Who's ready for some hyperbole? Here goes,
The Wasatch Back Relay was quite possibly the most fun thing I've ever done. I realize that spending 28 hours cramped in a car with five other people, getting out pretty much only to run up and down hills in the Wasatch Mountains might not seem particularly appealing to everyone. I'm not sure even I was totally sold on it until I actually got to Utah and all twelve of us met together for the first time. I had been so busy worrying about my training and the altitude and getting work stuff squared away that I forgot to get excited. Talking about exchange points and water stops and sleeping arrangements created a little buzz in my brain that still hasn't quite worn off even four days after we finished. Our team consisted of me, Corey, my brother Christopher, sister-in law Tasha, sister Emily, brother Logan, his girlfriend Kristen, my little sister Elizabeth's boyfriend Tom, my friend Riley, our family friends Katie and Mike Maahs and our last minute fill-in and now way rad friend Rick who is Katie's sister's boyfriend-and a ridiculously fast runner.
I won't get into a lot of the race logistics but basically, there are two cars of six and we leapfrog each other for 178 miles from Logan, Utah to Park City, Utah. Each person runs three legs of 3-8 miles and your car is responsible for all your care and feeding for the entire race. The organizers provide porta-potties, exchange places, and a finish line. You handle food, water, sleeping and driving. You pretty much end up driving one or two miles at a time, making sure your runner is hydrated, or pita chipped, or sunscreened or ibuprofened through the six legs in your car.
I've done plenty of road races in the years since I started running. I always enjoy the process of training, of pushing myself and seeing what I am capable of. I love the excitement of race day, of having your friends show up with Gatorade and yell your name. I love the crush of thousands of runners off the starting line. I am not a natural athlete and running is something I can do on my own pace, against myself, without worrying about letting a team down. The Wasatch Back is a completely new animal.
My first leg was at about 9:00 am on Friday. Corey and Riley had already made their legs look pretty effortless and I was all keyed up on Red Bull and adrenaline. I strapped on my little ipod, told the car I wanted to see them at mile 2 and headed off for 5.6 miles. It was HOT. I've been running by the beach at sea level so I could definitely feel the combo of heat and altitude. But I did in fact train so I was feeling good. There are about 300 teams in this thing but they start at all different times so for most of your legs, you only see two or three other runners. What you do see though are tons and tons of support cars. And everyone that passes honks or waves as they go by. There may not be spectators lining the streets for 178 miles, but the support cars start to feel like your own little fan club. You make friends with the ones that are stopping at the same miles you are, you trade salt water taffy and nutter butters, you flirt...it's a whole different experience than breezing past your friends at a marathon.
So I'm running, and I can't believe that I haven't hit two miles yet. A minivan stops and tosses me a water. I drink half and pour half on my head. Rick had told me that putting cold water on my wrists would cool me down quickly so I toss a little there too. I finally see the Mechanical Hounds Support Pilot up ahead. Corey tells me they lied and went a little further than two miles. The "Halfway Liars" club is born. This heat is killing me. I'm feeling tired and I have almost four miles to go. And that's when the team aspect of the race starts to kick in. I don't want to be the weak link here. I don't want to be the one who couldn't hack it. For the first time in my running life, this isn't just about personal bests and my own goals. I have to really and truly TAKE ONE FOR THE TEAM! So I keep running. And with about a half mile left to go, my iPod kicks in with a little Eye of the Tiger at the very moment some cute little kid, delighted to find a grown-up to say yes to his request, sprays my whole body with a garden hose. The water feels like little pin-pricks at first and of course there is no workout song more cliche then Eye of the Tiger but the combination feels perfect. I finish strong, pass the slap bracelet to Emily and we jump in the car, only 25 more hours to go.
The weather was perfect, I saw breathtaking parts of Utah I had never seen before and I swear I learned more about cooperation in those hours than I ever have at the millions of team building activities I've done over the years. I have so enjoyed all the individual races I've done and I will keep doing them, but the shared sense of accomplishment I got this weekend was far more satisfying than anything I could have done by myself. I'm already planning for next year... 4:30 came early. This was the last time I looked remotely cute for two days and even this is questionable.
Riley didn't really look excited to be awake either but I appreciated his efforts.
You know what I'm going to say right? Breakfast of Champions.
Rick and Tom did a good job of packing the back. A good job that lasted only until we dropped off the first runner and then was a complete mess for the rest of the time.
Emily prepped in case we had to defend ourselves on the way to Logan.
And here we are, Car 1 of the Mechanical Hounds at the start line.
My grandparents showed up to cheer us on!
Remember how I'm obsessesed with the Steep and Cheap emails??? They had a team! And we were near them the whole time! I *might* have embarrassed myself by being a little too enthusiastic around them.
The first exchange.
Cooper is a machine.
Sister to sister.
Our team mantra. And a really good way to spot the support car when your legs are dying.
Tom is also a little machine. "I'm running because I hate you guys!"
I'm afraid you probably can't tell but this entire race was spectacular. Utah is too pretty.
I don't have as many photos of the other car but aren't these boys adorable?
These two are pretty cute as well.
And here is the entire rock star crew of Car 2.
And all of us minus Rick who was blazing down a steep incline.
We all ended up running into folks we knew. Marc would later be sad not to be on OUR team.
We ate like the finely tuned athletes we are.
This was when we met up with Car 2 at the start of the second leg. Mike had just charged straight up a huge hill without passing out. Impressive.
You guys have no idea what you missed here.
Mom and Greg met us out on the course. Isn't my mother adorable?
I wish I had a better camera. This was such a pretty place.
Poor Rick was always the last runner when we met Car 2 so he isn't here.
We carb loaded and then slept soundly for a couple of hours. Our bodies nearly revolted when my alarm went off at 1:30 a.m. and it was time to get up.
Logan and Christopher were totally loopy when we met them to start our third leg. Here is me laughing so hard I almost cried. If you ever meet these boys, ask them about Banadam and Eve.
Emily and Tom.
There are several awesome things about this photo. But my favorite is the giant bag of M&M's Emily almost took into the porta pottie.
Post race massage is delightful.
And so are naps while you wait for your team.
And sisters who take good photos are pretty alright too.
These feet ran 178 miles in 28 hours.
GO MECHANICAL HOUNDS!
p.s. i'm adding this little clip from Park City TV in case anyone wants a little more info on the race...