Steve Strauss is more than just “an idea guy.” He’s the kind of guy who has an idea, gets friends on board, and then makes things happen. I’m not talking about recruiting 11 other runners and renting two vans. I’m talking about someone who dreams up things like the “Coast to Hood to Coast” run (CTHTC) … or the Oregon Edge Relay.
You won’t find a website for the Oregon Edge Relay (OER); you won’t find a registration page or official results. That’s because Strauss came up with the OER – building on a fun idea and turning it into a logistical feat worthy of large-format events; while raising money for the Oregon Food Bank (and you can still donate!). Over the next few days, we’ll be posting his recap of the epic adventure right here on Run Oregon.
But first, a little of the Q&A with Strauss from before this adventure began:
Run Oregon (RO): So, tell me if this is right … you are planning a self-supported relay running the entire length of the Oregon Coast. (Which sounds amazing and crazy at the same time.)
Steve Strauss (SS): Correct. Self-designed, modeled after the Oregon Coast Bike Route, but transformed into a relay in regards to identifying hand-off points appropriate to the size and aspirations of the team, and to keep it somewhat safe as a priority.
RO: I know you, so I know you’ve done an amazing amount of preparation. When do you start? How many team members, how many miles, how many legs, will they be evenly distributed, where do you start and finish, what will you do for food/drink/bathrooms/resting along the way?
SS: The adventure begins on Friday, Sept. 11 from Seafarer’s Park in Hammond. We can actually dip our toes in the Columbia, then head south until we cross the California border.
The route pencils out to 360 miles, and I settled on wanting 8 runners on the team so as to have two vans of 4 runners. That keeps everyone engaged as there is a runner, a driver, a navigator, and someone getting ready to run. Also there is room for all our stuff, and perhaps opportunity for someone to stretch out or power nap occasionally. I eventually figured out we could accomplish this in seven rotations (56 total legs) if I extended the nighttime legs to 8 or 9 miles, which gave enough of a gap between the van rotations to allow a genuine sleep break at a hotel (still only a couple of hours, but important). There are enough towns along the way for us to supplement any food and drink we bring. We expect decent cell-service most of the time. Bathrooms were the tricky part [to plan], but the Oregon Coast belongs to the people and luckily that includes lots of state parks, waysides and other spots with bathrooms, and some with showers. There is also the ocean itself in a pinch (for freshening up, that is)…
RO: Will you be doing any “side tourism” stuff?
SS: The scenery will be right there most of the time, but during van breaks the “idle van” may squeeze in a noteworthy tourist spot or two. I have my eye on the carnivorous plants at Darlingtonia Park myself … but we will encounter many of the offshore rock formations, the lighthouses and the ports as we pass in semi-slow motion. And we won’t miss too much that’s noteworthy during the nights. When the relay is over, we might double-back to something on the Southern Coast, along with spending a well-deserved overnight of celebration near Gold Beach.
RO: Where did you get this idea, and why did you decide to do it now?
SS: I sensed we were ready for a new challenge to roughly match the CTHTC endeavor. The setting was sparked by a conversation with a relay teammate, and seemed ideal (other than being forced to mostly follow a highway). The intent all along was to have each runner do a cumulative distance of greater than 40 miles to make it worth our time. Weather at the coast is at its best in late September, usually, plus I figured guys would more likely be in peak condition gearing up for fall races. Putting it off a year just makes us a year older – sooner or later that will become an issue, especially if we do any more such shenanigans in years to come.
RO: What was challenging about planning, and what was fun?
SS: Initially, generating interest was rather easy – we are a bunch of idiots (I mean that in a good way). Then some of the guys did a reality check on their schedule and the roster endured a fair amount of overhaul – it became really difficult for a while to find new idiots who were (1) willing; (2) capable; and most importantly (3) available.
The Bike Route maps and supporting information I reviewed early on made it all seem achievable and allegedly safe. Drilling down to the leg details was mostly possible due to on-line maps and running route generators, although I found it necessary to visit much of the North Coast to validate what the map offered and refine things in places where I was led astray (gated roads, misnamed streets, totally unnecessary hills on otherwise creative alternate routes). South of Newport, other than to the degree I’ve visited on long-ago vacations, [will be] somewhat of a crap-shoot on a few of the exchange points. But it has been a combination of fun and challenge crafting the individual legs to keep the workload somewhat even and maximize both the scenery enjoyment and the access to facilities.
RO: How are these epic ad hoc relays different from one like Hood to Coast?
We certainly benefitted logistically from aligning previously with an established event [with the Coast to Hood to Coast], but you can only do that so many times, and events like HTC are a bit reluctant to embrace teams that think too far outside the box or threaten their liability formulas. I wanted to do something truly unique that didn’t require getting permission, and wanted what would feel like a band of brothers embarking on a semi-secret expedition doing something we love. It might get lonely out there, but it will hopefully be mostly carefree other than us all looking out for each other, which strengthens the bonds and the memories.
RO: How has your training been different for this program?
SS: Training changed for me only in the sense that I was a little more motivated to have multiple-run days and to seek out morning and evening sessions. I would have done more marathon-type training except my personal life has had some unexpected twists this year which limited my availability and forced more energy to go into those positive and negative situations. But mentally I’ve been confident throughout, and I’ve learned that this and some adrenaline can get me pretty far.
RO: How did your teammates help out with the OER?
SS: The teammates that have stuck with the plan from the beginning deserve a shout-out – Mike, Mark, Roy and Thomas never wavered. When others had to bow out for various reasons, all acceptable by the way, Scott stepped in and saved the day, working his network of talented friends to keep the dream alive. Then more “stuff” happened to the roster but we finally got it all squared away and we are good to go.
RO: Tell me about the fund-raising aspect of the OER.
SS: I always wanted to have as an extra reason to put the project together. Oregon Food Bank has been supportive and appreciative since I approached them, and I think it is about to become mutually beneficial. People can find us on their Virtual Fund Drive web page, with the team name of “Run the State, Fill the Plate.” (The fund raising page is still up, and donations are still being accepted! They are about $1,500 from their goal to donate $3,600 to Oregon Food Bank.)
Check out Run Oregon tomorrow to read Part 1 of Steve’s recap on the Oregon Edge Relay!