Hood to Coast Tips

It’s been said that anyone can run twice in one day, but it’s the third run within twenty-four hours that separates the stars from the wannabes. The combination of total mileage, sleep deprivation, and nutrition/hydration issues will test your very soul. But it’s worth it because it may just be the most fun you have on two feet.

There is something special about hopping in a van with eleven of your friends (or total strangers!) and spending twentysomething hours covering the 197 mile distance between Mt. Hood and the Oregon Coast. You’ll run during the day. You’ll run at night. You’ll spend time driving without cell phone coverage wondering how you are going to coordinate meeting the next van at the right time and location. And that’s all part of the fun.

Over the years, we’ve learned a few things that we’d like to share about one of the most unique and fun events in the country — the Hood to Coast Relay.

You are ready. If you’ve been following the Portland Fit program, our training lines up perfectly with this iconic event. So trust your training. We’d suggest a few tweaks leading up to the event, but if you don’t do any of these you’ll still be more prepared than a lot of the folks lacing them up this weekend.

Try two-a-days. If your training calls for running on Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday, try skipping the Monday workout and run both Tuesday morning and Tuesday evening instead. Then maybe try running on Wednesday at noon or even Wednesday morning. This helps you get used to running multiple times a day.

Prep with extra rest. Take at least two days off leading up to the Friday start. Then plan on two more days after you finish before jumping back into your marathon training. It’s not unheard of to even count this as your 30k benchmark.

Keep drinking. Drink a full bottle of Gatorade or other sports drink after every leg of the event. Or chocolate milk — it’s a great recovery drink. Staying hydrated will be critical to your success. Save the beers until after your third leg.

Stretch after every leg. Don’t just jump in the van and zoom down the street. The next runner on your team is not going to beat you to the next exchange. There is a lot of standing around waiting for your teammates during the HTC, so take 5-10 minutes and do a little stretching when you get done with a leg. It’s worth it.

Negative splits. It’s tempting to look at your first leg and say “Seven miles all down hill? I’m going to speed through this.” But what you should be saying is “This is the first third of my 18 mile run. I need to take it easy.” Treat your three legs like one long effort and pace accordingly. Negative splits means doing your last leg at a slightly faster pace than your first.

Bring more clothes. I bring three separate running outfits and I put them all in freezer-sized ziploc baggies (shirt, shorts, socks). When I’m done with a leg and I’ve cooled down, I change into my next outfit. The sweaty gear goes back into the ziploc baggie, I squeeze out the excess air just like those late night infomercials, and I seal it up. Boom – you’ve just vacuum-sealed your smelly gear and your teammates will thank you profusely. A towel is another handy item in your duffel.

Other stuff? Pack a first aid kit for the van — somebody will need blister help, band-aids, body glide, nip-guards, etc. You can each bring your own stuff or you can have a team kit.

Driver or No Driver? This age old question depends on your team, but I vote for sharing the responsibilities among the runners which also creates one extra seat in the van. Driving the whole thing is actually pretty hard, so sharing the load makes sense. And the difference between six and seven people in your rig may help when someone wants to nap across the third row.

Be safe. A lot of the event is on shared roads so watch out for motorists and other hazards.

Good luck to everyone participating in the Hood to Coast relay this weekend. It’s one of my favorite events because it makes running and walking a team sport while presenting a unique set of challenges. So enjoy and don’t forget to take a lot of pictures.

Stay fit,
John