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Hood to Coast Relay: the Miles

So now that every other blogger has recapped their Hood to Coast race experience, I figured it’s time to add mine to the mix. You know, just when you were getting sick of hearing about it and saying secret little prayers that the madness was over…

But really, since there has been so much said already, I will try to stick to just talking about the race from my perspective. To read more about the overall Hood to Coast experience, Katie has been collecting posts here.

And to see more from Team Night Van 1, check out the blogs of my vanmates. Many of them do a much better job of recapping the entire experience than I have (particularly this super long, super detail-oriented post from Robyn…I mean, she pretty much says it all right there…)

I had the pleasure of spending over 24 hours in a van with these ladies:

The Start

My van of 6 left Seattle around 8:00 am last Friday morning to make the long trek out to Oregon for the start. Ten bathroom stops, seven “Call Me Maybes,” and countless snacks later, we finally made it to the starting area at Timberline Lodge.

Team Night Van 1The ladies of Team Night Van 1 plus our fearless driver Mason

I feel a little bad that I lucky enough to get Van 1 again this year, only because the start of Hood to Coast is amazing. Seriously – it’s one of the best reasons for doing the race in the first place. The drive up to Mt. Hood is beautiful, the energy of the teams at the start area is infectious, and there is nothing, absolutely nothing, like starting a race with this beauty in the background.

HTC 2012 start

HTC start_jumping


After some team photos (where Jocelyn and I apparently couldn’t contain our love for each other) and some Nuun-tattoo applying, Team Night was ready to start.

HTC 2012 Van 1s startJocelyn and I look like we’re on a date…or maybe I was just holding on for dear life.

At 2:15 PST, Caroline led us down the mountain and the relay had begun!

HTC Caroline start

Leg 2 – 5.67 miles “Hard”  (Run #1)  3:15 pm

Going into HTC, my first leg was the one I dreaded the most. Even though it seems like nothing in comparison to the first leg of the race, it’s still rated hard for its steep descent. And the fact that my knee still isn’t the biggest fan of downhill running didn’t inspire all that much confidence going into this first run.

Fun with elevation charts. From my Garmin data:

Leg 1 Elevation

From HTC Relay:

IMG 1159Thankfully the hill was not QUITE as extreme as this makes it look. Otherwise I would’ve just rolled the whole way down.

It all depends on your scale…..

Anyway….I also knew that this leg boasted amazing views and that it was likely that I would never again have a run quite like it for the rest of my life. So right before Caroline came cruising into the exchange I made a vow to myself – fast or slow, I was going to soak up every second and just enjoy the ride.

HTC Runner 2 Leg 1 start

Not even half a mile in, I knew the run was going to be amazing. Months of not racing and 3 days of excitment leading up to Hood to Coast filled my legs with energy, and I took off. The first two miles clocked in at just over 6 minutes. I felt amazing! I had been waiting for months to feel this way about running again and I wanted it to last forever.

I have never had great leg speed. In high school, the fastest mile I ever ran was 5:59 — not exactly a stellar time for a varsity track athlete. Despite training times that indicated I could do it, I didn’t break the 20 minute barrier for a 5K until a year ago. Fast running and I just don’t understand each other. And so I find myself drawn to the longer distances simply because I can hold a decently quick pace for a long period of time.

But on that magical first leg of Hood to Coast, I finally experienced what it felt like to fly. I leaned into that downhill and I pushed forward, never allowing myself just to coast. As my pace dipped below 6:00 minutes at the start of the 3rd mile, I knew that it was on. I was running faster than I would’ve been if the leg had been flat, but I was also working. My lungs were heaving, my legs were churning, and it was all I could do to keep them turning over – faster, faster, faster.

I rounded a corner and was struck by the most beautiful views I had ever seen during a race (honestly the only time I’ve ever wished I was running with a camera). It sounds so cheesy, but at that moment I was filled with an overwhelming sense of joy. I forgot about my knee and just RAN. One sub-6 minute mile followed another as I cruised down that hill, faster than I’ve ever run in my life. I wished I could bottle that feeling up and hold onto it forever.

HTC Runner 2 Leg 1_runningshotI know it looks like I am in pain but I assure you this is my happy face

All too quickly, I cruised into the exchange. My face hurt from smiling so much.

Garmin stats: 5.4 miles in 31:57. Average pace of 5:55.

Hands down the best relay leg in the history of relay legs. Thank you, long downhill for giving me one for the record books.

(Side note: the official mileage of this leg is listed as 5.67 miles. Since Garmins are never completely accurate, on a regular run, I’m sure they’re even more off on one with such a significant elevation loss. So can we just go with the HTC mileage? (Also 5.67 miles in 31:57 means a 5:38 average pace, so there’s that…)

Leg 1 done

Fueling Up

After Robyn brought it in for our team and Sweaty Em took over for Van 2, we hung around the exchange with the other teams for awhile. Since we had started before anyone else, our team didn’t actually get to hang out with the other vans like Team Morning and Team Noon did. So it was good to see everyone again at the major exchange.

Unfortunately, whether it was because I waited too long to eat between legs or because nerves about how my legs were going to hold up during the next one were settling in, it was at this point that my stomach/intestines started to revolt. We already had 2 girls down with stomach issues, and I was afraid I’d be the next.

To calm my nervous stomach and fuel up for Leg #2, Van 1 rolled in to a fancy, beautiful pizza place in the middle of the cutest little town.

On our way to dinner, @ : "oh this is where people get shot!" Sounds promising #nuunhtc

….or not. But they had carbs and could get them to me fast. Which, as we were quickly moving within the 3-hours-before-my–next-run mark, was pretty much my only requirement.

After filling up on mainly plain breadsticks (fuel of champions), we were off in search of coffee. Five minutes later, I heard the most depressing news of the trip so far – Starbucks was out of coffee.

Starbucks is out of coffee. Should've stuck to espresso soup cc @ #htcflashbacks #HTCRelay #nuunhtc

Flashbacks of my frantic search for caffeine around a closed-down Portland last year were running through my mind. As much as I love caffeine, espresso soup was a little too potent for my stomach (see story here). Fortunately, the baristas took pity on our group of tired, smelly HTC runners and brewed us a fresh pot. Crisis averted.

Leg 14 – 6.08 miles “Medium”  (Run #2)  12:16 am

My second run was theoretically my easiest: 6.08 relatively flat miles through a relatively boring area. Despite the easier rating and a fresh dose of caffeine, I just didn’t have it in me for this one. I don’t know if my problem was mental or my lack of training/endurance was just starting to show, but the leg just felt hard. I tried to pump myself up with all sorts of positive thoughts: “But this is Hood to Coast! It’s exciting!!” and “At least there aren’t any big uphills and the temperature is nice!” but it wasn’t working.

Leg 2 ElevationAn unremarkable elevation profile for an equally unremarkable run

All I could focus on was the annoying beeping coming from my nearly-dead Garmin, my tired legs, and the noxious smell of a skunk that seemed to linger over the entire 6 miles. 43 loooooong minutes later, and it was finally my turn to hand off the slap bracelet again.

Strong winds. Dead Garmin. Tight legs. Skunk-scented. Just a few of the many joys of Leg 2 #nuunhtc #HTCRelay

That about sums it up

Garmin stats: 6.09 miles in 43:15 (7:06 average*)

*Looking back, my time wasn’t really all that bad. I just felt like I was crawling. Although I would’ve loved to complete that leg with sub-7 minute miles, the reality is that I was still running faster than I had any business to.

{Side note: I did not know this before taking off, but Caroline had a very bad experience on her night leg. I am both grateful that she is okay and also relieved that I actually didn’t know about it before I ran. With the exception of a few runners I passed early on, I was alone the entire time – I’m sure I would have been very nervous. I typically love the night relay legs because of how peaceful they are, but I do really hope that HTC Management increases the security through this area of Portland.}


RecoveryRelay recovery

Leg 26 – 5.96 miles “Hard”  (Run #3)  10:02 am

After another long wait at the van transition spot and what seemed like an endless drive to the next major exchange area (complete with some awful HTC traffic — apparently the whole thing about it being a one-time-only disaster last year was a lie), we finally reached the next transition — in time for about 45 minutes of sleep.

After somehow peeling myself out of the van, I tried to walk around and stretch out my legs a bit. I choked down a few sips of the most awful coffee I’ve ever tasted, gave up, and devoured a Smooth Caffeinator Picky Bar instead (first time trying it and I was a huge fan!).  Word of warning to all future HTC-er’s: the coffee at Exchange #24 (in Mist, Oregon) tastes like poison. Save yourself and just donate a couple of dollars instead. You’ll thank me later.

team night power arch_caroline.jpegPower arch for Caroline’s last leg! (Please excuse my indecency)

At this point, my legs were so cramped from being curled up in the front seat of the van after running nearly 13 miles that I swore my hamstrings were about to snap in half. I tried to do a little warm up while I waited for Caroline, but nothing seemed to work. I got in the exchange zone and said a quick prayer that things would loosen up as soon as I started running.

HTC Exchange 25Caroline finishing up her final leg and me desperately trying to find satellites

And magically, they did. I don’t know if it was the perfect temperature, the picturesque Oregon country-side, or just a general excitement that I spent the entire weekend racing (after so many months on the sidelines), but I felt surprisingly fresh. The entire run was beautiful. Mountain views, rolling hills, farmland, and green everywhere I looked. It reminded me of being back home in Vermont. Despite the leg’s “hard” ranking, it felt so much easier than the one I’d done hours before and I easily clicked off three sub-7 minute miles to begin the leg.

HTC Runner 2 Leg 3

Unfortunately, my lack of endurance and a particularly cruel hill located late in the run eventually caught up to me. I started mentally struggling halfway into mile 4 and let my pace drop a little bit. Once I gave myself permission to relax, it just got worse. I came up to the dreaded long hill in the 5th mile and found myself struggling to keep my pace below 8:00. I tried my best to keep the HTC-cursing to a minimum and instead let myself get sucked back into the beauty of my surroundings as I slogged my way up to the top (but really, that last hill is just awful and man did it feel a lot harder than it looked on that elevation chart!).

Team Night Power ArchPower arch for extra energy

I finally reached the top of my last climb of Hood to Coast and was rewarded with a long, beautiful downhill .75 miles into the finish. It was glorious!

final leg checkSad the run was over, but so excited to be done

Garmin stats: 5.73 miles (my watch started late on this one) in 40:04 (6:59 average).

The Finish

lbsusan htcSusan and I before her final leg

This is already disgustingly long, so let’s just say that eventually Team Night made it to the finish, and with it the finish line celebration!! But the end of our relay wasn’t without its drama – which included an awful running injury and a scare when a bunch of runners, including Kelsey (our Leg 12 runner), were directed the wrong way and ended up far off course. But I will let those girls tell you their stories in their own words.

Needless to say, when our entire team was finally reunited at the finish there was a great celebration. Running through that finish line felt so good. We had survived the 2012 Hood to Coast Relay!

nuun ladies finishNuun ladies (from all 3 teams) at the finish

I spent the rest of the night drinking beer, eating greasy pizza, and staying up far too late for someone who had just run 17 miles on 45 minutes of sleep. And then my crazy body bounded out of bed far too early the next morning.  Four slow, hurts-so-good recovery miles with Robyn and Emily during which we re-hashed the relay brought my total West Coast mileage up to 30 AND (more significantly) marked the very first time since before the injury that I ran 6 days in one week. There was some celebrating in {ontherun}land in honor of that!

Overall Thoughts on Runner #2

I thought I loved my legs last year, but I just don’t think I knew what I was missing! I would definitely run in the #2 position again if I ever had the opportunity. With the exception of the boring middle leg (which, let’s be honest, is in the dark so your surroundings don’t really matter so much), I absolutely loved the runs that I had. The first leg was an incredible experience that I would recommend to anyone. The third — filled with rolling hills and amazing scenery to keep the run interesting. That downhil run into the beautiful exchange area will be burned into my memory forever.

watermelon beerCelebrating a successful Hood to Coast Relay with Watermelon Beer. So perfect for #teamwatermelon 

Thank you Nuun for the opportunity to be a part of this amazing weekend, and for taking such great care of us during the relay. And thank you to all the members of AfterNuun Delight Team Night Van 1 for being the inspiring, fun, wonderful people that you are. You made this relay one to remember and I am so thankful that I got to share it with all of you. You are already so very missed.

Van 1 love

*Many of these pictures were taken by Caroline. Thank you so much for sharing them with all of us!!

22 Responses to Hood to Coast Relay: the Miles

  1. I love this! Looks like you had an amazing (and speedy) time!
    Jamie @ couchtoironwoman´s last post ..The Color Pink

  2. I think you’re incredibly fast!!! If I go sub 9 it’s a good day!

    Fantastic write up, thank you!
    Cathryn @ myheartscontentblog´s last post ..Feel the fear…

  3. I loved reading this, Lauren! So happy we got to see each other at least a little bit. You rocked your runs! That first run sounds especially amazing! xoxo
    Jessica (pace of me)´s last post ..An awesome giveaway – Endorphin Warrior Training Bracelet!!

  4. oh helllllo speedy mc speedster! I was smiling SO WIDE reading about your first leg. Also, how do you get your six-pack? XOX
    Laura´s last post ..running confessions

    • Oh you mean my “one-pack??” :) I guess that’s just what happens when you do sporadic core work and pack all your weight on in the booty/hip/thigh area…

  5. I can’t say too much because I’ll just sound like a total creeper weirdo…but you are just radiant. Okay.

    And wowza…way to haul on those pieces! I am so glad your knee (and the rest of your body) cooperated. I had a similar “running faster than I had any business running” situation! A magical HTC with Nuun yet again :) Loved reading this.
    XLMIC´s last post ..Our Own Private Relay Race (alternate title: Hood to Coast Round Three)

  6. I loved reading your recap! Relays are an incredible experience when you can do them with great friends!
    I`m glad your knee decided to cooperate throughout and I am impressed by your splits, you did great!
    Anna´s last post ..My First Track

  7. I love this so much! Made me miss you. You are like sunshine! I still cannot believe how lucky I was to get to do this. How lucky I was to be placed in that van with 5 really great gals. I am so happy I got to do this with you Lauren. Really. You guys were all so nice to me and accepting. Meant a lot to me. Thank you. I hope we will get to do it again! I have to tell you that my older son, Will thinks you are “the prettiest runner” his words…than he must have felt bad and he said “but you mom are the nicest” ha ha!!!!
    Caroline´s last post ..The Night Shift: Leg 13: Hood to Coast 2012

  8. Dearest LB. Oops, I mean LC. Sign up for a 5K immediately. I want to see you run an 18min 5k! You are so fast and you ARE SO MODEST about it! I can’t believe in all the gchatting we did discussing HTC you never once mentioned you ran SUB 6 min miles!!! UMMMM, you are so speedy. Give yourself credit.
    Lizzy´s last post ..Buffalo Chicken Quinoa Cakes (& Mushroom Cakes too…)

    • First, let’s see if I can go sub-19. One step at a time. Second, my leg was all downhill. If I could do that on a flat/rolling road, then you’d better believe I’d be bragging to you about it!

      That said….find a 5K and I’ll sign up with you! :)

  9. I’m in awe. Seriously amazing. I was beyond ecstatic this past winter when I clocked my first sub-6 mile!! I can’t imagine having that many speedy miles in a row!!!
    Loved your recap – and it totally wasn’t too long !!!
    Michele @ Nycrunningmama´s last post ..Pumpkin – Boy or Girl??

  10. I love this recap. So sweet and I love reading about everyone else’s legs. Great recap!
    Katie @momslrb´s last post ..I’m A Selfish Mom and Proud Of It

  11. i loved your recap! good idea to put your thoughts on your leg. it’s nice to know.:) you have some great pictures! i’m guessing some are from caroline. and who makes that watermelon beer?? again, loved meeting you. really hope our paths cross IRL again soon (not that i don’t love twitter) and hopefully for Vermont marathon!
    elizabeth´s last post ..August Recap

  12. So glad I got to be in your van and rock HTC with you! That first leg of yours was ridiculous and you always looked so happy (versus pained? ha) when you were running. Hopefully we’ll cross paths again soon!
    Susan´s last post ..2012 HOOD TO COAST, we run the night

  13. Wow. I feel like I am reading my own story when I read your recap of the race (except that my times were a lot slower!). It is really amazing how similar our experiences were with each of the legs! I also loved being the #2 runner and would definitely recommend it to anyone who asks! This is a great recap…you ran so.freaking.fast. For all 3 legs. So excited that you found that speed and carefree running during the relay!!
    Corey´s last post ..Weekly Recap: The Aftermath

    • Yes…which is why I need you to get to writing your recaps for your other 2 legs! I’ve been so interested to see how our experiences compared!

  14. Let’s hold hands forever…

  15. SUB FREAKING 6???!!!!! No way, you are such a rockstar!!! Let’s go back and do it again NOW please.
    Ricole Runs´s last post ..Top 15 Things to Do in Kauai Part 1 (of 3)

  16. […] A link to an experience plus links to more here. […]

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