Paul Vanderheiden worked backward when putting together the second annual Wild West Relay.
The 195-mile relay run through Northern Colorado and southern Wyoming starts in Fort Collins, but it was the final destination that Vanderheiden was excited about.
"I wanted to end in Steamboat," the race director said. "I have great memories of my visits to Steamboat. It's a town ... that doesn't have a glitzy reputation like Aspen or Telluride. It's more down to earth. Everyone has something positive to say about Steamboat."
Vanderheiden will find out whether that's true after speaking with the more than 600 runners expected to descend into the Yampa Valley on Saturday for the conclusion of the Wild West Relay.
The finish line will be on the Steamboat Springs Middle School track. Vanderheiden estimates the first relay members will approach Rabbit Ears Pass at 3 a.m. and finish at 8:30 a.m. The later groups won't finish their relays until 4:30 p.m. Saturday.
The relay begins in waves at 6 a.m. north of Fort Collins. The teams will leave based on their overall average times in 10-kilometer races. The teams of six or 12 members will take turns covering the 195 miles, most of which is on dirt roads and through national forests. Each runner on a 12-person team will average 12 to 15 miles.
"I kind of describe it as an adventure race normal people can do," Vanderheiden said. "There is van support, and you aren't out orienteering."
The only warning Vander--heid--en had was to avoid playing prairie dog tag with vehicles. For the most part, however, Vanderheiden has designed the course to avoid heavily traveled roads.
No Steamboat team is registered to take part. Although Vanderheiden is calling this year's Wild West Relay the second, it essentially is the first. Events usually need a year or two to generate buzz. He hopes that is the case with the Wild West Relay, though he is pleased with this year's numbers.
"I've been blown away by the response," Vanderheiden said. "Being the first year, I'm excited but also nervous. It's a runner putting on an event for runners."
Vanderheiden has participated in similar styles of relays throughout the country, so he is familiar with the logistics of this type of relay race. He said all the agencies and communities he worked with have been supportive of his venture. He has 60 teams registered and will have runners from 26 states and two Canadian provinces attending.
"To have people come from all over the country was humbling," he said. "That was part of my goal in picking Steamboat. I thought it would be an attraction."
Runners will be following a route from Fort Collins through tiny towns such as Livermore and Red Feather Lakes. Eventually, runners will pass through the small Wyoming towns of Jelm and Woods Landing.
Runners then return to Colo--rado through the Medicine Bow National Forest and eventually work their way to Walden. Runners will then head to Rabbit Ears Pass on Colorado Highway 13. They will pass over the Continental Divide on Rabbit Ears Pass and descend into the valley.
The course is designed to keep the runners on shoulders, but motorists on U.S. Highway 40 are asked to be mindful that there will be runners and vans on Rabbit Ears Pass for most of Saturday morning and afternoon. Large warning signs will be posted as reminders, as well, Vanderheiden said.
For more information about the Wild West Relay, visit www.wildwestrelay.com.
-- To reach Melinda Mawdsley call 871-4208 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org