Last weekend [yea, yea, I’m still a week behind!] I took on the Wild West Relay with the #1 Stunners team, again. And just like my first time at WWR this was quite the experience, both as a runner and as a decision making adult. The night before the race I swapped out my mostly downhill leg for the hardest leg in the race, because sometimes life is mean like that. I crawled into a van full of not-quite-strangers telling myself this would be fun. And it was…now that selective memory has kicked in!
I was the first runner of Van 2 so I had very little to do until the middle of the afternoon, just as the heat of the day was in full force. As we waited for Van 1 at the exchange we dozed and chatted and lathered on sunscreen and ate gummy sharks. Eventually we got a text message — they were two miles away! I had less than 10 minutes to get my socks, shoes and game face on.
I stood in the shade as I watched my teammate sweat his way up the final hill to the exchange — it looked hot! A few steps later I was out on the pavement — it was hot! In the 4ish miles that I ran I never got my breathing or heart rate under control. It was terrible. I felt like a neon egg frying on the asphalt! I never, ever wanted to run again. Ever.
Luckily I had a few hours before I would even need to think about running. We spent the better part of the afternoon driving from one exchange to the next, cheering on our runner, handing off cold water and sympathizing about the heat. When we passed off the running to Van 1 we only had one thing on our mind…spaghetti!
We headed north by the least direct route possible [the inactive van got routed away from the actual race course to avoid congestion] to Exchange 18 where they were serving up spaghetti. About 15 minutes after stuffing our faces with spaghetti + garlic bread we were back at our van, spreading out sleeping bags and passing out for a few hours.
My alarm went off at 10:28pm which turned out to be just enough time to roll out of my sleeping bag, yank on my socks/shoes, stop by the bathrooms and walk up to the exchange for an immediate handoff. Talk about perfect timing!
While my first leg was a struggle because of the relentless heat and gradual uphill this leg was a beast for other reasons. The brutal sun has been replaced with a huge full moon and my gradual climb became a freaking mountain, literally. I ran up, up, up. I was determined to keep running! When it got brutal I let myself slow down but not walk. Okay…so I did walk a bit when I came upon a discarded glow stick that I needed to attach to my reflective vest, but that’s it! It was a loooong run. I started out a complete mess, hating life, again.
But as the night progressed [and my double shot espresso gel kicked in] things got better. I perked up, my legs got a little bounce, the guy behind me wasn’t approaching quite so quickly, the blinky red light on the runner ahead of me was actually getting closer. Another espresso gel down and I was running mid-9’s on the uphills! That’s insane, I’m a trail runner…you hike up mountains, not run them! But this was the WWR — crazy things happened. Last time I ran my fastest miles ever on my last leg in the heat of the morning. This time I had apparently turned into a mountain road runner! Whatever, I’d take it!
Throughout the night we followed our runners along the highway, stopping every few miles to offer up whispered words of encouragement [night time = quiet zone!] as we handed off water. I entertained myself by making way too many glow bracelets and then bribing people to wear them, because, safety!
Our final runner handed off running responsibilities at a small town high school and Van 2 made a beeline for the next big van exchange, a big open field in northern Colorado. I was so excited for that field. Last time it had offered up a few hours of blissful sleep, this time it had sleep AND burritos! Heck yes! I passed out in a field of waist high grass, dressed for a morning of running.
My empty stomach woke me earlier than necessary so I opted to just gear up, inhale a burrito and head for the exchange up the road where I’d wait for my team. The solo downtime was kind of awesome. I stretched out muscles, listened to other teams interact, said hello to a few friends who happened to be racing on other teams and just watched the world go by. Then, boom, both of my team’s vans were there and it was go time.
We watched our runner kill it on the final half mile stretch…and then I promptly lost the lead he worked so hard to get. My legs wouldn’t run! Well, they would, but they were NOT graceful, at all. Apparently all those excited miles uphill in the middle of the night were coming back to bite me.
This was my last leg, I only needed to keep it together for 6 miles…just 6 miles up a mountain pass, nbd. Yea, my legs thought it was a huge deal. My van could only stop once, about two miles into my leg, before they hit the “no support” zone that would plague us all the way to the finish. When I came upon them on the corner I was beyond pissed at the world. I wanted to swear, but as soon as they kindly asked “what do you need?” I became a pile of ugly tears. I just grabbed the handheld they offered me, gave them a thumbs up and kept going. If I talked or let them see the tears [yay, sunglasses] I wasn’t going to keep going. I forced myself away from my only way out. Now it was all uphill, steeply.
On this leg, I walked, but with a purpose. For about a quarter mile I hoofed it uphill at a mid-13’s pace…then I saw the girl coming up behind me. Nope, sorry honey, I wasn’t going to give up too easily. We raced it out to the exchange and I promptly sat down in the gravel, avoiding my team in case I lost my cool again. Luckily they are a sarcastic bunch and that’s one thing I’m always up for. I swore a few times, then we were off…putting our blow horns to good use each time we saw a runner on the road. My tears were gone, I was done running and back to having fun!
The remainder of the race went by quickly — we were not allowed to support on the course so we simply drove from one exchange to the next, using up the last of our blow horns just because. We were melting in the heat as we waited for the runners — I was very thankful for my uphill run earlier in the day, the heat had officially arrived!
After the final runner exchange we headed to the Steamboat Resort to meet up with the rest of our team to run it in as a team. We finished in 27:50. It definitely wasn’t a PR for the team but we still pulled off a second place finish in our category — hours behind the first place team that was a mix of HS and college cross country runners. If they’re half our age their time isn’t allowed to deflate our egos, right?!
We finished off our day with hot BBQ pork sandwiches, melty chocolate chip cookies and some rehydrating brews before piling back into our respective vans for the drive back to Denver. There would be no hanging out in Steamboat this year, we were all returning to life and work a day early. Even so, this round of WWR racing did its part to change my life. Yes, it’s just a race…but every time it manages to put a little perspective on my day-to-day life and has me thinking about all the possibilities out there. The consequential decisions never start out happy, but I eventually get crazy excited for what’s happening. #vagueblogging #sorrynotsorry
**Somehow I managed to dress up for every leg but get zero photos of my creativity. I should probably be fired from blogging. #hangshead**
**Most photos are courtesy of Jenna, the team photographer!**