Some weekends fly by with nothing special to remember them by. Not this past weekend for the 500 or so runners who made their way 198 miles from Fort Collins through the Colorado mountains starting early last Friday morning, August 4, and finishing on Saturday between 8 a.m. and late afternoon in Gondola Square in Steamboat Springs.
I hooked up with a team of 12 with the unlikely name of HumpalOtt for Morgan. Each of us ran three legs of the journey which went through Livermore, Red Feather Lakes, over Deadman Pass into Woods Landing, Wyoming and Walden, Colorado before ascending Rabbit Ears Pass and descending into Steamboat Springs. The 61 teams who participated were all there to have a good time. For many of the runners, the Wild West Relay, subtitled “Get Your Ass Over the Pass,” the event has become a sacred tradition. Every year they confront the logistical challenges—finding a couple of vans—planning food and lodging—and training enough so that they can approach their appointed legs of the run with a reasonable hope of contributing to the success of the team. It’s an adventure run more than it is a race, making fun and camaraderie way more important than competing with each other.
John Humpal and Brad Ott were the original organizers of our team several years ago, and both of them were quite pleased with the creativity of the team’s name. This year our team wanted to remember one of us who died tragically and too soon in January—thus the addition of her name making our team HumpalOtt for Morgan. We carried photos of her, had special shirts made with a shot of her running on them and we told Morgan story after Morgan story as we made our way through the hills. “She’s still with us, making sure we have a good time,” someone said.
And she was. The event became a positive for our team. It took some of the sting out of losing her. It simply made us feel better. And when all 12 of us gathered at the finish line wearing our Morgan shirts to complete the last steps together, it was a high point.
We hung around for dinner together on Saturday night and for breakfast the following morning before heading our separate ways, each taking home a whole new set of memories.