Thursday, October 1, 2009

Running the Redrock

Only Southern Utah’s Red Rock Country would motivate us to deviate from our prescribed plan. Despite previous opportunities and even the allure of some very beautiful places, we had essentially agreed that we would only run half-marathons and that each race needed to give us a new state until we had reached our goal.
Luckily, we knew southern
Utah well enough to think maybe THIS race ought to be an exception. And so it was. And we have no regrets. We ran the Red Rock.

The seed was actually planted in training runs months ago. We would occasionally – and in places typically only runners spend much time – see signs about “Running the Red Rock”. I took the bait and went to the website and learned about the inaugural running of a 180-mile relay that was to begin at Brian Head Ski Resort, travel south past Cedar Breaks, then up onto the Kolob Terrace through a section of Zion, and then through Hurricane and St. George, before cutting a final loop north to return to St. George through Snow Canyon. It sounded beautiful – and the advertised 8,000 drop in elevation was appealing. After consulting with my car pool partner (Will) – who I knew had participated in a number of such relays – we decided to do it. About six weeks later we were registered and had put together a team of six men and six women which included two other coworkers (one of which was also a neighbor), two ward members, five people who knew or had previously run relays with Will and, of course, Karen. CW's West Desert Incinerators were a reality. (CW for Carl and Will, of course.)

The race was run over the Friday and Saturday of Labor Day weekend. Although we had a team meeting and did some “team runs” (4-5 of us), the first time we had the entire team together was at Brian Head about 45 minutes prior to our start time on Friday. However, I think all of us were excited and, to some extent, ready. We put our first runner on the chair lift at 11 a.m.; when he reached the top, his first leg was to run down. Thirty-five legs and nearly 26 hours later, around 1 p.m. on Saturday, 11 of us ran the final 100 yards with our last runner. During those 26 hours each of us ran three legs; all of us ran legs at night; several of us ran legs in driving rain with lightning illuminating the skies (to include yours truly); many of us ran the “unadvertised” uphills (yes, two of my legs had grueling climbs and Karen averaged more feet ascended per mile ran than any other team member);

two of us ran through mud so slick and sticky as to make walking a challenge (I was one of the two); most of us traversed sections of breathtaking scenery (my last leg, just before the final leg was possibly the most gorgeous leg of the race – a downhill through Snow Canyon); many of us ran at elevations where we knew the oxygen had been removed (and I had one of these, which also happened to be with rain, in the mud and with a grueling climb!);
and each van of six became a pretty tight-knit group – dedicated to taking care of and becoming the biggest fans and supporters of our teammates.

>Despite the challenges of the runs (to include the unexpected road blockage by about a million sheep), it was a memorable, even enjoyable and very worthwhile experience – and one we would be willing to repeat. The team members and camaraderie were great and, in a sport that usually emphasizes independence and “going it alone”, it was a reminder that interdependence is really what makes some things special.

We ran the Red Rock. The exception was a good one.

In keeping with our running tradition, we even made a bit of a trip out of the relay. Sunday afternoon we spent in Snow Canyon hiking and gawking - what a great place for a family outing! That was followed by late afternoon glow on the Kolob Canyon walls of Zion NP. Monday included a stop in Cedar Breaks and then several hours of hiking in Bryce Canyon before heading home. Would be hard to think of a better weekend!

Key to Pictures:
Top 2 - Incinerators before the race at Brian Head
Next 2 - Along the route - try running through sheep! Cedar Breaks backdrop
Next 3 - Van #1 runners and Van logos to psyche out the opposition (thanks to Alan and Jen for the van, by the way.)
Next 3 - Karen - our team mountain goat!
Next 4 - Yours Truly, in the mud, without oxygen with Snow Canyon ending
Next 2 - Incinerators - you did it!
Next 4 - Snow Canyon
Next 2 - Kolob Section, Zion NP
Next 2 - Cedar Breaks
Final 4 - Bryce Canyon