Oh boy. So most of the reason I have been non-existent is because I was training for the hardest event I have participated in to date. If you are not familiar with the Ragnar Relay series, they are running events that take place between two cities that are usually around 200 miles apart. I got the itch to try this after I saw Meghann’s posts about Ragnar last year. It wasn’t until around November-ish that I got serious about it and put my name on the Ragnar board as a runner looking for a team.
The day after offering my name up, I got an email from a team looking for a runner in position 6. I checked the distance…2.7/7.8/4.1…and decided that was more than achievable and said sure thing! This is where things get crazy. Training for an event in which you run three times within 24 hours is certainly untraditional. There would be days where I ran in the morning, ran at night, and then ran the next morning to get my body prepared for (or at least as much as possible) running 3 times within 24 hours. What I learned is that, no matter how you train, you will not be ready until you are in the midst of running the event.
January 3rd I made my way down to Miami. After getting settled into my room I talked with a few of my teammates arranging a time to meet up for dinner and discuss our plan of action. You see, I didn’t know anyone on my team. I would be in a vehicle with 5 other people who I have never met before. We met up for dinner and we all clicked. It was perfect! I was the only Floridian, which was a little disconcerting because I knew it was going to be hot and humid the next few days, but no one could back out now. We agreed to meet up at 8:30am the next morning so that we could drive over to the start point for our 10:30am start and meet up with the 6 members of van 2.
I get up the next morning bright and early and organize my van bag. Here is what my van bag contained:
- 3 changes of clothes in separate bags (this is so I could grab and go as well as put the dirty clothes back in a bag…and they were certainly gross when I finally pulled them out)
- Garmin Forerunner 305 and USB charger
- iTouch (in case we hit wireless)
- iPod and USB (I soon found out that my iPod is picky and won’t allow itself to charge just anywhere)
- Reflective vest, headlamp, and blinking tail lamp
- 1 credit card and drivers license
- toothbrush, toothpaste, baby wipes, face wipes, sunscreen
- water bottles
I also brought a bag full of delicious vegan food, a blanket, and a pillow. All of this proved to be essential. The one thing that I didn’t pack in my bag that I wish I did was a change of comfy clothes. After my night run, I slept in the clothes that I just ran 8.8 miles in. Gross is an understatement. So let’s get into it shall we!
We had a safety meeting at 10:00am where they basically told us all the rules. Yes, this does actually have rules, and they are super important. I guess it didn’t occur to me until I was actually running that I would be on the side of a road. Our first runner took off at 10:30am and we were immediately in the van for the next exchange. Basically you would run from one exchange to another where the next runner would meet you and you would give them the “baton” or in our case a slap bracelet. Since I was the last runner in the van I would hand the bracelet off to the first runner in van 2. That also meant that I had to wait until everyone in my van ran before I would actually take off. All of our first runs were within downtown Miami. My first leg was only supposed to be 2.7 miles. We began to notice that everyone’s runs were longer than they projected. I took off from exchange 5 and headed off on the sidewalks of Miami. It was definitely hot. The concrete didn’t help, but I felt really good. I knew it was going to be a fast run. I had two guys pass me and I passed two people. Luckily all of the turns were still clearly marked (they tell you to memorize your route because sometimes people will move or redirect the signs…I experienced this in the 2006 Hotter n’ Hell Hundred in Wichita Falls TX). I saw the announcer (they had someone about 200 meters from the exchange with a radio that would call in the runner’s number so the next runner would be ready). I sprinted the last little bit and handed off the bracelet. I checked my Garmin and sure enough I was at 3.1 miles, not the 2.7 that I expected. But I PR’d it which was really astounding. There were so many people cheering me on! It was such an amazing feeling that all of these people who I didn’t know were cheering for me :). After walking around for a while and cooling down, we all got in the truck and headed off to the next major exchange. On the way we ended up stopping at an Olive Garden for dinner…at 4:00pm haha.
Ironically, none of us got pasta but instead feasted on salad and soup. I wanted something fresh so this was perfect. We headed out from there on to the Homestead Raceway which was the next major exchange. This would kick off our night runs. We got there and walked around and talked with a bunch of the other runners. I also got a massage. It was glorious. My legs felt really fresh and prepared for the long night run. I was not mentally prepared and worked on that while we waited. I don’t remember what time our first runner took off, but I think it was around 9pm. The night legs were much different from the first legs. First of all we drove through the Everglades at night. It was creepy. I wasn’t concerned about alligators or snakes, because it was cool enough that they wouldn’t be active. I was more concerned about wild boars. Not familiar? Look them up. Some of them can weigh 200 lbs. Scary. Anyway, I tried to take naps in the car, but that really wasn’t working out well for me. Finally around 2:30am, it was my turn. I could receive van support along the route, so I asked my team to stop around 2.5 mile mark and the 4.5 mile mark. I took off from the exchange and my mind was already playing tricks on me. Every leaf that fell and every noise I heard set off alarms in my head. I was running alongside US 1 facing traffic. A half hour into the run the panic and the running begin to take its toll. I was mentally drained and really really tired. I started to think about family, friends, upcoming changes in my life. Anything to get my mind off of it. Physically I knew I could do it, I just had to get my mind on board. I saw my van mates and was so thankful for water. I took off again and about halfway through the run “Graceland” by Paul Simon came on. Perfect timing. That was exactly what I needed to get through. When I saw my van again, I knew I didn’t have too much further. I appreciated the water. My quads felt like lead though, which I can only attribute to all the stopping and starting. I finally saw the “one mile to go” sign and was so excited. I really needed sleep. It was nearing 4am and I was getting delirious. I finally saw the exchange and handed the bracelet off. My 7.8 miles turned into 8.8. Nice.
This exchange was at a school and luckily we planned on staying there and sleeping. There were showers available, but they were disgusting. I also didn’t have any clothes to change into. I ended up folding myself up like a taco on the courtyard of the high school and drifting off to sleep around 4:30am. I was woken up around 7:30am by someone who was kicking us all out. I was so groggy and not feeling well at all. I staggered over to the vehicle and was tired, starving, and dehydrated. All bad things. Eating a ton of stuff was not going to fly, so I slowly consumed a protein bar and had a banana waiting for me. While the rest of my crew went to Ihop for breakfast, I slept in a ball on the backseat. I had to recover for the 4.1 miles that were ahead of me. I think in total I got about 5 hours of sleep between the high school and the car. Around 11:30 I started coming around and feeling much better.
Our first runner took off on her last leg around 12:30. We were so close! I think my last leg started around 3:00pm. I was actually feeling really good. I knew my pace would be slow, but I knew I could run the whole time and be done! As I was running, I passed several people. You could tell the heat and the work was taking a toll on a lot of people. I came up on a woman who was walking and clearly struggling. I slowed down and asked her if she wanted me to run with her. I could really sense that she was struggling and something told me to stop and check on her. I offered her some water and she told me that she was doing the Jeff Galloway method (really effective and basically a walk/run program). She was running for 5 minutes and walking for 1 minute. I was in it with her until we finished! It worked out well for me also, because I was so busy motivating her, that I couldn’t pay attention to anything else.
It was an awesome feeling to finish and know I was done. Although I wavered on the night run, I know that there are things I could have done differently to make things better.
So now what…
Just as with every major event that I complete, I am experiencing post-race depression. Not clinical, but related only to exercise. I’ve been unmotivated and generally apathetic about exercising. And I’m feeling it.
To help motivate myself, I’m keeping myself accountable with other people. I’m posting my intentions and keeping them. I’m also keeping a health journal, so that I can write about what I’m eating, what I’m doing for workouts and how I’m feeling. I have Gasparilla weekend at the end of February and I have to be ready for that. I’m going to try to post more frequently here as well. Just more accountability and you get more workouts and recipes so its a win/win.