Five friends. Fifty-two miles. One car. One day.
Ah, Rainier to Ruston, I love you.
It’s not the most hard-core race. It’s not the most scenic after about Leg 4. But, man, it’s my favorite race every year.
This is the fourth year running the event for us, the Honey Buckettes Have the Will. We were just the Honey Buckettes in 2012 and 2013, but our faithful relay driver, Will (Tiffany’s husband), joined our team in 2014, so we adjusted the name.
And did we ever have to will ourselves to the finish line this year. It was just so hot! We are not used to it up here in the Seattle area. We had no time to acclimate. It was raining and in the 50’s earlier in the week. Sheesh!
Legs, this year, were assigned as follows:
Leg 1 and 7: Tiffany
Leg 2 and 8: Mel
Leg 3 and 9: Alyssa
Leg 4 and 10: Will
Leg 5 and 11: me
Leg 6 and 12: Zoe
For the past three years, I had to run Leg 10 and it’s 3+ miles in sand along the Puyallup River. I was so, so happy not to have to run it this year, but I did feel bad for Will.
I’ve also run Legs 2 and 6 (twice!), and 4 (and Leg 10 three times) in our past relays. I’ve run Leg 3 a couple times just for fun with Mel and Tiffany (not during the relay). So I’m getting more and more familiar with the course. Message me if you ever have questions about Rainier to Ruston!
My report will cover the legs that I ran this year, 2015…
Leg 5 of the Rainier to Ruston Relay
Our start time was 8 a.m., which meant that I wouldn’t run till almost noon. And it was hot for us Pacific Northwesterners. Probably 80 or so about the time I started my leg. There was a slight breeze, though, so that helped a little.
Leg 5 is net downhill (a 140-foot loss) 4.6-mile run on the paved Orting trail. I’m mildly familiar with it as I’ve run or biked it a few time here and there over the years.
I took a gel before starting the leg for two reasons. I hadn’t been sure how to properly fuel for a run that I’d left my house for at 5 a.m. and wouldn’t be running till 11:30 a.m. Just in case I hadn’t eaten enough, and also because it was so hot (and I knew I’d need more energy), I took a gel about 15 minutes before I ran. I think it helped me a lot.
Also, keeping in the spirit of our team name, I used the Honey Buckets even though I’d just gone not 20 minutes before.
I enjoyed the straight stretches of this slightly downhill trail because I could laser-eye peoples’ backs, catch them and then pass them. I probably slowed down when there were curves and couldn’t see anybody.
Mile 1: I took off too fast even though it didn’t feel too fast. I just knew an 8:13 pace would not be sustainable in the heat. Besides, I’ve been running slower lately to train for a marathon, and haven’t been doing a lot of speed. So this pace surprised me a little. I kept trying to slow down, but because of the slight downhill and the race adrenaline, it was difficult.
I felt really awesome despite the temperature! I wondered for how long I would feel awesome.
My first mile was 8:59 pace.
Mile 2: I continued to target and pass people, including a couple of moms of kids at my son’s school (one whose daughter is in my son’s class). I think they were running with someone running the ultra, though, so that doesn’t count. It was fun to see some familiar, but unexpected, faces during the race.
My second mile was 8:37 pace.
Mile 3: I started to fade a bit. My body was like Whoa Nelly, you aren’t trained to run this fast past a couple of miles. I just tried to hold on.
I noticed people switching sides of the trail to take advantage of the shady patches. At first, I thought it wasn’t a good idea because it would add a little distance, but dang, it was hot.
I also was pouring quite a bit of my Nuun on my head to cool off even though it was warm by then. Thank goodness Nuun isn’t sticky and doesn’t stain!
I think this mile had a stretch through a swampy bog place. It was hot, muggy and still on that stretch. No wind or fresh air. Couldn’t wait to get past it.
Mile 3 was 8:52 pace.
Mile 4: After the bog, there was a stretch of cottonwood trees and the cottonwood seeds were blowing everywhere. It was snowing cottonwood. I got it in my mouth, so I tried to run with my mouth close and I got it in my nose.
Also, in a rare move (because I hate holding things while I run), I took off my hat, dumped more Nuun on my head and did not put my hat back on until the finish.
Mile 4 was 8:57 pace.
Mile 5 (.6 of a mile): I knew I was getting close and I think that made me speed up a little. I was very hot, but didn’t feel too bad. I was just so hot.
Mile 5 (.6 of a mile) was 8:43 pace.
Zoe took off for Leg 6 and we quickly jumped in the car since Leg 6 is just under 3 miles.
Overall, Leg 5 isn’t too bad, but it’s not as fun as legs 1-4 since it’s on pavement. There was more shade than I expected, too. Mostly patchy, but it helped.
Leg 11 of the Rainier to Ruston Relay
The dreaded Leg 11. The city leg. Nobody wants it. But I’d done Leg 10 for the past 3 years, so anything’s better than 3 miles in sand, right?
Poor Will suffered through Leg 10 and he had to do Leg 11 last year. Next year, Will, you get to choose your legs, I say!
Leg 11 picks up where Leg 10 leaves off along the Puyallup River. It’s a mile in the sand, and then over 4 miles of running through industrial portions of Tacoma and hilly downtown. It’s billed as an 80-foot gain, and a 44-foot loss over 5.7 miles. I knew I’d be running much slower on this leg.
I pottied (again!) and took a gel about 5 minutes before I started the leg. I know both of those things helped.
Mile 1: I pretty much knew what to expect since I’ve done Leg 10 so many times. Surprisingly, though, this portion along the river features softer, deeper sand. Yay! I just kept telling myself it was only a mile (a little less, actually). I was super excited to see the turn from the river up to the road.
I somehow led several runners up onto the road and then across the street toward the overpass.
Mile 1 pace was 11:03.
Mile 2: One strong runner passed me on the hill/overpass that I chose to speed walk. After that, it wasn’t so bad running through the industrial offices and such. The faster woman was pretty far up ahead and the others had dropped off behind me somewhere, so I was kind of alone–at the very least, we were all spread out. But I sort of knew what to expect on this portion, too, because we’ve always waited for our runner in the area.
I was expecting to see my team, but they weren’t in the usual spot. I hoped they hadn’t decided not to stop somewhere. I turned a corner and spotted them up ahead.
They’d formed a victory arch and it made me smile big. Loved it! My team is awesome. There were no other teams in the area, and I think I only saw 1 or 2 teams stop for their runners along this entire route.
After that, though, I knew I had a long, lonely road ahead.
This leg then curved and joined a busy city road. There are a lot of turns on this leg, so I’d printed out an extra copy of Leg 11 and had it in my handheld, but the course was well marked with orange arrows on the ground.
I think it was during this mile that we ran past some sort of plant–a gas plant– that was misting water. Yuck. And also through a construction site, so the pavement changed to gravel for a short section. I had to bargain with myself–just run to the tractor, then you can walk for a minute.
Mile 2 pace was 10:07. And I was very pleased with that.
Mile 3: The gravel section went under the freeway and provided some much needed shade. I allowed myself to walk through the shade, just to cool down. I had been sipping my now-warm Nuun periodically, but because of the breeze, I couldn’t tell if I’d had enough, so I at least tried to have a sip every mile.
After going under the freeway, I passed a woman WITH NO WATER. I offered her some of my Nuun, but she declined. I can’t believe anyone would run nearly 7 miles in 85+ degrees with NO WATER. Let’s be smart, people.
In front of us was a man with a nice, consistent jog. We passed the woman, who was now walking (with NO water), and rounded a corner then had to go up and onto a bridge over the river. The incline was a little steep and he slowed his jog to a wog and sort of wobbled up it. I decided to speed walk. It was much easier and I passed him. Speed walking FTW!
After coming down off of the bridge there were some pretty major street crossings and I got stuck on an island at a freeway on/off ramp with a couple ladies, who were suffering some cramping in their quads and hips. It made me take stock of my muscles. My calves were sore, but that was it. I also checked to make sure I was nice and sweaty.
Mile 3 was a 10:10 pace.
Mile 4: I didn’t really want to leave these two women because we were headed into a sketchy part of downtown Tacoma, but one was walking and the other one was, I think, doing a run/walk/run thing. I was just walking when I felt like I needed it, and I felt fine. Hot, but fine.
So after a half mile or so, I was basically alone. I could barely see a woman in bright pink socks way ahead of me and then the two ladies with sore muscles were way behind me.
I passed some people who looked rough, but they left me alone. One man, and a woman with him, who looked like they might’ve been homeless, commented on my sparkle skirt: “Shiny!”
BTW: Sparkle skirts (like the ones we have from Sparkle Athletic) are great in relays. It’s so much easier to spot your teammates in a crowd!
I eventually caught the girl with the pink compression socks on a hill. We walked several pretty major hills together and chatted. She hadn’t trained for the race at all. Eek!
Mile 4 was a 12:17 pace.
Mile 5: We continued to walk hills and jog the flat parts for a bit. But after a while, we parted. I felt like running more and she was going to walk. I guess I didn’t pay enough attention to the course here because I was chatting. I don’t remember much, except more hills.
Mile 5 was 11:27 pace.
Mile 6 (.7 of a mile): Finally, I could tell I was getting closer as I started to recognize the area around University of Washington-Tacoma. Unfortunately, I’ve been around there a few times for races. I’m a Washington State University alumni, so boo Huskies and go Cougs!
It was nice running through the small campus, though. And it was funny when I saw a guy in a WSU hat letting his dog poop on the UW lawn. (He picked it up, though.)
Pretty soon, I was getting close to where the finish was last year. But wait, where was it?
They’ve had to move the finish of Leg 11 the past two years, I guess. It took me a couple minutes, but then I saw the bell and my sparkle skirt-clad teammates. But then I got a red light.
Argh! So close. This was a long leg, I was ready to be done. And, finally, I was. Zoe took off, but then she got stopped by a red light. Oh well.
Mile 6 (.71 of a mile) was a 11:33 pace.
Overall, Leg 11 is rough. It’s not scenic after leaving the river. It’s dirty, hot, noisy and a little scary in some parts. There’s also hardly any shade. Bring water…and maybe Mace.
We finished in our slowest time since we started the race in 2012: 8:46:43, which works out to be like a 10:06 pace over the whole 52-mile course. That’s actually pretty dang good considering the weather!
No matter. This is one of my favorite races because you get the experience of a relay, but you get to go home and sleep in your own bed at the end of the day. I know Honey Buckettes Have the Will will keeping coming back every year!