Friday, September 11 – Saturday, September 12
10-runner team; 170 Miles; Georgetown to Carbondale
Team Robe Runners
Last weekend I joined a team of nine other runners in the 170-mile Colorado Relay race, an annual affair which sends runners from
I joined the nobly-named Team Robe Runners at the invitation of Evergreen running pal Steve F. The team came complete with a storied history and strong pedigree, having won the race last year. This year, though, there only were four runners returning from last year’s winning team. Six of us were new.
We all met Friday morning around 8 a.m. in
Steve F. had assigned runners to each of the 30 race legs. He even helpfully provided predicted times for each leg, giving us a time goal to strive to reach. Overall, our goal was a repeat win, and a finishing time of less than 20 hours.
The race uses a staggered start approach to help ensure teams cross the finish line within a reasonable multi-hour window. Start times are assigned based on self-reported team 10K times. Some teams began as early as 5:30 a.m. Our team, and about 10 others, was scheduled to start at 8:30 a.m., the latest start time.
Due to a large mass of unstable rock on
While our Loveland Pass runners -- Steve F., Steve G., Steve S. Brian and Frank -- took on Loveland Pass, the rest of us -- Simon, Paul, Kris, Phil and I -- drove back to Evergreen to Highway 285 to Grant and the south side of Guanella Pass where we would pick up the original race course.
I was runner #5. My first leg would be a six-mile run up and over Burning Bear pass, featuring an 1,100-foot ascent and descent. At 2 p.m., four-and-a-half hours after our first runner left
After cresting the pass and flying down the other side on a steep, rocky trail, I was dumped onto a road at Exchange Point 6, where I handed off our race number to Phil, who was ready for some trail fun. (48:40; 8:20 average pace)
Matt beat me by six minutes. Such an impressive runner! I reckon Socks had no idea whom he was running against. We left the exchange point before the other three runners emerged from the woods.
At Exchange Point #7, I had a chance to chat a bit with Matt. Turned out, his team, Daddies Gone Wild, was in the “Non-conformist” category, which includes teams of 6-12 runners. Matt’s team had seven runners, including a couple from out-of-state…sea-level states.
Phil and Kris ran the next two legs, which featured similar terrain to Burning Bear…steep climbs and descents, lots of forests and a fair dose of golden-leafed aspen trees. Together, they managed to pick back up two or three of the minutes I lost to Matt in leg 5. The race was on…and it was crystal clear that Daddies Gone Wild (DGW) would be our toughest competition.
The longest leg in the race was leg #8, which goes 13 miles up and over Georgia Pass. This leg belonged to Paul, an accomplished runner and ultrarunner and Newton Running employee. Paul had the unenviable task of chasing Matt Carpenter on this leg. And, as if that weren’t fun enough, Paul was still recovering from several broken ribs and hadn’t run in about three weeks. Still, he looked fresh and ready to go. And go he did…sore ribs and all. I don’t remember the splits, but Paul didn’t give up much time to DGW.
After Steve F., Simon and Steve S. ran impressive legs from the bottom of
After impressive legs by Brian (busting sub-5:40 miles down the west side of Vail pass) and Steve G. (running so smooth and fast through East Vail), I took the handoff at 10:30 p.m. in Vail’s Ford Park and set off on a nine-mile gentle downhill jaunt to Avon and its Battle Mountain High School (58:40; 6:37 average pace). I felt very good this entire run. I don’t think I’ve ever run that fast that long before. I just focused on keeping the pace up, the breathing steady and the mind on the nine other people counting on me to run hard (and Steve F.’s 60-minute time prediction for that leg). I finished the leg in a full-on sprint to keep a sneaky runner from passing me in the final stretch. I held him off, but, in my zeal, managed to pass Phil, who was waiting there in the finish scrum for me to hand off the number so he could get on with leg #16. Once I settled down and managed to locate Phil, we completed the handoff and he was off. And, Steve G., Brian, Frank, Steve S. and I headed off to
Through the early morning hours, Phil, Kris, Steve F. and Simon each ran their asses off. As the hour grew later, we lost track of where we were time-wise in relation to the Daddies Gone Wild team. We knew we had passed them on west side of
The last legs for the five of us in Vehicle A were the legs to and through
My final leg was a four-mile stretch from the No Name exit off I-70 to the
I was warned ahead of time that the route through town was a little tricky. I managed to follow the odd collection of signs, fading glow sticks and flashing red lights on an eclectic collection of bridges, bike paths, sidewalks and roads to get from Glenwood Hot Springs to the rec center (25:38; 6:23 average pace). After a final handoff to Phil, Vehicle A was officially done with the 2009 Colorado Relay.
As we drove to the finish line to wait for the Vehicle B runners to finish their final legs, we started doing the math. We all had run our legs in times very close to what Steve F. had predicted. If we continued that trend, we figured we’d finish in under 20 hours.
We drove on to Carbondale and settled in at the finish area to wait as the rest of the team completed their final legs. Before we knew it, the whole team was together at the finish area waiting for our last runner, Simon, to complete the race's last leg.
Suddenly, Simon came barreling around the final corner into the finish area, chasing one more runner. Colorado Relay rules say the entire team must to cross the finish line together. Simon was about eight minutes ahead of schedule, and we weren’t ready. Simon passed the runner he was chasing, as well as the rest of the runner’s teammates limping after him. Unfortunately, due to our inattention, we didn’t get the entire Robe Runners team across the finish line with Simon.
As a result, officially we were the third team across the finish line (the first two teams had started the race two or three hours before us). We had the fastest overall time, finishing the 170-mile race in 19:34:59. Daddies Gone Wild, running with just seven runners (three fewer than us!), came in second, with a time of 20:25:59. (Additionally, DGW went off course at the top of
All in all, the Colorado Relay experience was great. The first half of the course is beautiful and challenging. Thankfully, the long, flat and boring (and somewhat dangerous) stretches of I-70 frontage road from
The volunteers were fantastic. Even in the middle of the night, they were attentive and informed (thank you!). The course was pretty well-marked. No one on our team went off course. The best part, though, was running as part of a team. The camaraderie and encouragement from teammates was uplifting and the unspoken pressure to perform for the team was inspiring. And, the shared suffering from running all night resulted in a strong bond among a group of near-strangers.
A special thanks to Race Director Garrett Bell, all the race sponsors and the countless volunteers that made this event so special, and raised significant funds for Outward Bound. And, thanks to my Robe Runners teammates for pushing me to run faster, harder and longer than I thought I could.