Thursday, September 3, 2009

2009 Nike Hood to Coast Relay Race Report

If I was to sum up the Nike Hood to Coast Relay in one word it would be Awesome. The experience, the running, the scenery, the volunteers, my teammates, pretty much everything about the weekend can be summed up with that one word. Let me elaborate.

I was first asked to be an alternate on the team after it was put together but within two weeks I was an official runner. Since it was with a group of my co-workers I was a bit hesitant at first – I mean I was going to be spending over 24 hours in a van with people that up to this point where just faces in the office (some of them I had never even met or seen before). It turns out that they are all very cool people and deciding to join the team was an excellent choice.
Since this was such a long event I will try to get in as much detail as I can but I may miss a thing or two which is bound to happen when you are up for nearly 24 hours, sleep for an hour and a half, then get right back into the swing of things.

I suppose the best place to start is at the beginning of the day.
The weather forecast for Friday was perfect – sunny and mild in the morning with increasing clouds in the afternoon. Since our starting time was approximated at 1:00 (the first van started at Mt. Hood at 8:15am) we had a bit of sun when we started but by the time my leg rolled around the clouds had really started moving in and the sun was becoming less and less of an issue.

I started my first leg thinking I would go out conservatively and then pick up the pace in my second and third legs. By the time I hit mile two I decided the hell with it; I was going to push myself on each leg and if I collapsed in the middle of the coast range so be it. This leg was along the Springwater corridor out in Gresham which is a trail I have run on a few times so I knew what to expect; a flatish path that was dirt for the first 2.5 miles. I cruised along and before I knew it I was halfway done, then three quarters, then next thing I knew I was coming around a corner to the exchange point where I would pass off the slap bracelet to the next runner on my team.

Leg 1 – 6.89 miles, 7.06 AP, 15 kills (passes)

After everyone in our van ran their first leg we stopped by the house of one of our teammates to take a quick shower and have some dinner (which was a great decision; there is no way we would have survived on snack food). After cleaning up, eating, and relaxing for couple hours we piled back in the van and headed out to the next exchange where we would meet up with van 1 who would be completing their second section of the day.

The next leg I was going to run was at 1:00am (give or take a couple minutes depending on where the runners before me came in) and I was really excited for it. Never before had I run at that hour and doing it in the middle of the coast range in the middle of the night while it was raining made it that much more exciting. When the slap bracelet was passed off to me I took off into the night and never looked back. The sky was misting and I felt as though I was running through space at warp speed. From time to time I would look up at the trees and the rain and think about how lucky I was to be experiencing what I was experiencing at this moment. Of course a few seconds after that I would remember that I was running down a dirt road in the middle of the night and I would look back down to make sure I could see the road and all the bumps and holes that were coming my way. A little after the first mile I could hear someone coming up behind me and right before mile two he caught me. We ran together for the next couple of miles and talked on and off – needless to say I was surprised when these miles beeped in around 6:26. By mile four I was starting to wonder if I could hold the pace when my new friend said “I’ve got to drop back, good talking with you”. Even though that was exactly how I was feeling I decided to push on and finish strong. Eventually I saw some lights up ahead and next thing I knew a volunteer was asking me what my number was so they could shout it down the road.

Leg 2 – 5 miles, 6:32 AP, 22 kills

After everyone had finished up their second leg we pushed on to the spot where we would be meeting van 1 at the end of their final section so we could kick back and try to get a couple hours of sleep. We finally pulled up into the sleeping field, parked the van, and were all asleep within 15 minutes. An hour and a half later I woke up feeling, not like a million bucks, but maybe a few hundred grand. I got out of the van, hit up the Honey Bucket, then walked over to the food area that was set up and got myself a Dutch Brothers Mocha and a hot ham and cheese croissant (which was SOOOO good).

My final leg of the day was coming out of the coast range and it was extremely beautiful. Although I ended up with a side cramp and had to slow down a bit it really didn’t matter to me because I was enjoying the scenery and the experience.

Leg 3 – 7.75 miles, 7:22 AP, 17 kills

At around 1:15pm on Saturday we reached the coast and crossed the finish line as a team.

This was one of the funnest (or most fun for you grammar nuts) running events I have ever done. For a van full of first timers we did a great job navigating, getting along, cheering for each other, and making sure that everyone was having fun the whole time. You make jokes that get stupider and funnier as the night goes on, you eat a random assortment of food, you make new friends, and you surprise yourself many times.

I have to give credit to the volunteers that sacrifice their time to help out their friends and family. Each local team is required to have three volunteers who are assigned random tasks at random locations at random times of day all the way from Mt. Hood to Seaside. Every volunteer I encountered was helpful, patient, and friendly even though they were getting all of the shit and none of the glory. One thing that I would tell any participant in the race is that a little bit of patience goes a long way out there. I saw quite a few people that showed up at the exchange only to find that their teammate wasn’t there to meet them due to traffic or some other circumstance – once that person showed up they were sent on their way with some bitching and complaining – all I could think was, what a way to start your leg!

One additional observation – the Honey Buckets were the cleanest and best stocked of any I have ever seen at an event this large (17,000 participants including 3,000 volunteers).

If you want a visual of what it was like or just something to make you consider putting together a team for next year check out the video in my previous post.


Dragonfly on the Water said...

I could feel the mist on my face. Great write-up & what an awesome experience, truly friendship is great. See:

Alisa said...

SOOOOOO awesome! I am so on board for next year. Look at those paces--damn! You're quite speedy for 1:00 am =).

I love that you counted all the people you passed--AWESOME!

I had no idea teams would stop for showers and dinner along the way--I'm so IN!

Milla said...

The blog is very complete and very helpful the pictures you used to understand, really amused me much, but not so much how to use Generic Viagra than that if it's fun, but if I really like your blog!