Portland to Coast – Walking on Sunshine!

Two weeks from today, I will be in the midst of walking from Portland (Oregon) to Seaside, on the coast, as part of the Hood to Coast Run/Portland to Coast Walking Relay, for the second year in a row. This is such a big event locally, because people come in from ALL over the country and converge upon these small country hill towns, running and walking and sweaty and having a blast, and it’s amazing to be a part of it. We’ve been lucky enough to get a team at work two years in a row, and they pay for the ungodly expensive entrance fees, so we just get to skip a day’s work and exercise for 28-34 hours on their dime. It’s awesome.

The running race is almost 200 miles, and the walking race around 130 miles. Teams of 8-12 run three legs (or walk two), all while cramming into two vans, subsisting on trail mix, bananas, and whatever the grange halls decide to sell at the exchange points (or the drunk high school football players out in the woods, who cooked me a DELICIOUS chicken sandwich at 11:30 PM before I crashed for four hours of sleep on a tarp in a field full of other people). Last year, I got to a point where I just couldn’t WAIT for it to be done with, but the truth is, there’s something about it that’s addictive. Here’s a breakdown of some of my favorite things about the Relay:

-The camaraderie. Not only did I make some pretty great work friends last year that I hadn’t really known before, everyone you meet while walking is super nice. People pass you and give you encouragement, you start to get to know the teams that are on a similar pace with you, it’s all very social. There’s still a competitive aspect, definitely, because EVERYONE keeps track of their “roadkills,” talleying the people they manage to pass on their legs, but with 1500 teams of 8-12 people (yeah, you read that number right), unless you are SUPER competitive, it’s mostly about fun. There’s costumes, music blasting, random people with cowbells around random corners…just pure awesome.

-The scenery. The landscape on this course is absolutely beautiful, especially when you get into the backwoods and off the major roadways. Logging roads wind through the coastal range, past farms, an elk preserve, and various granges (most of which are exchange points and sell some tasty smelling foods, especially when you’ve just got done walking  8 miles). It’s also fun to be out there at night, albeit a little creepy, but it smells woodsy, you can hear the insects, and there’s just so many stars! When we were laying out in the sleeping field last year, I didn’t want to sleep, because I just wanted to lay there in my sleeping bag and six layers of clothing and stare at the stars.

-The finish. First of all there’s a finisher’s medal, which is the best incentive for any race, but knowing that you’ve come such a long way is extremely satisfying, and the race organizers reward you with a party. A kick-ass blowout party with food and beer and live music and massages…it’s wild. Something like 40,000 people show up for this party on the beach, and crossing the finish line with that many people around is just cool. Last year, I didn’t really care to stick around (all I wanted was a shower and some flip flops, plus it was 90 degrees), but it’s definitely a great time.


Here’s a picture of me last year, ready to go!

We’re projected to finish in 28-29 hours this year, which is pretty optimistic, but hey, I’ll take it. Plus I got into Van 1, which means I’ll be walking at 9ish AM and midnight, instead of 5 PM and 10 AM in 90 degree heat. I’m really crossing my fingers for cooler conditions this year.

Now I just have to get my ass training, and practice my speed walking. I’m definitely in better shape than I was last year, so hopefully things will go well, but it’s still a nerve wracking undertaking. Expect a debrief after we cross the finish line!

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