HOOD TO COAST RELAY – PART 1

This will be in 3 parts as it was an amazing, unforgettable experience. I returned 8/31 and have been catching up with work, training, wedding plans so  I hope to complete Parts 2 and 3 by Labor Day weekend. Our team photos are on http://www.finishshots.com/racerresults3.php   Enjoy!

So I got a call back in May from a friend I knew if Charlotte. Chris Spano, aka “Coach”, always would ask if I would be part of his Big Kahunas team (nickname he gave me was “Hammer”) in running the Hood to Coast Relay. For those who don’t know, this HTC is one of those running events “you have to do at least once”. I always never could based on time-off, planning, and I never really had interest in the concept – 12 guys running 3 rotating segments of a 197 mile route in a span of 24 hrs.

Well this time, I said yes. Little did I know what I was in for. I have tried the past 3 weeks to prepare for my final 2 events which happen to be half-ironmans and figured a trip out west to Portland would be a good way to break my routine, run ALOT and FAST, and more importantly, get a break from work. I had Gina’s blessings to go and last week we got the rings and yes, I completed my tux rental and walked out of Mens Warehouse with 2 suits!!! You heard. And they aren’t baggy. They do a great job fitting you and it was a fun experience.

So hear I was on a flight heading to the event actually wondering what the heck I was getting into and would it be fun. I was to meet 20 other new people since I only knew 4 from Charlotte. There were 2 teams of Kahunas – one fast, one slow all sharing a house. All with distinct nicknames too, which we wind up referring to over the course of the weekend. The flight was fine, typical and quick since I had no checked bags. Hadn’t been in an airport all year so it made for a long day as I gained time and got up real early to get a run in to wake up.

Met a crew at the airport and took the long drive to the house we were staying. Portland has nice, crisp, air and the temps this weekend were mostly overcast but in the 50-70 range. Very very comfy. I got to the hose and there met everyone who would be my family – Sandman, Coach, Wonder Boy, Curly, Black Jack, Road Warrior, Ghost, Willie, Moony, Rocket, Braveheart, G-Dog, Cajun, Kodiak, Undertaker, and my new adopted “family”. Very quickly we all became quick teammates and gathered for a great homemade dinner. Sandman and his wife Keeley were awesome and short for exceptional in their help planning, organizing and making this possible. Each year, he does this as a birthday gift to himself and is really into it. His goal for the team was a top 5 finish in the OPEN SUB MASTERS division (over 30) and a top 25 out of the 1000 teams in this event. The scope of what was about to happen had not hit me yet, but today was about socializing, meeting everyone, and getting a good night sleep. The house was amazing, huge for all of us (I was too sleep on a leather coach which was just as good as a bed), and it overlooked the Pacific. I am actually writing this now on the back porch in silence reflection.

I woke up and have to admit, the leather coach was comfy and I had a pretty good night sleep. I went out for a 45 minute jog just to loosen up and prepare for what was to come. I knew it would be some 48 hours before I laid back to rest on that couch. I knew I wasn’t going to run my first leg until 8pm so getting a run in was paramount. I stretched and everyone was humming by now, making breakfast, brimming with excitement, and ready to go. We were to depart at 9:30 since it was a 2+ hr drive to Mt Hood. We pulled into a Fred Meyers which is like a huge Walmart/Stop and Shop/ Target combined. Seriously. They also are a big supporter of the event and they have the first exchange point in their parking lot. Here is where you get the atmosphere of everyone involved. Teams were all shapes, sizes, characters, it was definitely a sight. Monster was there so I racked up on some Nitrous drinks for the long haul. I had already prepared my nutritional plan (mixes of nuun, odwalla bars, gels, and the “caff mix”. All geared to keep me awake, help recovery, and just keep things light. The crew decorated the van and it was simply hilarious. Everyone had their own theme and people were having fun. It helped ease the tension.

Each van stocked the supplies – drinks, fruit, bread, peanut butter, water. It was a rush from there to the start since the second team started 2 hrs before us. The drive UP to Mt Hood is 6 miles and 6000 ft high. It was beautiful. The weather got windier and 20 degrees cooler and here, another party was brewing. Teams were going off in 15 minute intervals based on projected time and as many as 15 teams would go off at a time. This was happeneing since 6am that morning!! I put tons of Aquaphor on and lubed it up as I secured my gear for the next 24 hrs – Aquaphor tights and my Odwalla race top. I had my Sugoi gear for warmth and my compression socks and that was all I really wore. I was set and anxious for our team to go. Sure enough, our other team was off.

Now the real excitement began. We had the clipboard with our running time and we were responsible for documenting our individual runs/splits on a race sheet which would be handed in at the end. This was funny in that it had to be shared between our 2 cars (remember – 2 x 6 guys) so meeting at those exchange points was key. We were right on with our game planning. As our first guy lined up, I brimmed with those pre-race eagerness to start ripping. I was Leg 5 so I had time, but was in Van 1, so it was time to start. Sure enough – the race was NOW on!!!

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