Earlier this year, some friends suggested we run a Ragnar race. It’s a 200+ mile relay race that you do with a group of 12 people in two vans over the course of 2 days. Each person is assigned three legs, of varying length and difficulty. Dave and I were both feeling chunky and unmotivated and thought this might be a good way to make ourselves run. I need big motivation…something external, because “being healthy” and “losing weight” motivation has about a one-week shelf-life for me. I needed something big and a little scary to get me to train consistently.
I guess it worked.
A couple weeks ago, we ended up running the SoCal Ragnar. As miserable and awful as it was, it ended up being a very positive experience and overall, the funmeter beat the painmeter.
I signed up for a spot with a total distance of just over 16 miles, with the longest run being 7.6 miles. Seemed doable. And then, a few weeks before the race, they made some adjustments. Suddenly, I had a 20 mile race total, with my longest leg being over 11 miles. Whaaaaa? Scary. I’ve never run that far. Ever. And on top of that, I was experiencing shin splints when I got that news. It seemed impossible. But sadly, no one else was up for the task either, and I had the most time to train, working from home with a very flexible schedule and kids at school. So, it was my challenge to face.
I quickly adopted the Jeff Galloway run-walk method that my brother-in-law, the podiatrist, suggested. Not only did it mean I’d get to walk, it supposedly could improve my time. I’m all over that! Plus it keeps me from getting injured. But mostly, I get to take walk breaks. 11 miles just seemed so much more doable with walk breaks.
It worked. I finished all of my runs*. (*I feel like I’m cheating to call them runs, considering I took short walk breaks.)
(Dave and me, before he started his first leg. We had no idea how hot and miserable we’d soon be…)
The first day, first run*, really messed with my confidence. I had a little over 5 miles to go. No big deal, I can do that, even without walk breaks. However. The heat index that day was 110 degrees. And the shorts I’d packed didn’t make it to the bag somehow. So I had one pair of long black pants for the entire weekend. Nice. It was about 1:30 when I started, and I hadn’t eaten much of a lunch, because I thought I’d be running soon and didn’t want to upset my stomach.
As Aaron (a team member said), it was like taking a jog on the SUN. I’ve never been so hot in my entire life.
My run started with the first mile going uphill. I did ok. My team found me, made me change into some shorts that another (tinier) girl had. Gave me a sip of Gatorade. Then took off. I assumed they’d stop again to give me water at some point, because that’s their job. The whole point of a support van. However, probably since I started confidently that I can handle that distance, and I was feeling ok after one mile, they headed to the finish line to wait for me.
In the meantime, my body finally realized what a ridiculous thing I was trying to do. It reminded me how much we do not like the sun, that our freckled skin prefers the shade, and that with this type of heat, I would normally be crying about being hot while sitting in the shade. My skin was actually burning. I kept looking at my arms to see if they were blistering. They were literally stinging.
And then the thirst. The Gatorade leftovers turned to sludge in my throat, threatening to glue my airway shut. At one point, I passed an open water bottle sitting on the sidewalk, like someone had taken one sip and placed it there for the next person. (Or was it God? Trying to help me out?) I was tempted to partake, but ran past it, hoping that my team would be just up ahead offering me water for my parched throat and burning skin. In the meantime, I’d stop now and then to find shade behind things as ridiculous as lampposts. After half a mile, I was really regretting not taking the abandoned water bottle.
Alas. My team never showed. My running slowed to walking, which slowed to shuffling (with a tiny bit of crying mixed in). When I finally reached the end (which was also at the top of a hill… oh, the injustice!) I told Stacey, my teammate who is as freckled as I am, to take care of herself. I managed to not pass out, took that long-awaited sip of water, then told the team they’d done a terrible job and that we must follow Stacey closely and dump water on her poor freckled skin as often as possible. And we did. So, at least my pain was her gain. She was still miserable, but she survived.
(Our crew, during Dave’s last run. I apologize for my wardrobe.)
Other highlights of the weekend:
1. Apologizing to people who were trying to cheer me on about my short shorts.
2. Aaron’s heroic effort during the hot run. He threw up, passed out, lost feeling in his hands and feet, then got up to “walk it off” and finished the run. (throwing up one more time on the run and several more after.)
3. Sleeping on a golf course -with permission from the race volunteers- before being woken up by sprinklers. Not “the sound” of sprinklers, but the buckets of water from industrial sprinklers. Somehow, only Dave and I managed to get hit. And by hit, I mean soaked.
4. Bunny-hopping down the hill in my sleeping bag to escape the sprinklers.
5. Dave’s account of being blind (no contacts, very poor vision) and trying to escape the sprinklers that seemed to be following him. Hilarious.
6. My jacket, pillow, and sleeping bag being completely soaked and thus being useless for the rest of the night to try to sleep, or for that matter, get warm.
7. Night run*. Running at 3 am was surprisingly fun and exhilarating and beautiful.
8. The “refugee camp”: the overnight stop we were at the longest, a big parking lot near the beach where a big exchange happened. Tons of vans. Overflowing portapotties. Gut ache from poor nutrition, poor sleep, cold, and nerves. It felt kind of traumatic.
9. My 11 mile run*. I have to say, I had the best run of the whole race. No one wanted it because it was also the longest, but it really was worth it. So beautiful, near the beach for most of it. The weather was absolutely perfect for a run like that. Cool, overcast, slight breeze here and there. God was trying to make up for the misery of the first run, and He did a great job. I even managed to avoid blisters. It was absolutely perfect.
10. Spending time, laughing, commiserating with my other team members.
12. Newport Beach. We spent a couple days after the race “recovering” in Newport Beach. It was so heavenly. Like a good meal when you’re starving.
13. Giant hot tub for my sore muscles.
14. DELICIOUS food.
15. Sleep. In a soft bed in a dark, quiet room, with no where to be and no plans for the next day.
16. Debate about whether people passing and saying “good job” are being mean or nice. Apparently, I’m the only one that thinks they’re trying to be nice instead of rubbing in the fact that they’re passing. They’re cynical. Or I’m naive. Probably some of both.
17. Losing my train of thought in the middle of a debate about ADD. Awesome funny timing.
18. Going shopping at the fanciest stores ever. Mostly just to gawk at price tags.
19. Sharing stories with our friends about what happened, laughing, talking for hours about various subjects. That just doesn’t happen at home, with kids and schedules and stuff to do. I’ve been missing out and will definitely be planning more “adults only” vacations with friends in the future.
20. Heading home. Happy to be done. Happy it turned out well. Happy to have had such a good time with friends. Happy to be seeing my mom and my kids who had a great time in my absence.
21. Grateful to have a mom who is willing and able to stay with my kids so Dave and I could have this adventure. Thanks mom!
I know I should end it with an even number like 25. But, eh.