I have a several races that are on my marathon bucket list – one of those races which isn’t a marathon but a relay was checked off this weekend.
Ever since I’ve moved to the NW and heard about Hood to Coast, I’ve wanted to run it. It sounded like a lot of fun! The relay, known as the ‘mother of all relays’, starts at Mt Hood and ends in Seaside, Oregon – about 200 miles. The relay is run with 12 of your closest friends in 2 vans alternating runners at predetermined exchange points – if the 12 people aren’t your closest friends, they will be after spending 24+ hours in a van together. My husband ran it years ago and at the finish line, threw away his running shoes swearing never to run again. (He held that promise until I talked him into running a half marathon.)
The Hood to Coast relay is so popular that the only way to get in is to know someone who has a team or win the lottery -3,000 teams that tried to get in this year didn’t make it. I tried the lottery once before but also didn’t get in so I pretty much had given up running this event. When my friend Bethany called me a couple of months ago and asked if I wanted to join her on the Heathen Brewing team, I jumped at the chance.
The weekend started on Thursday afternoon as Bethany and I traveled from my country house down to Portland. My car was loaded with our food and all the gear we needed for the weekend. I was only slightly worried that I either brought the wrong gear or the wrong food, I wasn’t sure exactly what to expect. Since this was my first relay I tried to go into it with no expectations.
We were staying at our team’s house because we had a 6:15 am start time at Timberline Lodge. Friday morning came super early. It’s hard to get good sleep when you have to get up at 3:45am. We left at 4 and got to the starting line in plenty of time. Since I wasn’t running until leg 6, I had plenty of time to relax and get ready. I had checked and studied my route prior to the relay and knew I would be fine, a total of 17.4 miles. Not too hard but enough of a challenge. One thing I didn’t really factor was weather but I’ll talk more about that later. Here’s a break down of our teams’ schedule…
My first leg wasn’t too bad – rolling hills. It was hot but I was still able to average 9:25 min/miles. My second leg was in the dark – we were required to wear reflective gear and lights to make sure we were seen. Even though the mileage and the terrain wasn’t hard, it was hot and humid. It had just started raining before my leg and it continued to sprinkle. Normally, I wouldn’t complain about the rain on a run but the humidity really got to me and slowed me down a bit. After my leg, we headed to our ‘sleeping spot’ to wait for our van 2 to catch up. During the night (another sleepless night), a storm came through and we had thunder, lightning, and high winds. It was crazy. At some points, you start to question why you sign up for these things – but it’s the fun and the camaraderie that really make it an experience
By the time it was my turn to run the last leg of van 1, I was exhausted and ready to be done. Running is so much mental and just a little bit physical. With the lack of sleep and listening to my teammates comment on how awesome it was to be done, I struggled. The weather didn’t get much better and to say it was windy and raining would be an understatement. I don’t know that I’ve ever run in such horrible weather but it was only 5-ish downhill miles and I was super happy to be done.
In years past, there is a huge party on the beach where you join in with your other van and cross the finish line as a team. However, due to the horrible weather, the finish line was modified and many of the festivities were cancelled. Take a look at what would have been the party zone…
I learned a lot on this relay. I think the most important thing I learned was I need sleep and real food in order to run. I also don’t think I’m a relay kinda person – maybe I’ll give it another shot but right now I’m content with finishing the ‘mother of all relays.’ Marathons and half marathons are more my cup of tea. However, it was an experience and I met some really great folks along the way. No regrets.