The Wild West Relay is a 200-mile running race from Fort Collins to Steamboat Springs with more than 16,000 feet of elevation gain. As the name implies, it’s typically done as a relay, with a team.
Serial marathoner Tony Stafford, of Boulder, decided to have a solo go at the relay, which started last Friday.
“I wanted to see my limits, on a personal level, and see what I was capable of,” said Stafford, a personal and group trainer who works with endurance athletes through his business, Boulder Sports Performance.
Post-recovery, Stafford talked about using marathon pacing for training, napping with a bicycle mid-race and ultrarunning virginity.
Q: Why did you want to do the Wild West Relay solo?
A: To me it was: I know, one, this is going to hurt. Two, I know it’s going to take a long time. Three, I really don’t think it’s that crazy.
Two hundred miles. There’s not a whole lot of people who can say, I’ve done a whole 200-mile race — me for one. Still, at least I tried, though.
Q: What was the longest race you did before that?
A: The longest race was three weeks ago. I did the Leadville 50 — it’s called the Leadville Silver Rush.
Q: How did that race go?
A: I finished 10th overall. So I was very happy with that, considering I had never done anything longer than a marathon before that.
Q: How long did you last in the Wild West?
A: I did over 100 miles, and it was a total of 31 hours. Five hours of it was sleeping.
Q: When did you decide to stop and sleep?
A: The first one was when I got to the top of Sand Creek Pass (10,269 feet). It was about 11 at night, and I was with … a buddy of mine and his girlfriend. He was my pacer, she was driving.
We all laid down in this little car. They were in the front seat, I was scrunched in the back seat, with a bicycle jammed in my hip. It wasn’t really the most comfortable quarters. All of us were brand-new at this. I had all fresh — can I use the word virgin? — ultrarunning pacers and crew members for this.
Q: You didn’t finish. What happened?
A: We pushed Deadman’s Hill a lot. When I got to the top of that I had a couple of episodes where I threw up … after that point, it was hard for me to eat.
The other thing that happened was at nighttime, especially, when we’d stop to refill our bottles, within two minutes, my body temperature would drop significantly, and I’d be shivering…
And then the fever hit.
Q: When did you throw in the towel?
A: It wasn’t me that wanted to throw it in, trust me, I wanted to keep going.
I had a pacer out there who said, I know you want to finish this, but it’s better to just go ahead and stop, because if you keep going, you’re going to create permanent damage.
Q: Will you try it again next year? Or try a different race?
A: Living here in Boulder is a good thing, because there are a lot of ultrarunners here, so I’m going to be a sponge for the next year, two years, and train as hard as I can.
I’m definitely going to try a 100-miler by the end of next year. Maybe Leadville.