They sure got the name right, this was definitely a gorgeous relay. We were lucky to have great cool weather in the morning and a clear and sunny afternoon. I had the unique experience of starting off our team as Runner 1. Our team was made up of a veteran Run Oregon relay team from the Sunstone Running Club. Found Kelly Barten regularly runs with Sunstone and has convinced them to write for the blog on occasion.
Overall the relay was much smaller than any other relay which we have ever done. This was great, because it meant that we didn’t have to deal with crowded exchanges and traffic. It also meant that teams are more laid back, and had a more casual attitude. This laid-back attitude seemed to persist throughout the race. The exchanges were not as regulated as we were used to, which was nice, but confusing at first. We also realized halfway through the race that there was no official timing for the teams. I don’t consider myself competitive when it comes to relays; I believe relays are more about team camaraderie than they are about winning, but to have a running event without any sort of timing was definitely different for us.
Leg 1 – 3.52 miles – Astoria – (Sachleen) We got to the start of the race at the Astoria Column about an hour before our 8:10 wave start to take some pictures and climb to the top of the column as a warm-up. The start was simple, just two flags marking the start line. Runners gathered with the column behind them to hear directions about the course and what type of markings to look for. We were told there was a volunteer at almost every turn so it would be easy to navigate the streets of Astoria to get to the exchange.
Running down the steep winding road to start the leg was an especially unique experience for me. I’ve never started a relay and never done a downhill leg so it was exciting to be able to fly downhill and get my team off to a good start. The first mile is very steep allowing you to just let go and let the road take you down but the last two miles are more gradual – you are going fast, but it still takes effort.
Leg 2 – 3.57 mi – Astoria – (Helen) This leg is a bridge run. I have always enjoyed runs over bridges, but this was one of the best. The sunny weather offered a beautiful view across the bay with sparkling blue water. The shoulder was very narrow for most of the bridge (only wide enough for one runner), so it was a bit unnerving to hear/feel traffic whooshing by so close. It was smart advice to require reflective vests and no ear buds here. Also, this leg is fully exposed but the weather was cool and windless, so there was no problem.
Leg 3 – 3.8 mi – Warrenton – (Koung) This leg had great views and was fairly short for a relay leg (for me, anyway). It started out crossing a short bridge over a river and then headed out towards the Warrenton Trail. This is a paved trail that is flat and has plenty of room for the runners and the locals that were using it that Saturday morning. There was a short part of the run that went down a local highway, but soon enough I was back on trail headed for the exchange. We then spilled out onto some local streets, and there were volunteers posted so that they could direct us at all of the turns. After about a half mile or so we made our last turn and could see the exchange in the distance at a gravel parking area. It was a nice easy run, and short, I got to experience a part of Astoria I have never visited before.
Leg 4 – 5.35 mi – Warrenton – (Shannon) Leg 4 was beautiful. You started out running the first half mile through this cute little town. After that, you turned onto the highway and quickly found yourself surrounded by trees. From there the course turned onto a small 2-lane highway, still lined with trees, which provided a picturesque view and some shade. As the trees started to fade away, the view opened up to show a large grassy field with some shrubs. Off in the distance, you could see the remainder of a structure, it might have been an old bridge. It was a very unique and scenic view.
Towards the end of the run, we started seeing Leg 5 runners running in the opposite direction. The run ended by climbing up a wooden tower at the edge of the beach. This was fun because it was different from any other race that I had run. The downside of running up the tower was that there was only one narrow stairway, making it a little cramped for the runners coming up and down at the same time. The other downside was that I could not enjoy the view from the top of the tower. The platform at the top of the tower was spacious, but there were so many people that went up to enjoy the view it felt cramped, in addition this made the tower sway back and forth, which is not the best feeling when you’re tired and winded. Overall, I really enjoyed this leg and I would love to run it again sometime.
Leg 5 – 4.21 mi – Warrenton – (Mike) I really enjoyed leg 5. Waiting for runner at the platform overlooking the surf was very pleasant, and the bathroom availability a wonderful plus. The actual leg was very enjoyable, in part because it was basically a flat leg. I spent a little time on the road where I got to say hello to incoming runners for a little bit and then went on a very nice paved bike trail for the rest of the run.
Leg 6 – 3.0 mi – Warrenton – (Marc) This run was a fast and easy run for me. By the time we traveled to the exchange point, our Leg 5 runner was just about to reach the exchange so I did not have time to mentally prepare for the run … I just jumped out of our van and met him at the exchange. The run ran on paved bike paths up to a road where we crossed over and headed out to Hwy 101. Now I do not usually mind running on the road, but as you go down Hwy 101 there are vehicles going by at a pretty fast pace, which can be unnerving for those runners that do not like to have lots of traffic approaching on their back. This leg was short just 3 miles so by the time I was warmed up I could see the next exchange and ran all out to high-five the team’s Leg 7 runner.
Check back soon for the recap of Legs 7-12 from the 2018 Gorgeous Coast Relay!
by Marc Larson, Run Oregon Guest Blogger