The excitement grew as none team Venture knew what to expect as we were leaving the campsite. We ran into some traffic along the way due to construction, but still arrived with plenty of time to spare. It was about about 9:00 in the morning with a bit of a chill in the air as we arrived in Ashton, ID. We arrived at the high school and noticed quickly that everyone was gathering on the football field. During normal races, you don’t have to check in. With the extent and logistics of this race, there was a van check in. Van 1 needed to check in at least 90 minutes prior to our start time. They went through a safety check making sure we had headlamps, safety vests and rear/butt lights. They did a roll call and went through certain safety features about the course. They wanted to make sure everyone knew what was going on because they would not be able to close any of the roads.
We got ourselves out of the vehicles and started transferring gear around. It looked like it was going to be a very clear day with no trace of a cloud in the sky. Although, you could see smoke on the horizon. We got ourselves out of the vehicles and started transferring gear around. We made our way over to the football field to get van 1 checked in. Van 2 needed to also check in and allow themselves 90 minutes plus 45 minutes to drive to the first van exchange. We got van 1 checked in and went back to the vehicles to make sure everyone had all the items they needed before splitting off. Then we waited for a few minutes. Some of us ran off to go find some gas station coffee as there is nothing else in Ashton.
With coffee cups and cameras in hand, we lined up to watch Brent take to the start line. They called off all of the teams that were at this start time and when they finally got to Venture, we cheered our heads off! There were some very interesting team names. Finally the gun went off and Brent was running. We gave him high fives and cheered him on! By the time he was almost out of sight, he was in first. We walked back to the vans to get van 1 off to go meet Brent and exchange runners. We all said our goodbyes and they were off as well.
The 3 of us that were there for van 2 waited just a few minutes before the rest of our team showed up. They showed up just minutes after van 1 took off down the road. It was great to get our van together and introduce those that did not know each other. We decided that it would be best to go check in before we started rearranging all of our gear. We headed over to the check in area. We quickly got checked in. We all wanted to try on our shirts, so we decided to do a couple poses in front of the start line. We went through our safety check and then headed back to our van. We got the van all squared away and stuffed ourselves inside.
I took off down the road not sure of where I was going. Luckily, I had printed off the 37 page map that they had online. It was detailed out for each leg and one page for the entire 180 mile trek. I turned into the wrong spot as we quickly figured out. I made my way back onto the highway and quickly found the correct turn. We parked in a non-shaded location as there was not any shade around the van exchange area. We made ourselves some sandwiches and snacked on a few more things as we still had a few hours to wait till it was our turn to start. I relaxed on the ground for a while with a sleeping bag as a pillow. Not going to lie, that gravel was mighty comfortable. Some of my teammates were busy working on there computers as to not make their day off from work a total loss. Others were enjoying other forms of technology and watching Netflix. We snacked a bit more and drank water and Gatorade. We wanted to make sure we were fueled for the running that was getting closer.
The time was getting closer so those of us that had to run first started preparing. We made sure we had the appropriate clothing on and water in our packs. We were also preparing ourselves for the mental side of things as we knew that it would take a lot for our minds and bodies to get through the next several hours. After some mis-communication between vans we saw our teammate running on the road above us. We all sprinted for the exchange point. Me being frustrated as I had wanted all of us as a team to cheer as we switched runners/vans. I quickly got over myself and we walked back to the van, chatted with our other teammates for a moment and then climbed back in the van to go along side our runner, Kevin.
Kevin was running so fast, that it took us minutes to catch him. At that point, we knew that he already had a few kills (a kill is when you pass another running – all in fun of course). He continued passing people as we drove next to him on the dustiest road. We helped him out by dumping water on him and giving him more to drink if he needed any. It was hot out. We finally got to our first runner exchange and our second runner, Lui, was ready to hit the pavement. We were no longer on the dirt road. Our van was lucky because we got to follow our runners most of the way. We were on back country roads with little to no traffic. It was a great way to support our runners.
Lui was feeling great. As we were next to him he was jumping and just making a good time of the run. He pulled out a Usain Bolt pose and bursted into prayer. We continue cheering him on as he climbed up a hill. For all of us on our first leg, we would drive next to the runner and cheer them on and then continue on up a head a little bit, stop and then cheer them on some more. It was great encouragement for all of us. We would also cheer on any other runners we would pass. It became a bit of a competition to get some more kills. It was fun to pick out a few teams and just try to get ahead of them. We were finally nearing the exchange for me, so I got my water ready and my safety vest on.
It was nearing dusk, so we wore safety vests to protect ourselves on the road. Lui was in sight, so I was getting excited. After hours of waiting, it was finally my turn. I hit the pavement and ran over my leg which was 7.7 miles long. I started at 7,183 feet in elevation and gained 590 feet. I ended at 7,171 feet with a total elevation loss of 602 feet. They gave us all of these stats for each leg. It was great too look at and know what was coming ahead. They only had one mile marker and it was the last one telling you you had a mile to go. That was always welcomed. This is another reason it was great to have the van following so closely. They would keep track of how far we had gone and update us.
While I was running, they blared music and just had a blast cheering me on. I was getting close to being finished as I saw Marty ahead in the exchange area. I sprinted towards him glad to pass on the slap wristband. Marty took off with a force. He was running so fast. His long legs helped him move along the road. We continued passing by and cheering him on. Since Marty is not much of a runner, it was great to see him running so well and fast.
Finally, it was Krista’s turn and at this point is was starting to get really dark. Krista put on the headlamp and went for it. Again another runner of ours was killing it. I believe she had a few kills and was just rocking the pavement. She ran fast! It was almost hard to find her as we were driving to catch up to her. By this time it had cooled off enough it was almost the perfect temperature to run. We kept sending text updates to the other van when we had cell reception. We were doing better than we thought and we wanted them to be prepared at the van exchange unlike the mis-communication the first time around.
We neared our last runner exchange for our first leg. Jeff got out and started preparing himself for his first leg. We were catching a few teams, so it was great for Jeff to make a target for himself to catch. Krista came rolling in and Jeff took off! The route led us back onto a dirt road down Grizzly Way (or something to that effect). What a comforting name for a road. Jeff was booking it as we neared him. We cheered him on and were excited to be nearing our destination. This meant sleep was just a little ways off.
We cheered Jeff on one last time and made our way to the exchange to find our other team members. Brent was standing at the exchange ready to go. We all chatted for a few minutes while we waited for Jeff to roll in. We saw Jeff coming and cheered him in and Brent away! Team Venture was so supportive of all of our runners. It made it worth it. We chatted a bit more and then climbed back into the van to go find our sleeping spot for the night.
It was an hours drive away and none of us knew where we were. We just drove and eventually there were four I-devices pulled out giving us directions. We slowly and tiredly made our way to the sleeping grounds. We found a spot to sleep as far away from lights as we could find. We pulled out the tarps, sleeping bags, pillows and then hit the sack in the yard of a high school in Driggs, ID. They had showers available, but we all decided that sleep seemed to be more important since we had limited time. We didn’t have but about 2 1/2 hours or so to sleep. I was so nervous that the alarm wouldn’t go off, I really don’t think I slept. At least I was giving my body rest.
That ends day 1 of the Grand Teton Relay adventure. Be on the lookout for day 2!