Race Report: Hood To Coast 2022 (Van 2 and the Dojo of Pain)

POV: You finish a pretty non-exemplary run in, oh, let’s say, Kansas City, and your mile time is decent, but it’s not anything you think is groin-grabbingly amazing. You upload said run to Strava and are hit with a few kudos and one comment that makes you do a double take: “Want to join a Hood to Coast team this Friday?”

It’s currently Monday. 

That set the precedent for one of the…what’s a good couple of words here…most intense, intimidating, yet welcoming, fastest, close-quarters & intimate, exhausting yet pumped-up, and expectation-annihilating few days of my life/running career to date. 

Like I said, it’s Monday, the week of Hood to Coast 2022. My then Strava-only friend, Marty, the commenter in question, extended the invite to join his H2C crew, Dojo of Pain, for the “mother of all relays.” It took me all of 15 mins to say yes to this offer (though he did mention the team name AFTER I said yes.) 

“Pretty sure the team wants to podium. So, we just need someone to turn themselves inside out for us for 3 legs.” Cool. (Insert Ace Ventura thumbs up face here…) So, part of me was stoked to just see how fast I could go for 4-7 miles. Another part was nervous about running with the caliber of people in the Dojo of Pain. And yet another part of me was checking out the legs I said yes to and thinking, “We gotta run through that section of the Springwater Corridor??” 

I had my assignment. Now it was time to, ya know, meet the people I was going to spend ~20 hours in a van with.

I’ll just put this here: If you are ever hesitant about an impromptu opportunity to spend time with perfect strangers that share a similar passion as you? Don’t think, just do it.

“Let’s get serious… but this is also supposed to be fun. But let’s win.”

Before heading out for the actual Hood to Coast relay, the team congregrated at Marty’s house for a little meet & greet and singlet distribution. If you’re gonna wear the uniform if you gotta sell the cookies

It’s said, or at least Marty told me, that if you even HINT at being a runner in Portland, someone will undoubtedly recruit you for a Hood to Coast team…especially if you mention it around the water cooler at the Swoosh. But I don’t imagine it’s all that normal to be recruited by a team going for the podium…? I could be wrong. Maybe I am. Fuck me. But as Jeff, another of the crew, explained the Dojo’s intentions for the race (fast, faster, fastest, but also “fun, ya know?”), it became wildly evident that I wasn’t in a league of huggers and kudos-for-the-sake-of-kudos-givers. 

Some quick niceties exchanged, hands shook, intros intro’d, and singlets passed out, we got the group “before” shot, packed our shit into the vans, and went our respective ways: Van 1 to Mount Hood for the first 6 legs, and Van 2, the van I found myself in, meander around downtown Portland for a bit, grabbing breakfast, dodging meth, and building anticipation until we meet up for the leg 7 handoff at Sandy High School. Zoom zoom.

This shit’s happening, man. 

“This van has a table in it.”

What was about to happen in Van #2 is nothing I could have ever anticipated. Besides being the oldest person in the van by maybe 10-15 years, being surrounded by this caliber of runner immediately put my legs, brain, mood, entire body, and motivation into whatever is above hyperdrive. (Maybe warpspeed? I don’t know. I looked it up, though.) 

Van 2, or Primrose as we all came to lovingly know it, was comprised of:

Trevor – Adoringly called the van dad at some point by someone, Trevor kept the radar on for when and where we needed to be at any given time. Match this with his insanely aggressive and nearly-intimidating running style and speed, cool hat/sunglasses combo, and sheer drive to just keep going, his intensity was most welcome at all points during the race. 

Xavier – I accidentally woke Xavier up when he tried to sneak in a few precious moments of sleep somewhere outside of Scappoose. I still feel bad about it. Anyway, Xavier had focus and talent I’ve not really seen IRL. To sum him up in one word, “Ready.” Confident in his abilities and ready to fuck shit up when he hits the ground, Xavier seemed to just live for the moment in which he was running… at speeds that honestly I couldn’t comprehend. 

Alyssa – Alyssa loves Hi-Chews. That’s what I knew about her prior to starting our legs of the relay. I then realized she’s one of the most confident ambitious runners I’ve shared a road with. Headwinds aside, she flew down the roads with ease and a smile, always ending her legs with a huge “fuck yeah” or some iteration of that. 

Kennedy – There’s a certain subtlety to Kennedy that kept the van grounded. Honestly, I feel like if she wasn’t there, we may have driven off a cliff. Burned in my brain is Kennedy finishing her first leg in in incredible time, and while Trevor tried to congratulate her before staring his leg, she sorta pushed him off and reminded him this was a race… It’s that combo of intensity and quietness that’s rare but so welcome. Makes us all better people, ya know?

Jacob – Fuckin, Jacob. What can I say? Jacob and I had a special relationship during this given he was my main relay person, handing me the slap bracelet to go on my way. Legs that propelled and floated him down the road like…hmmm.. a gazelle, I guess, watching Jacob run was just insane. Then you add on his mustache and teeny-tiny ponytail (he proudly did himself), and you have a runner in your corner that you simply cannot do without. 

Sam – Gotta be honest: I was nervous about meeting Sam. Why? I was his sub. “My blood isn’t the right kind of blood,” is apparently what his doctor told him, forcing him to rethink his running in the relay. This was the Dojo of Pain. A team of close-knit members, and I was an outsider taking a spot. This all quickly dissipated when Sam and I showed up wearing the same Tracksmith hoodie. Honestly, that was the start of it. From there, it was a match made in heaven. The hetero version of it… Sam drove Primrose with the precision and patience of a golden god, keepin us in the right place at the right time, and playing DJ for our pump up tracks. “Sam, play ‘Daft Punk is Playing At My House’.” 

Sam also guaranteed $100 to anyone that vomited on their first leg. He didn’t have to pay up. 

Oh Also – Sam said he’d keep tally of how many times we each had to pee during the race… I believe I “won.” I was nearing 10 times before running mile 1.

Sorry, Van 1. I didn’t get to know you as well. But I still love ya!

“Oh wait that’s not Xavier. YOU SUCK.”

To be honest, the next bit was a blur. The Van 2 / Primrose crew started our legs, and I got to see firsthand (finally) the kind of team I joined. These kids did not fuck around when it came to running. If the multiple Theraguns, race shoes and shorts, gels and chews, and attitudes weren’t dead giveaways, the feet-to-the-pavement clinched it. 

We started our legs in the late afternoon in the Sandy, OR sun. Our lineup was strong, and felt fluid from step #1. Kennedy kicked us off, getting the relay from Amelia in Van 1, followed by Trevor, who passed it to Xavier, who handed off to Jacob, who flew to me, who gladly passed it to Alyssa… Repeat that 3 more times over the course of 20 hours and you have the Dojo of Pain Primrose experience. 

Give or take. 

The first 6 legs went by rather fluidly. We cut our teeth in the daytime on relatively flat surfaces, navigating some Boring parts of Oregon, some needle-ridden parts of Oregon, and eventually, some hipster parts of Oregon. Honestly, I hadn’t been on the Springwater Corridor between 82nd and 92nd before…The segment names on Strava had me laughing a bit. 

We were in relatively high spirits after our first round of legs, especially given we ended near downtown Portland, close enough to the team’s hotel rooms where some were able to get their legs up, shower, find food, and build excitement for the next rounds. 

Washed, rested, watered, and fed, we made our way out of the city and up to Scappoose and exchange #18, where we were to pick back up. The main thing I remember from this portion of the trip is:

  • I woke up Xavier and still feel bad about it
  • The portolets were getting WAY worse
  • It was starting to rain
  • Kennedy had to fuck with some seemingly-gnarly hills that she never ONCE complained about, even going so far as to saying, “they we’re that bad at all.” 
  • I got distracted and almost missed my van leaving

The Primrose team ran through the night and early morning, among the trees and winding roads from Scappoose to Mist. Xavier, Trevor, Kennedy, Jacob, Alyssa… we were all passing people pretty handedly during our segments, keeping the van spirits high, and the goal of finishing in 20 hours in our sights. 

Quick takeaway: Running at 3AM when the only other thing you see on the road is bobbing lights from headlamps and illuminated vests (especially as you pass them) is an experience like no other. Alone would probably be cool too, but for the sake of familiar comfort, I dug this. 

Daybreak, the Finish Line, and Partial Nudity

As it does, dark turned into light, and day 2 was upon us. Amazingly, or maybe not so amazingly given the sheer energy inside Primrose, the team was more amped than tired. I was a bit on edge given only getting 35 mins of sleep and knowing my longest leg was still upon me. 

Sweaty, dirty, sleep-deprived, fueled by cold pizza and gels, drowning in Liquid IV and Nuun, we geared up for our final legs. 

Here’s the weird thing: Nearly everyone on the team can run 20+ miles in any given day, and not bat an eye. But divide that mileage up into thirds, space them out just enough to never fully rest, and add in some night time, and it becomes more a mental game that impacts your physical. It’s wild, dude. 

TBH, everything at this point felt like a blur. I remember each leg, watching Trevor, Kennedy, Xavier, Jacob and Alyssa run for their lives, and my leg being this gradual uphill that, on any other day would have been fine, but felt like hell at that moment. 

But the moment I handed off the bracelet to Alyssa to finish out the last and final leg, a sweet sensation ran through each and every centimeter of my body. I had just run my first Hood to Coast. This time last week, I had no idea I was even going to be in it. Crazy how all that works out. 

Anyway – after my leg, we piled into Primrose, and Sam expertly navigated us down to Seaside, and the end of the line. 

Alyssa absolutely crushed the last leg of this race, coming out of seemingly nowhere to cruise across the finish line, clocking the Dojo of Pain in at 20:00:42 over a distance of 198 miles. Those good at math, it equates to roughly a 6:05/mile. Thinking back to Alyssa’s, and actually, every single member of the team’s final legs gives me goosebumps.

We met up with Van 1, grabbed our medals and beers, and did what anyone would do after living in a van for 20 hours, strip and jump in the ocean. The race was done, results showed a 7th place overall finish, and 3rd in division/category, which seemed to make the entire crew pretty stoked. 

The end was a blur of hazy ocean air, muffled excitement, sandy and blistered toes, swag, pictures, and being rejected from the Nike VIP section. (Come on. Just grab me a hoodie, man.) Then it was back to life. Back to reality. Back to Portland. Back to day-to-days. 

The Aftermath and the Takeaways

I honestly don’t think I’ve slept better than I did when I got home. Seriously, running that hard with that level of energy for that long and surviving on gels and peanut butter-filled pretzel bites, really takes it out of you… especially when you’re now considered part of the “Masters” age group.

That aside, here are a few things I learned from the van/race/Dojo:

  • Pack more kits than you think you need. Fresh shorts and tops for each leg is a game changer. And an extra or two is never a bad idea. 
  • Bring a blanket, or something cozier than just a sweatshirt. I was thankful for the Rumpl I brought, even if it was just for 35 mins trying to zone out to WMD
  • Run as fast as you fucking can if you want to win. Seems like a no-brainer, but there’s no real pacing yourself here. It’s three high-intensity runs that aren’t incredibly long. And it’s an opportunity to see what you are made of. Go hard. But, like Jeff said, “ya know, have fun too.”
  • Don’t force sleep. Rest, sure, but knowing you won’t sleep all that much relieves some of the pressure of “needing to sleep.” Succumb to the insomnia and enjoy the ride. 
  • Bring Aleve. And a Theragun. 
  • Be continually motivated. It’s hard not to be, but don’t ever get down on yourself. The van doesn’t need that energy. This did not happen in Primrose, but I imagine it can be an energy suck. 
  • Run Hood to Coast. Seriously. If Nike didn’t already use JUST DO IT, I would trademark it here. For a runner, this is an experience you will remember forever. Especially your first one.

All this to say, I went into Hood to Coast 2022 wide-eyed and slightly nervous, given the context, as well as unexpectedly and among highly-competitive runners. And I wouldn’t change one aspect of it whatsoever. 

I came away from it all with a group of new friends, an invitation for next year, and a newfound respect for what my legs and body can do when put to some incredible tests. 

A HUGE HUGE THANK YOU to the Dojo of Pain. It was an honor to share the roads with y’all. 

Follow the Dojo of Pain on Instagram if you want.

See you on the beach next year. 

All pictures from members of the Dojo of Pain

1 thought on “Race Report: Hood To Coast 2022 (Van 2 and the Dojo of Pain)

  1. Great recap Will! Hilarious but accurately captured experience. Thanks for sharing.

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