Relays are increasingly popular and interesting beasts. Last weekend I ran the Wild West Relay which covered 200 miles from Fort Collins to Steamboat Springs. This was my first relay so had no idea what to expect. Vanessa, purple and gold alum, was our fearless team captain and did a great job organizing 10 friends and a couple strangers to run 36 legs. The legs varied from easy to "very hard". I'm not really sure how the designations were assigned but I'm guessing based on a couple of the legs I ran, it had much to do with elevation gain or loss. Most of the race was run on dirt roads and paved country roads. There was some highway running-at all hours of the day and night.
I'm grateful I didn't have to run on the road in the dark as cars scare me. That is why I'm a trail runner. Vans carrying team members followed along on the roads and kindly offered cowbell and words of encouragement as they passed. People were so encouraging and many teams had themes and names such as, "Chafing the Dream, Pirates-of-the-Car-I-Want-to-be-in, Butt, Sweat, and Tears; We Got the Runs" and some other less savory names that would be even more inappropriate to list. As we ran to the "exchanges" it began to feel more like a tribe than a relay. Picture 100's of nomadic runners stopping to relieve themselves, eat, drink and be merry...then running again.
I ended up running a couple extra legs in preparation for longer stuff I signed up for later in the running season. My first leg I went out pretty fast and got 4 "kills". Kills are a relay term, perhaps specific to this relay hence the name "Wild West Relay", which means you have passed a runner and they didn't pass you back. The first leg I pretended to shoot my competitors and decided that was a little too competitive and it would piss people off although I meant it in jest. I did not acquire as many kills on subsequent legs. I had a total of 7. A fellow teammate and I made a friendly wager regarding my first leg and I estimated I would run 4.7 miles in 40 minutes and ended up running it in 33 minutes and change. Paul ended up doing 120 push-ups when all was said and done.
After sitting in the van for a couple of hours waiting for my next leg, I began to get antsy so I ran Paul's 6 mile leg with him. My next leg was 9.8 miles with a 2000+ foot descent. I wanted to earn my downhill so I asked Kyle if I could tag along on his 8.5 mile leg up Deadman's Pass which boasted about 1,200 feet of gain. The run up Deadman's Pass was on a scenic forest service road. I was by myself for most of the way up. When I got to the top, the kind runners in line for the porta-pottie let me cut in line because they were flabbergasted that I would want to run back down the pass right after I ran up. Kind of Pikes Peak Marathon'ish I guess. The downhill finished around Medicine Bow and the views were pretty rad.
Before my last leg, there was some napping involved. We stopped at a high school in a rural town and laid our sleeping pads and bags on the floor for a few hours of shuteye. Although the area was flooded with fluorescent light and people were in and out all night, I managed to sleep for a few hours until I was awakened by a close neighbor loudly sawing logs. The high school kids had fresh brewed coffee and some awesome breakfast casserole. My last run was a "moderate" 5.3 mile run around 5 AM. All of the runners passing us looked a little less energetic than when we started. I slogged the last leg thinking of just putting one foot in front of the other. After sitting in the van for so many hours and 29 miles behind me within the last 24 hours, my legs were stiff and hurting. The blister that exploded while running down Deadman's pass was not even close to as painful as my screaming quads. 5 legs and 34 miles later, I was finally finished. Running on limited sleep makes me think that the Leadwoman is attainable. It will be similar, just not as much delicious snack food and van resting, and a little bit longer.
Van 2 finished the last leg and we all joined to cross the finish line together. We got our ass over the pass! Thank you Shriever Striders for welcoming me to the team!