– Headwaters Relay Day 3 –
Waking up on day three is stupid hard. My body screams with every muscle movement trying to clinch up into a little ball and stay in bed for a bit longer. Time seems to fly by while I am fighting with the pull to go back to sleep and before I am fully conscious, I have somehow managed to slip into a pair of running shorts, pull on a pair of pants and a long sleeve shirt and make my way out to the van in my flip flops, where I promptly fall asleep again.
I miss the climb out of the Madison River Valley into the Gravely Mountains, and by the time I wake up, we are approaching 7500 feet above sea level and still climbing. My first leg of the day is coming up, which will take the team to the highest point on the relay, Monument Ridge at 9,587 feet. While not anywhere near as hard as my very first leg, I know this leg is going to feel just as challenging due to the elevation. Training at 250 feet about sea level has not prepared me for a 9000 foot plus gain in a four day time span.
Leg Eight: Distance 4.5 Miles
Leg Description: Rating – Split 8/3/6; Rolling hills; some serious clibms; awesome leg!!! Highest elevation of relay at 9587, 0 – 1.4 miles gain 470, 1.4-2.7 miles lose 70, 2.7 – 4.5 miles gain 220; 7% grade
Starting Elevation: 8790 feet, Elevation Gain: 620 feet.
Stay on road to “Monument Ridge 9587 ft” sign on right.
Running this leg makes me feel like I am top of the world, or would have if I hadn’t felt like I was going to fall apart. All this running has left me with some very sore quads and what feels like a pulled hamstring. Starting this leg was probably the hardest thing I have ever done running wise as I just could not move. I slog my way through this leg and the only solace I take is that I am not the only runner feeling this way. Ever other runner I see or pass has the look of defeat on their face, but we all finish.
After completing my leg, we drive a short 3.6 miles to the next exchange point. I’ve been waiting for this stop for quite some time as we are now stopped adjacent to Black Butte Mountain, which at an elevation of 10,546 feet is one of the higher points we will pass on the run. After taking a few pictures, I reached in the cooler and grabbed a beer that I had been saving for this very occasion, a Black Butte Porter. While the beer is not named after this Black Butte, it was worth the stop to drink one of my favorite beers at a location with the same name.
Hoping back in the van, we continued on our gradual decent into the Centennial Valley, along the very southern border of Montana. In the valley lies not only the finish line of this three day journey, but also my final leg which will take me through the Red Rocks Lake Wildlife refuge.
Leg 17: 6.1 Miles (I am running the first 3)
Leg Description: Rating 3; More big sand and sage – serious sand dune training; fun dips and turns; flat; now in Red Rocks Lake Wildlife Refuge; do not, I repeat do not, shoot or otherwise harm any birds!!
SPLIT LEG! You can split this leg between two runners any way that you wish. Stay on same road, to big “Sand Dune History” Sign on Left.
Mostly a sandy leg with some mud holes sprinkled in the road. At this point in the relay, I am having a hard time putting one foot in front of the other and have to break this up mile by mile. Somehow I make it through in one piece.
The end of this race is at Hellroaring Creek. The last runner has to submerge themselves in the creek and the race is over. Most runners get in the creek for an ice bath, I stay out of it this year as I do not know if I can actually walk down the steep bank to the creek without falling over. After a post-race meal at a near-by ranch owned by the parent of one of the race organizers, we head for home.
Ernest Hemmingway is my favorite author.