As Run Oregon bloggers were all otherwise engaged on the weekend of the inaugural Hood to Coast Pacific Relay (well, the restart, and not technically the first-first), we recruited our friends at the Sunstone Running Club to check it out for us. This one-day, 12-leg relay was designed for teams of 6, but many teams ran with fewer participants. The relay was run on Saturday, May 5, starting from Bald Peak near Hillsboro and finishing up in Pacific City. In this post, the Sunstone runners recap the start and the first 6 legs. Check back Wedesday to read the recap of the final 6 legs and the finish.
First and foremost, we would like to thank the Run Oregon blog for the opportunity to review the inaugural Hood to Coast Pacific City Relay. As we wrote in our preview article we were excited to try out a one-day relay and to get the chance at running on the original Hood to Coast course was a bonus. The six members of our team consisted of three women and three men, so we registered in the mixed open division of the race. The race, just like any of the HTC relays, has multiple divisions to join. This relay, unlike the full HTC, had only 300 teams so we thought it will be nice running in a smaller amount of teams and would be a lot less congestion.
Our team captain, Mike, picked up our bibs and shirts at a local sporting goods store. This was convenient since they had a few different times and locations for pick up. As the time for the race was getting closer all of us were excited and checked the weather to see what kind of conditions we were going to have to anticipate running in. Luckily for us, unlike Boston the weather turned out favorable for running.
The start time that was given to us was 3:15 a.m., which was in the second wave. Starting times were every 15 minutes from 3:00 a.m. to 7:00 a.m. We were astonished at such an early start for our team since we entered fairly fast 10k times when we registered on the website. We asked a HTC official at the end of the race and they told us that there was a mixture of all paces being placed at all the waves except for the elite teams being given the last waves. We were not excited at first to be starting at such an early time and we were kind of hoping to be able to sleep in before driving to the start.
Given the situation, we made the best of it. We had some fun ideas to prepare for the race. One was to have a predicted finish time for the team and whomever came the closest was going to win lunch and a drink at the finish. The other was that we decided to meet at midnight to go have breakfast at a local 24-hour restaurant and decorate the van in the parking lot before driving to the start at Bald Peak which was a short 30-minute drive for our team. These turned out to be a great ideas and made for some pre-race camaraderie before the extended van time. After the pre-race preparation, we had plenty of time to drive to the start.
The HTC officials wanted to have the teams check in at least a half an hour before our start time. We got there with about 15 minutes to spare. Parking was already getting full, with about 20 teams starting each wave. At the start there was plenty of lighting with portable lights, and parking was well guided by volunteers. We had no problem getting our van parked and finding the start to check in and get our wrist wrap baton for the relay. We were required to sign a safety agreement and show them a first aid kit, 2 flashing lights, 2 head lamps or flashlights, and 2 running safety vests before receiving the wrist wrap. The check in was so quick our first runner Marc was able to have time to change into his running gear and use the porta potties at the start.
Leg 1 started at the top of Bald Peak at the rest area. We were told to all gather 10 minutes before the starting time as the announcer called out each team name and got the group ready to run. We started exactly at 3:15 and we were off. The first 100 or so yards were on grass that had mounds and holes so running down hill in the dark everyone was watching their footing so as not to trip. After going over a small plywood bridge we made a quick left and we were on pavement. This is where all the runners were now able to start finding their pace for the next 4 miles of downhill. There were very visible markings on the ground you were able to see even in the dark of night. As we continued downhill there were volunteers guiding us on the major turns so no one would go off course.
After the downhill portion there were 3.5 miles of flat section until the first exchange and runner number 2 got the wrist band on their journey to Pacific City. It was nice to run in the dark and see the headlamps of the runners and the lights ahead of you. It gave you the challenge to find a fellow runner to catch up to since you were unable to see the views in the dark. I noticed about a quarter mile out there was signage that told you there was an event ahead and again plenty of lighting and volunteers directing the runners. The exchange went flawlessly and runner 2 was off.
Leg 2 was run by Captain Mike. He reported that this leg was supposedly a very scenic leg, which he couldn’t confirm or deny since it was 4 a.m. and dark for the run. Terrain was as advertised, with minimal turns, and was a very nice 7-mile run that he was able to run pretty fast since there was no steep ups or downs to deal with. Like most country roads, the shoulder was small with questionable footing, but where it existed the pavement was very nice and smooth. Since there was minimal oncoming traffic when he ran, he was able to take full advantage the nice roadway.
Leg 3 was run by our first female runner, Vina, and she had some of the same remarks. Since she started so early in the morning she could not see much of the city of Carlton that she started in and ran through. After her run, Vina reported about the quality of the course markings and that those arrows are awesome, reassuring the rest of the team that even though she was worried about taking a wrong turn and getting lost, she knew that she just had to follow them and she would be fine!
Leg 4, which is described as very hard, was run by Helen who gave this description of the leg since she would have the first leg with the most light. “The first thing I thought after I got the bracelet was “How beautiful!” I was running when it just started getting light outside and the air was cool. This leg was listed as “Very Hard,” but I could only think of what the 5th runner had to go through to stop any complaining in my head.”
Leg 5 was described as very hard by the HTC handbook and our runner 5, Sach, decided to tackle this one. He described it as a beautiful run on nice roads through tall trees. Going up hill was challenging, the gradient was pretty constant throughout, letting up only a couple of times to give you a breather until it picked up again. It was definitely a difficult leg but the first and last miles are flat/slightly downhill so you can make up some time there.
Leg 6 was run by our anchor runner, Shannon, and she reported that this was a 5.5-mile leg on the road through the forest. It was nice because she had time to sleep in the van and get some rest. She also was able to run my leg in the daytime, and was able to enjoy the scenery. Leg 6 follows along the river, so throughout most of the route runners can hear and see the river, which was very relaxing. Because we were one of the first teams to start, she hardly saw anyone on her run. Between the solitude and the scenery, she reported, “My run was very calming and peaceful and I very much enjoyed it. Leg 6 starts with a slight uphill. You don’t notice it on the map, but your legs can feel it. The 2nd half of the leg is all downhill. I normally don’t enjoy downhill runs because I find them hard on my knees, but the slope of the downhill was not too harsh and between that and the adrenaline you feel during the race, the downhill did not bother me. Overall, it was a very pretty leg and I really enjoyed it.”
By this point, the team was halfway to the finish with only 6 legs to go. Check back on Wednesday to read about the latter half of the relay and the finish area.