Thursday, July 17, 2014

The Wild West Relay

No marathon in your future but the “distance idea” holds some fascination? Why not consider The Wild West Relay? Subtitled Get Your Ass Over the Pass, the race starts at the Budweiser Tour Center just north of Fort Collins, Colorado and winds through 195 miles of mostly back country, to Steamboat Springs.  In 2012 it happened August 3 and 4.
            Here’s how it works: The run is divided into 36 legs, distances of five to nine miles. Team members are divided equally into two vans, one active and the other inactive. When the runners in van one have completed their legs, van two takes over and the runners in van one rest for five or six hours.
            The first runner on our team of 12 women started at 5:40 a.m., headed north on dirt roads toward Livermore on Highway 287, beginning a 35-hour journey during which we’d sleep, eat, whine a little, and tell stories. Our team--two 50-somethings, four bouncing teens, two grandmas, an educator, an exercise physiologist, an attorney, a hairdresser—we were all in this together. One of us was training for a marathon, another hadn’t trained at all. What was she thinking? The teens haven’t trained either, but they’re game, young and tough. They sleep easily in the van, laugh and joke and play loud music.
            By late Friday night, our van was at rest in the tiny mountain town of Walden. As I lay in my sleeping bag on the damp grass of the high school football field, my feet so cold I knew sleep would not come easily, I relived my first leg in the hot sun of midday, and the second, in the cool of the night. If my head weren’t so small, maybe my headlamp would have stayed in place on my forehead and I wouldn’t have had to wear it around my shoulder. Bobbing up and down as it did, it didn’t offer much focused light. Thank goodness for a nearly full moon.
            A tall male speedster flew by as I approached the last mile, but slowed enough to ask if I’d seen the falling star. “A really good one,” he says. “Missed it,” I say, sad that I’d been looking at my feet instead of into the sky.
            By the time our team plods its way up and over Rabbit Ears Pass and down the other side, the temperature is nearing 90 degrees in Steamboat Springs on Saturday afternoon. The last runner, my 18-year-old granddaughter, is plugging along the bike path through town. The other eleven members of our team are waiting to join her and cross the finish line together. I’m tired, my quads are screaming, but I decide to head down the bike path, find Abby and run in with her. Red-faced, she’s breathing so hard she can hardly speak, but whispers, “This is the hardest thing I’ve ever done.” And a few minutes later, “Thanks for coming to meet me.” I choke up. Ridiculous. Yet, that moment is, for me, the high point of a trip that can’t really be described.
            I suggest you try it.

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