Always up for a new adventure, last Friday my wife and I headed for central Idaho.
Some friends had invited us to come run with them in the Sawtooth Relay. It’s a one-day event from Stanley to Ketchum, Idaho. Teams of up to six members take turns running to cover the 61.9-mile course.
Having run in Ragnar relay races, we both had an idea of what we were getting ourselves into. Ragnar races are longer and involve bigger teams to cover the 200-mile courses. Wasatch Back Ragnar just happens to be starting Friday in Logan. I committed to another race or I would be there with the other Ragnar crazies this weekend.
Back to last weekend.
We arrived in the Sun Valley to cool temperatures and the threat of rain. Then we met up with the rest of our team who had left earlier and drove to Redfish Lake for some sightseeing. Their report from near Stanley was snow, snow and more snow.
Those that know me or run with me have learned that I’m not a big fan of the cold. In fact, if not for my wife, I would be in a gym any time the temperature dips below 40 degrees. During Cache Valley winters, I hibernate at the gym as the treadmill becomes my good friend.
I’ve run in the cold and dealt with it since becoming a runner. There is a sense of adventure, and I always feel good after pushing myself in frigid conditions. It’s just a matter of mentally being ready and not over thinking it.
That being said, I was not ready for snow and below-freezing temperatures. It’s June.
I knew we would be running at an elevation of more than 6,500 feet, but had tried to use positive thoughts of running in sunshine. The sunshine part did take place for most of the day, but it was still cold.
We began our 61.9-mile jaunt at 4:45 a.m. in Stanley. The skies were clear, and it was amazing all the stars that were visible. It was also a balmy 25 degrees with snow on the ground. The road, where we would be running, was clear and mostly dry.
Luckily for me, I was runner six. Plenty of time for the sun to get up and the mercury to rise some. Louise, our team captain, got us started. She loves those kind of temperatures and was excited to be kicking off the day in those conditions and rocked the first six miles. My wife Tawnya was up next and kept us motoring right along on State Highway 75.
By the time Angie took off as the third runner, the sun was making the Sawtooths glisten. Amber, who was running in her first-ever relay, was up next and was rock solid. Roxie brought our team to the base of the Galena Summit, which meant I was up.
Before deciding which runner each of us would tackle, there was some chatter about the hill. Some of these ladies have run this relay before. I have had some uphill legs before in other races and took on the challenge when offered leg six. Sure, I thought, I will take on the “hill.”
As we approached the “hill” I chatted with some other runners from other teams at exchange points. It seemed like the banter always turned to who was going to take on the summit. When I told them it was me, they would shake their head and say, “good luck.”
Well, that “hill” was a run of 5.35 miles and all of hit uphill with the exception of the final tenth of a mile. Over the first 5.25 miles you gain 1,331 feet to an elevation of 8,701 at the top. Galena Summit is the highest summit of a highway in the Northwest.
I tried not to think about what was ahead as I started the climb. Several runners passed me — including teenager Jordan Merrill from Cache Valley that is going to be an incredible high school runner — and I was able to catch several runners myself and power by.
The thin air and cool temperature had me gasping for oxygen near the top. The most welcomed sight was the short downhill of my leg and Louise, who was preparing for her second and final run. I made it up and over the hill in less than an hour.
As we made our way to Ketchum in mostly downhill segments on our last legs, my thoughts turned to a friend who recently passed away after fighting a rare disease for several years. Stephanie has become an inspiration to many in the local running community and anyone who knew her. I dedicated my “hill” climb to her and left a rock memento at the top in her memory.
Once again I had survived another adventure. This time I got to enjoy it with some incredible women. It was a great day running through the mountains of my home state and left me thankful to be able to do hard things.