Hood to Coast 2015: The Year of the Storm

This years running of Hood to Coast was my third, and without a doubt the best one yet! What a thrilling 30 hours and 31 minutes of team support, camaraderie, good food, family time, and hard work. The last two times I’ve run H2C was with a semi-competitive team from Nike, this year was with my wife’s awesome family and I could have never imagined it would be as fun as it was.
For those of you who aren’t familiar with Hood to Coast – let me do a quick rewind so you can follow along. Hood to Coast, also known as ‘The Mother of all Relay’s is a 12 person relay that covers 198 miles, starting at Timberline Lodge at Mt. Hood, west of Portland and finishing on the beach (the ‘coast’) in Seaside, OR. The relay race consists of two vans: Van 1 and Van 2 who each have 6 runners. Each runner completes 3 legs of running distances of 4-8 miles, making it 36 total legs of running to get from ‘Hood to Coast.’

Personally, I was in Van 2 and ran Leg 9 – a tough leg with 2 fairly flat 5-5.5 milers and a final 7.75 leg with rolling hills as you near the beach. I haven’t inserted very much speed work into my training, and wasn’t sure what I would be capable of. However, after putting together our teams time estimates into a rather complicated excel document (a.k.a. ‘the spreadsheet’) I was predicted to run 6:19 pace for my first 2 legs and 6:49 for the final long leg. This didn’t quite feel within reach, so I crammed in a few last minute track workouts and showed up on race day feeling as fit and fresh as possible when taking into account how sporadic training has been for me since Ironman.

Final track workout for Hood to Coast at Cascade Middle School in Bend.

Our Van got to Sandy High School nice and early on Friday, about 2 ours before our first van was predicted to come in and make the exchange. (There are 3 major exchanges where the van’s pass off wrist ‘baton’ to the other van, which is where having a spreadsheet with predicted times is critical and clutch!) We were able to get our van decorated, hit the Honey Buckets and our first runner, my wife April was able to get her mind & body right and ready to run her first leg.

Once the final runner of Van 1 showed up, it was go time! This is where the race really begins, and we spent the next 25 hours coordinating directions so we could make it to each exchange, stopping on the side of the road to cheer on our runners, and getting some rest when time allowed. One of the advantages to running with a team who was a little slower than the fast teams I’d run with before meant that we had some additional time to support our runners, as well as some additional time to rest between legs which was awesome.

My wife looking beautiful and super strong as she started her first leg, leg 7.

Since I was running Leg 9, this meant that the legs I ran were Legs 9, 21, and 33. My first leg began around 5:30 PM and was 5.5 miles and I was predicted to run 6:19 based on the 10k time I’d entered to estimate my paces. My goal was to start steadily hard and just maintain that effort. I clicked off 6:11’ish miles for the first few and ended up averaging 6:13’s for the leg which I was super stoked on! It was a really hard effort, but short enough that I didn’t feel too much fatigue after it was done.

Link to data on Strava for Leg 9!

My 2nd Leg, Leg 21, was a tough one – not necessarily because of the terrain or distance but because it began around 3 in the morning. The title of this post suggests that weather wasn’t great, and during our vans second legs is when the storm really began. We had rain that was coming down at the intensity of my shower and lightening, but thankfully it was stayed warm and was in the low 60’s. I was predicted to run 6:22 pace for this 5 mile leg and ended up clocking 6:15 pace – it was so wet I think I just wanted to be done!

Quick picture during our 2nd legs which took place between 3-7am - running on energy and teamwork!

Link to data on Strava for Leg 21!

Between the 2nd and 3rd legs is when things got interesting, and where we learned that the storm was affecting the outcome of the race for teams. Race Officials notified us that the wind was blowing at 75mph at the coast, and that they were having to close the finish line. Further, we were told that if we wanted to finish…it would be at our own risk! Crazy! What do you do with that information?! We were 2 legs into our relay, exhausted, and had no way to know what our Van 1 runners were thinking as we didn’t have cell reception. We decided to pull into the final major exchange, rest, and wait to see what they thought when they came in to make the final pass-off. Thankfully, after a few hours the rain/wind lifted and in true Oregon fashion there was a weather shift which gave us some clear weather. By the time our runners came in, we committed to going for it and told Van 1 that we would get the job done and see them at the coast.

My final Leg, Leg 33, was the tough one. 7.75 miles of rolling hills to finish off my contribution to the relay race. I was predicted to run 6:49 pace and was hoping to be closer to 6:45’s. I started off feeling strong and consistent right around a 6:45 pace, and for the first time (for me) the van pulled over mid-way through the run to cheer for me and play my power song! It was such an awesome boost of confidence and motivation, with my brother-in-law challenging me to catch a guy who I had been chasing the whole leg. Just the boost I needed and I fought hard to reel him in right at the finish, averaging around 6:41 pace to finish off the day.

Link to data on Strava for Leg 33!

Our team rallied and made it to the coast almost 2 hours ahead of our predicted time. We met up with our 12th runner and all crossed the new, make-shift finish line together, quickly followed by more than our fair share of pizza which was well deserved. Hood to Coast ’15 was unforgettable for many reasons, the weather being the most obvious, but for me it was the awesome time spent with a family that I’m so lucky to be a part of.

Selfie with the Van 2 runners once we had made it to the coast!

Time to recover, and enjoy some un-structured training for the next few months. I don’t have any races planned, but do anticipating jumping into some local races: a 10k, half marathon, and maybe even a road-mile to capitalize on the new energy I have for running after such a great weekend. Thanks for reading!

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