After all the Run Oregon team experienced for the first half of the Hood To Coast High Desert Relay, it was hard to believe we still had another leg (or in Drew’s case, 2 more legs) to go. That 4:00AM start time was wearing on all of us a bit more, but we all kept each other going, as a good relay team will do. We had started this relay as, for the most part, strangers. But we had all become friends on this long car ride between the sweat and the pain.
Once the race was finished, we all had a great time celebrating our victory and agreed that the event was very well organized, which we were all grateful for. No one wants to get lost out in the desert and thankfully everything went off without a hitch. Well, mostly.
Read on below to find out more about the second half of the race.
Leg 7, Heather: I started my second leg wiping my husband’s sweaty slime from my face and a little stiff from sitting after Leg 1, but I loved that he was able to send me off on my final leg. With people cheering me on, I took off for my five-mile jaunt with three layers and a pair of gloves. The rain had stopped, but it felt colder than my 4 a.m. start! I’d peeled off a jacket and my gloves by the time my team checked on me at mile 2; and by mile 3 my under jacket was tied behind my waist.
It was nice, this time around, to be able to enjoy the scenery (given that my first leg was at o’dark-thirty). But, I still managed to disturb a few cows – whose mooing I choose to believe were actually bovine cheers. I prefer these smaller relays, because there’s not so much race van traffic; and, due to HTC-HD’s rural location, there weren’t too many other vehicles on the road, either. Of those who did drive by, most gave me a wide berth, which was much appreciated since the shoulder was pretty narrow at times.
The best part of Leg 7 was the slight downhill towards the end. Later, I was surprised to learn that my splits were actually faster than during my first leg! Not sure how that happened, aside from sheer adrenaline and the desire to stay warm!
I struggled with knee pain in my last half-mile, so I was thrilled to see Annette waiting for me at the exchange. With the handing off of the wristband, I was a little sad – but grateful – to officially be done.
Leg 8, Annette: My final leg was a short one – just over 4 miles – but it included a killer hill that was about 1.5 miles long. I started out shivering and feeling off due to lack of sleep and proper nutrition. I have to admit I was a bit concerned about the hill looming up ahead. There was a short jaunt into a park and then I was on a slightly muddy bark chip trail. I rounded a corner and suddenly stopped dead in my tracks. The trail split off in 3 different directions and there were no signs anywhere! There were no other runners in sight and the van wouldn’t be driving by me at this location, so it was rather unnerving. I decided to try the trail that looked like the “main trail”, but I was nervous. Just as I started down the trail, I saw another runner through the bushes. I turned around and ran back towards her. She had just taken the trail I had tried and ended up looping back. We decided to try the next trail together. It’s much better to be lost with someone else than alone. After running for a few minutes we could see that the trail ended and linked up with a road that had a sign pointing us in the right direction. We cheered with relief and headed towards that hill. The killer climb began sooner than I expected. As I made my way up, I was passed by another runner (like I was standing still.) He said, “Don’t let this hill beat you!” I replied, “Oh no! It won’t” That brief exchange was what I needed. I did not let that hill beat me, despite the semi trucks barreling down beside me at 55+ mph and the seemingly endless climb. It was a doozy, but I felt pretty dang proud of myself afterwards.
Leg 9, Drew: As a long-distance runner, a lot of things go through your head as you attempt to plan out a scenario like the one I found myself in. I’d already run 11 miles and was now staring at an 8 mile affair that would begin uphill but be mostly flat after the first mile. I’d already pushed my second leg a little harder than planned and now considered the idea of just holding onto an easy pace, given I would have one more leg at the end. The problem is that my brain has a logical side and a competitive side, which occasionally sync up, but not always. I started out easy enough, but soon found myself becoming all too aware of how the body feels as it nears 20 miles. Two things really saved my mood during this leg. The first was when I handed my coat off to my wife at the 4 mile mark. She declared it was a little early to be getting naked and I needed to save that for later. I seriously love that woman. The second was when I passed a group of Cascade Lakes Relay ambassadors who were there to cheer on their team. I was wearing one of their hats and they went nuts as I ran by, giving me an awesome boost as I neared the end of my run.
Leg 10, Nikki: I hate it when my last leg in a relay is ranked harder than the others. It means you have to “save” more for the end. However, I can’t complain at all, because my leg assignment was not as difficult as many of the others from that day. And I knew I could rally, no matter what the conditions were.
Leg 10 mostly felt like one long straight hill. I could see endless road ahead of me and none of it was pointing downward. The smell of the pine trees that had greeted me on leg 4 was not present here. I was surrounded by cows, so the smells were pretty far from that experience, as you could imagine. All of the farms and ranches I passed were beautiful, and the cows seemed amused to have so many guests. I passed a lot of walkers out there, and I offered my support to them.
Honesty, I felt sluggish throughout this leg and my left knee was experiencing a bit of pain. I knew I could finish but I also knew that my pace was much slower than I would have prefered. The overcast weather was the best running condition I could ask for. There were a lot of flattened snakes on the road, which were probably pretty typical of Central Oregon. Once I had about a mile left to go, the route veered right and I got a reprieve from the uphill. I was running into the wind and it was waking me up and making me feel invigorated. I sped up and gave it a good push. I saw the exchange ahead and I felt great when I passed off to Meg. Just like any relay, I cursed my way through many moments of this race but immediately thought about doing it again once I was done running. I’m sure no one else does that, right?
Leg 11, Meg: This was my first time participating in a one-day relay event. Having just two legs to complete instead of three was fabulous. Not sleeping in a field was fabulous. Knowing I would be in my own shower and my own bed after the race was fabulous.
Having a cuss-word-worthy mountain in the middle of my 5.19 miles was not fabulous.
Seriously Hood to Coast. There are many things I like about you, but your elevation charts are not among them.
After turning the corner toward the mountain, and saying a few inappropriate words, I cranked up the music on my phone to power on up, over, and through. The team grabbed my jacket from me about a mile in, and had water at the halfway point to keep me going. It was cloudy and about 50 degrees, so perfect running weather.
Once I was off the mountain, my final mile was in toward Brasada Ranch. At one point the finish line celebration was within view, so I had to fight the temptation to skip the exchange point in favor of the campfire. But the team was waiting. And so was the bag of pretzels I had stashed in the van.
Leg 12, Drew: As Meg approached, I saw the look of satisfaction on her face. This was the 2nd time she had passed off to me and she looked strong as I took the wrist band. I was fortunate to run with some very solid runners on this day, and we were all about to enjoy the benefits of completing a relay together. But first there was a last leg to tackle. The booklet spoke of this leg being one for the strongest runner on the team, but after 19 miles, I wasn’t entirely sure I was that guy. Still, the leg would be predominantly on dirt, which is my passion. I knew that once my feet found the trail, I would be where I belonged. The first mile was road, but as I turned off and found my happy place, I also sensed the finish line. Before I could get there, the next 2 miles would feature more than 550 feet of gain, ensuring I would remember this leg. And yet, even as I fought my way up those hills, I knew the last 1.33 miles was all downhill on pavement. As my feet touched the asphalt, they took off. Our crazy, awesome day of running was about to be complete. When I came upon the finish line, I went by my team so fast that they couldn’t join me to finish together!