a blog about running fast with style
Okay. I’m behind a bit so let’s see what I can do… errr, so this race was in February.
Kids, this one tried it’s very best to fall apart before it even began, but don’t fret a start line was found (complete with six runners) and we somehow navigated the desert highways and byways and eventually found the sweetest of sights: a finish line.
If you can tolerate all ridiculously long details, here we go.
You might be asking how one finds oneself in AZ in February on an ultra relay team. Answer: you get an email from running friends in October when you’re 120 plus days away from a start line and (clearly) anything sounds good at that point.
So I said yes.
Fast forward to February the week of the race and a runner down and no sub in sight. Now you might think this is late in the game to be finding a replacement runner but a few years back running Ragnar NWP we had a runner no-show day of so week of, nbd.
The race day drew near no relief in sight our team captain, van driver and now runner 6 was up to the challenge.
So we race!
If we can find the start line.
It took a few tries but we finally found it and it was pretty much deserted. Did we miss something? Apparently most of the field.
Since we were going to be slower than we’d initially planned (did I mention new runner 6 was sort of injured and on restricted miles?) we figured we’d just show-up about 2 hours earlier than our initial start time to adjust for our team’s pace. Unbeknownst to us Ragnar Del Sol had planned a little lunch break between the main field of runners and about 15-20 faster teams.
We finally got the green light (sort-of) to start and we were off a good 60-90 minutes behind the main field and 60-90 mins before the fast teams.
No mans land.
This is pretty much what life looked like until night fall.
We didn’t see anyone but ourselves. I wasn’t really sure anyone else was actually in the race but the volunteers at the exchanges assure us there were… so we ran.
(hahahahah… there are other people in this race right??? (JB’s pic))
Here’s the line up in random order:
We opted to run double legs for this ultra meaning runner 1 ran legs 1 & 2, runner 2 ran legs 3 & 4 and you get the idea right?
Kristina was up first:
She ran a million miles. Okay 14+.
Sarah was next. Originally she was running legs 3 & 4 but since one of our runners was on limited miles so she also ran leg 3 for 20+ miles. I was also picking up extra miles on my first leg and some how went from 11 miles to 17+.
Hmmm. Yeah when I write it now I see how dumb it sounds but at the time it seemed pretty logical. Mind you my longest run had been 18 & 17 and I’m pretty sure I couldn’t walk the rest of the day.
Still Kristina and Sarah looked good so it can’t be that bad right?
Changed legs also means a new directions. I went from running on a highway with no turns to lots and lots of turns. Yeah, not good for the directionally challenged.
Open cattle. Clearly a good sign.
I did my best to memorize the twists and turns and was off. Things started off good. My first leg of this little triple was 4.6 miles. I settled in and tried not to think about the miles ahead. I ran through the exchange, had the most awkward water bottle hand off with Margot and settled in for 7.8.
Things were going well but at mile 7/8ish I saw a Ragnar direction sign in the bushes. Was there an arrow on it? Straight? Left? Straight then slight left? Is there turn near by?
Friends I can get myself lost anywhere.
I obsessed about it for a good half mile and pondered what it would be like running 10 miles in the wrong direction. Would people find me? Would I have to turn around? When would I turn around? Was anyone actually on this road? Why didn’t a bring my phone. Doesn’t my Garmin have a “bread crumb feature”. Is that a blinky red light?
Ugh, this is exhausting.
Don’t I have a completely useless map with me? What mile am I on?
I’m so bad at relays.
And then I saw 3 volunteers sitting at the turn and remembered that Ragnar does usually put volunteers at the big turns.
I turned on the “trail” and started the sand running in the dark. It was nice a first and then it started to go up and was less nice.
Alone, several miles on a dusty dirty trail in the AZ dessert. How’d I say yes to this? Luckily on this run there were a few red blinky lights set-up so I kept moving forward. I also kept thinking runners were running up on me and that the red blinky lights were people but alas not so; just me losing my mind.
The race car kept driving the road back and forth and back again probs trying to figure out why I was out there all alone. I was asking myself the same thing.
After what seemed like and eternity I left the dirt road, ran across and abandoned poorly marked field and found some pavement and my team and another exchange. My legs felt good for exactly 200m past the exchange and then I was toast.
Turns out 12-13 miles were all my legs wanted to run. But I had 4.6 more to go.
The miles hurt. It felt up hill with a million twists and turns. I’m not even sure how I ran the last 2 miles. I stopped looking at my watch and just ran hoping I was still on the course. And then everyone’s favorite sight. Not them mile to go sign (that’s everyone’s second favorite sight) I saw the exchange. 17.15 miles just under 2 hours and 24 minutes (8:23 pace) I was done.
Like done, done. I’ve run a lot of relays (9 before this) but I don’t ever remember feeling so exhausted. I’m not sure what was going on with my hydration but I knew it was in trouble. My leg started in the 70s and I was barely sweating which for this PNW kid in February was a bad sign.
I did my best to hydrate and eat and prep for my next leg, because that’s what ya do.
I handed off to Jocelyn, who handed off to Margot who hand off to Sarah. I also lost my phone and stopped taking pics (sorry but honestly not that surprising). To add to all the awesomeness it was at this point we hadn’t seen any of the field and we were hearing rumors that they were going to pull teams off the course that were slow… um that’s us right? Since we were like dead last.
I’m not sure when it happened (checkout Sarah’s post for better details) but we finally saw other vans in a parking lot in the middle of the night and figured out they would let us finish the race.
By this point we were on the next round of legs and before I knew it I was up again.
Only 11 this time.
My leg started on an uneven trail, went up an overpass (which apparently horses also share), down the overpass, back to a rocky trail and over what I’m guessing was a horse gate… whatever that is… and then another horse gate and then the road.
Did I sign-up for a trail Ragnar?
Apparently not, the rest of the run was on the road in the berbs of Tempe. It was 3:30AM and I had two sets of 5.7 mile legs to make it through. I told myself to just make it through 5. The run felt okay but still much harder than expected. I stopped looking at my pace and just worked on effort. I was surprised how tired my legs were and how much my abs hurt from the first leg… can’t say that’s ever happened before…
About mile 3 I finally saw another runner!
And then no one until the exchange.
And no one after the exchange.
At mile 8 I ran up and overpass that felt like a mountain and I just felt my quads give-up on me. Don’t they know I have like 3 more miles to go?
I kept running and all I wanted was an egg mcmuffin and hash browns and pulpy orange juice… that’s not weird.
I finally saw some other people and after 1 hour and 38 minutes I pulled myself through the exchange zone. 11.44 miles (8:37 pace).
We’re done right?
At least we found a drive through that served egg mcmuffins, hash browns and pulpy orange juice.
Somewhere around exchange 20 something I found my phone and the sun came up:
How many more miles do I have left?
No wait. I don’t want to know.
As the sun came up the temp began to climb. People striped down to summer layers I found myself adding layers. Hmmm… so no one else is cold? This might be bad.
And it was. I was clearly sick. I was still struggling with hydrating and just feeling sick in general. Now I’m used to feeling sick on relay but it usually just goes away… this was turning south fast.
But before I could fully overanalyze it all I was off running again.
I had a 5.5, 3.5 and 3.8 left. If you are adding that up it’s a lot. Things kicked off okay but anytime the road gained and inch of altitude my quads stopped working. It wasn’t that they hurt they just wouldn’t flex… zero spring.
I told my team before I started how bad I was feeling so they were working on back-up plans and when they saw me at the first exchange it was clear we’d need to execute the back-up plan.
As I started my 3.5 mile leg I tried not to look-up because if did I was going to see the never-ending hill. I tried to best to run but my quads wouldn’t have it. So I walked and kept moving forward.
And then I saw the best sight I’ve ever seen on a relay team. A pair of brill blue distance shorts and a smiling Jocelyn with an outstretched arm… the universal sign for “let me run the rest of your leg for you.”
Didn’t need to ask me twice. 6.52 miles in 72 mins (11:08 pace) and I was done.
I somehow made my way back to van and was happy my 35 miles were over. We switched legs around and everyone rallied together to cross the finish line…
… and that’s really what a relay is about: it’s team effort. Once you grow-up and are in this thing we call the real world you don’t get many opportunities to be part of team and maybe that’s why I like the relay so much. You have a race before you that you can’t run on your own but you can accomplish this crazy thing, running 200 mile through the AZ desert, with a group of your closest internet and now real life running friends.
Ah geez, just go all serious… ugh better end with sunset.
Until next time…