It all started last December when my dear friend Judy invited me and Kris to be a part of her 12-member Hood to Coast team...
Hood to Coast, as I described here , is an amazing 198 mile relay race from Mt. Hood, through Portland, and ends up on the beach in Seaside, OR. The 12 members are split into 2 vans and everyone completes 3 of the 36 legs of the race.
Originally, I was assigned to the 1st leg which is notorious for being the hardest because of a really steep downhill descent from Mt Hood right off the bat. Check out the elevation profile! Being in Chicagoland, I NEVER run up or down hills. I knew my bad back and knees would really take a beating on this leg. Lucky for me but unlucky for my darling husband, he had to drop out earlier this year due to a nagging foot injury which meant I got to take his leg- leg 4- one of the easiest.
I flew out to Portland the Thursday morning before the race (the race starts on a Friday on the weekend before Labor Day weekend). After my airport pick-up, Judy and I went to the grocery store to stock up on snacks, Gatorade, and water for our van. I want to tell you all now that, if you are running in a relay race like this, whether it be Hood to Coast or RAGNAR, or any other, PRINGLES are one of the best snacks you can have. Sure, you would never eat them in regular life, but after running and very little sleep, these salty potato-dust snacks taste amazing.
Thursday evening, many of the team members gathered at Judy's house for a pasta dinner and briefing on race particulars. The folks in van 1 had a 6:45am strt time at the top of Mt. Hood so we were planning on hitting the road at 4:30am. I was thankful to have just come from Chicago because that 4:30 was more like 6:30 for me. The start times for the race are staggered throughout the day, from early morning to evening, based on the team's expected finish time. This basically means we were seeded as one of the slowest teams- ha!
The next morning the drive up Mt. Hood to the start line at Timberline Lodge was so Oregon. Cloudy and moody with a little bit of rain. When we parked and stepped out, it was chilly and very windy. This really didn't last for long- the clouds and briskness cleared up by the time our 6:45am start rolled around. I really liked being able to see the first start of the day at 6:30am- the start of the whole shebang! It was also just gorgeous being up there so early and seeing the sky slowly lighten.
Once the race was underway and our first runner, Tracy, was on her way down the mountain, we began our hopscotch journey to the coast. I don't have a lot of pictures from during the race because it is so crazy! Your van is constantly driving to the next "exchange"- where the current runner passes the "baton" (a slap bracelet) to the runner for the next leg.
Part of driving to and from each exchange is fighting traffic and parking at almost every stop. It is super nuts but MAJOR kudos to the race volunteers because they handle it all so well. They are professional and supportive all while dealing with major vehicular stress. Many of the exchanges are in little tight spots along a small-ish highway and tons of giant vans are trying to park. There were a few times that traffic was so bad that our runner ended up waiting at the exchange for us because we weren't there yet!
As for the actual running, my first leg was 7.2 miles of mostly gradual downhill. It was nice and easy. I still had cloud cover and the scenery was gorgeous. The hardest part is that there are no mile markers so I didn't know how far I was out (I don't have a Garmin and don't carry my phone). I think I could have pushed more if I knew where I was in the mileage. I felt good after that first leg!
This is me before my second leg. Before I tell you about that, take a look at this incredible vehicle we had. A Mercedes Sprinter. This is Judy's husband's daily car and it is so awesome. You can stand up inside! There is a sleeping berth! It's diesel! I cannot begin to tell you how many looks of admiration and requests for tours that we got. It was incredible. I mean, 4 of us were easily sleeping in this thing during our van downtime and probably all 6 of us could have fit. If you are thinking of an RV, consider this instead.
Back to the race. After we finished our first 6 legs, our van headed back to Judy's home in Portland for lunch and showers. Our next exchange with van 2 was in Portland so this made it really easy. By the time my next leg rolled around, I was SO TIRED. it was also getting dark. Despite this being my shortest leg (3.8 miles) and mostly flat after an initial uphill, I HATED it. The first half was through beautiful trees and I could still see everything. I felt so great. But halfway in (1) it got really dark, (2) I got really hungry and (3) the natural environs turned into the town of Scappoose and all I saw and smelled for 2 miles was fast food restaurants. I am weak. Whenever a kernel of hunger or thirst plants itself in my brain while I'm running, I start to despair. I even walked for a little bit. I feel so ashamed. I just mentally broke down. Boo, me.
After we finished our second set of legs, we slept for maybe 3 or 4 hours. It was not the best sleep but it was so needed. I woke up feeling much better and excited for my next run.
Our wake-up time was around 4am. But, the sun soon rose. By the time it was time for my third and final run, I was sufficiently awake and so ready to go. What a great run I had. Not my fastest and not the easiest (only 4.2 miles but with uphills I am not used to). It was an amazingly beautiful morning. The trees! The trees smelled SO GOOD. A faster runner passed me and said "Beautiful morning for a run!" I agreed. Finishing that leg felt good and happy. I was so glad to have had a far better experience than the night before.
We finally did finish all of our legs- our van decor above shows it off a little! When we were done we were able to drive ahead to Seaside. We went straight for food...
Oh man, that bacon cheeseburger tasted so good.
This is the view of Seaside from the condo we stayed in after the race. That is Tillamook Head in the back and off to the left you can see a few tents... those are the start of the finish line area. Towards the bottom, you can see runners finishing their last leg of the race along the seaside promenade.
While we waited for our second van to bring it home, we all fell asleep on the beach. It was so nice (although I got a horrific sunburn).
We finished the race in a little under 33 hours and towards the bottom in ranking but we had a blast! It was so fun seeing all the teams out there working together. As is the case with every race I do, I am always amazed at all the different types of people that run. It is very inspiring to see everyone out there giving it all they've got.
If you're interested in learning more, there is a Hood to Coast documentary you can buy (Amazon has it) and it is excellent. With that, I'll leave you with a parting shot of lovely Seaside, Oregon.