This is the second year that I have been on the day job team for Hood To Coast (aka HTC), although I had to drop out last year because of illness*. This year I am… nervous, but excited about the opportunity, and ready enough that I should be able to finish in good order.
But what is Hood To Coast, why would anyone want to do it, and what is it about running races in general that makes people travel long distances to participate?
Hood To Coast is a race from Timberline up on Mount Hood to the beach at Seaside, OR. It is a relay race, rather than an individual event, so you run as part of a team. Each team is of twelve runners split between two vans. The legs are arranged so that every runner will run three legs, the team covering a total of 195 miles over the duration of the race.
I’ve been told that the best way to approach the race is to just accept that you will get no sleep.
The thing is that with six runners in each van, there might be twelve hours between each runner’s leg (assuming each leg takes about an hour) but there will only be six hours between each van’s legs, and not much of that time will be stationary.
Why would anyone want to do this awful thing, then? Teams travel from across the world to participate in this event – why?
Well, the general truth here is that HTC is a destination race akin to the Boston Marathon or the London Marathon: a race that is unique**, a race that you do in order to say you’ve done it, and to savour the experience. It’s a race that generates stories. And that really covers the general question of why anyone would travel hundreds or even thousands of miles to run in a race.
The specific truth for me is that as an Oregonian runner, HTC is something I have to do given the opportunity. I am looking forward to running this remarkable event as an individual and with my team, but HTC is a thing that really has to be done if you can. I was very sad I couldn’t run last year, and delighted both that there was going to be a team this year and that I am able to take part.
And the other thing is that running is largely a solitary activity. Being able to participate in a team race is novel and exciting.
As I said, there are twelve runners in a team and three legs per team member. With the varying distances of the legs and paces of the runners, it usually seems to work out that a leg will take about an hour to run, so after your first leg you’re running again every twelve hours.
For me, this means I am running about noon, then about midnight, then about noon again.
The training I have been doing for this race specifically has been heat training and closely-spaced runs. So, I have been running at lunchtime and early afternoon even in the heat wave, and I’ve been running home in the evening only to run back in to the office the following morning. I’m also still doing longer runs and hills.
The result is that, despite the niggling upper body injuries, my legs feel about as strong as they have in some time: I’m able to go up and down stairs without wincing the day after a long run, and that’s an improvement.
I am as ready as I am going to get, I think.
A team is not just its runners: there are drivers, volunteers, organisers, and of course our families supporting us all in this bizarre endeavour.
Thank you to all who make Hood To Coast possible.
And that is what I am doing for the next couple of days. I will try to write a race report to post on Monday, but I may well be too wrecked to put one word in front of the other.
So, I will be back when I can.
[*] the stomach flu of great stomach flu-ness, a rare example of being literally gutted.
[**] or at least one of the first of its kind.