Ragnar Relay Colorado – Post Race Recap – Part II

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(You can catch Part I HERE.)

Leg 25 – 6.3 miles

It’s 5am and my phone starts ringing. Not the alarm, my actual ring tone, and I don’t have the number saved. Super sleepy and confused, I pick it up, knowing that it could be a team member.

“Hello,” I say in a very sleepy, raspy, quiet voice.

“Hey Whitney…. It’s Piar….” he says, gently. (A runner from Van 2)

“Oh, hey. What’s up,” still whispering, rubbing my eyes.

“Oh… we’re here and Monique (the current runner) will be here in about 5 minutes!”

Wait. WHAT??

My brain immediately kicks into action, “OH! OK! I was sleeping. I’ll get ready as fast as I can!”

One of my teammates was sleeping next to me and obviously wakes up to this. I tell him they’re here and he offers to gather all my stuff  so that I can run to the van and get everything else I need! How nice!

I can’t imagine what I looked like to everyone else; to those few awake in the gym that is. It was probably hilarious watching me try to put on my shoes as I’m run/walking to the door. One of my shoes was only half on as I reached the doors and pretty much sprinted to the car.

SEE!!!! All uphill!!!!!

SEE!!!! All uphill!!!!!

Our team captain was sleeping in the van, doors locked, and I probably scared him half to death as I came pounding on the door.

“James! It’s locked! I need my shoes! They’re here!”

He pops up, opens the back door, all his stuff spilling to the ground, (what he was trying to avoid by locking the door) and I try to remember everything I need.

Running Shoes: check. Safety vest: check. Blinky light: check. Headlamp: check. Phone: got it. Granola bar shoved in my sports bra just in case: check. It’s a good thing I slept in most of my running clothes, all I needed was a long-sleeved pullover to keep warm.

Obviously a horrible picture of my self… but this is pretty much what my vision was like as I was running that morning.

Obviously a horrible picture of my self… but this is pretty much what my vision was like as I was running that morning.

Without even my shorts tied, I took off running, not really sure where to go, and had to ask a volunteer as I ran away where the actual exchange zone was.

You see, we had a spread sheet of projected times, and everyone read it wrong before we went to bed. We were reading the time I would be FINISHED in the morning, not when I should start running. All six of us read the sheet and all six of read it wrong.

I later found out this conversation: “How will we be able to tell if it’s Whitney since it dark?” Answer: “Oh, she’ll be the one running over here.”

I didn’t even need to be near for them to know it was me. I came tearing around the corner and I hear familiar voices calling my name, “WHITNEY! Over here!”

I held out my arm, Monique slapped the bracelet baton on, and I started running.

“WAIT! Where do I go?!” I had no idea where the trail was. A volunteer on the other side of the exchange zone yelled directions as I took off running.

Still not fully awake, my eyes were super blurry, but I just followed the trail. This was going to be a tough one. Let alone did I get a “rude awakening” but this 6.3 miles was ALL uphill. No exaggeration.

This is a pretty accurate picture of what my vision saw for the first half of the run. Blurry and all.

This is a pretty accurate picture of what my vision was for the first half of the run. Blurry and all.

Before the sun rose, it was pretty chilly and I didn’t think to grab a pair of gloves. But I’m kinda glad that I had to just start running, only for the sake of the rest of me NOT being cold. From sleeping inside and immediately starting to run, I didn’t have a chance to adjust to the cooler morning temps. If I had been the 2nd runner or beyond, we would have been walking around in the cold waiting for the other runners and once I’m cold, I feel like I never warm up.

As the sun started to rise, I could see that I was running along a river, which probably would have been very pretty in the daylight. Then you get out the city and into what I would call a little more rural area. There were houses, but each had lots of space and yards and some had farms. I continued to trudge up the hills as my van passed by and cheered out the windows.

Watching the sun rise of the mountains

Watching the sun rise of the mountains

I passed four other runners on this run!!! (And only one other person passed me). I didn’t stop running. I couldn’t. If  I did, I wouldn’t have been able to get going again.

One of the runners I had passed turned out to be a girl I went to high school with! Very ironic! I didn’t know it was her until after we were both done running and she approached me to say hi. I had said something to her on the trail like, “man these hills SUCK!” not knowing I knew her!

The hills just kept going and going. It would decrease in incline percentage for a bit, only to go back up. Finally, I saw a “left turn” sign and my last half mile or so was relatively flat…ish. I saw a bunch of people, vans and cones in the distance hoping it wasn’t a mirage from sleep left in my eyes.

At the top of the hill I thought I still had to climb, but luckily it was our next runner that had to climb this.

At the top of the hill I thought I still had to climb, but luckily it was our next runner that had to climb this.

There was also another hill in front of me. I was hoping that I didn’t have to climb it. Thankfully the next runner met me at exchange which was at the bottom of that hill. I handed off the slap bracelet and stumbled around.

I was DONE! Done, done, done, done and done.

DONE! The first of our team to fill in all of their boxes!

DONE! The first of our team to fill in all of their boxes!

Afterwards:

After my run, I wasn’t feeling all that great. I was hungry but nauseous all at the same time. Clearly it was due to poor nutrition since I was on the run less than 10 minutes of waking up and didn’t get to fuel properly. I helped cheer on my fellow van-mates at the remaining exchange zones while I managed to suck down a Muscle Milk to get something in my stomach.

Lisa handing off to Chuy, our last runner of van 1!

Lisa handing off to Chuy, our last runner of van 1!

You could tell we were nearing the end of our journey. Watching other teams get in and out of their vans (including us) was almost comical. More and more people had limps or were just moving reeeeeaaaaalllllyyyyyy slow.

Finally our last runner had arrived at the last major exchange before the finish line. In all the Ragnar information we were promised pancakes (all you can eat!) and were very disappointed when we found out the pancake people never showed up.

yes, that was my contribution to the van art!

yes, that was my contribution to the van art!

Instead, we went to a local diner and of course I got pancakes! I was really looking forward to those delicious breakfast treats as you can tell from my window decoration!

Once we stuffed ourselves silly, or maybe the was just me, we drove the remaining way into Snowmass, found our condo that some of us would be staying in for the night and I promptly aimed for the hot tub! After soaking my bum knee, I finally cleaned up and hung out at the finish line/expo to wait for our last runner to finish!

Waitin' for our last runners!

Waitin’ for our last runners!

When she finally arrived, we met her at the top of the hill. As she ran the switch backs, we ran down the middle! We gave her high fives and made a tunnel! It was such a blast!

All of us running to the finish line with our last runner!

All of us running to the finish line with our last runner!

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Yes, that's me!

Yes, that’s me!

We collected our medals and posed for pictures!

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Some of us got TWO medals! Yep, that’s right! Those of us that also did Ragnar Trail – Snowmass earned the “Rocky Mountain Fever Medal.” There were four of us, I believe, from 3W that got them. I was told only 80 total people in the ENTIRE world earned this medal this year! And the medal itself is super awesome! It’s a double bottle opener, and it’s hunk of METAL, literally! It’s super heavy!

Three out of the four of us 3W people that earned our double medal!

Three out of the four of us 3W people who earned our double medal!

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After high-fives and congratulations, half of our team left to head back to Denver. The rest of us were staying in Snowmass for the evening. Some went to the condo to take a nap. I hung around Ragnar village eating ice cream and drinking beer (Duh, what else would I do!?). I waited for the other team to finish. Soon after they came across the finish line as well!

Breckin' our Aspens off coming in for their finish!

Breckin’ our Aspens off coming in for their finish!

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OVERALL 4.5/5

There are only a few (tiny) things that take the 0.5 away from my overall rating. First off, I feel like Ragnar is such a big event that they could have a few more sponsors and booths at the Ragnar village. especially at the end. There was really only a few things there: Sierra Nevada beer, ice cream, Nuun, a leg massage tent and this Peace Tea company. There was also their Ragnar store, but that’s actual merchandise, so it doesn’t really count. That’s about all they had a the finish line.

The lack of FREE beer. They said there was supposed to be free beer at the finish line. Well, I take that back, there was free BEER, but you had to pay $1.00 for the CUP. Sure it’s not expensive by any means, but A) I wasn’t carrying my money with me and B) that’s just ridiculous! Free beer but you have to buy the cup??? Silly people.

Lastly, I feel like there wasn’t that many volunteers out there or there could have been at last more course markers. I personally didn’t get lost, but I heard of a few people who did get lost. There just wasn’t a lot of course markers. All my routes were pretty self-explanatory; I would have had to exit the main path to get lost, but I can imagine other routes being more confusing in the mountains. However, I guess when you sign up to do a relay, you’re basically agreeing to read all the instructions and course maps.

A non-Ragnar fault’s thing is the construction! Ragnar has no idea if/when a city is doing construction, but man was there a lot! My second leg was filled with construction! Two thirds of the 3 miles was under construction and I really had to watch my step for when the side walks would just end abruptly which proved to be difficult at night. Even driving in the vans, we passed a lot of construction. But then again, Colorado has two seasons: Winter and Construction Season.

Van art – This was a blast for me! During the Wild West Relay I did a few years ago, we didn’t decorate our van. And obviously with the Ragnar Trail, you don’t have a van to decorate! There was so many interesting vans! People are pretty creative. Besides our van, some of my favorites were the Scooby Doo Van, there was a van that lit up at night, a Toy Story Van, and a “Cannibus” van! All were pretty awesome!

Our Van!

Our Van!

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Some favorites of other teams!

Tagging the Other Vans – We didn’t do this with the Wild West Relay either! I learned this was a “thing” during this relay. Basically, you just “tag” other people’s vans….you write your name or some people had a magnet, others drew pictures… The only thing I can compare it to is like a dog marking its territory. We had a blast sneaking up on people! And I loved coming back to our van to see what people would do. I collected all the magnets and my favorite tag was by our other team! (Look in the picture for the Bart butt, it’s kinda hard to see but that’s my favorite).

All the "tags" we accumulated!

All the “tags” we accumulated!

Kills – I’m sure there’s some people out there that probably hate the idea of counting the people you pass, but I found it super motivational! There was only a few teams that I saw that DIDN’T tally their kills on their vans. We clearly did, and the thought of trying to catch someone made me keep running even though I had some aches and pains. I dreaded getting killed, and only got killed once! I thought it was pretty clever of one team to keep track of people “saved,” making fun of themselves and putting a good light on the fact that they were maybe slightly slower than the other teams. As long as one isn’t out-loud keeping track of kills as they pass, or at least plays it off in a joking way, I don’t see anything wrong with it!

Ragnar Village(s) – In the beginning of the race, Ragnar Village was pretty small with just a few booths set up. Since the same area was where the first major exchange zone was, it actually filled up later in the day as teams were passing through. It was very crowded and quite the party (minus the beer). I’m mostly concerned with the end, as described before. The booths/sponsors that they did have were relevent and great, but I feel like for such a big event, there could be more!

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Other Teams – I didn’t meet a single team that wasn’t nice. The only weird people (or that I thought were weird) was a team that we had tagged that immediately wiped it off when they found it. They did have their own writing on the van, so we figured it would be ok, but clearly not. They didn’t want to be tagged. My favorite other team was the High Flying Vikings, but only because one of the members was my running “buddy” during the first leg. I kept seeing him at a lot of the exchange zones. I made jokes that the other members of his team better start running slower so that we could run together again. I believe his team did end up finishing ahead of us, but not by much!

Swag – Besides the freaking awesome double medal we few got for doing both the Colorado Trail Ragnar and this one, we also received a t-shirt, stickers and a patch. Worth the price? (Even though we didn’t pay for our registration, I still know on average that a relay is about 100 plus per person) To answer that: Eh… I get where the money goes. I mean, a relay covers A LOT of time and space, but we didn’t really get much included. But hey, I didn’t pay for it, so I’m not going to complain! I think the price is DEFINITELY worth the whole EXPERIENCE!

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After it was all said and done, the remaining team members from both teams dined together at the Base Camp Restaurant. We all chatted and told stories of the race and then all went back to the condo to do the same. On the way back to Denver the next day, we traveled over Independence Pass and stopped to enjoy the view! All in all, a great weekend. I couldn’t ask for better: Running, Traveling, Friends, Beer, Colorado, Pretty Views… That’s the life!

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Ragnar Relay Colorado – Post Race Recap

10398669_10152380375274403_8618813750676424251_nI know I have a few other posts/race recaps to catch up on, but I want to review this race as soon as possible – and even that is delayed! I ran Ragnar Colorado the beginning of this month, the 8th – 9th of August!

I had such an incredible experience, I don’t even know if I can express it through writing and pictures! I feel like so much happens in a relay and I want to remember it all, but when it comes time to recap, it’s hard to collect all of your thoughts. I don’t want to forget the small things, but it happens. Writing my blog helps me retain most of the memories. One idea I heard people talking about was keeping a “journal” in the van to write down funny lines, quotes, and memories! Maybe next year! So where do I start??

I guess I’ll start at the beginning.

Early Friday morning, and I mean EARLY, like 3:00 AM early, I woke up after only 3 hours of sleep to head up to Copper Mountain in Colorado. I had only gotten three hours of sleep because I am the biggest procrastinator and after volunteering for 3W the previous evening, I went home to start packing and hang out with a friend from out-of-town. Waking up that early was rough, but luckily all I had to do was load up my car and drive to the Park n’ Ride.

I was the last one to arrive, and once my stuff was in the van, we closed the doors and we were on our way. I assumed I would just sleep in the van on the way to Copper, but I was enjoying talking with my fellow ambassadors and the new people who joined our teams.

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Ragnar village as seen from the condo where some of our team members spend the night before

As 3W Ambassadors, the race directors sponsored two teams to participate in Ragnar Road Relay – Colorado. The only thing we had to contribute was a little bit for the gas and van rental and if we were staying in condos before or after the race. Since I had already signed up to volunteer that Thursday night, I just elected to stay in Snowmass (where the race ended) after we were all done.

Anyway, half our team drove up the night before and was already (sleeping soundly) in Copper. The rest of us got up at that god awful hour to meet them because one of the teams had to start at 7am!

Our two teams were called “3WTF? – Where’s The Finish?” and “Breckin’ our Aspens Off.” I was on the former. The later was named that because originally the race started in Breckenridge but was changed to Copper. As far as the “Aspens” part goes: Snowmass is pretty much the same thing as Aspen. It’s a good thing I wasn’t in charge of driving, because I was under the assumption that it was still Breckenridge that we started in. I even said that in my pre race post!

Both 3W Teams before either of us started! We're all bundled - chilly mountain air!

Both 3W Teams before either of us started! We’re all bundled – chilly mountain air!

Once we made it to the mountains, we woke up our fellow teammates, rearranged the vans to put everyone’s stuff in their respective vans and we went to the starting line to see off Breckin’ Our Aspens Off!

Sarah, there in the center, the first runner of Breakin' our Aspens off for 3W!

Sarah, there in the center, the first runner of Breakin’ our Aspens off for 3W!

Once they were off and running, we signed our team in, went to the Safety Meeting and I prepared myself to run.

Yep, I was the first runner for 3WTF! I dressed myself for the brisk weather, caffeinated myself for the early morning, and mentally prepared myself for the 9 miles ahead of me.

Getting ready for my first run!

Getting ready for my first run!

Screen Shot 2014-08-11 at 8.19.53 PMLeg 1 – 9 Miles

I always have trouble dressing myself for runs, especially if it’s just slightly chilly. I finally ended up with long socks, shorts and a long-sleeved shirt over a tank. I had a tank top under the long-sleeved in case I got too warm and I was debating on gloves but ended up without them. I would give my outfit a 4/5 because my hands were pretty cold in the beginning as we were running through the shade.

Once they announced all the teams starting at 8am, they gave us a count down and I was off, with my teammates cheering along the side! I watched a speedy guy take off in front and everyone around me laughed thinking he was starting off way too fast! I never saw him again, so I’m guessing that was his pace! Once people fell into their own pace, I settled in mine around three individuals. We all had similar paces and when one of the guys next to me’s garmin went off, I asked what time we were looking at. “we’re at an 8:15 pace,” he said!

Wait. What!? I felt great, how could that be for a 9 mile run. I told me team about a 9 min pace. I just kept running, chatting with the people around me.

Blurry, but this is my view on my first leg.

Blurry, but this is my view on my first leg.

The four of us altered lead person back and forth for a bit, but we all stayed pretty close together. The 9 miles had an overall decline with a little bit of a hill at the end. I originally had thought this leg was 7 miles (I was confusing it with my other legs) and when I saw a false one mile to go sign, I was pretty excited. But we also found another one mile to go sign about a quarter-mile later. Neither were correct, and I was wrong on the mileage. We still had two miles. Up hill. And it was brutal.Screen Shot 2014-08-11 at 8.19.42 PM

 

One of my fellow runners took off up the hill. The other two fell slightly behind. The runner in front of me was still within ear shot as I bantered about crying if I saw another one mile to go sign. The path seemed to go on forever. At one point, we saw a cone, thinking it was the exchange zone, but it was basically a mirage. There was a cone there, it just wasn’t for anything. Such a let down!

My running budding and myself!

My running budding and myself!

Finally, we got over the hill and saw the exchange zone and our teammates waiting for us. I was ecstatic to see them! I still can’t believe how fast I ran those 9 miles. I did get a bit of knee pain (that tight IT band knee pain I’ve mentioned in pervious posts) with about 1/3 of the run left. I tried to fix my stride and concentrate on breathing. It did help, but I knew I’d better foam roll and stretch a ton if I wanted to make it through the weekend in one piece.

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I marked my “kills” on the window, and hopped back in the van.

Where we were marking our "kills." Mine is already filled in if you can see…last name no the right column.

Where we were marking our “kills.” Mine is already filled in if you can see…last name no the right column.

(For the Non Relay-ers – A Kill = someone your pass while running. I count all the people I pass, but if someone I passed ends up passing me, it’s a wash, and neither of us get the kill. It’s a pretty fun tradition of Relay Runners. But, when I did my first one, the Wild West a few years ago, we didn’t really keep track. This was super motivational for me to keep running especially as my knee pain developed).

In Between:

If you have done a relay before, you know what’s next. You hop in the van and drive to the next exchange zone. The next runner hops out, takes the “baton” (or slap bracelet in this case) and you repeat. So that’s what we did for five more exchanges.

James handing off to Amy

James handing off to Amy

The first five legs of the relay went from Copper up to Breckenridge, around Dillon Reservoir, and into Frisco.

Amy handing off to Jen

Amy handing off to Jen

Once we were at exchange six, the runner ran from Frisco back to Copper. Exchange 6 is a big one because this is where you switch vans. It was still early in the race and teams weren’t that spread out yet, so Copper Viliage was crazy busy!

While Jen was running we posed.

While Jen was running we posed.

Our 6th runner came in and Van two started their legs. Once we saw them off, we had lunch before making it to the next big exchange where we would start all of our second legs. (In case you’re curious, we had lunch at this Mac N’ Cheese place in Copper. DELICIOUS! I had cheeseburger mac n’ cheese and now Kraft will never taste the same again).

Not the best picture I've ever taken, but this is the last runner of our van coming in to the exchange zone!

Not the best picture I’ve ever taken, but this is the last runner of our van coming in to the exchange zone!

The next major exchange was in a town called Edwards, west of Copper. This is where I would begin running again. Even after lunching, we still had awhile before Van 2 would be meeting us.

The view at the next major exchange zone

The view at the next major exchange zone

We parked our van, rolled out our respective sleeping bags and took some naps. I think I got about an hours nap in before my body decided to wake up again. I think it was the chatter and noise around, plus we were laying in the sun, so maybe I got too hot. I don’t know, but it was super relaxing to lay in the sun with the cool mountain air.

The same lake as before! So pretty! And yes, I did actually take this picture!

The same lake as before! So pretty! And yes, I did actually take this picture!

I ate some food and started getting ready for my next run. The sun began to set, and I tried to pick out an outfit again. It’s even harder to dress yourself in the night-time in the mountains. It can get pretty chilly up there! Luckily it was just past sun set, so it wasn’t too bad.

Preparing for my next leg…. my friend said I look like a power ranger… yes?

Preparing for my next leg…. my friend said I look like a power ranger… yes?

Screen Shot 2014-08-12 at 12.47.35 PMLeg 13 – 2.9 Miles

I actually hated this leg. I talked to a few other runners that was the same runner as me, and they loved it.

Just before heading out for the run, I nervously got ready. My knee was bothering me (now the tendons behind the knee) and I liberally applied BioFreeze all over, much to my teammates’ dismay. I prepared to run, and my nervous bladder told me I should pee before even though it’s only a 3 mile run. Of course as soon as I decided to go, runner number 12 showed up and as I exited the bathroom, I heard all my team calling my name. I ran over, literally, stripped off my sweats and took the slap bracelet.

I started off down the path, glow sticks in hand, just for fun. I followed the directions that the volunteer shouted at me as I ran away, and found myself setting into a decent pace, even with the immediate knee Screen Shot 2014-08-12 at 12.47.05 PMpain (and no, clearly the BioFreeze didn’t help. Oh well).

About a half mile into the run, I nearly crapped my pants as two mean dogs tried to attack me! I was just running along, minding my own business and I hear barking and growling off to my left. I look over and two dogs about 50 pounds each were tearing off after me. I was right near some hotels and the owner obviously didn’t have them on a leash. I turned to face the dogs, knowing that if I kept running they may keep chasing me, like a game. I yelled at them to STAY and GO AWAY! I tried to shoe them away, but the kept charging me, hackles up!

I used to be a vet tech, but I am terrified of getting bit. With no leashes or anything around I don’t really know what to do. Finally I heard the owner off in the distance. She wasn’t even making a move to come get them and was just yelling at them to come to her. She yelled at me and said, “oh, You’re fine!” as if I was the one in the wrong. One of the dogs got close enough to sniff me, touched my leg with his nose (hackles still up, so I thought he was going to bite me), but finally they both ran off towards their owner. Needless to say I was pretty pissed – but glad I peed before my run and my bladder was empty! I turned back down the path, heart racing and kept going.

what everything looks like at night

what everything looks like at night

The run took you along side a main road in Edwards and on both sides of the road were trailer parks. I was honked at (not by other Ragnar people) whistled at and catcalled as I ran through the town. I actually didn’t really appreciated it this time! (Jk – I don’t ever appreciate the cat calling) because it was a very scuzzy part of town. With a half mile left to go, you finally get a little bit away from the city and along a bike path. I saw some lights up ahead not sure if it was a Ragnar sign, the exchange zone, or what I was hoping for – another runner I could catch!

Low and behold, it was another runner, and I TOTALLY got her! Muahahhaah! Of course I only laughed like that in my head and told her good job as I passed. When running at night, you have to wear a safety vest, head lamp and “blinky” light on your back. This runner had a super sweet light up vest/skirt thing! I want one! I tried desperately to find a picture of this online, but could not. You’ll just have to use your imagination.

After passing her, I only had a tiny bit left before I reached the exchange zone. There was my team, waiting for me, and off went the next runner!

In between:

This was a rough section for me. I was getting super tired, and every time we got in the van to go to the next stop I was close to falling asleep. I ate a little bit to keep my energy levels up to cheer on my team.

James handing off to Amy again.

James handing off to Amy again.

We saw off each runner. These were a little bit shorter legs, except the last one. Runner 6 had a longer leg that would take him about an hour. We made our way to that exchange, which is another big one, and all of us fell asleep in the car for a short 30 min nap. We set an alarm for right at 1am, I think, and when it went off and we all stumbled out of the car, our runner had already JUST finished. But this was one of the MAJOR exchange zones, so Van 2 was waiting for him in the exchange zone.

While runner 6 cooled down, I watched as the volunteers got blasted by the sprinkler systems accidentally coming on, nothing anyone could do about it, as they covered the sprinkler head with a cooler. In my sleepy, delirious state, I found it funny even though I probably shouldn’t have.

We finally all piled into the van to head to the next major exchange at Glenwood Springs High School. Ahhh…showers were here. And sleeping areas. I knew I would be running again soon, but I desperately wanted a quick shower so that I wasn’t sleeping feeling all skuzy (yes, that’s a word). I paid my $2 that went to the percussion ensemble (I’m guessing they played during the daylight hours) and quickly showered off two runs as fast as I could so I could get more sleep.

I ventured into the gym, laid my sleeping back down and tried to fall asleep, which is very hard on a gym floor with people making a bit of noise.

My next run was coming up at 5am, but none of us knew that…..

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Getting my Ass Over the Pass – Wild West Relay – Post Race Recap!

wild west relayHow did I get stuck in a van with 11 strangers??? I’ll tell you how: The Wild West Relay!  I feel like “stuck” isn’t the right word though. More like “selected to be” or “privileged to be” in a van with 11 strangers feels better.

When I really started getting into running and races, I was introduced to the idea of relay races by searching the internet for runs in different states. At first I thought it was crazy or silly, but I think the idea of crossing hundreds of miles on foot is what intrigued me. I knew I probably couldn’t find enough of my friends to do a 12 person team, so I pushed the idea of a relay race off in the distance and added it to my bucket list.

After reading a blog post from Amy at Lavender Parking, she talked about doing the Wild West Relay with a friend of hers from their home town but decided against it. At the time, I was thinking about quitting my job anyway, and to be honest, if I signed up to do the race, I would have had to ask for two nights off from work – which after coming back from Alaska probably wasn’t going to happen. Instead, I used this as a time limit to find a new job and get out of that horrible environment – which, although not the brightest idea I’ve had, it did work!

I contacted Amy and asked her about the race; if she wasn’t doing it then maybe they still needed more people. Sure enough, they needed about three more people, so they were glad to have me fill a spot. Amy put me in contact with the team captain, and after about one minute on the phone, and not much thought, I agreed to do it. It was the last weekend to register, so I knew it was a sign I should sign up. And that’s the story I told over and over to my team members about how I got involved in the mix.

I drove up to Fort Collins Thursday night and knocked on one of my teammate’s door….I was the last one there because of getting off of my new job late, and by process of elimination, everyone knew my name (and the fact that everyone knew each other or at least someone else on the team). Now it was time for me to learn everybody elses’ names….which takes me forever! I’m so bad at learning names…but being in a van for two days helps!

Ginger's Ninjas

Team Photo!

Race day:

Friday morning started bright and early. Our start time was at 7:30am. We met even earlier to get the vans loaded and the team together. We all headed to the Budweiser Brewery to pick up our race packets, t-shirts and to attach our “CAUTION! Runner’s on road” sign. My van’s sign was made my yours truly! Looks good, huh??

wild west relay sign

I’m so artistic!

wild west relay

Playing Bocce Ball

Being in Van 1, it was go time for me! Our first runner lined up with the others in our heat. The announcer counted down: 5….4….3….2…. and we were off! No, that’s not a mistake… on a bet, Mike, our first runner, took off with a five second head start. After one leg, the taunts and teasing from other teams became a 30 second lead, then a minute head start…I’m sure by the end of the game of telephone, er, race, it was probably a 30 minute head start! It was actually quite funny, and the “quarrel” was reconciled with a game of Bocce ball (is that really how it’s spelled???).

My Actual Running:

wild west relay

My turn to run!!

wild west relay leg 6

My route for leg 6

Leg 6: I was the 6th runner, taking off from my team to meet the second half of our team at the van exchange points. My first leg was 6.1 miles. It was an easy run, the hardest part being that I hadn’t actually ran 6 miles for awhile, but I completed it just fine. It was a pretty hot run at about noon…I am not used to running in the mid-afternoon heat…and Van 2 probably had even hotter temps! The coarse itself had a few hills here and there, but it was on dirt road which was unfamiliar territory to me since I usually run on the road. I definitely need to get more time on the trails! The last half mile or so was on the edge of a busy highway, warming us that if we didn’t cross with race volunteer, our team would we DQed. After that it was a short up hill and I high-fived runner #7 and sent Van 2 on their way. (By the way, I TOTALLY got a road kill on this leg!!!  I think our whole team got some more, as well as we were road kill at times too, but after the second leg, it was hard to keep track).

wild west relay view

I took this while running…

After finishing my first leg

Since we had a few hours to wait around, we grabbed some lunch, parked our car at the next van exchanged and attempted to nap. Attempted because it rained on and off and while I was napping in the van, my other teammates came piling in to avoid getting drenched.

Along the road, on the way to each exchange point, there was plenty of beautiful views to take in of the lovely northern Colorado landscape. Although I’ve lived in CO for most of my life and lived in Fort Collins for 5 years, I actually had never been to this part of the state. Such a breath of fresh air!

Pretty views along the way! Colorado is so beautiful!

Catching the sunset before its my time to run

My second route

Leg 18: After our second half of the team arrived, the hand off was made to runner #1 again, and we took off down the hilly mountain roads over Deadman’s Pass. The first 4 runners were running the steep inclines and declines, by the time it was my turn again, we were out of the mountains, but that doesn’t mean my run was easy. My second leg was the hardest for me. It was pitch black, 11 pm – 12 am at night. It was a little chilly outside, so I had trouble figuring out what to run in. I chose capri yoga pants and a light, long sleeved shirt. I had a 6.5 mile run through the dark valley of Wyoming, at least I think it was a valley, cause I couldn’t see five feet in front of me without my head lamp. By this time in the trip, I was tired and my stomach was upset. If it were any other day, I would have chosen to not run. I strapped on my reflective vest, hooked my blinking red light on my back (which would fall off about a half mile down the road and break) and attached my head lamp to my head. I took off into the dark and concentrated on running. Hills became endless because I couldn’t actually see the end. Cattle guards snuck up on me last minute, and headlights looked like mirages in the dark. I still made good time though, but not without feeling nauseous with the light of my headlamp bouncing on the road. I think I was the only one out of my team that didn’t like running in the dead of the night. I’m glad I had my music player tucked into my sports bra, or the dead silence probably would have freaked me out too; but that’s just the type of person I am.

Looking super awesome with my headlamp!

After finishing, we ended at Wood’s Landing and ate some over priced spaghetti to refuel. After watching a few local Wyoming cougars dancing around their table in the bar, we decided to pack it up and head to the camping area in Walden. The local high school opened their doors for the racers. They had free coffee, food, and offered showers ($5) for those who wanted it. The hallway was littered with racers sleeping in their bags. The guys on my team opted for the more comfortable lawn while me and my fellow girl teammate slept in the van. I think I only got about 2-3 hours of sleep, but by the time we were woken up, our van was one of the last waiting for their team.

Running bright and early in the morning

With one goal in mind (to pass a bunch of other teams) our first runner, Mike, took off into the morning. In attempt to cheer on his teammate, Nick stuck his head out the van window: “Alright, Mike, you’ve got a lovely summer morning. The temperature is a brisk 55 degrees…” -M: “stop talking to me.” -N: alright, what do you want? Us to stop every mile…?” -M: fuck off!! It was actually pretty funny and had our whole van laughing bright and early in the morning. Later on, while Nick was running, Mike would apologize for cussing at him.

For fear of literally being picked off the course, we decided to triple up runners. The first three ran normally, but runners 4, 5 and myself were dropped off at about the same time while the van swung around to grab them as they finished. (For people unfamiliar with relay races, this is allowed to save time, but you just have to let the race volunteers know when you start). Runners 4 and 5 had 2 mile and 4 mile legs respectively, and I had 6.7 miles to conquer.

Leg 30: Ahhh, finally the last leg! 6.7 miles! Since we had tripled up, I was left mostly unsupported without my van. I was a little groggy since I started a little before planned, but I ran like a champ – especially for it being a gradual uphill the whole time! My van found me when I was about 1.5 miles from the end…however, after asking them how far I was, they had mis-calculated my milage and said I still had about half way left to go. At hearing that I felt extremely exhausted! I really thought I was farther. I told my van to meet with with a mile left for one more water break. They took off around the corner, and much to my surprise, I was already at one mile left!! I honestly was so relieved/shocked, I asked if the sign was in the right place! One mile left! Seeing that I was so close and not just half way gave me a huge second wind and I kicked into high gear and charged off to the end. I ran 6.7 miles in about 1 hour and 2 minutes! So fast, at least for me! I finished through a tunnel of arms made by other teams and our van was done!

Van 2 started a little earlier to save time, so I didn’t get to hand off on my last leg. Feeling accomplished, we made out way to Steamboat Springs and had lunch (breakfast was already over, which really bummed me out cause I wanted Pancakes something horrible!)

After devouring a huge, juicy hamburger, we headed to the finish line to wait for out last team member. The finish line/festival was actually quite uneventful; very anti-climatic. We just crossed 200 miles….couldn’t we get a little confetti or something??? We waited for runner number 12 to come around the corner and we all filed in behind her to finish together; the announcer letting everyone know that Ginger’s Ninjas had finished the race! And that was the end!

Finish line!

Not gonna lie, that was an exhausting two days. By the end, I was so grumpy that I didn’t know what I wanted. I was complaining about random things that were important, and worried about things I couldn’t control. Half of our team was staying in a condo in Steamboat, including me and most of van 2. I kept asking questions that weren’t getting answered and it was strange to spend two days with one group of strangers, then to hop in another van with 6 new people. But after getting a beer and hot tub time, I was in a much better mood. The condo was really nice, although, a little expensive for me, but there was nothing I could do about that. And after getting in the hot tub time, the rest of our team met us for pizza, more beers and lots of laughs!

Wild West Relay – Pre Race Review

wild west relay coloradoWith a tag line of “Get your ass over the pass,” the Wild West Relay starts Friday morning in Fort Collins, CO, travels up into Wyoming and back down to the C-O, ending in Steamboat Springs……What the hell did I agree to do!? AND pay money for!? I’m a little freaked out. I’m suddenly getting really nervous for this relay race. (Thanks to everyone telling me I’ll do find! Especially kandjcoloradoliving who did the race last year! I appreciate it!)

Ok, I’m being a little dramatic. But, honestly, I am really nervous for this event. I’ve never done a relay before. I chose the third highest amount of total miles to run – 19.1! This does not, by any means, mean that I have the third most difficult sections. Some of the lower milage legs have really big hills to climb! I have three, 6+ mile legs, that don’t have too much elevation change, but I do go up into Wyoming. If I get a picture of the wyoming state sign, do I get to count this as my wyoming race?????!!. I hope I can do this!!

Starting Thursday night, after work, I head “out of town” to meet my team members (not that much out of town – just an hour’s drive up to Fort Collins where I actually lived for five years in college). I’ve never met any of these people before. We’ve all been exchanging emails, and I spoke with the captain on the phone only once. Through the emails, everyone seems really nice. One guy is having us all over for dinner Thursday night, mostly likely to feed out faces with a lot of carbs and to discuss the last details of everything. A few of the others that live in Fort Collins are offering their houses for us out of towners. I know at least one is from New Mexico and one is from Kansas. The rest, I believe, are either here in Denver with me or already up in FoCo.

wild west relay coloradoI’m writing this post as I take a break from packing. Packing for a relay race is hard. You can’t pack too much, because there is limited space in the vans. But you have to pack enough to get you through three runs…including if weather gets crazy on ya. Also, we are staying in Steamboat Springs the night after to relax (and hopefully to swim in the hot springs and drink lots of beers!) so you have to make sure you have clothes for the extra day….. blah!

Things that scare me about a relay race: 1) Running in the dark. Alone. On back roads. Yeah, a little scary…a little “the hills have eyes” feeling going on there! 2) Running 6+ miles, three times, in a day and a half. That’s a lot of running! 3) Being able to eat right. With all these different legs of the race, and being up at weird hours, I think it is going to be had to get adequate nutrition. It’s hard to pack that kind of stuff too. I have a bunch of snacks like granola/protein/energy bars, trail mix, fruit (fresh and dried), but it’s hard to pack substantial food because a lot of that stuff requires either cooking or a cooler. I’m not sure if our van has a cooler and I wonder if we’ll eat at a restaurant at some point. 4) Water. I think I’ve decided I’m going to run with my Camelbak, especially at night, but probably only half full (that’s optimism right there!). Its not that I necessarily need to run with water for a 6 miles run, but I can carry a few things I might need like pepper spray (for the creepy hills have eyes people..or bears, or mountain lions…or tigers…wait a minute, I’m not running to Oz), maybe extra socks, poncho (maybe..), and my phone…just in case and for music. I’ll also be attaching a blinking light for when I run at night and there are reflective strips on my camelbak. As required by the race people, I will have a head lamp for running my night leg. I’ll be sure to take a picture, because I’m sure this will make me look super cool.

Things that don’t scare me but weird me out: 1) No headphones allowed. YIKES! I survive runs on music alone sometimes. I think what I might do is just have my phone on speaker and listen to the music player because this is allowed. I do completely understand this rule; it is MUCH safer to run without headphones on these type of roads and times of day. I still need to create a running playlist on my phone….so much to do. 2) What if it rains? Now, I’m not opposed to running in the rain, but HEAVY rain could be a problem. Wet clothes for 6 miles does not sound fun. I actually don’t own a raincoat. Yeah, pathetic I know, for a Coloradian especially. (Anyone suggest a good, lightweight, semi cheap, rain coat??? for the future of course, I’m running out of time now) I am bringing a poncho, but I’m not sure how easy running in something like that would be! 3) What if I have to pee?? I can normally go for an hour run without having to pee, but with all the nerves and weird eat/drinking/sleeping schedules over the weekend, you never know! The rules clearly say, “no relieving yourself on public property.”  Yes, this is written multiple times and I think most of the course is public property since it’s mostly through farm lands.

Things that I look forward to: 1) Meeting all these fun, new people!! I’m so excited to meet more crazy running fanatics! 2) ROAD KILL! No, not like dead animals. I’ll probably cry if I see a dead animal while running, but read this from my participant email: “BIB NUMBERS – 
This year, bib numbers were assigned by your starting time. This way, you’ll be able to really track your road kill – if you pass a team with a bib number lower than yours, you know it is true road kill.” I guess this is a normal relay term, but I had never heard it and it cracked me up! I want to get a “road kill” so bad! 3) Another email stated this: “We will be having a contest this year – the WWR finish line staff will be voting on the most original/creative finish.” I think there could be pretty fun to do and watch!!! Anyone have any good ideas?? Please let me know so I can tell my team!!!! 4) We get in discount to the hot springs! As WWR runners, we can get in and use the pool and showers. Uh, super excited about that.

Goals?: Hmm… 1) Get road kill. That is all.

Since I stalled and wasted a lot of time writing this, I better get back to packing and making my “Caution! Runner’s on Road” sign.

I will be trying to live Tweet my team’s progress through the relay! Follow me on Twitter @Racingthestates

Anyone else doing races this weekend!? Good luck to you! And everyone else, have a fantastic weekend!