Archive for August, 2016


HOOD TO COAST RELAY: A LIFE EXPERIENCE

08.30.2016

As I have moaned a bit this last year, life keeps getting in the way of my running (and writing about it). Usually, I’d have had this written at least a day or so ago. Usually, I would have written a pre-race blog too. But, it is what it is.

Bob's Border Busters (1987)

Bob’s Border Busters (1987)

August 26/27 marked my NINTH time doing the Hood to Coast Relay. It would have been more than that, but I have tried unsuccessfully (collectively with teams) at least three and maybe four other times. I have been doing this on and off since 1987 (Bob’s Border Busters). At the time I did not personally realize that we were involved in just the fifth running of the event. It was surely a different event in those days, for so many reasons. For one thing, after hitting Portland, the route to the Coast was different and the finish location was completely different. The distance was also shorter (not much). The number of teams was in the 500 odd range at the time and although it has always been tightly organized (in a good way) the feel was far more relaxed.

A lot of the roads taken were not the major routes they are today. Same roads, but far less busy and far more rural. Because the whole thing was smaller, the restrictions on vehicles was less. I recall one team with a school bus. They had a massage table they would haul out at exchanges and give the incoming runner a quick going over before moving on. I think (not sure about that) the massage person was just that, not a runner, but rather team support! Both of the first times I went, the system was what I call ‘odds and evens’. Two vans, but instead of first six legs and second six, we did a leap-frog with the odd runners in one and evens in the other and a system of dropping off and picking up. That gave more time to stretch out the legs after running. It also meant there was never a major exchange point. Of course, in a sense, it also meant every exchange was a major exchange. Well, I guess the real thing was just fewer teams, especially after Portland when the walkers and high schoolers now join in.

Ready to Start Hood to Coast - 1989

Ready to Start Hood to Coast – 1989

The second time I ran Hood to Coast was 1989. It has so many personal memories for me, including being the fastest I have ever run over a significant distance. That was Leg #1, which apart from the quality and nature of the road, oh and that we started at 10:30pm in the pitch-black dark, with handheld flashlights, was almost the same. It ended right at the bottom of the hill though and was 5.5 miles. I averaged

H2C Start Line 2006

H2C Start Line 2006

5:59 per mile but it felt like 4:00/mile running in the dark with no distance perspective. As is always the case at the start, unless you are counting noses and watching over your shoulder, it is hard to know how you did relative to the other teams (especially in the dark). I learned from my team, after finishing, that I had come down the mountain in fourth place in our starting group. We had a pretty decent team. I turned out to be third SLOWEST on the team. Our team average pace was 6:50/mile!  Ah, those were the days. Now, my role on Leg #1 (and all the others) is to offer myself as ‘road kill’ for other runners!  But, back to the glory of that race in the summer of ’89. Shaughnessy’s Cove (as we were called) finished 20/208 in Men’s Open and 64/684 (starters).

Due to a few things like living in Europe for three years then half way across the country for a bunch more and actually not doing much racing (running, yes – racing, not so much), oh and that two years in Malaysia, it was not until 2006 I had another chance to do Hood to Coast. That time was more good luck than good management. A team of loosely affiliated runners, including some from my running club (Pacific Road Runners) was coming together to do the Relay. We had people from BC, Washington, Oregon and Montana. Naturally, because of all those international, state and provincial boundaries we called ourselves Bordering on Insanity. Well, that explains the ‘Bordering’ part. The rest doesn’t need much explanation.

Hood to Coast Relay

The traditional team on the rocks photo (2010)

In case you are starting to worry, I am NOT going to recount each of the six other races I’ve done. Each was worthy of a good story or two, but I may just resort to a selection of photographs. I had the fun of having our daughter Janna run on one of the teams (when she was a member of Pacific Road Runners). We went as PRR -Cha, Cha, Cha in honour of a club member who used to be ‘the organizer’ of such teams, and who had died quite suddenly and quite young. As I recall, my years of getting a team in were: 1987, 1989, 2006, 2007, 2008, 2010,  2012, 2013 and 2016. Most of them, I managed to do Leg #1, but I’ve also done Leg #3, Leg #2 and Leg #12. I was captain or co-captain for the bulk of the teams because one of my great pleasures is the organizational side. Besides, as I get slower and slower, it is my ticket to actually being ON a team!

The less traditional team in a parking lot photo (2016)

The less traditional team in a parking lot photo (2016)

Fast forwarding to Hood to Coast 2016, Canucks to the Coast had a great experience and many individual members found out some stuff about themselves they maybe didn’t know. As individuals, we had a bunch of links to each other, but the most common (7/12) was involvement with Forerunners where we participate in the half and full marathon clinics. Even though it is a fun event for most people, nobody has ever said it was easy. Each year brings its challenges and 2016 offered up some of the hottest weather I think the Relay has seen with bright sunshine and temperatures into the high NINETIES! Thankfully, overnight and as we approached Seaside, everything cooled down and Saturday running was pretty ideal. It is not that common to run three hard races, because that is what each leg amounts to, in such a short period of time. That is a major challenge that most runners not familiar with the race format, have not faced. Getting out for the third leg is hard to compare to anything else. I suppose Marathon Maniacs or Half Fanatics might disagree (especially those that do races back to back or more), but the short distances at Hood to Coast tempt you to run pretty hard. Then, there is the whole run, sit repeat thing that stiffens your legs so by leg three it is always a mental hurdle to get out there again. But, everybody does it and I know from observation of a lot of team members over all those years, that this is one of the big achievements for most.

There are 195 RK marks there if you care to count!

There are 195 RK marks there if you care to count!

I mentioned earlier that while I used to get my share of ‘road kills’, I now represent a fairly sure thing for most other runners. I guess I can feel comfort in knowing I have brightened a few lives! Of course, I do cling to the idea that when you are doing the actual first leg, your RK opportunities are limited. For the most part you are limited to those teams that start in the same wave.  Even if you were first to Government Camp, the most you could pass would be about 20. Some on our team passed over 30 in a single leg. I did get two ‘kills’ on Leg #1. I know because I physically passed them. There may have been a couple more behind me from the start, but not more than one or two. On Leg #13, I caught just one and was close to a second. Interestingly, I didn’t get passed by all that many as I think about it. Must have been in one of those natural gaps that form from time to time. Leg #25 provided me three more, so I totalled six; enough to feel I was not a complete anchor for the team!

For those who haven’t done Hood to Coast or another relay, I guess a moment is warranted to say the ‘road kill’ idea is not as awful as it sounds. It is done with good humour and is not really taken seriously. The main rule is that you get to count anyone you pass. If you are having a see-saw battle with someone, you only count once. Best of all, it is not a ‘net’ count. Nobody subtracts the number of times they got passed from the passes they made. I won’t say there isn’t a little competitiveness between team vans though! For instance, the driver of our Van #2 was pretty sure their 120 (“maybe even 130”) RK count was exceptional. That was until I pointed out that Van #1 had 195. I must admit that I might have let him go on for a bit before revealing our count. It seemed like the thing to do at the time.

Checking the results!

Checking the results!

A few years back we had a road kill situation that was pretty humorous. Unfortunately, one of our members arrived at Mount Hood with a full on case of pneumonia. I had been clever (and lucky) enough to recruit drivers that year, including one who was a good runner and ready to sub in at the last minute should there be a need. Well, there was a need, for sure. We did it all legal like, but of course our start time had been long settled on the projected time of the original team. The new guy was a really good runner and the sick chap was not (as good). The whole team was pretty exceptional other than yours truly. Road Kills were pushing up into the 6-700 range for the two vans together and there was a lot of internal competition. Anyway, our final runner, who was the aforementioned sub hit the beach snorting and snarling that he had been cheated or something because try as he might, he had not found a single RK. We had to point out that there was a reason. We were the third team on the beach that day. There wasn’t anybody to be passed! We thought we might just have been fast enough to have won an award, but it turned out we had just missed. Made for a fun afternoon as we drank beer and watched the results.

Starting H2C 2010

Starting H2C 2010

We had a rather early start time in 2016. It created a bit of personal stress as it meant less time to get organized and up to the start. We had plenty of time and what not, but van decorating is part of the fun and something we’d always done before heading for the mountain. I can never fully relax until that first runner has the bib on and slap band in place. Usually, the first runner is me and I tend to fully relax about the time the teams are being called to the start and introduced. From that point, it is what it is. Let the games begin!

We had our share of stories, but most of them are of the ‘inside baseball’ variety, so best saved for a team after-party. There are often celebrities and this year one of the big names was comedian Kevin Hart. Everyone was asking ‘have you seen him?’ and hoping for a sighting or to run a leg with him. Personally, my big thrill was at the Leg 29/30 exchange. We were manoeuvering the van when I looked over at the row of Honey-Buckets and saw this guy come out who was the spitting image of Ashton Eaton. Then I saw a volunteer shake his hand and congratulate him. I rolled down the window as we got near the volunteer. I asked, “Is that who I think it is?” Yes it is, was the answer. I saw him again shortly after (I was still jockeying the van) and almost rolled down the window to ask if he’d brought ‘the wife’ along. Of course, I’m Canadian, so I didn’t. Had I read some of the publicity stuff I guess I would have known that Eaton (Olympic Gold Medal – Decathlon) and Brianne Thiesen-Eaton (Olympic Bronze Medal – Heptathlon) were both running. You would have thought that little adventure a couple of weeks back in Rio would have been enough to hold them for a little while!

My social media reporting of the adventure seemed to have impressed That Runnin’ Guy, Chris Morales, my good friend of Reggae Marathon fame. He did a whole blog post on our adventure. I think he is bucking to join the next team!

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Carbing in Kelso. Canucks to the Coast 2013.

I count less, how well my teams finish, even though that is the easiest thing to keep track of, than I count how well we do together. By that I mean how the people get along and whether or not it is an overall good experience. No team ever makes it through without some tension or stress, but how everyone handles it is the big thing. If you can’t manage the pressure of the dynamic of this event, you will not come away saying it was a great experience. I really want to say to all the members of Canucks to the Coast 2016, this may have been the best of my nine Hood to Coast teams. Well done all!

Oh, and because it is the easiest thing to keep track of, at last reporting Canucks to the Coast finished 442/1050 and 26/107 in Mixed Sub-Masters. Had the driver (that would be me, at the time) not got a little lost on the way to the 24/25 Exchange we would have been about 30 minutes faster and a few notches up both results charts. Sorry guys! No prizes for us either way, but a good solid showing.

As I was running my last leg and my personal legs were shouting obscenities at my brain, I was wondering if, at the age of 71 it was time to make this my last Hood to Coast. I mean, if you can’t crush the Leg #1 combo, what else is there? Today my legs are feeling pretty good and I may even try a run in a little while. And, what the hey, I did have SIX road kills!  And, who quits at NINE when TEN is just one more away? Oh what the heck, anybody want to run H2C 2017????