Wednesday, July 2, 2014

Ragnar Wasatch Back 2014- It will be fun!

If you know me at all, you know that I do not like running. I also don't like waiting in lines, traffic, and not going to bed at a decent hour, all of which are critical parts of Ragnar. However, you also probably know that I'm a sucker for a good adventure, and I'll forget what I don't like if you offer up an amazing sounding adventure.

After I did the Tough Mudder in 2012, I swore I'd never run again. We won't mention the fact that since then, I have done 3 Dirty Dashes and 2 Undead Runs. So obviously, my vow never to run wasn't taken all that seriously.

Last December, Jim's Aunt Sue (one of my very favorite people on earth) suggested that we create a Ragnar team for Wasatch Back, and wanted us on it. I warned her that I am slower than slow, but she didn't mind. So, team "Ramblin Rem-Blinn-Knapp-Wicks" was born. Our team consisted of 1-Jason (Bruce's son), 2- Bev (Bruce's wife), 3-Tereasa (Jody's childhood BFF), 4- Bruce (Jim's uncle/Sue's brother), 5- Jody (Jim's sister), 6- Kevin (Jim's brother), 7- Nykki (Erik's wife), 8- Nora (Nels' sister), 9-Erik (Jim's brother), 10- Nels (Sue's wife), 11- Jim and 12- Me.

What is Ragnar, exactly? It's a relay race, in which a team of 12 people run a total of 200 miles over the course of 24-38 hours, depending on how fast they are. Wasatch Back is where it started, and most agree that it's the toughest, given the high elevation and very hilly course. Runner 12 has the shortest distance to cover, but two of the legs are trail courses, and there's a lot of hills.

I had seen the following video a year or two earlier, and sent it to the group after we signed up. It ended up becoming such a big joke that our theme became "It Will Be Fun!"

Everyone started training, and given that we're all OLD, we all had our injuries and issues getting ready, but we persevered. Kevin struggled especially with knee issues, and the day before the race started, acknowledged that he would have a really hard time running all three of his legs, and asked for us to try to find a substitute. I posted on Facebook, and my adventure-loving friend Kristy enthusiastically (naively?) agreed to it. She said she'd always wanted to do a Ragnar relay, but just had never had the opportunity. So, 13 hours before start time, she arranged time off work and was the latest member of our team.

The biggest emotional setback, at least for me, was the news Sue received a couple weeks before the race. She is a 4 year survivor of ovarian cancer, and she fought so hard to be called "cancer free". Because she is responsible, she was doing frequent health checks to make sure everything was still clear. Unfortunately, a couple weeks before she and Nels were scheduled to fly out here, she got bad news. It appears her cancer is back. Never one to take this lying down, she consulted with her oncologist and got a big dose of chemo a couple days before the scheduled flight, and was out here on time. Seriously, what an inspiration of an amazingly strong woman!

We had a big pow-wow the night before the race, and we were all given really amazing matching shirts that Sue had made for us. The back said that we were running for our Captain Sue, which made me a little teary. The party broke up early because van 1 had to be to the starting point early. Our start time was at 6:15am, so van 1 took off.

I know that all the real runner blogs would have a blow-by blow here of how each leg went, how fast they went, and lots of photos of scenery. But, I'm an adventure monger, not a runner. In my opinion, everyone was amazing and fast and strong. By the time Van 2 took over, we were a good half hour ahead of the spreadsheet's predicted time.

Van 2 took over, and again, everyone was remarkably fast. My first leg was a quick 2 mile trail run at Snow Basin, just before it started to get dark. It started at about 6400' above sea level and climbed 300 feet. I got more and more nervous as the day went on. Everyone on my team was so strong and so fast, and I was just convinced I was going to let everyone down. Even under the best of circumstances, I'm not fast. I'd done a test run of legs 12 and 36, and I knew it was trail run, and all of the rocks, bumps, roots, hills and plants were going to be challenging, and slowing me down. I hadn't anticipated being so anxious about the whole "letting my team down" that it would further impact my time. Unfortunately, it did. My time was slower than I'd anticipated, and I was disappointed. But, I did pass a couple people, so I knew I wasn't the very slowest runner out there.

After we handed off to van 1 again, we went to exchange 18 and tried to rest for a couple hours. It was very noisy, so I don't think anyone got much sleep. Around midnight, we were ready to go again. Kevin had decided to travel with our van. He ended up deciding to run that leg with Nykki as a pacer. I think it helped her time, and Kevin at least got to run one leg, which was a far cry from what he wanted, but better than nothing.

My second leg began around 7am. It was a 6.5 mile run starting at 6000' and ending at 6444'. While running, I had a deer run out very close in front of me, which was pretty amazing. I was still suffering from nerves, and now sleep deprivation, so again, my time was a bit slower than I'd hoped.

Saturday was another day of amazing feats by my teammates- running through pain and injuries and illness, but they just kept going. I think I'm most in awe over Jim and Erik. Erik ran more than 11 miles in the middle of the night, only to start up Guardsmans' Pass the next afternoon. Jim had "Ragnar Hill", which is a 4 mile run starting at 7200' and ending at 8900'. that's almost 1700' of climb. I don't even like doing that hill in my civic, let alone on foot!

My final leg wound up the hill/mountain just past Park City High School. While it started out at 2.8 miles, they decided to extend it to 3.6 miles. It started at 6700' and gained about 500'+ (and lost the same). From the finish line, you could see the Runner 12s winding up the mountain, looking like tiny ants. Doing this leg earned me the nickname of "Mountain Goat", which made me feel moderately better. I'd practiced the run a few days before and took this picture from the top. I wished I'd taken a picture during the race. That big empty field was full of racers and tents and was a beautiful, colorful sight. I was so worried about not letting my team down that I didn't stop, which I regret now.

If you DO want to see amazing photos from the race, click HERE.

I finally finished, and our team had our triumphant finish, complete with medals. Seeing that finish line, and seeing my team waiting for me so we could pass through it together was incredible. It was amazing, and I nearly wept with joy because I was DONE. The only thing that got me through the whole experience was I swore I would never, ever, ever run again. Ever. Except maybe another undead race. Or the Dirty Dash.

I changed our car so it said this, after we finished the festivities and limped back to the car to go home.

A couple days after the race, Nels points out that we can get a discount on Ragnar Wasatch Back 2015 if we register our team soon. 

Nels says it'll be fun.