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Friday, August 25, 2006

The long run

They're out there tonight -- thousands and thousands of crazy runners and walkers carrying their team's baton (actually, a wristband, the last time I checked) in the Hood to Coast Relay. Those who take on the full 197-mile course start at Timberline Lodge on Mount Hood and make their way to the Turnaround in Seaside in teams of 12 over roughly 24 hours. When they're not running or walking, they're cruising in one their team's two vans, or huddled in a sleeping bag trying to catch something that vaguely resembles sleep.

In my more serious running days, I ran six Hood to Coasts -- including one in which I held the dubious honor of being the very last runner or walker in the entire event for almost all five miles of my first leg (you run three). Those medals constitute the second most ambitious athletic accomplishment I can boast about -- and surprisingly, my marathons (boy, that goes way back) aren't that far ahead of it. I learned, "Train for a marathon, then run Hood to Coast."

Media coverage of the race is completely routine. Friday, "they're off." Saturday, "they're on their way," and then "finishing up and starting the big party." Sunday, "the winners, and a few color stories along the road." Same thing every year.

This time, though, there's a real twist. The man behind the 25 years of this madness has had some serious medical problems lately, and he's starting to hand off, as it were, to his daughter, who will succeed him in operating the event.

Hats off to that guy. It's a fantastic experience, and an amazing logistical feat on the part of him and his crew. And so I hope that on the road tonight, under all the stars that you can see, underneath the reflective vest, with the team bracelet on the wrist and tiny flashlight in hand, every participant takes a minute to send good thoughts Bob Foote's way.

UPDATE, 1:43 a.m.: Here's a live blog by a Hood to Coast team from out on the course.

Comments (1)

I understand the H2C is a landmark event for many people, but it's generally not a welcome sight for people along the route. Locals be damned if they confront the many rude and littering teams (and their vans). I'm sorry runners, you're passing through my town... don't leave tons of trash and scream at locals because they need to get to their driveway. The world is to stop because you've graced us with your presence?

Posted by: TKrueg at August 25, 2006 06:59 PM

There are problems along the way, no doubt, and in some years, they've been egregious. But Foote has done a very good job handling them, all things considered. Besides, it's a major economic development boost for Seaside (not to mention for the van rental industry -- try renting a van anywhere between Eugene and Tacoma this weekend). People make lifelong friendships and memories. It's one of Portland's few truly "world class" events.

It's 36 hours once a year. To make omelettes, you have to break some eggs. Be thankful you don't live along the path of the Zoobomb-ination.

Posted by: Jack Bog at August 25, 2006 08:09 PM

cool comments jack

It would be cool to think you feel the same about 32 funny-cars back at PIR.

its only once a year

I personaly would love to have NHRA back in portland

Posted by: ace at August 25, 2006 09:11 PM

I'm kind of neutral on the whole racetrack thing. You'd think a creative city government could broker some kind of deal between neighbors and truly popular events. Truly popular events generate a lot of money, and some of that could be used to help neighborhoods buy the things they need... couldn't it?

Posted by: Jack Bog at August 25, 2006 09:32 PM

Hardly anyone goes to the Cart race, it seems. Hardly anyone outside of Portland thinks the track is worth a damn. It's value is mostly sentimental, but we're not talking about a storied, beautiful facility. People talk about it like a warm sweater they only wear once a year.

Is it worth saving?

Posted by: TKrueg at August 25, 2006 10:32 PM

Jack: "Be thankful you don't live along the path of the Zoobomb-ination."

But zoobombers pick up trash, many H2C teams leave it behind.

Posted by: TKrueg at August 25, 2006 10:37 PM

Once a year.

I pick up trash blowing around from the private grammar school near my home 50 times a year. It's no biggie.

Posted by: Jack Bog at August 25, 2006 10:40 PM

I've run the H2C many times myself (somwhere around 7 or 8 times), though I am taking a break from it this year.

I've been there in the highs an dlows of the event back to the late 1980s. At one point in the early '90s, the organization got so bad (traffic jams, not enough toilets, angry clatsop county sherrifs) that I just walked away from it for a few years.

I did come back because, if you are with the right , well-organized (I cannot emphasize that aspect enough) team, it is honestly the most fun I ever had running.

But until recently, it has been a for-profit venture that lined Bob Foote's pockets to the tune of a nice 6-figure payment every year. I saw a change for the better when he started to actually run it again so that he could see what it took just to complete that dang thing. And it was not long after that when he finally started to involve some charitable organizations.

This year is truly different. It's the 25th year; Mr. Foote's battle with cancer is serious and I wish him the best.

But for me..I just needed to take a year or so off.

Posted by: hilsy at August 25, 2006 10:56 PM

Hilsy, I just needed 10 years or so... 8c)

But hey, wait 'til next year. I'm determined I'm gonna be there.

Posted by: Jack Bog at August 25, 2006 11:38 PM

I've never run the H2C, but I ran the similar but much less crowded Rainer to Pacific in Washington three times. You're right, Jack. Those medals represent my highest accomplishments as an "athlete", too.

My best (and most painful) memory: my flashlight's batteries died on a 3am-ish 7k leg through open farmland. The road was straight as a laser, but without a flashlight I couldn't see anything but other runners' bobbing flashlights ahead in the distance. It was that dark.

I ran over something solid, I don't know what, and stumbled badly. I thought I sprained my ankle. The pain wasn't too bad so I kept going. My team van met me at the handoff, and I downed 6 Advil and fell asleep.

When I woke up, it was daylight and my ankle was killing me. My entire lower leg was stiff. I popped more Advil and iced as much as I could stand. When my next (and last) leg was up, I was in a lot of pain but I thought I would be ok if I went slow. Big mistake.

When I finished my last leg (barely) I could barely stand the pain. Back home, the doctor gave me the bad news: achilles tendon tear. And I ran on that sucker. But I finished. I was one-legged for what seemed like an eternity, but is was worth it.

Posted by: Robert Canfield at August 26, 2006 12:23 AM

Yikes! Torn Achilles, and you ran on it? That's taking one for the team.

Posted by: Jack Bog at August 26, 2006 12:50 AM

We finished yesterday afternoon at 4:30pm.
What a race. Very hot both days, and beautiful at night. I think I got 45 minutes of sleep, total, over the two days.

TKrueg is a little over-the-top, but that's okay. Someone who can't handle a little discomfort once per year needs a little perspective. Hood to Coast is part of what makes Portland unique. If you have to put up with runners passing through town once per year (and mostly in the middle of the night!), then probably that's not the worst thing that's ever happened to you. And just how many of the *12,000* runners did you have a problem with? Probably fewer than if you went and talked with every neighbor on your block.

Anyway, this was my 6th HTC; started back in 1995. This year went, I thought, by far the smoothest. There were the usual traffic jams at the "handoff" exchanges (the ones where both vans arrive), but the others were surprisingly smooth and hassle-free.

You'll know me on Monday by my HTC shirt and my hobble on the stairs. I'll be taking the elevator as much as possible for the next couple days.

Posted by: jud at August 27, 2006 09:52 AM

Yes, Bob is a polarizing figure.

He collects 1.2 million in October from h2c runners alone (not sure what he collects from p2c) and sits on the money for 10 months.

He's always promoted the charitable aspect of this event but by his own admission, his contributions have been in the mid 5 figures, yes a lot of cash, but as a percentage of his intake, the bare minimum legally required.

H2C is still a privately held corporation that won't open it's books to anyone, and having his daughter succeed him won't change anything.

I run it every year and hat's off to Bob for organizing it, but he's far from the saint that Jack portrays. He's a hard headed businessman.

Posted by: runner at August 27, 2006 08:04 PM

Feh. A guy that smart could make six figures a lot easier than operating the Hood to Coast race. And I'm sure that in the early years, he ate mac and cheese.

Posted by: Jack Bog at August 27, 2006 10:22 PM

As a resident of Sandy, I can tell you the H2C is more than a minor inconvenience and it's not limited to the middle of the night. And as TKrueg wrote, it's not just the garbage left behind.

I, too, have been glared at, flipped off and sworn at by these people when trying to get to my home because THEY were blocking the road. Yesterday, another runner or volunteer in a H2C van started literally screaming at me in the Plaid Pantry parking lot because I asked him to shut his door so I could pull into the last parking space.

I'm sick to death of the arrogant and rude behavior these people show the locals. Why make excuses for them - just because it's once a year?

And I'm curious. What does one have to do to be able to monopolize and basically shut down public roads? Driving INTO Sandy yesterday afternoon on Hwy 26, traffic was backed up all the way to Kelso Rd. It took me 30 minutes to drive the 2 miles to my home from there.

I noticed on Clatsop County's website, H2C has to have a phone number available to call with complaints about the race. Where do the rest of us call?

Posted by: Sandyite at August 28, 2006 12:40 AM

This year was my 5th Portland to Coast relay (back after a 5-year break from the last one). This year was the best ever - plenty of porta potties and garbage cans, great organization at the exchanges (except for the dreaded rock quarry exchange), few traffic jams, perfect weather, great walking companions, and lots of cold beer at the finish. The Milky Way lit the road at night. I can't wait for next year.

Posted by: Molly at August 28, 2006 09:12 AM

Hood to Coast is an amazing event. This being Portland, NIMBY complaints are only to be expected.

Posted by: libertas at August 28, 2006 09:17 AM

We went to the Kite Festival in Long Beach, WA on Saturday...then add the H2C traffic, and holy cow the traffic coming home was terrible. We left around 4:30, took us an hour to get from Seaside to HWY 26. Stopped for dinner at Camp 18...it was packed with runners too.

Posted by: Jon at August 28, 2006 10:06 AM

Yeah, I guess it's too much to ask adults to be respectful, decent, and considerate of others.

But if this was a motorcycle run, and big, bad, bikers did the same - it'd be a different story, right?

Posted by: Sandyite at August 28, 2006 07:53 PM

[Posted as indicated; restored later.]

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