It’s as enjoyable to spectate at the Grand Teton Relay as it is to run. You can poke fun at the goofy outfits people wear, or heckle or cheer runners from other teams — the more energy the better. You meet and make friends with the other teams at the transition areas or on the side of the road. And, as we discussed in Part 1, that’s really what these things are all about.
As entertained as we were in cheering for Antonio, there was another race-within-the-race happening during his first leg: The twin from Why-Da-Ho’s Runners was trying to catch the shirtless kid with a cast from The Black Toenail. (That may be the second-most bizarre sentence I’ve ever typed. You don’t want to know about the first.)
Okay, to clarify: The Black Toenail team’s runner was this teenager who had a cast on his arm and was running with no shirt. He quickly blew past a bunch of runners right at the beginning of leg 9 before he realized he’d gone out a little too fast and eased off the gas. Why-Da-Ho’s Runners was the team of that girl in black from my previous post, and they had two twins on their team: Debbie and Dawn. Debbie was cruising, so we kept yelling at her to catch the kid with the cast.
“But he already passed me!” she yelled back.
Evidently, we weren’t the only folks interested in the results of this little contest. The Black Toenail guys told Debbie they’d give her a dollar if she could catch their guy. Meanwhile, Antonio was making up ground behind them and could be in the mix as well.
The tail end of leg 9 was a steep descent, and we got there just in time to watch Cast Guy, as I was now affectionately calling him, pull away from Debbie in a crazy intense last-minute downhill sprint. Antonio came in just behind them, and off went our secret weapon: Kenny may have an imaginary girlfriend, but he’s a wicked fast runner, and his superpower is magnified on the steep downhills.
In other words, Kenny dropped down that hill like his parachute was malfunctioning.
It was at a water stop during Kenny’s or Taylor’s leg that we had to don our geeky reflective vests. And as we got out of the truck, we realized just how far out in the middle of nowhere we were. Chuck said, “Shhh, listen to how quiet it is.”
Sure enough, when we stopped talking, there was nothing — just the trickle of a nearby stream and a slight breeze on the leaves of the trees around us.
But when we stopped near the 1-mile marker at the end of Taylor’s leg, the silence was gone and in its place was a distinctive POW! — and it wasn’t Kenny, aka the Flash, flying down the hill this time. No, it was the sound of hunting rifles shooting from just over the next ridge. And all of a sudden, we felt a lot less nerdy about those orange vests.
Chuck’s leg looked awesome — a narrow dirt road carved out of the hillside with dangling boulders above it that eventually led to a rolling paved road surrounded by wheat fields.
The sun was on its way down as we met up with Van 1 at the next major transition, and Tara started running into the dusk with a headlamp on her forehead and a blinking red light on her back. The Van 1 folk looked tired, and we exchanged a few stories about aches and pains. But the conversation didn’t last long; the mosquitos were out, and it was time to find something to eat … for us, I mean … not the mosquitos.
We made the mistake of asking the race officials for the best route into town, and they sent us almost all the way back to the starting line in Ashton.
By the time we got to Driggs and found a good pizza place, it was pitch black out, and the delirium was setting in. It took forever to get a seat and forever to actually get our food (time we exploited by repeatedly using the bathrooms with complete disregard to whether the door sign said “women” or “men”). But when the pizza finally showed up, we devoured it. The high-fructose corn syrup in my root beer never tasted so good.
We drove to our next transition point — a city park in Tetonia somewhere — and then tried to actually get some sleep in the grass of the park, but it wasn’t happening for me. I could hear a lot of nearby conversations, not to mention a noisy four-wheeler going back and forth in the night.
So eventually, I gave up on sleeping and just walked toward the noise. And you won’t believe what I found there …