Thursday, October 9, 2014
Grand Teton Relay 2014 - the recap
Just over a year ago I stumbled upon a Facebook page that caught my attention and held it – for a year! As I pondered the promised adventures of the Grand Teton Relay I was increasingly intrigued and my desire to participate grew with each Facebook post. I visited the website and imagined what fun it would be to take on this challenge in the land of my roots. The Tetons loomed in my mind as I began recruiting friends to participate. I needed twelve runners for a team – twelve runners willing to spend nearly 30 hours cramped in two vehicles while forgoing sleep, hygiene, and nourishment. These twelve runners would be asked to cover about 180 miles of some of the most majestic country in the world. I began recruiting. I didn’t miss an opportunity to talk to runners at sporting events, church functions, and social gatherings. I found it difficult to find twelve willing parties. In the end I found I had assembled a team of some of the best people in the world! My team consisted of six men and six women. Four of the runners had completed a marathon. Three more had completed half marathons. Three were in their twenties. Three more were not-so-young. Four were family. Two team members kind of hate to run. One only recently took up running and loves it. None of the team had ever competed in a distance relay. We didn’t really know what we were getting into. Our team name? No Common Sense - Cons on the Run!
I have done some very cool things in my day, but this one ranks right up there with the best. The Grand Teton Relay, or GTR as I will henceforth refer, was everything I had anticipated and more. I knew the scenery would be spectacular, for I had witnessed it before. What I didn’t expect was the added bonus of a short summer storm that granted a variety of lighting (and lightening) to enhance the views. As I stood in Ashton surveying the view of the Tetons in front of me and the evergreen covered hills of Island Park to my left, I formed a mental picture of the challenge we were about to undertake. Our journey would take us to the east side of those majestic peaks! It still boggles my mind. Several of our team had never witnessed this beautiful area. I was so excited for them, but mostly for myself!
There is something special about shared discomfort, shared trials, shared pain. Those shared experiences bond people together. The GTR did that for No Common Sense and it happened in 30 short hours!
As No Common Sense began the relay, thunder and lightening and a down pour also commenced! Our first participant, a not so eager runner, sprinted for a free sweatshirt. He came up empty handed, arriving third, but he delighted his teammates and got us off to a great beginning. The rain subsided after his four mile run and the day grew warmer.
Fun Fact: Some people smile always. So it was with our navigator, water boy, and runner, Andy.
The first twelve legs of the relay were challenging for most of the team. We are lowlanders, residing at 2200’ above sea level, and we climbed into Island Park from 5300’ to as high as 7600’! Our youngest and strongest runner was battling bronchitis. We were adjusting to the elevation and anticipating the challenges of sleep deprivation and multiple runs in a few short hours. A stop for sightseeing at Mesa Falls and an attempt at a nap in some tall grass along Marysville Road helped Van 1 rejuvenate and prepare for our night run.
Fun Fact: My father was born in Marysville. Marysville isn’t really there anymore – just the road. I didn’t know where we were napping until I returned home and reviewed the course map.
Another Fun Fact: Night running is not as scary as I had expected. In fact, it was my favorite leg of the course.My second leg went something like this. Having discovered that there is no way to recognize a night runner coming into the transition with only a headlamp and reflective vest in view, we determined to yell something creative. “Prison Break” sounded like a fun option. I also decided I would text Van 2 when I saw the “One Mile To Go” marker to let them know I would be arriving in a few minutes. Well … this leg was back to 6000’ in elevation, it was cooler, there was no lightening of which I had been most concerned, and Steve Miller Band kept me company, especially this song! Take the Money and Run!
Nor was there any “One Mile To Go” marker! I was running well, for me because I had adjusted to the elevation, etc. I came upon the transition unexpectedly and began yelling, “Prison Break! PRISON BREAK! Where’s my runner!” He soon emerged from the restroom and was off and running! Poor guy! I cooled down with a cup of hot chocolate at the Tetonia City Park.
Another Fun Fact: Night runners can and may undress a little bit on a run and nobody will be the wiser. This we learned from one of the nicest girls on the planet! Go figure.
And this one: It is possible for volunteer drivers to sleep on top of their Suburban and inside of their Thule cargo carrier.
While Van 2 completed their night legs from Tetonia to Driggs and finished at the base of Targhee Ski Resort, we enjoyed a quick shower and another attempt at a few winks at Teton High School. It is difficult to sleep when your babies are running relay races. My two boys were in Van 2. After about an hour and a half of unsuccessful shut eye, we headed up Ski Hill Road to meet Van 2 and begin the last legs of our relay.
As each runner completed his/her last run and returned to the vehicle, the mood inside the Suburban became lighter. We had been enjoying the experience throughout, but the relief and satisfaction that came with each participant’s completion of the goal was contagious. Poor Van 2.
Fun Fact: Keep this one for future reference if you plan to participate in the GTR next year. Van 1 has a much easier task than Van 2. The terrain is easier. Van 1 gets right to the running while Van 2 waits several hours in anticipation. Van 1 finishes first – before TETON PASS!
I finished my last leg in Victor and handed off to the “Middle-aged Dentist Looking Fellow” who began the ascent of Teton Pass. I could feel a sense of dread from my Van 2 teammates. Van 1, on the other hand, was ready to party!
Teton Pass – 6200’ to 8438’ - four men! The first climbed 561’ in 5.7 miles. The second climbed 550 feet in 3.8 miles. The third climbed 1192’ in 2.6 miles! The last descended 2300’ in 5.8 miles!
Fun Fact: The big brother is the little brother.
Two final runners took us from Wilson into Teton Village where we joined the party at the finish line! We soaked our feet in the cold water running through the resort. I can’t remember what there was to eat, but I do remember the angel that massaged my feet and ankles! I didn’t get her name, but I wanted to bring her home with me!
In the end, we finished in just under 29 hours. I was hoping for thirty! We were faster than more than half of the teams! The weather was beautiful and there were no injuries or vehicle breakdowns. We survived elevation, sleep deprivation, hunger, sweat, discomfort, and Sasquatch! I lost two toe nails. Most importantly, we gained family members through our shared experience. When we returned home we couldn’t stop talking about it. Our friends who did not participate surely grew weary of our continued accounts. They may think we have no common sense. They may be correct.
Until next year … Go Team No Common Sense!