From the humid flatlands of Houston to the snow capped peaks of the Grand Teton National Park, the HCSS Fast Track relay team claimed first place victory in the corporate division at the 205 mile Epic Cache-Teton Relay Race August 8-9, 2014. The team took fifth place overall with a finish time of 29:14:42 hours, averaging an overall mile pace of 8:34. Pushing through unpredictable weather patterns and mountain terrain reaching elevations of 4,000-6,000 feet, these stats are impressive considering much of the competition hails from the health meccas found throughout the Rocky Mountain states.
Starting in Logan, Utah with teams of 12 runners each taking different legs of the course, the route travels along the historic Oregon Trail and passes through national forests including the Wasatch Cache, Caribou-Targhee and Grand Teton. The race ends more than a day later in Jackson Hole, Wyoming. The HCSS team included Dalton Pulsipher, Sifa Mvoi, Skyler Moss, Jose Barboza, Joseph Doty, Addison Smith, Zack Foster, Eric Staples, Brenton Morneau, John Rydin, Jeff Burch and Steve Maliszewski.
The company formed a running team and started competing in relays in 2006 as part of the HCSS culture. The first event was called “The Relay” which was a 199 mile course from Calistoga to Santa Cruz, California. Since then the team has done 1-2 relays each year including the Ragnar Wasatch Relay in 2007, the Ragnar Colorado Relay in 2012, and the Texas Independence Relay each year from 2008-2014. This year the company fielded two teams for the first time at the TIR, in which HCSS was the presenting sponsor. With the goal of doing an out-of-state relay each year, this was the first time running the Cache-Teton race. Next year their sights are set on the Hood to Coast Relay in Oregon.
“Our company has a large group of runners including executives right up to the CEO,” said Dalton Pulsipher, who organized the team building event. “With that much vested interest in the sport we felt like a team-based running event was a great way to have fun and get to know each other better.”
Taking advantage of their trip to the West, the team also visited a number of customers on site. “I think the way it worked out is that we wanted to run the relays, and then visiting customers just made sense since we were in the area,” said Pulsipher. “Coincidental to that is the fact that we can get to a variety of customers by going to new places each year.” They met with companies based in Utah including VanCon in Springville, Newman Construction in Riverton, WW Clyde and Geneva Rock in Orem, and Stanton Constructability Services in Sandy.
With two vans on the move leapfrogging one another, runners ran throughout the night and no one can predict what might happen from mile to mile. During the race Pulsipher pulled a hamstring and couldn’t run his last leg (no pun intended). The race rules require another runner to run their team members leg and also run their own rotation. Steve Maliszewski, fresh off the course from running the 135 mile Badwater Ultramarathon, stepped up and ran the 7 mile segment. With less than 2 hours rest he then ran his final leg to complete 27.9 miles for his share of the relay. Sifa Mvoi ran the second longest distance with 19.5 miles.
Elevation means dramatic shifts in weather, a far cry from our mellow temperature changes near the Texas Gulf Coast. Early in the evening Skyler Moss was handed the baton and was tasked with running 8.1 miles into Soda Springs, Idaho. There had been lightning in the mountains and he felt a light sprinkle as he took off. Before long the rain picked up and the temperatures dropped to the 40s. Moss continued to run.
Lightning and thunder picked up and before long, a torrential downpour was upon him. “Sporadic belts of golf-ball sized hail came down, luckily only hitting him lightly,” said Pulsipher. “When he got to Soda Springs, Skyler was noticing most of his competitors had been pulled from the course. But not him; he was here for a challenge. He continued to run, fording flooded streets up to his knees, ignoring the hills and the rain, and came out on the other side. He finished that leg with an 8:28 pace, beating the team average on a grueling stretch of course,” continued Pulsipher.
For Zack Foster, the race lived up to its name with an “epic” switchback climb over 500 feet. “I remember running up to the start of the climb and looking up to see other runners above me. It was just past midnight, so all the runners were decked out in reflective vests and blinking lights,” recalled Foster. “About 500 feet above at the far end of the switchback, little lights were blinking by over the hill, looking like small aircraft passing overhead. I knew that this 50-story climb on a loose gravel road was going to be challenging to say the least.”
When he finally reached the top, he was in for another surprise. “As quickly as the climb ended, a wildly precipitous descent started. I gave up all of the elevation I had gained on the switchback and then some coming down the hill,” continued Foster. “I felt like a cartoon rabbit with my legs spinning underneath me the whole way down. It had rained pretty heavily just hours before, so I was constantly battling back and forth between loose gravel and slippery mud for the surface where I could find the best purchase. It was nerve wracking, but exciting all the same.”
With their victorious finish at the Epic Cache-Teton Relay under their belt, the HCSS Fast Track Team continues to train daily during their lunch breaks. Neon yellow HCSS shirts can be seen running along Airport Boulevard in groups of 3-5 deep. They might be training on the streets of Sugar Land but you can bet they’ll be ready for their next relay, whether that’s in the mountains, on the coast, or along the Texas backroads at the 2015 TIR.
Click here to read about HCSS employee Steve Maliszewski’s run at the 135 mile Badwater Ultramarathon
A Company Luncheon? We play dodgeball. Read on to see how HCSS employees spend their lunch hour