Updated: Mar 30
The Fish Lake Relay is a beautiful 65-Mile race through the back-roads of Utah's Fish Lake National Forest, held on the last weekend of August and hosted by the Richfield Area Chamber. This 6-person relay race is comprised of 12 legs that start at 8,900 ft in elevation, climbs to 10,500 ft, then drops like a bomb until your team hits the finish line at 5,100 ft in Richfield, Utah.
QUICK PERSONAL BACKSTORY
Before I get into the nitty-gritty details about the race, I want to take a quick personal privilege. This year I put together a team with one goal in mind--win the entire race while breaking the course record (again)! I know that may sound cocky, but the truth is I wanted to honor my younger brother, Alex, who passed from cancer and ran the relay with our team 5 years ago.
In 2013, I was working for the American Cancer Society and coordinated with the Richfield Area Chamber of Commerce to cross promote our Relay For Life event with their Fish Lake Relay race. My hope was to bring more awareness about cancer in the area. So I put together a team that consisted of myself, my wife Corrine, and our two best running buddies, Jake and Alli. However, we had a hard time recruiting two more people for the team. At the last minute I asked my teenage brother, Alex, if he would be interested in running with us and he simply said, "sure."
With only five people for our 6-person team, our two ladies decided to each pick up a third leg so that we would still qualify as a Co-ed team. Our intent in running the relay was truthfully to just have fun and bring awareness about cancer for my job. However, to our surprise we won the entire race overall, set a new course record, and became the first team to ever break the 8-hour mark! Our minds were blown and only two teams have beat our record since.
Two years after the race, Alex was diagnosed with Stage 4 cancer. For more than a year, he ran an incredible race, climbing the steepest hills and eventually finishing gracefully through the finish line--never looking back--and taking his final breathes of relief before closing his eyes after a hard race. He always had a smile and lived by his mantra, "I do not worry about things I cannot control."
And so, in 2018, we returned to reclaim our title and honor Alex!
THE NEW RECRUITS
Once again our team consisted of myself, Corrine, Jake and Alli! The new recruits included my wife's cousin's husband (monkey's uncle, and overall cool dude) Keaton (who is just a touch faster than me when he is not even training) and his sister Kelsey, who finished running Track and Cross Country for Brigham Young University last year. The stage was set!
WHO SHOULD RUN WHICH LEGS?
We must have gone through a dozen iterations about who should run which legs. Jake and Alli had their laptop with a spreadsheet hashing it all out. I thought we should just have our fastest runners (Jake and Kelsey) smoke it out at the starting line. However, everyone else wanted to spread it out and make it a chase (but that was only making me nervous kids).
What we did know is that we wanted our fastest runners to run our longest legs, we wanted to mix up the rotations, and that the power of my hobbit feet, combined with my short, wiener-dog-like legs, would best be used to burn steep declines. So we structured and restructured accordingly. What mattered most to us was that the right people ran the right legs, more so than spreading every person evenly between their two legs (more on that later skater).
THE STARTING LINE
The starting line was set up at the Fish Lake Lodge with 28 teams ready to roll. Here we discovered that something looked a bit different, but we couldn't quite put our finger on it. We just knew that we needed to get ready for the 6:30 am start and Alli was up to bat!
Distance - Approx. 5.9 miles
Elevation - Start 8,900 ft & End 8,950
Terrain - Road
Similar to 2013, Leg 1 winds around Fish Lake as the sun rises and the air warms over the cool lake, creating an incredible misty fog. The elevation slightly drop at the beginning and then gradually climbs back up, particularly at the end, gaining around 50 ft. Alli kept a good steady pace and placement, picking off 24 of the other 27 teams within the first couple of miles.
Distance - Approx. 4.75 miles
Elevation - Start 8,950 ft & End 9,250
Terrain - Road
Alli finished like a boss and tagged her hubby Jake in unique fashion with a mid-air chest bump. As Jake began the leg we really started to wonder if the route was different. As we came to the dirt road turn off, we realized that Jake had more hill to climb than what we originally anticipated. With only two teams ahead, Jake caught up to the 2nd place team, which was a co-ed team, but technically qualified in the Men's Division, because they had four men and only two ladies.
As Jake approached the new turn up the steep hill he started to really feel the elevation, but so did the team just ahead. Their leg enjoyed breakfast a few times over again. But hats off to him, because after Jake passed him, that dude caught back up and stuck with Jake to the bitter end of the Leg 2.
Distance - Approx. 4.55 miles
Elevation - Start 9,250 ft & End 9,975
Terrain - Road
Poor Keaton. Here is where we confirmed with the race crew that the first 3 legs had changed since 2013, but not updated on the website. Keaton had nearly 725 ft of pure joy to climb. Luckily, the team we were neck-and-neck with had a runner that was strong and steady to really help keep the pace.
You could tell dude from the other team had run a few distance races or two. Keaton kept with him and looked strong, even though he gave us the gun-to-the-head signal to take him out of his misery. Regardless, Keaton passed the dude at one point, but this guy was a pure locomotive up those hills and pulled away at the end of the Leg 3.
Distance - Approx. 4.45 miles
Elevation - Start 9,975 ft & End 9,920 (Highest 10,500)
Terrain - Road