Hood To Coast 2011 — A Little Bit of ‘Opposite World’

running-advice-bugI look forward to the Hood To Coast Relay every year. The 2011 relay, which was in its 30th running, would be my 12th running — so I’ve done just under half of them. Every year there are differences and this year was to be no exception. In fact, the changes to the start order were some of the biggest in many years and I held off writing about them until I could experience the changes and reflect on them. I’m glad I did, because the result was not at all what I expected.

We found out that a new start would be implemented a few weeks before the race. The new start order was intended to help avoid some of the traffic problems that have happened late in the race the last few years, in which gridlock has occurred on the narrow roads of the Coast Range. This year, about half of the fastest teams would start on Friday Morning and many teams would start earlier than ever before. Some teams started from Hood To Coast as early as 3:30AM. The idea here was to have teams passing each other earlier to alleviate traffic jams. But the other side of the equation is that the winning teams would also now finish Saturday morning instead of Saturday evening. Many of the category winners were scheduled to finish around 7:30AM and, in fact, the fastest teams did converge on the beach first this year in the wee hours of the morning.

This is a big shift, if you think about it. In years past, the winning teams came into Seaside with throngs of spectators lining the boardwalk and thousands of runners already on the beach. They arrived just in time to settle in to the beach party and then crash for the evening. Not so with the new start. When our team would hit the beach, we only about two other teams would have finished. It was going to be 7:00AM. The streets would be quiet and no one would be on the beach. The party would be hours away. A big difference.

But I decided to see what would happen first and now it has happened. It was an unusual experience, but for both the reasons I just explained and another one that came totally out of left field.

Our start time was 10:15AM and this had us seeded with many of the fastest teams. The really fast teams, like Bowerman Athletic Club, would actually start about three hours later than us and finish at at the same time. The difference that one minute per mile average (between about 5:30 and 6:30 per mile) adds up to a lot of time in a 200 mile race.
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Racing — Not Ready for Hood to Coast? Then read this!

running-advice-bugThe Hood To Coast Relay is right around the corner. Living in Portland, I know this to be true. We see 8-10 person groups running on Saturday mornings, people wearing HTC t-shirts all over the place and a lot more people out “jogging” than typical. The other night, I noticed no less than a dozen people jogging along my street about 6:00PM — prime time. And it isn’t just that more people are out in the nice summer weather. This is as distinctive as the gym parking lots the week after New Year’s. We just know when Hood To Coast is coming.

This morning I was reminded about an all-too-dark side of Hood To Coast: the person that has been talked into doing it, but isn’t really a runner or hasn’t done any training to get ready for it. These folks, and you may be one of them if you are reading this, may have lofty ambitions to get out and train, but its about at this point when we start seeing this on the street. Let me describe. The guy that I saw this morning was sort of limping and grimacing, barely moving along. He looked a little like he’d been run over by a truck. I can tell you, as an expert in this field, what was going on. This person had gone out and run say one mile as hard as he felt he might be able to and was in the midst of walking it off. It wasn’t pretty.

Here’s the deal, if you have been enlisted to run Hood To Coast and you haven’t started training or have kind of toyed with the idea of training but haven’t quite made it yet, you need a little help. I’m going to give you a few tips that might just save you from committing Hood-To-Coast Suicide.

This post is meant for those that have basically shirked off their training completely and haven’t done anything at all, so if you’ve been training, none of this advice applies to you. But do read some of the other good articles in our Hood To Coast category and there is some great advice for you out there.

Tip 1: If you haven’t been training, don’t start in the last three days before the event — You may think I’m kidding, but I have talked to many people that finally kick it in gear the week before Hood To Coast. There is a part of all us that would like to think that “a little is better than nothing”, but it doesn’t really work that way. In the last few days before an all-night-longer-distance-than-you’ve-ever-run kind of event, the last thing you want to do is to go out and tire yourself out, pull something, give yourself blisters, and basically run yourself into the ground. Save your strength, you’re going to need it. You DO want to try out any new gear before you head for the mountain however. Breaking in a new pair of shoes at Hood To Coast is not advised. A couple of short (1-2 mile) runs to at least test out the shoes and make sure they’re not ripping your feet apart is a good call.
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Movie — Hood To Coast (The Movie)

running-advice-bugThe opening shot of the new documentary Hood To Coast starts with a lone runner, making her way through the darkness. Her headlamp is bobbing up and down and only the sound of her footfalls break the silence of the night. We see a series of small lights stretched out behind her, as other runners make their way, quietly padding through the night as individuals, but all going in the same direction. Then, out of almost nowhere, another light comes from behind her and like a jet-plane, another run blows past her, leaving her in his wake.

The crowd at last night’s premiere here in Portland instantly roared with laughter upon seeing this. And they were not laughing at the runner being passed, but rather laughing at the thought that at some time this had happened to each and every one of them. Being roadkill is part of Hood To Coast and this audience got it.

Hood To Coast (The Movie) made its debut last night in Portland, home-base to the iconic relay that draws more than 12,000 runners and walkers here every August. The film was also shown in theaters nationwide as part of a one-time event that drew runners from all parts of the United States. The Portland premiere was a unique and wonderful way to see this new film, because the audience was wholly made up of people that have not only run this event, but love it to the very core. These were, after all, the folks that were willing to up to $75 to see the movie on its opening night. They were hard-core, many of them sporting running shoes with there black-tie attire, and they loved every minute of this movie.

After the film, one of its producers told me that the audience did react differently here in Portland. “They laughed and clapped at points that were different than other audiences that have seen the film,” she told me. “The film really connected with this audience.”
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Hood to Coast Relay — Update #2 — Seaside

running-advice-bugOne of the most last memories of this year’s Hood to Coast Relay was watching my van-mates, most of whom are extremely accomplished runners, hop around peg-legged like a bunch of first-time marathon runners. The accompanying sound, “ouch, ouch, ouch”, which each step really drove it home. Hood to Coast puts a special beating on the legs. Three hard running efforts, hours sitting in a van, little sleep, little to eat. The quads freeze up like a pair of rusty old tractor parts. As I write this, I’m sitting with my legs elevated, to help with the pain myself.

Runner on Road

The race ran smoothly this year for the most part. One notable exception was the grid-lock of vans that happened at the last major van exchange — exchange 30. I happened to be the runner one our team and as I came running down toward the exchange, I came upon the tail end of the line of vans. There’s always a line of vans coming into this exchange, so that wasn’t surprising. The surprise was that I was more than two miles from the exchange. When I past our team van, I thought, “no biggie”, I would just wait for them to get through the traffic at the bottom because we were done running for the day. When I past our other van (van 2), I thought, “huh, that’s not good.” About a quarter mile further down the road, I recognized two of my teammates running along. They had our iPhone (used to collect split times) and they handed it off to me. When I reached the exchange zone, I stood with a number of other runners waiting alone for someone to hand the baton.

In our case, it was only a delay of about four or five minutes. But I’m sure other teams spent much more time waiting there. Grid lock does happen at Hood to Coast sometimes and this year it happened at the last major van exchange.

I have to say that something about the race was a little low-key this year. Most of my favorites were there. Teams like the Go NADS (for North American Distance Sprinters) and the Hot Tamales. But there seemed to be a little less festive mood in the exchange zones. There was more sleeping and less dancing going on.

Be sure to click the READ MORE button for to see photos from the race. See also Update #1 which has more photos from the Hood to Coast Relay.

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Hood to Coast — Update #1 — Midnight 2010

running-advice-bugThere’s something special about the Hood to Coast Relay. It’s more than running. It’s the little things. Like the smell of the brakes overheating on the vans as the descend from Mt. Hood. Or the smell inside the vans of the musty clothes, soaked runners, left-over food and a hundred other smelly things that cloud the inside of the space. Hood to Coast pummels the senses with contrasts. As a runner, you move from loud to silent, light to utter darkness, exuberance to exhaustion, all within a matter of hours.

Pondering the Start of Hood to Coast 2010

Our team has made its way down from Mt. Hood and my teammates are sleeping in a friends house as I type this message. Thousands of runners out are out on the road right now and we’ll rejoin them shortly — at about 2:00AM — as we start our next set of legs from Portland onward.

Van 1 is always a challenge for the runners, as they try their hardest not to get caught up in the urge to race too hard and try not to compare themselves to their teammates — efforts that most often fail. The first runner goes out too fast and everyone else wants to “beat” their estimated time. One after the other, the legs become time-trials with the unfortunate effect of making the next two legs so much more difficult. The most experienced runners try to keep things from getting out of hand, taking it a bit conservatively, because they know that it will come back later to them as they blow past their peers, many of whom are walking, later in the race.

There are so many familiar sights and sounds to me as I take on this 11th Hood To Coast. Many of the team names are the same. Many of the runners are even familiar. A woman named Jeanie from the Atlanta Track Club came over and re-introduced herself — we had talked a year ago at the race. There is a comfort to Hood To Coast after you’ve done it many times, but a large number of runners are experiencing it for their first time — right now!

See also Update #2 which has more photos from the Hood to Coast Relay.

Click the READ MORE button below to see some photos from the race.
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Hood to Coast — Coach Joe’s Last Minute HTC Tips

running-advice-bugWith the Hood to Coast Relay this weekend, I thought it would be a good time to share some final tips that might help make your weekend racing experience a little better. The Hood to Coast Relay is one of my favorite races, but the excitement of the event and the duration can make it really fatiguing on the body. As you head out for the course, keep these simple tips in mind:

[For more tips, see the links at the bottom of this article.]

Coach Dean Hebert at Hood to Coast 2008

Coach Dean Hebert at Hood to Coast 2008

Take a Load Off — It is very easy to find yourself standing and cheering for your team and other runners for hours on end. You don’t have to be anti-social, but sitting down while cheering will definitely save your legs. After 18 hours of standing, clapping and cheering, you may find yourself more in need of a sofa than another 10K run, so grab the bumper of the van, a rock, or a piece of grass and cheer seated.

Eat! — Make sure to eat right after you run. You want to be eating within 30-45 minutes of each of your first two running legs to help with your recovery from your run and with preparation for the next run. This means that you should carry some foods with you that are at your fingertips, rather than at the next grocery store you happen to come upon. You want to be able to reach into your bag and pop something in you mouth right after you run. There are usually tons of energy bars, gels and other things around, so I’d suggest savory foods that don’t require preparation, such as foil packs of tuna, beef jerky, peanut butter sandwiches and the like.
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Photos — Selected photos from 2009 Hood To Coast Relay


The 2009 Hood to Coast Relay is in the books. It was a wild and — at some times — wet adventure this year. But as always, it was a tremendous amount of fun.


Originally uploaded by Coach Joe English

Here are a selection of photos from the 2009 Hood to Coast Relay.

To watch a slide show on Flickr, just click here.

Congratulations to all of those that made their ways from the mountain to the Ocean this weekend!

Running Advice and News


Racing — Top Mistakes at the Hood to Coast Relay

Coach Joe English

Coach Joe English

With thousands of runners gearing up (literally) for the Hood to Coast Relay tomorrow, I thought I might offer a few words of wisdom in tackling this unique running event. Personally I’ve run Hood to Coast at least eight times on both fast and slow teams, so I’ve come to love (and hate) this crazy event. But through those years, I’ve watch people do some of the same things to themselves over and over again and I will share some of the top mistakes that you can make at Hood to Coast here.

Mistake #1Going out too fast on leg 1 — It may seem obvious, but the devil is in the details here. Too many treat their Hood to Coast legs like any 10K road race they would run. They got our hard on that first leg, as if running a 10K race on its own. This is understandable in many ways. For one thing, you want your team to think that you’re as fast as you put down on the planning spreadsheet and for another you’re feeling the excitement of the race and the pent-up adrenaline of sitting all afternoon in the van waiting to run. But the problem is that by going gangbusters in the first leg, you end up destroying yourself in the later legs. Pace yourself for a 30K race, not a 10K — think of this as a 30K event with three long rest periods in between the running. This may mean holding back on the first leg, but the benefit is actually being able to run faster on the other two legs, which also makes you look great to your team.

Mistake #2Standing up all day and night — The next big issue is the constant standing around before and after your runs. It would be enough to run 30K and not sleep, but if you spend the whole time standing around cheering then your legs are going to be that much more deprived of rest. There’s a nice balance that you need to find between cheering on your team, getting out of the van, and resting. My advice — get out of the van, sit down, and cheer while sitting on your butt.
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Hood to Coast: Coach Dean’s HTC adventure (part II)

Coach Dean Hebert at Hood to Coast 2008

Coach Dean Hebert at Hood to Coast 2008

In yesterday’s episode, Coach Dean Hebert introduced you to his enthusiasm and then fears about running in the largest of all road relays — the Hood to Coast Relay in Oregon. We left Dean after he had run through a dark and hilly mountainous road, besieged on all sides by the dangers of Oregon’s woods, and then slept on a patch of grass next to train-tracks, besieged on all sides by the dangers of Oregon’s cities. Dean picks up as he takes on leg 17 of the race, which is back outside of Portland, heading toward Oregon’s Coast Range.

Part II
The mother of all relays

Leg 17 was my easy leg. My chance to use some leg speed while not being too beat up. It’s 5.69 mostly flat and fast miles. I actually feel pretty good. It’s dawn. I’m ready to roll. I get the hand-off and notice a couple teams not far off behind. The most immediately behind me is a team from the Netherlands who started the race at the same time as us. It was up to me to hold him off. Just then, woosh… this guy flies past me within 400 meters going about 5:30 per mile. I’m running comfortably hard around 6:15 pace. I think to myself, if he can keep this pace, I’m done. I resolve to follow him and hope he’ll pull me along and I’ll pass other teams along the way. I see far ahead vague images… must be half a mile in front of us.

I put my head down in the early morning haze. He almost disappears off the front. Suddenly around a mile and half, there he is, not gaining. In fact, I’m slowly reeling him in! I’m invigorated. Time to go hunting! Hunt them down! He’s going down! I push the pace and catch him faster than I imagined. By the two and a half mile mark I’ve passed him. I hear his panting and footsteps behind me for the next three quarters of a mile. It spurs me on. I’m running a bit panicked now. The last thing I want to do is fade only to have him pass me again.

I get totally focused on my effort and refuse to look back. I’m deafened by my own breathing and cadence on the pavement. I don’t hear him. I don’t look back. I look down only to see mile four pass by, I can’t believe I still have more than a mile and a half to go. I’m straining to maintain the pace. I pass another team… and then a second team. I’m up 2-0 on this leg and feeling inspired. I can’t let my team down. I’m not thinking about my condition. I’m not thinking about my knee. I’m not thinking about my aching legs. All I can think about is getting to that finish line before I get caught.
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Hood to Coast Relay: Coach Dean’s HTC adventure (part I)

Coach Dean Hebert at Hood to Coast 2008

Coach Dean Hebert at Hood to Coast 2008

Coach Dean Hebert and I are friends and we enjoying racing together. For Hood to Coast 2008, I was pleased to have Dean come up to Portland and join our relay team. Dean sat down and wrote about his first brush with the “Mother of all relays” in this multi-part article, which is a joy to read. In part I, Dean gets to Portland, travels to the start and runs his first leg. Tomorrow, the story continues on as the race progresses.

I will add, before we start, that Dean can be a bit of a drama-queen. Although he says that I originally assigned him the “easiest” of all of the leg assignments, I had actually assigned him the anchor leg — an honor in relay racing. It is one of the easier leg assignments, but I thought that it would befit him to run the team in to the beach at Seaside. As it turns out, I moved Dean into van 1 with me, because I thought it would be more fun to have him with me for the weekend (it was) and I did, well let’s just say, put him on legs that were more befitting of his talent. He did a great job with his tougher assignment. Enjoy the story.

Hood to Coast – the Mother of All Relays
27th edition 2008.

I got the call in late November 2007. “Hey you want to run Hood to Coast (HTC) next year?” I had heard much about the race over the years and Joe sounded so excited to have me on the team, how could I refuse? I had run the Ragnar Relay in Arizona I knew what I was in for. My only hesitation? My physical condition over the past 3 years has been so up and down with different injuries I had no idea if I was even going to be running 10 months from then!

For those who aren’t familiar with these relay races here is how they are run. Teams are bunched by start times. The slowest teams start earlier in the day and the fastest teams start later in the day. With over 1000 teams at HTC they begin at 8:00 AM and keep starting teams every 15 minutes until 7:45 PM. Our start time was 6:30 PM. There are 12 runners on a team. There are two vans, each carrying six runners. Runners must run in sequence so, runner #5 will run legs 5, 17 & 29. Leg distances vary from about 3.5 to 8 miles. They also vary in difficulty from quad screaming downhills to leg dragging uphills and everything in between. HTC starts at the ski slopes on Mt. Hood, OR, and ends on the beach in Seaside, OR almost 200 miles away. Six sweaty people spending 24 or more hours very close together.

I strained my hamstrings (yes, both legs) in late February and sat out for more than 2 months. And just how did I fry my hammies? I ran the Ragnar Relay – a similar formatted relay to HTC but with only 130 teams or so. There is something that happens in a race; even if it’s supposed to be a controlled relay leg. I want to race. There is something ingrained in me that says if you see someone, go after them. The object of racing is to get from the starting line to the finish line faster than as many people as possible. I’m not into “just finishing.” I’ve run these distances hundreds of times. I can run them in training if all I want to do is finish miles.
I started training late in May. I had three months to get in shape to run three legs of about 6 miles each within a 24 hour period.
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