About NATRA Blog

This page is meant for folks to post their thoughts on the Saturday group run. I (Neil) will post a blurb about who showed up and where it was held. From there, I hope that other runners will share their thoughts since we often have different experiences on the same run. Enjoy!

Friday, September 2, 2011

Hood to Coast

The moment I eagerly awaited all year long had finally arrived. I had been wrought with a summer full of angst anticipating the Mother of All Relays - Hood to Coast. After injuring my calf in July, I decided no more running until race day. Power walking, mushroom hunting, surveying on wildfires, fine. I knew with the upcoming fire season I'd have plenty of opportunities to stay fit.

I was filled with excitement to visit Team Running Sucks Captain Rhiannon and Tim in Portland, Oregon, a city I have fallen in love with over the past 5 years. The flight to PDX was amusing as Kara, Heather and I carpooled to PHX at 3:30 AM. While this simplified travel, we all managed to take separate flights into PDX. Once we all regrouped a few hours later, Van 1,team Running Sucks picked up their rental. A gangsta black Chevy Tahoe. We knew we were going to be bad asses.

On Thursday night, we all packed into Rhi and Tim's apartment sleeping on every available inch of space - a good way to ease into the sleep deprivation we knew we would face over the next 30 hours. Most of us were used to the concept, heck we had all done epic relays before, but Hood to Coast is the original. NPR's Scott Simon covered this year's race!

As early Friday rolled around, it was time to carefully pack the Tahoe - one of the key elements of a successful relay. Just enough food, drink and sleeping bags to get you through the event. Organization is key, and Heather taught us a new trick to keeping track of your Bananas. Comfort just is not a part of this race and is the reason you feel more pain than after running a marathon. There is no room to stretch your legs in the cramped vehicle for 27 hours. But more on the Hood to Coast post race shuffle later.

Another tradition in the pre-race early morning hours is to decorate your transport vehicle. Within minutes we could barely contain our laughter with every statement having to do with "sucks". My contribution - "hot sucks.". The NATRA runner logo was even quoted saying "Humidity Sucks." But of course nothing funnier than our team name and our shirts "Running Sucks." As the race progressed into the night, runners clearly identified with our team name by smiling and saying "you got that right".

Running Sucks divided into 2 vans, Van 1 and Van 2. Relays are bizarre. You really don't get to know the other Van, you just hope they stay on track and meet at the major exchanges. On the other hand, within your van, you get to know your teammates very, very well. Our Van was a combination Rhi's Flagstaff NATRA friends mixed in with her colleagues from the Claremont Mudd Scripps College Cross Country team . And we had coach Carl who dutifully drove us throughout the night. A veteran of Hood to Coast, Carl was injured and could not run - he just wanted to be part of the Relay. By the end, I understood his passion and commitment for doing this for his friends.

Van 1's mix of runners complemented each other well. Greg and Neil's slower paces allowed the remaining speed demons plenty of time to recover. Greg and I well understood the significance of our roles!

The drive to Mount Hood was magnificent with the numerous snow chutes covering the mountain. When we arrived we saw the sea of madness and many of the colorful teams, including the Star Wars Storm Troopers in Speedos.

I was more infatuated with the Honey Badger team - one of my favorite YouTube Videos of the year! I also then ran into my pal David Bluestein who we married at the Big Brothers Big Sisters Half Marathon two years ago. We had just seen each other the week before!

I had other ideas on my mind at the starting area. I had been excited to see Timberline Lodge - the exterior which was used in the "Shining". I wondered if this race would end up as a horror story for me. Redrum! Of course as we stood in front taking photos, I heard a a familiar voice. I looked up and of course there was a Forest Service interpreter talking about the historic of Timberline Lodge. Ah, just can't get away from my job. Of course there was no time for a tour, Heather was about to start!

The race pretty much want according to plan. We all ran our expected paces and despite well above normal heat as we sped down Mount Hood. We would have broken 27 hours had it not been for that damn train in the middle of the night that held up Heather's run. Oh yeah, and then there were the few minutes that we lost when we had to rename Al, Al "Will dog it for Hottie".

For me, I thought I was broken after leg 2. While I felt fairly strong during my 2 AM run - my longest leg of 7 miles, I could feel an ancient injury flaring up. The old ITB issue I hadn't felt in 18 years. As we made our way to the Woodstock like van exchange area at 4 AM, my knee had cramped and when I stepped out onto the soft ground I felt a pain shoot up my back. Thankfully Kara, our team PT, forced me onto the foam roller and despite the even more excruciating pain that followed, it magically worked. I was back on track and managed to run my entire third leg of just under 6 miles.

Carl had brilliantly rented rooms in Astoria, a rustic historic town where the Columbia River empties into the Pacific. As we had time before the epic Seaside finish, Van 1 checked into our great rooms at the Comfort Inn, just about 50 yards from the Columbia River. Our room had panoramic views of bridges, Washington State and the river. Oh, and of course, the sea lions who despite their efforts, could not keep me awake with their barking. With just enough time to eat lunch, Carl yelped and we found the fantastic BowPickers Fish and Chips ship. Best post race meal ever.

The race ended at the massive beach resort of Seaside. Kara, Heather and I raced to the ocean's edge and soaked our weary legs. One problem - the Oregon ocean temperature is about 50 degrees and I damn nearly lost my breath. We arrived in Seaside in time to hook up with Van 2. However, with traffic, 15,000 runners and blazing heat, Astoria and cold beer in the river side rooms seemed far more divine. And of course sleep over the constant barking of the sea lions.

Our post-race day activities of walking around Portland, hitting MUU-MUUs for lunch, a beer at Mcmenamins and walking up and down the steps at Powell's Bookstore alleviated the pains of the Hood to Coast shuffle. We celebrated that night at the Bushwhacker's Cider House, Rhi and Tim's quaint neighborhood hangout. We sampled most of their delicious ciders, and Hood to Coast shuffled back to Rhi's thus finishing off the perfect weekend in Portland. Needless to say, I would do Hood to Coast again in a heartbeat.

Special thanks to Rhi who organized this amazing combination of teammates and to our driver Carl who stayed up all night safely getting us from point to point. And of course to all my Running Sucks teammates. You guys rock! But the biggest shout out has to go to Rhi's mom who along with friends served as our required 3 race volunteers. We could not have done this without you!

For many more photos, see below.

1 comment:

  1. Foam roller = AARGH!
    But wow: sleep, fish & chips, hard cider... you guys did it right! Thanks for the photos and the summary.
    - Ryan