Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Wild West Relay 2011 - Get Your Ass Over the Pass

In the word of the Geto Boys, "damn it feels good to be gangster."

This is how I feel three days after completing the 2011 Wild West Relay or more affectionately known "Get Your Ass Over the Pass". This is a Colorado long distance relay running (and sometimes walking or even dragging) 200 miles from Fort Collins to Steamboat Springs chopped up in 36 legs. Here is the synopsis of the course.

"This Colorado relay race begins by the foothills of the Rocky Mountains in Fort Collins, and finishes in the beautiful ski and summer resort town of Steamboat Springs. Held on open public roads, much of this very scenic and remote course runs through National Forests or on dirt roads. The route winds through Roosevelt, Medicine Bow, and Routt National Forests, and through small, mountain and ranching communities."
If you want to dig into the guts of what this race is all about click on this link: http://www.wildwestrelay.com/relay_101/index.html

I am more interested in telling the story of my team or better yet, my version of our story. This is the second incantation of team "Beer Run". For the second consecutive year, twelve men and women joined forces to kick the shit out of the Rocky Mountains and have a damn good time doing it. And for the second year in a row we had a damn good time and the mountains kicked our ass. That is not to say we did not compete; we did. Our team was made up of ten women and two men. All of us are reasonably athletic and have differing levels of running fitness and strengths. As befitting of Colorado, bicycling is another strength of some of the members of the team and while it certainly helps with the level of fitness, unfortunately they don't let you ride a bike and believe me we could have used one.

Our race started on August 12th at 5:20am. The organizers ask that you submit your average 10K time to determine what time you will start in an effort to keep the teams relatively spread out. Only ten teams started before us so you might think we are slow and your thinking would be correct. Please don't misinterpret this as bagging on my team. Averaging a ten minute mile over nearly 10,000 foot peaks, without stopping is no small endeavor, just let it be known that the team that won averaged 5:57 per mile over those same mountains, dickheads.

Having loads of experience from the previous year we decided to let Van 2 sleep in and just send Van 1 to the start. As noted via the aforementioned link, teams of 12 have two vans, one active and one inactive. six runners in one and six in another. Van 1 runs legs 1-6, then Van 2 meets them at the first team checkpoint and they run the next 7-12 legs. This is repeated until all 36 legs done. For those of you doing the math at home, that's three legs apiece and around 16 or 17 total miles for each person. Not too daunting when you parse it up like that but considering you have teams of 6, 4, 3, and even 1 soloist, you can make this thing an incredible test of endurance if you are so inclined. We are inclined to have fun and build friendships.

As much as I would love to give you a breakdown of all 36 legs that would be a supremely tiresome effort on my behalf and I really don't think you would care. What you care about is why I feel like a gangster, more on that later.

I was in Van 2 and was able to keep the same three legs I had last year. Leg 7 was around four miles half downhill and half uphill. Leg 19 was nine miles up a mountain with no flats. Seriously, it started around 7400 feet at Woods Landing and ended 72 minutes later at 9200 feet on top of some peak. Leg 31 was about six miles up Rabbit Ear Pass. Last year, it almost mentally broke me but this year I put a damn good run on it. Van 2 was filled with the same six runners as last year with the exception of my sister, Colleen, in Van 1. She broke her collar bone taking a header over her handlebars while mountain biking and had to pull out of the race at the last minute in 2010, which allowed us to have our very own driver. This year she was in Van 1, running her three legs which was cool, because she is a great runner, but kind of a bummer because I love hanging with her and didn't have that same chance. The order of runners in Van 2 were as follows with a brief description of each participant.

Runner 1 - Me - Dad, Husband, Son, Brother, Coach, Friend, Runner, Social Media Influencer Extraordinaire, Tree Hugger, Granola Eater, Do-Gooder, Headband Wearer, facial hair novice. I have been trying to run fast for about two years now, not all the time, only when I'm running and it has been paying off. I managed to best my times in each leg this year which is what I set out to accomplish.

Runner 2 - Todd - Teacher, friend, focused, thoughtful, mid distance runner, excellent third row van sharer. Todd, had several moderate legs with both inclines and declines. He doesn't complain and goes about his business just don't talk to him right after he finishes. His wife Anne, is in the other van, and was the organizer of our team. That is a thankless position and she deserves a ton of love for all her hard work. Thank you so much. That wraps up the male portion of our entrants. He did rock an excellent headband this year but complained later that it was squeezing his skull. The picture below is a fairly representative example of Todd at all times, relaxed, cool, and rocking the Ramones!

Runner 3 - April - Competitve, hard working, methodical, mid to long distance runner, focused, generous, and fun. She got dinged with some pretty challenging legs this year. She managed to best all of her previous year's times as well and did it while running through about seven blisters on her feet. I will spare you any pictures so use your imagination. Basically, in an effort not to slow down and delay the team she ignored the pain in her foot at the beginning of her leg and paid the price later. That is the type of effort embodied in our team. Willing to put the team ahead of personal health illustrates the members of Beer Run. We were running for fun but the competitve juices and team spirit managed to influence runners in both vans to keep plowing on even when they could have easily asked to stop.

Runner 4 - Laura - She is a long distance specialist and is very comfortable with long hard runs. Her attitude is one similiar to mine in the fact that she doesn't seem to worried about the legs she is running or the conditions she is in. Personal indulgence are the rewards she seeks and the cheeseburger and fries from Carl's Jr. was the golden ticket she was running for. I am the same way. Why bust your ass and run across a mountain if you aren't going to get to enjoy some pure, delicious goodness via artery clogging fast food. I love it. I feel like I am repeating myself saying that she had some difficult legs as well, we all did, the whole race is hard but she not only ran faster times than last year, her last leg she managed sub eight minute miles. That's pretty badass.

Runner 5 - Beth - A welcoming soul who never locks her front door. That should tell you a bit about her right there. She trusts you to make the right decision and she gives you the freedom to do so. She is also our resident physician and go to for all things medical related.

"Can I take 12 Ibuprofen at once," we ask.

"Sure if you don't mind peeing blood," she replies.

Sound advice and words to live by. Any pain in your foot, ask Beth. Your legs are sore, ask Beth. You have some puss coming out of your...never mind.

Beth is another of the non-complaining type of runners and that seems to be a common thread in our Van. She manages to best her times on all of her legs as well although her and our next runner Kara switch legs this year. It seemed to work out fairly well.

Runner 6 - Kara - How do I start this description? We have an official race binder that holds all the pertinent information about the race and detailed leg maps of each stage. I think Kara looked at her leg maps at least five times before each run. I don't necessarily want to deem her a worrier but she allows herself to get wrapped up in nervousness. She shouldn't be nervous though, she has an excellent natural stride, the gait of a small deer. Her nervous anticipation before each leg and her shear joy after ending each one are refreshing. All of us get nervous before we run because we want to do a good job, we don't want to let our team down, and we aren't 100% sure how our bodies will react. I mean most of us don't stay up for 24 hours and basically run three 10k's very often. I ran the very last leg of the race with Kara and her husband, Dan. We were her support team and it was helpful for her to keep her going. It was hot, she was tired, and it was the last five miles of a 200 race and I thought it would be nice to run with her and try to take her mind off the pain.

I could run through the other van but I am not as familiar with those folks, with the exception of my sister, all I know is what was shared via this email...by Meg Brown

"I HAD A FAB TIME TOO! What a fun...and tiring race.  Van 1 was a hoot. So many things to laugh about...bears; the ringtone for Amanda's mother; child proof door (and being stuck in the car if your arms were not long enough to reach through the window and open the door; Amanda the 6'7" husband runner; the runner we thought was a hurt, stumbling, bent over Ann (which would have allowed us to christen her "the hunchback back runner of Notre Dame")...who ended up not being Ann thank goodness; Ann's "I am going to be sick pull over" followed by a soft "I cannot get out of the car" (Yep, the darn child proof door); the 5 of us casually watching Mel truck up a dusty, hot, step Deadman's Pass until Mel, in response to our "do you need anything" reminded us to take her picture, causing us to jump into action and run after her with cameras like we were paparazzi; my awesome Road Crew moment when I was too busy talking to Humpal-Otts Van and did not notice Ann running by wanting water; Mel eating/drinking pasta from a baggie; getting shot with Nerf bullet by random Van; "Gotta get-get, gotta get-get, gotta get-get, gotta g-g-g-get-get, get-get BOOM, BOOM, BOOM gotta get-get BOOM, BOOM, BOOM"; Colleen banning us from her leg; Ann D. almost having to do a dive off the road to avoid being hit by idiots (not funny...but memorable); Amanda's rocking (and twisting) third leg on a bum leg; Ann G.'s final sprint; picnic at the top of Rabbit Ears; Amanda hiding behind the people getting their picture taken in front of the Rabbit Ears Pass sign and giving them "bunny ears". Thanks again Mel for letting us use your/Larisa's car. Thanks for driving Jen."

P.S. Thanks Ben for driving back to Fort Collins with me. Would have been a long trip without the company.

Regarding that ride back to Fort Collins. I had to jump on a plane the next morning and fly back to Kansas City to be with my wife and kids. They are nice enough to allow me to travel out for this race so it's the least I can do to get home fast and not miss much time with them. I took the trip back with Meg Brown, the author of the above email about Van 1. We spoke for maybe two minutes prior to riding back so we weren't old friends or really even acquaintances but we have mutual friends and just raced on Team Beer Run so it was all good. Meg is awesome. The conversation was awesome, the drive itself was awesome, and the burgeoning friendship was awesome. Again, another benefit running has brought into my life, new friends and new ways of thinking.

Finally, I was tweeting back and forth with a member of team "Uncomfortably Log Hug" and she asked me if I had any tips I would share with people thinking about doing this race. I shared them with her and thought it was be fitting here as well.

1. Get a Driver – having someone drive so that all the others in the van can rest helps.
2. Get a Big Ass Van – the more room the better.
3. Travel Light – I took a different pair of socks, shirts, underwear, and headband for each leg, plus a hoodie, one long sleeve shirt, my favorite pair of running shorts, and one pair of warm pants. That’s all. Gloves are optional but my hands were cold on my night leg run.
4. Eat Light – I ate the same pre-race meal before each leg. Banana and half a sandwich. I never ate to full. You don’t have enough time between legs to digest your food and end up feeling heavy and lethargic.
5. Sleep is Overrated – you run a marathon in 3 or 4 hours and run 30 -40 miles in 24 hours. You don’t sleep during a marathon so why do you need to when you are running in separate legs. Most of us aren’t used to staying up for 24 hours straight so you may want to practice that once before you head out for the relay.
6. Run Like You Train – I had two “very hard” category legs with loads of elevation gain and little descend, therefore I ran lots of five and seven mile runs on the treadmill uphill the entire time. We don’t have any nine mile hills in Kansas City.
This isn’t advice so much as it is things that worked for me. I ran the same three legs this year that I ran last year and was faster on all three of them. I even managed to get up leg 31 “Rabbit Ears” in less than 45 minutes.

That's all I got folks. Team Beer Run 2011 finished in 67th place overall and 12 in the Mixed division. While it is still up in the air as to whether we will field a team next year I am always down with a reunion tour. Oh and you may be wondering why it feels good to be a gangster? Well, it's because the gang I run with just kicked some ass.

Peace and Love to all my old and new friends.

1 comment:

flatlandRunner said...

Awesome! I ran this year for the first time! We were team Jackrabbits from Wichita, Ks. At least Kc has SOME hills.. Wichita has not much. I found myself running back and forth over highway overpasses for hill workouts.. It was BRUTAL, and THE MOST FUN EVER running! What an excellent event. We stayed in Steamboat Sat night, then drove 2 folks back to Fort Collins before driving back to Wichita all on Sunday. That actually felt longer than the race!