In September 2015, Steve Strauss put together a completely customized relay with the dual goals of raising funds for Oregon Food Bank and providing a once-in-a-lifetime tour of the Oregon Coast. To get a little background, read the Q & A with Strauss here. This is the first of a two-part series in which Strauss recaps the experience – check back tomorrow for the wrap-up.
by Steve Strauss, guest community blogger
Would you run an overly-long relay event with no dedicated porta-potties, no volunteers, 9-mile night-time legs along a highway, and no other teams?
On the weekend of September 11-13, I added another unique experience to my running resume when our team of eight completed the Oregon Edge Relay.
This super-scenic adventure, on a course most likely never previously attempted, stretched 360 miles from where the Columbia River meets the Pacific Ocean in Hammond, through every coastal town and past every beach in the state, ending at the “Welcome to California” sign a few miles south of Brookings.
As the only team in the field, our total time of 50:46 represented a “victory”, but we won in so many other ways as well. Blessed with fine weather, all the great scenery was on full display. As a team of resilient athletes and men of character, we solidified our friendships, made the constant challenges fun, and supported each other to ensure we stayed safe and injury-free. Plus, we raised over $2,000 for the Oregon Food Bank with our pledge to “Run the State, Fill the Plate.” (Editor’s Note: You can still donate here.)
Designed to mostly mimic the Oregon Coast Bike Route course along or near to Highway 101, all I needed was a few others crazy enough to do this with me. Mike Flanigan and Mark Anderson had previously collaborated on the unprecedented Coast to Hood to Coast effort from 2011 (400 miles, 9 runners), a success that allowed me to have confidence all along that this new endeavor was more than possible. When some of our UltraLords teammates from then couldn’t join in again, I enlisted some new willing, able and available recruits. Roy Rafanan, Dale Smith and Thomas Trieu were HTC veterans, with Thomas already a fan of doing full-sized relays with less than full-sized teams. Scott MacDonald joined in to further re-invigorate the roster, embracing the opportunity to put his growing marathon prowess to new use, and then he convinced his Maryland-based cousin Michael Bur to parlay his impressive ultra-running skills into a different type of endurance situation. No elites here, but a solid, dependable and confident group of masters runners prepared for whatever this wondrous terrain would present.
Friday morning we dipped toes and fingers into the water at Seafarer Park and Mark headed south as a trio of seagulls looked on. For the early legs we took advantage of town roads and trails to minimize our exposure on the North Coast section of the highway. Focused too much on keeping my teammates on point, I performed the first of our two major blunders when I anticipated too soon a back road into Cannon Beach and ended up high on a ridge overlooking the town instead. This was good for a little relief and plenty of laughs once I finally appeared, 20 minutes late. My boneheaded tardiness also allowed time to earn us $10 for the Food Bank, the first of two such walk-up donations that day.
At 7 or 8 miles per hour, we enjoyed the long drawn-out vistas on the way up and over Oswald West Park, and found it possible to more fully appreciate the character of small towns like Manzanita, Nehalem, Wheeler, Rockaway, Garibaldi and Bay City. Viewpoints, waysides and state parks of various sizes entered our consciousness instead of being blurs on the way to “more important” destinations, as typically happens when one “visits” the beach. This perspective would remain true throughout the remaining two days and nights.
Seeking to remain close to the “Edge” of the state, we ventured west from Tillamook towards Netarts and the rest of the Three Capes Scenic Route. Darkness arrived just before we reached Pacific City, but we were just getting warmed up. To allow the 4-person van-fulls any chance to catch a nap, I spread out the exchange points for the night legs. We could still sense the presence of the surf even if we couldn’t always see it, and at some higher elevations the fog and mist made it hard to see much of anything. But these were comfortably cool temps still ideal for running.
As Roy approached Lincoln City, he had his first encounter with demons, tripping over logging-truck debris near East Devil’s Lake Road. When we saw him hobbling towards where the van had stopped to check on him, we thought the worst, but he insisted on walking off the discomfort and knee abrasions. By the time he reached the casino neighborhood his luck had improved, and his running form never suffered again.
Meanwhile, van 2, a maroon Town & Country model, and its inhabitants caught 20 winks at our Newport hotel, and Bur and the others began formulating a rich story about the elusive Maritime Sasquatch we all needed to watch out for. Then they took over the workload while Van 1, conveniently identical in appearance, snuck into the same two hotel rooms to get a bit of rest and some freshening up of their own.
We welcomed morning on the approach to Neptune State Park, south of Yachats. This area features a more rugged section of coastline, and at low tide Scott and his cousin saw fit to cool their legs in the beckoning surf. We were all recharged, whether from the recent showers and power naps, the presence of daylight, or the fresh coffee and day-old danishes.
Check back tomorrow for the next installment of Strauss’ recap of the home-grown Oregon Edge Relay.