The race was a Ragnar relay, which is where 12 people team up to run about 203 miles over the course of about 32 hours. The team is split into 2 vans of 6 runners each. Each runner in Van 1 runs once, then each runner in Van 2, and the whole sequence repeats 2 more times, so each runner runs a total of 3 legs. We ran from Wickenburg, AZ to Mesa, AZ. My portion of the race totaled just under 22 miles (my legs were 8.6, 7.6 and 5.5 miles respectively).
|The ladies from Van 1: Meredith, Briana, Emily, Rosi, me, and Amanda|
Here's the thing: the race was about so much more than running.
It was about having fun, making new friends, and most importantly, about conquering challenges and, as one of my teammates (and new friend) Emily put it, rising to badass status.
Thursday evening, my friend Amanda and I drove to Phoenix to meet our team and pick up and decorate our rental vans.
|Rosi decorating the van window. Serious concentration.|
We drove to Surprise, where we had dinner and slept 6 to a room in a hotel (we had 7 in our room because our driver, Amanda's husband, stayed with us - in a room with 6 ladies! Woot!).
Friday morning, Van 1 - that's me! - drove over to Wickenburg. This is where we really started to see the spirit of the race. Runners were dressed in costumes - like disco outfits - and vans were decorated with team names like Playboy Runnies and Blood Sweat and BEERS and Bacon and Leggs.
|One team dressed up in disco outfits.|
|Just one of so many funny/clever van decorations.|
It was almost time to start, so I lined up at the start line. I was the first runner, and I was really nervous!
|See me in the pink skirt on the right? Nervous! Thanks to Briana for this picture.|
|Finishing up the first leg. Ouch.|
The first leg was really hard - it was pretty hilly but my time wasn't as slow as I expected. I felt like I was going to die. (There's a quote that goes, "There is magic in misery. Just ask any runner." [Dean Karnazes, an ultramarathon runner.])
I finished up and passed off the slap bracelet to the next runner - Briana - and we drove ahead on the course to bring her water.
|Checking off my first leg on the van's chart.|
The rest of our runners - Rosi, Amanda, Emily and Meredith - ran their legs and we finished up for a dinner break around 5 pm.
|Waiting for a runner to give her water on the course.|
After pizza, we went to a local high school where the race staff had set up an exchange point. We were allowed to sleep on the field, but it was only about 7 pm and there were so many people coming and going it was hard to sleep.
At one point, another group came onto the field and began setting up to sleep right near our team. They were chatting away, loudly, as they set up, and the guy says, "I can sleep anywhere." One of our team members, Rosi, said loudly, "Prove it." Again, we all giggled like teenagers.
I was pretty nervous about my second leg - it was dark and the course had about 8 turns. Paul was nice enough to run with me so I didn't get lost (thank you again, Paul!) and that leg felt really good. It was cool outside and the run was all on sidewalks and slightly downhill most of the way.
We ran through the night, grabbed showers at a local community center, and arrived at our next exchange point at 5:30 am. By this time, I felt horrible. My stomach was churning, and I couldn't sleep because it hurt too much. I knew I had to run again around 8 am but I just couldn't get to sleep. It was cold and we were sleeping on a track at another high school. I felt really miserable. I didn't know if I'd be able to run my final leg.
Finally, I fell asleep around 6:45. My alarm went off at 7:30 and I got up to get dressed for my final leg, still feeling sick to my stomach but somewhat restored from that little nap. My leg was really sore - an old injury was flaring up. I thought I might be walking a lot during the final leg. I did some stretching and I took some Pepto Bismol another teammate had bought (several of us were feeling a bit ... under the weather), and lined up to wait for our Van 2 teammate who was running before me.
My final leg went better than I expected. Once I got on the course, I just told myself to take it easy and enjoy the cool weather and the nice scenery. The 5.5 miles passed by pretty quickly - especially because I knew I'd be done running afterward.
Because I was the first runner on the team, I was the first one finished, and my Van 1 teammates were waiting for me at the end of my last leg, ready with high fives and probably a little envy that I was done. ;)
My stomach felt a lot better so I got some coffee at the next gas station and enjoyed the rest of the day while my teammates finished up. While Van 2 did their final legs, we washed our van, grabbed some food, and went over to the finish line to have some beers and wait for our final runner, Elena. When she came into the finish chute, we all ran to the finish line together.
|My attempt at a finish line photo.|
A Ragnar relay was absolutely on my running bucket list, and I'm so glad I can check it off (another of my teammates, Rosi, said the same thing in her race recap). Now that it's over, it was SO worth the pain.
Why? Ding ding ding! Life metaphor time!
Because it demonstrated, not for the first time since I started running, that I can do things that seem impossible. Even with major stomach issues and exhaustion and leg pain, I buckled down and finished that final leg. Just when it seems like you can't do something, you power through to the end. And you do it. And it feels SO good.
It demonstrated that when people come together with a common purpose, friendships form fast. No, I don't know everyone's favorite food (well, Rosi loves bacon, I know that much) or everyone's favorite color or how they like their steak cooked. But I met kindred spirits in my teammates. I met other moms who love running (or have a love-hate relationship with it), who love a good challenge, and who are grown up enough to support and empower one another. And who are totally badass.
There is nothing like spending 32 hours, sweaty, in a van with 6 women (and a husband).
It demonstrated that I'm getting older. Ha. It has taken me pretty much the whole week to feel normal again. Well, as normal as I ever am.
Finally, it demonstrated that when a goal seems really far away - 203 miles away - you can just plug away at it until you get there. You'll undoubtedly need support, maybe some Pepto Bismol, definitely some coffee and beer. But you'll get there if you just keep at it.