Department Of What Is It?
The HTC: The Hood To Coast relay race, that’s what it is.
Hood To Coast is a long-distance relay race that starts at Mount Hood and continues nearly 200 miles to the Oregon Coast. Known as “the mother of all relays”, it is the largest running and walking relay in the world….
The race is held annually in late August, traditionally on the Friday and Saturday before the Labor Day weekend. The course runs approximately 200 miles…from Timberline Lodge on the slopes of Mount Hood, the tallest peak in Oregon, through the Portland metropolitan area, and over the Oregon Coast Range to the beach town of Seaside on the Oregon Coast. Teams of 12 runners take turns running legs along the course.
( from “Hood to Coast” Wikipedia entry )
The Hood to Coast Relay is so popular, it sells out every year within minutes on the day when it opens for team registrations.  HTC begins at Mount Hood, with staggered start times on Friday from 3 am to 2 pm (teams have 36 hours to complete the course).  This year there were 1,000 teams participating, and 12,000 runners. Teams come from all US states and 40 other countries, including our neighbors to the north:
Y’all impressed? You should be. For all the years we’ve been coming to the Oregon coast, the last weekend in August is one of the more fun times to be there (almost  fun enough to make me want to take up running again, just to participate in the HTC). MH and I hang in Manzanita, 22 miles south of the HTC finish point (Seaside). During the HTC weekend, almost about anywhere on the north Oregon coast you’ll spot the HTC team vans with their colorful names and mottos painted on the sides and doors, and encounter the enthusiastically exhilarated (and exhausted and sleep-deprived) HTC team members looking for food and drink, massages, blister relief, or just wanting to hang out.
Moiself knows many people who’ve participated in the HTC. This year son K joined a team for the first time, and asked me to be a HTC volunteer. All local  HTC teams are required to provide three volunteers or one exchange leader,  or they’ll be disqualified from the race. As you might imagine, with so many runners, a 200 mile race stretching from a mountain to an ocean needs a lot of people helping with logistics along the way,  including at the start and at the exchange points, to keep track of participants and vans (each team must provide two vans to transport members; each race member must run three legs of the race), and particularly at the end of the race, where the teams check in to a large, roped off section of the beach at Seaside, and have ceremonies and parties and eat and take official pictures…and did I mention parties?
I signed up for the 9:45a – 2:45p Saturday volunteer shift at Seaside. There were many of us volunteers at that shift time, and we were (most unscientifically) chosen for a variety of tasks. Moiself ended up in Trash and Recycling. T/R involved constant movement: for the next five hours (with lunch and hydration breaks at the volunteers’ discretion) we T/R crew walked a snaking/looping pattern throughout the various sections of the finish line area, from the perimeters to the zones within the zone, checking the I-lost-count-of-how-many trash and recycling receptacles. T/R volunteers duties included “pre-cycling” as much as possible (invariably, people dump the wrong items in the receptacles, despite the bins being clearly marked for trash v. recycling and having picture labels showing what items go where; thus, we had to move items from one bag to another), and changing the bags when they were 75% full.
* * *
Department Of People Are Fun
It was fun, even while digging through the icky T/R receptacles,  to see the teams arrive. There was so much sheer joy to be witnessed, on the part of the runners and the friends and family cheering them on. And the team names – I wish moiself could remember them all. I had a job to do, but tried to pay attention as the teams’ arrivals were announced over the loudspeaker (which you could hear from any part of the finish zone). Most teams go for a funny/punny name; e.g., one that satirizes their workplace and/or sponsors, or is a play on words with common situations and ailments faced by distance runners in general or HTC racers in particular (e.g., team “My Third Leg is Harder Than Yours”).
Most teams had custom shirts for their runners, and sometimes hats and other accessories. Teams decorate their vans, too. A popular team name motif is the slightly naughty/double entendre. Years ago, I saw a van with this motto painted on its rear door:
” Go Nads!
(National Association of Distance Sprinters)”
Atop the van, attached to its luggage rack, was a large set of paper mâché…any guesses?
Another van’s display of their team name made me consider whether or not I would want to park (or walk) behind a van labeled, “Twelve Sticky Buns.”
A few intrepid teams run in full costume – moiself spotted members of one all male team which seemed to have a Barbie theme going on – or regalia related to their names. I never found out the name of the team whose every runner, male and female, was clad in red prom dresses, but they were a jolly group to behold.
Some team names I remember from years past:
* Run Like a Mother
*199 Bottles of Beer on the Wall
* Get in the Van!
* Where’s the Beach?
* Hauling Ass-prin
* 12 Drummers Drumming
* Cheap Hills
* Forrest Stump 
* Toenails Are For Sissies
* It’s Cute You Run Marathons
* Tektronic Megahurtz
* Van You Catch Us?
* The Team Formerly Known As Class Act 
* Grateful (We’re Not) Dead
* 70 Rocks 
* Chafing the Dream
* Blister Sisters
* PNW, WTF?
* Saturday Night Dead
* Ducks for a Husky-Free Northwest
This year’s team names included:
* Pick it up Princess 
* Back Fat
* The Young and the Breathless
* The Young and The Rest Of Us
* Premature Acceleration
* Monty Crython and the Hilly Trail
* Oreo Speedwagon
* Electrolyte Orchestra
* Turd Herders
* Worst. Wine. Tour. Ever.
* Obi-Run Kenobi
* Cirque du Sore Legs
* Last Place Legends
* Team Questionable Life Choices
* The Island of Misfit Toys
* Married Up
* Pace Cadets
* Kids, Get Your Shoes On
* Resisting A Rest
* Seven Deadly Shins
* Tequila Mockingbird
* Another Run Bites the Dust
* We’ve Got the Runs
* The Kind Of Dirty Dozen
* Lactic Acid Trip
* Two Dozen Scrambled Legs 
Now: who’d want to be a member of team Back Fat? When I saw several BF team runners hanging around by one of the finish area T/R receptacles, moiself had to ask. I did my T/R checking job, then prefaced my query by pointing to my shirt (as I did several times afterward, when I realized that people would answer *anything* I asked when they saw my shirt). “So,” I said, “in my ‘Race Official capacity, ‘ I must ask you: Why would anyone want to run under the team name, Back Fat?”
The BF-ers exchanged knowing glances. “Well, look at us,” one of them said, and he pivoted to show me his back. Yep, in their green polyester, clingy running shirts (mostly) covering their squatty, chunky physiques….I’ll concede that their team’s name was a first-rate example of truth in advertising.
“We’re just running for fun…we’re not the elites,” the BFer said, as he hoisted a beer with one hand and with the other hand, pointed behind moiself , to the Nike area (Nike had its own roped off zone within the finish zone, with complimentary food and beverages for Nike-sponsored teams, as well as their own set of gleaming white, porta-pottie trailers. Bouncers checked IDs at the entrance to the Nike zone, ensuring no plebes – except for those wearing Race Official ® shirts – got inside.) “We know we’re not the team that’s in the best shape…” BF guy snickered.
“But you’re the team having the best time,” I offered. He laughed heartily, and he and his fellow BFers toasted me with their beers.
Moiself moved on to the next set of T/R bins, where another group of racing men stood (hanging around the T/R bins seemed to be a thing). There were six of them, all wearing their race shirts and, from the waist down, colorful batik, sarong-type wraps. They were quite the contrast to the BFers: they were all tall, slender, in their 40s – 50s, in great shape, with that lanky, distance runner’s physique. And the way they were groomed: even after having just finished a two-day race, their hair was neatly styled and none of them looked the least bit sweaty. Distinguished-looking, you might say. Something about their aura and the way they carried themselves radiated, “well-kept” (read: money).
I asked about the team’s name on their shirts (a word which sounded Hawaiian to moiself); also, noting their sarongs, I asked if the team had some Polynesian connection (although the men were all haoles). One of the men began to explain: “A few years ago, a friend of mine bought a small island in Fiji…” To which I interjected, “As one does.”
Well-Groomed Man didn’t miss a beat; he continued to tell me about how their team name was a word his Fijian-island-owning friend had introduced them to. The word had a few variants among the Fiji Islands and was similar to the Hawaiian aloha in that it had no one translation, and could be used as word of greeting and departure, or as a way of wishing someone well, etc.
My next T/R stop took me to the Nike area – my Race Official ® shirt was my entry ticket. It was quite the nice setup. About twenty minutes later, I encountered a T/R volunteer in a (non-Nike) area by the finish lines, and she told me that although there were not long lines of people waiting to use the porta-potties which lined the perimeter of the finish zone, the facilities always seemed to be occupied. I told her that if she needed a bathroom break, she should go to the Nike area and use their pristine facilities. “But, isn’t that for Nike people only?” she asked. “Who cares?” I snorted. “I didn’t see anyone checking IDs once they let you in their zone. Besides, if someone questions you, give them a WTF look, show ’em your shirt and your trash bags, then ask them if they’re saying that you’re good enough to pick up their trash but not good enough to use their porta potties?”
* * *
Department Of People Are Pigs
Oh, but it wasn’t all fun and games. As a member of the T/R crew, I had more than enough job security. As my shift wore on I became lip-curlingly disgusted with my fellow human beings, too many of whom left their discards in the strangest places – as in, obviously and deliberately misplaced, not just dropped in carelessness.
Besides the Nike teams’ area there was another restricted/ID required zone: The VIP tent. There was a guy seated at one entrance to the tent, whose job was to check people’s…. status, I guess?…before he let them into the tent. Moiself never found out what qualifications were needed to enter the VIP tent (I saw several people – non-VIPs, I assume – turned away). However, Those Of Us Wearing Race Official® shirts were allowed inside the tent, to do our T/R duties. The first time I approached the VIP tent, I saw Entry Checker Guy eye my volunteer shirt and the extra T/R bags I was carrying. I told him I was there for a VID – a Very Important Duty. “Ah, yes,” he said. In a tone both flip and friendly, he added, “But, are you a VIP?” To which I replied, “I am a Very *Impudent* Person. Is that VIP enough for you?” Turns out it was.
When I came back on my third run-through in the VIP tent, its T/R receptacles, while not yet full, needed changing. I was disgusted by the behavior of the VIP tent occupants, who’d left their trash *everywhere.* A couple of VIPs were seated less than two feet from the T/R containers, and when they saw me, they nodded in acknowledgement (as if to say, “Ah, here comes the help”) and then just – I couldn’t believe it – set their plates of partially eaten food and their half-empty beer cans down, on the sand, nudging the items toward the T/R receptacles but not bothering to get off of their Very Imperious Posteriors and properly dispose of said trash. Something in me snapped, a wee bit. T/R volunteers had been told (at the beginning of our shift, by the volunteer coordinator who did our T/R duty training) not to berate or even correct people who discarded their trash improperly, but to just “fix it.” So, I did pick up the VIP refuse and sort them into the proper bins, but decided to leave the tent with full T/R bins, and did not return to check on them later.
My HTC volunteer experience brought to mind the gentle…warning, for lack of a better word, which I received many years ago from someone who was quite the dedicated volunteer. She had volunteered across a variety of fields and for a variety of events and services, for decades, and she told me that when you volunteer, for anything,
“…be prepared to be disappointed in your species.”
As the hours went by it began to bother me, more and more: the amazing amount of trash, and waste. T/R receptacle liners bulged with utensils, non-recyclable cups, and plates loaded with food – plates of food from which someone had taken a couple of bites, from hot dogs to burgers and noodle dishes/stir frys, and then thrown aways the rest. Why do people even bother? Did it taste bad? And the food – apart from that served in the VIP and Nike areas, was not free – it had to be purchased from various booths. Were the people who bought it even hungry; did they get a burrito, then realize, Oh, I don’t really want/need this? You don’t have to eat every time there is food around, (perhaps the food wasters fell prey to that American Mindset®: “Look, food! Must be time to eat.”)
I just didn’t get it; I didn’t want to get it…
There were many booths in the finish zone, some with sponsors/vendors giving out free cans and bottles of various beverages (kombucha and flavored/”energy” waters). We T/R crew would find many of those cans and bottles cracked open but half full, buried in the sand, or leaning against the recycling receptacles (which had notices asking people to please empty cans and bottles before recycling them). What’s the deal, of not taking five seconds to empty it? Were they just waiting for/assuming someone else to do it?
When checking in volunteers were given a Race Official shirt, which we were told we must wear over whatever other shirts we had on, during our shift. After check-in we were directed to move away from the check-in line and wait for a volunteer coordinator to assign us to task groups. As I stood in the waiting-group, I looked noted that most of that group, plus those in the volunteer check-in line, were female. One young man, who looked to be in his late teens-early twenties, was standing at the periphery of my waiting group. I pulled on my RO shirt, sidled over to him and asked if he was or had been a HTC runner. He shook his volunteer shirt (he was holding a Race Official shirt but had not yet donned it) and mumbled, “No; I’m just doing this for a friend.” Another volunteer also greeted him, and by the look on the young man’s face I couldn’t tell his reaction: was he mortified, or disgusted, to be surrounded by middle-aged women, some of whom were actually attempting to talk with him.
Once I was on my T/R shift, I continued to note (anecdotally; this was not a scientific survey, but I saw what I saw) how the volunteers were overwhelmingly skewed, gender-wise. Particularly, those who were chosen for T/R duty – I saw only one man doing T/R. And while moiself recalls being thanked by four (yes, I counted) men during the five hours of my shift, I lost track of the number of female race participants who, when they saw my Race Official shirt (and noticed me picking through the trash), thanked me for doing so.
That’s women for you, I groused to moiself. We are the world’s garbage collectors. I was reminded of a quote I read, decades ago, from a woman who was part of a lawsuit against a local (So Cal) municipality which refused to even consider hiring women to work on refuse collection crews: men don’t object to the fact that women pick up/deal with the world’s physical and metaphorical garbage, as long as we aren’t paid to do so.
Stop getting all existentially bummed, I castigated moiself. If K runs the HTC again next year and asks me to volunteer, I probably will. I can select a different shift and locale – maybe somewhere midrace, at an exchange point? Oh, but there’ll be trash duty there as well. Will I just be removing moiself from seeing the majority of the waste produced by this event…. This is way too much ruminating on yet another example of how we continue to literally trash our environment, which is our home, our VIP zone. So, after my shift ended I went home and washed out the reusable containers in which I’d brought my lunch – yeah, that’ll save the planet….
* * *
Department of Employee Of The Month
* * *
Freethinkers’ Thought Of The Week 
* * *
May you respect the person who picks up your trash;
May you be the person who picks up your trash;
May we all have the means to buy a (trash-free) island in Fiji;
…and may the hijinks ensue.
Thanks for stopping by. Au Vendredi!
* * *
 Beginning in the 1990s, Hood to Coast implemented a lottery system to select participating teams.
 Some elite teams, often corporate (read: Nike) sponsored, have run the course in half that time.
 Ah…but only almost.
 As in, from within Oregon, not those flying in from, say, Costa Rica.
 Exchange leaders work in the exchange zones, where a race participant passes off to the next participant in rotation to run the next leg. Each leg of the race varies in distance, from approximately 4 – 7 miles.
 …and an estimated 500 port-a-potties are staged along the route.
 I insisted on the thickest pair of gloves they had at the volunteer check-in booth. Some T/R volunteers just wore thin vinyl gloves.
 The story behind this name: One year a team called themselves, “Class Act.” The next year they were, “Class Act Is Back.” During that second year one of their vans was pulled over and reprimanded by a Sheriff’s deputy when the riders were shooting Super Soakers out the window on the highway. Thus, the third year’s Prince-inspired moniker, to allow for how their “classy” reputation had been tarnished.
 All team members are age 70 or over.
 They were young (I think the minimum age for runners is 13) and female, and they were running fast – picking up the pace! – when I saw them cross the finish line.
 Son K’s team’s name.
 Several years ago, MH received a particularly glowing performance review from his workplace. As happy as I was for him when he shared the news, it left me with a certain melancholy I couldn’t quite peg. Until I did.
One of the many “things” about being a writer (or any occupation working freelance at/from home) is that although you avoid the petty bureaucratic policies, bungling bosses, mean girls’ and boys’ cliques, office politics and other irritations inherent in going to a workplace, you also lack the camaraderie and other social perks that come with being surrounded by your fellow homo sapiens. No one praises me for fixing the paper jam in the copy machine, or thanks me for staying late and helping the new guy with a special project, or otherwise says, Good on you, sister. Once I realized the source of the left-out feelings, I came up with a small way to lighten them.
 “free-think-er n. A person who forms opinions about religion on the basis of reason, independently of tradition, authority, or established belief. Freethinkers include atheists, agnostics and rationalists. No one can be a freethinker who demands conformity to a bible, creed, or messiah. To the freethinker, revelation and faith are invalid, and orthodoxy is no guarantee of truth.” Definition courtesy of the Freedom From Religion Foundation, ffrf.org