Friday, July 13, 2012

Testing limits, Ragnar style; Part 4, Call Us Crazy

Leaving the yellow tank top girls and the rest of the Ragnar refugees behind at the exchange, we made our way to find meet Jo and get on relaying. With darkness setting in, we got to break out all our fun reflective gear and all the accessories we'd brought along for our night runs.  Glow sticks, glow wand, glow green foam thingy which we gave an inappropriate name, Carols flashing hair tie, it was pretty funny at the time.  And while we waited for Carol, we had someone snap a shot of us.

My overnight leg was pretty uneventful.  I'd had a headache and taken a couple Excedrin before running.  The headache was long gone before I ran, and the caffeine made me slap happy.  I don't think Phil will ever offer anyone in his company an Excedrin for a headache.  Just sayin'.

The leg was short, only about 4.6 miles, so nothing too terrible.  Along the way I passed a few runners, but only got passed once or twice.  I describe this leg as the Stand By Me leg.  While the route wasn't on the tracks, it was along the tracks.  The whole way.  We crossed two streets, otherwise we were alone on this long stretch of path next to the tracks, separated only by bushes.  Kind of cool, though.  At the end of my leg, the path to the exchange was a little disjointed.  As I learned later, they had some issues with volunteers (or lack thereof).  I passed a headlamp on the ground at one point, and I couldn't help but wonder if it had been on the head of a runner who'd been attacked by a wild animal, if a runner dropped it, or if some local kids were leaving lights along this path trying to direct us to the pond filled with leaches.  Regardless, I made my way over, under, and through this twisted path and found the exchange where my van mates were waiting. 

I felt good!  My hip held up and I stretched well after I finished.  It was reaffirming, and I was confident that I'd made the right choice to go ahead and do this relay.

So the night running was turning out to be OK, just as the whole event had.  We were quickly finding, too, that some teams were writing on other vans, "tagging" as it's apparently called.  We found a few stray comments on our van, as if it were a Facebook timeline that people could leave their comments on.  Of course, we knew the yellow tank top girls had 'tagged' us, fueling our desire to beat them to the finish in each leg, especially at the final finish.

Eventually we made it to another refugee camp major exchange where we would greet our teammates in van two and have all six of our van mates together again.  This time, we had the promise of several hours ahead of us, and the option of a place to sleep.  Not since my children were infants has the promise of more than an hour of sleep been so exciting to me.  Our time was shortened by the search for a lost (and eventually found) cell phone, but eventually we made it to the YMCA in Racine, Wisconsin.  For $2, they offered a floor to sleep on and showers.  That shower may have been the best one I've taken in years.  I wish I could say the same about the sleeping arrangement, though.  While quiet and air conditioned, I clearly wasn't as prepared for sleeping on the workout room floor as I should have been.  I believe I dozed a little here and there, but, don't think it was more than an hour total sleep.  My hip certainly did not appreciate the hard sleeping surface, and it was difficult to find a comfortable position to sleep in.

Sunrise over Ragnar in Racine
Waterfront property
Van one was now on the road completing their third and final legs of the relay.  It was a hot day, no doubt, and we were all so tired.  And Call Me Maybe had us all at the brink of insanity.  One by one, we exchanged runners and kept going.  Just before my third and final leg, I think we hit that "this is ridiculous and we need to let off some steam and be idiots for a few minutes".  For me, it was a release of the nerves that were trying to derail my attempt at a decent final leg.  And then this happened

Back to the race.

My third leg would take us over the border from Wisconsin back into Illinois.  My van mates agreed on when they would meet up with me, and what they would have for me as far as water and such.  It's a good thing because the water stop was out of water.  Yes, out of water.  This old guy at a folding table had an assortment of beverages that other teams had contributed, so he had at least something to offer us.  That was it.  A couple miles down, there was a team that had left water and cups, so I grabbed one and downed the water.  My hip was killing me.  I walked a lot.  I fought with myself.  A lot.  It sucked.  I was proud of myself one minute, and hating myself the next.  I blamed myself for the demise of the team's overall time goal (which we didn't have, but remember this was all in my head), I envisioned my van mates being so disappointed that I hadn't done better, and I beat myself up over anything and everything.  I knew my hip was in bad shape, and it was honestly killing me.  My whole right leg, and my whole body, compensated for the bad hip and threw in some IT band pain, stressed shoulder muscles, and numb toes.  Awesome.

"It hurts up to a point and then it doesn't get any worse."   - Ann Trason

Run, Forrest, run!
The final mile of this leg were clear as mud.  We were in a more residential area by this point, and there were several turns to make.  There were some directional signs, but they were spread rather far apart, so following one didn't mean you were necessarily going to see the next any time soon.  I hoped my team hadn't been waiting for very long, and was ready to face their questions about why it took me so long, why I ran injured, and all the rest of the stuff I made up in my head, which I knew wasn't going to happen.

"TEAM 165!  TEAM 165!!"  The volunteers called out our team number as I approached the exchange, and I looked for Natasha, runner five.  I kept looking, thinking they were all busy talking and not expecting me since it had been a fortnight already.  "TEAM 165 your runner is here!", they called, and as I got into the chute, I realized - I think I beat them!  I turned a couple times to find the parking lot, and when I did, they were all just getting out of the van!  I HAD BEATEN THEM TO THE EXCHANGE!!  Are you kidding me?  That miserable performance got me to the exchange faster than they predicted?!?!  Wow, maybe all that hateful self-talk was for naught!

"Find your limits and exceed them." - Lynn Strickland

My van mates were all impressed at my arrival time, which exceeded what they had predicted it to be.  They knew I was hurting and it was a seriously hot morning, so they knew I would need to take it easy and stop for hydration, which they kindly provided me two or three times along the leg.  I have never felt so supported or received such positive energy as I did after completing that leg.  I think that because I'd been so hateful to myself in my head for the entire 7.7 miles of that leg, their kind and positive words were more than enough to make me realize that I did it and I had not let a single person down.  Part of me is still trying to believe in myself as a runner, and being injured doesn't really help that happen.  So hearing them say how well I'd done really meant a lot and made me feel much better.  I stretched and we got on our merry way to exchange Natasha for Phil and kept on moving.  Before long, we were at the last major exchange.  Van one had completed all three legs, and were done.  Done!

As I mentioned, it was hot.  Very hot.  We had an idea of how long it might take van two to complete their third legs, and had a target time for arriving at the event finish line.  In the meantime, it was time to EAT!!  We dined outdoors at a suburban eatery, and then it was time to head to the city.  To greatly condense the rest of the afternoon, we stopped to let a couple city dwellers unload their belongings at home, we discovered that van two was having a difficult time, and our anticipated finish time was going to be later than originally thought.  Again, we weren't in this for time, but it was a very hot day, we were all tired, and we were now worried about our runners in van two, hoping they were not falling prey to the effects of the afternoon heat.  We did our best to remain positive, while having to rely on the occasional text updates from van two.  We headed to the post-race party to use the facilities, get some water or other form of hydration, and wait for van two.  Finally, we met up with van two and all waited for Josh, our final runner, to arrive and we all crossed the finish line together. 

We found some space to sit and enjoyed some free beer, compared notes, and generally pretended that we weren't each about to collapse.  We got our medals and got some pics together.

We finished!!  Go Killer Bees!!
Would I do another Ragnar?  Um, ya!  Was it tough?  Hell yes!  Worth it?  Definitely.  My team was amazing, some of us ran the best runs of our lives, and all of us pushed ourselves harder than we knew we could. 

And remember the yellow tank top girls?  I found some of them online, here and here.  We all faced challenges in this Ragnar, and everyone ran it for their own reasons.  Yes, I still sneer in their direction for their perky demeanor, cheerleader-y dancing, and perpetuating the ear worm, but have to give the yellow tank top girls credit for the amazing race that they ran, given what they were up against according to these two blogs.  After reading what they went through to get through in this Ragnar, whether they crossed the finish line before or after us makes no difference.  OK, it still does.  You have to give them credit, though, for a race well run.