The Hood-to-Coast Relay consists of a 195-mile course starting 6,000 feet high on Mt. Hood and finishing at the Pacific Ocean in Seaside, Oregon. The Hood-to-Coast Relay teams consist of 12 runners crammed into two vans, piling out now and then to run a total of three legs each, each leg ranging from four to eight miles. If you do the math, you know that a runner would have about eight hours between his or her individual legs. What you do not know is how the body feels during these hours. As one runner put it, "It sounded like a good idea in February." Track Club LA entered this race for the first time this year under the nom de guerre, "Runners Off Track."
Traveling in style (Lincoln Navigators, courtesy of Budget Rent-a-Car screwing up the reservation), the team quickly separated into the appropriate vehicles. Van 1 was filled with (in running order) John Daly, Mike Kukuchka, Ellen Kukuchka, Jacinda Raiche, Brian "Squad 51" Panosian, and Ogie "O.G." Espinosa. Van 2 seated Natalie Manfredi (a friend of Wenise Wong who generously filled in with two weeks to go when another TCLA'er dropped out), Wenise, Mr. X (who bore a great resemblance to the TCLA coach), Kristin Fabos (another friend of Wenise picking up the slack when another TCLA'er dropped out), Rab Brown (a clutch last minute addition), and Fiona Karlin (from Niketown). After stocking the vans with provisions (mainly Gatorade, water, bread, fruit, and Wet Wipes), the TCLA'ers started in the 8:00 p.m. wave Friday evening. The course drops almost 5,000 feet in the first five legs, leading to fast times and sore quads for those runners in Van 1. At the first van exchange point (i.e., the end of leg 6), the TCLA team spotted Jerry Himmelberg and Tim Petersen (who both ran on a masters team that placed), but missed seeing John Moraytis (running for his work team). Heading off on their first rotation, the runners in Van 2 faced legs in the dead of night through rural Oregon with few runners from other teams around.
After each van completed its first rotation, the van members headed to a hotel in Portland for one hour of sleep. Some were unable to sleep, and those that did pretty much wished they had not. By the time the vans met up at the exchange marking the end of two rotations (i.e., after 24 legs), Van 2 started parking a little farther away from Van 1 than it had at earlier van exchanges. This was done to avoid any of the odors emanating from Van 1 from polluting the sweet-smelling air of Van 2. Communications between the vans were conducted via cellphone and walkie-talkie. At the final van exchange point (i.e., the end of leg 30), the runners in Van 1 were done with their long haul. Of course, this meant that those in Van 2 had absolutely nothing to say to those in Van 1. It was simply impossible for anyone with a leg left to run to relate to anyone already finished. The TCLA'ers would remain in two different universes until Van 2 had completed its journey. This happy event occurred 23 hours, 10 minutes, and 33 seconds after the start, good enough for 92nd out of the 1000 teams (15 teams did not finish), and 10th in the mixed open division (comprised of 243 teams).
Every Runner Off Track deserves an enormous amount of credit as they gave a tremendous effort on every leg. To understand the conditions best, you should keep three things in mind. One, imagine the nervous stomach and intestines you get before and after a race, and then imagine feeling that way for 24 hours. Two, and related to the first point, understand that the precious, little warm-up time each runner gets for his or her leg once the van arrives at the exchange point is often spent in the homey confines of a Honey Bucket (known in these parts as an Andy Gump, a.k.a. Port-A-Potty). Three, the runners are asking themselves to run essentially three 10K's within 24 hours on little or no sleep. It is no surprise that several runners finished with little desire to repeat this experience. And yet, two days removed from the finish, the idea of running Hood-to-Coast again does not seem nearly as repulsive as it did at the time.
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