Sunday, June 5, 2016

Ragnar Snowmass Trail Relay 2016: Am I Too Old for This Shit?

I've done my share of long distance running relays - six to be exact. None of them are created equal in any way, shape or form.

When you put 8-12 people together for at least 24 hours or running, there's sweat, stink, laughter, fear, fatigue, farts and joy, There are endless war stories of miles runs, poops taken, food eaten and sleep not gotten. And, in the midst of all of the chaos, there is bonding and the feeling of having accomplished something hard won.

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From the Wild West Relay we did a few years back.
There is always (at least for me) a point in the race (usually when it is the middle of the night and I am tired, cold, sick to my stomach) that I think, "Why the eff am I doing this?" But, then the sun comes up, I have coffee in my hand and I realize why I do this.

Because it makes me feel alive and is WAY out of my comfort zone. And I love to run even though sometimes it is a stupid idiot and I hate it.

The Ragnar Trail Relay in Snowmass, CO this weekend was an interesting one for me. In all of the relays I've done before, we rent vans and drive around endlessly dropping off and picking up runners over 24-30 hours as we each complete anywhere from a total of 12-35 miles of running.

It is kind of a logistical nightmare, and it is exhausting, but there is something profoundly stimulating about being in a van that smells like ass mixed with sweaty balls for so many hours. You bond, you try to sleep crunched up in the fetal position and you are extremely uncomfortable in the best way possible.

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I think I was peeing out of the van door at this point.

This weekend's relay was different, however. Instead of the van thing, we set up a camp in a central spot with a few of our friends:



This spot was in a rec center field surrounded by the hills/mountains of Snowmass, Colorado and located at 8,500 feet.

Always a good idea to drink a Fat Tire beer before you run 21 miles. Carbs, baby!

Our fearless captain

The deal was, we each had three runs to do and we would each do the same three, but in a different order. We were one of just a few masters teams (meaning we are all 40+ years old).



Because one of our team mates couldn't go at the last minute, I picked up an extra leg of running, bringing my total running miles to 21.2 miles with 3,800 feet of climbing. This sounded like a good idea last week while drinking a beer on the back porch. Not such a good idea in reality.

Ken started us out at about 3:30 p.m. on Saturday.



Collectively, we would run 22 hours and 116 miles. I was the sixth of eight runners, so my first run was at 8:30 p.m. just as the sun was setting. It was a gut busting, lung burning climb of 1,250 feet  up to the top of this ridge.

The climb was worth every minute of bitching I did in my head

I cannot express the glory of the scenery. The scramble descent was a blast. 3 miles of cruising down the mountain. I turned on my head lamp at the end, but had mostly daylight. I finished the 6.7 miles in 1 hour, 9 minutes. Ken told me that before I started out someone had seen a bear on the trail where I was. Knowing I'd be going back up there at 2 a.m. I wondered why he hadn't held off on that bit of info.

If you want this shirt, you can get it at Walmart for $8.94. Just sayin'
The journey continued as our runners went out and came back in. I had my second run, the same leg as my first at 2 am. In the mean time I had tried sleeping, but it was freezing cold. I went to wait at the start and was shivering so hard I had no clue how I was going to run. As Kristen handed off to me, I truly wasn't sure how I would manage this thing. I huffed and puffed my way back up the mountain, in the complete cold and darkness, not encountering many other runners. My run down was slow and cautious - running steep trails in the dark is not easy. The bear and I did not meet up, and for that I was grateful.

After finishing, I waited about 40 minutes, then went out again at 4 a.m. for a tough 3.8 mile stretch with 700 feet of climbing. In the dark again. I was again freezing and mentally deflated. I kept telling myself, just get it done, then you can sleep for a bit before your last run. I rolled my ankle and almost cried.

Get it done, I told myself. And, I did. As for sleep, nada. Then the sun made an appearance on my face and I had 3 cups of Via coffee and the world was a different place. My last run in the sun at 11am:

Yes, Ed, this bib does make my butt look big

We all did our final runs, grabbed some beer, and joined our team mate, Ed, as he made his way across the finish at 2:30 p.m. Then there was beer, burgers and a long drive home.

Happy runners from left to right: Brain (Capitano), Carolyn (Always Smilin'), Keith (the Comeback Kid), Ed (Fast Boy), Ken (LOML), Eve (Downhill Queen), Me, Henry (13 Year Old Stud), Kristen (Ironman to Be and Henry's Mom).



The moral of the story is: Stay home and sleep. Just kidding. The REAL moral is:

Life's better when it's not boring. And, when it includes friends, running and sweat.

Ever done a relay or do you want to?


 SUAR

54 comments:

  1. I agree! I have only done one 24 hour/200 mile relay but it was a great experience! Bonus ..... we won the mixed division! It's been a few years but I'm ready to do another one.

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  2. Yup! Cabot Trail Relay FOUR times. (You really must come and run it sometime.) Rum Runners Relay three times - just one day so no biggie.Every single time, I say "never again" but I suspect I'll still be doing them in 30 years - which is saying something seeing that I'm 54 already. LOL! Glad you had fun, Beth.

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  3. Yup! Cabot Trail Relay FOUR times. (You really must come and run it sometime.) Rum Runners Relay three times - just one day so no biggie.Every single time, I say "never again" but I suspect I'll still be doing them in 30 years - which is saying something seeing that I'm 54 already. LOL! Glad you had fun, Beth.

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  4. Awesome! I do needed your post. I just signed up to captain a team for the WA Cascade Ragnar. The whole running on a trail through the dark scares me to death. I'm also a little nervous about times - I'm guessing we can use the full 36 hrs to complete it. Any tips would be awesome!

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    1. I'm signed up as team captain for Ragnar Trail Northwoods in Wisconsin (Sept). I'm also scared to death of running through the woods at night! So, I'm looking for those requested tips as well.

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  5. Awesome! I do needed your post. I just signed up to captain a team for the WA Cascade Ragnar. The whole running on a trail through the dark scares me to death. I'm also a little nervous about times - I'm guessing we can use the full 36 hrs to complete it. Any tips would be awesome!

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  6. These relays make me feel both young and old. Racing is such a kick and makes me feel young. But only getting 2 hours of sleep aged me. Thighs are still sore from those downhills.

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  7. I've never done a relay! I was recruited a few years ago and it is the one and only time my hubs asked me not to do a race. Since he's usually such a good sport about everything, I reluctantly agreed. I'm really cranky with no sleep, so it's probably a good thing.

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  8. My husband and I did The Relay, the race from Calistoga to Santa Cruz, when we were dating. It was the 2 vans, drive all over, etc. type of race. I have never been so tired as I was after that race. It was fun but the pain outweighed the fun, so never again for me. My husband did another relay when our son was 2 weeks old. I gladly stayed home with the baby by myself and sent him off. I know I slept more than he did!

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  9. I'm doing my first (well, no, it's my second: first was a measly 77.7 miler with no hill, 7 runners, around one of the Finger Lakes in central NY). In August I'm doing the Peak 2 Brew relay which starts at Whiteface Mountain in the Adirondacks Mountains and ends at the Saranac Brewery in Utica, NY. 230+ miles, 12 runners. I'm really excited, and scared! http://p2brelay.com

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  10. I did the WV Appalachian relay last year. Fiasco with monsoons and drama. This year Ragnar changed it to August (instead of June), so I signed up for an ultra team. I'm stupid, right?

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  11. I haven't done a Ragnar Trail yet but it's on my bucket list. You run in the most beautiful places!

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  12. I was a runner this past weekend as well. 1st race of any kind for me. I had a great time! I ran the red/hard trail at 9:30pm and the down hill was only slightly better than the uphill. I had a team of really great people that helped keep my spirits up. It was a great learning experience and I may be back next year.
    If you are racing make sure to bring some sort of shade or cover, my team didn't and the sun was brutal at times.

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  13. I was the van driver for a relay race...much shorter than the ones you have done, all in abou 12-14 hours. It made me want to be a runner, but I'm still not a big runner. 😀

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  14. I've never done a relay, but I'm sure someone in my life will convince me at some point. And I'll love&hate it, too.

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  15. Ok, Beth! Now we have two friends in common...I know Kristin! I coached Henry (and Anderson) in kid running programs for several years. I love them! (Our other friend in common, Michelle, is doing Chicago as well. She'll stay with us the night before the race. Incidentally, are you doing Chicago?) That relay sounds good logistically (I've had friends who've done it) but the lack of sleep thing really works me over. I did the CO Relay in 2011 (the really shitty one with all kinds of problems) and we were all dead, dead, dead at the end that I couldn't even enjoy my beer. I'd do WWW or HTC, though. -Becky

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    1. NO WAY!! That is too funny. Small world!

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  17. I loved reading this!! Having done 4 distance road relays I can totally relate to the bipolar sentiments ranging from, "what the eff was I thinking?!" to "I have never felt so alive and connected before!"
    I'll be doing my first trail Ragnar (New England) this summer and have visions of drinking beer around a fire in the woods, with good company and going out for a leisurely run, or 2, or 3. Sounds blissful! And yes, I know what the reality is....but I'll stick with the fantasy for now.
    I can't wait!!

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  18. This year will be the fourth time I've done Hood to Coast (Oregon) and each time I finish I swear that I will never do another one. NEVER. And then the sign up goes out and I sign up again (despite gale force rain and wind last year). I think I'm insane.

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