Monday, December 21, 2015

My First Half-Marathon!!!

One morning in training I planned to do a 10-mile run.  I cook hamburger patties and freeze them to eat after my runs for protein.  This particular morning I remembered to take it out of the freezer but left it on the counter.  I went off without water and without my post run chocolate protein drink.  All I had in the car was the hot tea I’d made as part of breakfast. 
  God, what are you trying to teach me?  No hamburger patty is one thing, and no protein drink is one thing, but You let me walk out of the house without WATER?  For a 10-mile run???!!! 
Guess what.
  My times were faster that day than normal.  I did stop at a store about half way and get some coconut water and a banana, but God was teaching me that I need a lot less than I think I do.

So early in 2015 I made not exactly a resolution, at least I didn't call it that.  I just said and wrote down that this year I would run a half-marathon.  This paper has been on my fridge all year. 

A few days before my half-marathon, I saw an item I was interested in on a Facebook sale site but I’d have to drive 12 miles to get it so I decided not to.  Then it hit me that I thought *driving* 12 miles was too far but I’ll be *running* 13.1!

The morning of the race I woke up to nice breezy weather; a little warmer than ideal, but I’ll take it. 
I felt ready.  Prepared.  This sure beats not preparing well and wondering if I’ll make it.  I was more excited than nervous.  At the start I ran about a tenth of a mile before realizing my music wasn’t on!  Then I had to find the beginning song.  I couldn’t believe I didn’t think of getting that ready before the start.  Okay, all set now!  Running well.  I recognize this area I’ve been running for months.  I belong here.  I wonder if I should move from the blocked-off street to the sidewalk I’m familiar with.  Nah, I’ll stay here.  It’ll be some novelty mixed with familiarity. 

My time is great!  A little faster than usual, but not excessively.  It must be adrenaline and the excitement of the race finally happening. 
I’m coming to the first refueling point, 45 minutes in.  I didn’t wear my fuel belt because it’s ugly and bulky.  I see Brianne and Nico!  I’m glad she wore an orange T-shirt; that makes it very easy to spot her from far away!  I swallowed some mashed sweet potato.  It provides vitamins and good carbs.  I drank some watermelon juice/coconut water/salt concoction I came up with on my own.  No energy gels or Gatorade for this runner; I’m going as natural as possible!  I walked while it digested and talked with my daughter and son-in-law, but the total walk time was no more than 2 minutes.  See you at the next refueling place! 

I ran across the blocked-off south span of the Park Blvd. bridge, not the north span with a pedestrian lane like I practiced, but I knew that was a possibility.  No problem; I can handle a little bit of unfamiliarity.  Still going strong.  I started 30 minutes early with the walkers and other slow runners, but the fast runners had already caught up with us.  Many as they passed me said, “Good job!”, “Looking good!”, “Keep it up!”, etc.  Ahhhh, positive encouragement!  And from the fast runners!
I met my support crew again at about mile 6.
  Yay!  I’m thankful to them for providing me fuel so I didn’t have to carry it myself or rely on what the race provided.

About the halfway point there were lots of people at Seminole City Park to cheer us!  One of them was my running friend Lisa who took the pictures you see here.  Thanks, Lisa, for the encouragement and picture-taking!  I was feeling strong, smiling, and really enjoying the race!

A thought, one of thousands, occurred to me while I was running.  Everyone knows that it’s not wise to cram for a test and that you really should manage your time well and be prepared, but hardly anyone follows that advice.  Let me tell you, FOLLOW IT!  I’m so glad I put in the necessary time training.  It was still work, and I still didn’t end up with a record pace, but I enjoyed it and felt confident.  That was worth all those 4 a.m. alarms to run before the rest of my day started and all the sweat and sore feet I endured for the last 6 months specifically and the last 4+ years generally. 

My phone died at mile 10.3.  Grrrr!  I made sure I didn’t unplug it from the charger until right before I left the house and that I had no apps open in the background and it still died on me.  I’ll have to find out why. 
In addition to feeling prepared with the distance, I’m glad I was prepared with this particular course.
  The Pinellas Trail is beautiful!
I entered Taylor Park in a different place than I had trained for.  I’m rolling with the flow so it was fine.  I made it to the 1/2-mile-long crushed shell path and my legs didn’t collapse under me.  Back on concrete now and only about half a mile to go!  I can hear the music at the finish line.  I’m coming, I’m coming!  I finished!  I ran my first half-marathon!  I ran 13.1 miles!
My time was 3:13:19, which is a 14:45 pace per mile.  That’s slow, but about what I run in training, so it wasn’t a letdown.  I’m happy that I ran and that I finished!  I’m happy that my fitness club friends and others encouraged me to go ahead and do this race and not wait.  I’m happy that God changed my heart and then my mind and my body so that I would even want to run much less actually be able to do it!

My mom and dad were in the park but couldn’t get to the finish line, so  I saw them soon after.  I walked around for a little while drinking water, got some of both kinds of pasta and an orange and a banana.  It’s amazing how good food tastes when you earn it!  I burned about 2600 calories so I needed to replenish some of them.  Wow, recovery is hard.  There was no time to nap in the afternoon because we drove over an hour to meet some family for supper.  I took a pillow and tried to sleep in the car but sleep didn’t come.  I had a post-race massage 3 days after.  Ahhhhh!!!  My body is just TIRED.  I took the whole week after the race off from running and I’m fine with that.
The overlying feeling for this race and much of the training was joy!  I loved the whole race experience and most of the training, especially when the weather cooled down (well, cool for Florida).  I felt joy each time I ran a new distance in the weeks leading up to the race, starting with 10 miles.  The joy of the Lord is my strength!

Monday, October 26, 2015


In my last post I wrote about not having motivation and wondering if my running days were numbered.  I was just running mechanically but not enjoying it. 

Now I’m happy to say the times they are a changin’! 

I had to ramp up my 3.1-mile runs to 6.2 to prepare for the midnight race I’ve run on July 3 the last few years and then I didn’t want to lose that fitness by dropping back to 3.1, so I held steady at 6.2 for most of my runs although the summer heat and humidity were ridiculous even before dawn.

After contemplating if I should attempt a half-marathon in December, two months ago I took the plunge and signed up for one!  It was exciting and scary at the same time, but there’s a saying that if your dreams don’t scare you they aren’t big enough.  This one scared me so it’s just the right size - big enough to require work to achieve, but still manageable. 

I have a good plan of increasing my distance by a mile every 2 weeks.  Having a goal race to train for has given me back my motivation!  The summer months are just so hot and humid in Florida and I didn’t take that into account when I was feeling so discouraged.  I was going through a dry spell and I’m glad I persevered. 

Last Saturday was scheduled to be 10 miles, the longest distance I’ve ever run.  I ran it and lived to tell about it!

I ran 10 miles, y’all!  10!

I also run on Tuesdays and Thursdays but don’t have the time for long runs then.  They’re less than 4 miles but they keep me in shape so that I don’t become a weekend warrior and risk injury. 

This past Saturday was also scheduled to be a 10-mile run.  When I got to our meeting point I immediately realized I’d forgotten my fuel belt.  It holds four 8-ounce bottles in which I usually have water, juice, smoothie, or protein drink.  It also has a pouch where I keep honey for quick energy.  My heart dropped.  I would have to do 10 miles with only water and I immediately began trying to remember where on the course water fountains were.  Also, I usually bring a hamburger patty (protein) and chocolate protein drink for after my run and I had remembered neither.  I’m going to have to set my fuel belt on my purse the night before these long runs so I don’t forget it.  Or set an alarm on my phone to remember it.  Or both.


Then I remembered that when I mapped out our route the night before, our turnaround point would be right at a convenience store.  I tucked away my debit card so I could buy something there and decided to make the best of it.  I had previously been fueling every 30 minutes on long runs and over the last month or so had stretched it to 45 minutes.  I’d really be stretching it now!  It would be well over an hour before I refueled.  Well, what could I do?  We started running and I drank water at the first fountain we came to, about 3 miles in.  That wasn’t so bad.  I do almost 4 miles on Tuesdays and Thursdays with no water or any other fuel. 

We’d had to add about half a mile early on due to unforeseen circumstances so our turnaround point came sooner than I had planned.  We hit 5 miles but the convenience store was still about a mile ahead.  If we turned back at 5 miles there would be no fuel at all except more water.  If we continued on we’d add a mile there and a mile back and make our total distance 12 miles instead of 10.  “Oops!  We accidentally ran 12 miles,” we’d have to say.  J

We decided to go on to the store and get some fuel.  I chose coconut water with pineapple and a banana except that they were 2 for $1 so I got two.  I ate one right away and drank some coconut water.  Then I was left with carrying the bag, the other banana, and the carton of coconut water, which was a little awkward but I had to make it work.  I hoped I could find someone struggling and offer him or her my banana.  Or a homeless person.  I found neither and ended up carrying both items all the way back to the car.  Amanda folded up the bag and put it in her fuel belt.  She hadn’t forgotten hers.  J

It wasn’t until we were about 1-1/2 miles into our return trip that I realized I hadn’t restarted my music.  So God was orchestrating it that I ran so long without fuel *and* without music.  What was going on???

Here’s what was going on.  In the Bible is the story of Gideon, a man who was not great in his family, his community, or his country.  Nothing distinguished him.  In fact, he seemed rather puny and even cowardly.  One day an angel greeted him and called him a mighty warrior.  That certainly wasn’t how Gideon saw himself!  Later on, Gideon became an army leader.  He had gathered 32,000 soldiers to fight their oppressing enemies.  God said that was too many and that if they won the soldiers would boast that they had done it themselves and not give credit to God.  Gideon told the soldiers that if anyone was scared he could go home.  Then 22,000 took him up on the offer!  God said even 10,000 was too many and to conduct a test.  Only 300 men passed the test and the rest were sent home.  With 300 soldiers Gideon stood still and watched the enemy soldiers destroy themselves in chaos and confusion!  God had taught him that he could get by on and be victorious with much less than he had thought.

That’s what God was showing me.  Having and using a fuel belt isn’t wrong; in fact, it’s a very good idea, but I can’t trust in it.  I need to trust in God and His ability to sustain me. 

Later Amanda and I decided we could cut out a loop we did earlier and not make the run 12 miles.  Then we would decide at 10 what to do.  Ten miles came and we decided to go to 10-1/2.  At 10-1/2 we were so close to where we started that we decided to just run to that spot and then stop.  We ended up running a total of 10.67 miles!  More than half a mile farther than we had planned.  And we’re both still alive to tell about it!

I had the thought the day before this run to get breakfast afterward and now I *seriously* needed some nutrition!  There’s a nearby diner I’d gone to before and is good so I had checked their menu and found steak and eggs on the breakfast part.  Oh yeah!  Protein and protein!  Just what I need after a big workout!  I went there but the waitress said they’ve never had steak and eggs and she would have to look at their website and find out why that was on the menu posted there.  Sigh.  I settled for a 3-egg omelet, home fries, and a biscuit.  My running app said I had burned over 2000 calories on that 10.67-mile run so I should’ve been ravenous to replenish some of them.  I ate my biscuit, a few bites of home fries, and only half the omelet.  What?!  How can that be?  I don’t understand, but I’ve learned enough over the past 6 years to know to stop when my hunger is satisfied, not when I’m stuffed. 

The next two Saturdays are scheduled to be 11-mile days.  We’ll see God has in store and what He wants to teach me.  This is exciting!

Wednesday, June 17, 2015

To Run Or Not To Run?

I haven’t wanted to run for MONTHS but I’m still doing so, mostly mechanically.  Just running because I know it’s good for me.  In April I ran the Iron Girl 5K for a friend who was unable to run it after registering. 

I thought maybe racing instead of just training would be a shot in the arm, but it wasn’t.  There’s a long, high bridge in that race that I’ve run dozens of times but not in a couple years.  On my usual training runs there are no bridges or overpasses so I hadn’t trained for that.  I ran all the way up and down
but on the way back I had to walk part of the way up.  That was not a proud moment.  It was only a 5K, for goodness’ sake!  I shouldn't have to walk!  I did get a medal for finishing that run,
but it didn’t motivate me to get faster or to sign up for another race.

At Fitness Club last night we were doing a warmup - run the width of the half-basketball court,

run the walkway equal to the half-basketball court,
run up and then back down the stairs,


return to the court and do 2 laps of kneeups, then repeat.  We did this inside rather than our usual outside warmup because there had been a storm earlier and the sky still looked unstable.  After the second-time-around running portion, I was hoping for a storm in the morning so I didn’t have to run.  Oh, wait a minute.  Oops.  I was supposed to be doing kneeups and what was I doing instead?  I was…running.  While I was hoping I didn’t have to…run…in the morning.  Yet I was…running, not trying to get out of running.   

When the others let me know I was supposed to be doing kneeups I told them a little about how strange it was that I haven’t wanted to run for so long yet I keep running.  I’ve even wondered if I should really commit to running a half-marathon late this year.  Am I just wasting my time?  Has running run its course in my life?  Honestly, if I stopped running I would miss it at first but after a couple weeks of not running I would just look back fondly on this season of my life and be grateful for it but know that sometimes things come for a season and then leave and that’s okay.  The more I said things like this the more the others told me I should keep running (not instead of doing kneeups but in general).  They said I would regret stopping.  That’s true; I probably would.  The only workout or run I regret is the one I decide not to do.  If I decide not to do a half, the day will come for the one I have in mind and I won’t be prepared and I won’t be running, and I’ll regret it.  I’ll be disappointed in myself, others will be disappointed in me, and most of all I’ll miss out on showing people what God can do with someone who lets Him have His way with her.  My body doesn’t belong to just me.  It also belongs to God who made it, and He has shown me over and over the last few years that He wants me to be an example of what He can do, so stopping running now would deprive the people He wants to reach of a visible example of His power. 

That certainly doesn’t mean I think I’m the ultimate human specimen.  Far…haa haa…far from…hee hee…far from it!  Oh my goodness, I am SO not putting myself out as having a perfect body. HAHAHAHAHAHAHA!!!  Yes, I’ve lost a lot of weight, but I still have a lot more I’d like to lose.  I still have the evidence (loose skin on my tummy, bingo wings) of those excess pounds, and even though I’m technically running, it’s very slow.  I have practically 0 chance of ever placing in the top 3 of my age group in a race, much less winning one outright.  Even though I’m turning back the clock big time as someone once told me, the clock is still ticking.  I’m getting older.  My times are getting slower, I hate to admit.  I’m still moving, though, and that’s a big accomplishment from where I was before.  If I hadn’t begun walking and then running and had kept eating the way I used to I may have exploded by now.  I would certainly be much heavier than I was, more miserable, and of no help to anyone.  

So even though my body feels the effects of each run or workout I do, I’ll keep doing them.  I’ll keep moving this body as long as God allows me to and not let a dry period stop me.  I’ll run with perseverance the race God has set before me.  He hasn’t told me to stop running; that’s been my own inertia wanting to take over again. 

Thank you to Shane, Patty, Troy, and Frank for encouraging me at Fitness Club to not give up!  If you need some encouragement, join us on Monday nights from 7-8 at Calvary Chapel’s rec room and move your body for God’s glory.  All fitness levels are welcome and encouraged!  Shane will show you how to modify exercises to fit where you are now and encourage you to accept that but also push yourself to what you didn’t think you could do.  And it’s free!
Calvary Chapel Fitness Club 

I did run this morning.  There was no sign of a storm and no reason not to run.  There was no beautiful sunrise pic to show you of today’s run, though.  Some days there is and some days there isn’t.  That’s the way the cookie crumbles (pun intended).  Thankfully, I don’t let sunrises be the deciding factor in whether I run or not.

Sunday, June 8, 2014

5K Foam Fest

Early this year my daughter mentioned us doing an obstacle race together.  I've looked at races like Tough Mudder and they are NOT for me!  Making my way through an obstacle of dangling live electrical wires is not my idea of fun.  I'll stick to straight running, thank you!  Then she showed me the website of an obstacle course called Foam Fest.  It's a 5K run with obstacles but no live electricity (whew!).  I wanted to do it but finances wouldn't allow it.  Then my daughter found a Groupon for almost 40% off and of the balance she paid half as my Mothers' Day present.  Thank you, my dear!  So we signed up not knowing exactly what the course would be like since they don't have the same course setup at every location.  They have a representative sample of obstacles on their website and that's all we had to go on. 
It ended up being at a very expansive ranch in Dade City, Florida that is used for horse racing and shows and they have cattle herds but we didn't see any animals when we were there.  The ranch is beautiful Florida woods and open grassland and we loved it!  We were in the first wave, leaving at 8:00 before the heat got too oppressive.  All we knew to expect were inflatables, obstacles, mud, and soapy foam! 

We took off running and about 1/4 mile away was the first obstacle, something like a bounce house but with only about 4-foot walls and no roof but there was foam.  We got wet and soapy!  We kept running but it wasn't easy to run on uneven grass.  We weren't trying to get a good time like in most 5Ks.  In fact, they don't even time you at all; it's just for fun.  We walked some because we didn't want my daughter's asthma to kick in, but sometimes we ran to put distance between us and the group of about 8 people in front of us that kept taking pictures at every obstacle.  One portion of the course went through the woods and they had something like bungee cord strung across the path in a random spider web fashion that we had to crawl under and/or through.  I stepped through some and crawled under others.  It was actually kind of liberating to crawl on the ground and smell the dirt.  I wasn't trying to stay clean; in fact, getting dirty is part of the point of the whole run!  We came upon two wooden wall structures about 10 feet high that we had to climb and I did it with no problem and while talking!  It wasn't a smooth wall; the boards were nailed in such that there were footholds. 
We came to an A frame with a rope net stretched across it to climb up, over, and down.  I figured that if I climbed near one of the support poles the rope wouldn't be as slack and would be sturdier.  I'm smart that way.  :-)  Height wasn't an issue for me.  The issue was wondering if my foot would slip and my leg or legs would fall through the openings and then I'd be stuck.  That didn't happen, though.  Whew!  I made it to the top with no problem but took my sweet time getting over the top support bar and starting down.  Once I did, though, I climbed down lickety split! 

On we went to the first mud obstacle. 

It was wet mud that we crawled through under more bungee cord on our hands and knees, not our bellies.  Later there was another mud pit that was not as wet but was VERY deep.  The monitor there kept telling people not to lose their shoes.  I stepped in and sunk almost to my knees!  I tried to step carefully but only a couple feet in I picked my leg up and my shoe stayed in the mud!  I laughed and reached down to pull it out but my hand came up empty!  It was really stuck!  I had to reach my hand down in the mud farther than I wanted to and really pull hard and when my shoe finally came up it made that squerching sound.  It's a good thing I wasn't wearing my good running shoes!  When I put it back on my foot there was a big glob of mud in the outer toe area.  I figured that since they were old, yucky, holey shoes the mud would work its way out as I ran or walked.  It didn't and it was uncomfortable.  I had to stop, take my shoe off, and pound it on the ground to get the mud glob out.  I'm glad we weren't doing this course for time! 
Other obstacles included bounce house-type contraptions with water and foam.  Ahhhhhh!!!  One was a rectangular pool about 3 feet high with 5 large rollers that you were supposed to alternate going over and under.  No problem.  I stepped into it and dropped down to my knees to go under the first one.  COLD!!!  COLD!!!  COLD!!!  COLD!!!  I went over the first one instead and then gathered my wits to try going under the second one.  The cold wasn't so bad but it was muddy from the people who'd gone before.  And we were the first wave!  I can't imagine what it was like a couple hours later.  Yuck!  

The second-to-last obstacle was called the Death Drop. 
It was a 42-foot inflatable waterslide!  I don't like those really big slides at water parks so I considered bypassing this obstacle.  I watched other people doing it, though, and decided to give it a try.  I had to pray going up because after the first five steps or so there was a net overhead so people didn't jump or fall off onto the ground.  I'm not highly claustrophobic but I don’t like enclosed spaces especially when there are other people around.  I made it up without hyperventilating, though, and got into position, crossing my ankles and arms.  It was actually fun going down!  The main lesson I learned from this course is that anticipation is often different from actuality. 
There was one last little obstacle and that was foam mats linked across a pond that you had to run over.
There were three paths, one with two mats, one with four, and one with six.  I chose to take the path with two mats because there would be less time and distance to fall into the pond where frogs are.  J  The second of my mats had a little depression in it where water had already started accumulating and that's where I fell, but only on the mat and not into the pond.  I tried to get up and keep running but fell again so I just crawled the rest of the way.  
Not pretty but they weren't giving style points.  I made it across and up the bank.  After that it was just a 1/4 mile or so to the finish line and our medals! 
Brianne made it look much easier than I did, but I'm glad we got to do this run together. 


Monday, March 17, 2014

Gasparilla 15K

Three years ago I was at Gasparilla observing my very first race.  I think it was the half-marathon.  I stood there watching people heavier than I was run across the finish line and realized with tears streaming down my face that there was no reason I couldn't run.  Two years ago I had run two other 5Ks but was nursing a knee injury and couldn't run the Gasparilla 5K.  I went anyway and asked God why I couldn't run.  He said that I had walked about 20 minutes from my car to where I was standing and some people can't even do that.  Last year I ran the Gasparilla 8K.  Three weeks ago I ran the 15K.  Will I run the half-marathon next year?

It was warm for February three weeks ago, even in Florida.  The weather was also quite foggy.  My phone does not much more than calls and texts, so I rarely use it to take pictures.  I don't carry my camera with me on runs, though, so I had to use my phone to capture the foggy conditions on Bayshore Boulevard. 

My friend and fellow Ragnar teammate Rusty also ran the 15K.  At about the 8-mile mark (a 15K is 9.3 miles), I saw him standing in the middle of the street.  He had decided to stop and wait for me so we could run together.  I had settled into my comfortable slow pace and was slogging along.  He took my hand and pulled me (mentally and physically) the rest of the way.  He made me increase my pace and at one time I said I didn't think I could keep up that pace because of the stitch in my side.  Somehow I did, though, and we crossed the finish line at 2:08.  My actual time was 2:04:47, which gave me a pace of 13:23 per mile, which is slightly faster than my average lately.  If Rusty hadn't pushed/pulled me to increase my pace, I would've finished much slower and been disappointed in my time.  So thank you, Rusty, for pushing me to do better!

He and his girlfriend, also a Ragnar teammate, left the race and went skydiving.  Sheesh!  These athletes don't know when to quit, do they?!nish line and realized with tears streaming down my face that there was no reason I couldn't run. Two years ago I had run two other 5Ks but was nursing a knee injury and couldn't run the Gasparilla 5K. I went anyway and asked God why I couldn't run. He said I had walked about 20 minutes from my car to where I was standing and some people can't even do that. Last year I ran the Gasparilla 8K. Yesterday I ran the 15K. Will I run the half-marathon next year?

My friend and fellow Ragnar teammate
Rusty also ran the 15K. At about the 8-mile mark (a 15K is 9.3 miles total) I saw him waiting in the middle of the street for me. I had settled in to my comfortable slow pace and was slogging along. He took my hand and pulled me (mentally, not physically) the rest of the way. He made me increase my pace and at one time I said I didn't think I could keep up that pace. Somehow I did, though, and we crossed the finish line at 2:08. My actual time was 2:04:47, which gave me a pace of 13:23 per mile, which is slightly faster than my average lately. If Rusty hadn't pushed/pulled me to increase my pace, I would've finished much slower and been disappointed in my time. So thank you, Rusty, for pushing me to do better!

He and his girlfriend, also a Ragnar teammate, left after the race and went skydiving. Sheesh! These athletes don't know when to quit, do they?!

I posted the above on Facebook the day after the race and here is Rusty's comment and then mine in response:

I give The Lord all the Credit for you told me are you more concerned about your pace and time or more concerned about finishing race with a teammate that needs you so don't give me the credit give the Lord all his credit and glory for he's one Who turned me around to come back to you

Then I thank God for telling you to turn around and come back to me and you for listening and obeying.

Sunday, February 23, 2014

Ragnar Relay Florida Keys 2014 (part 2)

Mid morning on Saturday my second leg was 4.1 miles completely across the pedestrian span of a bridge around Duck Key.  It seems like the road from Miami to Key West is nothing but one long bridge.  It pretty much is, which is why they call that part of A1A the Overseas Highway.  There were dozens of people fishing off that span and looking at me like I was crazy as I ran past them.  I saw one guy running the opposite direction.  He was just running on his own, not as part of Ragnar.  I told him he should join us and he laughed at me.  J

I ran into the exchange where I was to hand off to Lisa and (this all happened in about 2 seconds) she wasn't in position for me to slap the slap bracelet (baton) on her or to take her GPS watch from me that I was borrowing.  She was talking to a race official.  I wondered why she wasn't ready.  As I stood there taking off her watch I listened to their conversation.  Our team was 3 hours behind and he was telling her that she wouldn't be able to run.  WHAT???  They were closing up the course and shutting down the exchanges, and we were some of the last people.  The official said we had a few options:  1. Skip that leg altogether and take our next runner to the next exchange to resume the race.  2. Run some people tandem, meaning we would skip that leg and Lisa and Jared would both run the next leg instead of just Jared.  3. Run people simultaneously, meaning that Lisa could run that leg and then we'd quickly take Jared to the next exchange where he would just start running without waiting for Lisa.  Then van 1 would take over again and do the same thing with each of their runners.  Van 2 would do that again when it was our turn to run our last legs.  There may have been other options but I don't remember.  Things broke down at that point with us needing time to process what we'd just been told, disbelief, trying to figure out what happened, etc.  I think Lisa got to run that leg and we drove Jared to his next leg and he started to run.  Then we met up with van 1 at what had been a major exchange but was now a ghost town and made a plan that I can't remember and one of our team members had to leave the race early and fly home due to unforeseen circumstances.  Not good from all sides.  We were hot, tired, and confused.  I'm pretty sure everyone got to run all their legs except the one who flew home and the one who had a knee injury.  He had to walk part of his second leg and made the wise decision to give his third leg to someone else and be our designated driver.  Ragnar is not our job and they don't pay for injuries to be taken care of.  That runner needs his knees to walk the rest of his life and it wasn't worth it to sacrifice them. 

As we supported our last runner on his second leg we were able to pass out water to other runners who were wilting in the midday heat.  The temp was about 83 degrees and they were running on city sidewalks without much shade.  Thank You, God, for that opportunity to be a blessing to others even though we were physically and emotionally uncomfortable ourselves. 

Van 1 then took over for their third legs and van 2 was able to go to the next major exchange where there was supposed to be breakfast waiting for us.  Except that it was the middle of the afternoon and they had run out of breakfast, so our only option was pizza, and cold pizza at that.  I bought 2 slices and some fruit and was able to eat most of it, but I was very glad I brought my own food (chicken I cooked at home and cut up, tomato wedges, strawberries (!), almonds, sunflower kernels, whole-grain muffins I made, etc.).  We rested and took a hot shower (and I do mean HOT!  Only hot water came out of the shower head.  I had to stand out of the stream of it and just throw water on myself) while our van 2 leader tried to figure out what our options still were and how best to finish this race.  We definitely weren’t going to do it in our projected 33 hours.

I think we opted to run simultaneously, letting Terry start her final leg, and then driving ahead to let Pastor Frank start his and run for Josef who was now our driver, etc.  By the time I started my final leg it was after 4:30, and Ragnar considers 4:30 p.m. to 7:30 a.m. to be nighttime hours.  All runners on the course between those times must be wearing a reflective vest, a headlamp, and a tail lamp.  Any support person outside the van must be wearing a reflective vest.  You can be disqualified immediately for not following those rules.  They're serious about safety.  I was wearing a large safety vest that construction workers wear that was provided to us by the company one of our runners, Rusty, works for.  That was very nice of them, but it was awkward to run in.  I did one trial run with the headlamp at home before setting off for Ragnar.  While it wasn't a serious hindrance, I didn't like it.  It started to give me a headache and I was glad my final leg was only 2 miles.  I ran it in 27 minutes, which is a 13:30 pace.

When van 1 finished their legs, they went to our hotel in Key West to check in and then went to wait at the finish line.  After all the van 2 runners except the very last one finished, we continued on the course to support him. 

Jared running and Pastor Frank (green shirt) and Josef making sure Jared is doing well

The whole team met at the finish line to run across it together! 

Here we all are after crossing the finish line and getting our medals!

We stayed a little while at the finish line and shopped the merchandise tents.  I got a Ragnar headband that I've since run in a few times and love!  I'm going to get some more of that brand next time I need headbands.  We eventually all made our way to the hotel and showered, then most of us went out to eat a very well-deserved meal.  We didn't want to get into the madness of Key West on Saturday night so we didn't stray too far from the hotel, which was far away from the party scene on the northern end of Duval Street.  We finally found a place for a good celebratory meal that wasn't terribly expensive but only after a few of our team members went back to the hotel and ordered pizza.  Not me!  I worked too hard to celebrate with delivery pizza! 

We all slept very well Saturday night!  Sunday morning I was relaxing outside our hotel suite and saw about a dozen people over maybe 30 minutes run past the hotel.  I had no desire to join them!  Usually I do when I see someone running but not this morning.  I wondered if they had run Ragnar and how they could be up and running again the next morning.  About 9 of our group walked to Calvary Chapel Key West to go to church.  It was about 1-1/2 miles away and we all needed to walk as much as possible to keep our muscles from cramping up.  It's a very small church and we about doubled the attendance!  One of our leaders (and one of our church's pastors) had tried to contact this pastor the week previous but hadn't been able to, so he had no idea we were coming.  Imagine his surprise when his congregation was suddenly twice as large!  His message was on breathing room, which he defined as the space between our current pace and our limits.  It's taking an even pace and not going too fast or too slow.  How appropriate for people who had just run 200 miles! 

We had lunch after church at a Cuban place diagonally across the street from our hotel and some of us (here's Terry) got whole coconuts to drink water from. 

And Lisa

It was some of the best and most affordably priced food on the island.  We went there a few times for coffee and/or food. 

We went back to the hotel and cleaned out the vans because some people were heading home that afternoon.  The rest of us lounged by the pool or went in the pool or played ball in the pool and drank free smoothies the hotel provided by the pool. 

Ah, the life recovery of a Ragnarian!  When the lady making the smoothies found out we had run Ragnar she said they like to see us come in.  She said we have a spring in our step but there's a limp at the back end of it!  Sunday evening those of us who stayed went to Mallory Square where they have nightly sunset celebrations with street vendors, street performers, shops, etc.  The sunset wasn't spectacular but it was still fun. 

I got an order of conch fritters.  Now I can say I've had overpriced hush puppies.  Whoopee.  We bought souvenirs.

The second one down is a map of the keys so I could see where I ran (Duck Key and Big Coppitt Key).

We played around with our team name - The Saints Come Running In,

and played in hammock chairs.

I never sat in one before because I was afraid it wouldn't hold my weight and how embarrassing (not to mention dangerous) would it be to have the thing collapse when I sat it?!  I gingerly tried it this time and it didn't collapse nor did the wood squeak.  Rusty even spun me in it!  I want one now!  Oh, I already have a hammock.  Well this one is different!

We ate supper,

and just played!

While walking around Key West Sunday night I saw a kiosk selling blown glass.  I love that stuff!  I walked around it looking for a running shoe or a strawberry or something but nothing caught my eye until I saw a turtle.  I thought about how I run slowly and that a turtle is an apt depiction of me.  Then I rejected that thought!  Yes, I run slowly, but by golly I am NOT going to define myself as a turtle!  That's like giving me permission to continue running slowly.  I walked away without buying anything.  I met up with the rest of the group a few minutes later and was telling them the story and Amanda said she has a blog called The Turtle Won.  Yes, the turtle was slow, but he persevered and won the race.  Well that put a new perspective on the matter.  I've never seen any fast runners actually sleeping during a race or even goofing off and allowing a slow runner to win, so I may never win a race.  What that story is about, though, is perseverance and endurance.  I definitely have those qualities!  I still don't want to identify myself as a turtle, but I feel a little better about it now.  That's why you saw a turtle magnet and a turtle sticker in the picture above of the souvenirs I bought. 

Monday morning we got up and packed and went walking through Key West again.  We took the obligatory picture at the Southernmost Point in the continental United States,

And looked around the closest gift shop to Cuba. 

This is a sign I don't have to be concerned about anymore!

We figured Duval Street would be less rowdy on a Monday morning than a weekend night.  It was less rowdy but not less crowded.  I took pictures of Margaritaville for my brother (who's a big Jimmy Buffett fan) and pictures of chickens for myself (since I have 3 at home - chickens, not brothers, although I do have three brothers).

Why did the chicken cross Duval Street? 

Oh yes!  We also took the obligatory 0 mile marker pictures. 

Key West is only about 1 mile from north to south and only about 4 miles from east to west.  I liked walking almost everywhere we went, and I'm sure it kept us from being too sore after running such long distances.   

I'm glad I got to stay in Key West a couple days after the race and enjoy time off.  Sometimes you have to

stop and smell the roses!

Alas, our time in Key West was coming to a close and we headed home.  It was fun to drive back and see where we had run and hear the stories the other people told.  Three of us had been in van 1 and four had been in van 2 so we got the low-down on who ran where and how that section of the course was.  Somebody had stairs at the beginning of their run, somebody ran the entire 7-mile bridge and then some, somebody ran their entire leg on loose gravel and dirt, etc.  We saw the high school where we slept under the stars on a cool, breezy night behind the van on air mattresses.  Our route home didn't take us on the same course we ran through Miami so we couldn't relive that part of it.  It was a very long 9-hour ride home but we came back with memories and God stories to tell and new friends.  Thank you, Amanda, Lisa, and Terry, for letting me use some of your pictures in this blog.

Van 1 friends - Amanda, Steffanie, Michaela, Rusty, James, and Eli

Van 2 friends - Josef, Terry, Lisa, Lorryn, Pastor Frank, Jared, and me

Yes, they would, but we're not normal people.  We're Ragnarians!