“The Mother of All Relays” is what it is apparently called.
195 miles from the top of Mt. Hood the beach in Seaside. This time I was sans-husband and on a 12-person team (Joggers for Lagers!) and it wasn’t blistering hot like in Cascade Lakes (CLR). But it was still 30+ hours of teamwork, running, minimal sleep, cramped quarters, and other relay mischief.
Our team’s pre-race dinner was filled with prior Hood to Coast memories, carb-loading, and the usual jitters and anxiety that often presents itself the day before an event. Even though I was the newbie to the team, I was no longer a newbie to relays and was feeling relatively calm.
I was in Van #1 and our start time was 8:45 AM. This, for the record, is a late start. This is, also for the record, not good. Our team was not going to make it to the beach before the race closed down (similar to CLR) and Hood to Coast was unwilling to give us an earlier start time so our van was already nervous about our finish time before the event even began. To add insult to injury, we ended up start a half hour later due to some morning mishaps. But…so it goes. Off we went!
The first few legs go down down down Mt. Hood. I love downhill running. Some runners despise it (Jesse being one of them) but I could run downhill for days. Sadly, I was awarded leg #5, which is the toughest of the whole event because not only does it boast the most miles, but because it also boasts the most climbing. Since I was pretty much the only one with hill training in me, I was it. Luckily, I was ready and I dominated those hills!
My first leg was long and hilly, as expected. Once it turned off the highway, it went up through a beautiful forest part of the mountain and a sprint finish after all the climbing left me doubled over, out of breath, and feeling quite sick.
(I will say, however, it was clear EVERY TEAM puts their strongest runner on this leg. I was passed by many an elite runner, which can be spirit-crushing. But I had my own race to run. There was nothing I could do about it except accept their “good jobs” and “keep it ups” and “HOOD TO COAST 2015!!” cheers with a smile.)
After our van finished our first set of legs, it was burrito and rest time for a few hours. We ended up at our place because we live on the east side and have 2 showers and I’ll admit, it was nice to be home. My team was beat from the early morning, the heat of the runs, and the runs themselves but I was bursting with energy! I was secretly sad everyone was napping! But…fair enough.
After a few hours, we headed to downtown Portland to exchange with van two and start our second set of legs. It was night time by then but the exchange point under the Hawthorne Bridge was a huge party! I loved the energy and the glow from the city. I loved the runners and the costumes and the teamwork. This was one of the highlights of the event for me.
My second leg was about 7 miles of flat pavement; complete with a thunder and lightning show. We knew the weather would turn gray and gloomy, but the storm turned worse than expected. It got windy and it got rainy. Not just a little Portland rain but a massive downpour with gale force winds (it got up to 90 mph on the coast). In short? The perfect running weather. Standing at the exchange point waiting for my runner, I was shivering. I had just spilled a few, um, liters of water on my pants trying to fill up a water bottle in the van and the wind was chill-ay! I had my favorite pink running jacket on to help cut the wind out and when I was finally able to run, I took off at a sprint to try to generate heat. About two blocks down, naturally, I was overheating. I stopped at the bar and asked the woman drinking and smoking to help me peel my jacket off. She told me to sit down and have a beer! “I’d puke!” I laughed, so she kindly invited me back the next day for one. Thanks, but no thanks!
This run was lonely for me. It was pitch black and pretty boring (besides the storm in the distance). I passed a few people, a few MORE people passed me, and the 7 miles went by so slowly. I was running strong, but still was pretty much over it. I met my partner at the exchange and headed to the van where everyone was snoozing. It was around 1 AM at this point.
After runner 6 was done, we found the sleeping field and were able to catch a few hours of sleep. Usually the runners will lay down tarps on the grass and bring sleeping bags – but this year it was raining so much that it wasn’t really possible to sleep outside. Two of my team members slept in a hay shed and the rest of us curled up in the car. Not ideal, but it seemed to do the trick. We woke up around 6:30 AM and were off again!
One funny thing about the whole event was that from our very first exchange up on Mt. Hood, our timing was exactly aligned with the Honey Bucket maintenance guys at every stop. We were often grateful to see them because having fresh Porta-Potties becomes something to look forward to during an event like this, but it came at a smelly, smelly cost!
In between runner 3 and 4 we were waiting at the exchange point, fighting the rain and wind in the food tents. It was brilliant; they had breakfast for us! With coffee, hot chocolate, biscuits and gravy, oatmeal, chili dogs, muffins…this became crucial to my success in my last leg I believe. But while we were waiting there, a fire broke out near the course and a crisis ensued as fire trucks raced in the direction of our runner! This event was because more and more stressful by the minute! Luckily everyone was safe, but it was awfully dramatic!
My third leg was glorious. It is one of the prettiest road runs I’ve ever done in my life. There was a hill (my teammates made a make-shift “finish line” out of toilet paper for me at the top) and then there was miles of downhill. My favorite. I snapped a selfie (which I was later poked fun at by a guy who passed me), snapped a few shaky photos of the scenery, and just enjoyed myself. It was raining like mad and I was so happy! That’s the thing about the rain – the anticipation of being in it is dreadful. But…it can only get you wet once!
I could have run for hours on that leg. I was sad it was over.
And just like that, Hood to Coast WAS over. Our van decided that since the beach was closed due to the wind and the finish line was moved to a hotel, they didn’t want to wait around for van 2 to finish and so we had some lunch to recap and headed back to Portland.
The next day, Jesse and I did a recovery bike ride in Forest Park; 22 muddy miles. I was slow and a bit tired, but was enjoying the fall weather!