Last year’s event and this year’s race could not have been more different. Last year I was in Van 2 and was the 12th (last runner). This year I was team captain (!), in Van 1 and the 3rd runner. Last year it was hotter and this year the weather was CRAZY! After experiencing the hottest summer on record for Portland, you would think that H2C would be really warm. That’s what we were all planning on. Every other relay this summer had to deal with unbearable temps: Epic, Cascade Lakes and the Bend Beer Chase.
But let me back up. Being Captain is one of the hardest, most frustrating jobs I have ever willingly signed up for. You manage all of the deadlines for your team, finding runners when someone drops, sourcing vans, developing and managing schedules all while trying to keep the entire event at a reasonable cost. And that is really hard. To be fair, everyone on your team is trying to make H2C work for them and their abilities. No one wants the legs that are super hard or countless team meetings. And everyone needs to get back home to their families after the event. But being Captain means that you put the team as a whole need’s above your own. I think some people might not see the Captain’s decisions as reflecting that.
As we got closer and closer to the start of H2C, the weather reports starting predicting rain and storms. We had all ready been promised rain several times this summer by weather forecasters but got almost none. So I didn’t take the weather forecast all that seriously.
Van 1 met up at my house on Friday morning at 6:30am. Poor Andy was finishing up getting ready for work as 5 sleepy woman showed up. Coffee was sourced from Starbucks and we got on the road remarkably quickly for our 9am start time. The weather forecast showed rain for Friday but as you can see from the photos, no rain.
The start line was chaotic and fun and kinda cold. But with our beef jerky samples from Obeirto, we soldiered on.
Before long it was 9am and time for Jess to run.
Everything was on track and pretty uneventful for the first legs. Here is a photo of me attempting to hand off to Amy. My run was so fantastic I honestly didn’t want to stop.
After we handed off to Van 2 at Sandy High School, we went back to my house for food, showers, and a quick nap. Knowing that we were going back to my house after our first leg gave me some much needed time to pack. Last year I brought three changes of clothes and only used two shirts so I decided to pack less this year. Based on my experience from last year I decided to pack more after the race clothes than during the race clothes. This was not a smart move.
We met up with Van 2 under the Hawthorne Bridge. It was such an amazing collection of people that you had to be happy. Everyone was singing and dancing. It felt like the H2C experience that you want to have. The sun set slowly rolling in a muggy humid evening. At that point, we were really hoping that it would rain. The temps were in the mid 70’s and although not uncomfortable not really pleasant.
My second leg was a 7.25 of ‘rolling’ hills. These rolling hills were the longer slow steady inclines that really kick my ass. They are definitely a weakness for me. I admit that I didn’t train for this leg as I should have. And I paid for it. Starting off my strategy was to run a slow steady pace for the first 3 miles then kick it up for the last 4.25. As I slowly chugged up the hills I chanted to myself something about challenges make great character. (I was reading David Brooks “The Road to Character” which I highly recommend!)
My pace was slower than I planned. I felt like I let my team down. I felt bad because I hadn’t trained hard enough. I hated the freakin’ hills. I hated all the runners who said “Good job” as they ran past me barely breathing hard. I hated myself and the stupid relay. Why was I doing this again!? My sports bra kept coming unhooked which didn’t help. One of the hooks dug into my back resulting in a nice patch of chafe.
I envisioned the pain cave and tried to work through the issues. I texted Amy: 3,25 miles to go. Averaging over 13:30 per mile. She sent back: Ok. Run smart. You’ve got this. I wanted to cry.I was a fraud. Everyone knew it. I was a weak, slow stupid runner. How many more times could I do this? How many more times would I show up at a race undertrained and overconfident only to beat myself up on the course for not training hard enough. (Am I hard on myself? Yes.)
Finally I saw the hand off. Thank God.
The conversation in the van was great. And my teammates were very funny keeping me laughing most of the time especially when I was really frustrated.
We met up with Van 2 around 2am(?) We were all very tired and it was hard to get everything done. A light rain had started and it was a little chilly outside. Van 1 conversation was at a minimum. We all just wanted to get to Tent City so we could lay down and rest. The 30 miles from the St. Helens Fairground to Mist were some of the longest miles in history. It took an hour with all of the traffic and when we got to our sleeping spot, it was raining pretty hard.
We planned on sleeping in Tent City but when we go to Exchange 24, the volunteer said there was no more parking at Tent City which was about a quarter of a mile away from where we were at. He also was unsure as to how many tents were left. None of us had trash bags to cover our sleeping bags for the walk. So we decided to sleep in the van.
If you have ever slept with 5 other people in a mini van, you understand what a ridiculous idea it is. I think Caitlin was the only person who really slept. She and I were in the back and hadn’t figured out how to close the back two windows so we both were getting rained on along with our sleeping bags. After 3 hours of being horribly uncomfortable and not really getting any sleep, we were all roused by Margarite exiting the van to use the porta potty. The line for 5 porta potties was ridiculously long. I chose to scale a barbed wire fence which probably wasn’t the smartest move.
During our “sleep” the thunderstorms and lightning moved in. It rained so hard that I was sure they were going to cancel the relay. Actually at that point, tired exhausted, hungry, and thirsty I prayed that they would cancel it. HoodToCoast was fun but I was done.
We left Jess to get the hand off from Todd and drove to the next point. There we got some lentils from a local church which were a bit under cooked and weird. The sign said ‘lentil soup’ but it was more like a bowl of undercooked lentils. I needed something other than sandwiches and sugar at that point.
It was warm and rainy for my leg. Due to not bringing enough running clothes, I had to run in my 2015 HoodToCoast shirt. I have very rigid rules about when I can wear the official race shirt. I believe you cannot wear it until the race is over. I don’t even like to try on the shirt before the race. Usually I will put it on but not let the entire shirt touch my skin. I don’t know why I do this. But yeah….it’s my thing.
My second leg was 6.1 miles. And it rainy and then really windy. I don’t like running in the wind. I would prefer the rain. I saw what appeared to be obvious cheating from some of the other teams on this leg. I saw vans picking up and dropping off runners mid leg which is a no no. I saw runners throwing water bottles in the bushes. That made me sad.
When I got to the hand off, volunteers and my own teammates were teasing me saying that I had to run another leg. It wasn’t that funny. Margarite bought me a cup of noodles. They were the most amazing noodles ever. I will never forget her thoughtfulness and generosity.
We started to hear reports that the finish line was shut down in Seaside at that point. Teams were being advised to get their medals and go home as the beach party had been cancelled due to wind. Then we started seeing photos of the beach.
Our fifth runner ran her last leg with trees falling behind her due to the high winds and rain. At that point, I was really starting to get nervous about the race and finishing. No longer was I wanting to quit because I was tired, I was worried about our teams. But when we met up with Van 2, they refused to quit. We journeyed onto Seaside for burgers and beers and to wait for Van 2 to finish.
After eating, several teammates from Van 1 decided to leave without waiting for Van 2 to finish. While I understand being tired and desperately wanting to get home, I don’t agree with this decision.
Amy and I waited in the van for Van 2 to finish. When we got the word that our last runner was going to be finishing, Amy and I jumped out of the van into some of the strongest winds I have ever been in. The driving rain and wind made me think about my decision to wear socks and sandals. We found Van 2 folks and ran across the finish line together.
Van 2 folks needed to eat and relax before driving back so I drank coffee in an attempt to be ready to drive the 90+ minutes back to Portland on less than 8 hours of sleep in 48 hours. The drive home was horrible. The driving rain, wind and exhaustion made me white knuckle it home at 40mph. I felt like we were never going to get home. I almost cried when I saw Andy.
I am grateful for another experience where I had to dig deep and work hard to finish. I’m happy I got to hang out with my friends and have this experience with them. That being said, I am done with HoodToCoast for at least a year. Probably more.