The time has come! After a week of promising I would write my Ragnar Recap post, the time has finally arrived!
I mentioned in the past that I was runner 6, but due to my IT band flare-up my team captain switched me to runner 4. It was a little less distance and not as much downhill (which tends to aggravate the knee). Admittedly, the Wasatch Back race had snuck up me; I had known it was coming for months, but once I got back from Australia it suddenly dawned on me that it was GO TIME. I wasn't even sure I could run! I had taken 5 weeks off to rest my knee as per the doc's advice, and I was more than a little bit nervous to dive back into running.
My dear friend Running Roommate helped out with that. She met me down at my house and we went for a nice, easy starter run. We ran/walked 3 miles to test out the waters and see how my leg would perform. There was a little bit of tightness, but not enough to be concerned. Overall it was a good run and it felt SO nice to be back outdoors and being active. I missed running more than I had let myself believe.
I decided one run wasn't enough to confirm that I would be able to run Ragnar, so I opted to do one more small run with my sister in Idaho before committing to the race. I had less than a week before Ragnar and my team was anxiously waiting for an update on my leg's condition. We were all hoping that I would be able to run the race as we had no other alternates!
The run with my sister was also nice and easy. We opted to do a 2 mile run with a 1 mile walk. The knee felt fine, and I even had some downhill sections in that run. My pace was really slow, but I was feeling confident that I would be able to run Ragnar with no issues and that my IT band had gotten enough rest to allow me to perform well.
However, my body decided that I needed a bit more of a challenge for my race, and a few days prior to the actual event I came down with a wicked cold. I had the fever, the aches, the COUGH, the sore throat, the works...it was miserable! I took a day off from work and tried to recover. I started feeling better by Thursday just in time for the race to start on Friday. I still had a cough, but the majority of the other symptoms had calmed down enough that I didn't think they would be an issue.
We were in Van #1 and had a start time of 6:40. Hubster was runner #1 and he actually got to start the race off with his cousin who was running on another team that had the same start time at us. With around 14,000 runners in the race, this was a pretty rare chance! When the clock hit 6:40, the runners were off and the race had begun for us!
I was SO nervous for my leg. I had 5.1 miles which would be the farthest I had ran in 6 weeks. It's crazy how quickly you lose the ability to run far when you have to rest because of injury. Scary stuff! I anxiously waited for the runner before me to make it to the exchange.
It was approaching 11 am and it was getting steadily warmer as I waited for the runner to show. Something you should know about Becky--I do NOT do well in heat. Seriously. I'm a big wuss. I knew that the temperature was going to be an issue for me on this run.
And the handoff!! I decided to ease into the run nice and slow and not start off too quickly. I knew that I should take it easy on the leg and let it warm up because the last Ragnar I had ran made me so sore at the end that I could barely walk, and I wasn't even injured that time!
When I looked around I realized that I was running near one of my most favorite places in the world. There is a beautiful town in Utah called Paradise and Hubster and I used to visit it when we were dating. It is very picturesque and I was happy to be running near a place with so many good memories. Well, I was happy until the heat kicked in. Then I got tooooo warm. My heart rate shot up and my energy level dropped. There was a small creek that was running along the road next to me, and it took a lot of willpower not to just jump in and forget the race! It was far too tempting!
Around mile 3 my knee started to hurt (due to the IT band). I wasn't expecting the pain to show up so early, and I became extremely nervous for my next two legs. I knew I needed strong legs to finish Ragnar, and I was hoping that with some good stretching and icing I could undo the damage I was doing to them on this first section.
Approximately 2 hours later at mile 3.3 (okay, so it just felt like 2 hours...), the heat started to really get to me. I started walking (boo!) and was cursing the hills that seemed to never end. My team was awesome and kept my spirits as elevated as possible through their cheering and support, but when the van was out of sight I had to dig deep to just finish the first leg. I couldn't believe I was struggling so much on a 5-mile run when just a few weeks ago I had been running 13 miles!
My van stopped to give me some more water, and Hubster told me that my cousin was only about 100 yards behind me and she had been that distance behind me the entire time I had been running. We had talked before the race started about how fun it would be to run together, so I opted to stop and wait for her to catch up to me. Not only did I want some company to my misery, I also wanted a nice rest stop! I was so happy to see her, and she was happy to see me. We were both having a hard time in the heat!
Having a running buddy made the run SO MUCH BETTER. We were able to distract each other from our frustrations on the run, and when we couldn't help but feel the heat, we could complain together. Somehow it made it okay. :) It was definitely a highlight for me that I was able to run with her. We had the same pace and we were able to help each other finish strong.
When the exchange line was finally within our sights, we knew we were home free and nearly done with the pain. I know I'm totally being dramatic, but in the moment I seriously thought I was going to pass out before reaching the finish line. Like I said, I totally suck when running in hot weather. I was SO HAPPY to cross the exchange line and pass off our super awesome baton (aka slap bracelet) to my next runner.
Except he wasn't there.
Talk about a defeated feeling! I had pushed hard through that last stretch only to find out that my efforts were in vain because no one was there to pass off to. Where was he? I bet you can guess! He had a date with the Honey Buckets...and that's not a term for a cute dance group. Yay porta potties! And I shall quote him: "It's an awful feeling to be hanging out in a port-a-potty and suddenly hear your name being called at the top of someone's lungs and know that you are super late to an important event."
|No runner for me to hand off too...sad!|
Yeah, I don't even know what to say about that photo...
If you are ever debating whether or not to run Wasatch Back, you definitely should stop debating and just sign up. It's a beautiful race. The relay experience is such a unique thing that you have to experience at least once in your life, and the scenery during this race is breath-taking. So yeah...sign up for the nice views.
Nice scenery indeed. :)
Anyway, back to the race. Most of us got a nice short nap in at the second major exchange waiting for our Van 2 runners to finish up. It was nice and refreshing. However, by that point all downhill sections and stairs I encountered while walking around were causing me issues. I couldn't walk down to our Van without hobbling a bit. I knew that I could run through the pain on my second leg, but I knew that my third leg (with an 800 ft descent) was not going to happen for me without a miracle. I did some icing and stretching while at the exchange, and prepared to run my second leg (a nice 4.2 miler).
Yeah...it's best to pretend that you don't know me when I'm making faces like that. That kid behind me is totally in my van and he's doing a good job of pretending he isn't running with me. By the way...here's a hint about me: when I'm realllly nervous, I tend to look realllllly excited.
Guess how nervous I was? Hee hee.
But, the good news is I was better prepared for my second run. I busted out my tank top so that I could battle the remainder of the heat. I had stretched, I was warmed up, and I was ready to run. And thankfully, this leg was mostly flat. I let myself get distracted by the beautiful mountain views (and random kids dressed in camouflage hiding out in the bushes scaring runners...so awesome), and settled in for a nice comfortable run. It went MUCH better than the first. My knee definitely was having issues, but not enough that I couldn't run through them. Overall, this was a much nicer run for me. I still had to walk a couple of sections (my lungs were killing me from all the coughing), but I had a faster pace than my first leg and I finished strong enough that I was even able to blast past a runner at the exchange line after one of her supporters said, "I just told her that you weren't fast enough to catch her. Let's see if I'm wrong."
I'm not one to back down from a challenge if I can help it.
Wahoo! Girl in Gray? You've been PASSED! And don't judge me by my face...I don't look it, but I was super stoked at my last minute victory. It's the little things in life that make me happy. Not to mention she had passed me earlier in the race and this was my way to erase that. :)
That night we crashed at a park and slept outside under the stars. It was beautiful, but so very very cold. My lungs were screaming at me from all the running I'd put them through, and the cold air was making it much much worse. By this point my knee pain had settled into a constant throbbing, and any time I turned in my sleep to lay on my side the pain in my leg would wake me up. Needless to say, it wasn't the best night of sleep I've had in my life but that's part of Ragnar! I was still having fun.
However, I knew that my knee was not going to be able to hack an 800 ft. descent. It was time to find a solution that didn't involve me dropping out of the race or having someone run my leg for me. I was lucky enough that one of the people in my van was hoping to run some downhill, and his leg happened to be (mostly) flat and approximately the same distance as my leg. We agreed to switch and were both happy with the exchange. It was about 30 degrees when we got ready to run, and he didn't have any running tights to keep warm and I did so it really ended up working out best for both of us.
Not gonna lie. The last leg hurt and I was ready for it to be done. I didn't want to hurt my knee anymore than I already had, because last time I ran hard on it I ended up having to take 6 weeks off from running and it nearly made me crazy. So, I took it easy and tried to enjoy it. Mostly, I just kept telling myself over and over again that I was almost to the finish and that I was almost done having to run. Those were some happy thoughts. :)
Apparently they were happy enough thoughts that I ended up running my last half mile faster than I'd ran the entire leg. Nothing like a motivating finish line! I crossed the line and celebrated having been able to run all three legs on limited training. It was super fun, and I'm glad I did it. It wasn't the perfect situation, but it was still a blast.
We met our whole team at the finish line of the race and ran together to cross the true finish line. It was a very happy moment and we were so thankful to be done. I was running with coworkers who had never ran a race before, and it was very exciting to see their pride at having accomplished such a feat.
The company I work for is awesome for sponsoring 2 teams of runners. My boss even ran on my team, and he had so much fun he's agreed to let our company have 3 teams next year! My boss had never ran farther than 6 miles before, and the day of the race he found out that one of this legs was 10 miles! But he ran it like a champ, never walked, crossed the exchange line, and promptly puked his guts up. Hahaha. Apparently he still thought it was fun enough that he'll be running it again next year. Runners...we're all crazy!
So...that's the recap. It was hard, it was fun, and it was unforgettable. The next day my cough was so bad that I took a trip to the doctor and found out that I had ran the race with bronchitis. Not my smartest moment...but I'm still glad I did it. And for those of you worrying about my knee, you'll be pleased to know that I went and saw a physical therapist and I am working with her to get back on the running track. I am seeing her again this Thursday and I'm hoping she will give me the all clear to start running again. After all, I do have a full marathon in 11 weeks. It's really do or die at this point! Keep your fingers crossed for me, k?
Oh...and don't forget to check me out on Twitter!