If this post doesn’t make any sense, it’s probably because you haven’t read Part 1 yet.
By the time we arrived at the correct exchange, the sun had almost completely vanished behind the horizon — dusk was giving way to darkness. We spotted Paul lying down in the grass before we even found a parking spot, so I rudely shoved Jordan out the passenger door, and he got going.
“I passed a bunch of people,” a clearly disappointed Paul told us as he climbed in the passenger seat, “but they all caught and passed me while I was waiting.”
Being the Canadian that I am, I began a steady stream of “I’m sorry!” that would probably still be going right now if Paul weren’t at least a few miles away from me at this moment. My mistake, we realized, was assuming that the address on the page of the leg map was the beginning point for that leg when it was really the end. So you’d have to look at the page BEFORE your leg to find the address for where your leg would start.
Jordan’s leg was perfectly suited to him: a long, steady downhill. Jordan, unlike me, has indestructible legs made of titanium (not literally), so he can run forever, and he even prefers downhill over uphill. Psycho.
I couldn’t even tell it was Jordan as he came running up to the exchange point — one of the consequences of him wearing a headlamp. But I was pretty sure Paul needed me to give him some space, so I grabbed the slap bracelet without thinking twice about it. If Jordan hadn’t said something when he handed off the bracelet, I probably would’ve spent my whole leg wondering if I had some other team’s nasty, gross, sweaty slap bracelet attached to my wrist … because that would be so much more gross than having the sweat from all of these other strangers I’d just met the day before. Good thing I’m not a germaphobe or anything.
My first leg started with perhaps a tenth of a mile winding through that park before it dumped me onto a long, gradual uphill, then a trail and then more uphill. By the time I got out of the park, I was already in oxygen debt — I was keenly aware that I’d put us in the hole with my little navigation mishap, and, like a delusional gambler who just lost his children’s college savings at the blackjack table, I wanted to get it all back!
I felt like I was moving pretty quickly, but I couldn’t see anyone ahead of me as I started on the long, uphill straightaway. I even began wondering if I was running on the wrong road until I saw a faint tail light up ahead. I must’ve already been experiencing middle-of-the-night hallucinations because it seemed as if the light was moving toward me.
Going to the light gave me no premonitions of death, at least not right then, so I kept right on running full tilt. I blew right past the runner, who, it turned out, was actually running the same direction I was. Then I caught another, and then made the left turn and quickly caught two more. I reached the trail with five or six so-called “kills” and a strong suspicion that I’d gone out waaaayyyyy too hard.
The “trail,” as it turned out, was this bizarre undulating gravel pit. I’d be moving at a solid clip when, whoosh, the ground would disappear from underneath me in the dark and I’d drop five feet into this little gully, and a few steps later, I’d run up the other side. I quickly caught some guy who was moving at a good, but not great pace — and I’m pretty sure I freaked him out as I came up on him huffing and puffing like a 5’7″ hairy legged sasquatch. When I went to pass him, the gravel on either side was oatmeal soft, so instead, I got comfortable for a bit and then passed him when the trail widened.
As I exited the gravel pit, I came up behind two very slow runners who were blocking the entire sidewalk. I puffed out an “excuse me” and shot the gap, still wondering if I’d completely overcooked my legs in the first few miles.
I crested the hill and spotted the exchange, but it was on the other side of the street, which struck me as odd. I checked for traffic and ran over to a reflective-vest-wearing volunteer only to discover that I was supposed to run down to a distant intersection, cross the street like an old grandma in need of a dutiful boy scout, and then run the rest of the way to the exchange on the other side of the road.
“Oh,” I said, “okay.”
And I turned around and ran back across the street with the volunteer yelling, “No, hey, it’s okay …”
When I finally got to the exchange, getting mixed up once more as I came up to the pylons, my team was yelling “Go Mike!” and had actually gotten the crowd cheering for me too. Some random guy yelled out, “Way to go, Mike!” In retrospect, I should’ve responded MetroMan style: “And I love you, random citizen,” but if you can’t back it up by flying away, what’s the point, right?
“I think I probably passed 9 or 10 people,” I told Paul, in between gasps. “I hope that makes up for being late to your exchange — sorry!”
We piled in the Death Trap with me still hyperventilating and made our way to a park next to a large paintball arena and a brightly lit baseball diamond for the next exchange. And right about then, The Wicked Witch of the Waste came up with a brilliantly evil scheme … actually it was just a great idea, but wicked witches don’t typically just have “great ideas.”
“I have all of those points saved up from staying at Marriott hotels,” she said. “Why don’t I reserve us a room at a Marriott around here and we can get some sleep after I finish?”
The Grand Teton Relay was all about the backwoods — sleeping in a sleeping bag, carrying a canister of bear spray, watching the sunrise over the Tetons. At Vegas, when we had some spare time before Sarah arrived, we stopped in at a local REI for some late-night shopping. When we got hungry, we’d pop into a gas station for some chocolate milk. And when both Sarahs completed their lengthy legs, it was off to the hotel for a snooze.
Because I’m a vampire, I darkened the room as much as possible while everyone else was taking a shower, and then I passed out on a large leather chair, the taste of blood still on my fangs. (Too far? Couldn’t help myself.) I might’ve even slept for three hours, which would be more than the grand total I slept at the GTR.
But alas, the call eventually came sometime around 1 or 2 a.m., and we groggily piled back into the Death Trap. Van 1 was waiting, and it was about to get even more interesting.
More to come …