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. 

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