In keeping with the theme of my application to this amazing event, I decided to provide you with the top 10 songs describing my Nuun Hood to Coast experience. I’ve never had such a challenging time describing an event in all my life, so I apologize for the tardiness of my post. Perhaps there aren’t enough words in the English language to adequately convey my thoughts, feelings and perspective of this phenomenal experience, but I hope what I have written below will at least do it justice.
Representing a company that is local to Seattle, it was only fitting that this list pay homage to Nirvana. I have to admit, I was a bit nervous going into this weekend. I didn’t have as much time as I had hoped to scour every one of my teammates’ blogs, and even if I had, bloggers only reveal the sides of them that they want you to see. It was very possible that if I really loved someone’s blog, they may not be what I expected in real life. I was also nervous about fitting in and connecting with others. When entering any new situation, I think everyone struggles with the internal debate of ‘Will they like me or think I suck at life?’ I find myself to be somewhat of an introvert, especially around strangers, and let’s be honest, working from home doesn’t exactly enhance my face-to-face social skills. I was so worried that I had become socially inept. I decided to go into the weekend with being 100% true to myself and it resulted in one helluva good time. I feel like my teammates saw the real me, and it felt so good to be myself and feel comfortable in my own skin. I didn’t get to connect fully with all of my teammates, being 36 of us total, but I am beyond grateful for the relationships that were formed. Thank you ladies for coming as you are, as each and every one of you are strong, beautiful, inspiring women and I am truly blessed to call you teammates and friends.
So with six vans containing thirty-six sparkle-clad bad ass runners, Team Nuun was a force to be reckoned with. I can’t even count on my hands the number of people who asked me ‘How many are there of you?! I see your teammates EVERYWHERE!’. We wanted to be noticed, because our main responsibility was to spread the Nuun love, naturally as Nuun was the Hood to Coast hydration sponsor. In order to do so adequately, we needed a brand, a uniform, so we wore insanely bright colors and Team Sparkle skirts to represent the myriad of Nuun tablet flavors. We might not have gotten first place in our division, but I guarantee people will remember our well hydrated glittery crew. I am sure some found our rainbow brightness obnoxious, but to each his own. This was intended to be a fun event, and what we lacked in first place finishes, we made up for in spirit. Our team not only stood out in terms of the color spectrum, but I’d have to say our screams and cheers dominated as well. I am so proud of all of my teammates for getting out there and giving their all in terms of cheering and running. You all are complete bad asses in my book. We showed this Mother of all Relays what’s up! And how could we not? I think it’s safe to say when the baton was in each of our hands, (or on our wrists) the only thing on our minds was who’s gonna run this town morning, noon and night.
I have made it no secret that life has been all sorts of crazy around these parts, especially in terms of job-related stress and overload. I can honestly say once I met my first group of teammates at the airport, all the stress that had been pushing me down evaporated and I was left with a sense of calm and relaxation for my entire stay in the PNW. (Except for the time I missed my flight back home, which is a story for another day). I have come back to a shload of work to do from my employer, but I have just shrugged my shoulders, and have faith it will get done eventually and accepted that it is what it is, and life is too short to get all bent out of shape. Maybe I’m still a bit Hood to Coast drunk which will eventually wear off, or maybe I have been permanently changed by this experience. I honestly feel like I have reverted back to the laid-back individual I used to be during my early co-ed years and it feels pretty damn nice. I never used to be wound so tight, and for a long time I have been searching for that balance in my life, the familiar steady ground I used to stand on. I have 35 other phenomenal women (and some men of equal quality) to thank for getting me back to equilibrium. The days I spent with all of you were relaxed and care-free. Being fully immersed in all things running with so many like-minded, phenomenally unique women was just what the doctor ordered to get my mind right. If I could figure out a way to bottle up the magic in the air from my trip last week I would and I allow a little bit leak out whenever I feel myself slipping back into the cycle of stress. Since I can’t do that, I need to remind myself that life is meant to be savored, enjoyed and FUN, my priorities have shifted as I have realized what my soul was craving all along: for me to not won’t worry about a thing, ’cause no matter what, every little thing is gonna be alright.
So the theme of Hood to Coast with Team Nuun was women who blog and run, but the male employees of Nuun definitely played a huge role in the success of the weekend. Each van was equipped with a male driver which was so clutch because it prevented all of us relay runners from worrying about getting the vans to the next exchange zone, I wish I had a chauffeur every day of my life! As the sun began to set and the moon and stars became visible in the sky, the Nuun men graciously offered to accompany any of us ladies on our evening legs. Chivalry is not dead. During an event such as this, it is possible to run your entire leg without seeing another soul, and to be honest, it can be a bit eerie and lonely especially in the dark of night. Some of our teammates jumped at the chance to have a running buddy, but in order to join the fun, we requested that these men rock a Team Sparkle skirt. Our drivers were fantastic sports and happily obliged to get their sparkle on. We even spotted an entire team of males sharing one Team Sparkle skirt for their entire relay. I’m not sure I will ever again see so many lady-like dudes in my life. Unless of course I meet Steven Tyler in real life.
Each of my three legs were amazing, I can’t remember the last time I have felt so phenomenal and found so much joy on a run, let alone three consecutive ones. There were many points where I honestly thought to myself that this feeling was what I imagined flying would feel like; with the wind blowing through my hair as I maneuvered up and down hills, around sharp turns in both the daylight and dark of night a sense of freedom I’ve never known washed over me. In a not so literal sense, this entire event from the time I drafted and submitted my application to join this team, to this very moment as I type these words, I have learned so much about myself; my capabilities, my hopes, my dreams and my fears are all much clearer to me now than they were a year ago. All it took was a leap of faith when I clicked the send button the day I emailed my application off to the computer screens in Nuun headquarters to come to these realizations. With each passing year I can honestly say I enjoy getting older as I continue to evolve into the best version of myself. It may have taken me 29 years of life but I finally feel as though I have sprouted my wings. During my days in the PNW not only did my wings continue to grow, I found I was able to soar above my own expectations.
Coming into this weekend I didn’t know what to expect but one of my hopes was to walk away with legit friendships. Maybe it was the common threads of running and blogging all of us Nuun women shared that made it easy to initially connect in some way with one another, maybe it wasn’t. But I can honestly say that I have never felt more comfortable in a room full of women than I did this past weekend. We all share some major similarities but there were definitely differences as well, whether it be age, marital status, those with children, those without little ones, current college students, entrepreneurs, some were on Team Morning, others on Team Noon and the final group on Team Night. Regardless of our similarities and differences, which van we were riding in, or what segment of Team Nuun we were representing, we all came together as one unit. I have to say, this experience and feeling of togetherness filled the hole in my heart that was created the last time I laced up my spikes for my final collegiate cross country meet as a Fighting Muskie. Running during the different hours of the day with little sleep and a not so typical diet, left me experiencing emotions ranging from sheer elation to rock bottom. I wouldn’t have been able to revel in the greatest moments of the event and simultaneously get through the lowest of lows without leaning on these new friends that I have discovered. I definitely survived this weekend with more than a little help from my new forever friends.
One thing I have really been focusing on in the past year is living in the moment and trying not to think too much about my next move. It is so easy to get caught up in the hustle and bustle of life, and striving for bigger and better in all realms, never fully being satisfied. One thing that has gotten lost on me in the last year is taking the time to savor moments, regardless of their size. Whether it be a deep conversation with a person I just met, a hug from a new friend who I feel as though I have known forever, a group run along the water in a new to me city, cramming into a messy van for hours on end, or sitting around a table rehashing the events of the previous days, each moment that occurred this weekend I made sure to savor. During each of my legs I focused on just that run and digging as deep as I could, being sure to give it all I had at that very moment. I risked the possibility of my legs being completely trashed for my next leg, but that was a risk I was willing to take. This entire trip was a once in a lifetime kind of experience, I would never get to run my first Hood to Coast Relay again, I would never get a chance to live these exact moments over. I actually had points during my runs, especially the last leg where I was tempted to slow down because I didn’t want this experience to end. But I quickly pushed those thoughts aside and seized these unique gifts of moments in time that I was granted and gave it all I had.
For so long I have run for myself. My goals have been centered around my hopes, my dreams. Hood to Coast reintroduced me to what it felt like to share in the dreams and goals of others. I shared in the joys and frustrations of teammates as they put it all on the line during each of their assigned stretches of the course. The AfterNuun Delight family included women who were just coming back from injury and killing it on their legs, far exceeding their own expectations. I shared in the struggles of those who sustained injuries the weeks prior to our weekend on the roads of Oregon covered in KT tape and refusing to give up and push through the screams of pain their bodies were attempting to convey. The frustration of those who developed injuries and illness on our 200 mile trek was definitely not lost on me. I witnessed the truly indomitable spirit of the human heart as I witnessed these amazing women, pouring their blood, sweat and tears into each of their assigned legs. We all, as a unit were running, chasing and catching our dreams this past week, no matter what tried to get in our way.
When my father was diagnosed with cancer in the midst of my care-free collegiate years, I was surrounded by my wonderful family members and friends. However, no matter how many people were there for me, a large part of me felt so very alone. I didn’t know anyone else who was experiencing what I was, not exactly at least. Sure I have siblings, but they are all so much older than me, I was still just a kid, I wasn’t ready to be a full-fledged adult, I was in college, I wasn’t supposed to be dealing with such a serious situation in my life. As the cancer in my father’s body grew, I was left with no other choice than to simultaneously grow as well, quickly forcing me into adulthood in order to survive the emotional turmoil that had developed in my heart and mind. As the years have passed, I have come to find myself a woman who had to grow up before her time and has remained alone as a result. Before Hood to Coast, I honestly can say I hadn’t met anyone who I felt could even begin to understand what I went through, and what I still continue to deal with. Most days I still feel very alone with my feelings and scars from my past. As I began to have conversations and share stories with my new friends, I realized that I am not alone. I was never alone, I just hadn’t had the opportunity to cross paths with these kindred spirits. Going into Hood to Coast I knew it was going to be a special event, for nothing other than it being a fundraiser for the American Cancer Society. I knew I would think about my dad a lot on this trip, and I most certainly would dedicate my runs to him, like I have done so before. I often find strength knowing that though he is gone, I am still on the front lines battling this horrific disease and am able to do so on my own two feet. I had no idea how profound the entire event would be, and how many other souls I would connect with due to our tragic losses. All of these events of my life, these places, they have their moments, their purpose and I hope to never underestimate the power of a touch, a kind word, or a listening ear moving forward.
When beginning to reflect upon this epic journey, I couldn’t deny the fact that this song kept popping into my mind. There is just something about sport, especially running that brings people closer together. We were put in a situation bigger than ourselves, an event and terrain that would be impossible to traverse individually by our own two feet. With each passing moment, each exchange zone, each story shared, our bonds grew bigger and stronger. We all came into this situation individually from different parts of the country, with our own unique life lessons, expectations, hesitations, hopes, and dreams. We left as one, a team that shared this larger than life experience full of laughter, tears, moments of victory and others of heartbreak. As a result of this whirlwind unbreakable bonds were formed, ones that I will cherish for the remainder of my life. We are the lucky ones, some people never get to do, all we got to do. Now and forever, I will always think of you.
One last thing, just remember, the adventure isn’t over, it has only just begun…