By SCOTT BECKER
North America’s largest congregation of folks with nothing better to do — besides cram themselves into undersized living quarters with 11 other people while getting sweaty, dusty, sleepy and grouchy — got together last weekend.
Billed as North America’s largest relay race, the Nationwide Insurance Hood to Coast Relay attracted 1,000 teams of 12 people to Timberline Lodge last Friday for the start of the 22nd annual event.
Each runner must run three legs of the 198-mile course, which goes from Timberline Lodge to Seaside. The legs range in length from three to eight miles, and teams usually send their strongest runners out on the most grueling routes.
The first leg is a brutal six-mile down hill run from Timberline to Government Camp. It’s usually run by either the runner with the strongest legs, or the person who missed the team meeting where everyone was assigned their legs.
All too often, you see runners on the first leg with a look on their face that says, “this event sounded a lot more fun back in October.”
As part of the fun, people decorate their vans or name their teams in ways that make light of the fact that they are paying $900 to go for 20 to 30 hours without sleep, coffee or tranquilizers.
Others don’t realize that the idea is silly, so they turn their Suburban into a make-shift pirate ship. Yarr!
However, in the midst of all the fun and excitement, there is always a point where the team’s morale takes a bit of a dip.
It usually comes with the morning, and the realization that the worst is over — yet there is still a lot more remaining than you would like.
To make matters worse, race organizers stagger the start times so the elite teams blow by you just as the depression is setting in.
This year, our team (Gorge Plodders) had an early enough start time that we didn’t get passed until our team was in the finish chute with thousands of people watching.
This is usually a team’s one moment of glory: When your team passes under the finish banner and the announcer says your team name as you finish, so everyone can hear of your tremendous accomplishment.
We were lucky enough to be passed in the finish chute by the relay’s winning team, the NCIC All-Stars. That was the time when all the misery became worth it. But something happened, and somehow we were never mentioned.
Our recognition eventually came when we were mentioned in Norm Maves’ coverage of Hood to Coast in The Oregonian: “... when (the winners) were a few feet beyond the finish banner, dodging in and out of slower, walking teams ...”
That was us. Slower, and walking. And there’s even a picture to prove it.
If you look in the Aug. 24 Oregonian sports section, there’s a picture of the winners celebrating as they cross the finish line. In the background, there’s a kid that looks like he’s tagging along to get autographs. That was me.
I’m just going to maintain that our team was barely beat by the winning team.
Overall, this year’s experience was a good one. Maybe that’s just because I’ve had a week to recover. Either way, it’s making next year sound good ... for now.
The NCIC All-Stars, a team composed of small-college alumni, won the Hood to Coast relay in a time of 18 hours, 43 minutes, 33 seconds. The top women’s team was Baba Yaga, of Monticello, Minn., which finished the race in 21:28:59.
Local team “Road Trash” took 14th in the men’s Submasters category, and 69th overall with a time of 23:23:18.
And the Gorge Plodders of Hood River finished in 27:28:03, good for 108th in the Mixed Open category and 495th overall.