Sunday, August 27, 2006

Hood to Coast Race Report 2006

Captain's Report


Background:

Last year I ran my first relay, Reach the Beach, and had an awesome time. Therefore when I came to know about this year being the 25th anniversary of the Hood to Coast relay I began to look for a team to join. I found an opening in the New York Flyers' HTC team and thus began my adventure...

Our team captain Joe is a coach for the Flyers', a professional coach and a 7-time HTC veteran. As a result all the coordination activities leading up to the event (and during the event), which is so crucial to a team event like this, was spot-on. When I got the email from C'tain Joe with my leg assignments I was pretty intimidated. It was one of the toughest set (if not the toughest set) of the race - the only set with 2 legs rated "Very Hard" and had the second longest total distance. I posted a message on a yahoo group comprised of HTC veterans asking for advice and their experiences as runner 5. One of them asked me in jest, "What did you do to get your team captain so mad at you?" :) When I finished my last leg Joe confided in me that he assigned me such a tough set because he knew I would be up for the challenge. Hmmm... the next time I'll need to think twice before divulging facts like having run 7 marathons and the Knickerbocker 60k.

Pre-race:

We were assigned a 5pm start time. The start times for HTC unlike RTB are not assigned seeding from the slowest to the fastest. Slow teams also start late as long as their predicted time enables them to finish within the 9pm time limit the next day.

I headed for Portland on Friday with a couple of team members from Seattle. The bulk of the team had arrived from New York on Thursday. Both the team members from Seattle were in Van 2 so it was good to get a chance to know them during the drive. One of the disadvantages of relays like RTB and HTC is that you do not get to spend much time with members in the other van.

Once we got to Portland we grabbed lunch with the team while C'tain Joe reviewed the logistics. Then we headed for Mt. Hood. We had our first adventure of the race when both our vans got pulled over for speeding. The cop was very nice and on knowing where the team was from responded, "Gosh, you'll have come a long way to run!” He let us off with a warning and a smile.

Race:

At RTB I was in Van 2 so being in Van 1 was a different experience. Coincidentally, the start times for my legs ended up being at the same times as my RTB legs.

The course started off with a steep decent for the first two legs. I felt a little jealous of the amazing scenery that the first couple of runners were enjoying. I'm sure it must have been well worth putting their quads through those steep down hills.

Leg 5: Cherryville, OR - 6.1 Miles, 7:56 PM

Rating: Very Hard
Description: Long leg in length over very challenging rolling hills along Highway 26
Temperature: 79F, 38%
6.11 @ 7:40 min/mile
[7:17(175), 7:09(183), 7:19(187), 7:48(186), 8:05(185), 8:14(185), 0.11@ 8:20(183)]

As I began my first leg the sun had began to set. The first couple of miles felt great. I was running on the highway in the fading light. I knew I wanted to take it easy since the last few miles were all uphill but looking at my HR readings now obviously that did not happen. My team was waiting with a cup of Gatorade at mile 3. After that the course turned onto back roads. It had become completely dark and was the beginning of a climb to the end. It was kind of surreal to be alone in the dark in the middle of nowhere. I passed a volunteer who told me that I needed to turn left at top of the hill. As time passed I wondered what she meant by that because there was no end to the hill I was climbing and no place to turn left onto. I figured she must have been talking about 'her left’, which would have been 'my right'.

Even though there was no fork I was scared that I might have gotten off course. I really did not want to have to run any more of these hills than I needed to. Finally, I saw another volunteer who told me to run up the hill on the curve to the finish. I was pretty tired by then and did not need to be reminded of the climb to the finish but I was happy to know I was on course. Finally, after what seemed like an eternity I saw a lighted tunnel in the distance. I handed off to runner 6 and our Van 1 was almost done with the first leg.


There was another team wearing their RTB race T-shirts (I was wearing mine as well). At the vehicle transition stop I ran into them and we exchanged a "Wohoo RTB!!!" Leg 12 started in Portland so my team had kept a room in the hotel they stayed in, on Thursday. It felt awesome to have a shower between the legs and to actually sleep on a real bed. However, it felt horrible to have my sleep interrupted after a couple of hours to head out again. What woke me up from my stupor was to consume about half a large bag of Lays potato chips.

As we headed to the next transition point we passed people partying in the downtown clubs. Hmmm... at least we were not the only sleep deprived people at this time of the night. We figured we'd let Van 2 know about the option to head to the clubs instead of the hotel.

Leg 12 began under the Hawthorne Bridge in Portland. I envied the view that the runners had of nighttime downtown Portland. However, running on the concrete bridge through some creepy regions didn’t seem like fun. At an exchange a runner talked about her experience of passing a couple of homeless folks having a fight. Our runner mentioned passing them too but she did not seem too perturbed by the experience. The relay continued along the Portland marathon course - boring industrial warehouses. We missed nothing running these parts of the course in the night. I also decided that there was no way I would be running the Portland marathon - I didn't need to go through all this in the final miles of a marathon.

Leg 17: Scappose, OR - 5.7 Miles, 4:45 AM

Rating: Easy
Description: Basically flat terrain along Highway 30
Temperature: 56F, 87%
5.63 @ 7:07 [6:57(178), 7:05(184), 7:08(184), 7:10(183), 7:13(183), 0.63 @ 7:08(183)]
I knew that my second leg was the only chance I would have to run at a reasonable pace. If it meant that I would pay for it on my last leg then so be it. I knew that we were heading towards a high of 90F and I would be running at 1pm so it couldn't get any worse. This leg was very similar to leg 23 at RTB only a little hillier. The temperature was perfect for running and I guess 5am is the perfect time to run. I wish I could convince myself to get my daily run at this time. I picked up around 16 road kills along the way. I got killed about 4 times myself by some super speedy runners - they just blew by me. As I finished my leg the sun had begun to rise.

At the next transition point we had our only Team "boo boo". Van 2 was not there yet - I guess they were enjoying themselves too much at the hotel. Also, we were ahead of our predicted pace by 22 minutes but Joe had warned them about that. Later we learnt about how they got lost in downtown Portland without a map ... That cost us 16 minutes but luckily that ended up costing us only 20 places overall.

We drove to the next van transition area through some amazing scenery. It was so cold and misty that it was hard to believe that we were heading for such a toasty day. My teammates headed to get some pancakes and breakfast but there was no way I was willing to do anything but sleep. I remember negotiating with my brain - "Hot pancakes would taste great. However, that would require me to getup and walk and not sleep. Eat or Sleep... Sleep.

As we started our final legs it had become uncomfortably hot and was only going to get hotter by the time I started running. We noticed the runners struggling towards the end of their legs. Some had just given up and started walking. There were some pretty interesting vans blasting music – Team Go NADS, Elvis impersonators etc. That would have provided a boost to the runners. Luckily our runners remained strong through out their legs. After all, all we needed to do was hand over to Van 2 and head to the beach to enjoy the toasty weather.

C'tain Joe had brought some "Damsel in Distress" whistles for our female runners running in the dark. They did not use the whistles but I got a wise idea when Joe was running. We snuck up behind him in the van and started blowing the high-pitch whistles while cheering him. He remembered to tell us at the end of his leg about how we scared the living daylights out of him.

Leg 29: Jewel, OR - 6 Miles, 1:17 PM

Rating: Very Hard
Description: Very challenging up and downhills through winding wooded section of Highway 202.
Temperature: 88F, 31%
6.12 @ 7:50
[8:15(179), 8:00(178), 8:35(179), 8:25(170), 6:58(174), 6:55(174), 0.12 @ 6:23(180)]
My final leg had the steepest climb in the whole relay and perhaps the most difficult leg in all. The 88F temperature would not be helping... I decided to start off with a bottle of chilled water - I needed to hydrate during the climb.

At RTB I had hardly got any sleep. However, by some bizarre coincidence every moment I slept was so well documented that it had become difficult to claim that I did any running. My teammates had snaps of me sleeping. The official race photographer picked me sleeping out of 12*285 runners. The FOTBers saw me sleeping. That was not all! The official race video trailer had just one clip of a runner sleeping on a bench in a high school (guess who that was :-) I should have just auditioned for a sleep-number bed infomercial after that. Well, so I needed solid evidence that I did really run HTC!

For each leg we asked our runners what they needed (water, Gatorade etc.) and at what point on the course. I told my teammates that for my leg all I needed was a snap of me to show as proof that I ran this race to avoid a RTB like situation... I told them to ignore any other pleas for water etc. from me until they had gotten my snap.

I began my leg trying to focus on even effort and to conserve enough energy for the crest of the hill. By the end of the second mile it was getting really painful. I was still picking up road kills and maintaining a constant gap with a couple of runners so I didn't get too worried about my pace. Luckily there was some shade on parts to shield me from the direct sunrays for a bit. Some teams had chalked words of encouragement on the roads. Also, the amazing thing throughout the race was that the vans waiting for their runners to pass cheered all the passing runners. We did the same. Though runners had become so bitchy by the time they reached the crest of the hill on this leg that a runner scolded my team when they suggested that he was almost there. He responded - "No, I am not almost there!" :)

As for my race snap... When I reached the crest of the hill I found that my teammates had set up a victory tape with toilet paper to ensure that I had an appropriate backdrop for the snap I asked for ;)

It just felt so amazing to hit the downhills after reaching the crest - perhaps one of my most comforting running moments. I tried to accelerate to make up for lost time. I knew I would pay for the pounding that my legs would be getting but I'd deal with that later :)

Some of my road kills were in pretty bad shape. A couple of runners were walking with 1 mile to go (I knew thanks to Garmin which helped me a lot on this leg). I tried to encourage them - "Just 1 mile to go. Lets finish strong." However, they just were pretty zonked out.

When the finish was in sight I gave it all I had. I think I would have perhaps reached 800m pace... At the handover an elderly volunteer complemented me - "I haven't seen anyone finish our race so strong in a while".


It felt great to be done. Just one more runner and we could head to the beach while Van 2 slogged it out in the heat. That's one of the advantages of being in Van 1! However Van 2 does get to enjoy the pleasure of bringing it in and crossing the finish line.

Our last runner crossed the finish at 7pm. We joined in for the ceremonial finish and our HTC adventure came to an end. The 25th anniversary medals were pretty neat. They also had fireworks in the night to celebrate the event.

On Sunday morning we had one last joint team activity - washing our vans! We had used the wrong markers to decorate the vans so it was a pain to get rid of the markings. We discovered that plastic cards (credit cards etc.) provided an efficient scrubbing device. I knew that my Grocery store card had to be good for something!

Results:

Team: New York Flyers 197 miles - 26:02:22 @ 7:56
Overall - 196 /1032
Division - Mixed Open: 33 / 303
Me: 17.86 miles @ 7:33

HTC vs RTB

* RTB and HTC are both races surely worth experiencing.
* I felt overall the legs at RTB are more challenging (others who have run both have felt the same).
* If I could chose only one between the two I would go with RTB. HTC with 1032 teams obviously cannot cater to the runners in the same way as RTB with only 285 odd teams.
* At HTC rules are enforced more or less on an "honor system".
* HTC does not have perks like - free massage, free copy of team photo, free massage, free food at the finish.
* The Van transition areas at RTB are significantly better.
* HTC is extremely well organized which is not surprising for a 25 year old event.

Given that Portland is so close to Seattle I'm sure I'll be running many more HTC races. Perhaps I'll shoot for the 10th anniversary RTB race.

Conclusion:

This race confirmed that my fitness level is nowhere near where it was last year. I guess there's no substitute to putting in those miles every week :) Victoria won't be a PR marathon and I'll need to have an appropriate goal to race it.

Yet again, I had a great time at a relay event. The team atmosphere makes everything so much more fun compared to individual events where we are so focused on our personal performance. There's nothing like sharing jokes, doing goofy things and being "stuck" in a van with five others for a whole day!

Hood to Coast 2006 - Captain's Report (Joseph “Cap’n Joe” Yates)

It was Monday, August 21, 2006, only days before the start of the 2006 edition of the Hood-To-Coast Relay(HTC). This year would mark the 25th anniversary of the event and the 10th consecutive year the New York Flyers sent at least one team to participate. Starting on Mt. Hood and winding 197 miles through the city of Portland and the beautiful Oregon countryside to finish on the beach in Seaside, this relay event is usually run by teams of 12. We had had less than the full complement of runners until the day I received the e-mails confirming the final two additions, bringing our single team up to full strength.

The 2006 team would be:

Leg Runner
1 Joyance Meechai
2 Joseph Yates
3 Renee Mosier
4 Angel Daniels
5 Subhasish Bhattacharya
6 Adam Haas
7 Megan Stillerman
8 Julie McAdoo
9 Richard Campbell
10 Mark Ortner
11 Vivian Doorn
12 Eric Johnson

Each team member would run their relay leg, then run a second leg in the same sequence, and finally a third, completing the 36 individual leg of the total distance. The team would move along the course in two vans, each carrying six runners.The clock measuring the team’s time through the course would start when runner #1 set off from Mt. Hood and would run without pause until runner #12 crossed the finish line on the beach. This basic description of the event logistics, however, does nothing to capture what the HTC adventure is really like. The experience is different every year and for every participant. Here is a sampling of HTC 2006 memories from some members of the team:


A Reach The Beach Relay veteran doing his very first HTC, Sub ran legs 5, 17 and 29, considered the most challenging sequence of legs in HTC. Some of the things that
stood out about 2006 for him:

The scenery at Mt. Hood as Joyance started off
Leg 5
o felt great starting off in twilight
o finishing in the dark through back roads
o steady climb
o scared about getting lost
o glad to see a light in the distance for the exchange
o handing off to van 2 and heading to the hotel

Between Legs 5 and 17
o How good it felt to have a shower and a nap
o How bad it felt to wake up and have to leave from the nap
o The people partying in downtown Portland at 1 am

Leg 17
o cool, flattish, dark—felt good

Between Legs 17 and 29
o the 16 minutes!
o foggy/cool/misty: very unlike the toasty conditions we would see later
o sleep for some/pancakes for

the rest
o some classic vans: handing out bananas/Go NADS/Elvis
o sneaking up behind Joe and blowing the damsel- in distress whistles

Last leg
o the agony of the 3.5 mile climb in 90°F
o how good it felt to ride the downhills to the exchange

How we lost Eric after his name was announced at the finish

Return to Portland
o The story of the car wash
o “Mambo Italiano” song


Richard is a HTC veteran who ran with the team in 2005. In 2006 he ran legs numbers 9, 21 and 33. He especially remembered:

Pulled over by a motorcycle cop on the way to Mt. Hood. “....but officer, we were just following the van in front of us” (driven by Cap’n “Leadfoot” Joe). I saw the same cop again on the second day. He asked me how the race was going for me. I said “Pretty good. Our team is so fast that yesterday you pulled us over and told us to slow down”.

Cap’n Joe’s note to self: just following along with traffic: BAD. Actually looking at the speedometer: GOOD.

The infamous 16 minutes. If Van-1 could just stick to the schedule, Van-2 could sleep in and still be on time, but nooo, Van-1 had to be 25 minutes ahead of pace!

Cap’n Joe’s comment: there’s that speeding thing again! That must be the theme for 2006.


While the team is always about having fun, not performance, we finished the 197-mile course in 26:02:22, an average of about 7:56 per mile. That was much faster than we had planned to do and placed us 196 out of 1,032 teams overall; and 33 of 303 in the Mixed Open division. It also wreaked havoc with our planning, resulting in a 16-minute “time out” during one exchange between the two vans! I guess having fun can really help you run faster!


One final set of memories from Adam, who ran legs 6, 18 and 30 for the team:

This was my first HTC experience. I’d lived in Portland for 25 years, ran for many of those years and often heard about HTC; but for some reason I just never looked into it. I guess at age 51 I felt like having an adventure—and this was cheaper than buying a motorcycle or having an affair! So I took a risk and randomly found my team at the last moment through Craig’s list. The New York Flyers turned out to be the best team I could have envisioned. What better way to get to know five total strangers than to spend two days with them in a van and on the race course?

I remember it was pitch black on Highway 30 and I was supposed to give Renee a cup of Gatorade when she ran by, except I missed her in the dark. I felt so bad about letting her down; so we raced ahead with the van and our captain helped spot her before she reached me. When I ran beside her to give her the cup, I told her that I couldn’t make her out in the dark earlier, and instead of being upset with me, she said she was sorry. What a good sport!

Leg 18: It was just before dawn when I started this run along deserted and hilly county roads too narrow to allow team vans. Though it was dark when I started, I could smell the morning about to break—the wet grass and the farms. I climbed the hills by feel rather than by sight, but felt comfortable and energized. And then daylight began to grow, allowing me to eventually see the beautiful countryside around me. I felt blessed to be alive, fit and running in this beautiful environment.

It was hard to say goodbye to the team at the end. We’d shared this unique experience together outsiders can’t really understand. It’s no wonder that people come back to do HTC year after year.


And with a little luck, the Flyers will once again be successful in entering and sending a team to HTC 2007.

Wednesday, August 23, 2006

My Hood to Coast Legs - I'm Scared!

Well, my Hood to Coast team captain sent us our leg assignment today. I'm runner 5 and will be running legs 5, 17 and 29. According to HTC veterans this is probably the toughest set of legs. This is the only set which has two legs rated "Very Hard" and has the second longest total distance.

Whatever, happens it should be a blast and I'm looking forward to it. Relays are just so much fun. My next post should be my LONG Hood to Coast race report. I just got my new Cannon S3 IS digital camera today with a 2GB memory card so I'll get to take a lot of pictures!

Saturday, August 19, 2006

Custom Orthodics

I learnt to my surprise at a Vermont City Marathon seminar, a couple of years back, that ninety percent of runners have biomechanical imperfections. It is only a matter of enough stress being applied over time for these imperfections to show up. I visited an orthopedist three weeks back and he recommended that I get custom orthodics to correct the imperfections in my gait. Luckily, these were covered in full by my insurance since at $400 a pair they are kind of expensive.

I ran a 20 miler today to break into the orthodics on the Lake Sammamish trail. They felt really weird at the beginning but seemed to get more comfortable towards the end of the run. These fiberglass orthodics are supposed to last for years so it looks like I'll be running many more miles on them!

Tuesday, August 15, 2006

Team Hoyt

I've always been so inspired by the story of the Hoyts. They are from MA so I heard a lot about them when I was in Boston.

I came across a couple of inspiring clips on them on youtube today:
"I can only Imagine"
"Together - Team Hoyt"

Their story
Dick's race summary pushing Rick!

Sunday, August 06, 2006

Week's Wrap-up

M- 8.06 @ 8:11
T- 7.06 @ 7:47 (Tempo 10-3-10)
W- 13.52 @ 8:39
T- 7.82 @ 8:54 (11*200m Hill repeats)
F- 7.33 @ 8:11
S- 16.01 @ 8:41
S- 5.30 @ 8:29

Total - 65.10 @ 8:29
* 27 straight days of running
* 9 weeks to Victoria

Thursday, August 03, 2006

Hill workout Thursday!

I love how my heart rate graph mimics the elevation chart for these hill workouts.

There was a young couple who were starting out on a relaxed walk with their dog when I was starting my workout. When they returned after quite a bit they saw me still doing the hill repeats and exclaimed "Hey, you're making us feel bad out here." :)

How many times will I have to suffer before I learn my lesson - "Thou shall not eat Indian food for lunch on Hill workout and Tempo run days!". Indian food leaves that horrible after taste that lingers on for hours after the meal...

11*200m
Net Ascent: 1560ft
Net Descent: 1520ft
Max HR: 182
Ascent: [1:41, 1:35, 1:37, 1:42, 1:42, 1:43, 1:44, 1:46, 1:45, 1:41, 1:41]
Descent: [1:45, 1:47, 1:51, 1:50, 1:53, 1:48, 1:54, 1:50, 1:48, 1:50, 1:49]

Wednesday, August 02, 2006

Hot Air Balloon at sunset

Today was another 13.5 miler for my mid-week medium long run. I reached Woodinville right at sunset when a hot air balloon was passing by. It was fascinating to watch. I have never seen a live hot air balloon before. The funny thing was that the people in the balloon were taking pictures of the people below on the trail and the folks on the trail were pulling out their cellphones to take pictures of the balloon. Apart from this the rest of my run was eventless. I was trying hard to stop the bugs on the trail from getting into my eyes...

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