Wednesday, August 31, 2016

Hood to Coast 2016- Packing Tips, Runner 9, and Reflections

After months of preparation it was finally time to run Hood to Coast! For those of you who don't know, HTC is a relay in Oregon from Mount Hood to the pacific ocean via Seaside beach. It came in at a whooping 199 miles in total. This year was the 35th anniversary since the start of the relay and is nicknamed the "mother of all relays" since it was the first of its kind. Over 1,000 teams participated, which meant over 12,000 people and over 3,000 volunteers came to help out with this event. It was truly an amazing experience, something I'll always remember and cherish. Let me start out by talking about how I prepared to captain a HTC team, how my legs went (I was runner 9 so I did legs 9, 21, and 33), and finish with my overall reflections. I personally found reading other bloggers post about HTC so helpful, so I wanted to make sure I added my voice to the mix as a way to thank those of you who posted helpful information as well as pass on information to those of you who want to learn more about the relay.

Since I've moved to Oregon and started working at Nike, I've heard a lot about HTC. My first real experience with HTC was a couple years ago when a coworker asked me if I would be willing to volunteer for her team. I didn't have anything going on that weekend and I love volunteering for these kind of things so I decided to take her up on the offer. I remember getting so excited as I drove over to St Helens to begin my volunteer job. It was amazing to see people running at all times of night. Once I got to the exchange, I continued to be impressed by the energy that the volunteers had. Everyone was excited and happy to be apart of this huge event and I couldn't help but get swept away by the positive vibes. My job that night ended up being a person who helped direct runners to turn onto a specific road to stay on course. We had lanterns going and used flashlights to direct runners. I worked with a couple other people who was very nice. Overall I came away from that night really impressed with the HTC organization. I think that was the night I started thinking about actually putting a team together.

Flash forward to last October when I decided to enter the lottery. I had a few half marathons under my belt at the time and thought this would be an exciting new challenge. I started to put out feelers and some of my friends seemed interested. I decided to try entering the lottery this year, half expecting not to get in. I knew that if you get rejected from the lottery one year you have a better chance of getting it the following year so I figured I mines well start working towards it. When I found out we got in I felt both excited but also nervous about pulling everything together. After many hours of researching the HTC website as well as talking to past participants and reading some blogs, I was able to compile together all the information I needed to captain a team. 

As the race got closer, I started pulling together a bunch of stuff that people deemed useful to bring. Since people generally all needed similar things, I decided to pack a bunch of stuff that people could share to avoid everyone bringing duplicates.

Here are the basics I packed to share with the van (I packed the same thing for each van)- paper towels, toilet paper, sun screen, bug spray, advil, pepto bismal, head lamps, safety vests, LED flashers, purell, garbage bags, ziplock bags (multiple sizes), cups, first aid kits, shower wipes, the handbook, body glide (anti- chafe), safety pins, foam roller, and ice packs.  

Here's a list of the food we brought from Costco: Bagels & cream cheese, apples, bananas, granola bars, supplies for PB&J (made the night before), cheez its, fruit snacks, pretzels with peanut butter, tortilla chips, hummus, water bottles, gatorade bottles, and GU. 

And here's a list of personal stuff each one of us packed: 3 running outfits in separate gallon sized zip lock bags (a good way to keep the sweaty clothing away from other things in your bag), running shoes, clothes to wear in between legs (included a long sleeve top and sweat pants), flip flops, cash, toiletries (deodorant, soap, shampoo, conditioner, etc), water carrier, hair brush, tooth brush, chapstick, sleeping bag, pillow, GPS watch, phone, phone charger, and sunglasses. 

A couple of other things that I found super helpful during the event was the shared spreadsheet I created with expected start and finish times for each leg. This was helpful to help estimate when each exchange would happen and therefore be able to back into what time I told people we needed to leave by. I also put together a team meeting the week before the race. It was good to have everyone meet each other and go over all the rules together. It was great to also chat about any questions my teammates had. Finally, it was nice to use our house as a base point. Everyone was able to meet up here and park there cars by the house which made everything a bit easier.

That brings us to the actual event. As I already mentioned, I had an incredible time and felt like I was really able to bond with my team. Normally I feel like running is kind of a solitary sport. Joining a running group has changed that a bit in my mind, but this relay made running really feel like a team activity. I really loved that aspect of it. When I was tired, I remembered that my teammates were counting on me to do my best. However, I did stress to my teammates that they could take it easy on themselves, since we were all rookies of HTC and were only doing it for fun (not competitively). I think that helped relieve a lot of stress going in.

As for my legs, I was runner 9 which was rated as the 2nd hardest in difficulty. I found it useful to read other people's experience with my specific legs, so I'll go into each one a little bit in case you were interested in being runner 9. My first leg was around 3pm, which normally would be fine but that day it was unusually warm (it was 95 degrees when I ran). There was a bit of shade, but no van support on this run since it was a path away from the road. In hindsight I should have brought a water bottle to dump water on myself to cool off, but I only had my camel back water backpack on my back. While I was able to get a little water out to splash on my face, a normal water bottle would have been much easier to use. There was one spot at mile 4 where someone put out a hose (which was AMAZING!), but the heat definitely did slow down my pace almost a full minute for a couple of my miles. Luckily the path was flat the whole time, which I was grateful for.

My second leg (21) ended up starting around 2:45 am (which meant I had to wear a vest, flashers, and a headlamp for safety). I was thankful that it was much cooler than my previous run! Leg 21 was also relatively flat (with a slight downhill I believe), but was challenging since it was on a dusty, gravel road. Whenever vans would drive by dust would kick up and it was difficult to see. I was able to keep my head down and have my head lamp shine a few feet in front of me which seemed to work out fine. I brought along a mask to help with the dirt, but it did sting my eyes a bit. If I were to do another gravel leg I might try wearing safety googles to keep some of the soot out of my eyes. Even with all that, I thought it was a nice, fast, and cool leg. Also the stars were pretty incredible that night!

Finally, I got to my last leg (leg 33). I was a little apprehensive about this leg, since it was almost 8 miles after little sleep and a couple of other legs beforehand. It was rated as hard since it had some rolling hills and it was the longest leg there was. However, this leg ended up being my favorite out of the bunch. The hills weren't too crazy and it helped keep the course interesting. The temperature was perfect, and it was overcast. While it did feel a bit long, I really liked feeling like I had to challenge myself one last time before I was finished. Maybe it's the long distance runner in me, but I liked that I had to dig deep and remind myself why I was running this race. It was a great time for me to reflect. Once I made it to the exchange, a few of my teammates came out and did a TP finish line that I ran through. It was so thoughtful for them to do that and it really made me proud of what I had helped bring together.

Overall, I was really happy that my team had a great time and stayed in high spirits even when the elements weren't ideal. I think HTC challenges each runner both physically and mentally, and I was proud that my team face those challenges and made the best of it. I had way more fun than I thought I would and felt more emotional than I was originally expecting. I'm so proud of all of my teammates for their first HTC experiences. Some people were new to running, while others were revisiting the sport after taking some time off. Some people ran sub 8 miles while others were there to complete their legs comfortably. We each challenged ourselves appropriately, which made finishing the race that much more rewarding. While it was a lot of work to captain a team, I'm so glad I did. It was great to hear the positive feedback from my teammates and see them have a great time. It made all of the work and training worth it. 

I hope to be able to do HTC again soon! It was a great experience with some awesome people.