Friday, September 5, 2014

Race Recap: Hood to Coast Relay with Team Nuun - Part Deuce

To read Part 1, click here.

"It's a two hundred mile relay made up of 36 legs. Each team has 12 runners, divided among 2 vans. Each runner completes 3 legs and blah, blah, blah..." ----> my endless explanation when I try (poorly) to explain what Hood to Coast is. I should just say, "It's a really big relay!"

Nuun had two teams, Lemon Lime and Wild Berry. I was on Wild Berry, rolling in Van 2 (Van Deuce) as runner 9. In van deuce was our trusty driver Vishal and fellow leg runners Kevin, Rachel, Amanda, Megan and Liz.

Friday morning began with my hotel roommates and Lemon Lime runners George (aka Jorge) and Justin bailing early to head to the start line at Mt. Hood. My van didn't have to leave as early so I used this extra time to relax and grab some breakfast with those that still hadn't left.

Van 1 at the start
At 10:30 we all piled into our van/new home for the next 30+ hours and headed off to the first van exchange (where runner 6 (Melissa) in van 1 exchanged with runner 7 (Kevin) in my van). We were hardly outside of Seattle when we hit traffic, then some more traffic, and yes, a little more traffic. We certainly weren't setting any speed records but with Vishal's expert driving and ability to carve through traffic like a knife through butter, we made to the exchange with time to spare before Melissa arrived.

Exchange 6 - Rachel, Kevin, Megan, Amanda, Liz, and Vishal
(Photo credit: Amanda)
Melissa exchanged with Kevin and the race had begun for van deuce! We headed up the road and screamed and hollered at all the runners out on the course. Seeing them really got my endorphins pumping. Finally, the race was here and I couldn't wait for my leg! We caught up to Kevin and gave him some much needed Nuun. It wasn't humid, but it was definitely a hot summer afternoon.

Runners on the road!
Kevin came blazing into the exchange and traded off to Rachel. With Rachel on her way, I headed back to the van to get ready for my leg. My first leg was mostly flat, but fairly long at just under 7 miles. It was also the first leg where the team vans couldn't follow along with the runners because most of it was on a bike trail. Soon, Rachel appeared over the crest of the road and handed off the snap bracelet (which served as the relay baton) to me.

Rachel finishing strong on her first leg!
Rachel and I created a little toe tapping routine for our exchanges.
(Photo credit: Kevin)
My pace was way too fast from the start, but the excitement of finally running took over. 2 miles and an unpleasant side stitch later, I started paying for my quick start. I slowed down a bit and became roadkill for a few runners (which drove me nuts). Yet, I knew I needed to save myself for my next two legs. The bike trail was pretty, but I'll admit it was a bit anticlimactic after all the amazing scenery I had seen on the drive down from Seattle. Soon enough I made it to the exchange where I handed off the snap bracelet to Amanda. Leg 9, done - 8:09 min/mile. Back at the van and it was a quick change into fresh clothes and replenishing my body with some Nuun goodness.

We reached Portland as the sun began to disappear behind the horizon. Portland was where the next van exchange was and where our 12th runner, Liz, would hand back off to runner 1, Elisabeth, in van 1, to start leg 13 of the relay. Make sense? Ok, moving on....

Me being stupid.
Exchange 12 - Portland skyline
With van 1 on their way to run legs 13-18, our van had some downtime before we had to meet up with them at the next van exchange. So, per the suggestion of my teammate Jenny, (who was in van 1 and lives in Portland) we headed to Laurelwood Brewing Company for dinner where I had an amazing plate of pesto veggie mac 'n' cheese. I wanted to eat all of it, but I was afraid if I ate too much my stomach wouldn't be happy with me on my next leg. For icing on the cake, Jenny also offered up her apartment for us to rest and SHOWER! Her generosity was much appreciated and being able to rest at her place instead of in a van was clutch.

Starting our night shift
A little after midnight we climbed back into van deuce and headed to the next van exchange. The overnight hours were probably some of my favorite during the relay. As physical and mental fatigue started to set in for everyone, our van antics and conversations got weirder and weirder. From our rap sing-a-long of Gansta's Paradise at 2am to our in-depth discussions of poo and farts at 5am. When you're in a van with the same people for over 24 hours, there are no filters. If something was on our minds, it was said without thinking twice. Laughs were abundant and gripes were few and far between.

Exchange 18
My 2nd leg (leg 21) began around 4am. Right before I was about to get out of the van to meet up with Rachel, I got real sleepy. I was worried that I wouldn't be able to bring myself from this haze and get my ass running when it was time. Van traffic was pretty backed up getting into the exchange and by the time I got there, Rachel was done and waiting for me. Her leg was a pretty brutal one and I felt bad that she was left waiting for me when she finished. Sorry Rachel!

Headlamp flipped on and a reflective vest adorned with forward and rear blinkers had me looking like a Christmas tree as I set off into the cool darkness of the Oregon backcountry. This would be my shortest leg (5 miles) and it was mostly downhill along a gravel road. I used the downhill and cool temps to my advantage and pushed the pace. As soon as I was moving I came out of my haze and set off to get me some roadkills! This leg turned out to be my most enjoyable. I welcomed the gravel road as I'll take dirt over pavement any day. In tow of each team van that passed by was a large dust cloud that reduced visibility and made breathing a bit hard, but I didn't mind. This leg had me thinking back to my nighttime hours during my 100 miler in June, which put a huge grin on my face. To me, this is what running is all about....being out in nature, getting a little dirty and running with pure joy. It was one of the most effortless 5 milers I had ever run. Leg 21 done - 7:27 min/mile.

As night turned to dawn, a light fog hugged the trees around us. It was so beautiful until 'Traffic Jam 2014' rudely interrupted the party. Unbeknown to our team, police had stop all van traffic flowing in and out of exchange 24, which was the next van exchange. The Hood to Coast website would later report (jokingly, I believe) that it was due to a driver falling asleep behind the wheel. I still don't know why the police stopped all the vans, but until we reached exchange 30, it was bumper-to-bumper traffic.

Traffic jam! Yours truly in the black hoodie in the lower left trying to figure out what the heck was going on.
(Photo credit: Amanda)
Exchange 30
It was early in the afternoon when Melissa exchanged with Kevin. With Melissa wrapping up leg 30, van 1 was done with their running duties and they headed to the finish line in Seaside to greet us and our anchor runner, Liz. Kevin ran a strong leg and then Rachel was off!

Rachel flying outta exchange 31!
I slipped on my running shoes and began to prep for my final leg. This leg would be my longest, just a hair under 8 miles. While my legs felt pretty fresh, I was a little worried how strong I would be able to run given my lack of sleep and calories. I anxiously awaited for Rachel's arrival at the exchange and when she came into view, excitement took over. Vishal offered to run with me and I appreciated his company as we set off.

There was no sense in holding back so I pushed with everything I had left in me. I had some tightness in my left hamstring, but I guess that's what you get sitting in a van for a day and a half. It was pretty warm out and it was definitely getting to me towards the end of the leg. However, I did my best to block out the discomfort by taking in everything that surrounded me. I was running through the beautiful Oregon countryside, constantly reminding myself that I wouldn't be running in a place like this again for awhile. I was surprised to see many locals sitting out in front of their homes cheering us on. Their support helped keep my pace up. The van stopped a couple times along the way to offer Vishal and I water and of course, Nuun! My teammates even snagged a couple great action photos!

Vishal and I
(Photo credit: Amanda)
Showing my wild face!
(Photo credit: Rachel)
Exchange in view, I gave it all I had. I handed off the snap bracelet to Amanda one last time. Leg 33 done - 8:01 min/mile. I was grateful to be back at the van to change out of my sweaty clothes and get into some much needed A/C. But, our race was not over yet. Amanda was on course and Megan and Liz were prepping for their final legs.

As we neared the coast line, a heavy fog quickly turned a beautiful afternoon into a gloomy day. Before I knew it, Megan was handing off to Liz to start the final leg of the relay! As we entered Seaside, I had mixed emotions. Half of me was so happy we were finally in Seaside but the other half was sad that this amazing journey was coming to an end.

We reunited with van 1 and made our way to the finish. Within minutes of reaching the finish line, Liz came into view and we all cheered her on to the finish! After Liz crossed the timing mats we joined her and ran across the finish line as a team. Hood to Coast Relay - done 10:03 min/mile team average with a time of 33:17:37!

Video of Team Wild Berry being welcomed to the beach party!

Success! Team Wild Berry at the finish!
(Photo Credit: Eric)
A race wouldn't be complete without beers at the finish. Cheers to a great race!
(Photo Credit: Eric)
What an epic relay! I cannot begin to thank Nuun enough for this incredible opportunity. It was such an honor to represent this amazing company at Hood to Coast. A HUGE thank you to Megan and all the other staff members at Nuun. Your hard work did not go unnoticed. You guys rock! Thank you, thank you, thank you!

I'm sure Ragnar relays have a similar feel to Hood to Coast, but let's face it, if it wasn't for Hood to Coast, there would be no Ragnar. There is a reason why Hood to Coast is known as the "Mother Of All Relays." Thanks to all the race staff and volunteers. You guys make an event like this possible. I'm so grateful that I had the chance to run this relay!

To all my teammates, it was a pleasure meeting and running with you. Each of you carried your own amazing life stories and I loved getting to know you all. I can only hope we get together for another run soon!

A relay isn't about one person, it's about a team.


  1. LOVED this, Dougie!! I'll live in a van with you and let you blame your farts on me anytime!!

  2. This was awesome Doug. Such a pleasure to get to know you. Thanks for a great recap. Now can we please do it all over again?