Race Report: Wild West Relay 2009

So I hinted that this race was not at all what I expected, and it truly wasn’t. It completely blew my expectations out of the water. Going in, I thought it would be grueling, uncomfortable, long, potentially hateful, though possibly "fun" in a runno-masochistic sort of way. Yet for some reason, I wanted to do it anyway. It turned out to be manageably challenging, pretty dang comfy (for a rented Econoline van), the shortest 30 hours of my life, and absolutely addictively fun. I absolutely LOVED this race. I think it was a mix of the camaraderie--both of my teammates and the runner population as a whole—the sport, the excitement, the challenge, and the absolutely breathtaking scenery.

My team ended up with a 7:00 start time and planned to meet at the starting line at 6AM., Because I had opted not to drive up to Ft. Collins the night before, I had to get up at 3:30 in the morning on Friday in order to get going and arrive on time. Of course, I was up until nearly midnight Thursday night (freaking/packing/freaking some more/unpacking my over-packing/freaking yet sill more) so this promised to potentially start out very badly. But, I think because I was so excited and nervous, I didn’t really have any extra emotional room left over to be tired Friday morning. I was in Van #2, which meant that we wouldn’t actually be running until close to noon. So I spent a leisurely morning lying around and getting to know my vanmates. We made a breakfast stop, a grocery stop, and then headed up to the first van exchange to wait. At the inactive van waiting area, I kept seeing other runners and thinking, “wow, that guy/girl looks REALLY familiar” and it was kind of an odd, surreal thing. I mean, EVERYONE looked familiar, but obviously I didn’t know 99% of them. It was all a very déjà vous experience.

waiting at van exchange 1
hey kid, don't I know you?

I only knew 2 of my 12 teammates before-hand, and both of them happened to be in Van #1, so I was essentially stuck with 5 strangers for the duration. Except that “stuck” isn’t the right description because these 5 people turned out to be some of the coolest, nicest, funniest, simpatico runners I’ve ever met. I cannot imagine 5 better people to be randomly teamed and plopped into a rental van for 30 hours with. I think the great company definitely made the race more fun, but my overall feeling, constantly throughout the entire race was one of, “These are my people. I found my people.” (So this is the point when I go a wee bit Hippie Anne on you before you know what’s hit you, in order to explain the significant personal magnitude of this race for me.) I think that’s part of why I like racing so much, in addition to my regular running: the community of like-minded folks who don’t think you are nuts for getting out of bed at dark-thirty in the morning in order to run 3 or 6 or 13 or 26.2 or 50 or 100 miles (ok maybe 50+ is a teensy bit nuts-o), just for the fun of it. The sheer number of racers at this event validated that I am not [as] crazy as the looks and comments from all those non-running coworkers and acquaintances lead me to believe. Or at least, there is a large population of other runners out there who are the same amount of crazy as me; and that in itself is comforting and validating.

As for my runs, I ran legs 12, 24 and 36, which logistically speaking are the best legs to run IMHO. I got plenty of rest time upfront. I got to run into the van exchanges, which were the most heavily-populated with cheering crowds and music. I got to take a hot shower (commence 17-year-old-boy's-fantasy: 25 naked, in-shape chicks, 4 to a group shower, in a high school locker room--you're welcome GQH) after leg 24 and the promptly fall asleep for 5 hours all warm and clean. I got to run into the finish, joined by the rest of my team to cross the line together. Perfection!

amazing mountain views

Amazing! Cows! Next to the highway! Mooing loudly!
At the start of my first leg!

My first run (leg 12) was about 3:00PM on Friday. It was sunny and hot and about 8500’ elevation, but I only had 2.5 miles so it was completely manageable. My second run (leg 24) was a heavenly, wondrous 5.5 miles at 3:00AM on a rural highway, under the full moon and a gazillion stars. I passed several runners on this leg, as though it was at 8000’, it was fairly flat with just a few gently rolling hills. The thought I kept having over and over and over as I ran was, “THIS is why I run.” It was so dark, quiet, peaceful, and the weather was perfect (about 40 degrees or so). I just felt so happy and grateful to be there and able to do that run. I felt strong, fast, and free, and my heart was full. It was probably one of my top 3 runs of all time. I then got some good, solid sleep after this run and felt refreshed when I woke up Saturday morning to enjoy a hot pancake breakfast at the van exchange site.

van exchange #2, early, before it got busy & turned into a
full-on party scene. what, you didn't know
that Woods Landing, WY is where the Partay People go?

the sweet little babbling brook where i cooled
and de-stunkified my feet at van exchange #2. it is now
classified as a Superfund site...

My last run (leg 36) of 5 miles was about 1:00PM on Saturday. It was back down at about 6500’ and was another lovely leg that ran along the river in Steamboat., where I could hear and see all the tubers having fun on the water. It was warm and sunny and I SO wanted to jump in the water and join them! This run for me was just ok; I was hot and by the last little uphill at the end, my legs were starting to get tired. I knew that Hubs and the Shorties would be waiting for me at the end, so I was eager to see them, along with the rest of my teammates. And I was ready for some food!

My camera battery died. Must. Get. Pictures. From. Vanmates.
especially the one of us cleverly putting bunny ears on one
another at Rabbit Ears Pass. It was a lot cuter going on minimal sleep.

My team (the Greatful Treaders) finished the race in 30:16:50 0 with an average pace of:09:08 and 61st out of 142 teams overall. We were 10th in our division (Mixed) out of 33. It amazes me that the winning team finished in only 19 hours and 37 minutes, with an average pace of 5:55. That freakin knocks my shorts off! (really, literally, they are sitting here next to me on the floor as I type this now! Ok so maybe that’s because I changed out of them after my run and left them in a sopping wet heap on the carpet, but whatev.) I know they passed us at some point, but for the life of me, I never saw them. Obviously they were going too fast for me to notice more than the swift breeze sent up in their wake. 12 people running 5:55 up THOSE mountains for 200 miles! Now THAT is some serious crazy.

Ok so perhaps I may have already decided which (more challenging, more miles) leg I want next year. And I might have been mulling over trying the 6x6 Ultra category. And it’s possible that I have been secretly googling “ultra running races” the last few days. Full-on Nuts-o, here I come.


  1. Sometimes the cow is all you got! Thank the cows! Great Report.

  2. 25 naked, in-shape chicks, 4 to a group shower, in a high school locker room ...

    ZOMG, sister! This is now one of MY favorite races, too, even though I didn't run it but I'm still breathing all heavy and 'spent' for who knows what reason ... O, yeah.

    Anyroad ... yeah, I got the feeling from your previous post that you'd had a great time in this race and I was anxious to see this race report. Great job, sister! And those pix ... man, that place really is beautiful, isn't it?

    I frequently run at like 5 a.m., when it's still dark (today, in fact) and I really like it - I can imagine what that 3 a.m. run must've been like in that beautiful place.

    Lucky you!

    O, and thanks for the image of 25 naked chix showering together for me to sock away in my (as Teh Loose Moose calls it) "spank bank"! I'll be revisiting it often! Hahahahahaha!

    I'm SUCH a pig!

  3. Glad you had such a great experience! THanks for sharing.

  4. Ahhh, I love it! What a great race report. I can just imagine running in the middle of the night listening to the sound of your own feet. Gah, now I kind of want to do it too!

  5. 5.55 pace? Holy shit! Congrats on your great race and thanks for the detailed report. I enjoyed it!

  6. So your post came across my reader at the end of the work day and I didn't let myself read it. I waited til I got home from my night job so I could sit uninterrupted and soak up every morsel of it... and you did not disappoint. Great recap and now I am even more confident of my decision to run an Ultra for the Ragnar. Congrats on a kick ass adventure!!!

  7. Glad you had an awesome time - it sounds like a great fantastic event!!!

  8. Race reports from this event totally make me want to do it next year...blogger meet up race!!