This year’s Gorgeous Oregon Coast Relay was run on Sunday, October 8 with a small field of teams made up of previous Gorgeous Relay teams. Because this is a brand-new relay, teams were “test running” the course, which meant that there were very few volunteers on course, and none of the usual support such as porta-potties. Teams were well aware of this going in, and it added to the adventure knowing that our experiences would help shape the relay for the 2018 event. You can read our impressions of Legs 1-4 here and of Legs 5-8 here.
Leg 9 – 4.05 miles – Del Ray Beach to Seaside (Nikki):
Leg 9 was by far the toughest leg of the relay for me. Not only was it the last leg I had to run (where you are feeling a bit tired and ready to be done,) but the first mile and a half of this leg is all on sand. You know you are running a Gorgeous course when the first direction is “head for the ocean!” But that’s exactly what I did, and it was a beautiful start to the last leg of the course for me. The directions also warned me to “watch for Roosevelt Elk on the dunes,” but all I saw was droppings.
Mostly, I watched the ocean … because how many other runs would I get to experience on the beach? Something cool worth noting on this leg is that vehicles can follow their runners on the beach if they have 4WD/AWD. Our vehicle was definitely NOT meant for beach driving, but it was pretty awesome to have that as an option. I did see a couple of vehicles out there while I was making a mess of the sand with my stride.
I followed the tennis shoe prints and the tire marks in the sand until I reached the sign at the beach that my directions told me to turn at. From there I had a short trek through some quiet neighborhoods and a small stretch along the highway where I passed the sign welcoming me into Seaside. A little after 4 miles in, I was done and ready to cheer on the rest of my team through their victories before grabbing that well-deserved beer at the end in Cannon Beach.
Leg 10 – 3.46 miles – Seaside to Tillamook Head Trailhead (Allison):
Leg 10 was a lovely stroll down the promenade – literally! I started out this leg cutting through a few side streets to get us down towards the prom. I ran by a few fishermen eating their lunches on the bridge while crossing over the Necanicum River, as well as a family riding an 8-person bicycle, offering me a ride. I politely declined.
Once I got down to the promenade, I was in familiar territory. Many a summer spent here as well! I encountered lots of families, dogs, tourists, and the occasional seagull along the almost 2-mile stretch. But the walkway is wide, and I didn’t have any trouble navigating my way past them all. Seeing as I was not wearing a race bib, I likely looked like any normal beach-goer out for a run.
As I neared the turn-around, I realized that I was to continue running down the south side of the promenade. I have to admit – in all my years coming to Seaside, I had never known that this was even here. I had beautiful views of the beach on my right, stunning vacation homes on my left. I eventually came inland a bit into the neighborhoods and began my half-mile trek up hill. A homeowner out working in his yard encouraged me to take a side street instead, that the hill would just get worse. I thanked him and told him my team was up there waiting for me. Seeing as this was my third leg, and now uphill, I completely tanked my pace. But it was really satisfying to complete it and see my team at the top waiting for me. Lots of cheers for everyone coming in from the other teams waiting for their runners as well. Great way to end my last leg of the day, for sure!
When considering what to wear for this leg, know that you will be exposed to whatever the beach has to offer. We were so fortunate that day to have the most beautiful weather possible. Sunny with a slight breeze, party cloudy at times, with a slight drizzle that reminded you of where you were. I asked myself after I finished if I would have enjoyed that promenade section as much if the wind and rain had been whipping down on me. The answer was still yes, as I love running here in the real Oregon weather. I just would have had to dress for it!
Leg 11 – 5.5 miles – Tillamook Head Trail, or, Mordor (Kelly):
I’m not going to lie … I chose to run Leg 11. I like hills – they’re a challenge, but you usually end up with pretty good views, and I’ve never felt shame in declaring the worst of them to be “walking hills.” Fortunately for me, teammate Marya had run on this trail during a recent 50k, and warned me about it’s technical surface and a massive washout that would require me to do a little bit of scrambling. I wore my trail shoes again, and was looking forward to the 5.5 miles on trail, where I wasn’t going to worry for one second about my pace.
The trailhead itself is really cute. Pretty much immediately after crossing through this gate, though, the switchbacks start. The footing was really rough, but aside from the 180-degree turns, I was still able to run at a decent pace for that type of incline. There were roots and huge rocks everywhere, so I had to keep my eyes on the ground, but I did stop a few times for the sole purpose of looking around. I soon realized that looking around included looking down and so I kept my eyes on the trail for a while. Before long, I met a friend coming the opposite direction – a small washout had her questioning the route, so we navigated together and then I set off again on my own at a decent pace for the hill.
The Tillamook Head Trail is never boring. If you’re not climbing, you’re navigating those rocks and roots, “boardwalk” sections with heavy boards (some rotted through), and around trees and downed branches. At one point, I met a hiker coming the other way just as a downed tree came into my view. He laughed at my choice to go under it, remarking that he was much too tall to go that route. In all, I was having a good time and pleased that I’d had few walk breaks. But then … then I caught my left toe on a root and went down. Hard.
I got a few steps in before I landed, but I knew what the end result would be. In hindsight (with the added benefit of mapping my bruises), I think I landed on my left knee and then just laid out, Superwoman-style. All my breath was knocked out of me, and it took a few moments for me to get up. It hurt. I said an inpolite word that rhymes with “truck,” and my eyes started to fill with tears. “There’s no crying in trail running,” I told myself, but I had three miles to go and my knee really hurt.
I knew staying put wasn’t a reasonable option, so I gingerly set off and was able to get into a somewhat normal gait on the climbs and flatter sections, but going downhill hurt. Before long, that friend I’d seen at the washout caught up to me, and we ran the rest of the way together, along with a girl named Rhonda who was running her first Gorgeous Relay.
Most of the time, the trail was quite obvious, but at the Hikers Rest camp area, we took the wrong trail and ended up at a dead end overlooking the ocean. We backtracked, yelled up to a few other runners not to follow us, and figured out the right path with a little help from our friends. Chatting for the last mile or so took my mind off my knee, and after a few little switchbacks, we were back on open trail. I have never been so glad to finish a relay leg. I’ve also never had to dig pine needles out of my pants from sliding along a trail on my stomach, but there’s a first time for everything, I guess.
Leg 12 – 3.81 miles cut down for safety – Cannon Beach (Marya):
Leg 12. The last leg of the relay. It was supposed to be 3.81 miles, but the race organizers made a race day decision to have us skip the first half of the route, as the road between Indian Beach and Ecola Beach was deemed to be unsafe for runners due to the high volume of cars on the road. (The trail connecting the two parking areas was washed out last winter. Oregon State Parks, via their website, report that they must “plan, obtain permits, and build a new route” before the trail can be reopened. Hopefully they will be able to repair the trail by next year as it would be a great addition to this relay!)
Our run was shortened to only about 2.1 miles (per my watch’s measurement). Runners were transported by their team vehicles to the Ecola Beach Parking Area, where we began by running up the trail to the left of the restrooms. About a mile of trail led us to the road leading out of Ecola State Park, and except for a few rollers, it was basically a downhill shot through the trees. After leaving the Park, the route made a left on the first road it came to, then the first right which takes you across a bridge. From there, the course continued through a few turns, passing the Finish Party at Public Coast Brewing where I found a few teams cheering on runners, but I wasn’t fooled, I knew I wasn’t quite done yet. Two more turns, and I saw my teammates waiting at the finish line at Whale Park. And the relay was complete!
We hung around at Public Coast Brewing, where we enjoyed local brews and delicious food, and then hit the road. All told, we left Portland around 5:30a on Saturday morning and were home by 8p. And we can’t wait until the 2018 Oregon Gorgeous Coast Relay. Hope to see you there – we’ll either be Team Run Oregon or Team Pine Needles In Our Pants!