Monday, August 29, 2016

Grand Teton Relay 2016 - The Recap

Gang Greens ready to run!
Grand Teton Relay 2016 is over and I can’t wait until 2017! After three years of running around Island Park, Teton Basin, and over Teton Pass into Wyoming, I am as fascinated as ever by the beauty of that land. I am blessed with a community of runners who have become family to me and I am ever pleased with the supportive running community at large. I am amazed at the miracle that is the human body and the way it rises to the task, endures and eventually repairs itself. Yes, I said “repairs.” Grand Teton Relay is no easy feat, but the rewards are worth it!

Carb Loading at Olive Garden
We indulged in the traditional pasta dinner at Olive Garden Restaurant in Idaho Falls before heading north to spend the evening in St. Anthony. Our race start was 8:00 am in Ashton – two hours earlier than the previous two years. Van 1 consumed breakfast burritos in the hotel parking lot because the continental breakfast didn’t open before we had to depart. I have yet to learn what Van 2 ate that morning. They arrived at the start in time for a team photo in our shirts sponsored by Caldwell Immediate Care and TrailridgeDental and then we were off and running!
Runner 2 coming in strong!
Rolling wheat fields stretched out before us and then behind as we ran and climbed towards Island Park. That first leg is a lung burner for us lowlanders of the Treasure Valley! I kept thinking, “My lungs hate me right now!” Gratefully, the temps were lower than GTR 2015! Van 1 finished our 32.5 miles and handed off to Van 2. They ran off into the forest and mountains with their bear spray while we refueled our bodies and attempted to get some rest. We had no contact with them until they were within about a mile of our next van transition.

No visit to Island Park would be complete without a stop at Mesa Falls. Gorgeous! I could listen and watch the water run over those falls for hours.
Mesa Falls

Anxious not to miss Van 2 we arrived at the transition point very early where we watched other teams arrive and move on. The views grew more scenic as the sun’s angle lowered and smoke from a distant forest fire filtered the evening light. Excitement and a little anxiety festered as we awaited our second leg and the night run. Van 2 arrived after pounding out 42.5 fast miles and we were off and running once again!
Van 2 returning from Island Park

Injuries happen. We were registered as a competitive team meaning we had to cover all of our miles with the original 12 runners. Suited up in reflective gear and headlamps, we began our night run. When Runner 1 had to pull out, two others rose to the occasion and logged extra miles to keep us in competitive status. You should have seen me scrambling with reflective vests, lights, new batteries and such to get my teammates geared up for their unexpected tag team duties! The night air was cold. My run was on an abandoned rail bed, part of the Rails to Trails system. Unlike the advice often given to runners to keep their eye on the goal and off the road, it is best to keep an eye on the trail. As I neared Tetonia, I could see the lights a half mile ahead and I fixed my gaze on the goal – and off the trail. When I discovered myself face down on the ground after being tripped up by a rock I considered for a moment calling my teammates and asking them to come rescue me. My pride and my knee were both hurt! I got up, walked for a few yards, and then decided it best to finish my run. After all, my teammates were already doing their part.
Sasquatch Sighting!
After handing off to Van 2 in Tetonia at 12:30 am, we made our way to Teton High School in Driggs where we found some cold grass on which to rest. Warm showers were available, so I washed the dirt off of me and warmed up a bit before attempting to rest on the cold ground. (Temperatures dipped to below freezing before sunrise.) At 2:50 am I received a text that Van 2 was on the move up Targhee Ski Hill Road and we needed to get moving in order to meet them at the top. I was afraid to move. Any movement stirred up the cold air around me. We mustered our courage and hit the road.

Sunrise over Teton Valley
We decided it best if I ran down upper Targhee as it is a non-support leg. If Runner 1 tried to run and got into trouble, we couldn’t help him, so at 4:00 am I was once again on the move. Almost four miles downhill was a blessing for my lungs! My quadriceps, however, would pay for it the following day. Temperatures continued to drop as we made our way through Driggs to Cedron and then finished our task in Victor. There were places where ice covered potato fields. The smoke from forest fires obscured the usual view of the Teton peaks. Still, the lighting made for some interesting photos.

Runner 1 attempted to run again, but couldn't complete his leg. Runners 3 & 4 picked up extra miles and we met Van 2 in Victor. The relief and lighthearted attitudes of Van 1 contrasted with the anxious anticipation of Van 2 as they faced the task of climbing up and over Teton Pass! (Summit 8,432’) We cheered them on and then enjoyed a much deserved hot breakfast at Sherwood’s Post.

Smokey Grand Teton Sunrise
After dining and some freshening up with Shower in a Box (my name for baby wipes), we made our way via vehicle over Teton Pass and into Teton Village where we awaited the arrival of Van 2 and Runner 12. The entire team joined her for the last 150 yards to cross the finish line together. In the end, Team Gang Greens finished in record time this year! We received our medals, took a few pictures, munched on ice cream sandwiches and headed home! A short rest in Ririe for pizza and reminiscing preceded the five hour drive back to the Treasure Valley where we arrived as the sun was setting on another day and muscle cramping and exhaustion was setting in.

Why, you might ask, do we do this? It has been over a week since we returned and most of the team is still experiencing GTR2016 withdrawals. We see each other at a community or church event and we talk about the relay. We post pictures and share finish times (28 hours 20 minutes) on social media. We miss each other and we miss the experience. There is something magical about sharing difficulties with others. Those experiences forge friendships that last. We celebrate life by pushing our bodies to do difficult things and then experience the miracle of recovery. We learn that discomfort can be endured and joy can be found even during misery.

Why, you might ask, do we do this?

Because we can!

Sasquatch Impersonating!
Running Granny Green encourages women, especially grandmothers, to gain greater fitness by providing tips and inspiration to insure long years of joyful grand-parenting. The cookie recipes are a bonus!

Happy Running!
Carol - aka Running Granny Green
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