By Dustin Gouker
For the Oregon Beer Growler
Somewhere in the middle of the 70-mile Bend Beer Chase running relay, Jonahs Jennings had a revelation:
“I think we should be able to jump into a pool of Coors Light and then drink an IPA when we’re done,” he said, which was followed by chuckles from some of his teammates.
Jonahs and the rest of his race crew were waiting for one of their runners to finish a leg somewhere in the high desert of Central Oregon early in June. The second edition of the race took runners on a circuit through the area, from Bend to Redmond, then across Sisters before heading back to Bend.
The catch with this race? Relay hand-off points were located at many of Central Oregon’s breweries, and participants could enjoy samples at pretty much every stop along the way. More than 90 teams took part in the race.
“The Hood Pack,” a team of four women and two men from Sandy and Estacada, represented sort of a cross section of the participants in the race. Some, like team captain Elaine Knapp, consider themselves serious runners (she will have completed four different relays and an ultramarathon by the end of the summer). Others, like Jonahs and Elaine’s husband Seth, were doing their first relay and were there more for fun and for the beer. Elaine wasn’t the only running veteran on the team. Jonahs’ wife Jenn, Cari Nguyen and Alesia Soll have all done relays like the popular Hood to Coast and the Cascade Lakes Relay, which is put on by organizers of the Bend Beer Chase.
The race, like most running relays, is an amazing exercise in logistics, for both the organizers and the teams.
The night before the race, the Hood Pack drove from the Sandy area to a cabin near Sunriver. As nighttime descended, the team was a whirlwind of activity and laughter as they made preparations, such as decorating their support van with beer-inspired phrases including “It’s time to stout running,” as well red plastic cups that were tied to the roof.
“We’re going to try to run really fast, while still having fun,” Cari said as teammates bustled around in the gathering darkness.
Some teams took the race super seriously. An open men’s team from Bend completed the race in about seven hours, good for an average pace fewer than six minutes per mile. The Hood Pack finished in the middle of the competitors, with a time of 11 hours, 21 minutes.
A little bit of drinking went on during the race, but most of the Hood Pack stayed focused on supporting the team and running their legs quickly. Drinking beer and then running isn’t always the best mix of activities, especially with temperatures approaching 90 degrees on race day. Although early in the race Elaine jokingly opined that “beer and Coke are the best recovery drinks.”
As the name of the run suggests, beer is a major component. The race started at Worthy Brewing’s pub on the east side of Bend at just after 6 a.m. for the Hood Pack. The first leg took runners past 10 Barrel’s production facility, where Seth and Jonahs were able to scoop up a few free six packs of Joe IPA.
Mobile brewery stations were set up along the Oregon countryside at almost every transition point, usually along with a game like cornhole where runners could try to win prizes. Even early in the morning, Hood Pack team members gave some beer a try from Bend’s Bridge 99 Brewery, Redmond’s Juniper Brewing Company and Sunriver Brewing Company.
But after a particularly grueling and dehydrating leg as temperatures heated up, Elaine said “No more beer until after the race!” At least it meant no more for her.
There were also stops at the physical locations of Redmond’s Wild Ride Brewing, Sisters’ Three Creeks Brewing and the Bendistillery. In the two-mile “Keg Leg” after the official finish of the race, participants got free samples at six Bend breweries (Bend Brewing Company, Deschutes Brewery, Silver Moon Brewing, Atlas Cider Company, McMenamins and Crux Fermentation Project).
Despite a lack of heavy drinking by the Hood Pack team, there was a fair amount of silliness on the course:
--Alesia took a picture of herself in a ridiculous costume that included a horse mask and a holster full of beers around her waist in an attempt to win a Bend Beer Chase “selfie contest.”
--A “proposal” of marriage occurred among team members with the aid of a ring pop handed out by one of the breweries.
--And teammates revived the Harlem Shake by performing it on a dirt road in the middle of nowhere while one of their members jogged past.
After the race, the team relaxed at Silver Moon, some hydrating with water while others enjoyed beer samples and a much-needed square meal after a full day on the road.
Despite being a relative racing novice, Jonahs offered this sage bit of perspective:
“The beer for this race is really good.”
Stories from the print edition of the Oregon Beer Growler.