A Battle Born victory at Reno-Tahoe Odyssey
by John Trent
Special to the Reno Gazette-Journal
July 1, 2007
The home boys defended their home turf at the Reno-Tahoe Odyssey.
Battle Born, a team comprised of 12 runners either born, raised, or living and working in the area, won the overall title for the two-day event, which started on Friday in downtown Reno and finished Saturday in Idlewild Park.
Billed as a 178-mile relay run adventure, the Reno-Tahoe
Odyssey was shortened by about 55 miles earlier this week when the race's middle 12 legs on Lake Tahoe's south end were dropped so as to not interfere with efforts to fight the Angora Fire near South Lake Tahoe.
The shortened distance didn't dampen the spirits of the 93 teams that competed, including the members of the Battle Born team. Their finishing time of just over 12 hours represented the fastest pace -- 6 minutes and 5 seconds per mile -- ever for the three-year event.
"All of the runners on the team have a lot of pride," said Tim Minor of Reno, who anchored Battle Born's effort with a smooth and smiling run along the Truckee River bike path. "Every time anybody from our team went out (to run a leg), they were punching it. You can't take (the competitiveness) out of us."
Team captain John Ostezan of Reno said the run wasn't without its challenges. Early into the run on Friday, the team's Alex Carpenter came down with symptoms of food poisoning.
Not to worry, though. The team's fastest runner, Jeff Huxhold of Reno, stepped in and blasted what was perhaps the fastest relay leg in the race's history, hammering the 6.5-mile leg down Geiger Grade in 29:57. That's less than 4:40 per mile.
"Jeff just ran a fantastic leg," Ostezan said. "He stepped in when we needed it, and he was off like a shot, straight down what was a giant, quad-busting downhill. He really smoked it. We were able to get through some adversity. Everyone on the team did a great job."
Huxhold said he had no doubts when he was asked to run an extra leg.
"Everyone's crazy on this team," he said. "I just love hanging out with these guys. It was important to all of us that we do well as a team."
"This is our home course, and it was our home course advantage," added Battle Born team member Alan Dehlinger.
Minor said that although Battle Born was clearly focused on winning, there were numerous opportunities for the team to savor the experience. They used his Galena Forest home as a kind of unofficial base of operations, catching up on needed sleep, eating, hydrating and trading a few jokes.
There were also moments to reflect on the beauty of the course. Running after sundown on Friday near Homewood, Calif., on Lake Tahoe's west shore, Minor looked up and felt his jaw drop.
"There was a spot where things sort of opened up and there was a full moon reflecting over the lake," Minor said. "It was just beautiful."
At the finish on Saturday, teams of all shapes and sizes streamed through the finish chute. Teams wore grass skirts or matching pink tennis outfits and carried jubilant signs, caught up in the experience. One team -- the Silver Streakers of Reno, clad in beach towels -- wore hardly anything at all.
"We came up with this idea, new for this year," said Silver Streaker Caryn Tijsseling, of Reno. "We just decided to shake things up."
Just as the Battle Born runners had to overcome adversity, the Silver Streakers' odyssey to Idlewild wasn't without its challenges.
A hungry raccoon broke into the team's van at Homewood.
"He got into our food," Tijseeling said.
"He ate everything," added teammate Jon Hanbury.
"Including all our Red Bull," Tijseeling added.
Even without the Red Bull, the Silver Streakers still appeared jazzed to finish.
"Everybody is saying that they're having a great time," said a busy and upbeat race founder, Eric Lerude, at the finish.
Three years ago, on the whim of a career change as an attorney and a well-meaning prayer that hinged on improving the quality of life in his hometown, Lerude had decided to create a destination running relay event.
Like the pages of a Robert Laxalt novel, Lerude's Odyssey has helped bring the area's scenery to life -- something that runners can see, touch and experience for themselves.
Lerude took a look around at the merriment and grinned. A team from Houston stood underneath a huge Texas state flag, cheering. A cool breeze was felt rising from the Truckee River. Families were camped under the cottonwoods, cheering on the finishers. And, already, there was talk from the Battle Born team of returning next year to take a crack at the 178-mile course record of 18 hours, 33 minutes.
"Everyone is saying they want to come back, which is what you want to hear," Lerude said.
And even though the home boys defended the home turf on Saturday, at that moment the turf felt like it belonged to every runner whose Odyssey had begun and ended in Reno