Athletics Magazine

Flaming Foliage Ultra Relay Race Report (2015)

By Brisdon @shutuprun

165 miles done!


If it looks like a blow up finish line was put up in the middle of nowhere, you are correct.

That race was the craziest thing I’ve ever done.  Well, except for that time in 7th grade when I got mad at some guy named Jerry, peed into a cup behind a bush and threw it at him.  Jerry if you have become a runner and are reading this, I am sorry. I do not know what came over me. Text me.

This weekend was my 5th relay, but my first ultra relay. Relays are insane enough, but doing 6 legs of running instead of 3 added in a whole new dimension of fatigue, insanity, and thoughts of “why the f*ck am I doing this?”  (WTFAIDT?) I think that the more you have to ask someone why the f*ck you are doing something, the more valuable that experience is in the scheme of things. Or, maybe I just made that up.

5:00 a.m. Idaho Springs, Colorado. I am off for my first run of 4.5 miles. It is dark and cold. I have not pooped or eaten yet. There will be time for that later.


Lest you think I was trying to be the Statue of Liberty, I was not. I was waving at a semi that went by and honked at me (yeah we got to run along scenic I-70 for this first leg). I didn't t even have to bend my arm at 90 degrees and move it up and down to make the truck honk like I did as a kid.  Score!

There were about 6 of us starting together. The course had us doing a little jog around the parking lot and a back alley for the first .25 miles. Random. The other six runners took off and I was all, “CALM DOWN!” I was the only ultra runner so that gave me an excuse to go slower. Or, that’s what I told myself. It’s important to make yourself feel better.

I was barely in the van and settled when it was time to think about running again. Let me quickly introduce you to my team mates. Joie (my dear friend for the past 13 years), Ken (my dear husband for the past 20 years), Brian (race captain and also a dear friend) and Rafe (runner extraordinaire, hilarious dude and decent all around guy).

7:00 a.m. I pooped. Along the road. I’m not proud but it was an emergency. That’s when it’s good to have this stuff along for the ride:


Captain Brian with our zombie baby hood ornament.


8:00 a.m. Guannella Pass (11,670 feet ). Only 2 miles, but straight the eff up. I was hoofing it like no one’s business and it still took 24 minutes.


Me, Rafe, Ken, Brian (Joie was running)


I was pretending to be a on a balance beam because why not?

2:00 p.m. Georgia Pass (11,598 feet). I cannot believe it is time to run again and this time I am going to run 12.6 miles up and down a mountain. WTFAIDT? You couldn’t start the run unless you had a hydration pack, a GPS, a jacket, a hat, gloves and a map. I felt like Boy Scout Beth.


From the millisecond I started running I could feel the fatigue in my legs from the first two runs. It was clear it was going to be a grind to the top. I was alone the entire run. When I hit the summit after an hour, 24 minutes,  it was well worth it.


I had a mountain goat (Billy was his name, I think) take this:


I thought descending the 6 miles into Breckenridge would be a piece of cake, but it wasn’t due to technical trails with lots of roots and rocks. I was WIPED when I finished the 12.6 miles. It took 2:45 (I later learned this was a time trial and I came in 4th for women, missing 3rd by one minute. Shouldn’t have taken those stupid pictures). I had 19.1 of my 38.2 miles done. I began to question my ability to stay up all night and do the next 19. WTFAIDT?

In the mean time, Ken was changing in the van (actually it was a Tahoe). This is how we keep our marriage fresh.


Rafe was stretching (or getting ready to throw up):


And Joie was showing off her compression sleeves and clogs:


I noticed a cool shadow from our van on the ground:


Joie is either rolling my hamstrings or making pizza dough:



7:00 p.m. and DAMN I’m realizing it is almost time to run. Again. I take a quick glance at my next run and immediately want to punch someone in the face. 5.8 miles up 1,500 feet on a highway. In the dark. I had some Cup ‘o Noodles and calmed down.

8:00 p.m. Copper Mountain. I set off with my headlamp hoping to not be killed. Running up this busy highway was insanely scary. I lived to see another day.

9:00 p.m. I tried to close my eyes for a bit, but there was no sleep to be had. Can you tell this relay has aged me 20 years? A year for every mile.


12:00 a.m. Leadville. We are now at 10,500 feet in a school parking lot in the middle of nowhere. I am about to begin my 5th run. 6.8 miles. Unlike other relays I’ve done, this one was small. There were only 28 other teams. This meant when you ran, you were alone a good chunk of the time.

On this run, it was pitch black with no street lights or moon. I had no other runners around. I knew I was running near Turquoise Lake but could see nothing. As I plodded along, the only sound was my feet hitting the road. Just as I was thinking how gorgeous the stars were and how amazing the crisp air felt I heard what could only be a very large animal in the water next to me. That’s about the time I started kicking in 4 minute miles. I am glad I pooped earlier because…well, this would have been a shit your pants moment.

1:30 a.m. We are all breaking down and bitchy. That is all.

3:30 a.m. Between Leadville and Buena Vista, CO. I muster up from the depths of my running spirit to do my last run. I have now been awake for 25 hours and have run 31.2 miles. Let’s finish this bitch up. This was to be my 4th run in the dark. Sigh.

This 7 mile run was special because the elk were bugling away (very cool sound if you have not heard it) and the coyotes were going nuts. At mile 2.5 I told my van to go ahead to the next exchange and at mile 3, my headlamp died. Yep. I then ran in the pitch black, using the white line on the road as my only guide. Good times.

Then, just like that, I was done. And, the sun started to come up and all was right with the world.


Twin Lakes

Now I just had to help get my team mates through their last runs because moral was lower than whale shit, which we all know lives at the very bottom of the ocean. Then, just like that, we were done.

28 hours, 58 minutes.


Now we’ve been awake for 32 hours. Drinking one beer is like drinking 12 beers.


Our friends came in just before us:


Then it was time to head off to the condo for storytelling, embellishing, beer/wine and….


By the time my head hit the pillow, I had been awake for 41 hours. And I didn’t even use cocaine or meth. I just ran, drank coffee, ran, ate noodles, ran, drank Coke, ran ate Swedish Fish and ran.

What I learned:

  • Relay friends are friends for life
  • Lack of sleep makes you make weird choices and say dumb stuff
  • I can do WAY WAY more than I think I can do
  • Chipotle is orgasmic after running your ass off
  • Poop happens. A lot.
  • You’re never too old to do crazy stuff

Hey, you still awake? Thanks for reading!!


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