This was my first year running the Hood to Coast relay race and it will be an experience that I will never forget, for a few reasons.
This was my first relay race so this was a race that was completely new format for me. I was able to get on a team thanks to a post I saw in the Timbers Army Running Club group on Facebook. I didn’t have a race that weekend on my schedule, so I jumped on the chance to be able to check this race off my todo list. During the planning stages of the race for the team, we were asked to look at the legs and figure out which one we wanted to run. Since I run mostly OCR’s now, I didn’t really care which leg I ran, so I simply told the group, “I don’t care which leg I run, so I will take whichever leg is the leftover.”
Once the course description was handed out and the legs were chosen, I ended up with leg nine which consisted of two gravel sections and the second longest run of 7.72 miles as my final section. The gravel sections didn’t bother me as I figured I would run them in my trail shoes. With our teams start time of 8am at Mount Hood and being in van 2, thanks to running leg 9, I would start near Gresham in the afternoon. At least I could sleep in. Or so I thought. 1 When the recommended gear list came out I packed the night before and left off a few things that I felt I didn’t/wouldn’t need. I was right to leave the items that I felt I wouldn’t need, except for a sweater/hoodie as it got a little chilly at night.
The members of van 2 met at a runner’s house, loaded up the van and prepared for the first section of our relay. The first day was a hot one, clocking in at over 95° and running in this heat would be dangerous without water.
The First Section
When we arrived at the exchange location, you really got a feel on how big this race is. Both vans per team in a parking lot, a lot of racers and a lot of people looking for shade. We met up with the rest of the team and waited to cheer in the racer from van 1 to hand off the relay wristband to the first runner from van 2. Once the hand off happened the chaos that the active van is begins. Racing to the next location, hoping for no traffic and beating the current runner to the next exchange point.
We did our sections in the order that we were supposed to do, making it to the exchange points before the runners got to the locations. The heat was taking it’s toll on runners. Last I heard there were 12 runners that collapsed and were taken to a hospital. After hearing about runners collapsing, we thought it would be best to run with water, even if it was just a little bit. Running with water would not be an issue for me as I train with my ruck with water in it anyway, so it was a normal run for me. My section to run was mostly uncovered and hot. I completed my first section with an average of 9:06 per mile splits.
What I saw along the course was beautiful. There were houses on the course that set up their hoses into misters that would spray runners as they went by. Houses that were handing out water to runners and a few young budding business people that were selling lemonade for $0.50. Too bad most runners were not carrying a wallet or change with them. Lesson learned, I hope.
We did have one hiccup at the location near Springwater Trail that was altered a week or so before the race. We failed to notice that the Hood to Coast app had already increased the distance and we added time to that so we would be at the exchange point right before our runner got there. This means, we added more time than we needed to and got to the exchange point 5 minutes after our runner got there. Oops.
The Second Section
After we finished our sections of the first leg, van 2 went to dinner at Laurelwood Brewery where I made my biggest mistake of the race, eating greasy fried food. Chicken Strips, Pulled Pork Chimichanga and fries. I ate most of it, minus a chicken strip and a few fries and it was delicious. The problem came a few hours later after getting a short nap at a runners house. After I got up I felt a little sick and by the time we got to the second main exchange point, I felt like I was going to barf. I told the team I wasn’t feeling well and they asked if I would be able to run my. second section, I said I would power through it, but don’t expect my time to be good, maybe 11 min miles for the 5 mile section.
I went back to the van to try and sleep it off. At this point I felt I was at 50% or normal. I think it was at this stop that Kevin Hart’s team was parked next to us, but I was a little occupied. I only found out about it after the race.
Two hours later, it was time for my second section at 2:30am and I was feeling about 70% of normal. I decided to not wear my ruck as it would have covered up the reflective vest, which were way more visible than any LED lights that runners were using. I grabbed a half a bottle of gatorade and decided to run fast to see if I would make myself barf to feel better. With my bright headlamp, LEDs, hoo-rag around my mouth and reflective vest on, I grabbed the wrist baton and headed out into the darkness of my second section.
My second section was an interesting run for sure. There were no street lights and the only source of light was my headlamp, other runners and the vans transporting teams to the next location. The vans are what caused a lot of the dust from the unpaved road to come out into the air and make the already low visibility even lower. After a few miles I had gotten used to my light of the headlamp making a perfect circle around my field of view, but not in a positive way. I thought the hoo-rag had moved up my head (how would that even be possible?!) and wrapped around my face. I brought my hands up to my face to peel back the hoo-rag only to no touch anything but my face. I laughed a little realizing that was I was seeing was the end of the headlamps visible area. Sleep deprivation and running does strange things to your mind.
At one point during this section, I didn’t have anyone visible in front of me and that was an interesting feeling of not knowing if I was on the trail or not, but at least I could see the road and I knew that at any intersection there were volunteers that would steer you in the correct direction. But still, there was that little inkling of doubt that made this section the most difficult. I ended up running this section as my fastest at 8:48 per mile average splits which surprised my team as we all thought I would run this one a lot slower.
Back at the van I got to take a cat nap as the team drove to the next exchange point and on to the next major exchange point. By the time we got to the major exchange point, which took 2 hours to get to after the van completed the second section of runs, I was feeling better and I gave up the spot I had slept in to another runner that was away the time I was out. At this exchange I saw my brother in law and his van scoot off to the next exchange point after their runners had made the exchange. I think the traffic getting to this exchange point messed up a few teams. There was one team, 1000, that had a runner there for 34 minutes before the next runner showed up and another team who was waiting at least 20 minutes when our runner made the exchange and we took off. I wonder how long she had to wait…
The Third Section
For our third sections, we were closer to the coast now and the temperatures had dropped and it was no 90+ degrees. Huzzah! My third section was the second longest of the 199 mile relay at 7.72 miles and was mostly rolling hills. The views were beautiful. I completed this section with an average split time of 9:25 per mile splits, which gave me a total of 9:09 per mile average across the three sections.
Because of some miscommunication van 2 did not make it to the finish line to see our final runner crossing the finish line, but we did make it to the finish line about 5 minutes after, received our finisher medals and took a group photo. I ran with a great group of people and if I get the chance to run Hood to Coast again, I hope I can run it again with the same team. I know everyone will say they have the best team, but I truly had the best team to run with.
If I get lucky enough to run Hood to Coast again next year, I will not eat greasy/fried food prior or during the race. Lesson learned.
- I would meet with a K9 Search and Rescue team at 5:30am to look for my missing cat. ↩