Tuesday, August 6, 2013

Wild West Relay - Part 1

This is my second relay race of the year, but my first non-Cabot Trail Relay. My intent was to do a fun running event with my co-workers. In the end, we managed seven co-workers in a team of twelve. For the rest of the team we recruited one significant other and four other running friends. While the Wild West Relay site recommends have one or two alternate runners, I have found from the start of planning to race day, it is best to have about 50% more runners than final spots. Life and work will inevitably take their toll on your final numbers.

We met up in Boulder early on Friday morning. After packing vans and taking a few before photos, we headed up to the Budweiser Plant in Ft. Collins. The start of the relay is staggered so that slower teams start earlier. We were fortunate to have assembled a reasonably fast group of runner and therefore got a leisurely start time of 10 am.

Start of the Relay

Laura kicked off the relay for our team. We started with one other team – The #1 Stunners. We watched Laura head off into the distance and then divided into our vans. In order to reduce congestion on the course and at the hand-offs, the 12-person teams are required to travel in two 6-person vans. The first van picks up and drops off runners for the first six legs. The second van carries runners seven through twelve. This van is required to drive to the end of leg 6 / start of leg 7 – often along a different route. Since I did not get to travel with Van 1, this account is mostly of my teammates in Van 2.

Since I was with the second van so we had a little spare time before we had to run. We decided to use this time wisely by touring the Budweiser plant. The stats of their production wash over you like a flood. While I do not chose a “Bud” when I am at the bar, the engineer in me was impressed with the mechanics of producing beer on such a massive scale. We carbo-loaded with a few free ounces at the end and drove to the start of Leg 7.

When Inke finished leg 6 for our team we learned that they had fully experience the “Wild West” part of relay. Inke had fought her way through a herd of cows that crossed the road to get to us.

Photo: Ynke

Legs 7

Ben Knurr kicked off his first leg – and quick 3.7 miles and then handed off to me for my first leg (Leg 8) around 2:30. It instantly became clear that this was going to be a bit of a slog for me. For starters the bagel that I had eaten was sitting like a brick in my stomach. Then headwind and low humidity combined to leave my mouth parched in the first half-mile. Then there was the 1,100 feet of climb over the next 6.4 miles. While none of these hardships compare to some of Colorado’s more notorious races (Hardrock 100, Pike’s Peak, etc.) they were sufficient for me. I was glad that it was only 6.4 miles and was grateful to hand off to Robin at the top of the hill. Robin, Dave, Jordan and Lisa as had fine lead-off legs. We reached our Van 1 teammates around 5:15.

Camping at Exchange 18

The drive to the start of Leg 18 was beautiful. As the inactive van we took a detour through the Routt National Forest. When we rejoined the running course we were greeted with start of what would be an amazing sunset. Exchange 18 was the Wood’s Landing Restaurant. We were directed to a parking area about a quarter mile to the rear. After exploring a little we played some cards and tried to grab some sleep while waiting for our Van 1 teammates.

By the time our teammates arrived it was around midnight and pitch dark. Ben Knurr took the handoff for leg 19 and began his 1,900 feet of ascent in what is one of the toughest legs of the relay.

Leg 20

Ben did most of the heaving lifting and by the time he handed it off to me I had only a short uphill before an easy downhill cruise. Night running is one of my favorite parts about multi-day relays. I was a little sad that this race was run almost at the new moon and they required you to have a headlamp turned on. The stars were amazing and there was a meteor shower going on. I cruised downhill and was done in under 26 minutes.

I handed off to Robin who had brought along a blinking-red slap bracelet. This gift from her mother turned out to be really useful. One thing about cheering for your teammates in a night race like this is that it’s hard to tell who is who until they are almost past you. But with Robin’s bracelet around her ankle she stood out perfectly.

Lisa finished Leg 24 at the North Park High School in Walden, CO. The bodies of runners were strewn in the hallways like refuges from some natural disaster. Our teammates in Van 1 had found sleeping through the snoring to be a bit difficult. (My Army experience would have stood me in good stead here). While our Van 1 teammates reluctantly roused themselves, those of us from Van 2 grabbed some soup and breakfast burritos for some form of a meal (whatever you call the one between dinner and breakfast).

We wished out Van 1 teammates well, drove to the start of Leg 31. We laid out our sleeping bags in a field and all fell quickly to sleep.

Leg 32 and the finish

Ben once again did some intense uphill for Leg 31. The race’s motto was “Get your ass over the pass”, and this one, Rabbit Ear Pass, is the one we were to get over. Ben climbed the 1,000-or-so feet to the top and handed off to me. I got to enjoy beautiful sunny views at the top for the price of a small hill and a 3.7 mile saunter to my handoff.

Robin took us over the second ear of the rabbit and handed off to Dave. Dave got the screaming descent. Jordan and Lisa took us into Steamboat.

The race has a neat tradition where we all get to link up with our last runner near the finish and come in together. Just before noon Lisa made the middle-school track and we got to come in with her. We finished in just under 26 hours or 25:57:40. This was good for 3rd overall and 1st in the corporate division. The post-race meal was two large pizzas for the team. 

The post-race “party” was at Carl’s Tavern, down by the river. There was only one other team there and the bar did not even know that this was the place listed on the relay’s website as the post-race gathering place. We had some wings and then moseyed on home. It was a great time with co-workers and we all plan to be back to defend our corporate “title”. See you next year Steamboat.

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