After hearing great things about last year’s inaugural Three Capes Relay from fellow Run Oregon Blogger, Teresa Wymetalek, I jumped at the chance to join a Run Oregon team for the 2015 version. Then, against this 5k specialist’s better judgement, I agreed to run it on a two-person team with Matt Rasmussen. Run more than a 10k? Twice? With huge hills? What was I thinking?!
But the prospect of the adventure and the amazing scenery outweighed the panic as I awoke before dawn on Saturday and drove through the coast range toward Tillamook. I always enjoy driving to races, and negotiating the curves of Hwy. 6 in the fog was especially fun. I even got a rare chance to turn on my fog lights.
By the time I arrived at our meeting place at the finish in Pacific City, the fog was long gone, replaced by a clear blue, cloudless sky. Soon Teresa and her teammate Angie arrived with their husbands, closely followed by Matt. Angie’s husband Thomas was their driver, while Teresa’s husband Craig kindly offered to chauffeur “Matt and Joe’s Excellent Adventure”.
We carpooled to the start, cutting it a bit close but still arriving in plenty of time to pick up our packets, strip off our warmups, and make use of the portable facilities. In order to split up the mileage somewhat equitably, I would be running Legs 1, 2, and 5, while Matt took on Legs 3 and 4.
After detailed pre-race instructions from Race Director Patrick Zweifel , the countdown began, the horn sounded, and we were off, everyone from solo runners to teams of two to five. Leg 1 didn’t waste any time messing around, and we found ourselves immediately tackling a steep and unrelenting hill. As daunting as it was, having it at the beginning of the race made it easier to take and kept me from going out too fast (to put it mildly!) It was also a peaceful section of closed road through the shaded woods, a serene setting that made the climb more bearable.
Eventually, the climbing ended and we got to enjoy an extended downhill. Then there was some more climbing and another drop to Exchange 1, close to sea level. I continued through the exchange to the enthusiastic support of Matt and Craig and other runners waiting for their teammates.
Leg 2 began with another ascent, including a nasty, steep switchback, before settling into a more gently rolling section and a long, gradual climb. The weather was bright and clear, but still cool and comfortable.
A long straight stretch through town led to the first slight glitch, where the Three Capes Scenic Route split off from the main road. I saw a large orange traffic cone at the intersection, but no arrow or volunteer. I slowed to a halt for a few seconds to consider my options. I finally decided the logical choice was to take a right, assuming the course would probably stay next to the ocean to show off the scenery. A couple of turning vans reinforced my decision, and the red “Mile 7” painted on the asphalt a block down the road clinched it. Turning the corner, I spotted the runner ahead of me off in the distance, and I knew I was on the right track.
A long sweeping section of flat road along the shoreline was very scenic, but accentuated the distance, especially for a 5k specialist on his 8th mile. The sun was getting warmer, but not too hot. I closed my eyes and mouth when I encountered a few clouds of tiny gnats, but other than that the conditions remained perfect.
I had forgotten the distance of Leg 2, and expected I had two or three miles left to go. Note to self: re-read the course description before the start, for mileage and turns (see above). So as I was beginning to fade, I was relieved to round a corner and spot a bunch of parked vans and a crowd of runners milling around a pair of orange cones. It was Exchange 2! I put on a semblance of a kick, and handed off to Matt, wishing him well on the big climb up to the crest of Cape Lookout.
Check back tomorrow for Matt’s recap of legs 3 and 4!