Tuesday, June 25, 2013

The Ragnar: A Most Amazing Adventure!

As many of you know, this last month I have been a total basket case.  I was "tricked" into getting myself signed up for something that I would NEVER do -- run the Wasatch Back Ragnar Relay Race.  It had been Ben's dream for several years to run it, and not mine... not even close.  But the Army called and Ben had to go, and I was left to fill those big shoes. (For the full story click here!)

All month I have been filled with serious anxiety.  Haven't been able to sleep well, my face broke out in zits, and I tried to stay away from Facebook because everyone just plain ticked me off.  It wasn't their fault (most of the time) it was just me being edgy.  As the big day got closer and closer, even my kids noticed I was stressing out big time... I am sure it had nothing to do with the fact that I was snapping at every little thing they did. Oops.

See, on the outside, was more excited than anything to try out this new adventure.  All smiles to my friends, and trying to act all tough and brave.  But inside, I was a mess.  Look at me cross-eyed and I might just cry.

I have never been an athlete.  I have never competed in anything physical, not really.  5 K's are fun, but I never felt pressure to preform.  I haven't had the best experiences running with other people, either, and knowing there was a team counting on me, made my stomach sick... a lot.  When it comes to running, and doing anything physical, I am VERY self conscience.  I can't help it.

I had been training for the half marathon in Aug, since March.  But when this whole Ragnar came up, I had to up my game.  Remember all that hill training up at Snowbird and Alta? (Story here!) Or the long runs in sun that almost killed me? (Click here!) It was all training for this coming event, and so far things weren't looking bad, but I didn't really feel ready either.  See, I made some goals for myself... and they were a little lofty.  I was scared that I was going to let myself and my team down... I even had nightmares about it.

Here were my goals:

1. Run ALL of my legs.  No walking!  Not even a step!

2.  Never complain.  I was grateful to be there.  To have a body that was healthy enough that I could give it a go.  I NEVER in my dreams would have thought I would be brave enough to do something like this.  I wasn't going to complain, I was going to enjoy every moment and live it up!

3.  Try really hard not to irritate my team members.  When I get nervous, there is no telling what is going to pop out of this mouth.  I was just praying I wouldn't say anything super stupid.

4.  To always do a sprint to the finish of each leg.

5.  And my last goal, was when things got tough and I felt like I could quit, to remember who I was running this for and why.

If I was going to do this, I was going to do it right and feel worthy of wearing that finishing medal!

Then after a month of intensive training, off I was for one of the greatest adventures I have ever had!

Leg #1:  My team met up around 11 am on Friday to pack up our van (#2) and head out to meet the first van at the check point.  For those of you not familiar with the Ragnar Relay race, there are 12 members on the team in two vans.  The first 6 runners in van 1, start early on Friday morning, and then we meet them later to carry on and do our first legs.  When we are done, the 1st van then takes over and does their 2nd legs while we would then have a few hours to rest and eat before or next runs.  Each runner has 3 legs to run for a total of almost 200 miles over 2 days.  Sounds like a total blast, right!?

We got to our check point around 1 pm, I think.  We thought that van 1 had said they were a little behind, but then when we got to our check point, they called and said they were coming in like 10 minutes.  We hadn't checked in yet, OR taken the little safety class, AND I was the first runner for our van and I had to pee.  Like REALLY bad!  So they are rushing me through the safety class so I could get my number, and all I am thinking is here I was about ready to run my first leg, which was about 5 miles, in the middle of the afternoon, and I had to use the bathroom like there was no tomorrow!  I was going to die!  Before I could think I was standing at the hand off point waiting for our runner to come in, doing the pee-pee dance.

I waited and waited and they didn't come.  I kept thinking, I could have gone!!  I could have gone!!  Finally, I see my team captain Chris, signal to me that they were on their last mile and I had 8 mins.  You should have seen me run to to the "Honey Buckets!" (Why they call the port-o-potties that is anyone's guess -- because there is nothing "honey" about them -- they did get the bucket part right though)  My stomach sank when I saw the long lines.  There was just no way I was going to make it in time!  Then I got brave.  I did something I would have NEVER done, like ever, if I wasn't so desperate.  I ran to the front of the line and pleaded my case in like 10 words.  They got it, understood, smiled, and shooed me in the next open stall.  I love other runners -- what a compassionate group of peeps.

I made it back just in time to hear my team number (788) announced.   My team member came running up, and slapped the relay slap-bracelet onto my wrist, and I was off!  Before I could even have a second to really think about what I was doing, I was off running my first leg of the Ragnar.

I passed four people on that leg.  It was so hot, I don't think people were prepared for it.  Luckily, I was.  Because of my idiot choices a few weeks ago to go running in the heat, I now knew what I could and couldn't do in an afternoon run.  And I survived!  Not only did I not walk one step that first leg, but I also beat my 5 mile time by 5 minutes!

Leg #2: with one leg down, I felt great!  I cheered on the rest of my team, who did AWESOME! While took some time for myself to relax in the back of the van.  We got into Snow Basin around 5 ish, and handed off the runs back to van #1.  We kicked back and had dinner, some took naps, I walked around and looked at all the stuff... I was far to high-strung to take a nap.  My next leg was suppose to happen around 11 pm, and it was 4 miles... the first 1/2 mile downhill, and then the rest uphill.  I was nervous.  I had trained for this, I knew I could do it... but I had already run 5 miles that day, and now I was gearing up to do an uphill run in the dark!

The time passed too fast.  Before I knew it, I was strapping on my safety vest, attaching red flashing lights to my butt, to preparing to run with a headlamp on for the first time ever.  My team was super supportive.  I think they were a little worried about the hill, but they didn't say anything.  I told them I was totally pumped for the hills!  That I LOVE the hills!  Which I do!  But they also scare me because they challenge me... They thought I was a little crazy, I think.

Before, I had much time to think about it, I was off.

Now, my van was supposed to meet me half way up the hill to see if I needed my inhaler.  I didn't want to run with it, but just in case, they would be there if I needed it.  But they got trapped in some traffic at the bottom of the hill.  I tried not to think about it, I just zoned out and concentrated on the run.  Just me and the road....

I passed my first two runners going down that first 1/2 mile hill.  I thought, sheesh, if I passed them on the downhill, I wonder how they will do on the up?  Then came the uphill.  my first thought was, wow, that hill is WAY steeper than it looks on the elevation map!  Then my next thought was, I can do this.  I WILL do this!  And up I went!  I passed about 5 people going up that hill.  So many were walking it!  But I refused.  I just kept going.  Sure there were times I wanted to give up and walk with the rest... but then I remembered who I was doing this for and kept running, pushing myself like I have never done before.  And best of all, I did it with a smile!

My van finally caught up to me just as I was putting on the speed for my last mile!  They cheered me on and I told them I would see them at the finish.  I was smiling, but I was dying.  I was pulling all my "inspiration" stops to get that little bit of energy I needed to finish.  Now, I wish I could tell you this inspiring story about how I thought of something super cool, got choked up, and was able to finish with happy thoughts... but it didn't happen that way.  All my sappy thoughts weren't enough to keep my fueled.  This is where I am sure God stepped in, because I said a little prayer to finish this hill off with style, and instantly an image formed in my mind.  Anger swelled within my chest when in my mind's eye I saw that douche bag at the running store laughing at me.  That was it!  That was all I needed!!  I came charging up that hill at the last moment passing another person near the finish.  I felt GREAT!!!  Two legs down and still no walking!!  I couldn't believe it!  Take that running store douche bag!!

I was so excited, I had a hard time sleeping that night.  Got about 10 mins in the van, then when we were all done for the night, we camped out on a field in Heber City... I got about 20 min of sleep there before this really obnoxious Christmas Van came rolling up blasting Christmas music.

Leg #3:  Of all the legs, I think I was the most nervous for this one!  So far, I had over-reached my expectations for myself, and I was fearing that I would let myself down this last time, the thought was almost unbearable!  It was going to be another hot afternoon run, around 1 ish, and was about 4 and half miles.  I had already run 9, and had only an hour or so of sleep in two days!  I was so tired.  But I had gotten this far, I was going to do this, and do it strong.

Once again, I was grabbing the slap bracelet and taking off.  It was one of the weirdest runs I had ever done.  First off, I had to race to beat the train, TWICE!  There was no way I was going to sacrifice a few minutes on my time to wait for a train.  Forget that!  Then the runners were so far spread out, it was REALLY hard to pass anyone.  The town was super supportive of the runners... they had kids out with hoses spraying us down, and little water stations set up.  My first time in Heber City and I ran through it... it was cool.

I almost started crying when I saw the "One mile left" sign.  One mile!!  That was it!  I had one mile left and I had survived the Ragnar!  And I didn't even die!  No one had to scrape me off the side of the road!  I made it to the home stretch!!  I was so tired, but when I saw that sign, it gave me a little more energy to push a little hard and sprint to the finish.  So I did!

I don't think anyone could have said ANYTHING to wipe that smile off my face!  I had just finished something I had thought was impossible.  First I did a little "shuffle" of joy, then I cried like a baby behind my sunglasses so my friends wouldn't see.  Not only had I meet all my Ragnar goals (including NO blisters! Yay for toe socks!!) , but I had learned more about myself in those two days, than I had in a long time.

First off, I don't annoy people as much as I think I do, sometimes.  I had never met anyone on my team until I signed up to run with them.  They never judged me, and always cheered me on.  Having that support made me feel like a winner no matter what.

And secondly, I discovered who I really run for.  I started out running for Ben because I know he wanted to be there so bad!  So I ran hard for him... then I ran for my boys... but at one point on that last, hot run when I REALLY wanted to stop and walk, running for Ben and my boys wasn't enough.  And I already showed the running store guy where he could take his laughing face... I needed more to push me harder.  And then I saw this face in my mind, and I realized who I was really running for:
I was running for me.

Not for me, who I am now, but for that almost 300 pound girl 4 years ago.  That woman who hated herself. That women who had no hope of ever escaping that physical prison.  I was running for a girl who didn't believe in herself, who didn't really know who she was.  A girl that was sitting at the beginning of the hardest 4 years of her life.  I was running for her and everything that she had become, and everything she will become.

I crossed that finish line for me at the end.  I had nothing to prove to anyone else, but lots to prove to myself.  And I did it.  I worked so hard for this, and I earned it!
 My first running medal EVER!  I might not ever take it off...
It was an honor and a privilege to run with this team that started out as strangers and ended up as friends.
Aside from marrying Ben and having three beautiful children, running the Ragnar has been the best experience of my life!  A MOST amazing adventure!!  Here's to many more to come!!!


PS: Please pop over and vote for us!!  We lost our number 3 slot over the weekend... hoping to just keep #4.
Then find my blog and click on the heart. You don't have to sign up or "like" anything to vote. If something pops up just click on the X. I would love your support! The last couple years I can in 7th, this year I would LOVE to be in the top 5! Thanks! (Update: I am currently struggling to keep onto my #3 spot... your vote would mean the world!)


Brittney said...

You are amazing. I have a 5k coming up next week, and I have barely had time to run lately b/c of all the extra Zumba classes I've been teaching. I'll be thinking of this post as I run! I love the last part about who you are running for. You are so wonderful!

Jordan said...

Congratulations on a great accomplishment. You are unstoppable!

Catherine Metz said...

Catherine, what a great story. Thanks for taking the time to share it with us. it is very nice to have a clearer picture of what the Ragnar is.

Terra Lorien said...

YAY!!!!!!!! Congratulations Cat!!!! What an amazing accomplishment! You inspire me:) Thank you so much for sharing this journey with you readers! I've loved it!