Fighting the ‘ravages of old age’ with Hood To Coast

For Steve Becker, the Hood To Coast Relay is a must-do for anyone with an able body and a passion for true Oregon experiences. The 31st annual event — a 199-mile running relay from Timberline Lodge on to Seaside — started Friday morning and finishes Saturday when teams arrive at the finish line and beachfront party.

Of the 1,050 teams on the roster this year, Becker and the Gorge Plodders are one of a few with runners from the Hood River area. Each team consists of 12 runners (eight minimum) and keeps a steady pace day and night to complete 36 legs, which are divided into distances between 3.8 and 8.09 miles long. Each runner is required to complete three legs, while the rest of the team follows along in support vehicles.

“You don’t get much sleep in between running,” said Becker, who is in the process of his 15th straight Hood To Coast. “It’s usually sometime around 2 a.m., when we’re only halfway through and crowded into a van trying not to complain, that I find myself thinking, ‘What the heck am I doing here?’ But when it’s all over I know I’ll keep coming back for more.”

The 60-year-old Hood River doctor says he’ll keep doing it as long as he’s physically able.

“It’s as much a social experience as it is an athletic event,” he said. “It’s sort of Woodstock meets Chariots of Fire. The organizational challenge is really something to see; there are more than a thousand teams, with 12 people and two vans per team, plus volunteers and support staff; it’s quite a spectacle.”

The first Hood To Coast was held in 1982 with eight teams. This year’s statistics include 12,600 runners and 3,600 volunteers, with another 400 teams of 12 participating in the 22nd Annual Portland To Coast Walk; also this weekend. In the last 14 years registration for the event has filled in the first day open.

“There’s a lottery in October, for the following year’s event,” Becker said. “There have been a couple years that we (Gorge Plodders) didn’t get in. To keep the streak running I joined another team for those years.”

Most teams are expected to complete the course in the 30-hour range, with some serious teams finishing in as little as 20 hours. The course heads west from Mount Hood through Sandy, through downtown Portland, Scappoose, St. Helens, Mist and Jewell before climbing and descending the coastal mountains en route to Seaside. For the Gorge Plodders, as with most teams, the term race isn’t part of the weekend’s vocabulary; as long as they reach the finish line, the time doesn’t much matter.

As far as training for the event, Becker said he makes an effort to keep in shape all year; which, no surprise, is getting harder and harder.

“A lot of people who were pretty good runners when they started doing this event seem to be slowing down with the ravages of old age,” he joked. “I’ve done all the legs of the course except for the first one, which is all downhill from Timberline to the highway. I’m saving that for my last race. But hopefully that won’t be for a while yet.”

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Parkdale third graders sing "12 Disaster Days of Christmas"

Welcome to your sing-able Christmas gift list. What follows is an emergency rendition of “12 Days of Christmas” – for outfitting your home or car in case of snow storm, earthquake, flood or other emergency. Read it as a simple list, or sing it to the tune of “12 Days” – you know, as in “ … and a partridge in a pear tree…” Not to make light of it, but the song is a familiar framework for a set of gift ideas that you could consider gathering together, even if the recipient already owns items such as a bunch of coats, tire chains and flashlights. Stores throughout the Gorge are stocked up on all these items. Buying all 12 days might be prohibitive, but here are three ideas for checking any of the dozen off your list (notations follow, 1-12.) The gift items needed to stay warm, dry and safe are also coded to suggest items in your abode (A) in your car (C) or both (B). 12 Gallons of Water (A) 11 Family meals (B) 10 Cans of propane (A) 9 Hygiene bags (B) 8 Packs of batteries (A) 7 Spare coats (B) 6 Bright red flares (C) 5 Cozy blankets (B) 4 Tire chains (C) 3 Flashlights (B) 2 cell phone chargers (B) 1 And a crush-proof first aid kit (B) Price ranges? Here’s a few quotes for days Three, Two, Four and Nine: n A family gift of flashlights (three will run $15-30, Hood River Supply, Tum-A-Lum) n Cell phone chargers (two will run $30-60) n Tire chains (basic set, $30, Les Schwab, returnable if unused for the winter) n Family meals ($100 or so should cover the basics for three or four reasonably well-fed days) n The home kit should be kept in a handy place near an exit, and remember that water needs to be replenished every few months. If you have a solid first aid kit already, switch out the gift idea with “and-a-sto-o-u-t- tub-for it-all …” Otherwise, it’s a case of assembling your home or car kits and making sure all members of the family know what the resources are and how to use them (ie flares and propane). Emergency situations are at worst life-threatening, at best deeply uncomfortable if you and your family are left without power for an extended period, or traveling and find yourself in a situation where you need to wait out a storm, lengthy traffic delay, or other crisis. Notes on the 12 gift ideas: 12 – Gallons of water: that’s one per person in a four-member family to last for three days, the recommended minimum to be prepared for utility outages. 11 – Easy-open packaged goods, energy bars, dried food and nuts are good things to include for nutrition. Think of what your family of four needs for three days to stay fortified and hydrated (see number 12). Can-opener also recommended 10 – If you have a propane camping stove, keep extra fuel handy. 9 – Hygiene bags: put packaged moistened towelettes, toilet paper, and plastic ties in large garbage bags (for personal sanitation) Resource list courtesy of Hood River County Emergency Management, Barbara Ayers, manager/ 541-386-1213. The county also reminds residents to Get a Kit, Make A Plan to connect your family if separated, and Stay Informed. See to opt-in for citizen alerts. Enlarge

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