Friday, August 31, 2012

What the heck is Hood to Coast?

Before I go into a post with stories/opinions about my experience with last weekend’s Hood to Coast (running) Relay (HTC), I am going to break down HTC. Hopefully this breakdown will give an easy-to-understand explanation of this event so that you (specifically my mom and dad) have a better idea of what the heck HTC (or any relay) is and what goes into it.

Here are the facts:

  • Total Distance: 199 miles (+2 miles due to a detour)
  • Start Location: Mt Hood, Oregon
  • Start Date: Friday August 24
  • Start Time: Varies, but slower teams start Friday morning with the fastest teams starting Friday evening; my team started at 8:15 AM (we had a slow projected finish time) on Friday August 24
  • Finish Location: Seaside, Oregon
  • Finish Date: Saturday August 25
  • Finish Time: Anywhere from 20 hours to 32 hours after starting; my team ran it in 30 hours 6 minutes and finished at approximately 3:30 PM Saturday August 25
  • 12 runners total; 2 vans with 6 runners each to cover the 199 mile course
  • Each runner runs 3 legs over the course of the relay

Here is a map of the course with locations of exchanges.  The course goes over varying terrain but on average is a hilly course going through Oregon mountains and countryside along (mostly) paved roads or trails.  I was in the second van and ran legs 7, 19, and 34 (should have ran leg 31, but switched with a runner to help the team out) for a total of 19.41 miles as shown below:

HTC Course MapAll three of my legs were “rated” as Hard or Very Hard as shown in a breakdown of the various legs and their difficultly rating:

HTC Leg DescriptionsA huge aspect of the relay is logistics.  There is navigation of the vans between the various exchange zones and knowing the expected time each runner will arrive at an exchange…. and doing this on little or no sleep can make for interesting situations!  Luckily, my team and van was, for the most part, on time at each exchange and our runners didn’t have to wait (we saw some runners waiting up to an hour for their vans/exchange runners). 

Here is a summary of the schedule/logistics of the van/runner exchanges:

  • 8:15 AM Friday: Van 1 starts at Mt Hood and each of the 6 runners run 1 of their legs (legs 1-6) to get 35.25 miles from the start.  Van 1 drives ahead of each runner and drops the next runner off to complete each exchange (and picks up the runner who just ran….this continues throughout the race).


  • 11:00 AM Friday: Van 2 drives to the 7th leg  in Sandy, Oregon (first “major exchange”) and must be ready at a specific time based on the average pace of each runner in Van 1.  There was a spreadsheet we completed to know the time range that each runner would arrive at each exchange.  You have to give an honest and accurate expected pace to not screw up the exchange coordination!!!!!

HTC van

  • 1:15 PM Friday: I started running the 7th leg when runner 6 from van 1 arrived and passed the “baton” (slap bracelet) to me.  I had no idea how to pace myself and just went with a comfortably fast pace; I felt really good, even with running during the heat of the day and on a hilly section. 

Barb Leg 7

Leg 7

  • Van 2 runners continue running the next 6 legs (legs 7-12) until they run 34.11 miles from Sandy, OR to Portland, OR to exchange back to Van 1 runners.


  • 6:15 PM Friday: Van 1 runners continue running legs 13-18 (34 miles) from Portland, OR to St. Helens, OR.
  • Van 2 then drives to the next “major exchange” and tries to get in a few hours of sleep before it is their time to run again.  We each got about an hour or 2 of sleep before the Van 1 runner arrived.
  • 12:30 AM Saturday (middle of night): I started running leg 19 in the middle of the night.  All runners are required to wear a head lamp, reflective vest, and a back light.  I was very glad to have the head lamp as my leg was in the middle of nowhere Oregon where the stars and other runners were the only “lights.”  I really enjoyed running at night in the middle of nowhere; the silence and darkness made for a (different sort of) sensory overload. 

Leg 19

(sorry no nighttime photos, I was practically sleepwalking/running and didn’t know what was going on)

  • Van 1 drives to the next “major exchange” and gets their turn to catch some zzzzz’s.
  • Van 2 runners continue running legs 19-24 (32.55 miles) in the middle of the night in the dark in the middle of Oregon until they exchange back to Van 1 runners in Mist, Oregon.
  • 5:00 (ish) AM Saturday: Van 1 runners continue running legs 25-30 (30.97 miles), their final legs.
  • Van 2 drives to the next “major exchange” and again try to sleep.  I think we all got in less than an hour of sleep before we had to run our final legs.
  • 11:00 (ish) AM Saturday: Van 2 runners continue running legs 31-36 (31.6 miles) to the finish line in Seaside, Oregon.
  • 1:30 PM Saturday: I started running leg 35, a gradual uphill for 7.20 miles in warm temperatures with no shade (this leg felt the hardest for me, esp. on little sleep…. as you can tell from my terrible running form below). 

Barb Leg 35

Leg 35

  • Van 1 runners were able to go to Seaside, shower, and rest before meeting Van 2 at the finish. 
  • 3:30 PM Saturday: The entire team (both vans) waited for the final runner and finished together as a team.


The finish is a giant party on the beach.  They have a stage set up with music and a beer garden.  Teams celebrate together on the beach and the night ends with fireworks.

finish line party

I hope that helps clear up the relay concept, and Hood to Coast in particular.  There are lots of other details that go into a relay (traffic, eating, other teams, etc.), but that would just bore you even more than you already are.

* I’ll do another post concerning my down and dirty opinions of doing the HTC relay with complete strangers and how I will do things differently if I do another relay. 

** I didn’t take a lot of photos because everyone else had better cameras and was snapping away.  But then I failed to copy over their photos before I left.  Foto Fail.

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