Thursday, June 21, 2012

I Paid For This Experience?!?

It's amazing to me, that no matter how many times I do this race and no matter how much I feel like I know what I'm doing....every year is different and unique.  And yes, this time I was in van 1, rather than van 2 which meant a whole new (and HARDER) bunch of routes....but still!

The core of our team was made up of Snow College alumni.  Katie (my sister), Byron, Greg and I all ran together last year as part of the "Stone Creek Stoners" team.  This year we became "I Paid For This Experience?!?" and added Kim, Sheila and Bart, also friends from Snow.  And then filled in the gaps with other friends and family....Sam, Chance, Erich, Ben and Nancy.

Being van 1 meant an early morning.  And by early I mean that I set my alarm clock for 2:30 AM so that Katie (who slept at my house) and I could leave by 3:00.  We picked up Kim, Sam, Greg and Chance on our way and made it to Logan by 4:45 so we had time to check in, attend our safety meeting and be at the starting line for our official 5:45 AM start time.  Between the packing and the carb loading and the fact that my body did not want to go to sleep any more early than addition to a healthy dose of alarm anxiety which led to insomnia...I only got 3 hours of sleep.  Great.  Just great!

I was runner 6 which is the last from our van before passing the baton (or orange slap bracelet as the case may be) to van 2.  My first run was a 6.5 mile route cresting Avon Pass and heading downhill into Liberty.
 It was first.  I was speeding down that hill and feeling rather exhilarated.  The temps were cool, the scenery was beautiful.  But the road was packed dirt...with gravel and half buried rocks poking out and lots of ruts.  It took a lot of focus to place each step just right so I wouldn't slip, trip, or roll an ankle....all while running at a fairly quick pace being that it was a steep downhill.  I was handling it all pretty well and feeling really happy with my run when I looked up and saw a tight switchback ahead.  It was while I was trying to figure out the best way to tackle it that I tripped and went down hard.  I layed there on the ground, stunned....but only for a few seconds.  I was more worried about my pride than anything else.  And though my knee was bleeding, my shoulder was raw and both hands were stinging, I brushed myself off and started slowly walking...and then after a minute or two of ascertaining if there were any other injuries to ankles, wrists, etc...running.  I have to admit, it took a little bit of wind out of my sails.  Oh, I was happy to have some war stories to share with bruised and bloody evidence...but I knew I had been lucky.  That fall could've been a lot worse.  So I was all the more focused than I had even been before.  At about 4 miles I was rather relieved to have the road turn to pavement.  However the pavement indicated that I was out of the mountains and down into the valley which brought on the HEAT.  I am not a fan of running in heat.  I was more than happy to pass off the orange bracelet to van 2.  

We jumped ahead to the next major exchange, Snowbasin Ski Resort, where we set up camp on a couple of blankets and prepared to settle in for the 3 R', relaxation and refueling.  Funny side note...when I was heading through the check out line at the grocery store with all my race food, the checker took one look at all my items and said, "Ragnar?"  And then proceeded to ask me all sorts of questions about why all the Ragnarians coming through her check out line that day were buying loads of garbage.  "I thought runners ate healthy?"  I could understand her confusion seeing as while we were talking she was scanning my oreos, chocolate milk, swedish fish, trail mix, granola bars, string cheese, beef jerky and apples.  Seemingly a weird concoction of snack foods.  It's hard to explain to a non-runner the method behind fueling for a 2-day endurance race rather than just a random morning run.  The balance between carbs, proteins, sugars and salt.  How once you get into a race like this, your body can't really handle a big meal...but how you have to refuel to be able to keep going.  What is going to give you that boost of quick energy you need?  (Along with the snacks I bought at the store I also brought both tuna and peanut butter sandwiches and also hard boiled eggs.)     
(I absolutely LOVE that I get to do this race with my sister Katie!  Talk about your ultimate sisterly bonding adventure!  Plus, holy wow is she a rock star runner!!!)

It was HOT this weekend.  Hydrate, hydrate, hydrate became the word of the day.  Which meant that visits to the Honey Buckets were numerous.  And though Ragnar had arranged for 650 Honey Buckets to be placed along the route at every single exchange....lines were long.  Truth be told, at one point along the course while supporting our runner and leap frogging every mile or so, I realized that it was going to be tough for me to make it even to the next Honey Bucket!  Though it was not an uncommon sight, I'm sure that more than just my van mates were laughing as I took a roll of TP and hiked up the mountain side to find a tree....

I was, really nervous, for my 2nd run.  8.2 miles of an uphill climb into East Canyon.  Greg said he'd help me...that he'd take a few miles for me if I needed him to.  I thanked him but told him, scared or not, I was determined to see this route through.  But I warned everyone that it would take me awhile because I had already decided that I would be doing a lot of walking.  I met Kim at the exchange and ran off to lots of supportive cheering.
 I think I prayed for the whole first mile.  The temps were cooler as the sun was going down and that felt really good.  My teammates stopped every mile to give me water and encouragement.  Running past houses, there were kids out with their parents with their hands outstretched for high fives as the runners went by.  Other runners passing by me frequently gave me thumbs up or made comments like "Way to go," "Good job," "You can do it!"  Every single time it happened, it made me smile.  But also made me wonder.  At no other time had I had this happen before.  Oh, runners are always supportive of each other....but this was different.  Was it because we were, all of us, on one of the longest routes in all of the Wasatch Back and bonding in a different sort of way because of it?  Like we were all in some sort of Leg 18 club together?  And then I noticed something else.  My lungs weren't burning.  I felt pretty good, actually.  It didn't even feel like I was climbing a hill.  Oh, my legs were getting tired and my hip was hurting and I could feel blisters forming....but I was smiling and enjoying my run!  And that's when I realized that I was receiving some extra help.  There was no doubt in my mind that my prayers had been answered.  And though I also knew that I would very likely have a hard time walking the next scary 8.2 mile uphill route through East Canyon ended up being my very best run.

I finished my run at 10:50 and handed off the bracelet to van 2.  And while they chipped away at the miles all throughout the night, we in van 1 headed to a couple of prearranged hotel rooms in Coalville.  Hot showers and 3 hours of sleep in a bed felt awfully nice in comparison to last year where after running through the night we paid $2 to sleep in our sleeping bags on the floor of a local middle school.

Rejuvenated but limping (me) we were back on the course by 5:00 AM.  My third and last run came around 9:40 and was only 2.5 miles.  This route was the reason I had chosen to be runner 6.  I loved the idea of having an easy last run when I would be tired.  Problem was, I was SO wasted from my earlier routes that my easy run ended up being my hardest!  

I was hugely relieved to be done, and excited to head off to Park City High.  Another perk to being van 1...having time to truly explore and enjoy the finish line party while waiting for van 2 to finish their last routes and join us for the big team run under the famous Ragnar arch.  So we shopped the Ragnar merchandise.  I bought myself a huge cheeseburger and fries from one of the vendors for lunch.  We enjoyed all the free Fat Boys and smoothies we could eat while we listened to the awesome band.  I considered getting a free massage...but the line was big and long.  And though we had the time to wait in that big, long line...realistically I was SO sore that I was worried a massage would hurt!   So we sat at a table all together in the shade.  And we got more and more tired...and more and more sore as we waited for van 2 to make their way up Ragnar Hill (aka Guardsman Pass).  

We were finally joined by the rest of our teammates to make that epic run across the finish line at 4:45 PM.  And by run, I actually mean hobble.  Because pretty much all of us were in some various stage of pain with many of us (me, again) being in a whole new world of HURT!  Still, it was exhilarating as always to run over the finish line together, all 12 of us.

Now as the pain fades the question I do it again next year??

2011 Wasatch Back
2010 Wasatch Back


Jewels said...

I'll tell you what I told my brother-in-law (he was on the Avengers team), You are weird that running makes you so happy!
And, honestly, it's a complete cruel twist of nature that you could look that good after running that far.
Good job. (I'm really jealous of people who love exercise that much.)

Katie said...

You were awesome! I couldn't believe how well you did on that 8.2 leg. It was hard! Love running with you!