This is one of my all time favorite races and my 6th year with the Legally Dead team. It was going to be iffy as to whether or not I could participate this year based on my neck issues and the resulting surgery (another blog post to come on that), but when I realized that I would be about 12 weeks post op, and that I had chosen a leg that could easily be walked quite a bit, then I was all in!
This year, we were able to fill a van with all girls. All of us, but one, had run together before and knew each other quite well - our new gal Janelle fit right in with our craziness.
l-r Mindy, Janelle, Karalee, me, Mindi and Brenda
our binder with our legs. Mindi made the joke of "Mitt's binder of women"
Our team and Van 1 had a start time of 4am. Since we were van 2, we slept in a little bit longer and then just met them at the first exchange. We did our check in, safety video, got some temporary airbush tattoos, decorated the van, and then I got ready to meet our runner at the exchange since I was runner 7 (the first one from our van).
Mindy had a new boyfriend
As I waited at the exchange, I met up with some friends and one in particular who was the same runner as me. We made a deal that if he took off before I did, then I had to catch him. If I left before he did, he had to catch me. I really didn't have hope that I would catch him. This was my first race post op, I didn't really have the training in me, and I anticipated some walking.
His runner came in and off he went. I was still waiting when my other teammates showed up and let me know our runner would be in any minute. The anticipation was killing me! I was standing next to the volunteer who was calling team numbers as they came in so we would know, but they never called ours, I just happened to see Duane run in. I ran over to him, took the slap bracelet and off I went.
I started at what I felt was a fairly slow pace and just settled into what felt comfortable. At the first mile I looked at my Garmin to see that I had done it an 8:28 pace. Too fast to start! Gah! I tried to make my feet slow down, but in all honesty, I felt so good! The leg was fairly flat with only a few rises. I allowed myself a few walking breaks to try and stay conservative. All the time reminding myself to take it easy.
As I rounded a corner, I saw my buddy up ahead and knew that if I kept a steady pace, there were enough miles left to catch him! As I passed him, I shouted some encouragement and we talked briefly but I was feeling too good to stop or slow down. It was hot, about noon but I so happy to be running, I didn't even notice. I crossed an intersection and started to cross a bridge when I passed a runner off to the side puking. I slowed and asked him if he was okay. He shook his head, said no, then said yes. I figured, the cops at the intersection were about 100 yards away, if he really needed help he could get it. I kept going.
Once I reached the exchange and passed the slap bracelet off to Brenda, I felt like I was running on air! Never have I experienced such an endorphin rush (well, since qualifying for Boston and then running Boston). I was so happy that there is no way I could even begin to describe it. SO HAPPY!
We had a few minutes before needing to get to the next exchange so I stretched and evaluated how I felt. No shoulder pain. No scapula pain. No neck pain. Legs felt fine. I was winded and had to remind myself that I was not only still gaining my cardio back, but also the altitude was higher. Overall, I felt fantastic! Leg one down, two more to go!
After all our girls finished their legs (and finished them amazingly, I might add), we passed off to Van 1 and then drove to a high school for some food and rest. It's nearly impossible to sleep during these relay's but I think I dozed for about 30 minutes. Next thing I knew I was getting a text from Lisa that they would be ready to pass off in about 45 minutes.
It was about midnight when I started my next leg. This was supposed to be the easiest of them all. And it was delightful. The temps were perfect, so I was just in shorts and a long sleeve tech tee. I started out, and then was directed down a dirt hill. Wha?? I wasn't prepared for trail. I slid all the way down that hill praying the whole time I wouldn't fall. I went extremely slow. After that portion, it flattened out, I was on pavement for a minute and then back on to a flat trail. Night runs are glorious! I didn't take my ipod, I simply had my garmin, my headlamp, my reflective vest and my own thoughts to keep me company. The entire 4 miles or so was a complete prayer of gratitude to Heavenly Father for allowing me to heal and be able to run. It was delightful! Leg two done - one more to go!
The rest of the girls finished their night runs (some of them very tough - but not one of them complained) and then it was time to pass back off to van 1. Again, we made our way to a high school and for a couple of bucks got a hot breakfast and a cold shower. I didn't even care that it was cold, I was just glad to wash the stank off - even if the shower heads made the water feel like glass shards. Good thing it was only a buck :) I laid down for a little while, and actually slept for about an hour.
such cute girls
When I got the text that it was time to get ready, I gathered the girls, drank my Ucan, and my Monster and waited at the exchange. This last leg of mine was going to be brutal. It was now about 11am. I loaded my hydration vest with ice and gatorade, applied sunscreen, lip balm, got my ipod, phone and was ready to go.
As Duane came in and passed off the slap bracelet and I started, I really had some mixed feelings. The competitor in me wanted to push it and perform well, but the rational side of me was warning me to take it easy and not push it. I started off at a fairly conservative pace until about 1.5 miles. Then the course hit a trail that was STRAIGHT.UP.HILL. No lie, it was like a hike. No running even possible. I looked at my garmin and saw that I was at a 20 min + pace and thought, "If the rest of the leg is like this, I'll be here until midnight!" Luckily, that portion only lasted about a half mile (it felt like 10) and then it was back on the pavement and winding up the mountain. I saw runners who were actually running it, but for the most part, many of us were walking. It was just so steep! I would run when I could, and there were a couple of down hill portions that I opened up and tried to make up some time. I anticipated taking about 2.5 to 3 hours and I tried really hard not to pay attention to my Garmin and just go by how I felt. Time wasn't important to me, I wanted to stay healthy.
The hill was relentless and never ended. No letting up. 10.2 miles (according to the course) and 2800ft elevation gain. I checked out the beautiful scenery and watched other runners as we either leap frogged, they passed me or I passed them. As each mile ticked by, I would just tell myself I only had ____ left. The hardest portion for me was from mile 7.5 to mile 9. I was so fatigued. Nothing hurt, just plain tired. I really had to slow down and just talk myself into keeping moving. Finally I crested the hill, saw the exchange and saw the downhill into the chute. Elation! I started to run and cry that I had actually, ACTUALLY done it!! Again, no words to adequately express how I felt. Just pure, unadulterated happiness!
Never have I been so happy to get a medal - except maybe Boston...
my garmin didn't quite pick up the entire 10.2 but I was running tangents whenever possible....
Brenda took off and I allowed myself to just soak it in. The people congratulating me, the hard earned extra medal, the pictures, the cheers of everyone around for every runner that had tackled that hill.......soaked it all in. I did it. I actually DID it! 12 weeks post op from a fairly substantial surgery, an almost entire year of pain in my neck, scapula and shoulder (torn rotator cuff to be blogged about later) and here I had completed the hardest of all legs in Ragnar! I think I'm till high on those endorphins.
Each girl in our van took their legs and even though it was the heat of the day, they ran them strong.
Just some random pics:
Mindi and Brenda
Just hanging out between runs
Mindy before her night run
Mindi rockin it
the girls being silly
Van 1 - Wayne, Kris, Lisa, Cade, Pam and Duane down in front - love these guys!!!
All of Legally Dead 2015
A friend of Mindy's wrote a feature piece on her and Luke's quest for adoption and her Cystic Fibrosis so a DesNews photographer came to the finish line and took some pictures. You can read the article here. The link to their gofundme account is here. And below are the pictures he took. Clearly, he's the professional.I am so incredibly proud of her!
We loaded ourselves back in the van, gassed up, got real food and headed home. What an amazing adventure. Every single runner in our van performed so well! Each of us have been dealing with some sort of issue: Mindy and Cystic Fibrosis, Mindi and plantar fascitis, Karalee and the never ending side ache, me and the surgery. And yet, we all ran our best and not one person had to back out, pass off some miles to someone else or otherwise hold back. We went at it strong and I couldn't be more proud of my friends and girls!
So yeah, another Ragnar in the books. I'll never forget the look on the face of my surgeon when I told him I was doing it. I kinda wish I had another post op appointment just so I could tell him how great it was and that due to his expertise, I was back at my passion in record time!
All the girls in my van are really wanting to do Ragnar Vegas. Since Legally Dead has already done it, I don't think they will want to again, we are going to see if we can put together an entire team of 12 to do that so we can get our Saint's to Sinner's medal. Until then, I'm back running, cycling on my stationary trainer as cross training, and picking up races here and there until October and St George Marathon.
Huge thank you's to: Wayne, the founder and captain of Legally Dead, Kris and Lisa Lundell, Duane, Pam and Cade (van 1) and my girls of Van 2: Mindi, Janelle, Brenda, Karalee, and Mindy. Seriously, one of the best teams we've ever had and I love them so much!
Special thank you to Dr Robert Berry. More on him in a futue blog post - but without him I wouldn't be running!
Happy running = happy mCat!