Hood to Coast Race Recap [+ what I ate!!]

Exactly one month ago I embarked on one of the most amazing experiences of my life (dramatic, I know, but so true) - I ran the Hood to Coast relay race. This race came at the tail end of my Summer of 2016 Epic Adventure {read more on some of that here!} and it was the icing on the cake, the peak of the mountain, the part of my trip that stands out more than anything else.

The group before we started - our team name was 'Put a Bib on It'

The group before we started - our team name was 'Put a Bib on It'

WHAT is HOOD TO COAST?

Hood to Coast is an overnight, long-distance relay race held in Oregon, annually in late August, traditionally on the Friday and Saturday before the Labor Day weekend. Teams of 12 run a total of approximately 200 miles starting at Mt. Hood and ending at the Oregon coastal town of Seaside (hence the name Hood to Coast).

WHY RUN HTC?

Everyone has their own reasons for running the race, mine is simple: the opportunity presented itself to me and the timing seemed almost serendipitous. My friend Erika texted me one day asking if I would have any interest in running this race. I had already planned to spend the month of August on the west coast so it seemed like perfect timing and when else was I going to get this opportunity???

Van#2 all decked out and ready to go!

Van#2 all decked out and ready to go!

HOW does it WORK?

This is the question I was still asking the night before the race began. I had never run a relay race before and literally had no idea what to expect (and... had not done my homework... whoops!). Here's the breakdown of how the race actually works:

- The course is divided into 36 legs, ranging from 3-8 miles. Each person on the team is assigned a number that corresponds to your lineup on the team and this determines which legs you will run. For example, I was #12 so I ran legs 12, 24, and 36 (yep! I got to cross the finish line. So cool!). The team is then split into two vans of 6 people (#1-6 in one van, and #7-12 in the second van). 

- Van 1 begins the race. They drop #1 at the starting line and then hop in the van and drive to the first handoff point, where runner #2 will hop out, grab the "baton" (which is really a slap bracelet) from runner #1. Runner #2 will take off on their course, runner #1 will get in the van, and the van will head to the next handoff point to do it again.

- In the meantime, Van #2 is chilling out, awaiting their time to race. Van #2 will meet Van #1 at the end of runner #6's leg. The first runner from Van #2 will grab the slap bracelet from runner #6, and then Van #2 is off. Runner #6 will hop into Van #1 and then Van #1 has a few hours to rest (shower/eat/foam roll/etc... sleep really didn't happen).

- This leap frogging continues to the finish line where the whole team will meet runner #12 (that was me!) at the end of leg 36 and cross over the finish together, which is along the beach in Seaside, Oregon.

- This whole process takes anywhere from 18 (SUPER fast) to 38 hours [see 2016 results here] and there's a huge party at the end. Most teams spend the night in Seaside, and then drive back to Portland (or wherever they are going) the next day.

- Another note: There is a waved start, which means not every team starts at the same time. The slower teams begin first (early Friday AM) and the faster teams have a later start (into the afternoon on Friday). This way, teams all end within a few hours. For reference, my team started at 1:15PM on Friday afternoon and we ended around that same time on Saturday.

Leg #1 ready to rock - headlamp, reflective vest and all!

Leg #1 ready to rock - headlamp, reflective vest and all!

WHEN and HOW FAR did YOU run?

The total distance, difficulty and timing of your legs depends on your leg assignment (your runner #), your teams start time, and how fast your team runs.

Like I mentioned above, I was runner #12 and my team started around 1:15PM on Friday afternoon. I also had a *very fast* team (on average we ran 7:15 minute miles for this race). As a result, here's how far and when I ran:

- Leg #12 / 6.4 miles / Difficulty = Medium / 8:30 PM Friday night

- Leg #24 / 4.87 miles / Difficulty = Easy / 5:00 AM Saturday morning

- Leg #36 / 5.19 miles / Difficulty = Medium / 12:30 PM Saturday afternoon

Different people had different challenges with their legs - someone ran 5 miles in blazing mid-afternoon heat, someone ran 7 miles on dusty back roads at 2AM. Someone had 6 miles all up hill. Someone had 3 miles straight down hill. There were many more factors than just the difficulty of the leg itself that contributed to an individual's race difficulty level as a whole.

Feeling sassy/tired between legs #2 and #3

Feeling sassy/tired between legs #2 and #3

HOW did you FEEL?

ALL the FEELINGS. HA!

Yes, I was exhausted. Yes, I doubted my ability to finish strong. Yes, my digestive system hated me for part of the race. But really, most of the time I felt amazing. We felt great as a team, we pumped each other up before each start, we congratulated each other with GUSTO at each finish, and we encouraged each other in between legs to rest, to fuel properly, to let our bodies (and our minds) recover as best we could.

Ah... so that brings up the question...

All the healthy snacks!

All the healthy snacks!

WHAT did you EAT?

You are probably not surprised to hear that I was the official snack-master of our van. Before starting up, we stocked up on healthy, nutrient dense, easy to digest foods like nut butter, fruit, whole foods bars, trail mix, hard boiled eggs and YES chocolate. We also had ALL the hydration options: coconut water, chocolate coconut water (tastes like chocolate milk), water, all natural electrolyte drinks, more water and cold brew coffee (we took shots before our legs for a little energy boost!).

Here's exactly what I ate before and during the race {to the BEST of my memory}:

FRIDAY

Pre-race - Lunch time smoothie with bananas, almond butter, protein powder, and greens; late afternoon "snack" of a kale salad with tempeh (keep in mind that I wasn't running my first leg until 8:30/9PM).

7PM / Fuel / This "phat fudge"

8:30PM RUN

10PM / Refuel / Smoothie with banana, coconut water, protein powder {we were lucky enough to have a break in Portland and one of my van mates lives there so we showered and rested at her apartment, and I made smoothies ;) ).

Electrolyte drink + lots of water, chocolate covered almonds

SATURDAY

3:30AM / Fuel / Almond butter sandwich on gluten free bread + cold brew coffee

5AM RUN

6:30AM / Re-fuel / 2 hard boiled eggs, and then a little later an Rx Chocolate Sea Salt bar (egg whites, nuts, dates)

Electrolyte drink + lots of water, tea, probably a few more chocolate covered almonds

10:30AM / Fuel / Banana + this weird bulletproof coffee shot

12:30 PM RUN + FINISH!!

2PM / Re-fuel / Water, beer (a rare occurrence for me!), salad with double veggie burger

The whole team met me to cross the finish line together!

The whole team met me to cross the finish line together!

WHAT did you LEARN?

Oh, so much. Here are a few nuggets of wisdom:

- You are stronger than you know. I did not train for this race, and honestly my running has been on the back burner for the past year or two. That being said, I still managed to run, and run fast - I surprised myself at what I was capable of. And this made me realize that sometimes we need to push ourselves a little harder than we are used to in order to realize our potential, and grow!

- A support system is crucial. I 100% would not have finished without my team. They were in my head cheering me on when legs got tough or I wanted to slow down. This has carried forward into my running post-race - when I'm feeling un-motivated or just bleh I text or call one of them and *boom* instant support and motivation.

- Just keep going. One foot in front of the other may be all you can focus on but just keep going [applicable to pretty much all challenging situations].

We did it!

We did it!

 

WHEW, that was a lot. I hope this post was interesting for you.

Now I want to know - have you ever run a relay race or participated in a similar group fitness challenge? Or maybe you have considered doing something like this before? I'd love to hear your thoughts or personal experience in the comments below.

 

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