Hood to Coast has always been a ‘bucket-list’ race. I never considered doing the relay until last year, when my team didn’t get in. Then again this year, when I entered a team for 2014 and didn’t get in again. I was bummed, but a bit relieved at the same time, as we were taking a vacation to Germany the two weeks before HTC.
So it was news to me when in March I received an email stating – “Congratulations! Your team was selected to run Hood to Coast in 2014!” Apparently, enough teams dropped out of HTC to result in another drawing, and all of a sudden, the DePauw Tigers Alumni team was going to run. As the Team Captain, I had a lot of work ahead of me.
By March, most of the vans in the state of Oregon were rented and it was difficult to find a vacation rental to sleep 12 people (as everyone was traveling from out of state besides me – and I might as well be, coming from southern Oregon). Once vans and a cabin was secured, 12 members of the team committed, we were ready to go. A few changes later (drop outs, replacement runners, and van rentals) everything was set. I write this like it was casual – it was a bit stressful lining everything up! Especially since some of these changes came while I was in Germany and I had to call rental companies over Skype using cafe-internet wifi and plan for the 9 hr difference in time! We got back from Europe only three days before the event, which added to the stress, but it all worked out as best as it could.
The DPU Alumni flew in from all over the US: Michigan, Indiana, Texas, NYC, St. Louis, and California. Some of us hadn’t seen each other in quite a while! There’s been marriages, babies, jobs, moves, lots of changes. For the most part, we grew up (just a little) yet still retained our old habits and humors.
Our start time was 1:45PM up at Timberline Lodge. We stayed only 19mi away from the start and arrived an hour and a half early to the start. It was chilly up there! We took our time, checked in casually, and spent some time decorating the vans. I drew a wicked nasty growling tiger on the front of Van #1 to intimidate the competition. We found out we were ranked 8th in our group – the Mixed Open group. There were a few slow-er reported race paces in there (mine, as I reported my 50mi time/pace), so we were sure we would run faster.
We posed for some photo ops with good views while cheering for other teams starting the race and soon enough, our first runner was off! A few miles down the hill, a severe hill (2000ft elevation loss), then it was time for Runner #2 – me!
I ran 5.5 mi in 33:12, 6:05/mi pace. There were a few sub-6 min pace miles in there, for the first time in a while. Given, this was with 1,500ft elevation loss, but it felt good to rip down a hill!
Next was 6.1 mi in 41:39, or 6:51 mile pace. This section was all flat and next to the train tracks in the dark. My quads didn’t hurt like other people that had to bomb down Mt. Hood, but somehow I got this strange front-ab cramp that was debilitating. The pain felt like someone stabbed me above the belly button and I felt it shoot down my leg. I did everything I could to mitigate the pain – mostly trying to massage it out with my hand while still maintaining sub-7min pace. I was a bit uncomfortable the entire time and following in the van.
The third run was much better than I thought it would go – 5.8 mi in 41:09, 7:06 pace. There was a mile-long hill in the 4th mile, which resulted in a 7:25 mi, but also resulted in a crazy fast last .5 mi down hill – my favorite. I was prepared to run another leg for an injured runner, but it ended up ok! I was glad not to run and eat chili and m&ms instead!
We made it to Seaside to hang out and eat lunch while waiting for our last runner to make it to the finish line. She came in and Van 1 ran in with her (Van 2 got stuck at the shuttle – damn traffic). It was hot and overcast, and we were all delirious from lack of sleep and encrusted with sweat from the last day. We came in at 24:01!!!
The race wasn’t without complications, however… there was a missed exchange area where a van went to the wrong one in Portland and left a runner waiting for 30 mins. That was a big bummer, but that happens all the time during HTC. It’s so easy to get mixed up, and I found myself staring at the directions in the booklet to try and figure them out.
The MAJOR headache was heading to exchange #24 in Mist. You’ve heard it already, you’ll hear it again, as it’s all over social media already… but that was a terrible experience. Van #1 luckily decided to head to exchange 24 to try to sleep in their sleep station while waiting for Van #2 to arrive in 4 hours. We drove through the night on windy roads, seemingly alone, but then we got on another road and suddenly were in gridlock. I was driving at this point, which resulted in me getting NO sleep. We moved approximately 1 mile in 3 hours. Some ridiculous disorganization by HTC for parking (?) resulted in ODOT shutting down the entire station. We waited in annoyance while seeing runners finishing their legs, only to be stranded alone without their van to pick them up. This was all between 2:00am and 6:00am. Runners were freezing in the early morning chill and were calling out their van numbers in case their vans were in the parking area asleep. No cell coverage, no communication between vans… It was awful. We finally arrived in the parking lot where I promptly threw my sleeping bag in the grass, crawled in, and slept for 5 minutes. Dawn came, and with the morning light also came people being loud. Our first runner decided to get ready to run (which was a good idea), and since his route was about 4 miles, I had to get ready for my run too. We were SO LUCKY to have Runner 12 pass to Runner 1 without complication and move on our way out of that clustermess. Runner 12 still had to locate her van for a while after the run, which totally sucked.
There Van 2 had a few more traffic jam situations costing us an additional 30-60 minutes where some runners had to run a few extra miles even to reach the exchange on time. It was so frustrating! And unsafe! HTC generally starts the slower teams first and the more competitive teams last, so somewhere in the middle is met with this terrible crash of paces and vans which is bad news for all involved. Apparently this year was an exceptional year of traffic jams. I hope HTC can fix their problems with traffic for the years to come!
The DePauw Tigers Alumni came in 7th in the Mixed Open group, but probably another spot or two better without our van-mixup and traffic congestion (but we can assume all teams had to go through with that). 24:01 – Pretty fast! Most of the team is over 30, and in another year (if all the same members) we will be in another category- the SUB MASTERS category. Seriously, what is with the “sub” masters??? Having just turned 30 a week ago, this was quite a bit of news to me – happy 30th birthday, you are now a sub-master!
At any rate, I had an absolutely fabulous and memorable weekend with old friends. It was exhausting but well worth it. I only wish that we all spent an extra day before or after the race to relax! My heart was breaking a little to leave my friends in Portland to drive a van to southern Oregon again. It speaks to an awesome college program to keep people close and wanting to hang out, years and years later.
Miss you all, thanks for the great weekend!
DPU what time is it??