Twelve high school runners. Five adults. Two vans and one car. There was 84 bottles of water, 86 gallons of gas and five pizzas.
Having my team finish in eighth place at the 2010 Portland to Coast Relay with no injuries: Priceless.
The Hood to Coast Realy is a highlight of the summer for many local runners. Each year, 800 relay teams of 12 runners each cover the 195 miles fom Mount Hood to Seaside, starting on Friday and finishing Saturday.
In 2001, local high school runners first ran the Portland to Coast and the tradition continued each year except 2009.
This August, a team of co-ed high school runners participated in the 126-mile Portland to Coast Relay, and ran simultaneously with the Hood to Coast and covering the same course for the latter two-thirds of the race. Each person on the team runs from 3.5 to 7.72 miles on each of two legs.
This year’s team, named the Ultimate Pedestrians, included Jonathon Sisley, Grant Martinson, Morgan Anderson and Morgan Coxen of Silverton High School; Emily Hillmer of Blanchet High School and Mike Farris, Darren Hall, Sadie Manley, Sarah Frey, Bridget Donohue, Marissa Donohue and Leonel Jines of Kennedy High School. Madison Sprauer of Kennedy ran as a “companion” with the girls on their night runs.
As a navigator in one of the team’s two vans, I kept a log of the event.
Friday, Aug. 27
3 p.m: The runners in the team’s first van – Sadie, Sarah, Darren, Mike, Jonathon and Marissa – load up the van with bags, shoes, water, food, pillows, and sleeping bags. Before departing to make the 6 p.m. race start in Portland, the all-important ritual of decorating the van windows must be completed. The girls do most of the decorating, while the boys are content to offer joking critiques of their work. Drivers -navigators Tom and Jayne Frey go over course maps and race instructions before hitting the road.
6:45 p.m: A text from Sadie, a JFK sprinter who is just beginning to run longer distances. She just finished the first leg in 44 minutes and is “really HOT and TIRED” – but we are underway!
6:55 p.m: Bridget, Emily, Morgan Anderson, Morgan Coxen, Grant , and Leonel pile into Marie Coxen’s Suburban and head for St. Helens – the exchange point for the two vans. We get as far as Kraemer’s Corner when I realize I’ve left all the maps in my car at the school. We turn around to laughter and groans from runners in the back seats.
8:20 p.m: We meet up with the first van at the Scappose Fred Meyer store, which is the fourth exchange point for Portland to Coast teams. Mike, who is filling in for an injured runner, and is, by his own admission, not in shape, has a huge smile on his face. But then again he hasn’t run yet!
10:07 p.m: Sarah finishes a hilly 4.15 mile leg classified as “hard.” Someone calls out, “How do you feel, Sarah?” Her unprintable answer is short and to the point. Good lesson – never ask that question right after someone stops running.
10:55 p.m: On a dark, narrow, winding road, Bridget runs stride-for-stride with a boy running for another team. They are content to just run side-by-side for several miles, and it helps Bridget get done with a 5.89 mile “very hard” leg in a shade over 48 minutes.
11:25 p.m: Grant, a former soccer and current basketball player at SHS, is probably wondering how he got roped into this. His leg goes uphill non-stop for four straight miles! “Very hard” doesn’t really do this 5.75 mile segment justice, but Grant is holding his own. Leonel Jines jumps out of the van to run with him for awhile as a warmup, and Grant is grateful.
Saturday, Aug. 28
1 a.m.: This has to be the darkest leg of all. Forest on all sides as we peer into the distance, waiting for Morgan Anderson to appear. You can only see faint lights bobbing up and down occasionally, the head lamps and flash lights the runners are carrying, and hear the occasional shout of encouragement from passing vans. Then a van blasting loud music pulls up and five teenage boys pile out, yelling at their runner. Then they zoom off and it’s quiet again. Morgan Coxen joins Morgan Anderson to run with her for a bit. The pair is immediately nicknamed “Morgan Squared.”
1:45 a.m: Middle of the night craziness – Morgan Coxen somehow puts two blinking, reflective lights over his eye sockets and strikes a pose. Hysterical laughter ensues.
2:30 a.m: Finally done with our first legs, we find the sleeping area and pull out the tarp and sleeping bags. It’s cold and clear. No, it’s really cold and clear. Closing the eyes, blisssssss.
2:30 a.m: While we sleep, the runners from van one kept going. They all say these runs in the dead of night are their favorites. Sadie says bluntly, “I want to do it again!” She’s becoming a distance runner.
4:15 a.m: My watch alarm goes off. I was already awake, but no one else is. I get the daunting task of waking up sacked-out teenagers after they’ve had about 90 minutes sleep. Awesome! But no one hits me so it’s all good.
4:30 a.m: I must be hallucinating. We’ve hit a traffic jam in Mist! The line of vehicles to turn into the exchange and sleeping area there is seemingly a mile long. We crawl along, hoping we make it to our exchange point before the other van finishes their legs. Marie stays calm, so I say nothing. Our runners are quiet, trying to go back to sleep.
5 a.m.: Darren reaches the crest of a long, steep hill and looks out over the mist below, glowing in the moonlight, to the row of distant hills. “It gave me goosebumps to see that,” he said.
6:20 a.m: We made it to exchange 30 in time. Dawn breaks just as our first runner heads out. The other van is done now and can drive to the finish line to wait. We only see two of their runners at the exchange. Everyone else is crashing, or too exhausted to leave the van. Jayne and Tom look fresh, though.
7:45 a.m: Leonel runs the 7.72 mile leg – the longest of the relay and just kills it. Finishes in 47 minutes, 20 seconds. A 6:08 mile pace on his leg. Sick running (that means good!).
9:27 a.m: Morgan Coxen finishes a 7.28 mile leg, passing walkers (there’s a Portland to Coast Walk, too) all the way. He says “127 road kill,” shorthand for those he passed. His mom, Marie, chimes in, “That’s not road kill, that’s road carnage!”
10:07 a.m: Emily, pride of Blanchet Catholic School, finishes off the 126 miles as the anchor leg. When she hits the sand, all the runners on the team sprint with her to the finish. Smiles all around. The Ultimate Pedestrians, with eight first-timer runners, are the eighth co-ed team to cross the line, just 20 minutes behind the first place team from California. Official time: 16 hours, 7 minutes. Wow – we were that close to winning. Everyone talks about doing it again next year.
10:35 a.m: Order pizza at the arcade. They are tired, but hunger comes first. Feed the beast.
2:15 p.m: Back in the parking lot at Kennedy, just about 23 hours after the first van left. Kids are still upright, and mostly smiling. There will be some sore legs tomorrow, but even better memories.