Friday, August 5, 2011
Van 2 is like any second child. Although you’d never tell him, you love No. 2 a little less than you love his older sibling. Your photo album contains far fewer pictures of Van 2 than Van 1. This is mostly because Van 1 begins its life full of promise and in broad daylight from a scenic location, while Van 2 comes out kicking and screaming from a grocery store parking lot in utter darkness, but it also has something to do with that sneaking feeling that Van 2’s just following in Van 1’s footsteps. Van 1 gets to experience everything before Van 2 does—from its first steps to its first beer. Van 2 spends much of its time picking up the pieces from Van 1’s indiscretions, but does Van 2 ever get any credit for it? Hell, no. And by the time Van 2 finishes, Van 1’s typically already passed out on the sand somewhere.
Well, it’s time to give some love to the red-headed second child. Not a lot of love—Van 1 is still the best—but just enough so that when it comes time to put me in a home, Van 2 picks one where they’ve at least tried to cover up the stench of death and rat droppings with Pine-Sol.
To the analysis:
Leg 7: Got a solid, dependable, gutsy yet painfully nervous / intestinally challenged runner? This is their Shangri-La. They’ve got all the time in the world to warm up / make multiple trips to the Blue Room. Thanks to this being an exchange leg, they get support not just from their five van mates, but the entire team. And they’re done before anyone else in their van—typically before they even realize what’s going on. “Wow, that felt great, I barely even felt it out there” they’ll say after their last run, a piddling little 4-mile jaunt through country roads they ran 9 minutes slower than goal time due to still being a little groggy from their nap. And the rest of the van looks out the window and suppress their white-hot rage until after they complete their own legs, whereby they’ll bury the Leg 7 runner up to his neck in sand and wait for high tide.
Leg 8: The relatively easy first and final legs of this set are the soft, chewy bread to a terrifyingly meaty sandwich. Leg 8’s second run is 5.75-mile epitome of your grandfather’s walk to school—uphill, both ways—with dusty gravel doing a more than adequate job of standing in for snow. Race organizers recommend bandanna or scarf, for Christ’s sake, though what you’ll really want is an oxygen mask. There’s roughly 850 feet of elevation gain for the first 80 percent of the run, before a merciful 225-foot drop in the last mile or so. Which means that at the very least this runner should catch enough of his or her breath back by the finish to lay down a steady and vociferous stream of swear words in the general direction of his or her teammates.
Leg 9: Ladies and gentlemen, the set of legs that needs no introduction! 7 miles, 5 miles, 7.72 miles. The longest distance covered by anyone, in either van, this spot is normally reserved for your fastest runner—unless that person also happens to be a notorious wuss. No matter how talented, no matter what incredible time they can run for a mile, wusses should be kept as far away from Leg 9 as possible. No one wants to hear their wussy sobs coming from the back of the van, their wusstastic pleads for someone else to take the last run, their hyperventilating as they’re about to take the wristband for the last time, or the high-pitched screams about their cramping calves and glycogen debt upon finishing when, really, everyone feels that way. No, no, no. Far better to give Leg 9 to the marathoner, and watch them silently grind both the course and their own kneecaps into a fine powder.
Leg 10: This applies to Leg 9 as well, but running on the Springwater Corridor in the dead of night really screws with your head. While most of the race gives you stationary landmarks to aim toward—bridge lights, traffic signs, hobos—the Springwater stretch seems intentionally designed to be more like the beginning part of Space Mountain, like race organizers have found a way to artificially darken this stretch of pathway. You have no idea where you are, how fast you’re going, or how much you have left—but you know it feels like it should’ve ended 15 minutes ago. This is sensory deprivation in its most terrifying form, because at any moment you could a) run over another competitor, b) head off-course into some local denizen’s private firing range, or c) hit a pothole and wind up asphalt over teakettle. This last option happened to one of my teammates a few years ago. He wound up with several deep gashes on his extremities, plus a concussion, and now only answers to the moniker “Archduke Franz Ferdinand.” So be careful out there on your first run, Leg 10 runners. As for the other two, you’ve got one monster of a downhill on your second run and the cutest little leg there at the end to wrap things up, so I say let ‘em rip.
Leg 11: It should be said, I don’t know a lot about these legs. Oh sure, I try to pay attention, but normally by this point in the race I’m done and have moved on to other things, like working on my tan at each exchange zone and attempting to see how many sugar cookies I can stuff in my mouth at one time (7). What I can tell, from looking at the website, is that whoever’s running this set has two very short, very easy legs, followed by the longest single leg on the entire race. Cumulative mileage: short on the overall scale. Degree of difficulty: relatively low. So this set should, in theory, go to one of your less talented runners. But the psychological effect of that last leg looms over them the entire trip, and there’s a solid chance they might snap, so choose wisely. Avoid picking a slower runner with a short fuse and a permit to carry a concealed weapon. Think slow and happy-go-lucky, or at the very least slow and passive-aggressive. Because what’s the worst they’re gonna do, dream up creative ways to turn you down for next year?
Let 12: The glamour leg. The anchor, the closer. The one who brings it home for the sake of the team. Of course, there’s more to it than just the glory of running across the finish line to the adulation of teammates, volunteers and awed onlookers. There are also the ribbon-cutting ceremonies, the autograph signings, the endless requests for your time. It can all be a bit tiring. So, too, can the three moderately difficult—ah, you know what? Forget it, you spotlight hog. I’m done defending you. Here you go: Enjoy “your” moment, which we all busted our butts for you to claim. No, we weren’t here to see you finish, because Larry here was trying to parallel-park a 12-passenger van in a spot we watched a Kia give up on. No, I don’t know where Van 1 is, but I’m guessing they’re drunk and full of hamburgers and probably having a pretty damn good time by now. Yes, I’ll hold your stinky, blood-stained shoes while you switch into your flip-flops. Oh my holy hell, your toes look like something from “Misery.” Look, I’m sorry about those things I said. You were great. No, I mean it. Gave it your all. I love this race. I love you guys. Let’s just all go get a beer, okay?
On the Road to Hood to Coast: Jason Effmann - A LEG-BY-LEG GUIDE TO HOOD TO COAST, PART II: VAN 2Posted by Sean Coster at 7:00 AM