Monday, September 24, 2012

Hells Canyon Relay 2012

I received a message from an acquaintance one day that started, "Crazy question...are you doing anything next weekend?" She went on to explain that she was doing a walking relay with a team of women and they had a member pull out at the last minute due to an injury. Would I be interested in taking her spot? With nothing on the calendar and an amazingly encouraging husband, I found no reason to say no. I'd always wanted to go to Hells Canyon. I can walk. I like adventure. Why not?

That's how, one week later, I found myself in a minivan with five other women,  following another van of six up a dark windy road in search of a bed and breakfast outside the town of Halfway, Oregon.

And how, after a big lasagna dinner and a few hours of rest, I found myself with my half of the team, still in the dark, alongside just two other walking teams, the race organizer, and the mayor of Halfway, at the starting line of a 148-mile course through the Wallowa Mountains and Hells Canyon National Recreation Area. 

We are talking remote, rugged, beautiful Eastern Oregon mountains. Our team would spend the next 34 hours race-walking through these mountains. We would gain 8,041 feet in elevation and lose 7,611 feet as we walked from Halfway to LaGrande, OR. Each van of six would alternate walking two sets of six consecutive legs, leapfrogging ahead and trying to get some food and rest in between.

My van of walkers would see two sunrises; take and then lose the lead from the "experienced" walking team; and walk an average of 13.4 minutes per mile (4.5mph). We would sweat, shiver, cheer, talk, stretch, blister, hoot, holler, laugh, yawn, giggle, and walk.

That's me coming up a big hill during my first leg.

I, personally, would get to know five other interesting, fit, intelligent, funny moms. I would lay down for a few hours, but never really sleep, over the course of three days. I would walk one "very hard" leg of 5.6 miles from 4028' - 5393' in 1 hour 13 minutes during the morning of the first day; and one "moderate" leg of 5.7 miles along the Wallowa River in 1 hour and 13 minutes well before dawn on the second day. I would become data keeper and photographer. I would eat, drink, ride, cheer, walk, and be merry. I would proudly put on the event shirt and finisher's medal after our team crossed the finish line. 

I would be glad I said "yes" to an unexpected invitation. 

1 comment:

  1. WOW!!! Way to go Heather!! That is such beautiful country that way. Good job on finishing- i can't believe how fast you walked with that kind of elevation.. you are amazing!