I survived - and finished - Ragnar Wasatch Back relay 2012. It was amazing and wonderful on one hand, and on the other it was terrible and horrible.
The amazing and wonderful came from all the things that weren't running - with the exception of the first half of my run in the middle of the night. Hubby and I hand-picked our van-mates after having experienced the difference between a Ragnar with new friends you get to know better and a van full of old friends. Hubby got hurt in late January and could not train so he bowed out a couple of months before race day. His substitution - who we met on our Vegas team last year - luckily was as cool as he is and fit in perfectly with the vibe in the van. It was a weekend full of laughing until our abs hurt - and laughing even more when we wondered why our abs hurt so badly. A weekend full of my favorite word (you know, the one that starts with F and ends in uck!) spoken freely from everyone and thus no need to filter from my own mouth. A weekend full of judging. And whores. I could tell you more, but what happens on Ragnar stays on Ragnar.
The terrible and horrible part sums up having to run in extreme heat when I hadn't trained properly at all. I'm still a hormonally imbalanced mental and emotional wreck who is carrying around an extra 10-15 pounds thanks to my injury last fall and the cursed birth control I'm still stuck on. (Seriously, what's the deal with men getting all freaked about letting a doctor cut open their junk and sterilize them?) My broken give-a-damn had me down to barely running the couple of weeks before race day and it all combined with the extreme heat for a perfect storm of horrible. We had an injury in the other van and trades happening in our van to make sure we were better positioned for the right runner on the right legs. It was hard not to be discouraged about being one of the two non-ultra runners in our van but I was in that category with one of my best friends. We kept each others spirits up while the other four of our van-mates ran circles around us. I like to think it was just sheer brilliance on my part that I stacked the van with the best runners I know who could get us up and over the most narly hill Ragnar has to offer anywhere but comparing yourself to others is so innate... The fact that there was someone capable of running the last three miles of my last run rather than make me suffer in the heat and push the entire team even further behind our scheduled finish was sheer genius on my part, right?
Looking back on the whole experience I am once again amazed at what I did when, in the moment, I didn't think I could do any of it. I finished with my first daytime/heat/miserable run and thought 'I'm done, let's just go home'. Then my night run was in a canyon where I had spotty GPS signal so I used my UN-calibrated Nike+ iPod sensor which I luckily just always have on my running shoes. Brilliant - or so I thought until I figured out it was feeding me such inaccurate data that I'd pushed myself too hard and too fast in the beginning to have enough left to finish strong. The first five miles were blissful - middle of the night, cold enough I could see my breath puffing out in the light of my headlamp, DOWNHILL on a canyon road, the moon rising over the mountains. The last two miles of that run were so hard and ended with me limping into the exchange cursing with every step - literally. I'm pretty sure I completely ruined the innocence of that volunteer I ran past. After that, I knew there was no way I could run again and started to worry and fret about how I was going to have to walk my entire third run - the hardest of my three because it was all uphill. But guess what, when it was time to run again after having caught maybe two hours of sleep in little cat-nap snippets, I ran! If it hadn't been so hot, I would have run that whole leg. That fact still amazes me. Maybe that's what Ragnar is really about - pushing yourself beyond what you think you are capable of and finding that you're capable of so much more than you thought you were.
Registration for next year's race is already open and I promised Hubby we would not register a team for next year - which freaks me out whenever I think about it. But never fear, we are still going to be Ragnarians. Hubby and I decided to compromise. We will do Wasatch Back every other year and do another somewhere else on the off-years. Next year we're planning on Northwest Passage in the Seattle area. It might be my favorite race since the average temp for the area on race weekend is low 70's - at sea level even. Still hot but not hell-hot. Why can't they do a Ragnar somewhere when it's only 50-60 degrees? Now THAT would rock!!
Next up: fixing my give-a-damn so I can talk myself into another half marathon in the next year. After all if you don't have something to train for, it's harder to keep pushing yourself past your comfort zone.