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Sunday, March 1, 2009

The Ragnar Relay

Well folks. I made it. I am still alive and moving (though slowly) and I feel AWESOME!! Here is a not-so-quick rundown of my amazing weekend.  (You can see my photos with comments on my facebook page).

The Ragnar Relay is a 202.1 mile run from Prescott down to Mesa. There are 12 runners per team, and 6 runners in each van. Van 1 started (for us) at 8:00 am Friday morning. (There are different start times for different teams depending on speed. We were one of the slowest teams, so we got an earlier start.) :) The people in my van were: Amanda Mahowald (the 6th grade teacher that got me into this), Dan Bowser our 69 year old team captain, Sue Daul, Brenda Careaga, Steve Hosfield, and me. We were called HalFast (half assed) because we're "half the speed, twice the fun!" We had painted donkeys on our vans with our theme. Thank goodness I was on a team like that because otherwise I could've really let them down! I'm certainly not Speedy Gonzalez!

You can actually go to the Ragnar Relay website and see the legs I had to run I was runner 2. The first leg you can see was 3.6 miles, but it was a lot of uphill work. It was rated HARD for a reason! I did fairly well on it because I was pumped up at the beginning of the race and still had some energy. I did walk for a little bit of the time, but I passed up 4 runners (we call that "roadkill." See how I talk like a runner now??). I finished really strong, and felt great afterwards. One leg down!

After the 6 of us finished our legs we handed off to Van #2. We now had about 6 hours to rest, so we drove to the next major exchange point and spread out our sleeping bags and blankets onto the hard ground and tried to rest. Didn't really get much rest, though. :) I finished reading "Hunger Games" and tried to sleep, but the hard packed dirt didn't really cushion my hips so well, and the blaring music and sun didn't help much either. It was still nice to be able to just relax and chat with each other for a while.

At about 8:00 or 8:30 (can't remember) Van 2 finished and handed off to us. (Oh, when I say handed off, what actually happened was we passed a slap bracelet to each other instead of a baton). It was totally dark by now, so everyone had to be wearing reflective vests, headlamps, and a flashing red reflector on our backs.  This was actually cool, and my favorite part of the trip. I got to run in the pitch dark on Highway 93 for 4.6 miles! It was tough when cars were driving right at you with their headlights blaring, but I made it through. In fact, I'd say I did the best on this run because it was cool, my leg was nice and flat, and I was able to run almost the whole time without stopping. I finished in 51 minutes.  But, when I finished that leg I actually felt sick to my stomach. I had to walk around quite a bit after that one and let it settle. It was not fun. I couldn't keep my eyes open in the van after that.

By about 1:30 we finished our 2nd legs and stopped at the next exchange point which was Middleton Elementary School (I think) where we got to crash on a classroom floor. I didn't get much sleep here either. The hard ground and warm room were not very helpful! I did get maybe an hour of sleep, though. At 5:00 they woke us up and shooed us out, so we headed to the next major exchange point, which was a high school (can't remember where), where we were able to kind of clean up and get ready for round #3!

The final leg of this race began at about 9:00 in the morning. I ran from 11 - 12. It was the HARDEST leg of the race for me. It was rated HARD because it was literally straight up hill the whole time until about the last mile. It was also extremely windy. I was already exhausted from lack of sleep, and I felt sick to my stomach before I started, so I think I sort of psyched myself out before I had even started, but I did start! I felt like I was standing still when I was running, and I was having a hard time...but I persevered! At about the last mile I ran great and was able to finish strong. It was 4.2 miles.  

In all I ran a total of 12.4 miles (a half marathon! of course, not altogether, so doesn't really count the same...but still...). Before this I had never run more than 2 miles at a time, and I would have NEVER thought it was even possible. It was one of the coolest experiences of my life, though, and truly life changing. The atmosphere at an event like this is charged and electrified. Everyone is there for the same reason, everyone cheers you on as you go. It gives you the biggest boost of energy when your van (or someone else's) will stop and yell for you and give you that support. It was the coolest thing to be running on these roads where police would stop traffic for you, and to be seeing cars pass and think: "I used to be one of those people just driving by in the car wondering who would be crazy enough to be running! Now I'm one of those runners!" I never thought I'd BE one of those runners. But I was!  And even if I wasn't the fastest, I discovered that I was faster than anyone who never even tried. Faster than anyone who stayed in bed. Faster than anyone who gave up or quit. I was faster than I had been last week. It was such a great discovery!

It was so cool to hear people talk to me like I was one of them. When they'd say "well, you're a runner, so you know..." and in my mind I'd be thinking "ha ha! fooled you, didn't I??" But by the end of the weekend, I truly felt like I could be included in that category of "runner" and I wanted to (for the first time since high school) BE a runner. 

I am more excited for my triathalon than ever, and am joining the East Valley Runners club (which is the group I was with), and will continue my running journey. I know now that I LOVE being an actual participant in these events, and that I NEED something like this to motivate me to do more in my workouts...or to even make sure I DO my workouts! I'm now considering a 10K as my next goal. I've already conquered a 5k! :) I do SheROX in May, and then who knows what's next? I said I would NEVER EVER do a marathon...but now there's a crazy little notion in the back of my head that says: "Never? Really? That's an awfully long time...and you never thought you'd do a triathalon...and you never thought you could do this relay...maybe you shouldn't say never...maybe someday you WILL do a marathon..."

CRAZY, HUH??? Maybe. But here are some of the greatest things I got this weekend:

1) A new group of amazing friends.
2) A confidence in myself that I hadn't had before.
3) A renewed motivation to push myself and work hard.
4) A desire to continue competing in events.
5) A STRONG desire to never let life pass me by. I could sit and watch TV, eat, be lazy...and watch life go by. Or I could be out there EXPERIENCING life. Not just me, but my family. There are so many things going on each weekend that we could be experiencing, that we don't.
6) A personal confirmation that eating right and living a healthy life are NOT as hard as I thought, and that I actually want to do that even more now.
7) A husband who said he might even consider doing something like this....(SERIOUSLY...that right there is a bit of a miracle).
8) The knowledge that I can do anything I set my mind to.
9) Inspired by over 2000 people who chose to spend 2 days running.
10) 2 new quotes: "The miracle isn't that I finished.  The miracle is that I had the courage to start.
John "The Penguin" Bingham
Once we clear a hurdle, it doesn't seem so high.

Clear those hurdles in life, friends. You can do it! :) I did it, and my next one's in sight!