From seasoned vets to novices, 24 Hometown Health employees are ready to make the multi-day trek in the 11th annual runner event.
For runners and racers, there’s nothing like the Reno-Tahoe Odyssey: A 178-mile course tackled by teams of a dozen runners sharing different relay legs around the clock for one full day . It starts and ends in Reno, but also includes Sierra Nevada mountain roads and Lake Tahoe’s shores. And, it’s continual: racers are on the road somewhere, someplace for much of the race on May 29 through the 30th.
That can be quite a challenge for even the most experienced runner, not to mention those used to 5Ks and the like. But, often you’ll have the long-timer and the newbie side-by-side on a leg of the Odyssey.
This will likely be the case with the teams from Hometown Health, one of the Odyssey’s sponsors, who participates fully in this wild race.
Brian Howell, Database Administrator, has raced in the Odyssey for four years and will not only be back on Hometown Health’s team this year, but is also the main organizer for the teams. One of the team’s first-timers joining Brian is Ryan Hopkins, Customer Service Manager for Hometown Health.
Ryan says he joined the team because he craves a challenge. He keeps fit as an avid road cyclist, but he realizes this is a whole other road to trek. “It just sounds like a lot of fun,” he continues. “There’s a lot of camaraderie and team-building that goes with it. It’s a race that’s really outside the norm.”
There’s a family tie for Ryan as well – his father is a now retired marathoner. “He was hauling me out to races for as long as I could remember. He was in his late 30s when he got started, and I’m in about that range, so it’s time.”
And he’s not adverse to some bragging rights: “I know this is something my dad never did, so I want to be able to tell him that I finished it. It’s kind of like a bucket-list thing for me.”
The Hometown Health runners range from Vice President Ty Windfeldt to some of the employees Ryan supervises. The very nature of the team race means everyone’s at a different skill levels, and the Hometown Health teams have a mix of experienced racers to newbies. Brian says that there is a core group of at least 10 employees who have raced for four years straight, and for the rookies of the group, like Ryan, he says he has advised specific training changes to help prepare for the relay.
“You’re running three legs, and at maybe five or eight miles alone they don’t seem like that much, but it’s a short turnaround to do each one – 10 or 12 hours in between,” Brian says.
The groups occasionally train together at the University of Nevada, Reno’s Mackay Stadium for bleacher/track runs on Sunday mornings to promote team focus. Otherwise, it’s pretty individual. “I have altered my own training from last year to do more cross-training in the gym with more cardio involved, but I’m still trying to get in my miles of running as well,” Brian shares.
In comparison, Ryan’s personal fitness regimen changes include less weight training and a lot more running. “On the weekends I’ve been stacking up runs, five to six hours apart, to see how my body can take it,” Ryan says. “I had concerns about that, but it hasn’t been too bad, though I definitely now feel like I’m getting older.”
There’s also the sleep deprivation that goes with this one-of-a-kind race, but interestingly the night-owl shifts are the most memorable for Brian. “Those runs when it’s two in the morning and most times you don’t see as many runners around, and you have that solitude and you’re wearing a headlamp . . . it can be really hypnotic. I really enjoy those.”
As for personal goals, Brian said he always wants to better his own times from last year, but he also said as a team leader his goal is for everyone to simply have a great time and to get to know each other. It’s also a goal shared by Ryan.
“I just want to get to know everyone better on the team and have fun,” Ryan said.