raising little ones in the great outdoors

The “U” in “Suck”

“There is no ‘I’ in ‘Team’, but there is a ‘U’ in ‘Suck’.”

Someone painted these words on the back window of the Suburban in front of us. At the time, I found it hilarious. I still think it’s funny, but not as much as I did after running three relay legs totaling 18 miles, closing my eyes for two hours on a high-school floor, and driving all over the back roads of northern Utah with my wife and four friends. Welcome to the Ragnar Wasatch Back Relay.

Explaining the race requires a dizzying amount of numbers. A team of 12 runners, divided into 2 vehicles, runs 188 miles from Logan to Park City, UT. Each person runs 3 legs of 3-9 miles for a total of 13-18 miles. Runner 1 does legs 1, 13, and 25; runner 2 does 2, 14, 26; and so on. This year there were almost 8,000 runners participating. Each checkpoint is staffed by a volunteer crew to direct traffic, but the team needs to be self-sufficient with water, food, etc. While the runners from the “on” van are on the course, the “off” van runners try to rest. A couple of high schools along the course offer showers and disaster-shelter-style sleeping arrangements. Rest is fleeting for the “off” van runners because they have to be sure to be back to make the exchange with the final “on” van runner.

If this sounds like a logistical nightmare to you, you’re absolutely right. If it sounds like a lot of fun, you’re a sick person, but you’re right again. We made a ton of blunders. We got dehydrated. We got cold and wet. We convinced ourselves that fiery-lime Cheetos and peanut M&M’s were recovery food, and then we promptly signed up again for next year right after we finished. It seemed a shame to waste all that hard-earned experience by not doing the race again.

Steve providing encouragement to his fellow runner.

Steve providing encouragement to his fellow runner.

Even though the race is run entirely on roads, a personal history of outdoor epics provides a huge mental advantage. Mixing sleep deprivation with maximum exertion and moving through the night by headlamp were foreign concepts to most members of our team before the race. The weather turned against us, and our teammates battled cold rain and wind for the last few hours. I stopped having fun while waiting for 20 minutes with Jennie and the baby, in the rain, for our shuttle to the finish area. But like every good adventure, the memories of the hard times fade into the camaraderie of shared suffering.

We had a great group of friends in our car. I don’t think we stopped laughing the entire time. I was really proud of Jennie, she trained hard and met her goal pace. After having a baby last fall, this race gave her the motivation to train when it would’ve been easier to quit. My personal highlight was my second leg, rolling 7.5 miles downhill under a dark sky full of stars. As usual, Nate recounted the most hilarious experiences. Our cool spring weather had not prepared us for the blistering conditions we encountered on the course (almost 80 degrees). As Nate sank toward a heat-induced delirium, the only thing that kept him from rolling in the mud puddles alongside the road was the fear of getting my seats dirty. Later, he would say that he was so hungry on his final leg that even the flock of sheep next to the road smelled delicious.

With all the blood in their legs, the team decides to sign up for next year before any formulates a clear thought.

With all the blood in their legs, the team decides to sign up for next year before any formulates a clear thought.

By now you’re probably wondering what any of this has to do with parenting. Two weeks after the race, the team reunited along with our children for a backyard barbeque. Some 30 kids ran around the yard, playing flag football, jumping on the trampoline, fighting with lightsabers. It was such an incredible collection of kids in motion. These kids are the lucky ones. Their parents restrict TV watching and encourage outdoor play. More importantly, the parents model that behavior by being active themselves in everything from running to gardening.

As I watched the kids playing their games, I was struck by how they ran everywhere. If we took them to a track and told them to run laps, they would probably whine and quit within the first hundred yards, yet during this backyard play session, they ran eagerly with smiles on their faces for over an hour. Maybe that’s why team relays are gaining in popularity. They turn running into a party with a bunch of friends, a 24+ hour game of tag. Maybe next year I’ll carry a lightsaber.

–Steve Bohrer

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3 Responses to “The “U” in “Suck””

  1. Corey says:

    And next year I will be wearing huaraches or maybe my own calloused god-shoes.

  2. Will T. says:

    These relays really are a fun event. I’ve done the Hood-to-Coast relay in Oregon twice and I’m glad to see the Ragner Relay has now made it up to Washington State as well.
    http://willandjenni.blogspot.com/2004/08/will-runs-hood-to-coast.html
    http://willandjenni.blogspot.com/2005/08/hood-to-coast-2005.html

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