My alarm went off at 1:45 Friday morning. I would find out about an hour later, listening to XM radio on the way to the race start in Canon City, that this was the time that the shootings were reported at the movie theater just a couple of miles from where I was staying. I feel the need to mention the tragedy mainly because I used to live in the area, and know people personally affected by the tragedy. Needless to say, it was a sobering start to the race.
We got to Canon City at about 4:30 a.m. (The recommended one hour before our wave start time). Our wave started at 5:30 a.m. The EPIC is a scattered start, as some teams finished 12 hours apart. Basically, you input your pace before hand, and EPIC gives you an estimated finish time, then puts you in waves with the slowest people starting first. We were in the third wave out of seven (the last wave started at 10:30am).
In the EPIC relay, there are 12 runners, who each run 3 legs. Leg distances vary from just over 2 miles to just about 9 miles, all with varying degrees of difficulty. There are pretty much no “flats”. You are either going uphill or downhill. The race elevation ranged between 5,300 feet and just under 12,000 feet. The race was originally slated to take us from Colorado Springs to Crested Butte, however, due to fires and construction, the course was rerouted several times. I must say, I was a bit over confident since I am used to running at altitude. I didn’t perform significantly better than when I run in Breck, but I was also running this race on no sleep. Seriously. Less than 5 hours of sleep in 38 hours. However, my average pace was right at about 10:30MPM, which was my predicted pace.
Once Dan took off, we followed the race route, pausing to cheer him on a few times as he wound through a rocky, steep canyon, up and down hill, to the next runner exchange point. We repeated this for all 36 legs (sort of).
Onto my legs.
Leg 1 was rated “Moderate”, the easiest rating of my legs. I think it was given the moderate rating because it was my first leg, mostly all on asphalt (as opposed to dirt or loose gravel), and relatively short (3.25 miles). It was hell. My hardest leg. Probably because I ran uphill the entire time, in 87 degree weather, on asphalt, with no clouds, shade, or breeze. Seriously, I thought I was going to pass out at least twice. Running at altitude is one thing, running in heat is a whole different beast that I no longer get much experience with since it rarely gets over 75 in Breck, and I run in the mornings or early evenings.
The total time is about 1 minute longer, because I was DYING and trying to drink/catch my breath/not pass out in front of 30 people. Stopping my GPS was not a priority. Still, not a great pace, but it was SO HOT.
Luckily, my next leg started in the early evening, and was MOSTLY downhill. There were some pretty EPIC views, however, I didn’t stop to take a picture. My vanmates took some, but have yet to post them online. You’ll have to take my word about the EPIC view.
In this leg, I was basically traveling down into Salida. Cameron Mountain on the topomap is a 14er. Yea, pretty bad ass.
The above picture is the best file photo I was able to find that approximates my view for leg two. Except, there wasn’t a cloud in the sky. And, the sun was beginning to set. My view was way more awesome.
Leg 2 went pretty well. One guy had about 1/2 mile head start of me, and it was my goal to pass him. I PASSED HIM. The road was very rutted, and mostly loose gravel. I definitely had to take it easy, as to not trip, fall, and twist my ankle. At a few points, I was literally hopscotching my way down the mountain, due to all the ruts in the road. My knee caps really started to feel it the last 1/2 mile or so. Like, stabbing pain in the front of my knee caps. I guess it’s because I was basically balancing on marbles heading down a 6% grade. Whatevs, I finished strong and passed the dude. I handed off to Janis (the last runner in our van). She ran down into Salida, where we re-packed, changed, and had a sit down dinner.
We ate at a restaurant called The Fritz in downtown Salida. Most people in our van wanted a sit-down dinner. We were over eating GU, bananas, and bagels. Then, we headed to the runner exchange before the vehicle exchange, and tried to get some sleep. It wasn’t very successful since the exchange was in a City Market parking lot, and there was nowhere to lay out sleeping bags. Sleeping in a cramped van = not sleeping. At about 12, we got the call to head to the vehicle exchange, so after an attempted 2 1/2 hours of sleep, we became the active (aka running) vehicle.
Our first two runners had roughly 7 miles, at a 7% grade, uphill up Cottonwood Pass. Our third runner, Garret, ran about 2.5 miles up, and 2.5 miles down, the pass, crossing over the Summit at roughly 3:45 in the morning. Next, was Starlet who had 8 miles downhill. I was able to take about a one hour nap when Jen was running, and thus was driving for Garret and Starlet’s legs. I had this lovely 3am snack:
I didn’t drink all of the Energy Drink, but I was about to run 6.75 miles with basically no sleep in over a day. I needed something! My final leg took me down the rest of Cottonwood Pass, and up and around Taylor Reservoir. I actually took some pics, as the sun was rising, with a thick haze over the Reservoir.
As I ran, I actually descended into the clouds and was running in the clouds for a while. Once I got to the bottom of the pass, there was an unmarked T in the road, and a cattle grate. I had to stop to not fall into the grate, as well as figure out if I had to turn left or right. BAD IDEA. My entire body seized up, and my momentum was gone. Just in time for the last 3.5 miles uphill. Oh, and did I mention, I was hot so I got rid of my runners jacket, and the temperature dropped to 36 degrees? Whoops. I was still hot, not feeling the cold.
With about 1.5 miles left, the Christmas in July van backtracked to let me and the runners behind me know that there was cattle in the road. LOTS of cattle.
I literally had to stop and wait for the dozen or so cows in the middle of the road to get a move on. Then, I tip toed around them, while the mama’s were very angrily MOOING at me. Then, a bull started snorting. “Great! I’m going to die by bull trampling on this road in Gunnison” was going through my head. This is a picture of when there weren’t so many in the road.
My pace is a bit slower than I like, I was killing it (about 8:30 MPM) the first 2.5 miles or so. But then, my legs seized. Oh yea, and I had to wait at the cow crossing. Nevertheless, I was glad to be DONE. I quickly snoozed until the next vehicle exchange, where they were selling breakfast burritos. Potatoes, eggs, bacon, green chili and cheese for me please!
We drove into Crested Butte, trying to doze (don’t worry, I wasn’t driving!) Then, wandered around the town and eventually got some breakfast (I just had a chocolate milk shake, as I was still full from the burrito). We still hadn’t really “slept”. Our van was lucky to get into the hotel early, and after everyone showered, 2 of our 6 decided to catch up with the other van/runners and continue trailing them. The other 4 decided to SLEEP (which was still interrupted by texts). After a two hour nap, the other team was close to finishing. Luckily, the finish line was basically right outside out hotel, at the base of Mt. Crested Butte. We all went out to cheer on/run in with the #12 runner. Total time was 33:48:20. That equates to a 10:38 MPM average pace. Not too bad when you are running up mountains! Overall, we finished 37 out of 45 teams, but managed to beat all but two teams that started within waves 1-3. I wished we placed better (the competitor in me never goes away), but we did pretty well. We finished right in the middle of our division (which excluded the ULTRA teams, and people who seriously, hard-core train and do several of these relays).
After we took a pic at the finish (stupid WordPress won’t let me load it), it started pouring rain. Hotel for the other half to shower, then out for brick oven pizza, wings, and beer, then BED. FINALLY, SLEEP. Sweet, sweet, SLEEP. Two days later, my sleep schedule is a bit off, but its getting more regulated. 17.5 miles of running in less than 18 hours, on almost no sleep will screw with you.
We headed back to Denver after breakfast at the hotel Sunday morning, and I took the opportunity to load up on groceries at the Cherry Creek Whole Foods. I actually hit the gym up yesterday (Monday), and did some rowing, elliptical, abs, and stretching. It was good to get my legs moving in a different way, and I’m (almost) pain free.
The EPIC Relay was quite the experience. Relay tips coming soon, but check out my awesomely (incorrect) finishers medal.
- Meeting new people
- Comradery amongst teams. Everyone was cheering each other on.
- Running a race, but still being by oneself in the wilderness.
- Sweet swag bag (tech shirt, lots of food, nice medal)
- Clean porta potties
- Beautiful scenery
- A good, hard, challenge
- A Suburban with a DVD player
- No sleep
- No trash at major vehicle exchanges (its not fun to have to carry your trash/empty Gatorade bottles, etc. with you the whole time)
- Cramped vehicles (we had a Suburban, but it still seemed cramped)
- Lame “after party” But really, when are they ever good?
- No sleep
The major con was the trash deal and the no sleep thing. With more experience, packing would have been more efficient, and we would have had more room. (We would have had more room had we been able to throw out our trash). But, the PROS totally outweigh the CONS. I think I might be hooked to this whole relay thing.
Have you ever run a relay race of this sorts? Who has done RAGNAR? I REALLY want to do it!