Red Rock Relay Zion 2012: What it is and survival lessons learned

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Guest post by Anonymous.

The fourth annual Red Rock Relay took place on September 7-8th 2012. This event travels through the most beautiful running venues the world has to offer. The race begins at 11,000 feet at Brian Head Ski resort in Southern Utah then travels Dixie National Forest, Cedar Breaks, Snow Canyon, St. George, and ends at the entrance to Zion National Park. Relays are perfect for endurance loving outdoor enthusiasts. The relay experience provides access to uncharted running locations and camaraderie among team members.

Each team consisted of 12 runners and 2 vehicles. Each runner ran 3 separate legs in a roughly 24 hour period. There are 36 legs total and the legs range from 3 miles to 8 miles. If your team isnt good friends at the start of the relay, they certainly will be running buddies for life by the finish.

I was privileged to be invited to participate with a team of runners who are in the medical profession. There was an ER physician, ER nurses, and EMTs. Looking back, that was definitely a good choice to run with this particular team. Their knowledge and skills kept us in the race.

We had multiple first aid kits, and I brought along my recently revamped car emergency kit. I was looking forward to testing it out as I was sure I had everything I could possibly need. I did have a few valuable items such as duct tape, however I did not have all of the items we found ourselves in need of. I wanted to share these lessons with you because they don’t apply only to long distance running!

This is what we learned:

  1. Always have an ace wrap in your car kit. Our first runner sprained his ankle on the very first mile of the 187 mile relay. We had bandages, alcohol wipes, even a suture kit, but no ace wrap. We were able to find a pharmacy where we purchased a wrap. We were also fortunate to have a sports medicine specialist that was able to tape and wrap the ankle. And our brave runner was able to complete all 3 legs of his 18 mile portion of the race.
  2. Stay hydrated, especially when running in near 100 degree temperatures in the desert in the middle of the day. If you are involved in physical activity and you are thirsty, you are already dehydrated. One of our runners had been sick earlier in the week and was not sufficiently hydrated when she ran her first leg. The temperatures were extreme and the sun was direct. It was a bad combination. Luckily we had fluids and IV supplies. We put her on a bottom bunk of a bunk bed, a nurse started the IV, we duct taped the bag of fluids to the top bunk. Gradually our runner began to hydrate and feel better. Good thing we had the fluids, supplies and skills for that situation. The duct tape was from the car kit. It has a million different uses!
  3. Benadryl is a life saver. One particular runner had to run 6 miles at night through a farm community. He thought he could smell freshly cut alfalfa as he was running. After he completed his run, we looked at him and his face was red and his eyes were swelling up. He was struggling to breathe. He asked if anyone had any Benadryl. Sadly, there was not any allergy medication in my car kit, but thanks to our prepared team of medical professionals we had some injectable Benadryl in the first aid kit. One of the nurses immediately gave him a shot of Benadryl. This is the second time that this runner has experienced a reaction like this and he has decided to check with his physician and get a prescription for an EpiPen.
  4. Plan on any and all types of weather. Even though the forecast was for sun for the entire race, we did have one runner that had to run through a brief rainstorm in the early morning. The cloud cover and cooler temperatures were a welcome surprise, but staying mostly dry made it much more enjoyable when the temperatures were cool. He was glad to have his lightweight rain poncho. These items are cheap and compact. They should be included in car kits, 72-hour kits, camping gear, etc. They also have a variety of uses.
  5. Headlamps and a switchblade are nice to have on hand. I had to run 5 miles in the middle of the night on a dirt road. It was nice to have a quality headlamp to see the path ahead of me. And though I never had to use the knife, I was happy to have it with me as I ran though the desert in the middle of the night. You never know what (or who) is going to cross your path. (And remember to pack extra batteries!)
  6. Other items that were valuable to have: A good quality, comfortable backpack. Plenty of water bottles, including backpack style hydration packs. Toilet paper. Wipes. Ibuprofen. Sunscreen. Lip balm. Walkie talkies. Maps. Gum. Jolly Ranchers. Extra socks.

Now, these items listed and lessons learned were specific to a 187 mile race through the desert of Southern Utah with 100s of other like minded athletes. However, it could be comparable to what would happen if one were evacuated from their home or found themselves traveling long distance by foot. So, not only was this a trial of endurance and a lesson in teamwork, it was an invaluable test of our preparedness efforts. I learned a lot, have made some changes, and cant wait to sign up to do it again!

4 thoughts on “Red Rock Relay Zion 2012: What it is and survival lessons learned”

  1. Stealth Spaniel

    Okay, I need to ask: what about all the “critters” that are out wandering and watching? I lived in the Sierras at one time, up above Placerville, and there is no way I would have entertained running on trails, let alone uncharted areas. We had a woman runner killed not far from my home, who ran during the day on a known trail, and still was attacked & killed by a mountain lion. So, I would be concerned about running alone-especially at night. I like the idea of a relay race, but running in a pair or more sure seems safer.

  2. Ellen Mueller

    Wow! That was a great article! I am the race director for the Top of Zion Relay that goes from Capitol Reef NP to Zion NP ( ) and came upon your article as I was searching on medical kits! I can’t believe all the things that happened to you!! Thanks for sharing! Do you mind if I share this on my facebook site and website?

    Oh, and if you need another adventure – join us May 30-31, 2014 for the Top of Zion Relay! Email me and I can set you up with a good discount! : )

    1. The Survival Mom

      Hi Ellen. I’m glad you enjoyed the article and you’re welcome to use it on your Facebook page and website.

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