As we were waiting at Exchange 18, our Van 1 arrived surprisingly early. And it occurred to me that there weren't any other Van 1s around. And apparently, this photo showing Shaun blowing past the competition shows why... Our Van 1 kicked some serious butt! I leave it to one of them to talk about those legs if they are so inclined... All I know is that there were blue fingernails and vomiting involved. Anyways, they finished off 44 miles. The net elevation gain was -900 ft, but there was 3900 ft of climbing involved.
(As I noted before, I never take photos and the photographers in Van 2 haven't sent their photos to Joe yet, so all I have to illustrate these posts are mostly Van 1 photos.)
I figured at Exchange 18, the faster teams would start catching up with the slower teams that started earlier. But we were waiting and Team #9 Uline were the first ones by. They were also Flatlanders, but they started a half hour ahead of us, so we were still ahead of them. They sent their girl off up the 8.8 mile 1700 ft climb of Leg 19. Then the girl from the Ultra team "Will Run for Snacks" steamed into the exchange and handed off. A few minutes later, it was Joe! So at that moment, we were the third runner! We had managed to blow by all but one team that started before us and left behind all but one team that had started with us. Of course, our Van 2 pace was about a minute slower than our Van 1 pace, so there was plenty of opportunity to be overtaken.
We sent Al off with a command to catch the cute girl running for Uline. She was just plowing up that hill. With her 15 minute lead, Al would have had to be a monster to catch her. He was montrous enough to catch the runner from "Will Run for Snacks" though, putting us as the second runner. This was mildly surreal. The Uline van stopped a lot for their runners, so we sometimes were the first van at an exchange. Hey, at least we got to christen the portapotties :-)
Al did an awesome job climbing and handed off to Jessica, who chose to utilize the bear bells on the dark forested roads of Wyoming. We could hear her coming a mile away - I think she practically drove herself batty with those things. Needless to say, no one else used them. She passed off to Pete (this would be the "I own this!" leg) and he got to do 7 miles as the moon was finally coming out. The road shoulder in Colorado was teensy, and he had to jump into a ditch at one point to avoid a semi. At this point, we were still the second runner on the road, so all the traffic was not used to seeing a bunch of crazy runners yet.
Melissa did her leg and handed off to me at about 11:30. Before my leg, I was falling asleep and just kept thinking how long 7.4 miles was going to take me. But the second I started running, it was awesome. The weather was magnificent; the moon was out; the cars yielded to me; I even felt like there was enough oxygen. My first mile was at a 9 minute pace. I knew that wasn't sustainable, but during the whole relay, I had very little control over my pace at any point. Plus, the Sunflower Striders were not too far behind us when I started. After my first mile, I could see their runner's light far behind me. I never once saw the Uline team, so I really felt like I was running alone in the middle of the night. I took a Gu halfway, but the second half of the run, my body started to remember that it had been up since 4:30 am after a very restless sleep. The Sunflower Striders were pretty determined to catch me (they could sense the weak one in the pack :-)), and their speedy #9 got out halfway in their leg and ran with the woman running my leg to get her to do a little more running and a little less walking in her run/walk strategy (at least that is what another team told me). They ended up catching me with a mile left to go. She never got very far ahead of me in the last mile because she was run/walking it (What is it with me being caught by run/walkers! How pathetic am I?!). But I was pretty pooped at that point. I finished up and handed off to Anna. My overall pace was 10:30 or so, so I was definitely happy with that. Anna had the hard job of navigating the streets of Walden to the HS, but she made it and handed off to Teresa, finishing off our second set of legs of 37 miles and 3400 ft of climbing.
Next up: Sleeping in the rain. Good times!