Relays are becoming all the rage and I personally ran a lot of them last year. One of my absolute favorite relays was the Three Capes Marathon Relay, so I was excited to do it again. I’m training for a marathon in April, so I opted to run legs 1, 2, and 3 to get the milage I needed in, and boy, was it humbling! If you are planning to do this race in 2019 (and I highly recommend that you do!) dress warm and be prepared for some hills!!
There’s no better way to feel like a “real” runner than to start a race with a long hill! This leg, which starts adjacent to Cape Meares Lake is rated as “very difficult” because the hill starts right from “go” and continues for almost 2 miles without a break in climb. The rise is nearly 600 feet with a 6% grade. If you don’t love hills, you will probably at least love the scenery for this leg. There are views of the wildlife refugees and the course passes Cape Meares lighthouse. The scenery on this leg reminds me of running in Forest Park in Portland but with a coastal twist. Lots of green trees and paved road, but COLD ocean breezes.
With the snow we had this year right before the race, (not to mention February at the coast is never t-shirt weather), I would definitely advise you to wear layers when you do this race. I wore a long-sleeved tech shirt, topped with a rain jacket. On the bottom I wore fleece lined pants, gloves, and a hat that covered my ears. I was more than halfway through leg 1 before I could feel my toes again, though I did remove my gloves at that point as well. (To each their own though, as I saw several people wearing shorts.)
After the initial climb, the course returns to sea level and gets much easier. This year, the hail and wind started towards the end of leg 1, so I ended up putting my gloves back on as the weather turned back to miserable. I was glad to have the option available! The first exchange soon came into view and it was a welcome and beautiful view in Oceanside.
Leg 2 is rated as “difficult” because there are two category 5 climbs. However, I found this leg to be very pleasant with rolling hills all along the way. The views of the Pacific Ocean and Netarts Bay are beautiful and help to keep you moving on your journey down the coast. I found this leg to be the most enjoyable of the three that I ran, likely because the miles were easy and fast and had spectacular views to look at.
The weather flip-flopped a few times on this leg, alternating between sunshine, rain, and gray skies. I finally ditched my gloves for good with a teammate at the exchange before leg 3 was to begin.
Leg 3 was everything I was trying to save up my energy for, as I remembered running it in 2017 and being challenged by the final climb. What’s so deceptive about this leg is that the first 2.5 miles of it are not challenging at all as far as hills go. You begin to wonder how this leg got it’s “extremely difficult” rating until you get to the last 2 miles of the leg. Those 2 miles more than make up for the rating with the 800 feet of climb and 6.5% grade. Right around the 13.1 mile mark of the entire race, you start to feel like you want to walk. I hate it when my body needs to stop running to walk, especially during races. This is where pride has to take a backseat.
I lost my breath a few times during those last 2 miles, and I had to walk probably a half mile total of those hills. When I saw the next exchange, at the summit of Cape Lookout State Park, (which is still climbing, by way,) I wanted to stop before I’d even got there. I felt a little sick and extremely exhausted by the time I did celebrate my pass off.
This leg is a pretty one, (as all of them were in my opinion.) There are views of Netarts Bay and lots of trees and windy roads. It’s mentally challenging because every time you reach a corner, you wish you’d see either the exchange or a retreat in climb around the next bend, and it never seems to come. If you decide to run this leg of Three Capes, I challenge you to run the entire thing without walking. It will be harder than you think!
The climb is always worth it though. This is a beautiful race and one I look forward to doing again and again. I’ve always said I’ll take hilly and scenic over flat and boring, and this race is a great example of that.