Sunday, June 20, 2010

That long post about Ragnar...

When I was in college at Virginia Tech, I didn't go home for spring break. It just wasn't in the cards for me to be able to fly home and back for a week's vacation.  Ironically, it was much less expensive for me to take a week long road trip to Florida with a bunch of kids.  We drove all night, stayed in KOA's all along the way, ate when we could, talked like people only can when on a long trip and are only vaguely acquainted and had a blast.

This weekend was a little like that.

It isn't often that you get to feel that freedom of a road trip.  Sure, we had to be somewhere all the time, but we were just a bunch of people, driving around some pretty scenic areas in the back country of Utah, and every now and then jumping out of a van and starting to run for awhile.  It was one of the best things I've ever done, and I can't wait until I do it again next year.

Our van had the requisite 6 people.  Dave was our driver.  He was one of Shane's roommates before we got married.  Chad was a friend of Shane's from high school.  Andrew knew Dave through another one of Shane's old roommates, and Jessie was his wife.  Shane was there, and then you had me.  I had never met Jessie or Andrew, but by the time we left they seemed like old friends.  I had a lot of fun chatting with Dave and Chad; we've known each other for years and years, but I haven't had the opportunity to hang with them in this way.

We also had a van 2 made up of another of Shane's friends/old roommates, Matt.  Matt was our team captain.  He took one for the team by being captain (after all, I originally asked Matt and Chad to be on our team, but then didn't want the responsibility of being in charge. Thanks, Walker!).  Also in that van were Matt's friends: Callista, Jake, Jason, Melissa, and Nicole.  I wish that the exchanges had been longer so that I could have spent more time with the rest of our team.  Here they are at exchange 30 (their last leg, since they finished the race for us. You guys rocked!)

Matt, Callista, Jake, Nicole, Jason, Melissa

These are some of my favorite memories, leg by leg:

Legs 1-6, taking us from Logan to Eden Park, near the Pineview Reservoir:

  • Cheering Chad on as he started for our team (which, by the way, was named A Twelve Pack of Chafing Tail.)
  • Chad (in the orange hat) getting us started.
  • Realizing how on top of giving aid we would have to be for our teammates.  They really are brilliant, those Ragnar people.  At any other race you have great big aid stations. Not Ragnar. You get water from your team, who drop you off, drive a few miles, stop and wait until you come along, and then give you some water. We leap-frogged each other for each of our 18 legs.  It sounds like it would suck, but it doesn't.  You don't have anywhere else to be, so you watch for your runner to come along.  It is fun, especially during the middle of the night while you are sitting in the car, talking about ducks and chickens and laughing deliriously.  Awesome.
  • My first leg was terrible.  Terrible.  I had psyched myself up for it for months, ever since I planned to do leg two.  It was 6.7 miles, and it was hard.  I wasn't ready to run when Chad reached the exchange and I took off and never really reached my stride until after mile 4.  It was hot and I wasn't expecting heat.  I wanted to stop so much until I reached a giant hill that I had to climb.  It was awesome; I love running hills, and it was a direction change which meant the wind was blowing against me so I wasn't so hot.  For the last mile, I was running down a tree lined street.  I wanted to kiss the pioneers who planted trees along their road 150 years ago.  Those trees were the best thing that happened to me that day.  I said a little prayer of gratitude that their labor was blessing me so long after they had died.
  • Shane gave me water for the first time during my leg and I about bit his head off which is typical.  Shane knows better than to talk to me during races or runs. I am drawn to him and I feel like I should be running faster and then I get defensive so I get mean. He knows about this, so he let the others take care of me after that.  Poor Shaney.  I'm not a very nice wife while running!
  • Meeting up with our other van at the exchange.  It was fun to see them finally.  Our van had been together since noon, but we didn't see them until 8pm.
  • Going to Snowbasin and eating real food for the first time that day.  Even though I knew I had to run at midnight, I still went for the cheeseburger and fries for dinner.  Mmm.  After we ate our dinner in the cushy lounge of the Snowbasin lounge, I pulled two chairs together, kicked off my flip flops and went to sleep for a few minutes.  People were sacked out all over, laying on the benches and floors and couches all throughout the lodge.  Awesome.
  • Heading out to the car to start our next legs and finding that Arikka, our team captain's wife, had caught up to us.  She was supposed to run with us but broke her foot 1 month ago.  She was bubbly and excited.  It was fun to see her.
Some random pictures of legs 1-6:

Dave and his lovely wristbands.

Meadow about 1 mile the crest of Avon Pass.
Same meadow.  So beautiful and remote.  This leg was all on a dirt road and was run in two parts by Shane and Andrew.

Looking over the valley above Pineview Reservoir on the other side of Avon Pass.  This was the canyon Shane had to run down.

So, after all of 45 minutes of sleep, we headed into our second set of legs. It was 11pm. The stars were out and bright and gorgeous. We started at 11 and ended at 5.

Me at Snow Basin after I bought a new Ragnar hoodie and moments after being told van 2 was ready for us.  I had no idea who was taking my picture (thanks, Arikka!) This was after my 45 minute cat nap.  I am a hoodie slut.  I'm always looking for a good hoodie.

Van 1 before pulling our all nighter.  Aren't you jealous of our reflective vests?

Things I want to remember from legs 13-18 which took us out of Snowbasin along and through small unknown towns to the East Canyon Reservoir:
  • Running in the pitch black night.  There weren't many teams that started with us on our oringial start time of 1pm. This meant that we had a lot of space between us and other teams pretty much the entire way.  I liked it because I didn't want this event to feel like a regular race. I wanted solitude (and I got it!) 
  • I passed 3 people early in the run and then didn't see another soul until I finished my leg. 
  • Our van stopped for me at each mile and offered water, but I didn't want any.  They just wanted to make sure I hadn't disappeared along the way.  Shane might have had something to do with this.  He keeps me safe, that husband of mine.  I love him for it.
  • I ran without my headphones most of that run.  It was so quiet and peaceful with the only sound being my feet on the pavement and my breathing.  I maintained a 10 minute pace for the 3 miles, which was what I was hoping for.  My first leg was so disappointing, so I really wanted to make up with myself.  I did that, and then some.
  • Having the dumbest conversation ever about ducks and chickens with the van while Dave was running.  It was 2am, and we were tired and a little slap happy.  Fun fun times.
  • Fighting to stay awake while Shane ran his monster 8.4 miles uphill at 4am (a struggle I pretty much failed.) He was struggling so hard (his first leg was a steep downhill 6.9 miler that left his legs trashed) to keep running. We stopped every mile to mile and a half just to check on him. I was so proud and relieved for him to finish that leg.

    (That blur is Shane finishing his brutal hill)
    Another blur of Shane being glad he's done.  Don't die over my awesome night photography, ok?
After Shane's second leg, we went to a high school Coalville to sleep.  We paid $2 to shower (there weren't any towels, I had to use my t-shirt to dry off.  The water was cold and I didn't have any shampoo or soap so had to borrow both from other people.  Lovely.)  Then Shane and I tried to sleep on the floor of the music room.  I was freezing and we only had 1 blanket.  When we first laid down at 6am, the room was totally full.  When we woke up, it was only our team left in the room.  Well, everyone but Chad, who had somehow gotten lost from us.  He toured the high school's gym, which was full of sleeping people, looking for me and Shane's Steeler blanket.  He said it was like going through the morgue with bodies laying everywhere (it kind of complimented the shower, which felt a little like the holocaust, no disrespect intended!)  The only way he knew he hadn't been left was because the car was still in the parking lot.  Poor Chad.

Memories from legs 25-30, which took us from Kamas to Heber City:
  • Once we were all awake and fed, we drove to the next major exchange which would lead us all into our last leg of the race.  We saw our friends from van 2 who had gotten us to Kamas.  Chad set off into the sun and lovely headwind which plagued us the whole day.

    Waiting to start legs 25-30.
  • My last run was awesome.  I didn't mind the wind (I'd rather be tired than hot).  I had 3.3 miles and I wanted to make the most of it. 
  • Along the way I saw all sorts of cows and horses and sheep along the road. I said hi to a man unloading his horse trailer on the side of the road.
  • At one point, I turned off my radio and listened to thousands of crickets chirping on the side of a hill covered in wild flowers.  I was at the top of a small hill and to my right was the back side of Timpanogas.  Timp is my favorite mountain, and it made me incredibly happy to look up and see it smiling at me in the distance.

    Back side of Timp.
  • I turned a corner with less than a mile to go and saw the exchange.  I kicked it up as much as I could, trying to live up my very last leg of Ragnar.  I didn't want to look back and think, I could have tried harder.  I felt feeling amazingly good.
  • I handed off to Dave who had an 8+ mile leg that climbed to the top of the highway that links Kamas and Heber.  It was brutal.  Because the highway is so busy we couldn't give him any aid, so we sat on the side of the road and looked at the beautiful Jordanelle Reservoir.  I ate two cheese and turkey bagel sandwiches, which were heaven.  We waited anxiously for Dave because we heard another girl saying everyone she passed was crying as they ran up the hill.  It must have been everyone but Dave, because he came up the hill smiling and asking, "Hey, did you guys know there was a hill back there?"

    Dave smiling at the end of his run.

  • We cycled through Andrew and Jessie's leg to Shane's final leg.  He rocked his 3 miles and then we were done.  We passed the baton to Van 2 and we headed off to Park City.
  • We had hoped to hang out at the finish line until our team finished, but our hunger and fatigue got the best of us.  With at least 3 hours to wait, we opted to leave The Canyons and head to Red Rock brewing company for some real food.  It was nice to wash my hands for reals for the first time all day (the other times were hand sanitizer from the porta-potties. Lovely.)

    This is the end.  My only friend, the end. From left to right: Andrew, Jessie, Dave, Me, Shane, Chad.
  • And the most important detail of all: I found out that Honey Buckets are the cleanest porta-potties in the whole world. Seriously. Two days of relying on them exclusively for potty breaks taught me that.  Don't be scared to go into a Honey Bucket.  They are your friend, just remember to close the lid.
It was hard to say good-bye to our team.  But it was 8pm, I had left my children almost 36 hours before in the capable hands of their grandmother, and I was ready to be home.  Ragnar will be something I will always remember. 

Tired and dirty but back home and ready to sign up for next year.

Thanks for sticking with me if you are still around.  I know it's kind of boring.  But I didn't want to forget anything from this amazing time.  I'll be back next year for sure.  Can't wait!


Apryl said...

Congratulations! In YW yesterday (yes, I'm totally going to talk about church now), we were talking about how doing hard things helps you in the future. This will be something you can look back on and say, "I did Ragnar. I can do anything." Hooray for you!

Anonymous said...

Way to go, Becky! It sounds so brutal and amazing! (don't count me in).

heidikins said...

You are a RockStar!!