Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Run. Drive. Sleep? Repeat.

This past weekend I ran the Wasatch Back Ragnar Relay. A 188 mile running relay from Logan to Park City.
A description of the race straight from the Ragnar Relay website:
Picture this: You and 11 of your closest friends running day and night, relay-style, through some of the most scenic terrain North America could muster. Add in live bands, inside jokes and a mild case of sleep deprivation. The result? Some call it a slumber party without sleep, pillows or deodorant. We call it a Ragnar Relay.
It's really quite simple. Get a bunch of friends together and start running. Okay, there's a little more to it. Your relay team will consist of 12 members. During the relay, each team member runs three legs, each leg ranging between 3 - 8 miles and varying in difficulty. So, from the elite runner down to the novice jogger, it's the perfect relay race for anyone.
Each team is responsible for providing two support vehicles, with six runners in each vehicle. The first vehicle will drop off the first runner, drive ahead a few miles, cheer the runner on, and provide them with water, snacks, and plenty of love. That vehicle will then drive ahead to the first exchange point to drop off the second runner, and pick up the first runner when that leg is complete. They will repeat this pattern for six legs until they hand off to their second vehicle. This leapfrogging pattern will continue all the way to the finish line.That, my friends, is what I spent this past weekend doing. And it was some serious crazy, exhausting, insane, awesomeness! By the time we made it to the finish line around 6:00 on Saturday evening, our team had been on the course since 8:15 Friday morning. I was functioning on 1.5 hours of sleep, a healthy dose of adrenaline and a fair share of caffeine. Here's how it all came about....
Back in January or so, Greg, a friend of mine from college mentioned that he was planning to run the Ragnar Relay again this year. When I expressed interest in the race he immediately invited me to join his team, as did a few other of his teammates. Oh. Umm. Could I really do this? I'm more of a biker than a runner. But I said yes and hoped and prayed that I could build up my running endurance before June....and get an easy-ish route.
Our team, the Stonecreek Stoners, had a BBQ a few weeks ago to make plans and to get to know each other. I learned that I would be runner 7 in van 2 along with Heather, Jason, Marci, Megan and Greg.Fast forward to race day.... Even though our team started running from Logan at 8:15, van 2 got a more leisurely start seeing as we didn't need to meet up with van 1 until noon in Liberty/Eden. We arrived, attended our mandatory safety meeting, got all psyched up and excited....and then waited and waited and waited. Being runner 7 meant that I was the first up from our van and with all the waiting I was getting more and more nervous and anxious. We finally got the call from van 1 that runner 6 was about a mile away and to get ready. I made my way into the exchange chute... and after a few minutes, there came Kristen...hot, sweaty and tired as she ran up to me and slapped the orange bracelet on my wrist. Off I went with my team yelling and screaming for me. I was so relieved to be actually running!
But that relief was pretty quickly replaced with a kind of dread as I realized that this was so much harder than I thought it would be! A 4 mile run through mostly flat neighborhoods I had thought would be rather easy. Especially since it was my first run and I'd still be fresh. But the temps had climbed up into the mid 80's by 2:45 when I was running and I literally felt like I was melting. My teammates stopped every mile to give me encouragement and water. But I wondered to myself if I had seriously misjudged my abilities to do this race! About 45 minutes after I started, I ran into the exchange chute and slapped that bracelet on Heather's arm, hugely relieved to be done with my first leg, and hugely worried about my next. I was red-faced and panting. I poured cold water over my head, drank another full bottle of water and then climbed into the air-conditioned van. After resting, cooling and refueling I felt so much better and could look back honestly at my first leg and admit that yes, it'd been hard but I had been okay. I hadn't passed anyone but I had done it and done it pretty darn well considering the conditions.We leapfrogged and supported our runners for the next few hours and finally passed the slap bracelet off to van 1 at Snow Basin resort. Ahhh. Time for a few hours of rest. We headed up to the lodge for dinner, bought matching Ragnar jackets at the vendor booth anticipating a rather cold night ahead, and then hopped back in the van to drive to East Canyon State Park, the next place I would start running again. It was 10:00 when we arrived. We were all getting a little tired at this point, and knowing that we would be up literally ALL night, decided to pull out our sleeping bags and try to get some sleep. We set up camp on the lawn hoping for an hour or so of shut eye. Car alarms, slamming doors, flashlights, talking, the stench of the "honey bucket" portables being cleaned out, etc. My cell phone alarm went off at 11:30 with none of us having benefited from any actual sleep. But up we jumped, cleaning up our little camp and getting ready for the next round of running. Like before, I was up first. And once again I was nervous...maybe even more so than I had been before. This run was a little shorter, 3.8 miles, but it was in the dark and uphill!
At 12:20 AM I once again had that bracelet slapped onto my wrist and away I ran. Because I was running in the middle of the night I was wearing a reflective vest, a red flashing light on my backside, and a head lamp. It was so dark that my teammates had a hard time seeing me as they tried to give me water. It was kind of funny to see Greg peer into the darkness and call out "Sarah? Is that you?" All he could see, really, was a bobbing light running towards him. It was a little freaky running in the pitch dark....but in a cool way. And amazingly enough, this ended up being my best leg. It was so much cooler (45 degrees), I had some great tunes playing in my ears and I was running well, despite the hill. At the steepest part of the hill I realized that I was running so slowly that I might fare better walking. I power walked for the next few minutes, laughing as I realized that I was moving so much faster...enough that I even passed a few people who were running! I ran into the exchange as I heard the volunteer announce my team number and passed the bracelet on to Heather all smiles. It had been an awesome, exhilarating run!Once again we leapfrogged and supported our runners. All throughout the night. We watched the sun come up. And tried mightily to stay awake in-between switching runners. We alternated between exhausted silence and slap happy giddiness. We passed off to van 1 around 8:30 or so and headed off to Marci and Megan's family cabin in Heber. Ahhh! Soft couches! Silence! Solid sleep! Well, for an hour and a half at least. And even though I slept hard, I woke up before my phone alarm went off. We all did. So we packed up and started back down the mountain to Rocky Mountain Middle School where we were to start running again. And thankfully we did leave earlier than we had planned! Because luckily for them but unfortunately for us, their last legs were their easiest ones which means they had blasted through them with speed and ease. We actually were at a stop light when Kristen, runner 6, ran past us! Yikes!!! I made it into the exchange with seconds to spare and headed off running still trying to get my hair pulled up and my earbuds untangled.
My last leg was around noon. It was hot, certainly, but a breeze was blowing which helped keep things cooler. That, and the cute kids out with hoses who politely asked if I wanted to be sprayed as I ran by. As always, my answer was "Yes, PLEASE!" Regardless of the fact that I'd had next to no sleep, I ran cheerfully and well...all nerves long gone by now. The last mile of my 4.2 route was the longest but soon I was passing that well traveled bracelet off to Heather and making my way back to the van to cool off and rehydrate.
Heather, by this point, was struggling with an injured knee and half a mile into her 6 mile run she was in tears. Even though the others still had some mighty big legs still to come and even though I was still recovering from my leg, between us all we ran Heather's leg for her. I took the last mile which ended up being uphill. Heather thanked us all over and over again for helping her out. But it didn't seem like a big deal to me. We were a team. And even though, other than Greg, I didn't know any of these people before, after spending 2 solid days supporting each other, encouraging each other, cheering for each other I felt like I had known these people for years. We had bonded well. And so of course none of us thought twice about picking up Heather's leg despite the fact that we all had our own to worry about.
Those last legs were long and tough for van 2. Hours and hours passed as we chipped away at those miles knowing that van 1 was already at the finish line waiting for us. Finally, finally we dropped Jason off for his last leg and we jumped ahead to the Canyons Resort to the final finish. The parking lot was jam packed with vans, all decorated with team names and decor. (My favorite? "Damn Soles In Distress". Maybe it was lack of sleep but I laughed so hard I had tears rolling down my cheeks.) We took the tram up the hill and somehow, through the hordes of people, found our other teammates from van 1. Together we made our way to where we could watch for Jason and when he came running around that last bend, we all hollered and cheered and joined him for the final run through the official finish line. Our team was announced and welcomed back as we were given our medals and shepherded over for a team picture. There was a serious party atmosphere there and I would've liked to look around a little bit and revel in our accomplishment. But just as much as I wanted to party, I wanted to go home. I was exhausted, stinky, sore and just plain overwhelmed. I hadn't seen Bryan in a week, he having come home from a business trip after I had already left. And so we hugged and high-fived and then headed back down the hill to the van to go home.
It's only been a couple of days and despite the fact that I'm still recovering from sore muscles and exhaustion I'm already planning to do it again next year. It was HARD....one of the hardest things I have ever done. But it was a huge accomplishment for me and awesome fun! I asked Bryan if he was proud of me or if he just thought I was crazy. It was okay, I told him, if he thought I was just plain crazy. I was proud enough of myself for the both of us. After thinking for a minute he said, "Well, I must be proud of you because I keep telling people about it!" Honestly though, I'm pretty sure that along with the pride there exists a fairly large sense of incredulity that I would put myself through something like that! "Did you have fun?" he asked. When I answered in the affirmative he said, "Well, that's good. Because it doesn't sound at all fun to me!" And that's okay. :)

1 comment:

MamaBug said...

Glad you had a great race! I'm still so uber impressed that you did it. Great job and good luck next year!