Steamboat Springs The goal of the 65 teams that started the Colorado Relay was to cover 170 miles of rough Colorado mountain terrain spanning from Idaho Springs to Glenwood Springs the fastest.
But the Colorado Relay is something that 10 runners from Steamboat Springs will not soon forget.
"Doing the relay was one of the top-10 best things I have done in my life," runner Kevin Anderson said.
Team captain Emily Conjura organized the Steamboat-based relay team this summer. The core of the team was easy to find, but the final few runners trickled in just in front of the race deadline.
On Sept. 15 at 10 a.m., the group left the starting line in Idaho Springs headed for a destination in Glenwood Springs. The entire journey would take the runners along an I-70 frontage road to Georgetown, up and over Guanella Pass to Colorado Highway 285. The team members, each of whom would run three legs of the journey, then headed to the top of Kenosha pass, where the course hooked up with the Colorado Trail. From there, it was on to Breckenridge, Frisco, Keystone and Vail. Once the runners reached Colorado Highway 6, they continued through Eagle, Gypsum and down a bike path through Glenwood Canyon en route to the finish line.
The entire adventure took the local runners just 21 hours, 36 minutes. The entire team raced across the finish line in unison (a rule of the event) at 7:36 a.m. with the fourth-fastest time. The Steamboat team was just eight minutes behind the winning team in their division.
"The entire team didn't have to run the last leg, but we all had to group together and run the final 10 yards or so," Conjura said.
The squad which included local endurance runners Katherine Zambrana, Sean Meisser, Barbara Jones, Mark Jones, Brenda Geisler, Joe Frisch, Heather Eller, Henry Guzman and Conjura did just that. About 10 yards from the finish line, they joined Anderson for the final few steps.
"The logistics were a bit tricky, but not impossible," Conjura said. "Our team of 10 split into two groups of five, and we each loaded ourselves and all of our gear, food and running stuff into two separate cars. The idea being that the team in car A would run legs 1-5 and the team in car B would run their five legs."
Conjura said the two cars then leap-frogged one another throughout the 170-mile course. There was also a third support vehicle loaded with food, water and other assorted equipment that was driven by Charles Bohlen.
"Trying to get 10 people organized to do anything is a job in and of itself, but especially tough was getting 10 strong and dedicated runners to take on this challenge," Conjura said.
Conjura said the trip was almost uneventful for the local team. Meissner, however, took a tumble during his final leg and suffered a raspberry on one side of his leg that was more than two feet long. He was able to shake off the injury and compete the final 7 miles of his leg in a time of 56 minutes.
"We all felt a desire to run for the team," Conjura said. "We realized that no one would yell at use for slow times, but instead they would all be there waiting for us to cheer us on into the transition area."
Another challenge of the race was running at night. Most of the runners on the Steamboat team had never done it before, but Conjura said it turned out to be one of the highlights of the race.
"Our night running was extremely pleasant. There is something so peaceful about running all alone, under the light of the most during an event like this. It charges you up, but at the same time you feel calmed by the right of the night sky and the cool evening air."
Conjura had learned about this race when it first started more than three years ago. Since then, she has been trying to organize a team of 10 runners to take part. This year, after a lot of hard work, the team the Steamboat Yokels was formed and competed in the event.
Each member raised $100 to cover all the expenses of entering the race and supporting the team. Conjura said any money that is left will be donated to the Colorado Outward Bound School which is the primary organizer of this race.
Despite all the hard work organizing the team, Conjura is already looking forward to next year's race. There were 65 teams in this year's Colorado Relay. The winning team, a group of men, finished their trip in a time of 17 hours. It was one of three teams that came in front of the Steamboat runners.
To reach John F. Russell call 871-4209 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org