Becoming a #1 Stunner! {Wild West Relay}

So, about that Wild West Relay. We survived. And we kind of rocked at life. There were a few moments of “I hate you for making me do this” but shortly there after I wanted to leap into the van and hug everyone for letting me run with them.

I know almost nothing about organizing a relay race – our captains were absolutely amazing and had everything all set – or training for a relay as I got roped into this one just a week out. I literally showed up with a bag of clothes and food, pinned a bib to myself and ran. That’s it. If you’re looking for advice on how to plan for a relay I’m no help, but I can tell you how to survive a relay race you have done zero training for!

Going into this relay I knew exactly one person – Paula. We’d first met offline for our first attempt to summit La Plata and I helped rope her into the Mt Evans Ascent. Everyone else on the team had run this relay at least once and some of them were delusional ultra runners {I use delusional as lovingly as possible, really I’m extremely jealous of their mental and physical ability to be awesome}. I had no idea what to expect but I really hoped they wouldn’t just leave me for dead on the side of the road if I sucked too much.

Wild West Relay - #1 Stunners - Start Line
The #1 Stunners at the start line!

The runners on this team are all hardcore, fast and competitive with ultra marathons, legit pacer status and other crazy extreme races under their belts. I did not know all this before I agreed to run with them…and if I had known it I would have been a lot more scared!

The race started for us at 10am in Fort Collins. I was in Van #2 so we had a few hours to kill after the first runner of the team took off. We could have gone to the exchange to hang out…or we could have gone on the Budweiser Brewery tour across the parking lot of the start line. Any guesses on what we did? Yup, brewery tour. We are good team mates like that, plus fueling and carb loading is important!

Wild West Relay - #1 Stunners - Start LineWild West Relay - #1 Stunners - Start Line

After the tour we headed to our first van exchange and fed our faces while waiting for Van #1 to come in. Our phenomenal team captain, Laci, got us all hooked up with JammyPacks so we kept ourselves – and our neighbors – entertained! Never heard of of a JammyPack? Then you are missing out! They are fanny packs…with speakers!

So many people commented on the JammyPacks. This race prohibited headphones so you had to get creative to have music on the run so our fancy musical belts had lots of runners jealous. Plus they made for great impromptu dance parties! We rocked them the entire race and soon realized fanny packs are really handy – any chance they’ll come back into style?!

Wild West Relay - #1 Stunners - Start Line - JammyPacksWild West Relay - #1 Stunners - Start Line - JammyPacks
Clearly these JammyPacks were made just for the #1 Stunners!

Before long Van #1 and their final runner came cruising into the exchange and we got down to business. Our first runner took off and we followed behind as cheerleaders then met him at the next exchange – with a few exceptions in the “no support” areas this is how the entire race went for us. Chill while waiting for Van #1, send out runners, cheer them on, trade off, repeat.

I was Runner #11 so I had plenty of time to sit in the van, cheer on speedy fast runners, dole out smack talk and freak out about my own run. I found out quickly that this team is full of fast, talented runners. This course is no joke – we literally ran over a mountain pass so there is an incredible amount of elevation gain and loss. I lucked out and had an “easy” leg but I was still having a minor panic attack about my leg. I knew I could run 5 miles, but could I run 5 miles uphill quickly?! It all depends on how you define quickly… I thought I was going to die – so hot, so uphill, so trying to run as fast as possible!

Wild West Relay - #1 Stunners - Van TransitionWild West Relay - #1 Stunners - Van Transition
With getups like this how do you not take them seriously?!

It was during this leg that the “I hate running” and “I hate them for making me do this” thoughts came into play. And the thoughts may have slipped out as verbal insults on occasion. Oops. As soon as I handed off the imaginary baton and took in all the positive feedback {seriously, the team was competitive but so supportive} I was ready to go again, sort of. My next leg was a night run and I had heard great things about the night runs so I was looking forward to it.

Wild West Relay - #1 Stunners - Runner TransitionWild West Relay - #1 Stunners
Paula taking off on her first leg – 6 miles of uphill in hellish heat without support, sounds like fun…

When we headed off to Van #2 we wouldn’t be seeing them until our night runs so we stopped for some real food and then set up “camp” at the next Van Exchange. It was a very dark, chaotic mess of vans and I’m pretty sure we were not in the correct location for camping but we made do. Unfortunately we ended up missing the exchange by about 5 minutes because Van #2 came in early and we could not be found. Everyone was a little on edge considering the time of night and conditions but we survived. There were miles to cover and road kill {if you pass another runner they become “road kill”} to be had!

Wild West Relay - #1 Stunners - Runner TransitionWild West Relay - #1 Stunners
Steele waiting for Paula to come in and being the world’s best cheerleader, even after I told them all that I hated them!

My night leg started around 2:30am and while I was excited at the idea of night running I really just wanted to go to sleep. I pulled myself together…the runners before me had made some serious progress with the road kill tally marks and I wasn’t about to let down a car full of opinionated, argumentative strangers down! I took off at a fairly quick clip, and almost immediately slipped into “the zone”. This is the kind of running I love – surrounded by nature, engulfed in the stench of cow manure, comfortably chasing down the blinky red light on the runner ahead of me.

If the van had stopped in the first mile of my leg I would have leapt into the van just to give each one of them a hug! I wanted to apologize for being so hateful {er, hostile?} on my last leg and tell them that I loved them all for “making” me do this! It is crazy how much difference a few hours and about 40 degrees can do when it comes to running.

Wild West Relay - #1 Stunners - Van Transition
Exchange #31 looking down at the camping area with runners camping out at the exchange, you sleep where you can!

It was still dark when we passed the baton onto Van #1 and over half way through the race! We grabbed food at the exchange and headed directly to the next Van Exchange where there was a designated camping area in the middle of a huge field. The weather was perfect and we were exhausted. The sleeping bags were immediately pulled out and within minutes I was sound asleep in a lump cow pasture under a blanket of stars. Truly amazing. It also turned out to be one of best 2 hours of sleep I’ve ever gotten. I’d consider running this relay again just for that exchange!

The exchange area started getting busy just as we were getting ready to take over the running so it felt natural to wake up and go. My mood was proof that the short bit of sleep was pure perfection – I was full of smiles, bouncing around and ready to run. I had to wait almost 3 hours before it was my turn but I kept all the energy…with a little help from chocolate covered espresso beans and Mt Dew.

Wild West Relay - #1 Stunners - Runner TransitionWild West Relay - #1 Stunners - Runner Transition
Jeremy still loving life after a brutal, unsupported climb with road construction + Paula heading into her last leg

By the time my last leg came up I was ready to go. It was hot, there was no shade and I was taking off after a strong runner gained some serious ground but I was ready for this! It was not an easy run but I booked it. We were trying to calculate our finish time I promised them a 8:29 pace for my 4.3 mile leg. I threw out that pace before I thought about how hard it was to hold a 8:30 pace during my last 4 mile race. What was I thinking?!

I held a pace of 8:01 for the first 3 miles of rolling hills. It was just after the 3rd mile that I started to struggle but I could see a runner ahead of me and I had to close to gap before I handed off to Laci, our final runner. I did manage to pass the runner and in the end I pulled off a solid 8:09 average. I was so darn proud of myself, I still am. It is amazing how fast you can make your legs go on 2 hours of sleep when you have two vans full of people depending upon you!

Wild West Relay - #1 Stunners - Runner TransitionWild West Relay - #1 Stunners - Runner Transition
Flattering photos are overrated…just think of how tired I had to be to look that broken!

Laci had the very last leg of the race and we all met her near the finish to run in together. We strapped on our JammyPacks, cranked up the music and prancercised our way across the finish line! We were done! The announced our final time of 26:26.45! This put us in 2nd place for our category and 5th place over all! We had also pulled off a team PR with an average pace of 7:58 which is just proof of how awesome the team work was – and how fast some of the runners really were!

Wild West Relay - #1 Stunners - Finish Line - JammyPacksWild West Relay - #1 Stunners - Finish Line - JammyPacksWild West Relay - #1 Stunners - Finish Line - JammyPacks
The entire team of Jambassadors, Van #2 and Van #1 – all #1 Stunners!

I have been eyeballing relay races for years but just never got around to running one. I cannot thank the entire team enough for everything – they were more than happy to have my semi-slow self trying my darnedest to pull my weight, they supported me on every step even when I hated them and they made the entire experience so much fun! The volunteers were also amazing – always chipper and happy to be there, even at 3am!

Wild West Relay - #1 StunnersWild West Relay - #1 Stunners
The morning after – a wannabe boy band and the girls at the condo.

We finished off our long weekend of running at a condo in Steamboat – even more team bonding. The fact we managed to have fun, play ridiculous versions of Apples to Apples {my feelings are still bruised} and still enjoy each other’s company says a lot about how awesome everyone was! Even the more hostile runners were able to laugh through the tears of foam rolling…

I will do this race again, in a heart beat. If you ever get the chance to run a relay…do it! Especially if you are running with an awesome group of crazies willing to put up with your oddities just so you run your own legs of the race!


Becoming a #1 Stunner! {Wild West Relay} — 14 Comments

    • I never thought I’d look back on that horrid first leg and want to do it again. Although now that I’ve looked at the photos from Van #1 I think I’d like to give that van a shot…just for the gravel roads!

    • Some of the guys were crazy fast keeping amazing paces on intense uphills – they made up for me! :)

      Loved the JammyPacks and used it as my “purse” all weekend long! Fit the wallet and cellphone perfectly! I didn’t have music with me to jam out with so I improvised its purpose!

    • Very much like a Ragnar race, at least in concept. Definitely try out a relay if you get a chance – I’d highly recommend running as a last minute sub, less time to freak out! :)

  1. Pingback: Run Rabbit Run 100: My 1st 100 Mile Ultra // Heidi Kumm

  2. Pingback: My First 100 Mile Ultra [Run, Rabbit, Run 100] // Heidi Kumm

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

CommentLuv badge