The Wild West Relay: Part Two


So there I was, a little British girl decked out in reflective gear and head torches, running (SLOWLY) down an unpaved Colorado road in the middle of nowhere, all by myself, at 8.30pm as the sun was going down. Everything my mum told me not to do. I was sucking in oxygen (at 8,600 feet, there wasn’t much of it out there), running as fast as I could (i.e. very slowly) and had 7.3 miles to cover before I saw my friends again.

wwr me
Setting off…photo: Bean

I had been nervous about the night leg. Actually, it was barely night… 8.30 – 9.30 roughly. Van 2 would literally run through the night. But I have to be honest, it kind of freaked me out. I rarely run in darkness and I never run in the middle of nowhere in darkness. I wasn’t nervous for bears as we were out of bear country, but just was generally twitchy. I felt a bit sick – I wasn’t sure if it was from nerves or altitude or too much energy drink or from motion-sickness from the lurching around of my hand-held torch.

I wasn’t entirely alone. I passed one runner, I was passed by two more. Several vans lingered along the route, lighting the road up for a while, for which I was very grateful. But at times, I was all alone in the darkness and it was a bit freaky. I was very slow, due to the lack of oxygen. My miles were pretty flat, even downhill, with a mile or so of uphill at the end, so it was a relatively easy leg. But it seemed to take forever.

Goodnight moon…

One thing I was really excited about was running across the border into Wyoming. I’ve never been to Wyoming and the idea of running there was pretty cool. I had visions of a photo for the blog. A selfie with me looking awesome and the ‘Welcome to Wyoming, you amazing runner’ sign in the background. Something just like this, really.


Something just like this, really!

But by the time I arrived, it was pitch black. The sign was small and yellow and I was in no mood to pose for a selfie. I wanted to be done. So I snapped my photo and ran on.

Welcome to Wyoming, you amazing runner!

I was enormously glad to see my vans and to hand over to Leslie. Really glad. I feel a bit rubbish to have not enjoyed my night leg, like the awesome brave girl I want to be. But I did it anyway. Job done.

We handed over to Van 2 at Woods Landing – a tiny little hamlet in Wyoming. Van 2 ran off into the pitch black (freezing) night and we got hot chocolates and spaghetti bolognese in the restaurant there. Sitting at 11pm eating mediocre spag bol and listening to two guys in stetsons singing ‘Country Road’ was one of the most surreal, cool experiences I’ve ever had. I felt  a long way from Wiltshire. Once we’d eaten, we drove the hour or so to Walden High School where we’d meet Van 2 in 5 hours time. Ian kindly put up a little tent and we piled in on the floor. It was very VERY cold but I was asleep in a heartbeat.

The best bad hot-chocolate in the world
Country rooooaaaaad, take me hooommmmeeee….

Leg 3

It was still very cold and very dark when Ian uncomplainingly started his third and final leg. We packed up and drove out to the next exchange. When we saw Ian, he was dragging his leg like Igor but refused to swap out and he finished his leg. The sun came up, the road stretched on forever and one by one we ran our legs. Finally, it was my turn to run. I had 4.3 miles to do and I was excited to knock them out.

Oh my word, it was still tough. The altitude is an absolute shocker. I can run 4.3 miles easily but this was once again a long slogfest. I feel like I spent the relay dying to run and spent the runs dying to get back in the van. But I accepted that I was going to be slow and plodded along the road.

Ready to rock my last leg
Ready to rock my last leg




Rocking it…for 0.1 miles at least

We were now in last place and all on our own. Exchanges, which had once been busy and vibrant, now consisted of our van, the volunteer’s car and some portaloos. We were now joined by the Penske van which was sweeping up after us. They’d appear at an exchange as we waited for our runner and then, once he or she arrived, they’d pick up all the cones etc and drive on to the next one. We became quite pally with them. I don’t think any of us were particularly bothered about being last – none of us could have run any faster – and there were rumours of a prize for being last, which was very appealing.

The loneliness of being last
The loneliness of being last

The views were amazing.

Rabbit Ears Pass
Kyle…the hottie from Van 22


Van 2 took over and we drove the final stretch to Steamboat Springs. We found our campsite and our lovely little cabins by the river and we took amazing, delightful, blessed showers. I had thoroughly embraced being dirty but the shower was amazing. We got food and then rejoined our team for the final legs so we could all finish together.

Most of the team, ready to finish
Most of the team, ready to finish
Ice-baths, Steamboat style
Ice-baths, Steamboat style

Finally, Mellissa, our last runner, ran into view towards the fish line. Much excitement, one last dash up the slope to the finish line and we were done! First to start, last to finish…massive achievement with some wonderful people.

We did it!
We did it!

There WAS a prize for being last. Alas not a cash prize but the race director offloaded boxes of Kind bars and protein bars and sports drink powder! Result! We shared the spoils!

That night, we went to the hot springs where we soaked our aching, tired legs. Then we went to sleep. The next day, we ate a LOT and then drove back to Fort Collins and then back to Denver airport so I could fly home. I was REALLY tired. I can’t decide if my tiredness was due to getting old or it’s just a cumulation of the busyness of the past few weeks, but it’s taken a few good night’s sleep to feel more awake!!

wwr me
The sexiness of the long-distance runner
Hot Springs...amazing for tired bodies
Hot Springs…amazing for tired bodies

I have to say…the relay was a lot of fun. I really enjoyed and I can’t wait to do Ragnar in 6 weeks here in California – to be able to run comfortably and breathe properly whilst doing it. I’m technically the ‘team captain’ for our Ragnar team and I learned SO much from watching Stacey.  I know I’ll do a lot better having seen what a great job she did! It was a lot of fun to run in a team instead of alone and to get to know some really great people. It was amazing to run in such beautiful places. It was a pretty awesome weekend.

Back to reality eh? At least there’s oxygen in reality.

15 Comments Add yours

  1. Nic J says:

    Well done! Sounds like one hell of an experience! I’d say you earned your rest! Are you all, as a family, now rested?
    And just noticed your ‘intro’ – I think the Dude’s age needs updating!!

    1. Cathryn says:

      Yes, you’re right!!! We’re catching up on sleep but we’re all a bit knackered, to be honest!!

  2. Naomi says:

    loved reading about your relay racing experience at altitude! you guys will rock it in the bay!

    1. Cathryn says:

      I’m excited about doing a relay WITH oxygen 😉

  3. Grace says:

    Man, the only way this relay thing could get better is if you had oxygen!

    I am a card-carrying misanthrope, this running alone in the middle of nowhere business sounds FANTASTIC.

    1. Cathryn says:

      Signing Grace up for my next relay in the middle of nowhere. All the night legs 🙂

  4. Sherry says:

    Sounds like an awesome experience! I’ve never run at night but I imagine it is quite surreal, especially out there on your own. Love that Union Jack tank!

  5. Layla says:

    Wow, the gorgeous photos! And yes, you certainly were a long way from Wiltshire! Altitude running is SO very hard, and I’m glad you weren’t upset about the time it took your team to run all those miles. Instead, you relished your first relay and enjoyed the beauty — which is exactly how life should be lived.

  6. dlubi says:

    Congrats on an awesome job out there! Relays are quite an adventure and to complete one at altitude is really an awesome accomplishment! Well done! Thanks for sharing these wonderful stories and photos! You will kick butt at Ragnar in CA!

    1. Cathryn says:

      I’m hoping Ragnar is easier with some oxygen!!

  7. Congrats!! It seems like a wonderful experience… even if it was obviously difficult. When we were in our road trip, with Mathieu and my brothers, I went running in Flagstaff. I just started running, happy to be out there in the morning sun, and soon, it felt harder than usual. I was looking at my pace and didn’t understand why it felt so hard. It was only when I came back and told the guys about my run that one of them stressed out the fact the elevation was high. So, HERE was why it was so difficult. We are not used to that on the Californian coast!

    Anyways, now, I want EVEN MORE to do a relay next year before I (may) have to go back to France. I need to do the SoCal Ragnar Relay.

    Also, I watched the video on Ragnar Relay Facebook page for the Colorado relay… OMG it looks SO beautiful!! I didn’t spot you on the video. Did you watch it?

    1. Cathryn says:

      Yeah, the elevation thing is really hard!! I’d underestimated how tough it would make the running there which was a shame in such an amazing place! You DO need to do a relay though, it was a LOT of fun!! Which video was it? Ragnar or the Wild West? Going to check it out.

      1. Oh… sorry, it was a video from Ragnar Relay and not Wild West Relay. I mixed up the 2 of them.

  8. Great job! congrats!!! I’ve never done a relay but now I want to. 🙂 Get some rest.

    1. Cathryn says:

      Thanks….I did 🙂

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