There is something surreal about fifteen thousand people crossing two hundred beautiful miles, often decked out in outlandish costumes and riding in suggestively decorated vans. This is Hood to Coast, the Mother of All Relays. That was my weekend.
Each team consists of twelve athletes and two vans. Each athlete runs three legs of about three to eight miles. All athletes in Van One run, then the ones in Van Two, and they repeat the rotation three times.
A few of the twelve hundred teams start every fifteen minutes from 3:00am to 5:00pm Friday. Our team started at 2:00pm, with our first runner (who had told us minutes earlier that she “wasn’t much of a runner”) blazing down the mountain–a 5.6 mile stretch–in little over thirty minutes. Each runner does three 3-8 mile legs. Mine were a sweltering 7.2 miler, a creepy side-of-the highway-in-the-middle-of the-night 4.2 mile run (in which I hallucinated a creepy demon runner ahead of me), and a rolling 4.2 miler in beautiful farm country, which would have been pleasant on fresh legs and a full night’s sleep.
In between racing, cheering on teammates, and the odd hour-long naps, we gawked at other teams’ hilariously decorated vans—“Eleven Jerks and a Squirt,” the Van Tramps, whose motto was “Our Hills are Alive,” several vans whose decorations incorporated potty humor and blow-up sex dolls, a van with a wrestling ring on the roof, and a mysterious group of running devils, complete with a huge devil flag and LED devil horns for night running. Our favorite team was the Wall of Sound, which drove up and down the course blasting tunes from their decked out van and dancing.
When all of Van One’s runners had finished, we headed to Seaside, Oregon, for the closing ceremonies. Seaside is an adorable town with a wide and mysterious and moody beach, complete with a looming green cliff and eerie swing sets along the sand. Today, it was clear and bright. The sky was full of kites and the beach was packed with thousands of people in a Hood-to-Coast tent city. We scarfed down some questionable fairs food and hunkered down in the beer garden, watching hooting and hollering men, gorgeous gazelle girls in tiny shorts, and a random assortment of superheroes, pirates, and disco divas.
Just as an ominous pea-soup evening fog started rolling in, the kites started coming down, and fires were lit in the desolate parts of the beach, our last runner barreled down the finish chute. Our team rallied around him and ran the last few steps of the race together. We were laughing, complaining, exhausted, and deliriously happy to be done.
The LadyPants Guide to First time H2C…
I usually show up first and ask questions later. If I always knew what I was getting into, I would never get into anything. Here’s what I wish I would have known…
Watch the Hood to Coast documentary. (Take a look at the trailer, above.)
Find a Team. I found mine by accident. You can browse through the H2C Forums, or Facebook Page. Post your running resume, look for a team to join, or look for runners to join you. If you can’t find a team early on, just keep the weekend open. Last minute cancellations and injuries open up spots just hours before the start.
Having a cool team is the number one factor that will determine how much you enjoy your H2C experience, so choose a group that you’ll click with. Choose a speed demon team if you have ambitions of placing well, and pick a party team if you just want to enjoy. There are also common interest teams, such as moms, wounded warriors, bloggers, or Canadians (Hurtin’ Albertans) if that sort of thing appeals to you. Bonus points for joining a team with a dirty name or cool costumes!
Pony Up. Registration for the 2012 H2C starts 12 Oct 2011. Team fee is $1320. The Team Captain will normally pay the fee, then ask each athlete for $150-500 to cover registration fees, plus the cost of food, renting two vans, gas, and renting a house or hotel room for before, after, and during the race. It’s up to you to get to the staging area.
Joining a Local Team is usually on the cheaper side and has its perks. Team members can use their own vans, trucks, or SUV’s, saving on rental costs. Plus, you can usually crash at someone’s house for free before, after, and even during the race, saving on hotels and saving you from having to sleep on the ground or in a van during the race. The conventional wisdom is also that a local team will have some familiarity with the roads and would be less likely to get lost on race day, but you know how that sort of thing usually goes…
Train. Anyone with a basic level of fitness and a good dose of intestinal fortitude can complete the event. Previous finishers include octogenarians, fifth-graders, very obese people, and drunks. If you are in half marathon shape, you can compete and enjoy instead of merely survive. But you’d get the most out of the race if you train as if to run your best 10K ever. Many of the competitors are highly fit and take pride in their “road kills” (people passed). It’s a lot more fun if you’re in shape to make your own road kills instead of becoming road kill. Try an established 10K program & make sure you practice running hills.
Pack. Six people, one van, 36 hours. Pack light. Here are the essentials:
- A change of clothes for each run. Yes, some people save time and get extra sleep by skipping showers and wearing the same outfit for thirty-six hours. That is vile. Bring fresh clothes. Three shorts (or running skirts!), three sports bras/tank tops/singlets, three pairs of socks, and a light, long sleeve top or two will get you through all your runs.
- Sweatshirts/sweatpants and dry tees to throw on after running.
- A huge (washable) fleece or microfiber blanket. Works for curling up to nap anywhere, wearing as a huge cape when you timing your teammates in the middle of the night, and napping on the beach at the finish.
- A yoga mat and travel or yoga towel. A yoga mat doubles as a sleeping pad if your team will be sleeping under the stars. Also great for stretching out between runs. An ultralight, quick drying towel for showers won’t take up precious space and will dry fast enough not to stink up your bag.
- Baby wipes, sanitary products, deodorant, toothbrush/toothpaste, and anything else you need to maintain basic hygiene.
- Dr. Bronner’s. I love the classic peppermint soap for quick showers, as hand soap (there isn’t any in the porta-potties) and for general sanitary emergencies.
- Toilet paper (and carry your roll with you to the porta-potties! There is nothing worse than being trapped toiletpaperless in a honeybucket with two minutes left before the next hand-off)
- Flip Flops! Very necessary. For use as shower shoes, and because your feet will not abide running shoes for thirty-six hours straight.
- $20-40, for incidentals and food/beer at the finish. Don’t forget your ID if you want in to the post-race beer garden.
- Plastic bags. As soon as you’re done running, throw the stinky stuff in plastic bags and seal them tightly.
- A mini first aid kit, stocked with anti-chafing product (bodyglide or vaseline), NSAIDs, a blister kit, and any other personal medical necessities (e.g. epi-pen, rescue inhaler).
- A hat, sunnies & sunscreen.
- A camera!
- Your own reflective vest, two LED lights & headlamp. These are required for night running, so chances are you’ll have to lend yours out or borrow someone else’s sweaty gear. To avoid the sweaty headlamp ick factor, I put a wide headband around my head karate-kid-style (a bandana would work too) and put the headlamp over it.
- A cell phone with both wall and car chargers. You’ll want to keep your cell phone charged in order to keep in touch with the other van and other team members in case you get separated on the road or at the finish line.
- A sports watch and a stop watch. My team commandeered my stop watch to use as the whole team’s timing device. Be a hero, bring your stop watch and keep your personal sports watch.
Don’t Bring. Ipods. (they’re not allowed on the course, but bring it and a converter cable for jamming out in the van); Books/ DVDs/ Crosswords/ Work. (Sleep or go cheer on your teammates if you have downtime. But you won’t.)
Food. It’s hard to eat well during this race. I tried to make sure I stayed super-hydrated, had a full meal (like some pasta or a sandwich) after each run, and snacked on nuts & fruit in between. Food is strictly BYO, although there are some (questionable) food stands and grocery stores along the way. I would have liked to bring Lara Bars, coconut water, and homemade hummus, raw cheese & avocado & sprouted grain wraps for sandwiches. As an aside, it’s nearly impossible to find coffee at this race. So if you’re a fiend, plan ahead. Buy it when you can or bring an alternate source of caffeine.
Enjoy every minute! Make sure your team’s van is totally pimped. Wear costumes (I saw one guy in a full-face Green Lantern outfit and a group of women that ran in sparkly disco outfits). Or at least make rad team tee shirts. Create an amazing twenty-four-hour sing-along playlist that goes with your team’s theme. Bring a blender & car adapter and and serve virgin cocktails out of the van. Thank all the volunteers (profusely). Cheer on your teammates & everybody else. Take tons of pictures & videos! Rent a house in Seaside and have a giant post-race bonfire party on Saturday night. It really is the race of a life time. 🙂
Veterans, what are your H2C tips?