‘To do ho,’ which way do I go?
A number of years ago I teamed up with a group of local runners, including several fellow journalists, to form a team for what at the time was a still-fledgling running relay event known as the Colorado Relay.The adventure race through the central mountains from Idaho Springs to Glenwood Springs had been formed in the late 1990s to benefit Outward Bound, a program that provides wilderness experiences and teaches leadership skills to youth and adults alike.As such, the overnight, 24-hour race across single-track trails, paved bike paths and along lonely stretches of two-lane highway itself embodied Outward Bound’s outdoor ethic and team-building principles.Ours was one of fewer than 20 teams that year. We finished at some ungodly hour before sun-up on a September morning in Two Rivers Park before any race personnel had even arrived; second to a top-notch team of runners from Vail.Since then, it’s been a sort of rite of passage from summer to fall for me to join up with a local team for the annual Colorado Relay.This year marked another rite of passage, as the event changed hands from the former organizers to the Utah-based national outfit known as the Ragnar Relay Series.The 188-mile relay from Breckenridge to Snowmass Village on Sept. 7-8 featured some 200 teams from around the country, though most were Colorado Relay veterans from past years.Our Independence Run & Hike team managed a sixth-place overall finish and took second in the Mixed/Open Class for teams with both men and women.
Sometime in the mid-2000s, I teamed up with a rag-tag co-ed group of Glenwood Springs runners who called themselves “The Rascals.”Joining us that year was a gentleman named Franta, who was visiting the United States from the Czech Republic. An avid runner in his home country, he figured the relay would be a great way to tour Colorado.And he was right.Franta could hardly contain his excitement as he took the hand-off for his first of three relay legs on a beautiful late summer morning up Guanella Pass from Georgetown. We were impressed with the “Flying Czech,” as we began to refer to him.All day and throughout the moonlit night, we’d hear Franta exclaim as our team runner would come to an exchange point, “to do ho, to do ho, to do ho.””To do it,” is the translation I found all these years later on Google Translate. Sort of the Czech version of Nike’s “Just Do It” slogan, I suppose.It was a fitting chant amid the cowbells, whistles and other noise-makers the relay teams will typically use to rally their runners through fatigue, oxygen deprivation and the dark dead of night.”Run, Drive, Sleep(?), Do it again” is one of the Ragnar slogans, and it pretty much says it all.Teams of 12 runners split up between two transport vehicles, usually a large van. The first group of six runs their first set of legs in succession, then “rests” while the other group does its thing. Multiply this by three times over the course of anywhere from about 21 to 34 hours, and it’s time for a beer, or two …”Ragnar,” by the way, according to the Ragnar “Race Bible,” comes from mythology and legend, meaning “a man, often of divine ancestry, who is endowed with great courage and strength, celebrated for his bold exploits and favored by the gods.”Insert “woman” and “goddesses” for the mixed teams, and there you have it.
There was a little controversy over Ragnar taking charge of the former Outward Bound Colorado Relay this year.Ragnar has events all across the country, from mountains, deserts and ocean fronts, to urban settings. It had long wanted to do a Colorado event, but in trying to schedule a date, it kept stepping on the toes of more-established regional events, such as the Colorado Relay and the Wild West Relay.The compromise was to “merge” with the Colorado Relay, though it was pretty obvious this was a Ragnar event through and through – for good and bad, as these things go.On the good side, the event organization was top-notch. Facilities and support were adequate, and course directions and markings were much clearer than in past years, with a few exceptions.The relay is part endurance and athletic prowess, but there is a fair amount of orienteering and directional challenges involved. In fact, the most commonly uttered question along the way is, “Which way do I go?” Well, next to “Why did I agree to do this?”Gone from the old Colorado Relay days are the gorgeous high-mountain passes over single-track trails from Georgetown and over the Continental Divide into Summit County. Purists, like myself, will miss that. Maybe that extra bit of challenge can be reincorporated one day. Just a suggestion.Team names are half the fun, like “Fueled by Bacon,” “Honey Badger’s Revenge,” “Oh, It’s That Kind of Party,” “I Thought this was a 5K,” and a men’s masters team known as the “Pickled Prostates.”Van windows are boastfully marked with notches indicating “roadkill” along the way. Those are the runners from other teams passed along the way, which makes for a friendly competition between team vans.Hint: The nice thing about starting later in the day is there is a lot of roadkill (slower teams) that started earlier, and are just waiting to be chased down.Our van alone had a whopping 109 roadkills. Not to brag, but “Woot! Woot!”Can’t wait ’til next September.
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