Van Driver (and Nuun CFO) Casey with Nuun Platuun member Tonia.
We are feeling inspired here at Nuun HQ by our blogger women and the many photos and multi-post descriptions from our amazing HTC weekend. Everyone here is still reflecting and sharing great memories from the event. *Whether they involved meeting the legendary Bart Yasso from Runner’s World, or making up new vocab words. Good times were had by everyone.
The ladies of Nuun Platuun even got our CFO Casey to run a little bit OUTSIDE of a baseball diamond!
For this post we asked another Nuun staffer and van driver to weigh in. Meet Alex. He has worked for Nuun for the last 18 months, starting as a brand ambassador on the street marketing team, and now working with the logistics and operations team at Nuun HQ in Seattle. The following is his take from the drivers seat.
Reflections of a Hood To Coast Van Driver
Several months ago, when Nuun announced they were going to be the hydration sponsor for the 30thannual Hood to Coast Relay, and field two women’s teams; and I was asked to step in as a driver.I heartily agreed, unaware of what I had just signed up for.
At 5:15 am on the morning of Friday, August 26th 2011, I am standing outside of a hotel in Seattle that housed a group of twenty women that would make up the Nuun Hood to Coast Teams for 2011. The fact that the hotel was still intact was a good sign. I am dressed in camouflage to match my team’s theme – The Nuun Platuun, appropriately prepared for battle. Inside the lobby, a small detachment of sleepy looking ladies files out of the elevator and hovers around the coffee urns chatting. In half an hour we pile into our 12-seater rental van, plastered in window paint and Nuun branded car-magnets, ready for anything.
The following are my reflections and tips for survival as a HTC van driver. They are not meant to be taken as a professional or even an unbiased opinion. However they may be of use for the HTC newbie or the relay-unindoctrinated wishing to attempt driving the mother of all relays.
Traffic: A van driver’s schedule is divided into six parts; three parts driving on-course alongside the runners from your van, and the other three. Theoretically, when you’re not on-course with your runners, you have about three hours to relax; grab a bite, use the bathrooms, and take a shower or a power nap… theoretically. In reality, those hours are spent in lines of traffic stretching for miles over the designated route to the next van exchange point. These commutes become more and more congested as you near the coast, and alternative routes are no longer an option. If there’s a way to beat the system and avoid the traffic, we never figured it out. Just jump in line and follow the van in front of you that is plastered in batman stickers, you’ll get there eventually.
Sleep: Don’t count on it. You may get a few minutes to rest your eyes here or there, or maybe 45 minutes to roll out a tarp and a sleeping bag just as the sun begins to rise on Saturday morning, but don’t pencil these into your plans. As stated above, you’ll likely spend the 20-30 hours of the race sitting upright in your driver’s seat. If you find yourself deep in debate with voices in your head, trying to determine whether the van in front of you is going to win the prize for best decorations, or if it’s really a fire breathing dragon… that’s normal. You will question whether or not it is safe to continue to operate a vehicle this size while suffering from sleep deprivation. You’ll likely come to the conclusion that it is not. You’ll keep driving either way.
Food: Fortunately, the Nuun vans were stocked with an assortment of snacks, energy foods and drinks that were easy to grab and munch on between legs, and kept drivers and runners charged up. Think simple, single serving, space saving, high-calorie foods like: beef jerky, granola bars, trail mix, string cheese, pretzels, and some amazing home-made brownies. For beverages, alcohol is prohibited on course, so we left the beer at home and consumed gallons of Nuun instead.
Bathrooms: Bring your own toilet paper, and lots of it. Better yet, take an intensive economics class at your local community college and then bring your own toilet paper. Following supply and demand economics, you could be trading sheets of TP for small parcels of land by the time you reach the Oregon Coast. HTC does a great job of providing dozens of Honey Buckets at each transition point, but it’s 20,000 runners – many of them are fueling with running nutrition products in the form of gummies and gels. Not pretty and apparently uses lots more TP than one would think.
Cell Phones (or lack thereof): Cell phone coverage along the Hood to Coast route is spotty in many locations, especially during the descent off of Mt. Hood, and the coastal lowlands in the last 100 miles. Note: this is a HUGE issue when you are transporting a van full of facebook, blog, and twitter addicted individuals. Maintain low and assuring tones, and keep the van moving forward to ‘look’ for better reception- even if that means stretching the distance between you and the vehicle in front of you out so you can continue to “roll” for as long as possible. FYI: Verizon customers had the best reception, while AT&T patrons could text but not tweet, and T-Mobile folks had fewer bars than Provo, UT.
Hygiene: Let’s be honest, you’re not going to brush your teeth, you’re not going to wash your face, and you’re probably not going to think about applying another coating of deodorant. This is Hood to Coast, people. You need antibacterial soap, maybe a few baby wipes, and a travel pack of Kleenex. Trade in all the other goods for breathing room in the van; or, if you’re really ambitious – more toilet paper.
Despite the lack of sleep, the constant bathroom breaks in the honey-bucket cities, the monotony of mile after mile of bumper-to-bumper traffic at 3:00 am, the snoring of your teammates drifting off to HTC dreamland, and the lack of cell phone coverage… Hood to Coast might be the greatest adventure one can have in a 24 hour period without leaving the road. We met many people who had been running the hood to coast for a decade, who had made it their annual family reunion or rescheduled a wedding around the relay. It’s incredible that one event, just 200 miles, in a 24 hour period, can change so many people, when only a handful of those people, in that 24 hour period had not changed underwear for the full 200 miles.
One of the AfterNuun Delight Vans ready to roll.
The Hood to Coast relay presents many challenges, the fun part is overcoming them as a team.
I wish I had the unlimited pages and many extra hours it would take to describe the wonderful women that ran for the Nuun team in my van. I wish I could retell a few of the jokes and the stories that were shared with near strangers in the wee hours of the morning. I wish I could explain what it was like to see the president of Nuun prancing along the relay route at midnight in a sequin-covered, neon pink skirt. All these things and more will be revealed by the many blog posts the ladies themselves have shared so please check out the links below.