August 25-26, 2000
My buddy Kevin calls me and says, “Hey, are you interested in doing the Hood to Coast Relay?” I have done 3 Tahoe Relays (and some Kayak Run Relays), but nothing of the scope of Hood to Coast.
Hood to Coast starts at the Mt. Hood Recreation Area parking lot and then runs down through Oregon, through the city of Portland, and finishes on the Oregon Coast in the town of Seaside. It is approximately 200 miles long, 12 people per team, and each person runs 3 legs of varying distances. (For example, I ran Legs 6, 18, and 30.)
So… I am interested, but I cannot afford a trip to Oregon at this juncture.
Actually, I am a bit confused, because at least for TRH, the Hood to Coast teams are set up well in advance, because it is hard to get in. The deal is that Kevin’s high school buddy was supposed to run on a team, but cannot, and needs to get a substitute (me, I guess). His buddy also works for Horizon Air (subsidiary of Alaska) and can get me a one-way ticket from LA to Portland for $35. That’ll work.
I fly up on Thursday afternoon and his friend picks me up at the airport. I’ll be staying with him and his girlfriend in Portland. During the evening, I break out in a crazy rash. I take some Benadryl (which works), but I only have the one pill. We go out to get some more to try and control it.
I meet up with the team at their church in Boring (a city in Oregon, not a statement). Hardly anyone on the team knows anyone else on the team. Kevin’s friend agreed to be on the team because it was from his girlfriend’s church… but she is not on the team, either. There are actually a lot of substitutes on the team. In our vehicle (Legs 1-6, 13-18, 25-30), the first two runners are from the church, and the rest are subs. The third and fourth runners are… from IRVINE!
We don’t really meet up with the group in the other van. They won’t be starting with us, because that would mean them waiting around for our group to run for 5-6 hours (and probably some of them have to work). Everyone in my van is a fairly fast runner, but the original sign up group was all 10-12 minute milers, so we have an early start (12 noon on Friday). My sister Riva is on another team, and they don’t start until 7pm.
We are making pretty good time on the first few legs. The second runner, Mike, says that he can probably run 7 minute miles on his leg, but the downhill is so severe, he runs a couple of 5:45 miles! My first leg is run at about 5pm, and I run through several stop lights (I’m supposed to stop, but was never that clear on the rules). I run 7.05 miles in 49:57 and make 8 roadkills – a roadkill is when you pass another team. I actually made 9 roadkills, but was roadkilled myself.
After I finish running, we head over to Pastor Jim’s house for a snack and some shuteye. I find it extremely difficult to run hard and then take a nap, so I don’t really sleep… just kind of sit down and close my eyes. Our second van of runners is running while we nap.
After a few hours, we drive over to the transition area to await our second six runners. It is pretty dark out. Despite not knowing each other, the time in the van allows us to get in some good conversation. The Leg 5 runner, David (also a substitute), is one day older than me exactly. We have a lot in common (running-wise, though I think he is faster and shorter (isn’t everyone?)) and have a grand-old time.
My second leg begins around 1:30am, and is entirely on a country road, devoid of light AND traffic. I almost miss the hand-off, because the volunteers want to keep me out of the transition zone (because they don’t think my runner is coming). By the way, the baton is a “bracelet,” made of some metallic material covered in plastic or something. It can either wrap around your wrist or stand straight. To make the transition, you extend it to straight, and then “slap” it around the wrist of the person you hand off to (it doesn’t hurt), rather than handing it to them (easier than a baton pass).
For the dark sections of the course, runners are required to wear reflective safety vests and carry a flashlight. I can hear other people around them, but I do not see their flashlights. I don’t really understand this, because the road is uneven and has several potholes. I wouldn’t want to run this without a flashlight (maybe they think they can see better with the moonlight). I make 10 roadkills and am roadkilled twice. (4.4 miles – 31:30)
As soon as I finish, it is nap time in the van. Ugh. I can’t sleep. I’m sweaty, hot and cold, there are car lights on, lots of noise.
We leave again at around 4 in the morning. We have had a little car trouble and also limited cell phone coverage (we ARE driving through woods and this is 2000, not present day). Our driver STANDS on top of the van to try and reach the satellite.
As we come into each transition in the morning, there have now been more and more teams arriving (not just the ones we started out with, but also the faster teams that started late – Riva’s team passes us). You KNOW when you are getting close to the transition area, because it smells really really bad – the portable toilets!
The unfortunate name of the toilet company is “Honey Bucket.” I end up urinating behind them, because it doesn’t smell quite as bad. But some people are changing in ’em, and even brushing their teeth in ’em. (There’s no sink!) Yuck.
My last leg begins at about 10am. It is a bit overcast, and begins to rain at the beginning of the leg. I also notice that I am passing the same people that I passed on my first time running. (I suspect that I also passed the same people in the dark, but I couldn’t tell you if that was true.) Seems that our van passes some people, and then Van #2 is passed by those same people!
Another mile and it starts hailing! Ack.
By the last mile, though, the sun is starting to peek through. I make my 8th net roadkill (9 and 1) to maintain my spot, but towards the end, I am back down to 7. Since I know that I will not be running any more legs, I decide to go all out and try and catch him. The gap is similar to what I did in 1999 at Summer Solstice 5M. I pass him just at the finish (and am still able to “pass the baton”), though it takes me about 100 yards to come to a stop.
Afterwards, a number of random people come up to me and say, “That was the most awesome thing I ever saw in my life. I can’t believe you caught that guy.” (5 miles – 34:33)
Well, now we still have several hours before the rest of our team finishes. We decide to go out for breakfast at a place called Pig’n’the’Poke (?) in Astoria (home of the movie, “The Goonies”). After breakfast, we head for Seaside and nap near the finish (on some grass) by the beach. As soon as we spot our team, everyone jumps in and runs to the finish together.
After riding back to Portland, Kevin’s friend gives me a ride to the airport, and I am hoping that I can get the same $35 voucher to fly back, but instead he is able to just get me onto the flight. =)
For a few months after Hood to Coast, I continue to correspond with the members of my team in the van… the sense of camaraderie is so awesome and it’s sad that it’s over. A fun feeling that I could enjoy again.