A couple of years ago, a group of us from work decided two years in a row to do The Colorado Relay. It is a 150 mile running race over four mountain passes in Colorado and it is traditionally done by a team of about 10 people over 24 hours. Now I have reported in previous blogs about my fun experiences in 24 hour mountain bike races but this was a little different in that it involved running at altitude on roads, paths, and trails. I have never really noticed altitude when I have been skiing. I notice it a little bit when I ride a road bike or a mountain bike out west. But running is exponentially more taxing than any of the previous activities.
The fun part of the relay is the preparation. The beneficiary of the proceeds of the race is Colorado Outward Bound. http://www.outwardbound.org. This organization takes youth, companies, and other folks on team building missions in the wilderness with the express intent of getting people to work together in a challenging environment. It is wonderful for disadvantaged youth, as well as for companies like ours who want to experience team building in an outdoor atmosphere away from the office. We had to get two vans, all of our gear, food, maps etc. and be ready at the start line early in the morning on a Saturday in September. The vans basically leapfrog with the first 5 runners in the first van letting each runner out to do his or her leg, then the runner gets in the van and the next runner is out the door. When the 5 runners have gone, the driver takes the van ahead to the next starting point which is after the legs of the second van. This leapfrogging allows some rest and refueling before any five runners start again. It goes this way all the way from Georgetown,Colorado over four passes into Carbondale, Colorado-150 miles away.
Now aside from running all summer to prepare, and getting used to the altitude, the real challenge was the logistics but it is the most fun. Team meetings in Pittsburgh concentrated on the details of who was running what legs, what we would bring in the vans, who were the volunteer drivers, and getting flights and rides to the start line to meet each other. Once this was all worked out, we all met at the pre race dinner in Golden, Colorado. Some of he funny/interesting stories are as follows:
Our captain Maureen was so nervous at the start line the first year that she threw up before the start but she was a trooper and ran a wilderness 13 mile leg.
I ran my first leg in 8 inches of snow at about 10,000 feet. Now I am used to running in the winter but I don’t mind telling you that altitude is something that definitely is a challenge when running.
Our two studs, JR and the running Rev( Reverend Andrew – a friend from Colorado Springs who filled in for us), ran the tough uphill legs and were quite impressive to all riding in the vans.
JR was also our statistician. He is from our supply chain engineering group at work and after his runs he began to feverishly work on his laptop and decifer lap times, estimated ETAs, and other data. How he did it right after a run was beyond me seeing that after some of my legs,all I wanted to do was sit at the bar and down a cold beer. Our driver Norm said to me after the leg to Breckenridge that I looked like hell. I said,” no kidding Norm, I just ran 8 miles straight up hill at altitude.” I was looking for that cold beer then.
At about 4 AM on Sunday morning Norm wakes us up while we were sleeping on the Edwards,Colorado High School lawn. It was time to start our legs and the running Rev didnt need awakened. The lawn sprinklers did that job nicely for him. Running in the wee hours in September is a bit brisk and I remember chasing these two gazelle like girls who ran for UC-Boulder. It was a metaphor for my life really. The old guy trying to chase youth. These girls just kept talking as they ran and it looked like little effort as I killed myself trying to keep up. Youth is wasted on the young I am afraid.
We had a couple of “strays” that filled in. One girl was from Colorado and got altitude sickness. She was a bit of an odd duck anyhow but being the benevolent soul that I am, I took her to an oxygen bar in Breckenridge. We pumped her full of 02 and before you knew it, she was ready to roll. Interesting establishment that oxygen bar. She also relieved herself on a bush at the side of the road in the freespirit Colorado girl way much to the surprise of the conservative eastern crowd. Colorado folks are really laid back and I like their style.
Although we did not see much wildlife, there are mountain lions in the area and don’t think for a moment that we weren’t thinking about them during the dusk and evening legs. Chances are slim but you never know in the foothills of the Rockies. But there were enough people that the chances of being attacked were slim to none. But on the dark lonely trails or paths where no one was around for a little while and all you had was your light to blaze the trail, thoughts come into your head.
You have to hand it to our volunteer drivers like Norm and Chrissy. They stayed up all night with little rest and kept each of us on our toes with start times and wake up calls. Chrissy is actually running this year with a new group from our office and has been dilligently training running long miles and stadium steps. Some of our other runners are not as dedicated and they are in for a big surprise if they don’t step up their game in this next month.
All in all, the preparation that is required by way of training and the logistics taught us all some valuable lessons and also gave us a real sense of accomplishment as we all crossed that finish line in Carbondale together. The Outward Bound spirit of collaboration and preparation teaches folks that instead of working on your own, and being only concerned for yourself in life, working together is the answer. Teamwork, getting to know people outside their comfortable environment, and pushing your limits together is something that everyone takes with them. It saves disadvantaged youth from a life of crime. It helps company employees bond together outside the workplace. And it shows individuals that you can push yourself outsde your own comfort zone. Check out our team picture above with our Steeler gear. We wore it proudly in Bronco country. Also, my good friend Julie from our Chicago office sent me the other photo which kind of says it all for those of us who want to stretch our limits and grow. No matter how old we are. Thanks for reading.