Relays, Ultras, and Tris - Oh My!

In honor of Take it and Run Thursdays (and because I haven't been able to do a TIaRT post in a while now), I want to give a heads up on the things I've learned through experience with the relay. Why? Well, I can't say I've done a tri (although I want to once I get a road bike) or ultra, but I have done a few relays.

Here in the great NW we have the mother of all relays, Nike Hood to Coast at the end of August. The race is 197 miles long going from Mt. Hood (a few hrs outside of Portland, OR) and heads west to the ocean. The race has filled up on opening day for the last 11 years, with about 1,000 teams coming from all over the world.

I've been lucky enough to run the race twice now. Once, in high school and once two summers ago with my local running group. The beauty of the relay is that by nature it's a fun event because you're stuffed into vans with 5 or so other sweaty, delirious runners and have some serious bonding time while getting lost on some country roads or waiting for your other team van to finish their legs of the race (or getting a phone call from your other van saying their vehicle has caught on fire.) Yes, this really happened.

Last HTC, the 1970 something suburban we borrowed from a teammate's neighbor caught on fire near the end of the race. Luckily, I was in the Astro mini van and about to run our final leg when we got the call. This year, we're renting two 12 passenger vans from Enterprise. Safety is key people.

Speaking of safety, when running a relay as long as this, it's inevitable that some people will be running in the dark. As a result, mini flashlights, reflective vests and blinking lights are most helpful.

And while safety is important, so is reading maps and directions well so your next runner arrives promptly at the CORRECT exchange spot. It's happened to our team and it happens to others. A few wrong turns or skipping down the sheet and all of a sudden you're at a different exchange point than you should be. Without another runner to handoff to, a relay is pretty hard to complete. So, if you can, convince a non runner friend into being the driver and designate a map reader/direction guru so everything runs smoothly.

So tell me, anyone out there run a relay? If so, which one? What made it special for you? Did you learn any tips to share with others?

Have any nutrition advice for us relayers? It's hard to eat something big/real when a) you're in a cramped van and b) you have to run every few hrs. In 2007, one of our teammates brought huge boxes of homemade choc chip cookies and a bag full of choc covered espresso beans. And our driver (and even a runner) swung through McDonalds around 2am. YUCK!

I can't say we were the healthiest bunch. But I'm pretty sure I threw a clif bar and some pb pretzels into the mix along with my cookie consumption. That's got to count for something, eh?


T S said…
Loved your post! I have done the Hood to Coast too, and I've been doing the Portland to Coast for many years now. (I'm normally a runner, but for one weekend, I become a really poor excuse for a racewalker.) I did the Cascade Lakes Relay last year (and I'm doing it again!) - that race is fantastic. Beautiful course and way more mellow in the traffic department. Just started a blog ( to answer your other questions - trying to gather together all the wisdom that's out there about relays into one spot, since I couldn't find any place that did that. If you have any tips to share, please do!
Amber said…
I've never done a long relay like that but it sounds fun!!

PS: Europe pics please?? :P
merrymishaps said…
After reading everybody's posts about relays, I'm getting more excited about possibly doing one!
Sassy Molassy said…
Euro pics coming people...i promise. Maybe tonight I'll get a few fabulous pic filled posts ready to go for next week. :)

Thanks for the comments all!

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