Race Report: Hood To Coast Relay

A number of months ago fellow San Francisco Ambassador Team Member Wes sent me a DM on Twitter asking me if I wanted to join an HTC team (Hood To Coast). I quickly responded with a “HELL YES”. The build up to the event that took place on August 23-24 was nothing close to what actually went down while we traveled from Mount Hood to Seaside in Oregon. One cannot even imagine how awesome this event is until you actually get going and really dive into the event. Prior to August 23 the only thing I really knew about Hood To Coast was what I read online and what I saw in the Hood To Coast movie, which I watched while traveling to Portland. 

The most common question I got was, “why is your team called Pure Michigan?”. Well the truth of the matter is that we weren’t completely all from Michigan, but I sure did represent the hell out of a state in which I have never stepped foot into. Outside of myself and Wes, the team was comprised of folks who had Michigan ties, while some of them do not live in Michigan, they all grew up from there. In fact 7 of the 12 runners still live in Michigan.

Team Pure Michigan

Outside of the 12 runners the team had 2 other team members who were very important, those two other members were the drivers of the vans, who got us from exchange station to station. To be honest, I think that the drivers had a more daunting job than the runners. We had the luxury of getting a little shut eye between exchanged, but the drivers had to keep plugging away until the runners in their van completed their 6 consecutive legs before handing the running over to the other van.

The 198 miles traveled was broken up into 36 legs with varying distances and difficulty. Each van had 6 runners with runners 1 through 6 in van #1 and runners 7 through 12 in van #2. I was runner number 9, which put me in van #2 running legs 9, 21 and 33. Based on the HTC program I ran the longest total distance along with having the second most difficult overall routes.

Getting to PDX
The flight was short getting to Portland from Sacramento, but getting set to leave for Portland was a bit of work. It wasn’t as simple as just throwing a set of running clothes and shoes into a bag and zipping it up. I was getting ready to spend nearly 30 hours in a van outside of the stops we made along the route and the three legs I was assigned to run, so having enough sets of running gear, comfortable clothing to have between legs and travel home gear home had to be checked a few times. Then making sure that I had my toiletries as well as anything else that I might need including headlamps, reflective vest and packable snacks was important.

“A” group? I never get “A” group … I knew this was trip was going to be F@#$ing EPIC.

Once everything was packed I was finally on my way to meet up with a group of people I had never met before (outside of Wes). The short flight got me into Portland where I first met a couple other team members at the airport. There we picked up one of the vehicles that would eventually be “Van #1”. Van #1 was a completely pimped out Yukon that could seat 8 people, it had 2 DVD screens and a million outlets for phones and USB connections. This was probably a good idea to keep the Yukon as Van #1, since we found out that Van #2 would have the dustier and dirtier routes and quickly covered our van.

Van #1

After a quick trip to the store, we continued our journey to Mount Hood where we would be staying the night before the race, since the race started at the Timberline Lodge, where most of the team stayed. While driving up to the mountain, we stopped and did some passenger changing into other vehicles where I met another couple members of the Pure Michigan team. We continued our travel for another 15 miles or so where we would eventually meet a couple other members who had gotten an early start on some carb loading at one of the local brew houses … I never did get to try this awesome sampler that they offered.

Finally, we got to the Timberline Lodge where HTC folks were getting the start line area set up. The lodge we would reside in was a bit of a treat as it was the lodge that was used for the outside shots for the movie The Shining, for those of you that know me I love The Shining.

All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy.

With a number of hours before the rest of the team would arrive and we would officially meet everyone, Wes and I decided to kill some time by seeing what type of carbs the lodge had to offer. I also felt like it was my duty to do a scouting report on the various foods and desserts that were on the menu. Being a team player, I didn’t want anyone to have to deal with crappy beer, pizza, baked potatoes or dry desserts.

The last few members of the team arrived and with a quick meeting and introductions we would all head our separate ways to turn in for the night, knowing that Friday would be the start of something AWESOME!

I was hoping for a bunk-bed like the on in Stepbrothers, but this had to do.

It’s Go Time … Kind of
The first group of teams started at 6:30AM on Friday morning. Throughout the day the other 1,002 teams would be moving their way from Mount Hood to Seaside. Most teams would be at the beach between 24-30 hours after their start time, while the elites would motor through the distance in sub 19 hour times.

hanging out at the HTC start watching the morning teams make their way

After getting up and having my morning smoothie like I always do, I made my way to watch a few groups start their journey. While taking in the start line, I also got a glance of some of the elaborate decorations that some teams put together for their vehicles. I also took in a little shopping, picking up a pull over top. Rarely do I buy anything from a race, but this was more than just another race, it was Hood to F’ing Coast, it was going to be an event that created for some epic memories and running. So the $60 for the top was worth it.

With seeing how the start went and the energy that was there, I was ready to get this thing going. However, I looked at the time and realized that we still had a few hours before our 1:15 PM assigned start time. Luckily, the lodge had some free coffee and I was able to sit around and take in a few cups of java before the team would meet up to do some organizing of gear and decorating of vans of our own. 

10:30 AM rolled around and we met up as a team to get all of our gear in the correct vans, as well as decorate each of our vans we would be spending nearly 29 hours in. Getting everything into the van was one thing, keeping it organized and accessible when certain things would be needed was another. Though our group did a pretty good job of getting the important stuff organized, but as the hours moved on stuff got shifted around and reorganizing would be part of each exchange stop.

yup everything is in there.

With a few final touches of decorating and putting up flags and banners on the rig, we were finally ready to count down the minutes until our first runner would kick off this awesome adventure.

After our team captain was able to get us checked in and the HTC shirts and bibs were distributed we took some photos as a team, and started to make our way to the start. 1:15 PM couldn’t come soon enough for us.  Below is our team getting announced and the official start of our 198-mile journey.

Leg 9
Even with our team starting, it really didn’t feel like go time until leg 7 came around, that was the first runner in our van. Until leg 7 started, we killed some time at one of the major exchanges which was at a Safeway. This allowed us to grab some lunch / early dinner, hydrate and even catch a little shut eye.

the start of leg 7

After a couple of exchanges it was finally go time, this is where I felt like I was really part of the event at this point. With our first runner starting at 1:15pm, it was 7:47PM when I finally took my first run along the course. According to my Garmin my leg finished at 7.69 miles. This was a very enjoyable leg, as it offered a couple flats, a few ups but a lot of down hill running. I was able to find some rhythm and kick the legs through the paved roads which brought me along some long stretches of county roads and eventually to a pedestrian only trail.

getting the wrist band and starting on Leg 9

During the run, the sun had started to drop and running with a reflective vest as well as LED lights and a headlamp was not only important but also required. Making my way through the course I started to pick off some runners, in this event running past someone is called a “Road Kill”. Getting a road kill is like an achievement badge during this event. I got into the mix and even posted my “kills” on the van window.

photo courtesy of @fashionablemile on Twitter

The night time running along with the headlamps allowed me to play a little game and keep other runners in sight and chase them down. By the end of the run I picked off 12 runners and completed the leg in 49 minutes 49 seconds (6:29/ mi pace). Once I got into the exchange station I handed off our team wristband and made my way to the team van to get a quick change of clothing, before heading off to our next exchange station. The rush of getting out and going after it was on. I now felt like I was really part of the epic adventure.

Leg 21
Before my next leg, the full rotation would have to come around again. At this point in the journey we found ourselves about 25 minutes ahead of predicted time. With this being noted, I would still have a number of hours before getting to put my legs to use for the 5 mile leg I was scheduled to run. Our other teammates ran well through the night.

While we had some time before getting out to our 2nd run each, we were in search of some food at this point. To all of our disappointment apparently Oregonians don’t do much on a Friday night. We came to this conclusion because everything was closed at 11:30PM. After driving around for a bit, we did stumble across a billboard that advertised a 24 hour Mexican food place. Mexican food probably isn’t the best pre-run or post-run meal, but hey eating something is better than nothing.

With a couple of hours remaining, we headed off to the next major exchange where we grabbed a little shut eye.

6:11AM rolled around and it was go time. The 5 miles I had on this leg was all down hill on a pretty dusty road. In fact so dusty that my face mask came in handy to give my mouth and nose a little buffer from the dirt being kicked up. This stretch was my fastest leg as I ran 6:25/ mi pace even ripping out a 6:08 last mile.

The only downside of this leg was that I fell victim to a very fast runner who passed me with .1 miles remaining. In fact he was smashing so hard I tried to keep up to him, but when I looked down at my watch I noticed he was running sub 5:20 pace. During this leg I was still able to pick off a few runners with a road kill count of 7 runners on this leg, bringing me to a total of 19 runners.

keeping count of Road Kills and legs completed.

Leg 33
As the journey continued on and each of the 6 runners in our van had completed 2 of their 3 legs, it was getting to a point, where fatigue started to kick in. We had been in the van for over 20 hours at this point, there was very little quality sleep and really we couldn’t chow down because we wanted to be ready to run our final leg. The third leg would also bring us in the warmer part of the day so that was going to be another element to battle.

After the first 2 runners in Van 2 completed their final leg, it was getting close to 3:00 PM and now it was my turn to get after my final leg. According to my Garmin I started my run at 2:55 PM and I was headed up a slight climb to start my 7.74 mile run through some rolling hills. The weather started to heat up and for the most part my section was pretty exposed though the view along the river was a treat. Luckily, my van mates offered to stop half way along my route to allow me to grab a drink before finishing off my leg. This came in handy as all legs are not supported along the way, so runners can load up before or after their leg. There are volunteers along each leg to prevent runners from getting lost, but these are non-aided volunteers.

coming up to grab a quick sip during my 3rd leg (leg 33)

I was quite pleased to see so many runners on this leg as my game of collecting “road kills” made the run go by much easier. In fact, during this stretch I was able to collect 29 “kills”. I completed my leg in a total time of 52:07 (6:44/mi pace). This brought me to a total of 20.44 miles and a total of 48 road kills 🙂 .

3 legs done!

The Finish

As our final runner started her way to the finish we jumped into our van and headed to a shuttle pick up spot that would take us to the finish line where the other members of Pure Michigan were waiting for us.

At the finish line, it was truly a party, in fact it was pretty tough to figure out where everyone was at first. As the team gathered we waited in the chute for our final runner to come in, when she was nearing the finish the entire team would be able to cross the finish line together and celebrate the 198 mile journey as a team. 

With some congratulatory high-fives, team photos, and receiving of medals, it was now time to party on the beach. At the finish area there was a ton of beer, food and live entertainment, not to mention the Pacific Ocean about 100 yards away. Some of the members of Pure Michigan made their way into the ocean and even dipped their medals. For me I have seen my fair share of Shark Week to stay away from the ocean 🙂 …. luckily no one on Pure Michigan was harmed to eaten by a shark, but it could have happened.

We did it!

After getting our party on at the finish, we made our way to our various locations where we would finally be able to shower and get cleaned up.  Many of us had an early start to Sunday with our flights and travels home. I was sad to see this adventure end, but it was pretty exhausting. In the end I had an very memorable time as part of this team and made some new friends through this journey.

Have you ever participated in Hood to Coast or any other type of relay?

4 Comments on “Race Report: Hood To Coast Relay

  1. Our teams started at the same time!! I was on the Nuun Team Lemonade — runner number 6. It really was a fantastic race. Glad you had a great time too. I have never done another relay, but this made me want to! Way to stay speedy through all your legs!


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