Sunday, September 11, 2011

Running Southern Utah

I have been looking forward to this weekend with anticipation and a little bit of dread since my friend Kris asked me to run on his Red Rock Relay team in early May. The Red Rock Relay is a running relay that goes from Cedar City to Zion National Park. We started at the top of Brian Head ski resort and ended at the gates of Zion. The race is 175 miles (or something like that) in all and we ran with a team of twelve people. The picture above is a shot of the "Snow" van. Teams were divided into two vans with the first being called the Snow van since it started at the ski resort. Not long after this picture was taken, our first runner jumped on the lift and rode to the top where the race began with a nice jaunt down the ski hill at 11,000 feet- talk about thin air!

Since it was a relay race and we all took turns running there was a good amount of time when each individual was not running. Our van was the first van so, the six of us in the van ran our legs and then we got a break while the six in the other van ran their legs. While the runners in our van were running we acted as their support car. We would stop ever mile or so to give them water and cheer them on. One of my favorite things about this race is that all the teams cheered for each other. This picture is our team and a couple of other teams making a tunnel for a runner to run through- it was so fun getting to know the other teams and cheering for them!

One definite perk of being in the support vehicle most of the time was the scenery. Southern Utah is definitely beautiful country! This was a view along on of my friend Hilary's routes- Lauren and I could not pass it up so we put on our best Asian tourist faces and took a picture!

If I told you this picture was taken at 3:30 am would you believe me? You better, because it was! After getting about 2 hours of sleep in a church parking lot it was our van's turn to run again. The worst part about this was that I was having a wonderful dream about being asleep in a nice soft bed when the other team called to say they were coming in and the realization that I was not in a nice soft bed was pretty harsh!! While I was trying to fall asleep in our van in the parking lot I thought to myself, 'why in the world would anyone sign up to do this?' The thing was, it was not just crazy college kids running around southern Utah and sleeping in the grass outside of churches, it was grown ups, moms and dads, grandmas and grandpas- intelligent people who probably don't usually do crazy things. There is just something about running, and I think about this race in particular, that calls to normally sane people like myself and makes us do borderline insane things, and then tell all our friends we had a blast doing them.

Here is a quick summary of my three legs...
Leg One: I ran my first leg in a hail storm. I currently had a large number of tiny bruises on my legs from where my legs and the hail met. I do not recommend running in hail. My first leg was also almost entirely uphill. Running uphill for 5.8 miles in hail at 8,000 feet is not my idea of fun and I love running so... that is saying something! I managed to finish and pass seven people on the way. How did I do this, I have no idea.
Leg Two: My second leg was about as different from my first leg as it could have been. It was not hailing, it was all down hill and my shoes were completely dry the entire time! I ran my second leg at about 10:30 pm in a reflective vest and a head lamp, two things I have never before worn while running. During this leg I passed ten people and managed to run 5.6 miles in about 35 minutes but, like I said, it was all down hill so don't be too impressed.
Leg Three: My last leg was a breeze. It was only two miles and it was mostly flat. At this point (6 am, running on 2 hours of sleep) I was feeling incredibly grateful to only be running two miles! Before running my last leg I was tied for the most kills in
our van with one of my teammates. (Kills are what we called it when we passed someone while we were running) For those of you who don't know, I am a little on the competitive side. This competitiveness is what made me have the desire to get at least one more kill during my last run so I could be the kills leader in our van. During my last leg I got two kills and ran my two miles right around 14 minutes which was a pretty satisfying way to finish off my Red Rock experience.
The picture above this section is Hilary 'marking' me. We got to put a mark on our leg for each leg of the race we ran. That particular mark was put on my leg after my 5.6 miles that I ran down hill the whole way. The picture directly below this section is me and our van's kill count. Since I was the leader in kills, our van affectionately christened me 'The Slayer'.

The girl in the blue shorts is Kelli, she ran our last leg and just happens to be my dad's cousin's daughter so that makes her my second cousin (or something like that)- we found this out one day at work, really randomly, but we have ran with it and now call each other' cuz' and are pretty much planning the next family reunion! Kelli is a beast of a runner and ran our last leg into Zion. A couple of us started to run with her and we were all able to cross the finish line together- it was a pretty sweet experience. I really think that finishing the Red Rock is definitely on my list of times that I have felt most legit, in my entire life.

Incredibly enough, by the end of the experience, this is what our van looked like, all smiles. Ok, there was definitely some soreness and body aching situations but, other than that, everyone was pretty happy at the end! It took us just about 26 hours to finish the 175 miles and we finished somewhere in the first 40 teams. Most importantly, as cheesy as it sounds, we all had a ton of fun! Even through the hail and the rain and the hills and the lack of sleep and everything else that came our way, it really was a blast! If you are ever wondering if you should run the Red Rock, do it! It will change your life... ok, maybe not quite change your life but it will definitely be worth it!

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