Relays are intrinsically a blast. The run, eat, repeat cycle for 2 days with a cheering team reminisces of much younger days when my only worry was having a good time with my friends and performing well. This time around my team and I are a mixed band of professional adults racing in various silly costumes up and down some serious elevation gains.
The Wild Rogue Relay began at the Applegate Lake in beautiful southern Oregon. The 213 mile relay offers the 12 person 2 van relay option with 3 legs per person, or a 6 person 1 van ultra option. Overall elevation gain was 19822 ft. , while descent was 21809 ft.This year is the maiden voyeage for this relay thus participation was a little low at approximately 35 teams. The smaller attendance made the run different from the usual energy level of the famous Hood to Coast and Ragnar Relays, though made it more manageable at van interchanges with less traffic. Start times were staggered based upon team pace in the hopes of all teams finishing the race around the same time the following day. Due to the smaller attendance our start time only included 2 teams, which felt very small and almost anti-climatic in comparison to other races, though race staff and volunteers were very organized and supportive.
Van 1 (Legs 1-6) departed from Applegate lake, and traveled on both asphalt and trail, gaining elevation until reaching the gorgeous Red Lily Vineyard for the major interchange. Dutch Bros, a local coffee company and race sponsor was offering free mixed coffee drinks and the beautiful surroundings offered a great location to relax for both vans while awaiting the handoff.
Van 2 (Legs 7-12) departed from Red Lily Vineyard and traveled through a handful of more goregous wineries before meeting up with the Rogue River. This particular portion of the Rogue is the race’s namesake, and is known as the “wild and scenic” portion of the river. Many parts are only accesible by trail or boat, and offered great company while running. The major interchange between van 1 and 2 was at a church parking lot in Merlin, a small town outside of Grants Pass. This interchange was anticlimatic with few bathroom options, though 1 handoff ahead there was entertainment and dinner options at a porched grill restaurant in the rafting town of Galice. This was a great place for Van 2 to decompress for a few hours after the interchange, though did not allow for entertainment for Van 1, as we were accountable for waiting for the handoff at the interchange before traveling west to Galice. It would have been preferrable to have the handoff at the restaurant so that both vans could have enjoyed the hot food and entertainment.
The Rogue River
Van 1 (Legs 13-18) departed from the church and traveled along the river, again continuing to gain significant elevation. Almost all runs were rated Moderate, and 2 were rated “One tough Mother”. Traveling through the hellgate canyon and then up into the mountains, as it became darker and later, the legs became more difficult. At this point our team began passing other teams, and hand offs became a bit more populated. There were rumors of bear and cougar sightings which are very common in this area. While there were no wildlife casualties there were a few teams that had to drop out of the race due to dehyadration. The day had been quite warm and the elevation gains seemed to have gotten the most of a few people. The interchange took place in the middle of nowwhere seemingly, and again Dutch Bros was present with free coffee and great energy. While Van 2 caffinated and prepared for their departure, Van 1 completed the night run and set off for the next intechange and a quick nap.
Hellgate Canyon, finish of Leg 13
Van 2 (Legs 19-24) gained and loss elevation. There were again reports of animal sightitings but no interactions. There was some frustration and confusion as the driving terrain was an extremely rugged and narrow unpaved road required extra attention from already exhausted drivers. One of the legs required the runner to travel up a road that was inaccessible to the van, thus separating the two for extensive periods. It should also be noted that most of the race has no cell service, thus some runners were a bit stressed during this leg. At times the running path was not clear, further contributing to the concern of the runner. The major interchange between Van 2 and Van 1 was in a remote location, again with limited bathroom amenitites (only 3 porta-potties for all runners).
Van 1 (Legs 25-30) departed for a downhill stretch, the first 3 legs declining along a gorgeous valley towards the Gold Beach coast. The major intechange took place 10 miles from the final destination, near a where the Rogue River meets the Pacific Ocean.
Completion of Leg 25, early morning
Completion of Leg 27
At the final Major Interchange, near the end of the Rogue River, 10 miles from Gold Beach
Van 2 (Legs 31-36) departed and ran into Gold Beach, with final leg on the beach itself. Luckily for us, the weather was very mild, allowing for a beautiful finish. The major intechange took place at the Gold Beach Fair Grounds where sponsors Dutch Bros and Ashland Micro Brew company Standing Stone Brewery were offering assorted bevarages to exhausted runners. There was burgers and hotdogs available as well, and plenty of lawn space to relax and await the finish of the race.
The only criticism for the race was that many many portions of the course were poorly marked with reports of many runners (including myself) consistentely missing turns and getting off course, hopefully in the future the directors will invest in bigger and brighter markers to direct runners particularly at night. The cell phone covereage was extremely limited as a product of the remote locations, thus if you a person that likes to remain online and plugged in, this may not be your favorite.
Overall the race was beautiful and alot of fun. The remoteness, peace, and lack of phone coverage were really part of the essence of the race. This portion of Oregon is where rafters and backpackers go to unwind and unplug, and thus it was a treat to run through for me, and I will absolutely do this race again.
Make your day great,