Saturday, September 1, 2012

Hood to Coast Relay

Hood to Coast was my first long relay, and I have to say it was even more fun than I expected (despite the sleep deprivation)!  

The short version:

Leg 1: 6.96 miles, 49:24, 7:04 pace
Leg 2: 5.00 miles, 35:03, 6:59 pace (last mile in 6:52, yeah!)
Leg 3: 7.72 miles, 59:03, 7:40 pace
Team finish: 28:05:21, 8:25 average pace, 49/362 mixed open division, 238/1070 overall

More details after the jump!

I flew out to Portland on Thursday and after meeting the team at the airport and picking up the rental SUVs we went out to an awesome team lunch and then headed up to our resort in the mountains.

The whole team in Portland

After settling in, we took a drive up Mount Hood to check out the start

And then stopped by the Mt Hood Brewing Company for a pre-race meal and simultaneous carb-loading and hydration

My van 2 teammates at the resort

Van decorated, ready to go

Our team wasn't scheduled to start until 1:30pm on Friday, so we had plenty of time to decorate the vans, check out the pre-race festivities at the start area, and take a few team photos before cheering Caroline off on leg 1

I was in van 2, so we had several hours to wait before getting started.  We followed van 1 to cheer on our teammates for a while, and then had a snack and tried to relax a bit at the first van exchange.  It was a beautiful day and everyone was ahead of their predicted pace... so far so good!  I was really anxious to get running though, but I was leg 9 so it made for a long day waiting!

I started my first leg at 7:45pm.  It was a 7 mile run with a gentle descent (200 ft net elevation loss) and my goal was to stay around 7:05-7:10 pace.  After about a mile on roads though a little town, we turned onto a gravel trail.  I was hoping it would be nice packed gravel like the ATT, but there were a lot of larger rocks and more uneven footing than I was expecting.  I am definitely not a trail runner, so I wasn't sure how that would go and after rolling my ankle at mile 1.5 I remembered why I stick to roads.  This made it a little harder to stay on pace, but thankfully the decline helped to keep me around 7:15/mile.  Despite my disdain for off-road running, it was a really pretty trail and I got to watch the sunset as I went along through the trees.  I crossed over an intersection and volunteers said 3.3 miles to go, and after crossing the street I was pleasantly surprised to find that the remaining section of the trail was paved.  YAY!  I picked up the pace a little and finished with 7:04-7:07-7:01.  By the time I came to my exchange it was completely dark, and I handed off to Roland feeling pretty good.  Leg 1 done!

The rest of my van 2 teammates ran into Portland in the dark of night, and we had some pretty skyline views as we made our way to the second van exchange.

Audrey came in to finish the last of our team's first leg, and we were still ahead of schedule, a little tired, but overall feeling great.

Once van 1 was out on their second legs, we had a few hours to rest.  The temperature dropped into the 40s, so sleeping outside of the van wasn't an option and I just couldn't get comfortable.  No sleep for me.  Everyone was a little irritable waiting around, unable to sleep, cold, and preparing to run in the dark, but fortunately that passed quickly once we started running again.  

The course description had said that my second leg would be on a dirt road and they recommended a bandana or something to put over your face to help to breath with all the dust.  I figured it couldn't be that bad, so I didn't bother.  What I hadn't considered was the heavy traffic as vans moved to the next exchange, kicking up dirt and creating a huge, dense cloud of dust.  By that time I had been up all night and wasn't excited about running in the cold and dark through a dust storm.  I brought a water bottle to rinse out my mouth as I ran, and though was sometimes hard to breathe and the dirt kept getting in my eyes, I felt much better to be running again.  I started leg 2 at 5:51am, which is pretty close to the time I would normally run, so that was nice.  I couldn't get a GPS signal on my garmin, so I had no idea how fast I was going.  I guess the downside of relying completely on the garmin is that I am terrible at judging pace.  I finally picked up a signal 4 minutes in, and then focused on trying to stay sub-7 and enjoyed a beautiful sunrise through the fog and dust.  I was only a 5 mile leg, which I think is a great distance, and again I had a nice gentle decline (net elevation loss of 225 feet).  Had it not been for the dust, this would have been by far my favorite run.  I finished in exactly 35 minutes, and the average pace for the 4.4 miles with GPS was 6:51, so I ended up ahead of my predicted time.  I wish all races could be downhill!

After our next 3 runners finished their second legs, we handed off to van 1 and headed to breakfast.  We had a great (bacon-heavy) meal, washed up a little with running water, and set off to the next van exchange to hopefully get a little rest.  Unfortunately the traffic was terrible through that section of the race, so we made it to the final van exchange with only minutes to spare.

Very slow moving traffic

Traffic was still pretty heavy as we drove to my last exchange, so I had to get out and jog to the exchange zone to make it there on time.  By then it was pretty warm, but the final leg was a only 8 miles so I decided it wouldn't be worth carrying water.  The leg was fairly hilly, up and down through the country with fields and farms in view.  

The scenery was nice and I tried to focus on that rather than how crappy I was starting to feel, but there was very little shade and I regretted not bringing the water.  My attempt to stay under 7:30 pace was successful for the first 5 miles, but I felt dehydrated, hungry, and tired, and I barely managed to keep the last 2.8 under 8 minute mile pace.  Our team name was definitely appropriate... my third leg was hard!  I was very happy to finish, get some water, and drink my end-of-race Dead Guy Ale!

After going through the final three exchanges, we made it to Seaside and met up with the rest of our team around 5:30pm to cheer in Audrey at the finish.  We ended up ahead of our predicted time and, more importantly, beat the tacos that we had been chasing all day (a team that dressed in taco suits and we easily spotted at many exchanges and points along the course).  Final time: 28 hours, 5 minutes.

There were a ton of post-race festivities, but having not showered or slept in about 36 hours, we opted to head back to our hotel and get cleaned up.  We capped off the weekend with a nice evening of pizza, beer, and race-story sharing, and I can honestly say that it was one of the most fun race experiences I've ever had.  Thank you Caroline, Ron, Blaine, Jason, Bill, Greg, Chris, Esther, Sara, and Audrey for a great weekend.  There are undoubtedly more relays in my future!

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