In a stunning display of self-propelled motivation, Alan, Brandon, the Texan, Stam, Brody, and me ran the Wild West Relay. A 198-mile run across high plains and mountain passes, from Fort Collins to Steamboat Springs, via Wyoming. It was the first relay for any of us.
Our team, the Thundering Herd of Testicles, was but a drop in the bucket of sexually charged names. The roster read like the mutterings of a 15-year old boy: Tits in the Wind, Whiskey Dicks, and Rammin’ it up the Pass, being amongst those lacking in subtlety.
The Texan and I thought it prudent to carb-load the night before, which was achieved with the assistance of Tecate. So with 1/3 of the team suffering a lack of sleep, dehydration, and a touch of nausea, sometimes referred to as a hangover, Stam toed the start line at 6 AM and we were off.
We were an “ultra” team, meaning no more than six runners, with each of us running legs ranging from 29-37 miles. A typical leg looks like this:
- Runner departs
- Drive past in the van 20 minutes later playing this
- Wait at exchange area for runner
- Runner arrives
- Baton exchanged
- Runner departs, and repeat until Steamboat Springs
An inordinate amount of time is spent in the vehicle, a 12-passenger van, rented, with maximum insurance coverage given what we knew would be a tired state. Within minutes it was awash in water bottles, running shoes, snacks, and odor, as though a river of locker room detritus had been deposited amidst the bench seats.
Energy was high in the morning amongst all teams. Lots of music, people throwing footballs at the exchanges, and a casual camaraderie at the exchanges. Like the arc of daylight, this intensity peaked mid-afternoon and then slowly receded.
Running through the night, over mountains (thanks to Stam and Alan) and across high plains beneath a full moon, was a surreal experience. The slow pace and lack of distraction quieted the mind, especially when coupled with fatigue. Sleeping in the van was a challenge, in fact, I am not sure Alan even slept. Mid-night exchanges were hushed affairs and the sun an eventual welcome sight with which to sync our body clocks.
The finish seemed inconsequential compared to what we did. Over 30 hours of running that ceased with the crossing of the line. The team crossed together, laughing and cheering as we once again, in a stadium announcer voice, we heard our team name called: and coming in now is the “Thuuuunderingggg Herd of Testicles”.
Brody reacts to a botched exchange. On a 30 hour run this 4 second delay proves inconsequential.
Alan fading from view on a leg that featured 1,800 feet of climbing.
Brandon running a downhill at such speed that we almost did not catch him before the exchange. Look close, he does not touch the ground when he runs.
That is me tying my shoe. I suffered a foot injury weeks before and was nervous about how I would hold up. Swapping out insoles made a huge difference.
Brody heading out on his 3rd leg. With the sunset to his left and an empty road he cruised the centerline amidst the towering silence of southern of Wyoming.
The Texan and I handing off. This was my 5th leg and I was dragging through the first half. On the second half the sunrise was accompanied by a song that I listened to a lot while running off the misery of divorce and it struck a chord. The realization of all that I have, including the health to spend 2 days with friends in pursuit of the asinine, replete with laughter and support, had me in tears. Rather than being heavy, I was lightened, and although I cannot claim to have suddenly been running 7 minute miles, I could not stop smiling as I loped through the high plains.
Stam and Brody reading up on the next leg
Stam cheering on a fellow runner
Alan, the team captain, running the numbers.
Things get intimate
Alan and Brandon exchanging atop a brutal climb. We watched a rubber-legged runner suffering from heat exhaustion nearly collapse into her teammates’ arms here.
A hummingbird at the Red Feather Lakes Village General Store.
Stam, a hill climbing machine, cruising Forest Service land
Foot numbing mountain stream soak
Stam grabbing a rest in the long shadows of the afternoon
The Texan tiptoes across a cattle guard at the Colorado and Wyoming border.
The “Turtles” and their irreverent hood ornament
It looks like a pending proposal as the Texan and Brody exchange.
The Texan and I grabbed showers and soup at a local high school. Runners were sleeping in the halls and the gym, it looked like an athletic refugee camp.
The final exchange, Brody is 5 miles of circuitous and sun soaked glory from the finish line.
The Texan and Alan doing some post-race wallerin’ in the Yampa River.