Chris Nilsen hadn't run since cross country ended in November, but that didn't stop the Richland High School senior from lacing up his sneakers and hitting the pavement for the Hood to Coast Washington on Saturday.
Nilsen and a group of Tri-City runners named Runners of the Sage won the men's open division, and had the top time overall — 8 hours, 54 minutes, 38.4 seconds — more than 20 minutes in front of the second-place team.
"That was fun," said Nilsen, who will graduate Friday. "That was my first time doing a relay and running legs like that. I hadn't trained in six months, so it hurt. They needed me so I ran. I kinda died the last two miles, but I'd definitely do it again."
The idea to run the race was that of Richland High math teacher Chris Albertson, who started the Runners of the Sage group about a year ago.
"We put together a great team and ran hard," Albertson said. "Tristan (Robinson) and Austin (Oser) were our quickest runners. They are young and still competing."
"It looked easy for them," he said. "Tristan just pumped the miles out. They were running 5:40 or 6-minute miles. Mine were more like 7-8 minutes."
Hood to Coast Washington is part of the Hood to Coast Race Series, which holds events in all 50 U.S. states and 43 countries.
The Washington race was 77 miles from the Hood Canal to the Pacific Ocean. The race began at Lake Isabella State Park in Shelton and ended in Seabrook. The event had 300 teams, with 270 finishing the course.
Each team had six runners, with each running two legs. At the end of the day, each runner covered between 12 and 14 miles.
While one person is running, his teammates are following in a support vehicle.
"The key is to rehydrate and refuel right away," Albertson said. "We were a competitive team. We made sure we did the right things. There is definitely some cramping riding in the van, but you do a little half-mile jog before your next leg and you are good to go."
Joining Nilsen and Albertson on their adventure were Oser, who ran at Kamiakin High School and at Eastern Washington University; Robinson, who is a junior at Southridge High School; Kyle Paulson, a former Kamiakin runner who also competed at Central Washington; and David Hodge, who moved to the Tri-Cities two years ago and works for Cascade Natural Gas.
Kennewick's Johan Correa — who won a title in the 800 meters at the high school state track meet May 26 — was schedule to run, but Albertson said SATs took priority.
"This was the first time for all of us doing this race," Albertson said. "Kyle and I have done relay races before. It's pretty special to win this."
Before they stepped one foot on the pavement, getting to the race and back was an adventure in itself.
The team left the Tri-Cities at 1 a.m. Saturday and got the race site at 5:45 a.m. The race started at 6:30 a.m., they were done by 3:30 p.m. and then hit the road home.
"I slept the whole way home," said Nilsen, who will attend BYU in the fall. "I was sore all day Sunday, and (Monday) I could hardly walk."