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!


Friday, February 21, 2014

Ragnar Relay Florida Keys 2014 (part 1)

So!  Ragnar!  Ragnar Relay Florida Keys 2014.  Wow.  Where do I begin?  How about a year or so ago when I first heard about it? 

Our running team's captain first mentioned doing a Ragnar relay about a year ago (early 2013) when a group of us were on our way to volunteer at a water station at a local race.  He mentioned it again the next time we did that and the team started coming together.  Ragnar Relay Florida Keys is a 198-mile race from Miami to Key West. 

I had run one 10K at that point but was mostly doing just 3.1 miles.  Hmph.  I said just 3.1.  There was a time when I thought running 3.1 miles was an impossible feat.  Now it's "just."  Incredible!  Anyway, I slowly began increasing my distance and ran a midnight 10K on July 3.  For Ragnar, I chose to be runner 10, which gave me distances of 7.6, 4.1, and 2 miles.  When it came time to actually run, officials had tweaked it to 7.1, 4, and 2, which means that I ran a total of 13.1 miles, which is a half-marathon.  Now if I can just put those pieces together and run them continuously, I'll have done a half-marathon.  One day.  J 
Starting last November I tried to incorporate two runs in one day but never seemed to get it done.  I would run 3.1 in the morning then try to run in the evening but always ended up walking.  It was HARD to do two runs in one day!  I didn't actually do it until January 5, just a month before Ragnar.  Not where I wanted to be in my training.  I did get up to 8 miles on December 31, which was my longest distance of continuous running ever!  I did a 15K (9.3 miles) in October, but I walked part of it.  Well, running isn't everything and I don't get paid to do it so it has to fit in with the rest of my life, and the rest of my life and my 44-year-old body just weren't making room for two-a-day runs.  I do what I can. 

Thursday, February 6, one van left from the church with five of us in it.  The other van left a few hours later.  We headed down 1-75 through Sarasota, through Fort Myers (as far south as I'd been up to this point), and to Naples where we turned east onto Alligator Alley.  Didn't see a single alligator.  L  I did see two wild iguanas right in Miami and some farther down in the keys. 

We got into Miami in the early evening, checked into our hotel, and then headed to Olive Garden where we were going to have dinner when the second van got there.  The people in our van continued to bond while we waited and then during dinner.  I had spaghetti but I wasn't purposely trying to carb load since I wasn’t running until the next day in the early afternoon.  Breakfast and lunch would be more important meals for me to get some carbs in than supper the night before.  I split a 2 for $25 meal with someone and for dessert we ordered 2 mini desserts.  Mine was the dark chocolate caramel cream.  I've wanted chocolate for weeks.  Good, gooey, cakey chocolate.  When the opportunity comes to order something, though, it's just not appealing.  I did enjoy the few bites of that dessert.  At the hotel in Key West they have mini Dove dark chocolate ice cream bars waiting for you in the freezer in your suite and they replenish them every day.  I had one.  One.  The whole weekend.  Dove dark is my favorite chocolate.  At one point someone realized they had replenished them and someone else said I should have one.  I said I already had and she said I should have another.  I looked at it for a second, then shook my head and closed the freezer.  I didn't need it nor did I particularly want it.  I'd had enough.  J  That was God at work, my friends. 
Back at the hotel in Miami we began decorating the vans:

This is part of Ragnar culture and we had fun drawing, writing verses, and writing our names on our respective vans.  The check marks show that we completed our legs.

We all got to bed fairly early since the runners in van 1 had to be at the start by 7 a.m.  Van 2 didn't leave the hotel until about 10.  Ahhh, a nice leisurely morning! 

While we were still at the hotel in the morning I started thinking about our team members who hadn't trained very much and was feeling proud that I had been training for a year and perturbed at them for hardly training at all.  I started feeling like the older brother of the prodigal son in Luke chapter 15.  He couldn't celebrate with the rest of the family on the return of his brother who had squandered his life and inheritance away.  The older brother had done the responsible thing and was resentful that the younger brother was still treated like an honored member of the family when he had been irresponsible.  I knew that attitude was pride so I started praying, repented, and asked God to change me.  I knew no one on the team had been flippant and just said, "I don't have to train.  I'm good."  Life had gotten in the way and none of us gets paid to run; we do it on our own time and sometimes schedules just don't allow us to train as much as we'd like.  Still, I knew that we would all get encouragement, cheers, high-fives, medals, etc.  But I deserved all that more than those who didn't train!  Sigh.  Stupid pride.  I continued praying and then texted some friends who prayed for me and reminded me of the benefits I got by training.  I asked God to remove the "It's not fair!" attitude I had.  Running is such an individual sport and to take someone who does a solitary activity and suddenly put her on a team was taking some getting used to and some denying of self. 
Our first runner had started the race, handed off to runner 2 who handed off to runner 3, etc. and van 2 was waiting at a major exchange for runner 6 to hand off to runner 7, who was the first runner in our van.  Runner 6 came in and leapfrogged over runner 7 (That was something van 1 had started doing.  It was fun but van 2 didn't carry on the tradition.  Lisa is glad I didn't try to leapfrog over her, I'm sure!)

Eli leapfrogging over Amanda 

Michaela leapfrogging over Steffanie

We quickly took a group picture since it was the first time we were all together during the race

and runner 7 took off on her first leg.  Van 2 quickly drove to the next exchange to wait for her.  We were standing around with other teams waiting when I got a text from our runner saying she was done.  Huh?  I asked her where she was because we were at the exchange waiting for her.  There were only about 50 people so it was easy to see who was coming in and impossible to miss her.  It turns out we were at the wrong exchange.  Oops!  The RagMag was confusing because it stated the exchange a runner left from not the one he or she came into.  Or something like that.  It was confusing.  We had to go to the exchange where she was, drop off runner 8, and then drive ahead to the exchange where we had just been.  That used up about 40 minutes and the whole team was already behind.  I ended up beginning my first leg an hour and 15 minutes later than projected.  At home I run in the early morning, sometimes before daylight, so running in the mid afternoon was new to me.  I tried to train that way, and was able to a few times but…ugh…  It was unseasonably warm in Miami.  When the temperature is in the low to mid 80s I definitely don't run in the heat of the day.  Oh well, what could I do but adapt?  There were other teams' vans on the road as I was running, and one beeped at me so I waved to them.  It was Team Debauchery.  Well then.  Okaaaay.  My team would drive ahead, pull off the road, and send someone to me with a bottle of water.  Once or twice they all got out and played our theme song, When the Saints Go Marching In, on the big portable speaker each van had; that was fun! 

Sometimes I poured the water on my head rather than drink it.  Both ways were refreshing!  One of my running songs is Never Going Back to OK by The Afters.  Some of the lyrics are:

I feel alive and it hurts for a change
I'm looking back it's hard to believe
That I was cool with the days that I wasted
Complacent and tasteless and bored
But that was yesterday
We're never going back to ok
We're never going back to easy
We're never going back to the way it was
We're never going back to ok

While that song was playing a butterfly flitted into my path.  Normally butterflies come and then are gone in a couple seconds but this one stayed with me for about 30 seconds as I ran.  That's a long time for a butterfly!  Thank you, God, for sending me a butterfly, a symbol of new life, right when a song about never going back to my old life was playing!
Another song that played on my first leg was Mandisa's Back To You:

This shouldn't be complicated
This isn't that hard to see
It's not about what I do for You
It's what You've done for me
You gave your love, You gave your life
You gave your everything and I
Wanna give it all back
Give it all back to You

I finished that leg in 97 minutes, which gave me a 13:36 pace, about 30 seconds per mile slower than I would've liked but that amounted to finishing only 3-1/2 minutes later than I would've with a 13-minute pace.  It was worth it to have 97 minutes of worship time! 
About 30 minutes after I finish each leg my body is able to eat to refuel.  As this race goes on I can tell that I'm eating in response to my body's need to recover and refuel, not just to satisfy my taste buds.  Victory! 

Friday night van 2 was at a major exchange where there was a pasta dinner for purchase, which we skipped, and showers for purchase.  Best $3 I ever spent!  Some people were sleeping in the gym, some were sleeping outside in tents

and some were just sleeping outside.

Our church provided air mattresses and we slept on the ground behind the van under a starry sky and with a cool breeze to make us comfortable.

This is the end of part 1.  Part 2 will be posted tomorrow. 

Sunday, February 2, 2014

200-mile Ragnar Relay Race is almost here!

Friday, January 31, 2014

One week from now I will have completed my first and longest Ragnar leg!  It's almost here! 
I had planned to taper off and not run next week after Sunday but still do my usual Tuesday, Thursday, and either Saturday or Sunday runs this week.  However, rain and cold temperatures have changed those plans and I ran only Tuesday.  I hope I can get in a long run tomorrow and possibly a short one Sunday.  I'm glad I have a good base of 8-mile runs built up. 

Sunday, February 02, 2014
I ran a little more than 6 miles on the beach with a friend yesterday and then did a yoga class, also on the beach.  Last evening I ran one mile to test out the GPS watch a fellow Ragnar team member is letting me borrow.  Today I ran 40 minutes with a friend and this will be my last run before Ragnar.  My body needs to rest!  Running 3 times in about 24 hours will be very close to what Ragnar will be like.  It's been very hard for me to get two runs a day in, and I like to be prepared, so this is good experience.  I just wish I'd been able to do it a couple months ago and more times.  Oh well.  God is the god of the impossible, and letting people see what He can do through me is the reason I started running in the first place.  Let's go then!