Thank God Almighty, I Ran From Hood to Coast!

By Tanya

One week ago I ran the mother of all relay races. Our team of twelve known as "Robin From the Hood and Her Coastal Van of Misfits" climbed in two vans and ran 196 miles from the top of Mt. Hood to Seaside at the Oregon coast! It all happened so fast that it still doesn't seem real.

Hood to Coast is a big deal around these parts. Relay races seem to be popping up all over the place, but H2C was the first around here. Growing up in Portland which falls exactly in the middle of the course, and spending many childhood vacations at either Mt Hood or Seaside, I knew that if I was ever able to run a relay race, it would have to be the H2C.

There were just three factors that kept me from the race.
  1. My stinkin' injuries kept flaring up making me question if I could pull off running three legs of 5-7 miles over a 24 hour period
  2.  H2C is such a popular race that it fills up every year.  You have to know someone with an established team to get in.  
  3. You have to be a bit crazy to voluntarily sign up to forgo comforts such as showers, flush toilets, sleep, and live for 36+ hours in a crowded van with 6-7 other sleep deprived, achy, stinky people!

Fortunately 2014 proved to be the year of healing for me.  Obstacle #1 overcome! Thank you God and West Portland Physical Therapy!

One week after completing my first triathlon, I was invited by a running friend of mine, Michael Allen, to run his legs on Robin's H2C team. Michael had run H2C six times already and was going to be competing in a half Ironman a week before the relay.  He was happy to give me the opportunity to run his legs and he would be our driver.  Obstacle #2 taken care of. Thank you Robin and Michael Allen!

Our team consisted of mostly new runners and was not an overly competitive team. Since Michael was the veteran runner he had the most difficult legs of the race. His team was counting on him to keep an 8:30 pace to help speed their team along. Michael assured me that I was up for the task based on my triathlon times. Perhaps I was still on a runners high from the triathlon, or you can just call me crazy, but it was just too good of an offer to pass up! Not to mention I had some wonderful friends and family who stepped up to take care of my boys so I could run.  Obstacle #3 - done! Thank you Dan, Carissa and Jill!

I had one week to get ready. My body was pretty much prepared from all the triathlon training, however I did add one training day where I ran three miles, three times in 24 hours, at about the same times I would be running in the relay to acclimate my body and test out the clothes and gear I was planning to bring. I even got to meet and run with two of my van mates who I would be running with.

Fortunately, I had a lot expert advice for all the Do's and Don'ts of the Relay from Michael, my husband, and many friends who had previous experience running H2C. Robin, our team captain, was so organized that I really felt all I had to do was show up and run. I was ready to go!

The whole team the night before H2C
The evening before the race our team gathered at Robin's house so we could meet all our teammates. At 4 a.m. on Friday those of us in Van 1 reconvened and headed up to the top of Mt Hood.

Two days before the relay the middle of my foot started giving me some trouble. It felt deeper than the tendon so I wondered if it might be a little stress fracture. As we got to the top of the mountain I said a little prayer and checked my Bible verse for the day.  This is what it was.

"Exalt the Lord our God and worship at His holy mountain; for the Lord our God is holy!" 
- Psalm 99:9

I looked up at the stunningly beautiful summit of Mt Hood and knew in my heart there was nothing to fear.

I wasn't running until the fifth leg, so I got to stay warm and cozy until the start of our race.  Once we started running, I had a blast cheering on all of my van mates as one by one they set off on their first leg.  Each of them hit their estimated time goals almost to the minute!
Michael and I at the start

My first leg was at 11:00 a.m. and was 6.08 miles. The first three miles were downhill on unshaded pavement and the last three were uphill on a somewhat shaded back road. I prefer to run by how I feel and usually don't run with any timing devices. However since my teammates were counting on me, I borrowed Carissa's Garmin. I checked a couple of times at the beginning and fretted that I was running too fast, so I decided I was still going to run by feel and just take note when the Garmin indicated that another mile had passed.

I was glad I ran fast in the first half because the sun was brutal. By the time I climbed up the hill to get to the back road I was feeling its effect. At the top of the hill I spied some people making a power tunnel for the runners ahead of me and wondered it they would stick around for me to make it to them. As I got closer I realized it was my teammates! What a fun surprise! Their support helped power me up the last three miles of steady incline and brought me in at an 8:18 pace!
My power tunnel!
The finish of my first leg
By the time my second leg came around it was at 11:30 p.m. and the lack of sleep was taking its toll on me. Additionally my stomach was pretty unhappy. I took a few things to help my stomach and headed out.

The second leg consisted of 7.68 miles on a mostly flat, but somewhat uneven and rocky road. Michael said he would be happy to run with me on my last two legs and I was overjoyed to have his company.  I told him I wouldn't be able to talk to him and keep my pace, but reminded him that I was thrilled to have company.

Right out of the gate, my upset stomach turned into massive heartburn, then into a side stitch. I did my best to keep a steady rhythm in my pace and breathing. As I ran the combined effects of my upset stomach, the runners' headlights, and the lights from the oncoming traffic made me feel as if I was on a never ending roller coaster. Instead of counting roadkill (aka runners you pass), I began counting the amount of times I was able to hold back my vomit!

It was a long run but thanks to Michael's funny stories, constant encouragement and updates on my pace I was able to hold steady, thwart nine waves of nausea, and come in at a 8:20 pace!

Night time running
By the time we finally made it past the deadlock line of vans to our would-be sleeping area in the town of Mist, we were told there were no more places to sleep. Eventually we found a place to park, got situated in the van and dozed off.  But sleep was short - 1.5 hours - because it was time to head out on our third leg.

Van life

My third and final leg was the dreaded Leg 29. This leg consists of 6.11 miles. The first 3.11 miles are a brutal incline up to the summit followed by a steep three mile downhill on somewhat uneven terrain. I ran this leg at 11:00 a.m. in the hot sun. Fortunately there were sporadic spots of shade. I was tired from lack of sleep but was able to keep my muscles stretched and rolled out and my stomach under control so I felt ready to go.
Michael and I declaring W.A.R. (We Are Runners) at the start of my third leg
Once again Michael joined me and kept me encouraged and updated on my pace throughout the leg. Initially the incline was not as steep as I anticipated and there were areas of flat reprieve. I easily picked off quite a few roadkill and was surprised to notice that very few women were running this leg.

Once we hit the true hill I knew it would take all my focus to keep a good pace. The next challenge came when a swarm of aggressive bees attacked me. They were not intimidated by my Karate chops either. Two of them even hit me in the eye! As I labored up the hill sweat started rolling into my eyes - even with my hat on - making it hard to see. When our van passed me Michael very graciously asked for a wet towel for me to wipe my eyes. It worked wonders! I set the cool towel around my neck and gave it all I had to the top of the hill.

Reaching the summit of my 3rd leg hill
Michael kept telling me I was keeping a good pace up, but I knew I wanted to kill it on the downhill. When I hit the summit I turned on the jets and yelled to Michael, "Let's finish this thing!" We set off flying downhill, picking off roadkill left and right. We even passed up our van into the exchange!
My pace for that leg was an 8:28.  Yes!  Goal achieved and a great way to finish!

We cheered in our last van runner and continued on to cheer our second van onto their final leg.  We headed to Seaside to meet our fellow teammates and run into the finish together.

We made it!

To top it all off, some running friends of Michael and mine from the Oregon Road Runners Club had rented a room at a hotel across from the H2C finish. They invited us over to use their shower and even had a hot lasagna waiting for us! What amazing friends! Thank you Michelle and Steve Robinson.
The gangs all here!

Everything happened so fast and fell into place so well that I still can't believe that I actually ran Hood to Coast. Thank you to all of my wonderful friends and family who made this event possible for me. And to all my new running friends, Robin From the Hood and all the other Coastal Misfits...when's the next one!?


  1. Love your recap! It was great being on a team with you!
    Angela a.k.a. Miss Prickly

  2. So fun! That is a great recap - you killed you legs! Our local relay, The Bourbon Chase, is in October. It is a great event! I am running on a team with my church this year and we are looking forward to it!

  3. Thanks Angela! It was a pleasure spending so much time with you. I hope to run with you again in the future. And thank you Claire. Yes, it was even better than I imagined. Good luck on your relay. The Bourbon Chase huh? Sounds fun and dangerous!