Guide to Surviving Oregon’s Epic Hood-to-Coast Race

The first year I moved to Portland, my business partner Katie & I put together a Hood-to-Coast team comprised of ladies from our boot camp classes.  Now, if you asked people who’ve run this race to describe it in one word, you may hear a variety of answers, like: “Horrible!” “Epic!” “Painful!” “Hilarious!”  Hood-to-Coast inspires a variety of reactions, & they tend to be extreme.  Personally, I loved the camaraderie of the event, & my first run, while challenging ~ was still enjoyable.  But after that….it got seriously painful!!  Join me here as I re-cap our experience in this “Guide to Surviving Oregon’s EPIC Hood-to-Coast Race!”

Guide to Surviving Oregon's Epic Hood-to-Coast Race, Girl Who Travels the World

Our van (Van #1) at the finish line in Seaside, Oregon ~ feeling battered, bruised, & oh-so-happy to be DONE!!

Map of Hood-to-Coast Race Route

Each team has 12 runners (6 in each van), who each run 3 legs, with total mileages ranging between 15-24 miles.  It’s essentially like running a marathon over the course of 36 hours….with dreaded stretches of sitting between each run!!

Guide to Surviving Oregon's Epic Hood-to-Coast Race, Girl Who Travels the World, Hood to Coast Race Route

The Hood-to-Coast race held every year in August is THE definitive Oregon relay race: your team starts atop Mt. Hood, & runs (or walks) all the way to Seaside, Oregon.

Top Tips for Hood-to-Coast

  • DO NOT wear brand new running shoes!!  Whatever you do.  This is probably super obvious, but some of us get seduced by the idea of wearing brand-new, pristine white running shoes.  Throw this idea out the window & wear shoes that have been nicely broken in, & worn for at least 2-3 months. 
  • Take care of your hotel or house reservations in & around Seaside ASAP!!!!  Nearby towns include: Gearhart & Cannon Beach, but it’s ideal to book accommodations within walking distance of the finish line in Seaside. 
  • Likewise, figure out what your two vans will be ASAP.  One of our runners, Whitney, had a super cute VW bus that became Van #1, & that allowed one person to comfortably stretch out on the floor & recover after our run.  Finding Van #2 became a problem though, because like hotels, all van rental outlets (like UHaul, etc.) in Portland get booked up on those dates ASAP.  So book EARLY!!!
  • The best or strongest runners should be running Legs #5, 6, 7, & 8 ~ which all include “Very Hard” sections.  Leg #5 is the most challenging leg, as it includes two “Very Hard” runs: the final of which includes a MONSTER hill.  I mean, it’s HUGE.  And SO STEEP.  Legs 7 & 8 have their “Very Hard” sections in the middle, & are usually run at night, on uneven terrain: so none of it is easy, but it depends if you prefer running on roads or trails. 
  • Runners with bad knees should avoid being in Van #1 (as the first legs are majorly downhill). 
  • Wear compression socks, bring ice (for sore muscles), & do anything you can to reduce inflammation.  Double up your socks if you need to, to avoid blisters.  There’s nothing worse than running with a hellish blister. 
  • Bring a first-aid kit, including band-aids, splints, tape, & Advil. 
  • Don’t tell other runners they look “haggard,” especially if you’re a man!  Unless you want to be eaten alive by a pack of sleep-deprived, aching, sore, not-super-happy women at 5AM.  
  • And when you pass other runners, don’t say something condescending like, “Good job, sweetie.”  Just freaking pass them & move along!

Prepare for Hood-to-Coast

Virtually everyone in both vans will run at night: so head lamps are a must.  You can buy one for each van & share, or however you prefer to do it.  A first-aid kit is also necessary for each van, along with a cooler for drinks, snacks, ice, etc.  An action cam will allow you to re-live the experience later, & perhaps allow your team to become YouTube sensations.  And don’t underestimate the power of Mad Libs to keep you entertained during longgg, long van rides. 

The Team Captain needs to become intimately familiar with the chart below, which describes each Hood-to-Coast leg.  Legs stay the same year-to-year, with potentially small changes due to route adjustments.  It’s extremely important for the Captain to assign each runner the leg that best fits their running ability & terrain preference.

Guide to Surviving Oregon's Epic Hood-to-Coast Race, Girl Who Travels the World

A detailed description of each Hood-to-Coast leg. Whoever is organizing runners for their team needs to become VERY familiar with this chart, & assign each runner with the leg that best suits them & their running style.

Guide to Surviving Oregon’s Epic Hood-to-Coast Race

Van #1 starts on top of Mount Hood.  If your team wants to stay on the mountain & not deal with traffic at 5AM, book a room EARLY at iconic Timberline Lodge.  Things to know about this first leg: nearly every leg here is running downhill.  Like, majorly downhill.  EXCEPT Leg #5.  If you have bad knees ~ avoid being in Van #1.  Leg #5 was my leg, & there’s really no other way to describe it than brutal, & this run was no exception: it’s an uphill run virtually the entire time.  I passed the baton off to Katie, who had Leg #6, near the end of the uphill ~ & she took it into Sandy for the van pass-off.

Guide to Surviving Oregon's EPIC Hood-to-Coast Race, Girl Who Travels the World

This is the mountain your race will start on: epic Mount Hood. If you want to stay on the mountain before the race, book a room at the Timberline Lodge which is the only hotel on the mountain, & where “The Shining” was filmed…

Guide to Surviving Oregon's EPIC Hood-to-Coast Race, Girl Who Travels the World

This is what the starting line looks like: many groups dress up in costume to make the run that much more enjoyable!

Guide to Surviving Oregon's EPIC Hood-to-Coast Race, Girl Who Travels the World

Case in point: our friend Jamie made sure to wear her “Super Hero Undies,” for that extra oomph while running…

Guide to Surviving Oregon's EPIC Hood-to-Coast Race, Girl Who Travels the World

Rite of passage: decorating your van. EVERY team needs a great team name, like our thoughtful one: “Hood-to-Ho’s.”

Guide to Surviving Oregon’s Epic Hood-to-Coast Race

Things to know about the middle of the journey: this is when the complaining may start.  When blisters may be forming, & your friend may or may not be using a (somewhat sterilized) safety pin to pop one on your foot while everyone in the van tries not to stare.  If you have a large vehicle, you may take turns stretching out on the floor ~ because there’s pretty much nothing worse after a run than sitting: this is a recipe for lactic acid disaster

Guide to Surviving Oregon's Epic Hood-to-Coast Race, Girl Who Travels the World, Hood-To-Coast Relay Pass-Off

This is what the “pass-off” stations look like during Hood-to-Coast: orange cones, volunteers, & hopefully your teammate(s) will be waiting there to collect the baton!

After completing their legs, Van #1 has about 4-6 hours to rest while Van #2 runs through downtown Portland & its outskirts.  We crashed at a friend’s house along the route, & grabbed a cat-nap, mid-day on Friday afternoon.  Our runs would begin again in the early evening, on the highway to Scappoose.  I absolutely HATED this leg.  The year we ran was the year of the “Les Schwab Fire,” which meant my leg turned from 7 miles into 9. 

I wanted to kill someone. 

But seriously, we were running in pitch-black, with a head-lamp ~ sometimes along the highway, sometimes on uneven, dirt-like roads.  It’s not fun, or at least, it wasn’t for us.  But you’ll hang in there, & then head to a make-shift campground by Vernonia to grab a bit of shut-eye along with a gaggle of other Hood-to-Coast’ers.

Guide to Surviving Oregon's EPIC Hood-to-Coast Race, Girl Who Travels the World

Somewhere in the middle of the journey, you’re going to get a little punch-drunk. EVerything will seem funny ~ or nothing, depending how much pain you’re in.

Guide to Surviving Oregon's EPIC Hood-to-Coast Race, Girl Who Travels the World

Things to know about Seaside: rent your house or hotel room WAY, WAY, WAY in advance. This was the hardest part of planning for us, because nearly EVerything was already booked. We ended up finding a great house through a friend of a friend, but this was by far the most stressful part.

Guide to Surviving Oregon's Epic Hood-to-Coast Race, Girl Who Travels the World

This is what it looks like at the finish line. Photo courtesy of Full Sail Brewing.

Guide to Surviving Oregon’s Epic Hood-to-Coast Race

Thanks for reading this “Guide to Surviving Oregon’s Epic Hood-to-Coast Race!”  Hood-to-Coast is one of Oregon’s most iconic events, & is undoubtedly one of the most epic relay races in the country.  It’s a rite of passage for all active PNW’ers….but once you’ve done it ~ I seriously don’t blame you if you never do it again! ; )

xoxo Noelia

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