People say runners are crazy, and that’s never more evident than when you find yourself running a relay. The Hood To Coast Relays are certainly no exception to this rule, especially because the courses are always challenging and they start so early in the morning. Hood to Coast Washington had waves starting as early as 3:00AM, and since it begins in Washington, it means getting up in the middle of the night to get there in enough time. Our team met up at midnight for our 4:15AM start time and we didn’t get back into Portland until after 9:00PM. So why is this worth it?
There are a few reasons why I like to run the Hood To Coast relays, but the best reason is that they are so well organized that you’ll feel well taken care of throughout your journey. When you are tired and sore, you don’t want to have to think, and these races take some of the guess work out of the equation. Which direction do I turn? Where’s the porta potty? How do I get out of here? These seem like basic questions but less organized races don’t always clearly address these sort of concerns. During Hood To Coast Washington, you’ll never question which direction to turn, as there are lots of volunteers, signs, and markings on the road right down to where to cross the street. There are porta potties at every single exchange which comes in handy when nature calls unexpectedly due to the nature of doing a relay. And while the exchanges are not exactly smooth sailing with all the people coming and going, they are easy to see and honestly could be a lot bigger bottlenecks considering the high volume of traffic. Some relays make you provide your own volunteers, and while this is a requirement of the original two day Hood to Coast event, it’s not for the one day relays. Not only are the volunteers provided, but they are friendly and helpful. They are typically in all the right spots too, whether it’s at a turn in the road that could be questionable, or in the exchange parking area where they are required to be Tetris Masters.
Next year, this relay will start and end in Seabrook rather than start in Lake Isabella State Park in Shelton, WA as it has previously. This is a great revision to the course, as it means people can stay in this cute little town and make a weekend of it, maybe even with the whole family, rather than trek out in the middle of the night.
Nikki’s Recap: I got leg 5 and 11 for this relay, which was rated the most difficult overall assignment. The first leg was 8.35 miles and “Hard,” and the second leg ended up being 7.35 miles and “Very Hard.” There had been a change communicated the week before that there were some minor course changes which affected legs 11 and 12, but only by about 0.5 miles. My first leg was long and relatively flat and the second leg was slightly shorter but with a decent sized hill in the middle. Both were hot as the sun came out, and the headwinds tried to knock me down a few times. What I found to be the experience for this relay was that most of the legs were pretty long compared to those at some of the other Hood To Coast relays, so this race was not an easy one in terms of distance. Running similar amounts of mileage in one day over the course of two legs that you might typically run in two days over the course of three legs is certainly challenging in it’s own way.
Mindy’s Recap: I ran leg 4 and leg 10. Leg 4 was rated “Hard,” with a milage of 6.35. It was a relatively flat, but had a slight descent. Being that this was my first leg, I had the cool morning weather on my side. It was scenic and the miles went by very quickly. Leg 10 was 7.78 miles and was also rated “Hard.” It was flat, but had a brief stretch of mild rolling hills. The thing that made this leg very challenging was the sun. It was very hot, and there was not much shade. Not to mention running on the shoulder of a fairly busy highway. Thankfully, most everyone driving took our safety serious and drove exceedingly slower than the speed limit. By the end of this leg, I was so relieved to be finished with the two legs. Running 14.13 miles in one day, while having a break in between is not easy.
Final Thoughts: The course was beautiful in many spots and there were lots of country roads and green trees. There were also some less inspiration sections, which is inevitable for any relay. The little towns were reminiscent of the middle sections of the two day relay, but you didn’t have the stress of worrying about where your other van was or how you were going to communicate where there was no cell service. Also, limiting the amount of teams who could participate to a reasonable number was very helpful .. No worrying about runners passing their vans because they were stuck in traffic.
Everyone on our team agreed that the finish to Hood To Coast Washington was the best part. And it wasn’t just because we were tired and ready for it to be over, even though that was true also. It was because the last part of the drive into Seabrook was beautiful and the town itself was the definition of charming. We were told it would be like entering a town designed by Pottery Barn, and now I know why. We all immediately decided we wanted to come back and spend a weekend (or a month) here. It was the perfect reward for celebrating the end of a challenging race, and we all enjoyed the live music, the beer and food, and exploring the candy shop and streets of the town before heading home.
The whole experience of Hood To Coast Washington was not at all stressful and everything went just as it should. Everyone on our team wants to do it again next year.