To give anything less than your best is to sacrifice the gift.
-Steve Prefontaine
Make it simple, but significant.
- Don Draper

Tuesday, July 18, 2017

Ragnar Northwest Passage - Leg 1

It was 0'dark thirty and our van was waking up Friday morning after a very short sleep in a motel parking lot. The sounds of snoring were a blessing for me and helped me get a couple minutes of sleep now and then. Imagine 6 adults sleeping in one van. Now make one of those 6 feet tall and another one 6 feet 7 inches. Okay? And then a cooler, backpacks... now imagine all of this and trying to get comfortable sleep. HA! That's basically NOT possible, BUT it is all part of the experience when you do a relay! We popped across the street to the gas street bathroom where I was very happy to brush my teeth. I did freshen up my face, brush my hair and put on deodorant. That's about all I could do every day seeing as we wouldn't have showers until Saturday night!

The sun was starting to rise as we got to Peace Arch Park right at the border, where we would start this 200ish mile race. Before we could begin our Captain got us checked in, bringing back our bibs and race numbers for the van. Then all 6 of us had to head over the safety meeting. I'll sum up what it told us... don't litter, wear your night vest and headlamps, don't wake sleeping babies in neighborhoods... and don't forget breaking and entering is illegal. I can't make this up, guys!

At 6am Kari started us off as our team began the race with the official first wave of runners leaving the park! Once she was gone we were on a mission for coffee, unless you are me. I was on a mission for a bathroom to wash my hands after accidentally getting muscle rub all over myself instead of the anti-chafing lotion I meant to apply. Time flew by and we were welcoming Kari back at the first exchange... which is when my nerves turned on. I was runner 3, the next one to go!

Still in Blaine, Washington, I was standing in a parking lot with my full water bottle, music playing, a Garmin getting its signal and antsy to get going on my first leg of the relay. 8.2 miles was my distance and I knew I was in for hills. I tried to not freak myself out, so I think I underestimated how serious these would be. It felt like no time at all and Katy was coming up and handing off the sweaty slap bracelet to me. I was off!

My legs were feeling awesome, no doubt due to the fact that I had major adrenaline and they certainly weren't tired from over-training since I didn't even do a single run after agreeing to participate. I was going at a pretty awesome pace and determined to run until the team van passed me. Uh, yeah, I never saw them. The vans didn't pass by the first section of my leg, so that was a failed plan.

After maybe 1 straight mile I made a turn and I never turned again for 4 miles. What else did I do for that 4 mile stretch? Continuously go uphill! Leg 3 is classified as "very hard" and had a 509' gain. A downhill every now and then would have been nice. I kept making destination points ahead of me as a goal to run to before taking a short walk break. I would think I had crested "the hill", but each time I'd think that I'd see that it just keeps going and going. Leg 3 was the Energizer Bunny, and I was starting to feel like a draining battery.

How did I cope? I took in the views! When would I ever get to see this again? Maybe never. So I kept my phone handy to capture photos you are seeing in this blog right now! What else did I do? I texted with my mom and sent her photos. No shame in my game! Running is mental, too, and I needed my Mommy! Later in the run I actually gave in and called her on speaker phone to talk while running and wish her a Happy Birthday!

This leg was also one with no van support, so I was out there on my own, relying on myself, fellow runners and the super sweet girls that set up water stations at their homes! The first girl I met up with was such a dear and helped me figure out where I was. I was standing there facing Canada and looking at its snowy mountains (photo above)! I even saw Vancouver, BC!! While running I was running right toward Mount Baker, and WOW! That was an impressive sight for sure! At some point after I had made another turn up another hill I was met by two girls with their own version of a lemonade stand, except this was free Gatorade in a variety of flavors, as well as 3 bowls with various snacks. This made me so giddy! I was more than happy to pause and enjoy some red Gatorade and have a brief chat, thanking them profusely for being there.

Other things that stand out from this run.... smells! As I recall I documented them on facebook so I'd remember them for this post. It started out with standard farmland smell. I totally don't mind the smell of farm animal poop, believe it or not! Then it went to the same smell as the Frontierland section of the Utilidor in Walt Disney World. The worst part, oh my gosh, it was awful. Sulfur. Terrible. I almost threw up. For real. Just no!

With regard to my running, I don't know that there is much to say. I was feeling strong and then started to crash when my mind gave out on me. I persisted and kept trying to run as best as I could, but also made sure to never feel bad when I was passed. There were some great runners out there! At one point though, something bizarre happened. I was running at a lovely pace and it felt like someone punched my right calf. I even turned to look behind me, and found nobody there. I immediately started walking because I had no idea what was going on and wondered if maybe I was getting a cramp. **Nothing ever came of it during that or the last two legs!

Time to finish this bad boy off... I made the last turn and got to do a small downhill before going back up again. At the final corner I was greeted by the best sight ever - the exchange and runners cheering us all on. I was more than happy to see Amanda waiting for me and forced that bracelet on her so she could take off and I could be DONE!!

With all the whining I felt I did during and after, I never once wished I wasn't doing it. Part of the Ragnar experience is pushing yourself and having those hard moments that really test you. I loved being tested!

*Ignore those numbers on that chart. I have yet to figure them out since I had a 509' elevation gain.

Prior Posts:

Ragnar Northwest Passage - The Pre-Party

I don't even know how to start writing about what proved to be a completely awesome, unexpected weekend!  I ran basically 18 miles with zero training. If negative training is possible, then that's what I had. On a Saturday I was asked if I wanted to join a team. By the time the next Saturday came I had already run 2/3 of my relay race legs. That right there might show how crazy this whole thing was! So let's back up....

To recap the prior blog, my non-stop crazy running life came to a mini-retirement at the end of 2014. I spent 2015 going through IVF and being pregnant. 2016 I was pregnant, had a baby, and resumed doing a few 5K races here and there, but not nearly the amount of regular running that I would typically do. That brings us to 2017. I have been running a lot more, but feeling relaxed and no need to go do any crazy distances.  Two or 3 miles here and there and I was happy. I kept wanting to really kick it into gear and get back to longer distances, but just hadn't done it yet. That has now changed!

Once I agreed to fill the vacant spot on the team I immediately started working on a packing list and getting my stuff in gear. Having done a Ragnar before I knew that I already owned everything I would need, except for some snacks. I had this cute new bag I've been wanting to use, so my mission was to fit everything I would need into that and my small backpack that held my shoes, small towel and Chawel. ... What's a Chawel? Only one of the greatest things ever! It's this towel/blanket/sleeping bag thing. There is a hole in one end for your head so you can actually wear and/or use it to change clothes without everybody seeing your business.  Life saver!! I used it all weekend as a pillow, blanket and for changing. I highly recommend this for anyone considering a relay!

Thursday morning was my final shower before work. Aww, showers.... Once I finished my 4 hours of work I rushed home, had a quick lunch and was out the door heading north to meet the team. Thankfully Shawn drove me up there because I am pretty sure I'd have had a lot of trouble finding courage to go up to a stranger's house all by myself! I was worrying about getting there after being stuck in Portland traffic and feeling like I was going to be the last to arrive .... I was the first! You know what? It wasn't horrible! Immediately I met Kari and Katy and felt relaxed. Tabitha arrived right after I did and we learned we were in the same van. I knew right away this was going to be a great time!

Soon everyone, minus two, had arrived and we were enjoying some food while sitting in the grass talking. Of course my food consumption was slim to none, since I have a very hard time eating with people, but I tried, dang it! We all grabbed our new team shirts and loaded up vans while also doing the beginning work of decorating. Photos to come on that in later blogs! Speaking of vans!!! As soon as we rounded the corner I started squealing in joy... TWO FULL SIZED VANS!! If you followed my prior Ragnar you may recall we had 6 people crammed into 1 small mini-van. So much room for activities in these enormous vehicles!! I ended up having the entire back row, unintentionally, and it became known as my apartment. I had guest quarters that I did share sometimes. I'm not a jerk!

Let's speed this up, shall we? Around 8:30pm Van 1 loaded up and began our trek to Blaine, Washington. Blaine is right on the US/Canada border. I started in Southern Oregon, so this was a long day on I-5! The road in Washington was horrible. 4 lanes merging to 1. Bumpy as can be. Ugh. I was happy to be done. Not ghetto at all... we ended up sleeping in the van in a motel parking lot only yards from the Canada border. Oh how hard it is to be so close, yet so far!

I'll wrap this up here, and pick up with the start of Day 1 when I summarize my first excruciating leg! Next time we meet we will officially start the Ragnar Northwest Passage!

Wednesday, July 12, 2017

Running? Oh, I Do That Again!

​2014 was my last BIG year of running. I did a 200 mile relay, 5 half marathons, and a couple smaller distance races. For me, that was a slow year, but things got even slower once 2015 hit and I start the IVF process and was told I wasn't allowed to run. 2016 I was pregnant, then had a baby and so my running was returning, but sporadic. This takes us to 2017. I've been continually doing smaller races and running when I can, but not at all like the old days. And that's total fine. I'm not trying to one up anybody. I'm never racing against people. I have nobody to impress. I take Katura running with me for the joy of running and being outside.

Having just finished an awesome Butte to Butte 5K on the 4th of July, I was feeling determined to get a more steady training routine going, with visions of doing the 10K at the Prefontaine Memorial this year. Unexpectedly the ultimate way of getting back into it was presented to me. Saturday at 10:43am a message popped up in Facebook messenger. A team had lost a runner and needed a 12th person to fill their team for a Ragnar relay happening in less than week. I loved the last Ragnar, for the most part, and didn't' see how I could pass up a chance at doing another. If I said no, maybe I would jinx myself and never be asked to be on another team.

Am I physically trained for a relay? Heck no! But am I mentally strong enough, you're darn right I am! I can fake it like the best of 'em!! Shawn and I discussed logistics, timing, work, cost ... and of course it didn't take me much time at all to accept to fill the hole and do another Ragnar!

So here's where I am with that:
  • I am really excited!
  • I am completely terrified!
  • I know ONE person on the team, and he is in the other van. Funny story - I have only met him 2 times in person, and that was over 10 years ago an OSU football games ... he is the one that went with me to pierce my nose!
  • I'll be in a van with what are currently 5 strangers. What if they hate me?
  • I'm mostly packed - just have to add toiletries and make myself some sandwiches.
  • Last time I knew the entire van and had Shawn with me. So now I'm a la carte and a stranger.
  • I've been running often, but seeing as I have a stroller now,  I feel fine running 3 miles at a time before I call it a day.
  • My first leg is classified as "very hard" and is 8.2 miles.
  • The next are 6.6 "hard" miles and then 3.1 "easy."
  • We run from essentially the Canada/US border to Whidbey Island.
  • I'll be soooo close to Canada, yet not able to go to my happy place and unable to get any Tim Horton's snacks. Darn it!
  • For those of you unfamiliar with this whole relay thing... 6 of us will be in Van 1, the other 6 in Van 2. We basically take turnings running and we all live in the vans. Eating, sleeping, everything ... but no showers. I repeat .... running in the summer, living in a van and no showers.
  • How am I training with only hours to go? I watched the Hood to Coast documentary. I'll maybe watch a Prefontaine movie or two. Maybe the documentary. Oh, I made a music play list. That's training, right?
  • Thursday I get off work at noon and we pretty much head straight up to Portland area for van decorating at 6pm. Then at 8pm Van 1 heads off to Blaine, Washington. We start our race at 6am on Friday. I'm running 3. So if you feel this need to follow along, now you know the details!
  • I've got "Jimmy" packed. If you have traveled with me you have probably met him. He's my Jimmy Buffett blanket. I can't be apart from him for too long!
  • And what is the hardest part of this? I won't be able to see my baby. I've been with her every single day of her life. I'm dreading this part. Maybe that will be good motivation to run faster so I can be done and call and check on her!
With that, expect Facebook and Instagram to have updates and photos of what is sure to be an awesome adventure!

Oh, want to hear the crazy part? On the last team I suggested our name be Rum Runners. It ended up being Rum Runners of Ragnar. I filled out registration and saw what this team's name is that I am now a part of .... RUM RUNNERS!!! It was meant to be!!

Butte to Butte 5K - Take 2!

Fourth of July means there is a strong chance I'll be in Eugene running the Butte to Butte ... and sure enough, I was back at it, repeating the 5K with my stroller as I did last year. In 2016 I was a brand new mom, pushing a 4 month old girl who had her own race bib. This year that little girl got to sit facing forward and be part of the action with her second year in a row of "running" this really fun race!

This year I went with a "Patriotic Pirate" look. Part of my prep work was panicking, trying to find my pirate bandanna since I am certain it is key to successful running. Relief set in when I had it in my hands. Phew!

It has been nice racing since giving birth. I have pretty much zero stress when it comes to the running. Now my focus is on making sure I have all my stuff, and then more importantly making sure Katura has everything she needs. So with little ado we were easily on our way to Eugene around 5:30am. We had gotten our packets a couple of days earlier, so this time we just had to show up, go potty and get in the start area.

When I race with a stroller I typically put myself at the back, trying to be courteous to fellow runners that don't want to try to zig and zag around me. For this race I clearly started too far back. I was the one trying to zig and zag my way around walkers. During the first long stretch I had to keep reminding myself that this is a fun event for families and I am with a lot of people that don't typically go to a race and are not aware of runner etiquette. With that mind set I steadily found openings, sometimes not as wide as one would like, and was able to get myself out of the slow cluster and instead a steady pace with fellow runners.

My legs felt AWESOME! I felt like Forrest Gump, I kept running and running and running. The only reason I had my first walk break was because the course got so narrow that we were all on one small sidewalk and I wasn't going to be a jerk trying to run by people pushing my stroller in the grass or diving off the path. We were in a great pocket of people, chatting with other runners and feeling no sense of rivalry or competition. I love that! I did have "little dude". I kept telling him he was my pacer and not to leave me behind. For the record, as predicted, with less than a mile to go he got faster and I lost my new 7 year old friend!

At the finish line I had a plan. Maybe I will push Katura to the side of me so my bib crosses just before hers. Last year she beat me. She ALWAYS beats me. Yes, her bib always crosses the start and finish before me, but when it is chipped time it doesn't matter. Our time starts when we cross. Theoretically if we are always together at the same pace, we should tie. But it never fails, she and Shawn always finish faster than I do. So in that final stretch I worked on my strategy to try to beat the 1 year old. It was going swimmingly. I was doing my final sprint to the finish line and side by side with her. I was going to win! Then her stroller seemed to catch and edge and started drifting. Dang it, I had to get fully behind her and get her heading the right way ... and there went my lead. Again the baby beats both of her parents!

Post race refreshments were awesome! I can't remember the name of the vendor, but they had this awesome bread with cinnamon chips in it. They always had whole wheat honey bread, which Katura was a fan of. We also scored with chocolate milk from Umpqua Dairy, cookies and grilled cheese from Franz, and a couple other sample products. There was a group of musicians playing by the 5th Street Market, making for a lovely morning. All in all, this was a fabulous run! I felt great, the people we ran with were friendly, the weather was perfect. I'm already excited for next year! Who knows, maybe next year I'll make my return to the 10K distance of this race and tackle the infamous Donald Street Hill that we all dread!

Patriotic Pirate!

Cute baby just because! In her USS Missouri Made in the USA outfit.

Happy baby in her new Franz hat that is now destroyed