After we handed off to Van 1, our first priority was going to sleep. So we drove ahead to exchange 30, which was essentially a field of sage brush. We plopped our mattress pads and sleeping bags down on top of the surprisingly cushy and fragrant bedding. I was practically unconscious when it started drizzling. Then it started coming down a little harder. It never poured or anything, but it was wet. Al braved it outside in the sleeping bag. Jessica and Melissa curled up under a tarp. Anna had scored the spot in the van (everyone else wanted to stretch out). I thank Pete for setting up his shelter, which I groggily crawled under with my sleeping bag. I think we finally all got to sleep at 3:30 am or so. We decided to be up at 5:30 so that we would be ready when Van 1 came. Since they had been running fast and these legs were flat, we didn't want them to run into Exchange 30 and find us still asleep. Pete set his alarm. Unfortunately it was on central time, so at 4:30 it went off. I was the only one who heard it and then I was paranoid that there wasn't an alarm set for 5:30, so I slept fitfully for the next hour. We got up just as the the first runner from Uline ran past the campsite.
When I first decided I wanted to do this relay, I was training for a marathon, so the mileage was nothing. The elevation and hills, well that was the challenge. I wasn't quite ready for the revolt of my body as I tried to get it ready to run a mere four miles on maybe 2 hours sleep over the past 30 hours and with only one and half good meals during that time. I know I was not the only one who got up and felt like their stomach was having a party. But yet we soldiered on!
Joe finally came running up to the exchange after a long hard leg and Van 1 was finished! Joe handed off to Al, who began his ascent of Rabbit Ears. Al was a rockstar, climbing up this pass while the rest of us were ready to die. Well, at least I was :-) At this point, the faster teams had begun catching up, so I had no clue who was ahead and who was behind us and we all just wanted to finish. The Sunflower Striders had yo-yoed with our Van 1, but they came through Exchange 30 with a 15 minute lead on us, and our Van was never able to catch them. In fact they increased that lead by another 15 minutes in the last 6 legs! They were kickin' butt as we were running out of steam. I have to laugh that, at one point early on, someone (I can't remember who) said "Well, maybe since they are older, they won't have as much endurance as us."
Exchange 31 was where the fun times really began. The Tour de Steamboat was going on at the same time. Paul (the race director) mentioned this in his last set of announcements but said that should only affect the faster teams. We weren't fast (we finished in the middle of the pack), but we got an early start so Jessica and Pete had to contend with bikers going up Rabbit Ears as they were doing their legs, all on the same side of the road. At least we were early - the runner from 8 Hos and Their Joes said that he had to run up Rabbit Ears, with the bikers whizzing down Rabbit Ears.
Melissa was off in the bushes at every exchange, emptying what little was in her stomach. I was visiting the portapotty at every exchange (sometimes multiple times). We were in good shape. Yeah. Pete finished up his leg with this little blonde chick blowing by him on the downhill (she said to her teammate after she finished that she was using Pete as her "rabbit"). He handed off to Melissa. We checked in with her halfway on her 5 mile, -7% grade leg. She was doing okay so she finished barrelling down the pass (in 40 minutes! Melissa's 10k time is 58 minutes in the real world!) with a last minute race against Team Hasselhoff.
She handed off to me and this was really the longest four miles ever. It was raining and every time a truck passed me by I was getting soaked. It was a flat four miles though and I chugged along. Once I started running, my stomach finally decided that it wasn't upset, but that it was starving. Towards the end the Sole Sisters started gaining on me. With a quarter mile left, she was right on my tail and I gave it all I could to at least keep up with her the last bit, but I didn't have it in me. Plus, bad running music was on the ipod (note to self: remove all Gillian Welch from ipod when running). I finished pretty close behind her and passed off to Anna, who went on to finish us up. Even though, my last four miles felt like they took an eternity, my overall pace was about 10:30 again, which I am more than happy with.
Again, Anna had the challenge of navigating the streets of Steamboat to get to the middle school. Even with the map in hand, she got a little lost. Anyways, the rest of the van drove to the middle school, we all got on our t-shirts, and when Anna came up to the track, we ran it in with her, finishing the whole thing in 28:38, which was way beyond my expectations.
I was thinking we might cruise in in 30 hours, so an hour and a half ahead of that was awesome! We were a half an hour ahead of what Paul had predicted for us pre-race, so that was cool too. We were the 10th team to come in chronologically and we finished about smack dab in the middle of the pack, both in the Flatlanders division and for the whole thing, which definitely ain't bad for a group of people used to oxygen in their air!
Next up: Sleep, Food, Sleep, Sleep, Food and Sleep at the same time.