I was, then I wasn’t.
Then I was again.
Then I wasn’t.
The Loco 200 Relay was something I first stumbled upon months ago one night on Facebook. I struck up a conversation with the RD about building a team and I played with the idea on and off for a while. It sounded like it would be a lot of fun.
I first looked at a smaller team with more miles per person, then at the Little Loco Relay, but couldn’t find enough people with the weekend free. Eventually I had to push out the idea all together, as I could not get the weekend free myself.
Shortly before the race however, I received a message stating that a 12 runner team had lost a slew of people last minute, and runners were badly needed. It was a team raising awareness for spinal muscular atrophy – a good team with a noble cause and a great race – I couldn’t say no!
The course is made of 3 segments (12 legs each), for 36 segments total on the course. A 12 person team has 2 vehicles, taking on a segment at a time. One vehicle runs the first half of a segment while the second rests, then the second vehicle is up while the first rests. The legs range from 4-9 miles and vary in terrain. There are fire trails, single track, and paved roads. Some mostly flat, some mostly uphill, some mostly downhill, and others a mix. This allows a team to plan for periods of rest appropriately and order runners according to best fit for the leg.
The first segment takes place during the first day, the second segment during the night, and the third segment during the second day. This is a loosely defined schedule, and is largely dependent on the speed of the runners.
Kelsey, the team lead, built a fantastic schedule that fit me in for 3 legs on the first day, on the first loop of the course. When one of the replacement runners bailed at the last minute, I found myself with 2 more legs added to my list, putting me at a projected 33+ miles for the day – up from my planned 21. A surprise 50k!
I rolled out of bed, grabbed my coffee, my bag, and ran out the door, diving 2 hours north to Lassen National Forest – forgetting a few essentials like a case of water back at the house. Later, when I arrived at the start location and transferred my gear from my car to the van, I went ahead and forgot my sunscreen, too. What’s a race without a few challenges?
I started off in Van 1, running the 3rd (7.5 mi) and 4th (8.79 mi) legs back to back. Since I had the ability to meet the crew along the route, I opted to leave my vest and take only a single water bottle, meeting them every 5 miles for a refill, a few electrolytes and some calories at the half way point. In the 4th leg I had to tackle a nice 2 mile climb and got to chatting with another runner about races and marathons. He was tearing into the hill and left me behind before long.
I decided I need to do more speed work.
I finished my legs and passed on the tag to the next runner. The race is timed a plastic chip on an adjustable armband that gets passed from runner to runner. The van would arrive at the transfer point ahead of a runner, and everyone would pile out. When the chip came in, it was a quick hand-off and the next runner was on their way down the road. Hot and sweaty, I jumped in the van and off we went to the first meeting point. I was only going to get about 45 minutes of rest before taking my next leg (leg 6, 4.97 mi) so I took the time to massage out my calves, take some water and electrolytes and a snack. After some mid-leg cheering, we got to the next transfer point where I was pleased to find an aid station with bananas, pretzels, and some homemade “energy clusters”…I wish I had gotten the recipe. There was a stream not too far from us, so I took a moment to go and sit down in the freezing mountain water, icing my legs and cooling my body. Absolutely refreshing.
The next leg was the start of the second section, an out and back. My miles were on pavement in the mid day sun, not particularly debilitating, but uncomfortable enough to be difficult. The scenery was lovely though, and made for a nice stretch.
I closed out my leg at the first vehicle switch point. I said my farewells to the first van, and hopped into the second for round two.
For the second segment, I was running two legs – 11 at 7.78 miles and 12 at 5.1 miles for a nice half marathon to close out the day.
Since I had a while to rest before my final legs, I spent the evening doing what crew duties I could and enjoy the lovely views.
Finally it was time to begin my stretch. I loaded up my water bottle, donned my headlamp and readied myself for the hand off. The sun was just setting behind the mountains, casting the landscape in a beautiful luminescent glow.
As I made my way down the final fire roads I breathed in the clean mountain air, and took in the vivid dusk colors. I do not remember any place I have ever traveled to as lovely at dusk as the west coast. From the Sierras to the bay, there is something magical about the way the west coast catches the last light of day.
I ran on through the dark, eventually coming to a bike trail for the last 3 miles enjoying time with an amazing volunteer who rode on his mountain bike along side me. He is a public school teacher and out fighting the good fight to try and educate the next generation. It was nice to have company in the cool evening.
He rode in with me to the camp ground where the next vehicle was ready to take over, completing my days adventure. All totaled it was 34 miles for the day, with new friends and wonderful stories. Five slices of pizza later, I jumped back in the van to be dropped off at my car to make the 2 hour return drive home, while van 2 got a few hours of sleep before their next segment later in the morning. It took an hour to find our way back to my car and the vehicle staging area, far later than I had planned for, but ultras keep you on your toes and ready for anything. I headed home, and the team ran on through the night and into the next day, completing the 200 mile relay in just over 37 hours. Cheers to Team Reagan!
A long, tiring and crazy day – but loco days are the best.
Thank you to the RD, Karey for putting me in touch with #TeamReagan and hosting an amazing event.
Thank you to Intrepid Adventures Events and amazing staff and volunteers – Your wonderful, energetic, and supportive spirit is was makes the sport so wonderful.
Thank you to the all the sponsors for not just providing assistance to put the race on, but coming out and manning aid stations in the middle of the woods to feed savagely hungry runners!
– The Winged Ling