Sunday, June 21, 2009

Ragnar Relay - Wasatch Back - Yeah Baby!

I have wanted to do this race for awhile now, but didn't have a team, didn't know enough runner friends to put together one, so I settled for hearing about it from others. FINALLY! This year I got invited to take a spot on a team that needed a runner. YES!! Of course, I'll come run. I'm aware of the fact that I don't know a single person on the team other than Sher, who invited me, but yeah, sure, I'll come hang 30 hours or so wit ya!

If ya didn't hit the link to the race information, I'll give ya a quick synopsis. A team of twelve runners, race 188 miles from Logan to Park City, via the Wasatch Back. Each runner has 3 three legs. The legs are different in mileage and toughness, but each one gets a taste of it all. You run straight through, so nighttime running is involved for every runner.

You're divided into 2 vans. 6 runners in each. Van 1 starts, each runner does their first leg, then hands off to van 2, they each run their six legs and hands back to van one, they run their next set, etc..... you see how it goes. So van 1 starts it off, van two wraps up, then the whole team finishes the chute together. I was given leg 3 and assigned to van 1.

Based on each runners average 10k time, you set an average pace for each person. You then keep a clipboard tracking hand off times to project your finish time. You keep track all along the way to make sure you are staying on pace and at your estimated hand off times.

When I registered for the race and added myself to the team, it asks for your 10k average. I had only run 1 or 2 or so, and my average time was about an 8 min mile. That's what I entered. I was regretting that by the time we were getting going. I wasn't sure I could keep that pace, and sure didn't want to let my team down. I kept telling myself, to just run and quit worrying, but well, let's say that never happened.

Our team name was Insanity Prevails. Funny huh? I thought it was quite fitting especially for me. Remember how ding-a-ling I have been lately? Yeah, insanity fit perfectly. Like.a.glove.

Thursday night we had a pre-race dinner and planning session. I met my teammates, had some pasta and got the details of what I needed to do and when. NGL - extremely intimidated. These were hardcore runners! I was clearly out of my league and really started to get nervous. I got my instructions and headed home to pack.

Friday morning came all too early, I packed my gear, and the Shark so kindly drove me to our meeting place in Kaysville. She pep talked me on the way up as I shared all my doubts. By the time we got there, I was feeling a little better.

Our van then headed to Logan and the starting line. Each team is given staggered start times, based on your projected finish and what you request. Our start time was noon. We made some finishing touches to the decorated van,
hit the porta-potties and then the start line to cheer our runner number one, L, who also happened to be our team captain. She lined up, loosened up, and off she went.l-r S, C, Boy Toy, L, Sher, and me. Head Cheerleader was taking the picture. L loosening up L taking off!

I wasn't scheduled to run until about 2 so I was beginning to get a little nervous and fussing with getting ready. Have I hydrated? Yes. I have eaten appropriate fuel? Yes. The van follows or drive's by the runner based on what is needed. The runner tells the van when they would like water, another jumps out, gives them water, and we all cheer them on their way. The van then drives ahead to the "exchange" where the hand-off to the next runner happens. They gave each team a black slap bracelet that you pass off to the next runner. Remember, this is relay style.

I watch L, finish up, and she looks great. She is awesome! Our next runner takes off. He is the only man in our van so he was officially called the Boy Toy. He goes and is looking great.

I am getting nervous. The sun is high, the temp is, in my mind, completely tolerable. Hot for some, but great for me. We drive ahead to the exchange and get ready. Boy Toy is looking good. He had a wicked hill and with the heat, I was glad it wasn't me!

Sherrie and I screwing around before the hand off. Me and my silly inserts. I warm up and wait for the exchange. Here he comes..... ipod ready, and here is the bracelet! It's in my hands and I am off and running

Doing okay for the first little bit. Of course jumped out of the gate too quick. But I was able to pull back and get into a good rhythm. According to the race bible, I am running through Hyrum, Ut. It's pretty. Lot's of cow poop on the road, but pretty. Not too far in, I am realizing, that it's HUMID. I come around a corner and there is a small lake. HUMID. Ugh! I normally really like the heat and do fine with it, but I wasn't counting on humidity. I think all the rain Cache Valley has had for the past several weeks, has just sunk in and created this humidity, and once I had started to really settle in and go, my body picked up on it.

I was ready for a water break and there ahead is my team in the van, cowbell going and water ready. That little break keeps me going, and I am determined to stay on pace. Back at it, and crap it's humid!

Now I'm fighting with my glasses. It's the first hot run that I have had to do with them on. I threw in some ugly sunglasses inserts to keep the sun glare out, but between those and my glasses slipping down, I am now pushing them back up my nose every minute or so and repeating over and over in my mind, THIS IS THE LAST TIME WITH GLASSES EVER!

I think I get another water break and I'm really feeling the elements. No shade, the sun and humidity are knocking me a bit. I finally see the last mile marker and usually what I like to do is as soon as I see the finish chute, kick it in and sprint in. I willed my body to pick it up, and it just wouldn't.

I made it across handed off the bracelet and headed for some shade and walking around to recover. Now usually, I am quick recoverer. I can be in the 105 - 109% zone and within a couple of minutes be right back to like a 70%. I couldn't get there. I glance at my monitor, I'm still in the high 90's. Slow down the walking, drinking water, deep breaths. Glance again, no movement. WTC? And I am feeling rotten. For the first time, since high school, I am feeling like I could puke after a run.

More cooling down, more water, slow walking. Finally see it drop to the 80's. Feeling a little better. We head to the van and now several minutes later I am in the 70's. Feeling better and very confused as to why it took so long to recover. Slightly worried in the back of my mind. But remind myself it was 5.6 miles and rated moderate difficulty. I'll try to make up my lost time on my next leg.

We cheer on our other runners, they do great. S does great and hands off to C. Who is so stinking fast that she gets to the next exchange seconds before we can get there!

Sherrie takes off and I am not liking her course. Dirt road down switchbacks on a mountain course. I would be checking every footstep for rocks or crevices. She is doing fantastic! The road gets rough and now I am car sick! Oh, for the love!

Sherrie wraps up her leg nicely, we hand off out clipboard to van 2 for them to take over and we head to a cabin that belongs to a friend of L's who has graciously offered to let us stay there to rest and shower. It was absoutley gorgeous with a view of Ogden valley that just takes your breath away.

After finding a surprise on the floor when we first walked in(BoyToy - you are needed!) We all settled in for a quick cold shower, change of clothes, some calls and texts and some food.

I notice that my battery is getting low on my cell phone so I begin turning it off for periods of time to try and reserve since I didn't bring a charger. All too soon, we got the message that it was time to meet up at the next exchange to take back over from van 2.

This exchange is at Snowbasin ski resort which is beautiful. Cold, but beautiful. By this time it is getting dark. The requirements are a head lamp, reflective vest and a blinking reflector attached to your back. I was glad that my teammates had extra equipment to share.

We start L off, she is looking good and head to the next exchange after watering her a couple of time. I realize I am going to run shortly, so I begin prepping. I get a text from the Shark who tells me she is waiting ahead at the next exchange. REALLY? She came all the way up here and is waiting late at night just to be there to cheer me on? Seriously. I was amazed.

Boy Toy takes over and starts off strong. We jump ahead to the next exchange where I am to start. I jump out of the van and run to find Shark. There she is! Not only is she there but she takes my cell phone, puts it on the charger to give back to me when I am done and tells me she has an extra charger to take with me the rest of the time! Seriously! How does one find a friend like her?

I get ready at the chute for the hand off and all too soon, here comes BoyToy finishing strong! He hands off and I slip the bracelet over my jacket sleeve. This time, I pace much better and don't jump out too soon. Grab me a couple of roadkills and then settle into a nice pace.

Now I run in the dark all the time, but it's familiar roads with street lamps. This is in the middle of who knows where and all you have if the head lamp to show you a few feet forward. Great to avoid road hazards and keep strong safe steps, but you can't look ahead and see your route. I had to rely totally by body feel for down grades and up hills.

I realize I need to ditch the jacket. I am too hot. I wrangle myself out of it while on the run and when the van and Tib stop to water me, I hand it off to them.

Keep going and I am loving this! Virtually all alone in the dark with just myself and my music. I find myself singing out loud often at the top of my lungs just because of the amount of oxygen I am using. I am seriously in running heaven!

About two miles from the finish, I feel my left knee pain kick in. Don't know what is causing it, but once I get up there on miles on it, it begins to bug me. Sing through the pain. All too soon, I see the mile marker left and decide I can kick it in. I also realize that I no longer have the bracelet. It was on my jacket last I knew. Oh well, we'll have to get it later.

I see the exchange chute and fire it up. Sprint all the way to the finish and scream to S that I don't have the bracelet, but just go! Feeling pretty good. This leg was 4.9 miles and rated moderate difficulty. I was even able to add 3 more roadkills.

I come through the chute and there is Tib. Cheering for me! We walk a bit to cool down and recover. I get fluids. And we check and the bracelet is not on my jacket. It must have fallen off when I was wrangling out of it. I feel terrible. I apologize. I am so sorry.

Shark and walk around a bit more, I stretch and then she brings me my fully charged phone, an extra charger and a box of milkduds. I can't help myself but give her a huge hug and even a cheek kiss. Words can't really express how I am feeling. What a friend to come late at night, far away, to a remote location just to cheer you on for an hour. Bring treats and make sure you are set for the duration. I will love her to the day I die.

She heads home (it's now about 11:30pm or so), and our van heads to the next exchange, watering S on the way. Tib calls and tells me she even went back my route to see if she could find the bracelet. Seriously! If you don't have a Shark friend like this, you should get one. They are a rare breed indeed!

Sherrie is our final runner and her course is NOT to be envied. Basically 8 miles straight up hill. I looked at that and just feel dread in my heart for her. On the other hand, I have come to learn she is a tough girl and will battle her way through. She didn't disappoint. She took that hill by the horns and showed it who's boss. She kicked it!

Our van is now done, we have handed off to van 2 and we head for South Summit high school for a shower and sleep. It's about 3:30 when we roll in there. I head for the shower room and realize it's a communal shower. At this point, I don't care. Buck naked, I am in the communal shower with 5 other women washing the stink and sweat off for the day.

We bed down in the gymnasium on the floor. Rather than haul out my mummy sleeping bag which I never know how to fold back up, I just cocooned myself in my Yankees blankie and after some texting with some other teams, was able to drift off in a light sleep.

My phone buzzed at 6:00am. L and the group were leaving to the exchange and to get started for our last legs. Sherrie and I rested a little longer, and then when L finished up we loaded our gear in the vans and headed out.

Boy Toy's wife decided to run his last leg. It was a short one and she really wanted to do it. I am starting to prepare for my last leg and I knew it was going to be rough. It was my farthest and hardest leg in my series. 7.9 miles most of which was straight up hill. It was rated hard in difficulty. In fact, I started to psyche myself out a bit.

We get to the exchange, I jump out, hit a porta-pottie, and start watching for Head Cheerleader. I do some warm up trots and try to loosen up. I've applied my glide, reset my ipod to a running playlist with a fast beat count in the hopes of keeping up my leg speed.

As I am watching for her to approach, rain sprinkles begin dropping. Niiiiiice, we all know how I feel about running in cold or rain. I am hoping it won't downpour and I can get through the next 8 miles.

Head cheerleader crosses strong, high fives me and I take off. Again, did a good job of not jumping out too quick. Settled into a nice pace. The first portion was flat, and I was able to pick up several roadkills. It then went straight downhill for about a half mile. I loosened up and let the hill take me. Grabbed a few more roadkills and am feeling really good.

Hit the bottom of the hill and I am feeling dang good! The air smells wonderful and I am able to turn my thoughts to my Dad and what I am going to speak on in church the next day. I formulate and outline my talk and am enjoying the run, when I turn the corner.

There lied the biggest hill I have yet to conquer. And it just kept.on.going. My van stops to water me and give me encouragement. I tell them to stop again at mile 5 and check in on me. I then turn my thoughts to the hill. I want to tackle this and I want to do it myself. My knee is killing. Every strike sends pain through my leg. I decide I need to use my brain to deaden that pain. I start thinking of anything and everything else.

The hill begins to get even steeper. So steep that I am literally leaning forward just trying to stay at a trot and keep my feet moving. I give myself a few minutes of walking rest. I look ahead and the hill is still there and plenty more of it! I pick it back up to a trot/jog and make a few more roadkills. Each roadkill inspired me to keep running and not let myself walk anymore.

I look ahead and there is the van, with C on my side of the road with my water bottle. Dude has just passed me, takes the water bottle, gets a swig and hands it back to C! WTC?! We look at each other. I smile, she shrugs, its now raining and I really don't need the water. I double check, this isn't 5 miles yet right? No, but close and they just wanted to check on me. C offers to run the last bit for me. Nope, thanks, I need to do this for myself. I tell them that I will see them at the exchange chute.

I keep going, and a few minutes later the van passes me with that cowbell going and cheers. Amazing how that gives you a boost to keep going.

Finally! FINALLY! I crest the hill and I know that the last mile and a half is down hill. I have already picked up a few more roadkills and in the distance I see a few more I can get. I loosen up, and let the hill take me. At this point, I don't even really feel my knee. I know it's there, it hurts, but I have blocked it out and am working through it. That is huge for me!

As soon as I saw the exchange chute, I kicked it in, and finished strong. Sprinted all the way! Passed off to S and allowed myself to shout with joy! I was done! I did it! And now I was done! I was exhilarated. My ending spot had a beautiful view of the Jordanelle Resevoir I had also started my heart rate monitor/watch/calorie counter when I started my first leg and turned it off after I finished my last leg. Here are the numbers:Not too shabby.

We cheered on our remaining runners who all had fairly easy runs for their last and then handed off to van 2 to wrap it up. We were in Heber at this point, so we stopped at a delightful place for some real food. I had been living on trail mix, almonds, chicken salad sandwichs and water for the past 24 hours. I was ready for real food. This place didn't disappoint. I would love to tell you the name but by this time, my brain was completely fried and I can't remember. Sher even posed in her fanny pack knowing that she will be mercilessly mocked by the Shark. I have to admit, girl wears it great! Although truth be told, she is so hot, that no matter what she wore, it would be look great!

We relaxed a bit and then headed to Park City and the finish line. Our team still have a couple of hours to go, so I unloaded my gear, and parked myself under a tent to wait for Splenda Daddy to meet us there. It was cold and rainy, but the atmosphere was fun!

Finally, we hear that our last runner has started and we make our way down to the grassy area where she is going to come in and we join her to run through the chute. We wait, we wait, we wait. Splenda is at the finish line ready for pictures. At last, here she comes and looking strong! We all start cheering and carrying on and running through the final chute towards the finish.

At the finish line they had a huge clock with a time displayed and then some very sweet, special needs folks handing out our medals.

More pictures and then Splenda and I are out of there.

As we are heading to the car, the skies really opened up and we were drenched. Hit the Iceberg on the way home for my Peanut Butter/Chocolate milkshake reward. Then it was a hot bath, a shower, and rest. Few more texts with friends to see how everyone ended up. Another huge thank you to the Shark for her support and then off to nigh-nigh-sleep-tight.

My body was exhausted, my brain fried, but my heart full of happiness and pride.

My final stats: Total mileage: 18.4
Total roadkills : 21
Hours slept : Maybe 2 and a half. Maybe.

Team stats: We finished 9th out of 28 in our category.
Total time was 28:05:46.9

I'm thinking that ain't bad at all for a submaster mixed group. I checked their results from last year and while they placed second in their category last year, their time was in the 41 hour range. At least I didn't hurt them.

I can't wait to do this again. Several teams have invited me, and I hope that when it really comes around there will be a spot for me somewhere. I loved it! Every minute of it!

It is truly an unique, exciting, exhausting, fun and overwhelming experience. Thank you team Insanity Prevails for letting me join your fun. You are fantastic people that I felt a great connection to, I only hope I wasn't too obnoxious for you all. You know how I am......

WBR 2010 - here I come!


kimberly said...

Wow!! That is amazing. I don't think I could do something like that in a million years. That is such a huge accomplishment. Congratulations Melissa!!

Shauna said...


tammy said...

You guys are amazing. I always look forward to reading your recaps. And that Shark - what a girl!

tiburon said...

I read the whole thing. And I loved it. Every single second of it.

It was so fun to come and see you run. I am so impressed with you I can't even put it in words.

Next year you can totally count on me to drive a van :)

tiburon said...

Oh and Sher is SO going down for that fanny pack.

Devri said...

I am so dang proud of you. I loved your post!

Kristina P. said...

You guys are seriously amazing! Congrats on finishing this.

And I've eaten there! It's delicious. But I can't remember the name either.

Sher said...

Great play back! I felt like i was right there with you the whole time...oh wait....I WAS!!!

Good time! Thanks for running with us! You are a running GODDESS! Seriously, you ROCK!!

Love you!
I think you need to be on our team again next year.

LaurieJ said...

But what if we want her? :-) Maybe there will be a duke out for Melissa!

Awesome recap. I am glad you loved it. I had to do Jordanelle last year but you had 3 miles at the beginning that wasn't there before. You rock and I am so glad you had a great time!

Motherboard said...

How fun! I wish I would have been there!

Laurie is AWESOME! And, well, so is Sher!

Congrats on beating the Ragnar!

Loralee and the gang... said...

That sounded like so much fun! I sure will never be invited to do one of those, because my average in distances like that are about 9 minute miles! And you ARE a serious runner! regularly doing 13 or so miles quite often qualifies in MY book!

Martha H. said...

You are my idol, even if you've had a Lesbian experience.

Cadance said...

WOWWWW!! You again are amazing! I love reading your race is the closest I will ever get to being in an actual race myself!! love it!

Becca said...

Oh how I loved reading that. Your last leg was just plain mean, but of course you still rocked it! Reading this makes me wish I didn't have to wait a whole year to do it again! And it looks like the battle is on to see what team get's you next year--do you think Laurie and I can take Sher ;)

Omgirl said...

I have two friends who ran the Wasatch BAck. I bow down to all of you guys!!! That is completely amazing.