Interstellar Adventures

September 6, 2005

Wild West Relay Volume IV: Gettin’ Our Ass over the Pass

Filed under: Uncategorized — by InterstellarLass @ 9:25 pm

After my restless and brief sleep, I arose to another cool, crisp Colorado morning. Even though I slept maybe a half hour, it felt like six. I wanted another hot meal before we headed out on the road, so I walked over to the Cafe down the block and found Judy and Keith already encamped at a table. I joined them and got a quick breakfast and cup of coffee. This was actually and educational breakfast. Keith taught me how to make the creamer cups moo. I then dazzled the waitress into speechlessness as I gave her a lesson as well. Really, she had no clue what to say, and Keith, Judy and I dissolved into giggles. This is what happens when you have less than two hours sleep in a twenty-four hour period, coupled with high-altitude exercise.

Back to the hotel, I made another quick Audioblog check-in. I know you all loved it. Humor me, OK? Then, Judy wrestled me away from the phone and into the van. We pulled away from Walden and headed toward Rabbit Ears Pass near the Continental Divide.

As we drove along the rolling hills of the Laramie Valley, we looked for our runners, but saw only empty exchanges. Hoping that we weren’t late, we finally spied Celine, our 5th spot runner. She was chugging along, gaining on what appeared to be a man skipping his leg of the race. Yes, indeed, the man was skipping. Had to be a Hasher! Later we would find out indeed, it was a Hasher.

We drove on to the 30th exchange to wait patiently for Celine, then Vickie, to finish their runs. This exchange was along a busy section of road, near a bend and a hill. There were probably 20 or so vans parked along here, each piled with 6-8 runners, so it was a busy place. This, coupled with the busy road set the exchange monitors into a tizzy. “Off the road!” the would bellow every couple of minutes. Below are pictures of Keith demonstrating how to safely stand on the side of the road and how to risk getting your big toe taken off by an 18-wheeler.

We stared at Rabbit Ears Pass above the exchange, and at the hills in the distance, yelled for all the runners heading by, and then chatted again with our Van 1 teammates when they finally arrived to wait for Vickie. I munched on my box of Honey Nut Cheerios and planted a few donut seeds in the Colorado soil. (Oh come on…you’ve heard this one! Q: What did the blonde say when she opened the box of Cheerios? A: Look! Donut seeds! *no blondes were injured in the telling of this joke*)

‘7% Bill’ geared up for another up-hill run, though this one not at quite such a steep grade. A walk in the park really after his run the previous night. When Vickie came in, Van 1 was done! Our trusty legs 1-6 runners had finished their duty and we were solidly even with our other Flatlander competition. If we were going to win it, these last six legs were where it was going to happen. Hey, no pressure.

So, Bill was off, and so were we, headed for exchange 31 at the Continental Divide. Lots to see and do here what with crossing the Colorado highway to get pictures under the Divide sign and hanging out under the exchange awning, taking over the lawn chairs from a couple of six year olds. Oh, and there were bubbles too. What fun.

Bill came charging up the hill and handed off to Brad. Wow! We now had a 13 minute lead over the other Flatlanders! I think this was the biggest lead we’d had in the race. Brad had a steep climb and then a bit of rolling hills. Near the top of his climb he flagged us down as we drove by. Fearing he was injured, we were relieved when he handed over his dead iPod.

At Exchange 32, we waited at the top of Brad’s final climb. He came blazing in, gaining another 10 minutes on our foes! He handed off to Keith, who would be the first to start our descent into the valley where Steamboat lay, waiting for our arrival. The day was warming up quickly, and we could tell it was going to be a hard finish.

At Exchange 33 Judy waited nervously. She had another long descent, 1800 feet over 5 miles. She didn’t want to carry any water, so we planned to drive half-way down the mountain and then pull over to hand off some water to her. Keith rounded his bend in and approached the exchange with arms raised in anticipated victory. We had picked up another minute! A 24 minute lead!

Judy took off for her final leg, and we drove down the winding mountain road, looking for a pull-over spot. We parked near a runaway truck ramp and waited for her to round the bend. This is where I was attacked by a giant grasshopper. I managed to survive, but just barely. Keith and I walked a bit up the hill so that if she chose to walk while she drank we could give her a bit of company. But no, she grabbed the water bottle, took a swig, and kept on running. She was a machine on a mission!

We hurried down to Exchange 34. We checked the time of our competition, and their runner had a great time on this leg. This was the runner that had evened-up all of our previous leads, so we knew he was strong. We saw Judy’s pink singlet come around the corner, and she raised her arms in celebration of a great finish. Despite her very strong run, our lead had been whittled to 14 minutes by Sir Speedy on the other team.

Chris and Snoopy took off, and I started to get a sick feeling in my stomach. I had known that as the last runner I would potentially have the race in my hands (or feet as it were), but this was a closer margin than what I had prepared in my mind. I applied a bunch of sunscreen and drank some extra water. The sun was beating down now, and I could feel the sizzle on my neck just standing around.

We pulled in at Exchange 35, and I made a final visit to the Royal Flush portalets. I put my MP3 player on ‘Eye of the Tiger’ (cheesy, I know) to psych myself up. Then, Keith, Judy and I discussed strategy. I had 5.2 miles to cover. I had a bit of a lead, but didn’t know what it would finally be when Chris came in. Keith gave me his Garmin so I could more accurately keep track of my pace, and we all decided that if I kept it under 12’s we should be fine. I hadn’t done this so far in the race, and I knew it would be a challenge and I was going to have to run hard.

As I stood at the Exchange, my stomach was in knots. Laughing and joking time were over. Sure, we were there for fun, but we had a win in our sights and we all wanted it. I watched the time tick away, and knew what time the other team had come in. We now had less than 10 minutes lead time. Their runners 10 & 11 had proven to be strong the entire race and hadn’t faltered this time around. Chris came around the bend, and all my nerves went away. I just had to run along a gorgeous river in a gorgeous ski resort town, and we were done.

I took the ‘baton bracelet’ from Chris and took off with a 6 minute lead. ‘Not too fast!’ Judy yelled behind me. Hey, I needed to look good for all the other racers at the exchange! I slowed down a bit as I ran around out of sight. The paved path was nice, and I could pretty much see the river the whole way. There were obstacles to deal with though…bikers and walkers. I was seranaded by a few crying babies, and nearly run over by one crazed 5 year old, but my cat-like reflexes kept me on my feet. I was watching my pace the entire way, and staying just under a 12 minute pace. I watched the mileage tick away, and it seemed that the run was going faster than I expected.

Then, at around 3 miles, I could see two people standing on the side of the path ahead. They looked familiar, and as I approached, I could make out that it was George and Judy. My stomach sank. I thought for sure the 12th leg runner on the other team had a great leg and they were there to push me in. I prepared myself for a punishing pace.

But, as I got closer, I could see the smile on Judy’s and George’s faces. ‘Great job!’ they said as I got in ear-shot. ‘We’ve got a huge lead on them now. Just under 20 minutes.’ George made me give him my fluid-bottle belt, and Judy handed me an cold bandanna for my neck. They even tried to get me to walk! I wanted to keep running for fear that I wouldn’t be able to get going again. After a bit though they convinced me that a run/walk would still get us over the finish line in time.

We approached the main drag in Steamboat, and proceeded with caution. Jaywalking is a no-no in Steamboat, and the cops were staked out tickets to give any runner that crossed against the light. This was grounds for immediate disquialification. So, we waited for the green, and then crossed. I felt a bit weird to be running amongst all the tourists, but we soon entered a residential section where there was no foot traffic. I could smell the asphalt baking under the sun, and then I saw the ‘1 mile remaining’ sign. Whew! Just a bit more.

I even got a little bit of trail at the end as the course wound through a park and up a hill. A race spotter walkie-talkied our number ahead to the announcer, and when we got closer, another spotter signaled our immenent arrival.

I untied the spare Texas flag bandanna from around my neck (mine was tied around my head in Interstellar do-rag fashion) and held it high above my head. As we rounded the corner, I could hear the announcer doing his job (announcing us) and then I heard, ‘Wait, let me confirm. Yes, I now have confirmed that is a Texas flag being waved over Colorado soil.’

I could now see the rest of the Dallas Hill Wranglers waiting at the edge of the track that connected with the trail. As Judy and George followed me in on the track, they joined us. Judy and I joined hands and I waved the Texas flag above my head, hollerin’ as we jogged the final 25 yards to the finish. And, of course, Judy and I teared up as soon as we were done. I knew how much this meant to her, and she had worked so hard coordinating all the race and travel details. I was proud of my friend for doing such a great job, and she was proud of me for draggin’ my butt across the finish line. ‘You did it!’ she said as we hugged and cheered. ‘We did it!’ I countered back to her.

We won the Flatlanders division by 10 minutes. Not a resounding win, but a win nevertheless. Oh, and did I mention our team make-up? Six men, six women, ages 30 to 61, with running experience ranging from 6 months (me) to decades. The other Flatlander team? I don’t know male/female ratio or running experience, but I do know that they were all under 30. Now, I do think that’s something.

Take the bad with the good

Filed under: Uncategorized — by InterstellarLass @ 9:14 am

I’ve been beating myself up a bit over the last couple of weeks over my running. I know I need to stop doing this. My long runs the last two weeks haven’t been good, and this Sunday was a repeat of last Sunday. 😦 After today though I feel like I’m a bit more back on track. 🙂

Sunday’s plan was 2:10, 30 min warm-up, 1:30 marathon pace, 10 min cool-down. Made the 30 minute warm-up OK, and then started in on the marathon pace, but didn’t get too far into it before my legs turned to lead. I’m going back to see Dr. Pain this week or next week some time. I haven’t been to see him since I started the new job, and I just can’t seem to stretch enough. I think this is part of my problem. Sunday’s actual results ended up being a 2:12 run over 11 miles, which is a 12 min-mi pace. I should have been right at an 11:30 average.

Today’s plan was a 10 min warm-up, 45 minutes at marathon pace, 10 min cool-down. .88 miles on my warm-up, stretched a lot more than I normally do, then started on my MP mileage. I finished 4.25 miles in 44:37. My mile split times were at 10:50, 21:25, 31:50, 41:58. Then I looked at my watch and realized I didn’t have time for a full 10 min cool-down. So, I walked once around the track to get my breathing back under control and then went home.

I was very pleased with this morning’s effort. I need to learn to shake off those disappointing runs more quickly because they’re starting to affect my mood during the day too!

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