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Tuesday, September 1, 2015

Hood to Coast relay recap

(This post recaps our race; I'll go into detail about my legs in a separate post)

Our team for Hood to Coast was a motley assortment of casual to serious runners, eleven total. Within our team were two couples, close childhood friends, total strangers, training partners, and running friends. We shared an Airbnb house and two vans with no real concerns, so I guess we all meshed pretty well (although it always amuses me when people freak out about spending hours in close quarters with people they don't know... we're all adults, I'm sure we can get along for a little while).

David and I were in van 2 with Marcelle, a mom, doctor, and recently involved runner; Laine, an early-twenties casual runner who is involved in producing the Crescent City Classic 10k; and her high school friend and VERY casual runner Michele (who had never run further than an easy 10k before being roped into this!). The other van had Andrew, the coach back when Varsity did track, his superstar runner wife, my friend Celeste (amazing athlete), her cross-fit friend Alyse, and two of Andrew's running friends from his glory days, Trey and Matt (those three have done the relay several times, so they were good resources. Plus Matt was the sweetest guy and Trey was hilarious, always a good addition!).

Pre-race, we headed out to some nearby trails for a shake-out run, then some shopping for van food. I had no idea what to bring. I made some peanut butter sandwiches, and brought cheese, fruit, crackers, and cookies. The saltines ended up saving a couple of us later once our stomachs rebelled! We also hammered out our race plan. See, we had just 11 people, and a lot of runners who top out at maybe 12 miles a week. We should have just rotated through, but that ended up giving additional legs to those who didn't think they could handle the volume. Since we were by no means competitive, we decided to have myself, Celeste, and Melissa each take an extra leg, and just accept the penalty. We decided I'd do leg 12, and Melissa would do leg 24 (van 1 would just take over early at that point, so that would be easy - normally we'd trade off at the end of leg 24). Then Celeste would finish with the final leg, and since van 1 would be done by then, they would just bring her to the exchange. The only problem with this plan is that it left me running leg 9, then turning around and running leg 12 very shortly after that...and then leg 21 would still be not a full rest. I'd only be fully rested for my final leg. Melissa also had legs kind of close together, but not quite. However, it was the only way to do it with our van configuration. After some cheese, wine, and other delicacies, we went to bed and tried to rest up for the next day's race.

We all trooped up the mountain for the start, and it was a gorgeous place. And we got some great "before" pictures, which of course, we never followed up with an "after". We had the weirdly late start time of 2:15, and we were van two, so after seeing Trey start us off, we headed to the exchange where David would take over from van 1 and got lunch. It was about 3:30, and we decided that Thai food sounded good. Yeah, hot curry before a relay. What could go wrong?
This is a perfectly good idea. 
After that, we headed to the exchange point and met up with van 1 for the first major exchange. Poor Trey! On his extreme downhill, his toenails were destroyed!
Matt was runner 6, and he handed off to David. David got started just as the sun started to fade.
Running into the sunset
By the time he handed off to Marcelle, it was dusk; when Marcelle handed off to me, it was night already. I ran two night legs close together, and don't mind admitting that I felt terrible. Van 2 ran through the night and handed off to van 1 as storms started sweeping in. Poor Melissa ran seven tough miles in driving rain; while they faced the first bands of the storm, we had tried to sleep at a high school. The rest of my van paid $2 for a cot, but I - who was feeling terrible at this point - lay down in the back of the van. Remarkably, considering I had a terribly upset stomach, I was able to sleep for an hour and a half. When David took over from van 1 again, I tried to drink coffee and get back into my normal morning routine, hoping that would help me feel more alive.

Poor David. His hard, hilly leg was in the middle of the night in sheets of rain. It was miserable, but he was a trooper. Our biggest blunder was right after: Marcelle took over for David, and she had to wait at the exchange for over 5 minutes as our van was stuck in miserable traffic! I got out to meet her once we were allowed to, but slogging through muddy gravel in the dark and the rain on a narrow road with no shoulder and heavy traffic took me a long time. I felt terrible for her.

Because I had to pick up an extra leg in the middle of the night since we had only 11 runners, this was my third leg, and when I handed off to Laine, I was relieved to get a REAL break before my last leg. As Laine ran/walked (she usually alternated, which helped her finish a relay that required more hours of running in one day than she normally does in a week!), the sun rose, and rain became a drizzle. By the time Michele handed off to van 1 again, the rain stopped. Finally!
Then came the least enjoyable part - the daytime hours of being stuck in a van at a crawl, just trying to beat your runner to the exchange. It was a disorganized disaster of traffic, and not fun at all! I was grateful, however, to finally run a leg in daylight hours. All my other runs were in the dark. By the last few legs for van 2, the weather had drastically shifted to storm mode. A tropical storm pounded us as we ran, and the wind and rain were really rough. The wind whistled around us as we waited for the final exchange.
Bleak exchange! 
Amazingly, Michele - our least experienced runner - ran a hard nearly-7-mile leg in the rain and wind and handed off to Celeste with a smile! The best part, though, was that after she handed off some dude stopped her and asked her for her number. Yeah, she totally ran a crazy stormy 7 miler and ALSO got a guy's digits! Too cute!
Celeste (running an earlier leg, but you get the picture)
Celeste was picking up a fourth leg to run us in to the finish.
Well, you know what the finish was like:
Cannot believe they didn't tear all this down as soon as they got the weather forecast! 
So after struggling through gusts and eating a good amount of sand, we high-fived Celeste (who ran something fast and amazing because that's what she does!) and beat it back to the house for pizza, wine, and blister contests. We couldn't stay if we'd wanted to - everything was cancelled.
27:54 was our time. It was a fun experience, and I'm glad we did it, but I have my reservations about the entire event. More on that later, but next, my legs!


  1. Crazy! Such a bummer about the weather, can't wait to read your recaps (I also ran leg 12, loved it). I was van 2 as well and someone on our team had done it before, so we actually drove from leg 12 to leg 19's start and stayed in hotel rooms there. We used half the room (half each bed, half the towels), then when we started running again at leg 19, we handed the room keys to van 1 and they used the other half of the beds/towels, etc., and it was more refreshing for all of us than sleeping in the school/outside/van, which is what most other teams did.

  2. Yeah I'm still not very excited about relay racing. There are so many variables that could go wrong.

    My friend was in a van that was driving behind a construction truck and a piece of pipe fell off the construction truck and went right through the windshield. Now this could have happened during a normal drive. But, during a relay race that has got to suck. Fortunately no one was injured.

  3. So sorry you had quite the storm to run through! At least that's a badge of honor, I suppose. I'll be interested in hearing about your legs and your thoughts overall - relays are really fun, but certainly not without challenges/frustrations.