Sunday, August 28, 2022

Ragnar Oregon Trail - Yellow Loop

The Yellow Loop. The only one I can give a full recap on from the 2022 Ragnar Trail Oregon relay. So let's just get to business! This was classified as medium on the difficulty scale, but I think we all agreed that was inaccurate. Ragnar tends to grade difficulty on miles, not actual terrain and hills and miles. This clearly was the easiest of the three.

When we originally formed Rebel Scum I took the 8 runner names, wrote them on little pieces of paper, crumpled the papers and then drew them randomly to determine our order. Normally I run very early in a relay. This time, as randomness would have it, I was dead last! My loop order would be Yellow, Green, Red. I thought that starting on yellow would be pretty cool since it seemed the "easiest" although not easy. Ending on red was sure to be killer, but I wasn't scared. I knew it would be a crazy, fun, scenic challenge. I was excited to start on yellow. Lisa, Shelbe and I all had the same rotation so I was happy to hear their input before my run. Plus I just want to add that Lisa and Shelbe are so dang cool in general. I was so happy to get to just chill with them all the time and I want to do it more often!

Around 3:30pm I was in my race gear heading to the exchange. I was told by runner 7, who shall remain nameless, that she would text me at the 1 mile to go area so I'd know to be ready. I never got a text but went to the exchange anyway. When I arrived she was there in a huff telling me she had been there a couple minutes waiting.  Ummm... where was the text? "Oh, I didn't send one. I never saw a sign and I was going to fast to do anything." **No less than 15 photos were posted from that run she did including photos of a sign.** Liar, liar pants on fire? Everyone else saw the mile sign so....

I got the race belt on and took off ready for what I knew would be 4.4 beautiful, hard miles. I was all smiles as I ran by the runners waiting for their teammates to come into the final stretch. I waved at total strangers and had a bounce in my step. I was so excited! As I rounded the corner by the ski lift I heard Shawn in the distance and saw him with his camera going. Life was good! I got to turn and run down the path we had all walked so many times as it was the path from our camp site to the village. Surprise!! I know the team wasn't expecting to see me so fast since we had never gotten notice of a mile to go for the previous runner. But BOOM! There I was -- it took me 8 steps to get up the hill. I watched a guy do it in 5 and wanted to see how much competition I could be on that hill (none at all, of course. Ha!). Still with a bounce in my step I happily floated on by the cheering Rebel Scum and continued on to the trails.

I was so dang giddy when I finally got to get off of the road and into the trails. I loved having to watch where I put my feet. Sometimes I'd need to dodge a branch. Sometimes I'd just go for it and let the branch graze my legs. It was such a free feeling to be out in nature way from people and roads. The deeper I got on the trail the more I could smell all the smells. It surprised me how quickly I did my first mile. No way did I do it so easily! My legs were feeling awesome. I had hurt my right leg back in July during the Northwest Passage Ragnar - like so bad I couldn't bend it without using my hands to lift my leg. So I was nervous about what this race would do. But I felt 100%!!

One thing that had been bothering me the whole time was breathing. I joked about being out of breath when I'd run up the little hill by our campsite. I joked I'd die on these runs because of how early I was having a hard time breathing. Okay, never joke about that stuff again, Ronda!!

As I was going I kept feeling like I couldn't breathe. Not in an "old lady out of shape and out of breath" way, but like in an "I can't get any oxygen in my lungs" way. I texted Shawn at mile 2 that was having a hard time breathing. He gave me some tips. I did what he said and felt progress. Then I started running more and it was just really not helping but instead getting worse. The heat was insane. I hadn't checked the weather - but at the end I was shown it was 85 degrees when I was out there. I struggled to get my water thing to work at first. Once I figured out I had to bite it off to the side and make myself look like Popeye when drinking - well then it flowed freely! So I had my water resolved, thank goodness. My Meniere's Disease was also kicking in with some issues, so while trying to navigate trails that would zig zag and hope to not trip, I was dealing with vertigo. What else can we add to this pile??

I can walk up a hill during a race faster than some people can run up them. So I was very optimistic going into this. My muscles will let me do it. No problem. Some times I would pull over into the shade, pause, trying to calm my brain and my chest, then really focus myself and work my way up the mountain. But the higher I got the harder it got. And it wasn't my legs, it was my chest.

This guy in a green shirt was struggling as well. I had passed him and we chatted a bit. The last 2 miles we spent together essentially. We were always in eye sight of each other and it just felt comforting I guess. It was nice to not feel alone in the struggle department. At the 1 mile to go marker a woman from Florida came up and was taking a picture of the sign with me. She dropped a few choice words about how she was feeling. All of us in the area agreed and wished each other well as we continued onward. 

That last mile was the single slowest, hardest mile of my entire life. I had been fighting tears for a mile or so at this point I think. If I could have spoken without fear of collapse I probably would have been talking to my mom on the phone during my hike. She'd have been ready with a big "I told you so!" I'm sure! I know, mom, I know! Each step got harder. Shawn told me he heard it goes downhill when you have .4 miles to go. That point took forever to come. Before I hit that spot I was at the point where I could go maybe 10 seconds of hiking then have to flat out stop. I've never stopped so much other than in a Disney race for character photos. 

My chest hurt so bad. I kept pulling on my shirt, my sports bra, my hydration pack. That wasn't the problem. I just couldn't get any oxygen in me. I had been battling vertigo for 2 miles at this point. I was so disoriented and constantly confused about where I was. Watch the vlog and you'll see just how lost I felt! All of my senses were starting to go wacky on me. It was starting to feel quite scary from a health and safety standpoint. There was a very strong runner that came to a complete stop just to check and see if there was anything she could do to help me. I love that about Ragnar. You can have some genuine moments with total strangers! I assured her I thought it was just my body not used to the altitude and thanked her and let her continue on her run.

I came upon a merge with another loop. I was certain it had to be the red because it was so insanely steep. No. It was the green loop. What the WHAT?? I have to go up that and it is supposedly the "easy" loop? I was taking inventory of my body and the failing functions going on. This was the "flat" loop at the lowest altitude of the 3 loops. Can I even physically do the other 2 safely and not end up doing serious damage to myself? All of these things swirled in my head and I still had another insane climb.

It was at the start of the downhill this other runner came up behind me and cheered me on. We did some bonding and then I saw him start to follow the wrong loop. I was so happy we have to wear bracelets to match the loop we are doing because that's how I knew he was about to really make a very wrong turn. I called after him and got him back on course, then we started the downhill together. I did pass that guy! Two passes for me the entire yellow loop!

So finally it was my turn to run downhill. The rolling rocks made it challenging. I could feel myself going too fast and had to have my hands out to brace myself in case I fell as I tried to slow down a bit. I found a better patch of land to run on and soon was going through the timing mat that would alert Amber-Dawn of my impeding arrival. I wanted to run it all the way in. I couldn't. Everything in me was crashing - except for my legs. Ha!

On the final flat stretch to the exchange I could hear Arthur and Sara cheering me on. That seriously helped! Hearing Rebel Scum come out of Arthur's mouth made me smile on the inside. I couldn't look to see them like I normally would since I was just trying to get to the end in one piece. I crossed the timing mat and could make out what I was pretty sure was Amber-Dawn based on the body language and happiness to see me. 

At this point everything went wonky. I couldn't see clearly. It was a swirly blur. Everything sounded like the school teacher in Peanuts. I remember trying to get the race belt off but I couldn't find it. You know that one belt over my shirt that is clear as day right there and easy to find. But I couldn't do it. I was starting to tip over and Shawn came running up. I think I was just leaning on him while Amber-Dawn got the belt and took off on her run. I remember I had texted Shawn that I wanted cold water. He had that and got me to a chair in the shade in the exchange. At this point my breathing got all crazy. I can't describe it. I couldn't get the water to my mouth. My hands were shaking. My chest was almost shaking too if that makes any sense. I don't know how long I was there. It felt like forever, it probably wasn't. I was so sure that I was going to end up being carted off to the med tent. I feel like there is a bit of time that I don't have memory of. It is all just blurry.

I do not recall getting back to the campsite at all. I remember standing there leaning on something, maybe a chair, and having Shawn grab me my cane. I didn't part with that cane for the rest of the night. We did end up back in the village to get me food. Oh yeah, I think I had us walk around the lower lot camping area so I could try to get my body back to normal feeling. Yes, we did that then went up to the lodge for food. I nearly passed out waiting. It was almost an hour for my fries. No grilled cheese for me because they ran out of buns and bread! Party foul!! 

And it was while I was waiting for that food that I made my decisions. There was a young guy from California that seemed to be in his early 30s at the oldest. Sounds like they used the AED machine on him and had to bring him down from the mountain to the med area. They told him if he hadn't made the decision he did it could have been really bad. So I was overhearing this, and thinking of Matt, the firefighter that died mid-run in December and I knew what I had to do. I had to just call it. It was just not worth trying to run anymore if I was already in this terrible state. No more running for that Ragnar. That was Friday evening. It is Monday evening as I write this and my chest is still not back to its normal, healthy feeling. Whatever happened up there really did a number on me. It was a tough call, but one that I had to make.

I do have more running stories to share from this race in the next post! I DID make it out on the red loop actually. So stay tuned for that -- it has a much better ending, I promise! And vlogs will be coming soon so you can run along with me and see the beauty and hear the delirium take over. *One thing that surprised me - in the end I was only 10 minutes slower than what Ragnar predicted me to be on that loop. Considering I felt like death crossing that finish line I'm shocked!

Gotta love running!

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