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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 views were amazing.
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.
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.
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!!
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.