Plane ticket to Denver: $250
30 zip-lock baggies filled with boiled potatoes: $40
20 gallons of water: $25
Rental of a 12-passenger van, aka “The Stank Tank”: $800
Participating in the suffer-fest known as The Wild West Relay: Priceless
On Friday, August 1, 120 teams pushed off from Fort Collins, Colorado to begin the 2008 Wild West Relay, a 195-mile, running relay in its fifth year. The race took teams on a northwestern route from Fort Collins up into the Rockies, crossed into Wyoming then headed Southwest over the Continental Divide before finishing in Steamboat Springs, Colorado. The nonstop event took teams anywhere from 24 hours to 35 hours to complete and consisted of 36 individual legs or sections. A single member of each team would run one of the legs, tag a teammate at the end of the leg, and hop into the team van to ride to the next exchange zone.
The Wild West Relay welcomes all varieties of teams and we witnessed this on the course – the super competitive (some elite teams averaged close to 6:00 miles), the super ultra (a team of only three completed the entire course), and the teams that painted their faces, wore skirts (both men and women) and wrote crazy sayings on the sides of their team vans.
Our Rock/Creek team consisted of six runners placing us in the ultra division. Each of us had participated in endurance events of some kind before – triathlons, bike racing, ultras, adventure racing, etc. – however, this event presented a few challenges that would new to some of us. Elevation: The elevation during the race ranged from 6,000 ft to 10,000 ft above sea level. Elevation plus lots of running = lots of fun. Although our team was constantly moving, each runner had a couple of hours of “downtime” between each leg. Just enough time for your body to cool off and tighten up before the next run. Minimal sleep: I don’t believe anyone got much more than 30 minutes of sleep. For adventure races, this is evidently the norm; however, for several of us, this was a new race addition.
There was also unanticipated (for some of us) fourth element – the heat. Chad Wamack had warned me that “it gets pretty hot in Colorado in July and August.” I kept thinking to myself, “but it’s a dry heat. That won’t affect a Tennessee boy used to suffocating humidity.” Well, a dry heat of 102, as it was on Friday afternoon, can affect you. The dry heat sucks the water out of your body exceptionally fast. So, we quickly learned (or at least I did) to get out of the sun and get in plenty of fluids as fast as possible after a stage. I started to run with a “technical” shirt because it retained just enough moisture to help keep my body temperature down.
After our team had gone through a complete rotation (each person running a leg), I believe we all got into our own routine for recovering from a leg, “cleaning up” (consisted of some combination of wiping off with moist “toilettes”, changing clothes, hanging up clothes to dry out, etc.), getting in fluids and food, and “warming up” before the next run. As the race wore on, it became a challenge to continue to eat. After throwing down Power Bars, Cliff Bars, Gatorade, Pop Tarts, boiled potatoes, potato chips, and chocolate milk, your stomach just wants a break.
The one constant in the event, the great scenery provided by the Colorado countryside, made staying up well worth it. Covering the distance on foot (and staying awake for over 24 hours) really lets you soak in the landscapes and experience the Colorado outdoors – the mountains, the valleys, the rivers – at all times of the day – sun rise, high noon, sun set, and the pre-dawn, quiet hours.
Definitely a great experience. We finished as the first place flatlanders team (all team members residing below 2,500 feet sea level) and 22nd overall. A continuous relay of this length really made me appreciate taking the post-race shower, the post-race nap, and that I don’t regularly live out of a van (aka The Stank Tank).
2008 Wild West Relay Rock/Creek Team:
Sam “Lightning” Linhoss, Team Captain
Leigh “It never looks like I’m running hard” Linhoss, Team Accountant
Matt “Look me in the eyes when I’m talking to you” Sims, Team Outfitter
Natalie “Everyone Remain Calm, Heat Stroke is a Learning Experience” Sims, Van Decorator
Chad “Captain Lats” Womack
Lisa “Yes, I look at feet every day but even I’m not touching your feet Chad” Womack, Team Podiatrist and Driver
Kevin Boucher, Team Fighter Pilot
Plane ticket to Denver: $250