Hood to Coast 2011: Race Report

So my last post was a little bit of the mushy gushy “I LOVE MY NUUN TEAM” post to simply spill out my love and absolute respect for all of Nuun, Nuun Platuun, Afternuun Delight, and the glory of the relay.  I’m still not sure I have the words to explain how awesome the entire trip was, but I do know that I’m not too shabby at writing race reports, so I’ll attempt to recreate my running experience during Hood to Coast…after all, this is a running blog and that’s what I do.

the waiting period

Hood to Coast was a bit of a different experience from my first and only relay (Reach the Beach!) because I was the first runner in that relay, so I was running from the very start!  For Hood to Coast, I was runner #9, so although the gun went off at 12:30pm to signal the start of the team, I still had a long time before my first leg.  We spent the time driving from Seattle down to Oregon, eating Quizno’s, and spreading the nuun love in the transition area parking lot.  As you may realize from the name of the relay, the race starts at Mount Hood, but due to space constrictions (especially this year with the addition of 200 teams!), only Van 1 from each team can head up this.  This is the closest Van 2 got to Mount Hood:

HTC (10)

Van 1 reported that the views from the top of Mount Hood were gorgeous, and I would definitely try for a spot in Van 1 for next year!  (Wink wink…)

Leg #1 for me, Leg 9 for HTC

After doing our thing in the first transition, Van 2 was off to the races!  It was still a bit toasty out, but we had been hydrating with nuun all day so we were up for the challenge.  (As a side note, I hadn’t been feeling well all week leading up to the relay, and I still woke up with a bit of a sore, scratchy throat on Friday morning.  Took two Advil when I woke up and felt awesome the rest of the weekend…kicked that just in time!)

We didn’t have much time to catch up with Van 1 before starting our portion of the relay, cheering on our runners between transition areas.  Around 7pm, it was finally my turn to run Hood to Coast!  The sun was still up, but I had to wear a reflective vest and carry a flashlight.

The hand off!

My first leg was #9, 6.96 miles (per my garmin!, 7.04 miles per HTC), rated “moderate.”


I ran on a road for about a mile before turning onto a mostly gravel bike path.  Since I as on the bike path for most of my leg, it was totally unsupported in that none of the vans could reach us.  I remember a water stop at one point, but I didn’t grab any water.  The miles simply started clicking off, and soon enough it felt like I was heading slightly downhill the entire way…which it clearly was, as evidenced by the above elevation profile!

Since runner #9 has the longest mileage for all HTC runners, some of the competitive teams put their fastest runner on this leg in order to maximum the speed.  This was evident as a couple obviously fast guys FLEW by me.  Now mind you, I was holding about seven minute pace, so I wasn’t exactly going slow, and about three guys dropped me like a fly.  In the meantime, I held my own.  I eventually got passed by one guy who passed me and then stayed about ten feet in front of me for about three miles.  I passed him once, then he passed me back.  With about a mile and a half to go, he must have lost some steam and I passed him for good!

On this leg, I concentrated on keeping a fast yet even pace…it was the first time I had run in six days due to my earlier sickness, so I figured that would either be a nice taper or make my legs a bit creaky.  Apparently it was the first!  No matter how I’m feeling, if I hear a gun go off or you put a slap bracelet on my arm, I only have one reaction…to GO.  So I did.

With about a quarter mile to go, a guy on a bike said, “You’re almost there!”  to which I turned and joked, “You better not be lying to me!”  He replied that he ran this leg last year and that I was kicking at the right time.  (Not sure I was actually kicking, but thanks for the reassurance!)  Found the finish line shortly ahead of me, and just like that, my first leg was over!

HTC Leg 9, 7pm-ish
6.96 miles in 49:28, avg pace of 7:07

I found the guy who was leap frogging with me during the leg, and he said something along the lines of, “Nice running out there!”  I replied with, “You were my rabbit for about three miles, I wasn’t going to let you get away!” and he said, “Well, you got me in the end there.”  Chicked!  I told him I’d keep an eye out for him in the coming legs, although I never ended up seeing him again.

HTC run

  Muscles post-leg #1…and check out that Moving Comfort Bra!

gearing up for round 2

After Van 2 completed their legs, it was time to head to our second van transition point where we would try to catch a little bit of sleep before starting up our next legs.  Our runners started back up around 3am, so we only had a short period of time to nab some ZZZ’s.  Since I had no idea how to get a sleeping bag and pillow from NYC to the west coast, I figured I could curl up on the seats in the van and use a sweatshirt for a pillow.  (This is easy when you’re 5’4” and not so big.  See above picture.)  I put my headphones on, laid down on the bench, and zonked out for maybe two hours.  No idea on the actually timing of all that, but you can what you can get on a relay!

As Van 1 passed off to us, we geared up for some night running…I think I was a bit in a zombie mode, and I remember eating a banana and Sour Patch Kids for some energy.  Ah, relay food…

I started to get a little nervous about my run because I didn’t look at any of the elevation profiles, and the two legs before mine had some killer hills in them!  I figured that since it was pitch black outside I wouldn’t be able to see in front of me and that was going to be my best bet.  Off for leg 2…

Leg #2 for me, Leg 21 for HTC

I cannot say how incredibly freaky this run was.  Kim handed the slap bracelet off to me, and as soon as I left transition, everything went black.  I was running on a gravel path with no lights around except the stars.  The only light I had was from the little light on my headlamp and any vans that might pass by.  It was really, really cool and unbelievably terrifying!  This leg was only five miles, and for some reason I saw maybe five runners in the entire time.

Freak out time for this city girl!  I will walk the streets of Manhattan at midnight (someone is always around, especially with a bar right next to my apartment!), but being in the middle of the woods with no lights around got my heart racing and made me run a little faster.  I kept thinking, “This is where CSI gets their ideas…runner gone missing during oldest relay in the country!”  Don’t tell my mother.  Since I couldn’t see many other runners, I often wondered if I was going on the right path and hoped for a van to pass me just to be reassuring…it was nice to see the light which gave me some idea of what was ahead of me, but as soon as they passed it was dark dark dark again and my field of vision decreased even more as the vans kicked up dust as they passed.

It was so hard to see during this leg and I often ended up on the opposite side of the road because I couldn’t see a small turn.  Otherwise, I’d pull back my speed really quick because I felt so disoriented as to where I was, just following the little light coming from my head.  Every time I tried to look around or check out the stars, I’d get more disoriented and go back to just staring at the little light in front of me.

Luckily the bit of terror in the back of my mind kept the pace up, and five miles were over soon enough.

HTC Leg 21, 4:30am-ish
5.0 miles in 35:43, avg pace of 7:09


I don’t remember that downhill at all…

Sweatastic in Army gear for my second leg!

the final rest

For me, this is a bit where the going gets tough…you’ve run two legs, but still have one more to go.  The excitement of leg two is over, but you still have little sleep.  I had handed off to Harmony, and the sun started to peak out during her leg.  We eventually got to a transition point with a church that serves pancakes…I thought about the pancakes, but instead decided to stick with my chocolate fueling plan and got coffee instead.  (I drink a lot of coffee when I’m on night shift, so caffeine headaches can be a major concern.  It’s bad, I know.)  Our van finished up their legs and we headed to our next transition point.

I don’t remember most of this drive.  Why?  Photo evidence below:


I’m used to daytime sleeping so sometimes I can sleep wherever I want…which is only funny because I’m normally such a light sleeper.  Please note the coffee right next to me, I’m convinced they gave me decaf.  Thanks for capturing the moment, vanmates.

I did wake up when we got to our next transition area…and I was definitely refreshed!  We took the time to get some team pictures in the day light and refuel for our final push to the finish.

Still looking good after two legs!

HTC (47) Harmony was my seat buddy in the van…win!

HTC (55) Last leg would be a hot one…gotta hydrate!

Time to get on with our last legs!  I had a nap, some chocolate, some picture fun, and hydration…Jess and Kim ran their legs, and then it was time for…

Leg #3 for me, Leg 33 for HTC

This was to be my longest run of the relay, stretching out 7.73 miles.  With “little rolling hills,” per this chart:



Those rolling hills felt like bigger hills than “rolling,” let me tell you.  However, that downhill in the first mile was fabulous and I flew through the first mile in 6:44.  Oops?  Whatever, it’s the last leg, you give all you have to give.

As a warning to anyone who ever runs with me when I’m on, I go into focus mode.  And I was on for this leg.  Eyes were on the prize, and I had that look on my face.  I would like to think it’s a “get out of my way, I’m on a mission” face, but I’ll let you be the judge.  I’ve just been told that I look like I’m on my way.  Mainly because I am.

This leg was totally different than my previous two legs.  First reason?  My team could actually follow me!  They were able to stop and give me water twice, which was definitely nice in that it was super hot out, and I really appreciated the cheers along the way!

HTC run 2 Thanks for the water, team!

Second reason?  TONS of runners.  On my first two legs, I barely saw anyone.  Other runners kept talking about their road kills, and I hardly even had anyone to chase down on my prior legs.  Since we were closer to the finish, this leg was full of them.  That focus I talked about above?  It was all about catching those people in front of me…one after the other, pulling them in.  It’s definitely what kept me going throughout the tough parts of the run.

My goal for this leg was mainly to stay strong…I do have a marathon coming up soon, and I know the end of that will hurt!  Probably more than HTC did, so I wanted to practice running fast(er-ish) through pain.  Plus, I wanted to run for my team!  I took the hills in stride, telling myself not to kill myself trying to get up them, but to keep my legs moving.  (This worked for Big Sur, so why not now?)  I think hills are easier if you have a mental plan, and it worked!  I didn’t waste all my energy climbing and was able to fly down the backside that followed them. 

The miles kept clicking off and I kept passing people…love it!  Eventually we made a left turn that led up a hill to the transition area, where Harmony was waiting for me (after scaling a fence from the bathroom, apparently…rockstar.), and what a beautiful site that was.

HTC Leg #33, 1pm-ish
7.76 miles in 56:34, avg pace of 7:17

Road kill count?  33!!


to the finish

It’s a great feeling being done with your legs…you can relax, eat whatever you want (not that I wasn’t doing that before…), and cheer on your teammates!  The day was getting hotter too!  Harmony sped through her leg, and Tonia battled through some tough, tough hills before handing off to XLMIC to bring us home.

I just like this picture…Harmony and me at the final transition!

I would like to say that the end of the race was amazing.  That we cheered XLMIC as she crossed the finish line and watched her collapse as she spent every bit of energy getting across that line  But instead…we sat in two hours of traffic to go six miles to the finish.  Soooo much traffic getting down to the finish that we just crawled along and probably could have walked faster.  Definitely could have run faster and I probably would have been up for it.

We waited for updates from van 1 and finally heard that XLMIC crossed the line and we were done!  Two hours later, the team regrouped and we ran together across the finish line.  A little anti-climactic at that point, but still fun…and we got our medals!

HTC (69) Path to the finish…

HTC (72) Why hello, Seaside.

HTC (70) Beach!

HTC (75) Nuun Platuun is DONE!

Oh yeah, then we celebrated…because beer tastes better after running.

HTC (76) From coast to coast!

HTC (77) Smiles all around!

Even Spiderman joined us…he was jealous.

the verdict?

Well, by now you probably realize that I had an amazing time.  The relay was soooo much fun and definitely much more than I ever thought it would have been.  Although I recapped my legs of the relay, I think it says something that I didn’t even end up taking a picture of the medal.  Although I like to run fast and chase people down, this relay was definitely more about being on a team, spreading the nuun love, and being brought together with strangers who simply love to run than it ever was about “winning” or being the best.

And that is the only way this relay should have been done.  Count me in for next year.


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  1. says

    See, it’s the sleeping picture with the sweatshirt pillow that really hits home for me. Looks like an amazing, incredible, honest-to-goodness crazy time that most people would hate but, to moronic runners like us, is darn close to perfect. Nice fast times, great pictures, and you got to yell the word “nuun” all the time. NOOOOOOON. That’s how you pronounce it, right? This race is so on my list of must-dos.

  2. says

    I love this recap! And this: “I hardly even had anyone to chase down on my prior legs.” – I heart you and your speedy competitiveness. And, I seriously thought of you when I was doing mile repeats this morning and trying to chase people down to make it more fun.

  3. says

    Weeeeeee!!!! I WANT TO BE YOU!! You dominated all of those legs BIG TIME! SO proud to be on your WINNING TEAM! I love this!!

  4. says

    I had a crazy dream that you were in last night! Apparently this post, set in Oregon, made my brain decide that you’d moved here to go to Med school, and you lived in a (really, really shady looking, completely non-reality based) apartment complex a block away from me. I was walking down the street, and saw you & a friend of yours walk out of the building, and you were waaaaaasted and headed off to do a clinical day at the hospital. But first, you needed to stop by Las Vegas for some cake. It was strangely awesome.

  5. Nicole says

    I did leg #9 as well and I swear I could have written the exact same things as you – about not seeing anyone until the end, the absolute TERRIFYNESS of the middle leg (I am NEVER doing that leg again, I almost cried!), and I swear that middle leg was uphill for most of the second half!, and the huge “rollers” of the last leg! You killed it though, way to go! I’m really jealous of your sleeping abilities.

  6. says

    You were so amazingly intense on that third leg, Susan. It was so much fun to watch you… taking no prisoners, mowin’ ’em down. It was awesome hearing you guys as I ran down that final hill to the beach. I know you all were with me in spirit! Awesome recap… love getting the story such a wonderful athlete :) I was only sad that Gatsby never made it into any of our team pictures.

  7. says

    Those are some hot times! I really enjoyed reading this recap and it makes me want to sign up for HTC 2012!!!

    Also, I am drinking more Nuun as I type this. Electrolytes for running, electrolytes for girls who drink too much wine. Same thing, right?

  8. says

    Ohh gosh after reading these recaps, i really want to d a relay so badly lol. So tell me more about your chocolate fueling plan please :) :)

  9. says

    This is an awesome post about HTC! I’m running it with my team for the first time this year and we are excited. The pics look great, you are super, super fast! Anyway, I wanted to ask if you had any recommendations for van rentals? If you have a name, please let me know, I’d love to follow up and try to rent some vans out there.

    Thanks a billion!

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