On Friday morning at 11am we set off for our first Hood to Coast Relay. We made our way 4 miles outside of Portland to Highway 26 where Patrik was about to embark on the teams first run over 6 miles. The weather was sunny and extremely hot, I was dripping with sweat and I was only spectating! David from Van 1 came in on time and handed over the wristband to Patrik and he was off! We jumped into the van and headed to the next check point. As we drove past all the runners and vans, the scale of this event really became apparent, it was maHOOsive! Everyone who participates is running for the experience and a cause, it’s like everyone is part of one big family each with a story to tell. Next up was our team leader Gonzalo with his Spanish cape tied around his head! From that point i still had another 3hrs to go until my first run…so I tucked into some more chicken and Baby Ruth chocolate bars. Midway through our first leg i seen an opportunity i couldn’t miss. We parked up next to an Adidas van and I couldn’t resist a putting our stamp on it and adding some Nike graffiti. Operation Nike sabotage was successful and we defaced the Adi logo with our very own Nike swooshes!
As we continued through the Portland countryside people were out watching in force with kids cooling people down with water pistols and people leaving their garden sprinklers on for the runners to cool themselves under. It was that hot we seen a runners legs collapse from under him after stage 1. As we went back onto highway 26 to pick up Ger at our next exchange point our team mascot, Elmo, was left hanging out of the window and before we could get him back in the car the string snapped and he flew off up into the sky; i guess he couldn’t take the heat or the bad smell that had started to come from within the car!
Ger had the longest of runs in our 1st leg with a 7 miler. With the heat at it’s highest point of the day during her run, Ger finished in great time and handed over to Al for his first 5 miles of the day. We were all a little concerned at this point as Ger’s lips were bright red and looked as if they had been bleeding. There was no need for concern though as Ger was quick to tell us that it was from the raspberry Powerade that she had been drinking and was certainly not lipstick! Pheww, i thought we nearly had our first casualty of the day on our hands!
As we got further into the first leg i needed a ‘Honey Bucket’ (it’s a term used at H2C for the toilet) surprisingly we didn’t see any runners doing a ‘Paula Radcliffe’ on the side of the road so i thought i better go the same way as everyone else and use one!
On the way to Al’s pick up point at exchange 10 we missed a turning point and ended up going to far down the highway. Sonia was the driver and i’m sure she thought she was Alonso driving a F1 car! After a few near misses with on coming traffic we did a U-turn and made our way to ex10 back down the road. This is where we committed our first H2C sin. “Never, ever, miss an exchange point and leave a team mate waiting" said Nelson Farris the day before. Well, sorry Nelson but we did, oops! Al finished his leg and was waiting for 5 mins for us to turn up to before handing over to Sonia.
Next up was me for my 6.3 mile run through Portland to hand over to Van 1 for the next leg. As we were waiting for Sonia to come in the race marshall told me that i couldn’t run without a hi-viz vest on. What! it was around 5pm and the sun was still out. We didn’t want to risk the team getting disqualified so Patrik ran back to the van to pick up the hi-viz so i could get going, what a teammate! Just as Sonia came in i was able to take the vest from Patrik and start my leg. My route was along the springwater trail consisting of some cycle paths, trails and paved city streets and was classed as moderate difficulty due to some of the rolling hills. My target time for the distance was around 1hr 05mins. I knew i could come in under the hour on this one so I maintained a pace of around 8.30min per mile. As i ran through the suburbs of Portland i noticed all the residence where having BBQ’s in their front gardens while cheering every time you ran past. Portland really does embrace the H2C!
During my last stretch i started to overtake some other runners. ’Road Kill’ is a term used in H2C when you overtake somebody during your run and many teams record their Road Kill count on the side of their van. At this point i was on 7 RK’s with nobody over taking me…until this guy just sprinted past me…dam he was quick and there was no way i was going to keep up with him, i was already doing a quick pace for me (I’m sure he was part of Nike’s Bowerman Athletic Club Team, that’s my excuse anyway)
As i ran into Portland i could see the build up of runners and vans, it was the exchange point and the rest of Team Goonies were cheering me on! This gave me that extra push for a sprint finish to hand over to Barbara from van 1. Wow, i felt great and came in at 56mins, that was 9 mins under my targeted time. Leg 1, Run 1, done. We then had a 2hr wait before we needed to be at the next exchange point 18 to take over from van 1. Time to stock up on some Baby Ruth chocolate bars and freshen up.
We arrived at exchange 18 at around 12am. Patrik was up for his 2nd run so i headed along to the exchange point with him with my tourch in hand. It was pitch black and you could just see the runners headlamps in the distance. The race marshall shouted out our number which told us that David was approaching. David passed over the wristband to Partick and Van 2 was back in the game ready for another 6 runs.
Exchange point 19 was 5 miles down the road so i thought i would have a quick power nap before we picked up Patrik. As i woke up we pulled into an exchange point what i thought was ex19. When i heard the marshall tell us it was ex24 i knew we were in trouble. Patrik was due in at any moment and we had travelled 5 exchange points too far, that was around 20 miles out. Not sure how it happened but believe me we were in the middle of nowhere without a runner or H2C van in sight. We tried a couple of routes in the direction the marshall told us to go with no joy. So we decided to go back to ex24 and find someone that could help. After speaking to a few volunteers it was clear nobody really had a clue how to get to ex19 from where we were. I spoke to one of the security officers and he told me that a report had come in from ex19 of a missing van. This was us and Patrik had already been waiting for over 15mins. He advised us to drive against the flow of the traffic and runners to reach ex19 and that it was about 15miles away. This was insane, it was the middle of the night and we were on what seemed to be a single dirt track road with vans and runners coming at us. The traffic was crazy and all you could see was the runners headlamps because of the dirt in the air. We managed to negotiate ourselves through this for about 5 miles after which the road started to open up a little. 3 exchange points and 1.5hrs later we arrived at ex19 where Partirk was wrapped in what look to be like a carpet. We got him in the van to warm up while Gonzalo started his run. From this point on we realised H2C is much more than a running event as you really don’t know what it could throw at you.
By the time it was my run it was early morning and pretty cold. Perfect weather to wear my Nike Pro to keep me warm. This run was across 5 miles of straight terrain through a pastoral setting of green fields, tall forest trees and lots of white fences. I’m sure a family like the Walton’s lived here. My target time was 50 mins and i came in at 41 mins which included a little pit stop in the bushes as i couldn’t find a Honey Bucket! Leg 2, Run 2, done. The legs were feeling a little tired and the tendinitis that had started to build up before coming out to H2C in my left knee had start to give me some irritation, but hey, as if that was going to stop me from finishing this thing.
It was around 30 miles to the next handover point for our final leg where we planned to get some sleep before van 1 came in. The vans trip computer said we had around 40+ miles left until we were out of petrol, with the petrol station at ex30 we planned to fill up there for the rest of the journey. Of course this was H2C and things don’t always go to plan. We found ourselves at ex29 with 0 miles on the clock! We pulled over and asked the local sherif for some help. He told us that he would have to call the local pick up truck to come out and this could take a while and be costly. I didn’t settle for this as we were tight on time so i headed over to the exchange point to see if anyone else could help. I managed to speak to a race marshall who had their car with them and somehow got them to lend me their car so that we could get to the petrol station. I haven’t a clue how i convinced her to lend me her car but i guess that’s why i work in Nike sales!
Gonzalo and I headed to the petrol station which was just past ex31. This journey took us about 1.5hrs due to the back log of traffic at ex30. Instead of driving past runners like we had been, we found ourselves being overtaken by them! This H2C had 3,000 more runners taking part than last year which meant it had another 500 vans on the course making some of the roads gridlocked at times. We knew we were late again as David from van 1 came running past us. This meant that Patrik was going to be late for the hand over. When we got back to the van Alaric was waiting for us with Tania from van 1. The team showed some good teamwork and had organised Partik and Ger to jump into the other van incase we were late coming back. This was a great idea as we didn’t get to ex 30 or 31 on time because we had to head back through all the traffic again. Runners were even getting out of their vans before the exchange points as it was quicker to run than to wait in the van.
When we arrived at ex32 Ger had stepped in for Gonzalo and completed his run for him, so Gonzalo returned the favour and started Ger’s long 7.7mile stage after the hand over. We were about 2 hrs behind our schedule at this point but Van 1 had made up a lot of time in leg 2 so we were slowly getting back on track.
At ex34 Gonzalo came in with a cut knee and twisted ankle, he looked a broken man! Sonia then took over on what was the longest run of the course at just over 8 miles and it was classed as hard due to some of its steep hills. It didn’t help that it was early afternoon and the temperature was at around 30 degrees. We showed some support by driving the van alongside her and supplying her with water when she needed it. At this stage Gonzalo was out for the count in the back seat, sleeping with his eyes open, not sure i’ve ever seen that happen before! As we got to the top of one of the steep mountain hills we stopped to wait for Sonia. We could tell this one was tough and that Sonia needed help so Ger stepped in to finish the final 1.5 miles of the stage. Sonia was exhausted and nearly sick on the side of the road, but what a great effort! The team was really proud of her.
So it was up to me to take over from Ger at ex35 and run the 5.3 miles to the finish line. Target time for this run was 55mins. Based on the times i had been given for the previous stages i was confident that i could come in under this time. I rubbed half a tube of Ibuprofen into my legs, downed a can of red bull hoping that it would give me wings on my feet before taking the wristband from Ger and heading off down the gravelled path. This run was classed as challenging with some steep up and downhills on winding paved roads. The route started off on the road uphill until it reached it’s peak where i could see the sea and beach in the distance. From there it took me down some windy roads where i must have ran past hundreds of vans including my own. These were the vans lining up to park at the beach. With only a mile to go i tried to pick up the pace but my legs felt sluggish and heavy, all i could maintain was a slow running pace that could’ve easily be seen as a jog. I ran along the beach front until i reached the finish line where i could see some of my van 1 teammates cheering me on. I made my way onto the Portland sands and through the finish line after 50mins. 6 mins quicker than my targeted time.
As i stumbled over to the Nike VIP tent for a beer and some wholesome food the energy was electric, people were partying and dancing to the live band on stage and teams were screaming while crossing the finishing line together for photo’s. I had to wait for my team to make there way down from the mountain which was at least an hour away so i tucked into some BBQ meats and beans while supping a good well deserved beer.
Leg 3, Run 3, Hood to Coast, done in a time of 1hr 57mins, smashing my target time of 2hrs 46mins! I’m not sure what our team time was in total but i’m sure we came close to completing the H2C in 30hours. When my team arrived down at the beach we all got together ready to cross the finish line as a team. As the PA called our team name ‘The Goonies’ we all found the energy to run across the finish line and complete the ‘Mother of all relays’ the Hood to Coast.