I arrived at Denver airport and took the train to baggage claim, where I met Baby Guac, my teammate from Portland, Oregon. We then went to Enterprise and met Bruiser to pick up the two 15 passenger vans for the team.
We picked up a few more teammates (Fridge, Mateo and Buttons) in Golden, Colorado and then drove up to Breckinridge. My initiation to Colorado was driving the 15 passenger van on a dark and rainy night, up the twisty highway to Breckinridge. We met up with a few more of our teammates at a hotel. The others were staying with friends. We went to bed around midnight. Van 1 got up at 5 am (I think, I was still sleeping) and headed out to the starting line. Van 2 (my van) had a slower start to the morning, shuttled a couple cars to the necessary parking lots and then headed out to our first exchange point.
I was the first person to run in Van 2 (I had legs 6, 16 and 26). I was starting to feel very nervous as we waited at the exchange point for Lemondrop, who was running legs 5, 15, and 25. Lemondrop came into view, and we cheered her to the finish. ENC (one of my teammates) grabbed the team number from her and we all ran to...the van. My first exchange point was not a safe place to run from, so they drove me a ways up the road (as did all of the other teams - race rule) and I hopped back out of the van and started running.
My first leg was 7.7 miles of dirt road, climbing from 9,700 feet to 10,000 feet. The amount of climbing didn't scare me - I climb 300 feet when I am running Crane Hill, it was the altitude that scared me. Looking at the leg book, I knew that if I could make it through my first leg, the others would be easier, this would by far be the hardest one.
They were probably the longest 7 miles I have ever run, the altitude had a definite effect, but I kept running. Vans passed on their way to and from the next exchange point, I saw a lot of other runners (when they passed me - but at least I wasn't alone out there) and got chased by three different dogs as I ran along a dirt road with huge ranches on it. In between all of this, I had stunning views of the mountains, beautiful horses out in their pastures and a sunny day. Towards the end of the run (mile 5), the altitude really started effecting me some, and I started taking walk breaks. Then, as it does in the mountains, the weather quickly changed. Thunder was rumbling, a few shots of lighting could be seen off in the distance, and then the skies opened up. The last mile in was pretty wet.
I finally made it to the exchange point, gave the team number (which goes on a belt around your waist) to ENC and he was off in the pouring rain to run the Georgia Pass (by far one of the toughest legs of the relay - 6 miles straight up and then 6 miles straight down).
Since it was pouring, I hopped straight into the van and Mojito (Van 2 driver and another First Descents camper) drove us to the next exchange point. It was a 45 minute drive. As we were driving down a switchback, Mojito looked in the rearview mirror at me and said, "Can you get me a bottle of water out of the cooler?"
I replied, "Can you pull over?"
She slowed the van, and I jumped out as we were coming to a stop and puked all over the side of the road. When there was nothing left in my system, I cleaned up with a couple wet ones (the vans are extremely well stocked), hopped back in, handed Mojito a bottle of water and said, "Okay, I'm ready to re-hydrate now."
We finished driving to the next exchange point. But it worried me a bit, I never once threw up on chemo. Was it altitude sickness, exhaustion (I arrived in Colorado pretty tired), being a passenger in a van going down switchbacks, or some combination of the three?
To be continued tomorrow...