Hood to Coast 2015 – Running with Team World Vision

IMG_7212Its hard to describe the excitement that swells up when the day to meet up with my fellow hood to coast team captains finally arrives.  
This was the third year that Team World Vision (TWV) participated in Hood to Coast while pursuing the vision that was cast by Lopez Lomong in 2012 when he established 4SouthSudan–to change a generation by creating long term solutions at the local level by focusing on 4 critical needs: (1) Clean Water, (2) Education, (3) Health Care, and (4) Nutrition.  This vision has the potential to change the course of a small nation, the youngest nation in the world, South Sudan.  The thing about this vision is that once you hear it, it becomes impossible to ignore.  

This is what excites me about running HTC each year, it’s the one source of funding for World Vision’s water and hygiene projects in South Sudan, all of it.  There is no other source of funding.  

Wednesday: August 26, 2015

Wednesday afternoon and evening were primarily dedicated to finalizing the plans for Thursday’s pre-race events and getting to know each other better.

Thursday: August 27, 2015

Thursday was a working day, team members began arriving, groceries were purchased, vans were packed, and vans were decorated.

IMG_7232

Our elite runners and Team World Vision leaders were amazing with their encouragement during our dinner.  One by one, Michael Chitwood, Lopez Lomong, Josh Cox, Alan Webb, Steve Spear and Anthony Halpin each took a moment to encourage our teams while they shared stories from their training or challenging moments in life.  Lopez’s story is unfathomable.  You can read about it in his book “Running for My Life, One Lost Boy’s Journey from the Killing Fields of Sudan to the Olympic Games”

Friday: August 28, 2015 — RACE DAY!!

TWV HTC 15

And the runners are off!  Friday morning started out as it always does for the TWV HTC teams.  We had a simple breakfast with bagels, toast, peanut butter and other toppings followed by a time of prayer before we climbed into the van for the 90 minute drive up Mt. Hood.  While driving up to the start line our van began discussing if we would keep track of kills (defined as the number of runners that you pass when you are running your 3 legs of the race minus the number of times that you were killed by other runners) during the race.

Kids not Kills!

IMG_7413It was sometime during this discussion that our favorite  phrase was announced through the van “I just go another donation! !! That’s 1 more kid who will have clean water that lasts”.  In rejoicing we resolved to track “Kids” instead of “Kills” as we ran the race… and it changed everything.  Each time that one of us would receive a donation we would add another tally mark to the outside window of our van.  We all became laser focused on getting to 100 “Kids” before losing cell phone coverage just outside of Portland.  By Friday night as we were having a pancake dinner on the edge of Portland our van had tallied up just over 90 Kids in donations.  We were stoked.  Each of us had run 2 of our 3 legs by that time and were ready for a few minutes of quite and rest while the other van ran it’s 2nd of 3 legs.

My first of three legs came for me around 2:15 PM on Friday afternoon, or almost 10 hours after getting pumped up to start the race during breakfast, and I was so very ready for it.  I was the 6th runner in my van and that meant that my legs would always end with a handoff to the second van.  “Don’t keep me waiting” was the phrase that I remembered while running that first leg.  Michael Forsberg, Runner 7 or the first runner in Van 2,  had jokingly poked me before we started the race at 10:30 AM that day and I didn’t want to disappoint him :).  Last year I ran hard during my first leg and then petered out due to mental defeat during my second leg.  I was really concerned with that happening again this year.

A couple of things helped me fight off mental defeat.  First, I ridiculed my mind and reminded it that it didn’t know what it was talking about 🙂  Yes, I did.  It went something like this, “Mind, you keep telling me that I need a little break, that I should walk for a moment.  Here is my answer… No, my body can go 20 times more than you think.”  Second, I prayed.  I prayed for the children who didn’t have access to clean water, I prayed for Michael Chitwood, the director for national events with World Vision, and I prayed for World Vision.  My prayer was that God would move on the hearts of people to provide clean water for the child without it, that he would make Michael the man that I believed him to be, and that he would protect the hearts of World Vision’s leaders that they would not lose their way and that it would continue to be the organization that I believe it to be.

My first run resulted in a 7:30 pace and I was absolutely thrilled to hand off the baton to Mike well ahead of schedule 🙂 we, and specifically I,  had not kept Mike waiting!

After finishing our first 6 legs the van headed to the next major van exchange in the heart of Portland were we had a fun lunch and ran into one of the other Team World Vision teams in a small restaurant.  By 8:00 PM the second van was finishing its 6 legs and Mike’s son, Michael Forsberg, was ready to hand the baton back off to our van so that we could each run our second leg.  I felt super anxious coming into this leg as it’s the leg last year where I wound up walking a couple of times.  By 11:50 PM I was back on the road, running my 2nd leg and it was wild!  The streets were dark and the run was almost entirely uphill, only gradually; so, it didn’t feel as bad as it sounds.  I prayed from the start of that run to the finish.  The ultimate gift occurred as I ran past one of the race volunteers and they told me that I was only an eighth of a mile away from the exchange… I thought that I had another mile; but, nope, I was done with leg 2 and I felt great!  Our team was still 30 minutes ahead of schedule and we were now half way through the race.

Saturday: August 29, 2015

After handing off the baton to Van 2 so that each of them could run their second of three legs, we (van 1) grabbed a quick pancake dinner and then headed to the next major exchange (exchange 24).  This exchange is very large as it is setup for van members to setup tents and rest while they wait overnight for the second van to finish its 6 segments.  We reached the exchange around 2:45 AM and found a place to park the van for a couple of hours so that we could rest.

Each year there is a story, one that becomes the story for team members to share each time they talk about hood to coast in the years to come.   At 4:45 AM my alarm went off so that we could start preparing for our next set of runs.  We were scheduled to receive the baton back from Van 2 around 5:20 AM and I knew that our first runner would need a few minutes to prepare before jumping out of the van to run.  The summer soaker was back in full effect and it was raining outside.  By 5:00 AM we had started driving the van so that we could get our runner closer to the exchange point without walking through the rain.  And then came the question…

A Family Crisis

“Where could she be?”  That is the question that overtook our van as we realized that one of our runners had unexplainably disappeared rom our van sometime in the middle of the night.  After we started driving the rest of the van began to wake up.  As people woke up they started to take note of who was and who wasn’t around and we suddenly realized that one of our runners was no longer in the van!!!  As the realization of this set in we stopped the van, we stopped and looked and talked and tried to figure out when and where we lost the runner.  Stopping a van in the middle of Exchange 24’s parking lot would be similar to stopping your car in the middle of traffic on a Monday afternoon.  The race volunteers walked towards the van as the gap between us and the van in front of us grew larger and larger.  Our driver, Colette, rolled down the window and aptly answered the race volunteers question of “Is everything alright, you need to keep moving” with “We are having a bit of a family crisis!”

We found our lost runner shortly afterwards, she had slipped out of the van just before everyone woke up so that she could quietly go to the restrooms.  We found her near the exchange point; we were thrilled and amazed at the luck of quickly locating our runner and were back on the course in no time.

Not obligated to finish

This last run was amazing!  It was almost like a roller coaster as I had no idea what I would encounter.  I jumped out of the van about a half mile before we reached Exchange 29, where I would grab the baton from Jansen Hein–our 5th runner–and take off on the 30th leg of the race.

I was about a mile into my last 5 miles when the 45 – 65 mph wind gusts and rain started hammering the course.  It was wild!  The wind gusts were amazing and forceful, hitting me head-on and from the left.  Periodically I had to jump over large branches that had been ripped by the wind from the forest that I was running through and tossed into the road.

running in the rain

As I made my way down the list hill and into Exchange 30 I was surprised to learn that the race officials had announced that none of the teams were obligated to finish.  Weather conditions were so fierce that the race officials had invited all teams to simply drive to to the finish line… a modified finish line.  The race’s official finish had to be moved from the beach to the streets of Seaside due to dangerous conditions with the wind as it blew the finish stage and structures down.  As a team we determined that we would finish the race we started.  It was our race to run, and so we ran, and we finished well.  Our team was relentless.

finishing the race

Sunday: August 30, 2015

Runmotion starts to set it.  While all of the other runners with HTC reach the finish line on Saturday on the Seaside beach, I didn’t reach it until I sat down at airport gate where my plane would take me back to Atlanta.  It came on out of nowhere.

Sitting at the gate and waiting for my flight on Sunday I became suddenly overwhelmed with emotion.  I was deeply aware of the finish line that was crossed when I walked out of the hotel and into the airport, deeply aware of the impact that your donations are making and will continue to make for the women and children in South Sudan.  Providing a stable and sustainable foundation for communities in South Sudan.  Teaching children, teaching women, providing for their most basic needs and helping them to grow a community that will thrive.

I was overwhelmed by the race, the  race that began three years earlier and has resulted in $1.5 million of funds to be gathered for the water and hygiene projects in South Sudan.  $1.5 million! And I was overwhelmed by all of those who supported me this year.  Your donations and prayers enabled me to raise over $13,000–enough to provide sustainable,life giving, clean water to 267 women and children in South Sudan.   And the race continues.  

Please consider supporting our race again in 2016 as we seek to raise another $1,000,000 for the people of South Sudan.

Advertisements

Team World Vision’s Virtual 6k for Water, will you join?

logo

Join me on World Water Day (March 22, 2015) as I run/walk Team WorldVision’s virtual 6K for Water in North Atlanta.

6K is the average distance that people in Africa have to walk for water. On World Water Day, thousands of people across neighborhoods, city streets, and country roads will be walking and running 6 Kilometers (3.72 miles) for children in Africa.

When you sign up, Team WorldVision will send you a t-shirt and a race bib with a photo of a child that will get clean water from your registration. This is your chance to invite your whole family to make a difference regardless of age.  If you are in Atlanta and want to join myself and others look for the “North Atlanta – Big Creek Greenway” team when you register at http://www.TeamWorldVision.org/6k.

Running with a Vision

Child&Vulture - Kevin Carter

“Kevin-Carter-Child-Vulture-Sudan” by Source (WP:NFCC#4). Licensed under Fair use via Wikipedia – http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Kevin-Carter-Child-Vulture-Sudan.jpg#mediaviewer/File:Kevin-Carter-Child-Vulture-Sudan.jpg

I’ll never forget the first time that I saw this picture of a child in Sudan that was trying to reach a feeding center.  It was almost 10 years after this picture was taken that I first received it by way of email from one of my friends.  He like many who had experienced the photo was in shock and felt the need to spread the word, that this was happening in our world.  So, he sent a copy to me.  This picture had a profound impact on my heart.  The thing that surprised me was how I initially chose to deal with the picture.  My initial reaction was one of anger and shock

“this is terrible, how can we let this happen in our world”.

My second reaction was to compartmentalize and depersonalize the situation…

“there is nothing I can do about it, this terrible picture is a result of evil people who are being allowed to steal from children and families without anyone fighting back”.

I was too caught up in trying to solve the whole problem and was overwhelmed by the need and so I sought the safety of blaming others for the problem.  I was wrong.  This picture is not a rare event that only happened 20 years ago.  This picture is happening all over today and we can help.  More amazingly, to help I don’t have to move my family to Sudan or any other part of the world.  Trustworthy humanitarian organizations like World Vision are filling the gap between your home and the field where children and families are suffering.

This is personal, and I am running with a vision.  In 2013 I learned about Team World Vision, an extension of World Vision that helps to engage the community in taking steps to raise awareness of the needs and raising funds to meet the need.  

Here is my challenge, don’t seek comfort when you hear of the needs in our world.  Seek ways to help, join me in getting involved with the solution.  You may not be able to solve all of the world’s problems; but, together if we each carry the part that we can carry we will make a significant impact on the lives of those who are neglected by their governments and communities.

I need your help, share this, comment on it and let’s work together to raise awareness and help meet the needs for funds.  You may still be tempted to ask “If I help one or two people what difference will it make” and please challenge that thought by remembering that it makes all the difference in the world to the person that receives your help.

Join the team, donate to the team or find another way to get involved.  Make this personal.

Read more about my race experience with Hood To Coast ’14 here.

RUNNING HOOD TO COAST ’14 with TEAM WORLD VISION

A year ago my friend, Brian Frazier, completed Hood To Coast as part of team world vision. Leading up to the race, Teena and I were excited by the updates that he would send out and really were inspired by Lopez’s story and moreover Lopez’s desire to serve God and not waste the opportunity that has been given to him as an elite athlete, an impossible position that only God could provide.

Celebrating with Bethany, Brian, Lopez, and Michael (photo bomb blur in the background)

Celebrating with Bethany, Brian, Lopez, and Michael (photo bomb blur in the background)

As a boy, Lopez expected to life all of his life with his family in a small village located in south Sudan. His parents were providing for their family through raising crops and a heard of cows. His mother called him Lopepe, or fast. At the time, Sudan was engaged in a civil war. One Sunday morning rebel soldiers swarmed on the church where Lopepe was attending church with his parents. At 6 years old, he was torn away from his mothers arms and carried off to become a child soldier in the killing fields of Sudan. Lopepe was among the younger of the children taken that day. As a young child he was considered a burden on the rebel forces. Their expressed intent was to hold the younger children captive until they either grew big enough to fight or died. To Lopepe’s surprise, there were a few older boys from his village who were also taken captive at the same time as he that desired to look after him. After a few weeks, the older boys found an opportunity to escape the rebel camp in middle of the night. The boys and Lopepe ran for three days from the rebel camp all the while beleiving that they were running back to their homes. After 3 days, the boys reached the boarder of Kenya and were taken in as refugees of war where he stayed for over 10 years. In 2001 Lomong was plucked from the Kakuma refugee camp and provided a chance to be a child again. His life was once again suddenly changed as he went from no opportunities and no home country to endless opportunity when a loving family who would fight for him opened their door and hearts to him. Through the care and guidance of his American family, Lopez was able to graduate high-school, receive a bachelors degree from the University of Oregon and become an Olympian runner. Lopez had been given a unique perspective on life. Running is pure joy. School was pure joy.

Our elite coaches after encouraging and cheering us on during dinner

Our elite coaches after encouraging and cheering us on during dinner

As I arrived on Thursday evening to the team dinner where we received our packets and reviewed logistics for the following morning I was amazed by how joyful Lopez is. It shows, he has a passion for helping and he knows what it is like to be left wanting. More amazing was the realization that over 120 other people were standing in the room with me and all of them have the same level of passion and desire to raise awareness and meet this need.

FRIDAY:

Friday morning came quickly; but, not quick enough 🙂 All night Thursday I tossed and turned waiting to hear the alarm go off at 4:00 AM PST. I had set that time to ensure that I had plenty of time to get ready, pack up my gear, and head down to check out of the hotel and before the team gathering and breakfast started at 5:30 AM. During breakfast we learned that Lopez and his fiancĂ©e, Brittany, would ride out to Mt. Hood with our Van. During the ride we had the chance to talk over some of the stories from his book. Both he and Brittany enjoyed hearing how my boys responded to hearing about Lopez’s crush on Brittany (lots of laughing and giggling… ping me if you want a copy of the book to hear the rest of the story). We talked about training, his family and other fun topics… like rocket science–Brittany has a masters in Physics and is an officer in the US Air Force.

We were all amazed by the vistas as we drove from the hotel in Portland to the Timberline lodge 6000 ft. above sea level on Mt. Hood. I’ve attached a few pictures for those of you who are not on facebook. The team gathered like a massive orange blob in the timberline parking lot just a few hundred yards away from the official Hood To Coast start line. While gathered we were inspired by Jenny Hadfield, Ashton Eaton, Josh Cox, and Lopez. Each shared their thoughts on the challenges that would lie ahead of our teams as we began the 198 mile race towards the coast of Portland.

Team Running for their lives

Team Running for their lives

When the race finally began for our teams it was 10 AM. The first runner was off and I had some serious butterflies in my stomach. Lopez and Brittany hopped back into our van and rode down the mountain to the first relay handoff, the start of Leg 2–my first leg. Leg 2 covered a distance of 5.6 miles and dropped over 1500 ft in elevation and I was able to run it with an average pace of 6:42 per mile. It was absolutely crazy fast and wild to be running down the side of a mountain with semi trucks passing you along the side. I had the honor of handing off our relay bracelet to Phillip Reynolds, a 13 year old who refused to complain. After each of my 3 legs, Phillip was there waiting for me in the handoff point with a smile and ready to go.

After running my first leg I had the joy of cheering on my other team mates and resting up for my second leg that would go run along the Williamette River on NW St. Helens Rd. The second leg started off fantastic with a great pace and feeling solid. Even more fun was the idea that Lopez and his fiancĂ©e, Brittany, were running the leg about a mile ahead of me. While it had a good start, this second leg was the hardest for me. When leaving home for Portland I had forgotten my watch due to a last minute bag change. This left me running in the dark and trying to figure out how long I had been running without a good sense of distance or time. As a result, my strong start and a sense that I had only a short distance remaining of my total 6 miles had me feeling great… until I ran past a spectator and they informed me I was doing great and HALF WAY THERE! This hit me like a ton of bricks. Here I had thought that I was doing great and near the finish and then I found out that I still had another 2 – 3 miles to go and wasn’t sure if I could keep up the pace. After about another mile… (I think) I wound up taking a 30 count walking break to regroup and decide my strategy for the remaining distance. I decided to slow it down a bit to a more comfortable pace and try to just finish the leg well. The lure of other runners to pass pulled me in and I found myself running faster than normal again after about a mile. Once again I intentionally slowed for a 30 count break and then finished out the miles feeling strong physically and weak mentally :). My average pace time for the second leg was around 7:45 minutes per mile.

Once again I found myself cheering on and being incredibly inspired by my team mates. Brian was always incredible to watch as he was running between 5:30 and 6:00 minute mile paces… super fast in my book! Equally inspiring was Phillip, the 13 year old. He was consistently running 7:30 minute miles or faster and doing it with a healing hamstring. After the second leg Phillip’s stomach started bothering him and even then, he did not complain and did his best to work around the team’s leg running schedule (when we needed to be at the next leg to keep our team mates from waiting on us).

SATURDAY:
By 11:45 PM Friday we were through most of Portland and handing off to the second van as they started the trek from Portland towards Seaside, OR. After handing off, several of us grabbed a plate of pancakes, sausage and scrambled eggs from a school booster. Pretty good and hit the spot after a day of running and eating mostly cliff bars and bananas. By 2 AM we had found a place to park for a few hours of rest, our poor drivers needed it! We decided to stay in the van. I slept on the floor between two of the van seats and did my best to capture a few z’s. I don’t know how many hours of sleep I was able to capture; but, I do know that I was more than ready to stretch out and pack up the bags when the alarms went off at 5 AM.

Leaving the sleeping lot, the traffic was pretty heavy. As it turns out, I wasn’t the only person who had a hard time tracking mileage 🙂 When we left the sleeping lot, we needed to drive about 4.5 miles to meetup with the other van and take over running. We drove for a bit in the traffic and then it was determined that we were within about 1500 ft. of the meetup location (~1/4 mile). We were all a bit concerned that the other van would be waiting there for us; so, myself and the next runner jumped out to get to the meetup ahead of the traffic. After about 2 miles of walk/jogging our team mate from the other van ran past us and said that he had found our van near the start of his leg ~ 1 mile in (which means that when we hopped out we had about 3 – 3.5 miles to go… not 1500 ft). We laughed it off and then continued onto the meetup location. Our runner reached the meetup a few minutes ahead of us. After handing off and getting the next runner going I decided to just continue walking forward toward the next leg handoff about 3.5 miles ahead of me. I was the next runner and so I figured better for me to get there as quick as possible since the van was still stuck in traffic. About a mile into the 3.5 miles our van passed me and pulled over so that I could hop in. We quickly covered the 2.5 miles remaining in the leg and passed our runner on the road. By the time the van parked and I hopped out, our runner was almost to the handoff. He handed off to me and I was off, running my final of 3 legs in Hood To Coast 14.

I had two options to take (1) Run like crazy and get through the leg in the shortest possible time leaving it all on the road, or (2) Run at pace that was pretty easy and calm while enjoying the beautiful Oregon morning with mist/fog surrounding the nearby hills and the sun breaking through… I picked option 2 🙂 I found a guy who was running around 8:30 minutes per mile and used him as a pacer for my run. We wound up having a great conversation throughout the run and I had the opportunity to share Lopez’s story and the purpose for our run with him, including telling him about the other great things World Vision International does around the world. I finished the leg feeling great.

Brian had one more crazy run in front of him, a 6 mile leg with 3.5 miles uphill followed by about 2 miles downhill. He nailed it… again very inspiring.

While I had finished my running legs… my running legs were not quite ready to stop running 🙂 After rooting on our second van through its leg 32 – 33 handoff my van mates and I had to climb a decent hill to get back to the van.

Lesson learned, when your legs are heavy, don't race up hills

Lesson learned, when your legs are heavy, don’t race up hills

Looking at the hill and feeling my quads, I decided that I would feel much better if I ran up the hill rather than slowly walking the hill. Feeling a little crazy, I socialized the idea with a few of my friends who were walking near me. One of them offered up, the notion of racing up the hill. At the time it sounded like a great idea. We started off and I was feeling really fast. I took a quick lead; however, shortly after that my legs started to feel out of control. Before I knew it, I was being passed and on the edge of wiping out. The inevitable happened. I found myself falling towards the asphalt hill and ended up with a face plant. Those who were behind me had some great stories to tell of how the events looked from their angle… rather crazy. I recovered quickly from the face plant; but, that was the last of my racing for the weekend.

Celebrating the finish with Darryle and Lopez

Celebrating the finish with Darryle and Lopez

By 4:00 PM on Saturday we had finally reached the end of the race. We were all both ready to finish and regretting that it was over so fast. When our final runner came through the finish area we were able to join him on the course so that we could all cross the line together. Both Lopez and Brittany joined us as we crossed the line and celebrated our finish. After a brief and cold… very cold… time at the Seaside beach our team was ready to head back to Portland. In Portland we cleaned up and then hung out for drinks, doughnuts and stories in the lobby of our hotel.

It was truly amazing and a time that I will not soon forget, leaving me sore, jostled and inspired to figure out more ways that I could help.

Thank you for all of your prayers and support, it was felt and made all the difference in the world. I am lucky to have had the opportunity to spend 31 hours in a van with 8 amazing guys while we participated in a race that resulted in over $550,000 in funds to provide clean water for the people of South Sudan or 11,000 people. That’s 11,000 people that you helped to provide an opportunity of life.

While plans are always open for edit as our life is not our own, at this time I plan to join Team World Vision next year for Hood To Coast 15 if they extend me the invite. Please consider this as you plan our your giving for next year.

If you would like to give in support of or participate as a member of team world vision, its never to late. In 2015 we are planning to raise $1,000,000 4SouthSudan. If you know of somebody who may be able to help that has a heart for the people of Africa, please consider asking them to join you in providing the gifts of water and hygiene for life in South Sudan.