Call me crazy, but I just love these running relays. My first relay was back in 2007 in Minnesota – for some reason I waited another four years to do another. That was the Wild West Relay back in 2011 that acted as the playing ground and initial groundwork for what is now the Rock Runners – an amazing crew of runners/drinkers and those that I now call my dear friends.
Last weekend I had the opportunity to take part in the EPIC Rocky Mountain Relay: 190 miles from Canon City to Crested Butte, CO. Invited by the oh-so-fabulous Jay Oyer, I somehow found myself on the competitive side of two fully-sponsored relay teams: Team Forza Competitive. The best part? I was completely humbled and in awe of my teammates in which I had the opportunity to run elbows with. The difficult part? Several of my friends and family were on the other sponsored team: Team Forza Misfits, including my brother, sister-in-law, sister-from-another-mother Amanda, all-time favorite hippie Katie, and of course one of favorites, Earl. While I did get to see them at several exchange points, I felt a tug at my heart strings as I missed my friends. However, I wouldn’t take back the experience and new friends made during the 25 hours that was the EPIC Relay.
After convening with the team and heading down to Canon City, our first runner took off with the last wave and what would be our closest competitors. I was put in the 12th slot and had quite a bit of downtime before my first leg. No matter, I LOVE to cheer others on – which is one of the many reasons I love relays. The comradarie and support you get from your team during a relay is unmatchable. Instead of envisioining a finish line and shooting for an individual time, you’re thinking about running your absolute best for THEM. It puts the sport in a different perspective.
Okay, first leg, two and a half miles (Chris, our team captain, threw me some easy legs as I was coming off Leadville the weekend before). After a scary stint at the tenth exchange (one of our teammates suffered some altitude sickness/heat stroke/shock?), I began my first leg around 6pm. I kicked major butt the first mile and half, averaging sub-7’s, turned a corner, and the anticipated incline loomed in front of me. Dang, I was doing so well. I put my head down and started up the climb, ranging between 3% and 11% grades. I reached the next exchange point about 22-23 minutes later. Can’t complain.
Round 2 – my second leg – started at about midnight. First off, I freaking LOVE the night runs during relays. When can you feel that comfortable running in the middle of the night, in the mountains? The stars are always shining and shooting across the sky, the moon is bright, and there’s always a blinking LED light in the distance that you’re itching to run down.
Okay, a backstory about the Superman undies: of the myriad email correspondence that went down prior to the relay, there were several items I took away: bring your waiver, run fast, and there’s a superhero pajama party going down. Ummmmm, superhero pajama party? Yes please! Apparently I was the only one that took this to heart, as my Superman (okay, Pete’s Superman) boxers were the lone superhero attire. Regardless, I had an amazing night run: two and a half miles at an average 2% incline finished up in about 19:45.
My third leg is probably the most memorable (and unfortunately for me, not necessarily for the best reasons). To set the scene, it’s around 10:30am and our team is currently in second place overall. While about 47 teams had started the race before us, we were only behind one and we wanted to keep it that way. No pressure. Okay, maybe a little pressure, diluted a tad by Dan’s pre-leg singing of “Call Me Maybe.”
Four and a half miles to the finish line in Crested Butte, almost completely uphill, and with about a 2-minute gap between myself and the team behind us (note: this team was NOT competition, they had started at 6am, we did, naturally still want to finish ahead of them). I was pretty amped up as I grabbed the “baton” and began my last and final leg. The first mile was a nice flat through town, I ran it in under 7. The rest? I winding maze of sidewalk and steeps up to the finish line.
So I wasn’t feeling 100%, but I was confident in the miles I had under my legs. Second place was secure, but getting caught by the team behind us was still a factor. I’ve never looked behind me more than during this leg. I guess this may have been one of the problems: I should have been looking in front of me instead of behind. Why? Because the team that was giving chase, regardless of finishing placement, was positioning its runners at every mile point until the finish. You’ve GOT to be f*ing kidding me. Dude. I can’t even begin to explain the amount of expletives going through my head.
So, I battered down the hatches and gave it what I had; all I had. And you know what? It wasn’t enough. With two-tenths of a mile to go, in front of my entire team getting ready to cross the finish line together, I got passed. And to add insult to pride-killing injury, the guy that passed me had the audacity to tell me to “keep going.” Oh yeah? Keep going? If I hadn’t have been sucking air and trying to move my legs as fast as I could, I would have at least muttered a sarcastic response. Damn. Talk about a pride-suck. I know, I know, I’ve heard it: “but Amanda, your team finished second and you killed it!” Yeah, but I was still disappointed.
Regardless of my personally disappointing finish, I still had an amazing time and can’t express how completely thankful I am to have been able to experience it with such amazing athletes. Shout outs go to:
- Dan Jenkins: Even though you look better in my baby blue jacket than I do, as well as know more lyrics to pop songs, I can’t give you enough props for the mad skills you threw down in the clutch.
- Evan & Spencer: Even though I’m absurdly disappointed that you two did not take part in the highly-anticipated superhero pajama party (I have email evidence that says Spencer was coming in Ninja Turtles PJ’s), I highly enjoyed your infectious personalities and sarcastic cander. Let’s make that superhero pajama party a rain check (and not virtually).
- Mr. Forbes: Although I didn’t get to know you too well, sounds like you’re a speedster that I’ll run into at upcoming races, and I look forward to it!
- Dan Meyers: I’m still trying to figure out what your shirt said. Way to rock!
- Captain Sullivan: One word (or is it two?): Cuttleshock.
- Steve: Dude. You’re an animal. Heads up to the team that I interviewed Steve for an interview to be featured in CR. That, and we apparently have the same love for beer. I can’t verbalize the amount of respect I have for your speedy ass.
- Jeremy: You have, by far, the most heart on this team. Let’s get you some redemption – 2013?
- Jay: Can’t say thank you enough for getting me on this Motley Crew of a team. Never have I seen someone smile so much while running – your positive nature and endless support are infectious. I feel the same way about you:
I always knew you rocked the house but you proved it this weekend. Great job! I had so much fun. You are awesome!
- Rick: I don’t even know what to say about you – you’re a BEAST. I seriously thought you were going to make it to the exchange points before the van. I hope to make it to IM Arizona to see you murder that course.
- Jonathan: You, hands down, win on style points. Not sure if it’s the strange veggie juice or your attractive wife that brought us pizza, I think you’re just fabulous.
I hope everyone had as good of a time as I did. Steve and I have already discussed running and/or drinking in the near future – let’s make it happen.
P.S. Spencer: the VitalSox are awesome. Wore them on a 12-mile technical trail run through three water crossings and those things rocked – no blisters, happy feet, happy legs! Thank you!
Up next: Wild West Relay with Team Rock Runners this weekend and Gore-Tex Transrockies with Ben the following week.