H2C newbie no more

Well, I survived.

Last weekend, I was among the 15,000 people running in the Hood to Coast Relay.

In 23 hours, I ran nearly 20 miles, got less than three hours of sleep and racked up the blisters on my poor feet. I ran in 90 degree heat. I ran in the middle of the night. And I sat in traffic for hours.

Still, I’ve never felt more accomplished and now understand why so many people rave about Hood to Coast and return year after year.

This was my first year running in the “mother of all relays,” but it definitely won’t be my last.


Let me get my only gripe about the event out of the way now: traffic.

This year, organizers allowed an extra 250 running teams, bringing the total up to 1,250 teams. That meant an extra 500 vans and 3,000 runners on the road.

Initially, the extra people and vehicles didn’t seem like it would be a problem. But then we reached the final big exchange – the spot where van No. 1 hands off to van No. 2 for the last time.

Cars were backed up on the two-lane country road for 2 miles. Each of the next five exchange points were equally bad.

Then, there was the final stretch. We dropped off our last runner at the final exchange and headed for Seaside. The beach was only 5 miles away and traffic was not moving.

We sat in traffic for an hour and moved – maybe – 2 miles. Finally, we hopped out of the van and walked to the beach. Our final runner beat us to the beach by about 90 minutes.

Organizers have heard the complaints and have already announced they will bring the registration cap back down next year.

That’s good enough for me.

Despite the traffic, I had a great time. I was in van No. 2 for team Big Pink and ran legs 9, 21 and 33. Going into the event, I knew only one person on my team (that, I’m sure, is why I was assigned the leg with the most overall mileage).

My first leg was a 7-miler in 90-degree heat on a gravel bike path with absolutely no shade. That was probably the toughest 60 minutes of running I’ve ever done. I was hot, thirsty and kept praying for a glimpse of a volunteer in a yellow shirt, which would indicate the exchange zone was near.

My teammates later told me a woman who finished ahead of me had to be taken away in an ambulance after the grueling 7-miler.

My second leg was a 5-miler in the middle of the night. I started at about 1 a.m. Sunday. It was about 55 degrees, which felt incredible after my earlier run.

The run was slightly downhill on a gravel road. I had to run with a reflective vest, beacons and a headlamp, but the headlamp was essentially useless. The dust from the vans driving on the gravel road was so thick it was impossible to see anything.

Luckily, I made it to the exchange point without running off the road and into a ditch or tripping.

My final run came at about 1 p.m. Saturday. They saved the best for last: a 7.75 mile run with rolling hills.

The run had eight hills – I counted – and I felt every single one in my aching quads and hips. The temperature was about 75 degrees, and the wind picked up as I got closer to the coast.

Along the way, several kids shot me and the other runners with squirt guns and hoses. I’ve never been so grateful for Super Soakers.

When all was said and done, I was somewhat sad to see the weekend come to an end. I had a blast with the group of strangers who adopted me for the event. And by the time our van reached Seaside, we were already talking about what we plan to do differently next time.

Here’s to hoping my “next time” comes next August.

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