Between the MONSTER mosquitos, flat tires, huge elevation gain, and crazy moose antlers, this has to go down as one of my most memorable long distance relays ever.
187 teams completed the 216.6 mile relay, making Cascade Lakes the largest running event in Central Oregon. Here is my experience with the event, one of the most challenging relays I’ve done, and a few good-to-know thoughts in case I do it again next year and need to remember.
Cascade Lakes Relay Recap
First, the setting for the relay.
It starts at about 5300 ft. elevation at Diamond Lake in the south-central Oregon mountains. The course snakes northward toward Bend taking you around beautiful lakes, over cinder roads, into the clouds and through the woods. Second, the organization of the relay.
Compared to Hood To Coast, this is a much smaller (team wise) event with a lot less traffic. Compared to Ragnar Relays, there are fewer rules and restrictions (for example, you don’t have to wave a flag every time someone crosses a road or wear a reflective vest at night if you’re not currently running). Overall, it is well organized for 200 teams, toilette paper rarely ran out, and I felt safe.
Third, there’s an app for that.
I wouldn’t say the app worked “great”. However, it proved useful for looking at the maps for my legs. Also, anyone on the team could open the app and hit “Update” the moment an exchange took place and it would record the split time for your team. This is kind of easier than recording it on paper as you go (if you even do that).
Fourth, the theme for our team.
We were Team Roadrunners, but I was told we’d be dressed as super heroes. Or at least comic characters. So we had various versions of costumes ranging from superhero tank tops, to my handmade costume and even a Bullwinkle with huge antlers (which he actually wore for a 2 mile costume contest leg).
RUN 1 – 537′ Gain at 97F
Okay, moving on to my portion of the relay. Determined to treat these runs as Long Slow Distance training runs, I was targeting an easy 10:30 to 11 minute average pace because…elevation! This was about 4200 ft higher than I normally run. Heh.
But then it was 97 degrees at 4:30 PM and this just felt hard. It took me 1:25, so 12 minute miles, with a few stops for aid from my van. Woof. With two legs to go (one being the hardest leg of the race), I was in no hurry. I will say I did a GREAT job with hydration and sunscreen so I didn’t feel wrecked after this.
RUN 2 – Leg 21: Downhill at 51F
I was SO excited I was for this run! The night leg is ALWAYS my favorite. Unfortunately, I did not run in the starlight or howl at the moon. I didn’t get on the road until 5:30AM, so day was already breaking pre-sunrise. Still, I felt great. The coolness of the early morning was just perfect. I could do that all day (if it could somehow be early morning all day). Averaged a 9:39 pace and just enjoyed the tree-lined descent!
Leg 34: 1000′ of Torture at 86F
Okay, so officially I have to say this leg was NOT ANYWHERE NEAR as horrific as THE Ragnar leg at Ragnar Wasatch Back (which I did not run but witnessed from the comfort of a giant van and still can’t erase the terrifying memories). That being said, this leg still rocked me. It took me 50 MINUTES to get to the top! Actually, I was impressed that I was able to run/shuffle as much as I did instead of all walking. But when I do walk, I walk with PURPOSE!
I cannot say enough about the great team I had. I also cannot say enough about anyone who had one of these pump-pressured water sprayers. And I’m pretty sure every team had at least two. I feel like I’ve been left in the dark – why haven’t we had these on every LDR I’ve ever done?! Getting sprayed down on the run is the very best feeling ever. I plan on buying eight of these things, I love them that much.
Takeaways from Cascade Lakes Relay
- Ragnar Wasatch Back is definitely more challenging, but Cascade Lakes is a secure #2 in my book. I would definitely do it again.
- I was in Van 2 but I think Van 1 had a much harder go of it in terms of mileage, time of day, and terrain. One runner threw up black stuff after running on cinder roads.
- Leg 34 touts amazing views once you get to the top of the mountain – I saw none of them. Either I should’ve turned around or I was expecting too much.
- I didn’t see any photographers at the finish getting the teams coming in. I sure hope there are good on-course photos somewhere.
- If I did this next year, I’d wear a costume with less accessories. My Lasso of Truth kept falling so I finally wrapped it around my neck like a noose. Wonder Woman’s Noose of Exhaustion.
- 90% of the race I had zero cell phone service and communication between vans was difficult. That’s the price you pay for gorgeous wilderness mountains, though.