Last Thursday I left an out of office message saying that I was literally running to Crested Butte. I think my coworkers might be starting to think I am crazy.
While my coworkers might be starting to think I’m crazy, I can assure you that I’m not the only one that finds running to Crested Butte fun. In fact, I spent my weekend running the Epic Mountain Relay with 13 other people (12 runners total and 2 drivers)! If you’ve been following my blog for awhile, you may remember when I ran the Wild West Relay last August. 200 mile relays are kind of just a thing these days, and I’m totally on board. I’m actually co-captaining a Wild West Relay team with my friend Laci this year, but when one of my ultimate frisbee teammates asked me if I wanted to run on his Epic Mountain Relay team I couldn’t say no. The only thing better than running one relay per summer? Running two relays!
The way these relay races work is that the 200 miles are divided into 36 legs. Each runner is assigned three of these legs, running a total from anywhere between 12-18 miles. The team is then divided into two vans, with runners 1-6 in one van and runners 7-12 in another. Your van is either running, eating, or getting a few hours of sleep before the next legs.
For the Epic Mountain Relay, I was runner 8, meaning van 2. This was kind of nice, because that meant I got to sleep in a little bit on Friday! Our poor first van had to leave Denver around 5:00 a.m. Thanks guys!
My van rolled into Exchange 6 in Cotopaxi, Colorado in the early afternoon, ready to take over from van one. I was most nervous for my first leg, since I had 5.87 miles of a slow climb. The Epic Mountain Relay folks rated it as “very hard.”
As it turns out, my fear of this leg was pretty legitimate. By the time I got the slap bracelet baton from Ariel, it was around 3 p.m. There was barely any shade on the course. It was hot. A few miles into my leg, I felt like I had stopped sweating, which as a runner I know is a very bad thing. Luckily, my team stopped every mile, giving me ice cubes and spraying me with water as I passed. Still, the heat made that leg one of the hardest things I have ever run. Somehow I eventually made it through that 5.87 miles of misery. No joke, that 5.87 miles was harder for me than the entire Chicago Marathon. Alas it was nice to be done and just relax as I cheered for the rest of my vanmates.
By the time my van finished our first legs, we had basically changed entire ecological zones. Ariel and I started running around Cotopaxi, which featured scrubby, desert-like terrain. Our last runner, Amy, finished at the edge of a mountain range.
Van 2 represent.
After finishing our first legs, we headed down to Salida to grab some dinner. We ate some Subway, and headed to the next exchange. Our second legs were after 8 p.m., and so we geared up with reflective vests and flashers. My second leg was only 3.54 miles, which I was excited about considering how hellacious my first leg had been. Unfortunately, the Subway was not agreeing with me. Around mile 2 of my second leg, I seriously thought I was going to throw up. This passed by mile 2.5, but I was still really glad when I was done.
Our night legs went by pretty quickly, except for the part where we almost got into a fight at the City Market in Buena Vista. A BV townie was just not happy about the relay exchange taking place in the City Market parking lot. We survived and made it to our last night exchange in time to wake up van 1. The weather was nice, so we pulled out a tarp and all threw our air pads and sleeping bags on top. The Milky Way was out in full force, but so were other runners rolling into the exchange. It was pretty hard to sleep for at least the first hour. One team started chanting as their runner came into the exchange, and Jim, I’m sure you’re a nice person, but I about lost it when they started yelling your name. We woke up at 4:00 a.m. after a few hours of sleep and drove to the next exchange.
My last leg of the race was 8.74 miles, and although long it was almost entirely downhill. I kept a fairly decent pace and averaged 7:40 mile pace. Strangely enough, this was the leg that I felt the best during in the entire race.
The final legs into Crested Butte were stunning. I think I was able to appreciate them more than the people running the legs though. I mean, there was basically no shade on the last stretch, and it was hot.
Van 2 ladies.
Exchange 35 was exciting, as Amy’s final leg ran through Crested Butte and up into Mount Crested Butte. Her leg was “unassisted” but we found a place to give her water right before the one mile to go sign.
After we gave Amy some water, we quickly parked the mini-van and ran to the finish line to meet the rest of our time. Once Amy made it up to the final stretch, the team ran into the finish together.
27 hours, 59 minutes and 59 seconds.
The Runny Nose Revival placed 7th out of 45 teams, averaging 8:40 mile pace. We got 3rd in our category, and we were all pretty excited about how well we did. We were only 32 seconds behind the team that placed ahead of us, which kind of killed us all as we thought about how we each could have taken 32 seconds off of our legs. Oh well, the important thing was that we had a blast running the relay!
The next order of business for our team was food. Everyone in my van was starving, and we headed into Crested Butte to grab burritos at Teocalli Tamale. I don’t know if it was all the running or the lack of sleep but the burrito at Teocalli was one of the best burritos of my life. The next order of business was showering. We checked into the Crested Butte hostel, took showers, and crashed for some much needed naps. I briefly woke up for some ice cream later that evening, but we called it an early night and went to bed around 9:30.
Naturally we went for a recovery hike the next morning. You can’t put a Paula in Crested Butte and not go on a hike! I did some searching on my iPhone and decided that we should hike to Judd Falls, a short two mile hike.
The worst part about my weekend? Leaving Crested Butte. I once tried really hard to move there. Like as in last April. Sigh. Someday I will end up there hopefully!
All in all, it was truly an epic weekend. And I can’t wait to do this relay thing all over again in less than ten days!