Get ready this is a long recap but I had to give it justice..
How this race came about for me:
A little over three years ago 11 girls and I headed up to Madison, Wisconsin for a 200 mile relay race to Chicago. It was a first for most of us but we loved every minute of that crazy adventure. One of the girls on the team had previously done a relay race known as Hood to Coast, the original relay race and convinced us that we must do it! It takes place in Oregon from Mt. Hood to Seaside; down the mountain, through the city of Portland, over a coastal range, and finally to the beach. This race has grown in popularity so much over its 33 year run that 3400 teams apply and only 1200 are accepted...3 years later we got in! After losing 6 team members (one whole van) replacing them with 5 rockstars we did it!
Here is the trailer to the documentary, this will either get you excited or make you think I am totally insane:-)
The Journey itself:
Our team headed out to Seattle on Thursday, August 21st. We picked up 2-12 person passenger vans and drove down to Portland to pick up some other team members. After scooping them up we made our big stop at the grocery store to pick up all of our team needs; food, water, blankets, coolers, ice, etc. We then headed up to Mt. Hood to stay in a beautiful home and enjoyed a team cooked dinner and toasted to what was about to come. I don't think I slept more than 2 consecutive hours out of pure excitement and maybe a little restlessness due to the altitude. Finally at 7am I quietly went to the kitchen to have a cup of tea and enjoy a final moment to myself to try and really take in what was about to unfold. Soon enough everyone was awake! We made breakfast, decorated our vans, put everything in the car in specific order and place. I then led a team warm-up and stretch session and we headed up to the start!
Our team's official start time was 1:30pm. As we drove up the mountain we screamed and laughed in fear for those of us who would shortly be running down it. The start of the race was absolutely breathtaking. I instantly had chills and it is a moment I will not soon forgot. I don't actually think I knew exactly how crazy, intense and challenging this run was going to be. The energy of the race itself and all of the teams was amazing. I wish I could bottle it up. Our first runner hit the road flying...really fast down 2,000 ft to the first exchange and we were off! My first run started around 4pm on Friday and it was HILLY. I cannot express how thankful I am for working at and training at Shred415, doing hill interval runs are the only way I made it through. It was hot, super hilly, and oh so beautiful but tough. I love a good challenge and my first run was great, I held an 8:15 pace!
After our team's exchange we headed to the cute town of Gresham and had a hot dinner before heading to the next exchange area to rest before our night runs. My second run started around 2:30am and the temperature was a cool 56 degrees. It was completely dark and lonely along a highway outside of Portland. 8 long daunting miles, I tried to remember what my marathon coach of last year said, "stay in the mile" and focus on each one before thinking about the next. It was challenging because at this point the elite teams started to catch us and I was no longer checking off runners as "roadkill" but I was a victim to about 10 people (roadkill is the term used for when you pass a runner, how nice right?). Those 8 miles were demoralizing, a little scary, and spirit testing. The best part of finishing this run was getting to take a hot shower in a high school gymnasium, should I mention there were no shower stalls, doors, or curtains! But who cares at 3:30am after running now a total of 14 sweaty miles. We headed to our next and final van exchange where our fearless driver and navigator got lost but we made it! They kindly let me sleep since I was not only running 3 legs but 4....
I slept about 3 hours and woke the team up to get started on our last legs. The weather was eery and felt fitting for the time. We all felt super fatigued and needed some kind of energy boost. As we sat in our van preparing for our final run we saw the "dead jocks in a box van,' a group of older men who still go out and run better than I may ever. We chatted with them and I got a good pep talk about my final leg. I was getting pretty anxious after meeting multiple people who told me that they felt sorry for whoever was running the 5th leg...and after seeing a sign that said, 'Leg 5 runner you are either crazy or a really good runner!" I was told the first 2 hills are moderately challenging and the third and final hill is the real killer, but after that it's all fast and steep downhill. I felt energized and started coming up with my strategy.
The third run was an "easy 3.75," I felt really strong and the runners started to pick it up because for most of them it was their final leg. I finished fast and started to prepare and fuel for my fourth and final leg. I took the advice of the veteran runners and went out easy, 2 moderate hills in the first 2.5 miles and one giant hill/mountain for mile 3.5 then it was fast down that hill. I knew my team would be waiting at the top for me with the ceremonial toilet paper finish line. It was hard. It was steep. It was brutal but I loved every minute of it. I love a good challenge, I felt like an athlete and my teammates were waiting cheering me on at the top and I wanted to look strong. I made it to the top at a good pace and ran down that hill feeling so accomplished, it was AWESOME!
After our team killed its last legs we headed to Seaside to shower up and head to the finish line to meet van 2 and cross together. We ended up coming in 9th in the women's open category with a total time of 29:47, average pace 8:59, and 474 out of 1050 teams.
What an amazing experience and I can't wait to do it again. Hood to Coast is a surreal race. The community of runners it brings together is almost cult like. It makes running into a team sport with great comradery. It i so beautiful, daunting and perfect. A huge thank you to all of my teammates for being the best cheering squad at the race and always being positive, energetic, and inspiring. I love all you girls!
Here is a slideshow of the race, ENJOY!