybe the beginning?
Brandon and I flew into Portland on Thursday afternoon. After getting our rental car, driving to our hotel, checking in, freshening up, and checking the time, we began our walk to a local Italian restaurant to meet some friends (Ruth and Paul). However, just outside our hotel, in Pioneer Square, an Italian Festival was happening! There was live music, several Italian food vendors, places to eat, etc. and so we called our friends and told them to meet us there instead. It was so fun! It wasn't just because of the good food, the atmosphere, the crowds, the city, or the tiramasu --it was the company of my long-lost "sister"! Ruth is more than a friend, dear reader --she's like a sister. A friend of my heart. She and I grew up together, but it's been a long time since we've seen each other. Just talking and laughing and hanging out again felt so amazing! I was so grateful we were able to get together. I pray it won't be as long in between meetings again!
Friday marked race day! Amanda's husband dropped her off at my hotel and we were picked up by our van. What ensued was awesomeness! Instead of describing every detail, I'll explain what a relay like this entails, and then just share some highlights:
Our team had 12 women --two "vans" (ours was a Suburban) with six women each. Van #1 started at 3:45AM in Portland, with each woman walking her leg. When the sixth woman finished, our van (Van #2) started our turn. After us, it was van #1 again, and then we ended the race by taking the last leg. Each individual leg was between 3.5 and 8.2 (??) miles. My first leg was 6.8 miles, and my second one was 4.2 (I think? I can't remember!). So, each woman would walk two legs. Our journey ended in Seaside, OR, where there was a HUGE part-ay goin' on!
*Meeting my van teammates: Cindy, Darci, Tami, and Steph (I already knew Amanda, of course!)
*Eating sandwiches and fruit and drinking lots of ice water out of the back of the Suburban
*Cheering each teammate on as they would pass us (we would drive a mile or two into their leg, wait, then be there to cheer, offer water, take jackets, hand them sunglasses, etc.)
*Seeing all the other hilarious names of other teams (we were "11 Hens and a Chick" because one of our team members was 19. When my van buddies learned I was pregnant, we added "and an egg" on the back of the Suburban). Some of them included: Squeeky Cheeks, Walkin' Sole Sistas, and Sweaty Bettys. Others were just plain vulgar and inappropriate, but luckily they were few and far between.
*Stopping at what would be our van's second leg exchange to sleep while Van #1 did their walkin' and ordering food at 10PM out of someone's garage (seriously, what a great way to earn money! Sell loads of wanted food, drinks, coffee, etc. at the sleeping exchange. So smart!) and then trying to sleep on the ground in 50 degree weather (see my opening paragraph).
*Long rows of port-a-potties at every route exchange! Always a welcome relief.
*Seeing some of the most beautiful scenery as a walked my first route, and enjoying the immense darkness and peace as I walked my second route (at 3AM).
*Cracking jokes with my van buddies, enduring crazy B.O., getting to know each other, and learning that Amanda hates raw tomatoes. Like my sister.
*Pulling together when we encountered: One case of heat stroke (and had to substitute the last 2 miles), two falling accidents (and blood, baby! Blood!), one heat stroke induced vomiting (not the first heat stroke victim), and one bathroom emergency.
*Finishing faster than any of us anticipated! 31 hours!
*Seeing Brandon at the end of the race waiting for me. :)
*Eating all together (van #1 and #2) at the Pig n' Pancake in Seaside when it was all over to celebrate our finishing and our not dying.
Seriously, it was AWE. SOME. If given the chance, I would do it again! Only problem? Next year, I'll have a nursing baby. So, I guess I'll have to do it in two years? Such sadness. Ah, well.
The fabulous weekend didn't end with the end of the race, however. Because of exhaustion, Brandon and I didn't stick around Seaside (it was a madhouse, anyway) and drove back to Portland instead. I slept most of the way, and woke up just long enough to get out of the car, go up the elevator, and fall back into bed. I slept for another 3 or 4 hours! Then I got up, took a much needed shower, and we met Amanda and Bryan at a great restaurant for dinner. We had a really fun time and it was hilarious to watch Amanda and I try to stand up after sitting for so long. We were so sore!
After dinner, we headed back to the hotel and I fell asleep pretty quickly again --this time, I slept for 10 hours.
We woke up, dressed, packed, and headed to Saltys for brunch. It was outstanding! Best food I've had in a long time. We had some time to kill after, and so listening to the advice of Amanda and Bryan, we drove out to Bridal Veil Falls and the historic Highway 30 in the Gorge. Talk about gorgeous! We hiked a very short hike to the falls, drove the highway, and ended up at a lookout with a fantastic view of the river (Columbia River, for those who are not familiar with Portland geography). It was the perfect way to end our weekend.
We got home last night about 5:30PM, and again, I was in bed and asleep before 10PM --I slept for nine hours. I needed to recover, man!
All in all, it was one of the best weekends of my life. I can never thank Amanda enough for inviting me to do this with her and her team. But I'll try. Thank you, Amanda!!