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!


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