Sunday, August 24, 2008

Hood to Coast Race Report!!

Hood to Coast Relay Extravaganza!
(Mt Hood to Seaside, Oregon--197 miles)

So much fun. So very much fun. Fun, that is, if your idea of a good time is running a bunch of miles at random times of the day and night, getting to know way too many port-a-potties with a bunch of other sweaty, equally crazed individuals. (We never shared port-a-potty time. That didn't come out right.) Fortunately, this IS my idea of a good time, so Hood to Coast was fantastic. Plus, I realized I can run much faster than I thought I could. Yay! Yay!

First, the team name: Mach Schnell. Schnell means "fast" in German, "Mach Schnell"= more speed, faster, etc. It's great to say and even more fabulous to yell at team members from a vanagon.

Second, the relay. 12 runners, 2 vans (6 runners/van), 2 drivers, 36 legs. Each runner completes three legs of varying distance and difficulty--no one runs over 20 miles and no one runs under 13. Runners start off in groups from midway up Mt. Hood, depending on the projected speed of their team--slower first, faster later, with the aim of as many people as possible finishing around the same time. (Yes, this makes for massive traffic issues in Seaside.) After each sendoff, the van drives to the next exchange point (usually stopping to cheer their runner along the way) and waits to switch people. When one group of 6 has finished, people usually try to sleep between legs (maybe shower), and then gear up for the next run.

In short, it's a bunch of nonsense. And if you haven't run one, I highly recommend it. At this point, a relay would be one of the few things that could get me to run an extended distance on asphalt. (Well, maybe I'd do *one* more marathon to try and qualify for Boston. Just to say I did.)

Anyway, the run starts midway up Mt. Hood. We knew we were getting closer when we started seeing warnings about runners on the road. From Mt. Hood, it drops down (and down and down!) to Portland, then winds its way out to the Oregon coast.

I felt very fortunate to have missed out on the first and second legs of the run. They each drop over 1500 feet in a very short amount of time (5.6 miles for each run). However, the start of the run was gorgeous. Despite Mt. Hood's reputation for unpredictable and inclement weather, we had a tourist-bureau day-- clear with stunning views.

Leg #1: In Which I Discover I Am Faster Than I Thought

I was runner #3, which meant that my first leg, while a net downhill, was not as insane as the first two legs. It was a lovely 4 miles of flat and slight downhill. I wanted to go slower on this leg, knowing that I had two other much longer legs to come, but being me, I went out too fast, looking down at my watch in mile #1 and seeing 6:20 on the Garmin.... but I ended up holding on to it! I ran 4 miles with a 6:30 average! I have never in my bleedin' life run that fast for 4 miles. The fastest I have ever averaged for 4 miles (or a 5K) was 7:00s, so that was definitely a new PR! Normally I get excited when I'm anywhere around 7:00... apparently I need to adjust my expectations of my running.

I also realized on this leg that training with long runs is very helpful when running short distances. Even when your lungs are burning, knowing you only have to run for 30 minutes or less feels mentally super-energizing.

After superior performances by the rest of the van, we went back to the Machest of Schnellsters' house in Portland to crash for an hour or so, before we had to meet up with the other team at the Hawthorne bridge in Portland. We got the hand-off around 1:15 in the morning, which meant that I ended up starting my 2nd leg at 3:10 in the morning.

Leg #2: In Which I Am Not Run Over By a Car

My second leg was a long straight-away on highway 30--7.25 miles, to be exact. I was not looking forward to this run. My legs were very tight (out too fast much?) and I was just not excited about running such a long distance. Sleep sounded much better at that point. However, I was left with a leg to run--this was, after all, why I had flown up to Portland. This run had a little more uphill than the first leg, but it wasn't enough uphill to register on the "trail running" hill spectrum. Or at least, on the California hill spectrum. Apparently we're used to running big hills here.

Anyway, my normally non-neurotic mind (well, in this arena anyway-- I have plenty of other neuroses) decided it was a good moment to begin to think about all the things that could go wrong on this stretch of road--particularly how easy it would be for a car to swerve and take me out. This kept me moving for the rest of the leg, but I also definitely noticed that my knee was unhappy with me. Running without relaxing/stretching enough did not enhance my form and I really just wanted the run to be over.

*Note* I found out later that I wasn't as neurotic as I thought I was (well, that's probably debatable)-- unfortunately, four hours earlier, a runner was hit by a car on the exact section of road I was running. She's going to be ok, but a very sad event.

Leg #3: In Which I Fall In Love With The Oregon Countryside

Finally! After an hour nap on the grass with a bunch of other exhausted runnin' fools, we took the last handoff in Mist. We started our last leg just after 10 in the morning, and it was a lovely day--warm and clear. While this was the scenery for the leg just before mine, my leg had a similarly bucolic feel. Cows grazed to the left of me (fenced in-- no cow encounters for me!) and the trees kept the heat down--although I must say that I'm more of a heat runner than I thought. According to the Garmin, the temperature was in the high 70s, which I found eminently runnable--my legs felt much looser than they had at night and I ended up holding 7:42s for my 5.99 miles. Considering how tired I was, I felt really happy with this run. (Ok, it wasn't another 6:30 pace, but hey-- we'll take what we can get!)

After the rest of the van finished, we headed down to Seaside, parked and had some food and adult beverages while waiting for the rest of our team to finish. (Does this mean I have now completed two races with mid-race beers? Should this become a race routine for me?) We waited for our runner to get in, crossed the finish line with our team and then headed back to Portland, exhausted.

To sum up? Good time, great people, fun running, and a great kick-off to the school madness that my life is about to become.

p.s. I can't believe I need to rave about this, but anyone who has done a relay event knows the importance of this race detail. The port-a-potties were the best ever. Seriously. They got cleaned a couple of times throughout the race, always had toilet paper AND hand sanitizer. Plus, they were called Honey Buckets. And you should also know that no matter how laughable you find this detail, the man who caught me taking a picture of the port-a-potty found me even more ridiculous.


209Mike said...

Sounds like a blast. I've always wanted to do something like this. I need to find some more crazy running friends. Nice job on the running paces! Very impressive.

Kevin said...

A relay sounds like so much fun. And look how fast you are. 6:30s? Ive never run a 5K in that pace either. You are right, though. Long runs make short runs look like snacks.

Derek said...

Great race report, I would love to do one of those some day. The 6:30 pace is awsome, and running in the heat of 70 degree weather sounds just as much fun. I think with that speed you need to give the marathon one more try and get Boston qualified!!