Friday, July 15, 2011
Most people think the hardest part of Hood to Coast is running three consecutive races over the span of a day.
Those people are cute—and horribly misguided.
Let the record state that the most difficult aspect of this 197-mile relay isn’t the cumulative mileage, sleep management, nutrient intake, navigation, or the rigors of trying to make a reflective vest look halfway decent.
Nope. Not even close.
It’s determining who should run which legs.
Put the wrong person on the wrong set, and the next thing you know you’re all lost and wandering the Oregon wilderness like those three idiots from “Blair Witch Project.” Worse yet, you might finish two minutes behind your predicted time.
This race is largely won or lost long before the gun goes off, by the team that’s able to match the strengths of their runners against the eccentricities of the course. But few teams are ever capable of creating a perfect match. There is a delicate balance between art and science at play when 12 runners—used to being their own little prima-donnas when it comes to their training and racing—are asked to put those selfish notions aside for the good of a team. Especially if that team was hastily assembled of half-strangers with absolutely zero loyalty to each other. Emotions get involved. Demands are made. The balance tips. And the next thing you know, your best guy is pouting in a parking lot just outside of Sandy because his best buddy isn’t in the same van.
I hate to see teams suffer like this. So as a public service to anyone whose lineup order is not yet set in stone, I offer a detailed analysis of each of Hood to Coast’s legs, complete with objective conclusions as to which type of runner goes where.
Its purpose is twofold. First, you may choose to use it as the definitive methodology for selecting teammates and assigning them legs. Secondly—and most importantly—it may be summoned as a cold-hearted statistical reference that will help you break it to your slowest runner that they’re going to be sacrificing their quads on the Timberline Highway for the good of the team. “Don’t blame me: I’m just the captain. Blame this guy. He wrote the article…”
Without any further ado:
Leg 1: The most notorious of all the legs, thanks to the freefall from Timberline Lodge to the main road, this is actually the shortest and easiest set of the bunch (5.64, 4.18, 3.75). Endurance isn’t important here. Your ideal candidate would have short legs with high turnover (to better handle the downgrade), a ferocity bordering on psychotic, and a really short memory. In other words, your ideal candidate is a Jack Russell Terrier.
Leg 2: One long, long downhill (1500 foot elevation drop), followed by lengthy jaunts down Highways 30 (6.08) and 202 (5.77) After years of number crunching and data collection, my team has concluded that this leg should be given to the guy with the longest middle finger. That way, the truckers on Highway 30 can know exactly how everyone feels about the little 70-mile-per-hour stunt they just pulled.
Leg 3: The fifth-hardest leg, according to the “experts”. Downhill to Rhododendron (3.93), 7.25 miles on the infamous HWY 30, then some rollers to finish (5.79). Kinda loaded on the back end, so whomever you choose here shouldn’t be the type to blow their load too early. In other words, put Rick Pitino on some other leg.
Leg 4: Aside from Leg 1, this is the shortest set in the first van. So to the slowest person with the worst knees, I offer this advice: study 4, 16 and 28 with serious intent.
Leg 5: Thirteen miles of rolling hills are a mere warm-up to what awaits you at the end: the gnarliest hill you’ll see outside of a Swiss Miss ad. It just keeps effing GOING, and there’s nothing you and your little split shorts can do about it to make the pain stop. Do your team a favor: throw some absolute bad-ass on this set of legs, then do the honorable thing and look the other way when he’s crying at the 3-mile mark.
Leg 6: Van 1 is an absolute animal. In terms of overall distance and difficulty, Van 1 is the Manny Pacquiao to Van 2’s Zack Galifanakis. As a coed team, if we thought putting an imbalanced lineup in the vans would be a good idea, we’d put 4 men in Van 1 and only 2 in Van 2. But we could never get two women to volunteer to be outnumbered in what amounts to a rolling version of Animal House, so we keep the peace at 3 and 3. Which means the weakest guy in this van runs Leg 6, and has to act like it’s no big deal, even though it’s totally hard and would crush the spirits of anyone who enters into its crucible unprepared. Also, I’m probably running Leg 6 this year.
NEXT WEEK: Van 2 by the numbers, Archduke Ferdinand, and the breeding habits of llamas.
Editors Note: If Jason Effmann's advice speaks to you and you find it hard to convey the satisfaction you get from running and organizing your Hood to Coast team to family, friends and co-workers, then the video below may speak to you (OHSU Sports Medicine only condone's 'road kills' obtained in the HTC spirit of runner to runner)
On the Road to Hood to Coast with Jason Effmann: A Guide to the Legs Part 1Posted by Sean Coster at 7:00 AM