Do you believe in miracles? I do. And I'm not just talking about the little everyday miracles either, although I totally believe those happen and most of the time we just don't recognize them. What I'm talking about here is a full blown miracle that you can't deny just happened. Well, I experienced both of those kinds of miracles on my Ragnar race a little over a week ago. Some of the little miracles were discovering that our cooler's plug wasn't done up and water was leaking all over our van, getting into our bags and soaking Natalie's car. The miraculous part was that we discovered it not too far from Mel's brother's house and he met us while Jennifer was running her first leg. They got it all cleaned up with a shop vac and we were on our way without Jennifer even knowing what had happened. Another small miracle was just our team. Last year was scary enough not knowing anyone on my team and having us all get along so well. This year I wasn't as worried, yet you never know what is going to happen with 6 women who are sleep deprived, hungry and tired. I'm so happy to report that we all got along so well. I feel so lucky to have been with those women for the 29 ish hours that we spent together. I feel like I have two new good friends and am so grateful for the other 3 that already were my good friends. It's hard to put into words how much I look up to these women and how much I respect and love them. It was a privilege. I also got to see Angie who was on our team last year. She's one amazing runner (she ran the Ragnar leg this year- my hero) and a good friend. I was really excited to run into her. It was a miracle because out of the 12,000 people that were there, I saw her.
Now, on to the actual race and the BIG miracle. I was really good the week before. I ran a 4 miler on that Monday, biked 16 miles on Tuesday and did nothing on Wednesday and Thursday. Thursday night we all got together to decorate our car and pack it up. Since we had to be up at around 3:30 a.m., it was a good idea to get as much ready the night before.
The morning came really fast. It was hard starting out sleep deprived since I knew it was just going to get worse. But adrenaline kicked in and we started at the bright hour of 5 a.m. I was feeling pretty good. Still, just delivering water and walking around on Friday, I could feel my hip. To say I was nervous about my upcoming runs was an understatement.
We became friends with this group of runners. The kings and queens. They all had really "interesting" outfits. You'll see more of them later.
Being the 6th and final runner in our van made the nerves worse. However, as I finally got started on my first leg I was calm and ready to go. I was even excited. My first leg was a mile uphill and then 6 more down. All I could think on that uphill stretch was how uncomfortable I was and if I couldn't handle this mile of uphill, how was I going to do that 8 mile canyon run. Pretty soon I crested the top and had a gorgeous view of the valley below. The next couple of miles of downhill were more like an obstacle course than anything. It was steep, rocky, rutted out and although I was trying my best to control my speed so as not to damage my quads totally, I kind of flew down the canyon. By the bottom, I could already feel my quads. But here's the miraculous part; My hip didn't hurt. I felt it for just a moment but it went away and the downhill seemed to be the hardest on it before. Once I hit the pavement I felt really good and running into the exchange was awesome! There were so many people, I was just glad to find my crew. As we were heading back to the van, we saw Angie.
We headed out for some downtime to eat and relax a little before our next run. We had plenty of wheat thins, sandwich fixings and string cheese. It felt good to just lay there on the grass for a while. It was at this next exchange that our team was forced to wait at the bottom of the hill for 15 minutes until the exchange was officially open. If he would have come up the hill we would have been penalized 2 hours and would have been made to wait there. Crazy. Some teams had to wait 1/2 hour. This was the curse of being one of the first groups to start. Another curse was not being able to pass a lot of people because there just weren't a lot of runners on the road the same time we were. But the big blessing of being first was that we were the first to use the porta potties. I was the first to undo the toilet paper on several of them. If you're not a runner that doesn't seem like a big deal. But if you've been one of the unfortunate ones who's been in the porta potty when it's chuck full and totally stinky, you know what I mean. Being first had it's advantages.
Pretty soon we were off and running again and it was getting hot. I prepared myself by soaking my head with cool water. Felt so cold, but oh so good once I got going. Again, I was shocked that my hip wasn't hurting. I could feel my quads though. The first mile I felt like I had dead legs. They loosened up nicely but the tired feeling was still there. Mentally I had broken this run into parts. I was going to take the first 3 1/2 miles nice and easy. I knew there was a small dip in the elevation and I could catch my breath. Then another 1/2 mile and it would be half way over. I decided to break the last 4 into 2 mile parts, I knew I could do that. I really was proud of myself for pacing so well. I'm not generally good at that, especially on hills. I like to power through them and get it over with. However, this was an 8 mile hill and that wasn't going to be happening. I wouldn't let myself go under 10 minute miles unless it was during the small reprieves in the hill. Pretty soon I looked down at my watch and had gone 4 1/2 miles. More than halfway! Sometime in the next couple of miles I could feel my calves getting tight. I really have to give my team credit for the support they gave me. It seemed like they were just always right around the corner with drinks and water to dump on me. They brought me pretzels and raisins but the calf cramps started anyway. It was tough. I never got discouraged though. I knew I was going to make it. And I was really happy. I walked quite a bit the last couple of miles. But they were always there cheering me on.
More funny than this guy's afro wig and ladies underwear was his apologizing for passing me and having me look at his rear end. We leapfrogged with each other for a while but he ended up getting in his van for a change of outfits. It was just too hot for that wig. And the rest of him was getting sunburned as well.
There are 2 really big inclines at the end of this 8 mile uphill. One was about a mile long and steep and the last one was fairly short but very steep. At the bottom of the last hill I stopped and stretched out my calves as best I could and ran the whole way up the last hill and down the straight away to the exchange. Passing it off and knowing it was over was a great feeling. I really had a sense of accomplishment. It was possibly the hardest run of my life except a full marathon. It was also a run that taught me about the support of a team. I could not have done that run by myself. They were always right there to encourage and support me. And poor Mel had to massage my salty, sweaty calves when it locked up stepping up into the car. That's when you know who your true friends are! I made a lot of friends during that run with the people who were suffering like I was. It was fun to see some of them at the finish and get a lot of high fives. They really know what I went through. I know that someone else could have done that run better than me, but they let me do it and finish it and conquer that hill. And again NO hip pain.
Here's our kings and queens friend again. He's lost the cape and a few other important items of clothing.
We cruised over to our "sleeping" spot, a high school gym floor. We ate a spaghetti dinner that was SO good, sponge bathed ourselves and changed into nice dry clothes.
Here again, being the first had its advantages. The gym wasn't smelly, yet. It wasn't crowded, we got wrestling mats to sleep on, and the bathrooms were so clean. We laid down and even with ear plugs there was just too much noise to settle down and actually sleep. It could have had something to do with my awesome run that I just had and all the adrenaline that was still flowing. After about 2 hours it was time to get up and go again to meet the rest of our team for our last leg.
By this time everyone was pretty tired. It was funny to see how everyone was so energetic after their run and then crashed by the next runner. My final leg was 3 miles. My legs were really hurting now, both the quads and the calves. I was pretty worried about how I was even going to run on them because I was having trouble even walking like a normal person. But once I got out there at 5 a.m. and after about 1/2 mile, I started cruising. Everything loosened up and I really booked it that last mile. I sprinted to the end and passed off that baton. It was so rewarding. Again, no hip pain. However everything else hurt. Stopping was the hardest part. Everything wanted to lock up again.
We went to Mel's sister's house and all got the luxury of a shower and a hot breakfast. I even laid down and fell asleep for a minute. I finally felt human again.
We drove to Park City to wait for our team. We walked around the booths, bought a t-shirt, and laid in the grass. Again, I fell asleep. Finally our team came in, we all crossed the finish line together, got our medals and headed for home. Seriously, so much fun.
A couple of favorite moments:
*Jodi doing her hair including hairspray before her run.
*coming up with spy names for everyone along the way.
*sneaking out quietly to the car, whispering to be polite to all the sleeping runners only to have the car alarm go off and fidget around for a while to try and get it turned off.
*Jennifer's hilarious cheers during her after run glow where the words "good form" took on a whole new meaning.
*The queens and kings team that was so friendly but so inappropriately dressed.
*Getting to spend time with my good friends Heather and Jodi. They have been my rocks during my running "career". I'm one blessed girl.
The recovery has been extensive. I was sore longer than I have been for any marathon. It was 5 days before I noticed that I had no quad pain. It was about the same for my calves. The bike and I have been really good friends. I was able to do a 17 and 18 miler before my cycling class on Friday. And then Saturday I decided to run. I haven't had any hip pain and although I had already decided that it was a miraculous healing, it was confirmed when I started to run. I wasn't even a half mile into it before I felt the pain. I figured it would just loosen up so I kept going. It did ease up a little, but by the end was hurting so that I was walking and limping. So I'm right back to where I was before. All I have to say is that miracles really do happen. And for whatever reason it was granted to me, I'll take it.