The Wasatch Back is a 188 mile relay that begins in Logan and ends in Park City. You must run in a team of 12 and have two vehicles with six team members in each. Each member has three legs (Oh I wish I had THREE legs...it would have made it so much easier!) to run with distances from 3 to 9 miles each. My total mileage was almost 14 (thanks to an unexpected added 1/2 mile or so on my last leg.) There must be a member of your team running at all times until you reach the finish line. Yes, that means running in the dark is part of the race. When you are not running you are in the vehicle at all times giving support to your runner. When your second vehicle is running their legs your vehicle can take a short break, usually two hours or so.
I had been anticipating this race for over a year since I was asked to do it last year but had to back out due to an injury. Maybe anticipating isn't the right word. The closer it got the less I was anticipating it and the more I was fearing it. I have heard stories. And the closer it got the more stories I was hearing. Stories that made me question my sanity and intelligence. Stories that made me ask daily, "What have I got myself into?" Stories that made me wonder why I would want to put myself through 36 + hours of near non-stop driving and hard running with no sleep, no showering, and no flushing toilets with five other women crammed into a car that are also sleep, shower, and luxury commode deprived.
But NOW I know why I would put myself through it. Here's a few reasons why:
- Friendship with other runners
- Bonding with great women
- A great sense of accomplishment
- Realizing I am not the only crazy out there
- Feeling an amazing sense of pride for my team
- Watching and learning from the other women courage and perseverance under extreme circumstances that would try the best of us but seeing them hold on without giving up even once. (Natalie feeling sick and looking like death warmed over right before her last leg of 7 miles uphill and still doing it even though she did not want to. Jen making it through her tough 8 mile up-hiller in the killer heat with a hip injury and a smile on her face.)
- The realization that running is also a team sport
- Learning you can never have too many Wheat Thins or string cheese in a car of six women
- The knowledge that you should never bring hair spray to a race even if you are having a very, very bad hair day
- Gaining a testimony that Imodium is the best drug on the planet next to Celebrex
- Coming to the realization that a 5 a.m. starting time is not as bad as you thought when you discover you are the very FIRST ones to use the porta potties!!! Oh, so worth it!!!!
- Discovering I am pretty much the only human on the planet not hooked on Diet Coke or Pepsi
- Learning I can go without chocolate for 36 hours when I am too tired to care...well I could have had it not been for the Peanut M&M's I found in my bag around hour 26. ☺
- Getting the hint that my picture requests of extreme sleep deprived and sore team members does not put them in their happy place.
- Discovering I have the ability to sleep (albeit for only 20 minutes) in a smelly high school gym full of other non-showered runners on only a wrestling mat and sleeping bag with background noise of zipping and un-zipping bags, coughing, people whispering, people talking loudly in the hall, and a large man snoring up a serious storm while another man who had finally had enough jumps up and yells, "REALLY?, Reaaaaaaalllly?"
- The knowledge that doing hard things can also be a lot of FUN!
After we gear loaded, we carbo loaded even though we had to be up by 2:45 a.m.! We were getting a little punchy even before we were sleep deprived. Not a good sign...
One of the best parts of the race is seeing the crazy way people decorate their vehicles. To say it was entertaining would be a huge understatement.
Or the way they decorate themselves ↓
We really like this guy. We bonded.☺And that's what it's all about..."bonding". His whole team was hilarious.
My FIRST leg! It was 5.1 miles. It was my longest but not hardest. The temperature was still pretty cool.
I ran somewhere near Morgan.
Support from my wonderful team-mate Jennifer ↑
Heather, Jennifer, me, Jen ↓
Like I said "very entertaining"!
Some of my favorite sights along the way ↓
Yep that's ↓ a purple bikini on that van!
Getting ready for my second leg.
This leg was only 4.2 miles but it was 82° and seriously hot. It was the first time all year I had ran in that kind of heat. My run was towards Avon Pass.
Mel waiting for me at the exchange↓
I was sooooooooooo happy to see that exchange! Even happier I had made good time.
After our second legs we went to Summit High School to eat a spaghetti dinner and try and rest for a couple of hours.
Luckily we were one of the first groups to arrive at the gym so we had prime pick of where we wanted to crash. After eating and a lovely wet wipe bath, we tried to rest even though we only had an hour and a half. But even 10 minutes felt good to rest. We didn't get much sleep, if any, because if we weren't hearing the zipping and un-zipping of sleeping bags, we were hearing loud talk in the halls, and some guy snoring up a storm! He was going for it and finally one of the other guys that had finally had it and sat up yelling loudly, "REALLY? Reeeeeeaaaaaaaaally?" It was hilarious.
This was a common sight along the way. It looked like a bunch of body bags to me. I must admit there was a time or two that I would have welcomed a body bag!
The team names were so creative and funny. Here are some of my favorite ones:
(click to enlarge)
The quotes on this van were great. Especially "Spandex is a privilege, not a right."
Giving each other team support with water or whatever else was requested.
After we rested for a couple of hours, we had to head out once again for our third legs. We left the high school about 11:30 p.m. and met up at the next exchange by 1 a.m. Heather got to be first to run in the dark. ALL of us were required to wear reflective vests from 7:30 p.m. until 6:30 a.m. for safety reasons since in the Las Vegas Ragnar, two people were killed last year during the dark runs.
Even though we were more than excited to get our third legs over with, it still took all we had to push ourselves to feel motivated to do them. By this time we were extremely sleep deprived and our bodies had already put out so much for the first two legs. But everyone was a trooper and came through with flying colors...or maybe I should say flying reflective vests.
My adrenaline got pumping about 20 minutes before my turn thankfully, and I was excited for this leg. It was 3.8 miles and a very steep downhill. I have not had a lot of experience in downhill running, but I knew it was going to feel good on the lungs even though it would pound the rest of my body.
I ran down the Jordanelle Reservoir canyon. It was VERY dark and quiet. I never even saw another runner the whole run on this one so it was kind of spooky to be out there alone with just the night time critters. The only noise was when our van or other team vans would pass by cheering me on. At one point I turned off my Ipod to just see what it was like. It was so quiet and spooky that I immediately turned it back on and cranked it way up! But I have to say this was my favorite leg. It was fun running downhill fast! I felt it for days after, but it was still fun!really confused if I should turn up the dark hill or keep going. Since there were no other runners in sight except one about 1/2 mile behind me, I kept going to where I could see a small red light. When I got there, the volunteer told me I had gone too far and missed my turn just like the other runners. She told me I would have to run up the hill about a half mile to the exchange that way. I told her that it was NOT MARKED clearly and to please fix it before everyone did the same thing. I ran up the hairy hill but I was not a happy camper knowing it was going to cost us time not to mention I wasn't mentally prepared for ending my long downhill with such a steep uphill. Once there my team was so happy to see me because they had been driving all over looking for the exchange too and lost me. I passed off to Mel, who also had to run an extra half mile because the volunteers put the exchange in the wrong spot. We were told they later fixed it. Grr... We figure we lost about 10 to 15 minutes on our time. That was added to the other 15 or so we lost because one of our runners in the other van arrived at his exchange too soon and they penalize you if you do that. So he had to sit and wait until the exact time he could cross the exchange. Overall our total time reflects about 30 minutes longer than we actually ran it.
Once we all finished out last leg we were feeling like we were on our last leg and headed to Mel's sister house in Heber for a shower! She was so gracious to accomodate six sweaty, sleep deprived, weary women into her home at 6 a.m. on a Saturday! When we arrived she and her husband were cooking us a HUGE breakfast with everything you can imagine! They were great. They even set up their hide-a-bed so we could rest if we wanted. We only had about an hour and a half before we had to meet the full team at the finish line in Park City but we were so grateful to them for their hospitality!
Notice the hot air balloons in the background.
After the third leg we changed our name to:
We kept track of our kills but we didn't even see hardly any runners on our 2nd and 3rd legs. A kill is when you pass another runner.We arrived at the Canyons in Park City and waited for our final runner in Van 2 to arrive so we could all cross the FINISH LINE together.
Our time was 29:29 but with the problems it was really more like 29:00. Still with the official time we placed 146th out of 660 mixed teams!!! We were much faster than we had hoped for! And we had to substitute one our runners for a younger 20 year old which bumped us out of our age division that we were in. With our time we would have taken 5th place if we had our original runner. WOW!!! Lips, Hips, and Asphalt rocks!
We rode the tram down to our car and headed for home sweet home.
Our full team with our medals.
I've had several people ask me if I want to do it again next year. My response is always, "That's like asking a woman who just gave birth if she wants to have more children."
NEVER again... until next time! ☺