For the last three years I’ve had a spot on my calendar circled for The Gorgeous Relay and it’s a tradition that will continue each September. I shy away from the weekend relays, mostly because I’m lazy and don’t like dealing with all the extra stuff that comes along with them. With the one day relays you have a lot less packing, you don’t have to worry about lodging, they aren’t a huge time commitment and, overall, they are just less of a headache. There’s a reason one day relays are popping up, but there are lots of reason. I think people should run The Gorgeous Relay.
The course is unique and absolutely beautiful. Runners start in waves outside of Cascade Locks and make their way to Base Camp Brewery in Portland. The 60 mile adventure includes the Historic Columbia River Highway, views of the Columbia and Willamette River and the Vista House at Crown Point. The race directors listen to their participants and are constantly working to improve their event and it just keeps getting better. Finally, the teams that come out for this race are fun and incredibly supportive. The first year we had extreme storm warnings and it still rocked. The second year we had a bit of a heat wave, but we adapted. The third annual Gorgeous Relay had pretty much perfect weather conditions and I loved to see this event take root in the Northwest running community.
We started in the early wave, since it’s also tradition to run this event as a Dynamic Duo, so just me and my running girlfriend, Angie. Previous years we traded off each leg, which left very little time to change into dry clothes and grab a snack in between legs. This year we changed it up a little and doubled up the legs. It gave us longer recovery in between legs, and allowed us to see ‘new’ portions of the course.
There was the usual excitement at the starting line and I loved seeing teams get into the spirit. Just before we started, teams were announced as their teammates cheered, most of them with clever names that made you smile. Standing there, I was a little nervous since I’d only have one teammate to clap for me and our team name, WE RUN, isn’t the most creative. I’m sure we got plenty of cheers and support, which is one of the things I love so much about events in general. It’s a blur, though, since I was just trying to focus and remind myself to start smart since we had a long day ahead of us.
I got caught up in the pace of the group and had to back off a little since the first leg includes some decent hills. It also includes some views, with the sunrise reflecting off the cliffs to our left and the river on our right, it’s so incredibly peaceful running out there. Tranquil and pretty, but it did include a fair share of spiderwebs and I’m somewhat grateful no one was out there to see my reaction. Make sure to run in later waves if you have a spiderweb aversion like some of us. Webs and all I loved legs 1 and 2 with views of the Gorge, through the quaint little town of Cascade Locks and through some beautiful forested sections. I passed off to Angie and was not so secretly relieved that my sections of trail were paved. She had the stretch that is designed for true trail runners or mountain goats, which I’m neither.
A little food, a quick change and it was time to get motivated for my second set of legs. I love the climb to Crown Point, minus the cars and tourists. I had a group stop me and ask for directions to a trailhead. First off, I’m the worst person to give directions to begin with, and secondly, I don’t know my way around the Multnomah Falls area. Thirdly, I had a race belt and bib on and it was pretty evident I was participating in a race, not a tour guide, but it made that leg memorable. The views at the top are breathtaking, well worth the climb and a perfect exchange point, giving teammates an opportunity to take in the view while they wait.
Also making this year memorable was a minor stomach bug, which made it impossible to keep anything down. I thought maybe I pushed too hard trying to keep up with the fast kids, but after it spread to my family, it was confirmed that wasn’t it. My last set of legs were hard, not because of their level of difficulty. Technically, they were my ‘easier’ set, but I just wasn’t feeling good. I walked a lot, which I hate, but there’s always a silver lining. I got to see more people, of course warning them to keep their distance, but I got to chat with my favorite blogger, Marilyn and a former CLR teammate, Darrin, but best of all I made a new friend.
I met Darryl at one of the exchange points and instantly loved his 3-person team, NIK-NAT-HO We Gotta Go. Somewhere along the Springwater Corridor he came across me and offered to help pace me. It was just what I needed. He chatted and took my mind off not feeling good; He told me about events he’s done and events he has coming up, but, most importantly, he helped me get it done. You meet total strangers out there that care and it’s just one more reminder of how many amazing people there are out there. The runners are awesome and the volunteers are up there too. I loved seeing the bright orange volunteer shirts along the course. It meant I was going the right way and they spread some energy.
I planned to run the last leg in with Angie, but called it good with the last mile and some. This was the first year we got everything timed right and ran in together, proving the third time really is the charm. A Gorgeous Relay pint glass and medal were waiting at Base Camp Brewery, along with the race directors congratulating everyone crossing the finish line. It was fun to just hang out and discuss the day, all the fun mishaps and adventures that take place with a relay. Every year has something special and for this year it was the help I got along the way. I appreciate people paying it forward to help me get it done and I will pass that along in the future. Gorgeous Relay includes some beautiful views, but I love this relay for the people, they are friendly, inspiring and supportive beyond belief.