Sunday, December 11, 2016

Ragnar Wasatch Back ~ June 16-19, 2016

I did my first Ragnar relay, Wasatch Back in Utah! I joined a team put together by my coach. The team was built with all prior and current patients/clients. All of us had gone to him, at  Maximum Velocity Physical Therapy, for some reason or the other. Over time, he had returned us all to running. He named the team, All Stars!

He selected Wasatch Back as the perfect Ragnar for us. Ragnar describes this relay as "the race that started it all! This iconic 200(ish) mile overnight running relay course begins in Northern Utah in the city of Logan and traverses across the back of Utah’s rough and tough Wasatch Mountains. Teams will find their inner wild as they cross three mountain passes, pass fields of summer wildflowers, run beneath millions of stars, and cross the finish line together at Soldier Hollow in Midway, UT." He had done this relay before and was excited to take us there for many of our first Ragnar relay.

For those of you who are unfamiliar with Ragnar, they are a relay race with 6 or 12 people that run 200ish miles within 36 hours. Each runner completes three legs. A slap bracelet is exchanged between the runners at exchange points. Runners 1-6 travel in one van while runners 7-12 are in another van. Both vans are only together at exchange points 6, 12, 18, 24, 30 and the finish.

I had only started running again on April 1, 2016, so I was given the leg with the shortest mileage and easiest sections. I was runner 7.

We drove up on Thursday from Las Vegas and stayed at a teammate's family member's house. There were 12 of us crammed into a basement. There were bodies everywhere. Some of us were lucky and scored a bed, air mattress or couch. Others had to sleep on the floor. I somehow got the air mattress and got a pretty good nights sleep. Van 1 had to be at the start line really early so they were up and out of the house by about 4:00 AM. Van 2 was able to sleep in a bit, eat breakfast, and grab some groceries before heading to the first major exchange point.

Once we arrived at the exchange point, we checked in, watched a brief video about safety and signed our waivers. I was the first runner for our van so I got ready and waited to start my run. It was a festive environment with music and a lot of people. We had to wait a few hours for runner 6 to arrive so we found some shade and relaxed.

At about 2:30 PM, Van 1 arrived and told us their runner was on her way in. We all went over to the chute and waited for her to arrive. They had spotters about a quarter mile from the chute who radioed in each runner's number. Once I heard our teams number, I hurried over to the chute and before you know it, she was there. I received the slap bracelet and was on my way!

My first leg was 2.55 miles. It had a slight decline for the entire run. It was really hot but I knew that I could push it for such a short distance. At about the 1 mile mark, my van passed me on the way to the next exchange point. It was fun to have that brief cheering section. I made the final turn and saw a small group of people at a church and knew I was almost there. I sprinted with all I had left and slapped the bracelet on runner 8. I finished in 27:20. I was exhausted but didn't have time to cool down as he was one of our fastest runners and had a short leg so we had to leave immediately to get to the next exchange point.

We continued this routine for all of our runners. We would cheer as we passed them on the road making our way to the next exchange point. Runners would come in and runners would go out. We finally made it to exchange point 12. This was our second large exchange point where both vans were able to meet up. They also had a vendor fair at this exchange. I bought a visor and we all got together and ate dinner, except for runner 12 who was out running. Once runner 12 was in and runner 1 was out, we made our way to the next major exchange point, 18, to try and get some sleep. It was at a high school. We were able to use the bathrooms but had to sleep outside. We had all brought sleeping bags, blankets and pillows so we found a quiet spot on the campus grounds and laid down for a couple hours.


I wasn't able to sleep but it was nice to relax. It was really cold so I got up after about an hour. I ate some food and then got ready to start my second leg. This would be in the dark so I needed to have a reflective vest, headlamp, and red tail lamp. At about 12:30 AM, runner 6 made her way in and I was off. I was nervous to run at night. My headlamp was not the brightest and I was worried about uneven surfaces. It started out in the city but made it's way to the country. It was dark and quiet. It was peaceful. This run had a slight incline for the entire distance. I finally saw the lights of the exchange point. It was weird coming in and not being able to see because I was blinded by the lights. Runner 8 could see me so he started yelling my name and I just made my way over to him. He needed my red tail lamp so I gave him mine and then he was on his way. This leg was 4.27 miles and I completed it in 47:30.

I have never been much of a car sleeper so I sat in the passenger seat and helped the driver for a while. I had to help runner 8 a few times with hydration so I got in and out of the van each time. It was cold now that I was in wet clothes. I also had to carry two orange flags each time I was out of the car to make sure me and our runner were visible and safe.

As each runner in our van took their turn at night running, I tried to get some sleep but it didn't work. We went from tired passengers to slap happy passengers. Some people slept, some sang along to the music, some sat with blank stares. We saw the sunrise over the beautiful mountains.

While our last runner was on her leg, we made our way to the next major exchange point. This was at another high school. This is where van 1 had slept overnight. We decided to not stop there but to head to exchange point 30 instead. We grabbed some breakfast on the way. This was at a large ski resort. There were a lot of people there and no designated sleep area. We found a nice shaded hill next to some condos and tried to get some rest. Once again, I wasn't able to sleep. That was getting old. I was tired. A few hours before my final leg was to start, we received a call from van 1 stating that they were not going to get to us for a few more hours. This was starting to look like a problem since there was a cut-off finish time and we probably were not going to make it. The Race Director gave us permission to start our van before van 1 got there. So I quickly got changed and ready to run. Since I didn't have a slap bracelet, I went to the starting chute, high-fived a volunteer and started my final leg.

This was my hardest leg yet. It was 3.98 miles and all up hill. It was really warm again since it was about 3:00 PM. The views were amazing though. I struggled and even had to walk parts of it. I finally made my way around the corner to see my team, as well as a lot of other people, waiting for me. I finished it in 58:19. Runner 8 had started before I arrived in order to make up additional time. So I wasn't able to see him off. He was running the hardest leg of the entire relay. It was straight up a ski run. We had to wait until he had passed a check point in order to make our way to the next exchange point. This allowed me to cool off and drink some fluids before having to get back in the car. Once we received word of his checking in, you headed up the mountain. 

All of our runners made their exchanges after that leg. We finally made our way to the finish line once our final runner was out. We met up with van 1 and waited. We were all tired, hungry and dirty but sat around telling each other about the last 36 hours. At about 7:30 PM, we saw our final runner coming down the hill towards us. We lined up and all ran across the finish line together. It was pretty cool!

They then shuffled us to a tent where we were able to pick up our medals. We discovered that when they were turned over and laid together that they made a saying. It read: "We believe that being a Ragnarian is about more than being a runner; that misery loves company and happiness is "only real when it's shared"; that there is a badass inside all of us; that everyone deserves to be cheered at the finish line; that tutus make you run faster; that adventure can only be found if you are looking for it; and that a little sleep deprivation is a small price to pay to watch the sunrise with our friends. Together we ran 200-ish miles. Together we can accomplish anything. WE ARE RAGNARIANS."

We then made our way to the Ragnar wall and all left our names. Some of us wrote little messages as well. This was the first time the entire team of 12 was together. Our new little family posed for a group picture. 

Then we got a picture of just van 2. It's amazing how much a group of people can bond together in just a few hours. We then drove down into town for dinner. We sat around a big table in a room all to ourselves and shared stories, laughed, and ate until we couldn't eat one more thing.

I am really proud that I was able to complete this adventure. I was very hesitant when my coach asked me to join his team. When I started running again in April, I was only able to do run for one minute at a time. How was I going to be able to run 10.8 miles in about 24 hours? With the help from my coach and encouragement from my friends, I was able to take part in this epic journey. If you are ever given the opportunity to do a Ragnar race, DO IT! The lack of sleep, sore muscles, and hunger were so worth it.