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I read that "signage" is provided, but I was uncertain as to how well the routes are marked. Are they marked well enough that it would be difficult to get lost and off of the path?
Every turn will be marked with signs. Detailed maps with written directions are also available to download and print out. However, we can't be responsible if the wind blows a sign down hard or someone thinks it's funny to remove or change the direction of the signs. It is strongly recommended that each runner study their leg before they start and carry the map for each of their legs as a back up. Signs will also be posted even where there aren't turns on the sections teams will be at night just as a reassurance that they are on the right route. These signs will also be supplemented with flashing blinking lights to make them more apparent. The signage should be used as a supplement to the maps. Maps should be studied before each runner's leg and van drivers should have a navigator looking at the maps as some van routes are different than the runner routes.
The course description of the Wild West Relay states 36% on paved roads, 35% through national forest, 28% on dirt roads etc. I'm assuming the national forest portion is on paved roads?
No, not all the National Forest section is on paved roads. The section through Routt National Forest is actually US Hwy 40 (very wide shoulders, low traffic) going over Rabbit Ears Pass into Steamboat Springs. The section through Medicine Bow National Forest is also on paved roads, but this is a very isolated and remote area of Wyoming. A great majority of the section through Roosevelt National Forest (west of Ft. Collins) is on dirt roads. In fact, after passing the turnoff to the village of Red Feather Lakes, it's all dirt roads until reaching the Wyoming border.
The rest of the dirt roads are in the rural/farming/ranching areas between the start in Ft. Collins and Livermore (legs 1 through 6), though some of these legs are both paved and dirt.
Will a minivan be able to navigate the Wild West Relay roads to the exchange points?
None of the dirt roads are 4-wheel drive roads. Normal vehicles can easily drive on the dirt roads.
What will be used to mark the paths? Will you be using small power line flags and/or glo-sticks?
The directional arrows on the route are on plywood sandwich boards. There will be directional arrow signs placed at every turn. At night, the arrows on the signs are made with reflective material will be marked with blinking red lights (like bicyclists use). Power line flags and glo-sticks become litter so will not be used.
I know that the night runners are required to have a reflective vest, a flash light, and a red blinking light, but how dark and how alone are most runners?
Our relays travel through rural and isolated areas, so the only section where there will be lighting is through the few small towns the course passes through. We try to schedule the Wild West Relay close to the night of the full moon (depends on the availability of the exchange locations).
Unless the team is way ahead or far behind the main pack of teams due to misrepresenting their average 10k pace, runners should not feel particularly isolated.
Has there ever been any concern or issues with animals (wild or domestic) in the middle of the night?
There is always that possibility. If there are concerns about wildlife, the wearing of "bear bells" (essentially jingle bells that you can attach to your shoes or a belt) and carrying pepper spray that attaches to your hip, is suggested. Both would be available at outdoor stores like REI. However, the amount of vehicle traffic, along with all the runners, that travels through these areas is going to be significantly more than normal. Animals would normally avoid this increased activity.