On October 6th, 2018, the inaugural 2018 Hood To Coast- High Desert Relay occurred. According to Jude Hubber, the CEO of Hood To Coast, people had been requesting this relay for a long time, and it finally became a reality in one of the most beautiful locations Oregon has to offer. This one day relay begins and ends in Central Oregon 25 miles outside of Bend at Brasada Ranch for the runners. Walkers started at the Powder House Cove Boat Ramp but also finished at Brasada Ranch. 6 runners or walkers got to experience 71 scenic miles of running or 47 miles of walking, with each participant taking on 2 legs of the race. The Cascade Mountains, Smith Rock, Prineville Reservoir, and the Crooked River provided our Run Oregon team the backdrop on this amazing journey!
Our adventure was not without its challenges, as one runner had to bow out at the last minute and our van discovered a flat tire after leg 4 (Drew was our superhero in regards to BOTH of these issues.) We won’t even TALK about where our team motto “Don’t Be The Owl” originated from, (or at least not this early in the recap.) All that matters is our team had fun and got the experience of a lifetime. Everyone finished healthy and smiling, so you really couldn’t ask for much more than that.
Read about the first half of our race experience below.
Leg 1, Heather: There is a certain allure to being the first runner in a relay. You get to exert that nervous energy right out of the gate, and you’re the first one to finish all your legs. In this case, the first runner also had two of the easiest legs, which was perfect for this novice. I started at 4 a.m., running through Brasada Ranch and out onto the main road. For nearly seven miles, I ran past homes and pastureland – at least, I think so. It was awfully dark, and wet. But, several cows greeted me through the darkness, possibly angry that I woke them. I appreciated the pavement markings highlighted by my headlamp, and was slightly caught off guard by one small hill. Although, I think I was grateful I couldn’t see it coming. The team checked on me at about the halfway mark and I waved them off, yelling for them to meet me at the exchange. I saw them again at about the 6.5-mile mark, confused why they weren’t waiting for me a third of a mile up ahead. I saw them drive past, but when I arrived at the exchange, there was no teammate waiting for me! The volunteer yelled “2-6-2,” and there I waited. About two minutes later, Annette ran up to the exchange apologizing that she was in the port-a-potty!
Leg 2, Annette: I came flying out of the port-a-potty yelling, “I’m coming!” with my reflective vest half on and feeling terrible that Heather was waiting and wondering where I was. I started my first leg with my adrenaline pumping as I got my gear together during the first minute or so of my run. I soon realized that all the chaos had caused me to start out too fast for the high elevation and I had to slow down to get my breathing under control. I eventually settled in to my very dark, rainy run seeing nothing but the area lit up by my headlamp and the flashing lights of a runner in front of me. I heard the honking of geese in one field, the rustling of cows next to me in another, and at one point the sizzling of some giant power lines. Besides that, the dark early morning run was quiet and strangely peaceful – despite my chaotic start. I enjoyed a flat run of about 6 miles. It wasn’t long until I saw the lights of the exchange up ahead and soon heard a voice coming from the darkness, “Annette? Is that you?” It was time to pass the “baton” on to Drew.
Leg 3, Drew: The knowledge of 4 legs weighed on my mind as I waited patiently for Annette to cruise in following her leg. 2 days before race day, we learned that one of our runners was not going to be able to make it due to an illness. The team talked about what to do and agreed that we would simply swallow the extra 2 legs and make it work. By the time Saturday morning arrived, I had volunteered to take both as I was looking for extra mileage for an upcoming race.
I stood in the darkness near the exchange, along with a half dozen other runners, who were also anxiously waiting their turn. Relays are such an awesome team event and in this case, I was running with 3 ladies I had never met until that morning, and even before I got out of the van, I knew this was going to be a fun (insane) day. I hustled through my 5 miler in the pre-dawn mist and rain, thankful for a leg that had no turns and little elevation change.
Leg 4, Nikki: Jumping out of a van and beginning my leg with 1.5 miles of uphill climb in altitude I wasn’t used to was not really something I initially would have chosen to kick off my part of the race, but if there’s anything I’ve learned about relays, it’s that everyone is going to have some challenges somewhere. The journey is part of the fun and the mental and physical tests are what make it a journey in the first place. So up I climbed, breathing just a little harder than I would normally, and staring ahead into the beauty of the fog and the mist and the brown desert around me. It was an environment I would never have had the pleasure to run in normally, so I felt grateful for this chance.
After that initial climb, I had more than a mile of rolling hills laid out ahead of me that proved to be mentally difficult to climb. Every time I reached the peak of one hill, I could see the next one laid out ahead of me, and they continued on and on and on. Still, I had scenery to keep me going and I was grateful for cool weather. Due to our team’s first wave start time, there was only one runner ahead of me by about 15 minutes somewhere, so I never saw another runner while I was out there. It was very serene.
Once I got through the rollers, I turned to start the downhill trek for the second half of my leg. The manual had likened this leg to the first leg of “The Mother of All Relays,” which anyone familiar with Hood To Coast knows is a pretty intense downhill climb down Mt Hood. In other words, I was going to have a bit of a quad burner and possibly some painful toes or knees if I didn’t try to “go with the flow” of gravity. This part of the race was my absolute favorite part. The canyon was all around me and I felt very small surrounded by the gigantic and breathtaking beauty of the desert around me. I felt strong and so lucky to be out there to experience it. I inhaled the scent of pine trees and fresh rain and it was so glorious.. The exchange came quickly and my team was there to cheer me on. I loved leg 4 and would do it again in a heartbeat.
Leg 5, Meg: For some reason the Hood to Coast powers-that-be made some changes to the course two weeks before race day so my first leg was longer than anticipated when I signed-up. Those changes left me feeling a bit nervous as I started 8.31 miles at a higher altitude than I’m used to. But my team was encouraging, the course looked to be pretty flat, and the rain was taking a break (only for 10 minutes, but a break is a break).
Thanks to our 4 am starting time and the number of teams in the event, I spent most of my run solo. The leg passed by the entrances to eight different campgrounds, though my favorite site was when going over a dam. Something about the interaction of nature and mankind on such an epic scale is just breathtaking. Or that might have been the altitude.
While I was running, my team was busy replacing a flat tire so I appreciated when other teams would cheer for me as I passed by. Runners are consistently a nice group of people. And my people thankfully left me a bottle of water at the top of the steepest climb. #Blessed
Leg 6, Drew: The decision to take on 4 legs, totaling more than 24 miles, seemed a lot easier by the time my second leg came around. The 6 mile distance was nearly flat and ended with me getting to hand off to my amazing wife, as she headed out for her last leg of the day. The rain continued to come down for most of my run, enough so that I had water wicking off my hat as I neared the end. I also had a nice build up of snot and sweat as the temps struggled to break 50 degrees. My snotty condition made for an epic exchange as my wife and I shared a quick smooch, before she raced off. We each declared loudly, “that was disgusting!” as we parted ways, laughing out loud and getting some good laughs from the gallery of teams who witnessed our moment.