What an amazing weekend... What an endurance test... What an accomplishment...
WE DID IT!! Our entire team finished the 191 grueling miles together and had the experience of a lifetime. I'm still all jumbled up in my thoughts and trying to wrap my mind around how to relay everything that transpired effectively. How do you explain to people how spending thirty eight hours in a car together, with five other stinky runners, driving slowly across half the state can be fun? But oh my god was it ever fun!!
I made a list of things to do differently next time (yes, there's definitely going to be a next time!)
1) take a backpack, not your purse, Terra *sheesh*
2) pack even lighter - I didn't use half the stuff I brought because my bag was buried in the back the whole time. Which will also be solved with a backpack to put my essentials in and have handy.
3) we need a unique lighting option to differentiate OUR runners at night, even in Van 1
4) we don't need as much food next time
5) don't do three graveyard on-call shifts the week leading up to Ragnar
The week leading up to the race I was a total stress ball but when it came to actual race day I was relaxed and ready to experience Ragnar. Thursday was filled with last minute preparations - like getting the house restocked with groceries so my poor kids who were staying home with the nanny for the weekend could eat. Everyone in my van, "Van One", met at my house that evening to drive the two hours to Logan where the race started. We met the one person none of us knew at the hotel when we checked in and headed for the restaurant for dinner. We picked an Italian place so we could all "carb-load". Kind of a joke among runners to eat a big meal the night before when in reality, if you were really carb-loading the correct way, it happens over a couple of weeks and is way intense. By the time we got done with dinner and back to the hotel to hit the sack it was after eleven o'clock PM. With our start time of six-thirty the next morning we decided we needed to rendezvous around the coffee pot in the lobby by four-forty five. Considering I was the first runner, I can't run on an empty stomach AND I can't run on a full stomach I had to be up at about three-forty five to eat my meal replacement, get dressed and repacked and ready to head out. Yikes, that is NOT a lot of sleep and it was going to bite me in the ass later considering I'd worked the graveyard on-call shift the two nights in a row previous and had gotten very little sleep.
The weather gods were smiling down on me personally when the morning brought almost freezing temperatures. It's no secret that I hate the heat and my favorite temperature to run in is forty. Being the first runner out of the gate and it being under forty when we headed out from the hotel brought me such joy. We made our way - after my sister and I reloaded the car while everyone else sipped coffee - to the start where we had to stand in line to check in to get our race bibs... Then another line to get our safety flags... Then another line to get our safety briefing done... No wonder they tell you to arrive an hour and a half before your scheduled start time! Luckily there was a huge merchandise tent that was warm. I'm sure it was on purpose since it was a superb marketing ploy.
Then they were calling the runners for the 6:30 start time to line up. The start was on the Utah State University campus track and then out the stadium from there to wind our way through quaint farming communities and over three mountain passes toward our finish line. About fifty teams start together so the track was full but not overflowing. Teams start all day in order to keep the course manageable with the fourteen THOUSAND runners who participated. I was so nervous and so excited standing there among all the other runners doing the "runner one" spot. When they said "GO" we all took off and for once I didn't sprint off the start but stuck to my pace. Which also meant by the time we came to the first corner to put us out onto the roads of Logan I was well in last place. The motto is: "further, not faster" and I kept telling myself that it didn't matter how fast I went just as long as I could go the distance. Especially since I had the longest total mileage of anyone on the team. The morning was so beautiful and I had such an amazing run those first seven miles. My van-mates, led my my sister the best driver on the planet, stopped every couple of miles to make sure I didn't need anything and to give me more cow bells. (If you haven't seen the SNL skit about more cow bells you must google it and watch it!)
One of the funnest parts of running Ragnar is watching all the crazy vans drive by and seeing how they have been decorated with team names and themes. I realized that we were in serious need of van decorating since ours had none at that point. We didn't want to get up earlier or stay up later to do it and figured we'd have plenty of time during the race. Not only are the van decorations and sayings painted on the windows entertaining to see, it makes your van more distinguishable among the hundreds that pass by on each leg. So, note to self: must get at least our team name on the windows after I'm done running. Luckily we'd tracked down some car markers the night before.
Only one thing marred that first run and it was a personal annoyance that plagued me the entire race... being road kill. Some hard core Ragnar runners have started the tradition of counting their kills through the race. In Ragnar-speak a roadkill is when you pass up another runner. I'm sure if you're the one doing the passing and there are very few people to count it is fun and exhilarating. When you are the slowest runner on that leg and EVERYONE passes you and says "good job" as they run by it feels more demeaning than encouraging. I was thankful to those who passed by me in silence and stayed out of my head remembering that I was only responsible for running my pace on my legs, not anyone else's, and we'd still finish on time. We were in it to Finish, not in it to win it after all. I ran the seven miles in exactly the time I estimated it would take me for my average 10K pace and felt amazing. That was the leg I had been most worried about since it included a lot of rolling hills. I like it flat and downhill, I'm not gonna lie!
At the end of my run I handed off to my sexy husband who was waiting at the exchange and he headed out on his first leg of six miles. He killed everyone who had just killed me AND got his picture taken by a photographer for one of the local papers which was featured on their website the next day. He ran so fast that by the time I'd cooled down and we loaded into the van to leap-frog ahead of him and be ready with water, he'd passed the point he told us he'd want us at. So, we just kept driving until we found him and pulled over to give him some water. Not too shabby for a guy who had his ACL replaced two and a half years ago and did very little training for the actual running part of Ragnar.
We repeated the cool-down-the-incoming-runner-and-leapfrog-ahead-to-support-the-current-runner dance through the other four runners in the van. It was so interesting to watch how each person's demeanor would change as they became the runner on deck and would start their own mental preparations. Some would get quiet, some would get giddy and some just didn't sweat it but strapped on their bib number and was ready to go. Steven called himself the grumpy runner because he doesn't actually love the running part of running. He retreated into his headphones in search of his zen place and ran very focused, not needing much support from us in the van at all. Jaclyn we soon found was our secret weapon and could run so fast. She was almost all done with her first run before we even caught up with her. Sean had a tough climb up Avon pass but enjoyed it so much he was posing for pictures as we passed him by. Jose screamed downhill on the other side of the pass and also posed for pictures - road killing along the way.
We arrived at the first major exchange in Eden about one o'clock PM to find massive amounts of team vans. A major exchange is where both vans from your team - and every other team - are there together because one van is handing off to the other van. You can imagine the chaos! We were parked in some poor farmer's field who I am personally grateful is someone who supports Ragnar and let us be there. We split up with half of us heading for the lines to use the Honey Buckets (aka, road construction porta-potty) and the rest searching for Van Two before they headed out to support Nancy as she took the exchange from Jose. By some miracle we were parked in the same general area as them and saw them as they were heading out. We passed on the other half of the cowbells, gushed about how much fun we were having and wished them as much luck on their legs.
With the baton now with Van Two, we had about five hours of down time before we had to be at the next major exchange and ready for our next set of runs. We hung out there for a bit to see what booths they had and what free food there was, which was not much since they had chips and salsa but had run out of salsa. The free samples of frozen yogurt were a hit and the jewelry that enticed me turned out to be kind of cheesy and overpriced. So, we all stood in line for the Honey Buckets - something that became one of the main activities of the weekend as Steven pointed out - and then headed back to the car. We took the time then to put our team name "Run, Piggies, Run" on the back window of the Excursion and put each runner's name on the side windows with three check-boxes to mark our progress along the way. Van decorating complete, we headed for Snow Basin to wait for Van Two to get done and pass the baton back to us.
*** I've decided to publish the race recap in three parts or else it will be ages before anyone hears how it all went! Stay tuned for the next installment that will cover the second leg of our journey! ***