Overnight Relay Season: Part One


Well, it’s that season again. The one I think of as “Relay Season.” Thousands of runners start (or have already started) training plans for Hood to Coast, Ragnar, Cascade Lakes or whichever adult slumber party with running thrown in they have chosen.

I’m by no means an expert on relays, but I am certainly a huge fan and well, probably a little obsessed. Thus I decided to write a short series of posts I hope some will find helpful. Mainly I will just talk about things like how to be a good team captain (believe me I learned from the best,) a little about training, what to pack and for the novice runners especially, what to expect on relay weekend.

I thought a good start would be to share my own first-time relay experience.

I’m a transplant to the Portland area, sixteen years now. Before that I lived briefly in Eastern Washington but grew up in Idaho. Roughly thirteen years ago I started “jogging” casually off and on by graduating myself from a routine lunch hour fitness walk. A couple of years later I was running about four miles four to five times per week. I had never done a race before. In fact I was naïve about them and didn’t really know any serious runners at the time thus I had no clue that there were so many races and the different distances, etc.

One day a friend from work asked me if I wanted to sign up and run the Race for the Cure 5k with her. I agreed and we had a great time. We took turns pushing her toddler in his stroller yet still managed to run about a ten minute per mile pace, certainly not fast but respectable for a practically novice runners first 5k.

Next up, another friend told me about a small race called The Red Lizard Five-Miler which I did and fell in love with. I’ve done it every year and I’m super bummed to hear they are not having it this year. But I digress …

In 2008 I started a new job and had already run my first marathon the year before. I had worked there about two weeks when an email to all employees came out asking for a last minute replacement for their Hood to Coast team. Believe it or not I had never heard of HTC at that time or any races like it. Since I was already doing twenty milers training for my next marathon, I had the confidence I could complete the mileage so I volunteered myself.

By that time it was close enough to the race that all of the group training runs were finished. I only knew one person on the team, just very casually because he sat near me. As race day drew closer I began to get a little nervous, and by a little I mean a lot, about what I had actually gotten myself into. Run three times in a little over a day? No sleep? Being stuck in a stinky van with five other people I didn’t even know (as it turned out no vans were available we had a Jeep Wagoneer or something similar. We were crammed in there like sardines.) I’ll just refer to it as a van here, for simplicity sake.

Yes, I was thinking I was pretty crazy to have volunteered but, what the hay. I knew that no matter what happened it would be a unique experience.

Race day quickly arrived and I had some pretty big butterflies when my husband dropped me off at the parking lot where I worked. Everyone was pretty much loaded up (we were the second van) and ready to go. I was introduced to everyone, hopped in and off we went.

The first thing I noticed as we drove through Portland was all of the fun, unique and crazily decorated vans full of very excited people. It was great to see a bunch of them as we made our way to Mt. Hood. The photo below is from the year we were “The Pink Pixie Princesses of Magical Delights and Rainbows.” Yes you read that right.


As we drove we all talked. Not everyone there knew each other. I think Robert (close friend to this day) from my row at work was in the same boat I was with not knowing any of the others. We talked about our running experience, whether or not we had done the race before, and if I’m not mistaken only one person in our van had. Being a bit of an introvert as a lot of runners are, I had been so concerned about how the general vibe in the van would be. Would it be uncomfortable? Would we all connect? Would there be any conflict? Worst of all, gasp, would there be silence?

Wow! Never have I needed to worry less. Every person was interesting and pleasant and I already knew it before we even made it to the first van exchange. I couldn’t have been thrown into a van (tiny Jeep) with a better group of people!

The whole entire experience was wonderful. I really felt afterwards that it was the most fun I’d ever had in my life. And since I had done well on all three of my legs I felt accomplished too. I wore that years’ shirt to pieces. In fact of all the shirts since I still think that one was the best.

I’m skipping all of the details of the weekend for now. Not at all because I tend to get a little (just a little now) wordy and go on a bit sometimes, but  because I want to save that part for later when I do the “what to expect” post.

Next up: Pointers on how to be a good Team Captain.